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The Khakass Republic or Khakassia (23,855 square miles, 61,784 square kilometers) is an autonomous republic within the Russian Federation. Located in Krasnoyarsk Krai at the far northwestern end of the Altay Range in south-central Siberia, it differs from other Siberian republics in at least two ways. First, the Khakass, while Turkic speaking, are actually Orthodox Christians, not Muslims, Buddhists, or shamanists. Second, ethnic Russians outnumber the Khakass. In 1959, 48,000 Khakass were living in Khakassia, forming 12 percent of the total population. By 1979 there were 57,300 Khakass, forming 11.4 percent of the population. Ethnic Russians now constitute the remaining 80 to 90 percent of the population of Khakassia.

The Khakass Republic extends along the left bank of the Yenisey River, upon the wooded slopes of Kuznetsk Ala-Tau and the Sayans, in the western portion of the Minusinsk depression. Lake Baikal lies 1,000 kilometers to the east. The Abakan (a tributary of the Yenisey) and Chulym rivers drain the area. The capital is Abakan and the next largest city is Chernogorsk (a coal-mining center). While the terrain in the southern and western regions is hilly, the northern and eastern parts of the region are flat, black-earth steppelands (the Abakan-Minusinsk Basin). The climate is continental, with the average temperatures between15 and 21 degrees Celsius in January, and between 17 and 19 degrees Celsius in July.

The origin of the name Khakass is in the word hagias (hjagas ), which was used by the Chinese for an ancient tribe in the Sayan Mountains. Historically, the Khakass have gone by several different names: the Tatars of Minusinsk, the Tatars of Abakan, the Turks of Abakan, the Turks of the Yenisey. The Khakass themselves call themselves by their own tribal names, including sagai, khas, peltyr, shor, koybal, and hyzyl-kizhi.

The Khakass language belongs to the Uighur-Oguz group in the Eastern Hun branch of the Turkic languages. While the structure and the basic vocabulary of the Khakass language are of Turkic-Tatar origin, the language contains many loan words from the Chinese, Mongolian, and Russian languages.

The first Russians arrived in Khakassia in the seventeenth century. The Khakass Autonomous Region was established in 1930. In 1992 the region became an official autonomous republic in the Russian Federation. Formerly nomadic herders, the Khakass now farm, hunt, or breed livestock. The republic produces timber, copper, iron ore, barite, gold, molybdenum, and tungsten.

See also: nationalities policies, soviet; siberia


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Gorenburg, Dmitry P. (2003). Minority Ethnic Mobilization in the Russian Federation. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Petroff, Serge. (2000). Remembering a Forgotten War: Civil War in Eastern European Russia and Siberia, 19181920. New York: Columbia University Press.

Raleigh, Donald J. (2001). Provincial Landscapes: Local Dimensions of Soviet Power, 19171953. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Johanna Granville

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