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Nina Ulanova, Autobiography



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Terbish, Baasanjav 
Churyumova, Elvira 


Nina talks about herself, her family, the Kalmyk prince Danzan Tundutov, and a relic that she inherited from her aunt. Nina is Chair of the Kalmyk cultural fund Nasledie (Heritage) named after the Kalmyk scholar Nomto Ochirov. The fund was founded in 1992. According to Nina, Nomto Ochirov studied in the Oriental Faculty of St Petersburg University. In 1908 he spent some time with the famous Kalmyk Jangar singer Eelyan Ovla from whom he wrote down the epos Jangar. Afterwards he was sent to prison, from where he returned in 1956, paralyzed. He died in 1960. Nina herself was born in 1931 in the village of Chervlenoe (its Kalmyk name was Modn Ger) in Maloderbetovskiy ulus. Her parents had 12 children, including 11 sons and a daughter. Nina is the only surviving child. Nina’s father, Sandzharyk Ulanov, was an aid to the last Kalmyk prince Danzan Tundutov. Nina’s mother, Kishtya Ochirova, was Nomto Ochirov’s younger sister. Before the exile, she worked in the kolkhoz Put’ Lenina (Lenin’s Path) in the village of Chervlenoe. The kolkhoz grew vegetables all year around. With her whole family declared the ‘enemy of the people’, Kishtya Ochirova suffered a lot. Nevertheless, she never held a grudge against others, and died at 88. Nina’s mother often told her daughter about her own childhood, about how her family celebrated national holidays. During Ur Sar, all Kalmyks in the vicinity came to the prince’s estate where they played a ball game called tsagan monda and urldan. After the Siberian exile, Nina’s mother came to her native village to pay respects to her ancestral land. She and her older daughters took soil from the pagoda and put it on their tongues. Afterwards, the whole family moved to the village of Ketchenery. Nina says she decided to set up a fund in memory of her mother. The aim of the fund is to re-build the historical museum-estate of the prince Danzan Tundutov, including the Buddhist temple. Today this former estate is on the territory of the village of Solyanka of Svetloyarskiy rayon in Volgograd oblast. The fund has already built a Stupa of Enlightenment there with the help of Nina’s friends and people who support her course. Nina travels to the stupa every year to celebrate Ur Sar. The Tundutovs were progressive people, and they were acquainted with the Romanovs. Princess Elzyata Tundutova had an ethnographic saloon in Moscow, which exhibited Kalmyk utensils and artworks. Among its visitors were the Romanovs. The Princess was educated at the Institute of Noble Maidens in St Petersburg. This Kalmyk dynasty also actively participated in the building of a Buddhist temple in St Petersburg. During the interview Nina shows a relic – the gilded upper part of the clan banner (tugin bumb) of the Tundutov family. The Tundutov’s handed this relic to Nina’s uncle, Manzh Menkeev, for storage in 1917. Manzh Menkeev in his turn handed it over to his oldest daughter, Bamba. Not long before his death Manzh Menkeev predicted a tragedy that would befall the Kalmyk people. In December 1943 the whole Kalmyk population was deported. Bamba was sent to Pavlovskiy rayon in Altaiskiy krai where the commandant of the settlement where she lived confiscated her relic. In 1945 Baatr Basanov, a Hero of the USSR, who happened to be from the same village as Nina and whose uncle was the prince Tundutov’s cook, arrived in Pavlovskiy rayon. It was with his help that Bamba managed to get hold of her precious relic. Later Bamba left it to Nina. Although Nina does not know the exact date when the banner’s upper part was produced, what she knows is that it was used by the prince during the Napoleonic War. The temple that Nina is planning to build already has its name – Gyalten Dhargyaling – which was given by Kundeling Tatsak Rinpoche. Nina says she is proud of her fund and believes that she has been guided from above. She likes singing songs and participates in various cultural events.



Autobiography, Danzan Tundutov, relics

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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