Buriat Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Buriat Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic


(Buriaidai Avtonomito Sovet Sotsialis Respublika), Buriatia, a constituent part of the RSFSR, founded May 30, 1923. On the south it borders on the Mongolian People’s Republic. Area, 351, 300 sq km. Population in 1970, 812, 000. There are 18 raions (aimaks), five cities, and 13 urban-type settlements. Capital, Ulan-Ude.

Constitution and government. The Buriat ASSR is a socialist workers’ and peasants’ state, an autonomous Soviet socialist republic. The constitution now in effect was adopted on Aug. 11, 1937, at the seventh congress of the soviets of the Buriat-Mongolian ASSR. The supreme bodies of state authority are the unicameral Supreme Soviet of the Buriat ASSR, to which one deputy per 6, 000 inhabitants is elected for four years, and its Presidium. The Supreme Soviet forms the governing body, the Council of Ministers of the Buriat ASSR. Buriatia is represented in the Soviet of Nationalities in the Supreme Soviet of the USSR by 11 deputies. The local agencies of state authority are the city, raion, settlement, and urban soviets, which are popularly elected for two years.

The Supreme Soviet elects for a five-year term the Supreme Court of the Buriat ASSR, composed of two court collegiums (for criminal and civil affairs) and the Presidium of the Supreme Court. The Buriat ASSR prosecutor is appointed by the prosecutor-general of the USSR for five years.

Natural features. Buriatia is located in the southern part of Eastern Siberia, in Transbaikalia. The countryside is mainly mountainous; there are few flat sections, and they are all located at altitudes of 500-700 m. The lowest area, which has an altitude of 455 m, is the coast of Lake Baikal.

In terms of relief, Buriatia is divided into the Selenga Highland, in central and southern Buriatia, with the Tsagan Daban, Tsagan-Khurtei, Zaganskii, and other ranges, with altitudes up to 1, 200-1, 700 m; the Vostochnyi Saian (its eastern extremity is in Buriatia), with the highest peak of the republic, the Munko-Sardyk mountain plexus, with an altitude of 3, 491 m; the Baikal mountainous region, in western and northern Buriatia, comprising the Khamar-Daban, Ulan-Burgasy, Barguzin, Baikal, and other ranges, with altitudes up to 2, 000-2, 500 m; and the Vitim Plateau, in eastern Buriatia, with altitudes of 1, 000-1, 200 m. Within these mountain systems there are vast intermontane hollows, such as the Gusinoozersk, Uda, Barguzin, Verkhniaia Angara, Muia-Kanda, Tunka, and Oka; some of them have steppe, forest-steppe, and meadow sections, providing the main agricultural land of the republic.

The minerals found in the republic are tungsten, molybdenum, gold, polymetals, bituminous coal and lignite, iron ores, nepheline syenites, bauxites, apatites, asbestos, graphites, and chemically pure limestones.

The climate is sharply continental. The winter is long and cold, without winds and with little snow. The summer is short and warm. The average January temperature is -24° C to -25° C, and the July temperature is 17° C to 18° C. Early autumn frosts, which begin in mid-August, damage agricultural crops. The average annual precipitation is 250-300 mm in many agricultural regions of Buriatia—for instance, in the Selenga, Uda, and Barguzin river valleys. The mountain areas have 300-500 mm or more precipitation a year. In the major agricultural regions, mainly the river valleys, 150-160 days in the year register temperatures of over 5° C.

Buriatia is characterized by a relatively developed river system. The rivers belong to the basins of the Enisei (mainly of Lake Baikal) and Lena rivers. The average annual capacity of the rivers to produce hydroelectric power is 15 million kW. The major tributaries of Lake Baikal are the Selenga, Barguzin, and Verkhniaia Angara. Vitim, which is a tributary of the Lena, is a major river. The Irkut, Oka, and Kitoi rivers (Enisei basin) flow in the western part of Buriatia. Some rivers are used for irrigation. A large part of the Lake Baikal waters is in Buriatia. In addition, there are several important lake groups (the Gusinoe-Ubukun, Eravnoe, Baunt, Severnyi Baikal, and Barguzin). There are more than 300 mineral sources (arshans); resorts are located near some of them.

The most widespread soils are of the podzol type. In the forest-steppe and steppe regions of central and southern Buriatia and in the Barguzin and Tunka valleys, there are dark gray forest soils as well as varieties of chestnuts and chernozem soils. Swamps and marshes occupy considerable space in the big hollow between the mountains (Verkhniaia Angara, Barguzin, Tunka), in the Selenga Delta, and in the Vitim Plateau. There are many glacial rocks. Four-fifths of Buriatia, mainly in the north and west, is covered with taiga vegetation; the southern and central regions have steppe and forest-steppe vegetation. The northern slopes of the Trans-baikal ranges are covered primarily by birch forests and in places by cedar and pinecedar forests. The southern slopes are covered with pines and bushes that grow well in dry soils. The steppes, which are covered primarily by feather and pearl grasses, often rise to an altitude of 900-1, 000 m. These are followed by a forest band, the upper limit of which is between 1, 500-1, 600 and 2, 200 m high; in northern and northwestern Buriatia the forest band is followed by a subalpine band with dwarf cedars and, higher up, moss and lichen tundras. Deciduous forests, such as birch, asp, poplar, and alder, are found in small groves in the floodland terraces of the rivers and in cut-over or burned regions. Buriatia’s total timber reserves are more than 2 billion cu m.

The mountain-taiga and forest regions are inhabited by the sable, squirrel, Siberian ferret, white hare, wolverine, lynx, and bear. The most frequently encountered ungulates are the elk, Manchurian red deer, roe, musk deer, boar, mountain goat, and reindeer. The most typical animals of the forest-steppe and steppe regions are the fox, wolf, ermine, steppe skunk, long-tail marmot, and roe. In addition to specifically Siberian species, the southern regions are inhabited by rep-resentatives of Central Asia, such as the Siberian marmot, Daurian and Dzhungarian hamster, Mongolian jerboa, Daurian hedgehog, wild manul, and Cape hare. There are large numbers of muskrats in many lakes. The Barguzin Pre-serve is of great importance for preserving and sheltering the Barguzin sable.


Population. The Buriats are the basic population, numbering 179, 000 according to the 1970 census. Other nationalities living in Buriatia include 597, 000 Russians, 11, 000 Ukrainians, and 10, 000 Tatars. Buriatia’s population increased 2.1 times from 1926 to 1970. The average population density is 2.3 inhabitants per sq km (1970). The central and southern parts of the republic, especially the valley of the Selenga and its tributaries, are most densely populated, with up to 7-8 inhabitants per sq km. During the years of Soviet power, the urban population has grown rapidly, amounting in 1970 to 45 percent of the total population (13 percent in 1926). The cities are Ulan-Ude (population, 254, 000 in 1970), Kiakhta, and Babushkin. The cities of Gusinoozersk and Zakamensk were founded during the period of Soviet power.

Historical survey. The oldest settlements discovered in Buriatia date from the Paleolithic Age. From the third century B.C. to the 11th century A.D., Buriatia was settled by a succession of tribes, such as the Huns, Uigurs, and Evenki. In the early 13th century Cisbaikalia and Transbaikalia were settled by Mongolian-speaking Buriat tribes as well as by Evenki tribes. Extensive livestock raising formed the basis of the economy of these tribes; they also practiced hunting, fishing, handicrafts, and barter trade with neighboring Siberian peoples, China, and Mongolia. Millet, buckwheat, and barley were sown in some regions. In the 17th century the primitive communal social system began disintegrating among the basic Buriat tribes, and patriarchal and feudal relations began to develop, giving rise to social groups and an exploiting elite headed by chiefs; the Buriat nationality developed by roughly the late 17th century. The Evenki retained patriarchal and clan relations, but the first marks of property stratification began to appear.

In the early 17th century the first Russian cossack detachment reached Buriatia; its advance was accompanied by the construction of strong points—that is, forts. The Russian peasants, military personnel, and industrialists who had moved to Siberia from central Russia settled around these forts. The incorporation of western Buriatia into Russia was completed by the mid-17th century, and that of the Trans-baikal part of Buriatia in the second half of the 17th century. This had a progressive effect on Buriatia’s economic, political, and cultural development. The Buriats borrowed plow agriculture, implements and techniques of agriculture, elements of a settled way of life, and a higher culture from the Russians. At the same time, the incorporation into Russia contributed to the development of feudal relations in Buriatia and intensified class stratification.

Buriat and Russian peasants rebelled several times against the cruel exploitation of the local and Russian lay and clerical feudal lords, usurer-merchants, and tsarist officials. In 1658, Buriat disturbances broke out in the Balagansk steppe; in 1696, Russian peasants and military personnel, who had staged an uprising with the Buriats, seized the Bratsk fort; in the same year Transbaikal cossacks and strel’tsy (semiprofessional musketeers) rode against the Irkutsk voevoda (civil and military governor) and laid siege to the Irkutsk fort.

In the second half of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th, commodity and money relations were developing in Buriatia. Instead of paying tribute in kind, the Buriats began paying tribute in money iasak. The Evenki who lived here began passing from fur-trapping to nomadic animal husbandry and farming. The development of the region by the Russian population led to the rise of industry and to the expansion of domestic and foreign trade with Mongolia and China through Kiakhta; in 1760 the Kiakhta trade accounted for 67 percent of Russia’s total trade with Asia. According to the Statute on the Administration of Non-Russian Peoples (1822), steppe dumas headed by representatives of the local administration, called tais has, were instituted in Buriat agencies. In the 18th and 19th centuries, in addition to the shamanism that the Buriats had practiced, Orthodoxy and Lamaism began spreading, the latter coming to Buriatia in the late 17th century from Tibet and Mongolia.

From the second half of the 19th century, Buriatia, as well as Siberia, was gradually drawn into the general Russian process of capitalist development. Gold output increased, rising from 24 to 34 poods (1 pood = 16.38 kg) a year in the 1880’s, and cottage industries—such as tanning, milling, and soap-making—developed. The construction of the Great Siberian Railroad from 1891 to 1905 contributed to the growth of industry and drew Buriatia into the general Russian market. The coal industry began to develop. A working class was forming. Farmers started to produce for the market, leaning toward farming and animal husbandry. Animal husbandry remained basic in the economy of the Transbaikal Buriats. By the end of the 19th century part of the Buriat population had adopted a settled way of life. In the late 19th century and early 20th a reform of the volost (small rural district) administration was carried out in Buriatia; this reform intensified administrative and police oppression. Fifty-three percent of the lands of the Irkutsk Buriats and 36 percent of the lands of the Transbaikal Buriats were confiscated from them for the colonization fund. This caused great dissatisfaction and gave rise to a national movement. In 1904 martial law was proclaimed in Buriatia.

Between 1902 and 1904 social democratic groups arose in Buriatia under the leadership of such political exiles as I. V. Babushkin, V. K. Kurnatovskii, and Em. Iaroslavskii. The Buriat revolutionary Ts. Ts. Ranzhurov was a prominent member of the social democratic groups. During the Revolution of 1905-07 the revolutionary movement, composed of Buriatia’s railroad, mine, gold-field, and industrial workers and peasants, was headed by the Verkhneudinsk and Mysovsk Bolshevik groups, which were part of the Transbaikal Oblast Committee of the RSDLP. Strike committees and workers’ guards were set up at big railroad stations. Russian and Buriat peasants seized lands belonging to monasteries and the tsar’s family (the so-called cabinet lands) and refused to pay tributes and duties. In 1905, Buriat congresses were held in Verkhneudinsk, Chita, and Irkutsk, demanding local self-government and the return of the lands taken over for colonization. The revolutionary actions of the workers were quelled by tsarist troops.

During World War I (1914-18), Buriat cossacks were called to the front, and thousands of Buriats were mobilized for work in the rear. During the February Revolution of 1917, soviets of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies arose, alongside agencies of the Provisional Government, in Verkhneudinsk (Ulan-Ude since 1934), Troitskosavsk (Kiakhta since 1934), the Tarbagatai mines, and in Mysovsk (Babushkin since 1941). Volost, rural, and stanitsa (cossack village) committees were set up among the Buriat population in the villages and the national administrative units—aimaks, koshuns, and sortions. On Oct. 16 (29), 1917, the First All-Siberian Congress of Soviets opened in Irkutsk, declared itself for the transfer of power to the soviets, and elected the Central Executive Committee (CEC) of the soviets of Siberia, called the Tsentrosibir’. The Tsentrosibir’ Bolshevik group included such Buriat Bolsheviks as S. Kh. Nikolaev, G. G. Danchinov, and M. M. Sakh’ianova.

On Feb. 5, 1918, power in Verkhneudinsk passed into the hands of the soviet of workers’, soldiers’, and peasants’ deputies. In the course of February 1918, Soviet power was established on the whole territory of Buriatia. Transportation and part of the industrial enterprises were nationalized, and workers’ control and the eight-hour workday were introduced. Cabinet, state, and monastery lands were confiscated and distributed among the laboring peasantry. The measures implemented by the early agencies of Soviet power were fiercely resisted by the bourgeoisie, the noions (local chiefs), and the clergy. In the summer of 1918, Soviet power was overthrown in Siberia: the military dictatorship of ataman G. M. Semenov was established in Transbaikalia with the support of the Japanese imperialists; in August 1918, Buriatia was occupied by Japanese troops and in April 1919 by American troops. The White Guards and occupation forces abolished all Soviet laws, introduced a military administration on railroads and in enterprises, and so forth. V. M. Serov, Ts. Ts. Ranzhurov, K. A. Maskov, and other Buriat revolutionaries fell victim to the terror of that period. A partisan movement emerged in Buriatia—for example, P. S. Baltakhinov’s detachment.

On Mar. 2, 1920, Red Army units liberated Verkhneudinsk with partisan support. Western Buriatia became part of the RSFSR, and eastern Buriatia of the Dal’nevostok (Far East) Republic. On Oct. 14, 1920, the Politburo of the CC RCP (Bolshevik) adopted a resolution, drafted by V. I. Lenin, noting the need to “carry out autonomy, in forms appropriate to the concrete conditions, for those Eastern nationalities which do not yet possess autonomous institutions, first and foremost for the Kalmyks and Buriat-Mongols” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 41, p. 342). On Jan. 9, 1922, the Buriat-Mongolian Autonomous Oblast of the RSFSR was set up by a decree of the all-Russian CEC. A Buriat Autonomous Oblast was also formed in eastern Transbaikalia and became part of the Dal’nevostok Republic. After the interventionists were driven out of the Far East and the Dal’nevostok Republic disbanded (November 1922), the two autonomous oblasts merged on May 30, 1923, into the Buriat-Mongolian ASSR, with Verkhneudinsk as its center, and became part of the RSFSR. The Third Congress of Soviets of the Buriat-Mongolian ASSR, which was held between Mar. 25 and April. 3, 1927, approved a draft constitution for Buriatia. On Aug. 11, 1937, the Seventh Congress of Soviets of the Buriat-Mongolian ASSR approved a new constitution for Buriatia.

During the prewar five-year plans the Buriat people, with the support of the Russian and all other peoples of the USSR, essentially built socialism, bypassing the stage of capitalism. The Buriats formed themselves into a socialist nation, and Buriatia became an industrial-kolkhoz republic. The output of heavy industry rose 20 times from 1913 to 1940. Dozens of big modern industrial enterprises were built (for instance, a locomotive and railroad car repair plant, a glass plant, and a meat canning combine), a power base was created, and the coal industry and machine-building were developing. The sowing area more than doubled. By 1941 the kolkhozes united 98.9 percent of the peasant farms. A cultural revolution was carried out: illiteracy was eradicated (according to data of the 1897 census, 9 percent of the people speaking Buriat as a native language were literate; 0.6 percent of Buriat women were literate); clan-feudal and religious vestiges have essentially disappeared; national workers’ cadres and a people’s intelligentsia emerged (two-thirds of Buriat specialists are women); Buriat literature and art have developed.

During the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45 the defense industry developed at a rapid pace. The title of Hero of the Soviet Union was conferred on 33 soldiers from Buriatia, and 35, 000 people were awarded orders and medals. In the postwar years the Buriat economy developed still further, and the material and cultural living standard of the people rose considerably. By the July 7, 1958, Decree of the Pre-sidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, the Buriat-Mongolian ASSR was renamed the Buriat ASSR, which corresponds more closely to the self-designation of the republic’s basic population. On July 3, 1959, the republic was awarded the Order of Lenin for successes achieved in economic and cultural development and to mark the 300th anniversary of Buriatia’s voluntary incorporation into the Russian state.


Economy. Industry holds first place in the structure of the economy. The republic’s industrial output increased seven times from 1940 to 1969. The major branches of industry are machine-building (aircraft, automation hardware, electric machines, cranes, and so on), mining, lumber and woodworking, building materials, food, and light industry. Animal husbandry is a basic branch of agriculture. Hunting and trapping are developed in certain areas.

INDUSTRY. A fuel and power base has been created in Buriatia during the years of Soviet power. More than 1.2 million tons of coal are extracted annually. The Ulan-Ude, Timliui, and Baiangol thermoelectric power plants were built. The Gusinoozersk State Regional Electric Power Plant, which will rely on local coal, is under construction. An important place in industry is held by tungsten and molybdenum mining and the production of concentrates from them in the Dzhida deposit, where a major tungsten and molybdenum combine has been built, and by gold-mining in the Vitim River basin. The machine-building plants are located mainly in the Ulan-Ude region: there are aircraft, locomotive- and railroad-car-repair, and shipbuilding plants and plants producing electric machines and technological control instruments.

The most important enterprises of the building materials industry are the Ulan-Ude Glass Plant and the Timliusk plants for cement and asbestos-cement products. New enterprises of this branch include plants producing silicate bricks and reinforced-concrete products in Ulan-Ude and the Tataurovo combine for building materials.

The lumber and woodworking industry is very important. The bulk of the timber comes from the Uda River basin and the eastern shore of Lake Baikal. Large amounts of raw timber are shipped from Buriatia to the Kuznetsk Basin, Kazakhstan, and Central Asia. Lumber products and standard-design houses are produced. The Selenga Cellulose and Cardboard Combine is a major new construction project.

The food industry is developed, with meat the most important branch. The Ulan-Ude Meat Canning Combine produced one-tenth of the all-Union canned meat output and a considerable amount of meat and sausage products. Ulan-Ude has a big dairy plant and a flour-milling combine, one of the biggest in Siberia.

The fishing industry has been greatly developed under Soviet power. The major fishing region is Lake Baikal (mainly omul’ salmon); the leading enterprise is the Ust’-Barguzin Fishery Combine.

Light industry is represented by a fine cloth factory and factories for the primary processing of wool and boot felt in Ulan-Ude, a spinning and knitted goods factory in Kiakhta, and a leather plant in the settlement of Chikoi. The output of the major types of industrial goods is shown in Table 1.

AGRICULTURE. Agricultural fields cover less than 9 percent of Buriatia’s territory. In 1969 arable land was approximately 1 million hectares (ha), hayfields 0.4 million ha, and pastures 1.3 million ha. In early 1970 there were 58 sovkhozes and 71 kolkhozes, not counting those engaged in fishing. Agriculture employs 15, 500 tractors (in terms of 15 horsepower units), 2, 800 grain harvesting combines, and 3, 600 trucks. All the sovkhozes and kolkhozes of Buriatia have electricity. The leading branch of agriculture is animal husbandry, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the total value of agricultural output; within animal husbandry, the leading branches are fine fleece sheep raising and cattle breeding for meat and dairy products. The number of head of productive livestock has increased in the years of Soviet power (see Table 2). Sheep and cattle raising are especially developed in the basins of the Selenga, Dzhida, Uda, Barguzin, and Irkut rivers. Horse raising is a traditional branch of animal husbandry, but pig and poultry raising are new and rapidly growing branches. Reindeer are raised in the north.

Farming is basically oriented toward grain crops, mainly spring wheat and oats. Fodder crops cover a large proportion of the sowing areas (see Table 3). The sowing areas are concentrated mainly in the central and southern raions. The biggest grain farming areas are the Mukhorshibir’, Dzhida, and Bichura raions.

Table 1. Output of major types of industrial goods
Electric power (million kW-hr)...............0.381.9176871
Coal (thousand tons)...............39.15791, 255
Commercial lumber (thousand solid cu m)...............1, 4372, 6204, 558
Lumber materials (thousand cu m)...............2073491, 242
Cement (thousand tons)...............26583
Slate (million standard plates)...............170
Window glass (thousand sq m)...............2, 0123, 00014, 195
Automation hardware and spare parts (thousand rubles)...............4, 681
AC electric engines of more than 100-kW capacity (units)...............3, 318
Washed wool (thousand tons)...............12.3
Wool fabrics (thousand linear m)...............6661, 424
Sausage products (thousand tons)...............3.25.710.7
Butter (thousand tons)...............
Canned goods (million standard cans)...............2.325.029.8
Table 2. Livestock (beginning of the year)
Cattle...............411, 000407, 000429, 000440, 000
Sheep and goats...............456, 000637, 0001, 513, 0001, 706, 000
Pugs...............71, 00079, 000192, 000153, 000

In 1969 state purchases of animal husbandry products amounted to 53, 000 tons of livestock and poultry, 103, 900 tons of milk, 5, 600 tons of wool, and 40, 500, 000 eggs.

Other important branches are trapping (mainly sable, squirrels, and muskrat) and breeding (black and silver fox and mink).

Table 3. Structure of sowing areas (hectares)
Total sowing area...............192, 000418, 000788, 000815, 000
Grain crops...............185, 000365, 000512, 000498, 000
Wheat...............14, 000172, 000346, 000348, 000
Fodder crops...............2, 00034, 000248, 000291, 000

TRANSPORTATION. Railroads are the main type of transportation and carry about 90 percent of the republic’s total freight turnover. The total length of the railroads is 646 km. The main railroad is the Siberian Railroad with the Ulan-Ude-Naushki branch. Highway transportation plays a leading role in the interrepublic transportation. There are more than 10, 500 km of highways. The main highways are Ulan-Ude-Kiakhta (Kiakhta highway), Kultuk-Mondy, Ulan-Ude-Romanovka-Chita, Petropavlovka-Zakamensk, Ulan-Ude-Irkutsk, and Tataurovo-Barguzin-Mogoito. River transportation is also important—there are about 1, 700 km of waterways. Navigation is developed on Lake Baikal and the Selenga and Chikoi rivers. Airlines link Ulan-Ude with Moscow, Irkutsk, Chita, and other cities. The internal airline network stretches more than 10, 000 km.

ECONOMIC REGIONS. The Cisselenga (Central) Region is the most economically developed part of the republic, located in the Selenga Basin. This region’s economy comprises the mining of rare metals (tungsten and molybdenum), transport machine building, the lumber industry, the building materials industry, and the production of fine fleece wool and meat products. Ulan-Ude, the capital and biggest industrial center of Buriatia, is located here.

The Cisbaikal Region is located along the shore of Lake Baikal. The most important branches of the economy are forestry, lumber chemistry, the building materials industry, agriculture, and trapping; fishing plays a considerable role in some areas.

The Oka-Tunka Region occupies the eastern extremity of the Vostochnyi Saian and the Irkut River valley. Meat and dairy animal husbandry is developed here. Grain farming is practiced only in the Irkut valley. The region is rich in minerals and raw material resources, such as nepheline syenites, bauxites, graphites, asbestos, limestone, and rare and non-ferrous metals.

The Baunt Region is located almost completely on the Vitim Plateau. Gold mining and hunting form the economic base of the region. There are lumber and mineral resources, such as rare and nonferrous metals and chrysolite asbestos.

STANDARD OF LIVING. The standard of living is rising steadily on the basis of the growth of the republic’s national income. Retail trade increased five times from 1940 to 1969 (in comparable prices). In the 1960’s some 2.9 million sq m of usable living space was open for tenancy by funds of the state, the kolkhozes, and the population. Social security and pension insurance funds are rising, as are the real earnings of the population.


Public health. Before the October Revolution there were only six hospital institutions with 210 beds and 41 doctors in all of Buriatia. In 1969, Buriatia had 146 hospital institutions with 9, 100 beds (or 11.3 beds per 1, 000 inhabitants), 176 outpatient and polyclinical institutions, 453 paramedical and paramedical-obstetric centers, 1, 600 doctors (1 doctor per 494 inhabitants), and 6, 300 intermediate medical personnel.

Buriatia has spas and therapeutic resorts—for example, Arshan, Goriachinsk, and Nilova Pustyn’—sanatoriums, rest homes, and a mud-therapy resort on Lake Kiran. The shores of Lake Baikal and the Khamar-Daban, Barguzin, Ulan-Burgasy, and Vostochnyi Saian ranges are favorite recreation and tourist centers. There are 590 physical culture collectives with 160, 000 members, 60, 000 of whom are women.

Public education and cultural and educational institutions. In the 1914-15 academic year there were 13, 400 students in general education schools, primarily elementary, in Buriatia; there were no specialized secondary or higher educational institutions. During the period of Soviet power public education has greatly developed and a national writing system has been created. In 1970 there were 33, 800 children in preschool institutions. In the 1969-70 academic year Buriatia had 711 general education schools with 203, 900 students, 33 vocational-technical schools with 8, 900 students, and 23 specialized secondary educational institutions with 20, 900 students. There are four higher educational institutions in Buriatia: institutes of technology, agriculture, pedagogy, and culture (all in Ulan-Ude). The student body in the 1969-70 school year numbered 19, 800.

As of Jan. 1, 1970, there were 518 public libraries (with a total of 3, 703, 000 volumes), 600 club institutions, 748 motion picture installations, the Buriat Republic Museum of Regional Studies, the Museum of Fine Arts in Ulan-Ude, the Kiakhta Museum of Regional Studies, and 40 nonschool institutions, including 21 Houses of Pioneers, 2 Young Technicians Houses, and 15 children’s athletic schools.

Science and scientific institutions. There were no scientific institutions in prerevolutionary Buriatia. Only individual scholars studied Buriatia and the peoples inhabiting it. In 1922 the Buriat-Mongolian Scientific Committee was founded, later reorganized as the Buriat-Mongolian Culture Research Institute. In 1958 the Buriat Integrated Research Institute of the Siberian Division of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (AN SSSR) was created on the basis of the institute. In 1966 the Buriat Branch of the AN SSSR Siberian Division was founded with social and natural science institutes and geology and economics departments. In 1969 it had 172 scientific staff workers, including six doctors, and 69 candidates of science.

Buriatia has 1, 789 scientific and scientific-pedagogic personnel, including 24 doctors of science and 352 candidates of science. Buriatia’s scholars do research in solid-state physics; radio physics; polymer chemistry; organic, biological, inorganic, and agronomical chemistry; genetics and the selection of agricultural crops; genetics and the raising of agricultural animals; pedology; geobotany and phytoenergetics; entomology; petrology; and geochemistry. They study the productive forces and the history of the Buriat ASSR and the culture, language, and art of the Buriat and other peoples of the USSR and Central Asia.


Press, radio, and television. The first Buriat mass newspaper, Shene baidal (New Life), began publication in Chita on Jan. 20, 1921. The first issue of the Russian-language newspaper Krasnyi buriat-mongol came out in Irkutsk in 1922. When the autonomous republic was formed in 1923, the Buriat Book Publishing House was set up and republic daily newspapers began publication—the Russian-language Buriat-Mongol’skaia pravda and the Buriat-language Buriat-Mongoloi unen. The first issue of the youth newspaper Buriatskii komsomolets appeared in 1925. When the republic changed its name in 1958, these newspapers were named respectively Pravda Buriatii, Buriaad unen, and Molodezh Buriatii. In 1969, in addition to three republic newspapers, 17 aimak (raion) newspapers were published; the newspapers have a total annual circulation of more than 40 million. In 1969, 131 book and brochure titles, including 46 in the Buriat language, were published with a total press run of 673, 000 copies. The Baikal, a social, political, literary, and art journal in Russian and Buriat, has been published since 1955. In all, 15 journals with a total annual press run of 220, 000 copies were published in 1969.

Radio broadcasting in the Buriat language has been con-ducted since 1934. A television center began working in 1961 in Ulan-Ude; since 1967, Moscow television programs have been relayed through the Orbita ground reception station. The republic’s radio and television programs are broadcast in Russian and Buriat over two radio and television channels.


Literature. Before the October Revolution, Buriat literature was undeveloped. Transcriptions began to appear in the mid-18th century of oral folk art, eulogy odes (magtals), verses, songs, and poems. Epic folk art is the true treasure of the national culture and had a great influence on the development of Soviet Buriat literature.

In songs and incantations, legends and traditions, proverbs and sayings, myths and fairy tales, and epic works (uligers), the people expressed their thoughts and feelings, their optimism, and their striving toward a bright future. The height of Buriat epic art is the national heroic epic Geser, which contains tens of thousands of verse lines. The transcriptions of oral poetry are kept in the manuscript collections of Leningrad, Moscow, Irkutsk, and Ulan-Ude. The collectors include M. N. Khangalov, Ts. Zh. Zhamtsarano, and S. P. Baldaev.

At the time of the Revolution of 1905-07, a written ulus (settlement) drama appeared, influenced by Russian literature. Its pioneers were Buriat students in Irkustsk—D. A. Abasheev, S. P. Baldaev, I. V. Barlukov, and I. G. Saltykov.

Kh. N. Namsaraev (1889-1959), the founder of Soviet Buriat literature, began his creative activity in the years immediately after the October Revolution. In one-act plays, short stories, verses, and the poem Old Gelen’s Confession (1926), the author exposed the exploiting elite of Buriat society—the noions (chiefs), rich people, functionaries, lamas, and shamans—and eulogized the working people. Namsaraev’s stories of the 1920’s and 1930’s use the traditional motifs of folk art. His widely known works include the short story Tsyrempil (1935), which depicts in lofty romantic tones the working people’s struggle for freedom and happiness, The Whip of the Taisha (1945), and the novel In the Morning Dawn (1950). His works are now one of the treasures of Buriat literature.

In 1922, Solbone Tuia (P. N. Dambinov, 1882-1937) published his first collection of poems, The Steppe in Bloom, in which the October Revolution is presented as a sun rising over the steppe and over the life of the Buriat ulus. The first Buriat short stories were written by Ts. Don (Ts. D. Dondu-bon, 1905-38)—The Moon in Eclipse (1932) and Cheese Poisoning (1935); these stories describe the class struggle in the ulus, the process of collectivization, and the emergence of the new man. In 1932 the first play of N. G. Baldano (born 1907), The Breakthrough, was performed on the stage of the national drama theater.

Modern Buriat literature is developing along the path of socialist realism. Traditions of realist writings in all genres have taken firm root. The works of Buriat writers are well known. The best-known poets are D. Dashinimaev (1904-37), B. Bazaron (1907-66), B. Abiduev (1909-39), Ts. Galsánov (born 1917), Ts. Dondokova (born 1911), D. Zhalsaraev (born 1925), N. Damdinov (born 1932), and D. Ulzytuev (born 1936). Modern Buriat playwrights include Ts. Shagzhin (born 1918), author of the plays Budamshu (1956), The First Year (1956), Conscience (1960), The Devil in the Trunk (1963), and The Oath (1969); A. I. Shadaev (born 1899); and G. Ts. Tsydynzhapov (born 1905).

Prose genres have witnessed a particular development in the postwar years: dozens of collections of stories and novellas have been published. The stories and novellas of Ch. Tsydendambaev (born 1918), Ts. Galanov (born 1932), and R. Beloglazova are very popular. More than 20 novels have been published. Zh. Tumunov’s (1916-55) first Buriat novel, The Steppe Has Awakened (1949), describes the struggle of the laboring Buriat peasantry toward Soviet power. One of the leading writers of the republic is Ch. Tsydendambaev, author of a trilogy about Dorzhi Banzarov, the first Buriat scholar. Two parts have been published: Dorzhi, Son ofBanzar (1953) and Far From the Native Steppes (1959). A novel by B. Mungonov (born 1922) about the modern Buriat countryside, Our Turbulent Khilok, was published in 1959. The publication of the trilogy Stolen Happiness (1959) by D. Batozhabai (born 1921) and of the novels The Locomotive Whistles (I960) by Zh. Baldanzhabon (1909-67), The Last Retreat (1961) and Balsam (1968-69) by I. Kalashnikov (born 1931), Singing Arrows (1962) by A. Bal’burov (born 1919), and The Night Dies With Dawn (1963) by M. Stepanov (born 1914), and other works attest to the development of epic forms in Buriat literature.

Writers of children’s literature include D. Khiltukhin, Ts. Nomtoev, Sh. Nimbuev, Ts. Badmaev, and G. Chimitov. Books by Buriat writers are published in many languages of the peoples of the USSR and abroad. There has been a considerable development of criticism and literary history. The publication of the collected work History of Soviet-Buriat Literature in 1967 was an important event in Buriatia’s scholarly life.


Architecture and fine arts. Remnants of settlements of the Paleolithic and Neolithic ages, numerous rock representations of animals, people, and hunting scenes produced through the application of ocher (the so-called petroglyphs), and remains of the Bronze Age—stones with carved figures of running deer, plate burial mounds, and knives and daggers with sculpted representations of animals—have been found in Buriatia. The Ivolginsk fortified town (situated near Ulan-Ude) flourished in the Hun period, between the first century B.C. and the first century A.D.; remnants of walls and moats and of clay brick and clay homes have been found; the town, irrigation installations, burial mounds, and petroglyphs of the Kurumchinets culture date to the sixth-tenth centuries. The Buriats have used felt yurts and dwellings since time immemorial. In Cisbaikalia they built six- or eight-cornered wooden yurts with slanting roofs supported in the center by four poles. Incorporation into Russia gave rise to the construction of wooden fortresses, stone churches, and monasteries and to the intensified growth of cities. In the first half of the 19th century several classical buildings were erected in Troitskosavsk (now Kiakhta) and Verkhneudinsk (now Ulan-Ude), such as the Troitskii Cathedral in Kiakhta and the merchants’ arcades in Ulan-Ude and Kiakhta. The penetration of Lamaism in the 18th and 19th centuries gave rise to the construction of datsans (monasteries), in forms combining Central Asian and local traditions. The temples were completed with one or two tiers of light pavilions with covered galleries and bent roofs. They were decorated with wood carving, bright colors, and wall paintings.

The most developed types of the Buriat folk decorative and applied art are embroidery and appliqué on velvet, leather, and cloth, as well as bone and wood carving. The technique of metalworking shows great variety and virtuosity—carving, stamping, niello, and engraving. The ornamentation combines curved geometric and stylized plant patterns. In the 19th century icon painting, casting and stamping of religious objects, and book printing from wooden matrices were developed in the datsans.

New cities and settlements have grown up in the Soviet period. Large public buildings were erected in Ulan-Ude in the 1930’s and 1940’s, such as the House of Soviets, (1928-31; architect, A. A. Ol’) and the house of the Oblast Committee of the CPSU (1939-43; architect, V. A. Sidorov). Traditional national ornamental themes were used in decorating the Buriat Opera and Ballet Theater (1947-52; architect, A. N. Fedorov). Since the late 1950’s there has been large-scale housing construction in cities and on kokhozes with the use of standard and individual plans. The modern buildings of the 1960’s use reinforced concrete, glass, aluminum, and plastics—for example, the Progress (1963-66; architects, A. R. Vampilov and M. N. Menshikov) and Druzhba (1966-67) movie theaters and the new building of the Council of Ministers in Ulan-Ude (1965-68; architects, A. R. Vampilov and A. Ia. Galiautdinov).

Modern fine arts have developed in the Soviet period. The founder of easel painting in Buriatia is Ts. S. Sampilov. The landscapes of Buriat painters with scenes of everyday life are lyrical and inspired by a joyous world view—for example, works by Ts. S. Sampilov, A. E. Khangalov, R. S. Merdygeev, and K. I. Sergeev. A. I. Timin, G. E. Pavlov, D. D. Tudupov, Iu. A. Chirkov, and others paint expressive portraits. A. A. Okladnikov, D. D. Dugarov, and A. V. Kazanskii paint historical and genre pictures. Theater scenic art is represented by the works of A. I. Timin and M. E. Shestakova. Easel painting and illustrative drawing have been developing since the 1940’s. New subjects appear in the traditional types of decorative and applied arts. S. Bodiev, Sh. Dashiev, B. Zodboev, and other artists create woodcut panels with scenes from kolkhoz life; G. Bazarov, D. Badmaev, D. Loginov, Ts. Nimaev, A. S. Sanzhiev, G. Tubçhinov, and D. Tsyrenov create original works of silver-stamping.

Music. Over the course of centuries the Buriat people have created songs of different genres: work, wedding, game, historical, lyrical, table, and eulogy, as well as instrumental melodies. The heroic patriotic epic Geser plays a central role among the epic songs. The circle dance and game songs show great variety. Folk songs are subdivided into two types: the uta-dun, which are long improvised songs with variations, complex rhythm, and an abundance of ornamentation in the melody; and the bogoni-dun, which are short songs in couplet form with a precise rhythm. The harmony of the folk songs is based on the pentatonic scale. The dusha-khunduds (folk singers) and epic narrators are the transmitters of popular music culture. The most frequent instruments are the suur and the limbe (woodwind instruments, the latter resembling a flute) and the khuur (a bow instrument).

Under Soviet power, Soviet Russian composers have made a great contribution to the collection of folk songs and to the development of Buriat music culture. P. M. Berlinskii, using folklore materials, created the first Buriat musical drama, Bair (the third act was written by B. B. Iampilov; produced in 1940). M. P. Frolov wrote the first Buriat opera, Enkhe—Bulat bator (produced in 1940). V. I. Moroshkin wrote the first symphonic suite using Buriat themes (1936), and S. N. Riauzov, the first Buriat ballet, Light Over the Valley (produced in 1956). People’s Artist of the USSR G. Ts. Tsydynzhapov played a prominent role in the development of the Buriat musical theater.

A national professional culture gradually emerged in Buriatia. The composers B. B. Iampilov, Zh. A. Batuev, D. D. Aiusheev, S. S. Manzhigeev, Ch. E. Pavlov, and B. O. Tsyrendashiev have contributed greatly toward its development. A group of opera and ballet artists, conductors, choir masters, ballet masters, and musicians has come to the fore. They include the opera singers People’s Artist of the USSR L. L. Linkhovoin, People’s Artists of the RSFSR B. M. Baldakov and N. K. Petrova, Honored Artists of the RSFSR V. P. Manketov and V. D. Lygdenova, and Honored Artist of the Buriat ASSR K. M. Bazarsadaev; the dancers People’s Artist of the USSR L. P. Sakh’ianova, People’s Artist of the RSFSR P. T. Abasheev, Honored Artist of the RSFSR T. E. Gergesova, and Honored Artists of the Buriat ASSR Ts. E. Badmaev and F. S. Ivanov.

The republic has a Buriat Theater of Opera and Ballet, which was founded in 1948, a philharmonic orchestra, the Baikal Song and Dance Ensemble, the Amateur Arts Consul-tation Center, music and choreography schools, a cultural and enlightenment school in Ulan-Ude, and a network of music schools.


Theater. The Buriat theater has its origin in folk songs, dances, games, and rituals. Before the revolution Buriatia had an amateur theater; Russian political exiles and the local intelligentsia played a great role in its development. The years 1908-14 witnessed the appearance of the first works of Buriat dramaturgy, which were staged by students of theological and teacher seminaries and urban schools. After the October Revolution, army and ulus amateur theatrical activity became widespread. The authors of the first Buriat plays include S. P. Baldaev, I. G. Daduev, Kh.N. Nam-saraev, and-A. I. Shadaev. A Buriat theater studio was founded in 1928, and an art technicum was created on its basis in 1930. The Buriat Musical Dramatic Theater was set up in Ulan-Ude in 1932; graduates of the technicum became members of its troupe. The actors’ collective of the theater formed the basis for the Kh. Namsaraev Buriat Dramatic Theater, which was founded in 1950. The theater produced plays of the national dramaturgy devoted to problems of the present time, including Who Is He? (1933) and The Baikal Fishermen (1942) by N. G. Baldano, Mergen by A. I. Shadaev (1937), The Sniper byG. Ts. Tsydynzhapov (1942), The Spring Song by Ts.G. Shagzhin (1957), and Trust by B. G. Galsanov (1968); and plays dealing with the struggle against the oppressors—kulaks and lamas—including One out of Many by N. G. Baldano (1937) and Tsyrempil, based on a story by Kh. N. Namsaraev (1968). The revolutionary past of the Buriat people is reflected in The People’s Son by G. Ts. Tsydynzhapov (1943), The Flame by N. G. Baldano (1953), The Barometer Indicates Storm (1957) and Years of Fire (1969) by D. O. Batozhabai, and In the Glow of the Revolution by A. A. Bal’burov (1966). The plays Enkhe—Bulat bator by N. G. Baldano (1940) and Budamshu by Ts. G. Shagzhin (1954) are based on the national epic and on popular Buriat fairy tales. V. I. Lenin was portrayed in N. F. Pogodin’s play Kremlin Chimes, staged in 1947 and 1957. Productions of Russian classical and foreign dramaturgy include A. N. Ostrovskii’s The Storm (1945), A. S. Griboedov’s Woe From Wit (1958), N. V. Gogol’s The Wedding (1960), M. Gorky’s Egor Bulychov and Others (1946) and The Enemies (1955), and Shakespeare’s Othello (1938, 1947) and King Lear (1967). Works of Soviet dramaturgy are also staged, including A. E. Korneichuk’s Platon Krechet (1937), A. E. Makaenok’s Excuse Me Please! (1954), G. Mukhtarov’s The Honor of the Family (1954), A. Tazhibaev’s The Portrait (1961), and V. S. Rozov’s On the Day of the Wedding (1966).

In 1958 and 1969 the theater’s troupe was joined by new actors, graduates of the Buriat studio of the Leningrad Institute of Theater, Music, and Cinematography. The theater produces plays for rural audiences and makes tours to the Buriat okrugs of the Chita and Irkutsk oblasts and to the industrial centers of Siberia, such as Bratsk, Angarsk, and Taishet; it has performed with success in Ulan-Bator and in the aimaks of the Mongolian People’s Republic.

Ulan-Ude has the Russian Dramatic Theater, which was formed on the basis of a traveling troupe under the leadership of the stage director E. N. Prosvetov. People’s Artists of the RSFSR Ch. G. Geninov and V. K. Khalmatov have made a considerable contribution to the development of the dramatic theater in Buriatia. Prominent people in Buriatia’s theatrical arts in 1970 included People’s Artist of the USSR G. Ts. Tsydynzhapov; People’s Artists of the RSFSR B. N. Vampilov, N. N. Gendunova, and M. N. Stepanova; Honored Artists of the RSFSR P. N. Nikolaev, G. F. Losev, S. D. Budazhapov, I. E. Mironov, and Iu. P. Shangina; Honored Art Workers of the RSFSR N. G. Baldano and Ts.G. Shagzhin; People’s Artist of the Buriat ASSR D. Dondukov; Honored Artists of the Buriat ASSR B. G. Aiushin and F. S. Sakhirov (chief director of the Buriat Theater); and People’s Artist of the Buriat ASSR B. B. Cher-nutov.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.