Mongol people by the shores of Lake Baikal. About 200,000 live in the Autonomous republic of Buryatia.
Bordered by the Russian regions of Irkutsk, Chita and the republic of Tuva and Mongolia. It is located deep in central Asia. It enjoys 300 sunny days a year. 70% of the country is covered in forest (taiga). The Sayan mountains are prone to seismic activity and in 1862 was struck by a major earthquake. The capital is Ulan-Ude. Natural resources in the area include zinc,gold,bentoite,lead,tungsten,graphite and marble.
There is evidence of human activity here 300,000 years ago, even before modern humans had appeared. Stone Age blades have been found of the microblade type similar to the that developed by Native Americans. It is possible that Buryats and Native Americans share a common ancestor.
The word Buryat is derived from the Burte Chine or Blue Wolf People. A conglomerate of Mongol tribes united to form the Huns who conquered much of Asia and Europe. Buryats played a major role in the conquests of Genghis Khan. As the power of the Mongol Empire waned, the Buryat khanate was threatened by the Manchus and opted to become a Russian protectorate (17 century).
Cossacks enforced Russian rule over the Buryat people. In the twentieth century the region became a Soviet Socialist Republic (Buryat-Mongol ASSR). However, Stalin instigated a purge of the Buryat intelligentsia and split the territory into three in 1937. Under Soviet rule, an attempt was made to eradicate the Mongolian identity of the inhabitants. Shamanism was outlawed and history rewritten. The Russians wanted to prevent an upsurge in pan-Mongolianism.
In 1990 Buryatia annonunced its sovereignty but it remains within the Russian Federation. Any further progress to independence is hampered by the fact that Buryats are a minority in their own country.