Kalmyk Republic

Kalmykia

[kal-mik-ee-uh; Russ. kuhl-mi-kyuh]
The Republic of Kalmykia (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 Xal'mg Tanghch. It is remarkable for being the only state in Europe where the dominant religion is Buddhism. It has also become famous because its current government has made it the chess center of the world.

Geography

  • Maximum N->S distance: 448 km
  • Maximum E->W distance: 423 km

Time zone

Kalmykia is located in the Moscow Time Zone (MSK/MSD). UTC offset is +0300 (MSK)/+0400 (MSD).

Rivers

Major rivers include:

Lakes

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.

Climate

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

  • Average January temperature: -7°C
  • Average July temperature: +24°C
  • Average annual precipitation: 170 mm (eastern parts) to 400 mm (western parts)

Administrative divisions

Demographics

  • 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 (2005)
    • Births: 3,788 (birth rate 13.1)
    • Deaths: 3,350 (death rate 11.6)
  • 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%)

Vital Statistics for 2007: Source

Birth Rate: 14.29 per 1000

Death Rate: 11.09 per 1000

Net Immigration: -8.9 per 1000

NGR: +0.32% per Year

PGR: -0.57% per Year

History

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 Turkic 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 were 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 oppression

In the summer of 1919, Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin issued an appeal 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. Dorzha Arbakov, a Kalmyk school teacher turned anti-Soviet partisan fighter, contended that 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.

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 and Tibet 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.

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. 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. 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.

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 300.

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

  • 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.

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.

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.

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.

Kalmyk deportation of 1943

In December 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 divided and transferred to the adjacent regions, viz., the Astrakhan and Stalingrad Oblasts and Stavropol Krai. To completely obliterate any traces of the Kalmyk people, the Soviet authorities renamed the territories' towns and villages.

Kalmyk soldiers serving in the Red Army were also deported.

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.

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.

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

Politics

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.

Economy

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

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

Education

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

Religion

The Buddhism in Kalmykia is Tibetan Buddhist in origin. Significant numbers of Orthodox Christians and Muslims also live in Kalmykia, as well as a significant number of atheists, as is typical of Russia.

Tourism

Tourists have started to visit Kalmykia, most travelling from Volgograd to Elista. Some accounts of their travels have been logged on YouTube and other internet sites. Kalmykia is regarded as a safe destination for foreign tourists with the country getting much publicity after holding the 1998 Chess Olympiad in Elista. Several visitors have commented on the number of camels in the countryside - indeed Kalmykia is the home to Europe's only indigenous camel. In the capital there is little traffic.

Miscellaneous

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.

Not long ago the largest Buddhist temple in Europe was constructed in the capital of Kalmykia, Elista.

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.

References

External links

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