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Viktor Urgadulov, An Interview



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Terbish, Baasanjav 
Churyumova, Elvira 


In this interview Viktor Urgadulov, a Kalmyk artist, talks about himself, art in the Soviet Union and its current state in Kalmykia. Viktor was born in the village of Pavlovskoe in Altaiskiy krai, near the city of Barnaul. His childhood was ordinary. His mother was a medic and the whole family lived in a medical centre. Viktor’s father was an officer in the army. In his youth his father was not exiled along with other Kalmyks but came to Altaiskiy krai looking for his brother where he met his future wife. Viktor liked drawing pictures from his childhood. When the Kalmyks returned to Kalmykia from Siberia, there was not a single art club in Elista. Viktor’s mother’s second cousin who was an architect advised Viktor to keep drawing and choose a profession of either an artist or architect. Viktor’s father, however, was against this and wanted his son to be a tractor driver. When Viktor was 16, the Penza Art School was receiving applications to study. With his two Kalmyk friends who were older than him by 8 years and with 40 rubles in his pocket, Viktor went to Penza. All three friends were accepted to the Art School. In the beginning, they all lived in a barn nearby. Later Viktor moved out and rented a room in a private house where he helped his landlords with chores, including cutting wood and planting potatoes. Afterwards he found a room in a dormitory. The Penza Art School was one of the best in the Soviet Union. Viktor and his friends studied well. After the Art School, Viktor entered the Surikov Art Institute in Moscow since it was considered to be prestigious to have a higher education. Well trained at his previous school, Viktor found his studies easy. After he finished the Institute, Viktor was called back to Kalmykia to work as an artist. He had his first art exhibition in 1974 in the town of Gorkiy. It went well and Pravda newspaper published an article about the exhibition. Viktor became a member of the Kalmyk Union of Artists in 1975. There were eight members in the Union all in all, including Rokchinskiy, Povaev, Oldaev, Khakhulin, Badmaev and others, who all had good salaries. As art developed in the Soviet Union, artists were expected to hold exhibitions and work hard. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, state support for art stopped, which forced many Kalmyk artists either to move to big Russian cities or leave the country altogether. According to Viktor, today in Kalmykia there are only four elderly artists left and the young artists need to work hard to earn living. Viktor says that art is like a fashion and that artists need to follow it. Viktor comes to his workshop almost every day. Recently he had his personal exhibition in the South Federal District. He had to pay for all the recurring fees himself. He says that the state should build workshops and support artists. In Elista, he laments, there is no museum of art. In the past local museums bought artworks, which was helpful for the artists. In the past they were encouraged to do drawings with an ideological bias that depicted workers and shepherds. According to Viktor, there is no such thing as Kalmyk traditional art. In order to produce a painting with a historical theme, one needs to sit in archives.



Art, modern art, paintings, autobiography, Soviet Union

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Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge

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Sponsored by Arcadia Fund, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin