Object structure


The Trans-Altai Torgut and Bulgan After Forty Years


Ethnologia Polona 36 2015 (2016)


Mróz, Lech


Korzeniowska, Aniela - Tł.


Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of Polish Academy of Sciences

Place of publishing:


Date issued/created:



24 cm

Subject and Keywords:

Kazakhs ; Chinese Torgut ; Mongolian Torgut ; ethnic identity ; “others” ; local culture ; breeding of animals ; pastoralism ; socialist economy ; economic changes ; cross-border trade ; economic activity ; revitalization of tradition


In 1975, the Polish-Mongolian Ethnographic Expedition, which had been in existence for quite a few years, decided to start fieldwork among the Torgut on the territory of Bulgan sum in Khovd aimag. The Torgut of Bulgan sum were part of a larger and more differentiated community of the Trans-Altai Torgut who were separated by a state border from the Torgut living in China, or to be more precise, in Xinjiang. They still remember their origins, common ancestors and kinship connections with the Torgut of Xinjiang. In 2012, fieldwork among the Bulgan Torgut was renewed. After thirty seven years we returned to the old idea, which appeared to be all the more interesting as, over the years, there have been some very important changes in that region. They are the consequence of dynamic political changes in Mongolia itself that began in the 1990s, but also of those that started taking place in China around the same time. When we conducted our first fieldwork, the basis of Bulgan’s economy were flocks of sheep, herds, and animal breeding, the five main breeding species in Mongolia being: camels, horses, cattle (including yaks and their crosses with domestic cattle), sheep and goats. This peripheral nature of Bulgan helped to encourage certain changes, which we observed during our fieldwork in 2012 and 2013, that made it possible for both the inhabitants of Bulgan and those of Takashiken on the Chinese side of the border to move backwards and forwards more freely. The ease in which profit could be made from trade was the main attraction, which in turn had a detrimental effect on the breeding of animals. A general trend is also to give their animals into the care of a relative, paying him to look after them in order to have more time for their trading activities. Trade thus means a quick income and this provides additional encouragement to give up breeding animals. When defining one’s own ethnic identity, the importance of the presence of “others” – especially if negative stereotypes are linked with their image – has been a well-known fact to anthropologists for a long time. This can be observed through their dislike for many Chinese products, their fear of the Chinese nation and of their dominance, which only strengthens Torgut solidarity. As such, the thesis that they fulfil an essential role in building Torgut ethnic identity is a valid


Kałużyński S. 1983. Dawni Mongołowie. Warszawa ; Mróz L. 1977. Rytm torguckiego koczowania. Etnografia Polska 21(1), 137–153 ; Mróz L. and Wasilewski J. S. 2003. Regressing to Nature, Reviving Tradition, Building Ethnicity. The Case of the Reindeer-breeders of the Mongolian Taiga. In L. Mróz and Z. Sokolewicz (eds.), Between Tradition and Postmodernity. Polish Ethnography at the Turn of the Millenium. Warszawa, 153–170 ; Szynkiewicz S. 1977. Torguci Mongolii. Uwagi na tle pierwszych badań etnograficznych wśród Torgutów ałtajskich. Etnografia Polska 21 (1), 118–136 ; Wasilewski J. S. 1977. Symboliczne uniwersum jurty mongolskiej. Etnografia Polska 21 (1), 96–116 ; Wasilewski J. S. 1980. Prace polskiej ekspedycji etnograficznej w Mongolii. Próby interpretacji tradycyjnej kultury mongolskiej jako systemu znaczeń. Acta Universitatis Vratislaviensis, 90–96 ; Wasilewski J. S. 2002. Ludzie tajgi, ludzie rena, ludzie... Konteksty 4, 48–56 ; Wasilewski J. S. (ed.). 2008. Pasterze reniferów mongolskiej tajgi. Warszawa 2008


Ethnologia Polona



Start page:


End page:


Resource Type:




Resource Identifier:



IAiE PAN, call no. P 366 ; IAiE PAN, call no. P 367 ; IAiE PAN, call no. P 368 ; click here to follow the link




Rights Reserved - Free Access

Terms of use:

Copyright-protected material. May be used within the limits of statutory user freedoms

Digitizing institution:

Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences

Original in:

Library of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences



Citation style: