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Travel to Kalmykia
September 24, 2016 02:21


Kalmykia occupies an area between the deserts of Astrakhan region and the fields of Stavropol Region. It turns out that the Kalmyk landscape is something between them, that is a boundless steppe.

Every schoolboy knows that Kalmyk is a friend of steppes. So it is in real: steppe nature is the main pride of Kalmykia. In the spring when the heat is not yet gained full force, the steppe turns green. Tulips, poppies and irises are blossomed and later takes the baton feather, and a desert is painted in silver. But in early June the relentless heat comes, and a dry carpet remains from the bright green plants. Steppe fires are terrible: dried grass erupts as gunpowder from the slightest spark, gusty wind carries the flame with frightening speed.

The Kalmyks say about the local wind that it blows twice a year: six months to one side, the other six months to another. When it blows from the east it will bring dust storms from the Astrakhan sands. When it  blows from the west you may wait for rain. In the steppes antilopinae saiga lives, herds of camels and herds of semi-wild horses wander. Another symbol of Kalmykia is a lotus. Lotus fields can be seen in Lagan near the Caspian Sea, and the White Lotus is a traditional Buddhist symbol. After all, the Kalmyks is the largest Buddhist ethnic group in Russia and throughout Europe. Dalai Lama XIV arrived for the consecration of the place for the construction of khurul (Temple) Golden Abode of Buddha Shakyamuni. Buddhists-"Stars", Steven Seagal and Robert Thurman, are frequent guests in the Republic.

Kalmykia is far from the sea, in the heart of the continent, and the climate here is sharply continental: dry winters with little snow and hot summers.

Local Pecularities

Local people seriously argue that if the summer promises to the official forecast of +35, do not believe as the meteorologists do not want to frighten the people. In reality, the temperature may rise above fifty. Individual attention should be paid at the traditional Buddhist holidays: Zule New Year's Day and the arrival of Tsagaan Sar spring.

It is believed that during the Tsagaan Sar a gopher should get out of the hole. If it comes out so then the spring will come. On this day, the Kalmyks visit each other's homes, burn the ritual herbal candles and give gifts. Tourists can go to the khurul and watch the solemn rites: Buddhists do not mind.

Kalmyk cuisine is rather exotic. Moreover, traditional dishes can be enjoyed in most of the Kalmyk canteens and restaurants, not as a delicacy, but as usual food. Dumplings "berigi", boiled mutton tripe "dotur", boiled pieces of dough "bortsagi" in oil, tea with milk and cinnamon "Djomba" - all are very satisfyin and have s taste of the amateur. It should be tried anyway. Then some regret that they have not tried this before.


The capital of the Republic of Kalmykia, at first glance looks like an ingenious fairy tale. Well-groomed wide avenues and boulevards are clean.

Smiling Kalmyks do not become flustered in front of the camera and are welcoming to guests. At the Druzhba Square around the Pagoda of Seven Says the couples in love are cuddling till late in the evening, mothers are walking with their children, old men are playing chess on a huge stone-paved chessboard.

The square itself is a historical monument of tolerance: bronze Lenin looks with brand squint at the Buddhist temple. After changing the area the monument of Lenin was not passed for scrap, but it was moved a little. With distance from the center to a fairy tale the harsh reality intervenes. Elista roads are broken up deplorable state, and the main transport artery, Lenin Street, is not an exception.

This street running through the whole city is the only way from one end to the other end of Elista. The only thing that saves from the traffic jams is that there are few cars not like in the capital. There are criminal places with distance from the Druzhba Square like famous all over Elista Drunken Street. Even the local people fear it. But if you do not leave the tourist center, all this may not be noticed. Elista is a good exotic Buddhist capital of Russia. The streets are decorated with numerous religious constructions: multi-colored gates, chapels and pagodas. There are a huge number of parks, gardens and lawns in Elista. If we consider that this lush flora is in a semi-desert area, you can imagine how much efforts and work are required for maintaining Elista in the evergreen state.

It is strongly recommended to get round the eighth district of Elista, where are many cheap places of entertainment.

Public transport in Elista is represented exclusively by public taxi bus. Ticket price on any route, regardless of the destination is 10 rubles.

You can do even without any transport: the city is relatively small, all major attractions are located near the center, maximum half-hour walk from it. In most local restaurants you can be served with local cuisine: traditional dumplings "berigi", soup of giblets "dotur" (do not disdain it as it is very tasty and hearty), Kalmyk tea "Djomba" and fried cakes in oil - bortsoki.

According to locals the most delicious national dishes are cooked in the small canteen  "Kalmyk kitchen" at the address: 6 district, house 14. Moreover, it is not expensive there. 


The unique natural conditions where Lagan is situated seem as if specially designed for hunting and fishing. There are different versions about the origin of the name "Lagan". According to one of them, the word is translated from the Mongolian language as "muddy." Another option is that the name comes from the name of one Kalmykian man Lag, who once grazed cattle on the island of Lagan. It is also possible that the name comes from the nature of the local soil, mainly sandy, swampy and of lagoonal.

On the territory of the Northern Caspian since the ancient times different tribes lived: the Scythians, the Sarmatians, the Huns, the Magyars, the Cuman people, the Tatar-Mongols, etc. Later it was settled by the Oirats (the Kalmyks). Lagan was founded in 1870 as a settlement of displaced peasants from central Russia on Lagan island. In search of free land and work here the peasants come from Astrakhan, Saratov, Penza, Voronezh, Simbirsk, Kazan and other provinces. Since 1936 Lagan has been a working settlement. After the eviction of the Kalmyk people and the elimination of the autonomous republic in 1944 a national name Lagan was replaced by Caspiyskiy.

It is preserved when restoring the Kalmyk autonomy in 1957. Status of the Caspian city it has since 1963. In 1991, the former name - Lagan - was returned to the city. In 2000, the city of Lagan among 35 other Russian cities has become a grant holder of the "Open Society" (Soros Foundation) under the program "Small cities of Russia". In 2002, Lagan was visited by the famous traveler Fyodor Konyukhov. Part of the route of the expedition "Following the Silk Road," in which he participated, took place on the territory of the Lagan area.

Lagan legends

There is a legend about the foundation of Lagan.

Once upon a time a family of poor Kalmyk man Laganka lived on the sea. The family was big and household was humble. Once Laganka went to sea to fish. The sea was calm and quiet that day. Laganka set network and lay down to rest on the bow of the boat. When he woke up, the storm has started that was intensified with each passing minute. The Laganka’s boat was swept out to the sea, where he fought with the nature for several hours. Then his strength exhausted, and he fell in the apples. When Laganka came to life, it was found that the storm died down, and the boat washed ashore. He got out of the water and went to inspect the place where he found himself. It turned out that he was washed up on a small island, which he really liked. Back home, Laganka constantly thought about the mysterious island, and in the winter he moved to live there with his family.

Next year, the storm washed a few fishing boats ashore to the island. Laganka sheltered the fishermen, fed and helped them to repair the boats, so that they can return home. Soon the news of the island of Laganka spread all along the coast. Some fishermen also decided to move to the island. So here a small settlement was formed, which became known as Lagankin. And then an entire village grew, and it was named as Lagan.




Author: Anna Dorozhkina

Tags: Kalmykia Elista    

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