Research Expedition to Kalmykia for Your Touch, So Foreign

August 13, 2017 - Design / Design Research / Jasmijn Visser / Kalmykia / Krasnoyarsk Biennale / Research / Research Expedition

Research expedition to Kalmykia in the context of our project ‚Your Touch, So Foreign‘ commissioned by Krasnoyarsk Museum Center, July 2017.

The result will be exhibited during Krasnoyarsk Biennale in October 2017.


In collaboration with Jasmijn Visser.

Supported by the Embassy of the Netherlands in Russia.



We are on our way to Kalmykia for our research project Your Touch, So Foreign. This research was commissioned by the Krasnoyarsk Biennale 2017 and is kindly supported by the Dutch Embassy in Moscow. Follow us on our way!


Kalmykia is a republic situated north west from the Caspian Sea. The Kalmyk are buddhists, descendent of Mongol Oirats which migrated to this region around 1630.


Towards the end of the 19th century, the Kalmyk were featured at various world fairs, such as ‘Völkerschau’. During the Imperial International Exhibition at White City in London 1909, Russia exhibited a Kalmyk camp, alongside a Dahomy camp exhibited by France.


Kalmykia against Terror


During the Soviet era, Kalmyk language was banned. Almost 70 years later, during the period of perestroika, it was allowed again. Due to the Soviet ban, Kalmyk is presently endangered as a living language. Sound designer Ben Burtt used the Mongolian-related Kalmyk as a starting point to develop the language of the Ewoks, for the Star Wars film ‘Return of the Jedi’.


In general, Russian culture inspired the designers of Star Wars, for example: this costume worn by the character Padme in ‘Attack of the Clones’ as seen on the right.


Fascinating interview with Lev and Roza, sharing their experiences of their deportation to Siberia. In 1943 the full population of Kalmykia had been deported, including the soldiers serving at the frontline. Only in 1957 they had been allowed to return to their motherland.


After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Kalmyk language was allowed again, as well as practicing Buddhism. In an attempt to re-ignite the cultural identity, first Kalmyk president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov spent millions promoting chess as the national sport, making it a compulsory subject in all primary schools.


Kalmyk culture knows many influences, such as Mongol, Russian, Turkish. Within these combinations a unique embroidery pattern called ‘zeg’ appears on traditional clothing. Introducing the #zegswag.