Styles of Communication, Vol 5, No 1 (2013)

The Buryats in China (Shenehen Buryats): the Role of School Education System in the Preservation of Identity

Irina Boldonova, Darima Boronoeva


This chapter is concerned with a Buryat origin minority in China named Shenehen Buryats. The Buryats originally reside in the Russian Federation around Lake Baikal. After facing serious administrative problems, several tribes preferred to flee from Russia. Administrative and land reforms shattered the traditional self-administration system and deprived the Buryats of about 30 % of usable land. The Buryat migrants settled in Inner Mongolia preserving their traditional nomadic economy. Nowadays the Shenehen Buryats are noted for their original culture and occupy their own ethnic and cultural niche in Inner Mongolia, a province of China. Schooling is one of the main factors helping them preserve native language and traditions. Undoubtedly, the specific linguistic situation among the Shenehen Buryats is a reflection of their history, relationships with their neighbors and a degree of internal unity. Nowadays Chinese is widely used in official discourse, economy, and inter-ethnic relations. At the same time Buryat continues to be a means of everyday communication. The Buryat language became a key element of ethnic identity when in the 1990s some Shenehen Buryats returned to their homeland.  Two social worlds were formed as a result of separate existence and different ways of historic development. Under such conditions the language became a verbal marker of a common ethnicity.


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