Trans Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 15. Nr. August 2004

5.5. Ein Fremder unter den Einheimischen, ein Einheimischer unter den Fremden: zur literarischen (Selbst)Repräsentation des nomadisierenden Subjekts
HerausgeberIn | Editor | Éditeur: Zalina A. Mardanova (Vladikavkaz / Nordossetien-Alanien)

Buch: Das Verbindende der Kulturen | Book: The Unifying Aspects of Cultures | Livre: Les points communs des cultures

'Imaging the Kalmyk'

Jeremy Howard (School of Art History, University of St Andrews, Scotland)



Suwarrow, who was standing in his shirt
Before a company of Calmucks, drilling,
Exclaiming, fooling, swearing at the inert,
And lecturing on the noble art of killing

(Lord Byron, Don Juan, [1818-24], canto 7, stanza 58 )

A man with a square face came, cat-like eyes, and a yellow moustache, came next. He had an hour-glass of a waist, and walked uneasily upon his high-heeled boots. 'Tell your master that he shall have two millions more, but not another shilling,' Rafael said. 'That story about the five-and-twenty millions of ready money at Cronstadt is all bosh. They won't believe it in Europe. You understand me, Count Grogomoffski?' 'But his Imperial Majesty said four millions, and I shall get the knout unless -' 'Go and speak to Mr Shadrach, in room Z 94, the fourth court,' said Mendoza, good-naturedly. 'Leave me at peace, Count; don't you see it is Friday, and almost sunset?' The Calmuck envoy retired cringing, and left an odour of musk and candle-grease behind him. (W.M. Thackeray, Codlingsby by D. Shrewsberry, Esq., Chapter 4, from Novels by Eminent Hands [originally 'Prize Novelists', Punch, 1847].

Of the Kalmucks and their religion he [John Cook, 1770] shows much greater understanding than other travellers. They were nomads, feeding their numerous flocks but tilling no land and with no fixed place of abode. Their tents were shaped like beehives, the better ones covered with felt. Each horde was subject to a prince they called Khan. The Russians pretended that they were subjects of their empire. This the Kalmucks denied, but said they were glad of Russian protection. 'They profess the religion of the Chinese [i.e. Buddhism] They worship idols but say this is their way of honouring saints, for they acknowledge only one God whom they praise by vocal and instrumental music, by no means disagreeable.'

Cook noticed their prayer-wheels, their belief in a future state and their singular rejoicings in the time of the new moon. Cook considered their marriage customs reasonable though differing from those of all other countries. A young pair live as man and wife for a year. If a child is born the marriage is completed; if not 'they either make another year's trial or part. Nor is the woman in the least reflected upon; she is as greedily picked up for another trial by others as if she were a young virgin. Women, when married, are faithful to their husbands for a contrary practice is punishable with death Their priests never marry, but have the right to go into any man's wife for a night.'

Men consider this an honour. They have no possessions but can use anything belonging to the Kalmucks as 'their own property'. They make pilgrimages to China for instructions and benedictions from their lama or high priest. Cook was appalled to find that the Kalmucks, although sometimes burying their dead, often threw them out to be devoured by dogs. In an effort to clean up Astrakhan and protect it from plague, he ordered the Kalmucks to bury their dead or throw them into the Volga. He insisted that all inhabitants should bury their dead deeply and tried to make them keep their houses clean. Plague was an ever-present threat. He remained on friendly terms with the Kalmucks and even on one occasion drank their disgusting tea, mixed with rancid butter and salt, and did not let them see him throw it up. [F. Wilson, Muscovy. Russia through Foreign Eyes, London, 1970, p.127f, re. John Cook, Voyages and Travels through the Russian Empire, Tartary, and part of the Kingdom of Persia, Edinburgh 1770.]

The above are three quotations from English and Scottish writers on the Kalmyk during the ages of so-called Enlightenment and Romanticism. They comprise a more benign approach to the Kalmyk people than was typically to be found in the literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Compare, for example, the phrenologists' seriously prejudical interpretation, of which Johann Friedrich Blumenbach [On the Natural Variety of Mankind, 1775, published in English in The Anthropological Treatises of J.F. Blumenbach, London, 1865] may be considered an early one:

'the original race of human beings was white and beautiful, all the present varieties are descended from these - the European or Caucasian as the least degenerate, the Ethiopian and Mongolian or Calmuck as the most degenerate.' Compare also Pavel Petrovich's views opposing the Nihilists in Turgenev's Fathers and Sons : 'We destroy because we are a force Yes a force and therefore not accountable to anyone' said Arkady 'Wretched boy!' groaned Pavel Petrovich, no longer in a state to restrain himself. 'Can't you realise the kind of thing you are encouraging in Russia with your miserable creed? You might as well say that the wild Kalmyk and the Mongolian represent a force - but what is that to us? Civilization is what we value, yes, yes, my good sir: its fruits are precious to us. And don't tell me those fruits are of no importance: the meanest penny-a-liner - un barbouilleur, a piano-player who makes five farthings an evening - even they are of more use than you, because they stand for civilization and not crude Mongolian force! You fancy yourselves advanced, but your proper home is a Kalmyk tent! A force!

This literary selection sets the scene for this essay: it being concerned with a specific, Kalmykian, case study of European cultural interchange in the modern period. This has three strands: sedentary civilization's imaging of, and imposition on, Kalmyk identity; the contribution of the Kalmyk diaspora to European 'high' culture; and the juxtaposition of these to indigenous Kalmyk material culture. The permeability of Kalmyk conventions to outside influences comprises source for discussion. The material laid before the reader comprises an initial, abbreviated, selection from a much wider study of the Kalmykian image and its makers, which should eventually include such the angles of such 'commentators' as the painters Ivan Argunov, Jean-Baptiste Le Prince, Alexander Ostrovsky and Karl Huns; the writers Pushkin, de Quincey and Dostoyevsky; the architect Klepinin in Belgrade; and the photographers Bukhar, Kostenkov and Norzunov.

In 1814 Aleksey Yegorov exhibited 'The Torture of Christ', a work that came to be seen as the quintessence of Russian academic painting, especially history painting. The choice of subject was a passive moment, around the time of the flagellation, as Jesus, stripped of his clothes, was tied to a pillar and mocked. Yegorov depicted the illuminated figure of Christ frontally, his doleful gaze cast heavenward. He is surrounded by two torturers and a Roman soldier, yet his struggle is not with his opponents, but with himself, with his quest for holy solace and inner fortitude. These four figures dissect a square section of the canvas in a set of geometrical relationships that articulate a compositional structure based on a grid of verticals, diagonals and horizontals. It was 'perfect in the academic sense', displayed a 'command of the laws of composition and anatomy', was 'firmly based on classical models', and was 'imitated and even copied by generations of students at the Academy'.(1) 2.6 x 2.1 metres it had taken him three years and many preparatory studies to complete.

Although known as the 'Russian Raphael', the size of this work and severity of composition, solidity and poise of four figures, taut contours, brown atmosphere juxtaposed with pale flesh tones, semi-darkness and harsh beam of light, distribution of main actors and pose of the righthand tormentor, all bear most resemblance to Caravaggio's Flagellation of Christ (Church of S. Domenico Maggiore, Naples, 1610). Yegorov had the opportunity to see this during his four year study period in Italy (1803-7). It is almost as if the works are consecutive stills, the first ignoble and unvirtuous in its submission to brutality, the next ideal in its stoic submission to God in the face of that same aggression. While the formal coincidence and emotional variance of the Caravaggio and Yegorov comply with the attributes of the moment depicted, there are in Yegorov, for all his 'academism', curious elements of 'incorrectness' akin to those which enliven the non-academic Caravaggio. Most striking is the contrast, bordering on the irrational, between the anatomical purity in the bodies of Greek athletes given to the tormentors and the caricatural, wide-eyed expressions given to Christ and the scornful soldier.

For all its classical simplicity and lack of pathos-filled heroic drama, 'The Torture of Christ' was to be the most talked about picture at the Academy's annual exhibition. High offers came in for it (the highest, declined, from England), it was acclaimed by the Academy council and engraved by Fyodor Iordan, director of the Academy's engraving class. It was also among the first works of art to come under lengthy scrutiny in the burgeoning field of Russian criticism. The pros-and-cons interpretation offered by Konstantin Batyushkov in the first review of an exhibition in Russia was itself significant, leading as it did to a mixture of interpretations of the critic's own position and a shift in appreciation that represented a challenge to the monopoly of Neo-Classicism by a Romantic view. In the wake of the Napoleonic War, as observed by Batyushkov in 'A Walk to the Academy of Arts', Russia was ripe for this change.

In fact, Batyushkov had just returned from the victorious campaign to take Paris. He began his review with the devastation of Moscow and a lyrical glance at St Petersburg, its raison d'etre, its past vision and its contemporary life. All were summed up by the 'view' from his window:

Sitting at the window with Winckelmann in my hand I had a sweet dream. The book and my reading were completely forgotten. I remember only that, glancing at the Neva covered with vessels and glancing at the magnificent embankment to which Petersburgers are so indifferent, I feasted my eyes on the agitated waves of innumerable people under my windows. In that

miraculous blend of all nations I discerned Englishmen and Asians, Frenchmen and Kalmyks, Russians and Finns.(2) Batyushkov's vision was also to be pertinent for what he was to see in the Academy, this including Maksim Vorobyov's painting of the Parisian celebrations; Nikolay Utkin's copy of Guido Reni's Rest on the Flight to Egypt; Nicolas de Courteille's Spartan at the Peloponnese; copies of Antique sculpture; a model of Falconet's Bronze Horseman; and, perhaps in ways unbenown to him, Yegorov's 'Torture of Christ'.

Yegorov's 'perfection', as described by Sarabianov, was the climax, not just of three years work, but of three decades spent in the Academy since he had been installed in its Educational College at the age of six. He had arrived there from the Moscow Foundling Home, itself an 'enlightenment' establishment with 'fine art classes', and the largest civic institution constructed in Moscow in the eighteenth century (Blank, Felten, Kazakov, 1763-81). It was no coincidence that the Foundling Home had been initiated in accordance with Catherine's social-pedagogical programme, by Ivan Betskoy in 1763, the year he became president of the Academy, nor that it was built in a stark Neo-Classical style. But Yegorov had been deposited in the Home, having been plucked by Cossacks from his own home - a Kalmyk khoton nomadic settlement close to China, whence his family had fled in a mass exodus from the Volga steppe, undertaken in order to avoid Catherine's expansionist absolutism. Thus brought into the Russian fold, it was said that all he remembered of his Kalmyk life was the nomad's yurt, an embroidered silk gown and embroidered boots. Perhaps in 'The Torture of Christ' there was another memory, the meditative pause and the coming to terms with suffering being his own or that of his Buddhist countrymen. Perhaps it was an allegory for the Kalmyk myth of the holy hero Jangar overcoming his opponents. Or it could even have been conceived as a counterpart for the contemporary poetry of another Kalmyk, Onchkhan Dzhirgal, this an angry counter against 'foreign aggression' and 'local oppression'. In any case it can be read as anti-Napoleonic.

Yegorov's artistic journey had a precedent, remarkable in its similarities. Around 1770 another Kalmyk child, who became known as Fyodor (the) Kalmyk, was also taken from his family by Cossacks. Having shown artistic talents, presumably at one of the new Foundling Homes, he was presented to Catherine the Great, who in turn gave him to her in-laws, the Hesse-Darmstadt family. Thence he was educated in a philanthropic institution in Switzerland, studied medicine, was in Rome studying art for the 1790s, became Lord Elgin's artist in Athens and London, and finally the court painter of Carl-Friedrich, Duke of Baden. As the latter he made a primary contribution to the creation of Karlsruhe, a city more modern than St Petersburg, working regularly on projects with Friedrich Weinbrenner, the architect responsible for transforming the provincial town into a 'worthy' neo-classical capital of a new Grand Duchy. Painting mainly religious and classical themes, his decorations included the grisaille 'Life of Christ' murals in the Karlsruhe Evangelical Church. He also made numerous copies of antique sculptures (many from the Parthenon for Elgin).

The novelty that Kalmyk brought to western art, and a further indication of the strength brought to it through cultural creolisation, was described, with elements of supremacism characteristic of the times, by a British contemporary: ... one of the most extraordinary characters that has been added to the list of celebrated artists since the days of Phidias was by birth a Kalmyk, of the name Fyodor; he had distinguished himself among the painters at Rome, and had been brought to Athens to join the band of artists employed by our Ambassador, over which Lusieri presided. With the most decided physiognomy of the wildest of his native tribes, although as much humanised in his appearance as it was possible to make him by the aid of European dress and habits [!], he still retained some of the original characteristics of his countrymen... His painting talents were not confined, as commonly is the case among Russian artists, to mere works of imitation: although he could copy everything, he could invent also; and his mind partook largely of the superior powers of original genius... Fyodor presented a marvellous example of the force of natural genius unsubdued by the most powerful obstacles. Educated in slavery... this extraordinary man arrived in Athens like another Euphranor [Euphronios?].(3)

The journeys of Yegorov and Fyodor Kalmyk into modern Russian and antiquarian European culture ultimately derived from the nomadism of their ancestors. The Kalmyks, a west Mongolian people, had migrated to eastern Europe in the early seventeenth century. They settled in the steppe land of the Astrakhan khanate to the northwest of the Caspian Sea. There they survived as herders. While assimilation into the Russian state and religion, particularly under Catherine the Great (from 1771), caused huge numbers to head back towards Mongolia, a significant population remained, most living between the Manych and Volga rivers. Some taken to the Russian court were derisively employed in the royal follies: a small, simply-dressed and humble Kalmyk 'lad' appears in one of the most accomplished works of the Peter the Great's Transfiguration Series of paintings: a double portrait with the jester Aleksey Lenin (Anon, early 18th century, Russian Museum). Here he is the foil to Lenin, who, by contrast, appears huge, finely clothed, bewigged and sternly in command. In a similar vein of 'entertainment' value, the Kalmyk Anna Buzheninova was forced into her humiliating mock marriage with Prince Golitsyn during Empress Anna's reign. Other early Russified Kalmyks, Mikhail Serdyukov (1677-1754) and Grigory Dmitriev (1714-46), progressed to make a more practical contribution to Russian material culture. Serdyukov, one of the first Kalmyks to have his 'real' portrait painted in oil on canvas (unknown artist, SH, c. 1722), was engaged during Peter's reign to build the Upper Volochka system of canals. As supervisor of the waterways until his death in 1754, he was responsible for maintaining the important means of communication from St Petersburg via the Volga to the Caspian.

Grigory Dmitriev was the first Kalmyk to become an architect in the Western sense. From 1728 he studied under Michetti's prodigy Mikhail Zemtsov, himself the first Russian architect of European standing to be professionally trained in Russia. Having become chief assistant to Yeropkin in the Construction Chancellery in 1733, he was then appointed to build the Anichkov Palace on Nevsky Prospekt, a project which he lead after Zemtsov's death in 1743. The most significant memorial-residence of Empress Elizabeth's reign, this was built on the banks of the River Fontanka and gained its name from the nearby bridge, the first to cross the river, built by the military engineer M. Anichkov in 1715. Here the city ended with triumphal gates (redesigned by Dmitriev in 1742), the Transfiguration Regiment Barracks, the Imperial Quartermaster's Office and a guardhouse. By the mid-1750s Dmitriev's celebration of this region was complemented by the replacement of the Quartermaster's buildings opposite the Anichkov Palace with a palace (built by the talented naval architect Savva Chevakinsky) for Ivan Shuvalov, the first president of the Academy of Arts.

The Anichkov Palace commemorated the night of 24 November 1741 when, in the wake of the death of her cousin Empress Anne, Peter's daughter Elizabeth, having resolved on a coup d'etat to bring her to power, marched with the Transfiguration Regiment from their barracks up the Nevsky Prospekt to the Winter Palace and seized the throne. Adapting Zemtsov's preliminary ideas, Dmitriev built the palace to face the river rather than the street, this, like the early Baroque treatment employed, in keeping with Petrine practice and ideals. Further, he made the river accessible from the courtyard by building there a rectangular harbour where rowing and sailing boats could be moored. This is visible being entered by a boat in a view of the palace by Mikhail Makhayev, the Academy of Science's leading urbanscape artist of the period. The entrance was under a bridge linking two elegantly proportioned loggias designed by Dmitriev to extend along the embankment in front of the palace. Behind this the palace appears a massive, alternating two- and three-storey structure largely in keeping with Dmitriev's plans.(4) The three main blocks were dominated by halls extending through two floors. Dmitriev also designed the formal park with its regularly divided ornamental gardens, large ponds, pavilions, decorative sculpture, stables and greenhouses. Overall, his approach was restrained, graceful and practical (for extra light he made the window apertures larger and more numerous than was usual). Most of the external work was completed by the time of his death, though it remained for Rastrelli the Younger to finish the roofing with his characteristic flourish: polygonal cupolas crowning the wing blocks combined with elaborate cornice vases and sculptures; and design a Ukrainian chapel through two storeys of the north wing, replete with Duncker's Baroque decorations. Upon completion in the mid-1750s Elizabeth gave it to her secret husband, the Cossack Aleksey (Grigorievich) Razumovsky (brother of Kirill, the president of the Academy of Science), a musician and Ukrainian patriot, who used it as his main Petersburg residence until his death in 1771. By the late nineteenth century it had become the favoured city home of Alexander III.

In contrast with the Baroque urban grandeur and comfort Dmitriev bestowed upon the imperial Russian court behind the 100-metre facade of the Anichkov Palace, until the early twentieth century most Kalmyks lived in kibitkas , these being a type of Mongol yurt, arranged in small, circular camp settlements (khotons ). At around ten square metres in size, each kibitka could house around ten people. Dismantlable, they were constructed using a wooden frame comprised of several lattice panels, up to 146 sharpened round poles, and a top ring. They were admired by ethnographers for their ingenuity, strength and lightness.

The unsharpened ends of the poles were fastened to the tops of the lattice panels, and the sharpened ends fitted into the top ring so as to form the dome. Daylight entered through the round aperture of the dome which also let out the smoke from the hearth. The frame was covered with sixteen felt mats (koshma ) of various shapes and sizes, each with its individual name and purpose. The door was in two sections, both halves opening inwards and fixing permanently to the sides. The external appearance reflected the material status of the owner: high-quality felt mat covers signified a wealthy Kalmyk or Buddhist monk, while the poor had scruffier ones.(5)

The interior arrangements followed a consistent pattern with men and women having areas left and right of the entrance respectively, and guests being given a 'place of honour' across from the entrance. The old would be given a wooden bed, behind which was a wooden bedding cupboard. Carpets were laid over the furniture. Ritual objects such as images of Buddha, were hung from the lattice walls away from the entrance. Nearby was the bed of the head of the kibitka hold and a milk tub. Cooking was done in a cast iron pot set on a tripod in the centralised hearth. However, coinciding with new Homestead Acts, in the mid-nineteenth century an architectural creolisation process began that was akin to many others taking place elsewhere in Europe and beyond. Thus some Kalmyks began to copy the peasant houses of their Russian neighbours. They made houses of unfired brick with roofs of reed and clay.

Very simple, they had a centrally located stove and earth floor covered with quilted felt matting. They abandoned their traditional living arrangements.

As Lamaists, and with a charter for the free expression of their religion granted in 1828, the Kalmyks built more than sixty Buddhist monasteries and temples in the region. The first were constructed of wood and felt, only later ones being brick. Several survived into the twentieth century, such as the khuruls (temples) at Tyumenyevka and Kalmytski Bazaar, the latter being established as their main settlement just north of Astrakhan on the Lower Volga. These structures, often with towers, were decorated with Buddhist carvings, paintings and bronze images in the Tibetan-Mongolian tradition. This, together with leather- and embroidery work, comprised their principal art forms. Their costume, which also survived until the early twentieth century, differed from that of their Russian neighbours:

The outer garment of the men is very similar to that of Poles, excepting the sleeves, which are narrow and tight on the wrist. Under this they wear a vest entirely buttoned, called bekhmet , round which they fasten a sash. Those among them who are opulent have also a short skirt, open in front, and large pantaloons, made of linen, called kitaika , which reach down to the top of their boots; while the poorer sort only wear a straight pelisse fastened with a sash. The dress of the women does not differ much from that of the men, except with respect to the materials with which it is formed, and the quantity of work bestowed upon it, both of which are of a superior

quality. Those who are affluent wear over the bekhmet , a long robe of fine stuff without sleeves, while the outer garment is placed over one or both shoulders like a cloak. This has sleeves, but they are not commonly used. Their caps are round and have a border of fur. Those of the poor are called makale , and are made of stuff, so as just to cover the top of the head, while those of the rich are called khalban , and are made of silk lined with black velvet and have generally a red tassel on top.(6)

The Kalmyks were somewhat rarely depicted by Russian and ethnographic artists. Still, as enlightened and imperial curiosity grew in 'peoples' of the Russian new world, images of Kalmyks were made, including, for instance, those of the Leipzig illustrator Christian Geissler, as he travelled across Russian territory with the 1793-96 expedition of Peter Pallas, a natural scientist from the St Petersburg Academy of Science. Further, Kiprensky and Vereshchagin produced paintings of Kalmyks, which included the former's Bayausta (1813, Tretyakov Gallery) and the latter's Kalmyk Lama (1873, Russian Museum). Through their abstract colour fields, orange dress and tassled hats, playful and meditative poses, these conveyed, with suitable laconicism, the Kalmyk identity and nature. Coincidentally, they also expressed the romantic/realist persuasions of the artists and their times.

Perhaps more revealing, however, was the presence of a largely concealed Kalmyk in Repin's canonical 'Volga Barge Haulers' (1870-73, Russian Museum). A visual summation of the direction, state and multifarious nature of the contemporary Romanov empire, more than any other this monumental (1.3 x 2.8 metres) painting encapsulated the harsh incongruities of its assimilative, modernising vision. Subsidised by the Academy's Conference Secretary, it was bought by the vice-president of the Academy, Grand Duke Vladimir Romanov and hung in his billiard room.

The Kalmyk presence in Russian and other European art was small, but, as already seen in Yegorov, Fyodor Kalmyk and Dmitriev, significant.

More indirectly and in reverse direction, through their long-standing presence in the capital, Kalmyks undoubtedly affected the decision to build a Buddhist temple and meeting house there. Finally constructed in 1909-15, after consultation with the Dalai Lama, this three-storey, red granite-faced rectangular building was a unique blend of Tibetan convention and 'Art Nouveau'. It was designed by Gavriil Baranovsky, the architect of the exuberant icon of contemporary commercialism, the Yeliseyev emporium on Nevsky Prospekt. The Kalmyks of St. Petersburg (along with their fellow Buddhists from the Russian empire, the Buryats) hardly had the opportunity to use it. War and the Stalin years were to devastate or transform the practices of their faith, housing and art. Elista, a steppe settlement dating back to 1865 and the failed attempt at zemstvo administration, was to become their 'capital' and the setting for a more concerted attempt at assimilation than the earlier regimes had managed: collectivisation.

In many respects the building of a Kalmyk city represented the culmination of two centuries of social engineering, carried out on its peoples and their art, by the Russian state. As a new town, Elista exemplified the 'benevolent totalitarian' experiments conducted in the USSR in the late 1920s and early thirties. Thus it became an early beneficiary of centralised planning directed from Moscow, this witnessed in the building of several civic amenity buildings, such as the Technical College and Hospital by Ilya Golosov, a leading-edge Moscow architect. Most importantly, Golosov, with his partner Boris Mitelman, designed the House of Soviets for the centre of town. Separated by more than a century and by its contrasting direction, this project rivals Yegorov's work as the crowning symbol of Kalmyk 'internationalisation'.

The creation of the Elista House of Soviets, together with its contemporaneous Zuyev Workers' Club in Moscow, marked the emergence of Golosov as a foremost practitioner of Constructivism in architecture. Earlier, while co-directing the architectural courses at the Vkhutemas with Melnikov, he had turned to a mix of oriental-modernist idioms in his design of the Pavilion of the Far East at the All-Russian Agricultural Exhibition (Moscow, 1923). With a bow-shaped plan and multicoloration the pavilion had embodied Golosov's then current theories concerning architectural organics as well as the new monolithic state's first grappling with cultural diversity. It grew in height in a layered diagonal progression from the low pitched roof of the entrance portal, whose form, colour and extended cross-poles were reminiscent of a Siberian gabledchum (e.g. the portable 'tents' of the Evenki people). Other features included a pagoda-style exit gate and a quadranglar exhibition hall, which was crowned by a mast and sails. With this culmination in the seafaring aspirations of modern Russia, it was announced that Golosov had, 'in accordance with the request of the Far East Exhibition Committee, reflected the idea of the passage from the bleak Lake Baikal across the taiga to the Pacific Ocean.'(7)

The Elista Soviets building marked the move away from such romanticism. It signified the arrival of an unequivocal, 'communism in one country' administrative system based on People's Authorities, and with this the introduction of Five Year Plans, collectivisation of agriculture and a switching of emphasis to heavy industry. All these are summed up in the House of Soviets, which simultaneously epitomised Golosov's modernist rationalism, giving expression to 'by far the most important aspect of his creed... the combination of large forms or volumes... the geometrical specificities of which dominate the spatial composition and subordinate all other forms and details.'(8) In Elista this language involved two elongated horizontal wings perpendicularly grouped around a central, six-storey tower. All sections were flat-roofed and rectangular. Ribbon fenestration, roof terraces and bold typography were integral to the geometric design. These responded directly to the internal accommodation of the local Soviet, the Communist Party organs, the trade union and public facilities, i.e. lecture and film halls, meeting rooms, offices, a library, canteen and recreation rooms. Through such means Golosov's strident supranational umbrella determined the appearance of the focal point of the new Kalmyk community and catered for all the activities of the new Soviet Kalmyk with characteristic efficiency. The Elista House of Soviets was Yegorov's samsara. In many ways it also symbolised a conclusion of the two-century push for modern architectural development based on standardised, internationally-grounded practice, which had commenced with the first Russian-language architectural publication, Vignola's 'Rules of the Five Orders of Architecture' in 1709, and which had been driven imperially forward during Tsar Alexander I's reign by the model urban planning of the Scottish architect William Hastie (known in Russia as Vasily Geste, and the subject for a study elsewhere).

© Jeremy Howard (School of Art History, University of St Andrews, Scotland)


(1) D. Sarabianov, Russian art: From Neoclassicism to the Avant-Garde, London, 1990, p. 26.

(2) K. Batyushkov, 'Progulka v Akademiyu khudozhestv', Syn otchestva, December 1814, as published in his Opyty v stikhakh i proze, Moscow, 1978, pp. 72-73.

(3) E. D. Clarke, Travels in various countries, London, 1814, III, pp. 598-9, abridged from A. Bird, 'Feodor Ivanovitch: Lord Elgin's Kalmuk', Apollo, 1975, vol. 101, pp. 36-43.

(4) These were collected in great number by the Holstein chamberlain Friedrich Wilhelm von Bergholz, after whose death they found their way to the National Museum, Stockholm. Others are in the National Library, Warsaw and the Academy of Science, St Petersburg.

(5) O. Sevan, 'Kalmyk', in P. Oliver ed., Encylopaedia of the Vernacular Architecture of the World, vol. 2, Cambridge, 1997, p. 1431. The other details concerning Kalmyk dwellings are indebted to this article.

(6) Description in W. Miller ed., The Costume of the Russian Empire, London, 1803.

(7) Cited in S. Khan-Magomedov, Il'ya Golosov, Moscow, 1988, p. 103. The exhibition was a unique architectural testament to the early Soviet attention to agricultural development as a basis for the economy (in NEP). Simultaneously, through the work of numerous progressive decorative artists and sculptors, and the construction of agitational kiosks, it also responded to Lenin's Plan for Monumental Propaganda. The general plan was that of the neo-classicist Ivan Zholtovsky. Individual 'eastern' republics were represented by a series of pavilions constructed in evocation of 'national' architectural forms by architects trained/active in the Russian capitals: Skekhtel designed the Turkestan pavilion in the style of a mosque; the Georgian 'oda-saly house' was by G Ter-Mikelov; Nikolay Bunyatov (Bunyatyan) reproduced an Armenian shrine; Yakov Syryshchev effected a moslem palace for Azerbaijan; and Moisey Ginzburg verandahed Tatar dwellings for the Crimea. Such diverse 'backward' looking traditions were soon found to be problematic and untenable for the internationalist language of the Stalin years.

(8) S. Khan-Magomedov, Pioneers of Soviet Architecture, London, 1987, p. 102 (abridged).

5.5. Ein Fremder unter den Einheimischen, ein Einheimischer unter den Fremden: zur literarischen (Selbst)Repräsentation des nomadisierenden Subjekts

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Jeremy Howard (School of Art History, University of St Andrews, Scotland): 'Imaging the Kalmyk'. In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 15/2003. WWW:

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