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What sets Kalmykia apart from its neighbors is the fact that it is the only Buddhist territory in Europe. Russians adopted the name Kalmyk from the Tatars in the 16th century and the Russians later learned about name Oyirad, which had come from the Mongols. There is a very common misunderstanding that the Kalmyks are "western Mongols". This is analogous to calling Englishmen Germans just because both languages (English and German) belongs to the Germanic language group. Kalmyks, in fact, are not Mongols. The two culture have their own histories. Kalmyks (not Mongols) controlled a vast area known as Grand Tartary or the Kalmyk Empire to Westerners, which stretched from the Great Wall of China to the River Don, and from the Himalayas to Siberia.|
The European steppes always were much more productive than the Asian steppes since they get more moisture from the Atlantic. It is why all powerful nomads from Central Asia were always trying to conquer European plains. Hungarians (Kalmyks call them Uugr) in the 8th century, Tatars (Kalmyks call them Mangyd) in the 13th century, and Kalmyks (Kalmyks call themself Dörvn Öörd—The Allied Four) in the 17th century—all of them were driven to Europe because of its rich pastureland.
So, the Torghuud chief Khoo Örlög decided to move westward in the beginning of 17th century. But not because to a mythical internal struggle of the Kalmyks created by the Khoshuud tribe. Khoo Örlög was not a refugee. He led the Torghuuds and part of Dörvuuds. Khoshuuds and Ölööds have joined them almost century later. Kalmyks reached as far as the steppes of southeast Europe in 1630. That land was not empty. It was homeland of very powerful Nogay Hordes. But under pressure of Kalmyk warriors, Nogays fled to the Crimea and the Kuban river. All other nomads in European steppes became vassals of Kalmyk Khan.
Kalmyks settled not only around Astrakhan on the Volga delta. Kalmyk domain has spreaded from Ural to Terek river. And they still kept a close bond with the Kalmyks in their Central Asian homeland. Allied with Russia, Torghuud flourished there during the reign of Ayuki Khan, who was given the title of Khan by the 6th Dalai Lama.
In the late 18th century, they were disillusioned with increasing Russian interference. The Kalmyk Khan and Ayuki's great-grandson Ubashi decided to return to their homeland. By Khan's order about 200,000 Kalmyks started their unprecedented march to Central Asia. After almost seven months Kalmyks successfully reached Manchurian outposts near the Balkhash Lake. The opinion about the hazardous journey home, that only small number survived was created by Imperial Russian propaganda.
(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalmucks )