(self-designation, Buriat), a nation; the indigenous population of the Buriat Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. They also live in Aga-Buriat National Okrug, Chita Oblast, RSFSR; Ust’-Orda Buriat National Okrug, Irkutsk Oblast, RSFSR; and in several other regions of these oblasts. Groups of Buriats also live in the northern part of the Mongolian People’s Republic and the northeastern part of the People’s Republic of China. There are 315, 000 Buriats in the USSR (1970 census). Anthropologically, the Buriats belong to the Central Asiatic type of the Mongoloid race. They speak the Buriat language. The ancient religion of the Buriats was shamanism, which was replaced by Lamaism in Transbaikalia. Most Western Buriats nominally considered themselves members of the Orthodox Church, although shamanism was preserved. Vestiges of shamanism were also retained among the Lamaist Buriats.
In the 17th century the Buriats comprised several tribal groups, the largest of which were the Bulagat, Ekhirit, Kho-rints, and Khongodor tribes. Later, a certain number of Mongols and assimilated Evenki families joined the Buriats. The close relationship among the Buriat tribes and their subsequent consolidation into a single nation were determined historically by the similarity of their dialects and cultures, and also by the social and political unification of the tribes after their incorporation into the Russian Empire. This process was mostly completed by the late 17th and 18th centuries. Tribal differences were generally obliterated during the formation of the Buriat nation, although the distinctive dialect features were maintained.
Cattle breeding, seminomadic among the western tribes and nomadic among the eastern tribes, formed the basis of the Buriat economy; hunting and fishing also played a role in the economy. Farming was intensively practiced in the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly in Irkutsk Province and western Transbaikalia. The Buriats felt the strong influence of Russian material and spiritual culture. In the early 19th century education began to spread among the Buriats; the first schools were founded; and a national intelligentsia began to take shape. After the October Revolution, the Buriat people were transformed into a socialist nation during the years of socialist construction.
REFERENCENarody Sibiri. Moscow-Leningrad, 1956. (Bibliography, pp. 999-1000).
B. O. DOLGIKH