The only Buddhist state in Europe. One of the twenty-one autonomous republics of Russia, it lies just south of the River Volga and has a coast on the north-west of the Caspian Sea. The area is 76 000 km2 and the population 330 000.

The Kalmyks are a Mongol people (of the Oirot branch) who settled on the Volga in the seventeeth century. The area was taken by the Russians in 1771. The native Kalmyk name of Kalmykia is Khalmg Tangch, and it was officially known by both (Republic of Kalmykia - Khalmg Tangch) in 1992-96. (Sic to Tangch; sometimes incorrectly given as Tangeh.) The Kalmyk language was set to the vertical Mongolian script Todo Bichig in 1648, but this was replaced by Cyrillic in 1924. Many more Kalmyks speak Russian than they do Kalmyk.

The capital is Elista, Kalmyk name √člst, formerly called Stepnoy. The parliament is called the Khural.

It was created as an autonomous oblast in 1920, promoted to ASSR in 1936, and abolished in December 1943, the Kalmyks being departed en masse for alleged collaboration with the Nazis, i.e. insufficient enthusiasm in fighting for Stalin. It was restored as an oblast in 1957, ASSR 1958. A large proportion, between a fifth and a half, of the Volga Kalmyks died under the deportation.

There have been two presidents of Kalmykia since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Basanov 1991-1993 and Kirsan Ilyumzhinov (b. 1962) since 1993. Ilyumzhinov is the president of FIDE, the world chess federation, and has built a Chess City in Elista as international headquarters of the game.

The flag is yellow, representing the Gelug ("Yellow Hat") tradition of Buddhism, with a light blue disk on it bearing a white lotus. Between 1992 and 1993 Kalmykia used a yellow flag with a light blue stripe on top and a red stripe below, and in the centre a red emblem of flame above water in a circle. The flag is called the Ulan zalata khalmg.

Flag information and some history from FOTW: one mirror site is http://flagspot.net/flags/ru-kl.html
More on language and history at www.ecmi.de/doc/download/working_paper_10.pdf

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