Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Kalmyk Diaspora in the US

After securing resettlement in the US in 1951, the Kalmyk diaspora engaged in an active international campaign to publicize the plight of the Kalmyks under special settlement restrictions in Siberia. None of the other nationalities deported in their entirety had an active diaspora at this time. The Kalmyks in the US used their position outside Soviet control to lobby the US government, the United Nations and a number of Asian governments to pressure the USSR to improve the status of their kinsmen. This campaign proved embarassing to the Soviet leadership which sought to curry favor with many of the same Asian governments targetted by the Kalmyks.

The Kalmyk disapora in the US created a central coordinating organization on 27 December 1953. The Kalmyk Human Rights Committee attracted the support of Norman Thomas, Walter Judd, James Mitchell, Richard Wright and Robert Conquest among other prominent figures in the US and UK. On 19 January 1953, a Kalmyk delegation met with Robert Murphy, an assistant to John Foster Dulles, from the US State Department and requested that the US pressure the Soviet government to release information on the location and conditions of the Kalmyk special settlers. On 13 December 1953, a Kalmyk delegation met with UN officials and asked that the issue of the continued confinement of the Kalmyks to special settlements be placed on the organization's agenda. Despite their small numbers the Kalmyk diaspora managed to secure sympathetic meetings with powerful figures in both the US government and United Nations.

The Kalmyks in the US also actively worked to sway governments and people abroad as well. In the Spring of 1953, a Kalmyk delegation travelled to Asia and met with the governments of Ceylon, Indonesia, Thailand and Pakistan. Both the meetings in Ceylon and Pakistan were with the prime minister himself. They even participated in a small way in the historic Bandung conference of independent Asian and African states. On 18 April 1953, they arrived in Bandung, Indonesia to meet with various Asian delegations including those from Thailand, the Philippines, Pakistan, Burma and Japan. This intensive work by members of the Kalmyk diaspora represented one of the first international human rights campaigns against the USSR. It sought to shame the Soviet government in front of the world by pointing out the hollowness of its rhetorical opposition to racism and colonialism. In practice the Soviet government had forcibly expelled all of the Asian Kalmyks from their homeland solely on the basis of their biological descent and settled their lands with white Europeans.


Peter Z Andreyev said...

Do you have any of the names of the kalmyk delegation? Where could I locate any other documents regarding this intense lobbying effort?

J. Otto Pohl said...

The main mover in the Kalmyk diaspora was a man named Dzhab Naminov-Burkhinov. He has written a dual Russian-English book on it called Bor'ba za grazhdanskie prava kalmytskogo naroda/The Struggle for Civil Rights of the Kalmyk People (RAN: Moscow and Elitsa, 1997). It is only 180 pages long. Other activists in the movement included Sodmon Dalamtinov, Ivan St. Tevriukov, Bakhsha Sandja-Ravga, Menov, Gelon Samba Pereburov, Boris Istokov, Sanja Dordji Remelev and Erdeni Nikolaev.

Boris said...


This is very inspiring article.
I think for kalmyks it's time to make a next step and work on Genocide recognition by respected western organizations such us UN, ISG&IAGS, etc.
Unfortunately it seems like kalmyk diaspora today has lost their high connections or not willing to pursue this goal.

delia said...

Dear Otto Pohl,

I thought you might be interested in the photography exhibit at Columbia University called "In Search of a New Kalmykia".


If you are somehow around in New York April 2nd - May 15th, 2008, please stop by. Also, if you know anyone who might be interested, please, let them know. Thank you.