• This paper analyzes the emergence of ethnicity and nationalism among the indigenous people of the Altai Mountains in the late imperial and the early Soviet period. It is argued that the emergence of ethnic self-awareness of Altai people and the growth of nationalism among them originated from the following sources. First, it was the activities of Siberian regionalists (oblastniki) who heavily contributed to the formation of the indigenous Altai intelligentsia; the latter became the spearhead of the ethnic awareness among the Altaians. The second factor was the prophetic movement White Faith (Burkhanism), which arose among the native grassroots in response to the civilizational challenge – the advance of non-indigenous peasant settlers onto the Altaian lands in the late imperial period. Third, the disintegration and eventual collapse of the Russian empire in 1917 along with the emergence of the Soviet state, whose nationalities policy was based on the principle of a national-territorial autonomy, created a fertile ground for various utopian projects that focused on the creation of supranational “Oirot” autonomy that was expected to match the borders of historical Dzungaria. The Bolshevik authorities eventually rejected that project, limiting the newly created Oirot Autonomous Province (1922) to the borders of the Mountain Altai