Saga BougdaevaFeb 13, 2023
Jangar: The Heroic Epic of the Kalmyk Nomads
An interview with Dr. Saga Bougdaeva
University of California Press 2023
Saga Bougdaeva is the translator of the first English version of Jangar (University of California Press, 2023), the heroic epic of the Kalmyk nomads. The Kalmyks are the Western Mongols of Genghis Khan’s medieval empire in Europe. Today, Kalmykia is situated in the territory that was once the Golden Horde, founded by Genghis Khan son’s Juchi. Although their famed khanates and cities have long since disappeared under the sands of the Great Eurasian Steppe, the Kalmyks have witnessed, memorized, and orally transmitted some of the most transformative developments, both victorious and tragic, in the history of civilizations. A tribute to the protectors of the mythical country Bumba, Jangar reflects the hopes and aspirations of the Kalmyk people as well as their centuries-long struggle for cultural survival. Dr. Bougdaeva’s translation is more than a tribute to the artistic creativity and imagination of the Kalmyk people—it is also an important step in their struggle for cultural survival. It was only after centuries of oral transmission that the songs and stories surrounding Jangar were written down. When the first translation, into Russian, finally appeared, Stalin had the entire Kalmyk population deported to Siberia and ordered that their national literature be eliminated from the published world. This Soviet repression has had enormous consequences for world literature, silencing nomadic voices and keeping hidden their distinctive contributions.
Maggie Freeman is a PhD student in the School of Architecture at MIT. She researches uses of architecture by nomadic peoples and historical interactions of nomads and empires, with a focus on the modern Middle East.