Profile Source: Copyright © Operation China, Paul Hattaway
The tiny Teleut group in Xinjiang view themselves as a separate people group and have officially registered their existence with the Chinese authorities. Historically, the Teleut were also known as the White Kalmuck and are called Tielingute by the Chinese. The authorities in China have probably counted the Teleut as part of the Kazak nationality.
The Teleut were dispersed throughout Russia by political developments in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The tiny Teleut group in China are thought to be the descendants of a diaspora group who migrated south into China, probably in the early 1800s.
The Altai region is one of the most inhospitable and harsh in all of China. Temperatures regularly plummet to minus 40 Celsius (-40F) during the long winter months. Rich, virgin forests cover the slopes of steep mountains that rise over 4,000 meters (13,120 ft.) above sea level. Teleut men spend the summer months hunting and fishing to store up supplies for the winter.
The Teleut have long been under pressure from the Mongols, Tuva, and Kazaks who inhabit the Altai area, to convert to Tibetan Buddhism or Islam. The Teleut in Russia practice traditional animism and shamanism. Many have become atheists in recent decades.
Except possibly among the Russians, there is not a single known church fellowship in the entire Altai region of northern Xinjiang. While a Teleut Bible will greatly benefit the small number of Teleut believers living on the Russian side of the border, the unevangelized Teleut in China are not able to read the Cyrillic script.