Saturday, July 16, 2016

Kalmyk Comic Book May Prove to Be No Laughing Matter for Moscow

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 17 – The first of what is projected to be a new comic book series in Kalmyk went on sale this week, a series whose hero is a young Kalmyk who discovers in himself the force of an ancient Oirot warrior and whose content in both Kalmyk and Russian acquaints its readers with the mystical traditions of the Buddhist Kalmyks.

            The authors of the comic book, the first of its kind in Kalmyk, are two Elista artists, Ochir Tostayev and Oleg Chudutov, who say they consulted historians and linguists to prepare it ( and

                Officials in Kalmykia are celebrating this event, but many Russian officials may rue this day in the future. Comic books not only allow the discussion of alternative futures and alternative pasts but help form the worldviews of the young who read them.  And Kalmyk history is full of events that an Oirat warrior might find himself arrayed in conflicts with Russia.

            The name “Oirat” is Mongol and refers to “the forest peoples” in the westernmost part of the Mongol Horde. They settled on the western bank of the Volga, but their relations with Russia were fraught with violence:  Catherine the Great tried to have them exterminated, and after they revolted in 1926, 1930, and 1942-43, Stalin deported them to Siberia and Central Asia.

            Of particular interest in this regard is the history of Kalmyk and Mongol efforts at rapprochement. The Kalmyks were part of the pan-Mongol movement in the early 20th century, and Mongol leaders tried to convince the Soviet government to allow the Kalmyks to resettle in Mongolia at the time of the famine in the early 1920s.

            The Soviet authorities banned the teaching of Kalmyk  after that nation was deported in 1943. Since their return to the Volga region and the reestablishment of their republic, the Kalmyks have tried to promote the revival of their national language and traditions.  The new comic books are likely to help; and for that reason if no other, they are no laughing matter.

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