Kalmuk Steppe, or Kalmyk Steppe is a steppe of approximately 100,000 km², bordering the northwest Caspian Sea, bounded by the Volga on the N.E., the Manych on the S.W. and the territory of the Don Cossacks on the N.W. The historic home to the Kalmuck or Kalmyk Tatars, it is in the Federal subject of Astrakhan Oblast.
The western Kalmuck Steppe 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 bess 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 Lithoglyp/zus 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 campesiris, almond trees, etc. 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.
As of 1911, the steppe had an estimated population of 130,000 persons, living in over 27,700 kibitkas, or felt tents. There were many Buddhist monasteries. Part of the Kalmucks were settled (chiefly in the hilly parts), the remainder being nomads. Antony Beevor, in his 1998 book Stalingrad, said that "Russians from the north thought of [Kalmyk Steppe] as 'the end of the world'". In 1943 the people were forcibly deported (see Kalmykia).
- See 1. I. V. Mushketov, Geol. Researches in the Kalmyk Steppe in 1884-1885 (St Petersburg, 1894, in Russian); Kostenkovs works (1868-1870); and other works quoted in Semenov's Geogr. Dict. and Russ. Encycl. Dict.