Face Music - Mongolian Tribes in the West
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P & C December 1998
- Face Music / Albi

- last update 03-2017

Test available in German

1.1 Oirats
1.2 Dzunghars
1.3 Khoshut
1.4 Alasha
1.5 Kalmyks
1.6 Urianchai (Altai Urianchhai - Altain Urianchai or Altaiyn Urianchai)
1.7 Tannu-Urianchai (Tuvans, Tuva or Tagnu Urianchhai)
1.8 Bayads
1.9 Chotan
2.0 Durvud (Dörvöd - Dürbeten - Dörböd - Dörwöd)
2.1 Myangad (Mingat)
2.2 Dzakhchin (Tsakhchin - Zakhchin - Dzakhchin)
2.3 Kazakhs in the West
2.5 Altai people - Turk tribe in the Russian Altai

One might believe that Outer Mongolia, today's Mongolian Republic, is populated only by Mongols, which of course is not entirely true. In fact, over 20 different Mongol tribes and one non-Mongol tribe, the Kazakhs, settle in the west. These mountain Kazakhs also settle in the Russian Altai, Chinese Altai and, of course, in the Kazakh Altai on the Upper Irtysh.

The Oirat Empire or the Khanate of the Dzunghars

Their tribes are: Altai Urianchai, Baatud, Bayads, Khantuu, Choros, Durvud, Khoshut, Khoid, Khoton, Kalmyks, Myangad, Eleuths, Sart Kalmyks, Torghut, Dzakhchin

1.1 Oirats

The Oirats (Oirats, Oird, Oiard, also called Eleuths or Dzunghars) share history, culture, and language with the eastern Mongol tribes and at various times were united under the same leader as a larger Mongol entity (confederation), whose rulers were Oirats or Chingizids (descendants of Genghis Khan). Although the Oirats have their origins in the eastern parts of Central Asia, settling in the Altai Mountains, today the most prominent group, called the Kalmyks, is located in Kalmykia. This has been an autonomous republic in the southern part of European Russia on the northwest coast of the Caspian Sea since 1992. It consists mainly of steppes. Today it is the only region in Europe, where Buddhism is a predominant religion.

Kalmyks (Chalmach from Turkish) means, "remainder" or "to remain".

- more information about the Kalmyks - see under 1.5 Kalmyks

- Oiard - This is a compound of Mongolian "oi" (forest) and "ard" (man), with these people being allocated to the "forest people". Another belief is that the name is derived from the Mongolian word "oirt" (or "oirchon"), which means "near", as in "near/near". The name may also be derived from the original name of the group "Dörben Öörd", meaning "The Allied Four". Again, other Mongols sometimes used the term "Daechin Mongols" ("Daechin" means forty), but among the Oirat there was rarely to be found a level of uniformity, as was common among larger tribes.
- Oirat was also used as an obsolete term for a Turkic-speaking population in the Altai Mountains (now Russian Altai), the Altaians ("Altays", Altay people, Altaians).


Around 1615, the Oirats adopted Tibetan Buddhism, so that even the Torgut aristocracy became Buddhist and sent their sons to Tibetian monasteries for their education in for example, the Torgut prince Daichin made two pilgrimages to Tibet. Also, Zaya Pandita (1599-1662), an adopted son of Khoshuten Taichi (leader) Baibaga, studied in Tibet from 1616 and spread Buddhism among the tribes on his journey and travels after his return in 1639.

Traces of the Oirats may be found south of the Altai Mountains since about the 12th century, where they were subjugated by Genghis Khan. After that they were also involved in the Mongol expansion in the 13th century. After the disintegration of the Mongol Empire and the withdrawal of the Mongols from China in 1368, they lived again in the vicinity of the Altai Mountains. There, from about 1400 until 1636, they formed a tribal confederation with the four main tribes Dörböd, Torghuud, Choschuud and Choros. In addition, there were other smaller Oirat tribes. The members of this confederation were called Oirats, derived from the Mongolian Oirad "forest man". Another designation is "Dsungar", derived from the Mongolian Dschüün Ghar ("left wing"): this was used to designate all Oirats and Dzhungars during the Dzhungar Khanate, but since the 17th century this term has been used only for the Khoroz tribe. Another alternative name is "Kalmyks" from Turkic: Chalmach (some authors interpret this term as "remnant/remnant" because they were different from the rest of Turkic and Muslim nomads). However, the meaning is disputed and not sufficiently clarified, but it has been encountered in history since the 14th century. The Russian name "kalmyk" developed therefrom, but later became established as the name for the Mongol tribes living far to the west.

In the area between the Khoshutes in the east and the Torgutes in the west, Durvuds and Dzunghars (Choroses) and other smaller tribes nomadized, with the Durvuds initially farther west, roughly between central Kazakhstan and Lake Balchash, and the Dzunghars to the east therefrom, from Lake Balchash as far as Urumchi (Ürümqi).

The Khoshutes, on the other hand, were the tribe of the Oirats settling in the utmost east, settling near Lake Saissan (Zaysan) and the Semei region on the lower parts of the Irtysh River, where they established several steppe monasteries.
The Khoshutes were neighbors to the Chalcha Khanate under Altan Khan and Tsasagtu Khan. Both khanates hindered the Khoshutes and other Oirat tribes from trading with Chinese border towns. The Khoshutes were led by Baibagas Khan and Güshi Khan and were the first Oirat leaders to promote the Gelug (Yellow Hat) school of Tibetan Buddhism (Lamaism).

Between the two tribes of Torgutes and Choschutes, the Choros, Durvuds and Khoid were also called "Dzunghars". They distributed power among the Four Oirates Empire and thus established their supremacy. The Choros were the dominant tribe at this time. Their Taiji Charchul (leader) tried to follow Esen Khan to reunite the Oirats and thus challenge the Chalcha. The great expansion of this territory should not hide the fact that most of the inhabitants were far more numerous subjugated Tibetans, Uyghurs, Kyrgyz and Kazakhs. In the history of Kazakhstan, the period of the Oirat attacks and their domination is called the second Mongol period or the "Great Misfortune" Also, the Oirats did not form a unified empire because their tribal confederation disintegrated in the 1630s, leaving each tribal lord to act more independently.

Information on the Oirat people can be found in a historical text in the Secret History of the Mongols, the 13th century chronicle of Genghis Khan's rise to power. In this document, the Oirats are listed among the "forest people", still under the rule of a shaman chief known as Khutug Bekhi. They originally lived on the upper Yenisei River while hunting and farming and in the region of present-day Tuva and the Mongolian province of Chöwsgöl. In the 14th century they migrated further south. Some of them later lived as horse breeders in the Altai Mountains.

It is also told in the Secret History that the Oirat leader Khutug Bekhi used a yada or "thunder stone" to unleash a strong storm on Genghis' army. In the early stages of the rise of Temujin (Genghis Khan), the Oirats under Khutug Bekhi fought against his army but were defeated. The Oirats came completely under Genghis Khan's Mongol rule after their ally Jamucha Guurchan, a childhood friend of Temujin and later rival, was also defeated. Upon the formation of Mongolia in 1206, the former allies submitted and became vassals under Genghis Khan. After that they supported him in several battles and negotiations with the forest and pastoral peoples in the Taiga up to the Irtysh (1207-1208). Genghis Khan, in gratitude, married two princesses to two of Khutug's sons, including his daughter Kökögän. Khutuga's domain was subordinated to Genghis Khan's son, Genghis Khan, but the oppressed were allowed to maintain their independence.

Under the Oirat Khan, a loyal faction formed with the support of the Mongol war machine. In 1207, Jochi, the eldest son of Genghis Khan, completely subjugated the forest tribes and united with the Oirats the Kyrgyz as well. Jochi married one of his daughters, Checheygen, to the Oirat leader Khutug-Bekhi or his son. Arghun Agha and his son Nowruz supported the Oirats under Bukha-Temür in the Hulagu expedition to Iran in 1256 and fought against Hashshashins, Abbasids in Persia. The Ilkhan Hulagu and his successor Abagha moved on to present-day Turkey and participated in the Second Battle of Homs, where the Mongols were defeated. The majority of the Oirats, who stayed behind, supported Ariq Böke against Kublai Khan in the Toluid Civil War. Kublai defeated his younger brother, and the latter entered the service of the victor. In 1295, Oirats under Targhai Khurgen (son-in-law of the Borjigin family) fled Syria, along with the Mamluks, because they were despised by Muslim Mongols and Turks. The Egyptian sultan Al-Adil Kitbugha had taken them in. Ali Pasha, governor of Baghdad, leader from an Oirat ruling family, killed Ilkhan Arpa Keun, which led to the dissolution of Mongol Persia. Due to the fact that the Oirats had strong ties to the Chagatai Khanate and the Golden Horde, many Mongol khans were married to Oirat women. As a result, the Oirat princes had a special status among the "Mongols" due to the marriage ties, which they shared with only a dozen families. Nevertheless, even the Oirats were not spared from the Mongol army organization: around 1337/38, for example, there are records of an Oirat troop in Iran, which had arrived there almost a hundred years earlier.

After the fall of the Mongol Yuan Dynasty (Kublai Khan) in 1368, the Oirats emerged as a formidable enemy against the Chalcha Mongols and the Chinese Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). For 400 years, the Oirats waged a military struggle for dominion and control over Inner Mongolia and Outer Mongolia. They restored their traditional pastoral nomadic way of life during the end of the Yuan Dynasty. The Oirats emerged as a loose alliance of the four great western Mongolian tribes - Oriats Alliance (Dörben Öörd - "The Allied Four").

The alliance grew and their dominance established in the remote regions of the Altai Mountains and northwest of the Hami Oasis. Gradually they spread eastward, annexing territories still under the control of the eastern Mongols - this always in the hope of restoring a unified nomadic rule under their banner. A non-Genghis alliance was formed by the four Oirats, which had emerged from the Keraites, Naimans, Barghuds, and the old Oirat alliance. The only tribe still ruling from the Borjigid family (Chinggisid) were the Khoshutes.The Ming Chinese had helped the rise of the Oirats over the Eastern Mongols during the reign of the Ming Yongle Emperor after 1410, when the Ming defeated Kublai Öljei Temür, weakening the Borjigid rulers. The Borjigid khans were driven out by the Oirats with the help of Ming power, and thus became mere puppets until the Ming ended the Oirat alliance by the Ming Dynasty's Emperor Yongle launching a campaign against them. The greatest leader of the Oirats (this four-party alliance) was Noyon Esen (Prince) from 1438 to 1454, during which time he unified present-day Mongolia (Inner and Outer) under a puppet Khan, Toghtoa Bukha (Taisun Khan). In 1439, Taiji Esen (leader) succeeded his father Toghon Taiji as leader of the Choros. His father had significantly expanded the territory of the Oirat and increased their recognition by other Mongol tribes. Under the leadership of Esen of the Choros, the Oirat also conquered the rest of Mongolia, subjugating the Jurchen people (later called Manchu) and Urianchai, among others, and taking control of the Hami Oasis on the Silk Road between the Gobi and Taklamakan deserts. They maintained their sphere of influence from the Ili River, from where they successfully campaigned against the Chagatai Khans several times, to the border of China. The Chinggisids retained little more than nominal rule over Mongolia, and Taiji Toghan is said to have attempted to raise himself to khan shortly before his death in 1439. In 1449, Taiji Esen and Toghtoa Bukha mobilized their cavalry along the Chinese border and attacked the Ming, defeating them and destroying the Ming defenses at the Great Wall. In the process, Taiji Esen succeeded in capturing Ming Emperor Zhengtong after a victory at Tumu (Tumu Crisis). The following year, the emperor returned after unsuccessful ransom negotiations. Taiji Esen then asked the nominal Mongolian khan Toyto Bugha (his brother-in-law, ruled  1439-1452) to settle his succession in favor of the Oirats. The latter refused, but eventually paid for the tribal war with his life, so that Taiji Esen (although not a descent of Genghis Khan) now proclaimed himself khan. But already in 1455 the Oirats eliminated him in an internal dispute. After Esen's death in 1455, the union to the villages dissolved, leading to two decades of conflict in Eastern Mongolia. The impasse ended during the reign of Batmunkh Doyan Khan, a five-year-old boy in whose name the loyal Eastern Mongols rallied their forces. Esen's successor, according to the Tarik-i-Rashidi, was his son Amasandji. But the Oirats seem to have lost family and internal cohesion at this time, despite external successes, great victory over the Uzbeks in 1456/57, another over the Chagatei Khan Yunus. Mandukhai Khatun and Doyan Khan took advantage of this disunity and weakness of the Oirat alliance and brought the Oirat tribes back under Mongol Chalcha rule. In the process, they gained control of the Mongol homeland and restored hegemony with the eastern Mongols. In any case, about 1468 the representatives of the nominal khans (Mandukhai) unexpectedly won, and the Oirats dispersed in several directions under different leaders. Genghis rule was then renewed under Batu-Möngke (Doyan Khan, r. c. 1470-1524). A series of defeats at the hands of the Mongol princes (Altan Khan of the Tümed in 1552, Abdai Khan of the Chalcha in 1577) left the Oirat tribes with the alternative of submission or emigration at the end of the 16th century. Many of their leaders lived scattered along the Irtysh at this time, and by about 1603 their scouting parties were already roaming the country as far as the Khanate of Khiva on Lake Aral. After the death of Doyan Khan in 1543, the Oirats and the Chalchas were again in conflict. The Oirat forces advanced eastward, but Doyan's youngest son, Geresenz, retained control of the Chalcha forces and pushed the Oirats to Lake Uws (Uws Aimag) in northwestern Mongolia. In 1552, after the Oirats again challenged the Chalcha, their new leader Altan Khan set out from Inner Mongolia with the Türmed and Ordos cavalry units, harassing parts of various Oirat tribes in Karakorum in the Chowd region of northwestern Mongolia. Subsequently, around 1600-1630, the majority of the Oirat, especially members of the four major tribes, migrated from their ancient homeland. Most of the Khoshutes turned eastward and established themselves as nomads in the west of what is now China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, in the Gansu Province, and in the Tibetan region of Amdo, which roughly corresponds to today's Chinese province of Qinghai. As mentioned above, they were the ones who first converted to Gelug School Lamaism, enforced Dalai Lama supremacy in Tibet, and proselytized the other Oirats to this religion. Their princes called themselves "kings of Tibet," but in fact ruled only their settlement areas directly and formed a second power in the rest of Tibet after the allied Dalai Lamas for 100 years. The Oirats later regrouped south of the Altai Mountains in Dzungharia. But Geresenz's grandson, Sholoi Ubashi Khuntaiji, pushed the Oirats further northwest, along the steppes of the Ob and Irtysh rivers. They continued to fight against the Altan Khanate and attempted to drive Sholoi Ubashi Khuntaiji out of Dzungharia. The Oirats formed this alliance to defend themselves against the Chalcha Mongols and to pursue the larger goal of reunifying Mongolia. The struggle ended in 1757 with the defeat of the Oirats in Dzungharia; they were the last of the Mongol groups to become vassals of the Qing dynasty. Under Nurhaci (1559-1626) and his eighth son Huang Taiji (sometimes: Abahai, 1592-1643), the Manchus (Jurchen people) gained a great increase in power. Their military power was initially based on the Manchurian-influenced Eight Banners, later supplemented by the Green Standard army, which consisted more of Han Chinese. The first imperial palace was in Shenyang, where Nurhaci's tomb is also located. The continuous back and forth battles that defined this time period are recorded in the Oirat epic "The Route of the Mongol Sholoi Ubashi Khuntaiji", where the victory of Altan Khan of the Chalcha in 1587 is reported. Internal disputes among the Mongol princes did give the Oirats breathing space in the early 17th century, and they were victorious against the Chalcha in 1606, 1623, and 1628/9. In the early 17th century, the First Altan Khan attacked the Oirats west to what is now eastern Kazakhstan. The Torgutes were their westernmost tribe and settled in the Tarbagatai Mountain region north along the Irtysh, Ishim, and Tobol Rivers. Further west, the Kazakhs prevented this Muslim Turkic Mongol tribe from migrating into their towns and villages, located along the Syr Darya River. The Torghutes also maintained trade relations with the newly established outposts of the tsarist government, whose expansion and exploration of Siberia was driven primarily by the desire to promote trade with Asia. But the exodus had become irreversible. This had a devastating effect on the inner-Asian steppes, which were soon shaken by frequent fighting until the remnants of the Oirats were defeated and annexed by the Chinese and (to a lesser extent) the Russians in the mid-18th century. Altan Khan then established a Khalcha Khanate, in the Oirat heartland of Dzungharia. Despite the setbacks, the Oirats continued their resistance.

- The Keraites were a central Mongolian tribal group in the period before the Mongol Empire. They lived in the area between the Orkhon and Cherlen rivers, east of the Naimans.
The Keraites are most often classified as a Turkic people, but some sources also classify them as Mongols. Names and titles of the rulers suggest that they primarily used a Turkic language. But as a coalition of many subclans, they may have adopted influences from both directions, making clear classification difficult. The Keraites were converted to Nestorian Christianity in the early 10th century. In the 10th and 11th centuries, other peoples who settled in the region were Christianized, as were the Naimans and Merkites.

- The Merkites were a Mongol tribe that played a great role in the era of Genghis Khan. They lived from hunting and fishing. A successor of Genghis Khan named Orda Khan († 1280) and first ruler of the Orda Horde (Ordas Khanate or White Horde) ruled large parts of Siberia up to the Irtysh, especially the former Khanates of the Turkic Kimek and Quangli.

- Naimans (also: Naiman Turks or Naiman Mongols - Mongolian Naiman "eight") was the Mongolian name of a medieval ethnic group living in the steppes of Central Asia. They maintained diplomatic relations with the Kara Khitan and were at times subject to them. The Naimans are most often classified as a Turkic people, but some sources also classify them as Mongols. Like the Keraites, many of them were Nestorian Christians.

- more information about Naimans 1.6 

The majority of Kazakhstan's inhabitants are descended from the Naimans (such as the Middle Horde), especially in the eastern part of the country. Some of the Naimans intermarried with the Kyrgyz and Uzbeks.

In Afghanistan, a small group of Hazara are also descended from the Naimans. They live as Sunnis in a village called Naiman.

This Oriat alliance was a unit during the 15th -17th centuries under the name of "10 Mongol Tumen" (branches), with a cavalry of 10,000 horsemen, including the western "Four Oriat Tumen", Khoshut, Choros, Torghut and Durvuds, and the "Six Tumen" of the smaller tribes, the Khoids, Dzakhchin, Bayads and Myangad. Together they acted as one power, as an alternative to the Mongol Empire, which were patrilineal heirs of Genghis Khan. The alliance sometimes united neighboring tribes or splinter groups, forming a great power with this confederation, with larger tribes dominating or absorbing the smaller ones. They were decentralized, informal, and unstable, not being governed by a central authority. They did not adopt uniform customary laws until 1640. As pastoralist nomads, the Oirats were organized at the tribal level, with each tribe ruled by a noyon (prince), who also served as the taiji "taishi - chief - leader." This chief ruled with the support of the smaller Noyons, who controlled these smaller divisions of the tribe (Ulus). These were politically and economically independent of the tribal leaders. The tribal leaders sought to influence and dominate the other tribes, creating intertribal rivalry with discord and skirmishes. With their traditional dwellings, the yurt, also called ger, a round tent made of lattice walls covered with felt, these nomadic tribes wandered with their herds of cattle, sheep, horses, donkeys and camels, in these grassy flat steppes between Lake Balchash in what is now eastern Kazakhstan and Lake Baikal in what is now Buriatia, as well as in the northern region of central Mongolia.

The Torghutes moved under Khu Urluk (1616-1643) at the beginning of the 17th century through whole Central Asia up to the mouth of the Volga and shifted for a time the balance of power in Eastern Europe. It was not until 1771 that a part of them moved back to the Ili region. The Torghutes, especially those, who remained at the mouth of the Volga River at that time, are better known as Kalmyks ("Remained").

- see more information under 1.5 Kalmyks

They were followed by the Durvuds under Dalay († 1637), Dayan Ombo and others, and also an independent Khoshute group under Khundelen († 1648) and his nephew Ablay († 1672). They are recorded in Siberia and the Urals, respectively, where they repeatedly united with the Durvuds against the Torghutes and other neighboring tribes.
The Khoshutes spread into Tibet under Gushri Khan († 1655/56) mainly as allies of the Yellow Church until they lost this position of power again in 1717 and were annexed to China in 1723.

From the 14th to the mid-18th centuries, the Oirats were often at war with eastern Mongol tribes, and during the reign of Doyan Khan, a descendant of Genghis Khan, and under Tumen Zasagt Khan (Tümen Jasagtu Khan), they were united with the northern Yuan dynasty. After the Mongols had withdrawn from China (end of the Yuan Dynasty in 1368), the Oirats again took a leading role over the Eastern Mongols in conflicts. Thus, the Oirat leader Batula (also called Mahamu) installed Khan Elbeg. Batula's rise to power, however, was a thorn in the side of the Ming emperor Yongle, so he took up arms against Batula in 1414. Batula fled to the Tuula River, where he was assassinated.

1.2 Dzunghars

After the fall of the Yuan Dynasty (Kublai Khan), the Oirats and Eastern Mongols had developed separate identities, with the Oirats calling themselves Dörben Öörd "The Allied Four" and those in the east calling themselves "Mongols." The Oirats, often called the Dzhungars, from whose name is derived the territorial name Dzhungari in modern China, were more or less a western Mongol tribal confederation that controlled much of Central Asia from the 12th to the 18th centuries.

Under the dynamic leadership of Kharkhul, the Dzunghars stopped the claim to rule by the first Altan Khan of the Chalchas and began the re-establishment of the Four Oirat Alliance under the Dzunghar banner. In support of these plans, Kharkhul designed and built a capital called Kubak-sari at the Ili River, near the modern city of Tacheng. During his attempt to establish a nation, Kharkhul used diplomacy, trade, and agriculture to further his claim to rule. He also sought to acquire modern weapons and promoted metalworking to supply his military. Attempts to unify the Oirats led to new unrest between the tribes and their leaders (taijis), who were independent and highly respected. This contradiction caused Kho Orluk, leader of the Torgut tribe, to move westward with the Durvud tribes to the Volga, where his descendants founded the Kalmyk Khanate (Kalmyks). To the east, Güshi Khan participated in the founding of the Khoshut Khanate in the Qaidam Basin (Tsaidam) in the Qinghai region on the Tibetan Plateau to protect Tibet and the Gelug School both from within and from without. Kharkhul and his descendants, on the other hand, formed a Dzunghar Khanate to fight the Khalcha.

- Tacheng (Kubak-sari on the Ili River) is a government district that is part of Kazakh Autonomous County of Ili in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China.

- Qaidam-Becken, also called Tsaidam Basin, is a desert region located in the north of the Tibetan Plateau in China's Qinghai Province. The name is probably derived from Mongolian and Tibetan and means "salt marsh or swamp". These are mainly the marshes along the main river Qaidam He, which drains the basin from the easternmost foothills of Kunlun Shan (here Burhan Budai Shan).

In the 17th century, an Oirat empire, also known as the Khanate of Ddzungharia, emerged that stretched from the Great Wall of China to what is now eastern Kazakhstan and from what is now northern Kyrgyzstan to southern Siberia. It was the last empire of nomads ruled by Choros nobles. This Oirat alliance made several attempts to maintain internal peace. For example, in 1616/7 and 1640 the princes convened large assemblies, decided on joint action against the threat of the Chalcha tribes, or issued decrees, but did not achieve lasting co-operation among their tribes. For example, tribal conflict broke out among the Oirats in 1625. Their Khoshut leader at the time was defeated by his brother Chokur. Other leaders, in the interest of preserving this unity, initially tried to mediate, but eventually fought and defeated Chokur's horde on the Ural River (1630). Domestic and foreign political circumstances led to the 1640 meeting at the Ili River in the Dzhzharei (modern Xinjiang). Khungtaiji Batur now sought to reshape the Oirat confederation under his leadership, while also striving to counterbalance the Manchus. He dominated the meeting of princes. Among others, Khu Urluk of the Torgutes with his sons Daichin and Elden and also the Chalcha Mongols were present, since the Khan Soloj (also: Shului, 1577-1655) and the Tüsiyetü Khan Gombodorz (also: Gömbodorji, 1594-1655) were interested in a common policy against the Manchus. Khungtaiji Batur founded a new Oirat confederation and led his horde to the Ili area in the region southwest of Kobdo (today's Chowd-Aimag) in 1643. This Oirat group was henceforth also called the Dzunghars (Jüün Ghar - left wing) and claimed dominion over the other tribes. His son Galdan occupied Kashgar (city is located on the edge of the Tarim Basin) and turned his attention to the present Inner Mongolian territories and their leaders of a rising Qing dynasty. Here he failed. In 1696, the forces of the Qing emperor Kangxi (1661-1722) were victorious at the Tula near Zuunmod, Galdan's wife fell, and the khan probably committed suicide. Khara-Khulas of the Choros was now confronted with a changed political situation in this Oirat confederacy. The Torghut under Khu Urluk moved to the Ural River, and the Durvud followed them. The threat from the Chalcha Mongols had diminished, partly due to the combined success of Khara-Khula and other Oirat leaders, and partly due to the rise of the Manchus, to whom the majority of Mongol leaders submitted. Tsewangrabtan's Galdan's son continued his policy. Thereafter, internal strife ensued, and finally the destruction of the Dzungharian Empire in 1754-1759 by the Qing Dynasty brought peace. Although the Chinese had installed the Khoit prince Amarsanaa, he turned against them with the support of all Oirat tribes. However, he was finally defeated and died in exile in Tobolsk (a Russian city in the Tyumen oblast east of the Ural Mountains). In the process or afterwards, the Chinese, in order to prevent new uprisings, inflicted a massacre among the Dzunghars, the number of victims being in six figures (1757/8). The Ili region, or rather the whole of today's Xinjiang, has belonged to China ever since. The term Dzhungars was changed from this time by the Chinese historians into Eleuths; with the use of this name being forbidden. The Chinese name for the Dzhungar Empire was also used in Europe.

In the second half of the 17th century, wars for supremacy in the Oirat confederation, which disintegrated in 1636, followed, which in the 18th century were used by the Kazakhs to revolt against the Oirats and by China and Russia to subjugate the remaining Kalmyks and Oirats, respectively. Initially, the Dzunghars (Choros) under Khungtaiji Batur and his successors attempted to forcibly renew unity by subjugating the Durvuds. Khu Urluk's successor Daichin subdued the fleeing Durvuds and ended the Dzungharian expansion westward around the Ural River. As a result, Oirats, who did not belong to the Torgut tribe, also flocked in greater numbers to the western Kalmykkanate. In the east, the Dzunghars came into conflict with the Khoshutes, who were defending Tibet, during an invasion of western Tibet. The Khoshut ruler Lhabsang Khan died defending the capital city of Lhasa against the Dzunghars in 1717.

These Oirat conflicts were first used by the Chinese army of the Manchurian emperors of the Qing Dynasty in 1715-24 to expand China westward. First, the Khoshut Khanate was eliminated and their main settlement areas were annexed as the Chinese provinces of Gansu and Qinghai, and the more southern parts of the highlands of Tibet became a Chinese protectorate under the Dalai Lamas. The Dzunghars also suffered a defeat at the hands of the Chinese army in 1720 and withdrew from western Tibet, whereupon they sought allegiance to Russia and again subjugated larger parts of Kazakhstan under Galdan Tsereng (1727-45). Relations with the Torgut Khanate or "Kalmyks" in the west remained politically tense. The Dzhahr Empire was eliminated by China in the east in 1745-57, and at the same time the Kazakhs ended Dzhahr rule in the west. The Oirats from what is now Kazakhstan fled either eastward to the now Chinese-ruled Dzungharian Empire or to the western Kalmyks. As a result of these events in the mid-18th century, the Kalmyks in the west were spatially separated from the remaining Oirats in the east by a distance of about 2,000 kilometers.

However, the Oirat period was not yet over. Galdan's hostile nephew came to power and initially kept peace with China. From 1698, however, he attacked the Kazakhs under Tauke. In 1717, the army invaded Lhasa (Tibet), where the Khoshut leader Lhabzang was assassinated. This triggered an invasion of Tibet by the Qing army in 1720. Another Qing army invaded the Dzungharian Empire in 1720 and was victorious at Ürümqi (Urumchi), making peace in 1724. However, the Dzunghars still remained successful against better armed Russians at Lake Saissan (Lake Zaisan - East Kazakhstan). Now they concentrated mainly on their neighbors in the west. The Kazakhs suffered particularly. With the defeat of the Kazakhs in 1718 at the river Ajagus (at Lake Balchash), the time of the "Great Misfortune" had its beginnings. But also relations with the Torghutes under Khan Ayuki (r. 1670-1724) were not the best - a political marriage ended in conflict.

With the Qing conquest along with the Manchus, a China emerged in the mid-17th century, the Qing dynasty, which sought to protect its northern frontier by continuing the policies of the Ming predecessors, who had successfully fought the Mongols. The Manchus consolidated their dominance over the Eastern Mongols to the frontier. They persuaded the eastern Mongols of what is now Inner Mongolia to submit as vassals. Finally, the Eastern Mongols in Outer Mongolia sought protection under the Manchus against the Dzunghar threat in the west, whose tribes were fighting a rising Qing. However, they were defeated by Manchu soldiers. 80% of the population of Dzungharia was killed by war or disease during the Manchu-Qing conquest of 1755-1757. The confederation eventually disintegrated and was stripped of its power by the Qing Chinese for the greater part and by the Russians for the smaller part. The part that migrated to the west is today called Kalmyks. After the fall of the Dzungharian Khanate, they disintegrated into smaller groups. There were still settlements with Chalcha and Oirat tribes in 1755 and one hundred of Choros tribes in Mongolia.

- more information about the Kalmyks 1.5

Various sources also list the tribes of Bargut, Buzava, Keraits, and Naiman as part of this Oriat alliance (Dörben Öörd - "The Allied Four"). Some tribes joined the original Four only in later years. This explains the Buddhism of the Kalmyks, who had not converted to Islam. Or also in the case of tribes that later also migrated further west in the then Altai region. Today, scattered "Oiratic" (Western Mongolian) speaking groups with different dialects still exist in Western Mongolia, China and the Kalmyk Republic.

- Keraites were a central Mongolian tribal group in the period before the Mongolian Empire. They lived in the area between the Orkhon and Cherlen rivers, east of the Naimans.
The Keraites are most often classified as a Turkic people, but some sources also classify them as Mongols. Names and titles of the rulers suggest that they spoke primarily a Turkic language. But as a coalition of many subclans, they may have combined influences from both directions, making clear classification difficult. The Keraites were converted to Nestorian Christianity in the early 10th century. Other peoples of the region largely Christianized in the 10th and 11th centuries were the Naimans and the Merkites.

- Naimans (also: Naiman Turks or Naiman Mongols - Mongolian Naiman "eight") was the Mongolian name of a medieval ethnic group living in the steppes of Central Asia. They maintained diplomatic relations with the Kara Khitan and were at times subject to them. The Naimans are most often classified as a Turkic people, but some sources also classify them as Mongols. Like the Keraites, many of them were Nestorian Christians.

A large part of the inhabitants of Kazakhstan descended from the Naimans (for example, the Middle Horde), especially in the east of the country. Some of the Naimans intermarried with the Kyrgyz and Uzbeks.

In Afghanistan, a small group of Hazara also descended from the Naimans. They live as Sunnis in a village called Naiman.

- more information about Naimans 1.6

- Buzava - They retreated with the Don Cossacks along the middle and lower Don River in Kalmykia and eventually became known as the Kalmyks of the Don, as Buzava. Although they have their origins in a variety of Kalmyk tribes, the Buzava claimed descent from the Torghut tribe.

The name "Dzungars" was an inherited name of a military-political unit with the horde composition of the "Oirats" or "Oirotes" (the four tribes) meaning "allies". Thus, a 400-year rule of the peoples of the Western Mongols with an "alliance of four" (Dörben Öörd - "The Allied Four) began with the tribes of Durvuds (Dörbet, Dörböd, Dörvöd), Dzungars (Jüün Ghar, Dsungars, Dzungar, Eleuths), Khoshuud (Khoshut), Choros (Khoros) and Torghutes (Torghuud, Torgut). They were joined by smaller tribes, such as the Khoid, Bayads, Myangad, Dzakhchin (Zakhchin) and Baatud. Sometimes the Khoit, who depended on the villages, are also mentioned. The princes of the four groups partly referred to a different origin. Although the leaders of the Jüün Ghar (Dzunghars), Durvuds (Dörbeten), and Khoit were all related, and their clan names were those of the Choro, the leaders of the Khoit invoked the descent of Jötshi Qasar, a brother of Genghis Khan, and the Torgut leaders invoked the ancient Kerait Khans.

- Keraites were a central Mongolian tribal group in the period before the Mongol Empire. They lived in the area between the Orkhon and Cherlen rivers, east of the Naimans.
The Keraites are most often classified as a Turkic people, but some sources also classify them as Mongols. Names and titles of the rulers suggest that they spoke primarily a Turkic language. But as a coalition of many subclans, they may have combined influences from both directions, making clear classification difficult. The Keraites were converted to Nestorian Christianity in the early 10th century. Other peoples in the region, who were largely Christianized in the 10th and 11th centuries, were the Naimans and the Merkites.

1.3 The Khoshut Khanate - Khoshut

The Oirats converted to Tibetan Buddhism around 1615, and it was not long before they played a role in the conflict between the Gelug School (Yellow Caps) and the Kagyu School (Red Caps). On behalf of the school in 1637, Güshi Khan, the leader of the Khoshuts in Koko Nor, defeated Choghtu Khong, the Chalcha prince, who supported the Kagyu school, and conquered Amdo (modern Qinghai). The unification of Tibet followed in 1640, with Güshi Khan crowning himself as Khan of Tibet by the 5th Dalai Lama and the establishment of the Khoschut Khanate. The title "Dalai Lama" itself was given to the third Lama of the Gelug tulku line of Altan Khan (not to be confused with the Altan Khan of the Chalcha) and means "Ocean of Wisdom" in Mongolian.

In 1717, the Dzunghars invaded Tibet and killed Lha-bzang Khan, a grandson of Güshi Khan and the fourth Khan of Tibet.

In 1720, the Qing conquered the Khoshut Khanate of the Oirats (Upper Mongolia). In 1723, Lobzang Danjin, another descendant of Güshi Khan, defended Amdo against attempts by the Manchu army of the Qing dynasty to expand their rule in Tibet, but were conquered the following year. 80,000 people were killed, and thus Amdo fell under Manchu rule.

1.4 Alasha Mongols

Gansu comprises an elongated territory stretching from central China to the northwest of the country, where it shares a short border with Mongolia. Adjacent to Gansu and to the west are the Helan Mountains, often called the Alashan Mountains in older sources. These are an isolated desert mountain range that forms the border of Inner Mongolia Alxa (Alxa is a federation in the far west of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China). It runs north-south parallel to the Yellow River in the Ordos Loop section. The river runs mostly east of the mountains, but in the north it crosses without forming a significant gorge and continues to flow on the west side. To the west, there is to be found an austere desert, to the east lies an irrigated area. Mongols, who moved there, are called Alasha Mongols (Alxa or Alaša, Alshaa).

Törbaih Güshi Khan's 4th son, Ayush, fought against Baibaga's brother. Ayush's eldest son was Batur Erkh Jonon Khoroli. After fighting continued between Galdan Boshigt Khan and Ochirtu Sechen Khan, Batur Erkh Jonon Khoroli moved with his horde to Qaidam Basin (Tsaidam). The 5th Dalai Lama requested land for them from the Qing government. In 1686, the emperor allowed them to move to the Alasha region.

In 1697, the Alasha Mongols were allotted into 'khoshuu' and 'sum' units. A khoshuu with eight sums was created, Batur Erkh Jonon Khoroli was appointed Beil (prince), and Alasha was thus a 'zasag-khoshuu'. However, Alasha was like a 'settling destination' and was therefore never administered under a 'chuulgan'. In 1707, when Batur Erkh Jonon Khoroli died, he was succeeded by his son Abuu. He had lived in Beijing in his youth, served as the emperor's bodyguard, and a princess (of the emperor) was given to him, making him a "khoshoi tavnan", i.e. emperor's bridegroom. In 1793, Abuu Jün Wang became their leader. Today there are several thousand Muslim Alasha Mongols.

- Qaidam Basin, also called Tsaidam Basin, is a desert region located in the north of the Tibetan Plateau in the Chinese province of Qinghai. The name is probably derived from Mongolian and Tibetan, in which tsa'i dam means "salt marsh or swamps". These are mainly the marshes along the main Qaidam He River, which drains into the basin from the easternmost foothills of Kunlun Shan (here Burhan Budai Shan).

- Helan Mountains or Helan Shan is a mountain range northwest of Yinchuan, over 200 km long and 15-50 km wide, averaging more than 2,000 m in height, forming the border between Inner Mongolia and Ningxia. Its highest peak is 3556 m.a.s.l.


1.5 Kalmyks

Tribes, whose ancestors migrated from Dzungharia, created the Kalmyk Khanate in the Russian North Caucasus in 1630-1724. Today they form a majority in the autonomous Republic of Kalmykia on the western shore of the Caspian Sea. They are descended from the Oriat Alliance (Dörben Öörd - "The Allied Four"), which originally settled in western Mongolia and whose rangelands included parts of Kazakhstan, Russia and China.
Historically, these Western Mongolian tribes are identified by their respective tribal names. In the 15th century, the four major Western Mongolian tribes formed an alliance, the "Dörben Öörd". After the alliance defeated their empire and was dissolved, the Western Mongolian tribes were simply called "Oirats". In the early 17th century, a far larger confederation emerged, the Dzunghar Khanate. While the original Choros, Durvuds and Khoit tribes established their kingdom of Dzhungaria in the interior of Asia, the Khoshuts established the Khoshut Khanate in Tibet and protected the Gelug school from enemies; the Torghuts, who had migrated west, formed the Kalmyk Khanate in the lower Volga region. Arriving in the lower Volga region in 1630, they settled on land that had once been part of the Astrakhan Khanate, but this was controlled by the Russian Empire. The region was lightly settled, from the south of Saratov to the Russian occupation of Astrakhan and on the eastern and western banks of the Volga. The Russian Empire was unwilling to colonise the area and unable to prevent the immigrants from settling in the region. But they had a direct political interest in ensuring that they would not be allied with their Turkic-speaking neighbours.

- more information on the Oirat Empire - see above 1.1
- more information on the Dzunghar Khanate - see above 1.2
- more information on Khoshut Khanate – Khoshut - see abobe 1.3

There was discontent among the Oirat tribes of this Oriat alliance, which suffered from the attempt of Taiji Kharkhul of the Dzunghars to centralise them and force them into political and military unity. While this effort encouraged control of the tribes under his leadership, it triggered an exodus. It remains undisputed, however, that the Torghutes sought new pastures for their growing herds for the time being. Their territory was attacked by Russian settlers from the north, the Kazakhs from the south and the Dzunghars from the east. This led to a struggle for food supplies. Finally, the Torghutes had grown tired of the militant struggle among the Oirats and the attacks of Altan Khan.

Taiji (Prince) Kho Orluk of the Torghutes and Taiji Dalai Batur of the Durvud migrated with their herds from the upper Irtysh River to the pastures of the lower western Volga region, south of Saratov and north of the Caspian Sea, and founded the Kalmyk Khanate. Together they moved west across southern Siberia across the southern Ural Mountains, avoiding a more direct route that would have taken them through the territory of their enemy, the Kazakhs. On the way, they penetrated Russian settlements and Kazakh or Bashkir camps. Part of the Khozhut and Olöt tribes started a migration a century later. The Kalmyk migration was completed as far as the steppes of south-eastern Europe by 1630. They quickly consolidated their position. In the process, they came into conflict with the Muslim nomadic inhabitants, the Nogaians, who settled these areas at the time. As a result, after several defeats, they initially submitted, but finally left in 1635. The "Small Horde" of the Nogai sought the protection of the Russian occupation in Astrakhan. Some of them migrated to the vicinity of Azov and, after Khu Orluk had prepared for war, fled further west in 1636/37 to the regions of Dobruja, Jedisan and Budzhak, which were still under Ottoman control at the time, and further into the Ottoman Empire in the 18th/19th century. The "Great Horde" of the Nogai, on the other hand, fled southeast to the northern Caucasian plain and west to the Black Sea steppe, to the lands claimed by the Crimean Khanate, itself a vassal or ally of the Ottoman Empire. Under pressure from the Kalmyk warriors, the Nogais fled further into the Crimea and to the Kuban River. Since the departure of the Nogais, the steppe areas of the Volga-Ural region were dominated by Torgut Kalmyks. Kho Orluk died during a campaign against them in the Caucasus († 1643). Many nomadic peoples in these Eurasian steppes later became vassals under the Kalmyk Khanate, part of which still exists today in the territory of present-day Kalmykia.

At first, there was an uneasy relationship between the Russians and the Oirats. Raids by the Oirats in Russian settlements or by Cossacks or Bashkirs, who were Muslim vassals of the Russians, in Oirat camps were commonplace. Numerous promises and treaties were signed to ensure Oirat loyalty and military support. Although Oirats were subjects of the Tsar, loyalty was considered nominal. In reality, the Oirats ruled according to a document known as the Great Code of the Nomads (Iki Tsaadzhin Bichig). The code was promulgated by them in 1640 and conveyed to their brethren in Dzungharia and some Chalchamongols, who had all gathered near the Tarbagatai Mountains in Dzungharia, to resolve differences and unite under the banner of the Gelug school. Although the goal of unification was not fulfilled, these summits ratified the code that was to regulate all aspects of nomadic life. In order to secure their position vis-à-vis the Russian Empire, the Oirats rose to become a frontier power and often aligned themselves with the neighbouring Muslim population. During the era of Ayuka Khan as their most important leader (ruled 1670-1724), the Oirats reached their peak of political and military power with the Kalmyk Khanate. The khanate experienced economic success from free trade with Russian border towns, China, Tibet and with their Muslim neighbours. During this time, Ayuka Khan also maintained close contacts with his relatives, the Oirats, in Dzungharia, as well as with the Dalai Lama in Tibet. Under Ayuka Khan, they attacked individual Russian cities (e.g. Kazan) until this was taken care of by the Russian Tsar Peter I with the Russian border guards, thus increasing the Russian Empire's use of this Oirat cavalry to support their military campaigns against Muslim powers in the south, such as Safavid Iran, the Ottoman Empire, the Nogais, the Tatars of Kuban and the Crimean Khanate. They also fought together against the Karakalpaks. Ayuka Khan waged wars against the Kazakhs, subjugated the Turkmen of the Mangyshlak Peninsula and led several attacks against highlanders in the North Caucasus. These underlined the strategic importance of the Kalmyk Khanate's dominance as a buffer zone to the Muslim world against the Tsarist Empire, as Russia waged wars in Europe to establish itself as a European power. After the death of Ayuka Khan in 1724, the political situation among the Oirats became unstable as various factions wanted to be recognised as Khan. In an attempt to further encourage the Oirat cavalrymen to support their military campaigns, the Russian Empire increasingly relied on providing funds and goods to the Oirat Khan and the Oirat nobility.

At first, the policy to convert the Kalmyk nobility helped to calm them. One of the earliest converts were the children of Donduk-Ombo, the sixth Khan of the Kalmyks, who ruled between 1737 and 1741, and his Circassian (also Circassian) born wife (see Dondukov family). Another important convert was Baksaday-Dorji, the grandson of Ayuka Khan, who adopted the first name Peter Taji. Each conversion was motivated by the political will to become Kalmyk Khan. Kalmyk leaders, on the other hand, received salaries, and towns and settlements were established for them and their tribes. In this respect, the Russian Empire treated the Oirats like the Cossacks. But these did not stop mutual encroachments and attempts at negotiation failed. A far more significant incentive for the Oirats was duty-free access to the markets of Russian border towns, where they could obtain Russian goods in exchange, which they were allowed to trade from Asia and their Muslim neighbours. Trade also occurred with neighbouring Turkic tribes under Russian control, such as the Tatars and the Bashkirs. Marriages also occurred with such tribes. These trade agreements granted the Oirats considerable advantages.

This era as a "frontier power", with the emergence of the Torghutes under Kho Orluk in 1630 until the end of the great Kalmyk khanate under Ayuka Khan, in 1724, was accompanied by a period of little discernible aculturative change. There were few lasting interactions between Oirats and Russians. Contacts existed mainly with regard to the seasonal commodity exchanges of products for nomadic needs such as brick tea, grain, textiles and metal articles in Astrakhan, Tsaritsyn and Saratov. This was the kind of exchange relationship between nomads and urban craftsmen and traders, in which the Oirats traditionally engaged. Political contacts consisted of a series of treaties for the khans' nominal allegiance to Russia and cessation of mutual raids on the one hand, and the Cossacks, Tatars and Bashkirs on the other. Some Oirat nobles became Russian and Christian and aligned themselves with Moscow in the hope of securing Russian aid for their political ambitions. Russian subsidies to nobles, however, became an effective means of political control only later. Gradually, however, the princes came to demand Russian support in order to remain loyal to Russian policy. The Oirats began to identify themselves as "Kalmyks". This name was given to them by their Muslim neighbours and later used by the Russians to describe them. The Oirats themselves used this name only in their dealings with outsiders, namely their Russian and Muslim neighbours. They themselves, however, continued to identify themselves by their tribal, clan name or other internal affiliations.

The Kalmyks became Russian allies, and a treaty to protect the southern Russian borders was signed between the Kalmyk Khanate and Russia. Later they were subordinated to the Russian Tsar and came under Russian sovereignty in 1724. The Tsarist Empire gradually restricted their autonomy. This policy enabled the establishment of Russian and German settlements on their pastures. The Russian Orthodox Church urged them to change their religion. For a long time, the Kalmyks maintained an alliance with Russia, especially against the Nogai and other Muslim nomadic tribes. At the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 18th century, under Russian sovereignty, allied Cossacks increasingly expanded into the southern Russian foothills in the North Caucasus. In the process, the Nogai were gradually pushed away, also with the help of Kalmyk units, to the upper Kuban and middle Terek rivers in what is now Dagestan. At the beginning of the 18th century, the Kalmyk Khanate finally became a vassal of Russia and was confronted with a settlement policy of Cossacks, Volga Germans, etc., who claimed their grazing land. The settlers claimed the most fertile land along the river, leaving barren land to the Kalmyks. The resulting degradation of the herds led to impoverishment. Some of their tribes converted to Christianity, hoping for benefits. Dissatisfied with this policy, they decided under Ubashi Khan (ruled 1761-1771/5) to return to the old settlement area to the Altai. This oppression of the Tsarist administration triggered a migration to Djazaria. They started from their pastures on the left bank of the Volga through the territories of their Bashkir and Kazakh enemies. Ubashi Khan sent his cavalry to assist in the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1769, with the aim of gaining weapons. From January 1771 to 1786 they returned to the old tribal land, suffering heavy losses from Kazakh resistance. They were also attacked by the Kyrgyz near Lake Balchash. After a seven-month journey, only a third of the original group reached Dzungharia at Lake Balchash, to the western border of the Mandchu Qing Empire at the Ili River, where the Qing Emperor assigned them pasture. Influential leaders of the Kalmyks soon died or were killed by the Manchus. The last Kalmyk Khan Ubashi's great-grandson of Ayuka Khan wanted to return them to independence in Mongolia; he hoped to restore the Dzunghar Khanate. The Torghutes (Kalmyks) had hoped to lead an independent existence in Dzungharia, and they had no intention of giving up their independence under the Chinese. They were taken in and assigned to five different areas to prevent revolt. In the process, they were forced to abandon their nomadic lifestyle and practice sedentary agriculture, all with the aim of weakening them in this way. When the Kalmyks returned and settled on the west bank of the Volga, they were attacked by Catherine's influential nobles. They were unable to cross the river in the winter of 1771 because it was not frozen and the Cossacks had blown up the only bridge over the Volga. As a result, they stayed behind that spring and have been part of Russia ever since. After stopping this flight, Catherine eliminated the Kalmyk Khanate and transferred all governmental powers to the governor of Astrakhan. With the appointment of the vice-king, the Russian Empire was now finally the decisive force in the government over the Kalmyks. After the retreat, the Kalmyks, who remained behind, finally became vassals under the tsar's rule. They continued their nomadic pastoral lifestyle, and their herds grazed along the Don and Volga rivers, in the lowlands along the shores of the Caspian Sea to Lake Sarpa to the northwest and Lake Manych-Gudilo to the west. In spring they moved along the Don River and the Sarpa Lake system and reached the higher terrain along the Don in summer, autumn in the Sarpa and Volga lowlands. In October and November they returned to their winter camps. Despite a great loss of population, the Torghut still remained the numerically superior and dominant portion of the Kalmyks. The others in Russia included the Durvuds and Khoshuts, but there were also Choros and Khoit, but these were too few in number to be able to retain their tribal division (Ulus) as independent administrative units. As a result, they were absorbed by larger tribes. Empress Catherine ordered the Russian army to exterminate Bashkirs and Kazakhs and all migrants. She abolished the Kalmyk khanates. After the Russian Revolution, their settlement was confiscated, Buddhism was banned and their herds were incorporated into the collective.

Sarpa is a right tributary of the Volga. The river rises in marshes and flows in a northerly direction between the Volga and the Manych. Along the Ergeni Hills (the watershed between the Caspian Sea and the Sea of Azov), it forms several salt lakes.

Manych - this river flows through the marshy Manych lowland named after it, often considered the frontier of Europe, and flows into the Don at Manychskaya.

The retreat continued to place a burden on the remaining Kalmyk people. After the exodus, the Torghutes joined Yemelyan Pugachev's Cossack uprising, hoping that he would restore Kalmyk independence. After Pugachev's rebellion was defeated, Catherine transferred the office of vice-khan of the Torgut tribe to that of the Durvuds, whose princes had remained loyal to the government during the rebellion. Thus the Torghutes were stripped of their role as the hereditary leaders of the Kalmyk people. The Khoshutes could not challenge this arrangement because of their smaller population size. This Torghut involvement in the Pugachev rebellion caused disruption in Kalmyk society and triggered a realignment in the tribal structure. The government divided the Kalmyks into three administrative units, attached to the district governments of Astrakhan, Stavropol and the Don according to their respective locations, and appointed a special Russian official with the title "Guardian of the Kalmyk People" for the purpose of administration. The government also resettled some smaller groups of Kalmyks on the Ural, Terek and Kuma rivers and in Siberia. This redistribution divided the now dominant Durvud tribe into three separate administrative units. Those in the western Kalmyk steppe were attached to the Astrakhan district government. They called themselves Baga (Lesser) Durvuds. In contrast, the Durvuds, who moved to the northern part of Stavropol Province, were called Ike (Greater) Durvuds, although their population was smaller. Finally, the Kalmyks on the Don became known as Buzava. Although they were composed of elements of all Kalmyk tribes, the Buzava claimed descent from the Torgut tribe. Their name is derived from two tributaries of the Don: Busgai and Busuluk. In 1798, Tsar Paul I designated the Don Kalmyks as Don Cossacks. As such, they received the same rights and benefits as Russians in exchange for providing national military services. At the end of the Napoleonic War, Kalmyk cavalry units in Russian service arrived in Paris. Over time, the Kalmyks gradually created permanent settlements with houses and temples instead of the portable round felt tents. In 1865, Elista, the future capital of the autonomous Socialist Republic of Kalmykia, was founded. Kalmykia is located in the south-eastern part of Russia, between the Volga and Don rivers. It borders the Republic of Dagestan to the south; Stavropol Krai to the southwest; and Rostov Oblast and Volgograd Oblast to the west and northwest, respectively. Its eastern border is the Astrakhan oblast. Its south-eastern border is the Caspian Sea. This process continued until after the October Revolution of 1917.

- Buzava - They settled back with the Don Cossacks in the Middle and Lower Don River areas of Kalmykia, and eventually the Kalmyks of the Don became known as Buzava. Although they were composed of elements of all Kalmyk tribes, the Buzava claimed descent from the Torghut tribe.

Like most people in Russia, the Kalmyks greeted the February Revolution with enthusiasm. Kalmyk leaders believed that the Russian provisional government that replaced the Tsarist government would allow greater autonomy and freedom in terms of their culture, religion and economy. However, this enthusiasm had soon dissipated after the Bolsheviks took control of the national government during the second revolution in November 1917. After they took control, various political and ethnic groups opposed to communism organised a loose political and military coalition they called the "White Movement*. A volunteer army (called the "White Army") was raised to fight the Red Army, the military arm of the Bolshevik government. This army was originally made up of volunteers and Tsarist supporters, but was later supported by Cossacks, including Don Kalmyks, many of whom stood up to Bolshevik policies. After the February Revolution, the Kalmyks, like many other minorities in Russia, formed a national council under Prince Dmitry Tundutov, a former aide to Emperor Nicholas II. In the Russian Civil War of 1918-20, many of the more westerly "Don Kalmyks" were on the side of the "White Army" fighting against the Bolsheviks, while the more easterly "Astrakhan Kalmyks" were controlled by the Red Army. Some of the Kalmyks emigrated abroad at the end of the war. Due to migration and wartime sacrifices, the Kalmyk population declined. The Soviet government established the Autonomous Oblast of Kalmykia in November 1920. It was formed by merging the Stavropol Kalmyk settlements with the majority Astrakhan Kalmyks. A small number of Don Kalmyks (Buzava) from the Don Host migrated to this Autonomous Oblast. The administrative centre was Elista, a small village in the western part of the oblast, which was expanded in the 1920s to reflect its status as the oblast's capital.

The second revolution divided the Kalmyk people and drove them into the opposing camp. Many were dissatisfied with the Tsarist government because of its historical role in promoting colonisation in the Kalmyk steppe and in encouraging a Russification. But others also felt hostile to Bolshevism for two reasons: 1. the loyalty of the Kalmyk people to their traditional leaders (nobility and clergy) was deeply rooted; 2. Bolshevik exploitation between the Kalmyks and the local Russian peasants, who occupied Kalmyk pastures with livestock, caused great resentment.

The Astrakhan Kalmyk nobility, led by Prince Danzan Tundutov of the Barga (Lesser) Durvuds and Prince Sereb-Djab Tiumen of the Khozhuts, expressed their anti-Bolshevik sentiments by attempting to integrate the Astrakhan Kalmyks into the military units of the Astrakhan Cossacks. However, before a general mobilisation of the Kalmyk horsemen could take place, the Red Army seized power in Astrakhan and the Kalmyk steppes, thereby preventing their mobilisation. After the occupation of Astrakhan, the Bolsheviks engaged in savage reprisals against the Kalmyks, especially against Buddhist temples and the Buddhist clergy. The majority of the Don Kalmyks allied themselves with the "White Movement" to preserve their lifestyle and proud traditions. With the Don Cossacks, the Don Kalmyks fought first under the White Army under General Anton Denikin and then under his successor, General Pyotr Nikolaevich Vrangel. Because they belonged to the main centre of the White Movement as well as to the Cossack resistance, fighting in their regions was disastrous for the territories, as villages and whole regions repeatedly fell into other hands, was comparable to fratricide, and both sides committed terrible atrocities. The Don Cossacks, including the Don Kalmyks, suffered heavy military and civilian losses, whether from the fighting itself or from hunger or disease caused by the war. Some argue that the Bolsheviks were guilty of the mass destruction of the Don people, killing an estimated 70 per cent of the population. In October 1920, the Red Army crushed General Wrangel's resistance in Crimea, forcing an evacuation of some 150,000 White Army soldiers and their families to Constantinople. A small group managed to escape on British and French ships. The chaos in the Russian port city of Novorossiysk was reported by Major H.N.H. Williamson of the British Military Mission. This group later settled in Europe, notably in Belgrade (where the Kalmyks built the first Buddhist temple in Europe), Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and France, where their White Movement leaders remained active. In 1922, several hundred Don Kalmyks returned under a general amnesty. Some returnees, including Prince Dmitri Tundutov, were imprisoned and executed. After the Russian Revolution, their settlements were merged, their Buddhist faith banned and the herds collectivised.

In the 1920s, Kalmyk nationalists and Pan-Mongolians tried to migrate to Mongolia. On 22nd of January, 1922, Mongolia proposed to bring the Kalmyks home during a famine, but the Russian government refused. About half of the population died during this famine. In March 1927, the Soviets deported the Kalmyks to Siberia, the Tundra and Karelia. In 1929, Joseph Stalin ordered the forced collectivisation of agriculture, forcing the Astrakhan Kalmyks to abandon their traditional nomadic pastoralist lifestyles and settle in villages. All Kalmyk shepherds, who owned more than 500 sheep, were deported to labour camps in Siberia. Kalmyk resistance to Stalin's collectivisation campaign and the famine caused by such a campaign led to the death of a considerable part of the population.

In 1926, 1930 and 1942-1943, the Kalmyks fought against Russia and established the sovereign Republic of Oirat-Kalmyk on 22nd of March, 1930. The Oirat state had a small army of Kalmyk soldiers, and they defeated the Soviet army in the Durvud province in Kalmykia, but the Oirat state was destroyed again by the Soviet army in 1930.

In the Soviet Union, the Kalmyks were given an autonomous territory, which was later proclaimed the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) within the Russian SFSR. In the course of collectivisation, the Kalmyks were forced to settle. This abrupt forced settlement initially led to famine; of the neighbouring nomadic Kazakh people, 1.3-1.5 million died in the 1930s. Partly after these experiences, the Kalmyks supported the invading Wehrmacht (German Army) in the Second World War and accompanied them on their retreat. The Kalmyk ASSR was dissolved in retaliation for the collaboration, and the remaining Kalmyk population was forcibly resettled in Siberia. A third of the deportees perished. Most of the Kalmyks, who emigrated to Poland and Germany, were repatriated. In October 1935, the Kalmyk Autonomous Oblast was transformed into the autonomous Socialist Republic of Kalmykia. The main occupations of the population were livestock breeding, agriculture, including the cultivation of cotton, and fishing. There was no industry.

In June 1941, the German army invaded the Soviet Union, eventually gaining control of the autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Kalmykia. By December 1942, however, the Red Army had again invaded the republic. On 28th of December, 1943, the Soviet government accused the Kalmyks of collaborating with the Germans and deported the entire population, including the soldiers of the Kalmyk army, to various locations in Central Asia and Siberia - within 24 hours at night, in winter, without prior notice, in unheated cattle trucks for their deportation.
The Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Kalmykia was quickly dissolved, its territory divided up and transferred to the neighbouring areas, the Astrakhan and Stalingrad oblasts and Stavropol Krai. Since there were no more Kalmyks living there, the Soviet authorities changed the names of the towns and villages to Russian names. For example, Elista became Stepnoi.

In 1943/44, the entire remaining population in Kalmykia was relocated to Siberia by Stalin and accused of supporting invading armies that had attacked Stalingrad (Volgograd). Punitive deportations to Central Asia and Siberia also affected other Soviet peoples under Stalin, such as the Crimean Tatars, Karachays, Balkars, Ingush and Chechens. About half of those deported to Siberia died. The Soviet Union government banned their language during the deportation. Mongolian leader Khorloogiin Choibalsan tried to bring the deported Mongols to Mongolia and met them in Siberia during his visit to Russia.

Under Khrushchev, the deportees were allowed to return home from exile after rehabilitation in 1957. Upon their return, however, the Kalmyks found that their homeland had been colonised by Russians and Ukrainians. On 9th of January, 1957, Kalmykia became autonomous again, and on 29th of July, 1958, it was proclaimed an autonomous republic within the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. But all attempts by this people to restore their religion and build a temple failed. In the following years, poor planning of agricultural and irrigation projects led to widespread desertification. In addition, industrial plants were built without analysing their economic viability.

According to the law of the Russian Federation of 26th of April 1991 "On the Rehabilitation of Exiled Peoples", repressions against Kalmyks and other peoples were considered genocide and their repressions were lifted. Today, they are trying to revive their language and religion.

In 1992, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Kalmykia decided to remain an autonomous republic of the successor government, the Russian Federation. However, the dissolution triggered the collapse of the economy at both national and local levels, causing widespread economic and social hardship. The resulting upheaval caused many young people, especially in rural areas, to leave the Russian Federation.

The local Colonel Soviet decided to change the name of the republic to Khalmg Tangch. In June 1993, the Kalmyk authorities of the Volga Delta, who had not returned to Kalmykia after the renewal of the Kalmyk ASSR in 1957, claimed that they had left. The Kalmyk authorities asserted their claim on the basis of the provisions of the 1991 law. For the rehabilitation of oppressed peoples, the lands in present-day Astrakhan and Dagestan were officially allocated to Kalmykia with effect from 1st of July, 1993. The long-standing dispute over the demarcation of Kalmykia's borders with the territory of Astrakhan and Dagestan resumed in 2005. But to date, no border changes have been made.

The remaining Kalmyks lived as nomads and semi-nomads between the lower Volga and the lower Don until the 20th century. Although the Kalmyks were not obliged to perform military service, Kalmyk units were part of Russia's army in wars of the 18th and 19th centuries. A minority also joined the Cossack units and became Christians.

- Life styles

Kalmyk settlements consisted of transportable yurts (Kalmyk: "ger") before the time of the Soviet Union. As nomads and semi-nomads, they lived mainly from cattle breeding until the 20th century, also from fishing and sporadic agriculture. As cattle breeders, they mainly kept cattle (Kalmyk cattle), but also camels, horses, sheep and goats. Although settlement areas had partly fertile soils, agriculture was not possible in the almost waterless steppe, only in the few river valleys.

In keeping with their nomadic way of life, the traditional family bond was based on cohesion. Parents, married children with families and unmarried children, formed an extended family. Several of these extended families formed nomadic clan or village associations, several of which in turn formed a clan according to their lineages. Several clans formed a traditional tribe (Ulus). The Kalmyk-Oirat society consists of an amalgamation of the four large tribes and several smaller ones. Traditionally, princes (called taiji or khan) presided over the different tribes. Although every Kalmyk or Oirat was aware of his inherited tribal affiliation, after military defeats of individual tribal princes in history, the followers repeatedly joined other tribal princes, which is why today in Kalmykia and also in western China members of several tribes live together in mixed groups. In addition to the princes and the high-ranking or lower nobility, there were the commoners as well as a Buddhist priestly and monastic class. The Kalmyk culture is similar to that of the Mongols.

As a result of the Soviet regime's settlement in the 1930s, the Kalmyks now live in permanent villages and towns, and society is more socially differentiated and modern. In addition, full literacy of the Kalmyks was enforced during the Soviet period. However, Soviet economic policy also damaged agriculture. In the economic plans since the 1960s, Kalmykia was mainly destined for the keeping of merino sheep, which severely damaged the vegetation, resulting in desertification in some regions.

- Origin of the name

Mongolians call Kalmyks "Halihmag", which means "the people move". The verb "Halih" in Mongolian means "leakage, seepage or overflow". They were given the name "Halihmag" because they were those people, who migrated from the Mongolian land as Mongols.
The name "Kalmyk" is also a word of Turkic origin, meaning "remnant" or "stay". Turkic tribes used this name for them as early as the thirteenth century.

The Khojas of Kashgaria used the name "Oirats" as early as the fifteenth century. The name "Kolmak Tatars" appeared in Russian written sources as early as 1530, and the cartographer Sebastian Münster (1488-1552) circumscribed the territory of the "Kalmuchi" on his map published in 1544. The Oirats themselves of all the tribes in the lower Volga Reghion do not accept these names, calling themselves by their tribal names. As late as 1761, the Khoshutes and Dzunghars (refugees from the Manchu Empire) and the Torgutes called themselves exclusively Oirats.

As a rule, European scholars have collectively named all Western Mongols as Kalmyks, regardless of their location. Such scholars have referred to Muslim sources that used the word "Kalmyk" to describe Western Mongols in a derogatory way. Western Mongols from China and Mongolia have considered this name a term of abuse. Instead, they use the name Oirat, or they used their respective tribal names. Over time, the descendants of Oirat migrants in the lower Volga region adopted the name "Kalmyks" regardless of their locations, namely Astrakhan, Don, Orenburg, Stavropol, Terek and Ural. Another common name was Ulan Zalata or the "red buttons".

- Mongolian origin

The Kalmyks were able to maintain their Mongol affiliation and resisted mixing with other similar Russian populations. So far, genetic analysis of the Kalmyks has confirmed their Mongolian roots, which also shows that whole families had moved to the Volga region and not just men, as was generally the case with most nomadic tribal groups.
Genetic results support the historical record that there is a close relationship between Kalmyks and Mongols.

- Tribes - Subgroups

- Baatud, Durvud, Khoid, Khoshut, Eleuth, Torghut and Buzava. The Torghutes were numerically dominant.

- Buzavas are a small minority and are considered Russified Kalmyks.
They settled with the Don Cossacks in the areas along the middle and lower Don River in Kalmykia, and eventually the Kalmyks of the Don became known as Buzava. Although composed of elements from all Kalmyk tribes, the Buzava claimed descent from the Torghut tribe.

- Religion

Many Kalmyks, like other Mongolian tribes, are followers of Tibetan Buddhism, also called Lamaism, of the Gelug ("Yellow Cap") school. They converted to this religion during the 17th century, mainly in the first half, before which they were Shamanistic.

The first Oirat tribe to convert to Lamaism, and the second Mongol tribe ever (under Altan Khan), were the Khoshutes, who settled far to the east in Tibet and neighbouring areas to the north. The Khoshut ruler Gushri Khan (1582-1655) helped the head of the Gelug, the fifth Dalai Lama Ngawang Lobsang Gyatsho (1617-1682), with military means to come to power in Tibet in the war against the heads of other schools, especially against the head of the Karma Kagyu ("Black Hat") school, the tenth Karmapa Chöying Dorje and against the Tibetan Tsangpa dynasty. In doing so, the Oirat Khoshutes established the rule of the Dalai Lamas in Tibet. At the same time, the Khoshutes sent missionaries of Gelug Lamaism to other Oirat tribes as far as the Lower Volga area. Historically, Kalmyks received their education either in the steppe or in Tibet. The students, who received their religious education in the steppe, joined the monasteries, which were active centres of learning. Many of these monasteries operated in felt tents that accompanied the nomadic tribes when they migrated. The Oirat tribes maintained tent monasteries throughout eastern Kazakhstan and along their migration route that took them across southern Siberia to the Volga. They also maintained tent monasteries around Lake Issyk Kul in present-day Kyrgyzstan. The Oirats also built stone monasteries in the regions of eastern Kazakhstan. For example, the remains of stone Buddhist monasteries have been found in Almalik and Kyzyl-Kent. In addition, there was a large Buddhist monastery in Semipalatinsk (Seven Palaces), which derives its name from this seven-hall Buddhist temple. Furthermore, remains of Buddhist monasteries were found at Ablaiket near Ust Kamenogorsk and at Talgar near Almaty and at Sumbe in the Narynkol region, on the border with China. After completing their training, the clergy renounced not only spiritual guidance but also medical advice. As priests, the lamas enjoyed great political power among the nobles and held a strong influence over the general tribal population. For many commoners, the only path to literacy and prestige was to join the monastic system.

The Tsarist government and the Russian Orthodox Church sought to gradually absorb and convert all subjects of a different faith or nationality. The aim of the policy was to eliminate foreign influence and anchor newly created territories. The baptised indigenous population would then become loyal to the Russian Empire and would agree to be governed by Russian officials. The government became aware of how the Kalmyk clergy influenced the general population. In the 1920s and 1930s, the government implemented measures to eliminate religion through control and suppression. To this end, Kalmyk temples (khuruls) and monasteries were destroyed and property confiscated; spiritual leaders were arrested and many believers harassed, killed or sent to labour camps; religious artefacts and books were destroyed; young men were forbidden religious education. By 1940, all Kalmyk Buddhist temples were either closed or destroyed and the clergy systematically suppressed. To discourage the monastic lifestyle, the government required structures to be built on government-designated sites by Russian architects. This policy led to the suspension of Lamaist canonical regulations for monastic construction and in Kalmyk temples, which were now conformed to the Russian Orthodox Church style.

Besides Buddhists, there are also some Muslim Kalmyks and small Christian communities, as well as many atheists. The Sart Kalmyks living in Kyrgyzstan are predominantly Sunni Muslims. A small percentage of Kalmyk Cossack families in Belarus converted to Judaism back in the early 19th century. Although the Sart Kalmyks are Muslims, the Kalmyks more or less remain loyal to the Gelug order of Tibetan Buddhism. In Kalmykia, the Gelug Order has built numerous Buddhist temples with governmental support. In addition, the Kalmyks recognise Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, as their spiritual leader and Erdne Ombadykov, a Kalmyk-American, as the supreme lama of the Kalmyk people.

The Kalmyks are the only inhabitants of Europe, whose state religion is Buddhism. They recognised Buddhism in the 17th century and belong to the Tibetan Buddhist sect known as the Gelug (Virtuous Way) school. The Gelug are commonly referred to as the Yellow Hat Sect. The religion is derived from the Indian Mahayana form of Buddhism. In the West, it is commonly referred to as Lamaism, from the name of the Tibetan monks, the Lamas ("wisdom").

In the 1980s, the Soviet campaign against the religion was so successful that the majority of Kalmyks never had formal spiritual guidance. However, in the late 1980s, the Soviet government reversed its political course and implemented measures to promote the liberalisation of religion. In 1988, the first Buddhist community was established. In 1995, there were 21 Buddhist temples, 17 places of worship for various Christian denominations and 1 mosque in the Republic of Kalmykia.

On 27 December 2005, a new temple was opened in Elista, the capital of the Republic of Kalmykia, and named "Burkhan Bakshin Altan Süme". It is the largest Buddhist temple in Europe. The government of the Republic of Kalmykia sought to build a grand temple on a monumental scale in the hope of creating an international centre of learning for Buddhist scholars and students from around the world. More importantly, the temple is a memorial to the Kalmyks, who died in exile between 1944 and 1957.

- Language

Along with the Oirat language, the Kalmyk language belongs to the western branch of the Mongolian language family and is still spoken by around 174,000 people in present-day Russia. The differences between the Oiratic and Kalmyk languages are small and only caused by the geographical distance of the last 200 years and by language policy. In contrast, communication with speakers of other Mongolian languages is hardly possible. The Kalmyk dialects vary somewhat, but the differences are insignificant. In general, the Russian language had less influence on the dialects of the pastoral nomadic Kalmyk tribes in the Volga region.

In contrast, the Durvuds (and later Torghutes), who migrated from the Volga region to the Sal'sk district in the Don region, adopted the name Buzava (or Don Kalmcks). The Buzava dialect developed from close interaction with the Russians.

- Buzava - They settled back with the Don Cossacks on the middle and lower Don River in Kalmykia, and eventually the Kalmyks of the Don became known as Buzava. Although composed of elements of all Kalmyk tribes, the Buzava claimed descent from the Torghut tribe.

In 1938, the literary language was changed from Kalmyk to Cyrillic script. During the Second World War, all Kalmyks, who did not fight in the Soviet army, were forcibly exiled to Siberia and Central Asia, where they were dispersed and not allowed to speak Kalmyk in public places. As a result, the Kalmyk language was not formally passed on and taught to the younger generation of Kalmyks. After returning from exile in 1957, Kalmyks spoke and published texts mainly in Russian. Consequently, the younger generation of Kalmyks speaks mainly Russian and not their mother tongue. In recent years, the Kalmyk government has tried to revive the Kalmyk language. Kalmyk and Oirat are understood by various linguists to be two different languages, although there are few phonetic and morphological differences (they belong to the Western Mongolian language family).

- Script system

In the 17th century, Zaya Pandita, a Gelug monk of the Khoshut tribe, developed a new writing system called Todo Bichig (clear writing). This system was developed on the basis of the older Mongolian script, which was based on the classical vertical Mongolian script, in order to phonetically capture the Oirat language. However, this had a more developed system of diacritical marks to eliminate misreading and reflected some lexical and grammatical differences to the Oirat language from Mongolian. Todo Bichig's writing system remained in use in Kalmyk until the mid-1920s.

Originally, Kalmyk (and Oirat) was written in its own vertical alphabet script, the clear script or Oirat script. In 1923, however, this was replaced by the Cyrillic alphabet by order. In the 1930s, there was a brief attempt to adopt the Latin alphabet, but this did not last. The Oirat people in Xinjiang, in Chinese provinces further east and more rarely in western Mongolia, still write their own Oirat script, which is derived from the Mongol script.

Among the most important works in the Kalmyk language is the heroic epic Džangar (Djangar; Kalmyk and Oirat; Djangar) in twelve songs, orally transmitted from the 15th century.

Kalmyks in Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia - China

A minority settles in present-day Xinjiang, mainly in the northern part of the region and in Inner Mongolia. They are mainly descendants of the surviving Torghutes and Khoshutes, who returned and were stationed there as garrison soldiers with the Chahar (Chahar or Chachar) in the 18th century. The emperor had reclaimed them at the time. A smaller horde from the Potala in Jehol (Chengde), a land residence of the Manchu emperors, guarded their arrival. Some of the returnees did not make it that far and still live as Muslims at the southwestern end of Lake Issyk-kul in present-day Kyrgyzstan.

The Chahar (Chahar or Chachar) are a Mongolian tribe, speaking the Mongolian dialect and currently inhabiting the region around Jingzhao (today Xi'an) by Kublai Khan. After the fall of Mongol rule in China (1368), they moved from Shaanxi to southeastern Mongolia, where they formed a Tümen (branch with a military unit of 10,000 men) under Doyan Khan and his successors. Under pressure from Altan Khan, the Chahar moved east to the Liao River in the mid-16th century under the leadership of Darayisun. In the early 17th century, Ligdan Khan led a campaign westwards because of pressure from the Manchus, but died on his campaign to Tibet in Gansu province, after which his son surrendered to the Manchus. The Chahar ruling family had good relations with the Manchu ruling family until about 1663, when Makata Gege, the daughter of the Manchu ruler Huang Taiji and wife of the Chahar prince, died. When the three feudal princes rebelled in 1674, the Chahar ruler also rose up against the Qin dynasty, but was soon defeated, whereupon the Chahar were reintegrated into the system of the Eight Banners and were now directly subject to the emperor.

Chengde is located in the northern Chinese province of Hebei, near the Luan River (Luan He).

Xi'an was the first capital of the Chinese Empire under the Qin dynasty and was repeatedly the capital of an imperial house over the course of 1120 years, mostly under the name Chang'an (Long Peace). The Chang'an of the Han period was located northwest of present-day Xi'an. Xi'an became world-famous with the archaeological excavations when over 8000 life-size terracotta soldiers were discovered in battle array. It is the burial place of Emperor Qin Shihuangdi (221 BC - 209 BC), who was the first to unify China as a country and founded the Qin Dynasty.

- Chahar (Chahar or Chahar) - Inner Mongolia

Kalmyks along the Ejine River in central-northern China (Quilian Mountains)

Mongols living along the Ejine River (Ruo Shui) pushed off from the Volga with Ravjir, a grandson of Torghut Ayuka Khan. In 1678, Ravjir - with his mother, younger sister and 500 people - went to Tibet to pray. While they returned via Beijing in 1704, the Qing ruler, the Kangxi Emperor, let them stay there for a few years and later organised a "khoshuu" in a place called Sertei and made Ravjir governor. In 1716, the Kangxi Emperor sent him with his people to Hami, near the border of Qing China and Dzunghar Khanate, to gather intelligence against the Oirats. When his eldest son Ravjir died, Denzen followed him. He was afraid of the Dzunghars and wanted the Qing government to remove them from the border. This was agreed in Dalan Uul-Altan. When Denzen died in 1740, his son Lubsan Darjaa followed him and became Beil (administrator). In 1753, they camped on the banks of the Ejine River (Ruo Shui) and established a torgut 'Khoshuu' there.

Ejine or Heihe is an inland river in central-northern China (Quilian Mountains). Coming from the Tibetan highlands, it flows north to the border with Mongolia, where it fans out in the largest alluvial cone on earth, ending in an evaporite basin. The area extends in the south from the north-eastern edge of the Tibetan highlands northwards to the Gobi-Altai Mountains and partly across the southern border of Mongolia. Within the vast desert regions of China, it is an island of moisture with extensive oases. In the course of the river, a distinction is made between the upper, middle and lower reaches.

- Sart Kalmyks

Sart Kalmyks live mainly in the Karakol region of eastern Kyrgyzstan. They are called "Sart Kalmyks". The origin of this name is unknown. Likewise, it is not known when, why and from where this small group of Kalmyks migrated to eastern Kyrgyzstan. Due to their minority status, the Sart Kalmyks have adopted the Turkic language and culture of the Kyrgyz majority. As a result, almost all of them belong to the Muslim faith.

1.6 Urianchai (Altai Uriankhai - Altain Urianhai or Altai-yn Urianhai)

This designation refers to a Mongolian tribe that now settles in the Altai Mountains. This group received this designation from the Qing Dynasty. They formed a subgroup in this western Mongolia and present-day eastern Xinjiang.

Languages - Western Mongolian dialect
Religion - Buddhism, Shamanism

Early settlers on the Upper Yenisei are mentioned by the Chinese from the 7th century AD and called Urianchai. They are first mentioned in a legend Erkune Kun in Mongolia. Some migrated to the Altai from the East Siberian Manchurian region and formed a unit called Urianchai. The name is probably taken from the Manchu predecessors, the Jurchen people. This Mongolian term for Urianchai was applied in the 17th century to all Samoyedic, Turkic or Mongolian tribes that settled in northwestern Mongolia. The Urianchai were first subjugated by the Khotgoid, Chalcha and later by the Dzunghars.

Samoyedic peoples (Samodi peoples, Samoyeds, Samoyadj) refers to those peoples, populations or groups of people, who used and use Samoyedic languages in history and in the present. If we combine them with the linguistically related Finno-Ugric peoples, we also speak of Uralic languages or the Uralic family of peoples.

The Samoyedic peoples still belong to the politically indigenous peoples of the Russian North.

The Khotogoids are a subgroup in northwestern Mongolia, living between Lake Uvs  (Uvs Nuur) in the west and Delgermörön in the east. They belong to the northwestern Chalcha and were one of the main groups.

The most famous ruler was probably Ubashi Huang Taizi, also known as Altan Khan of the Khotogoids (not to be confused with Altan Khan of Tumed of the Chalcha), who was successful in subjugating the Yenisei Kirghiz and pushing the Oirats out of their settlements in western Mongolia. The northern border of the Khotgoid Khanate reached the modern Russian city of Krasnoyarsk, and the southern border reached the eastern Altai Mountains of Mongolia in the 17th century. Their khanates were not an independent state, and the ruler submitted to the Zasagt Khan of the Chalcha. In the mid-17th century, as a result of conflicts with the neighbouring Zasagtu Khan of the Chalcha, they ceased to exist as a separate independent entity. As a result, the Khotogoids were frequently raided by Chalcha and Oirat tribes.

The Khotogoids moved into the area in the 16th century. However, in 1694, they were subjugated by Zasaghtu Khan Ziel-Erdeni Degüregchi Wang khoshuu. After Chingünjav's* rebellion in 1756-57, this khoshuu was divided into five smaller units: Erdeni Degüregchi Wang khoshuu, Akhai Beise khoshuu, Mergen Gong khoshuu, Dalai Gong khoshuu and Tsogtoo Wang khoshuu.

- *Chingünjav (mentioned above) was probably another known member of the khotogoid family, along with Ubaschj Huang Taizi.

- further information on the Khalcha

An indication of Samoyedic descent remains questionable: it is more likely that the present population is derived from the Manchu-Tungi, Mongolian and Old Turkic communities of peoples. They are also related to the Tuva in the Altai, who live in Western Mongolia and China-Altai. They were nomads and cattle breeders like all Turkic tribes. In addition, they are strongly influenced by Mongolian culture and practice shamanism; but they are also committed to Buddhism. There are mineral resources in the region, and early iron processing is known. In the headwaters of the Yenisey, reindeer nomads (of Tungis origin) still live today, also as hunters (forest nomads), the Tsaatan.

Tsaatan live in the Darchad Valley - a small community of reindeer herders, whose ancestry is attributed to the Tungus. Only some Darchad families, called Tsaatan, remained at the source of the Yenissey. "Tsaatan" means "reindeer herder" as in "tsaa bug" (reindeer).

Excavations in the Valley of Death near Turan have shown that people had already settled here in the Scythian era (6th and 5th century BC).

- Turan was the name given by Oriental geographers and historians, especially until the 10th century, to an inaccessible mountainous region in east-central Baluchistan bordering Makran to the south and Sind to the east.

Urianchai (also "Uriyangkhai", "Urianhai" or "Uryangkhai") is also a Mongolian term that has been applied to several neighbouring groups of "forest" people such as the Altai Urianchai, Tuvinians and Yakuts. The Urianchai have been mentioned in Chinese sources since the 7th century, and the name appears several times in the Secret History of the Mongols, known in Chinese as Wulianghai. The name "Urianchai" means "Uria" (motto, war motto) and "Chai" (lords) in Mongolian. The Mongols referred to the forest people by this name and later also to Tuvinians, who were called Darligin Mongols by the Mongols. At the beginning of the Mongol Empire (1206-1368), the Urianchai settled in central Mongolia.

- Tuvins is the name of the largest non-Slavic ethnic group in the Altai-Sayan region (southern Siberia). Linguistically, the Tuvins are now considered Turkic peoples. They call themselves Tyva kiži (South Siberians).

The Tuvins are divided into three different groups: The Tady of southern Siberia are by far the largest group. They also include the Sojon-Urianchai, who live in the Chöwsgöl-Aimag, Mongolia's northernmost province, and the "Tsaatan" (reindeer people) living there at the source of the Yenissey are classified as Tungus. The Khomdu people live in western Mongolia, and the Alda people live high on the Mongolian-Chinese Altai main ridge.

- more information about the Kalmyks 1.7 
- more information on the Yakuts among the southern peoples of Siberia
- more information on the northern peoples of Siberia

In the 13th century AD, the area was conquered by Genghis Khan and later came under the rule of the Yuan Dynasty (Kublai Khans). Rashid-al-Din Hamadani described these Urianchai as extremely isolated settlers living in birch bark tents on skis. Despite a similarity in the name of the famous Urianchai clan of the Mongols, Rashid says there was no connection. During the Ming dynasty, the Jurchen people were known among the Chinese as "forest people" (with the Jurchen word, Woji), and this designation was later applied to all Chinese reindeer herders the Urianchai, Wulianghai.

In the mid-14th century, some still lived in Liaoyang in northeast China. In 1375, Naghachu, an Urianchai leader from Mongolia, had invaded the Northern Yuan Dynasty in Liaoyang in the Liaodong Peninsula to restore power. Although he continued to rule southern Manchuria, a Ming military campaign against Naghachu ended his power with his surrender in 1388. After the rebellion of the northern Urianchai people, they were conquered by Doyan Khan in 1538 and annexed by northern Chalcha. Batmunkh Doyan Khan dissolved the Urianchai Tumen (branch). A group of Urianchai, who settled in the Chentii Mountains in central Mongolia, began to migrate to the Altai Mountains in the early 16th century. Another group migrated from the Chentii Mountains to Chöwsgöl Province during the northern expansion of the Yuan Dynasty (1368-1635).

At the beginning of the 17th century, the term Urianchai was a general Mongolian term for all dispersed people settling in the northwest, whether of Samoyed, Turkic or Mongolian origin. The Qing dynasty ruled as far north as a number of Urianchai tribes: in the Chöwsgöl Nuur Urianchai, Tannu Urianchai; Kemchik, Salchak and Tozhu (all Tuvins); or Altai people. Tuvins were called Monchoogo Urianchai in Mongolia (cf. Tuvan Monchak - Kazakh marchak "necklace"). Another group of Urianchai in Mongolia in the province of Bayan-Ölgii and Chowd were called Altai Urianchai. These were apparently tied to the Oirat Alliance. A third group of Mongolian Urianchai was one of the 6 Tümen (branches) of Doyan Khan in eastern Mongolia. These last two Urianchai groups are said to be descendants of the Uriankhan tribe, from whom Jelme and his more famous cousin Subutai descended. The clan names of the Altai Urianchai, Chöwsgöl Nuur Urianchai and the Tuvinians are different. There were no Turkic or Samoyed clans among the Altai or Chöwsgöl Urianchais. A variation of the name, Uraxai, was an ancient name for the Yakuts. But they are not Urianchais, this was just an alternative name for the Yakuts.

In the 16th and 17th centuries they were under the Oirats, the western tribes of the Mongols, under the Khotgoid tribe and the Altan Khanate (the Chalcha princes). Throughout history, the Uyghurs and Kyrgyz also ruled this area before the population became part of the Qing Dynasty of the Chinese Empire. With the fall of the Dzunghar Khanate, the Qing army overran the northern border in 1757 and subjugated a number of Urianchai tribes: in the Chöwsgöl Nuur and Altan Nuur, the Urianchai, Tannu Urianchai, Kemchik, Salchak and Toju. In the Altai Mountains, seven Altai Urianchai tribes were subjugated into two entities by the Qing under Ambans. Their territory included the eastern Chowd province and the Chöwsgöl province. Most were Mongolian-speaking under the Oirat Alliance as well as Buriats with Mongolian clan names. Some were Turkic-speaking such as the Soyotes and present-day Tuvinians.

- The Soyotes live mainly in the Oka Angara region in the Okinsky district in the Republic of Buriatia. Their extinct language was a Turkic language and similar to that of the Tuvins. Their language has been reconstructed and a textbook published. The language is currently taught in some schools in Oka. The Oka, the largest river flowing from the Western Sayan Mountains into the Angara, and the Oka Hill at the Oka catchment were inhabited by the Soyotes. Oka means "arrow".

After the Dzunghar revolt (1864-77), Kazakhs migrated to the Altai-Urianchai area. During domestic political unrest, the area then called "Outer Mongolia" (Uliassutai), now Mongolia, which included the Tannu-Urianchai province, split off from China. Supported by Tsarist Russia, a separatist movement formed, which proclaimed Tannu-Tuwa independence in 1912. Two tribes south of the Tannu-ola Mountains, however, remained under Mongol rule, based in Urga (now Ulaanbaatar). In 1906, the Qing Dynasty took over the Altai Urianchai area from Chowd Province. In 1913, the district was divided between the Boghda Khanate of Mongolia and the Chinese province of Xinjiang, so that some Urianchais now settled in far northwestern Xinjiang. The Altai Urianchai in Mongolia have joined the villages. In 1940, the Altai Urianchai and Kazakhs formed the province of Bayan-Ölgii.

Pavel Nebolsin, a Russian, described the Uranchu clan of the Volga Kalmyks in the 1850s. The existence of the Urianchai was documented by the Koreans, who called them Orangkae ("savages"), especially in connection with their attacks against the Sinitised world in the 14th and 15th centuries. Some Urianchais still live in the Chentii Mountains today.

The Tuvinians in Mongolai inhabit an impassable mountainous region in the northern part of the country, close to the border with Russia. Summers there are hot and dry, while winters are bitterly cold. Yet this region can have as many as 300 days of sunshine a year, and the extremely dry air helps the people withstand the cold winters and hot summers. Because the Tuvins, like other Russian settlers, left their homelands in the Soviet Union many years ago and migrated to Mongolia, their current "national" status is disputed for this reason. However, some Tuvan clans in Mongolia have retained their mother tongue, ethnic background and traditional culture.

1.7 Tannu-Urianchai (Tuvans, Tuva or Tagnu Uriankhai)

Languages - Turkic
Religion - Buddhism, Shamanism

Tuvan clans were absorbed by Mongols. Their original language, Tuvan, a Turkic language, contains many Mongolian words and uses the Cyrillic script. The Mongolised Tuvinians also speak Chalcha, the national language of present-day Mongolia. Urianchai was the Mongolian name for Tuvinians (a Turkic-speaking tribe, their tribal area was the region of the Tannu-ola Mountains, meaning "the people in the forest". Historically, it is a region in the Mongolian Great Empire in the 13th century and later Autonomous Region within the Qing Dynasty in the 19th century. The Tannu-Urianchai territories largely correspond to the present-day Republic of Tuva in the Russian Federation.

With the fall of the Yuan Dynasty under Kublai Khan (1279 - 1368), Tannu Urianchai was occupied and controlled by the Oirot tribes (Western Mongolian Alliance, also known as the Dzunghar Empire) until the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Thereafter, the history of western Mongolia and by extension Tannu Urianchai (more as spectator than participant) is a story of complex military relations between the Altan Khanate (Khotogoid tribe) and the Oirat tribes, both competing for dominance in western Mongolia.

The Qing Dynasty later assumed its rule over Mongolia as a result of intervention in a war between the Oirats and the Chalchas, the dominant tribe in the eastern half of Mongolia. In 1691, the Kangxi Emperor accepted the subjugation of the Chalchas at Dolon Nor in Inner Mongolia and then personally led an army into Mongolia and defeated them near Ulaanbaatar (the capital of present-day Mongolia) in 1696. Mongolia was now part of the Qing dynasty. A Qing rule over Tuva came about without a conquest, rather by threat: in 1726, the Yongzheng Emperor ordered the Khotogoid Khan Buuvei Beise, a high Qing official (Amban), to accompany him to inform the Urianchais about a Quin supremacy and to prevent undesirables in advance. The Urianchais seem to have accepted this order without dispute, at least we know of no record of this. The Qing Empire also subjugated the Altai Urianchai. These joined later, in 1754, after a wider military offensive against the Oirats. Tannu-Urianchai came under the rule of the Qing dynasty and were transformed into an administrative system similar to that of the Mongols, with five khoshuus and 46 or 47 sums. Each khoshuu was ruled by a judge (not hereditary), nominally appointed by the Qing military governor at Uliastai. In the second half of the 18th century, the magistrate of Tannu was appointed as governor ("amban-noyon", in recognition of his military service in the dynasty) for the others until 1872.

- Tannu, Salajik, Tojin, Chöwsgöl Nuur, Khemchik, Uliastai with the seat of General "Amban" (25 sums), Zasagtu Khan (5 sums), Prince Sain Noyan Hošo (13 sums), Jebtsundamba Khutugtus Shabinar (3 sums).

Tannu-Urianchai as well as Altai Urianchai were now controlled by the Quing Dynasty and formed its northern border. They were under strictly defined Qing rules that had to be followed by nobles of Outer and Inner Mongolia, the Dzunghars and Qinghai in order to collect tribute for the Quing. After the demarcation of the Sino-Russian border by the Treaty of Kyakhta (1727), the Qing Empire hired border guards ("yurt pickets", Mongolian: Ger Kharuul) along the south of the Tannu-Ola Mountains, which now separated the Tannu-Urianchai from Outer Mongolia now to Russia. (This fact was used by 19th century Russian polemicists and later Soviet writers to prove that Tuva was historically a "disputed" territory between Russia and China). The Qing military governor of Uliastai never crossed the Tannu-ola mountains to visit the Tannu-Urianchai region during his three-year inspection tours with border guards under his direct supervision. When there were problems with officials, a Mongolian from his staff was sent instead of dealing with the matter himself. In fact, there is no evidence that Tannu-Urianchai was ever visited by a high-ranking Qing official (except perhaps in 1726). Chinese merchants were forbidden to cross the mountains, a law that was not repealed until the turn of the 20th century. Instead, a few days were suspended for trading in Uliastai for Urianchai nobles, who delivered annual fur tributes to the military governor to receive their salaries and other tribunal gifts (especially cloth of satin and cotton cloth) from the emperor. Thus, Tannu-Urianchai enjoyed political and cultural autonomy within the Chinese Dynasty.

The Qing government never welcomed a Russian presence. In the 1860s and 1870s, the Uliastai military governor reported the movement of Russians in Urianchai to Beijing several times. His suspicions were further hardened by other events. In the negotiations between him and Russia that led to the Tarbagatai Protocol of 1864, which defined part of the Sino-Russian border, the Russian representative insisted that all the territories to the north of the Qing border gates fall to Russia. In addition, the Uliastai military governor received a Russian map showing the Tannu-ola Mountains as the Sino-Russian border. But at that time, in the second half of the 19th century, the Qing government was too distracted by internal problems to deal with it and get its way. Instead, it was left to local officials on the border to manage the Russians as best they could, an impossible task without money or troops. The military governors of Uliastai had to be content with limp protests and unclear investigations.

Russian settlement in the region began in 1839 with the opening of two gold mines in the Sayan Mountains; in the following decades, other areas were used for mining, especially in the northern part of Tannu-Urianchai. Russian merchants from Minusinsk promoted foreign trade with China, especially after the Treaty of Beijing in 1860. They were lured by the "high prices" for Russian manufactured goods such as cloth, samovars, knives, tobacco etc. that Urianchais were willing to pay. By the end of the 1860s, sixteen commercial "trade offices" (zavedenie) had been opened in Tannu-Urianchai. The Urianchais paid for these goods with furs and animal skins from sheep, goats, horses and cattle. Crossing the Sayan Mountains was an arduous journey and not without danger; so in 1880-85 there were perhaps no more than 50 (or less) Russian traders operating in Tannu-Urianchai during the summer, when trade was most active. A Russian colonisation followed. It began in 1856 with the arrival of Old Believers called the Seekers of White Waters, a place isolated from the rest of the world by impassable mountains and forests according to their tradition, where they sought refuge from government officials. The Nikon rites of the Russian Orthodox Church were not practised. In the 1860s, another type of refugees arrived, fleeing penal servitude to Siberia. More and more Russians were also arriving. Small settlements were formed in the northern and central parts of Tuva. The formal start of Russian colonisation in Tannu-Urianchai began in 1885, when a merchant received permission from the Governor General of Irkutsk to farm in what is now Tuva. Other settlements were formed and there were probably merchants and colonists in the first decade of the 20th century. By the late 1870s and the 1880s, the Russian presence had acquired a political content. In 1878, the Russians discovered gold in eastern Urianchai. There were rumours of fabulous wealth from the area, and the Russian provincial authorities at Yeniseisk were inundated with petitions from gold miners seeking permission. Traders and miners asked the Russian authorities for military and police protection. In 1886, the Usinsk Frontier Superintendent was established, whose primary function was to represent Russian interests in Tannu-Urianchai with Urianchai nobles (not Qing officials) and to issue passports to Russians seeking entry into Urianchai. Over the years, the government's power over Russians in the region was reinforced by the police, administration and courts. The Qing effectively relinquished their claims to power. Shortly after the office of superintendent was created, the "Sibirskaya gazeta" produced a special edition congratulating the government on its creation and predicting that all Tannu-Urianchai would eventually become part of the Russian state. As a general observation, the Tsarist government had been reluctant to act in Urianchai for fear of arousing the Qing Empire. It was usually a less obvious approach, one that depended on colonisation (rather quietly) than military action. And that is the fundamentally different Russian rule over Tannu-Urianchai of Outer Mongolia, to which it has often been compared. In the former, the Russians were essentially colonists; in the latter, they were traders. The Russians built permanent farmhouses in Urianchai, opened land for farming, erected fences and increased livestock. They were willing to stay there. A Russian presence developed in the northern and central parts of Tannu-Urianchai, in regions sparsely populated by locals. It was thus Russian colonisation rather than purposeful Tsarist aggression that ultimately led to Tannu-Urianchai becoming part of Russia in the following century.

By the early 20th century, the Urianchai economy had seriously deteriorated, leading to increasing poverty among the population. The causes were many: declining numbers of fur-bearing animals probably due to over-hunting by Urianchais and Russians; declining numbers of livestock as a result of the export market to Siberia; and periodic natural disasters (mainly droughts and plagues), which increased a toll on livestock. There was another reason. The Urianchai trade with Russians was conducted on credit, based on a complex system of valuation, mainly tied to squirrel skins. When the number of squirrels fell because of over-hunting, the price of the goods rose. The Russians also manipulated trade by encouraging credit purchases at increasing interest rates. When repayment did not take place, the Russian merchants collected the cattle of the debtor or his relatives or friends. This led to retaliatory attacks by the Urianchai. The situation worsened further when the Chinese arrived. Although the Qing Empire had successfully kept Chinese traders out of Urianchai (unlike in Mongolia and other parts of the frontier), they were allowed to cross the border again in 1902 to counter Russian domination of the Urianchai economy. By 1910 there were 30 shops, all branches of Chinese companies from Uliastai. For a variety of reasons - aggressive selling, easier credit terms, cheaper and popular goods to sell - the Chinese soon dominated trade, just as they did in Mongolia. Soon the Urianchais, citizens and princes alike, had accumulated large debts to the Chinese.

The end of the Qing government came quickly, and Tannu-Urianchai was liberated. On 10th of October, 1911, a revolution to overthrow the Qing dynasty broke out in China, and soon the Chinese provinces followed each other in declaring their independence. The Outer Mongols declared their own independence from China on 1st of December, 1911, and expelled the Qing viceroy four days later. In the second half of December, bands of Urianchai began looting and Chinese shops were set on fire. Urianchai nobles were divided on their political course. The Urianchai governor (amban-noyon), Gombo-Dorzhu, advocated becoming a protectorate of Russia, hoping that the Russians would in turn appoint him governor of Urianchai. But the princes of two other Khoshuus preferred to submit to the new Outer Mongolian State under the theocratic rule of the Jebstundamba Khutukhtu of Urga. Undeterred, Gombu-Dorzhu sent a petition to the border post at Usinsk that he had been elected as leader of an independent Tannu-Urianchai state. He asked for protection and suggested that Russian troops be sent into the country immediately to prevent China from re-establishing its rule over the region. There was no response - three months earlier, the Tsarist Council of Ministers had already adopted a policy of gradually cautious absorption of Urianchai by encouraging Russian colonisation. Precipitation against Russia, the Council feared, might provoke China. However, this position changed as a result of pressure from commercial circles in Russia for a more active approach and a Russian-sponsored "petition" from two Urianchai khoshuus in the autumn of 1913, asking to be accepted as part of Russia. Other Urianchai Khoshuus soon followed. In April 1914, Tannu-Urianchai was officially accepted as a protectorate of Russia.

After Outer Mongolia declared independence from the Qing Dynasty and the Republic of China in the early 20th century, the Tannu-Urianchai region increasingly came under Russian influence and eventually became an independent communist state, the People's Republic of Tuva, and was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1944.

- Tuvins is the name of the largest non-Slavic ethnic group in the Altai-Sayan region (southern Siberia). Linguistically, the Tuvins are today classified as Turkic peoples. They call themselves Tyva kiži (South Siberians).
The Tuvins are divided into three different groups: The Tady of southern Siberia are by far the largest group. They also include the Sojon-Urianchai, who live in the Chöwsgöl-Aimag, Mongolia's northernmost province; and the "Tsaatan", called reindeer people, who live there at the source of the Yenisey, are assigned to the Tungus. The Khomdu people live in western Mongolia, and the Alda people live high on the Mongolian-Chinese Altai main ridge.

- more information on the northern peoples of Siberia

1.8 Baiad (Bayad)

In the 13th century, the term "Mongol" was continuously used to refer to a large group of tribes united under the rule of Genghis Khan. Ethnic distinctions of this or tribal distinctions were relatively minor and usually no political or social structures, as the Mongols were generally peaceful among themselves.

The Baiad originally came from the Bayaud (Bayagud) region with tribal names such as Jida Bayaud (Bayagud of Jida), Bayaud Duklas, Kheeriin Bayaud, who settled in the eastern valleys of the Selenge River, on the Jida River and the Russian Kyakhtinsky District.
They moved southwest in the 17th century and played an influential role in the Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan: they later became part of the western Four Oirat Confederation.

The Baiad were the third largest subgroup of the Mongols. Their leaders were very influential in the Mongol Empire and were found among both Mongol and Turkic tribes. Within the Mongols, they spread through the southern Chalcha in Inner Mongolia and the Buryats. They later joined the Oirat Alliance. Today, the Baiads settle mainly in western Mongolia.

1.9 Choton (Khoton - Khotan)

Language - Durvud dialect - Oirat dialect (Western Mongolian)
Religion - Sunni Islam
Affiliation - Uyghur

The Choton are a group in Mongolia, the majority of whom live in Uvs Province, especially in the hamlets of Tarialan, Naranbulag and Ulaangom. While they had belonged to the Turkic language until the 18th century, they now speak a Durvud dialect belonging to the Oirat people (Western Mongolian dialect). The Choton supposedly belonged to a Kyrgyz tribe and shunned Mongol writing and culture. Choton or Chotong was originally a Mongolian term for Muslim Uyghurs or Hui people, i.e. Chinese-speaking Muslims in general.

The Hui group is probably the most widespread minority in China today. Most of them live in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in northwest China, and there are many Hui communities in the provinces of Gansu, Xinjiang, Qinghai, Hebei, Henan, Yunnan and Shandong.
Chinese is their spoken language. They also use words from Arabic and Farsi in their daily interactions and religious rituals. The Hui people live in the border areas of China and often use dialects of local ethnic minorities.
The habitats of the Hui are characterised by concentration given to small size and widespread distribution. The Hui belong to the Islamic religion, which has a profound influence on their daily life. They usually also built mosques, which then became the symbol of the architecture of large Hui communities.

- History - Hui is the abbreviation for Huihui nationality. Their ancestors were Huihui people, who emigrated from eastern China after three expeditions by the Mongols in the 13th century. Muslim emigrants settled in the coastal areas during the Tang Dynastues (from 618 - 907 AD) and Song Dynasties (from 960 - 1276 AD) in southeast China. Through long-lasting communication (as well as intermarriage) with many other nationalities throughout history, the Hui adopted many of the customs and ways of life from the Han, Mongol and Uighur and developed Huihui culture from them.

 Five Dynasties

The Choton allied themselves with the Western Oirat Alliance in the 17th century. According to another version, their leader Tseren Ubaschi, a Durvud prince, turned to the Qing Dynasty after 1753. They followed a syncretic religion that includes some aspects of Islam and traditionally does not allow marriage with other ethnic groups.

2.0 Durvuds (Dörvöd - Dörböd - Dörwöd)

Language - Oirat dialect (Western Mongolian)
Religion - Buddhism, Shamanism

The Durvuds were a Mongolian tribe settling west in present-day Mongolia within the Oirat alliance, near the border with Russia. In the early 16th century, most of their ancestors left their original homeland. They migrated via Dzungharia, now part of China's Xinjiang region, to the pastures of the northern Caucasus Mountains to settle - hoping to find better livelihoods. The Durvuds were under the leadership of Dalay († 1637 AD) and Dayan Ombo, along with a Khoshute group led by Khundelen († 1648 AD) and his nephew Ablay († 1672 AD), among others. They migrated across Siberia to the Urals and repeatedly attacked Torgutes and other tribes along the way.

The Durvuds are now the largest subgroup in modern Mongolia. They used to be one of the main tribes under the Four Oirat Confederation in the 15th to 18th centuries. In earlier times, the Durvuds and the Dzunghars were ruled by leaders of the Choros. Today, the Durvuds are spread across the western provinces in Mongolia, as are the returned Kalmyks. A smaller group now settles in Heilongjiang in China. In modern Mongolia, the Durvuds are mainly found in Uvs  province.

A Durvud clan settled in present-day Tuva. Sohor's four sons were in the Khamag-Mongol confederation in the 12th century. However, their relationship to the Durvuds is not entirely clear. However, Durvuds appeared in the early 15th century as part of the Western Four Oirat Alliance. The name probably means "döröv"; "four" (Middle Mongolian: dörbe).

In the 17th century, the leader of the Durvuds was Dalai Taiji. Trying to unite the Oirats, Taiji Dalai used the method of marriage, that of convenience. Taiji Dalai and the Khoshut leader Güshi Khan married sisters of the Torghut leader Kho Orluks. During the Dalai period (around 1625), the Oirat tribes were still living in harmony. In 1616, Dalai opened diplomatic relations with the Tsarist Empire of Russia. The next year, Dalai's son Solom Tseren joined the Kalmyks on the Volga. In 1699, a group of the Dörbets joined the Don Cossacks and were subsequently called Buzava Kalmyks (Russified Kalmyks).

During the return migration, those, who stayed behind, were caught west of the Volga by the Russian loyalists; as the river was not frozen and the bridge had been blown up by the Cossacks, the Durvuds could not join the escape with the Torghutes in 1771. The majority decided at that time to return to Dzungharia to escape the Russian dictatorship. Those, who stayed in Russia, became known as Kalmyks, meaning "to stay - to remain behind". Of those who left Russia, only a small group survived the long and difficult journey back to Dzungharia to their original homeland. After arriving in the land of their ancestors, they came under the rule of the Manchus (Qing Dynasty), who took them in and gave them land to graze their herds. Descendants can still be found in western Mongolia, as well as in the Xinjiang region and Qinghai province of China. Meanwhile, the Durvuds live in their Oirat homeland. They were an important tribe among the Dzunghars. In 1753, three of their Taiji presided over the Qing Dynasty. They were first settled in Bayankhongor Province and then resettled in Uvs Province in 1759. They formed the Sain Zayaatu League with 16 clans. Baiads and a small number of Chotons also lived with the Durvus. In the 1880s, the emerging rule of the Chalcha influenced their socio-economic lifestyle.

In the early 19th century, the Durvuds split up. A smaller group lived in northern Kalmykia, and a larger one at Manych-Gudilo Lake (largest lake in the Rostov region). The Kalmyks under Dambiyantsan accompanied the anti-communist disturbances and their separatist sentiments remained strongly rooted until the 1930s.

The Dörbeten, like all Mongols, are known for their love of horses; they are also known for organising horse races. Besides horses, they also raised cattle and sheep. Many live as nomads with seasonal migration with their herds. Their dwellings are portable tents (gers or yurts), made of felt on lattice frames. Their diet includes millet, milk tea and other dairy products (white food), mutton and fermented mare's milk (kümis) or fermented mare's milk (arki - alcohol). Some were sedentary farmers and cultivated cereals, maize, fodder grasses, mustard seeds, sunflowers and melons. Families typically consisted of parents and their children. After marriage, the sons remained in separate houses near their parents. In regions, where agricultural work is still carried out, family units consisting of parents, married sons and their families, and unmarried sons and daughters still settle. Marriage used to be a symbol of becoming an adult, and marriages were arranged by parents, and an astrologer (zurchachi) was consulted for compatibility. The typical Durvud costume includes velvet hats, loose coats and heavily padded long trousers. They often shave their heads, except for a small area in the back reserved for a ponytail. Poetry passed down orally is an important part of their culture. It is traditionally recited by a poet, accompanied by a two-sided lute called a "dombra". Their leisure activities include storytelling, singing, archery, wrestling and horse racing. The Durvuds, like other Mongols, were traditionally of the faith "animism" (with non-living animate things) and shamanism (belief in an invisible animate world of gods, demons and spirits). The communities were served by shamans and medicine men, who healed diseases and performed rituals. Priests were only allowed to communicate with gods. In the late 15th century, they adopted Tibetan Buddhism (Geluga school). Despite revolution and prohibitions, the shamans remained very influential. The ovoo, a cairn, served as an altar for local spirits and as a place for performing various rituals. They practised "sky burials". This meant that the deceased was left in a field to be eaten by wild animals before the dead were buried (ritual like the Persians).

2.1 Miangad (Myangad - Mingat)

Language - Oirat dialect (Western Mongolian)
Religion - Buddhism, Shamanism

The Miangad, a subgroup, belong to the Oirat group. They live in Miangad Sum in the Chöwd Aimag (Khovd in present-day Mongolia).

2.2 Dzakhchin - Tsakhchin (Zakhchin - Dzakhchin)

Languages - Tsakhchin dialect - Oirat dialect (Western Mongolian)
Religion - Buddhism, Shamanism

The Tsakhchin had 16 tamgas (seals) and 30 clans. Some of them are:
Donjooniichon - Damjaaniichan - Shurdaanchan - Baykhiinchan - Emchiinchen.
Khereid - Tsagaan Yas - Aatiinchan - Dumiyenchen - Burd Tariatchin - Adsagiinchan - Tavagzaaniichan - Nokhoichon - Khotonguud - Khurmshtiinchan Mukhlainchan

The name Tsakhchin refers to a small mixed sub-group of the Oirats in the Altai mountain range region of western Mongolia in what is now Chöwd Aimag (Khovd . They were also under the alliance of the Dzunghars and were responsible for protecting the borders.

The Tsakhchin can be related to the Dzunghar Empire in the 17th century, when the western Mongolian Galdan Khan united a group of Oirat warriors to defend the borders in the Tianshan Mountains against the Manchus. This group was called Tsakhchin, which literally means "border guards", based on the fact that they were stationed in the border garrisons and were mainly from Torghutes, Durvuds, Öölden from the Dzungharian Empire. The Tsakhchin, conquered by the Manchus of the Qing Dynasty in 1754 and controlled by Zasagt Khan Ziels Tsevdenjav Gün, then moved to Zereg and Shar Khulsan. A Khoshuu (district) was so named, and their first leader (Zaisan) was Maamuud (Mamad). Mamuud was later killed by Dzunghar king Amarsanaa. The Tsakhchins revolted together under Amarsanaa against the Qing Dynasty. After their almost total annihilation by Manchu troops, survivors remained in the Altai Mountains. Later, the Bogd Khanate of the Mongoljin subjugated the Tsakhchin, under the Durvud Ünen Zorigt Khan target. The southern Khoshuu was called "goviinkhon" (people of Gobi), while the north was called "shiliinkhen* (people of the mountain range).

Geographical isolation and limited freedom of movement contributed to the preservation of their local dialect, tradition and musical heritage. Heavy migration, which only began in this millennium, and the global market economy affected their ancestral way of life. More and more young people are looking for a better future in the capital. However, the majority still live as herders on the high pastures of the Altai mountain range. The religion of the early inhabitants of the region recognised only one unified divine power, located in the heavenly vault. They also worshipped a particular natural phenomenon and believed in an afterlife in the form of spirits (demons).

The craftsmanship of these people, their great poetic talents, their epic works and lyric poetry are excellent testimonies to a past. Singers and poets travelled from camp to camp, singing their songs and epics and talking about the expression of freedom and immensity of the steppes. Their songs are strongly influenced by the dialect. Similar songs can be found among the Torghutes, who speak a similar dialect (Western Mongolian). The singing styles are very gender-specific. Women are not allowed to perform certain types of songs such as epics (tuuli) or praise songs (magtaal), at least not during a ceremony. The most common song forms are short song (bogino duu) and long song (urtiin duu); these may be performed by both men and women. A difference between songs is determined by the choice of different modalities and performance rather than a song-specific style. The songs have a variable number of verses with or without a chorus. However, not all the stanzas are known today because of this oral tradition. Their traditional instruments are the two-string lute (tobshuur) and the two-string spit-rod fiddle (ikili). These instruments have become rarer today, having been replaced by the horsehead fiddle (morin khuur) during the socialist era.

- Information on the instruments and on Mongolian vocal music

Additions to the vocal music and dance of the Tsakhchin:

- Bogino duu (short song)
Songs of this type can be further divided into "bogino duu" (short song) or "urtavtar duu" (extended song). They are performed by men and women and may also have instrumental accompaniment.
They are sung only in unofficial situations and are simpler and more variable than 'urtiin duu' (long song). They are performed strophically, syllabically, rhythmically bound without ornamentation, in a plain style. They have a very precise rhythm and are based on a pentatonic scale. The songs are spontaneously improvised and tend to be satirical in nature. They often have dialogue form and are about certain friends and incidents. They often tell in lyrical form about love, lullabies, nomadic everyday life or animals, especially horses. Songs can also be improvised after a particular situation to deal with difficult relationships or everyday incidents with advice.

- Shog duu - are satirical songs used to express guilt and anti-social behaviour, making fun of or blaming someone, complaining about difficult relationships or spreading everyday incidents, drunkenness or arrogance. These satirical songs are more melodic than improvised ones.
Another type of performance is singing in the form of dialogue for entertainment and friends.

- Urtiin duu (long song)
This is melismatically richly ornamented and characterised by slow tempi, long melodies, large intervals; it has no fixed rhythm.
This is a very old form of song performance, whose origins can be traced back to the 13th century. It is not called "urtiin duu" (long song) because of the length of the songs, but rather because of the long extension of each syllable. A song of several minutes could thus consist of only a few words. Through an elaborate singing style, this song achieves a high degree of sophistication. This type of music is difficult to master and at the same time gives the soloist a lot of room for highly individual interpretations.

Themes are mainly the love of their homeland, the Altai mountains, and the praise of its beauty, the vast steppes, family and animals (especially the horse) as well as everyday life. These songs are performed on official occasions, but also alone, often while riding. In old times, the distance ridden was measured in number of long songs sung.
The performance requires great talent and skill in breathing, as well as a mastery of throat singing technique. Their melodies are characterised by leaps, the number of pauses is reduced and the voice is to be held as long as possible. They are based on pentatonic pitches, prose form and reduced rhythm, the tempo is very slow.

- "Urtiin duu" can be divided into three subgroups:
'aizam urtiin duu' (majestic long songs), 'tügeemel urtiin duu' (normal long song) and 'besreg urtiin duu' (abbreviated long song).
The Tsakhchin only know the latter form. Some stanzas or the refrain can be sung along by the audience. The stanzas are sometimes performed in dialogue form by two singers.
The performers can be both men and women, and they are very highly regarded. Among the Tsakhchin, such songs are performed without the accompaniment of a tobshuur (two-string lute) and the ikili (two-string spike violin).

- Biyelgee tatlaga (western Mongolian dance form)
The accompaniment to the dance "Biyelgee” can be either instrumental or vocal in the form of a 'bogino duu' (short song).

- Map of the distribution of the Mongolian languages

- further information on the equestrian nomads

- further information on the southern peoples in Siberia

2.3 Kazakhs in Western Mongolia

The Mountain Kazakhs in Mongolia belong to a larger group in western Mongolia, living mainly in what is now eastern Kazakhstan and the Russian Altai. Ethnically, they belong to the Turkic tribes and are the second largest Muslim group in Central Asia. In the past, they were a very influential among these different ethnic groups in Central Asia. They developed a distinct identity in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. In the nineteenth century, the Russians conquered Central Asia. They eventually dominated the entire territory of Kazakhstan. About half of the Kazakh population was killed during the Russian civil war of the 1920s and 1930s. During this time, many fled to China and Mongolia.
Those now living in Mongolia form the largest non-Mongolian ethnic group. But their numbers are declining, as many have migrated back to their homeland, Kazakhstan.

After the Dzunghar Revolt (1864-77), Kazakhs migrated to the Altai-Urianchai area. In 1940, the Altai Urianchai and Kazakhs formed the province of Bajan-Ölgii.

Kazakhs (Kazakhs in Kosh-Agash) - Russian-Altai

Origins to preserved ancient rituals can still be found here in the tribal area of the Altaic Kazakhs, which parallels the Kazakhs in Kazakhstan. They are followers of Islam. In songs, memories of their belonging to large tribal and clan groups such as Nayman, Kerey, Samay, Karatay, Uak etc. and their heroic deeds are praised. One also finds traces of a past Shamanism before their Islamisation. Worship ceremonies from ancient sources in Kazakh ritual are documented. These are rituals that were also common among the Telengit (Turkic tribe), who settled next to them in the Altai.

They are preserved in local songs, stories, myths, epics, legends and sagas; especially in songs of praise about mountains, creator beings or ancestors. Kazakhs as well as Telengites know such traditional ideas of their worldview and are based on centuries-old traditions. Certain mountains were often sacred places for clans and tribes. Every clan (seok - uul) has its sacred mountain (yiyk tuu). In this animism, nature was considered animate and completely surrounded by spirits. Each landscape, mountain peak, spring, river and season has its own spirit or master (eezi), who is asked for protection and prosperity through worship and rituals. Each clan or tribe also had its own mountain spirit or protector (tuu eezi), mentioned in epics, myths, legends and stories.

- Totemism - a tradition that certain groups of people are related to certain animals.
Many clans have their own totem (bayana), a signet or stamp (tanmu -tamgas).
The Nayman clan has a deer, an eagle, a capercaillie or wolf; the Mundus clan bears a golden eagle, the owl or a bull; the Komdosh clan has an otter and so on.

- Praise song - "Praising the Altai" was a ritual at the beginning of summer or autumn (jazhyl bür) - "green branch", (sary bür) - "yellow branch".
At the beginning of summer, the inhabitants ask higher powers for the prosperity of the herd, for a good harvest and prosperity for the population. In autumn, they ask for protection for the coming winter, a good harvest and a good end to a difficult time.
In the Mongolian Altai, a special style of singing is used in this regard, known as a song of praise - "Altai maktaal" or "praising the Altai".

- "Worship rituals" are celebrated at places of power, such as sacred places and other mystical places.

- "Ceremony at healing springs" (arzhans) for health, prosperity, peace, etc.

- Rituals in the form of worship with offerings took place at the foot of mountains, at places of power, rivers, for animals and nature. These were celebrated by priests.
Such rituals were not only celebrated at sacred places associated with communal experiences, but they were also practised in everyday life or with people in the shaman's home or environment.

Field research suggests that mountain peaks were considered sacred to a local population in the Tuja Steppe and surrounding areas of Kosh-Agash. Many peaks are named with the term "sacred" (yiyk) and are already mentioned in ancient Turkic inscriptions. Such sacred mountains were under a set of strict rules: they could not be climbed without asking permission, and hunting animals was forbidden. Periodic consecrations with ritual acts took place at erected altars.
Findings and texts also point to important places such as the Ukok Plateau, a place that was sacred to the peoples, who settled in the Altai. They were also places with burial grounds of spiritual significance and were built near winter quarters.

Ukok Plateau
The inhabitants of the Altai revere the plateau as sacred, as the place where the souls of their ancestors find their rest. In the Old Turkic language, the word Ukok means "funeral stretcher". At the end of the last century, the mummy of a young woman was found by archaeologists in one of the ridges of the plateau.

Ukok Ak-Alakha River

- More information about Archaeological Finds of the Steppe Cultures - Burials and Mound in the Altai Mountains - Cult Site of Past Cultures

Kazakh settlers, whose formation of a diaspora was completed by the beginning of the 20th century. A Kazakh migration route led from eastern Kazakhstan to the Altai on the banks of the Kara-Alakha River at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. There was a settlement with pasture of Genghistai Kazakhs (Karatays), at the confluence of the Kara-Alakha and the Ak-Alakha rivers. Their clan burial ground was found at this site. Unusually, a Kazakh Islamic cemetery (cob and wooden mausoleums) was used on an ancient burial ground on a mound dating from an early Scythian era, where the legendary Tokhtamys, leaders of early settlers, were once buried. In the Kazakh village of Dzhazator, a clan object is still venerated for worship.

- Living beings are of divine descent and their world is harmonious and beautiful. It was created by Kudai (also Ülger) the Creator. Important sky gods are Uch-Kurbustan, Tengri, Khorbustan and the underground master Erlik-Bya.

- Worship of plants such as Bay-Terek (a sacred poplar), Bay-Kayyn (a sacred birch), Mosh-Agash (Siberian pine), Archin (juniper).

- Clothing and jewellery may only be sewn and worn from skins of heavenly creatures, such as kish (sable), a creature of the heavenly god.
It was forbidden to wear clothing that came from "subterranean" creatures, such as toogry (musk deer), boorsyk (badger).

A tradition of such tradtitons of the older generation has been largely lost due to a rapid social change. Knowledge about rituals and healing with the help of plants still play an important role today, but only in shamanic practices.

2.5 Altai - Turkic tribes in Russian Altai

Altai is an older name for a group of Turkic-speaking tribes, whose settlement area lies in the Russian Republic of Altai as well as in the region of the Altai Mountains. They emerged from Old Turkic and Mongolian ethnic groups that intermingled here. There are different opinions as to whether the Altai represent one people or a group of closely related among different ethnic groups. The same applies to the Altaic language. The Altaians as a whole belong to the indigenous Siberian peoples (officially called Oirotes until 1948).

The Altaians are divided into a northern and a southern group.

- In the Russian Empire, the northern group was known as the Kuznetsk Tatars (kuznetskie tatary) or Chernovye tatary or Oirots (orioty), and included the Tubalars (Russian: tubalary), who settled on the left bank of the Biya River and on the north-eastern bank of Lake Teletskoye (Russian: Teletskoye osero). The Chelkans (also: Lebedins, 2002: 855) settle in the valley of the river Lebed, the Kumandins (2002: 3114) live on the middle course of the Bija. The Chelkans (native name - Shalgan) are a small Turkic people related together with the Altay people and with the Shors in the Kemerovo oblast; however, they are recognised as a separate ethnographic group.

- The southern group includes the largest subgroup, which is called Altaians, like the group as a whole (2002: 67,239). The Telengites (2002: 2399) settle along the Chulyshman, Chuja and Argut rivers. The Teleuts (2002: 2650) live mainly in the Belovo district of Kemerovo oblast, a smaller part in the Altai Republic. The Telese (population unknown) settle on the Chulyshman and Chuya rivers, and the Majmalars (also not recorded in the 2002 census) on the Majma River.

They inherited metalworking skills from the 2nd millennium BC and came into contact with the Russians in the 18th century. In the Tsarist period, the Altay people were still referred to as Oirot or Oyrot (this name means Oirat and would later be continued for the Oyrot Autonomous Oblast). They were originally nomadic, with a lifestyle based on hunting/trapping and pastoralism (mainly cattle, sheep, goats), but many of them allowed themselves to be transformed into settlers and Christians as a result of Russian influence. In terms of their original religion, some of them remained Tengrists or Shamanists. In 1904, a religious movement called Ak Jang (White Faith) or Burkhanism emerged, perhaps as a reaction to the Russian occupation and settlement.

- more information on the Altaians


Thalwil, 30th of June 2021- © Albi
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