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History of Kalmykia

The Kalmyks (own name, the Khalmag) are the descendants of Oyrats originating from West Mongolia (Jungaria). These were nomadic tribes kindred to Mongols in material culture, language and religion. In the 13th century Oyrats made a part of the Chinghis Khan's state. After the collapse of the Mongolian Empire Oyrat rulers joined the fight for domination against the East Mongolian khans. By the middle of 14th century Esen Khan managed to unite all the original Mongolian lands under his power. He also defeated the war expedition of Min China and captured the emperor. It resulted in a favorable peace treaty. However, Esen's followers did not succeed in keeping the power in Mongolia.

In the late 16th and early 17th centuries the deficit of pasture lands and feudal internecine dissension made the rulers of large Oyrat tribal unions of Torgouts leaded by Taisha Ho Urluk and Derbets leaded by Dalai Batyr to migrate to the steppes of the Western Siberia. After the Yermak Expedition these territories came under control of Russia. In 1608 and 1609 Oyrats gave oath of allegiance to the Russian Czar. Later on this part of Oyrats named by Russian Kalmyks after the Turkic speaking neighbors settled in the territory circumscribed by the rivers Emba, Yaik (Ural) and Volga. In the second half of 17th century they formed the Kalmyk Khanate in the Lower Volga and laid foundation for the new Mongolian speaking ethnic group, Kalmyks.


Married woman
By becoming the part of Russia and keeping the oath to protect its Southeast borders Kalmyks managed to preserve their state.

Kalmyks took active part in all the Russian war campaigns in 17th and 18th centuries providing up to 40 thousands of filly equipped horsemen.

The Kalmyk Khanate reached its flourishing in the period of Ayuka Khan (1669 -1724). Ayuka Khan was kept his responsibility to protect the Southern borders of Russia, ran many military expeditions against Crimean Tatars and Kuban Tatars. He also waged wars against Kazakhs, subjugated the Mangyshlak Turkmens, and made multiple expeditions against the highlanders of North Caucasus.

In 1771 the oppression of czarist administration forced the larger part of Kalmyks (33 thousands households or approximately 170 thousands men) to migrate to the original territories. The Kalmyk Khanate ceased its existence. The remaining Kalmyks were subjected to the imperial system of governing foreigners. The most part of them resided in the Kalmyk steppe. Some groups of Kalmyks formed parts of Ural, Orenburg and Terek Cossack formations. In the late 18th century the Kalmyks settled on Don River were inclided in the Cossack class of the Don Host.

As foreigners with another religious affiliation Kalmyks were not subject to the military service, but in the Patriotic War of 1812 they formed 3 regiments (The First and Second Kalmyk and Stavropolsky Kalmyk regiments) that fought their way to Paris. Kalmyks of Don fought in the Cossack units under command the legendary Chief Platov.

Long habitation of the people in the environment with another way of life, differing religion lead to the serious changes in the Kalmyk society. The mandatory feudal statuses of classes were abolished 1892. Many changes followed colonization of Kalmyk steppe by the Russian settlers.

In spite of that the spiritual culture of Kalmyks remained quite stable. It made possible the preservation of a specific region in the European territory with its original Eastern culture, unique folklore, written culture and music. In the beginning of 20th century the World discovered the pearl of Kalmyk folklore, the Jangar epic.

The February Revolution of 1917 formed the Steppe area of Kalmyk People. In 1920 it was transformed into the Kalmyk Autonomous Region. In 1935 the Kalmyk Autonomous Region was reorganized into the Kalmyk Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic.

During the World War II in the Summer 1942 the most part of Kalmykia was occupied by the nazi troops but by the January next year the Soviet army liberated the territory of the republic. The Kalmyks fought with fortitude in the battle-front of war and in the partisan resistance in the steppes of Kalmykia, in Belorussia, Ukraine, Bryansk woods, etc. In the battles for Don area and North Caucasus distinguished was the 110 Detached Kalmyk Chivalry Division. Approximately 8 thousand of Kalmykia natives were awarded by various orders and medals, 21 men were awarded the title of the Hero of Soviet Union.

In December 1943 the Kalmyk people were unjustly deported to Siberia. The Kalmyk Autonomous Republic was abolished.


Monument to the victims of political repressions
Inhuman life and labor conditions took away lives of many Kalmyks. The years of exile are still in the memory of the Kalmyk people as the time of sorrow and grief.

The justice was restored only in 1957 and the Kalmyks returned to the homeland. First it was the Kalmyk Autonomous Region that in 1959 was transformed into the Autonomous Republic.

Industry, agriculture, science and education, culture and arts stated an intensive development in the republic.

In 1993 the first presidential elections in the Republic of Kalmykia were won by Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. The program of the Republic's President K. Ilyumzhinov focused on the improvement of the social and economic situation, life standards in the republic, revival of Kalmyk language.