Sunday, 7 June 2009
The Blue Wolf of the Altai
This is a music video by the Yugur group Yaoaoer. The Yugurs are one of 56 officially recognised nationalities in the People's Republic of China. They are sometimes confusingly known as "Yellow Uyghurs", although they are distinct from the Uighur people. According to different estimates, there are 15,000-13,000 Yugurs, primarily living in Sunan Yugur Autonomous County in Gānsù Province.
The Yugurs pose an interesting problem for those who wish to classify Central Asian peoples. According to Wikipedia, about 4,600 of them speak a Turkic language (Yohur or Yoğïr) and about 2,800 a Mongolic language (Engger), the remainder have switched to Chinese. Tibetan has also been in use, and their culture, especially their brand of Buddhism, show clear Tibetan influences.
There is an Uyghur connection, as well. The Turkic branch of the people is traditionally said to be descendants of the ancient Uyghur Empire. The Engger-speakers are said to be descendants of Mongol invaders in the thirteenth century. Both groups call themselves Yugur; the Turkic-speakers, either "Yoğïr" or "Sarïg Yoğïr" ((Yellow) Yugur), and the Engger-speakers "Yogor" or "Šera Yogor" (ditto). The Chinese distinguish between them geographically, calling the Turkic branch "Western Yugurs" and the Mongolic branch "Eastern Yugurs".
(To me, the consensus in ethnonyms suggests that the ethnic difference has been very small. After all, having two different languages is no proof of different ancestry, as studies of Finns and Finland-Swedes have shown... Unfortunately, there are a lot of unnecessary "internet arguments" between Turcophiles and Mongol fans about the Yugurs for this very reason.)
Sources: German and English Wikipedia
Yugurology (feat. C.G.E. Mannerheim!!)
Western Yugur Folktales