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Keemia Orlova, About Old Books and Texts in Kalmykia and Western Mongolia

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Churyumov, Anton 


In 2005 Keemia published a brochure about manuscripts written in Oirat and Mongol scripts that are kept in the archives in Kalmykia. The Kalmyk scholar Delyash Muzraeva, who travelled across Kalmykia, found out that the majority of Kalmyk manuscripts are translations of Tibetan texts. Among them there are also several translations of Christian texts, including the Bible. The manuscripts housed at the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts of the St Petersburg University, numbering between 400 and 500, are written in Mongol, Oirat and Tibetan. Keemia says that it was long assumed that the Oirats did not print books until recently, although there are a dozen old Oirat printed texts in the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts in St Petersburg. Another important repository of Oirat books and manuscripts outside Russia is the Institute of Language and Literature in Mongolia. In 2009 a catalogue of existing manuscripts was published in Mongolia that contains a list of manuscripts not available in Russia. Both in Mongolia and Kalmykia manuscripts are considered to be sacred objects. Hence they are usually kept on altars. In Western Mongolia people display manuscripts on their domestic altars in front of the images and statues of Buddhas. In contrast, Kalmyks hide their manuscripts and do not display them. The majority of manuscripts in Kalmykia that are kept in private hands are written in Tibetan, and only a small minority in Oirat script. In addition to this, many manuscripts were lost during the deportation of the Kalmyks from 1943 to 1957. Whilst both Oirats and Mongols translated texts from Tibetan into their respective languages, either group employed different translation styles. If Mongols translated more poetically, Oirats tended to do literal translations. During her expedition in Western Mongolia, Keemia came across many interesting Oirat manuscripts, including ‘Dorvud nutgin san’ and ‘Altai nutgin san’, which are unknown among the Derbets in Kalmykia. The Derbets came to the territory of Uvs Nur aimag of Mongolia in the 18th century.



history, manuscripts, Oirat script

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