Photo: Viktor Batyrovich Okchayev and Dmitriy Sergejevich

Viktor Batyrovich Okchayev and Dmitriy Sergejevich Sharayev near Elista, Kalmykia

Photograph by Chris Rainier

The Enduring Voices team visited Kalmykia in May 2012. Their goals included: observing and reporting on language revitalization, meeting and interviewing Kalmyk culture experts, recording Kalmyk stories and songs, and recruiting participants for the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Prior to this expedition, National Geographic Fellow David Harrison met with the Kalmyk diaspora community in Howell, New Jersey, and observed their success in maintaining their Buddhist religious practice, language, and culture. Despite considerable odds, the Kalmyk language, culture, and religion—all intimately connected with the Kalmyk's self-identity—have endured.

Click here to read a full report of the 2012 Kalmykia, Russia Expedition. (PDF)

See Photos from the Expedition

Share

Related Features

  • Picture of a Kalmyk wood-carver

    Kalmykia Photos

    Scenes of skilled craftsmen, meditative priests, and dedicated performers reveal the faces behind the stories the team brought back. In these images, the Kalmyk language, culture, and people spring to life.

  • Photo: Viktor Ochayev and Dmitri Sharayev play the dombura

    Cultural Revival in Europe’s Only Buddhist Region

    The Enduring Voices team visited the Republic of Kalmykia, in European Russia, where they found evidence of a strong cultural revitalization among the younger generation, expressed in song, dance, poetry, and renewed use of the Kalmyk language.

  • Photo: Speakers of Xyzyl

    NG Explorers Help Record Xyzyl Language

    The Enduring Voices team reports back on the Xyzyl (pronounced “hizzle”) language from the Republic of Xakasia northwest of Mongolia. They will be working with the Xyzyl people to create a talking dictionary and grammar to help them preserve their ancient tongue.



  • Speakers of a ''hidden'' language speak with researchers.

    Hidden Language Recorded

    A language previously unknown to linguists, and spoken by about 800 people, has been documented in the mountains of northeast India.

  • Photo: Screenshot from Enduring Voices expedition video

    Expedition Video

    The Enduring Voices Project travels to some of the most remote parts of the world to study Earth's many endangered languages.

Meet the Team

  • Photo: Greg Anderson

    Gregory Anderson, Linguist

    Dr. Gregory D. S. Anderson is a linguist who is director of the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the documentation, revitalization, and maintenance of endangered languages.

  • Photo: David Harrison

    David Harrison, Linguist

    K. David Harrison is a linguist and leading specialist in the study of endangered languages. He co-leads the Enduring Voices project at National Geographic and is an associate professor at Swarthmore College.

  • Photo: Chris Rainier, photographer

    Chris Rainier,
    Photographer

    Chris Rainier is considered one of the leading documentary photographers working today. His life's mission is to put on film both the remaining natural wilderness and indigenous cultures around the globe and to use images to create social change.

Take a Nat Geo Trip

Select a destination or trip type to find a trip:

See All Trips »

Living Tongues

The Enduring Voices Project represents a partnership between National Geographic Mission Programs and the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages.

Talking Dictionaries

  • Image: Tuva flag

    Hear the world's rarest languages for yourself in the Talking Dictionaries that the Enduring Voices Project has created with various communities around the world.

Support Enduring Voices

Ethics Statement

The Last Speakers

  • Photo: Cover of "Last Speakers" book

    The Last Speakers

    The poignant chronicle of K. David Harrison’s expeditions around the world to meet with last speakers of vanishing languages.

     

    "The Last Speakers" is now published in Japanese. Read the interview with Dr. Harrison here and purchase the Japanese edition here.

Order the English Edition »