The heroic epos Jangar, known for centuries across Eurasia, is a unique epic creation of the Mongolian peoples. There exist three national versions of the epos, one among the Kalmyks (in Russia), another among the Western Mongols (in Outer Mongolia) and the third among the Oirats of Xinjiang ( in China). Jangar was also known among the Buryats, the Altai people, the Tuvanians and the Karakol Kalmyks of Issyk-Kul' region in Kirgyzstan.
The main idea of Jangar consists of praising the idealised country of Bumba, a land of prosperity, immortality and wellbeing, as well as praising peace and consolidation of heroes around Jangar khan, who is a guarantor of stability, security and independence. The epic heroes fight in the name of bringing about and protecting their state, where equality among people is proclaimed, where there are neither national nor social differences, where democracy and consensus reign, and where the interest of the state prevails over individual ones.
The Kalmyk version of the epos Jangar consists of 26 original songs, with more than 40,000 lines. The preservation of the epos, its compositional unity, as well as the perfection of its poetic form became possible thanks to Jangar-tellers, who sang Jangar in accordance with the centuries old tradition.
Today the oral epic tradition is visibly declining. This tendency came to the fore in the 1980s and the 1990s following the death of the last Jangar-tellers, who had learned the epos from their teachers by means of oral transmission.
During perestroika and the democratic reforms in Russia, interest has increased among the Kalmyk youth in the cultural heritage of their ancestors, in particular, in the epos Jangar and Jangar-telling skills. Targeted programmes have been implemented to preserve, develop and to study this epos. Jangar began to be taught in schools as well. Today it is performed at festivals, during folk holidays, official occasions and weddings. In the Kalmyk epic tradition there are two Jangar-telling schools differing by style of performance and repertoire: Eelyan Ovla and the Shavalin Dava schools. At present among the followers of the Eelyan Ovla tradition are Vladimir Karuev, Dordzhi Nandyshev, Baatr Mandzhiev, Oleg Kalykov, Oleg Mankuev and Kutlan Mukobenov. Representatives of the Shavalin Dava Jagar-telling tradition are Andrei Erdni-Goryaev, Baatr Lidzhi-Goryaev, Dmitry Sharaev and others.
Amur-Sanan Kenzeev, Namdzhil Boldyrev, Danzan Basanov, Jangar
Anatoliy recites a ‘praise to Jangar’ with which the epos begins.