Traditional medicine comprises knowledge, skills, and practices based on beliefs, worldviews, observations, and experiences, and have been used by the Kalmyks for generations in the maintenance of health, as well as in the treatment of physical, mental, and spiritual illnesses. Traditional Kalmyk medicine incorporates not only old shamanic healing practices or Tibetan medicine but also new ideas, some of which were adopted as recently as the Soviet period.
Compared with Kalmyk folk medicine and magical practices pertaining to shamanism, which have generally been transmitted orally, the Tibetan tradition is based on written texts. In 1741 the Russian Empress Elizabeth officially recognized Tibetan Buddhism along with its medical tradition, which gave impetus to its development and acceptance in Russia. By the beginning of the nineteenth century Tibetan medicine had already been widely practiced among the Buddhist peoples of Russia, the Kalmyks, the Buryats, and the Tuvans. Kalmyk Buddhist doctors, who mastered diagnostic techniques such as Tawa, Regpa, and Driwa, used all the main medical classics – including the famous Atlas of Tibetan Medicine, Dzudshi, and others – that had been published in Russia by the beginning of the twentieth century. With the repression of religious specialists by the Bolsheviks, however, at the end of the 1930’s Tibetan medicine ceased to exist in Kalmykia as an institution, although some former lamas continued to practice it in secrecy throughout the Soviet period. Other specialists that attended to people’s needs were folk healers who used a mix of shamanic, Buddhist and modern healing techniques. Traditional medicine was revived during perestroika, and today Kalmyk Buddhist doctors, trained in monasteries in India, Buryatia and Mongolia, work in temples across Kalmykia. Today almost every settlement in Kalmykia has folk healers or medlgch. This page hosts two video collections about folk healers, Buddhist doctors, and their healing methods.