Sanj talks about the history of the Torghuts in Kalmykia. According to him, there are several versions of the etymology of the ethnonym Torghut. In the view of the French scholar Paul Pelliot, it derives from the Turkic verb ‘tur’ (to stand) + the plural suffix. The Secret History of Mongols writes that in the beginning turgak kishg, who were Chingis Khan’s bodyguards during the day, consisted of 80 men. After 1206, their number grew to ten thousand. The bodyguards were divided into three groups, including turgak (day guards), keptyul (ni (...)
Sanj talks about the history of the Torghuts in Kalmykia. According to him, there are several versions of the etymology of the ethnonym Torghut. In the view of the French scholar Paul Pelliot, it derives from the Turkic verb ‘tur’ (to stand) + the plural suffix. The Secret History of Mongols writes that in the beginning turgak kishg, who were Chingis Khan’s bodyguards during the day, consisted of 80 men. After 1206, their number grew to ten thousand. The bodyguards were divided into three groups, including turgak (day guards), keptyul (night guards) and khorchin (bowmen). Apart from providing personal security to the Khan, these guards also served as policemen. In other words, the ethnonym Torghut derives from the word turgak. The contemporary Torghut, however, are not the same as the historical Torghuts. The Torghuts joined the Oirats, which was a feeble union of tribes, in the 14-15th centuries. When the Mongol Empire was split into five khanates, the Oirats were part of a force that opposed Kublai Khan. Following the collapse of the Yuan Dynasty (founded by Kublai), a civil war broke out among the Mongols. Although, according to the established convention it was only the direct descendants of Chingis Khan who had the right to the throne, the Oirat lords started to challenge the status quo. In the 15-16th centuries in their struggle with the Eastern Mongols, the Oirat union suffered defeat after defeat, which prompted their leaders to call a meeting (chulgan) in order to strengthen the union. Despite internal struggles, the union had a centripetal tendency under the leadership of the lords from the Tsoros clan. Nevertheless, several tribes, or clans, left the union and moved westwards. According to Soviet sources, the first among the Oirats to arrive in the Volga region was the Torghut lord Kho-Urlyuk of the Keryad clan. Recent studies, however, dispute this view and show instead that it was the Khoshud lords who first came to this region. The Derbet lord Dalai Taishi was the next to arrive in the Volga. Various Oirat groups thus settled in the territory of today’s Astrakhan, near the Volga, displacing the indigenous Nogais whom the Russians used as a buffer force against foreign tribes. So, when the Derbets drew the Nogais out of their land, the Russians were not in a position to defend their vassals. The third wave of Oirat arrival took place when the Torghuts headed by Kho-Urlyuk’s older son, Luuzang, came to the Volga. Once settled, Luuzang carried out a policy to attract into his dominion various Turkic tribes, including the Tatars, Nogais and Tomuts. According to Nikita Bichurin, the Tomuts were a mix of Tatars and Bashkirs who had a religion that was also a mix of various religions, including shamanism, Buddhism and Islam. During the Oirat/Kalmyk settlement, half of the Tomuts dissolved among the Oirats, while the other half left for Crimea, becoming the Crimean Tatars. Sanj Khoyt says he wrote an article about hybridization, or ethnic mixing in Kalmykia. According to his research, the Kalmyks mixed with many ethnic groups, including Russians, Kazakhs, and peoples from the Caucasus. Hybridization took place among all social strata, including the aristocracy and ordinary people alike. Ordos (China) is the motherland of the Torghuts. According to available genetic and ethnographic data, they were most likely Eastern Mongols. After joining the Oirat union, the Torghuts, who consisted of Mongol and Turkic tribes, were headed by the Keryad clan. The Torghuts reached the Volga region through Central Asia while incorporating on their way various clans and tribes. Hence their colorful composition. The Torghuts differ from the Derbets both in terms of their dialect and customs. In the Volga region all these groups – the Torghuts, Khoshuds, Zyungar, Khoit, etc. – came to be known under the umbrella term of Kalmyk. Owing to widespread Russification, today the difference among various Kalmyk groups is negligible. With the passage of time, some Kalmyks, especially impoverished individuals, engaged in fishing. Those Kalmyks who lived close to the Volga and the Caspian Sea became good fishermen. Historically, the majority of Kalmyks were Torghuts, which means that the Kalmyk Khanate was in fact a Torghut Khanate. Hence, the Kalmyk Khan Ayuka described himself in his letters as a Torghut Khan. When in 1771 the majority of the Kalmyks, or Torghuts, set out on a return journey to Dzungaria, the number of the Torghuts that remained in Kalmykia diminished accordingly. When the Khanate was abolished by the Russian government as a consequence of this exodus, the Tundutov family of the Choros clan of the Derbet were appointed as representatives of the Russian administration among the Kalmyks. Historically, the Torghuts participated in religious wars. When Kagyu and Gelug schools of Buddhism fought with each other in Tibet, the Oirats supported Gelug, while the Khalkhas, or Mongols, supported Kagyu. It is known that a contingent of Torghut soldiers from the Volga reached Zungaria and Tibet. After their military campaign, they returned home.