Visible and Invisible Ethnicity: Native Language and Religiosity Among the Kalmyks during the Years of Deportation, 1943–1956

In: Caucasus Survey
Elza Guchinova Leading Researcher at Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, RAS

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This article is devoted to an important period, as yet insufficiently studied by anthropologists and sociologists, in the history of Kalmykia – the deportation of the Kalmyks to Siberia (1943–1956) and its cultural implications. Its aim is to show how the stigmatization of the exiled Kalmyks in an unfavorable social and political environment influenced their linguistic and religious behavior. These issues are part of the process of creating a Soviet Kalmyk ethnicity, which began after the establishment of Soviet power on the Kalmyk steppe in 1920 and was a continuation in the realm of politics of the forced modernization of the people. Kalmyks in Siberia tried to hide ethnically marked forms of culture, abstaining from speaking Kalmyk in public and hiding their religiosity. The article uses field materials collected by the author in the form of interviews conducted between 2004 and 2019 and published memoirs about exile.

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