Buriats - Orientation

Identification. The Buriats live in Irkutsk Province (Oblast), Ust'-Orda Buriat Autonomous Region (Okrug), Chita Oblast and Aga-Buriat Autonomous Okrug of the Republic of Buryatia in the former USSR. They also live in Mongolia (in the northern part of Hentei Aimak) and in the People's Republic of China (a small group in the northern autonomous region of Inner Mongolia). They call themselves "Buriaad" or "Buriat"; the form "Buliia" or "Buriya" is found in the Secret Saga, a Mongol historical chronicle of the thirteenth century in the register of tribes and peoples conquered by Chinggis (Genghis) Khan. The form "Brat" or "Bratsk people" is found in official Russian documents from the seventeenth century to the first half of the nineteenth century and in scientific literature of the twentieth century until the 1960s, when "Buriat-Mongol" came into use.

Demography. According to the census of 1989, there were 421,600 Buriats in the USSR: 249,500 of them in the Buriat Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic; 77,300 in Irkutsk Oblast; and 66,000 in Chita Oblast; and over 5,000 in Moscow and the Moscow Oblast.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Buriat language is part of the Northern Subgroup of Mongol languages in the Altaic Language Family. Until 1930 the Buriats used the old Mongol-Altai script. From 1931 to 1939 the written language was based on the Latin alphabet, and since 1939 on the Cyrillic alphabet.

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