Buddhism in Kalmykia
The Kalmyks are the only nation of Europe of Mongol origin, and the only one whose national religion is Buddhism. They live in the Republic of Kalmykia, a federal subject of the Russian Federation. It has borders with the Republic of Dagestan in the south; the Stavropol Krai in the southwest; the Rostov Oblast and the Volgograd Oblast in the west and the northwest, respectively. Its eastern border is the Astrakhan Oblast.
The Kalmyks are the descendants of several Oirat tribes that migrated to Europe during the early part of the 17th century. As Tibetan Buddhists, the Kalmyks regard His Holiness the Dalai Lama as their spiritual leader. The Šajin Lama (Supreme Lama) of the Kalmyks is Erdne Ombadykow, a Philadelphia-born man of Kalmykian origin who was brought up as a Buddhist monk in a Tibetan monastery in India from the age of seven and who was recognized by the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the Buddhist saint Telo Rinpoche. Ombdaykow divides his time between living in Colorado and living in Kalmykia.
Kalmyk political refugees opened their first Buddhist temple in Central Europe, located in Belgrade, Serbia. Their offspring relocated to the United States in late 1951 and early 1952, where they established several Kalmyk Buddhist temples in Monmouth County, New Jersey. Geshe Wangyal, a Kalmyk Buddhist monk, established the Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center and monastery in Washington, NJ.