National Geographic : 1936 Jan
WITH THE NOMADS OF CENTRAL ASIA SEATED AMONG HIS KIN, SAYJAN BEG, WEARING GLASSES, SEEMS AN OCCIDENTAL The sister on his left shows Mongolian blood, while the two in front might pass as Russian children (see text, page 3). His mother wears a checkered dress and white scarf, and the family Kazak "mammy," sitting with her dark-skinned son, has a white helmetlike headdress. the border in Russian Kirghizistan, while the Kazaks have migrated from the dry steppes of Kazakistan, in southern Siberia. A KIRGHIZ OPINION OF THE KALMUCKS "The Kalmucks, or Mongols, in the other end of the valley have lived for centuries, with only a few interruptions," he con tinued, "a law unto themselves, with their Tibetan religion, Mongolian language, and unspeakable customs. They have always dispensed their own civil and, to a large extent, criminal justice. "The Chinese have for years made it a practice to let our tribes regulate their own life as far as possible; they found that they could not rule us, so they have decided to let us rule ourselves. However, in late years there has been much political unrest in the province and the Chinese, feeling the need for a more centralized control, have given our family nominal civil jurisdiction over the whole valley. The scheme works admirably, with us acting as go-betweens for the Chinese, on the one hand, and the Kirghiz, Kazaks, and Mongols on the other; but we try to interfere as little as possible in the affairs of these worthless Kalmucks." In the meantime he must plan for my stay here in the Tekes. Soon he would gather a group of the valley officials and visit the highland pastures to see that there was peace among the tribesmen. From the highlands we would go to the pastures of the Kalmucks and there I could see for myself what an amazing race these Kalmucks are. "Why," he exclaimed, obviously to pique my interest, "they do not even bury their dead, but throw them stark naked to the dogs!" He raised his hand to forestall my ques tions. "Be patient; in due time you shall know all. In the meantime, while I am here and busy with tribal business, Ala Beg (Chief Ala) will be your guide and com panion." Sayjan Beg nodded toward a smiling young Kirghiz of about 25 years who wore his white felt hat at a rakish angle and was fitted out in a corduroy coat, thick woolen riding breeches, home-made Russian knee boots, and a sash of coarse black homespun wound about his waist.