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      Hi, my name is Elena Indjieva. I am Kalmyk.  I was born and raised in Kalmykia. Presently I am a student at the Graduate Linguistics Department at the University of Hawaii. On this page I would like to tell you a little bit about my native culture and language.

      It is not clear very clear to me at this point what is the actual relation between the terms 'Oirat' and 'Kalmyk'.  The way I understand it is that Kalmyks  are Oirats that reside on the territory of Russia, mainly in Kalmyk Republic.  In other words, Oirats are Kalmyks are the same people, it's just in Russia we are referred to as Kalmyks.  








woman dancer

man dancer

This is our flag - lotus.

Religion: although Kalmyks adopted Tibetan Buddhism, Kalmyk Buddhism is a mixture of ethnic beliefs and shamanism.

among major symbols of Kalmykia are tulip (flower), eagle (bird) and sheep (main product).

Favorite food
: boiled lamb meat called mahan-sheltahan is traditionally one of our favorite foods.

: Kalmyks are generally known for horse racing and wrestling.

Entertainment: dancing and singing has always been one of Kalmyks’ favorite pastimes. In the old days, Kalmyks also used to play dice games called shaha.

Culture: One of the important part of Kalmyk culture is oral historic epic  Dzangar that is traditionally recited by a poet, accompanied by a two-stringed lute called a dombra.

Problem: Presently Kalmyk Language, as a considerable number of other languages on our planet (unfortunately), is listed (by UN) as one of the most endangered languages of the world.

 “In 1943, the Kalmyks as many other peoples of USSR became subject to deportations to Central Asia, Siberia, Altai, Kazakhstan. This relocation process lasted more than 13 years and its consequence was the death of more than 1/3 of the Kalmyks and the loss of many cultural features such as the language, religion, and artifacts. Although in 1957-58, the autonomy was rehabilitated and a part of the Kalmyks returned to Kalmykia, the psychological consequences of the deportation still weigh heavily on the Kalmyk nation.”(abstract from

   Why is it important to try to preserve endangered languages of indigenous people?

To answer this question can take very long time.  But I believe that it is worth a try because, for me (personally), being able to speak my native language would mean to become more aware of my own origins: it would help me to understand the world of my parents (ancestors) and their culture, to realize where I came from, to understand myself. 

I did this little project hoping that it would raise your interest in my culture and maybe also encourage young generation of Kalmyks to use their own native language.  



Note: Most of the photos and the map used in this site were copied from other websites related to Kalmykia.
I hope it's OK. These photos illustrate scenes from Kalmykia and Kalmyk people's culture.

© Language Documentation Center, University of Hawai'i at Manoa 2008