also called Oirots between 1922 and 1948, a nationality living in Gorno-Altai Autonomous Oblast, Altai Krai, RSFSR; in the past, the collective name for a group of Turkic-speaking tribes living in Gorno-Altai and in parts of Kuznetsk Ala-Tau. Population in 1959, 45,000. Language, Altai.
Ethnographically the Altais are divided into northern and southern peoples. The northern Altais originated, apparently, as a result of prolonged contact with ancient Samodic, Ket, Ugrian, and Turkic tribes. The northern Altais (in prerevolutionary Russian literature sometimes called deep-forest Tatars) include Tubalars, who live along the left bank of the Biia River and the northwestern coast of Lake Teletskoe, Chelkantsy, or Lebedintsy, from the Lebed’ River basin, and Kumandintsy, who live along the Biia River. The southern Altais, sometimes called white Kalmyks, Altaian Kalmyks, mountain, frontier, or Biian Kalmyks, include the Altais, or Altai-kizhi, the Telengits, Teles, and Teleuts, who live in a number of regions in the Gorno-Altai Autonomous Oblast. The southern Altais originated in the merging of the descendants of ancient (6th- 8th centuries) Turkic tribes of Saiano-Altai and the regions surrounding it and of the newer Mongolian tribes in the 13th and 15th through 18th centuries. Under Soviet power, Altais—from backward cattle-breeding and hunting tribes, illiterate, living in a patriarchal and feudal system, and shamanists—have been consolidated within the boundaries of Gorno-Altai into a socialist nationality; they have developed their economy and their national culture.
REFERENCESNarody Sibiri. Moscow-Leningrad, 1956.
Potapov, L. P. Ocherki po istorii altaitsev, 2nd ed. Moscow-Leningrad, 1953.
L. P. POTAPOV