Slideshow: Kazakh Culture In Mongolia
A hunter and his eagle scan the horizon. Kazakhs use eagles, who can spot an animal from several kilometers away, to hunt for game as large as foxes and wolves. Fox fur is used to make the iconic Kazakh hats; wolf and fox pelts are also sold to provide income to the herders' families, who continue to live as nomadic herders in the Altai Mountains of Western Mongolia.
Kazakh schoolchildren from Ulgii city march in the opening parade of the Eagle Festival in Bayan Ulgii province, Mongolia. The festival is an opportunity for residents of Bayan Ulgii, which is overwhelmingly Kazakh, to celebrate their distinct culture. The Kazakhs of Western Mongolia are considered to have preserved these traditions better than Kazakhstan itself, and Bayan Ulgii can feel like a different country from the rest of Mongolia.
A young boy wears a traditional Kazakh hat for the spring Nauriz festival, held each year on March 22nd to mark the arrival of spring.
A young Kazakh woman waits in a public car at the main market to return to Hovd Soum, a village near the Hovd province center populated almost entirely by Kazakhs.
A Kazakh herder brings his flock home along the road on the outskirts of the Hovd province center.
Kazakh students search for a phone number for their mother, who was visiting them in the student dormitory in Uyench Soum, Hovd province. Students staying in the dormitory come from herding families that live permanently in the countryside.
A man walks through Hovd Soum at dusk on a winter’s day. A majority of Kazakhs in both the village and the province live in wood-framed mud plaster houses, moving to felt gers for the warmer summer months.
A dombra, the flagship instrument of Kazakh folk music, hangs on the wall alongside photographs of family elders.
Balkhan drinks tea with his sons. Last winter, the family lost nearly all of their livestock and struggled to keep the children warm and well fed. Balkhan has been looking for work in the Bulgan Soum center, with little success.
Most of Mongolia's Kazakhs came following flocks of sheet and goats, settling first in China's Xinjiang autonomous region and then following the Altai mountains northward into Hovd and Bayan Ulgii provinces. Many came during the 1930s, looking to escape unrest in China.
This woman moved as a child across the Mongolian border and over the Altai mountains in the 1930s, after her father was arrested by the Chinese authorities in Xinjiang. , The traditional Kazakh head covering she has worn since getting married has fallen out of fashion with younger generations.
Children swim in the river near Hovd city while their parents wash carpets.
Children perform a traditional Kazakh dance.
Kazakh Muslim men watch as a sheep is killed at a dedication ceremony for a new mosque in Hovd's province center. Since the end of officially atheist communism twenty years ago, religion has undergone a revival of sorts in Mongolia. For Kazakhs in Western Mongolia, interest in their Islamic cultural roots have been promoted by Saudi Arabian-funded mosque construction and missionary Imams from Turkey.
A young Kazakh girl wears a traditional Kazakh hat for a folk music concert in the Hovd province center. The feathers on the top of the hat are owl, a symbol of good luck for Kazakhs that can often be found hanging from drivers' rear view mirrors and on the necks of dombras, the instrument most emblematic of the Kazakhs.
A woman feeds her infant in their home in Bayan Ulgii. Kazakhs have a higher birthrate than their Mongolian neighbors; Bayan Ulgii also suffers from infant and maternal mortality rates that are significantly higher than the national averages.
Tamara, a sometime English teacher, makes bortsag, a fried, doughnut like bread that is a staple of Kazakh and Mongolian homes.
A Kazakh elder watches kokbar at the Eagle Festival in Bayan Ulgii province. The sun and eagle motif on the man's chapan, the traditional Kazakh jacket, is taken from the Kazakhstani flag. Many Kazakhs in Mongolia identify Kazakhstan as their spiritual homeland and some refer to Bayan Ulgii province, which is primarily Kazakh, as a separate country.
Children play while looking after their families’ animals in Bulgan Soum. The children say they normally spend four hours a day outside with the animals.