KalmykiaKalmykia is a small, semi-autonomous republic (area: approximately 76,100 sq. km.; population, 318,000) within Russia, located near the Caspian Sea. The capital is Elista.
One thing that sets Kalmykia apart from its neighbors is that it is the only Buddhist state in Europe. The Kalmyk people originated in Asia —they reached Europe when Genghis Khan created his Mongol empire. When the empire broke up and many people returned to Asia, a few Kalmyks remained. Kalmykia was formed as an independent nation at the beginning of the 15th century. The Kalmyk people have since aligned themselves with Russian rule, first under the tsars, and later under the communists. It is currently ruled by Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.
There is also a small Kalmyk minority living within eastern Kyrgyzstan, especially in villages in the Karakol region. These Kalmyks are those who remained when the bulk of the nation moved westwards in the early 16th century. Some who settled in Kalmykia returned to Jungaria (now Kyrgyzstan and Xinjiang province in China) due to Russian and German expansion in the mid-17th century.