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Related to Malays: Austronesian
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(1) Formerly, the name given to the peoples of Southeast Asia who speak languages of the Indonesian group of the Malayo-Polynesian language family.

(2) A group of peoples of Southeast Asia linked by common descent, a common language, and many cultural features. The Malays are divided into the Malays proper (more than 5 million, 1970 estimate), who live primarily in Malaysia and Singapore, and various Malay-speaking peoples (7.5 million), who live primarily in Indonesia. The Malay language comprises several dialects. The dialect of the Riau (Riouw) and Lingga archipelagoes forms the basis of literary Malay, now the official language of Malaysia. Since the late 15th century the official religion of most Malays has been Islam, which they combine with survivals of ancient animist beliefs and elements of Buddhism and Hinduism.

Anthropologically, the Malays belong to various groups of southern Mongoloids mixed with Indo-Oceanic (Australoid) equatorial races. The Malays’ self-designation, Orang Melayu (literally, Malayan people), derives from the ancient name of a tribal group inhabiting the Padang Plateau on Sumatra. Early in the first millennium A.D. the ancestors of the Malays began to migrate northeastward from the Padang Plateau, settling the Malay Peninsula and later the eastern coast of Sumatra, the Riau (Riouw) and Lingga archipelagoes, Kalimantan, and other islands of Indonesia.

The majority of Malays are engaged in agriculture, chiefly rice cultivation. Many Malays work on plantations owned by foreign (mainly British) and local capitalists that grow hevea and other rubber trees, coconut palms, sugarcane, coffee, cinchona, and pineapples. Marine and fresh-water fishing is important, as well as shipping on praus, the distinctive Malayan decked sailing boats. Some Malays work in industry, chiefly tin mines, oil fields, and textile, food, and other, mostly small, enterprises. Traditional handicrafts include the making of bamboo implements, wickerwork, pottery, wood carving, and artistic metalwork and textile weaving. Various forms of applied and decorative art, oral poetry, music, dance, and theater are highly developed. There is a rich artistic, scientific, and political literature in the Malay language, written in the Latin alphabet.


Narody Iugo- Vostochnoi Azii. Moscow, 1966.
Demin, L. M. Malaiziia ekzoticheskaia i budnichnaia. Moscow, 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
After dinner we stayed to see a curious half superstitious scene acted by the Malay women.
'The orders were given on the basis that the event was a 'Malay conference' and that only Malays were allowed to cover the launch of the event, officiated by Umno vice president Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri.
Groups representing Malays, who account for around 60 percent of Malaysia's multi-ethnic population, raised fears that signing the UN pledge could have undermined Malay privileges and threatened Islam's status as Malaysia's official religion.
Groups reperesenting Malays, who account for around 60 percent of Malaysia's multi-ethnic population, raised fears that signing the UN pledge could have undermined Malay privileges and threatened Islam's status as Malaysia's official religion.
Najib's party, the United Malays National Organisation, has ruled Malaysia in coalition governments for more than six decades.
This normally does not represent a political problem, but in Malaysia, a Muslim identity is constitutionally defined as someone who is ethnic Malay. Hence, in Malaysia, Malays are Muslim and Muslims are Malay.
Running parallel to the religious tensions is ethnic competition between the Malays and non-Malays (mostly Chinese and Indians).
About 50,000 ethnic Malays live on the island of Sri Lanka, though not all of them speak Malay, and there seems to be an ongoing shift from Malay to English and Sinhala.
Politics refers to not only who is granted privileges based on being defined as Malay (for example, in Malaysia, where Malays are 'first among equals'), but also the institutions that grant 'the right to define and determine the boundaries of Malayness' (p.
Some opposition politicians call it a ploy by Najib to cement his leadership ahead of elections next month in his United Malays National Organization, the linchpin of the ruling coalition.
They also started stereotyping one another such as determined the field of work, Malays as farmers, Chinese as entrepreneurs and Indian as labourers.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak on Thursday assured the majority ethnic Malays and the minority ethnic Chinese and Indians that their respective rights are guaranteed under the Constitution amid a rise in ethnic tensions.