Current weather in the capital of Kalmykia.


Kalmykia is the only Buddhist region in Europe which makes it a very attractive place for travelers. Various Buddhist facilities such as temples, pagodas, stupas, statues to Buddha and teachers of Buddhism dot the republic. The highest concentration of Buddhist sights are in Elista - the capital.


When traveling by road, Elista is just a few hour drive from either Volgograd or Astrakhan or Stavropol. The city is small and has little traffic. Everything is easy to find.

Elista was founded in 1865. The name is from Kalmyk "elsen" that means "sandy". Western tourists started to visit Elista in mid-1990s, and in 1998 it received publicity as the host city of the Chess Olympiad. The then Kalmyk president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov presided over the International Chess Federation (FIDE) for many years. The so-called Chess City was built for the 1998 Chess Olympiad. The large ensemble of cottages around the Chess Palace houses restaurants and a hotel where travelers can stay cheap in spacious apartments.

Chess City

His Holiness Dalai Lama XIV paid a number of visits to Elista. In September 1992 he consecrated the construction site of a new Buddhist temple that was eventually commissioned in October 1996. The temple (Sacred Adobe of the Gelug School's Theory & Practice) is located beyond the city's boundaries.

During his visit in 1998, Dalai Lama XIV chose another location in central Elista to build one of the largest Buddhist temples in Europe. The temple was opened for the public in December 2005. The temple contains a 12-meter statue of Buddha Shakyamoony. Taking pictures is not allowed. I had to sin for the sake of having one for my website.

The Golden Temple of Buddha Shakyamoony

Newlyweds come to the temple grounds to rotate prayer wheels for added happiness

Stupas can be found all over Kalmykia nowadays

Golden Gate

Chess is a truly people's game in Elista

Pagoda of seven days

Central square

On December 27, 1943 Joseph Stalin ruled the Republic of Kalmykia to be abolished and its ethnic Kalmyk residents to be forcibly exiled to Siberia for collaboration with the Nazi. Elista changed its name to Stepnoy. It was called Stepnoy until 1957, when the survivors of the deportation were allowed to return home.

Return from exile monument

The monument is built in a figurative style. It is advisable to come closer and examine in detail.

A cattle car like those used to transport the Kalmyks to Siberia stands close by and houses a small museum of deportation.

It would be utterly unjust to blame all Kalmyks for collaboration with the Germans. Many of them together with all other small and big nationalities within the Soviet Union fought Nazi troops at all fronts of the Great Patriotic war.

War memorial

Nice Kalmyk girls