Jump to navigation Jump to search
Regions with significant populations
Shamanism, Russian Orthodox, Burkhanism
Related ethnic groups

Telengits or Telengut are a Turkic ethnic group primarily found in the Altai Republic, Russia. Telengits mainly live in a territory of Kosh-Agach District of the Altai Republic. They are part of a larger cultural group of Southern Altaians. These other groups include: Altai, Telengut, and Tolos.[2]


Chinese chroniclers might have mentioned Telengits as 多覽葛 (Mand. duōlǎngé < MC: *tâ-lâm-kât).[3][4] Telengits certainly emerged from the mixing of Kipchak Turkic tribes with Mongols. The Telengits were dominated by the Mongols from the 13th to 18th centuries and this was followed by the brief rule of the Dzungars.[5] During Dzungar domination, the Telengits had to pay a fur tribute or yasak to the Dzungars.[6] In 1756, the Telengits (along with other southern Altaians) submitted to the Russians.[5]

Background and issues[edit]

Since there are many groups that live in the Altai region, it is often difficult to distinguish between the different groups. The territorial groupings are somewhat fluid. Telengits (or Telengut) live along the Chuya River in the western Altai, and call themselves Chui-kizhi (Chuya people).[7] Sometimes they intermix with other groups that live around the river. With this intermixing, it is often difficult to establish boundaries and distinguish the individual groups. There are no sharp distinctions among the different subgroups of the Altaians, identified as they are by the territory they occupy.[7] This inevitably caused many problems, including how to ethnically classify them. It was the political leaders of the Ulagan district who first advocated that the Telengits be recognized as a separate indigenous group in Russian law.[8] Before this , there was often confusion because the Telengits were classified under the Altaians. Even after the Telengits were classified as a separate group, there were still discrepancies as to what subgroups would be included under the ethnic group of the Telengits.

In 2000, Telengits were listed as part of "Small Numbered Indigenous Peoples of the Russian Federation on the Russian and Soviet censuses".[9]

In 2002, they were considered their own category on the census and there were 2,398 Telengits. However, this number may be wrong because in the context of the census questions, many Telengits, 8,000 or 9,000 would consider themselves Altaians and not Telengits.[9]

In 2004, the NGO "Development of the Telengit People" was established. This group is an active part in the local political area in regard to issues of Telengit land rights.[9]


Most Telengits used to be nomadic or semi-nomadic cattle herders. They commonly raised sheep, cattle, goats, and horses.[5]

Traditional Telengit dwellings included felt yurts.[5] Modern Telengits live in wooden homes but commonly inhabit yurts during the summer months.[10]

Traditional Telengit dress was similar for both men and women. Traditional Telengit dress was composed of long sleeved shirts, breeches, and robes. Double-breasted sheepskin coats, fur hats, and high boots were also commonly worn. Married women additionally wore a sleeveless jacket over their coats.[5]


Most Telengits practice shamanism but a significant amount of Telengits profess Orthodox Christianity and smaller numbers practice Burkhanism.[5]

Connection to the land[edit]

The Altaians and the Telengits feel a connection to the land that they live on. They are supposed to worship their special homeland that is considered sacred. The Telengits say that if an Altaian leaves the Altai, he or she will become ill and die. This is not because of any longing or emotional distress, but because of physical separation.[11] After they have lived on the land, they become one with it. That is why it is so severe when one is separated from their homeland.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Russian Census 2010: Population by ethnicity (in Russian)
  2. ^ Halemba, Agnieszka E. “The Altai, the Altaians, and the Telengits.” The Telengits of Southern Siberia: landscape, religion and knowledge in motion. New York: Routledge, 2006. pg. 17
  3. ^ Gumilyov L.N., Searches for an Imaginary Kingdom: The Legend of the Kingdom of Prester John Cambridge University Press. 1988. ch. 14
  4. ^ Peter B. Golden (1992). An Introduction to the History of the Turkic People. O. Harrassowitz. p 156
  5. ^ a b c d e f Encyclopedia of the world's minorities. Skutsch, Carl., Ryle, Martin (J. Martin). New York: Routledge. 2005. pp. 82–83. ISBN 1-57958-392-X.CS1 maint: others (link)
  6. ^ Atwood, Christopher Pratt (2004). Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Empire. Facts On File. p. 623. ISBN 978-0-8160-4671-3.
  7. ^ a b L. Krader. A Nativistic Movement in Western Siberia. pg 284
  8. ^ A. Halemba. The Altai, the Altaians and the Telengits. pg 21
  9. ^ a b c Halemba, Agnieszka E (2006). "The Telengits of Southern Siberia: landscape, religion and knowledge in motion". The Altai, the Altaians, and the Telengits. New York: Routledge. p. 15.
  10. ^ Akiner, Shirin (1986). Islamic peoples of the Soviet Union : with an appendix on the non-Muslim Turkic peoples of the Soviet Union : an historical and statistical handbook (2nd ed.). London: KPI. pp. 434–435. ISBN 0-7103-0188-X.
  11. ^ Halemba, Agnieszka E. “The Altai, the Altaians, and the Telengits.” The Telengits of Southern Siberia: landscape, religion and knowledge in motion. New York: Routledge, 2006. pg 18

External links[edit]