Stories and Legends About Kin and Ancestors
This collection hosts interviews with people who talk about their ancestors, parents, older relatives, and relay stories and legends about their clan and ancestral places.
Ais Sandzhiev, About the Taltakhn Clan
Alexandra reminisces about her mother-in-law.
My mother-in-law was highly educated and stood out among her peers. She wrote poetry. One day when she worked as a nurse in a hospital, the famous Kalmyk singer Valentina Iltsaranova came for treatment. My mother-in-law wrote a poem dedicated to her, which Valentina Iltsaranova later turned into a song and sang it herself.
When my daughter was going to secondary school, my mother-in-law bought her a dombra instrument. My mother-in-law always said that she wanted the whole country to hear my daughter’s voice. She foresaw it – if not the country, at least our republic now hears her voice. My daughter Victoria works at the radio station.
Alexandra Sanzheeva, About My Mother-In-Law
Alla talks about her parents, maternal grandfather and herself. This is her story:
My mother is a descendant from the noble family of the Taltaevs from Tsagan-Nur. My maternal grandfather graduated from college in Astrakhan where he learned Russian. After the revolution in 1917 he came to Kalmykia where he was appointed to various managerial positions. In the 1930s, when repressions began against the nobility, his younger brother was arrested and sent to Stalingrad from where he was released later and died in 1940. My grandfather himself was Buddhist. He counted his rosaries and never raised his voice. He did not blame the Soviet government, but lived in his inner world. When collectivization started, initially he did not want give away his cattle to the state, but later was persuaded by his brother to change his mind.
My mother was a beautiful woman. Her parents wanted her to marry a man of noble origin. Although they found a suitable groom, my mother’s younger brother was against her marrying at a young age and instead took her with him to Volgograd where she entered a medical school. During the war she was sent to Tsagan-Nur where she worked as a doctor. From there she travelled to Kazakhstan, accompanying the kolkhoz cattle that was driven there to prevent them from falling into the hands of the advancing Germans. In Siberia, she was in high demand, because she was a good doctor and knew how to quickly make a diagnosis. Although people around us lived poorly, I remember that in the evening people secretly brought my mother candies and apples.
My father Garya Bargukovich Saldusov worked as a people’s judge. He was a war veteran but did not like to talk about the war.
I went to school in the village of Ketchenery for 4 years, but completed my secondary education in Elista. Like everyone else I was a pioneer. At the end of grade 11, I entered the Komsomol only because I wanted to go to college. I entered the Moscow Library Institute. There I learned how to write book reviews, and I was the best in my class. Afterwards, I worked as director in a children’s library in Elista. Later I worked at the Kalmyk Scientific Institute where I collected materials on children’s literature and studied Kalmyk poetry.
Alla Saldusova, About My Family
In this video Anna talks about her grandmother, who taught her how to pray. This is her story:
My grandmother was very religious and prayed every morning. She fasted three times a month and four times a year. There is a khutor (village) called Gyudik in Yashaltinskyi rayon where there is a big hill. On that hill people read prayers. In Siberia, when I was little, my grandmother would make black tea and flat bread and ask me, ‘Get up, pour some tea for me and give me bread, listen to me and learn how to pray’. My grandmother was called Bot’kh Orlovna Shurganova and my grandfather’s name was Badma Konusovich Shurganov. I practice what I learnt from my grandmother, although I cannot say that I learnt much. Sometimes my grandmother would grab me by my hair and make me memorize prayers.
When I was 1 year and 8 months old my family was deported to Siberia. We lived for 13 years there. I was brought up by my grandparents, because my mother died before reaching Krasnoyarsk. My grandfather was taken to hospital soon after arrival. Doctors would come to us every morning and tell my grandmother to send me to an orphanage. My grandmother always replied, ‘I may die, and I when I die I would like my granddaughter be by my side’. She did not give me away and brought me up herself. Later my grandfather recovered and lived together with us. My grandparents returned to Kalmykia together and died here.
Now I have 9 grandchildren. My only son has died. This is how we live. We are satisfied with what we have.
Anna Shurguchinova, About My Grandmother
Badma says that the 13 years of exile (from 1943 to 1957) that the Kalmyks had to endure were extremely difficult. He mentions a view voiced by the religious leader of the Torghuts in Xingjiang, Shalvan Gegyan. When the Kalmyks in Russia were sent to exile, the Torghuts in China also died in great numbers due to an epidemic. According to Shalvan Gegyan, the Kalmyks and the Torghuts were meant to pass this difficult test.
Badma Tazaev, About Exile
The Mandzhikin clan comprises 12 clans. I myself belong to a clan called Kyujikhn. I was born in 1953 in Omskaya oblast, in Siberia. My family consisted of my parents, grandmother and grandfather. In 1957 by Khrushchev’s order we were allowed to return to our homeland. My parents were not ordinary people. In the Soviet time, people hid and changed their last names. My clan consists of the Dochkaevs, the Bochkaevs and other families. We all have the same roots.
Boris Dochkaev, About My Clan and Family
Bulgun reminisces about her father who fought in World War II.
My father sang and danced, he could also sew shoes. When the German army defeated the 110th division of the Red Army, my father, who was serving with them, was captured by the Romanian soldiers. At school we were taught that prisoners of war were tortured. I asked my father if he was tortured, but he said ‘no’, he spent time in the camp repairing boots. He fled the camp and joined the partisans in the Carpathians. Later along with these partisans he joined a regular army, which was part of the 2nd Ukrainian Front under Marshal Malinovsky. During a battle my father was seriously wounded. He received the Order of Glory of the 3rd degree for taking command of a platoon after its commander died, thus preventing panic among the soldiers.
My father was an atheist. One day in Siberia, when my father was repairing boots, an old Russian man came into our house and asked: ‘Where is your icon?’ My father only pointed to a portrait of Lenin.
Bulgun Lapsina, About My Father
Bulgun talks about the origin and history of the Tersk Kalmyks.
In 1764 more than two hundred Kalmyks from the Erketenevskiy ulus were sent to the Caucasus to carry out military service. They were all Tsatan Torghuts. There they became part of the Tersk Cossacks. Whilst some these Kalmyks adopted Christianity, my clan did not, remaining faithful to the religion of our ancestors. One of my ancestors was a sergeant in the Terskiy Army. His descendants became farmers. In the Cossack army Kalmyks served mainly as guards. In 1921 the Tersk Kalmyks moved to Kalmykia.
After the establishment of the Kalmyk Autonomous Oblast, all Tersk Kalmyks were settled in Bashanta (today the town of Gorodovikovsk) in Kalmykia, although they themselves wanted to settle in Ulan-Khol. The Kumsk Kalmyks settled in the village of Leninets.
The Tersk Kalmyks always stayed together and helped each other, for there were only a few of them and many were related to each other.
Bulgun Lapsina, About the Tersk Kalmyks
Dmitriy is from the Khongrmud lineage of the Baga Burul clan. He talks about the Burul tribe and his ancestral land. This is his story:
Our tribe consists of 5 major clans: Iki-Burul, Mandzhikin, Dzhedzhikin, Kevyud and Baga-Burul. The largest among them is Iki Burul which, according to our elders, was comprised of 1000 tents or households. The second largest is Mandzhikin and Dzhedzhikin that had 500 tents each. Kevyud had from 300 to 400 tents, and the smallest was my clan which only had 100 tents. Despite its size, many people from my clan were educated. In the beginning they studied in temples, and later after the Soviets came to power many people from my clan headed collective and state farms. For example, my grandfather went to school, was an excellent student and later was sent to Astrakhan to continue his studies.
Each clan has its land. Our clan inherited its land from a wrestler, who received it from a noble man as a reward. In 2006, we all gathered together and performed a ritual near where our clan temple once stood. Our elders requested that we rebuild the temple, which we did.
The first clan to come this area was Iki Burul from whom split Mandzhikin, Dzhedzhikin and other clans.
I know well the boundaries of my ancestral/clan land which was the biggest in this area.
My lineage takes its beginning from a man called Temyach. He was the only son in the family. Temyach himself also had a son called Mandzhi. Mandzhi had 3 sons, Shokadyk, Boldyr and Lobin. We are descendants of Shokadyk. There are 10 members in our family. We all work on the farm, raise cattle, keep a few horses and camels.
In the past, one of my ancestors was a wrestler who served a noble man. When my ancestor became old the noble man gave him people, land and cattle and let him live separately. That is how the best land in Iki-Burulskiy rayon belongs to our clan. In its turn our clan is divided into several lineages (arvn): Mangdmud, Olchakhn, Darzhakhn, Khongrmud, Gelngud. Today we all live in different places. In the village of Baga-Burul itself there are practically no indigenous people left. The reason for this is that after returning from Siberia, our people did not find a place where they could settle. By the time the village was built more than half of our people had already left. Our clan, for example, moved to the neighboring village of Orgakin, where I grew up.
Dmitriy Mandzhiev, About Burul and Baga-Burul Clans and My Ancestors
Dzhidzha was born in Khavtkha-Barun. She is Kereit, from the Munakhn arvn. Her father was a herder, and her mother was a housewife. Dzhidzha had three siblings, two of whom died in Siberia and one in Kalmykia. When her older sister died, her parents went to see the lama Sangadzhi who by that time had disrobed in order to escape the persecution against the clergy. He was Dzhidzha’s mother’s cousin. Popular among people, his house was full of guests and patients, although among them were those who wrote letters of denunciation about him to the authorities Sangadzhi was soon arrested and sent to gulag. After his release, he returned to Kalmykia where he died.
Being of an aristocratic origin, Dzhidzha’s maternal grandfather finished 10 years of education and had a judicial education. He was a wealthy man and ran a shop. He organized a rich wedding for his daughter that lasted for three days. When the Bolsheviks came to power, he destroyed his business and went to live in a dugout with his five children.
Dzhidzha Araeva, About the Lama Sangadzhi and My Maternal Grandfather
My elder brother fought in the Red Army against Nazi Germany. He was called back from the front when he was only 17 kilometres off Berlin. On the advice of his commander he took with him a war trophy, a parachute. He was sent to a labour camp in Omskaya oblast. There were many Kalmyk men in that camp who pulled mining carts. Having spent six months, one day my brother bumped into a man from his village who was eating dry fish heads that he had found in a garbage. People went really hungry.
Upon his release from the camp, my brother returned to his family, to us. He had been wounded at the front. His wound did not bother him much when he was young, but when he grew old, he died from it. Although he fought in the war, the military committee did not help us with his burial.
Leonid Khochiev, About My Brother
When my grandfather died, my father was 5 years old. My uncle, who was a postman, was the eldest in the family. Despite being older than my father, he respected my father.
My father knew oral history well. I remember once he read us a part from the epos Jangar all night long. This part which is about Savr the Heavy Hand is different from the one that is published. In the past, Kalmyks knew 7-10 generations back. In the Soviet period, such people could be accused of clanism.
Mikhail Erentsenov, About My Father
Mikhail talks about his mother and grandmother.
My mother Maria Petrovna was baptized. She was born in the village Krasnomikhailovka, and wore a kerchief in the Russian manner. My grandmother Elizaveta was born in the stanitsa Shpakovskaya in Stavropol province. They were both baptized formally, but celebrated Kalmyk holidays such as Tsagan Sar and Zul. They also celebrated Easter. My grandmother was not religious herself, but made use of the fact that she was baptized. In Siberia, during Easter she went to the cemetery and collected food, which she brought to us. I remember how my brother and I sat and waited for her to come. Then she appeared carrying a handkerchief behind her back with food, eggs, cakes, and sweets. She had gone around the cemetery of the Kormilovka village and collected food. We ate the food for a whole month.
There is a book by Yakov Dubrova that describes the relationship between the Kalmyks and the Russians, the colonizers.
Mikhail Erentsenov, About My Mother and Grandmother
Sanal talks about his native place, Shorv, in Oktyabrskiy (rayon) of Kalmykia. In the past, Sanal recollects, the water from the lakes in Sarpa reached his sovkhoz. The land was rich and there were canes all around. In the past, winters were cold and snowy. Springs and summers were abundant with rain. Today, by contrast, the land is dry. To improve the situation, the elders from that place perform a ritual of gazr tyaklgn (worship of the land), but without success.
In Shorv stood a Buddhist temple in the past. In Sarpa region about 10 arvns (clans) live. Sanal himself is from the Sharadakhn arvn, which was a big clan the past. Members and descendants of this clan lived in many places. Hence a Kalmyk saying, ‘There is no grass without weeds/ (In the same way) there is no place without the Sharadakhn people’.
Sanal Lidzhiev, My Native Place
Svetlana reminisces about her mother. This is her story.
My mother was a support to my father. My father relied on her in domestic matters. She was a primary school teacher. When we moved to Kazakhstan, she worked in the school in three shifts. She gave her husband the opportunity to study at the Gogol Art School in Alma-Ata.
My parents did not like to talk about exile. Now people remember. More than half of the population never returned from Siberia. This is a tragedy of our people, which we still feel.
My mother was a strong and beautiful woman. She had big eyes and thick eyebrows. The Kazakhstan years were a period when my father realized himself as an artist. She understood her husband well. If he had not come to Kalmykia, he would have remained there as a Kazakh artist. But it was important for him to feel himself to be a Kalmyk artist.
Svetlana Batyreva, About My Mother
Tsagan talks about her clan, lineage, her native village and about some famous Kalmyks.
She says that in the past not far from the village of Bagshnr Shevnr stood a temple. People who served the temple were called Kotlyad ketchenery. The Ketchenerovskiy rayon in Today’s Kalmykia, according to Tsagan, derives its name from these people. In Kalmyk shevnr means ‘disciples’ and bagshnr means ‘teachers’. Hence the name of the village means ‘disciples and teachers’. Today the village, however, has been renamed Shin-Mer.
There were many arvn (lineages) in the village, including the Mongla, the Otesud, the Kovyud and others. Tsagan herself is from the Otesud lineage.
Tsagan shows her family tree and the stamp of her lineage. Her lineage has three colours: blue, green and white. She says that every place has its spirit protectors and that people should pray to their ancestors who protect them.
Tsagan also talks about a place called Tsagan Bulg with a spring where a lama named Kogshn bagsha was buried. People not only take water from that spring but also read prayers and wash their faces in its water. The cemetery where Tsagan’s clan members are buried is a place called Bumbta Tolga.
Today Shin-Mer has a temple. According to lamas who consecrated the temple, that place is where Buddha Shakyamuni dwells. Tsagan’s father died when she was 2. Tsagan and her 5 siblings were brought up by their mother. They kept livestock, a vegetable plot and an orchard.
Tsagan reminisces about Namka Kichikov, Buutan Anzha, and Zalvrina Muutl. The famous healer Namka lived in the village Zalivnoe. When she was a child, Tsagan was taken to Namka who read prayers for her and rang a bell.
Buutan Anzha was a famous storyteller. Zalvrina Muutl sang folk songs, recited the epos Jangar, and told fairy tales.
Tsagan Mukobenova, About My Clan
Yuriy says that in the past Kalmyk elites spoke a special language unintelligible to ordinary people. Kalmyk elites knew foreign languages and sent their children to study in major Russian cities, including Astrakhan, Saratov and Tsaritsyn. It was hoped that once their children had higher education they would use it to protect ordinary Kalmyks from the tsarist administration. Anxious to keep their bloodline ‘pure’, Kalmyk male elites did not take wives from other ethnic groups. There were exceptions though. For example, one of Yuriy’s ancestors named Grigoriy Dzhogaevich Erdniev married a Kazakh woman who was a daughter of a Communist Party secretary in Kazakh Socialist Republic.