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About Russia

Nations of Russia

The Buryats

The self-name of the Buryat is the Buryayad or the Buryayat. Russians has named the Buryat the brotherly people. Buryats are indigenous population of the Republic of Buryatiya, the Ust-Ordynsky Buryat autonomous region of the Irkutsk area and the Aginsk Buryat autonomous region of the Chita region. Buryats live also in Mongolia (34,7 thousand persons, 1989), Kazakhstan (1,2 thousand, 1989), in other countries of the CIS (2,5 thousand, 1989).

In the Russian Federation live 417,4 thousand persons including: Buryatiya - 249,5 thousand, the Irkutsk area - 77,3 thousand, 49,3 thousand of them in the Ust-érdynsk Buryat autonomous region, the Chita area - 66,6 thousand, 42,3 thousand of them in the Äginsk Buryat autonomous region, in other areas of the Russian Federation - 24 thousand, including in Moscow - 1,5 thousand, Saint Petersburg - 1,0 thousand persons.

The Buryats can be divided into the following ethnic groups: the Bulagats (the Ust-Ordynsk Buryat autonomous region), the Ekhirits (the Barguzinsky, the Bayandaevsky and the Kudarinsky areas of Buryatiya, the Ust- Ordynsky Buryat autonomous region), the Khongodors (Buryats of the Irkutsk area outside of the Ust-Ordynsky Buryat autonomous region), the Khorins (the Aginsky autonomous region of the Chita area, the Khorinsky and other areas of Buryatiya), Buryats of the northern areas of Buryatiya (the Bauntsky etc.) and the Selenginsk Buryats (the central and southern areas of Buryatiya). In 1897 the Khorins made 36 % of the Russian Buryat population, the Bulgats - 28 %, the Ekhirits - 10 %, the Khongodors - 6 %, the Selenginsk Buryats - 20 %.

Anthropologically the Buryats are typical the Central - Asian type of the Mongoloids.

The Buryat language belongs to the Mongolian group of the Altai language family. Among the Buryats also the Mongolian language is common. The Buryat language is subdivided into 15 dialects. 86,6 % of the Russian Buryats considers the Buryat language a native (1989).

The most of the Buryats (the Transbaikalian) were using the Old Mongolian writing until 1930. In 1931 the Buryat writing was created based, firstly, on the Latin, and then on the Russian writings (1939).

According to the official returns, in the pre-revolutionary period the Western Buryats basically were practicizing the Orthodoxy, the Eastern Buryats were adherents of a Lamaism, the form of the Buddhism. The Western Buryats were practicing traditional beliefs, Shamanism, despite their general adoption of the Christianity. The Buryats in Transbaikalia are Buddhists by the religion.

When the first Russian migrants arrived in the Transbaykalia the main occupation of the Buryat tribes was a nomadic cattle breeding. The Buryats were breeding sheep, large horned livestock, goats, horses and camels. Additional kinds of economic activities were a hunt, agriculture and the fishery; on the lake of Baikal there was a seal fishery.

During the 18-19th centuries under the Russian population influence the Buryat economy has changed. Only the Buryats, who lived on the river Onon in a Southeast of Buryatiya were keeping the cattle breeding facilities. In other areas of Transbaikalia there were a complex cattle breeding-agricultural facilities. Only rich cattlemen continued to wander all year, the others had to settle partially or fully and became engaged in agriculture. In Transbaikalia the agricultural and cattle breeding complex was formed.
Rough development of capitalism in Russia in the second half 19th century has its impact on the territory of Buryatiya. Building of the Siberian Railroad and the industry development in Southern Siberia has given a push to expansion of agriculture and increased marketability. The prosperous Buryats start to have agricultural machinery. Buryatiya became one of the manufacturers of a commodity grain.

Except the blacksmith and a jeweler works the Buryats did not know the advanced craft manufacture. Their economic and household needs were completely satisfied with domestic crafts. The leather, wool, skins, a horsehair etc were the stuff for the domestic crafts. An iron was a cult for the Buryats. Quite often the blacksmiths were also shamen. They were treated with respect and superstitious fear. The trade of the smith was hereditary. The Buryat smiths and jewelers had a high level of qualification, and their products were widely distributed in Siberia and the Central Asia.

Traditions of a cattle breeding and nomadic life have left in the Buryats culture a significant trace.

The ancient form of the Buryat traditional dwelling was typical nomad's tent which basis was made with easily transported trellised walls. Inside the traditional Buryat dwelling, the accommodation order of property was determined by custom and utensils. Behind the fireplace and opposite to the entrance there was a home sanctuary, where the Buryats - Lamaists were keeping the images of the Buddha-Burkhana and bowls with sacrificial food, and the Buryats - Shamanists were keeping a box with human figurines and animals skins who were esteemed as an embodiment of spirits - the Ongons.

The Buryats men's and the women's wear differed a little. Their clothes consist of a shirt and trousers, a long free dressing gown with a belt. Married women atop of dressing gowns wear a waistcoat - sleeveless jacket. Favorite women's decorations were temporal suspension brackets, earrings, necklaces and medallions.

Traditional foods of the Buryats were the dishes prepared from milk and dairy products. The Buryats were preserving not only sour milk, but also the dried pressed curd - the Khurut that replaced bread. As the Mongols, the Buryats drink the brick tea with milk and salt and bacon.

In 1980-1990th Buryatiya had a rise of the national consciousness; there was a movement for revival of national culture and language. There were taken measures to protect and to develop the Buryat culture and language. The Constitution of the Republic of Buryatiya is passed, the national flag and a hymn are established; the Buryat language is proclaimed a state language.


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