A day in a traditional Kalmyk family begins with the opening of the curtains to let light in, cooking breakfast, and attending to the family altar. It is usually the young bride’s duty to wake up first, cook, look after the household, put offerings on the altar, and go to bed last. During the day every member of the family is assigned activities based on gender, age, and hierarchy. Men are supposed to be bread-winners, undertake physically demanding chores, and represent the family, whereas women and girls are expected to do domestic work. Before setting off on a long journey, Kalmyks visit their close relatives, or invite them home to perform a ritual called khaalg yoryallgn in order to secure a successful and safe journey. It is also forbidden to take out rubbish so as not to pollute the journey. Guests are treated with a cup of tea or tobacco and are expected to be seen off outside the flat or house. At dusk it is forbidden for women to visit other people's homes or even go out. Other activities that are discouraged in the evening are taking certain types of products, including milk, yoghurt, cheese, salt, and matches out of the house.
On this page, you can watch videos and listen to stories about daily activities in Kalmyk families, both traditional and modern.
Alla Saldusova, About Poetry and Kalmyk Language
Alla talks briefly about how she discovered for herself Kalmyk poetry and culture through Buddhism.
Alla talks briefly about how she discovered for herself Kalmyk poetry and culture through Buddhism.
Alla Saldusova, About Poetry and Kalmyk Language
Anna teaches her children and grandchildren to always remember, visit, and care for their paternal house where they were born and brought up. It is a custom in her family to go to a Buddhist monk and ask for prayers when a member of the family sets out on a long journey. Anna asks her family members who happen to be far away to burn incense or light up a candle (zul) when they get homesick. In order to provide prosperity, protection and happiness to the whole family, Anna hangs Buddhist hiimori flags in her yard.
The household where Anna lives consists of two houses. The first house was built in 1958 by her father-in-law, and the second in 1972. There are also two tall trees planted by her father-in-law. Both houses and trees, which are associated with the memory of the patriarch, are respected by all members of the large family. During national holidays the trees get decorated.
Anna’s mother-in-law who lives in the first house reads Buddhist prayers daily. On special auspicious days all members of the family also receive a blessing from the grandmother. According to Kalmyk custom, every day the first cup of freshly brewed tea is offered to gods. During national holidays, the first portion of the family meal is put on the family altar.
Anna Antonova, Worship of the Home and Altar
As the saying goes, ‘I rich man is in his pocket, a poor man is in his soul’. In the olden days, people had many relatives. All relatives lived next to each other and helped each other. Daughters were married out and sons were married. If a man got married, people would say that he became rich. A family was considered as wealth. Sons had to help their fathers to look after the livestock, daughters had to help their mothers. The mother taught her daughter to cook, to milk cows, this way the girl learnt to become a wife.
Anna Azvanova, About Traditional Upbringing
Baira talks about traditional upbringing, prohibitions, songs and well-wishes.
As a child, we were always forbidden to do certain things, for example, to lay hands behind the back, to cry in bed, to sit like a dog, and so on. However, we did not attach special importance to these bans and prohibitions. I think that it was simply not explained why such actions were bad. Besides that, being afraid of older people, children rarely asked them why all these prohibitions should be observed.
Today, young people are different. Children interrogate so that sometimes you do not even know what to say. In the past, Kalmyks had many children, and it was simply impossible to get distracted by their questions. Today, by contrast, families have one child, whom they carry in their hands and indulge with everything.
Regarding the upbringing of children, my grandmother always told me that she rode a horse from the age of 3, and fetched water from a nearby spring. So, from the age of 3 she already participated in household chores. My grandmother also told me that they had one camel, which they used to transport water. Children were also made to collect dung in the steppe and to carry it home. When I was at university, I wrote down my grandmother’s memories of Siberia, songs and much more.
Among my notes there is one special song. Imagine the life of ‘special settlers’ in Siberia. You cannot speak your native language or say that you are a Kalmyk, because it is dangerous. Kalmyks sent all important information to each other through songs, because if you are a (Russian) authority you would think that a song is just a song and ignore it. Once, one Kalmyk widow stole a handful of grain to feed her hungry children. She was caught, convicted and sentenced to 10 years. In order to tell others who lived far away about what had happened to her the Kalmyks made a song. I wrote it down. That’s how the information was transmitted in the form of songs. And there are a lot of songs of this kind.
In the 1970s and 1980s, N. Ubushaev, A. Kichikov, A. Badmaev and others wrote down a lot from Kalmyk folklore. In 1972, the first collection of Kalmyk fairy tales was compiled and published based on their notes. Earlier, in 1968, the first collection of fairy tales, which was written down from Sanzhi Ivanovich Manzhikov, was published. Our scholars also published various song collections. It’s a pity though that our scholars did not pay much attention to well-wishes. My grandmother, for example, could say well-wishes without a pause for 40 minutes at weddings. In the 1980s, Mandzhi Erdni-Goryaev traveled all over Kalmykia, recording well-wishes. E. Ovalov processed his notes and published a book, which includes well-wishes that they heard from my grandmother. However, what he managed to write down was only a small part of what the Kalmyks had. Scholars ignored this genre, by looking more for legends, fairy tales, long songs, and Jangar.
Well-wishes constitute a special genre. There are long well-wishes, as well as short ones such as ‘Mini nasnd kyur’ (I wish you to achieve my age), ‘Ut nas nasl’ (I wish you longevity) that people said many times a day. Longer well-wishes, by contrast, were uttered on special occasions. My grandmother always uttered a well-wish before starting a new work.
Baira Goryaeva, About Traditional Upbringing and Folklore
Bulgun says that Tersk Kalmyks spoke the languages of their Caucasian neighbours. She also recounts a story of a Kalmyk girl who was abducted by Chechens.
Tersk Kalmyks knew the Ossetian, Chechen and Cherkess languages well. In the 1970s I met a specialist from the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. They like to drink Kalmyk tea. That specialist said that many Kalmyks lived in two districts in her republic.
My father had a cousin named Dorji. His sixteen-year-old daughter named Yumba was kidnapped by Chechens. She wore a silver belt that her father had made for her. On the way, she tore off silver bits from her belt one by one and tossed them on the road. In this way, the Kalmyks, who tracked the Chechen kidnappers, found the village where the Kalmyk girl was taken to. Local Chechens said to the Kalmyks that they could take their girl back if they found her, and promised to punish the abductors themselves. The Kalmyks looked everywhere, but could not find her. Later it turned out that in order to hide the girl, the Chechens put her in a hole, covered it and set a fire on top. In despair, the girl’s father committed suicide.
Bulgun Lapsina, About Relations Between Kalmyks and Caucasians
We call father dyaadya and mother baava. Even my uncle’s wife called our father dyaadya. We called our maternal uncles aak. The eldest maternal uncle is ik aak (elder aak) and younger maternal uncle is bichkn aak (junior aak). We also called our paternal uncles as aak. I called my older sister aaja, and my elder brother aaka. My brother’s wife refers to my elder sister as aaja.
My husband is a Buzava, and the customs of my clan differs from his. By upbringing, our women do not smoke, drink or swear. We address our husbands ‘you’ as opposed to ‘thou’. A Tersk woman will never cross a road to a man or even a boy.
Bulgun Lapsina, About Terms of Kinship and Upbringing of Girls
Bulgun talks about some interjections, words and pronunciations peculiar to the dialect of the Tersk Kalmyks.
Interjections, which enrich any language, are already disappearing in the Kalmyk language. For example, when a Kalmyk stumbles, he/she says yaah-yaah. When Kalmyks have pity on children, they express this feeling by saying koork-koork. The younger generation already does not use these words any more. I have a friend, originally from Tsagan-Aman, who speaks the Terek Kalmyk dialect. It turns out that her mother-in-law taught her that dialect. Dialects are different from each other. Tersk Kalmyks say myangsrn (onion) instead of mengrsn, tyamk (tobacco) instead of tamk.
For ‘where’, the Terek Kalmyks say kham or khamaran, whereas the Torghuts say al’d or al’daran. There is a joke that the Buzavas say kudaran (deriving from the Russian word kuda ‘where’). Under the influence of the Don Cossacks, the Buzavas say grubka (oven), tsibarka (bucket) and sern’g (matches, deriving from the Russian word serniki). We, Tersk Kalmyks, also used these same words.
Bulgun Lapsina, About the Language of the Tersk Kalmyks
The Club of the Kalmyk Language (Khal’mg kelnya klub) was founded in Moscow in 2013. In the first year the number of attendees, including children and grown-ups, was around 40. Free of charge, the classes were first held at a local Kalmyk restaurant, and later came to be organized at the Office of the Representative of Kalmykia in Moscow. Many students who start a course drop out towards the end of the year. Sanal is the teacher of Kalmyk this year. The club has its library of audio recordings and books.
Sanal says that the Kalmyk language should be spoken in the family environment on a daily basis.
Bulgun points out that books written in Kalmyk often have grammatical mistakes that people learn and spread further through the Internet.
Bulgun Mankirova, Sanal Badmaev, A Kalmyk Language Club in Moscow
Dmitriy reminisces about his grandparents and recounts what his grandmother told him about how a Kalmyk man should be. This is his story:
We spoke with our grandmother in Kalmyk. That is how I learnt Kalmyk. When I started school, I did not know a single word in Russian. We had a Russian neighbor who taught us Russian. After our grandmother died, we began to talk among ourselves in Russian.
According to my grandmother, a Kalmyk man should be as follows. He feeds his family and doesn’t shy away from slaughtering livestock because cattle is the source of food for Kalmyks. There is a saying ‘A sheep lives for the sake of its fat tail, and a man lives for the sake of his children’ (Khon suulin tolya, kun kuukdin tolya). So a man should think about how to feed and educate his children. In the past many were illiterate, and our grandfather received a very good education by the standards for those times. When we were sent to Siberia, my grandfather was appointed chairman of a collective farm. In Siberia, he looked after all his relatives, thanks to whom we all survived Siberia.
Dmitriy Mandzhiev, Traditional Upbringing of Boys
Dzhidzha talks about tribes that live on the Volga, her husband’s clan affiliation and the Kalmyk tradition not to address relatives by their names. This is her story:
My husband is from a place called Shambay. He is either Khoshut or Kharakhus, in terms of his clan affiliation. I am Kereit, and we live on the Volga river. My husband and I are from different tribes. Hence, we are not relatives. In general, Kalmyks are respectful towards their relatives. We do not call our relatives by their names. For example, we address maternal relatives as nagtsnr.
Dzhidzha Araeva, About Kalmyk Tribes From the Volga Region
Dzhidzha says that children should not go out after sunset. It is also forbidden to cross one’s hands. Women and girls should not cross their hands behind their back, for this movement is believed to undermine men’s power and authority. People should not call their paternal relatives by their name. People also should host their relatives well.
Dzhidzha recalls that when her family lived in a nomadic tent, they washed their face with water from a bucket and bathed rarely. Married women wore shivrlg on their hair, while girls gathered their hair in a braid (kyukyul’).
Dzhidzha Araeva, Nomadic Life: Prohibitions, Daily Life and Hairstyles
In this interview Evgeniy and Leonid, who are both livestock breeders, talk about the importance of knowing one’s native tongue.
Leonid: We need to know our history, where we came from, what military achievements we had. If we start to speak Kalmyk, that would be great. Especially during national holidays such as Tsagan Sar or Zul people should try to speak Kalmyk.
Evgeniy: After I finished university, I moved to the village of Godzhur where all people spoke Kalmyk. At that time, although I did not speak Kalmyk, I thought to myself that I understood the language well. In Godzhur I understood that I did not understand Kalmyk at all. I bought books in Kalmyk, including textbooks and those about livestock breeding, and started to read them in the evening. With time, I started to speak with old people in Kalmyk. I call upon all Kalmyks, both young and middle-aged, to start to learn our language. One can learn a language by memorizing ten words a day and by using them on a daily basis. Parents should read Kalmyk fairy tales to their children and expose them to a speaking environment. When I lived in Yashaltinskiy rayon, in my village out of 30 people only two spoke Kalmyk. Also, when I went to Inner Mongolia I spoke Kalmyk with the locals. It was so nice to be able to understand what the locals were saying to me. It is shameful if one does not know his/her language. We should learn our language only because we are Kalmyks, and that is a good reason. My wife did not speak Russian when she was a child, although her family lived in Astrakhan oblast. With age the young people will understand that they need to know their language and traditions.
Leonid: People need to wear Kalmyk hats and dress with Kalmyk embroidery and clan signs on it.
Evgeniy Dzhokhaev, Leonid Ochir-Goryaev, About the Kalmyk Language
Galina relays what her grandparents told her about how to treat pets and domestic animals. This is her story:
Both my grandparents never touched our cat. They always said to me that I should not touch pets and domestic animals – our cat, the chickens in the yard, and our dog – and let animals go wherever they wanted to.
If a stray dog wandered into our yard, my grandmother always told me to give it some food. My grandfather often said that a stray dog could be a relative of ours that was reborn as a canine. It is interesting that they said nothing of this to my parents.
Galina Mamonova, About How My Grandparents Treated Cats and Dogs
In the past there was no good fuel, so we used dung (argal) for heating. There was not a lot of livestock either, therefore the dung was not easy to find. That is why we went out searching and collecting dung and dry grass all the time. We used to do everything.
Ksenia Kardonova, About the Usage of Dung
Ksenia says the following. Boys were brought up as heirs. It was believed that a man who has sons is rich. Having a girl was not as joyous as having a boy, because when the girls grow up they will leave their family after marriage. There were no big differences in the upbringing of boys and girls. The girl was brought up by her mother, who taught her how to sew, cook and wash. It was good if a girl could do embroidery. I tell my daughters that in the olden days girls were closely watched when they cooked, sewed, or even walked. People observed how a girl carries water, whether she splashes it or not, how she talks and how she looks at people. By contrast, boys grew up with their fathers, from whom they learnt how to do men’s work. Of course, boys should serve in the army, get married and be able to provide for their families.
Ksenia says a well-wish to young people: ‘Let the youth live well, listen to their elders, respect their young, live in prosperity and plenty. Let everyone help each other in difficult times’.
Ksenia Kardonova, About Traditional Upbringing
Larisa talks about Kalmyk signs and omens.
Question: Can we talk about signs and omens?
Larisa: We, Kalmyks, have many signs and omens. As for men, they are like gods. We should respect our men at home. Food should be first offered to gods and then to men, because men are the foundation of our families. If you respect men, you will get everything. On the street, we give way to men, although they should give way to pregnant women. When I travel on a bus I give a seat to men and stand up myself.
Another example. It is a bad omen when a bucket is empty. It is good when it is full of water. I don’t cross a road when someone is carrying an empty bucket.
It is a bad omen when children cry in the evening or whistle. The same applies to women.
Another bad omen is when someone leaves his/her clothes outside in the evening, because it is when the gates open to other worlds. At night evil spirits fly around. People should not leave their clothes outside.
Larisa Shoglyaeva, Signs and Omens
In this video Petr, a famous Kalmyk choreographer, talks about Kalmyk language, culture and dances.
He says that the Kalmyks should keep their language alive. He adds that today many Kalmyks speak, think and write in Russian. 80 per cent of the Kalmyk youth does not know their native language. According to Petr, Kalmyk dances are connected with the Kalmyk language. For example, during a dance people sing shavash (a Kalmyk praise to the dancer). In the 1960s Kalmykia used to hold competitions of Kalmyk sayings. Today, by contrast, people lost interest in traditional songs and dances.
Petr bemoans the fact that today the young people do not understand the meaning of Kalmyk words, although many want to learn their native tongue. For example, in Moscow, Kalmyks organize language classes. Petr says that such initiatives should be supported. In order to revive Kalmyk, a law should be passed making highly paid jobs contingent on the knowledge of Kalmyk. This law should be applicable to Kalmyks only. Although Petr acknowledges that this measure may sound harsh, he sees no other way around it. If the Kalmyks are to survive as a nation, they need to keep their dances and folk songs alive. He points out that there are many good teachers of Kalmyk in secondary schools, who can help revive the language. Petr’s wish is to see and keep Kalmyk folklore alive so that Kalmyk children know about their roots. Finally, he warns that if the Kalmyks forget their language, their link with Kalmyk dances will be also lost. With no culture or dances left, the nation will cease to exist.
Petr Nadbitov, About Kalmyk Language and Culture
In this short interview, lama Sanal talks about values and traditional rules that Kalmyks should follow in his opinion.
Question: How should modern Kalmyks behave in order to carry with dignity the name of Buddhism and that of their nation?
Sanal: People should learn and speak their native tongue. I too did not speak Kalmyk until recently. Of course, those who speak fluently would know that my Kalmyk is not perfect. But people should try to use Kalmyk words as often as they can. Young people should show respect to older people. Children should respect their parents, and the believers respect lamas. Education should start at home. When older people enter the room, young people should stand up and greet them. Older people should be addressed as ta (a respectful form of ‘you’). Out of 1000 married couples 700 divorce, which means we need to do something about it. No matter what, our parents are the most important people for us. We also should put offerings to gods on our domestic altars. In short, people should follow their traditions and domestic rules.
Sanal Sandzheev, How to Be a Proper Kalmyk
Tatyana talks about the importance of instilling traditional values in children. This is her story:
Although as a historical social institution, the family changes over time, it is important to combine healthy conservatism and innovations. When she was setting up the Institute for Noble Maidens, tsarina Catherine II said that, ‘All bad things come from bad education’ and pointed to the importance of correctly educating parents themselves.
Historically, the first type of family was based on patriarchal values when the husband was the sole breadwinner and the wife stayed at home. She depended on her husband. With technical progress, women gradually began to do ‘masculine’ jobs.
With excessive freedom that we enjoy today, we have lost many important cultural values. We need to teach our girls about traditional values. Today many families have only one child that grows into an unmanageable individual, which is wrong.
In Europe when they reach 17, children gain independence. We should not apply this European mentality to ours. Every nation has its own rules, and we, the Kalmyks, have a clan-oriented mentality.
Parents should always communicate with and reach a compromise with their children, and never tell them lies. These are simple universal rules. I always tell my students, who are 18-20, that their parents expect attention from them. I tell them to call their parents, to give them small presents to make them happy. The modern world is selfish. The modern consumer society does not teach these things.
Tatyana Dzhambinova, About Traditional Upbringing
I was born on 14 April 1957 in Khanty-Mansiysk, when my parents lived in exile. My father is Lidzhiev Nikolai Bovaevich and my mother Zolvanova Roza Alexandrovna. Since everything starts in the family, the moral compass and love for work that I have comes from my parents. My father was a hardworking man, he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labor. My mother, too, was an honorary health worker.
I wrote a book titled Kalmyk Women, which I dedicated to my family. My mother is an amazing woman who has a deep philosophy. In this book, I tried to collect valuable bits of folk pedagogy.
Today the preservation of the family is a global problem. Sometimes it seems to me that we understand ‘freedom’ as limitless permissiveness. As a result it is families that suffer first, because the role of families diminish, intergenerational ties loosen, and children grow up without the attention of their grandparents. My book is about values and about the importance of knowing one’s roots.
Globalization has both positive and negative consequences. It levels many things up, and makes them homogenous. As a result, we lose our uniqueness. Each culture has delicate details, and I do not want our people to forget our culture. In my book, my informants are my mother, my grandmothers, and scholars. In my book I also researched ‘Ik Zaajin Bichig’ (Steppe Code adopted in 1640), which has 22 articles concerning women. As a researcher I made my own conclusions regarding this law. I think our ancestors were very wise.
All nations show respect to pregnant women. People try not to offend pregnant women and satisfy their wishes. In Kalmyk culture, if a pregnant woman miscarries as a result of conflict, the guilty person pays a certain number of animals as a compensation depending on the woman’s pregnancy level. For example, if a woman in her 9th month of pregnancy miscarries, she is paid 81 animals by the guilty side. That is what the Steppe Code stipulates.
Another interesting fact about this Code is a passage saying that during a difficult childbirth men held the woman’s back and pushed her belly to stimulate the process. Although it was a highly paid role, not many men wanted to perform this because it was believed that such an activity negatively affected masculine strength.
For newborn babies people used a thin lamb skin as a diaper. It dried quickly, and kept the baby warm.
I think that today the family has handed over many of its functions to other social institutions. We are less involved with our children.
I am proud of Kalmyk literature and folklore. Sometimes I read the epos ‘Jangar’ with a specific purpose. Although in the epos a woman’s beauty is seen in her white skin and white teeth, her main virtue is her skill and hardworking disposition. I recall how my grandmother, who was born in 1898, used to say that women should always learn new skills.
My mother and I wrote a short article about how sewing skills were obligatory for Kalmyk women. Kalmyk men chose their brides by looking at their needlework.
My mother-in-law, Ekaterina Angayevna, was a very skillful person. Women from our family did a lot of sewing when in Siberia. I also know how to sew and spin. Every woman should be able to do this.
My paternal grandmother used to cure people. My brother today keeps her rosary. Every family should keep sacred objects at home. When I was born in 1957, my parents bought me a wooden baby cot. We still keep it in our family. Many children in my family have grown up in it.
My book is about self-education. It also contains passages about religion. I collected all the information in my book from the older generation. This is my little contribution to the preservation of some aspects of the culture of our people.
Tatyana Dzhambinova, My Book About Kalmyk Women
Valentina says that the Kalmyk language does not have dialect variations. Although there is no clan-related difference in how people speak, some families may have certain words or expressions that are unique to them. Valentina bemoans the fact that many Kalmyks do not speak their native tongue.
Valentina Bovaeva, About the Kalmyk Language
Vladimir says that in the past Kalmyks viewed cats as sacred animals and called them ‘Buddha’s dogs’ (burkhna nokha). Cats can be masters of people.
Vladimir himself loves cats and allows his cat to sleep on his bed.
Vladimir Boldyrev, About How Kalmyks See Cats
About Kalmyk customs. Vladimir points out that today Kalmyks have forgotten their customs. In contrast with the past when celebrations lasted for up to a month, today most celebrations are short and done within a day. He says that people should pray more at their altars, because this will make gods happy. One can also put a red and a white coin on the altar.
About the Kalmyk language. Vladimir recounts a saying that ‘not speaking one’s native tongue is tantamount to rejecting one’s parents’.
Vladimir Boldyrev, About Kalmyk Customs and Language
Some trees were regarded by Kalmyks as sacred, including the tamarisk (torlg). It is red in colour and grows in the mountains of Mongolia. Whips made from this tree were considered valuable and believed to have curing properties. The tamarisk was used to cure children and ulcers on the skin of a sheep (tsoorkha). To cure, Kalmyks simply touched the sheep’s wounds with this tree. The tamarisk was also used as an amulet against evil spirits.
Kalmyks avoided the aspin tree (ulada), because of its propensity to grow tall. People believed that by growing tall this tree wishes to be the highest among all the trees.
Vladimir Boldyrev, About Traditional Knowledge of Trees
Yuriy talks about traditional food, the nomadic way of life and playing cards.
In the past Kalmyk food consisted mainly of meat, mutton and beef in particular. Torghuts who lived on the Volga river ate fish. Kalmyks also consumed dairy products, including butter and milk. In their history Kalmyks adopted dishes from the cuisine of the neighbouring peoples. Food was made communally and shared among the contributors. For example, milk vodka was usually distilled together with various people contributing ingredients. Torghuts got hold of fish either by catching it or buying it in Astrakhan.
Kalmyks kept special horses, which they rode only at night. These horses had a special diet. They were fed with black tea or a broth made from cow’s bones which was believed to make them strong. When travelling, Kalmyks ate their food (beef, dry cheese etc.) and drank water on horseback, which allowed them to save time.
Traditional men’s costumes were suitable for nomadic life. Yuriy’s father always had a knife in his boots and a silver belt around his waist.
Kalmyks loved playing cards. Yuriy’s grandmother was a gambler. One day she gambled away almost all of her possessions and told her descendants to keep away from gambling. Not only did her descendants follow her advice, but they did not smoke or drink alcohol. Yuriy says that his relatives hold the honourable name of their clan in high esteem and that they achieve everything with their wit and hard work.
Yuriy Bembeev, About Food, Nomadic Life and Gambling
According to Yuriy, in the olden days Kalmyks lived in friendship and harmony, despite their difference in clan affiliations. By contrast, Kalmyks were on guard with regard to other ethnic groups. In the Soviet period Kalmyks, however, changed and they began to write denunciations against each other.
Comparing traditional and modern life, Yuriy says that before the Soviet period life was better and people knew each other, whereas today even relatives do not know one another. Other things that changed are values, not to mention the quality of food. By contrast with today, food was natural and organic in the past.
Yuriy Bembeev, About How Kalmyks Lived in the Past
Zinaida says that she went to Western Mongolia in 2013 with the Kalmyk folk ensemble Erdem. In Mongolia she remembered her childhood back in Kalmykia i.e. how Kalmyks distilled milk vodka, made butter etc. According to Zinaida, the life of Western Mongols is not very different from those of the Kalmyks (in her childhood). There are many common words in the two languages as well. When Zinaida sang a Kalmyk song about the Volga, old Mongol women cried. Kalmyk dances, according to Zinaida, differ from Mongolian ones in that they are more rhythmic.
Zinaida likes Kalmyk songs and music. With her folk ensemble, she has performed in many parts of Russia and beyond. Zinaida’s grandmother also liked singing. Zinaida has been singing since 1993 and hopes that the younger generation would continue the tradition of the Kalmyk people into the future.