The Kalmyk of Russia
In 1771, the majority of the Oirat decided to move back to Dzhungaria in order to escape the Russian dictatorship, but only a few survived the long journey. Those who stayed in Russia became known as the Kalmyk, which means "to remain."
In 1943, Stalin had the Kalmyk descendants deported to Siberia for allegedly uniting with occupying Nazi troops; thousands died in the Siberian cold. In 1957, after Stalin's death, they were allowed to return home. Today, however, fierce animosity remains between the Russians and the Kalmyk.
What Are Their Lives Like?
A number of Kalmyk in rural areas are herdsmen who raise cattle, sheep, goats, and a few camels. They are generally known for their love of fine horses and horse racing. Some Kalmyk are fishermen, especially those who live along the Volga River; others are farmers. Their principal crops include grains, corn, fodder grasses, mustard seed, sunflowers, and melons.
Many Kalmyk have continued to live as nomads, and their lifestyle is one of seasonal migrations. Their dwellings are portable tents called gers or yurts, made of felt on lattice frames.
Marriage was formerly a symbol of adulthood among the Kalmyk. Marriages were ordinarily arranged by the parents, and a zurkhachi (astrologer) was consulted about the compatibility of a bride and groom. Couples were sometimes engaged as early as six years of age, and married between the ages of 16 and 18. Today, couples usually marry while they are in their early to mid-twenties.
The Kalmyk traditionally lived in extended family units. Today, there is a growing tendency toward nuclear families. Sadly, divorce is becoming more common, and legal abortion is the principal means of birth control.
The typical Kalmyk dress includes velvet hats, loose fitted coats, and heavily padded long pants. They often shave their heads, except for one small area in the back that is reserved for a pony-tail.
Oral historic poetry is an important part of Kalmyk culture. It is traditionally recited by a poet, accompanied by a two-stringed lute called a dombr. Favorite pastimes include storytelling and singing. At social gatherings, the Kalmyk enjoy drinking kumiss (fermented mare's milk).
What Are Their Beliefs?
Kalmyk Buddhism is a mixture of ethnic beliefs and shamanism (belief in unseen gods, demons, and spirits). The people depend on shamans (medicine men) to cure the sick by magic and communicate with the gods. Despite laws forbidding shamanistic practices, the shamans have remained influential. The obo, a heap of stones thought to be inhabited by local spirits, often serves as a site for performing various rituals.
What Are Their Needs?
See also the following related group:
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
This profile may be copied and distributed without obtaining permission
as long as it is not altered, bound, published
or used for profit purposes.