Djangar & sons

Immense, flat, empty. Kalmykia has a withdrawn and uncommon face, like its people, hardly 300,000, which lives in this Russian Republic as big as Belgium and Switzerland united.
Steppe : « Where there is nothing…»
You would hardly be surprised to see these Mongols descendants, proud, warlike, formerly nomads, occupy this rough territory at the North Caucasus, so far away from their roots.
The history of this population is marked by antagonisms, between perpetual displacements and unalterable roots. They claim themselves as being Oirats, alike their distant brothers from China, but they have been named Kalmyk, which can either mean “the ones who left” or “the ones who stayed.”
In the 17th century, they settle between the Terek and the Volga. The Kalmyk Republic is proclaimed in 1935. Between the 27th and 30th December 1943, Stalin ordains the deportation of almost the entire population towards Siberia. During 13 years, an entire territory is deserted by its population. At the liberation, the rescued go back to those steppes, of which harshness and space look so much like their ancestors’ land.
Sole Buddhist population in Europe, the Kalmyks have received the Dalaï Lama, for a few hours diplomatically negotiated, and monks from Dharamsala regularly come to deepen the understanding of this philosophy.
The religious tolerance seems to be here an immutable force, like the serene river bed at the doors of the seething Caucasus.
Even if since the Grand Deportation, almost half of the population has been Russian, the Kalmyk culture remains nevertheless alive, and even asserted itself after that trauma.
The very polemic and recently discharged president Kirsan Ilioumjinov militated in favor of this rebirth. The Kalmyk language and culture are henceforth very present, especially in the media.
Kirsan has made erect, in the center of his small capital; the biggest Buddhist temple in Europe and has opened up the region by building roads.
He would have disproportionate expectations for that secluded land, nonetheless rich in gas and petrol: building of a cosmodrome, of movie studios, of a harbour, “the new Koweit…” The projects were excessive and abandoned. Nevertheless, he has built City Chess, which is a brand new district dedicated to chess that is slowly dying of solitude…
Nowadays, this agrarian province is ruined and very dependent on the Kremlin. Some pieces of land have been totally sterilized because of nuclear testing and overproducing politics. Unemployment is three times higher than the Russian average and, in parallel, the inhabitants have to face a demographic deficit that intensified itself under Kirsan. To make up for this, the government turns itself towards Dzungaria, in China, and towards north Tibet, peopled with Mongols and Oirat brothers.
The Kalmyks are a cultural eccentricity in Europe.
The mixing with the Russian population throughout centuries has never broken the ties with the land of the mythic hero Djangar.
This community seems to form much more than a cultural identity. They celebrate their birthday together, on the Kalmyk New Year, which symbolizes the thought of belonging to an entity; the men with their environment.
They believe in a new birth, like the white lotus, national emblem, which blossoms each summer on the coast of the Caspian Sea, and nowhere else in Europe…