Contemporary Buryat Literature

Poetry and Song of the 20th Century

Bayar Dugarov

Born in 1947 in the Sayan Mountains region, Bayar Dugarov is one of the pre-eminent poets of Buryatia today. His poetry evokes the beauty of his homeland and the spirit of the warrior and shaman. His native land is the birthplace of Subedei Baatar and the legendary hero Geser and many shamans still practice there today. Bayar Dugarov is presently the president of the Buryat Writer’s Union. Here are some of his most famous poems.

The Nomad’s Star

The road is to man as the hearth is to woman
And so my ancient clan does not wither,
A son is born--I pray and entreat
The arrow flies, as long as man shall live
Smoke is to man, as fire is to woman.
And so my steed does not stumble in battle.
I must know that a flame warms the yurta,
Like the banner hung by my forefathers.
In the man lies the spirit, in the woman the soul.
The trembling blade of grass contains the sky.
Without a hearth, without a son, without my beloved,
I am scattered above the plain, like a solitary sandstorm.

The Tale of the Swans

Swans once lived in the washbowl of the Great Lake
From them, it is told, humans have descended.
And every spring the people would go to the shore
to greet the arrival of their good winged ancestors with white milk.
This was long ago, it is told.
So long ago, that it has turned into a fairy tale.
But people have learned to hate one another...
They cannot manage to share watering places and land.
And he that has more sheep considers himself happy.
And the white swans would circle in the sky,
not understanding why in the spring no one meets them with white steaming milk.
But one day a certain curious boy found out about his swan ancestry.
He lifted his eyes to the sky in astonishment.

To the empy sky, there were only huge steel birds
sinking into the expanse with a roar, silent and sad...
He trudged to the Great Lake in search of the white birds.
He didn’t notice he had circled half the world.
But he had found no swans.
So he sat on the hot asphalt and began to cry-
The boy had grown old.
Squint your eyes into slits,
like the mark left by the Mongolian saber,
Absorbing the essence of earthy time from the sea of eternity drop by drop
Why did the neighing avalanche sweep through...
Trampling down the gardens, the fields?
The century of super-epic speeds descends upon the steppe like daybreak.
And punishment for the galloping of the horses, lasting too long.
And for the flash of the swords, blind and raging.
I recover my sight in the cities
Where signs of the Gobi desert appear indistinctly.
And I pass judgement upon the new times according to Europe, covered in birch.
I hear the roots act as shaman,
and I hear the rustle of the leaves,
and the consciousness of a higher kinship
Drowns out the voice of my blood.

In Orlik

Protected by strong fences of mountain ridges covered with larch forests
A herd of wooden houses makes its way down to the blue river...
I wander through the village.
Here the flow of seething time is quieter.
I see a puff of smoke appear fleetingly above the rooftops.
Like a squirrel’s tail.
My Orlik, floating in the fog,
Thrown open to the sky,
Do you hear the Yenesei Hydroelectric Station
Droning somewhere in the Sayans?
Do you sense that the cliffs and the spruce trees,
The rivers in the dense gorges,
Will someday be used, that their turn will come as well?
And the heart cannot comprehend it
The shade of these larches will vanish.
And the deer will abandon the mountains, only where can they run to?
Oh, this age in which I live, I beg you, I entreat you,
When you erect your buildings, not to touch my blueness
Not to touch my cradle, for on this earth
The trees, the Manchurian deer, the snowstorms
Were bequeathed to me at birth.


Mongolzhon--you are the open expanse we rely upon.
You are the steppe’s smile upon the rocky promontories.
How freely and fervently the scathing manes of resilient alpine winds spread forth across the plains.
Gleaming azure flows down from the rocky spurs.
Each hut is illuminated by the yellow light of the grass.
So many pure thoughts and radiant songs
Have flowered in your spaciousness, Mongolzhon.
Since childhood I have been grateful to my forefathers
Who chose the Sayan Mountains for their native land.
The days are filled with a special light from the brilliance
of the snow-capped peaks.
Smiling at the grey horizon,
I have often sped through the resonant forest on my bay.
And a guileless happiness has awakened within me
from the swaying blades of grass and the waves of clouds.
I would like to hang like the dew about the glade,
To pierce the firmament like a crazed bird,
to become a stone, or the moon...
Or to burn namelessly, a golden flower on the earth of Mongolzhon.


Where was the land of Barguzin-Tukum?*
If not in our country, then where?
The mountains turn green, the larches rustle,
Will the rivers flowing to Baikal be silent?!
Where was the land of Barguzin-Tukum?
In the mists of legend, in the voice of the wind,
In the song of the moon I sought confirmation.
I found the answer deep in my mind.
The earth quaking below and the trees swaying above...
Told me clearly about the history
Of when the Buryats first appeared.
They trod down the fresh green grass
In the light of the campfires.
With the snowy peaks rising beyond the clouds
As they danced a majestic yohor dance.*
In the distant past my wise ancestor
While drumming to the ongon spirits,*
Sat and sang these golden words with hoomei.*
*Barguzin-Tukum was the legendary homeland of the Buryats
The yohor is a shamanist circle dance around the fire
Ongon spirits are helper spirits for the shaman
Hoomei is overtone, or throat singing, sung by both Mongols and Tuvans.

Dondok Ulzituyev (1936-1972)

Dondok Ulzituyev is one of the most famous Buryat poets of this century. He died at a very young age, but he published several small books during the 1960’s.

Buryaad Helenmnai (Our Buryat Language)

Clear and pure like Baikal’s waters,
Gentle and mild like a maiden’s smile
Buryaad helenmnai.
Creamy white like early morning fog,
Warm and loving like a mother’s hand
Buryaad helenmnai.
Bright and clean like a sable’s fur,
Beautiful and clear like the deer’s eye
Buryaad helenmnai.
Like the running of a new horse,
Like the ability of a hard worker
Buryaad helenmnai.
Clear like a May morning,
Like a flowering branch
Buryaad helenmnai.
Direct and sharp like a father’s words,
Like a knife blade cutting silk
Buryaad helenmnai.
Confusing to the enemy’s ears,
It keeps all our homeland’s secrets,
Buryaad helenmnai.
Capable of exposing deceit,
Hot like the barrel of a gun
Buryaad helenmnai.
Able to reveal knowledge of Erleg Khan,
Able to cross the heights of learning
Buryaad helenmnai.
It brings the light of Geser’s story,
It was transmitted from the bright Pleiades
Buryaad helenmnai.
The way for Sagaadai Mergen,
The cunning of Hogoodoi Sesen
Buryaad Helenmnai.
Preserving the history of our people,
It is the wedding fire
Buryaad Helenmnai.
Able to sing praise of heroic deeds,
It speaks of great happiness
Buryaad Helenmnai.
On the wings of a booming voice,
It calls our people to the meeting place
Buryaad Helenmnai.
Growing every day,
Going to far-away places
Buryaad helenmnai!

Amgalan Budaev

Amgalan Budaev was born in 1979 in Zakamen Aimag in the Sayan Mountains region of western Buryatia. He is currently a second year student of Buryat language at the Buryat State University as well as one of the youngest members of the Buryat Writers’ Union. His first book “Utaata” was published in 1997.

Confused Love

The first time I met you
I gave my heart to you.
This golden earth’s fate
Perversely made me love you.

Your beautiful sweet face,
Your two black eyes,
Your sweet gentle voice,
I am unable to ever forget you.

I think of you secretly from afar,
Why do I not know what to say when I meet you?
For your sake I whisper and dream,
What if you throw me away if I am honest?

Your tears never seem to end,
I interfere for the sake of your happiness.
I can treat you more gently
Than your lover treats you now.

In the cold of a windy spring evening
Words come out slowly.
Among sixty lofty mountains
I speak of your future happiness.

Lopson Taphaev

Lopson Taphaev is the most famous poet of the Tunken province in the Sayan Mountains, and much of his poetry celebrates the beauty of the Sayan country. He is presently a writer for the Buryaad Unen newspaper in Ulan-Ude.


In our bright Buryat nation
Into the silky blue heavens
Rises the fence of the Sayan Mountains.
My richly wooded father Sayan
My majestic mother Tunken.

Thirty three warriors
Turned into mountains.
During the time of Abai Geser
These snowy peaks were formed.

I grew up in a cradle
hemmed in by high cliffs.
On this legendary earth
I have not found a better land.

Mary Hamgushkeyeva

Born in 1945 in Ubese in Irkutsk Oblast, Mary Hamgushkeyeva is a poet of the western Buryats. She is a candidate of philosophy and a teaching assistant at the Buryat State University.

Encountering Passion

In encountering passion
I was unspeakably happy
In this wide world
When I saw your eyes.

Meeting my beloved
I was very amazed, for
Like a bird flying for the first time
I discovered many new things in the world.

Meeting my beloved
I worried in my heart
Because not caring for myself
I never felt any shame with you.

Meeting my beloved
How joyous it was,
I went rejoicing with you
In flowery green meadows.