Suffering of the Russian Buddhists | Kalmykia: Poverty, Depopulation, No Drinking Water
- There are more than 190 different ethnicities in Russia and each has its own culture, traditions, cuisine and language. Many of them have their own national republics, one of them is Kalmykia - one of the poorest regions in the country. In this video, I will tell you how the people of Kalmykia live, and why the region is in such a decline? By the way, Russia is so big that many of its inhabitants couldn't show the location of the republic on the map even though it's located in just 1200 kilometers from Moscow. - I'd like you to show me, where Kalmykia is on the map please. - I think it's somewhere around here. - I don't know. Somewhere here. - I think it's somewhere near here. - I'm not sure, let's say that it's here.
- Somewhere over here, look. - Kalmykia? It's somewhere round here. - It's Asia. Somewhere close to Kazakhstan. - It's in this part of Russia, here. - Here's Bashkortostan, so it's somewhere here, but I'm not sure where. - I'm not good at geography. Probably it's somewhere here.
- It's similar to Yakutia, isn't it? So maybe it's over there, no? - Here? - I'm not too sure, but I think it's in Siberia, possibly somewhere over here. - Here's its capital - Elista, so, it's somewhere over here. - There's Elista. - That's right, thank you! - I'm from Kalmykia, that's why I knew. - As you see, few people know where Kalmykia is. But this is an extremely interesting region.
It's the only place in Europe where most of the population are Buddhist. This is the largest Buddhist temple in Europe - the Golden Monastery. It's 63 metres high. In Russia Buddhists also live in Tyva and Buryatia but they are in Asian part of the country.
It would seem that there's good potential for attracting tourists, but for some reason they do not use it. As a result, in Kalmykia is just as sad and depressing as in most regions of Russia. - It's all right in the centre, but if you go anywhere else it's quite bad. - It is one of the three regions of Russia with the poorest population. Poverty pushes people into debt.
Kalmykia today is the leader in the ranking of people in debt. The level of debt here is 3 times that of Moscow. People try to leave the region as soon as the opportunity comes.
Today, Kalmyks are among the top 5 regions with the largest outflow of working-age population and is one of the most sparsely populated regions of Russia. - My personal opinion is that, unfortunately, it will be the end for our republic soon. - Does the republic have a chance to become a place with a decent standard of living? - All of the power that comes from this plant will go to the city of Elista. - Or will it turn into Tyva at some point? Check out in this video! This is a monument to stupidity, because everything is falling apart. So that this video get trending on YouTube and you don't miss the new episodes, like this video, subscribe and don't forget to hit that bell button. Also share this video on Reddit and send it to your friends via WhatsApp.
Kalmyks are the descendants of Oirats, nomadic tribes that originally lived in the territory of Western Mongolia: Dzhungar. At the end of the 16th century, due to the shortage of pasture land and civil strifes part of the Oirats decided to go up north, to Western Siberia, close to Irtysh river. At the beginning of the 17th century, nomads began to settle the territory between the Don river and the Volga.
That's where Kalmykia was established. They accepted Russian citizenship and and subsequently actively fought in the army of the Russian Empire. Kalmyk Russian soldiers were valued and respected, but the Soviet government said Kalmyks were traitors. In December 1943, secret police officers started the operation called Ulusy. It assumed the forced resettlement of Kalmyks to remote areas of SIberia. What were they accused of? The Stalinist regime considered them traitors to their motherland.
At that time, the Nazis occupied most of Kalmykia. Some deserted and switched sides. but the entire Kalmyk population paid the price for the treason of the few. As a result, almost 100,000 people were sent to Siberia. People were given a maximum of an hour to pack, and sometimes just 20-30 minutes. This is how one of the inhabitants of the Kalmyk village recalled the events of those days. "Early in the morning, the military broke into our house while we were still sleeping.
They got us all out of bed,and began to shout at my father and mother to hurry and get us, the children, dressed and take us out of the house. Without giving the opportunity to take our valuable, they drove us to the assembly point, like cattle. I can only remember how my dad carried me on his back."
By 1947 over 91,919 were deported to Siberia. Over the 3 years, over 16,000 Kalmyks died. The people were allowed to return to their homeland only in 1956. In 1991 they were officially recognised as the victims of genocide.
- Around a 100 years ago our ancestors were nomads in this region and lived in this type of dwellings. They are called Ishkya Ger in Kalmyk, which literally translates as: Ishkya - thick felt and the structure that's made of wood. This type of lattice wood walls are called Tyrym, and that's where the Russian word for prison "Tyurma" comes from. Tyrym is a lattice wall. The next element that makes up the house. are these poles called unins. They are drawn up in a central circle - harachi. Unins are also a solar clock. The nomad tents are traditionally divided into halves:
If I'm looking at the door, let's say, to my left is the female part of the yurt, and that's where everything connected with women's life is, and so to the right of me is the masculine side. The northern part of the tent, is the most honorable part. Here is the altar. The other valuables are also in this northern part of the yurt, of course. the honorary dear guest who comes in, will be sat here, closer to the norther part of the tent. A man from this side and a woman on this side. A nomad always lives close to their livestock, right? If there's grass here, then they can stay, but if the pasture fields are getting plain they have to move to a new place.
That's how they go round in their circle. There's a place for the summer and for the winter, autumn nomad spot and so on. The usual tent that has 5 walls is assembled in 40 minutes and weighs 300 kilos. It is loaded on 3 camels, and everything moves to a new place, 30-40 km away, where they set up everything from the scratch.
They first build the hearth and make offerings through the fire to the spirits of this land. And then they build the yurt around the hearth. Once it's up, the person is set up in a new place. After a while, they will leave this place. After some time has passed, they will come to the same spot again. So, they never leave a mess behind themselves. Even now, if we take this yurt somewhere else
the grass will re-grow after a while. Today the way Kalmyks live is different. They are no longer nomads. Just like i the rest of Russia's regions, they live in high-rise buildings and in the country. Unlike their ancestors they leave behind garbage. We are on an tour to one of the most infamous and scary ruined houses in Elista. It says that someone's a fool on the dusty window.
For some reason, that's the most common thing they write on the fences. It proves that Kalmyks are very well-mannered, as in the other regions they write worse curse words. Despite the fact that they only write "fool", they still draw penises on the walls. That's very-very interesting. Well, I've seen worse houses in Russia. At least they have straight walls, good floors, so it's not as bad as in Arkhangelsk, where the houses are crooked, and it looks like they're going to fall down any second.
Am I right that everyone here has toilet facilities inside the house? - Yeah. - There are plenty of dormitories like this in Russia where the facilities are shared. Elista's latest news. Message board. AUE 2001. The last one ran by 20 years ago. BR followed by a list of curse words. Spider-Man is jerking off to Mary Jane. The lettering is worthy for some t-shirt to be made into a souvenir from Kalmykia. Oh, BTS are Koreans, followed by expletives again. There's also a picture of what the author
of did to BTS just on case we didn't understand. Sorry kids, we have to blur this part, but it's a masterpiece. I should take a picture. I got an idea for my new limited edition merchandise. Well, so far I'm getting the impression that it's not that bad. What the local guys show you as a nightmare and horror, aren't that suprising, you come and it's not as bad as I expected. Despite the fact that Kalmykia is one of the poorest regions of Russia, it is still located in the European part, on the way from Moscow to the Caucasus and it is still not as bad as in the far outskirts of Russia. It cannot be compared even with the Tyva or something.
It can't even be compared with Russian North, because even the worst building doesn't look terrible here compared to Khabarovsk or Arkhangelsk. - Do people drink here? - Of course they do. - It's just that we were in Tyva and there is a huge problem with alcohol there. I mean people get rowdy, they drink, they fight. - It's the same here. Tyva is our brotherly nation. It is the same. They also get drunk, they fight,
all the problems are because of drinking. Stabbings and all crimes are because of drunkenness. - And what about the language here? - We have our own Kalmyk language. There are people who are developing the Kalmyk language and culture. We have an organization called Inglyan who have also done a great job. They have taught people that they have to wear Kalmyk ethnic clothing. - What is the attitude to Russians? Are there any conflicts? - We do not have any conflicts now. But we had them before.
And I used to take part in them myself. - Did you persecute the Russians? - Yeah. - And what did you do? Tell then to go home? Why? - It was when I was young, when I was stupid, I had nowhere to put my energy in. We had such conflicts, of course. - Did you go around beating up Russians? - Well, yes, wall-to-wall. - And who was winning? - Of course, the Kalmyks. We had a lot of criminal groups in the city too. Now, of course, there are fewer.
But there are some that are still afloat. We used to have fights every week. Molotov cocktails, streets were on fire and so on. - Why do you think it's not as bad now? I mean, somehow it all stopped, why? - It seems to me that people themselves just evolve through time.
- If before you were beaten up by gangsters and some thugs, today you're beaten up by cops in their office. The New Russians and all those thugs put on a suit and went to work for the deputy's office, while the lowest layer of troublemakers went to the police. They put on the uniform, epaulettes and they went there to create mayhem.
Because that is police mayhem. The lawlessness that the cops create is not going anywhere, it has simply become state lawlessness. - That's true, in our city a lot of former gangsters are now working in the police. Guys like me, for example, were in those fights too, but now they're also working for the cops. - They took us to the scariest place again, but it's just an abandoned building.
- Yeah, there's nothing too interesting here. - You're making a big deal out of it. It's just an abandoned house. Someone died here, so what? If you compare it to London or Holland, maybe there's room for improvement, but if you compare it to Chita or Omsk, I wouldn't say it's the worst place in Russia. People all have double-glazed windows and air conditioning. The building is not falling down.
Of course, it might be a bit ugly inside, but from the outside it looks quite prosperous. - What are you doing here? - Just filming. Who are you? - I work here. - Where exactly do you work? - Here. - What do you do? Just wondering. You're here, so we're interested. Maybe you're a district officer,
or maybe you're a boxing teacher. And our further conversation depends on what you answer. If you're a boxing coach, it's a different conversation, and if you're a district officer, it's a different one too. - And what if I work in these houses in terms of facilities? - Ah, so that's what you do? We just came to take a look. We are tourists from Moscow. In general, is it okay to live in Elista?
- Generally, it's fine. - Is it all right here? - Yes, if one works. - Are there jobs? - Yes, but you have to work hard. - And they pay you money?
- Yes, but not much. - What's your salary? - Mine's quite small. $200 a month. - You work for $200? That's nothing - Well, I can't influence that. It's up to everyone to specific departments to keep an eye on the paycheck. - And who is to blame? - Well, who is leading the people? - Putin. - I think he might not be aware about it. - Oh, so he does not know that people are getting such salaries here? - It's possible. Maybe he's not even aware about things that go on here. - Then it's the governor's fault. - Probably the governor's, yes.
But ti be honest, the governor might not know either. There's a hierarchy of power, you know? - Well that's basically the answer to the question of why the salary is $200. Because the man doesn't know who's to blame. Or rather suspects, but doesn't want to think about it.
So he'll work all day and his salary will be $200, and he can't do anything. There are a lot of cities like Elista in Russia. They are all unimpressive and the same. There's hopelessness, a broken-down urban environment, and ruined public transport. If there is a hope in such cities, it shines from the airport when the flight to Moscow is announced. - Are people still leaving Kalmykia? - Yes, it's a great tragedy, because we can feel it even personally. - What is the future of Kalmykia?
- It's a hard question, and no one can answer it for sure in Kalmykia. But my personal opinion is that, unfortunately, our republic will soon come to an end. The outflow of our people for work, the deterioration of the environment, the deterioration of the standard of living, the wide gap between the rich and the poor (of course the poor are in the majority, and there are only a few rich). - I just remember that in the '90s there was an opportunity to get rich.
Well, they were wild times and if you had a good business, you could get rich and reach some decent level. That is impossible now. It's just not realistic. You will do the same thing, you will work hard all day long and run ahead, but you will never reach a level you would like to. And that's frustrating. And I understand that let's say my children and even my grandchildren will never become super rich, because this niche is occupied and those at the top get richer and richer but we don't. - There is such thing as the American Dream. And the whole world goes to the United States to realize this dream. And who is it from all over the world that goes to the USA? The best, the smartest, the strongest and the most beautiful. And the competition there is crazy.
There's constant new fresh blood. What happens here? The contrary. Everyone leaves, they grow up and leave Kalmykia. What's left here? There's nothing left. - We are running out of human resources, young people are leaving one they finish school.
They graduate from school and go to Moscow to study and never come back. So we can't always give back, we have to get something. This is a problem of many regions, not only ours. But this is very acute in Kalmykia, because we have small population and we feel it straight away. - To make this chair... Where would you go 9 years ago? The chair you are sitting on, yeah. Its manufacture! We tried to find someone and there are no specialists here.
There's some old guys out there: one's drunk, the other's missing somewhere. We would have liked to do it all here ourselves, but we had to find a specialist in Volgograd. We went there, made a deal and all that. It starts at the domestic level and goes all the way up. - What are the children dreaming about? What plans do they have if they're born here? - To leave. To live permanently in the US. And become a blogger there.
- Don't they want to be bloggers in Russia? - Minimum in Moscow. - So you don't have young people here that associate their future with Kalmykia? - Maybe one in 10 or even one in 20. - And if tourism is to be developed? Is there any potential here? - If you say tourism, you'll immediately face a huge pile of problems that can't be solved in 2-3 years.
It is impossible to improve such a depressive region in such a short period of time. It gives me no pleasure to say that we are coming to an end, but this is objective. - Many locals write about the problems and list nepotism... - Yes, we have cronyism.
- Ulusism. It comes from the word Ulus, it means one camp, nomadic. - So when one leader comes into office, it's hard for someone from another clan to get in? - That's the same everywhere. One looks first whether a person is their man, not at their professionalism. Until this is eradicated, nothing good will happen in Russia. - What do you think of Moscow? Not you personally, but the Kalmyks in general. - Moscow is greedy, because its mayor, Sobyanin is replacing new tiles with new ones, while we still have Soviet-era tarmac here.
- But a miracle happened to the Kalmyks one day, it won the lottery, so to speak. And, as often happens in such cases, the win did not bring it happiness. The euphoria passed, the money ran out, and now only ruins remind it of the former greatness.
It was Kirsan Ilyumzhinov that was the lucky lottery ticket. The Republic of Kalmykia at that time was a very provincial place, where collective farmers who had not seen the world mostly lived. But this could be true for many large regions of Russia. And a bright leader, Kirsan Ilyumdzhinov comes in, and his main goal is to make Elista the centre of the universe.
It was such a global, ambitious task and he managed to do almost half of it. - Ilyumzhinov was head of Kalmykia for almost 20 years. He was an extraordinary man. Once he told the whole world that he communicated with extraterrestrials: "The balcony opened, and someone was calling. I looked up, saw a sort of translucent pipe, and I went into the pipe and saw people in yellow spacesuits". In all seriousness, Ilyumzhinov was friends with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, dictators who had ended very badly.
Illumzhinov generally liked to be in the spotlight. He even brought Hollywood stars such as Chuck Norris and Steven Seagal to Kalmykia. - One of the benefits was that Kalmykia was talked about. He publicised himself very well against this background. But the downside was that all the industry we had at that time had collapsed. But as I understand it concerns not only Kalmykia, but Russia in general, when factories collapsed and people lost their jobs.
- Here's the leader's main project. He was a chess fan since his childhood. Once he became the leader of Kalmykia he decided to build a chess city and make Elista the chess capital of the world. In 1998 the chess Olympics took place here an that's why the chess city was originally built. You see, there is still the FIDE logo; Ilyumdzhinov was head of FIDE from 1995 to 2018. The attitude to the city of chess here is ambiguous, because the project is super expensive. As we know, Elista never became the chess capital, and this is strange because Kalmykia is one of the poorest republics in Russia.
Here there are some of the lowest salaries, many people live below the poverty line and there is massive unemployment. This is why such super-projects, which are not working, cause mixed reactions among local residents. Because if the project worked, there would be no questions asked, but it does not create jobs, it is not a tourist attraction and it is quite abandoned really. I don't know if it's up and running now, we've only just got here, but it looks abandoned. The main building itself is the Chess Museum and the My Documents Admin Centre.
There's already some grass sprouting through the tiles. Look, there's a dusty chess board standing there. It's all abandoned and ruined, some withered plants and, apparently, being renovated. There's some kind of fountain with rotten water, fermented. Just when I found a chess museum in the cottage and it's not working too. It's not enough just to cut the ribbon, you still have to think how it will all work afterwards. Now it's a monument to stupidity because everything is really falling apart, even the museum doesn't work. There are smudges everywhere and tiles
have fallen off the façade. It looks abandoned. People live in the cottages, but not in all of them, because this is the outskirts of Elista. The map of this chess town is especially nice, which is all faded and shriveled up. This map reflects the real state of the place. It all looks rather strange, because in theory there was supposed to be elite housing, but it all looks like cottages on the outskirts of Adler: some kind of extensions, superstructures, people are building up new floors for themselves, but the territory itself is already neglected. Nothing is going on here, nobody is even taking care of it. Apparently, it is an administrative building. Look in particular at the state of the flags,
both the flag of Kalmykia and the Russian flag, dirty and shabby. It is a disgrace. State flags should not be in such condition. They should be replaced and some kind of maintenance is necessary. But it all corresponds to the general state of the place. There's rebar sticking out instead of curbs, cobwebs, broken tiles at the entrance. I don't even think this organisation works. The big question when you walk around is, is it abandoned or not? Because everything is looking right on the edge.
There seem to be some cars standing around, there seems to be some life going on, but on the other side everything looks abandoned. No, everything works here, but it doesn't work further on. That is, one door is open and the other is not. It feels like we are in an abandoned city, everything is overgrown with grass. -We were just wondering, is it an abandoned building or not.
- Oh, no, there are no abandoned buildings here. - It looks abandoned. You just don't look after it, do you? - Well now all these ambitious plans where a lot of money has been invested, all these chess cities and everything, no one needs it. - Yes, that's how it is. The Chess Olympics was over and the city was left out of the game. At first it was really a wonder. We have a small town here with the usual houses built under Khruschev, and then suddenly such an amazing project comes along.
We were walking around like in a museum back then. It seemed to us that we had been somewhere abroad. Such interesting houses. It seems like nothing now, but back then it was just amazing. - And what do people think about Kirsan Ilyumzhinov now? - Many people say he's a trickster, some say he's a great guy, and some say he wanted to do it but didn't succeed. Everyone has different opinions. Personally, for example, I think that he really wanted to make a difference, but at the time he was only 30 years old, and something went wrong. - All the Buddhist temples that you see in Elista are all newly built temples that have appeared here over the last 30 years. The Soviet authorities didn't like Buddhists,
and by the 1940s there was not a single functioning datsan, which is a Buddhist temple. That is why all this beauty was built in Russia. It is the biggest Buddhist temple in Europe. It is called the Golden Abode of Buddha. Its height is 63 meters. For comparison, the height of the temple of Christ the Saviour is 103 metres. This temple complex was opened in 2005, and the construction was blessed by the Dalai Lama himself. The last time the Dalai Lama was in Kalmykia was in 2004.
After that, his visit could no longer be arranged, despite the fact that Kalmykia very much requests our Foreign Ministry to do so. But our MFA does not want to quarrel with China because, China accuses the Dalai Lama of anti-Chinese activities, because he allegedly wants to breakaway rebellious Tibet from China. Immediately there was a problem because at the entrance the rules for visiting a Buddhist temple. There are some rules that you cannot turn your back to the Buddha and so on.
Next, you can't show up in too revealing clothing. I don't know how revealing my shorts are, but in this heat I see people here wearing shorts. But the biggest problem is that you can't take photos or videos. l don't know why there's such a rule. It is unlikely that Buddha forbade taking photos and videos. And why Buddhists are banning this now isn't clear. Especially since this temple is one of the main tourist attractions. It makes sense for people to photograph it, post it and spread the glory and beauty of Kalmykia outside the region.
- The current spiritual leader of Kalmykia is quite an interesting person, Telo Tulku Rinpoche. His real name is Erndy Ombadykow, he first came to Elista in 1991 and was born in the US in a family of immigrants. - We are in the very centre of Elista now, it's a pagoda called 7 Days, and behind it is the city administration. There is an interesting story connected to the city administration in Elista. The thing is that the mayor now is Trapeznikov, who has nothing to do with Elista at all. He's a guy from the Donetsk People's Republic. Earlier when he was in Donetsk, he managed the football club Shakhtyor of that very oligarch Renat Akhmetov.
When hostilities started in Donbass, the dude joined the militia, and after Zakharchenko's death he even managed to be the leader of the DPR for a week. Well, then he got bored with the war and in 2019 he was offered the position of acting mayor of Elista. The people, of course, were furious. The dude had nothing to do with the city at all! As journalists have dug it up, it seems that Trapeznikov's candidacy for mayor of Elista was suggested by Vyacheslav Surkov himself, who was in charge of the Donbass operation. After Trapeznikov came here people began to hold rallies. And people have
very particular way here. At the beginning they arranged a big prayer-protest. That is, mantras were given to those who came to the square and they recited them. This had no effect, and after that the usual rally took place. - This is our city, this is our city, this is our city! - Well, the head of the region reassured the protesters, saying that it was a special anti-crisis option, because an outside person would have to come, unconnected to the local clans.
People have mixed opinions: some say that it's good that the guy is not from the local clans, because that would be a complete disaster. And he is a newcomer that really wants to do something, to change something, to go for promotion, because Donetsk, Elista aren't his final destinations, he wants to get a career in Russia. Others, on the contrary, cannot forgive and accept the fact that the National Republic, that Kalmykia is headed by a man from DPR with quite doubtful reputation. Judging by what we see in the city, which is difficult for me to compare, I am here for the first time, it is difficult for me to assess the success of Mr Trapeznikov.
I haven't seen any direct successes that would allow me to say: wow, how cool is this?! Well, maybe he has not been in the position of mayor for too long. - They tried to turn this situation into nationalism, that the Kalmyks are unhappy that a Russian mayor has been sent to us. But we have always had Russians in the leadership. Here we had Zotov as chairman. We understood it in such a way that
they're experimenting on us, trying to legalise those people who are considered in Europe, for example... - That he is from DPR? - Yes but it's not just that. To be honest I kind of sympathize with DPR, but they don`t recognize him there either. When Zakharchenko was killed he swore on his grave that they would find his killers. As a result, when the local prosecutor's office started to crack down on them, they all fled to Russia and are trying to legalize themselves somehow here. - 2 years have almost passed since he became mayor. What has changed?
How has he proved himself? - As mayor it's hard to say because in t he beginning he tried to be media friendly, but because of this wave of protests he deleted his Instagram page and is trying to... - Not to be seen too much. - Yes, he chose this strategy. But people like to notice that during his leadership the roads were built in 2020 and tiles were laid in the city centre. But as soon as you go 500 meters away from the city centre, old tiles are there.
It is 2021 now and nothing is being built. Even the roads that they built in a hurry, all of them started to break down in the first spring. It seems like the prosecutor's office is sorting this out. The head of the town is an epoch-forming personality, who will be written about in textbooks in 50 years. He'll be part of our history. And who will he be? There were such dubious people in the history of Russia. They are already in history. People like False Dmitry and the others. And he will be in our history too,
but I think this is a stain on our history. - Doesn't it offend you that you, the Kalmyks, don't get to choose your own governor, which means that they are sent to you from Moscow. They say that Trapeznikov, I don't know if it is true or not, was sent there by Surkov, who had to find him a job somewhere. I think this might be the problem. - How can it be offensive? Where in Russia there's a different situation? Everywhere people are appointed, everywhere they are undecided by the ordinary people. When people were outraged, there were rallies and this was one of the main demands to bring back elections and let people choose for themselves.
- Well, the elections have not been returned. Trapeznikov has been here for 2 years, the people got used to him. In other words, have they accepted him somehow or not yet? - I can say for myself that I haven't seen any positive dynamics. The fact that it works is our fault. Because if he makes a mistake it will come out,
he has no choice, he has to work, so it's impossible to check how he would work otherwise. The problems didn't go away, they're still here. It sounds wild, but there is no access to normal drinking water in Kalmykia. That's what everyone I talked to complained about in the first place.
- The most important problem is the water issue. They built the reservoir but it never functioned. We were supposed to have normal drinking water, but now it is super salty. - I'm in the Republic of Kalmykia, the city of Elista, it's the 21st century, but our water is running from the tap like this. - Just to make people understand, you can't drink water from the tap. - Yes, it is impossible, it is technical water, but we pay for it as for drinking water.
- That is, people either get water somewhere, or buy it, or filter it. - Almost every house has these water machines. In multi-storey buildings people come down with bottles, fill up, or there is water delivery. There's only one place wthere is a common filter and filtered water for this whole town. Or people often put filters for themselves.
- Is the issue not being solved? - I don't see the issue being solved. If it was, we would see that something is changing somewhere. There was supposed to be some kind of plumbing on the left side of the Kumki. In the end it turned out that it was not suitable water at all. But they want to renew it, Mishustin came and said, let's renew it. We don't need this water
from the left bank of the Kumka, if it is useless. We have our own, closer to the source. We just have to deal with the plumbing. We had built the Elista reservoir, money were allocated for it. I think someone is already in prison for this. Kobylkin, the Minister of Natural Resources, was our curator, now there's a different one. I do not know who our new curator is, but the new minister has postponed this issue until 2036 or something like that. In any case, it will be someone other than the current head of the region who will deal with it, so the issue has been postponed.
- The water pipeline in the republic has been under construction for almost a decade since 2006, they even reported to Putin on its readiness, but it has never been put into operation. The project costed $67,380,000. As a result, a criminal case was launched over the theft of almost $4,042,800 out of budget funds.
- The water situation is getting worse and worse every year. For example, many cattle breeders complain about it, and it is almost the number one problem. Wells are emptying. Earlier they used to have springs, water disappears and there is nothing to feed livestock. When there is no water - grass does not grow, cattle cannot eat well enough, and the cattle die off because of it. Because of that there is no profit in cattle breeding.
And we don't have any other industry, they ruined everything back in the 90s. We had many things, starting with a machine factory in the town of Lagan, there were many factories, a concrete factory, a meat and milk factory, poultry factories, clothing factories. Well, a lot, the production was very good. - There's no water, manufacturing is in decline, maybe the urban environment is ok? The legendary three lotuses fountain, one of the local landmarks. It's a symbol of decadence and ruins. Yes, a fountain like that was built quite recently, but as you can see, it's fallen apart. The tiles around it have fallen apart,
the fountain doesn't work and it's symbolic that it's right in front of the administration, where the head of the region is. I talk a lot about how important identity in architecture is, some kind of local history, because if we look at the new buildings being built now, the public spaces. It's all the same everywhere in the world. You look at the pictures of modern residential complexes
or public spaces, and you do not understand if it's in America, Europe, Japan or China. That's why it's very important to emphasise some kind of local identity. Here in Kalmykia, despite everything, they emphasise it. So even some new building, built of metal tiles, cheap rainscreens and so on, still have references to some kind of Buddhist architecture. There are some pagodas, some elements like that. Nonetheless it's very unconventional. But it's a bit strange for me. On the one hand, people understand that even in such super primitive architecture they have to maintain their cultural traditions. But on the other hand, why do they use these materials?
Why cannot they build with what they used to build with in the past? Why use those ugly rainscreeens? Why can't they use stone, wood, some other building materials that look much nicer, but most importantly, that age in a nice way too. I have already explained that in architecture, what is important is how it ages, how it looks in use. All these rainscreens, these horrible fences, they will look sloppy and untidy after a few years. You can see it here- the fence is rusty, all these rainscreens are dirty. I wish that good quality materials were used, so that the buildings stay in good condition for longer. Elista has a huge number of sculptures. That's because in the late 90s several sculpture festivals
took place here, along with the Chess Olympics. Sculptors from all over the world left their works here. The sculptures themselves, by the way, are relatively good, some look very nice. But again, the problem is how they age, where they stand and for what purpose. Because now many of them are just among some wastelands, abandoned areas, there are some tyres around, grass is not being trimmed, there are broken pavements and all of a sudden there's a sculpture. Here's a good example of ageing architecture. They made this metal arch and painted it beautifully. But because it's metal, it wasn't properly primed and protected, so the paint started to come off in a few years and looks very sloppy. If they had done the same with wood and
it would have looked beautiful and noble even after many years of being built. The paint would slowly fade from the wood, but it wouldn't look as sloppy as the metal one. That's why you have to think about what you're making it out of. Well, if Lukoil gave money for the playground and Elista now has a a good playground like this one, I think that's not a bad thing. It's clear that there is work to be done. Kalmykia is one of the hottest regions in Russia. The temperature record was set in this region, it is VERY hot here. Even now, it's over 30 degrees Celsius, it is hard to stand in the sun, and they needed to make
a shed for parents and children to play under. So that they don't stand in the blazing sun. But for some reason they didn't think of that. As a result, there are these benches that stand here are in the sun, and parents are hiding in the shade of this playground, sitting on some indents. I would like to see more attention and thoughtfulness in terms of playground construction. The sheds are just one of the examples. Perhaps there should be some activities with water, because it's very hot here. So maybe they should've organized some water games,
fountains or something else. And I don't see toilets anywhere yet. We love making parks, we love making some public places where people come, including those children with parents. And where to go if a child wants to go to the toilet? They'll have to go to the bushes. They've invested a lot of money in this playground, they've made a huge skate park here and there's no toilet. Such despondency everywhere that I do not want to talk, and there's nothing to say really. I mean, there are these old Soviet parks that they should take care of, but it don't seem like they really do. There's nothing that catches my eye.
The new places they build, look so bad that they're hard to look at without crying. There are some shards of civilisation somewhere. The past in the form of beautiful Soviet mosaics. But there is nothing new in terms of art. Sometimes there are some beautiful sculptures that were brought here during the festival at the end of the 90s. So it's understandable why people leave. In other words, ir doesn't feel like there's potential for development. How to do business, how to develop? I mean the city is tiny. It's all rather sad, of course.
This is the legendary Friendship Park in Elista. More than 3 years ago they decided to reconstruct it, for which they even allocated $267,000. In the end, it was an absolute disgrace: the trees were cut down, everything was rolled up in tarmac, so it looked terrible. It didn't stop local officials from throwing an awesome party to mark the opening.
I criticized it. And, surprisingly enough, the prosecutor's office opened a criminal case for embezzlement and fraud on a particularly large scale. After that they redid it a few more times and now we'll see what they ended up with. But as it seems from here, it's not much better.
What do we see here? We see tulip poles, we see some stalls. It would seem that there is nothing wrong with them, if these stalls were in some more or less unified style. But they, unfortunately, you see, are not regulated in any way, so it doesn't look good.
And on top of that, people are playing their own music at every corner here. They've made a white line along the path. So if we assume that people are riding bikes here, it happens right near the stalls and creates a lot of conflicts with upcoming people.
But here you can clearly see how outdated their idea of what a park should be is. There's Gorky Park in Moscow and that's how it looked years ago. There were boozers, trampolines, amusement rides, music playing everywhere and all of that sort. It was like that in the 90s. There was no single design style, no single concept, no single idea of what a modern park should be like. And here, in Elista, they've just recently invested thousands to build a park here.
Apparently they wanted to be proud of it, but they're building something that was already obsolete in the 1990s. What they are creating today is a ghost of the past, So they're just wasting the money. To be honest, they just have to put up a construction fence and redo the whole place from the ground up. And in order to make a good park, you not only need to allocate money for tarmac and benches, you have to invite good designers, and there are many companies in Russia today that understand what a good landscaping is. And so, this is the end of Friendship Park, the finish line: garbage dumps, a broken road, the end of friendship.
Here we come back to the inexplicable urge to invest in PR rather than people. Instead of another super-project, they could have built a great cycling infrastructure and a barrier-free environment so that it would be comfortable and safe to walk around the city. They could have built a good playground and repaired the courtyards, but as we see there's not a single public toilet in Elista. It's a humiliating situation, and everyone is used to it. No one even pays attention to these little things, it's not customary for us to invest in such projects for people, because every ruler wants to make history. At least on the level of Peter the Great. They don't just want to leave a mark, they wants to leave THE mark.
Is it possible to make history by making a comfortable city and providing people with a decent life? No. But if you put up some useless thing that nobody wants, that's another matter. People will talk about it, it won't make anyone happy, but the main thing is to be stuck-up, not be good. For example, they built a chess town in Elista for some reason, but people are still trying to surviving because they can barely make ends meet. - To be honest, you come here and it feels like you're travelling back 15-20 years back, because it feels like the early 90s.
- You haven't been to our centre yet. Have you ever been to the market? It's looks like we're in the 90s there, minus 30-something years. - Doesn't it offend you that you stand still, that nothing changes like this? - It is a shame, of course. - And why is it so, who is to blame?
- The government is to blame, of course. - And what do you mean by the government? - The head and the Mayor's office. - The local head and the local Mayor's office, not those in Moscow, right? - Yes, our local government. To develop these territories, urban areas,
so there would be some good public spaces, we need money for that. Then, we have to have to apply for some kind of public grants to attract some federal projects and work on it somehow. I understand that the republic's budget has very little money to build good facilities or parks and refurbish them. That's why we put people in charge, to get them thinking. - Do YOU put them in power though? - We don't actually, you're right. It doesn't depend on me. Now I'm going to a meeting with Batu Khasikov, the head of the Republic of Kalmykia.
He's quite an interesting person, a famous kickboxer. Elista really gives the impression of a very unkempt city. We are in the centre now, the city administration is here and the government of the Republic is literally just a few hundred metres away. But we are walking here and there are some strange stumps here; there are bushes and some kerbs in them. Looks like this part was just left here. Some old rusty fences. It's like that everywhere. You look up, there's some wires hanging. I don't know if they're supposed to hang like that or not. And there is a general untidiness everywhere. You can see that the city is not taken care of, even in the centre. There are overfilled trash cans,
all these bushes and grass that need to be trimmed. What is this? Why is it so? It is not clear. I opened the map to check - it is exactly 200 meters to the government house. Here stands, it seems to me super symbolic, some abandoned, rotten bus with Elista written on it, which just perfectly illustrates what's going on here. The general neglect of the city. The fact that no one is doing anything here. And people are asking, Ilya, what do you think of our urban environment, what do you think of our city? Look, guys, it's really neglected. It is decades behind in its development. It just stopped somewhere in the 90s. There's nothing going on here and
you have to start somewhere. And they say straight away that they don't have the money, we can't do anything, so it's going to be like this. The question then is: you may remove trash, or at least hide an abandoned bus that shouldn't be here? There should not be a rotten bus standing 200 metres away from the government building. We went to one of the main attractions, which everyone is proud of - it's a lonely poplar tree. It is located 30 km away from Elista, in the steppe. It's an amazing poplar. It is considered
the most beautiful tree in Russia, by the way. What happens when you go to that poplar? There are some abandoned, rusty wind turbines. Someone did not succeed in using renewable sources and now they are standing there, abandoned. Why they are standing there? If they are abandoned, they need to be taken down, turned in for scrap metal, or dismantled somehow. If they can't be turned down, fine, turn them into some kind of art-object. Take some paint, pink or green, paint it, give it to artists, and they'll be happy to come up with something, some kind of artwork, and so on. You can always find a solution,
but it should not be so neglected. You had flowers at home, they wilted. What are you going to do? You take them and throw them away, so they don't rot in this vase and don't spoil the look of your home. You throw them away and that's it. In Elista they keep those flowers and they say: well, we don't have money for new flowers, so these rotten, wilted, old guys are just staying. Well, if there's no money, let there be no flowers at all. And, of course, you need to actively improve the city. Of course, we need to look for a solution. Kalmykia is one of the poorest regions. There isn't a lot of money here, and so on, but you can come up with inexpensive solutions. You can come up with spectacular solutions.
Even with this bus. You can't take it away from here, can't dismantle it? Wrap it in cloth, make a ribbon, make it look like a big present and write, "We have a bus here!". You can always be creative, especially as I see a lot of young people here with fire in their eyes. And maybe, perhaps, even these solutions to the problems that are now in Elista can be a challenge, and this can be a growth point, an opportunity to for career growth Including for young people who live here and do not want to leave. We are getting closer and closer to the government house. It's just 100 metres away,
and this is what the road looks like close the government house. It's been raining and now there are puddles and the water won't go anywhere. I don't know how we can cross this street now. - How do you like the city, do you like it? - Honestly? There's work to be done. - Quite right. Please point it out in your reports. I live on 18 Gorky Street which is literally the centre of the city. No one is taking care of the garbage, no one's taking away the waste.
The centre is not too bad, but the rest is in a terrible condition. - My God, what is this?! This, my friends, is the best illustration of profanity, which is written in all of our government, requirements, when it is done with real care, for example, for the disabled and so on, and when everything is done for show-off, just so it's there. A stunning entrance, which is designed, apparently, in strict accordance with all the norms, What do we see here? The sign. In two languages it says:
Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation Federal Budgetary Educational Institution of Higher Professional Education Kalmyk State University. For those who have not understood, the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation Federal State Budgetary Educational Institution of Higher Professional Education Kalmyk State University named after, as we see now, Gorodovikov. This is an academic building number 6, Institute of Kalmyk Philology and Oriental Studies. For those who haven't understood, it is again written that it is the Gorodovikov State University, Study Building Number Six. And its details: Taxpayer Identification Number, State Registration Number, just in case. Of course, it is super important to have all the bank details at the entrance.
Suddenly, if a blind man wants to find out TIN and STN, they will be able to read using Braille. Of course, we care about people with low mobility and the blind, so there is an entrance that looks like the entrance to a nuclear waste repository, there are special lights that show that there is an entrance. It all looks really disgusting. You could have made a small sign here, saying - Kalmyk State University - and that would have been enough.
All this rubbish doesn't help in any way. And all this is crowned by this stunning ramp that they have made out of slippery tiles which not just won't help the handicapped, but a healthy person won't be able to get down it. Such a profanity. Yeah, it's all just for show. You can't really use any of these 'useful things'. And of course all this makes the city less pleasant, because such an entrance makes the city look ugly it does not bring any benefit to anyone, it does not help, no one gets better from it. But it's done according to the rules. Even if you kind of take away the fact that there are broken tiles, but why can't you sweep up and just clear away the rubbish? There's a ministry here and everything is littered with plastic cups. How did this happen? What's going on here? These cups are so cleverly hidden, you can't see them clearly from the Republic head's window.
It seems to me that they were just looking through the window and saw that this is area needs to look clean, so they swept it and they hid the rest as if it can be left there. Because the head of the republic doesn't see them. I think this is the best illustration of what's going on here. - Look, they are shutting this here for the night. - It's due to hooliganism, light alcoholic beverages. - So you think if a hooligan wants to come in here they'll just walk up and say, "Ahhhh, it's closed, what will I do! All right, I'm going to bed, I'm not going to do anything bad".
- Well, at least it'll stop someone. - Take down this unnecessary fence, because it's not needed here, and instead of this awful fence that you have to paint every year, that you spend money on... with the money you save, you can stick new tiles in here, so they don't look as bad, or give the janitor a nickel to finally clean up those plastic cups. If you want I can go and clean up those cups, you'll have a cleaner town then. - Well, you bin those cups, then you go find some more. No, it's a permanent story. - It's permanent because you don't clean them up.
The swings are amazing, by the way. The swings are great. I think, they're not very expensive, right. I can see that they are welded from some beams from somewhere around here, but they look cool, because I immediately understand that this is something local. The back facade of the government house looks like something destroyed during the war, when they show where refugees live or something. Some parts look like they're going to collapse, windows are shut, so it's kind of creepy. - Greetings, good to see you! - Hello, hello! - This is Rocky. A totally great dog. - The interesting thing is that people are leaving.
- I think they're leaving primarily because there aren't enough jobs, the living conditions are harsh. - Hello, Black! A real Black. - In this sense, our region is one of the 10 regions with a low level of socio-economic development.
This is directly related to the fact that we are implementing programmes from the government's point of view. I am talking about national projects, the second thing is the creation of an investment climate. The Republic has its own resources, including those that have not worked for the benefit of the republic the Republic itself, for many years. Of course there is a task to fix it. Having been here you have seen that a lot of interesting things can be done, and probably not everything rests on big money, but simply on a certain vision.
- Everyone says it's bad here. And really compared to other cities, to other regions, it is bad. But this can be a good starting point, because I believe that people leave in the first place it's because... well I have travelled all over Russia and been to many places and tried to understand why people are leaving. When we are talking about young people, money is not that important for them. If we look at Europe - they live there in hostels. First of all, the opportunity for self-development
is important for young people. Money is not so important. You can earn money in Vorkuta, the salaries there are twice as high as in Moscow. Well, no one goes to Vorkuta. And, when there are so many problems, if you combine this with the demand of young people for some kind of self-development it will be very great.
- We want, or rather are already seriously engaged in landscaping. In Soviet times, the forest cover of the republic was 2%. Today it is 0.2%. Can you imagine that? - Everything has been cut down, right? - They didn't take care of it in the 1990s, you see. And now the task is that if we are able to restore at least 1%, the region will look completely different. Apart from that, we want to start implementing the so-called Clear Skies program.
- Do you want to get rid of wires? - Yes, we need to get rid of them. There are not enough bicycle lanes here. People need them and the climate allows it, but there is no infrastructure. - I guess a pack of stray dogs in the park isn't very cool either. - Yeah. - And in terms of tourism development, they say that there will be an airport here in 2 years, it will be wonderful. But what does a person
coming to visit you right now see? They see an old airport, which is quite unpleasant. Some rusty luggage reclaiming belts. And that is their first impression. So a person's first emotion is - where did I get to? Instead of having the emotion - wow, how cool. What to do with this airport so that it would be: wow, what a cool place? Put some kind of yurt there and make tourists welcome and give them Kalmykian tea. People will be like: wow, amazing, how did they think of this? They'll post it on Instagram and attract more people. Listen, nowhere in Russia there's such a welcome as in Hawaii - you come, they put a wreath on you, and people immediately get emotional. Or even in that hall where the arrivals are,
where that rusty belt is, just make a sign saying "Welcome! We have an old airport, we're sorry, it will be new soon, but meanwhile, enjoy the beautiful views of Kalmykia". - A sort of harmless self-irony. - Yes, you can change attitudes in such a simple way. - All right, let's take it from here. Like this. Now I'm showing you
a little bit slower, so you can repeat it. Right... one, two, three! - Right arm first, yeah? - Yes, right arm first and then the leg. - Well, look, the technique's not great yet, but he's a tough guy! - I'll show from this side. Like this. Martial arts have their own culture, philosophy and deep thought. I am grateful to my mentors who cultivated it in me. Not just skills to defend yourself or to attack, but a way of constant self-improvement.
You keep strengthening your inner core there, your balance both psychologically and physically. - It probably helps when you come to Moscow to get money or the city, there's a queue of governors and other leaders. You don't have to wait in line, everyone because as soon as they look at you, they let you go first without any questions. - I've never used it literally, of course, but maybe it works on some energy level, I don't know. - During a trip to Kalmykia, I asked locals what the republic is proud of. I have to say that this question left everyone stumped.
- What can Kalmykia be proud of today? - It is an interesting question. Of course, we can be proud of our past. But they say one should not live in the past. But the past is something you can build on. Gumilev said that he respects two peoples - the North American Indians and the Ayrats. That is, those peoples who prefer death to slavery. The Indians are extinct. The Ayrats all died out when they were caught between China and Russia, and we still need to be proud of our past in order to remain in the agenda of the modern world in today's realities. Because if there was a war before, the brain is set up so that business is the same as war.
We just need to readjust. A lot of people around the world gave readjusted. We have many Kalmyk top managers in Russia and around the world, but we have to find some here, but without the right leadership it is hard to do. We try to do something up-down as entrepreneurs. We've done what needs to be done from our side. - I don't want to end the reel about Elista on a sad note. Yes, the region is poor;
yes, things are bad, but something has to be done about it. There are still interesting projects in the region, both large-scale infrastructure projects and very small ones, but nonetheless important. The first category includes, for example, the construction of the largest solar power plant in Russia. Right now,
the biggest solar power plant is in Crimea, built back in 2011 before all the well-known events. The new power plant in Kalmykia was scheduled to be up