The Tamtsagbulag Neolithic site in Dornod, active more than 4000 years ago, is proof that agriculture predated nomadic pastoralism on the eastern steppes. But it was the Kitan, a Manchurian tribal confederation, who made the first big impression on the region, building forts and farming communities in the 10th century, including Kherlen Bar Khot in Dornod.
Another Manchu tribe, the Jurchen, deposed the Kitan in the early 12th century, renamed itself the Jin, and returned eastern Mongolia to its warring ways. It wasn’t until Chinggis Khaan united the fractured clans in 1206 that peace took over.
It was from Avarga (modern Delgerkhaan) that Chinggis launched expeditions south towards China. When the capital was moved to Karakorum in 1220 the region withdrew into obscurity. It wasn’t until 1939 that eastern Mongolia was again in the headlines, this time as a battlefield between Japanese and Soviet forces. Heavy losses forced the Japanese military machine south, but the Khalkh Gol region is still littered with battle scars from the brief campaign.
The discovery of zinc and oil in the region in the 1990s brought the promise of development. Uranium is also found in the northeast. However, resources have so far proven relatively small and whatever profits have been made have so far failed to stimulate the local economy.