Arslang Sandzhiyev of the Center for the Development of the Kalmyk Language says that “in these songs, the deported Kalmyks condemned Soviet power and Stalin personally. Some of those who wrote or sang them received additional prison sentences. But they did not give up, maintained their spirits and showed how to stand up for the truth and honor of their people.”
According to the scholar, the Kalmyks expressed their protest only through songs. There were no poems or stories written in Siberia. That would have been impossible. But people could sing and they did. The Soviet authorities rounded up those that they could, but the songs spread through the Kalmyk deportees and survived.
Unfortunately, Sadzhiyev says, they have not received the scholarly attention they deserve; and consequently, because oral traditions are harder to study than written ones, the Kalmyk deportation and its consequences to this day have attracted less attention than they should have.
Boskha Borlykova, the author of Kalmyk Songs and Melodies of the 19th Century, disagrees. There haven’t been any monographs on the subject, she acknowledges; but there have been articles which show how important the songs were to the survival of the Kalmyks and how the deportation changed their attitudes toward Stalin and the Soviet system as a whole.
“In the 1930s,” she recalls, “expeditions from Leningrad came to Kalmykia and wrote down songs. There were many which praised Soviet power and Stalin. But after the deportation, the picture changed radically: the Siberian cycle was a curse directed at Stalin.” In one song, Kalmyks sang that Stalin who deported them should be left to be eaten by dogs.