The Natural World

The endless stretches of taiga forest, the immensity of the blue sky over
the steppe, and the majesty of Lake Baikal and the Altai, Hangai, and Sayan
Mountains inspired awe and wonder among the Altaic peoples of Siberia and
Mongolia. Living off the land and depending on nature for their sustenance
created respect for living creatures, even though they had to be killed for
man’s survival. Waste was taboo, and an insult to Father Heaven and the
spirits of nature. Human beings’ relationship with nature was seen as one
of interdependence rather than one of exploitation, and this reverence for
the natural world allowed for the survival of Siberian cultures for
thousands of years on their land without degradation of their environment.
This way of life is expressed well in the ideal of tegsh, living one’s life
in balance with the world and preserving balance in nature and human
society. Actually human culture and society are not seen as unique or
different from that of other living things; rather, human society, even at
its most complex, is still only an expression of natural processes. The
mythology of Siberian peoples, especially the tales which parents tell
their children to explain why things in nature are the way they are
(uliger), show that animals and even trees think much the same way as human
beings and may even appear as humans under certain circumstances. The
forest, mountains, lakes, rivers, rocks, and trees all have their spirits
and they need to be respected for their gifts to mankind in the form of
foodstuffs and shelter.

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