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The Republic of Kalmykia (Russian: Респу́блика Калмы́кия; Kalmyk: Хальм Тангч) is a federal subject of the Russian Federation (a republic). The direct transliteration of the republic's name is Respublika Kalmykiya.



Time zone

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


Major rivers include:

  • Kuma River
  • Manych River


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.


Kalmykia has 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 division

Main article: Administrative division of Kalmykia


As per the 2002 census, Kalmyks at 155,938 make up 53,3% of the population, followed by ethnic Russians at 98,115 (33.5%), Dargins at 7,295 (2.49%), Chechens at 5,979 (2.04%), Kazakhs at 5,011 (1.71%), Ukrainians at 2,505 (0.86%), Avars at 2,305 (0.79%), Volga Germans at 1,643 (0.56%), Koreans at 1,049 (0.36%) and a host of smaller groups. All in all, 97 ethnic groups are listed for the republic.

  • 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)


What sets Kalmykia apart from its neighbors is the fact that it is the only Buddhist territory in Europe. Russians adopted the name Kalmyk from the Tatars in the 16th century and the Russians later learned about name Oyirad, which had come from the Mongols. There is a very common misunderstanding that the Kalmyks are "western Mongols". This is analogous to calling Englishmen Germans just because both languages (English and German) belongs to the Germanic language group. Kalmyks, in fact, are not Mongols. The two culture have their own histories. Kalmyks (not Mongols) controlled a vast area known as Grand Tartary or the Kalmyk Empire to Westerners, which stretched from the Great Wall of China to the River Don, and from the Himalayas to Siberia.

The European steppes always were much more productive than the Asian steppes since they get more moisture from the Atlantic. It is why all powerful nomads from Central Asia were always trying to conquer European plains. Hungarians (Kalmyks call them Uugr) in the 8th century, Tatars (Kalmyks call them Mangyd) in the 13th century, and Kalmyks (Kalmyks call themself Dörvn Öörd—The Allied Four) in the 17th century—all of them were driven to Europe because of its rich pastureland.

So, the Torghuud chief Khoo Örlög decided to move westward in the beginning of 17th century. But not because to a mythical internal struggle of the Kalmyks created by the Khoshuud tribe. Khoo Örlög was not a refugee. He led the Torghuuds and part of Dörvuuds . Khoshuuds and Ölööds have joined them almost century later. Kalmyks reached as far as the steppes of southeast Europe in 1630. That land was not empty. It was homeland of very powerful Nogay Hordes. But under pressure of Kalmyk warriors, Nogays fled to the Crimea and the Kuban river. All other nomads in European steppes became vassals of Kalmyk Khan.

Kalmyks settled not only around Astrakhan on the Volga delta. Kalmyk domain has spreaded from Ural to Terek river. And they still kept a close bond with the Kalmyks in their Central Asian homeland. Allied with Russia, Torghuud flourished there during the reign of Ayuki Khan , who was given the title of Khan by the 6th Dalai Lama.

In the late 18th century, they were disillusioned with increasing Russian interference. The Kalmyk Khan and Ayuki's great-grandson Ubashi decided to return to their homeland. By Khan's order about 200,000 Kalmyks started their unprecedented march to Central Asia. After almost seven months Kalmyks successfully reached Manchurian outposts near the Balkhash Lake. The opinion about the hazardous journey home, that only small number survived was created by Imperial Russian propaganda.

Part of Kalmyks did not manage to cross the Volga and the Ural rivers to join their Khan to return to Asia. This part of Kalmyk people then aligned themselves with Russian rule, first under the tsars, and later under the communists. They gradually created fixed settlements with houses and temples, instead of their transportable round felt yurts, this process lasting until well after the Russian Revolution.

Kalmykia was granted the status of an autonomous oblast on November 4, 1920, and was elevated to the status of autonomous republic within RSFSR on October 22, 1935. In 1943 the republic status was recalled as Kalmykia was put directly under control of the central government.

Forced collectivization was a social, economic and cultural disaster, unsuited to the Kalmyk temperament and the dry treeless landscape. During the Second World War Stalin, suspicious of their loyalty due to their dissatisfaction with their conditions, deported the whole Kalmyk nation without notice to Siberia in cattle trucks in midwinter. Half of their number perished during the journey and in the following years of exile, an ethnic cleansing unknown to the outside world to this day.

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 RSFSR.

In the following years bad planning of agriculture and irrigation projects resulted in widespead 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 newly formed Russian Federation (March 31, 1992).


The head of government in Kalmykia is the President. As of 2004, the president is Kirsan Nikolayevich Ilyumzhinov, who assumed power in 1993.


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


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


There is a small Kalmyk minority living within eastern Kyrgyzstan, especially in villages in the Karakol region. These Kalmyks are those who remained when the bulk of the nation moved westwards in the early 16th century. The Kalmyk language and their traditions are dying out rapidly due to small numbers and majority pressures. Although some of these Kalmyks are now Muslims, most Kalmyks throughout the world remain Tibetan/Lamaist Buddhists. The Kalmyk culture has seen a resurgence of interest in the last 20 years, and most Kalmyks regard His Holiness the Dalai Lama as their spiritual leader.

There are also small Kalmyk communities in Pennsylvania and New Jersey in the USA. They are descended from those Kalmyks who migrated through Germany, France, and Yugoslavia during the last years of World War II. While some Kalmyks fought on the German side, the German army was already in retreat when the Kalmyks began to arrive in western Europe.

As a consequence of their decade-long migration through Europe, many older Kalmyks are fluent in German, French and Serbo-Croatian, in addition to their native Russian and Kalmyk language (a version of their original Mongolian language). There is a Kalmyk Buddhist temple in Belgrade, Serbia, and 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 monastaryin Washington County, NJ.

The word Kalmyk means 'those who remained'—a reference to the return to Jungaria of a large part of the population in the 18th century. There are three cultural subgroups within the Kalmyk nation: Turguts, Durbets (Durwets), and Buzavs (Oirats, who joined Russian Cossacks).

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.

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Last updated: 10-13-2005 11:55:39
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