Culture and history of Altai

Altai history. Huns era

Gunnes golden iron sword

Political situation in Central Asia changed dramatically at the end of the first millennium BC. Empire of the Huns was the first nomadic which had been formed at the turn of III and II centuries. BC. There was an urgent need to unite pastoralists into powerful tribal alliance to control trade routes and military confrontation to political and cultural pressure from China. Chinese chronicles describe the Huns as a combative and courageous people: "The Huns (Huns) were quick and brave warriors who appeared like a vortex and disappeared like lightning."

Gunnes sword

Formed state of Huns made significant changes in course of the history in Altai territory. Population has been changed: tribes migrating from Central Asia added to descendants of the Pazyryk population. Population continued to lead complex economy with cattle dominance during Huns period. Iron production developed significantly. Iron was used to make daggers, swords, and defensive weapons made of plating metal armor to protect soldiers from arrows and spears. The culture of the Huns in Altai studied on the basis of archaeological materials from multiply burials: Ust-Edigan, Sary-Bel, Bulan-Koba, Ayrydash, Bike, Kurayka. Abstract burials in Uimon steppe such as Chendekov, Katanda villages and top-Uimon were also analyzed.

Hun population brought in customs and traditions relating a funeral ceremony. Funeral ceremony of this period is characterized by following features: small, rounded mounds, shallow burial pits, dead was placed in wooden or stone box. Weapons and stuff as accompanying items were also buried together with dead. Women decoration items and clothing, bronze mirrors, bronze bells, iron buckles and studs, gold and semi-spherical shaped plaques and earrings, carnelian, jade and glass beads were found in the burials. Men's burials inventory is mainly represented by the weapons such a dagger, a bow and arrow. This demonstrates troubled military-political situation of that time.

Huns left another archaeological objects, except burials, such as settlements, petroglyphs, and sanctuaries. Archaeologists made interesting discovery in the Valley Yustyd Kosh-Agach. They discovered remains of oven of ceramic vessels. Large pots were produced using a potter's wheel and decorated with wavy patterns. The scale of production suggests that Hun masters made pottery for sale.

Ancient Turk era in Altai History

Ancient Turkic period lasts from the first half of the 1st millennium BC. e. to the X century. This period was marked by birth of military-political Turkic Kaganate on the biggest part of Asia. Altai was also involved into this process. Archaeologists have studied a large number of monuments belonged to the ancient Turkic era: funeral and memorial complexes and runic inscriptions. Runic writing was widely spread in the Altai Mountains starting from the VIII century. It is called “Runic” for similarity with appearance of Scandinavian runes. Researchers have found a large number of Old Turkic alphabet inscriptions on one of the most interesting places of worship called Mount Kalbak Tash in Ongudaisky area. One of inscriptions is translated as follows: "The Earth is eternal life! Do thrive house herbalist doctor: Take the heat of demonic illness five times, Blow and ban! Create a grace! Land is black! "This inscription is a prayer appeal to deity. Another well-known genre of runic letters is an epitaph. The most famous memorial inscription was found on a rock by the river Bar Burgazy in Kosh-Agach district. "I was fatal greed separated of my wife kept in the white mansion, with my prince, so sorrow, I had been separated." Poetry and philosophy merges in inscriptions of the ancient Turks. Archaeological sources indicate Turks were skilled metallurgists. Iron melting furnaces were found in Kosh-Agach Yustyd River and in estuary Kuehtonar. According to scientists examining devices, the furnaces were high performance. The role of agriculture increased a lot during the era of ancient Turks. Droughty climate of many areas in Altai made farmers to look for ways to save the ripening crop. Many researchers suppose remains of ancient irrigation systems, which have been preserved in the valleys of Altai rivers are concerned to attributes of Turkish era.

Stone Sculptures in Hara-Bareg

The most striking piece of ancient Turkic memorial buildings are stone sculptures.

These sculptures are unique demonstration of ritual traditions. Sculptor tried to express facial features of the deceased. Often depicted warrior hold a cup in his hand, putting other hand on a waist. Walls set of 4 stone slabs were a sacred place. Here there was a process of remembrance of dead, and stone sculpture with its cup in hands was a part of memorial feast. Some researchers believe that sculptures were painted for giving greater resemblance to living person. Ancient Turkic era was a milestone in the history of Altai Mountains. Participation of local people in military-political alliances stimulated the cultural and commercial exchange, spreading of writing and, as a consequence, increasing the level of education. This period was the initial step in the history of many ethnic Turkic peoples, including the Altaian.

Mongolian and Dzhungarian Era in Altai culture

Turkic Kaganates power eased by the end of the XVII century and Mongol Naimans, who lived between Khangai and the Altai mountains, and in the spurs of Altai came on the political arena. Altai tribes were tribute imposed. However, the Naimans had to face a formidable force, the Mongols. They defeated rivals in 1204 and seized vast territory, western boundary extended to the Irtysh River, Altai population was ruled by "darkness of Noyon Horch", a long-time associate of Genghis Khan. Mongol Empire was divided into two specific Khanates after Genghis Khan death in 1227. Altai was in "Jochi Ulus" (the eldest son of Genghis Khan), and stayed there until the end of the XIII century. Jochi Ulus broke into two parts because of frequent civil wars at the beginning of the XIV century. Altai tribes joined the White Horde and 100 years later, after it had been completely collapsed, Altai were under the auspices of the Siberian Khanate.

Altai people fell under the influence of western Mongolian - Dzungars in the middle of the XV century. Dzungaria formed in 1635 by uniting Western-Mongolian tribes into powerful state, comparable with China and Russia in political importance. Residents of Dzhungaria called themselves "zyungar" - right hand, based on fact that during campaigns of Genghis Khan their ancestors (Oirots) occupied the right wing troops of the conqueror. The basis of Dzunghar state was four tribes, calling themselves "The Four Oirots". Altai tribes were also in. They inhabited much larger area that time. It consisted the upper Irtysh (currently Chinese territory), Kazakh part of the Altai Mountains, and modern area of Altai Territory.

Stone Sculptures in Hara-Bareg

Russian army defeated Siberian Khanate, winners built forts of Tomsk in 1604 and Kuznetsk in 1618. It allowed to close to the land of Altai. Russian imposed a tribute on their settlements in the 20s of the XVII century. Legal status of Altai people living in Dzungaria was in line with the social-administrative structure of Oirats. Altai population was a part of Otok. Each Otok was group of people, being in subjection of their hereditary ruler – a zaisan. The population was defined by number of wagons. If Otok consisted a dyuchins, that meant he had 40 tents. Horin was inferior group which had 20 tents, as arban which had 10 tents. Dakshilar was noble birth people. Ordinary members of society were called albatu, they had to pay state taxes called alba.

Main economy branch of Altai was cattle-breeding. They bred horses, sheep and cows mainly, goats and camels much less. Nomadic herding was prevailing. Cattle was in the valley, on the winter pastures called as Kyshtym. Then herd returned to alpine meadows to the summer pastures (daylu). Slight snow covering in pastoral areas of Altai allowed to graze herds in valleys and not to engage in feed storage for winter.

Northern Altai almost did not engage in cattle breeding. Deep snow prevented it. They raised by hunting. Receptions and hunting methods were various. The best result achieved by a driven hunt. It was attended by up to several tens or even hundreds of people. Hunters used crossbows, all sorts of traps and loops, shelters for ambushing ungulates. Fishing was also important for northern Altai people. Cultivating crops such as spring barley, wheat and rye appeared from the middle of XVIII century in Altai. The soil was moistened using artificial irrigation, digging canals, constructing aqueducts. The Altai obtained a flour using water and hand mills. They have long been engaged in farming. They used cutlass and a plow for loosening land.

The most significant and complex craft industry was blacksmith. Products of iron were often used as a tribute to pay. In addition, Altai masters produced firearms and gunpowder. This was a consequence of high developing of weapon manufacturing in Dzungaria, which often used Altai blacksmiths and gunsmiths.

Altai festivals

Stone Sculptures in Hara-Bareg

Traditional Altai festivals depends on year cycle. It consists cold and warm periods. The most significant are rite festivals determining the end and the beginning of season. So, a rite called “Dyazhyl Byur” (green leaves) and Altai blessing rite start in early summer the period of new moon. “Sery Byur” rite (yellow leaves) takes place to ask a favor of Altai during autumn season. Prosperity and luck during winter period mainly depends on it.

"Chaga Bayram" is New Year festival according to lunar calendar. The rite of "blessing Altai" is also performed there. People enjoyed spring coming soon, a new cycle of the calendar year. The arrival of the year is especially important for who celebrate 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72 years. Coming year is the year of significant tests for them. Great importance is the feast "Dylgayak" which is held in the early spring with the arrival of the new moon (tulaan ah) among the ritual celebrations. People get meat from the store (uuche), perform the rite “Shute” which also has aim of blessing of Altai and Sky, which provide well-being and prosperity to family. People have a fun, treat each other with food, children ride on dried skins from the slopes.

The festival "El Oiyn" has been held since 1988. It became a national. Thousands participants and visitors gather from all over Altai every two years. Huge town of hundreds of tents and yurts appears during several days. It is an arena for competing famous and unknown athletes in a variety of national sports. Inexhaustible supply of traditional folklore of peoples of the Altai Mountains spills on a stage.

The program of the festival includes the most popular competitions. The fight (kuresh), archery, horse racing, young horses riding, weight-lifting, lifting stones (kodurge tash), whiping (whip sogush) game tebek, Altai Checkers (shatra), running with a man on a back (tonzhaan dyugu-Riesch). The most success has a game "cook Boria" ("Blue Wolf"). It is fighting of two horse teams trying to throw a goat to the opponent's sheet. Currently, it is decided to perform the holiday "El Oiyn" in Ongudaisky district, which is the geographical center of the Altai Mountains.

Altai culture. Altai throat singing

Throat singing is a technique with an unusual articulation in the pharynx and / or larynx, characterizing traditional music of peoples of Siberia, Mongolia, Tibet and other peoples of the world. Typically, throat singing consists in the pitch (low-frequency "hum") and the upper voice, moving on natural tones of the scale (usually used 4 - 13 overtones).

Overtones are clearly audible when sounds amplify components by changing the shape of the resonating cavity of mouth, throat and pharynx. This allows the singer to blow multiple tones. The most famous is the Tuva throat singing, using technique “khorekteer”. The most common and internally throat singing style in the region called “Khoomei” using by Mongolian and Tuvinian.

Throat singing characterizes a number of Turkic Culture (Altai, Bashkir, Khakassia) and Mongol (Mongols, Kalmyks) peoples. Style kai is prevalent in Altai, intended for the performing long epic tales.

Throat singing in Tibet used to pronounce Buddhist canons, a number of educational institutions in Tibet teaches specialized performers of throat singing. Monasteries Gyumay (Gyudmed) and Gyuto are among them. It is known as Throat singing Xhosa and Canadian Inuit are also known. European nations also have a technique of throat singing represented in Irish culture.

Traditional Altai dwelling

Altai settlements were located, as a rule, on river valleys. Type of housing depended on specific natural conditions, degree of sedentism, and economic situation of family. The Southern Altai built felt-grating yurt and housing, covered stripes of birch or larch bark. Chelkans and Tubalars home was an aylu (Chily), a square structure, built of logs, planks and poles, set almost vertically with a slight slope inside. It was covered by bark. Opened fireplace was located in the center, as in a yurt, smoke came out into the hole of roof. There were also timbered polygonal tent, covered with birch bark that have proliferated in the second half of the XIX century.

Southern Altai led economy, which was based on pastoralism. They raised cattles. Cattle was kept on pasture all year round. This explains nomadic and semi-nomadic lifestyle. A characteristic feature of settlements of Southern-Altai were scattered and poor populated. They committed frequent migrations to search of better pastures. Each family chose to settle the place where the herbage was plenty, there was a water source, and there were no neighbors. They settled at a distance of five kilometers or more from each other as usual. When the grass was depleted, they moved to a new location in the same way.

The Altai roamed from autumn and winter pastures (Kyshtym) to spring-summer pastures (jaylu). Tribes formed a "vertical" order of nomadism: Family with yurt and all the property moved to the hollow where there was abundant food for cattle, then slowly moved to winter pastures in the mountains. They set tents on southern slopes of mountains, wind-protected and with no snow places, animals could find a dried herbs. The movement began in the reverse order in early spring. This nomadic method is based on years of experience and making rational use of range lands.

Each ail united yurts, in which lived the father of the family, and his sons, and the yurt was spaced a certain distance. Ail is the national Altai dwelling has hexagonal construction made of timber with a conical roof. The door is traditionally oriented to the east, where the sun rises. Home fire is sacred for Altaian. It is impossible to throw garbage or cigarette butts, you cannot get a light from it or spit to the fire. The hostess should make sure that the fireplace is not extinguished. Huge cauldron boiler used for cooking a meal. Altaian treats the fire with big respect, they always make a gift to it.

Only counter-clockwise moving inside ail is allowed. The room is conventionally divided into male and female halves, honored guest is always seated on the honorable place in front of fireplace.

Currently Altai people prefer to live in spacious huts and ails using as a summer kitchen, they dry cheese and jerk meat there, prepare the national drinks. Ails are indispensable on the distant mountain summer pastures.