October 14, 2012

0359 RUSSIA (Altai Republic) - A horse-rider dressed in Altaic traditional clothes

The Altaians are a group of six related tribes (Altai Kiji, Telengit, Teleut, Tubalar, Kumandi, and Chalkandu), living beside the Altai Mountains and also closely related to Tuvan, Shors, Khakas, and other Siberian Turkic peoples. They formed a part of the ancient Turkic kingdoms of Central and East Asia, among them the Kök-Türk and Uigur, then later the Kara-Kitay and the Kitan, who ruled briefly in China at the end of the 12th century. The region was part of the Mongol Empire between 13th and 15th centuries, being incorporated into the Russian Empire in the mid-18th century.

After 1917, the Altaians attempted to make a separate Burkhanist republic called Oryot, but their support for the Mensheviks during the Civil War led to collapse after the Bolshevik victory. In the 1940s, they were accused of being pro-Japanese, and the word oyrot was declared counterrevolutionary. By 1950, Soviet industrialization had cost the Altaians 80% of their population, currently they making up only about 35% of the Altai Republic’s inhabitants. Even if they are a minority in their own homeland, they have a much higher fertility rate than Russians, so the Altaian population growth is expected to continue exceeding that of the others for the near future.

The Altaians were originally nomadic, with a lifestyle based on hunting / trapping and pastoralism (mainly sheep, goats, horses and sometimes camels), but many of them settled as a result of Russian influence. Despite the intense Tsarist and then Soviet policy of denationalization, the Altaians have largely maintained their traditions. Apart from painting and poetry, one of the most important forms of Altai art is the narration of epics to the accompaniment of the topshur (a lute-like string instrument). One of the legendary kai-chi (narrators), Deley, knew 77 of them by heart and the longest took seven days and nights.

These kai-chi use a particular kind of singing, spread all over Central Asia, with own features from one ethnic group to another. It is about throat singing (kai), in which the singer manipulates the resonances created as air travels from the lungs, past the vocal folds, and out the lips to produce a melody. The Altai narrators performs in styles similar to Tuvan (much more known in Occident), but they also have their own style, with very high harmonics. Here is a song performed by an ensemble of Altai, which is called even Altai Kai:

About the stamps
The two stamps are part of a large series named Culture of Russian people. National suits (headdresses).

2009.09.23 - Culture of Russian people. National suits (headdresses) - (9 RUB)
1356 - Maiden bandage (Moscow Province, the middle of the 19th century) 
1357 - Wedding crown (Nizhniy Novgorod Province, the middle of the 19th century) - It's on the postcard 2861
1358 - Female kokoshnik (Yaroslavl province, the middle of 19th century)
1359 - Men's hat (Tver' province, the 2nd half of 19th century)

2010.07.30 - Culture of Russian people. Headdresses of the Republic of Tatarstan - (11 RUB)
1429 - The maiden kalfak of Kazan Tatars (the first half of the 19th century)
1430 - The woman's headdress of the Kazan Tatars "kattashi" (the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century) - It's on the postcard 2867
1431 - Headdress of an elderly woman "kamchat burek" (the end of the 19th century)
1432 - Kazan Tartars' skullcap (the end of the 19th century and the beginnings of the 20th century)

2011.09.15 - Culture of Russian people. Headdresses of Russian North - (12 RUB)
1519 - Man in a winter cap (European Russia's North, end of 19th century) - It's on the postcard 2042
1520 - Girl's headband (European Russia's North, middle of 19th century) - It's on the postcard 0359
1521 - Wiglet (Pskov province, end of 19th century) - It's on the postcard 0359
1522 - Maiden Fillet (Archangelsk province, end of of 19th century, beginning of 20th century)

This is a post for Sunday Stamps #92, run by Viridian from Viridian’s Postcard Blog. The theme of this week is The folkways of various cultures. folktales, food, costume, pottery, etc. Click on the button to visit Viridian’s blog and all the other participants.

Altay people - Wikipedia
History of the Turkish people in Altai - Face Music
Altai Republic - Official Portal
Altai People - Kemerovo State University Museum site
Overtone singing - Wikipedia
Altai Kai, the folk ansamble from Altai Republic - official site
Russian headdresses on new stamps - International Stamps News

Sender: Uliana Zolotaryova (direct swap)
Sent from Novosibirsk (Novosibirsk Oblast / Russia), on 11.03.2012
Pavel Filatov Photography – Landscape & Ethnic Photography from Mongolia, Altai and Tuva (A horse-rider dressed in Altaic traditional clothes - Folk festival of Altaic people El-Oiyn)


  1. Wow that is interesting music! Thank you for sharing the stamps and the link.

    1. My pleasure. :) If you like this music, here is a concert sustained in California by a band from Tuva (I consider it exceptional) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0djHJBAP3U

  2. Very nice card! I am starting to collect cards with folk costumes too and I am always awed with every card I get. :)

  3. I hadn't heard of these peoples before, but thank you for that link - I quite enjoyed that music.

    1. If you like this music, here is a concert sustained in California by a band from Tuva (I consider it exceptional) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0djHJBAP3U

  4. I'm just wondering if people in Russia still wear those kind of head dress in their day to day activity or only for special occasion.
    My Sunday Stamps: Folktales

  5. Very interesting- that whole region is fascinating. I always thought of the throat singing as Mongolian; i didn't realise it spread further afield than that, although it makes perfect sense. That postcard is awesome.

    1. It is more prevalent than I thought myself. Here is an example of throat singing from the Inuit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1umSzaaYFAI&feature=related

  6. Fine music in a beautiful setting. Two stamps to be envious of.

    1. Fine music indeed, Bob. Regarding the stamps, I'm sorry that I haven't the entire series. :(

  7. Beautiful headdresses, thanks for sharing the video and music too :)

  8. Wonderfully romantic postcard, the scenery and music in the Video were superb, what a country. I've had one of those stamps, its an interesting set.

    1. A dreamy land, indeed, but only to visit, not to live there. :)