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Why Do Kalmyks Want A New National Leader?

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This paper is a brief political and ethnographic commentary on the ‘issues of weakness’ in the current political leadership of Kalmykia. In the Republic of Kalmykia, southwest Russia, ideas about national leaders have been subject to change, depending on the political regime in Russia. Whereas in the Soviet period good leaders, both historical and contemporary, were thought to be skilful managers who did not necessarily have the power to change the course of history, in the post-Soviet period proper national leaders are considered to be those who are endowed with the power to influence history. According to the author, this change in the concept of leadership became possible owing to certain political developments in post-Soviet Kalmykia that allowed alternative ideas to contest some tenets of the Soviet historiography, such ideas remaining largely intact. The tension in Kalmyk historiography between old Soviet and new ideas is unresolved, a situation which is symptomatic of wider tensions and transformations occurring in Kalmyk society itself.

Affiliations: 1: Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit, University of


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