In spite of the universal education that the state provides to children, the role of domestic education remains important for what Kalmyks call ‘growing up to be a Kalmyk’ which prepares children for adult life in society. Folklore, beliefs, practices related to pastoralism and hunting, and many other kinds of knowledge are taught in the family environment through various games. Games, however, are not exclusive to children. For adults, games also bear educational, entertaining, aesthetic, and bonding significance. Many traditional games reinforce social norms and values. Dramatic social, cultural, and economic changes that took place in Kalmykia over the past century, however, have reshaped and re-prioritized many aspects of traditional domestic education as well as social values, which can be also seen in the changing pattern of games. Here you can view and listen to stories about traditional games that are rapidly losing their popularity and educational significance.
Galina Erdneeva, About Games and Toys
Alena talks about traditional games, including khorma khotn, tsagan monda, mongn bus, nyarn shinj, and games played with ankle bones. Tsagan monda was a game played at night by several people. The rule is simple: A ball made of white cow skin is pushed into a hole. Games with ankle bones were reserved only for boys. Girls did not play such games.
Alena Lidzhieva, About Games
At the beginning Alexandra explains the rules of each game in the video to the pupils. The game called ‘Shoot out’ is played by two teams, consisting of two to four players in each. Each player is given three ankle bones to shoot at ankle bones arranged in a line on the floor. The ankle bones pushed out of the line are taken by the shooter. The winner is who has collected the most ankle bones.
‘Zurgan’, a board game, requires two players.
The game ‘Tsayakha’ helps to learn animal anatomy. Ankles bones are arranged in the form of the tail, heart, lungs, kidney and so on of animals. The players throw a dice in turn and remove ankle bones from the anatomical arrangement. The number of ankle bones that one can remove should be the same as the number shown on the dice. The winner is who collects the most ankle bones. In the past, children played this game during Zul or Tsagan Sar.
The game ‘Urldan’, which means a horse race, can be played by several people. First, ankle bones are arranged in a circle resembling a race ground, and each player is given two ankle bones as ‘horses’. All players receive two ankle bones each dyed in different colours. Then each player gives an ankle bone (a ‘horse’) to a judge while putting another (‘horse’) on the race line. Then the judge throws the collected ankle bones and decides which player’s horse goes by how many steps. The winner is who has finished the race first.
The game ‘Dzhirge’, which means a ‘line, row’ in Kalmyk, is played on a special board with a schematic depiction of a yurt. The number of ankle bones to be used in the game is 24. The players are instructed to build lines or rows with the ankle bones. The winner is who has built the longest line.
Alexandra Nastaeva and Pupils of Secondary School No 12, Games With Ankle Bones
‘Dugrul’ is a game played by boys of about the age of 10. The player hits a whirligig with a whip so that it whirls. In the past, this game was used as training for future wolf hunters who used whips.
‘Drag the rope’ is known among many peoples. The Kalmyk version differs in that the winners not only have to pull the rope to themselves but also seize a handkerchief from the opposing team.
‘Nyarn shinj’ is played by two people. The winner is the one who first arranges the nyarn shinj i.e. by putting metal rings into the rod and then pulling out the rod from inside the rings.
Alexandra Nastaeva and Pupils of Secondary School No 12, Traditional Games
In his childhood Anatoliy played with ankle bones. First, the ankle bones were polished with a stone and then a small hole was made in the middle of each ankle bone which were filled with lead. This was to make ankle bones heavier. These bones were used in the ‘who will throw it the furthest’ game. Anatoliy reminisces that children walked with their pockets full of ankle bones.
Anatoliy Safinov, Ankle Bones
In the past children played with ankle bones. My father was very good at weaving whips. In Siberia he worked in a factory that produced felt boots. In Siberia there were no toys, we made toy houses and little men from clay. In spring we played in the gardens.
Anna Azvanova, About Children’s Games
Bulgun reminisces about toys in her childhood.
In 1944 my older sister found money somewhere and bought me a toy – a clown. The head of the clown was made from clay, but the rest was rag. Even during the war they made toys from gauze, dyed in green. Before exile, children played on the street with whatever they could get hold of (chunks of porcelain and lids). After the war dolls with a plastic head appeared. When girls play with dolls they learn how to be a mother, a housewife.
Bulgun Lapsina, About Toys of My Childhood
Bulya explains how to play the following games: ‘silver belt’ (a game played with a belt), ‘khorma khotn’ (a pulling game) and ‘dule modna’ (a game with a ball).
Bulya Nyudeeva, Games
Dzhidzha talks about two games that she played in her childhood, namely ‘shaga’ and ‘tsagan modn’. The former involves ankle bones, and the latter is a game played in the evening. A game testing one’s speed, tsagan modn involves throwing a stick and chasing it. Whoever gets the stick first is chased by others who try to take it away.
Dzhidzha Araeva, About Children's Games
In childhood we played a lot. I had male and female dolls, I sewed clothes for them, fed them and played weddings. Interestingly, we distinguished them by khoton, this is our khoton, that is yours and we visited each other. We played how our parents lived, we imitated them.
Also, we played hide-and-seek and racing. There was a game called Tsagan monda (white ball). In the evening we would make a ball out of rags. At dusk or at night someone would throw it and we would search for it. The one who found the ball was the winner, and then the winner throws the ball. We also played lapta. These games have been forgotten now.
In Siberia we played hopscotch. We also made dolls out of old pieces of fabric. We made doll’s hair using threads, tied a shawl on its head and painted its face. We sewed dresses and skirts for the them. My doll had many dresses. I used to sew doll clothes until the twilight. We gave names to our dolls. Our dolls had parents and siblings. This is how we played.
Ksenia Kardonova, About Children’s Games
In Siberia Kalmyk children played with ankle bones. Ankle bones needed to be prepared for games first by drilling a small hole inside and filling the bones with melted lead. It was usually boys who played with ankle bones. Girls played with dolls made from cloth and also liked making up stories.
Maria Lidzhigoryaeva, Children's Games in Siberia
Nikolai says that Vladimir Baglikov, who is a physicist, created a new game with wooden blocks with Kalmyk letters on them. Nikolai himself improved the game which can be used in the teaching of Kalmyk.
Nikolai Ubushaev, Baglik Sho: Letter Blocks
Tatyana says that in Siberia children played with ankle bones, a game which was also helpful in learning arithmetic. Colorful ankle bones were dyed with various herbs. Also, these bones were used in divination.
Tatyana Boskhomdzhieva, Ankle Bones (Shaga)
Vladimir says that today not many children play with ankle bones. He recalls when he was young, children played with bones more often. According to Vladimir, various games using ankle bones develop flexibility, agility, and muscle in children’s hands. Ankles bones are taken from the back legs of a cow or a sheep. It is possible to determine the age and health of animals by examining this particular bone.
Vladimir Byurchiev, Ankle Bones
Vladimir says that 'nyarn shinj' is a riddle that helps to improve one's memory and skills. The number of rings in the riddle can be 8 or 12. The rings are made from a horn. The winner is the one who finishes the riddle first.
Vladimir Byurchiev, Nyarn Shinj
Zurgada says that in her childhood she played with balls made from the dung of cows, sheep or camels. Children, usually boys, played with ankle bones. Each side of the ankle bone had a name. Children also made figures and objects from mud to play with. At night children played with balls made from cow’s hair.