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About Russia

Nations of Russia

The Kalmyks

The Kalmyks live in the Republic of Kalmykia, Astrakhanskaya Oblast, Volgogradskaya Oblast, Rostovskaya Oblast, Orenburgskaya Oblast, Stavropolsky Krai, Siberia.
Religion: Lamaist trad. of Buddhism, some Orthodox Christians
Language is related to Mongolian group of Altay family
Diaspora: Central Asia, Caucasus, USA, Switzerland, Germany.

The Kalmyks' ancestors were western Mongols, the Oirots. The name Kalmyk comes probably from a Turkic term for Oirots who did not convert to Islam. In Russian official documents, the term Kalmyk appears since the end of the 16th c. The Kalmyks themselves started using it at the end of the 18th c.
The process in which the Kalmyks, a semi-nomadic people, came voluntarily under Russian authority started at the beginning of 16th c. The Kalmyks got the pastures by the Irtysh, Om and Ishim rivers. Due to a conflict with Siberian Tatars, they migrated further west and settled on the lower Volga River.
1664-1771: the Kalmyk Khanate recognized the Russian Tsar's superior authority but had relative autonomy in internal affairs and right to independent foreign relations. According to approximate calculations, about 270,000 Kalmyks became Russian subjects. The area which was under the Kalmyk Khanate is about the region of Kalmykia now.
In 1771, approx. 125.000 Kalmyks left for Dzungaria either because of a) increasing oppression by Russia or b) to help the Oirots against the Chinese. Most of them died on their way. The Kalmyk Khanate was dissolved and its territory was incorporated into Astrakhan Province.
Some of the remaining Kalmyks were resettled by the government along the Ural, Terek and Kuma rivers, some in Siberia. Various reforms introduced by authorities in 1825-1847 turned Kalmykia into an ordinary outlying colony of the Russian Empire. In 1892, serfdom was abolished in Kalmykia.
The 1917 revolution and the following civil war divided the Kalmyks into two hostile camps. One part accepted the new regime, while others joined the White Army and after its defeat emigrated to the West. The Kalmyk Autonomous Oblast which was established within Russia in 1920, was changed into the Kalmyk Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in 1933/1935.
In 1943, the Kalmyks became as many other peoples of the USSR subject to deportations to Central Asia, Siberia, Altay, Kazakhstan. This relocation process lasted more than 13 years and its consequence was the death of more than 1/3 of the Kalmyks and the loss of many cultural features such as the language, religion, artefacts. Another factor which had contributed to the decline in the Kalmyk population (106,066 in 1959), was the suppression of the opposition against collectivization in the 1920s. In 1957-58, the autonomy was rehabilitated and a part of the Kalmyks returned to Kalmykia. The political, economic and psychological consequences of the deportation still weigh heavily on the Kalmyks.
An Institute for the revival of the Kalmyk language and Buddhism has been opened in Elista. In 1990, the Kalmyk Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic proclaimed its sovereignty and in 1992 changed its name to the Republic of Kalmykia-Khalmg Tangch - used until Feb.96, at present Republic of Kalmykia. As the Republic changed its name, it approved federation within Russia under the condition that the mineral resources remain under local control. More than 10 political parties and social movements were active in Kalmykia in 1993.


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