Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Altai - The ancestral homeland of the Turkic Peoples

The Turkic peoples are thought to have originated in the areas in and around the Altai Mountains of Siberia. Gradually they spread out and occupied large tracks of Siberia and Central Asia. In time groups emerged from within the Turkic horde, amongst whom are the Karluk (Uygur and Uzbek), Kipchak (Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Karakalpak and Tatar) and Oghuz (Turkmen, Azeri and Turks).  It is also regarded as the homeland of other nationalities Mongolians, Koreans and even Hungarians. The Ural-Altaic languages to whom all the groups (Turks, Mongols, Koreans and Hungarians) speak are named after the region.

Altai Mountains

The Altai Mountains are a mountain range in East-Central Asia, where Russia, China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan come together, and where the rivers Irtysh and Ob have their sources. They stretch for 1,200 miles across southwestern Mongolia from Siberia plain to the Gobi Desert. The mountains are of moderate height. There are several peaks over 4,500 meters. Those that are higher than 3,000 meters are snowcapped throughout the year. The region is rich in lakes and streams. The Ob, Irtysh and Yenisei all have their sources in the Altai. The Altai people live mainly in the broad plateaus, steppes and valleys of the ranges, where water is plentiful. The Altai complex of mountain ranges embraces the water divide mountains for all of Asia: the South Altai, the Inner Altai and the east Altai. The Mongolian Altai is connected to this mountain complex, rising to the southeast of the Siberian Altai region.

A varied region it has many landscapes forests, steppes, wild rivers, lakes, deserts, snow capped mountains and abundant wildlife.  The climate is continental with extremes in temperatures occurring between the summer and the winter. The mountains help to mitigate the extremes to some extent by causing a winter temperature inversion that produces an island of winter temperatures that are warmer than those in the Siberian taiga to the north and the Central Asian and Mongolian steppes to south and east. Even so temperatures drop as low as -48°C in the winter. The mountains are a gathering point for precipitation in a region that otherwise is dry. The most rain falls in July and August, with another smaller period of rain in late autumn. The western Altai receives around 50 centimeters of precipitation a year. The eastern Altai receives less: around 40 centimeters a year.

 Snow leopard

Natural vegetation in the region includes steppe grasses, shrubs and bushes and light forests of birch, fir, aspen, cherry, spruce, and pines, with many clearings in the forest. These forest merge with a modified taiga. Among the animals are hare, mountain sheep, several species of deer, bobac, woodchucks, lynx, polecats, snow leopards, wolves, bears, argali sheep, siberian ibex, mountain goats and deer. Bird species include pheasants, ptarmigan, goose, partridge, Altai snowcocks, owls, snipes and jays. In the streams and rivers are trout, grayling and the herring-like sig.

Siberian ibex