The Altai people, an indigenous Turkic ethnic group residing primarily in the Altai Republic of Russia, have a unique culture deeply rooted in their ancient beliefs, mythology, and rituals. This article aims to provide an overview of the Altai culture, focusing on the deities, heroes, mythological creatures, and other aspects that shape their belief system.


The Altai people's traditional beliefs are primarily based on shamanism and animism. Their worldview is centered on the concept of a harmonious relationship between humans, nature, and the spiritual world. The Altai people believe that everything in the universe, both living and inanimate, possesses a spirit. Consequently, they hold a deep respect for nature, animals, and their ancestors. The Altai people also regard shamans, spiritual intermediaries between the human and spiritual realms, with great reverence.


The Altai people worship numerous deities, each with unique attributes and stories. The following are some of the most significant:

  • Ülgen: The supreme god, Ülgen, is the creator of the universe and the guardian of good. He is depicted as a benevolent figure, often associated with the sky and the sun.

  • Erlik: In stark contrast to Ülgen, Erlik is the god of the underworld and the master of evil spirits. He is responsible for bringing misfortune, disease, and death to humans.

  • Ak Ana: Known as the "White Mother," Ak Ana is the goddess of fertility, abundance, and childbirth. She is revered as the protector of families, children, and women during labor.

  • Mergen: The god of wisdom, Mergen, is also associated with hunting and archery. His ability to see great distances and hit targets with precision made him a revered figure among the Altai people.

  • Bai Ulgan: As the god of fire, Bai Ulgan is regarded as the giver of life, warmth, and light. His role in the creation myth of the Altai people cements his importance in their beliefs.

Mythological Creatures and Heroes

  • Altai Burkhan: A legendary hero, Altai Burkhan is believed to have united the Altai tribes, establishing their culture and way of life. He is often depicted as a wise and powerful leader, who embodied the qualities of a true warrior.

  • Ongon: These spirits, which inhabit objects or animals, serve as guardians of sacred places, people, or objects. The Altai people believe that ongons can be summoned by shamans to assist in healing rituals, provide guidance, or protect against malevolent forces.

  • Kudai Kam: As the sacred animal spirits, Kudai Kam are believed to guide and protect shamans during their spiritual journeys. They are typically represented as horses, eagles, or other powerful creatures.


The Altai people practice various rituals to maintain harmony within the community and their relationship with the spiritual world. Among these rituals are:

  • Kamlanie: A central ritual in the Altai culture, Kamlanie involves a shaman entering a trance state to communicate with the spirits. The shaman may ask for guidance, healing, or protection, depending on the needs of the community.

  • Sacrifice: The Altai people perform animal sacrifices to honor and appease the spirits or deities. These rituals often involve the offering of a domestic animal, such as a sheep or a goat, with the belief that the animal's spirit will carry the prayers to the spiritual world.

  • Chai Khan: A hospitality ritual, Chai Khan is a ceremony performed to honor and welcome guests. It involves the preparation and sharing of tea and other traditional dishes, symbolizing the host's respect and goodwill towards their visitors.

  • Kut: During the Kut ceremony, blessings and positive energy are transferred to an individual or object through the use of sacred objects, rituals, and prayers. This ceremony is often performed to promote health, good fortune, or success in various endeavors.

  • Ancestor worship: The Altai people believe that their ancestors' spirits continue to influence their lives and can provide protection and guidance. Consequently, they practice rituals to honor and appease their ancestors, which may include offerings of food, drink, and other items.

Unique Beliefs

One unique aspect of the Altai culture is their belief in the spiritual significance of the landscape. The Altai people consider certain mountains, rivers, and other natural features to be sacred, imbued with powerful energy that can influence human life. They perform rituals and ceremonies at these sites to maintain balance and harmony with the spiritual world.

In conclusion, the Altai people of Russia have a complex and fascinating belief system, deeply rooted in their respect for nature, the spiritual world, and their ancestors. Their mythology is rich with deities, heroes, and mythological creatures, each with their own stories and significance. Their rituals, designed to maintain harmony and balance in their lives, reflect the importance of maintaining a strong connection with the spiritual realm. Understanding the Altai culture provides valuable insight into the beliefs and practices of an ancient and enduring people.