The Altai people

Фото Many years ago in the beginning of the era the Altai was occupied by Scythians, representatives of the European race. After the great transmigration of peoples the Turkic race and its modern representatives dominate here, the Altai people are the ancestors of the ancient Turks. The Altai people are quite short, have a Mongoloid type of a face and a slight inward slant of the eyes.
The local inhabitants are always hospitable, friendly and, besides, very hard working. To be able to keep a good house here is very important not only for the family’s prosperity but also - and this is even more important - for its existence. Men in the Altai families are usually occupied by hunting and cattle farming, women – by home keeping, cooking and bringing up the children. Modern families have one or two children, but some decades ago there could be eight or even nine children in the family.

Фото A national house of the Altai people is ail. It is a hexagonal wooden building with a ground floor and a conic roof. There is a hole in the centre of the roof which helps smoke to go out of the house. In the centre of an ail there is a fireplace with the home fire which is sacred for the Altai people and thus it must be kept burning all the time.
The premise is divided into women’s and men’s parts, and everybody should walk in the ail only contra clockwise. Nowadays only a small number of the Altai people live in ails permanently, but there are many such houses in the yards of most Altai families. Apart from that you can see them in the places of mowing and cattle grazing, where the cattle farmers usually spend many days.

The main dish of the Altai cuisine is boiled meat, and its main peculiarity is the absence of pepper and other piquant spices. Also various milk products play an important role in the Altai food. These products can be hardly compared to what we know and have in our shops. The Altai people even make an alcohol drink from milk. It is arachka which is 10-15 degrees strong.

Фото Most Altai people know the Russian language but speak their native Altai language among themselves. The Altai language is very interesting linguistically. During its development it affected a big number of world’s languages – from Turkish to Japanese. Also it was scientifically proved that the Sumerian language is also one of the cognate languages of the Altai language family.
The Altai religion is also a result of a long historical development of this nation. It is a mixture of Russian Orthodox Church, Burkhanism, shamanism and Buddhism. Initially the Altai people were pagan and believed in two gods: Ulgenya – an infinitely kind deity, and Arlik – a master of the underground world. Also according to the Altai religious faiths the world was inhabited by the ghosts identified with different nature objects – rivers, lakes, mountain passes, stones. At the end of the 19th century Orthodox missioners came to the Altai. This church provided favourable conditions for the life of the Altai people who accepted it and in this way Orthodox church became popular among the Altai inhabitants. However the Altai people didn’t refuse from their previous beliefs. In the beginning of the twentieth century the first followers of Burkhanism appeared in the society. This is a religion in which the object of worship is White Burkhan – a wise ruler, who is believed to come to the Altai and release it from the invaders.

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