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Coordinates: 46°19′N 44°16′E / 46.317°N 44.267°E / 46.317; 44.267

Republic of Kalmykia (English)
Республика Калмыкия (Russian)
Хальмг Таңһч (Kalmyk)
-  Republic  -
Map of Russia - Republic of Kalmykia (2008-03).svg
Coat of Arms of Kalmykia.svg
Coat of arms of Kalmykia
Flag of Kalmykia.svg
Flag of Kalmykia
Anthem National Anthem of Kalmykia[citation needed]
Political status
Country Russia
Political status Republic
Federal district Southern[1]
Economic region Volga[2]
Capital Elista[citation needed]
Official languages Russian[3]; Russian, Kalmyk[4]
Population (2002 Census)[5] 292,410 inhabitants
- Rank within Russia 78th
- Urban[5] 44.3%
- Rural[5] 55.7%
- Density 4 /km2 (0/sq mi)[6]
Area (as of the 2002 Census)[7] 76,100 km2 (29,382.4 sq mi)
- Rank within Russia 41st
Established January 9, 1957[citation needed]
License plates 08
ISO 3166-2:RU RU-KL
Time zone MSK/MSD (UTC+3/+4)
Government (as of October 2008)
Head[8] Kirsan Ilyumzhinov[9]
Legislature People's Khural (Parliament)[8]
Constitution Steppe Code (Constitution) of the Republic of Kalmykia
Official website

The Republic of Kalmykia (Russian: Респу́блика Калмы́кия; Kalmyk: Хальмг Таңһч) is a federal subject of the Russian Federation (a republic). The direct romanization of the republic's Russian name is Respublika Kalmykiya, and that of the Kalmyk name is Khal'mg Tangghch. It is the only state in Europe where the dominant religion is Buddhism.[10] It has also become well-known as an international chess mecca, due to the fact that its President, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, is the head of the International Chess Federation (FIDE).





Major rivers include:


Kalmykia is located on the shores of the Caspian Sea. In general, there are very few lakes on the territory of the republic. The biggest lakes include:

Natural resources

Kalmykia's natural resources include coal, oil, and natural gas.

The republic's wildlife includes the famous saiga antelope, whose habitat is protected in Cherny Zemli Nature Reserve.


Kalmykia has a continental climate, with very hot and dry summers and cold winters with little snow.

  • Average January temperature: −7 °C (19.4 °F)
  • Average July temperature: +24 °C (75.2 °F)
  • Average annual precipitation: 170 mm (10 in) (eastern parts) to 400 mm (20 in) (western parts)

Administrative divisions


Ethnic Map of Caucasus
  • Population: 292,410 (2002)
    • Urban: 129,539 (44.3%)
    • Rural: 162,871 (55.7%)
    • Male: 140,097 (47.9%)
    • Female: 152,313 (52.1%)
  • Females per 1000 males: 1,087
  • Average age: 33.0 years
    • Urban: 32.0 years
    • Rural: 33.8 years
    • Male: 31.2 years
    • Female: 34.7 years
  • Number of households: 90,464 (with 289,816 people)
    • Urban: 40,885 (with 128,564 people)
    • Rural: 49,579 (with 161,252 people)
  • Average life expectancy:
    • Male: 59.6 years (exceeding Russia's average of 59.0 years)
    • Female: 72.4 years (exceeding Russia's average of 72.2 years)
  • Vital statistics
Source: Russian Federal State Statistics Service
Births Deaths Birth rate Death rate
1970 4,801 1,661 17.8 6.2
1975 5,923 2,228 20.9 7.9
1980 7,062 2,735 23.6 9.1
1985 7,945 2,832 25.3 9.0
1990 6,828 2,669 20.9 8.2
1991 6,369 2,755 19.5 8.4
1992 5,865 2,806 18.2 8.7
1993 5,027 3,167 15.8 9.9
1994 4,684 3,226 14.8 10.2
1995 4,321 3,359 13.7 10.6
1996 3,929 3,232 12.5 10.3
1997 3,845 3,072 12.3 9.8
1998 3,858 3,279 12.4 10.5
1999 3,598 3,356 11.6 10.8
2000 3,473 3,439 11.3 11.2
2001 3,530 3,357 11.7 11.1
2002 3,729 3,637 12.7 12.3
2003 3,874 3,437 13.3 11.8
2004 3,923 3,184 13.5 11.0
2005 3,788 3,350 13.1 11.6
2006 3,820 3,207 13.3 11.1
2007 4,146 3,141 14.5 11.0
2008 4,354 2,976 15.3 10.5
  • Ethnic groups

According to the 2002 Census, Kalmyks make up 53.3% of the republic's population. Other groups include Russians (33.6%), Dargins (7,295, or 2.5%), Chechens (5,979, or 2.0%), Kazakhs (5,011, or 1.7%), Turks (3,124, or 1.1%), Ukrainians (2,505, or 0.9%), Avars (2,305, or 0.8%), ethnic Germans (1,643, or 0.6%), and a host of smaller groups, each accounting for less than 0.5% of the total population.

census 1926 census 1939 census 1959 census 1970 census 1979 census 1989 census 2002
Kalmyks 107,026 (75.6%) 107,315 (48.6%) 64,882 (35.1%) 110,264 (41.1%) 122,167 (41.5%) 146,316 (45.4%) 155,938 (53.3%)
Russians 15,212 (10.7%) 100,814 (45.7%) 103,349 (55.9%) 122,757 (45.8%) 125,510 (42.6%) 121,531 (37.7%) 98,115 (33.6%)
Others 19,356 (13.7%) 12,555 (5.7%) 16,626 (9.0%) 34,972 (13.0%) 46,850 (15.9%) 54,732 (17.0%) 38,357 (13.1%)


Kalmykia map

Kalmyk autonomy

The ancestors of the Kalmyks, the Oirats, migrated from the steppes of southern Siberia on the banks of the Irtysh River to the Lower Volga region. Various reasons have been given for the move, but the generally accepted answer is that the Kalmyks sought abundant pastures for their herds. They reached the lower Volga region in or about 1630. That land, however, was not uncontested pastures, but rather the homeland of the Nogai Horde, a confederation of Turkic-speaking nomadic tribes. The Kalmyks expelled the Nogais who fled to the Caucasian plains and to the Crimean Khanate, areas under the control of the Ottoman Empire. Some Nogai groups sought the protection of the Russian garrison at Astrakhan. The remaining nomadic Mongol Oirats tribes became vassals of Kalmyk Khan.

The Kalmyks settled in the wide open steppes from Saratov in the north to Astrakhan on the Volga delta in the south and to the Terek River in the southwest. They also encamped on both sides of the Volga River, from the Don River in the west to the Ural River in the east. Although these territories had been recently annexed by Russia, it was in no position to settle the area with Russian colonists. This area under Kalmyk control would eventually be called the Kalmyk Khanate.

Within 25 years of settling in the lower Volga region, the Kalmyks became subjects of the Tsar. In exchange for protecting Russia’s southern border, the Kalmyks were promised an annual allowance and access to the markets of Russian border settlements. The open access to Russian markets was supposed to discourage mutual raiding on the part of the Kalmyks and of the Russians and Bashkirs, a Russian-dominated Turkic people, but this was not often the practice. In addition, Kalmyk allegiance was often nominal, as the Kalmyk Khans practiced self-government, based on a set of laws they called the Great Code of the Nomads (Iki Tsaadzhin Bichig).

The Kalmyk Khanate reached its peak of military and political power under Ayuka Khan (1669–1724). During his era, the Kalmyk Khanate fulfilled its responsibility to protect the southern borders of Russia and conducted many military expeditions against its Turkic-speaking neighbors. Successful military expeditions were also conducted in the Caucasus. The Khanate experienced economic prosperity from free trade with Russian border towns, China, Tibet and with their Muslim neighbors. During this era, the Kalmyks also kept close contacts with their Oirat kinsmen in Dzungaria, as well as the Dalai Lama in Tibet.

Imposition of Russian rule

After the death of Ayuka Khan, the Tsarist government implemented policies that gradually chipped away at the autonomy of the Kalmyk Khanate. These policies, for instance, encouraged the establishment of Russian and German settlements on pastures the Kalmyks roamed in the lower Volga region. The settlers took over land used by Kalmyks to feed their livestock and, in some cases, forced Kalmyks into servitude. The Russian Orthodox church, by contrast, pressured many Kalmyks to adopt Orthodoxy. The Tsarist government imposed a council on the Kalmyk Khan, diluting his authority, while continuing to expect the Kalmyk Khan to provide cavalry units to fight on behalf of Russia. By the mid-18th century, Kalmyks were increasingly disillusioned with Russian encroachment and interference in its internal affairs.

Ubashi Khan, the great-grandson Ayuka Khan and the last Kalmyk Khan, decided to return his people to their ancestral homeland, Dzungaria. Under his leadership, approximately 200,000 Kalmyks migrated directly across the Central Asian desert. Along the way, many Kalmyks were killed in ambushes or captured and enslaved by their Kazakh and Kyrgyz enemies. Many also died of starvation or thirst. After several grueling months of travel, only 96,000 Kalmyks reached the Manchu Empire's western outposts Xinjiang near the Balkhash Lake.

After failing to stop the flight, Catherine the Great abolished the Kalmyk Khanate, transferring all governmental powers to the Governor of Astrakhan. The Kalmyks who remained in Russian territory continued to fight in Russian wars, e.g., the Napoleonic Wars (1812–1815), the Crimean War (1853–1856) and Ottoman wars. They gradually created fixed settlements with houses and temples, instead of their transportable round felt yurts. In 1865, Elista, the future capital of the Kalmykia, was built. This settlement process lasted until well after the Russian Revolution.

Civil War and the flight of the Don Kalmyks

After the October Revolution in 1917, many Don Kalmyks joined the White Russian army and fought under the command of Generals Denikin and Wrangel during the Russian Civil War. Before the Red Army broke through to the Crimean Peninsula towards the end of 1920, a large group of Kalmyks fled from Russia with the remnants of defeated White Army to the Black Sea ports of Turkey.

The majority of the refugees chose to resettle in Belgrade, Serbia. Other, much smaller, groups chose Sofia (Bulgaria), Prague (Czechoslovakia) and Paris and Lyon (France). The Kalmyk refugees in Belgrade built a Buddhist temple there in 1929.

The years of Soviet rule

In the summer of 1919, Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin issued an appeal[11] to the Kalmyk people, calling for them to revolt and to aid the Red Army. Lenin promised to provide the Kalmyks, among other things, a sufficient quantity of land for their own use. The promise came to fruition on November 4, 1920 when a resolution was passed by the All-Russian Central Executive Committee proclaiming the formation of the Kalmyk Autonomous Oblast. Five years later, on October 22, 1935, the Oblast was elevated to republic status, Kalmyk Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic.

Contrary to the proclamations of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and of the Bolshevik propaganda slogan promising the "right of nations to self determination," the Oblast and its successor government were not autonomous governing bodies. Its nominal leaders, radical Communist intellectuals, failed to promote and protect the interests of the Kalmyk people, because real power was concentrated in the hands of the Soviet authorities in Moscow. According to Dorzha Arbakov, a Kalmyk school teacher turned anti-Soviet partisan fighter, these governing bodies were a tool the Bolsheviks used to control the Kalmyk people:

... the Soviet authorities were greatly interested in Sovietizing Kalmykia as quickly as possible and with the least amount of bloodshed. Although the Kalmyks alone were not a significant force, the Soviet authorities wished to win popularity in the Asian and Buddhist worlds by demonstrating their evident concern for the Buddhists in Russia.[12]

In spite of the efforts of Soviet authorities to gain popular support, the Kalmyk people remained loyal first and foremost to their traditional leaders, the nobility and the clergy. This loyalty was deeply ingrained over several centuries, even bordering on fanatical. To the Soviet authorities, these traditional leaders were sources of anti-Communism and Kalmyk nationalism. Later on, the authorities would terrorize these leaders through executions, deportations to labor camps in Siberia and the confiscation of property.

After establishing control, the Soviet authorities did not actively enforce an anti-religion policy, other than through passive means, because it sought to bring Mongolia[13] and Tibet[14] into its sphere of influence. The government also was compelled to respond to domestic disturbances resulting from the economic policies of War Communism and the famine its policies induced in 1921.

The passive measures taken by Soviet authorities to control the people included the imposition of a harsh church tax to close churches, monasteries and parish schools. Public education became mandatory to indoctrinate the youth. The Cyrillic script replaced Todo Bichig, the traditional Kalmyk vertical script. In spite of these measures, some of the better known Kalmyk monasteries were able to expand their religious and educational work.

The Kalmyks of the Don Host, however, were not so fortunate. They were subject to the policies of de-cossackization where villages were destroyed, khuruls and monasteries were burned down and executions were indiscriminate. At the same time, grain, livestock and other food stuffs were seized. By 1925 the Don Host did not have any khuruls, monasteries or practicing clergy.

In December 1927 the Fifteenth Party Congress of the Soviet Union passed a resolution calling for the "voluntary" collectivization of agriculture, but a shortage of grain in the following year compelled the Soviet authorities to use force. The change in policy was accompanied by a new campaign of systematic and merciless repression, directed initially against the small farming class. The objective of this campaign was to suppress the resistance of the farming peasants to full-scale collectivization of agriculture.

In 1931, Stalin ordered the collectivization, closed the Buddhist monasteries, and burned the Kalmyks' religious texts. He deported all monks and all herdsmen owning more than 500 sheep to Siberia. The forced collectivization (as well as the dry, treeless landscape) was unsuited to the Kalmyk temperament and was a social, economic, and cultural disaster. About 60,000 Kalmyks died during the great famine of 1932 to 1933.

World War II

On June 22, 1941 the German army successfully invaded the Soviet Union. By August 12, 1942 the German Army Group South captured Elista, the capital of the Kalmyk ASSR. After capturing the Kalmyk territory, German army officials established a propaganda campaign with the assistance of anti-communist Kalmyk nationalists, including white emigre, Kalmyk exiles. The campaign was focused primarily on recruiting and organizing Kalmyk men into anti-Soviet, militia units. The sole purpose of this effort was to use the Kalmyk fighters to protect the Army Group South's flank from Soviet partisan fighters, thereby enabling the German army to use its soldiers exclusively on the frontlines against the Soviet Red Army.[citation needed]

Given the degree to which the Kalmyk people suffered under Stalin’s oppressive rule, the German army did not have trouble finding recruits among the Kalmyks as well as other ethnicities (viz., Ukrainians, Cossacks and Muslims) in the southern part of the Soviet Union.[citation needed] In fact, the local population throughout the southern part of the Soviet Union initially treated the German army as liberators from Communism, and the German army officials immediately followed through on their propaganda pledges.[citation needed] In the Kalmyk ASSR, for instance, the German army officials began to dismantle the collectives and to return the land the Kalmyk people. They also allowed the Kalmyks to openly practice their Buddhist faith without fear from persecution from the local governing authority, comprised mostly of Kalmyks handpicked by the Germans.[citation needed]

German benevolence, however, did not extend to all people living in the Kalmyk ASSR. At least 93 Jewish families, for example, were rounded up and killed. The total Jewish dead numbered approximately 100.[15]

Initially, no less than 3,000 Kalmyk men accepted the offer to join the German army, forming the following units:[citation needed]

  • Kalmüken Verband Dr. Doll (Kalmukian Volunteers)
  • Abwehrtrupp 103 (Kalmukian Volunteers)
  • Kalmücken-Legion or Kalmücken-Kavallerie-Korps (Kalmukian Volunteers)

The Kalmyk units were extremely successful in flushing out and killing Soviet partisans. But by December 1942, the Soviet Red army retook the Kalmyk ASSR, forcing the Kalmyks assigned to those units to flee, in some cases, with their wives and children in hand. It is believed that between 10,000 to 15,000 Kalmyks fled with the German army.[citation needed]

The Kalmyk units retreated westward into unfamiliar territory with the retreating German army and were reorganized into the Kalmuck Legion, although the Kalmyks themselves preferred the name Kalmuck Cavalry Corps. The casualty rate also increased substantially during the retreat, especially among the Kalmyk officers. To replace those killed, the German army imposed forced conscription, taking in teenagers and middle-aged men. As a result, the overall effectiveness of the Kalmyk units declined.

By the end of the war, the remnants of the Kalmuck Cavalry Corps made its way to Austria where the Kalmyk soldiers and their family members became post-war refugees. As part of Operation Keelhaul, the refugees were returned to the Soviet authorities and were killed.[citation needed]

Those who did not want to leave formed militia units that chose to stay behind and harass the oncoming Soviet Red Army. These units were eventually overrun and all of the remaining Kalmyk militiamen were hunted down and killed by the NKVD.[citation needed]

Memorial dedicated to Kalmyk soldiers who fought in the Red Army during World War II

Although a large number of Kalmyks chose to fight against the Soviet Union, the majority by-and-large remained loyal to their country, fighting the German army in regular Soviet Red army units and in partisan resistance units behind the battlelines throughout the Soviet Union. Before their removal from the Soviet Red Army and from partisan resistance units after December 1943, approximately 8,000 Kalmyks were awarded various orders and medals, including 21 Kalmyk men who were recognized as the Hero of the Soviet Union.[16]

Kalmyk deportation of 1943

Commemorative monument to the Kalmyk victims of the deportation of 1943. Elista, Kalmykia

On December 27, 1943, Soviet authorities declared the Kalmyk people guilty of cooperation with the German Army and ordered the deportation of the entire Kalmyk population to various locations in Central Asia and Siberia. In conjunction with the deportation, the Kalmyk ASSR was abolished and its territory was split between adjacent Astrakhan, Rostov and Stalingrad Oblasts and Stavropol Krai. To completely obliterate any traces of the Kalmyk people, the Soviet authorities renamed the former republic's towns and villages.[17]

Kalmyk soldiers serving in the Red Army were also deported.[citation needed]

The population transfer occurred immediately in the middle of the evening. No one was given advanced notification or time to assemble their belongings, including warm clothing, in preparation for their forced relocation. They were transported in trucks from their homes to the local railway stations where they were loaded in unheated cattle cars. In many cases, the cars were filled beyond capacity and did not contain bathrooms. Food was not provided, and water fell through the holes and cracks in the cattle car in the form of snow. As a result of these harsh conditions, many children and elderly men and woman died en route. It is believed that approximately one-third of the Kalmyk population perished en route and shortly after their arrival to their destination, primarily from a lack of appropriate attire in a severely cold climate and from inadequate food and shelter.[citation needed]

Post-war Kalmykia

Due to their widespread dispersal in Siberia their language and culture suffered possibly irreversible decline. Khrushchev finally allowed their return in 1957, when they found their homes, jobs and land occupied by imported Russians and Ukrainians, who remained. On January 9, 1957, Kalmykia again became an autonomous oblast, and on July 29, 1958, an autonomous republic within the Russian SFSR.

In the following years bad planning of agricultural and irrigation projects resulted in widespread desertification, and economically unviable industrial plants were constructed. With the collapse of the Soviet regime the economy also disintegrated, causing widespread social hardship and increasing depopulation of rural areas lacking in resources and facilities.[citation needed]

After dissolution of the USSR, Kalmykia kept the status of an autonomous republic within the newly formed Russian Federation (effective March 31, 1992).


The head of the government in Kalmykia is called "The Head of the Republic". The President of the Russian Federation selects a candidate for the Head of the Republic position and presents it to the Parliament of Kalmyk Republic for approval. If a candidate is not approved, the President of the Russian Federation can dissolve the Parliament and set up new elections.

As of 2006, the Head of the Republic is Kirsan Nikolayevich Ilyumzhinov, who is also the president of the world chess organization FIDE. He has spent much of his fortune in promoting chess in Kalmykia — where chess is compulsory in all primary schools — and also overseas, with Elista, the capital of Kalmykia, hosting many international tournaments.

In the late 1990s, there were allegations that the Ilyumzhinov government was spending much government money on projects to do with chess. These were published in Sovietskaya Kalmykia, the opposition newspaper in Elista. Larisa Yudina, the journalist who investigated these accusations, was kidnapped and murdered in 1998. Two men, Sergei Vaskin and Tyurbi Boskomdzhiv, who worked in the local civil service, were charged with her murder. After prolonged investigations by the Russian authorities, both men were found guilty and jailed, but there was no evidence that Ilyumzhinov was in any way responsible.[18][19][20]


Kalmykia has a developed agricultural sector. Other developed industries include the food processing and oil and gas industries.

Kalmykia promotional tourism postcard

As most of Kalmykia is arid, irrigation is necessary for agriculture. The Chernye Zemli Irrigation Scheme (Черноземельская оросительная система) in southern Kalmykia receives water from the Caucasian rivers Terek and Kuma via a chain of canals: water flows from the Terek to the Kuma via the Terek-Kuma Canal, then to the Chogray Reservoir on the East Manych River via the Kuma-Manych Canal, and finally into Kalmykia's steppes over the Chernye Zemli Main Canal, constructed in the 1970s.[21]

Annual budget: revenues and expenditures: about $100 million. Annual oil production: about 200,000 metric tonnes.


Kalmyk State University is the largest higher education facility in the republic.


The Buddhism in Kalmykia is Tibetan in origin.[citation needed]


The Kalmyks of Kyrgyzstan live primarily in the Karakol region of eastern Kyrgyzstan. They are referred to as "Sart Kalmyks." The origin of the this name is unknown. Likewise, it is not known when, why and from where this small group of Kalmyks migrated to eastern Kyrgyzstan. Due to their minority status, the Sart Kalmyks have adopted the Turkic language and culture of the majority Kyrgyz population. As a result, nearly all now belong to the Muslim faith.

Although Sart Kalmyks are Muslims, Kalmyks elsewhere by and large remain faithful to the Gelugpa Order of Tibetan Buddhism. In Kalmykia, for example, the Gelugpa Order with the assistance of the government has constructed numerous Buddhist temples. In addition, the Kalmyk people recognize Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama as their spiritual leader and Erdne Ombadykow, a Kalmyk American, as the supreme lama of the Kalmyk people. The Dalai Lama has visited Elista on a number of occasions.

The Kalmyks have also established communities in the United States, primarily in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The majority are descended from those Kalmyks who fled from Russia in late 1920 to France, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and, later, Germany. Many of those Kalmyks living in Germany at the end of World War II were eventually granted passage to the United States.

As a consequence of their decades-long migration through Europe, many older Kalmyks are fluent in German, French and Serbo-Croatian, in addition to Russian and their native Kalmyk language. There are several Kalmyk Buddhist temples in Monmouth County, New Jersey, where the vast majority of American Kalmyks reside, as well as a Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center and monastery in Washington Township, New Jersey. At one point, there was a Kalmyk Buddhist Temple in Belgrade, Serbia.

The word Kalmyk means 'those who remained'— origin is unknown but this name was known centuries before a large part of Kalmyks moved back from Volga River to Dzhungaria in the 18th century.

There are three cultural subgroups within the Kalmyk nation: Turguts, Durbets (Durwets), and Buzavs (Oirats, who joined Russian Cossacks, else we can find some villages of Hoshouts and Zungars. The 'Durbets' subgroup includes the Chonos tribe (literally meaning "a tribe of the Wolf", other names - "Shonos", "Chinos", "A-Shino" or "A-Chino"), which is considered to be one of the most ancient tribes in the world, dating back to 6th to 11th century.

Kalmykia staged the 2006 World Chess Championship between Veselin Topalov and Vladimir Kramnik.[22]

See also

Further reading

  • Arbakov, Dorzha. Genocide in the USSR, Chapter II, Complete Destruction of National Groups as Groups, The Kalmyks, Nikolai Dekker and Andrei Lebed, Editors, Series I, No. 40, Institute for the Study of the USSR, Munich, 1958.
  • Balinov, Shamba. Genocide in the USSR, Chapter V, Attempted Destruction of Other Religious Groups, The Kalmyk Buddhists, Nikolai Dekker and Andrei Lebed, Editors, Series I, No. 40, Institute for the Study of the USSR, Munich, 1958.
  • Bethell, Nicholas. The Last Secret, Futura Publications Limited, Great Britain, 1974.
  • Epstein, Julius. Operation Keelhaul, Devin-Adair, Connecticut, 1973.
  • Grousset, René. The Empire of the Steppes: a History of Central Asia, Rutgers University Press, 1970.
  • Halkovic, Jr., Stephen A. THE MONGOLS OF THE WEST, Indiana University Uralic and Altaic Series, Volume 148, Larry Moses, Editor, Research Institute for Inner Asian Studies, Indiana University, Bloomington, 1985.
  • Hoffmann, Joachim. Deutsche und Kalmyken 1942 bis 1945, Rombach Verlag, Friedberg, 1986.
  • Kalder, Daniel. Lost Cosmonaut: Observations of an Anti-tourist
  • Munoz, Antonio J. The East Came West: Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist Volunteers in the German Armed Forces, 1941-1945, Chapter 8, Followers of "The Greater Way": Kalmuck Volunteers in the German Army, Antonio J. Munoz, Editor, Axis Europa Books, Bayside, NY, 2001.
  • Tolstoy, Nikolai. The Secret Betrayal, 1944-1947, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1977.

See also


  1. ^ Президент Российской Федерации. Указ №849 от 13 мая 2000 г. «О полномочном представителе Президента Российской Федерации в федеральном округе». Вступил в силу 13 мая 2000 г. Опубликован: "Собрание законодательства РФ", №20, ст. 2112, 15 мая 2000 г. (President of the Russian Federation. Decree #849 of May 13, 2000 On the Plenipotentiary Representative of the President of the Russian Federation in a Federal District. Effective as of May 13, 2000).
  2. ^ Госстандарт Российской Федерации. №ОК 024-95 27 декабря 1995 г. «Общероссийский классификатор экономических регионов. 2. Экономические районы», в ред. Изменения №5/2001 ОКЭР. (Gosstandart of the Russian Federation. #OK 024-95 December 27, 1995 Russian Classification of Economic Regions. 2. Economic Regions, as amended by the Amendment #5/2001 OKER. ).
  3. ^ According to Article 68.1 of the Constitution of Russia, Russian is the official language on the whole territory of the Russian Federation. Article 68.2 further stipulates that only the republics have the right to establish official languages other than Russian.
  4. ^ Steppe Code (Constitution), Article 17
  5. ^ a b c Федеральная служба государственной статистики (Federal State Statistics Service) (2004-05-21). "Численность населения России, субъектов Российской Федерации в составе федеральных округов, районов, городских поселений, сельских населённых пунктов – районных центров и сельских населённых пунктов с населением 3 тысячи и более человек (Population of Russia, its federal districts, federal subjects, districts, urban localities, rural localities—administrative centers, and rural localities with population of over 3,000)" (in Russian). Всероссийская перепись населения 2002 года (All-Russia Population Census of 2002). Federal State Statistics Service. Retrieved 2010-03-01. 
  6. ^ The value of density was calculated automatically by dividing the 2002 Census population by the area specified in the infobox. Please note that this value may not be accurate as the area specified in the infobox is not necessarily reported for the same year as the Census (2002).
  7. ^ Федеральная служба государственной статистики (Federal State Statistics Service) (2004-05-21). "Территория, число районов, населённых пунктов и сельских администраций по субъектам Российской Федерации (Territory, Number of Districts, Inhabited Localities, and Rural Administration by Federal Subjects of the Russian Federation)" (in Russian). Всероссийская перепись населения 2002 года (All-Russia Population Census of 2002). Federal State Statistics Service. Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
  8. ^ a b Steppe Code (Constitution), Article 4
  9. ^ Official website of the Government of the Republic of Kalmykia. Kirsan Nikolayevich Ilyumzhinov (English)
  10. ^ Tom Parfitt (21 September 2006). "King of Kalmykia". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-01-11. "Kalmykia is the only Buddhist region in Europe..." 
  11. ^ Isvestia, Moscow, July 24, 1919
  12. ^ Dorzha Arbakov, 'The Kalmyks' in Nikolai Dekker and Andrei Lebed, (Eds) Genocide in the USSR, Chapter II, Complete Destruction of National Groups as Groups, Series I, No. 40, (Institute for the Study of the USSR, 1958), p.90
  13. ^ Bawden, C.R. The Modern History of Mongolia, Frederick A. Praeger, Publishers, New York, (1968).
  14. ^ Meyer, Karl E. and Brysac, Shareen Blair. Tournament of Shadows, Counterpoint, Washington, DC, (1999)
  15. ^
  16. ^ Republic of Kalmykia | History
  17. ^ Polian, P.M.; Pobol', N.L. (eds.) (2005) (in Russian). Stalinskie deportatsii 1928–1953. Rossiia. XX vek. Dokumenty. Moscow: Mezhdunarodnyi fond "Demokratiia"; Maternik. pp. 410–34. ISBN 5856461436. OCLC 65289542. 
  18. ^ World Press Freedom Review
  19. ^ In Russia, many conform, few resist
  20. ^ [Kalder. Lost Cosmonaut, p70.]
  21. ^ "What Kalmykia's economy is based on" (Russian)
  22. ^ Rohrer, Finlo (2006) "Game of kings takes centre stage"


  • 5 апреля 1994 г. «Степное Уложение (Конституция) Республики Калмыкия», в ред. Закона №386-III-З от 20 декабря 2007 г. (April 5, 1994 Steppe Code (Constitution) of the Republic of Kalmykia, as amended by the Law #386-III-Z of December 20, 2007. ).

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

A giant chess set in Kalmykia's capital, Elista
A giant chess set in Kalmykia's capital, Elista

Kalmykia [1] is a republic in Southern Russia and is most certainly the only Tibetan Buddhist "nation" of Europe.

  • Elista — the capital and Kalmykia's only "city"
  • Gorodovikovsk
  • Iki-Burul
  • Komsomolsky
  • Lagan — located near the Caspian Sea.
  • Tsagan Aman — located on the Volga River, Tsagan Aman is a popular fishing area and a fast developing spa-resort
  • Zundi Tolgi
  • Yashalta Salt Lake — located between Berezovoe and Solenoye villages of Yashalta district, it is known in Kalmykia for its therapeutic values. The administration of Yashalta district and republican authorities are planning to open a balneo-resort on Yashalta Salt Lake.
  • Chess-City — an administrative unit within Elista, it often serves as a venue for multiple international chess events. The Chess-City complex also hosts meetings of Russian state officials as well as Russian school olympiads.
  • "Black Lands" Biosphere Reserve — a nature reserve situated on the territory of Chernozemelsky and Yashkulsky districts. It is a refuge for ancient saiga antelopes.
  • Lola Horse Farm — situated not far from Elista in the quiet village of Lola — produces kumys (see Drink). During the Soviet era, this horse farm and adjoining clinic for respiratory treatment was very popular among communist party bosses, who traveled from Moscow, Saint Petersburg and from other far-way places in Soviet Union.
  • Khurul Monastery — a Buddhist Monastery located about 6 km north east of Elista.
  • The Ergeni Hills are located in the northern part of Kalmykia. Different from the sandy dunes and steppe regions of central and eastern part, the Ergeni Hills are the only placew to find some woods in the republic. Ergeni landscape area is filled with numerous heights, ravines, spring streams, and water-bearing sands. Popular for its mineral medicinal and fresh sobsoil waters, the Ergeni Hills are also home to endangered fish species and Kalmyk medicinal plants. In addition, it is the highest point in the republic which rises to 218 metres above the sea level.
  • The Sarpa Lakes — right next to the Ergeni Hills, in the north-central part of Kalmykia freshwater lakes called the Sarpa are dispersed. The Sarpa Lakes include lake of Sarpa 42,6, lake Barmanzak 25,8, lake Tsagan-Nur 23,5, and lake Batur-Mala 21,9 Not only it is a picturesque wild scenery of Kalmyk flora and fauna, but also a perfect place for hunting and fishing.


The Western Mongol Kalmyks, also known as Oirats, migrated across Central Asia from an ancestral home around Xinjiang, China and southeastern Kazakhstan and eventually arrived in Southern Russia, displacing the Tatars of the Astrakhan Khanate. Originally an independent khanate, Kalmykia's independence was slowly chipped away and it was eventually assimilated into the Russian Empire.

As more than half of Kalmyks are followers of Tibetan Buddhism, the country is often referred to as the only Buddhist country in Europe. Sadly, nearly all of Kalmykia's beautiful khuruls (Kalmyk Buddhist temples) were demolished under Stalin's massive campaign of cultural vandalism. In an act of genocide during WWII, Stalin deported the entire population of Kalmyks toKazakhstan and Siberia. The imported Russians then intensified the desertification caused by collectivisation and inappropriate agriculture. Those Kalmyks who survived the brutal deportation and exile were finally allowed to return home in 1957, under Khruschev. But despite these hardships, Kalmykia's khuruls are being rebuilt, and the people remain, and merit a visit.

Present day Kalmykia garners some press attention for the excesses of its flamboyant and dictatorial president Ilyumzhinov. Ilyumzhinov, a former Kalmyk statesman in the USSR and president of the World Chess Federation, has led Kalmykia since the break up of the Soviet Union, but has so far failed to deliver on rather grandiose promises to turn Kalmykia into a "Caspian Kuwait" in which there would be "a cell phone for every shepherd." He has, however, turned Elista into the claimed chess capital of the world by building a small district of Elista known as "City Chess" and by hosting successive chess championships in the capital.


Although the native language of the Kalmyk majority is Kalmyk (western Mongolian), it is mainly older people who are fluent, due to the effects of the 1944-57 deportation of the Kalmyks and the virtual destruction of their cultural cohesion. Nowadays just a few villages are mainly Kalmyk-speaking by all generations. Russian is spoken and understood everywhere - although not spoken by some of the very oldest Kalmyks.

Get in

The Republic of Kalmykia is currently a part of the Russian Federation. Therefore, when planning your trip to Kalmykia, you should apply for Russian visa.

By plane

The Elista airport is temporarily closed due to non-compliance with technical requirements of Russian Airlines Committee. Most likely, it will undergo the procedure of bankruptcy before being opened by new private owner first half of 2007.

Thus, travelers have two options to get to Elista by plane: via Astrakhan or Volgograd airports.

By train

The Moscow-Elista train route goes through Stavropol. However, the most convenient way is travel to Volgograd by train then on to Elista by an express minibus (marshrutka), which are cheap.

By bus

Several private companies operate a daily bus service between Moscow and Elista. The pickup point in Moscow is Luzhniki Stadium. A one-way ticket costs about 1000RUR.



In addition to the sights within the present reduced boundaries of the Republic of Kalmykia, worth visiting in Astrakhan oblast is one of the few remaining pre-revolutionary Buddhist Temples (disused and partly demolished) in the village of Rechnoe on the left (east) bank of the Volga in the village of Rechnoe. To its north is Mount Bogdo, revered by Buddhist Kalmyks, and with many fossils in its rocks. To its south the sacred lotus of the Buddhist Kalmyks can be seen growing in the waters of the Volga delta. In Rostov oblast here are some settlements previously occupied mainly by the newer Buzaf clan of traditionally more russified and christianised Kalmyks who were also Cossacks. They were not allowed to reoccupy this area after their return from deportation. In Stavropol krai to the south lies the spa resort of Yessentuki (Kalmyk: 'Ten Flags) in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains, near Europe's highest peak, Mt Elbrus. In the European part of the Republic of Kazakhstan can be found the town of Kalmykovo, looking across the Ural River at Asia. And if you cross Kazakhstan to its border with China, you can meet the Oirats, living in Dzhungaria, part of Xingjiang province. They are those Kalmyks who did not wish to remain in Kalmykia when it was incorporated into the Russian Empire, so they returned home. All these places occupy a small part of the former Kalmyk Empire that stretched from the Great Wall of China to the River Don in Europe, and from the forests of Siberia in the north to Tibet and the Himalayas in the south.

  • The republic's national sport is (by the will of President Ilyumzhinov) chess and locals play throughout school. Pick up games in parks are easy to come by.
  • Fishing, hunting (especially geese, apparently)
  • Attend a performance of traditional Kalmyk dance
  • Horseback riding
  • Berk — Kalmyk traditional dumplings are larger and contain more meat than your average meat dumplings
  • Bortsg — Kalmyk traditional frybread
  • Makhan sheltagan
  • Kyur


Traditional Kalmyk drinks bear some similarity to those found in Mongolia, but are unique to the region. Try:

  • Dzhomba — milk tea with salt
  • Kumys — a sour horse milk that is considered a cure for respiratory diseases like tuberculosis, asthma, etc.
  • Araka — a milk vodka


With tourism on the rise, travelers will have no difficulty finding good accommodation in Elista, although accommodations outside of the capital may be scarce or of lesser quality. It may be possible (and extremely rewarding) to arrange homestays in rural areas by asking around town or village centers.

Stay healthy

Kalmykia is known for its sunny weather and fresh air. However, visitors are advised not to drink tap water due to the high content of minerals and salt. Otherwise, Kalmykia offers a healthy environment, and delicious and fresh food — mutton and beef being specialties, also Caspian caviar, prized as far away as Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

This is a usable article. It gives a good overview of the region, its sights, and how to get in, as well as links to the main destinations, whose articles are similarly well developed. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Wikipedia has an article on:


Proper noun




  1. A republic of Russia in the south-west of the country, with capital Elista.

Related terms


Simple English

Republic of Kalmykia (rus. Республика Калмыкия, xal. Хальмг Таңһч) the subject of the Russian Federation, is a part of Southern federal district. It is formed on November, 4th, 1920.

Capital — Elista.

Borders in the south on Stavropol Territory, in the southeast — with Republic Dagestan, in the north — with the Volgograd region, in the northeast — with the Astrakhan region, in the west — with the Rostov region.



Geographical position

The republic Kalmykia places in the extreme southeast of the European part of Russia. Extent of territory from the north on the south — 448 km, from the West on the east — 423 km.

The region is possessed in zones of steppes, semi-deserts and deserts and takes territory with a total area of 75,9 thousand in km ² that there is more than territory of such states in the Western Europe as Belgium, Denmark, Switzerland and the Netherlands. The republic is in the southeast of the European part of the Russian Federation. Its co-ordinates constitute 44°50 ' and 40°10 ' east longitude both 41°40 ' and 47°35 ' northern width.

Three prirodno-economic zones are conditionally allocated for territories of Kalmykia: western, central and east. The western zone covers territories of Gorodovikovsky and Jashaltinsky areas, the central zone — territories of Maloderbetovsky, Sarpinsky, Ketchenerovsky, Virgin, Prijutnensky and Iki-Burulsky areas, east — territories October, Justinsky, Jashkulsky, Chernozemelsky, Lagansky * Dolbansky and Limansky areas. Most favourable on it is soil-environmental conditions the western zone is. Rather large specific territory of east zone are the so-called Black earths.

From the south the territory of Kalmykia is limited by Kumo-Manychskoj a hollow and the rivers Manych and Kuma, in a southeast part is washed by Caspian sea, in the northeast on an insignificant plot the republic border approaches to the river Volga, and in the northwest the Ergeninsky height is possessed. Within republic territory northern part of Near-Caspian lowland is called as Sarpinsky lowland, and in its southern part there are Black earths. Dominating type of a relief of the republic, the large part of its territory, plains are taking.


There are stocks of hydrocarbons, the basic reconnoitered and maintained — Iki-Burulsky and Ermolinsky nonassociated gas fields. Deposits concern to near-Caspian gas-oil provinces.


Republic climate sharply continental — summer hot and very dry, winter is snowless, sometimes with the big colds. Continentality of a climate essentially amplifies from the West on the east. Average temperatures of January on all republic the negative: from −7 °C …-9 °C in southern and its southwest part to −10 °C … −12 °C in the north, the minimum temperature of January: −35 °C … −37 °C. The lowest temperatures sometimes reach −35 °C and more low in northern areas. Feature of a climate is significant duration of solar light which constitutes 2180—2250 hours (182—186 days) per a year. Duration of the warm period constitutes 240—275 days. Average temperatures of July constitute +23,5 °C … +25,5 °C. The absolute maximum of temperature in hot reaches year +40 °C … +44 °C.

Air rise in temperature is observed from the north on the south and the southeast of territory of republic. During the winter period there is thaw, in separate days — blizzards, and sometimes formed ice aggrieves to agriculture, causing an icing of herbage of pastures and winter crops. Specific feature of territory of republic are droughts and dry winds: happen to 120 суховейных days in the summer. The region is the most droughty in the south of the European part of Russia. The annual amount of precipitation constitutes 210—340 mm. On conditions влагообеспеченности in republic four basic agroclimatic areas are allocated: very dry, dry, very droughty, droughty.

Thanks to prevalence of zones of strong winds the region has significant wind energy resourses, realised only at a rate of 3-5 million kvt·h/year on Kalmyk Wind Electrostation.


In republic territory live about 60 species of mammals. On reservoirs of Kalmykia nest about 130 kinds of birds and more than 50 kinds meet during seasonal migrations. 20 kinds of reptiles and 3 kinds of the amphibious. Within republic 23 kinds of the birds brought in the Red book of the Russian Federation are noted.

Number of population of a saiga fluctuates from 270 thousand to 400 thousand goals

The republic territory is in the semi-desert zone which prominent feature is the completeness of a vegetative cover shown in a combination of steppe and deserted plots, and is most forestless region of the Russian Federation.


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