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(self-designation, Khal’mg), people living mainly in the Kalmyk ASSR, as well as in Astrakhan, Volgograd, and Rostov oblasts and Stavropol’ Krai, RSFSR. Total Kalmyk population in the USSR, 137, 000 (1970 census). Their language is Kalmyk. Lamaism, the former religion of the Kalmyks, has virtually disappeared in the Soviet period.
The Oirats, the ancestors of the Kalmyks, who inhabited Central Asia during the first and early second millennia a. d., were members of the large Tung-Hu, Hsiang-pi, Juan-Juan, and Khi-tan political alliances; later, in the 13th and 14th centuries, they were part of the feudal military empire of Genghis Khan and his successors. In the late 14th century the Oirats were an independent political force known as the derben ord (the tribes of the “four allies”: the Dorbet, Khoshut, Torgut, and Choros). The state created by them represented a confederation of ethnically complex feudal formations, like the appanage principalities of other peoples. A migration of the Oirats into Russia, to the lower course of the Volga and the Caspian Sea region, took place in the late 16th century and the first third of the 17th century. The Kalmyk people, the nucleus of which were the Oirats, developed during the migration to their present homeland and settlement there. Turkic, Russian, and some other ethnic elements also played a part in their formation, although their relative significance in the formation of the Kalmyks was comparatively small.
Soviet power was established in Kalmykia in 1918; the Kalmyk Autonomous Oblast was created in 1920 and made into the Kalmyk ASSR in 1935. In late 1943 a violation of socialist law occurred, resulting in the resettlement of the Kalmyks to the eastern regions of the country. The Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on the Restoration of Kalmyk Autonomy (the Kalmyk Autonomous Oblast, which became the Kalmyk ASSR in 1958) was promulgated on Jan. 9, 1957. Almost all of the Kalmyks returned to their homeland.
The basic economy of most Kalmyks in the past consisted of nomadic and seminomadic livestock raising (cattle, sheep, horses, and camels); certain groups of Kalmyks engaged in fishing. In the 1830’s the Kalmyks in Ergeni began to till the soil. All of the Kalmyks began to take up a settled way of life under Soviet power during the prewar five-year plans of 1929–40. Modern cities and villages sprang up. The modern Soviet way of life and new traditions and customs were accepted. Farming was transformed into mechanized kolkhoz and sovkhoz production. Large-scale industry is being developed in the republic. Cadres of the national working class and intelligentsia were formed.
REFERENCESNarody Evropeiskoi chasti SSSR, vol. 2. Moscow, 1964.
Ocherki istorii Kalmytskoi ASSR, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1967–70.
Erdniev, U. E. Kalmyki (konets XIX-nachalo XXvv.): Istoriko-etnograficheskie ocherki. Elista, 1970.
Nominkhanov, D. Ts. -D. Ocherki istorii kul’tury kalmytskogo naroda. Elista, 1969.
Zasedaniia Verkhovnogo Soveta SSSR chetvertogo sozyva: Shestaia sessiia (5–12 fevralia 1957). Moscow, 1957. (Stenographic record.)
G. G. STRATANOVICH and IU. I. ZHURAVLEV