Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Kalmyk Folklore

        In the Kalmyk culture, oral tradition is very important.  An example of Kalmyk oral tradition is the Oirat epic of Jangar.  This epic was conceived during the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries during the time when the Oirat Mongols emigrated from the Mongol Empire.  The story is about a khan named Jangar and his twelve heroic warriors.  The epic is split up into cantos that convey the heroic deeds of Jangar's warriors (Gejin 403).
Reference: http://traditions.cultural-china.com/en/17Traditions1689.html
                                       

        There are twenty-five cantos, and each ones tells a different story.  Some of them show how the warriors built Jangar's palace, how they defeated outside invaders, how they conquered other territories, and the warriors' marriage prospects which unveil their various destinies.  Although these cantos are mostly independent of one another, there are also subtle connections between them.  The opening canto describes the greatness of Jangar himself in that it describes his various advantures, heoric deeds, and his own romantic prospect (Gejin 403-4).
        Here is a link to a video showing a performance of Kalmyk oral tradition: http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/~taylor3/bortsiknet/culture/storytelling.htm

Works Cited: 
 Gejin, Chao. "The Oirat Epic Cycle of Jangar." Oraltradition.com. N.p., 2001. Web. 5 May 2014. <http://journal.oraltradition.org/files/articles/16ii/Chao.pdf>.    

Kalmyk Epic Storytelling. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 May 2014. <http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/~taylor3/bortsiknet/culture/storytelling.htm>.   

Monday, May 5, 2014

References

Marston, Sallie A., Paul L. Knox, Diana M. Liverman, Vincent J. Del Casino, Jr., and PaulF.                Robbins. "The Russian Federation, Central Asia, and the Transcaucasus." World Regions in Global Context. Fifth ed. Boston: Pearson, 2014. 86-127. Print.

Minahan, James. One Europe, Many Nations: A Historical Dictionary of European National Groups. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2000. Print.

 "Kalmykia Republic, Russia (Kalmikia)." Kalmykia Republic, Russia Features, History, Landscapes. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Mar. 2014. <http://russiatrek.org/kalmykia-republic>.

Regnum. "Europe's Biggest Buddhist Temple Opens in Kalmykia." Europe. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Mar. 2014. <http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php/index.php?id=3,2114,0,0,1,0>.

"Republic of Kalmykia | History." Republic of Kalmykia | History. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Mar. 2014. <http://www.kalm.ru/en/hist.html>.

"Kalmyk-Oirat, Western Mongul in Russia." People Group. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2014. <http://joshuaproject.net/people_groups/14129/RS>.
 "Republic of Kalmykia | Culture." Republic of Kalmykia | History. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Mar. 2014. <http://www.kalm.ru/en/hist.html>.

"Buddhist Revival in Kalmykia." Russia Now. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 May 2014.

"Kalmyk-Oirat, Western Mongul in Russia." People Group. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2014. <http://joshuaproject.net/people_groups/14129/RS>.

"The Unreached Peoples Prayer Profiles." The Unreached Peoples Prayer Profiles. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 May 2014. <http://kcm.co.kr/bethany_eng/p_code/1632.html>.


"Kalmykia, Republic of Bird Checklist - Avibase - Bird Checklists of the World." Kalmykia, Republic of Bird Checklist - Avibase - Bird Checklists of the World. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2014. <http://avibase.bsc-eoc.org/checklist.jsp?region=RUsokl>.
"Pushkin's Historical Imagination." Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2014.
"Religious Fables, Folklore, Legends, and Stories." Is There More Evil Than Good in the World?: : All Creatures Articles Archive. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2014.

 "Peace and Harmony in Kalmykia." Europe. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2014.

"Smithsonian Folklife Festival - 2013 - One World, Many Voices." Smithsonian Folklife Festival - 2013 - One World, Many Voices. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 May 2014.

 Gejin, Chao. "The Oirat Epic Cycle of Jangar." Oraltradition.com. N.p., 2001. Web. 5 May 2014. <http://journal.oraltradition.org/files/articles/16ii/Chao.pdf>.

 Kalmyk Epic Storytelling. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 May 2014. <http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/~taylor3/bortsiknet/culture/storytelling.htm>.



 






The Kalmyk Cultural Survival

        In my study of the Kalmyk culture thus far, I think that it has been extremely hard for the culture as a whole to survive.  From what I can see, there have been repeated attempts made by Russia to control the Kalmyk culture.  In addition to this, the tragic deportation of the entire Kalmyk culture during WWII by Stalin destroyed a significant number of the culture's population.  Also, the Kalmyk culture's predominate religion, Buddhism, is unique to their culture in that they hold the largest Buddhist population in the whole continent of Europe.  Therefore, cultural survival for the Kalmyks is tremendous feat that they have overcome, and it continues to be so.

Reference: http://www.festival.si.edu/2013/One_World_Many_Voices/language_communities/kalmyk.aspx

         The Kalmyk culture consists of three theaters, one of which is the State Touring and Concert Institution called "Kalmkoncert."  Kalmykia also consists of two museums, a School of Arts, children's music and art schools, and five professional dance teams.  These cultural institutions are often used by the republic to popularize traditional Kalmyk culture, using ancient stories and dances to bring the Kalmyk people together and appreciate their heritage.  Librarianship is a popular occupation within the Kalmyk culture, and in Kalmykia there are 175 libraries.  These aspects of the Kalmyk's world contribute to their cultural survival (Republic).
Reference: http://www.festival.si.edu/2013/One_World_Many_Voices/language_communities/kalmyk.aspx


        The Kalmyks have also successfully kept their culture alive through their oral traditions.  This aspect of their culture is centered on the stories of Jangar.  Jangar is a epic story regarding the origins of the Kalmyk people that took place about four hundred years ago.  This musical and story-telling revival is being done by teenagers and young adults within the culture (Smithsonian).

Works Cited:
"Smithsonian Folklife Festival - 2013 - One World, Many Voices." Smithsonian Folklife Festival - 2013 - One World, Many Voices. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 May 2014.

"Republic of Kalmykia | History." Republic of Kalmykia | History. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Mar. 2014. <http://www.kalm.ru/en/hist.html>.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Kalmyk Migrations

        The Kalmyk people have migrated on many different occasions.  From their origination of their culture during the migration of the Oirot Mongols from the Altai Mountains in 1636 to 1957 when the Kalmyk people traveled back to their homeland after the deportation, one can see that the Kalmyks have often traveled from one place to another.  In fact, members of the Kalmyk culture have migrated as recently as 1991 when a large population of the culture moved back to their homeland in Kalmykia from parts of the Soviet Union (Minahan 358).  In accordance with their migratory history, much of the Kalmyk culture remains nomadic even today.  This migratory, or nomadic life-style, allows the Kalmyks to exist as a mostly agricultural society.

Reference: http://russiasperiphery.blogs.wm.edu/transcaucasia/kalmykia/

        The origination of the Kalmyk culture began with the destabilization of the Mongol Empire (Minahan 358).  During this time, a branch of the Oirot Mongols left the Mongol Empire in 1636 as China began to take over.  After thirty-two years of migrating, they finally settled near the Volga River Basin.  However, in the later half of the eighteenth century, members of the Kalmyk culture who had settled east of the the Volga River returned to their homeland, which had since been dominated by China, in an attempt to stop the persecution of their Oirot relatives.  This migration consisted of a 2,000 mile journey in which only one third of the migratory population survived.  Many were killed due to harsh weather conditions, hunger, and attacks carried out by Russia (Minahan 359).  
        Another tragic form of diaspora of the Kalmyk people occured in the 1940s.  This took place when Joseph Stalin convicted the entire Kalmyk population of treason for their alliance with Germany, and he issued a culture-wide deportation of the Kalmyk people.  During this extremely horrific exile, the Kalmyk people were sent east in cramped cattle cars.  According to James Minahan, "Only three Kalmyk families escaped the brutal deportation" (360).  The deportation lasted around twenty-two days during which thousands of Kalmyks died of either malnutrition or disease.  This tragic ordeal destroyed half of the Kalmyk's pre-war population (Minahan 360).
        In 1957, many survivors of the tragic deportation made their way back to the area of Kalmykia.  This numbered to be about 6,000 people.  In 1958, the Kalmyks had reclaimed this area.  However, it remained under strict Russian surveillance.  By the 1970s, more Kalmyks had arrived, and this grew the population to about 174,000 by 1989.  So clearly, the members of the Kalmyk culture have been migrating up until fairly recently (Minahan 360-1).
        Other segments of the Kalmyk's diaspora exist in both the United States and in other parts of Europe.  This includes the Kalmyk "exile community."  The Kalmyk exile community amounts to about 1,500 members of the culture.  In 1987, reforms issued by Mikhail Gorbachev renewed ties between the Kalmyks in Kalmykia and the scattered exile communities.  This renewed relationship has aided the Kalmyks in their cultural and religious revival throughout the last two decades (Minahan 361).

Works Cited:
Minahan, James. One Europe, Many Nations: A Historical Dictionary of European National Groups. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2000. Print.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Neighboring Cultures of the Kalmyks

        The majority of the Kalmyk culture's population resides in the Republic of Kalmykia located in the southeast corner of Russia near the Volga River.  Kalmykia is surrounded by Russia and Kazakhstan, and it lines the coast of the Caspian Sea.  Although the Kalmyks are a peaceful and rural people, there is some tension between them and their neighboring cultures.  This is particularly true of the culture's relationship with Eastern Europeans of the North Caucasus (Walker 1).

Reference: http://www.maps.com/ref_map.aspx?pid=12322
        In an article from The Buddhist Channel, "Peace and Harmony in Kalmykia," written by Shaun Walker in 2007, there is mention of the problems that the Kalmyk people have encountered with the the North Caucasus, particularly with Chechnya.  In the article, the Kalmyk Center for Human Rights director, Semyon Ateyev, indicates that there was a cultural problem between Kalmyks and the Chechens, Avars, and Dargins in Kalmykia in the 1990s.  Ateyev names an incident when a fight broke out between the two cultures because a group of Chechens danced the Lezginka on the grave of a Kalmyk soldier who died in Chechnya.  The article indicates that a larger fight between the Kalmyks and the Chechens occurred in the Astrakhan Region in 2005.  However, the article also points out that most of the time, these cultural disputes are settled peacefully.  According to Valery Badmayev, the editor of an opposition paper called the Sovietskaya Kalmykia, this tension between some of the countries of the North Caucasus and Kalmykia strengthens the Kalmyks relationship with their other neighbor, Russia.  (Walker 1).

Reference: http://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/europe/lgcolor/chechnya.htm

        The Kalmyk's Russian neighbors have influenced their way of life for hundreds of years.  For much of this time, the Kalmyks had pledged an allegiance to Russia in exchange for Russia's protection (Minahan 359).  However, during the 1920s into World War II, this relationship suffered greatly resulting in a significant amount of death and destruction for the Kalmyk people.   The Soviet Union nationalized the Kalmyk's herds, destroyed their Buddhist temples, and forbid Kalmyks to have any contacts with other Mongol peoples.  Eventually, due to the alliance between the Kalmyks and Germany, Joseph Stalin ordered a deportation of the whole Kalmyk population.  Many Kalmyk's died due to hunger, disease, and malnutrition (Minahan 360).

Works Cited:
Minahan, James. One Europe, Many Nations: A Historical Dictionary of European National Groups. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2000. Print.

"Peace and Harmony in Kalmykia." Europe. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2014.


Monday, March 31, 2014

The Birds of the Kalmyk Culture

        In the Republic of Kalmykia there are many different species of birds.  According to Avibase, a Canadian partner of Bird Life International, Kalmykia has 251 species of birds.  Of these species, there are three that are endemic to the republic's environment such as the Red-breasted Goose, the White-winged Lark, and the Black Lark (Avibase 1).   
Reference: http://www.ejphoto.com/redbreasted_goose_page.htm

Although these species are endemic to the Kalmyk region, there are significant folk-tales regarding the eagle and the raven.  In Pushkin's Historical Imagination by Svetlana Evdokimova, Pugachev's character recounts a small legend concerning the two birds:

          "The raven who eats carrion does not take any risks and lives three hundred years. The  eagle, by contrast, prefers 'to drink live blood if only once' rather than feed on carrion for centuries, and 'then what will come will come' (VIII: I, 352)" (Evdokimova 81). 

        In a Kalmyk Buddhist legend called "Is There More Evil Than Good in the World?" the eagle and the raven are also mentioned.  The legend describes how both of these two birds lie to a young man named Manvarhkan, to which the wise elder, Tsetsen responds, "They have told you lies to make you feel better. They wished you good. Do you still think that there is more evil than good in the world? " (Klitsenko 1).  It's clear from this statement that both the eagle and the raven hold a supernatural significance within the Kalmyk culture, helping the people of this culture to explain some of life's greatest questions.

 
Reference: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/bald_eagle/id

        
Works Cited:
"Kalmykia, Republic of Bird Checklist - Avibase - Bird Checklists of the World." Kalmykia, Republic of Bird Checklist - Avibase - Bird Checklists of the World. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2014. <http://avibase.bsc-eoc.org/checklist.jsp?region=RUsokl>.
 
"Pushkin's Historical Imagination." Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2014.
 
"Religious Fables, Folklore, Legends, and Stories." Is There More Evil Than Good in the World?: : All Creatures Articles Archive. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2014.

 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Kalmyk Cosmos

        The central religion of the Kalmyk people is Buddhism.  In fact, the Republic of Kalmykia is the only nation in Europe with a Buddhist majority (Minahan 358).  More specifically though, the Kalmyk people follow a Tibetan  branch of Buddhism called Lamaism.  Through Lamaism, the Kalmyks believe in many deities, but the most popular one is Tsahan Avga (Kalmyks 1).  However, another fraction of Kalmyks are shamanists (Prayer 1).  Shamanistic Kalmyks believe in an invisible gods, spirits, and demons, and they designate a shaman believed to be the only one who can contact spirits and cure the sick (Prayer 1).  The Kalmyks had shamanistic temples called obos where they believed Tsahan Avga dwelled.  At these obos, which were constructed from stones to honor local spirits, Kalmyks would perform rituals.  They would also hold horse races, wrestling matches, and arrow shooting contests at these sites (Kalmyk 1).

Reference: http://russianow.washingtonpost.com/2011/11/buddhist-revival-in-kalmykia.php

        In 2011, an important Buddhist ceremony took place in Kalmykia, an offering of light to Buddha.  According to an article in Russia Now by Anna Nemtsova, about 2,000 Buddhist gathered in Elista at the Golden Adobe temple for the ceremony.  This is the first time this ceremony has ever been held in Kalmykia.  It was performed in celebration of an internation forum that had been held in the republic a month before.  Here is an excerpt from the article that truly describes the Kalmyk cosmos and how it has affected them: "Buddhism teaches tolerance and loving-kindness, so Kalmyks have learned to cope with their harsh realities. "We have seen it much worse," Yevdokiya Kutsayeva, 84, said. She had tears in her eyes as she recalled Stalin's deportations. "One October night in 1943, they packed the entire population of the republic into dirty train wagons and sent us to Siberia. Thousands died on the way. I remember the stacks of dead bodies along the platforms," she recalled" (Nemtsova).  Clearly, religion is an important part of Kalmykia's past, present, and future.

Works Cited:
"Buddhist Revival in Kalmykia." Russia Now. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 May 2014.

"Kalmyk-Oirat, Western Mongul in Russia." People Group. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2014. <http://joshuaproject.net/people_groups/14129/RS>.

Minahan, James. One Europe, Many Nations: A Historical Dictionary of European National Groups. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2000. Print.

"The Unreached Peoples Prayer Profiles." The Unreached Peoples Prayer Profiles. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 May 2014. <http://kcm.co.kr/bethany_eng/p_code/1632.html>.