Like their relatives in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, China and Russia, the Kazakhs of Mongolia are a Turkic people originating from the northern parts of Central Asia. They are the descendants of different Eurasian groups that populated the territory between Siberia and the Black Sea, including ancient Turkic and Mongolic communities, Indo-Iranian nomads like the Scythians and Huns.
“Fine horses and fierce eagles are the wings of the Kazakh”
The Kazakhs are a semi-nomadic pastoral people. Many families move several times a year with their herds between fixed seasonal settlements, where they set up ger tents. In Mongolia, the Kazakhs form one of the largest minorities, representing around four per cent of the total Mongolian population. Although Mongolian is the official language, the Kazakhs use their own language for everyday communication, known as Kazakh or Qazaqsa.
Tsaatan (Mongolian for "those who have reindeer") descend from reindeer herders who have inhabited the remotest subarctic taiga for thousands of years, moving between five and ten times a year. Presently, only 44 families remain, their existence threatened by the dwindling number of their domesticated reindeer.
“If there were no reindeer, we would not exist”
The Tsaatan rely on the reindeer for most, if not all, of their basic needs: milk, which is also used to make cheese; antlers, which they use to make tools; and first and foremost, transport. They do not use the reindeer for meat. This makes the indigenous group unique among reindeer-herding communities.