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Telengits or Telengut are a Turkic people primarily found in Altai Republic, Russia. Telengits mainly live in a territory of Kosh-Agach District of the Altai Republic. They are part of a larger cultural group of Southern Altaians. These other groups include: Altai, Telengut and Tolos.
Since there are many groups that live in the Altai region, it is often difficult to distinguish between the different groups. The territorial groupings are somewhat fluid. Telengits (or Telengut) live along the Chuya River in the western Altai, and call themselves Chui-kizhi (Chuya people). Sometimes they intermix with other groups that live around the river. With this intermixing, it is often difficult to establish boundaries and distinguish the individual groups. There are no sharp distinctions among the different subgroups of the Altaians, identified as they are by the territory they occupy. This inevitably caused many problems, including how to ethnically classify them. It was the political leaders of the Ulagan district who first advocated that the Telengits be recognized as a separate indigenous group in Russian law. Before this point, there was often confusion because the Telengits were classified under the Altaians. Even after the Telengits were classified as a separate group, there were still discrepancies as to what subgroups would be included under the ethnic group of the Telengits.
In 2002, they were considered their own category on the census and there were 2,398 Telengits. However, this number may be wrong because in the context of the census questions, many Telengits, 8,000 or 9,000 would consider themselves Altaians and not Telengits.
In 2004, the NGO "Development of the Telengit People" was established. This group is an active part in the local political area in regard to issues of Telengit land rights.
Connection to the land
The Altaians and the Telengits feel a connection to the land that they live on. They are supposed to worship their special homeland that is considered sacred. The Telengits say that if an Altaian leaves the Altai, he or she will become ill and die. This is not because of any longing or emotional distress, but because of physical separation. After they have lived on the land, they become one with it. That is why it is so severe when one is separated from their homeland.
- Russian Census 2010: Population by ethnicity (Russian)
- Halemba, Agnieszka E. “The Altai, the Altaians, and the Telengits.” The Telengits of Southern Siberia: landscape, religion and knowledge in motion. New York: Routledge, 2006. pg. 17
- L. Krader. A Nativistic Movement in Western Siberia. pg 284
- A. Halemba. The Altai, the Altaians and the Telengits. pg 21
- Halemba, Agnieszka E (2006). "The Telengits of Southern Siberia: landscape, religion and knowledge in motion". The Altai, the Altaians, and the Telengits. New York: Routledge. p. 15.
- Halemba, Agnieszka E. “The Altai, the Altaians, and the Telengits.” The Telengits of Southern Siberia: landscape, religion and knowledge in motion. New York: Routledge, 2006. pg 18
- United Nations University digital video (2009) "Rediscovering Altai's human-nature relationships - Russia": a Telengit community leader and shaman from the Russian Altai’s high altitude Kosh Agach Raion traversing Altai’s sacred lands Accessed 1 December 2009