This article addresses questions of ethnic and national identity concerning the Buryat minority in Mongolia. This group was formed in the first three decades of the twentieth century as a result of mass Buryat migration from their homeland plagued by revolutions and civil war. Despite repressions and ethnic purges in 1930s, this group managed to survive. Their present population numbers over 40,000 and is concentrated mainly in Northern Mongolia and Ulaanbaatar. The character of their ethnicity is mainly tribal-ancestral. In this community, patrilinear kinship stands for the foundations of their present ethnic identity. Only in recent years have local elites made attempts to consolidate this ethnic group. In 1994 an organisation called 'Altargana' emerged, which groups Buryats from Khentei and the Eastern provinces. This organisation has expanded its activity over the Mongolian borders and has the aim to consolidate all of the Buryats. Nevertheless, most Mongolian Buryats still think of themselves as Mongolians first. They feel that they are equal members of the Mongolian nation, the same as Khalkhas; the nation understood not only as a political creation, but also an ethnocultural community with common ancestors and a common history. The ethnic group of Buryats was formed as a result of Russian colonisation and separation from the Mongolian people. The process of creation of the Buryat national identity started in the 20th century and was intensified by Bolsheviks' ethnic policy and the proclamation of the Buryat Republic. For that reason Buryats who emigrated to Mongolia did not participate in the process of forming the nation. Instead of that they were involved in Mongolian national discourse. Gradual assimilation with the Khalkha community and the sporadic character of contact between individual tribal-territorial Buryat groups proves that they have not driven the process of ethnic consolidation to the end.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.