Repository logo

Vladimir Gilyandikov, Sakyusn Sume

Change log


Terbish, Baasanjav 
Churyumova, Elvira 


The video features a round-table discussion with Vladimir Gilyandikov, architect of two main Buddhist temples in Kalmykia, including the Sakyusn Sume and the Golden Abode of Buddha Shakyamuni. Other discussants include Lari Ilishkin, lama Sanal Mukobenov and Arslang Sandzhiev. The discussion starts with a short video presentation. Arslang Sandzhiev: A book has been published recently which is dedicated to the opening of the Sakyusn Sume in 1996. It includes the names of all contributors. Vladimir Gilyandikov: Before the construction of this temple, the Temple Committee discussed a question of building a big temple in Elista. There were three potential locations, including in the south of Elista, in the north of Elista and in a place near the village of Arshan (on the outskirts of Elista). Eventually, the choice fell on the Arshan location. The Dalai Lama approved that location, which was then consecrated. The plan was to build a complex consisting of a dormitory for lamas, a hotel, houses for personnel, a residence for the Dalai Lama, a central temple, a Buddhist academy, a square for public events and a bus terminal. It was decided to build first the temple, Sakyusn Sume. In Kalmykia in the 19th and 20th centuries temples were built by guest architects who were Germans. To get an idea, we looked for historical materials in the libraries. Photos that we got hold of were few. The geological conditions for the construction work were difficult. Since the foundation should sit on firm ground, we decided to lay a monolithic plate underneath the temple. According to the initial plan, the walls of the temple would narrow towards the roof. Although in Kalmykia we did not have experience of building temples with such walls, Mikhail Shalkhakov solved the problem. The plan was based on the Buddhist temple in St Petersburg. Arslang Sandzhiev: The Dalai Lama consecrated the place for the building of the Golden Abode of Buddha Shakyamuni. Inside the temple sculptor Vasiliy Vaskin built a statue of Buddha. A group of artists, including Aleksandr Povaev and others, drew the first paintings on the walls. In January 1996 Vladimir Gilyandikov and Telo Tulku Rinpoche paid a visit to the Drepung Gomang monastery in Dharamsala, India. There they also visited several other monasteries and looked at their interior. In 1999 the plan for the building the Golden Abode of Buddha Shakyamuni won the first prize in the architectural competition. Sanal Mukobenov: The first time I saw the Sakyusn Sume temple was in 2001 when I came to Elista to become a lama. I was struck by its architecture, especially by the four protectors that are placed in the four corners of the temple. The temple itself is dedicated to these protectors. In the Soviet period Kalmyks could not exercise their belief freely. The first temple gave impetus to the development of Buddhism in Kalmykia. Although I have seen many temples, the most beautiful to me personally is the Sakyusn Sume. The interior paintings were made by a group of artists headed by Erdni Nimgirov. These paintings are of superb quality. For me, this temple is associated with my home and motherland. Before going to Tibet to study, I had spent some time in this temple when I took my religious vows. This building has a special energy inside. Especially in spring it is nice to be there. Arslang Sandzhiev: The opening of the temple was a public celebration. When they were carrying the statue of Buddha inside the temple, it seemed as if the statue was floating above the people. Lari Ilishkin: At that time, I did not fully understand the full significance of the temple. I was thinking that it was good to have a temple with Kalmyk architecture. I walked around the temple three times clock-wise. Today this temple is a symbol of the revival of Buddhism. The temple has a good aura and many people go there. The temple has a designated room for the deity-protectors. Vladimir Gilyandikov: Many people from different places asked me to design temples for them. They were from the village of Komsomol’skiy, from the village of Solyanka in Volgograd oblast. There was an idea to erect a rotunda in the centre of Elista. Vyacheslav Ilyumzhinov organized a trip for us to Mongolia in order to find masters and see for ourselves how to build rotundas. Since it turned out to be a very expensive project to ask others to build a rotunda, we decided to do it ourselves. Together with Vladimir Kuberlinov and Nikolai Galushkin, we made a rotunda. The sculptor Vladimir Vaskin made a statue of Buddha, which we put underneath the rotunda. It was opened on the Dalai Lama’s birthday. About myself. I decided to become an architect when I was in secondary school. After I could not enter the Moscow Architectural Institute, I returned to Elista and worked with the architect Mingiyan Pyurveev. Under him I learned how to draw architectural plans. The next year I entered the Rostov State University for Civil Engineering to study in the Department of Architecture. After finishing university, I returned to Kalmykia and worked in Gosstroi company. I worked in the Kalmyk Project Institute for many years. I was the main architect of Elista. I have built many buildings, including the hall of the Ministry of Agriculture, the Police station, the Alley of the Heroes and the statue of Basan Gorodovikov (along with Naran Lidzhiev and Vladimir Vaskin). When we were drawing the plan for the Golden Abode of Buddha Shakyamuni, the temple was planned to be sitting on a hill seven meters high and have big windows to let in more sunlight. The height of the temple is 64 metres. Arslang Sandzhiev: Before the 1917 Revolution, there were more than 100 temples, small and big. Only a part of the Khosheutovskiy Temple is left today. We still have the foundation of some old temples in Kalmykia. It would be good to make a map of old temples, erect a fence around the remaining foundations so that people knew what these places are. About the restoration of the Khosheutovskiy Temple. The Astrakhan oblast is in charge of the restoration work, and the money comes from the federal budget. The quality of the work is not good at all, and some historical ornaments have been removed. Of course, the restoration work should be done properly. It would be ideal to remove the houses around the temple in order to create more space around the temple. In Russia there were two religious buildings that were dedicated to the soldiers of the Napoleonic War in 1812. The first one, the Khosheutovskiy Temple, was built in 1817, and the other, the Church of the Christ the Saviour in Moscow, was erected in 1910.



Architecture, Buddhism, Sakysn Sume, the Golden Abode of Buddha Shakyamuni, Elista

Is Part Of


Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge

Publisher DOI

Publisher URL

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