New Altai Republic (Russian: Hовые Респу́бликa Алтай, Novye Respublika Altay; Altay: Ени Алтай Республика, Yeni Altay Respublika; German: Neu Altai Republik) is a young and relatively inexperienced nation in the centre of Asia and this can be seen in the streets of its capital as well as in the villages plotting its beautiful countryside. Mobile phones have become an everyday commodity as well as cars, televisions and many other western products. Due to exquisitely good governance the country is prospering and developing itself and its neighbouring regions in a very fast pace. Rich in minerals and various other natural resources the New Altai Republic is supplying high end manufactories in many Western nations. Its strategic position in the Central Asia has both a beneficial and a negative influence to it. The location keeps the Republic separate from other countries than its direct neighbours; Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China but then again allows it an easy access to these nations and makes it work as a transport hub between these countries.
Archeological evidence has shown that the area of the New Altai Republic has been an important crossroads in the ancient world. Many nomadic tribes used to cross and live there. Earliest proofs of human settlement date back to the 2nd millenium BCE.
Prior to the first mention of the Altai people, the Altai region was populated by several neighbouring ethnic groups who were subjugated in the 16th century by one of the late nomadic Mongol tribes, the Zunghars. In the 18th century the Qing Dynasty managed to invade the region and a brutal ethnic genocide took place and wiped out almost all Dzungars.
18th & 19th Century
Yet the Qing Dynasty could not establish a permanent control over the region and so the region got in contact with the Russian Empire. Historical texts state that during this time many Altays became 'addicted' to the Russians' vodka, which they called "Fire water" (ateş sur). During the tsarist period, the Altay were known as Oriot or Oryot and that was also the name of the region. During the 19th and 20th centuries the region developed quickly with the discovery of rich mineral deposits in the Altay mountains and due the fairly rich agricultural land. During late 19th century many Germans began to settle in the region and established many towns that are still German speaking in this day. The main reason for their migration was the high cost of land in the Volga region and in Ukraine.
With the rise of the 1917 revolution, the Altay attempted to make their region a separate Burkhanist republic called Oryot, but their support for the Mensheviks during the Civil War led to the venture's collapse after the Bolshevik victory and the rise of Stalin. Yet the first sign of national autonomy for the Altai people was given on June 1, 1922 as the Oyrot Autonomous Oblast (Ойро́тская автоно́мная о́бласть) was establish (today South-Altai). In the 1940s the Altay were accused of being pro-Japanese, and the word "oyrot" was declared counterrevolutionary and on January 7, 1948 the Oyrot Autonomous Oblast was renamed as Gorno-Altai Autonomous Oblast (Го́рно-Алта́йская автоно́мная о́бласть). By 1950 Soviet industrialization policies brought Russian immigrants reducing the proportion of the Altay people from 50% to 20% of the population.
In 1991 the Gorno-Altai Autonomous Oblast was renamed and reorganised into Gorno-Altai Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) and in 1992 due to the collapse of the Soviet Union the region was separated into Altai Krai (Алта́йский край) and Altai Republic (Респу́блика Алта́й).
During the 90's the both regions declined because they were not prepared to enter the highly competitive (capitalist) market economy and the gross output of the region fell almost 10%. Unemployment rocketed as unproductive factories and fields were shut down and masses of people moved away from the region. Many unrests took also place between 1999 and 2004 which were quelled sometimes brutally, but not reported in the Russian media. The region was heading towards complete anarchy until the Autumn 2007 when anynomous Russian-German business mogul decided to invest in the Altai Republic and approached the local government of Altai Republic. His idea was simple: With a generous donation and the help from the local German-speaking population, a new German speaking investment bank would be established into the region to provide finance and help boost national and international trade. On the 1st of June 2006 The Gold Mountains Investment Bank (Die Goldberg Investmentbank / Altay yatiryin bankasidir) was established in the capital of Altai Republic.
The GI was established to act as a traditional investment bank but it also acted as a kind of a chamber of commerce for the region. With the help of the bank, various global companies became interested in the region for its plentiful natural resources and magnificent scenery. With the help of GI, money began to flow into the region starting a new era of development.
Due to a high influx of foreign capital and general foreign investments the regions industry, began to grow rapidly. High end machinery was brought to the country and many new plants were being popped around the republic. This rapid growth required international companies to also start relocating their own specialist staff (many Germans) in to the Altai Republic. The fact that highly skilled foreigners would move into Altai and take the local peoples jobs was not welcomed by the local authorities of the Republic and the local government began to limit and obstruct the actions of GI.
As the financial crisis struck the world in 2008 the Republic did not get affected too much, thanks to the proximity of the Chinese border. As the Chinese economy was merely slowed down by the worldwide crisis, the Republic was benefitting from this as it kept supplying crusial raw materials to the Chinese market. Yet the Russian Federation and especially one of its parts, Altai Krai were facing the complete opposite. The governor of the Altai region (Krai), Ilya Schinebrychoff was facing a catastrophy due to the economic decline. The populous region of Altai Krai had almost 80,000 empty residential units in its major cities and more people were fleeing the region to more prosperous cities in Russia and rest of the world. Luckily for him in August 2008 GI's Chief of Operations at the time, Karl Fedorovich, also a Russian-German himself, approached the governor. Fedorovich had approached Schinebrychoff a few times before as well but now after the declining relations between the Altai Republic and GI and the economic situation the Altai Krai was in, Fedorovich saw this is a chance for finally setting up a meeting with the two parties. Also the president of the Republic, Aleksandr Berdnikov, was invited to this meeting.
The Agenda of the meeting was to find a solution to the problem as the board of GI wanted to bring more highly skilled migrants to work in the Republics area, whereas the Republic wanted GI to train more of the local population to work in the regions industries, Altai Krai was more than happy to welcome the new settlers to its region but also wanted to defend its own labour and goods market. The problems were identified and to deal with the problems, the parties agreed on a second meeting to discuss more about a solution and the general mutual cooperation and development of the two regions, and the role of GI in this.
The later meeting held in late November 2008 was a success and afterwards the board of GI made a rare promise; in its establishment charter the board of the GI would always seek the best of the people of Altai Republic. President Berdnikov and Governor Schinebruchoff in turn agreed to help GI's operations with all their powers and help to increase the relations between the Republic and the Krai. But what was disclosed from the public was a third meeting. The third meeting took place sometime after the second one where few very influential Russian oligarchs attended as well. No one knows for sure what was agreed upon in the third meeting.
About a year after the second meeting one could notice the difference between other Federal subjects in Russia and the two Altai Regions. The Russian economy was on the bottom of the crisis at this point; banks were being declared bankrupt and unemployment was rocketing, hitting 9.4% record in July. The two regions were not as severely affected by this due to foreign capital and skilled worker influx and they wished to keep it so. The two regions had developed a new local culture which could be seen as a combination of the rural countryside, still majorily inhabited by Russians, Kazakh, native German and Altai people and the urban and more multicultural, both parties wishing to protect their own regions. As the two regions had learned to adapt and cope with the crisis, the Russian Federation faced the second consequent, record high, decline in national economy.
On the 12th of August 2009 the President of the Altai Republic and the governor of the Altai Krai pleaded the State Duma for a referendum for the Altai Krai and Altai Republic to let their citizen vote for a full sovereignty of the two regions and also hold regional referendums of joining the two regions. In just one months time the Duma accepted the plea and the actual poll was held on the 29th October. 69,7% of 72% registered voters in the two regions had voted for independency and More than 79% of these also voted for the two regions to join together as a new state. As the referendum was initially accepted by the state Duma, it could not objected and on the 6th November 2009 Altai Krai and the Altai Republic were granted full sovereignty. Two days later the two states signed a charter to form a new nation: New Altai Republic.
The New Altai Republic is governed by the parliament of the New Altai Republic - El Kurultai. All important state-related questions pass through El Kurultai. In addition to approving legislation, El Kurultai appoints high officials of the state, including the Prime Minister and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and elects (either alone or, if necessary, together with representatives of local government within a broader electoral college) the President. El Kurultai also ratifies significant foreign treaties that impose military and proprietary obligations, bring about changes in law, approves the budget presented by the government, monitors and uses executive power via Ministries.
El Kurultai consists of 150 members who are elected every four (4) years to present the people of the Republic. The election is compulsory for all residents of the Republic, although this is not enforced. Although the state is a representative parliamentary democracy, there is also a guaranteed group representation of population groups by law. The reason for this is to manage and prevent conflict between the various groups of different ethnicities, religions, languages and other sociaties. The constitution states that the State Assembly of the New Altai Republic (El Kurultai) must consist of 150 democratically elected members of which:
- 23% Must be of Russian decency,
- 23% Must be of Altay decency,
- 14% Must be of German decency and
- 40% Can be of any decency residing in the Republic
- At most 15% and at least 10% Must come from the wealthiest district (район ~ Raion) and
- At least 10% and at most 15% Must come from the least wealthiest disctrict (район ~ Raion)
Although the whole El Kulturaltai is responsible of decision making regarding state matters, these matters are brought up to the El Kulturaltai usually by the Committees. There are 12 Ministries in the El Kulturaltai:
- Internal Affairs, Ministry of (Security matters & environment)
- Foreign Affaris, Ministry of (Political relations)
- Trade and Finance, Ministry of (Economic relations)
- Economic development, Ministry of (National economics)
- Education, Ministry of (Education, Science)
- Welfare, Ministry of (Healthcare, labour, social development)
- Justice, Ministry of
- Agriculture, Ministry of (Co-operates with Trade and Finance and Economic development ministries)
- Culture, Ministry of
- Tourism, Ministry of
- Industry, Ministry of (Co-operates with Trade and Finance and Economic development ministries)
- Regional development, Ministry of
El Kurultai is responsible of governing the state by amending legislation and commencing national development projects. The New Altai Republic is also divided into three geographical, economic and administrative regions: The North-, the Centre- and South-Altai. The Regions (Bилоят ~ Viloyat) have their own Regional councils that are appointed every 5 years with local elections. The Regions are responsible for providing their residents with their basic needs and the development and integration of the regions infrastructure and economy, but also executing state plans.
The regions are further divided into 63 Districts (Pайо́н ~ Rayon). The district councils are somewhat an extension of the regional councils as they offer and provide assistance to the regional councils. Districts are finally divided into Urban and Rural localities which are the lowest entities in the territorial organisation. Altogether there are 746 localities of which 13 localities are classified as urban (either cities = Город ~ Gorod or City-like: Посёлок ~ Posyolok) and the remaining 733 are rural localities (divided into Kишлак ~ Kishlak, an old village and Cело ~ Selo, a normal village).
All citizens of New Altai Republic are required to register in the locality they live in, and after doing so, they are juridically considered residents of the municipality, a designation that grants them various rights and privileges, and which entail certain obligations as well, including the right to vote or be elected for public office in said locality.
The Republic is situated in the very centre of Asia at the junction of Siberian taiga, steppes of Kazakhstan and semi-desert of Mongolia. Forests cover around 30% of the Republic's territory. In the North the region is plotted with farm fields, forests, rolling foothills, grasslands, lakes and large waterways. In the South West the land begins to turn into grassland plains and Kazakh steppe and in the South East the soft foothills turn into the Altay Mountains, where more than 20,000 tributaries sprawl towards the West Siberian plateau. The highest peak of New Altai Republic is Mount Belukha (4,506m) and it is the highest point in Siberia as well.
The region's main waterways are the Ob, Biya and Katun rivers. The biggest lakes are Lake Teletskoye, Lake Kulundinskoye, Lake Kuchukskoye and Lake Mikhaylovskoye. The largest lake is Lake Teletskoye, which is 80km long and 5km wide, has an area of 230.8 km2, and has a maximum depth of 325 m. The mountain lakes of Altai contain enormous and a very pure quality freshwater reserves as a result of their distance from most human activity. Lake Teletskoye alone contains more than 40 km³ of highly pure water.
The Republic has a temperate continental climate with relatively short and hot summers (June–August); and long, cold, and often quite frosty winters (November–March). In general, the climate of the Southeastern areas of the republic, such as the (Ulagansky and Kosh-Agachsky Districts), is harsher than the climate of the less elevated Northern areas.
|Ethnic origin (2010)|
Noticeable changes in the New Altai Republics population can be noted between 1989 (last Soviet population census) and 2002 (first Russian population census), 2007-2008 (International Financial Crisis) and 2006 (establishment of the Goldberg Investment Bank). The establishment of the GI did not only influence the migration pattern to the Altai Republic but also made thousands of bilingual Russians register themselves as Altaians in the hopes of tax reductions. Currently the net migrant value is 6.29 migrants per 1,000 people.
|Azerbajdzhani||4 464||4 794||5 646||6 118||6 057||6 079||5 920||5 903||6 003||6 285||6 793|
|Altays||46 750||50 203||59 130||64 072||63 436||63 663||161 998||261 531||365 954||566 534||608 318|
|- Chuvash||2 545||2 733||3 219||3 488||3 453||3 466||3 375||3 365||3 422||3 583||3 873|
|- Kumandians||1 893||2 033||2 394||2 594||2 568||2 577||2 510||2 503||2 545||2 665||2 880|
|- Telengits||1 730||1 858||2 188||2 371||2 347||2 356||2 294||2 288||2 326||2 436||2 633|
|- Tubalars||1 124||1 207||1 421||1 540||1 525||1 530||1 490||1 486||1 511||1 582||1 710|
|Armenians||6 274||6 737||7 935||8 598||8 513||8 543||8 320||8 246||8 335||8 677||9 329|
|Belorussians||8 131||8 306||8 485||8 580||8 495||8 525||8 302||7 578||7 007||6 636||6 472|
|Chinese||175||188||221||218||1 216||2 220||3 162||4 153||5 223||6 469||7 992|
|Georgians||887||953||1 122||1 216||1 704||1 710||1 715||1 760||1 840||1 977||2 186|
|Germans||58 667||63 001||74 203||80 405||89 607||109 927||154 855||218 144||317 300||401 748||434 248|
|Kazakh||7 170||8 677||10 692||21 933||31 715||38 829||42 813||47 690||54 496||64 056||77 238|
|Koreans||1 049||1 126||1 326||1 437||3 423||5 435||5 293||5 278||5 367||7 619||10 235|
|Kumandians||1 893||2 033||2 394||2 594||3 011||3 022||2 943||2 934||2 984||3 124||3 377|
|Moldavians||1 660||1 696||1 733||1 752||1 715||1 600||1 425||1 281||1 157||1 062||993|
|Mordvivians||3 539||3 800||4 476||4 850||4 747||4 706||4 484||4 346||4 325||4 341||4 152|
|Russians||2 382 941||2 434 300||2 486 819||2 514 627||2 461 427||2 440 000||2 324 914||2 253 122||2 227 612||2 207 203||2 081 297|
|Tadzhiks||1 241||1 333||1 570||1 701||1 684||2 690||3 620||4 609||5 687||6 954||8 517|
|Tatars||6 829||7 333||8 637||9 359||9 266||9 299||8 556||8 031||7 667||7 527||7 636|
|Uzbeks||1 536||1 649||1 943||2 105||2 084||3 066||4 042||5 018||5 995||6 980||8 545|
|Ukrainians||51 302||52 408||53 538||54 137||52 992||52 530||50 053||48 507||47 629||47 799||49 210|
|Total||2 683 194||2 752 409||2 839 963||2 793 524||2 765 813||2 775 681||2 703 104||2 695 314||2 740 898||2 869 631||3 101 768|
Altai is situated in the southeastern part of Western Siberia. The Republic is favorably located close to major sources of raw materials, has developed industry, especially in the area of heavy industry, and an abundance of natural resources. It is also a major agricultural producer. As in the rest of Russia, the economic restructuring of the 1990s led to a marked economic decline in both former Altai Krai and Altai Republic, particularly in industry and agriculture. However, after the establishment of Goldenberg Investment bank-group the economic prospects are good due to the presence of abundant local raw materials, high scientific potential, leading technologies, skilled personnel, and a low-cost labor force. Tourism has also begun to make its mark on the economy, and a large number of new hotels and resorts catering towards "New Russians" have begun to appear around the state.
One of the main deterrents of social and economic development of the New Altai Republic is the difference in infrastructure level of different regions of the Republic. Some areas suffer from low level of electrification and sometimes there are also shortages of fuel and energy resources. Annual electric power consumption per head in the New Altai Republic is almost 2 times less than the average in the Russian Federation.
There are more than 2500 industrial companies operating in both heavy and light industry. The leading sectors are engineering, , foodstuff, gold mining, chemical and petrochemical, building material, textile, and light industries. Output is currently increasing in certain industries for the first time since perestroika. This increase is particularly noticeable in the flour-, grain-, and feed-milling and chemical and petrochemical industries and in individual heavy industry sectors, tractor production.
Small and medium business is developing rapidly and large international companies are also making investments in the region. Today, nearly a quarter of the entire working population is employed in small to medium business sector.
New Altai Republic is one of Central Asia's most important agricultural regions. Development of the land began in the second half of the 18th century; and peasants from other regions began resettling here in 1861. By 1917, the Altai krai's rural population had reached 1,998,000 people and the total area under cultivation was 25,060 square kilometres.
Today, farmland covers an area of 140,000 km², of which 73,220 km², or nearly 28% of the total area of the Republic, is cropland. The main crops are hard varieties of spring wheat, buckwheat, millet, peas, barley, oats, and potatoes and other vegetables. This is this only region of Siberia where sunflowers, soybeans, sugar beets, and certain kinds of fruit grow.
In 1960, the State Economic Council under the Council of Ministers of the USSR carried out comprehensive zoning of Altai Krai, which divided the krai into seven natural and economic agricultural zones. Wide temperature swings are characteristic of the krai's climate, so that ensuring harvest stability is not easy. It requires a specific approach to developing cropland in order to increase farming efficiency. The Kulundinskaya Plain, the Priobskoe Plateau, and the left and right banks of the Ob River are well developed agriculturally. Natural fodder land, including hayfields and pasture, occupies 39,060 km², which includes 11,930 km² of hayfields and 27130 km² of pasture.
Livestock farming specializes in meat, milk, wool, and egg production. Altai is a major wool producer and an important base for breeding fine-fleeced pedigreed sheep, which makes it possible to export more than 60,000 head of pedigreed sheep per year. The territorial market also offers pedigreed swine, poultry, meat, eggs, honey, and wild products such as deer antlers, furs, and pelts.
Fruit-growing in Altai is made possible by specialists of the internationally known Lisavenko Horticultural Research Institute, which has developed a range of fruit and berry varieties adapted to the climate.
Today, Altai not only meets the agricultural product requirements of its own population, but also the requirements of many other neighboring regions. Altai exports many kinds of cereals, as well as processed grain products such as wheat and rye flour, pasta products, sugar beets, sunflower seeds, and flax fiber.
With the Soviet Union's collapse, the New Altai Republic's tourism industry has greatly expanded. Although wealthy Russians from neighboring Russian regions are the most common sort of tourist in Altai, foreign interest has also grown in the area, especially after the sovereignty from the Russian Federation and the mid 2000's immigration boom creating awareness of the region abroad as well.
Some of the more well-known tourist spots in the Altai region include Lake Aiya (a popular bathing spot), Belokurikha (known for its mineral water springs), and the picturesque Chemal region. More adventurous travelers may wish to visit the more remote Lake Teletskoye or Mount Belukha in the south.
Altai's culture is attractive for its rich centuries-old traditions. The art of stonecutting was well developed here, and the works of its craftsmen were spread all over the world. The works of the artist, traveler, archeologist, writer, philosopher, and eminent political figure N.K. Rerikh and his wife also attracted world attention.
The artist G.I. Gurkin was the founder of pictorial art in Altai. This self-taught artist created more than 5000 paintings during his life. Altai has also given the world talented poets, writers, and artists, such as A. Koptelov, A. Zalygin, P. Kuchiyak, and I. Pyrev, and actors V. Zolotukhin, E. Savinova, M. Evdokimov, M. Terekhova, and V. Shukshin. As a writer, film producer, and actor, V.M. Shukshin occupies a special place in Altai's cultural biography.
The traditional religion of the native Altaians is shamanism. Ethnic Russians primarily practice Orthodox Christianity, while Kazakhs are traditionally Muslims. Tibetan Buddhism has also recently begun making some inroads by way of neighbouring Mongolia and Tuva.
From 1904 until the 1930s, a new religious movement called Burkhanism (or Ak Jang, the "white faith") was popularized among native Altaians. The religion originated in Altai, and emphasized the "white" aspect of shamanistic practice. Burkhanism remains an important component of Altaian national consciousness, and is currently being revived in several forms along with indigenous Altai culture in general.
Russian New Age followers often come to go on pilgrimages to Mount Belukha, which is considered to be the location of Shambhala both by some New Agers and locals of Altai. One can often find manifestations of shamanistic spirituality in the region; for example, at points along the Katun River, local believers in shamanism are known to tie white ribbons to nearby trees and leave offerings of coins or food to the spirits. Although shamanism is much less widely practiced today, it is regaining popularity as a result of new religious freedom following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
In contrast to the general environment of religious tolerance, Jehovah's Witnesses are being officially repressed by prosecutors and judges in the Altai Republic , as is happenning in other sections of the Russian Federation. Jehovah's Witnesses were subject to official persecution, incarceration and deportation in Russia from the 1940s until the late 1980s or early 1990s. This is despite the fact that: "On March 14, 1996, Jehovah’s Witnesses were fully exonerated by a Russian Federation Presidential Decree (No. 378) as victims of political repression."(, p. 7) |}