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Traveling in Altai

On Earth there are few such wonderful places 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: the Gorno-Altai region, as an autonomy, was part of the Altai Territory. And now each subject demonstrates its importance. But it takes few tourists. They are attracted to Big Altai – a virgin corner of nature on the outskirts of Russia: the highest mountains, clear rivers, emerald lakes, local identities and proud people.

“Altai” in translation from Turkic – “Golden Mountains”. Here they are in the first place and attract travelers. The most popular are the peaks of the North Chuysky ridge – Maashey (4173 m) and Aktru (4075 m), the area of ​​the Katunsky ridge and, of course, the highest peak of Siberia – Mount Belukha (4506 m). But to see them closely, to hear the noise and rumble of avalanches and rockfalls falling from the slopes, to admire their reflection in mountain lakes, one must go through the steppes and taiga, thickets of dwarf birch, stone talus and blockages. On which side you will not approach Belukha, at the sight of her a feeling of delight, awe and admiration encompasses. The Old Believers living in the Uimon Valley associate with Belukha the legends of 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 arose, the primordial language of the Türks appeared. Here were the tribes of the Huns, the “darkness” of Genghis Khan, hordes of the Dzungars. In Altai, Asian states were born and were dying – Turkic Khaganates. Here in the Middle Ages passed the Great Silk Road. An indispensable detail of the landscape of the high mountain steppes are numerous mounds, stone sculptures, and rock paintings. The Pazyryk mounds are unique – the graves of tribal and tribal leaders of the VI – III centuries. BC e. But permafrost mounds became a world sensation, in which embalmed bodies of people, objects from wood, leather, felt and fabrics were preserved. Dozens of such (not yet excavated) mounds are located on the Ukok plateau, declared a rest zone. In the flat Altai now solid construction.

On the site of the tent camps, wooden houses grow like mushrooms, then they are replaced by strong houses, and those, in turn, are palaces with spa centers, pools and bowling alleys. Each picturesque mountain, waterfall or cave is mastered and “tidied up”. 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 Chemal. But for a serious traveler, all this is just a “suitcase vacation”. If he is looking for discoveries and vivid impressions, then he will find the real Altai – the one beyond Katun, where the greatness of nature, pristine nature and a sense of eternity.

Historical and ethnographic reference
The Russians appeared on Altyn-Köl back in 1633 – a Cossack detachment of the boyar’s son Peter Sobansky came here. Along the shores of the lake, the Cossacks defeated a detachment of the local prince Mandrake. They gave the lake the name “Teletskoye” – in honor of the Tele tribe, which then lived on its shores. Later, Sobansky set up a small prison on the shores of the lake. The fortress, unfortunately, has not been preserved. Now this is the village of Yailu – one of the centers of tourism. Vacationers depart from here on boats to inspect the lake and its attractions – first of all, Korbu waterfall on the river of the same name flowing into the lake and Kaim island at the mouth of the Chulyshman flowing into the lake.

Altaians are Turkic-speaking tribes belonging to the Mongoloid race. The ancient Türkic tribes of Kipchaks, Uigurs, Yenisei Kirghiz (modern Khakases) and Mongolian tribes took part in their ethnogenesis. Altaians themselves divide themselves into northern and southern, which, in turn, include several different tribes. For example, the Northern Altai include the 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. Altai 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 for tourists in his village, where you can get acquainted with Altai culture, and even with zaisan itself. On a trip to Altai, you will inevitably encounter manifestations of religious beliefs of Altai people. For example, near roads or just in the middle of the steppe often come across wallpaper – piled pyramids of stones. Sticks are stuck into the stones, on which ritual ribbons are tied – kyira (another name is Dyalama). Obooh have a ritual meaning – they mark especially sacred places. Similar customs are in all the steppe peoples.

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