Founded in Elista in 1921, the National Museum of Kalmykia opened its doors to the public in 1931. Destroyed during World War II, it was not restored until 1960. Today the Museum houses more than 70,000 items, many of them rare, related to Kalmyk culture and history. It has several branches in places such as Lagan, Gorodovikovsk, Yashkul, and one at the Central Monastery in Elista, which usually displays Buddhist artefacts. The city of Elista has another museum, the Museum of Arts, established in 1977. A museum dedicated to the famous Kalmyk Jangar singer Eelyan Ovla was opened in his native village of Iki-Bukhus in 1972. Besides state-sponsored museums, many secondary schools also have small museums or ‘corners of Kalmyk culture’.

Ais Sandzhiev, Tsagan-Nur Secondary School Museum

Ais is the director of a museum in a secondary school in Tsagan-Nur village. Established in 1963, the museum added the Room of Military Pride in 1975, and in 1983 moved to current building. The museum consists of 10 sections or corners, as follows: 1) a corner dedicated to the kolkhoz of the 3rd Commintern, 2) a corner dedicated to the kolkhoz Priozernyi, 3) a corner dedicated to the hero of the Soviet Union, Nikolai Sandzhiev, 4) a corner dedicated to the villagers who fought in World War II, 5) a corner dedicated to the 115th cavalry division that defended the village during World War II, 6) a corner dedicated to Sandzhi Kalyaev, 7) a corner dedicated to the Kalmyk writer Mikhail Khoninov, 8) a corner showing the history of the secondary school, 9) an ethnographic corner, and 10) an archaeological corner.

Ais talks about the artefacts displayed in the ethnographic corner, which have been donated by villagers. These items include knitting needles, a leather bag in which to keep tea, a wedding bag in which to keep sweets, a knife, a tobacco pipe, a leather container for liquids, a pair of summer shoes, various whips, nyarn shinj (traditional game), a horse hobble, a woollen cable for catching horses, a knitted men’s hat, a women’s leather hat, a hair ornament used by married women, Buddhist bells, metal ornaments for a saddle, and a traditional men’s dress.