Thursday, September 9, 2021

Kalmyk Cossack Leaders Must Now Receive Blessing of Dalai Lama’s Student

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 9 – In another example of his historical ignorance or willingness to rewrite history to fit his own vision of the future, Vladimir Putin and his regime insist that Cossacks are always Russian Orthodox in religion and Russian in culture. And the Kremlin leader has imposed that idea on his registered Cossacks.

            But the genuine Cossack communities again now as in the past are far more diverse than that. In the past, there were Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist Cossacks, and there are now significant Muslim and Buddhist Cossack communities who are recognized as full-fledged Cossacks by others (,, and

            Buddhist Cossacks are likely to strike Russians and others as the most exotic, but there were important Cossack communities among the three major Buddhist nations of the Russian Empire, the Kalmyks in the North Caucasus, and the Tuvins and Buryats in the Far East. They even contributed to anti-Bolshevik movements during the Russian Civil War.

            Under the Soviets, these Cossack groups were suppressed if anything even more forcefully than others. But with the collapse of communism, the Buddhist Cossacks have revived. One of the most precious items in this writer’s library is a small book from the Transbaikal instructing parents how to raise their sons to be good “Buddhist Cossacks.”

            This week there has been a development about the Buddhist Cossacks that appears likely to significantly raise their profile. Batu Khasikov, the head of the Kalmyk Republic, has confirmed a new rule for the Kalmyk Cossack District, and among its provisions is a remarkable one (

            As Anton Chablin, a journalist for the Akcent portal reports, under the new rule, candidates for the position of ataman of that district will have to secure the blessing of two religious officials, the archbishop of the Elista and Kalmyk bishopric of the Russian Orthodox Church, and the shajin-lama, the head of the Buddhists of the Kalmyk people.

            The current shajin lama is Erdin Ombadykov, a student of the Dalai Lama. That means at least in principle that the Dalai Lama living in emigration in India could have a voice over the leadership of the Kalmyk Cossacks in the future.

            What is curious, Chablin says, is that neither the Tuvan nor the Buryat leadership has taken a similar step, although Buddhist structures and leaders exist in both and Cossack ataman wannabes could be required to get their blessing. It is possible that Kalmykia’s Khasikov is trying to generate support for himself by this action, but that only means they could do so too.

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