Khakass Autonomous Oblast

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Khakass Autonomous Oblast


(Khakasia), part of Krasnoiarsk Krai, RSFSR. Established Oct. 20, 1930. Area, 61,900 sq km. Population, 483,000 (1977). The Khakass Autonomous Oblast is divided into eight raions and has five cities and 17 urban-type settlements. The administrative center is the city of Abakan.

Natural features. The Khakass Autonomous Oblast is situated in the south of Eastern Siberia, occupying part of the Minusinsk and Chulym-Enisei basins. In the west its boundary stretches along the eastern slopes of the Kuznetskii Alatau (Mount Verkhnii Zub, 2,178 m) and the Abakan Range (to 1,984 m), while in the southeast its boundary extends along the northern slopes of the Zapadnyi Saian (Mount Karagosh, 2,930 m). The oblast is divided into two parts on the basis of terrain: the mountainous part (two-thirds of the oblast) and the hilly plain part. The flat areas of the basins are called steppes, for example, the Abakan, Koibaly, and Uibatskaia steppes, which extend to the broad valleys of the Enisei and Abakan rivers and to the lower reaches of their principal tributaries.

The climate is sharply continental. The winters are cold, with little snow in the basins. The average January temperature ranges from –19° to – 21°C in the basins and from – 15° to – 17°C in the foothills. The summers are hot in the basins (the average July temperature is 18°–20°C) and somewhat cooler in the foothills and mountains (17°–18°C). Annual precipitation varies from 300 mm in the basins to 600 or 700 mm in the mountains. About 70 percent of the precipitation occurs during the summer.

The chief rivers are the Enisei and its left tributary the Abakan; other important rivers are the Tom’, Belyi Iius, and Chernyi lius of the Ob’ River basin. Almost all of the rivers are used for irrigation. The oblast abounds in freshwater lakes (Chernoe, Fyrkal, Itkul’) and salt lakes (Bele, Shira), which are located in the Chulym-Enisei Basin.

There are various types of chernozem soils, ranging from southern chernozems to podzolized chernozems, in the basins and in certain areas of the foothills; the chernozems are dotted with patches of solonetzes and solonchaks. The mountains have mountain-taiga podzolized and mountain-tundra soils.

The steppe vegetation of the basins gives way to the forest-steppes of the foothills. More than 40 percent of the land area is covered with forests, with total timber reserves of up to 400 million cu m. The eastern slopes of the mountains are covered with light coniferous forests of larch and larch mixed with cedar, and the western slopes, with mountain-taiga dark coniferous forests. The peaks are occupied by mountain tundra, dotted with sub-alpine and alpine meadows.

The steppe fauna of the basins and foothills, comprising numerous rodents and birds, includes many forest species, such as moles, ermine, and Siberian weasels. Mammals found in the mountains include the squirrel, blue hare, wolf, fox, and bear. Birds include the hazel hen, capercaillie, and nutcracker. The rivers abound in the taimen (Hucho taimen), tench (Tinca tinca), pike, and burbot.

Population. The population of the Khakass Autonomous Oblast comprises the Khakass (12.3 percent; 1970 census), Russians (78.4 percent), Ukrainians, Tatars, and Mordovians. The average population density is 7.7 persons per sq km (as of Jan. 1, 1977). The most densely populated areas are the basins (25 persons per sq km), where more than three-quarters of the oblast’s population live. The urban population, which numbers 329,000, accounts for 69 percent of the total population. The most important cities are Abakan (population, 123,000; Jan. 1, 1977), Chernogorsk, Abaza, Sorsk, and Saianogorsk; the last four were founded during the years of Soviet power.

History. The area that is now Khakasia was inhabited as far back as the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods. The principal occupations of the seminomadic indigenous population were hunting and fishing; around the end of the second millennium B.C., primitive land cultivation emerged. A clan-tribal organization already existed among the bearers of the Tagar culture, during which period a tribal aristocracy gradually developed. The production of handcrafted articles developed, as did the mining and processing of iron, gold, tin, and other metals. Important progress was made in irrigation, which facilitated the development of plowed farming. During the eighth to 11th centuries, the Khakass traded with the Arabs, Tibetans, and peoples of Middle Asia. They had a writing system in a Turkic language (Kyrgyz).

In the early 13th century, the Mongols destroyed the tribal unions of the peoples of Khakasia. The destruction of the irrigation network by the Mongols led to the virtual disappearance of plowed farming among the indigenous population and to the transition to seminomadic stock raising and hunting. By the end of the 17th century, early feudal principalities were formed among the tribes inhabiting Khakasia. These principalities—the Tubin, Altysar, Altyr, and Ezer principalities—were subjected to unceasing incursions by the Mongol khans and Dzungarian princes.

During the 17th and early 18th centuries, the principalities and tribal groups (the ancestors of the modern Khakass people) voluntarily became part of the Russian state; the Khakass (Kyrgyz) aristocracy moved to Dzungaria (seeOIRAT KHANATE). The incorporation of Khakasia into Russia, begun with the building of Tomsk (1604), Krasnoiarsk (1628), and other ostrogi (fortified settlements), led to increased oppression of the indigenous tribes; for example, payment of the iasak (tribute) was imposed, the best lands of the stock raisers were seized, and the Russian Orthodox faith was forcibly imposed. However, on the whole it proved to be beneficial, since it brought to an end the ruinous onslaughts of the Mongols and Dzungarian feudal lords and the payment of multiple tributes and contributed to the development of the economy, in particular, by the introduction of advanced agricultural methods; it also laid the foundations for the consolidation of the Khakass nationality. The 18th century saw the growth of the local market in Khakasia, the establishment of currency circulation, and the opening up of the first mines. Under the influence of the Russian agricultural way of life, the Khakass themselves turned to a settled way of life.

The transition to more advanced forms of economic activity strengthened the process of class stratification among the Khakass. In the 18th century, control over the Khakass was divided between the offices of the cities of Krasnoiarsk and Kuznetsk. With the introduction of the Statute on Governing Native Peoples in 1822, the lands of the Khakass, who were referred to as nomadic aliens, became part of Eniseisk Province (Achinsk and Minusinsk districts). Administrative power was exercised by the steppe dumas, such as the Kyzyl, Kachinsk, and Sagai dumas. The “self-rule” of the Khakass people was subordinate to tsarist authority. Beginning in the first half of the 19th century, Eniseisk Province, including what is now Khakasia, served as an area of political exile.

Capitalist relations emerged in the mid-19th century. Gold mining began developing. The coal industry came into being in the early 20th century (Chernogorsk, Izykh, and Kaliagin mines). When the Siberian railroad came through in the late 19th century, trade increased significantly, as did the number of Russians settling in Khakasia.

The October Revolution of 1917 liberated the Khakass and other peoples living in Khakasia from national oppression and exploitation. Soviet power was established in November 1917 in Minusinsk District, where the majority of Khakass were living. In late May 1918, Khakass workers held a congress and ratified the Statutes on Steppe Soviets. During the Civil War of 1918–20, the White Guards seized power in Minusinsk in late June 1918 and in all of Khakasia shortly thereafter. In September 1919 they were routed by partisans led by A. D. Kravchenko and P. E. Shchetinkin. Soviet power was restored in Khakasia, but the struggle against the numerous White Guard bands of bai (wealthy landowners and stock raisers) continued until 1923.

In late 1923 the Khakass National Okrug was formed, with the administrative center at Ust’-Abakan. In 1925 it was made an okrug, and its administrative center was renamed Khakassk. The Khakass Autonomous Oblast was formed on Oct. 20, 1930; the administrative center remained the same, but it was renamed Abakan. During the years of the prewar five-year plans, economic and cultural backwardness was eliminated in Khakasia, and a local industry was created. By 1934, agriculture was collectivized and a cultural revolution was under way. A national working class and intelligentsia developed.

During the Great Patriotic War (1941–45), the peoples of Khakasia fought at the front against the fascist German aggressors. Orders and medals were awarded to 19,000 persons; 20 persons were honored with the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.

In the postwar period, Khakasia achieved new successes in socialist construction. In 1967 the oblast was awarded the Order of Lenin. The growth of Khakasia’s economy and culture was facilitated by the constant and selfless aid of the peoples of the Soviet Union. As of 1976, the oblast had 37 Heroes of Socialist Labor; as of 1971, 3,944 working people had been awarded various orders and medals of the USSR. To mark the 50th anniversary of the USSR, the oblast was awarded the Order of Friendship of Peoples on Dec. 29, 1972.

Economy. Khakasia, an industrial and agrarian oblast, is part of the Eastern Siberian economic region. The gross industrial output increased by a factor of 15 between 1941 and 1975; it increased by a factor of 1.8 in the five-year period 1966–70 and by the same factor in the period 1971–75. The principal industries are light industry, the lumber and woodworking industry, mining, and the production of building materials.

The output of electrical energy is (1975) 140.3 million kilowatt-hours. Construction is under way (1977) on the Saian-Shusha Hydroelectric Power Plant in the valley of the Enisei River.

Coal is mined at the Chernogorsk and Izykh deposits of the Minusinsk Coal Basin. Iron ore is mined at the Abakan mine, near the city of Abaza, and at the Tei deposit, near the settlement of Vershina Tei; it is transported to the Kuznetsk Metallurgical Combine in the city of Novokuznetsk. Other ores are also mined and enriched, and nonferrous metals are processed.

The lumber and woodworking industry is represented by the transport of commercial timber (1.9 million cu m in 1975) out of the basins of the Abakan River and its tributaries (from the vicinities of Abaza and Askiz and the area along the Uibat River) and by the processing of wood at the timber combines in the settlement of Bel’tyrskii and the city of Abaza. There is a hydrolysis plant in the settlement of Ust’-Abakan.

The building-materials industry produces prefabricated rein-forced-concrete structures and components (228,000 cu m of items in 1975), as well as construction brick (112 million bricks). It is based on local gypsum, limestone, and clay deposits and on the Kibik-Kordon marble deposit, whose marble is processed in the Saianmramor Combine in the city of Saianogorsk.

When the Chernogorsk Worsted Wool Combine went into production, light industry became the leading sector of the oblast’s economy with respect to the volume of production and the number of persons employed. Light industry is also represented by the production of knitwear, leather, and footwear—the Khakasia knitwear factory and the Saiany footwear factory in Abakan and the artificial leather combine in Chernogorsk. In 1975, 12,100 m of wool yarn were produced, 5.4 million articles of outer knitwear, 8.3 million articles of underwear, and 2.7 million pairs of leather shoes.

The food industry, chiefly involved in the primary processing of agricultural raw materials, is represented by the meat, dairy, and butter and cheese plants in the city of Abakan and the settlement of Shira.

The future development of industry is linked with the construction of the Saian Territorial Production Complex. Construction is under way (1977) on an aluminum plant in Saianogorsk, a non-ferrous metals processing plant in Tuim, and a railroad car complex with a foundry and metal-container shop in Abakan.

The Khakass Autonomous Oblast has (1975) 56 sovkhozes. Agricultural lands total (1976) 1.745 million hectares (ha), of which 42 percent are occupied by cultivated lands and approximately 58 percent by meadows and pasturelands. Land under cultivation with agricultural crops totals 655,000 ha (1976). The chief crops are spring wheat, which accounts for one-half of all grain plantings, and oats; potatoes and other vegetables and fodder crops are also grown.

Because of frequent droughts, the irrigation of crops and pastures is of great importance; the Koibaly irrigation system is extensive. In 1975, 50,000 ha were irrigated.

Sheep raising is the most important and oldest branch of agriculture; there were more than 1.5 million sheep and goats at the end of 1975. Cattle are raised throughout the oblast (225,000 head of cattle at the end of 1975, including 82,000 cows), as are hogs (72,000). There is also beekeeping.

In 1976, Khakasia had more than 800 km of railroads. The Achinsk-Abakan line, with a spur to Chernogorsk, links Khakasia with the Trans-Siberian Railroad. The Southern Siberian Main Line (Taishet-Abakan-Novokuznetsk-Magnitogorsk) passes through the oblast; it has spurs to Abaza and Saianogorsk. There is shipping along the Enisei and Abakan rivers; Abakan has a river port. Waterways total (1976) 271 km. The oblast has (1976) 1,828 km of automobile roads, of which 1,207 km are paved. The most important roads are the Us Route (Abakan-Minusinsk-Kyzyl) and the Abaza highway (Abakan-Abaza-Ak-Dovurak), which link Khakasia with Tuva; other important roads are the Abakan-Chernogorsk-Shira-Uzhur, Shira-Novoselovo, Sonskii-Tsvetnogorsk, and Bograd-Ust’-Erba roads. There is an airport in Abakan.


Public health. As of Jan. 1, 1976, there were 69 hospitals, with 6,400 beds (13.4 beds per 1,000 inhabitants), in the oblast and 972 physicians (one physician per 487 inhabitants). The oblast has one balneological and pelotherapeutic health resort—Ozero Shira.

Education and cultural affairs. Before the establishment of Soviet power, the region that is now the Khakass Autonomous Oblast had 17 primary schools; there were no specialized secondary schools. During the 1976–77 academic year, there were 92,500 pupils in 323 general-education schools of all types, 3,800 students in eight vocational-technical schools, 10,000 students in seven specialized secondary schools, and 4,400 students in the Pedagogical Institute and a branch of the Krasnoiarsk Polytechnic Institute, both located in Abakan. Located in Abakan is the Khakass Research Institute of History, Language, and Literature.

In 1975, 25,900 children were attending 281 preschool institutions. There were 255 public libraries, with 2.8 million books and pamphlets. Cultural institutions include the Khakass Museum of Local Lore (Abakan) and the M. Iu. Lermontov Khakass Oblast Dramatic Theater. There are also 269 clubs, of which 238 are in rural areas, and 360 motion-picture projection units.

Press, radio, and television. The oblast publishes the Khakass-language newspaper Lenin choly (Lenin’s Path; since 1927) and the Russian-language newspaper Sovetskaia Khakasiia (Soviet Khakasia; since 1930). Broadcasts from the All-Union Radio, totaling 19 hours per day, are relayed; there are also krai and oblast broadcasts in Khakass and Russian, totaling 9.5 hours per day. Television broadcasts are relayed through the Órbita system for 12.6 hours per day; local television broadcasts, both in Khakass and Russian, total 2.1 hours per day.

Literature. The rich Khakass folklore is represented by myths and heroic epic tales, such as Altyn Aryg, Albynzhi, and Pora Ninzhi. Written literature appeared only during the first years of Soviet power, after a writing system was created for the Khakass language in 1926. The first verses, short stories, and sketches were written in the tradition of folk poetry. The founder of Soviet Khakass literature is V. A. Kobiakov (1906–37), author of the first Khakass novella, Aido (1934). The poets P. T. Shtygashev (1886–1941) and M. A. Arshanov (1914–41) depicted rural Khakass life, as did the poet and playwright M. S. Kokov (1913–76). The well-known novel In the Distant Aul (1959; Russian translation, 1966) by N. G. Domozhakov (1916–76) depicts life in Khakasia during the first years of Soviet power. Other popular works are the verses, poems, novellas, and short stories of I. G. Kotiushev (born 1919), I. M. Kostiakov (born 1916), M. N. Chebodaev (born 1931), and M. R. Bainov (born 1937). Also popular is the comedy Bear Lair (1956) by M. E. Kil’chichakov (born 1919). Works by Khakass authors are translated into the languages of the peoples of the USSR.

The Khakass division of the Writers’ Union of the RSFSR was organized in 1949.

Architecture and art. The traditional dwellings of the Khakass were the yurt —a round latticed frame structure covered with birch bark or felt—and a six- to 14-sided wooden dwelling with a bark, plank, or iron roof. Other traditional dwellings were conical tents made of poles, bark-covered semisubterranean dwellings, and four-walled dwellings of log-cabin architecture.

Traditional folk arts include wood carving and silk embroidery (primarily stylized floral designs) on dark velveteen, used as garment trimmings.

The construction of cities was begun after Soviet power was established in Khakasia, as well as the construction of modern settlements, with all conveniences, and villages with multistory stone dwellings and public buildings. Accomplished easel artists have appeared; they include the painters M. A. Burnakov, A. F. Kalinin, V. M. Novoselov, and M. A. Serebriakov and the graphic artists V. A. Todykov and V. P. Butanaev.

Music. Khakass folk music resembles the traditional music of the peoples of the Altai Mountains and the Tuva ASSR and, to a lesser extent, the music of the Buriat, Evenki, and Yakut. The traditional Khakass folk song is for one voice. It is diatonic and exhibits no melisma. The rhythms are diverse. The two main forms are the takhpakh (a short song) and the yr (a long song). The takhpakh, which includes work songs, songs of social protest, ritual songs, and love lyrics, is usually characterized by improvisation. The yr has a more canonical text and includes playful songs (dialogues) and wedding ritual songs, mainly sung by women. The yr often appears in epic works, which were subdivided into heroic (alyptyr nymakh) and heroic-historical (kip-chookh) works. The tales, such as Albynchi, Altyn Aryg, Khan Mirgen and Altyn Chus, are performed in a special guttural manner (khai) to the accompaniment of a chatkhan.

Instrumental music proper was not developed; instruments were used merely to accompany songs and tales. Folk instruments include the chatkhan and khomys (plucked string instruments), yykh (a bowed string instrument), nyrgi (wind instrument), and tiur (tambourine). In the 20th century, other instruments came to be used—the balalaika, guitar, mandolin, and baian. In the 20th century, Khakass culture has been kept alive by the khaidzhi, who narrate tales while playing on the chatkhan; these masters include S. P. Kadyshev (a student of the khaidzhi Khara Matpyp Balakhchin, 19th century), M. K. Dobrov, P. V. Kurbizhekov, and I. F. Kokov.

The establishment of Soviet power led to the development of the amateur music arts; the first olympiad of amateur musicians was held in 1931, and in 1958, 1959, and 1968 there were gatherings of tale narrators and folk singers. The Khakass song was influenced by the Russian folk song and the Soviet mass song, and songs for two or three voices, new historical songs, and folk ditties appeared.

In 1931 a national theater was created (since 1954, the Khakass Oblast Dramatic Theater), which, among other works, performs plays to music by A. A. Kenel’: M. S. Kokov’s Akun, A. M. To-panov and N. M. Zingerovskii’s The Duped Khorkhlo, M. E. Kil’chichakov’s Sunrises and Bear Lair, and I. S. Kychakov’s The Bird of Happiness. In 1942 a children’s music school was opened in Abakan, and in 1960, a higher music school, with a chorus, symphony orchestra, band, and orchestra of folk instruments.

The first national instrumental pieces were written by Kenel’, including the Dramatic Fantasia on Khakass Themes for Piano and Orchestra (1955), the suite for violin and piano In the Mountains of Alatau (1958), and the Piano Trio on Khakass Themes (1963). Kenel’ also wrote down more than 1,000 folk songs, studied Khakass folk music, and worked on the reconstruction of folk instruments. In 1970 he wrote the first national opera, Chañar Khus and Akh Chibek. The works of G. I. Chelborakov, G. E. Kolmakov, and N. V. Kataeva appeared in the 1960’s. A. P. Novikov, V. N. Kriukov, T. B. Nazarova, and G. V. Kirkor also wrote works on Khakass themes.

The Khakass Autonomous Oblast has (1976) an amateur song and dance ensemble—Zharki (founded 1957)—a higher music school (Abakan), and 19 music schools for children.



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