Donnerstag, 12. März 2020, 18:00

The language situation in Kalmykia and the rare dance-song tradition in Western Mongolia

Da die öffentlichen Vorträge abgesagt werden mussten, werden wir an dieser Stelle der breiteren Öffentlichkeit die Vortragsfolien zur Verfügung stellen.

Lectures with Gennady Korneev & Otgonbayar Chuluunbaatar


Thursday, 12 MAR 2020, 18:00-19:30

Wohllebengasse 12-14, 1040 Wien, Vortragssaal im Erdgeschoss

The commission Vanishing Languages and Cultural Heritage (VLACH), based at the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW), kindly invites you to a lecture on the state of the Oirat-Kalmyk language in Kalmykia, as well as on the folksong traditions of Western Mongolia.

Two experts in Mongolian studies, Gennady Korneev and Otgonbayar Chuluunbaatar, will give insight into the history of Oirat-Kalmyk language development, and the close relationship between dance and epic traditions in Western Mongolia.

In the 17th century, western Mongolian tribes, known as the “Derben Oirad” (Four Allies) feudal confederation, started their great expansion within Central Asia. Four hundred years later their descendants live in different countries, separated in both time and distance. What challenges do they currently face? What interesting bits of knowledge can they share with us? Come to learn more about the culture and the language of descendants from Central Asia's last nomadic empire.

18:00: MA Gennady Korneev (Kalmyk language development)

18:40: MA Otgonbayar Chuluunbaatar (folk dance and song tradition)

19:00: Discussion, question and answer session with both experts. 30 mins.

MA Gennady Korneev (Kalmyk language development center, Elista)

Kalmyk language and writing: history, problems and prospects

Kalmyks are people of Oirat Mongolian origin that have lived in the Northern Caspian steppes of Europe over the past 400 years. The Kalmyk language belongs to the group of Western Mongolia languages that developed from the classical Oirat language. Kalmyk has its own "todo bichig" (clear script) alphabet, which was created by the outstanding luminary Zaya Pandita (or Namkhai Jamzo) in 1648 and abolished in 1924 with the advent of Soviet power. There is an extensive tradition of todo bichig literature, both translated and original, and including works on religion, history, culture, medicine, astrology, geography and folklore.

Over a long historical period of living far from related communities, Kalmyk has experienced some influence from the Russian and Turkic languages. Due to a number of historical circumstances, today, according to UNESCO, Kalmyk is on the list of endangered languages. Despite the fact that there is various mass media in the Kalmyk language ("Khalʹmg unn" newspaper, "Teegin Gerel" literary magazine, radio and television), the language is gradually dying. At present, Kalmyk is the language of the population in the Republic of Kalmykia (Russian Federation), and is still used in a few Kalmyk villages, mono ethnic enclaves.

In my speech, I will touch on the history of Kalmyk migration to European steppes, Kalmyk pre-revolutionary literature and the literary language, the transformation of the self-consciousness of a people who found themselves in a foreign-lingual, foreign-cultural and religious environment, and the attempts of the Kalmyk intelligentsia to preserve national identity. I will try to answer the question of why the Kalmyk language is currently on the verge of extinction, and also to substantiate my point of view on possible ways towards Kalmyk language revitalization.

MA Otgonbayar Chuluunbaatar (Mongolian Academy of Science)

An Oirat dance song as a rare feature of the Jangar Epos in Western Mongolia

In the many years of field research in the Mongolian Altai Mountains, I came across an exceptionally rare dance that only very few members of the Oirat community can perform. The lyrics of the song to this dance as well as the artistic performance of the dancer, which I recorded and documented over several years, vary distinctly from the typical biy dance genre.

The traditional biy dance song generally revolves around the everyday life of a shepherd, whereas, the dance I observed and recorded differs both in its presentation style and in the content of the lyrics, showing clear signs of the ritualistic form of epics. This specific dance is introduced with an Altain magtaal (praise song of the Altai mountains), yet another feature representative for an epic.

The recorded song texts present a hero similar to the one we know from the Jangar epic, speaking of his life as a leader and warlord. Furthermore, his favorite horse receives ample attention, reflected also in the dance's title. The significance of this dance and its song lies in the rare and unique quality it offers.