Mongolia is a landlocked nation in central Asia, bordered by Russia to the north and the Peoples Republic of China to the south. It was the center of the Mongol Empire of the 13th century, but was ruled by the Chinese Qing dynasty from the end of the 17th century until an independent government was again formed with Soviet assistance in 1921. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Mongolia became a democracy. Almost as big as Alaska, Mongolia has very little arable land: much of its area is grassland, with mountains in the north and west and the Gobi Desert in the south. Most of the population are nomadic Tibetan Buddhists of the Mongol ethnicity.