Buryats

   Ethnic group. Buryats, or Buryaad, are the largest minority nationality in Siberia, numbering nearly 450,000. While the majority of Buryats reside in the Republic of Buryatiya, they also live in the Irkutsk Oblast and Zabaykalsky Krai (formerly known as the Chita Oblast), especially within the formerly autonomous Ust-Orda and Agin-Buryat okrugs of these two administrative units. Only in Aga Buryatiya do they form a majority (63 percent).
   The Buryats are a mix of Mongol, Turkic, and Tungus peoples. Buryats are traditionally divided among the following subgroups: Khora, Bugalat, Ekhirit, Khongodor, and Tabunut. Culturally, they resemble Mongolians, possessing similar traditions of nomadic pastoralism and many customs (sports, oral history, etc.). Their language, Buryat, is a form of Mongolian that has used the Cyrillic alphabet since 1939 (a Latin alphabet was employed in the previous decade). In order to stanch pan-Mongolism in the 1930s, the dialect that least resembled standard Mongolian was chosen for the Buryats by the Kremlin.
   The Tibetan form of Buddhism (Lamaism) is the dominant religion among Buryats, though many still practice shamanism and animism, often in conjunction with Buddhism. Many Buryats living in Irkutsk and other western areas of their traditional homeland have embraced Russian Orthodoxy. Founded in the 1990s, the All-Buryat Cultural Association and the Congress of the Buryat People seek to foster Buryat national identity in and outside of Buryatiya.
   The world-famous model Irina Pantaeva is an ethnic Buryat and was born in Ulan-Ude; she chronicled her early life in Buryatiya in her 1999 autobiography Siberian Dream.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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