One of the 21 autonomous republics of Russia, Khakassia lies high up in the Sayan Mountains of southern Siberia, on the River Yenisei. On the south it abuts the Altai and Tyva republics.

It has an area of about 62 000 km2 and a population of 600 000, mostly Russian, with only 11% being the Turkic-speaking Orthodox-religion Khakass people. The capital is Abakan.

The area was an ancient cradle of culture, with burial mounds going back to 10 000 BCE. They were often topped by large carved idols. In the early Middle Ages, before the coming of Genghis Khan, the Khakass had a powerful and cultured state. It became Russian under Peter the Great. In the USSR it was made an autonomous oblast in 1930, and elevated itself to full republic status within Russia with the end of the USSR. The presidents since then have been Vladimir Shtygashev 1992-1997, and Aleksey Lebed 1997-

The flag is the Russian tricolor of white-blue-red, with a green stripe at the hoist containing a yellow sun symbol. An unofficial Khakass flag is sometimes seen, consisting of just the yellow emblem on green.

The traditional holiday of Khakass livestock-breeders is called Tun Pairam. It marks the end of winter and the first milk products of the year. It's celebrated with the arrival of a horseman over the steppe, dancing and music, and athletics, particularly the hurling of a huge boulder.

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