Religion and Empire: Kalmyk Buddhism in Late Imperial Russia


The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Dissertation Fellowships in Buddhist Studies


Social and Cultural Anthropology


In the early nineteenth century, Kalmyk Buddhism was incorporated in the multi-confessional framework of the Russian empire. A series of statutes and laws, engineered by the imperial government, aimed to transform Buddhism into an instrument of imperial domination. Although the incorporation into the Russian imperial system had a lasting effect on the nature and functioning of Kalmyk Buddhist institutions, I argue that Russian rule was a continuing process of negotiation between metropole and periphery. Not only the Russians exercised control over Kalmyk Buddhism, but the Kalmyk sangha also actively took part in formulating imperial policies and learnt to maneuver in the web of the imperial bureaucracy, seeking to achieve their own goals.