Fishing

The Kalmyks have been acquainted with fishing for a long time. Not a key branch of the traditional economy, this occupation was usually undertaken by impoverished Kalmyks who had lost their livestock and were in need of other sources of income. By the eighteenth century, however, work migration to the lower Volga began to take on a mass character. At the fisheries the Kalmyks did two types of work. Those who were employed as fishermen went to the sea in groups of three or four on small boats called ongts. They used nets of various designs, including drift net (golm) and fyke net (tyavdg golm), as well as fishing rods (gahul'). Other Kalmyks were employed on land to cut, wash, clean, salt, and dry fish. At the turn of the nineteenth century fisheries had become the major source of employment for many Kalmyks living along the banks of the Volga and the Caspian Sea. Depending upon their financial situation, Kalmyks engaged in fishing could be divided into three groups - free, contracted, and hired fishermen. In the Soviet period, the Kalmyk fisheries constituted a state-supported enterprise.

Anatoliy Safinov, About Fishing

Anatoliy talks about his father-in-law who was a fisherman who could make and fix fishing nets. His father-in-law was a respected man, a diligent worker, and was often invited to presidium meetings. Anatoliy’s in-laws lived in Astrakhan’ where he learnt how to fish. Anatoliy fished in winter and even learnt how to eat raw fish from a Khant man. During the deportation years, he had to eat frozen fish. After the Kalmyks were allowed to return to their homeland, Anatoliy went to live with his in-laws in their place. When he returned to Astrakhan he noticed that the river had become shallow.