Click for more information about Kalmykia
2012 Apr by Kolja Sport
We drove by car from Machackala to Astrakhan, crossing all of Kalmykia. Unfortunately we had no time to visit Kalmykia's "chess" capital Elista, but we got a good impression of the Republic anyway. It is the only Buddhist country in Europe. The majority of people carry mongoloid features. Kalmykia derives from Turkish "kalmish" which means "stayed behind" ... instead of migrating to modern Mongolia. The drive took us about 8 hours on surprisingly bad roads, sometimes on washed-out mud, almost requiring a 4x4. Part of this Caspian Steppe is below sealevel, therefore the corrugations. There was a big detour of ca. 50 km around a construction site where supposedly a new road is built. |
2009 Sep by Jorge Sanchez
During my three months overland journey in the summer of 2009 to all the Republics and Oblasts of Russia that I did not yet know, I took a bus from Astrakhan to Elista, the capital of the Republic of Kalmykia. There is no train service between these two cities.|
In the middle of the night there was a military control. It was the border between the Oblast of Astrakhan and the Republic of Kalmykia.
I am very afraid of those controls because in them the Russian soldiers use to abuse of the foreigners, of the poor Armenians, Tajiks and nationals from other Caucasus and Central Asia nationalities who look for a job in Russia. They always find an excuse to get some money from them.
In the controls, the bus drivers always inform to the soldiers if they carry foreigners, so I was asked my passport and invited to go to a sort of metallic container, which was filled with some militias, for interrogation.
An officer inquired me for the purpose to visit the Republic of Kalmykia and I told him that I love chess, and in Elista there is a city devoted entirely to the chess game that I wanted to visit, and called in Russian Gorod Shakhmat, or City Chess in English.
He requested me to put all the contains of my pockets on the table.
I know that game. I have experience and more than once I have been “dispossessed” of part of my money without realizing it. Russian soldiers are experts in juggling games. The soldiers are only looking for the money, not if your Russian visa is expired or if you carry in your bag narcotics, weapons or pornography. Once you place your money on the table, the soldiers confuse you with questions and in the meanwhile one of them tries to rob you some notes.
But this time, after two and half months travelling, so far, within Russia, I was not timid anymore and asked the officer if my 3 months Russian visa was in order. He replied yes, it was OK. Then I asked again if my registration into Russian territory in the OVIR (Office of Visa and Registration) within the first three days was in order, and he answered yes. Then I rapidly recovered my money from the table, counted the amount in roubles and euros and put them back in my pocket, so stopping the possibility to be robbed.
Once this done, the soldiers loose interest in me and let me proceed to my bus. They did not even register my bag.
I reached Elista at 3 AM and slept inside the bus station premises.
The taxi drivers offered me a ride to a hotel but, being short of money, I refused.
At about 4 AM there was a Police control, the two police men, or militia, were of Kalmykian race, no Russians. They just asked me to show them my passport, and advised me to be careful with my bag because, while sleeping, somebody could rob it.
So nice policemen!
If that had happened me in a Russian Oblast, most probably I would have been asked “for a beer” by the Russian policemen. But Kalmykian militias are really honest and helpful. They were Buddhist and by their aspect they looked Mongolian, like their language.
At 7 AM I walked to the downtown and waited until the Buddhist monastery was opened. Then I entered inside the monastery, new one, erected in the year 2005 in a place chosen by the XIV Dalai Lama, and participated in the daily Buddhist ceremony which lasted about 2 hours. All the assistants were Kalmykians; I did not see a single Russian.
That Tibetan Monastery, the biggest of its kind in Europe, belongs to the Gelugpa sect, or the Yellow Hats.
After the ceremony I walked until the City Chess, a part of Elista, devoted entirely to the chess game. It was inaugurated in 1998.
At the entrance there was a control and they checked my bag.
Inside, I saw groups of buildings with such names related to the chess game:
- Complex of living buildings QUEEN KNIGHT
- Complex of living buildings BLACK KING PAWN
- Complex of living buildings WHITE BISHOP
And so on.
I spent at least 3 hours exploring the City Chess, not missing a single building. I saw a Confucius Institute, the Consulate of Mongolia, a restaurant called Flamingo, a Pizzeria, a Casino, and many apartments. It was a resort town for chess loving tourists.
After the visit to the City Chess I returned on foot to Elista downtown to complete the visit to the capital of one of the twenty one republics of the Russian Federation: Kalmykia, with a population of only 300.000 persons, mostly professing the Buddhist Faith, of which 105.000 live in Elista.
When that night I was leaving Elista by bus with destination to Rostov on Don, I was thinking how lucky I had been to have visited such an exotic, unique and unexpected place in Europe, like the City Chess in Elista.
2007 Apr by Veikko Huhtala*
We were traveling by train from Moscow to Mahachkhala in Dagestan. Near Dagestanian border|
the train stopped for 45 minutes in small Kalmykian town called Artezian. After 1760 kilometres traveling it was nice to go out from the train. It was night time and we just walked around railway station and bought something to drink and eat. Almost in every station they are selling smoked fish. It tastes good and is not very expensive, about 100 rubles or something.
Vodka is also cheap and they are selling it every station where train is stoping.