Seminar – 29 October – Valeriya Gazizova

October 22nd, 2019 by anna.c


Tuesday 29 October 2019

4.30–6.00 Mond Building Seminar Room

Valeriya Gazizova

University of Cambridge

Buddhist, Soviet and Kalmyk: ‘Secret’ Lamas of Late Socialism, Their Loci of Worship and Patterns of Transmission

The talk explores the construction of public memories and proliferating cults of dissident Buddhist lamas who secretly conducted ritual services and healed by means of Tibetan Buddhist medicine during the Soviet period in Kalmykia, southwest Russia. The Stalinist purges in the 1930s erased the Buddhist establishment from the public scene, and until the late 1980s, Buddhism and indigenous forms of popular worship and healing remained illegal in Soviet Kalmykia. Despite the state suppression, unofficial Buddhist centres were functioning around former monks, who had received a clerical education (in Russia or abroad) before the anti-religious campaigns and survived years in Gulag prison-camps. Some of these underground Buddhists were ascribed special healing and visionary powers, with stories about their magic abilities abounding. Their deification is now a vivid tendency both on the level of popular religiosity and reconstructed Buddhist institutions, being actively deployed in Kalmyk Buddhist politics. The talk shall address broader topics of ‘secrecy’ and ‘publicity’, as well as the questions of deification, special attainment and secret transmission in Tibetan Buddhism. Exploring the relationship between memory, history and identity formation, I shall feature contemporary Kalmyk representations of both ‘Tibet’ and the ‘Soviet’ as imaginary elsewhere spaces which have become instrumental in constructing what is now often defined as the ‘authentic Kalmyk religion’.

MIASU Reading & Research Group Launch

October 15th, 2019 by anna.c

Tuesday 29 October & Tuesday 26 November 2019

2.00 pm,  Mond Building Seminar Room

We are pleased to announce the launch of the ‘MIASU Reading & Research Group’.

We will meet twice a term, to discuss either articles and chapters written by members of the group, or literature relevant to group members’ research interests. The group will welcome all students (undergrads/masters/PhDs), scholars (junior & eminent) and anyone with interest in the region. It is envisioned to facilitate the further development of the MIASU-related intellectual community.

The relevant literature will be circulated well in advance of the sessions. The michaelmas term sessions will be held on the 29th October & 26th November at 2pm in the Mond seminar room. Please note both sessions occur just before the MIASU research seminars, so we encourage participants to attend both.

If you would like to participate, please email Joe Ellis ( to be included in the mailing list and make sure you receive the reading. If you are keen to contribute to the group this academic year by sharing and discussing a draft article/chapter, please get in touch.


Seminar – 15 October – Edward Holland & Elvira Churyumova

October 10th, 2019 by anna.c


Tuesday 15 October 2019

4.30–6.00 Mond Building Seminar Room

Edward Holland & Elvira Churyumova

University of Arkansas, Visiting Fellow, Wolfson College,University of Cambridge & MIASU

Kalmyk Refugees and the Narration of Displacement in Post-World War II Europe

The October Revolution and Second World War led to the displacement of Kalmyks from Russia to Europe. The first wave of emigrants left Russia at the conclusion of the civil war; the second wave followed on the heels of the retreating German army in 1943. The experiences that resulted are documented in the archives of the International Tracing Service (ITS), which collected information on those displaced by World War II. Included in the ITS record are questionnaires from displaced persons camps, including by the UNRRA (T/USA forms, 1946) and the International Refugee Organization (1948-1951). Using the ITS archive as the primary source, this paper interrogates the manner in which Kalmyks narrated their lived experiences prior to and during the Second World War, identifying consistencies and inconsistencies in these narrations. We foreground the concept of legibility in discussing the various strategies used by Kalmyks to negotiate the international regime for managing displacement that emerged after the war. For the Kalmyks, this sense of displacement would continue through the early 1950s, when the group was given permission to settle in the United States as refugees. The narrative that emerged in the DP camps served as the basis for defining the Kalmyks abroad, providing a unified and sanctified origin story for the community in diaspora.

Michaelmas Term – Seminar Programme

October 8th, 2019 by anna.c

Please see below for this term’s programme which begins on Tuesday October 15th 2019.

Research Seminars are held in the Mond Building Seminar Room, Free School Lane, Cambridge, CB2 3RF from 4.30–6.00


Visiting Scholars – Michaelmas Term 2019

September 26th, 2019 by anna.c

Michaelmas Term 2019

We welcome the following visiting scholars this term –

January 2018 – December 2019: Valeriya Gazizova, post doctoral research associate working on her project:
‘Clandestine Buddhism’ in Soviet Kalmykia (1958-1988) and its role in the post-Soviet Buddhist revival’. The project is funded by the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation in Buddhist Studies

September 2019 – November 2019: Mari Valdur,  PhD student, University of Helsinki, working on her project:
‘Abortion and the Bone Marrow: Womanhood and (In)formality at the Margins of Kinship in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’. The project is funded by the Doctoral School of Humanities and Social Sciences (HYMY).

September 2019 – September 2021: Zhou Yong, University of Oslo, working on his postdoctoral research:
Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) and Natural Resources Exploitation: Institutionalizing Indigenous Peoples´ Rights in China” funded by the Research Council of Norway

October 2019 – December 2019: Zhanna Yusha, visiting scholar from the Russian Academy of Sciences, researching her topic:
‘Myth and ritual of the Tuvans of China, Russia and Mongolia’ funded by the Sigrid Rausing Scholarly Exchange Programme