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Deportees in Society

Ssyl’ka and Spetsposelenie in Soviet Buryatiya

Caroline Humphrey


This paper discusses forced labour migrations in the Buryat-Mongolian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in the Stalin era. It attempts to set this regional case in the context of deportations and ‘special settlements’ in the USSR as a whole. It points out that forced labour migrants were not only sent to the Buryat Republic from western regions of the USSR; various categories of the ‘repressed’ were also deported from the Republic and displaced within it. The paper focusses on relations between forced migrants and the rest of society, with particular attention to Germans and Lithuanians sent into Buryatia and to Buryats exiled from the same regions.

Uradyn E. Bulag

Historical Social Organisation on the Eastern Tibetan Plateau

The Territorial Origins and Etymology of tsho-ba

Reinier J. Langelaar


The groups known as tsho-ba in Tibetan are both historically and ethnographically significant for their central role in local social organisation across large stretches of the eastern Himalayan Plateau. Available scholarly descriptions, however, remain both terse and discrepant. To remedy this situation, this article presents a diachronic picture of these groups in the Reb-gong region of eastern Qinghai, People’s Republic of China. Its analysis highlights an important historical shift in the constitution of these units, which often seem to have arisen as individual hamlets yet shed their territorialised identities over time. These findings, as a comparative discussion illustrates, markedly benefit our cross-regional understanding of tsho-ba, which in turn yields an instructive etymology of the term tsho-ba itself. Lastly, the paper addresses the forwarded historical hypothesis that these groups are the remnants of an older but now defunct clan system—a notion it argues must be rejected.

Valeriya Gazizova


This article investigates how a number of Buddhist groups in Kalmykia, a republic in the southwest of Russia where Buddhism is historically practised by most of its titular population, try to create what they perceive as elements of the local form of Buddhism. Based on interviews with non-monastic Buddhist specialists, the article focuses on the introduction of the worship of two protective deities in several Kalmyk Buddhist centres. Central to the discussion is the deployment of the Tibetan practice of ‘treasure’ discoveries in this renewal.

Revitalisation of Cultural Heritage in Mongolia

Development, Legislation and Academic Contribution

Dulam Bumochir and Gantulga Munkherdene


In contemporary Mongolia—a country with 29 years’ history of international development policy—the conventional interpretation regarding the oppression of and liberation from the Soviet regime is no longer valid for understanding its politics of cultural heritage. Today, development projects and associated environmental, social and cultural assessments play a central role in safeguarding cultural heritage. Therefore, alternative interpretations are necessary to comprehend current and further processes of cultural heritage politics. This paper introduces two case studies of new cultural heritage politics involving Mongolia’s two ‘megaprojects’: Oyu Tolgoi gold and copper mining, and River Eg hydroelectric station.

Early Soviet Policy towards Buddhism

From Ostentatious Tolerance to Undisguised Hostility

Darima Amogolonova


This paper explores the Buryat Bolsheviks’ efforts to replace the religious identity of fellow Buryats with a Soviet identity in the wake of the Russian Revolution, and analyses the ways in which the Buddhist community attempted to adapt to totalitarian rule. In addition to fostering a general atmosphere of intolerance to religion, considered an antagonistic worldview, the Bolsheviks set out to promote the cultural assimilation of this non-Russian population within the Russian ethnic majority. This entailed a programme of education in the spirit of Soviet patriotism and loyalty, designed to ensure the ideological unity of the nation. Over a short historical period from the early 1920s to the early 1930s, the attitude of the Soviet authorities towards Buddhist religion, clergy and believers shifted radically, from tolerance towards the religion of the ‘oppressed non-Russian masses’ to uncompromising antagonism and the targeting of religion as a class enemy that must be annihilated in the name of creating ‘a new man’.