Map of Republic of Kalmykia, as painted in red.
Here are some basic facts you will have to firstly know about this ‘country’*.
1. Majority of its 300,000-strong populace is of ethnic Kalmyk, one of the distant descendants of Genghis Khan’s Mongol troops on their conquest of Europe in 13th century.
2. Up to half of the people there adhere strictly to Tibetan Buddhism.
3. When you think this place is somewhere near Mongolia or China or Korea, please look at the map above again. It’s even closer to Ukraine!
4. Despite its ‘republic’ status, it is not, as you may imagine, predictably, a full-fledged independent state out of the blue coming out of nowhere in your world atlas. It is one of the 21 ‘republics’ of Russia, an autonomous title designated to territories by which their respective ethnic groups have been calling these places ‘homelands’, for multiple generations.
History itself, literally speaking, has never fallen short of whimsical, and mind-boggling, serendipitous traits that the phrase ‘stranger than fiction’, possibly, became coined out for that rationale. Some of them, oftentimes, are things beyond our prior imagination. Kalmykia, as I have just recently found out, was one such fascinating example of the peculiarity of history itself that, in the end, adds up to our such incomprehensibility of this world.
Such uniqueness is seen not only by its overwhelming Buddhist faith throughout the region; the Kalmyk people, despite decades of cultural and religious persecution during Soviet rule, boorishly maintained their pride, their prayers, and their tradition altogether; the breakup of Soviet Union precipitated the revival of their cultural freedom.
And right now, it is slowly gaining international popularity as another epicenter of Buddhist teachings, in addition to Tibet. A considerable number of tourists, Buddhist monks, and disciples alike have been visiting Kalmykia in search of inspiration and pure tranquility.
Most importantly, Kalmyk people have never ceased to be proud of their differences. And it’s a great thing.
And you can watch the video below (it’s somewhat outdated, but it gives you sufficient knowledge about the whole region).