ETHNIC HISTORY OF THE ALTAI REPUBLIC|
(980 total words in this text)
The Oirot-Altaians - indigenous population inhabiting mountains and foothills of the geographical Altai. From the middle of XIX century, with the transition from the nomadic life to the settled one, the Oirot-Altaians (or, after the break-up of the Jungar State in XVIII century in Central Asia) up to the beginning of XX century were divided into a number of tribal and territorial groups. Presently, the Altaians are divided into not numerous nationalities: the Altaians, the Tubalars, the Teleuts, the Shors, the Telengits, the Uryanhaits, the Oirots all living on the territory of the Altai Republic, Altai Region, Kemerovo Oblast of the Russian Federation, in Western Mongolia, Sintzyan-Uigur Autonomous Region of China.
The main source of study of the people's origin is its language. It is believed that a people's language is its history. Having originated in ancient times, the language together with the people goes through a complicated course of evolution mixing with neighboring languages, gets enriched, experiences influence of other languages, and influences the latter in its turn. History knows language shifts, assimilations of one language by another.
The Altaian language is a determining one for many Turkic-Mongolian, Tunguss-Manchurian, Japanese-Korean languages. Therefore, these languages are included into the Altaian Linguistic Family, as well as other linguistic families - Indo-European, Semite-Khamite, etc.
According to the language, the closest neighbors of the Altaians are the western Tuvinians, the Kazakhs, the Uigurs of Middle Asia, the Karachayevs, the Balkars from the Caucasus.
Information from ancient written sources is also of great importance for study of a people's history. Thus, analysis of ancient Shumer cuneiform texts, found on the territory of Iraq (Mesopotamia) and dated back to the last third of 3 millenium B.C., performed by some scientists, certifies that most Shumer words literally coincide with general Turkic words and whole phrases, including the Oirot-Altaian. There were over 400 of such coincidences.
The analyzed coincidences give convincing evidence of the affinity of Shumer and Altaian linguistic families. Ancient Shumers have lost touch with parent Turkic tribes and joined the Indo-Europeans long time ago. In the chronicles it is said that the Shumers came to Mesopotamia from the valleys where there are many cedar forests and rivers - supposedly, Siberia. In the middle reaches of the river Ursul, in the village of Karakol, there was discovered a burial, proving the synchrony of the development of Ancient Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt and Ancient Altai cultures, and corroborating the fact that there existed certain contacts between these remote regions; perhaps, these contacts were not direct, but at least they were of "relay-race" character, i.e. from tribe to tribe.
Presently, the Altai Republic is referred to the regions, where traditional culture of indigenous population - the Altaians, Russian old-believers, the Kazakhs compactly living here for over 100 years may be observed in full blossom. Traditional holidays and games, in all their grandeur presenting the archaics and our times, cannot but deeply impress modern people, especially townsmen - one may imagine it is a different world, a different space and time dimension.Ethnographic study of the region has begun rather long ago - over 200 years ago. However, there is still something to be discovered.
Traditional spiritual culture of the Altaians is of greatest interest. Here there are archaic folklore genres and musical instruments never subjected to any modernization.
Much is hidden in the traditional material culture of the Altaians, due to agriculturally oriented economy of the Republic. Through preservation of cattle-breeding, hunting and crafts, importance of which grew considerably under the condition of social and economic crisis - the peoples of Gorny Altai managed to preserve peculiar features of their cultures.
Altai is famous for being one of the regions of ethnic and cultural genesis of modern Turkic-speaking peoples of the world. But at the same time, it is situated at the junction of formation of many civilizations of Central Asia, having exercised considerable influence over the neighboring territories and peoples. If studied thoroughly, words and notions not referred to the word-list of the Altaian linguistic family, may be found in the Altaian language.
Here one may trace communication ways of interrelation between great ancient and Medieval cultures by the example of the still applied grain graters and mills and other household articles; ways of cooking, building of traditional dwellings, etc.
For milleniums staying at the junction of cultures and languages, Gorny Altai is still a polychrome mosaic in ethnic, confessional and linguistic issues.
CONTEMPORARY NATIONAL AND ETHNIC STRUCTURE OF POPULATION
OF THE ALTAI REPUBLIC
National and ethnic structure of the population of the Republic is quite diverse. According to the latest census data, the Russian population constitutes 63%, the Altaians - 31%, the Kazakhs - 5,6%.
Other nationalities are not numerous. The Russian population inhabits mainly the northern regions - Maiminsky, Turochaksky, Shebalinsky, Ust-Koksinsky and the city of Gorno-Altaisk.
The Altaians prevail in Ulagansky, Ust-Kansky, ongudaisky Regions. The Kazakhs (83%) live in Kosh-Agachsky Region.
The Altaians belong to the Altaian linguistic family of Kyrgyz-Kypchak subgroup of eastern branch of the Turkic group. Earlier they were divided into 8 tribal groups-seoks ("bone") according to economic activity.
Ethnographically, the indigenous population is presented by two ethnographic groups - the northern Altaians and the southern Altaians. The northern Altaians, due to their origin peculiarities, are referred to the Ural type, the southern ones - to Central Asian or south Siberian types.
Northern Altaians include the Tubalars (the Tuba-Kizhis), inhabiting Tchoisky and Turochaksky Regions, the Kumandins - in Turochaksky Region (on the rivers Lebed and Biya), the Shors - in Tchoisky and Turochaksky Regions.
The Altaians (the Altai-Kizhis), the Telengits, the Teleuts are referred to the southern Altaians. The Altai-Kizhis are concentrated in ongudaisky, Ust-Kansky, Shebalinsky, and Maiminsky Regions. The Telengits - in Ulagansky and Kosh-Agachski Regions (valleys of the Thuya and the Argut rivers). The Teleuts live compactly in Shebalinsky and Maiminsky Regions. The Teleses - in Ulagansky Region.