Geography Tidbit

Kalmykia, for the uninitiated, is the only Buddhist republic in Europe.” I am embarrassed to admit I didn’t know that the Republic of Kalmykia existed. It’s a neat little country “…[t]ucked into a corner of Russia, by the Caspian Sea….”

Some facts about the country:

  • The president of Kalmykia is Kirsan Ilyumzhinov – a chess fanatic and president of the World Federation of Chess. Only in Kalmykia is chess part of the curriculum in school.
  • The picture to the right is Geden Sheddup Choikorling Monastery. It’s the first Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the country ever, and the “first Buddhist place of worship since Joseph Stalin ordered the destruction of all Buddhist temples and monasteries during the Collectivization era and the Great Purge in the 1930s.”
  • The Soviet era was hard on the area. Stalin accused the Kalmyks of being Nazi collaborators and expelled the populous to Siberia for more than ten years. Soviet intensive farming has also been hard on the soil – desertifying (How does one spell that?) previously rich steppe-land.
  • “The republic’s wildlife includes the famous saiga antelope, whose habitat is protected in Cherny Zemli Nature Reserve.” [source] (We had them at the zoo I used to work at, so I thought it very important to mention them, you see.)

There, now y’all know a bit more, too.

Edited to add – the Monastery has a website, apperently – http://www.buddhisminkalmykia.ru/?eng.

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