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Republic of Kalmykia

The Republic of Kalmykia was founded on November 4, 1920. As a subject of the Russian Federation it is a part of the Southern Federal District. With territory area of 74 731 sq. km it is populated by 284 000 citizens. The Republic borders with Stavropol Krai in the south, the Republic of Dagestan in the south-east, Volgograd Oblast in the north, Astrakhan Oblast in the north-east and Rostov Oblast in the west.

The climate of Kalmykia is moderately warm and mild with January average —4C and July +24C.

The capital city is Elista with 102 600 population. Elista is 1153 km far from Moscow and is in the same time zone with Moscow.

One of the city’s attractions is the City-Chess district with the Chess Palace in its center built specifically for hosting chess tournaments and Olympics. City-Chess is an original implementation of an absurd «New Vasuki» Project from the famous novel «The Twelve Chairs» by Ilf and Petrov. There is even an avenue named after Ostap Bender that leads to the district and a monument to this literature character standing in the main square of City-Chess.

The Kalmytsky Republic Regional Studies Museum named after N. Palmov would introduce you to the history of the Republic’s foundation and development. A rotunda with a 1,5 meter high Statue of Buddha Shakyamuni finely blends with the city architecture.

Two large Buddhist temples — Syakusan Sume and Gol Sume (Central khurul) would attract your attention by their architecture that descends to the Tibetan style. Both temples are decorated by sculptures and rich wooden fretwork. Inside the Central khurul (The Golden Abode of Buddha Shakyamuni) you would see the tallest statue of Buddha in Europe. Buddhist attractions are frequent around Elista since the Republic of Kalmykia is the only territorial formation where Buddhism is an acknowledged and official religion while Elista itself could claim to be a religious centre.

Kalmyk culture is unique so as history that descends from nomadic civilizations of the Central Asia. A true pearl of Kalmyk folklore is «Jangar» epos that is considered to be one of the best examples of spoken poetic culture. Jangar and its performers — Jangarchi narrators — are hold in love and respect by common people to this day. Jangar epos has variations of its plot as well as the manner of narration (singing), which could be discovered during the regional Festival of Masters of Arts «World of the Caucasus» that takes place in Elista on September 19.

The second event where you could not only hear the artistry of the Jangarchi narrators but also witness national games mentioned in the epos is the annual cultural sport festival the Jangariada. It is traditionally held on the city race track, since besides wrestling, archery, javelin and lasso throwing it also features horse and camel racing.

Kalmykia has a unique salt lake (a few kilometers away from Lapta) ground level of which is lower than the sea level, just like the Dead Sea. The lake is famous for its high-quality therapeutic peloids that could be compared by quality to those of the famous Dzhermuk spa resort in Turkmenia and Tshaltubo health resort in Georgia. The lake offers a unique treatment combination of air-water-salts. Water and salts of the lake help ease myotonia, inflammations, pains, enhance blood circulation and generally produce soothing and juvenating effect. This is an ideal place for extreme tourism — ascetic conditions, the sun and fresh air in abundance help treat almost half a hundred maladies within a short period.

If you would like to get a feel of Kalmyk national culture you should visit Tsagan-Aman (White Gates) village, which used to be a traditional place of crossing the Volga River for ancient and medieval nomads. The Scythians, the Sarmatians, the Pechenegs, the Cumans, the Mongols, the Oirats — all these nations of the Great Steppe used to pass these «white gates». The tour program includes horse riding basics, setting-up and disassembling a Kalmyk nomad tent and visiting a local Khurul (a Buddhist temple). Visitors would be lodged in dorms of a university biological station or fishermen huts.

If you decide to go on the extreme ethnographic «Wolf Track» tour you would be able to experience the harsh and wonderful world of the Great Steppe nomads. The tour route partially follows the Silk Road. At nomad camp stops you would learn traditional Kalmyk dances, peculiarities of orientation around steppe, traditional folk games and crafts. This tour is the chance to explore different corners of the Great Steppe step by step and get a feel of its history.

For more detailed information on the Republic, please refer to Internet resources of governmental authorities of the constituent entity of the Russian Federation.

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