The World In Faces by Alexander Khimushin

Let me introduce Erdem Tsydenzhapov – a Khori Buryat boy living in Naryn Atsagat village of Zagarat Aymag of Republic of Buryatia, Russia. ❤️

A small settlement of only about 500 residents located in the endless steppe virtually in the middle of nowhere. From the first sight it looks just like any other small village of Buryatia. Yet it’s one of my favourite places in the Republic where I’ve made many friends among local people. The villagers here are trying hard to preserve their traditions and proud of the history of the settlement that goes back to 16th century.

According to the legend, told by elderly residents of the village of Atsagat, it’s believed that Guchit Nogto clan – one of the 11 original tribes of Khori-Buryats, were migrating through this area in winter time, during a long and exhausting journey. The way through the Lake Baikal was very difficult. The legeds goes that they had to pile a felt on the surface so that their cattle would pass the bare ice of the lake. One day, at the foot of Sagaan Khada Mountain, a head of the Nogto clan had the saddle girth unbuttoned. Nogto, while dismounted from the horse to fix the saddle, looked around and was touched by a beautiful surroundings. Looking to the east, he saw the sun rise, and on the west side, through the mountain Tamkhita there were numerous herds grazing. And these were three signs, signs from the Above. He then decided to settle in this area, which turned out to be a fertile region for people’s well-being and cattle breeding. At the foot of the Mount Sagaan Khada there is a stone footprint of the child, meaning that the terrain is favorable for the birth of children. Also there is an ancient cow footprint – a good sign for cattle breeding.

There is Atsagat Datsan in the outskirt of the village – a small Tibetian Buddhist Temple and the Monastery with a dozen of monks permanently living here. Like most of the monasteries and temples in Buryatia and Mongolia, in 1936, it was largely destroyed by communists with the remaining buildings converted to prison-like boarding house for young criminals that existed some years and abandoned afterwards. In 1991 Dalai Lama XIV visited the place and blessed a restoration that was completed in 1992, the Temple and Monastery was reopened. I am proud that my friend Svetlana Tsybikdorzhieva, whose family have been living in the village for generations, was among people who was actively involved in this process, contributing lots of time, effort and funds for this great cause. Svetlana was also a person who initiated a great community-beneficial project Этнокомплекс “Степной кочевник” of creating and running traditional ghers (yurts) camp within 5 km to the village that are set to educate and promote among visitors Buryatian traditional lifestyle and culture.

Local people have restored an old little wooden house of prominent resident of the village Agvan Dorzhiev. In the 19th century he went from here to Tibet to study Bhuddism. There he became one of the 13th Dalai Lama’s teachers, a ‘debating partner’, and a spiritual adviser for many years before coming back to the village in 1913 to create and run Tibetian medical school in the Atsagat Datsan. In 1937, during Josef Stalin political repression times in Russia, he was charged with treason, preparation for an armed uprising, and spying for the Mongolians and Japanese. Two months later he died in police custody, at the age of 85. There is a museum in his house now.

Khori-Buryat People, living in Atsagat, are one of several ethnic subgroups of Buryat People. A scientific research shows that Khori-Buryats belong to a genetic group that matches some of the other Indigenous Peoples of the North Eurasia. The predominant carriers of this genetic group are Yakuts (80%), Finns (68%), Udmurts (56%), Balts (46%) and Khori-Buryats (78%) with other Buryats of Russia being only about 48%. The history of Khori Buryat People is fascinating. Some researchers believe that they are influenced the Central Asian history before Genghis Khan and occupied some areas right up to nowadays Iraq. There is a mention of them in the “Sacred History of the Mongols” written after the death of Genghis Khan in 1227.

PS. I was so fascinated with the history of the place, I was reading about it for a few hours and did not even mention that it’s 3:30 am now already. There is almost no information about this places and people in the English Internet. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did! ❤️

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