Buriats, a Mongolian race, who dwell in the vicinity of the Baikal Lake, for the most part in the government of Irkutsk and the Trans-Baikal Territory. They are divided into various tribes or clans, which generally take their names from the locality they frequent. These tribes are subdivided according to kinship. The Buriats are a broad-shouldered race inclined to stoutness, with small slanting eyes, thick lips, high cheekbones, broad and flat noses and scanty beards. The men shave their heads and wear a pigtail like the Chinese. In summer they dress in silk and cotton gowns, in winter in furs and sheepskins. Their principal occupation is the rearing of cattle and horses. The Buriat horse is famous for its power of endurance, and the attachment between master and animal is very great. At death the horse should, according to their religion, be sacrificed at its owner's grave; but the frugal Buriat heir usually substitutes an old hack, or if he has to tie up the valuable steed to the grave to starve he does so only with the thinnest of cords so that the animal soon breaks his tether and gallops off to join the other horses. In some districts the Buriats have learned agriculture from the Russians, and in Irkutsk are really better farmers than the latter.
They are extraordinarily industrious at manuring and irrigation. They are also clever at trapping and fishing. In religion the Buriats are mainly Buddhists; and their head lama (Khambo Lama) lives at the Goose Lake (Guisinoe Ozero). Others are Shamanists, and their most sacred spot is the Shamanic stone at the mouth of the river Angar. Some thousands of them around Lake Baikal are Christians. A knowledge of reading and writing is common, especially among the Trans-Baikal Buriats, who possess books of their own, chiefly translated from the Tibetan. Their own language is Mongolian, and of three distinct dialects. It was in the 16th century that the Russians first came in touch with the Buriats, who were long known by the name of Bratskiye, "Brotherly," given them by the Siberian colonists. In the town of Bratskiyostrog, which grew up around the block-house built in 1631 at the confluence of the Angara and Oka to bring them into subjection, this title is perpetuated. The Buriats made a vigorous resistance to Russian aggression, but were finally subdued towards the end of the 17th century, and are now among the most peaceful of Russian peoples.
See J.G. Gruelin, Siberia; Pierre Simon Pallas, Sammlungen historischer Nachrichten über die mongolischen Volkerschaften (St Petersburg, 1776-1802); M.A. Castrén, Versuch einer buriatischen Sprachlehre (1857); Sir H.H. Howorth, History of the Mongols (1876-1888).