The Kalmyks (Kalmucks, Kalmycks etc) are a people of Mongolian descent
originally, although long split off from the main Mongolian peoples. In
the early Twentieth Century large numbers of them lived on
the western side of the Caspian in the bare lands between the Don,
Terek and Volga, often called the Kalmyk Steppe. They retained
their their Buddhist religion and nomadic lifestyle, ranging great
distances from summer to winter pastures.
Under the later Tsars the majority were self-ruling but associated with
the Astrakhan district and a few with the
Stavropol district (and hence potentially the Terek Host) but were not
drafted. However the
Buzava branch were fully integrated into the Don Cossack Host in
1798, and supplied a regiment from that time onwards.
While many Kalmyks carried some resentment over from the Tsarist
regime, most heartily disliked the Bolsheviks –
the ethnic Russian peasants encroaching on the Kalmyks' land and
who opposed the
of life and religion of all the nomads of Russia – and so
they tended to support the
Late in 1918 the Kalmyks were accepted into
the Astrakhan Cossack Host, and they immediately set about recruiting
three regiments. Before the men could be assembled and trained however,
the entire Volga area was captured by the Soviets. They imposed a
heavy-handed policy, on both the Cossacks and the local nomadic tribes
(there were Kirghiz were on the other side of the Volga). The attempts
at raising an armed force were crushed and large
numbers were drafted in order to prevent them mobilising for the
Whites. On top of this the local Buddhist sites were desecrated and
various privileges were removed. The effect was to harden
anti-Bolshevik sentiment, and many of
those drafted into the Red Army promptly deserted at the first
Because their lands were to the west of the Volga, most of the Kalmyks
went to the Don Host. They formed the bulk of the Astrakhan forces for
much of the period. Initially they seem to have formed most of the 2nd
Astrakhan Regiment and then the bulk of two regiments, the 1st and 2nd
Astrakhan-Kalmyk-Manych Regiments. It seems likely that they formed
separate squadrons, even when mixed in a regiment, as everything from
food to language would separate them from the Russian-ethnic Astrakhan
We have no information on how many Kalmyks made it to the Crimea after
their lands were over-run in late 1919.
A sizable group of Kalmyks also operated in partisan form from their
tribal lands in 1919, in loose co-operation with the AFSR. Soviet maps
show them attacking Yenotaevka.
There were also a small number of Kalmyks operating with the Astrakhan
forces in the Urals Cossack Army, fighting to the north of Astrakhan
and the Volga. Probably never more than a squadron though.
The formal uniform was almost certainly that of the Astrakhan Cossacks,
with yellow shoulderboards and trouser-stripes.
The Don Kalmyks wore basically the same. Discussion of their regiment
in the Civil War can be seen here
Not having had any previous military service, it seems likely most
Kalmyks would have started in their normal civilian dress rather than
uniforms in 1918. This was of course well suited to long periods in the
saddle. Perhaps many remained dressed that way throughout the
war, since it was normal for native tribes to fight in more or
less their traditional dress. If the Cossacks in the Civil War are
anything to go by, many men probably alternated between serving and
home in any case.
The Kalmyks also had no historical traditions to fall back on with
regards flags. In 1932 Kalmyk emigres adopted a flag of yellow
with a pale
blue circle showing a bird of prey inside and with yak tails outside.
The modern Kalmyk flag shows the same features of pale blue circle
inside yellow. Here is one option, based on the 1932 flag:
If they followed tradition, regiments and sotnias were probably marked
with yak- or horse-tail standards rather than flags.