1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Kalmuck

KALMUCK, or Kalmyk Steppe, a territory or reservation belonging to the Kalmuck or Kalmyk Tatars, in the Russian government of Astrakhan, bounded by the Volga on the N.E., the Manych on the S.W., the Caspian Sea on the E., and the territory of the Don Cossacks on the N.W. Its area is 36,900 sq. m., to which has to be added a second reservation of 3045 sq. m. on the left bank of the lower Volga. According to I. V. Mushketov, the Kalmuck Steppe must be divided into two parts, western and eastern. The former, occupied by the Ergeni hills, is deeply trenched by ravines and rises 300 and occasionally 630 ft. above the sea. It is built up of Tertiary deposits, belonging to the Sarmatian division of the Miocene period and covered with loess and black earth, and its escarpments represent the old shore-line of the Caspian. No Caspian deposits are found on or within the Ergeni hills. These hills exhibit the usual black earth flora, and they have a settled population. The eastern part of the steppe is a plain, lying for the most part 30 to 40 ft. below the level of the sea, and sloping gently towards the Volga. Post-Pliocene “Aral-Caspian deposits,” containing the usual fossils (Hydrobia, Neritina, eight species of Cardium, two of Dreissena, three of Adacna and Lithoglyphus caspius), attain thicknesses varying from 105 ft. to 7 or 10 ft., and disappear in places. Lacustrine and fluviatile deposits occur intermingled with the above. Large areas of moving sands exist near Enotayevsk, where high dunes or barkhans have been formed. A narrow tract of land along the coast of the Caspian, known as the “hillocks of Baer,” is covered with hillocks elongated from west to east, perpendicularly to the coast-line, the spaces between them being filled with water or overgrown with thickets of reed, Salix, Ulmus campestris, almond trees, &c. An archipelago of little islands is thus formed close to the shore by these mounds, which are backed on the N. and N.W. by strings of salt lakes, partly desiccated. Small streams originate in the Ergenis, but are lost as soon as they reach the lowlands, where water can only be obtained from wells. The scanty vegetation is a mixture of the flora of south-east Russia and that of the deserts of central Asia. The steppe has an estimated population of 130,000 persons, living in over 27,700 kibitkas, or felt tents. There are over 60 Buddhist monasteries. Part of the Kalmucks are settled (chiefly in the hilly parts), the remainder being nomads. They breed horses, cattle and sheep, but suffer heavy losses from murrain. Some attempts at agriculture and tree-planting are being made. The breeding of livestock, fishing, and some domestic trades, chiefly carried on by the women, are the principal sources of maintenance.

See I. V. Mushketov, Geol. Researches in the Kalmyk Steppe in 1884–1885 (St Petersburg, 1894, in Russian); Kostenkov’s works (1868–1870); and other works quoted in Semenov’s Geogr. Dict. and Russ. Encycl. Dict.  (P. A. K.; J. T. Be.)