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SiberiaSiberia can be originally divided into two zones: Western Siberia and Eastern Siberia. Western Siberia - Tyumen Region, Altai, Kemerovo Region. Eastern Siberia - Taimyr District, Tunguska Areas, Yakutia, Transbaikalia, Irkutsk Region Republic of Buryatia.

Lake BaikalLake Baikal - is a lake in Eastern Siberia, the maximum depth is more than 1600 metres, the length of Lake Baikal is 636 km, the width is from 25 to 80 km. There is the Olkhon island near the northwest shore of lake Baikal. Olkhon is the heart of ancient stories and historical legendaries.

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Republic of Buryatia

Republic of Buryatia

Republic of Buryatia Settlements / Settlements of Buryatia / 10 2009

Republic of Buryatia Administrative-territorial Division of Buryat Republic

The Republic of Buryatia is a republic, one of federal subjects of Russia. The Buryat Republic comprises 21 districts, seven of them are equated with northern regions of Russia. In the Republic of Buryatia there are 5 cities of republican status (Gusinoozersk, Kyakhta, Severobaykalsk, Babushkin, Zakamensk) and urban-type settlements (Zaigraevo, Barguzin, Taximo, Kamensk and others).

Every district, city, urban-type settlement and village of the Buryat Republic is headed by the elected head of relevant local administration and the head forms administration.

The capital of the Republic is the city of Ulan-Ude.

Population of the Buryat Republic is more than 1 000 000 inhabitants, average density is 3 persons per km2. Urban population in the Republic of Buryatia dominates over rural population. Southern areas of the Buryat Republic are more populated than the areas crossed by the Trans-Siberian Railway.

The Republic of Buyatia is multinational, there are more than 60 nationalities: Buryats, Russians, Evenkis, Mongols, Tofalars, Soyots and others. Most of the population are Russians (69%) and Buryats (23.3%).

State Coat of Arms of the Republic of Buryatia is a circle of three colours of the national flag which is a symbol for eternity, the inside of the circle is represented by mountains and Baikal waves, the top of the coat of arms is "soyombo" (Moon, Sun, hearth) which is a traditional symbol of eternal life, the bottom is represented by the "hadaga" ribbon which means hospitality. The State Flag of the Republic of Buryatia is represented by three colours (blue, white and yellow) symbolizing sky, purity and eternity.

History of the Buryat Republic

In the ancient times and the Middle Ages Buryat clans and tribes belonged to the same ethnicity as well as other Mongolian tribes. Buryat history of the ancient times and the Middle Ages is an integral part of the whole Mongolian community.

Ethnonym Buryats the same as Barguts, Hori, Tumats, Bulagachins, Keremuchins and other tribes which later became a part of the Buryat ethnicity is firstly mentioned in Mongolian writing Innermost Legends in 1240 year. In ancient times Buryat tribes lived in the northern end of the Mongolian community, in the region named Bargudzhin-Tokum on the both sides of Lake Baikal.

Under Genghis Khan and and his descendants Buryatia comprised the Great Mongol Empire. Buryatia was joined to Russia in the middle of XVII century, so territories on the both sides of Lake Baikal were separated from Mongolia. Consolidation of tribes and groups took place under the conditions of the Russian state. The reasons for this process were new state political directorate, Russian economic-administrative system, Russian ethnocultural interaction. As a result, in the middle of XVII century Buryat ethnos was formed.

After the Great October Revolution there were formed the Buryat-Mongolian Autonomous Region as a part of the Far-East Republic (1921) and the Mongol-Buryat Autonomous Region as a part of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) in 1922. In 1923 they united into the Buryat-Mongolian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (BM ASSR) as a part of the RSFSR. In 1937 there were detached and emerged the Aginsk Buryat National Area as a part of the Chita Region, Ust-Ordynsk Buryat National Area as a part of the Irkutsk Region and also there was formed the Olkhon district as a part of the Irkutsk Region. In July 1958, according to the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, the Buryat-Mongolian ASSR was renamed as the Buryat ASSR and in 1992 the Buryat ASSR was renamed as the Republic of Buryatia.

Geography and Nature of the Buryat Republic

The Republic of Buryatia covers an area of 351,300 sq km, which approximately equals the territories of England, Belgium, Luxemburg and Denmark put together. Buryatia Buryatia is situated almost in the centre of Asia. The Republic is bordered by Lake Baikal to the west, Irkutsk Region and the Republic of Tuva to the east, Chita Region to the east and Mongolia to the south.

The Republic of Buryatia is mountainous. There are a lot of mountain landscapes, but there are few plains which are located at 500-700 m above sea level. Even Lake Baikal, the lowest point of Buryatia, is located at 455 m above sea level.

The Sayan Mountains, Tunkin Goltsy and Hamar-Daban Ranges stretch through many kilometers. The highest peak of Eastern Siberia is Mount Munku-Sardyk (3491 m) in the Sayan Mountains. Buryat Land has a great variety of landscapes: alpine tundra with drift lakes, dry steppes overgrown by silk grass and sheep fescue, primeval taiga and snowy peaks, fertile alpine steppes. The Republic of Buryatia is also a forest republic because 70% of its territory is covered by coniferous and deciduous forests, and the lord of these forests is, of cause, Siberian pine.

The Republic of Buryatia is rich in water resources. There are about 9000 small and large rivers that belong to the Baikal Lake water area and to the drainage basin of Siberia s largest rivers of - the Yenisei and the Lena. The basin of Baikal Lake also includes the largest river of Buryatia, the Selenga and such peculiar rivers as the Barguzin, the Verkhnyaya (Upper) Angara, the Snezhnaya (Snowy), the Turka, the Chikoy, the Khilok and others.

Eternal Blue Sky is a sacred concept for every inhabitant of Buryatia. There are more than 300 fair sunny days in a year in Buryatia. Winter and summer climate is dry and healthy. The climate of Buryatia is extremely continental. Winter is long, frosty and windless with little snow except for the coast of Baikal Lake. Average temperature in January is 24-25C below zero. Summer is short but warm and sometimes even hot. Average temperature in July is 17-18C above zero, sometimes it reaches 35-40C above zero. The maximum amount of precipitations is 250-300 mm per year, in the mountains - 300-500mm.

Flora and fauna of Buryatia is rich and diverse. There are a lot of unique and endemic species registered in the Red Book.Barguzin sable, snow leopard, red dog, manul cat, Baikal seal and omul are famous throughout the world.

There are a lot of especially protected natural territories in the Republic of Buryatia. In the Barguzinsky and Baikalsky Reserve (Zapovednik) ecosystems of the southern and north-eastern shores of Baikal are protected. 27 game reserves of the Buryat Republic restore and increase populations of game animals.

The main purpose of the Zabaikalsky and Tunkinsky National Parks established in the last century is not only nature protection, but health improvement of population and educational tourism.

Nowadays, there are a lot of tourist organizations in the Buryat Republic: Travel Agencies, Pensionates and Health Resorts, Guest Houses and Recreation Centres , Hotels and Inns, children's camps.

The interesting fact is that in Buryatia the original Buryat system of philosophy such as a special attitude towards nature was created. Buryats regarded nature not only as Home and the Basis for prosperity and wealth, but also as the Basis of moral and spirit principles. According to Shaman chronicles people regarded themselves as a part of uniformed, indivisible, great nature and Lake Baikal regarded as a living organism, a treasure enfolded in mystery and relevant to the Universe.

Attitude towards nature and nature worship were inspired by respect and love of Buryat people, their knowledge and implementation of ecological laws existing in nature rather than by economic or everyday aspirations. According to Buryat heroic epic Geser it provided prosperity and success in nomadic cattle breeding.

Buryat people were always characterized by disinterested kindness and peacefulness, respect for people, nature and all creature livings. Almost all natural resources were under the protection of religion: Shamanism and Lamaism. Nobody even thought of hunting at Shaman sacred sites. This kept a lot of species of flora and fauna from extinction. Killing of a steppe eagle and a swan was one of grievous sins. A steppe eagle which was worshiped as a sacred bird Burkhan-Shubuun, the guardian and infirmarian of steppe. The swan Khun Shubuun was a Man-Bird possessed by moral soul which is a source of eternal love and worship. Buryats guarded forests because they knew that an abundance of rivers and lakes, wealth and diversity of animal and vegetal life depended on forests. Even the construction of Buryat boots, gutuls, was shown an attitude of care towards nature. The toes of Buryat boots were turned up so as to prevent stumbling over the even ground or harming it in any way.

Republic of Buryatia Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Buryatia

The dominant traditional industry of Buryats was cattle breeding which always played a key role. But under the influence of Russian peasants Buryats started field farming. In Transbaikalia and around Lake Baikal Mongol-type cattle (horse, sheep, goat, camel) breeding and pastoral farming were developed. Fur and game hunting (for squirrel, sable, hare, lynx, beaver, musk deer, elk, bear and wolf) and fishing played a minor role in economy. The main Buryat hunting weapon is a bow and arrows. Fishing was developed on the shore of Lake Baikal, sealing was also developed.

In the XVII century Buryats melted iron, raised mica and salt. Smithcraft, leather working, felting, harness making, clothes and shoe making, woodworking and carpentry were well-developed. Traditional Buryat dwelling was a felt-covered, wood lattice-framed yurta. The yurta also was a service space, in early spring there were calves and lambs kept in the yurta. Because of nomadism the yurta was small-sized and had a particular set of household articles.

Traditional kitchenware was made from leather, wood, metal and felt. Inside to the left of the door were kept saddles, harness, the master's hunting equipment, a now, and arrows. Also to the left of the entrance of the yurta there were chests for felt beddings. Near the chests there were wooden buckets and leather wine skins with sour milk. The right, or eastern, part of the yurta was recognized as female; there unmarried women and daughters of the master of the yurta slept. Near the exit there were tables and shelves with wooden kitchen utensils, victuals, wooden buckets for milking and other articles of female labour. In its centre there was a hearth; the northern side, where the altar "sheree" was kept, was considered the place of honour and was the place where guests were offered a seat. In the centre there was a square earthern site for the hearth, and the entrance door faced, as usual, to the South.

Indispensable attribute of a Buryat yard and worshipped item was a tethering-post - serge - in the form of a post of 1.7-1.9 m high decorated with white and red shreds of silk and brocade and symbolized prosperity and a social status of an owner.

Traditional Buryat clothes were fur coats, hats, fabric robes, high fur boots, womens sleeveless outer jackets and others. Clothes were decorated by multicolored material, silver and gold. women's decorations included earrings, bracelets, rings, coins, corals. men's decorations included belts, knives, smoking pipes, flint and steel. The staple food of Buryats was meat and diary. Boiled fermented milk (varenets), dried curd, skim milk were made from milk, butter was made from sour cream, kumiss was made from mare's milk, milk vodka was made from cows milk.

Meat was the main food, especially in winter. The beat meat was considered horse meat and lamb meat. There was the following special Buryat method of butchering. The stomach was slitted with a knife. Next, squeezing a hand through the stomachs split first diaphragm, then aorta were punctured. The Buryats attached a special meaning to different parts of carcass. A head, shoulder, buttock, cordis were given to guests by by special etiquette rules during their visit. Plants and vegetables such as garlic, ramsons, yellow daylight were good to eat and stored to winter use.

Buryat culture was historically based on material and intellectual values of Mongol super ethnos including writing traditions that had appeared in Mongolia in the 13th century. Traditional namad and semi-namad culture began to transform and to be replaced somewhat when Buryatia was merged in Russia and became familiar with Christian and Buddhist culture. As a result of this, the Buryat culture as folklore, myths, legends, fables, fairytales and songs was properly formed. Epic stories, uligers, comprised from 3 000 to 25 000 poetic lines were widely spread. Uligers generally told the legends of mythological and historical heroes defeated monsters or enemies. These epic stories were usually performed by ballad singers. One of the most important epic poems is Geser 1000 years old of which was widely celebrated in the Republic of Buryatia in 1995.

Buryat folk art was represented by artistic metalworking, woodworking, stone working and bone-working. Artistic professions were divided into mens professions such as bone, wood and stone carving, metal casting, hammered ironwork, jewelry making and womens professions such as embroidery, knitting, applique work on leather, felt and fabric. Basic motives of decorative art were spiral, squares, rhombi, zigzags and scallops.

Music and poems related to uligers and performed with a two-stringed fiddle and were widely spread. The most popular Buryat folk art was a dance. The Buryats imitated manners and characters of animals, birds, pets in the dance such as the following ones: the wood grouse dance, eagle's dance, horseman dance, round dance Ekhor. There were different and interesting traditional stringed, wind and percussion musical instruments such as a tumbrel, khur, khuchir, chanza and limba (flute).

Religious music and dramatic art was represented by shamanistic and Buddhist ceremonies and mysteries.

The most important holidays were tailagans which began with a prayer and a sacrifice to local guardian spirits and ended by a common repast, drinking of milk wine and different competitive games such as a fighting, archery and horse races. There were three compulsory tailagans: spring, summer and autumn. A wide circulation of lamaist holidays such as khurals was obtained after the establishment of Lamaism. Khurals among which are the most popular summer Maidari and Tsam were organized in datsans (monasteries).

Nowadays the most popular Buryat traditional holidays are Sagaalgan (the New Year) which is celebrated in January-February following the lunar calendar and famous for its duration - the whole month and Surkharbaan which is celebrated in summer and followed by sporting events and folk festivals.

National and Ethnographic Groups in the Buryat Republic

There are the following Buryat ethnic groups: the Bulagats, Ekhirits (Barguzinsky District, Bayandaevsky and Kudarinsky Areas of the Buryat Republic), the Khondogors (the Buryats of Irkutsk Region), the Khoris (the Agin-Buryat Okrug, Khorinsky area of the Buryat Republic and other areas of Buryatia), the Buryats of the northern areas (Bauntovsky Evenkiysky District of the Buryat Republic and others) of the Buryat Republic who are mostly the assimilated Evenkis and the Selenga Buryats (the central and southern areas of Buryatia).

Anthropologically the Buryats are typical Mongoloids of Central Asia. The northern Buryats have features of the Siberian Mongoloid Race or the Mongoloid Race of North Asia.

Language of the Butryat Republic

The Buryat language bis a language of the Mongolian branch of the Altaic language family. Mongolian language is also common among the Buryats. The Buryat language is divided into 15 dialects and is a native language of 87% of the Russian Buryats.

Writing System of the Buryat Republic

The most of the Buryats had been used the Old Mongolian writing until 1930. In 1931 the Buryat writing was created on the basis of the horinsky dialect and, firstly, the Latin writing system, and then the Russian writing system.

Ethnogenesis and Ethnic History of the Buryat Republic

In the 7th-9th century Cisbaikalia was populated by tribes of the Kurykans, Transbaikalia was populated by tribes of the Bayegu or Bayyrku belonged to a confederation of Turkish tribes-the Tele tribes. The Tele tribes were ruled by the Uigurs established the Uigur Kaganate in 745-840 years.

In the 7th-13th century after the invasion of Mongolian tribes the most of the Kurykans moved to the Middle Lena River. The Secret History of the Mongols of 1240 year says that mongol-speaking tribes:the Bulagachins, the Kerumchins, the Khoriirgens as of the Buriyats that had already lived there were conquered in 1207. Brotherly people who lived on the shores of the Irkut River, the Kitoi River, the Oka River the Lena and Angara upper rivers had been mentioned in Russian sources from 1609. Since the end of the 17th century tribes of the Bulgats, the Ekhirits and the Khongodors comprised the Buryat ethnos were known in Cisbaikalia.

In the 17th-18th centuries a lot of Mongolian groups which include the Tabunuts or the Tabunguts lived on the territory of the modern Buryat Republic (the territory of Russia and Mongolia in 1727) in the basin of the Selenga River and its tributaries after delimitation of China frontiers were nomadised there and back from Mongolia to Transbaikalia.

In 1720-30 years a part of the Bulagats and the Ekhirits moved to the lower reaches of the Selenga River, the Barguzin River, and a part of the Horis moved to the territory of the modern Agin-Buryat Okrug. Administrative-territorial, religious, cultural and economic dissociation was precluded from the consolidation of Buryat ethnic groups. Forming of the Buryat ethnos ended only in the 19th century. The interesting fact is that Buryat ethnic groups still have differences in languages and traditions.

Economy of the Buryat Republic

When the first Russian migrants arrived in Cisbaikalia the main occupation of the Buryat tribes was nomadic cattle breeding. The Buryats grew grass-fat sheep, cattle, goats, horses and camels. Families of cattlemen followed their herds. Additional kinds of economic activities mostly developed by the western Buryats were hunting, agriculture and the fishing; Sealing was developed on the shore of Lake Baikal.

During the 18-19th centuries under the Russian influence the Buryat economy had changed. Only the Buryats who lived on the shore of the Onon River and in the south-east of Buryatia kept cattle breeding business. Integrated cattle breeding was being developed in other areas of Transbaikalia. Only rich cattlemen nomadised all the year, middle-class cattlemen had to settle partly or fully and became engaged in farming. In Transbaikalia where farming was subsidiary the integrated economy of farming and cattle breeding was formed. Population became almost fully settled and started farming. Haying of specially fertilized and irrigated fields utugs, winter forage conservation were common. The Buryats sowed winter and spring ruttishness, wheat, barley, buckwheat, oats and hemp. Methods and tools of farming were adopted from Russian peasants.

Rapid development of capitalism in Russia in the second half of the 19th century also influenced Buryatia. Construction of the Siberian Railway and development of industry in Southern Siberia stimulated the expansion of farming and increased the marketability. Farm machinery started appearing in families of prosperous Buryats. Buryatia became one of the main producers of cash grain.

Except for blacksmithing and jewelry making the Buryats did not have developed handicraft industry. Their economic and daily living needs were completely satisfied with domestic crafts. Materials for domestic crafts were leather, wool, hides, horse hair. Buryat smiths and jewelers were highly skilled. Their products were widely distributed in Siberia and Central Asia.

Traditions of a cattle breeding and nomadic life despite the increased role of farming left a large footprint on the Buryat culture.

Traditional Clothing in the Buryat Republic

Buryat clothing of men and women is slightly different. Lower level clothing consists of a shirt and trousers; upper clothing is a long flowing faux robe encircled with a wide fabric girdle or a belt. The robe was lined. A winter robe was fur-lined; the edges of the robe were braided by bright fabric or yarn. Married women wore front-slashed and also lined sleeveless jackets udze over robes. Buryat traditional mens hat was a conical hat which crown was connected with flaring fur hat-band and ribbons on the top of the hat. Women wore a pointed hat edged with fur and a red tassel on the top of the hat. Buryat traditional footwear was thick felt-soled low heeless boots with the toe turned up slightly. Favorite ornamentals of Buryat women were temporal charms, earrings, necklaces, medallions. Clothes of rich Buryats were quality, bright and made of imported textiles. From the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20 the century Buryat traditional costume had been changed by Russian town and peasants clothes, especially in the western part of Buryatia.

Traditional Settlements and Dwellings

The ancient form of Buryat traditional dwelling was a typical nomad's yurta. Walls of the yurta were made from easily transported lattices placed around a circle and tied up with hair cords. The dome of the yurta was laid on inclined poles. Bottom ends of the poles were leaned on the walls and top ends of the poles were attached to the wooden hoop which was a smoke flap. The carcass was covered by felt. The entrance was always on the south and was shut by a wooden door and a quilted felt pad. The floor of the yurta was always earthen, sometimes covered by boards or felt. The fireplace was located in the middle of the floor. Felt yurta had been going out of use in time. In Cisbaikalia yurtas were already changed by polyangular wood conduits with a sloping roof and a centered smoke flap in the middle of the 19th century. These wood conduits coexist with yurtas and were summer dwellings. After Russian wooden dwellings were widely spread in Buryatia yurtas were occasionally used as ancillary accommodations.

All belongings and utensils were set inside the traditional Buryat dwelling in accordance with customs. There was a sanctuary behind the fireplace. The Buryat Lamaists put images of the Buddha burkhans and bowls with sacrificial food on this place, the Buryat Shamanists put a box with human figures and animal skins which were worshipped as an incarnation of spirits ongons. Above the fireplace there was a bowl on a trivet. Meat, milk and diary were boiled in this bowl. Even after beginning to live Russian dwellings and use modern furniture things inside a house had been set in a Buryat traditional order for a long time.


Buryat cuisine mainly consists of a variety of dishes prepared from milk. Not only sour milk but also pressed dry curd hurut which substituted bread for cattlemen were preserved. Tarasun, a strong drink, which was a part of sacrificial and ceremonial food was made from milk using a special distillatory vessel. Meat consumption depended on a number of cattle which a Buryat family owned. The Buryats preferred to eat lamb in summer and beef and horse beef in winter because cattle were butchered in winter. They boiled meat in lightly salted water and then drink the broth. In spite of that there were a variety of farinaceous dishes, the Buryats began to bake bread only under the influence of Russians. The Buryats like the Mongols drank tile tea with milk, salt and grease.

Social System of the Buryat Republic

At the turn of the 2oth century Buryat family was small and monogamous. Polygamy was assumed and mainly practiced by rich cattlemen. Marriage was exogamous, besides only patrilineal consanguinity was important. Despite the weakening of blood, clan and tribal loyalties which were replaced by territorial and ties clan relations played a major role in the life of the Buryats, especially the Buryats of Cisbaikalia. Clan members should have helped their clansmen, taken part in the sacrifices and partaken of a meal together, protected clansmen, had the responsibility for lawlessness of clansmen. Also communal land ownership was reserved. Every Buryat should have known his genealogy which sometimes was up to 20 generations. . On the eve of the October Revolution of 1917 the social structure of Buryatia was generally complicated, primitive communal and class relations were deeply entwined. The western and eastern Buryats had a class of taishi and noiony consisted of clan aristocracy. The development of commodity relations in the beginning of the 20th century led to the appearance of rural bourgeoisie.

Intellectual Culture, Religion and Traditional Beliefs in the Buryat Republic

Since ancient times the Republic of Buryatia located in southern Siberia on the both shores of Lake Baikal was involved in ethnocultural processes of Central Asia and became a meeting point of three religions: Shamanism, Tibetan Buddhism and Orthodox Christianity. However, Shamanism is an ancient belief of aborigines which wasnt displaced by the spread of two world religions. These religions struggled peacefully to influence the spiritual life of people using more delicate influence and persuasion techniques such as moral and philosophical preachings, psychological methods and solemn religious ceremonies. Tolerance demonstrated by servitors of all confessions helped every religion to occupy a peculiar niche and more or less peacefully coexist until Soviet times.


Buryat traditional religion was Shamanism which had a whole system of higly-charged emotional rites and ritual ceremonies greatly influenced believers.

Shamanistic rituals are not just simple religious acts, but a complex of large-scale, spectacular theatrical productions or processions using words, music, singing, visual arts, incenses, alcohol drinks, light and fire. Manipulation of words was the main instrument used by shamans. Their singing, praying, intoning, tambourine striking, tinkling of costume metal and bone pendants, dancing and hypnotization made a great impression on people, inflamed and educated.

Buryat shamanistic sacrifices were made as follows:
Wine or vodka dripping;
Food, money and tobacco gifts;
Hanging of colourful patches on ritual objects and ongons, in sacred sites and near sacred springs;
Firing up;
Devotion of live animals to spirits;
Slaughtering of sacrificial animals.

Shamanists in contrast to Christians and Buddhists didnt have temples which were specially built for religious services. In shamanism there were collective field-meetings on the top or at the bottom of mauntains, near a river, spring, rock or unusual tree. Places for sacrifices were permanent, worshiped and sacred. Every place had its host - Ezhin.

Shamans were regarded as mediators between believers and superhuman powers and men or women of the God or the Heaven. He or she should be of shamans descent - udha to become a shaman. The shaman wore hair in a plate, a hat with ribbons and had a wooden or iron walking-stick to differ from usual people. White shamans wore white silk or ermine fur clothes and rode on a white horse.

Shamans by vocation and purpose were religious workers but they also acted as fortune-tellers, diviners, healers, poets, actors, experts in genealogy, customs and traditions, performers of oral folk art and guardians of conventional rules.

Shaman rituals survive to this day, on a trip a traveler always pays a tribute to sacred places- obo or barisa.

Orthodox Christianity

The Buryat Christianity is existing for more than 250 years. The founder of the Buryat Orthodox Church is considered to be Nila. In 1682 the construction of the Troitsky Monastery and then the Posolsky Monastery were started. These monasteries were main bases of missionary activity. In1727 the Irkutsk Eparchy was found for the advancement of the Orthodox among the Buryats, the Yakuts and the Evenkis. Baptism was violently carried out, sometimes as a slight release from tribute paid off in furs yasak. In the middle of the 19th century the missionary activity had increased. During this period of time 20 items of Christian canonical and liturgic literature including the Bible were translated. In the beginning of the 20th century 85 000 of the Buryats (one third of the Buryat population) were Orthodox Christians.


Before Russians came in Transbaikalia and to Lake Baikal there had already been Buddhist joss houses and religious workers. In the beginning of the 18th century there were 11 heathen temples and 150 lamas. This number had been increased over time and it was a common practice for the Buryat teenagers to study at religious centers of Mongolia and Tibet.

In 1741 by an edict of Empress Elizaveta Petrovna the northern branch of Buddhism known as Lamaism was recognized as one of the official religions of Russia and an establishment of 150 lamas released from imposts and compulsory services was confirmed. Since this time every clan began to have an establishment of lamas whose influence increased. At the same time the first Buryat datsan (monastery) the Tamchinsky or Gusinoozersky Datsan - was built.

In 1764 the Irkutsk provincial government erected the prior of the Tsongolsky Datsan into the spiritual leader of the Buryat Lamaism - Bandido Hombo-Lama.

In 1851 Regulations on lamaist clergy in Eastern Siberia was approved and determined am admissible number of datsans and lamas, an order of completing and principles of control.

In the second half of the 19th century an the beginning of the 20th century the Buryat Buddhist Church was tempestuously developed, there were theological schools in datsans: medical tsanit, dzhud, manba; typographical- duinkhor. Decorative arts, theology, science, translation and publishing industry and imaginative literature were developed.

Lamaism widespread on the territory of Buryatia is one of the branches of Buddhism which is characterized by complicated ceremonies. One of the most large-scale, spectacular theatrical ceremonies was tsam-khural, a Buddhist mystery firstly appeared in Tibet, represented by sacred dances and a mummery in masks and performed by priests in Lamaist monasteries. Tsam in Bryatia was often identified as tsam of Dokshits - geniuses, angry guardians of Buddhism.

In datsans special guidebooks about sacred dances in Tibetan were kept. There were highly initiated lamas - tantrits directed by all ceremonies of divine services, especially dances and the mummery in masks. In big monasteries there were a lot of artists who painted icons, made masks of Gods, people, animals and birds for tsam, costume makers. The Spectacular ceremony tsam-khural of Dokshits held once a year, early in July and collected a lot of believers and observers.

In 1914 in Buryatia there were 48 dansans and 16 000 lamas. The establishment of Buddhism made a contribution in developing of writing, literacy, science, literature, art, architecture, crafts and formed the way of living, national physiology and morality.

After the October Revolution the most of lamas were loyal to the Soviet government, the followers of the renovationism in the end of the 20th century advocated the cooperation with new government, innovations in their organization and moral and dogmatic principles. From 1925 a struggle with religions and churches started, all datsans were closed and ransacked, many thousands of cultural monuments were destroyed. As a result, at the end of the thirties the Buryat Buddhist Church ceased to exist.

During the Great Patriotic War the movement to restore the Buddhist church officially appeared in 1946, the Ivolginsky Datsan as a residence of the movement authorities was built. The Buryat Buddhism had been seriously restored from the second half of the eighties. New temples were built , old temples were restored, staff training schools were opened. Buddhism became one of the factors of national consolidation of the regeneration of Buryatia. In 1995 there were already 16 datsans of the Buryat Buddhist Church.

Republic of Buryatia Map of Buryat Republic
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