Trips and Tales ( Part 72)
During my conversation with ‘A’ and ‘L’, we got around to talking about the Buryats – as you do – who have a long-standing genealogical tie to the Irkutsk region. Apparently, there is some debate about the time-frame of their arrival here and so an absolute truth may remain hidden.
Four to five thousand years since first “establishment” is a good bet. Well, that’s the consensus according to ‘G’ who, although a “modern” Buryat; takes pride in his heritage. It’s a scatter-shot that would plant their flag in the sand (ice?) mid-way between now and the end of the last ice-age. This is “interesting” in light of broader research: see later.
Academics still debate the Buryat origin-issue, according to ‘G’. Ah, well it gives them something to do. There’s also talk (or fact?) of an ancestry drawn from Siberian dwelling Eskimos.
Now, after checking several websites (a sure-fire path to the truth, ahem), the conclusion is that “Eskimo” as a term is broadly correct in this instance – it says here. Forget political correctness, “reality” will do perfectly well. That reality today is that Russian Eskimos are largely “Yupik” peoples, but of course that may be no reflection on any Buryat ancestry.
OK, any Buryat-Eskimo progenitors would have inhabited land around Lake Baikal. This makes perfect sense for a hunting-fishing, land and water existence. All options served. So when did Eskimos become Buryats? I have no idea. It was likely a process spread across thousands of years. That potential 5000 year-old flag that I mentioned earlier looks positively modern in the context of talk about genetic links between Russian and American Eskimo tribes (don’t say Eskimo in Canada; that’s Inuit).
Have you heard about the “Ice Bridge” between Russia and America during the last ice age? Well, it was not an “Ice Bridge” at all, rather a land bridge in an ice age. The reasoning is that with increasing amounts of the water trapped as colossal expanses of ice, the sea level fell revealing more land and ultimately allowing migration of multiple species. Actually, the ice ebbed and flowed over millennia, as a solid, ultra slow-motion tide on quite literally a “glacial” time frame, but that’s another story.
Considering that current research suggests humans were present to instigate migration across the “Bering Land Bridge” somewhere between 12 and 20 thousand years ago (the current favourite is around16,500), then the true origins of the Buryats could be considerably earlier. Where do you draw the “start” line exactly? 12 to 20 thousand? Well, that kind of variation isn’t going to look too good on your tax return but from our point of existence in their future, those figures form a consensus best-guess.
Meanwhile, the pre-Buryat Baikal-dwellers stayed, traffic through the Baikal thoroughfare continued and much intermingling, settling and re-settling abounded. ‘G’ gives me an interesting insight: that this inter-connected mentality still continues today, engrained. Marriages across racial streams are just par for-the-course: Russian, Buryat, Chinese, Mongolian, whatever. Just “normal”, and why not? This all gives lie to our Western façade of multi-culturalism. Mixed-relationships are still “worthy of comment” here, the lines of us-and-them are often still drawn, and most won’t even pay lip-service to a forced pretence of a multi-culture. Especially privately. Yes, it’s regional and class-based too. A conversational minefield. So let’s jump into it and play!
I favour reasonable people and don’t care where they are from, but I know that’s not the national mindset. Meanwhile, out in Eastern Siberia they are living it. Great stuff.
Next time: Trips and Tales (Part 73) Creeds of the modern-day Buryat
[Photo by dodgydago]