Introduction / History
The Northern Mongolians, also known as the Buryat, are believed to be the descendants of western Mongols and northern Siberians. Of the large number of Northern Mongolians, only a relatively small number live in Mongolia. They primarily inhabit the forested lowland regions along the Russia-Mongolia border.
The territory that once belonged to the Northern Mongolian's ancestors includes the regions along Lake Baikal, which is located in present-day Siberia. Three quarters of all Northern Mongolians still live there, in a region that is now known as the Buriat Autonomous Republic.
Northern Mongolians are very similar to the Khalkha Mongols, particularly in their physical features, dialects, and customs. In fact, they are often indistinguishable from neighboring Mongol tribes. However, they maintain a number of small differences, the most significant of which is their language.
What are their lives like?
Traditionally, Northern Mongolians were nomadic shepherds who raised horses, cattle, sheep, goats, and a few camels. Today, many still raise horses and sheep. Others have jobs in wood-related industries or coal mines; some trap animals; and many work on collective farms.
A number of Northern Mongolians still live as semi-nomadic herdsmen, migrating seasonally with their animals. Their dwellings are portable gers or yurts, which are round felt tents that have brightly painted wooden doors. Urban Northern Mongolians live in Soviet-built apartment complexes.
Due to the harshness of the climate in Mongolia, the people consume much fat and meat (mainly mutton) during winter, and dairy products such as yogurt, cheese, and sour cream during summer. Their favorite drink is airag, which is fermented mare's milk.
In their traditional social organization, Northern Mongolians were separated into nobility, commoners, and slaves. Their society was based on the clan (extended family) or lineage. A man's home, political position, inheritance, and status were all determined by his clan membership. Formerly, marriages were arranged by the parents, whereas today, most marriages are initiated by the couples themselves. Sadly, the divorce rate has increased in recent years.
Northern Mongolians love music, folk dances, chess, and sporting events. Every July, the ancient Naadam festival is celebrated throughout Mongolia. Sporting events are held in horse racing, archery, and wrestling.
Buriat, the native language of Northern Mongolians, is not yet a written language. However, all Northern Mongolians also speak the national language, Halh Mongolian. Halh is used as their literary language.
What are their beliefs?
Northern Mongolians were traditionally shamanists (believed in an unseen world of gods, demons, and spirits). They viewed the spirit world as a reflection of the natural world. They believed that when someone died he would pass over into the spirit world and assume his proper role as either a good or evil spirit. Evil men were thought to become devils, while great men became gods. The people depended on shamans (medicine men) to cure the sick by magic, communicate with the gods, and control events.
Most Mongolians have practiced Tibetan Buddhism since the late 1500s. By 1900, Mongolia was the most religious nation on earth, with more than half of its males serving as priests in Buddhist monasteries. Today, about half of Northern Mongolians are atheists. Many others have returned to the Buddhist beliefs of their forefathers.
What are their needs?
Rape, murder, alcoholism, and violence are major problems in Mongolia's urban areas today. Many young people are also involved in criminal gangs. Northern Mongolians need to find true peace that can only come through knowing Jesus Christ.
* The Lord has raised up several Mongolian missionaries to go to places Westerners cannot go. Pray that the church would be ready to support these missionaries as that is often the big hindrance.
* Pray that God's church in Mongolia would grow in deeper discipleship and greater missions vision.
* Pray for freedom from alcoholism, violence, and divorce that are destroying lives.
* Ask God to raise teams of intercessors who will faithfully stand in the gap for Northern Mongolians.
* Pray that Christians will have opportunities to introduce Northern Mongolians to the Prince of Peace.
* Pray that God will open the hearts of Mongolia's governmental leaders to the Gospel.