Coordinates: 49°N 89°E / 49°N 89°E / 49; 89
Map of the Altai mountain range
Алтайн нуруу/Altain nurû
Алтай таулары/Altai’ tay’lary/التاي
Altay Taghliri/ئالتاي تاغلىرى
Altai Mountains (also spelled Altay Mountains; Altai: Алтай
туулар, Altay tuular; Mongolian: ᠠᠯᠲᠠᠢ
ᠨᠢᠷᠤᠭᠤ , Altai-yin niruɣu (Chakhar) / Алтайн
нуруу, Altain nuruu (Khalkha); Kazakh: Алтай таулары,
Altai’ tay’lary, التاي تاۋلارى Russian:
Алтайские горы, Altajskije gory; Chinese;
阿尔泰山脉, Ā'ěrtài Shānmài, Xiao'erjing: اَعَرتَىْ
شًامَىْ; Dungan: Артэ Шанмэ) are a mountain range in
Central and East Asia, where Russia, China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan
come together, and are where the rivers
Irtysh and Ob have their
headwaters. The northwest end of the range is at 52° N and between
84° and 90° E (where it merges with the
Sayan Mountains to the
east), and extends southeast from there to about 45° N and 99° E,
where it gradually becomes lower and merges into the high plateau of
the Gobi Desert.
The name "Altai" means "Gold Mountain" in Mongolian; "alt" (gold) and
"tai" (suffix – "with"; the mountain with gold) and also in its
Chinese name, derived from the Mongol name (Chinese: 金山;
literally: "Gold Mountain"). In
Turkic languages altın means gold and
dağ means mountain. The controversial Altaic language family takes
its name from this mountain range.
3 History and prehistory
4 World Heritage site
5.1 Seismic activity
6 See also
9 External links
For the area north of the Altai, see Geography of South-Central
Lake Kucherla in the Altai Mountains
Belukha—the highest mountain in Altay and Siberia
Altay Mountains, Kazakhstan
In the north of the region is the Sailughem Mountains, also known as
Kolyvan Altai, which stretch northeast from 49° N and 86° E towards
the western extremity of the
Sayan Mountains in 51° 60' N and 89° E.
Their mean elevation is 1,500 to 1,750 m. The snow-line runs at 2,000
m on the northern side and at 2,400 m on the southern, and above it
the rugged peaks tower some 1,000 m higher. Mountain passes across the
range are few and difficult, the chief being the Ulan-daban at 2,827 m
(2,879 m according to Kozlov), and the Chapchan-daban, at 3,217 m, in
the south and north respectively. On the east and southeast this range
is flanked by the great plateau of Mongolia, the transition being
effected gradually by means of several minor plateaus, such as Ukok
(2,380 m) with Pazyryk Valley, Chuya (1,830 m), Kendykty (2,500 m),
Kak (2,520 m), (2,590 m), and (2,410 m).
This region is studded with large lakes, e.g. Uvs 720 m above sea
level, Khyargas, Dorgon and Khar 1,170 m, and traversed by various
mountain ranges, of which the principal are the Tannu-Ola Mountains,
running roughly parallel with the
Sayan Mountains as far east as the
Kosso-gol, and the
Khan Khökhii mountains, also stretching west and
The north western and northern slopes of the
Sailughem Mountains are
extremely steep and difficult to access. On this side lies the highest
summit of the range, the double-headed Belukha, whose summits reach
4,506 and 4,440 m respectively, and give origin to several glaciers
(30 square kilometers in aggregate area, as of 1911). Altaians call
it Kadyn Bazhy, but is also called Uch-Sumer. The second highest
peak of the range is in Mongolian part named Khüiten Peak. This
massive peak reaches 4374 m. Numerous spurs, striking in all
directions from the Sailughem mountains, fill up the space between
that range and the lowlands of Tomsk. Such are the Chuya Alps, having
an average elevation of 2,700 m, with summits from 3,500 to 3,700 m,
and at least ten glaciers on their northern slope; the Katun Alps,
which have a mean elevation of about 3,000 m and are mostly snow-clad;
the Kholzun range; the Korgon 1,900 to 2,300 m, Talitskand Selitsk
ranges; the Tigeretsk Alps.
Several secondary plateaus of lower elevations are also distinguished
by geographers, The Katun Valley begins as a wild gorge on the
south-west slope of Belukha; then, after a big bend, the river
(600 km long) pierces the Katun Alps, and enters a wider valley,
lying at an elevation of 600 to 1,100 m, which it follows until it
emerges from the Altai highlands to join the Biya in a most
picturesque region. The Katun and the Biya together form the Ob.
The next valley is that of the Charysh, which has the Korgon and
Tigeretsk Alps on one side and the Talitsk and Bashalatsk Alps on the
other. This, too, is very fertile. The Altai, seen from this valley,
presents the most romantic scenes, including the small but deep
Kolyvan Lake (altitude 360 m), which is surrounded by fantastic
granite domes and towers.
Farther west the valleys of the Uba, the Ulba and the
south-westwards towards the Irtysh. The lower part of the first, like
the lower valley of the Charysh, is thickly populated; in the valley
of the Ulba is the Riddersk mine, at the foot of the Ivanovsk Peak
(2,060 m), clothed with alpine meadows. The valley of the Bukhtarma,
which has a length of 320 km, also has its origin at the foot of
Belukha and the Kuitun peaks, and as it falls some 1,500 m in
about 300 km, from an alpine plateau at an elevation of 1,900 m
Bukhtarma fortress (345 m), it offers the most striking
contrasts of landscape and vegetation. Its upper parts abound in
glaciers, the best known of which is the Berel, which comes down from
the Byelukha. On the northern side of the range which separates the
Bukhtarma from the upper Katun is the Katun glacier, which after
two ice-falls widens out to 700 to 900 metres. From a grotto in this
glacier bursts tumultuously the Katun river.
The middle and lower parts of the
Bukhtarma valley have been colonized
since the 18th century by runaway Russian peasants, serfs, and
religious schismatics (Raskolniks), who created a free republic there
on Chinese territory; and after this part of the valley was annexed to
Russia in 1869, it was rapidly colonized. The high valleys farther
north, on the same western face of the Sailughem range, are but little
known, their only visitors being Kyrgyz shepherds.
Those of Bashkaus, Chulyshman, and Chulcha, all three leading to the
alpine lake of Teletskoye (length, 80 km; maximum width,
5 km; elevation, 520 m; area, 230.8 square kilometers; maximum
depth, 310 m; mean depth, 200 m), are inhabited by
The shores of the lake rise almost sheer to over 1,800 m. From this
lake issues the Biya, which joins the Katun at Biysk, and then
meanders through the prairies of the north-west of the Altai.
Farther north the Altai highlands are continued in the Kuznetsk
district, which has a slightly different geological aspect, but still
belongs to the Altai system. But the Abakan River, which rises on the
western shoulder of the Sayan mountains, belongs to the system of the
Kuznetsk Ala-tau range, on the left bank of the Abakan,
runs north-east into the government of Yeniseisk, while a complexus of
mountains (Chukchut, Salair, Abakan) fills up the country northwards
Trans-Siberian Railway and westwards towards the Ob.
The Ek-tagh or Mongolian Altai, which separates the Khovd basin on the
north from the
Irtysh basin on the south, is a true border-range, in
that it rises in a steep and lofty escarpment from the Dzungarian
depression (470–900 m), but descends on the north by a relatively
short slope to the plateau (1,150 to 1,680 m) of north-western
Mongolia. East of 94° E the range is continued by a double series of
mountain chains, all of which exhibit less sharply marked orographical
features and are at considerably lower elevations. The slopes of the
constituent chains of the system are inhabited principally by nomadic
The five highest mountains of the Altai are:
Belukha, 4,506 m (14,783 ft), Kazakhstan–Russia
Khüiten Peak , 4,374 m (14,350 ft), China–Mongolia
Mönkh Khairkhan , 4,204 m (13,793 ft), Mongolia
Sutai Mountain , 4,220 m (13,850 ft), Mongolia
Tsambagarav , 4,195 m (13,763 ft), Mongolia
Markakol reserve, Altay Mountains, Kazakhstan
Katun River in the Altai Mountains
The Kucerla Valley in the Altai Mountains
Skull of a Siberian ibex, found near the Belukha
Wisent herd at a nursery of the
Russian Academy of Sciences
Russian Academy of Sciences in the
Russian Altai (Shebalinsky District, Altai Republic)
The Altai mountains are home to a diverse fauna, because of its
different habitats, like steppes, northern taigas and alpine
vegetation. Steep slopes are home to the
Siberian ibex (Capra
sibirica), whereas the rare argali (Ovis ammon) is found on more
gentle slopes. Deer are represented by five species, Altai wapiti
(Cervus elaphus sibiricus), moose (Alces alces), forest reindeer
(Rangifer tarandus valentinae),
Siberian musk deer
Siberian musk deer (Moschus
Siberian roe deer
Siberian roe deer (Capreolus pygargus).
reindeer however, are restricted to the northern parts of the mountain
range. The wild boar (Sus scrofa) is found in the lower foothills and
surrounding lowlands. Until recently, the
Mongolian gazelle (Procapra
gutturosa) was found in the Russian Altai mountains, more specifically
Chuya River steppe close to the Mongolian border. Large
predators are represented by snow leopards (Panthera uncia, syn. Uncia
uncia), wolves (Canis lupus), lynx (
Lynx lynx), and brown bears (Ursus
arctos), in the northern parts also by the wolverine (Gulo gulo).
Tien Shan dhole
Tien Shan dhole (Cuon alpinus hesperius) (a northwestern
subspecies of the Asiatic wild dog) also lives there.
Until the 20th century, the
Caspian tiger (Panthera tigris virgata)
was found in the southern parts of the Altai mountains, where it
Lake Zaisan and the Black Irtysh. Single individuals were also
shot further north, for example close to Barnaul. Closely related
Caspian tiger is the extant Amur tiger, which has the taxonomic
name Panthera tigris altaica.
The wisent was present in the Altai mountains until the Middle Ages,
perhaps even until the 18th century. Today, there is a small herd in a
nursery in the Altai Republic.
History and prehistory
The Altain mountains have retained a remarkably stable climate
changing little since the last ice age. In addition the mix of
mammals has remained largely the same – with a few exceptions such
as extinct Mammoths – making it one of the few places on earth to
retain an ice age fauna.
The Altai mountains were home to the Denisovan branch of hominids who
were contemporaries of
Neanderthals and of
Homo Sapiens (modern
humans), descended from Hominids who reached Asia earlier than modern
humans. The Denisova hominin, dated to 40,000 years ago, was
discovered in the
Denisova Cave of the Altai mountains in southern
Siberia in 2008. Knowledge of the Denisovan humans derives primarily
from DNA evidence and artifacts, as no complete skeletons have yet
been recovered. DNA evidence has been unusually well preserved because
of the low average temperature in the Denisova caves. The same cave
has uncovered Neanderthal bones, and tools made by Homo sapiens,
making it the only known locale in the world where all three hominids
are known to have lived.
A dog-like canid from 33,000 years ago was found in the Razboinichya
Cave. DNA analysis published in 2013 affirmed that it was more
closely related to modern dogs than to wolves.
Altai Mountains have been identified as being the point of origin
of a cultural enigma termed the Seima-Turbino Phenomenon which
arose during the
Bronze Age around the start of the 2nd millennium BC
and led to a rapid and massive migration of peoples from the region
into distant parts of Europe and Asia.
World Heritage site
Main article: Golden Mountains of Altai
A vast area of 16,178 km²—Altai and Katun Natural Reserves,
Lake Teletskoye, Mount Belukha, and the Ukok Plateau—comprise a
World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site entitled Golden Mountains of Altai.
As stated in the UNESCO description of the site, "the region
represents the most complete sequence of altitudinal vegetation zones
in central Siberia, from steppe, forest-steppe, mixed forest,
subalpine vegetation to alpine vegetation". While making its decision,
UNESCO also cited Russian Altai's importance for preservation of the
globally endangered mammals, such as snow leopard and the Altai
Siberian ibex also live in these mountains. The Uvs Nuur
basin is also a protected site.
Violations of the protection status of
Argali sheep and other species
have been alleged, together with accusations of corruption, in the
Altaigate Scandal. The incident arose from the death of several
Russian VIPs in a helicopter crash early in 2009, purportedly on a
The Siberian Altai represents the northern most region affected by the
tectonic collision of India into Asia. Massive fault systems run
through the area, including the Kurai fault zone and the recently
identified Tashanta fault zone. These fault systems are typically
thrusts or right lateral strike-slip faults, some of which are
tectonically active. Rock types in the mountains are typically
granites and metamorphic schists, and some are highly sheared near to
Although earthquakes are generally rare occurrences, on 27 September
2003 a very large earthquake measuring MW 7.3 occurred in the Chuya
Basin area to the south of the Altai region. This earthquake and its
aftershocks devastated much of the region, causing $10.6 million in
damage (USGS) and wiping out the village of Beltir.
List of Altai mountains
^ While 'Altaic' is repeated in encyclopedias and handbooks most
specialists in these languages no longer believe that the three
traditional supposed Altaic groups, Turkic, Mongolian and Tungusic,
are related." Lyle Campbell & Mauricio J. Mixco, A Glossary of
Historical Linguistics (2007, University of Utah Press), pg. 7
^ When cognates proved not to be valid, Altaic was abandoned, and the
received view now is that Turkic, Mongolian, and Tungusic are
unrelated." Johanna Nichols, Linguistic Diversity in Space and Time
(1992, Chicago), pg. 4
^ a b c d e f g h i j k Kropotkin 1911, p. 758.
^ "Altai Republic :: official portal". Eng.altai-republic.ru.
June 30, 1999. Archived from the original on March 16, 2012. Retrieved
August 13, 2012.
^ Klotz, Gerhard; et al. (1989). Hochgebirge der Erde und ihre
Pflanzen und Tierwelt (in German). Leipzig: Urania Verlag.
^ Vratislav Mazak: Der Tiger. Nachdruck der 3. Auflage von 1983.
Westarp Wissenschaften, Hohenwarsleben 2004, ISBN 3-89432-759-6.
^ Nowell, K.; Jackson, P. (1996). 'Wild Cats: status survey and
conservation action plan. IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group, Gland,
Switzerland. Retrieved 2016-03-17.
^ Taras P. Sipko: European bison in
Russia – past, present and
future. In: European Bison Conservation Newsletter. Band 2, 2009, S.
148–159. Altai Mountains
^ a b c d Colin Barras (23 January 2014). "Ice-age animals live on in
Eurasian mountain range". New Scientist. Retrieved 4 March 2014.
^ Pritchard, Hamish (3 August 2011). "Ancient dog skull unearthed in
Siberia". BBC News. Retrieved 4 August 2011.
^ Ovodov, Nikolai D.; Crockford, Susan J.; Kuzmin, Yaroslav V.;
Higham, Thomas F. G.; Hodgins, Gregory W. L.; Plicht, Johannes van der
(28 July 2011). "A 33,000-Year-Old Incipient Dog from the Altai
Mountains of Siberia: Evidence of the Earliest Domestication Disrupted
by the Last Glacial Maximum". PLoS ONE. Retrieved 4 August 2011.
^ Druzhkova, Anna S.; Thalmann, Olaf; Trifonov, Vladimir A. (6 March
2013). "Ancient DNA Analysis Affirms the Canid from Altai as a
Primitive Dog". PLOS ONE.
^ Keys, David (January 2009). "Scholars crack the code of an ancient
enigma". BBC History Magazine. 10 (1): 9.
^ "Greater Altai – Altai Krai, Republic of Altai, Tyva (Tuva), and
Novosibirsk – Crossroads". Archived from the original on March 14,
2007. Retrieved 30 November 2006.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain: Kropotkin, Peter; Bealby, John Thomas (1911).
"Altai". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.).
Cambridge University Press. pp. 758–759. Authorities
P. Semenov and G. N. Potanin, in supplementary vol. of Russian ed. of
Ritter's Asien (1877)
Ledebour, Reise durch das Altaigebirge (1829–1830)
P. Chikhatchev, Voyage scientifique dans l'Altai oriental (1845)
Gebler, Übersicht des katunischen Gebirges (1837)
G. von Helmersen, Reise nach dem Altai (St Petersburg, 1848)
T. W. Atkinson, Oriental and Western
Cotta, Der Altai (1871)
Adrianov, "Journey to the Altai," in Zapiski Russ. Geogr. Soc. xi.
Yadrintsev, "Journey in West Siberia," in Zapiski West Sib. Geogr.
Golubev, Altai (1890, Russian)
Schmurlo, "Passes in S. Altai" (Sailughem), in Izvestia Russ. Geogr.
Soc. (1898); xxxiv. 5
V. Saposhnikov, various articles in same periodical (1897), xxxiii.
and (1899) xxxv., and, by the same, Katun i yeya Istoki (Tomsk, 1901)
Deniker, on Kozlov's explorations, in La Géographie (1901,
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Altay Mountains.
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