The BuryatsThe Buryats or Buriyads, numbering approximately 436,000, are the largest ethnic minority group in Siberia and are mainly concentrated in their homeland, the Buryat Republic, a federal subject of Russia.
They are the northernmost major Mongol group. The Buryat Republic, the southern part of the territory of East Siberia, is situated in the region between northern Mongolia and Lake Baikal.
The name "Buriyat" is mentioned for the first time in the Secret History of the Mongols (1240). When the Russians expanded into Transbaikalia (eastern Siberia) in the mid-17th century, they found only a small core of tribal groups speaking a dialect called Buryat.
Buryats, the indigenous people of this territory are people of Mongolian language, physical type and cultural tradition; who are the descendents of the Turkic-Tungusic tribes who formerly inhabited the Transbaikal area before the spread of the Mongols Buryats share many customs with their Mongolian cousins, including nomadic herding and erecting yurts for shelter. Today, the majority of Buryats live in and around Ulan Ude, the capital of the republic, although many live more traditionally in the countryside. Their language is called Buryat, and is closely related to Mongol. Many Buryats use both Tibetan and Mongol as literary languages.
After Buryatia was incorporated into Russia, it was exposed to two traditions. Buryats west of Lake Baikal and Olkhon (Irkut Buryats), are more "russified", and they soon abandoned nomadism for agriculture, especially during the socialist collectivization and industrialization. They also became sedentary and replaced their yurts with permanent wooden structure houses which are typical for Russians throughout Siberia.
Lamanistic (Tibetan) Buddhism is the primary religion, but shamanism is common in western areas of the Buryat region. A native religion called Burkhanism also exists. A handful of Buryats have become Russian Orthodox Christians. Buryats live not only in the boundaries of the Republic of Buryatia but also in the ethnical autonomous districts (okrug) of Chita and Irkutsk administrative provinces (oblast) within the Russian Federation.
Large numbers of Buryats (about 28,000) live in the Mongolian Republic, mostly in the districts which border on Russia (Khentii aimag). About 20,000 Buryats live in the People's Republic of China in the region of Barga in Manchuria.
Some of these have settled or were sent there in the eighteenth century and others are Buryats who emigrated from the Soviet Union after the revolution and Civil War.