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Journey through Altai

There are few such wonderful places on Earth as Altai. This is a large mountainous country in the center of Asia, on the territory of four states: Russia, Kazakhstan, China and Mongolia. We, in Russia, have two Altai – two subjects of the federation with the name “Altai”: the Altai Territory and the Republic of Altai. Until 1991, they were one entity: the Gorno-Altai region, on the rights of autonomy, was part of the Altai Territory. And now each subject demonstrates its importance. But this is not enough for tourists. They are attracted by the Great Altai – a virgin corner of nature on the outskirts of Russia: the highest mountains, the purest rivers, emerald lakes, local identity and proud people.

“Altai” in translation from Turkic – “Golden Mountains”. Here they are, first of all, and attract travelers. The most popular are the peaks of the North Chuisky ridge – Maashey (4173 m) and Aktru (4075 m), the area of ​​the Katunsky ridge and, of course, the highest peak in Siberia – Mount Belukha (4506 m). But in order to see them up close, to hear the noise and rumble of avalanches and rockfalls falling from the slopes, to admire their reflection in mountain lakes, one has to go through the steppes and taiga, thickets of dwarf birch, stone screes and blockages. From which side you approach Belukha, at the sight of her, a feeling of delight, awe and admiration covers her. Old Believers living in the Uimon Valley associate Belukha with legends about Belovodye, a country of eternal happiness, a country of spiritual freedom and justice.

Primitive people settled in Altai many millennia ago, the culture of nomads was born, the primordial language of the Turks appeared. Here passed the tribes of the Huns, the “darkness” of Genghis Khan, hordes of the Dzungars. Asian states, the Turkic Khaganates, were born and died in Altai. The Great Silk Road passed here in the Middle Ages. An indispensable detail of the landscape of the high-mountain steppes is numerous mounds, stone sculptures, rock paintings. The Pazyryk mounds are unique – the graves of tribal and tribal leaders of the 6th-3rd centuries. BC e. But the mounds with permafrost, which preserved the embalmed bodies of people, objects made of wood, leather, felt and fabrics, became a world sensation. Dozens of such (not yet excavated) mounds are located on the high plateau Ukok, declared a zone of peace. There is continuous construction on the flat Altai.

In place of tent cities, wooden dwellings grow like mushrooms, then they are replaced by strong houses, and those, in turn, palaces with SPA centers, swimming pools and bowling alleys. Each picturesque mountain, waterfall or cave has been mastered and “took over”. Everything is included in advertising booklets and price lists: from climbing the nearest mountain to hiking to the taiga hermit Agafya Lykova. Such tourism is especially developed in the areas of lakes Aya and Chemala. But for a serious traveler, all this is just a “suitcase vacation”. If he is looking for discoveries and vivid impressions, then the real Altai awaits him – the one beyond the Katun, where the greatness of nature, primevalness and a sense of eternity.

Historical and ethnographic reference
The Russians appeared on Altyn-Kel as early as 1633 – a Cossack detachment of the boyar son Peter Sobansky came here. Near the shores of the lake, the Cossacks defeated the detachment of the local prince Mandrak. They gave the lake the name “Teletskoye” – in honor of the Tele tribe that lived then on its shores. Later, Sobansky set up a small prison on the shores of the lake. The fortress, unfortunately, did not survive. Now this is the village of Yailu – one of the centers of tourism. Vacationers go from here on boats to see the lake and its sights – first of all, the Korbu waterfall on the river of the same name that flows into the lake and Kaim Island at the mouth of the Chulyshman river that flows into Lake Chulyshman.

Altaians are Turkic-speaking tribes belonging to the Mongoloid race. The ancient Turkic tribes of the Kipchaks, Uighurs, Yenisei Kirghiz (modern Khakasses) and Mongolian tribes took part in their ethnogenesis. The Altaians themselves divide themselves into northern and southern, which, in turn, include several different tribes. For example, the Northern Altaians include Tubulars, Chelkans, Kumandins and Shors (they live in Kuzbass); to the south – Altai-Kizhi (literally – “people of Altai”), Telengits, Teleuts. Their languages ​​and even appearance are somewhat different. Altaians themselves distinguish each other well. Nationalities, in turn, are divided into genera (you can compare them with the Caucasian teips) – seoks.

Each seok is headed by an elected spiritual leader – zaisan. By the way, one of the zaisans living in Chemal – Alexander Bardin – organized an ethnographic center in his village designed for tourists, where you can get acquainted with the Altai culture, and with the zaisan himself. While traveling through Altai, you will inevitably encounter manifestations of the religious beliefs of the Altaians. For example, near roads or just in the middle of the steppe, oboos are often found – heaped cairns. Sticks are stuck into the stones, on which ritual ribbons are tied – kyira (another name is dyalama). Oboo have a ritual meaning – they mark especially sacred places. All steppe peoples have similar customs.

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