Friday, November 18, 2022

Despite Obstacles, Kalmyks Now have a Real Path Forward to Independence, Opposition Leader Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 14 – On October 26, the Congress of the Oyrat-Kalmyk People declared that they are seeking independence for their republic, an action that some dismissed as aspirational rather than real ( But Daavr Dorzhin, one of the leaders of the Congress, says that he sees a real path opening to that goal.

            He acknowledges that there are real problems. Because of increasing Russian repression, many of the leaders of the Congress including himself have had to flee abroad and those who remain are no longer elected but rather self-selected. Moreover, they are aging, although more young people are now turning to the national cause (

            But Dorzhin argues, the coming together of the several factors needed for the recovery of independence of Kalmykia is now “practically inevitable.” These include a Russian defeat in Ukraine followed by an international tribunal to judge those Russian leaders guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

            That will create “a window of opportunity for all national movements of the peoples of Russia,” including the Kalmyks. If these nations declare their independence at that moment, Moscow will lack the forces to prevent them from realizing their goals. Indeed, if Moscow did use force in that situation, it would constitute “suicide, politically and literally” for itself.

            That would be especially the case if several nations declared independence at one and the same time. In that event, Dorzhin says, Moscow would have to choose to fight several wars at once, something clearly beyond its capacity. But if it were to confront only some of these challenges, those it didn’t would succeed and ultimately become the model for others.

            In any case, the Kalmyk leader says, “the future of our republic and the regions of Russia in general are directly dependent on the situation in Ukraine. The scenario for achieving independence I’ve described requires the capitulation of Moscow, and I can’t say – no one can – when this will happen. It could be next year, but this is only a guess.”

            And at the same time, everyone must keep in mind that “the end of the war and the achievement of independence will not occur on one and the same day. This is also a long and complicated process” but it is one that the Kalmyks and others must be ready for, Dorzhin suggests.

            He and some of his colleagues have taken the leader in discussing what an independent Kalmyk state should look like, and some of them are now focusing on issues that are certain to be controversial, including the borders of that state. All agree that Kalmykia must get back the lands taken from it by the Soviets at the time of deportation and never returned.

            But many want more, including large swaths of Astrakhan Oblast which were once part of Kalmykia but that now are populated primarily by Russians and others groups rather than Kalmyks. Discussions about what Kalmyks should seek and can expect to get are now beginning (


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