Golden Temple Elista Kalmykia
Areas in Russia with a Buddhist majority. Kalmykia is situated in western Russia.
The Kalmyks are the only nation of Europe of easily verifiable Mongol origin, and the only one whose national religion is Buddhism. They live in the Republic of Kalmykia, a federal subject of the Russian Federation. It has borders with the Republic of Dagestan to the south; the Stavropol Krai to the southwest; the Rostov Oblast to the west; the Volgograd Oblast to the northwest; and the Astrakhan Oblast to the east. The Caspian Sea borders Kalmykia to the southeast.
The Kalmyks are the descendants of several Oirat tribes that migrated to Europe during the early part of the 17th century. As Tibetan Buddhists, the Kalmyks regard His Holiness the Dalai Lama as their spiritual leader. The Šajin Lama (Supreme Lama) of the Kalmyks is Erdne Ombadykow, a Philadelphia-born man of Kalmykian origin who was brought up as a Buddhist monk in a Tibetan monastery in India from the age of seven and who was recognized by the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the Buddhist saint Telo Rinpoche.
Ombdaykow divides his time between living in Colorado and living in Kalmykia.
Kalmyk political refugees opened the first Buddhist temple in Central Europe, located in Belgrade, Serbia, in the 1920s. Many of their offspring relocated to the United States in late 1951 and early 1952, where they established several Kalmyk Buddhist temples in Monmouth County, New Jersey and its environs. Geshe Wangyal, a Kalmyk Buddhist monk, established the Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center and monastery in Washington, NJ.
- An Ex-Telemarketer's Other Life as a Buddhist Saint. The New York Times, 12 June 2004