The Kalmyks have a remarkable military history, which is bound inseparably with that of Russia. The movement of Oirat tribes, the ancestors of the Kalmyks, from Dzungaria to what is today Kalmykia was gradual, stretching out over half a century and involving military confrontations with various tribes on their way. In the first half of the 17th century by their first treaties with the Muscovites, the Kalmyk lords obliged to participate in Russia’s military campaigns and defend its territory. Following the integration of the Kalmyk territory with Russia and the subsequent abolishment of the Kalmyk Khanate (1630-1771), their military tradition was carried on by newly formed Kalmyk Cossack regiments, which were part of wider Cossack military communities of the Don, Ural, Astrakhan, Stavropol, Orenburg and others. The Kalmyk Cossacks lived separately from the rest of the Kalmyks until the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. Having a hereditary right to serve in the Cossack regiments, Kalmyk Cossacks and their families had become not only sedentarised and bilingual but also developed their unique cultural practices and beliefs. Following the Bolshevik Revolution the Cossack regiments were disbanded across Russia only to be reinstated in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union. Today in Kalmykia there are around 30,000 registered Kalmyk Cossacks attached to 5 Cossack okrugs (districts).
Here you can watch videos, read essays and listen to stories about Kalmyk military history, military heroes, beliefs, rituals and many others.
Anatoliy Kekeev, How to Develop the Kalmyk Nation
Anatoliy says that he heard from others that Gakhaev was from Iki Derbet ulus originally. When he was young he was sent to study in Stavropol’. In the past, gifted boys were sent there for education. Gakhaev had a house in St Petersburg, which is now a theatre. As for Amursanan, he gathered Kalmyks from Kumsky and Tersky regions who had lost their land to Russians and resettled them in the territory of Derbet.
Anatoliy Safinov, Gakhaev and Amursanan
The integration of the Oirat/Kalmyks with the Russian state commenced at the beginning of the 17th century. Prior to this, they lived in south Siberia and in the 1620s came to Lower Volga which was the land of the Nogais who were the vassals of the Crimean Khan. The Crimean Tatars and the Nogais often raided the southern borders of Russia. By pushing the Nogais out of their land, the Kalmyks put an end to their raids. In 1657, the Kalmyks made an agreement of alliance with the Russians by which they agreed to help the latter with cavalry. In return, the Russians agreed to provide the Kalmyk side with military equipment and support.
The Kalmyks actively participated in many Russian wars. For example, in 1659 a Russian army of 50-60 thousand men was defeated by the Crimean Tatars who were allies of the Polish king. The next year another Russian army of 100 thousand men under the command of Chudnov was crashed by a joint Polish-Ukrainian-Crimean army. As a result, the Russians were left without a regular army. The allies were planning a further campaign into Central Russia. But their plan was disrupted by the Kalmyks who in 1661 raided Crimea and Ukraine defeating both the Crimean and Polish armies.
From 1677 to 1681 the Kalmyks participated in the Russo-Ottoman war, which has not been properly studied in Russian historiography. This war was a continuation of the 1654-57 Russo-Polish war. Supported by the Crimean Tatars, the Ottoman army of 200-300 thousand was met by an allied force consisting of the Kalmyks, Russians and Kabardians in a place called Chigirin in 1677. The battle continued for 4 days, during which the Russians retreated. The Kalmyks, in contrast, successfully held the left wing of the front.
The next Russo-Ottoman war of 1687-1700, also known as ‘Peter the Great’s campaigns to Azov’, was also fought with Kalmyk participation. Peter’s first campaign was unsuccessful and the Russian army had to retreat. The second campaign, which was supported by the Kalmyk cavalry, was successful and as a result Azov became part of Russia.
From 1700 to 1721 Russia waged a long war with Sweden. The first defeat to the Swedish army was inflicted by the Kalmyk cavalry, which gave Russia a hope that they could win the war. At the end of the war the Kalmyks participated in an offensive near Stockholm, which compelled the Swedish side to sign the long-awaited peace treaty with Russia.
The Kalmyks defended the southern borders of Russia from raids carried out by the Crimean Tatars and various peoples of the Caucasus. When the Don Cossacks rebelled against Russia, it was the Kalmyk Ayuka Khan who put down the rebellion. A small number of the defeated Cossacks, however, fled to Turkey under the leadership of Ignat Nekrasov who pledged his loyalty to the Ottoman sultan. Soon the Nekrasov’s Cossacks along with the Kuban Tatars began to raid the Russian border territories. During one of these clashes the famous Kalmyk commander Chimid Baatr was killed.
During the Russo-Ottoman War of 1710-13, Peter the Great reached the Prust river in Moldavia where his 10 thousand strong army was surrounded by the Ottomans. The ensuing peace treaty, however, was beneficial for Peter thanks to Kalmyk victories over the Crimean and Kuban Tatars.
The Kalmyks also repelled the Ottoman landing in Azov. On Peter’s request, in 1722 Ayuka Khan sent the Kalmyk cavalry for the Russia’s Persian campaign. The two leaders, Peter and Ayuka, met in a place that is today the town of Saratov. Peter requested 7,000 cavalrymen but Ayuka agreed to only half of that. During this campaign Russia expanded its territory. In 1732, according to a treaty, these territories, however, were returned to Iran.
Other wars that the Kalmyks participated in were the ensuing Russo-Ottoman War of 1735-39 and the Russo-Swedish War of 1741-42. During the Russo-Swedish War the Kalmyks had to operate in the unusual terrain for them of bogs and thick forests. The Kalmyks contributed to the Russian victory.
The Prussian king Frederick II attacked the western and central parts of Russia. A coalition consisting of Russia, Austria, Saxony and other powers, was formed to stop him. The Kalmyks again served Russia by carrying out raids on the enemy forces, conducting reconnaissance and propaganda to instil fear in the hearts of the Prussian soldiers.
From 1768 to 1774 Russia had another war with the Ottomans. Although the main field of battles was in the region of Dunai where the number of the Kalmyk cavalry was 40,000, the Kalmyks were also tasked with repelling the Ottoman advance from North Caucasus. In North Caucasus a 15,000 strong army of pro-Ottoman forces was defeated by a 20,000 strong Kalmyk army consisting mainly of teenagers and old people. To commemorate this victory Ubashi Khan ordered two hills to be erected near the Kalaus river in what is today Stavropol’skiy krai.
His conflict with the Russian general-major Medem was one of the reasons why in 1771 Ubashi took half of the Kalmyks and fled Russia for Dzungaria. As a result, the southern borders of Russia became unprotected. Soon the Cherkassy took advantage of the situation and plundered Cossack villages in Don.
The next big war that the Kalmyks fought on the Russian side was the Napoleonic War of 1812. The Kalmyks participated with 3 national cavalry divisions. The first Kalmyk division, consisting of Derbets, was led by prince Tundutov; the second division, consisting of Torghuts and Khoshuds, was led by prince Tyumen; and the third division which was under the command of Pavel Deomidiy consisted of Kalmyks who served in the Orenburg Cossack Army. Apart from them, an estimated 5,000 Kalmyks participated in the war, being enlisted as Cossacks of the Don Cossack Army. Half of the Kalmyks, however, did not return from the war. In memory of the Napoleonic War Prince Tundutov built the Khosheutovskiy Temple.
During the First World War the Kalmyk Cossacks from Don fought on the front line.
During the Civil War following the Bolshevik Revolution, the Kalmyks supported both the Red and White armies. In the Red Army, there was one Kalmyk division. People such as Gorodovikov, Kanukov and Khomutnikov served in the ranks of the Bolsheviks. In contrast, the White Army had two Kalmyk divisions, namely thethird division consisting of teenagers and the eightieth Dzungarian division which was made up of the veterans of the First World War. The inexperienced third division was quickly crashed by the Reds, whereas the eightieth division survived and many Kalmyks fled on boats from the Crimean Peninsula to Turkey at the end of the Civil War. From there the Kalmyks moved on to other European countries, including Bulgaria and Serbia. The eightieth division existed until 1923, hoping to reach Tibet and serve the Dalai Lama. Since the British did not want to see the Tibetans being reinforced by a Kalmyk division, the British government did not give a passage to the Kalmyks through India. After unsuccessful negotiations, the eightieth division was disbanded.
Outside Russia, the Kalmyks also participated actively in the Socialist Revolution in Mongolia in 1921. A squad of 150 Kalmyk men fought as part of the Mongolian People’s army. For 2 years Kharti Kanukov was the commander of the border patrols of Mongolia simultaneously being in charge of the Intelligence Agency of the People’s army. There were other Kalmyks who worked as instructors in the Mongolian army.
At the beginning of the Second World War about 40,000 Kalmyk men were mobilized by the Red Army. Many of them fought at the Brest castle and other strategically important places. The 110th Kalmyk cavalry division was formed in 1942 and sent to the front to fight in the Don region. Their task was to stop the German’s progress in the Caucasus. In the hardest of circumstances the Kalmyk cavalrymen repelled the German tank attacks. The division was destroyed, although two small squads managed to escape. They were later united to form another division which was disbanded in 1943.
The Kalmyk general Basan Gorodovikov’s unit was the first to reach the Soviet-German border for which he was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union. During the Second World War 22 Kalmyk men became Heroes of the Soviet Union, which makes the Kalmyks number one nation in the Soviet Union in terms of the number of Soviet heroes relative to population. In 1944 all Kalmyk soldiers, however, were called back and sent to exile.
Prior to that in 1942 a part of Kalmykia was occupied by the Germans. A partisan movement began in Kalmykia. In the rain and snow Kalmyk partisans destroyed German planes, tanks and communication lines. Partisan squads consisted not only of young men but also of those who had not been recruited by the Red Army, including old people, invalids, teenagers and women.
Arltan Baskhaev, A Brief Military History of the Kalmyk
According to a legend about Chimid Baatr, he saved Russian prisoners from Nekrasov’s Cossacks who were intending to sell them as slaves in Crimea. After rescuing the Russians, Chimid Baatr headed with them to the nearest Russian garrison. When their pursuers - Nekrasov’s Cossacks and the Crimean Tatars - came close, Chimid Baatr ordered that those of his warriors who were over 45 stayed with him to fight the pursuers and those who were younger escorted the rescued Russians. Chimid Baatr was 80 himself. When the enemy approached, Chimid Baatr and his warriors fought them to the death. As Chimid Baatr was considered to be the personal enemy of the Ottoman sultan, the Cossacks chopped off his head and sent it to the sultan. It is believed that the head, wrapped in golden foil, is kept today at the Istanbul Museum.
In Kalmyk folklore Mazn Baatr is portrayed as an invincible warrior. There are many legends about him. According to one, during the Russo-Ottoman war in 1677-1681 Mazn Baatr was sent by the Kalmyk Ayuka Khan to help the Russian troops near Chigirin. He singlehandedly fought with the entire Ottoman army. After being chopped into small pieces by his enemies, he resurrects at night and the next morning attacks the confused Turks who flee in panic.
Mitr Noyon was also a historical figure who fought with the Kazakhs, the Crimean Tatars and others in North Caucasus. In legends he is portrayed as a defender of the poor. According to one legend, once he was caught by the Russians and put in prison inside the Astrakhan Kremlin. Before his execution he was asked what his last wish was. Mitr Noyon replied, ‘I want to ride my horse for the last time’. Inside the Kremlin walls he began riding his horse in circles, and each time when he made a circle he increased his speed. Then suddenly he whipped his horse and jumped over the wall. When it jumped, the horse snagged a protrusion on top of the wall which fell off. It is believed that Mitr Noyon will return when the Kalmyks fall upon hard times.
In North Caucasus many places have Kalmyk names. For example, the town of Essentuki derives from the Kalmyk word yisn tug meaning ‘nine flags’. According to one legend, the spot where the town stays today, was a place for the Kalmyk troops to gather for a military campaign against the Turks and the Crimean and Kuban Tatars. Since there were nine regiments that each had its own flag, the place was called ‘Nine Flags’. In Chechnya, for example, there are places with Kalmyk names, including Elista Yurt and Kalmyk Kala. The latter was a castle where Kalmyk troops stayed.
There are many legends about the Kalmyk involvement in the Napoleonic War. Towards the end of the war a coalition of Russian, Prussian and Austrians troops surrounded Paris. The Prussians and Austrians wanted to storm the city, while the Russian tsar Alexander insisted that the capital of France should be taken without a fight in a peaceful manner. The Russian envoy, Miloradovich, made an offer to the mayor of Paris that the city surrendered. In reply the mayor cited an order from Napoleon that the city should never surrender to the enemies. Miloradovich expressed his pity and asked whether the mayor had heard anything about the Kalmyks. The mayor said that he had heard of the Kalmyks as being barbarians and cannibals. The Russian continued, ‘The tsar Alexander decided to send these barbarians to storm Paris tomorrow in order to save the lives of Russian soldiers. There are 100,000 of these barbarians with us. According to their custom, they will plunder your city for three days. There is no other way, and we have decided that their custom be honored. Can you imagine what awaits your city and all the Parisians?’ The mayor took a pair of binoculars and saw to his horror a horde of Kalmyk warriors waving curved sables, riding on horses and camels. The mayor opened the gates of the city in an hour, asking the Russians to keep the Kalmyks away from the city. The Kalmyks nonetheless entered Paris first. To the great astonishment of the Parisians, the Kalmyks turned out to be the opposite of what they had expected – these Asian warriors spoke French, greeted the locals respectfully and made complements to the women.
Arltan Baskhaev, Military Legends
Chonkush Ovtsadykov was born in 1876. He had two siblings. He participated in the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-05. During the war one day he was out scouting along with 11 other Cossacks. Having gathered intelligence on the whereabouts of the Japanese, his squad stopped for a rest. When Chonkush was cooking a meal, the Cossacks who were on the lookout informed the rest of the resting squad about the approaching Japanese soldiers. The Cossacks decided to confront the Japanese. Since he did not take his sword with him, Chonkush used his whip to fight the enemy. All the Japanese surrendered. For his bravery Chonkush was awarded the St George’s cross. The commander of his corps gave Chonkush a 5 Ruble coin for his excellent performance with a whip.
Bembya Fedorov, About Chonkush Ovtsadykov
In 2005 Keemia published a brochure about manuscripts written in Oirat and Mongol scripts that are kept in the archives in Kalmykia. The Kalmyk scholar Delyash Muzraeva, who travelled across Kalmykia, found out that the majority of Kalmyk manuscripts are translations of Tibetan texts. Among them there are also several translations of Christian texts, including the Bible.
The manuscripts housed at the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts of the St Petersburg University, numbering between 400 and 500, are written in Mongol, Oirat and Tibetan.
Keemia says that it was long assumed that the Oirats did not print books until recently, although there are a dozen old Oirat printed texts in the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts in St Petersburg.
Another important repository of Oirat books and manuscripts outside Russia is the Institute of Language and Literature in Mongolia. In 2009 a catalogue of existing manuscripts was published in Mongolia that contains a list of manuscripts not available in Russia.
Both in Mongolia and Kalmykia manuscripts are considered to be sacred objects. Hence they are usually kept on altars. In Western Mongolia people display manuscripts on their domestic altars in front of the images and statues of Buddhas. In contrast, Kalmyks hide their manuscripts and do not display them. The majority of manuscripts in Kalmykia that are kept in private hands are written in Tibetan, and only a small minority in Oirat script. In addition to this, many manuscripts were lost during the deportation of the Kalmyks from 1943 to 1957.
Whilst both Oirats and Mongols translated texts from Tibetan into their respective languages, either group employed different translation styles. If Mongols translated more poetically, Oirats tended to do literal translations.
During her expedition in Western Mongolia, Keemia came across many interesting Oirat manuscripts, including ‘Dorvud nutgin san’ and ‘Altai nutgin san’, which are unknown among the Derbets in Kalmykia. The Derbets came to the territory of Uvs Nur aimag of Mongolia in the 18th century.
Keemia Orlova, About Old Books and Texts in Kalmykia and Western Mongolia
Konstantin is a Torghut, of the Keryad clan. He was born in Lagan’, Kalmykia. He is a lawyer and a colonel in the police. He travelled to Mongolia and Xinjiang where he talked to people about Mongol-Oirat history.
According to Konstantin, the Kalmyks are genetically related to the Mongols. In the beginning the Mongol tribes lived separately. It was Chingis Khan who united all the tribes and gave them a single identity – the Mongols. Among various clans the Keryads stood out as strong warriors. Chingis Khan’s father Esugei and Ulan Khan were second cousins through their mothers. Later Chingis Khan fought and defeated Ulan Khan to become the sole ruler of the steppes. Chingis Khan gathered around himself many clans and conquered many countries, including China. He survived three assassination attempts. Although he had eight armies, his mother insisted that he set up another one, but this time consisting of his own people. The ninth army was referred to as ‘soldiers in silk shirts and red ribbons’. The Kalmyks have been called ‘Kalmyks with red ribbons’ ever since.
Following the death of Chingis Khan, a union of four tribes emerged, including the Khoshud, the Torghut, the Derbet and the Oold who founded the Dzungar Khanate. One of the Dzungar lords Kho Orlyuk took 2,000 of his people and migrated to the Volga river. When they arrived there, the Russians wanted to drive the Kalmyks away from the river.
The Kalmyks settled in the steppes. After a quarrel with a Russian nobleman the Kalmyk Ubashi Khan decided to return to Dzungaria. He set out on his return journey on 1 January 1771 which was 5 days after Tsagan Sar. When crossing Kazakhstan, the returnees divided into two groups. One group which was headed by Ubashi Khan went north of Balkhash lake, whereas his younger brother took a route south of the lake. A lot of Kalmyks died on their way to Dzungaria.
To please the Tsarina, Russian noblemen brought Kazakhs to Kalmykia and reported that many escapees had been successfully intercepted and brought back to Russia. Today the descendants of these Kazakhs live in many parts of Kalmykia, including Yashkul’skiy, Laganskiy, Chernozemel’skiy and Yustinskiy rayons.
In 2014 a group of Kalmyks, including Konstantin, went to Balkhash lake to perform a ritual for their ancestors who perished there. Kalmyks from Kyrgyzstan and Xinjiang were also invited. The Kyrgyz Kalmyks, who are Muslims, performed Muslim rituals.
Konstantin also talks about various clans in Kalmykia.
Konstantin Naktanov, The History of Kalmyks
After returning from Siberian exile in 1957, our elders decided to perform a ritual for the land of Ubashi Khan, the land where we live today. It was barren in the past, for people used to set it on fire by using a lot of ghee. So the elders decided to appease the sky and perform a ritual involving an animal sacrifice. It was performed in the steppe. I also participated in it. I was 25 then. Such a sacrifice requires a sheep with white or yellow wool only. Sheep with black wool cannot be used for this purpose. We lit candles and read prayers. Later we built a small shelter there for the purpose of carrying out rituals. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the new Shajin Lama of Kalmykia, Tuvan Dorj, consecrated the shelter. Today there is a stupa in that place.
In the past, people sang a song about how in 1771 Ubashi Khan took the Kalmyks back to China (Ksenia sings the song). It is said that the wealthy followed the Khan, but the poor remained in Kalmykia. On their way to China, many Kalmyk men were killed and women taken hostage. It is also believed that when Ubashi Khan was born, his father went to a Buddhist monk to enquire about the fate of his son. The monk said that when the boy grows up he would lead his people back to the land of ancestors.
Ksenia Konchieva, About Ubashi Khan and the 1771 Exodus
I heard this story from my auntie Anna Dordzhievna. In the past our ancestors asked the Russian empress Ekaterina to resettle them, which she did by sending them to the southwestern borders (today Dagestan) in the hope of influencing the outcome of the Russo-Turkish war. On the territory of today’s Ul’duchin village an army was assembled consisting of Zyungars. Afterwards the regiment stayed there to keep on defending the borders. The central regiments of the army stayed where Yashkul’ village is situated today. According to one story, in the past people raised flags when their wives had sons to announce that a future warrior had been born.
Lyubov' Kekeeva, The History of the Zyungar Regiment of Yashkul'
Mergen says that of all schools of Buddhism, Gelug was the most open to the masses. Whilst other schools, which were more closed, did not send out missionaries, Gelug pursued this line of activity. Despite being like this, Gelug also comprises of esotericism and secret tantric practices.
The Oirats played an important role in the establishment of the Gelug tradition. Gushi Khan’s campaign, the creation of the Kokonor Khanate and the creation of a theocratic state in Tibet itself – these are all the contribution of the Oirats. The Oirats were also first among the Mongolian peoples to adopt Buddhism. In addition, the Kalmyks were instrumental in spreading Buddhism in modern Europe and the United States.
There are many hypotheses about when Buddhism spread among the Oirats. Some scholars say that it was during Chingis Khan, others take it further back to the pre-Chingis period, and yet there are scholars who contend that Buddhism began to spread in the 17th century. At present, there are no historical sources to verify any of these theories.
Before adopting Gelug, various Mongolian tribes practiced other Buddhist traditions. The question of why Mongolian tribes chose Gelug can be explained partly by the fact that Altan Khan of Mongolia had personal contact with the Dalai Lama III, head of the Gelug school. Born in the 15th century, Gelug spread among the Mongols in the 16th century.
Why was Gelug so popular among the Oirats? In Mergen’s view, this school’s lavish ceremonies involving large numbers of monks might have attracted the Oirats. To this should be added Buddha’s prediction that his religion would spread to the north. There could be geographical factors as well added to this explanation.
Mergen Ulanov, The Role of the Oirats in Spreading Gelug
Mergen says that there are oral stories saying that the Kalmyks came to the Volga in search of Maitreya Buddha, based on a prophecy that this Buddha would come from the west. Given in Buddhist cosmology the paradise of Devachan is in the west, according to Mergen, this hypothesis is plausible.
Mergen Ulanov, Why Did the Kalmyks Come to the Volga?
Mikhail recalls how in his childhood war veterans gathered in his house. All of them died quickly one by one.
I remember that war veterans gathered in our house and they did not even finish a bottle of vodka. It was in 1959-1963. Once I persuaded my elder brother to drink vodka. I was 6, and my brother 9. After drinking, I climbed into the cattle barn and fell asleep, while my brother began to vomit around the house. Our grandmother immediately understood that we were drunk. Our parents never learnt about the incident though.
All of the war veterans died almost at the same time, quickly, one after the other. By 1968, there was no one left.
Mikhail Erentsenov, About Veterans of World War Two
Nadvid talks about the following historical figures: Kho Orlyuk, Dalai Baatr, Donduk Ombo Khan, Guvzh Dorzh Noyon Khan, Ayuka Khan and Mazan Baatr.
Kho Orlyuk had 7 territorial units, whereas Dalai Baatr had only 1. In 1609, the two signed an agreement but soon afterwards fell out with each other.
In 1623 in the Year of the Rabbit, Dalai Baatr separated from the rest and took his people with him. He built a temple in a place called Okn Gazryn Kobe Tosn Bura and invited monks from Tibet. In 1648, he again migrated to another place.
In 1704 a nobleman came to Kalmykia from China accompanied by his 2 sons. The youngest son was called Guvzh Dorzh Noyon Khan. 4 years later this nobleman died during a battle in the Caucasus. His younger brother called Gal Tomr took custody of the orphaned children.
The Kalmyk Ayuka Khan was the contemporary of Peter the Great. Guvzh Dorzh Noyon Khan also lived at that time. Ayuka Khan was married to a Kalmyk woman. Later he married a Kabardian woman.
In the Caucasus, there was a strong but stupid man called Ishtg Emin Arvn Dolat who wanted to be a khan. In order to get rid of him the elders decided to pit him against Mazan Baatr by asking the stupid man to steal Mazan Baatr’s horses. He was killed by Mazan Baatr.
Nadvid Ubushiev, About Great Kalmyk Noblemen
When Mazan Baatr’s mother was pregnant with him, his father died in a war and his mother went to live with an old blind man. In his childhood Mazan Baatr was both ugly looking and uncoordinated. While others regarded him as a failure, the old blind man had high hopes saying that, ‘He (i.e. Mazan) should not be like this. Maybe his time has not come yet’. One day the boy Mazan went to a market and saw a man selling bows. He took a bow that even grown-ups could not handle and pulled it easily, amazing all the people around who witnessed it. Mazan grew up into a smart, skillful and powerful man who always beat his enemies. There are many legends about Mazan Baatr.
A legend. On his way to a hunting ground Mazan Baatr sees a house belonging to a Cherkass family. When Mazan enters the house, the family welcomes him and offers food and drinks. As soon as Mazan starts chewing some fatty meat, a boy who was sitting there runs up to him and grabs him by the waist with such power that Mazan barely manages not to cry out in pain. This boy gradually grows up into a warrior called Ishtkin Dolatl. In order to get rid of this powerful Cherkass warrior, a council gives him a task to go and steal horses from Mazan Baatr in a hope that the latter would kill him. The next day Ishtkin Dolatl gallops up to Mazan Baatr’s house and shouts, ‘If you are man enough, tomorrow at noon come and fight with me’. Then he steals Mazan Baatr’s horses. The next day Mazan Baatr sets off to fight with the thief. While galloping towards his young enemy the elderly Mazan pretends to be looking at the sky. ‘Why is this stupid Kalmyk looking up? Does he not know that he is going to die?’ ponders the fully armored Cherkass warrior, and he also looks up to see what the Kalmyk is looking at. At this point Mazan Baatr pulls his bow and slashes his enemy’s unprotected neck.
Nikolai Oshaev, Mazan Baatr
One day while grazing his horses, Mazan Baatr decided to stop at the yurt of a Tatar family. He was welcomed by the Tatars who gave him food and tea. When he was eating meat on the bone, a 3-year old boy crawled to Mazan Baatr, grabbed the bone and squeezed it with such force that fat dripped from the cracks. Mazan Baatr thought to himself: ‘What will happen to him when he grows up? While he is still young I’d better get rid of him, for he will not leave me in peace’. Everything happened as he predicted. When the Tatar boy reached 18 he stole Mazan Baatr’s horses. To defend his name and honor, Mazan Baatr’s chased the thief. Upon catching him Mazan Baatr pretended to look at the skies at which point the Tatar also looked up wondering what the Kalmyk was looking at. Mazan Baatr stabbed the unprotected neck of the Tatar and killed him.
In many folk stories Mazan Baatr is depicted as a smart and immortal hero who outsmarts his enemies.
Sanal Lidzhiev, About Mazan Baatr
According to Sanal, the history of all nations have both negative and positive periods. Nations develop in stages as follows: primitive societies develop into barbaric ones and then into civilizations.
The period of barbarism among many nations is associated with the time of heroes. The epos Jangar, for example, was created when the ancestors of the Oirats were barbarians. Barbarism is a period when states are being formed, while tribal relationships are still intact. With the development of states, tribal differences gradually disappear.
Barbaric societies were free and egalitarian. In the epos Jangar, for example, when Jangar wrongly accuses one of his warriors, the others take the side of the latter. Barbarism can be also described as a military democracy. It was difficult to fight with barbarians, for they did not have centralized authority. After a defeat, barbarians could easily regroup, select a new leader and start a new war. Also, barbarians did not divide people into superior or inferior. Neither did they have religious intolerance towards others.
In the 17th century when the Kalmyks came to the Volga region, the majority of them were Torghuts. Therefore, Kalmyk khans were from this tribal background. This does not mean however that the Torghuts suppressed other Kalmyk tribes, for the Kalmyks were still in their barbaric stage of development.
Sanal Molotkov, About the Development of the Kalmyk Nation
Sanal says that the Mongolist Boris Vladimirtsov wrote extensively on the social structure of the Mongols and Turks. According to Vladimirtsov, the Mongolian nomadic society developed according to its inner laws. Although many nomadic peoples did not go through feudalism, both the Mongols and Turks went through this stage.
Sanal says that people in Kalmykia often complain that they have lost their culture, forgotten their tribal affiliations, etc. But according to him, this is inevitable if one looks at the larger picture of how primitive/tribal societies develop into nations.
Primitive or tribal societies can be characterized by an equal division of plunder or property among their members. For example, when the Mongols conquered other countries, in the behavior of their warriors one can discern the remnants of their primitive societal structure. After taking a town, the Mongol warriors were given three days to plunder. Those who continued plundering after three days, were punished by death.
Sanal Molotkov, The Development of Nation States
Sanal says that historically the Kalmyks were divided into otog, tribes and arvn groupings. Each tribe consisted of several arvns, which were originally military units. Each arvn in its turn consisted of several families that during a time of war were expected to provide 10 warriors. Hence the word arvn means ten. These families were not necessarily related by blood.
Later Sanal talks about Mongolian warriors, cavalry, their military equipment and techniques.
Sanal Molotkov, The Military Origin of Arvn Groupings
Sangadzhi says that the Kalmyks have a unique fate connected with wars and blood. For many centuries the Kalmyks fought with others and participated in Russian military campaigns. Since shamanism required the worship of furious gods, the Kalmyks adopted this religion in order to preserve their nation.
Sangadzhi Kononov, About the Fate of the Kalmyk Nation
Mazan Baatr was the protector of the poor against the lords and Cossacks. He was a man of great power. He could cut a horse rider together with the horse into two with his sword. Mazan Baatr participated in wars against the Crimean Tatars, Turks and Cossacks. He died in mysterious circumstances and his corpse was never found.
Ubush Darzhinov, About Mazan Baatr
The Oirats helped the Gelug school of Buddhism, of which the Dalai Lama is the head, come to power in Tibet. The Kalmyks took upon themselves a lot of sin by killing monks from other Buddhist schools. Ubush’s grandmother used say to him that the Kalmyks were atoning their collective sin. In Kalmykia it is believed that whenever a new Dalai Lama ascends to his throne, his first prayer is dedicated to the salvation of the Kalmyks. The tragic exodus of at least half of the Kalmyks to Dzungaria in 1771, the Civil War following the Bolshevik revolution that had a negative effect on the Kalmyk population, the exile of the entire Kalmyk population in 1943-1957, and today mass work migration out of Kalmykia: all these only prove that the Kalmyks indeed have a difficult karma.
According to Ubush, karma is like an energetic field. It has positive and negative charges. In order to improve their karma, people should do good deeds, for example feed dogs, give seats to the elderly, read prayers etc.
At the end Ubush reads an extract from a poem by Jangar Nasunov titled ‘On the Cart’.
Ubush Darzhinov, About the Fate of the Kalmyks
Zinaida heard this story from her mother who was from the Zyungar clan. In the Year of the Rabbit the Kalmyks, led by Ubashi Khan, set off to Tibet in search of a peaceful life. On their way they were attacked by Kazakhs and Tatars who stole beautiful Kalmyk girls. Children born from these Kalmyk women were good looking. Those Kalmyks who remained in Kalmykia composed various sad songs about this exodus.