Antropologicheskij forum, 2020, no. 47



Elza-Bair Guchinova

Kalmyk Scientific Center, Russian Academy of Sciences
8 Ilishkina Str., Elista, Russia
bairjan()mail. ru

Abstract: The article is devoted to the study of the ethnic identification of the Kalmyks during the deportation of 1943–1956. These thirteen years in Siberia represented a special historical context during which the Kalmyk ethnic group was completely outlawed and its ethnic identity problematized. The purpose of the article is to show how the Kalmyk ethnicity was stigmatized under the pressure of a large society, how the Kalmyk ethnicity disappeared from the public sphere, retreating into the private sphere, and how the weakening of markers of Kalmyk ethnicity played out in Siberia: Kalmyk personal names changed to Russian ones, the ritual order of calendar holidays was reduced, knowledge of the native language declined. Special attention is paid to the problem of constructing ethnic boundaries of the group by the local population and by the deported Kalmyks. Moreover, the stigmatization of Kalmyks and the influence of external forces on the cohesion of the group are discussed. Contrary to the view that such a dependence is always directly proportional to external pressure, the study shows that this trend does not always hold: Kalmyks were resettled so dispersedly and lived through such hardship that stigmatization did not allow group cohesion to develop. Relying on “local voices”, the article discusses the complexity of ethnic identification based on constructivist views on the nature of ethnicity as a way of organizing cultural differences. To convey the voices of the older generation “in person” is a fundamental authorial position for the researcher. The article was written based on field materials from the “Everyone Has Their Own Siberia” project — a collection of spontaneous oral interviews that the author compiled in 2002–2004 and 2016–2018 in Kalmykia and Moscow, supplemented by published memoirs of Kalmyks about life in Siberia.

Keywords: the Kalmyks, ethnicity, identity, deportation, Siberia, repressions, Stalinism, stigma, practice of exclusion.

To cite: Guchinova E.-B., ‘Etnicheskaya identichnost kak stigma: kalmyki v deportatsii (1943–1956 gg.)’ [Ethnic Identity as Stigma: Kalmyks in Deportation (1943–1956)], Antropologicheskij forum, 2020, no. 47, pp. 154–180.

doi: 10.31250/1815-8870-2020-16-47-154-180