- Ethnic group. The Khakas or Khakassians were known as Yenisei or Minusinsk Tatars until the 20th century. A formerly nomadic Turkic people, they formed a separate ethnic group and national identity as a result of remaining in Siberia when their counterparts departed for the mountains of Central Asia, ultimately becoming the Kyrgyz. Khakas number about 75,000 and are found mostly in their ethnic republic of Khakasiya where they make up 12 percent of the population, though more than 4,000 live in neighboring Krasnoyarsk Krai.The Khakas language, which was developed in its literary form after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, is a member of the Northeastern (Siberian) Turkic family, related to Yakut and Tuvan. Under Romanov rule, the Khakas adopted Russian Orthodoxy, though animism, shamanism, Islam, and Buddhism still have resonance in Khakas culture. As part of Joseph Stalin’s national delimitation scheme, five ethnic groups (Beltir, Sagai, Kachin, Koibal, and Kyzyl) were consolidated to form the Khakas nation in the 1920s. As a result of the above factors, Khakas national identity remains rather weak compared to other ethnic minorities of the Russian Federation (evidenced by the Khakas’ gravitation toward pan-Turkism in the 1930s). Intermarriage with Russians runs very high, and Russian is the dominant language of communication among ethnic Khakas, though a vast majority of Khakas are fluent in the native tongue. Demographically, the Khakas have experienced strong growth, both in the late Soviet era and postindependence. Under perestroika and glasnost, a modest cultural revival occurred with the emergence of the Khakas Cultural Center and the Tun (Renaissance) Association of the Khakas People; however, few Khakas and virtually no ethnic Russians favored separatism, opting instead for a republican option within the Russian Federation. Much of the renaissance has focused on religious practices including reviving traditional shamanism as well as establishing new forms of non-Christian worship, principally mysticism and Burkhanism, an import from the Altay Republic.
Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. Robert A. Saunders and Vlad Strukov. 2010.
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