Republic in the eastern Siberian region of the Russian Federation; area 351,300 sq km/135,637 sq mi; population (2002) 981,200. The main cities are Ulan-Ude (capital), Kyakhta, and Gusinoozersk. Buryat is bordered on the south by Mongolia, and occupies the eastern and northern shores of Lake Baikal. The land is largely mountainous and covered by coniferous forests; the Sayan Mountains are in the far west. Mineral deposits include rare metals (tungsten, molybdenum, gold), together with lignite (brown coal), iron ore, and graphite. The chief industries are aerospace engineering, mining, food processing, fishing, lumbering, and the breeding of sheep and cattle. The republic is crossed by the Trans-Siberian Railway.
The Buryats – nomadic pastoralists and fishers – came under the influence of Mongol culture from the late Middle Ages, and fiercely resisted Russian colonization in the 17th –18th centuries. Gradually forced to cede tribal lands by treaties between Russia and China in 1689 and 1727, the Buryat population had declined rapidly by 1917. During the Russian Civil War, the region was occupied by Japanese and American forces. In 1920 two Buryat autonomous regions were formed, which in 1922 were combined with the Baikal district to form a single autonomous republic with its capital at Verkhneudinsk (now Ulan-Ude). Under the Soviet regime, the nomadic lifestyle of the inhabitants was supplanted by an industrial society. The area became an autonomous republic of the Russian Federation after the break-up of the USSR in 1991.