Kalmyk Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Kalmyk Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic


(in Kalmyk, Khal’mg Avtongomi Sovetsk Sotsialistichesk Respublik), Kalmykia (Khal’mg Tangch). Part of the RSFSR. On Nov. 4, 1920, the Kalmyk Autonomous Oblast was formed; it became an autonomous soviet socialist republic on Oct. 20, 1935. It is located in the extreme southeast of the European USSR; in the southeast it borders on the Caspian Sea. Area, 75, 900 sq km; population, 271,000 (1972 estimate). Located in Kalmykia are 12 raions, three cities, and five urban-type settlements. Its capital is the city of Elista.

Constitution and government. The Kalmyk ASSR is a socialist state of workers and peasants, an autonomous soviet socialist republic. Its operative constitution was adopted on June 23, 1937, by the Second Extraordinary Congress of Soviets of the Kalmyk ASSR. The highest bodies of state power are the unicameral Supreme Soviet of the Kalmyk ASSR, elected by the population for terms of four years according to the norm of one deputy per 2, 000 inhabitants, and its Presidium. The Supreme Soviet forms the republic’s government—the Kalmykia Council of Ministers. The Kalmyk ASSR is represented in the Council of Nationalities of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR by 11 deputies. Local bodies of state power are the municipal, raion, settlement, and village Soviets of working people’s deputies, elected by the population for terms of two years.

The Supreme Soviet of the Kalmyk ASSR elects for a term of five years the Supreme Court of the Kalmyk ASSR, which includes two judicial divisions (one dealing with criminal cases and the other with civil cases), as well as the Presidium of the Supreme Court. The procurator of the Kalmyk ASSR is appointed by the procurator general of the USSR for a term of five years.

Natural features. Kalmykia occupies the western part of the Caspian Lowland (the Chernye Zemli, or Black Earths, in the south and the Sarpa Lowland in the north), most of the Ergeni Highland (with elevations reaching 222 m) and the Sal’sk-Manych Ridge descending from it (with an elevation of 221 m), and the Kuma-Manych depression (with an elevation of 25 m at the drainage divide).

Mineral resources include deposits of petroleum, as well as natural gas, native salt, and various building materials.

The climate is extremely continental, with hot dry summers and winters that have little snow and are often cold. The average temperature in July ranges from 23° to 26°C; in January, from — 8° to — 5°C. In the south (Chernye Zemli) the winters are usually without snow, and this fact allows sheep to be kept out at pasture all winter. The aridity of the climate increases from the northwest (300–400 mm of precipitation annually) to the southeast (170–200 mm). The growing season with temperatures above 10°C lasts from 180 to 213 days.

There is little surface water. In the Caspian Lowland and the Kuma-Manych depression only shallow saline lakes are found: the Sarpa Lakes, the Sostinskie Lakes, Manych-Gudilo, and Tsa-gan-Khak. The streams that flow briefly during the spring through the ravines of the Ergeni form extensive estuaries in the Caspian Lowland, which partially dry up during the summers. The freshened waters of the northern Caspian Sea (which have a salinity of 2 parts per thousand) are sometimes used for water supply and for watering livestock. The low-lying, swampy coastal area of the Caspian with its undergrowth of reeds and cane makes access to the sea difficult.

Most of Kalmykia is located in a semidesert zone with a complex soil-and-vegetation cover. Widespread in the northern part are light-chestnut, loamy soils, combined with solonets soils; vegetation is represented by grassy (feather-grass-fescue), herbaceous-wormwood, and wormwood associations. The east and southeast are characterized by semidesert with wormwood-herbaceous-saltwort vegetation, growing on loamy brown soils. Predominant in the Chernye Zemli are sandy-loam brown soils with herbaceous-white-wormwood-summer-cypress grass stands, which are valuable as fodder; these are used for the winter feeding of sheep and partially for selective haying. In western Kalmykia one encounters arid steppes with herbaceous and herbaceous-forb grass stands, growing on dark chestnut soils. In the ravines of the Ergeni are groves of willow, aspen, and elm.

Mammals are represented by European hares, various rodents (the small suslik, jerboa, mole-vole), and predators (the corsac, wolf, and Siberian polecat). Common ungulates are the saiga (about 200, 000 head in 1970). The muskrat has also become acclimatized. Among the birds are the steppe eagle, larks, common partridge, and bustard. The lakes and rivers are inhabited by wild carp, Caspian roach, pike, and crucian carp.


Population. The native population (according to the 1970 census) is made up of Kalmyks (110, 000). Also living in Kalmykia are Russians (123, 000), Kazakhs, Darghins, Ukrainians, Byelorussians, and Tatars. From 1959 through 1970 the population increased by 140 percent. As of 1972 the average population density was 3. 6 per sq km. The most densely populated areas are the Ergeni and Stavropol’ Highlands, with more than 10 persons per sq km; the Chernye Zemli have less than 1 person per sq km. As of 1972 the urban population amounted to 37 percent. The cities are Elista (54, 000), Kaspiiskii, and Gorodovikovsk.

Historical survey. The territory of Kalmykia was settled as long ago as the Neolithic age. During the seventh through fifth centuries b. c. the Scythians lived here and on adjacent lands; from the fourth century b. c. to the sixth century a. d. the area was inhabited by the Alani and the Sarmatians. Around the mid-seventh century the territory of the Lower Volga became a part of the Khazar Khanate; in the mid-11th century Kalmykia was included in Polovtsian territory. During the 1240’s, Kalmykia became a part of the Golden Horde; after the latter’s disintegration in the 1460’s it was included in the Astrakhan Khanate, which in 1556 was incorporated into Russia. The Ta-tar-Kipchak population, which dwelt in the area between the Volga and Don rivers, was incorporated into the Russian state.

The Kalmyks, emigrants from Central Asia who had previously lived in Dzungaria and who engaged in nomadic livestock raising, arrived in the area between the Ural, Volga, and Don rivers in the early 17th century. During the 17th century Lamaism became widespread among them. Under pressure from the feudal lords of China and Mongolia and the Kazakh khans, the Kalmyks migrated to the lower reaches of the Don and Volga, where during the late 17th century they formed the Kalmyk Khanate. In 1608–09 some Oirat feudal groups—the Derbets and Torgouts (names given to the Kalmyks in the Russian sources)—voluntarily became Russian subjects and began to migrate into Southern and Western Siberia. Other Kalmyk feudal groups became part of the Russian state in the 17th and 18th centuries. This facilitated the creation of more advanced methods of directing the economy, accustomed the Kalmyks to Russian culture, and saved them from enslavement by the backward neighboring khanates.

Kalmyks took part in the Peasant War under the leadership of S. T. Razin. In 1771, because of harassment by the tsarist administration, most of the Kalmyks yielded to the persuasions of the Kalmyk khans and migrated to China. About 13, 000 of the remaining Kalmyk families were transferred to the Astrakhan Province administration. In October 1771 the Kalmyk Khanate ceased to exist. Kalmyks took part in the Peasant War led by E. I. Pugachev. During the late 18th century the tsarist government resettled some of the Kalmyks along the Ural, Terek, and Kuma rivers. In the late 18th century a small number of Kalmyks who were living in the Don area were enrolled in the cossack estate of the Oblast of the Don Cossack Host. Kalmyks fought in the ranks of the Russian Army during the Patriotic War of 1812 and in other Russian wars of the 19th century. After the early 19th century the colonization of the Kalmyk steppes was accelerated. The best lands were given to large-scale livestock raisers by the tsarist government.

In 1861 the Greater Derbet Ulus (feudal state formation) was transferred from Astrakhan Province to Stavropol’ Province. This administrative and territorial division of the Kalmyk people retarded the process of its national consolidation. The tsarist government’s establishment in 1806 of the so-called ten-verst zone (10. 7 km), which moved the border of the Kalymk nomadic area back to a distance of 30–40 km from the Volga River and the Caspian Sea, deprived the Kalmyks of the best pasture lands, as well as of trades connected with these waterways. In 1803 there were 2. 5 million head of livestock in Kalmykia; in 1863, slightly more than 1 million; and in 1896, 453, 000. Many of the impoverished Kalmyks left for work in the fishing and salt industries and moved to adjacent Russian settlements.

The 1892 Law on the Abolition of Compulsory Relations between Separate Estates of the Kalmyk People, which established redemption purchase, liberated the Kalmyks from feudal dependency and created some of the conditions for the development of capitalist relations. The Russian capital that penetrated into Kalmykia was, for the most part, of a usurious, commercial nature. Class stratification intensified among the masses of nomads. In the early 20th century more than 50 percent of the livestock was concentrated on the farms of the feudal nobility, the large-scale livestock raisers, and the kulaks, all of which constituted 6 percent of the total number of farms. At this same time 75 percent of Kalmyk farms were at the poverty level. The big livestock owners in fact also controlled the land; they began to use hired labor, and rent relations came into being. Nevertheless, until 1917 powerful vestiges of the feudal-patriarchal system remained.

Under the influence of the revolutionary movement in Russia the working people of Kalmykia embarked upon the path of struggle against the colonial yoke and feudal-capitalist exploitation. In 1903 an “uprising” flared up among the Kalmyk youth who were enrolled at educational institutions in Astrakhan; it was noted by the newspaper Iskra (May 15, 1903, no. 40). Between 1905 and 1909 outbreaks occurred in the Khosheut, Greater Derbet, and other uluses, but they all were suppressed. In 1907 the national-democratic union Khal’mg Tangchin Tug, which was created by progressive teachers, came into existence, but it was banned by the authorities in 1908. During World War I the tsarist government mobilized the Kalmyks for work at the front. This caused new disturbances. After the February Revolution of 1917 the Kalmyk feudal-kulak upper class supported the bourgeois Provisional Government. On July 1 (14), 1917, by a resolution of the Provisional Government, the Steppe Region of the Kalmyk People was formed. In October 1917 the feudal nobility and the nationalists attempted to draw the Kalmyk working people into the camp of the counterrevolutionary forces in southeastern Russia.

On Jan. 25 (Feb. 7), 1918, Soviet power was established in Astrakhan, which was then the administrative center of Kalmykia. From February through March Soviets arose throughout Kalmykia. A Kalmyk section of the Astrakhan provincial executive committee was created. On July 1–3, 1918, the First Kalmyk Congress of Soviets was held; it formed a Kalmyk executive committee (with the status of a district). In 1918 the first Communist cells in Kalmykia were organized. In 1919 most of Kalmykia was captured by the White Guard troops of General A. I. Denikin. On July 22, 1919, the Soviet government published a call, signed by V. I. Lenin, to the Kalmyk people to fight against the White Guards. On July 24, 1919, the Council of People’s Commissars of the RSFSR issued a decree on the land system, and on October 15 another decree on the preservation and restoration of livestock raising in Kalmykia. Measures taken by the Soviet authorities consolidated the Kalymk working people and activated their struggle against the counterrevolution. Two Kalmyk cavalry regiments ware formed, as well as ulus mounted sotnias (detachments of 100 men); these units took part in battles against the White Guards. O. I. Gorodovikov, one of the most famous commanders in the Civil War, was a Kalmyk. At the beginning of 1920, Kalmykia was liberated from the White Guards. The First All-Kalmyk Congress of Soviets, held in the settlement of Chilgir on July 2–9, expressed the aspiration of the Kalmyk people for national soviet autonomy. On Nov. 4, 1920, by a decree of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars, the Kalmyk Autonomous Oblast was created within the RSFSR; Kalmyks from other provinces of Russia were resettled within the oblast between 1922 and 1925. On Feb. 18–20, 1921, the First Kalmyk Oblast Conference of the RCP (Bolshevik) was held, and on Aug. 23, 1921, the First Kalmyk Oblast Conference of the Russian Communist Youth League (Komsomol).

During the prewar five-year plans (1929–40), with the fraternal aid of the Russian and other peoples of the USSR, the Kalmyk people made the transition from a feudal-patriarchal society to the building of socialism, bypassing capitalism. During the second five-year plan (1933–37) the collectivization of agriculture was almost completed, and the Kalmyks changed to a settled way of life (prior to 1917 about 80 percent had led a nomadic or seminomadic way of life). During these years local industry was established, and highways and airlines were created. A cultural revolution was carried out: illiteracy was almost entirely eliminated; the vestiges of the previous feudal-partriarchal way of life disappeared; national cadres of workers and intelligentsia came into being; and higher and secondary specialized educational institutions were established, along with scholarly and scientific research institutions.

On May 6, 1927, the Council of People’s Commissars decreed the transfer of the administrative center of Kalmykia from Astrakhan to Elista. In October 1935 the Kalmyk Autonomous Oblast was transformed into an ASSR. In 1937 the Supreme Soviet of the Kalmyk ASSR adopted a constitution for the republic that reflected the victory of socialist relations. The Kalmyk people were consolidated into a socialist nation.

During the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45, a considerable part of Kalmykia was occupied by the German fascist aggressors by late 1942, but by January 1943 the Soviet Army had liberated the territory of the republic. Kalmyk troops fought courageously on the fronts and in partisan detachments in the steppes of Kalmykia, Byelorussia, the Ukraine, and the Briansk region. The 110th Kalmyk Detached Cavalry Division fought in the battles on the Don and for the Northern Caucasus. Approximately 8, 000 persons were awarded orders and medals, and 21 had conferred upon them the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. In December 1943, in a violation of socialist legality, the Kalmyks were uprooted from the republic’s territory and resettled in the country’s eastern regions, and the Kalmyk ASSR was abolished (Dec. 27, 1943). On Jan. 9, 1957, a decree was issued by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR providing for the restoration of Kalmyk autonomy: the Kalmyk Autonomous Oblast was established, and on July 29, 1958, it was transformed into the Kalmyk ASSR.

In 1959 the Kalmyk people celebrated the 350th anniversary of their incorporation into Russia. As a sign of recognition of this date, on Aug. 21, 1959, the Kalmyk ASSR was awarded the Order of Lenin for its achievements in economic and cultural construction. On Oct. 30, 1970, in connection with the 50th anniversary of the republic’s autonomy, it was awarded the Order of the October Revolution; to mark the 50th anniversary of the USSR on Dec. 29, 1972, it was awarded the Order of the Friendship of Peoples. By the beginning of 1972, 24 persons had been awarded the title of Hero of Socialist Labor.


Economy. The principal role in the economy is played by agriculture and by the branches of industry concerned with processing the products of livestock raising and fishing

AGRICULTURE. The Chief Branches Of Agriculture are the raising of fine-wooled sheep, as well as of livestock for meat, based primarily on the utilization of pasture resources. of 5. 3 million hectares (ha) of farmlands, 4 million ha are allotted to natural fodder lands (3. 4 million ha for pasture and 0. 6 million ha for haying). plowed lands occupy 1 million ha, or about 19 percent of the farmlands. in 1971 there were 65 sovkhozes and 23 kolkhozes, which had 11, 300 tractors (based on 15-hp units), 4, 600 trucks, and 1, 900 combines of various types. the development of agriculture is closely linked to the irrigation of the territory. in the west the pravyi egorlyk irrigation system has been constructed (fed by the waters of the kuban’ river); in the east, the olia-caspian; in the north, the sarpa (which receives its water from the volga); and in the south, the chernye zemli system (the first stage of which receives its water from the kuma and the terek) and the chograisk reservoir.

The sown area has increased from 268, 000 ha in 1940 to 901,000 ha in 1971. It is concentrated for the most part in the west (in the Ergeni region). Grain (wheat) and fodder crops are sown for the most part. The sown areas of grain crops increased from 213, 000 ha in 1940 to 416, 000 ha in 1971; fodder crops increased during the same period from 28, 400 ha to 469, 000 ha. The total harvest of all grain crops in 1971 amounted to 309, 300 tons (as compared with 144, 600 tons in 1940).

The meat production (in dressed weight) grew from 14, 300 tons in 1940 to 39, 400 tons in 1971; during the same period wool production increased from 3, 700 tons to 13, 600 tons. State purchases of livestock and poultry (in liveweight) amounted in 1971 to 53, 100 tons (as compared with 24, 900 tons in 1960).

Table 1. Head of livestock on all categories of farms (at the beginning of the year)
Cattle.................259, 000212, 900352, 200
including cows............92, 00076, 000119, 100
Swine.................21,00020, 30074, 000
Sheep and goats............735, 0001, 046, 2002, 462, 700

INDUSTRY. Between 1940 and 1971 the output of all industry increased 680 percent. The principal branches of industry are the machine-building and metalworking, building-materials, wood-products, light, and food-processing industries. Machine building is represented by the kaspiiskii Machine-Building Plant. About a fifth of the industrial production personnel are engaged in branches processing agricultural raw material. in the food-processing industry, which produces 35 percent of the total industrial output, the meat, dairy, canning, fishery, and bakery branches are particularly significant. The most important enterprises are the Kaspiiskii Meat-Canning Combine, The Arshan’ Meat-Packing Plant, The Kaspiiskii Fish Plant, The Gorodovi-Kovsk Food Combine, The Elista Dairy Plant, and the Gorodovi-Kovsk and Iashalta Creameries. In 1971 the republic produced 8, 800 tons of meat, 624 tons of butter, 59 tons of vegetable oil, and 8. 9 million standard cans of food. some 2, 600 tons of fish were caught. the building-materials industry, in which about 10 percent of all industrial personnel are employed, produces bricks at the elista building-materials combine and the Kaspiiskii, Gorodovikovsk, And Sarpa Plants; Also in operation are plants making reinforced-concrete products, a home-construction combine, and quarries for extracting filler rock. consumer goods are produced by the elista garment association (since 1963), the elista knitted-goods and furniture factories, and local industrial enterprises.

The energy system of Kalmykia (which receives electric power from the Tsimliansk Hydroelectric Power Plant) is included within the Integrated Power Grid of the European USSR. The petroleum and gas industries have great prospects. In 1971, 352, 000 tons of petroleum and 549 million cu m of gas were extracted.

TRANSPORTATION. Southeastern kalmykia is intersected by the Astrakhan-Kizliar Railroad Line. In 1969 the Divnoe-Elista railroad branch connected the capital of kalmykia with central ciscaucasia. truck transport plays the main role in domestic freight haulage. the elista-divnoe highway has been constructed (with a length of about 100 km); now under construction are the elista-volgograd highway (264 km) and the elista-astrakhan highway (305 km).

Economic ties between Kalmykia and other republics of the USSR are being expanded. Kalmykia supplies many regions of the country with meat, wool, butter and vegetable-oil, leather, and canned goods. In turn it receives metals, machinery, industrial equipment, building materials, and other products.

ECONOMIC REGIONS. The Ergeni is a region of livestock raising and grain farming. located in the irrigated land are orchards and sown areas of potatoes, vegetables, and fodder and grain crops. there are food-processing, building-materials, consumer-goods, and metalworking industries. its center is Elista. The coastal belt (the delta ilmeni, or low areas covered by river overflow) has fishing in the Caspian. Food industries (processing fish and meat) and machine building are located there. Its center is Kaspiiskii. The Manych region engages in the cultivation of grain, vegetable-oil crops, fruit orchards, and vineyards and the raising of meat-and-dairy cattle, swine, and poultry. On the basis of its agricultural raw materials there is a food industry (oil-pressing, wine-making). Its center is Gorodovikovsk. The central and southern part is a region of seasonal (primarily winter) pastures that are important for the entire Soviet Union; during the winters the fine-wooled sheep from the Lower Volga region and the Northern Caucasus and some from Transcaucasia are herded here.

Standard of living. The standard of living of the people has been rising steadily. The volume of retail trade increased 10.8-fold from 1940 to 1971 (in comparable prices). Between 1966 and 1971 housing with a total area of 747, 000 sq m was built and occupied; of this, 577, 000 sq m was constructed with funds from state and cooperative organizations and housing cooperatives. Social security and pension insurance have also increased.


Public health. Prior to the Great October Socialist Revolution there were practically no public health services in Kalmykia. Infectious diseases were widespread, and the population’s death rate, especially that of children, was extremely high. In 1913 there was a total of 53 hospital beds and five working physicians. By Jan. 1, 1972, there were 86 hospitals with 3,400 beds (12.7 beds per thousand population), 101 polyclinics and out-patient stations, 28 women’s consultation points, and 47 nurseries with 1,700 places. There are 600 physicians in Kalmykia (one physician per 451 inhabitants) and more than 2,000 secondary medical personnel, who are trained at a medical school in Elista. In the settlement of Lola, 35 km from Elista, there is a climatic-koumiss treatment station, where a sanatorium is located for patients with tuberculosis (it is open from April through December).


Education and cultural affairs. During the academic year 1914–15, Kalmykia had 78 general education schools with about 4, 000 pupils; there were no secondary specialized or higher educational institutions. During the 1971—72 academic year 279 general education schools of all types had an enrollment of 69, -000 pupils, five specialized secondary educational institutions had 5, 700 pupils, and Kalmyk University (in Elista) had 3, 200 students. In 1971 more than 8, 500 children were being educated at 113 preschool institutions.

As of Jan. 1, 1972, 154 public libraries were in operation (with 1, 359, 000 copies of books and journals), along with the Kalmyk Republic Museum of Local Lore in Elista, 194 club-type institutions, 336 permanent motion-picture theaters, 12 Houses of Pioneers, a station for young naturalists, and nine children’s sports schools.

Scientific institutions. All the scientific institutions of Kalmykia were established during the the Soviet period. As of 1972, these included the Research Institute of Language, Literature, and History attached to the republic’s Council of Ministers (founded in 1941), the Kalmyk Research Institute on Livestock Raising for Meat under the RSFSR Ministry of Agriculture (founded in 1967), the Kalmyk Experimental Forestry Station under the All-Union Research Institute for the Improvement of Agriculture and Forestry (founded in 1950), and the Kalmyk Experimental Land Improvement Station (founded in 1963).


Press, radio, and television. In 1971, 87 books and pamphlets were published, with a total of 431,000 copies; nine magazines were issued with an annual circulation of 23, 000; and 15 newspapers appeared, with an annual circulation of 71, 791,000. Republic newspapers are KhaTmg unn (Kalmyk Pravda, since 1920) in Kalmyk and Sovetskaia Kalmykiia (since 1920) and Komsomolets Kalmykii (since 1929) in Russian; also published is an anthology of literature and the arts in Kalmyk and Russian entitled Teegin gerl (Light in the Steppes; since 1957).

The republic’s radio and television broadcasts are carried in Kalmyk and Russian on one radio and one television program; broadcasts are also relayed from Moscow. There is a television broadcasting center in Elista.

Literature. Kalmyk written literature originated on the basis of a rich national folklore. Stories and legends, sayings and proverbs, songs, iorels (good wishes), magtals (panegyrics), kha-rals (incantations), tales, and the apex of all folk creativity—the epic Dzhangar (15th century)—constitute a substantial contribution to the treasury of world culture.

Prior to the creation in 1648 by Zaia Pandit (1599–1662) of a Kalmyk writing system (“clear writing”), Kalmyks employed the common Mongolian alphabet and shared a common literature with the Mongols (for example, The Secret History of the Mongols, 13th century). The creation of a writing system had a beneficial influence on the emergence of a national literature, resulting in the appearance of such works as The Light of the Moon (17th century), A Story About the Derben-Oirats (1739) by Gaban Sharab, and Journey to Tibet (1897), among others. During the 19th century wide renown was enjoyed by the freedom-proclaiming verses of Onchkhan Dzhirgal, which were directed against foreign invaders and native oppressors. Especially popular was the narrative poem by Boovan Badma (1880–1917) entitled The Pleasure of Rumor (1916), which exposed the vices of the Lamaist church.

The Great October Revolution unchained the people’s creative forces and opened a wide scope for the emergence and formation of Kalmyk Soviet literature. Its founders were Kh. Kanukov (1883–1933) and N. Mandzhiev (1905–36). In the mid-1920’s many young people entered the field of literature, including S. Kaliaev (born 1905), A. Suseev (born 1905), and Kh. Sian-Belgin (born 1909). At this time the foremost place was occupied by poetry devoted to the heroism of the revolution, the Civil War and the joys of victory, the first buds of the new life, and the unbreakable friendship among fraternal peoples.

The great revolutionary changes, along with the breakup of an age-old order, made it necessary to create a literary prose. A picture of the great transformation is drawn in the first short stories by N. Mandzhiev, “The Little Master of a Large Home” (1928) and “The Adventures of Red Mandzhik” (1933), and inthe chronicle-novel The Son of Mudresh (1925) and the novellas Aranzal (1932) and In the Steppes (1935) by A. Amur-Sanan(1888–1939).

The late 1920’s and early 1930’s in Kalmykia were characterized by the further growth of literature. New names began to appear in this field: B. Basangov (1911–44), G. Davan (1913–37), Ts. Ledzhinov (1910–42), and K. Erendzhenov (born 1912). The poets strove to convey events realistically, and they created the first spiritually and emotionally rich portrayals of their contemporaries; such are the heroes of the narrative poems The Brigadier (1934) by Kaliaev and The Fighting Orphan (1935) by Sian-Belgin and of the poetry collection Heart of Steel (1929) by Suseev. The prose writers Mandzhiev in his Story of a Kolkhoz (1936), Basangov in The Truth of Bygone Days (1930)and Bulgun (1934), and Erendzhenov in Shepherd’s Song (1932)successfully interpreted the people’s historic past and depictedcollectivization. During the 1930’s and 1940’s many new writersentered the field of literature: L. Indzhiev (born 1913), M. Narmaev (born 1915), E. Kekteev (1918–65), B. Dordzhiev (1918-69), B. Dzhimbinov (born 1914), B. Erdniev (born 1906), D. Kugul’tinov (born 1922), I. Matsakov (born 1907), P. Dzhidleev (1913–40), and the dzhaigarchi (storytellers) B. Mukebenov (1878–1944) and D. Shavaliev (1884–1959). In drama the most important plays were Basangov’s The Country of Bumba (1940), An Incident Worthy of Amazement, The Tardy Rich Man (1941), and Song About Mother. A. Balakaev (born 1928) and B. Erdniev, among others, also wrote significant plays.

Lofty civic feeling and profound patriotism were to be noted in the literature of the wartime years. The shorter forms—poems, short stories, sketches, and publicistic pieces—acquired a special significance.

The 1950’s in Kalmyk literature were characterized by a heightening of interest in moral and ethical problems, as well as in the heroism of labor. The ranks of the writers were considerably enlarged by B. Sangadzhieva (born 1921), M. Khoninov (born 1919), A. Badmaev (born 1924), A. Dzhimbiev (born 1924), and T. Bembeev (born 1930), among others. The theme of the war continued to attract the attention of Kalmyk writers: the lyric and narrative poems of Kaliaev, Kulgul’tinov, Sian-Belgin, Suseev, Khoninov, and Kekteev; the novels Lotus by Bembeev (1965) and Bad Weather, There in the Distance by Badmaev (1964); and the novellas Stalingrad by Narmaev (1958), When It Is Hard for a Person by Dzimbiev (1968), and Green Love by Balakaev (1968).

During the 1960’s many new novels appeared—a testimony to the development of the large epic-narrative form and to the maturity of Kalmyk literature: Badmaev’s Rivers Flow From Their Sources (1969), Dordzhiev’s The True Path (parts 1–2, 1963–64), Indzhiev’s OVda’s Daughter (1963), Erenzhenov’s Guard the Fire (books 1–2, 1963–65), Narmaev’s Manych River (1963), and Balakaev’s Stars Over Elista (book 1, 1963). The title of People’s Poet has been awarded to Kaliaev, Suseev, Sian-Belgin, and Kugul’tinov.

Notable successes have been achieved in Kalmyk children’s literature, satire, and humorous literature. Criticism and literary scholarship have developed (I. Matsakov; A. Kichikov, born 1921; M. Dzhimgirov, born 1927; S. Kenzeev, born 1913; Ts. Korsunkiev, born 1919).

The Writers’ Union publishes the anthology Teegin gerl (since1957) in Kalmyk and Russian. Works by Kalmyk writers aretranslated into Russian and the languages of other peoples of the USSR.


Architecture and art. The Kalmyk nomadic or seminomadic livestock raisers during the 17th—19th centuries usually had dwellings (ger) that could be assembled and taken apart, with lattice frames covered by heavy felt. With the spread of Lamaism, khurul monasteries were built—complexes of buildings that were initially made of felt and wood, but of brick and stone after the late 18th century. The monasteries contained temples, chapels, cells, and workshops. The main temple usually had a high, central space crowned by a tower; it was richly ornamented with carving, painting, bronze sculpture, and religious figures. During the Soviet period the capital of Kalmykia, Elista, and the cities of Kaspiiskii and Gorodovikovsk, as well as Komsomol’skii and other settlements, have been laid out with modern, well-designed apartment houses and public buildings for cultural, everyday, and administrative uses (for example, the House of Soviets in Elista, 1930’s; architect, I. A. Golosov). The architects M. B. Piurveev, V. M. Telegin, and N. S. Baraev have also been working in the republic.

Folk decorative art is varied in its forms. The wooden parts of dwellings, furniture, and utensils were decorated with carving and painting that created the impression of three-dimensionality. Stamping was used to imprint patterns (floral motifs, solar signs, horn motifs) on leather flasks (bortkha) and footwear. Embroidery and applique were used in making articles of felt and ceremonial women’s costumes and caps (gold and silver threads were blended with colored wool, braid, and sometimes beads). Predominant in the embroidery are floral motifs (stems, leaves, rosettes, and the tulip, which became a symbol of Kalmykia’s flourishing). Also widespread is the unique pattern known as the zeeg, consisting of a series of little arches (schematically depicting the ger), encircled by polychrome bands, sometimes with a rosette in the center. Silver articles, such as pendants to braids, rings, earrings, and belts, were ornamented with embossed, engraved, chased, and pierced patterns.

The art of the 18th and 19th centuries is represented by the painting of religious figures and block-printing of books and religious figures, which relied on the Tibetan-Mongolian tradition. The graphic artist F. I. Kalmyk and the painter A. E. Egorov worked beyond the borders of Kalmykia during the 18th and 19th centuries, but it was only in the Soviet period that art began to be developed intensively. During the 1930’s the painters I. S. Nuskhaev, L. E. Ochirov and P. I. Emchigirova, and the theater designer D. V. Sychev came to the fore. During the 1960’s the painters G. O. Rokchinskii and K. M. Ol’daev (who paint portraits and pictures on historical and everyday themes), the graphic artist B. F. Danil’chenko, and the sculptors N. A. Sandzhiev, V. S. Vas’kin, and N. Ia. Eledzhiev became well known.

Music. Prior to the October Revolution the art of Kalmyk music existed solely in the oral folk tradition. The folk song was monophonic and was performed in a special style of vocalization in a guttural sound by the folksingers—the duuchi and dzhangarchi (epic reciters). The drawn-out songs—the ut dun —are characterized by improvisation; their sound range frequently exceeds an octave, and the performers add vowel sounds and syllables, thereby extending the melodic line. The short songs—akhr dun —are simpler, usually in couplet form and with a marked rhythm. They are closely related to the joke songs and dance songs, the keldg bildzh dun (“spoken songs”), which are similar to chastushki (form of Russian folk poetry) and are performed to the accompaniment of the domra or Saratov accordion. The modal system of Kalmyk songs is diatonic, but preserves individual pentatonic turns. Men’s dances have lively, quick tempos; women’s dances have more lyrical and flowing melodies.

After the October Revolution amateur choral and dance groups and domra orchestras were formed. Choral performances utilizing two and three voices began to appear. A new stage in the development of a national art of the musical theater was the presentation Ulan sar (Red Moon; staged in 1931 in Saratov), with a chorus, a dance group, and symphonic, wind, domra, and khural orchestras. The year 1934 saw the publication of a collection of folk songs, transcribed by M. L. Trituz; subsequently arrangements of Kalmyk folk songs were made (D. S. Vasil’ev-Buglai, Z. L. Kompaneets).

The composers V. A. Gaigerova, A. E. Spadavekkia, M. O. Grachev, B. B. Iampilov, Zh. A. Batuev, and P. Chonkushev have written works on the basis of Kalmyk musical folklore. Among the leading figures in Kalmyk music are Honored Artist of the RSFSR V. Gariaeva, Honored Artists of the Kalmyk ASSR V. IPtsaranova and A. Mukaeva, the conductor S. G. Dordzhin, the singer Honored Artist of the Kalmyk ASSR U. B. Lidzhieva, and the domrrsts B. Erdniev and B. Ochaev. The drama theater orchestra has played a prominent role in the development of a national musical art.

As of 1972 performing groups in the Kalmyk ASSR included the Tulip Kalmyk Song and Dance Ensemble (1937) and, associated with this ensemble, an orchestra of folk instruments (1970), the Kalmyk Philharmonia (1939), and a republic division of the Choral Society (1967). Musical education is provided by the School of Music in Elista (1960), 18 children’s music schools, and three children’s choral schools. M. L. Trituz

Theater. Prior to the October Revolution, Kalmyks had no theatrical art. In 1926 a Kalmyk drama school was established in Astrakhan; it was reorganized in 1930 as an arts technicum with acting, music, and choreographic divisions. In 1936 graduates of the school and technicum became members of the Kalmyk National Theater Studio. The directors V. A. Gol’dfel’d and L. N. Aleksandrov, among others, took part in the formation of the Kalmyk theater. Among the productions of the 1930’s and 1940’s were The Fighting Orphan by Kh. Sian-Belgin, The Insurrection by D. M. Furmanov (both in 1936), Chuche and The Tardy Rich Man by B. Basangov (both in 1937), Moliere’s The Doctor in Spite of Himself and Pushkin’s The Gypsies (both in 1937), K. A. Trenev’s Furious Love (1938), B. Erdniev’s Siakhlia (1939), and A. Suseev’s In Search of Happiness (1940).

In 1941 the Theater Studio troupe was merged with graduates of the Kalmyk Studio of the State Institute of Theatrical Arts. In 1942 the theater was closed, but it reopened in 1958 in Elista (Kalmyk and Russian troupes work there). In 1963 the theater was renamed for the writer B. Basangov. Among the theater’s productions between the late 1950’s and early 1970’s were Sophias Song by R. Khubetsovaia and G. Khugaev (1959), Typhoon by Ts’ao Yu (1960), The Obelisk by G. Mamlin (1966), On the Night of the Lunar Eclipse (1966) and The Country of AiguT (1970) by M. Karim, An Incident Worthy of Amazement (1959), The Country of Bumba (1967), and Song About Mother (1969) by B. Basangov, In the Name of the Revolution by M. F. Shatrov (1968), and The Snowstorm by B. Sangadzhieva and Lenin s Call by S. Kaliaev (both in 1970). In 1963 the theater’s troupe was merged with a group of graduates from the Kalmyk Studio of the Leningrad Institute of Theater, Music, and Cinematography.

As of 1972 those active in the theatrical arts included Honored Artist of the RSFSR and the Kalmyk ASSR M. Ts. Erend-zhenov; Honored Artists of the RSFSR B. B. Balbakova and E. G. Mandzhiev; Honored Workers in the Arts of the Kalmyk ASSR L. N. Aleksandrov and D. V. Sychev; and Honored Artists of the Kalmyk ASSR N. P. Badenova, Iu. U. Il’ianov, U. B. Lidzhieva, B. B. Memeeva, U. D. Narkaeva, E. B. Rusakova, A. M. Sasykov, U. K. Susukov, I. A. Ulanov, and S. B. Iash-kulov.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.