Calmucks, a people of the Mongol race, inhabiting parts of the Russian and Chinese empires. They were formerly called Eleutes; the Tartars call them Khalimik, or apostates; and they call themselves Derben Eret, or the Four Allies. There are four tribes: the Kho-shots, who inhabit eastern Thibet and chiefly the environs of the Koko Nor, which they regard as their native seat; the Dzungars, giving their name to the country of Dzungaria, and formerly the richest and most powerful; the Der-bets, or Tchoros, who migrated from Dzungaria in 1621, established themselves on the upper Tobol, became vassals of Russia, and during the last century took possession of the steppe between the Don and the Volga, and are associated with the Cossacks of the Don; and the Torgots, or primitive tribe of Dzungaria, who migrated to the Volga to the number of 55,-000 families in 1662, but, in consequence of vexations received from Russian agents, returned in 1771 to the banks of the Emba. The Calmucks are described as one of the ugliest in appearance of all the tribes of men. They are of medium size, robust and broad in the shoulders.
Their complexion is swarthy, face flat, fissure of the eyelids narrow and oblique, and the eyes small, black, and far apart; nose depressed, nostrils wide, lips thick and protruding, teeth white and regular, ears long and prominent, head large and flat, and hair coarse and black. They have bow legs, with the feet turned in toward each other. Their ugliness is their title to purity of race. The marriages that some of the Cossacks have contracted with them have produced handsome women. Their language is harsh and abounds in gutturals. They are descendants of the Scythian barbarians of antiquity, and perhaps of the Huns who under Attila terrified the nations of Europe as much by their hideous aspect as by their ferocity. A small number of the Calmucks have adopted Christianity or Mohammedanism, but the religion of the great majority of them is the Lamaic form of Buddhism, with some variations of their own, under the supremacy of the Dalai Lama of Thibet. They are taught to obey their parents, and to treat their wives and elders with respect. Theft is punishable by castigation, and murder for the first two times by fine and branding.
The Calmucks are nomads, moving about in Miotons (tribes). Their tents are of a conical shape; the floor is covered with a carpet of felt, and in winter with the skins of animals. The household idols are placed on a kind of altar made of bags, coffers, and horse equipage. Their costume consists of a long caftan, a short jacket, trousers, and boots. Their arms are bows and arrows, scimetars, and lances; they rarely use guns, although gunpowder has been known to them from time immemorial. Divorce is forbidden by law, but usage allows a man to send away his wife. At eight years of age the boys are sent to the priest, who teaches them to read and write. They marry early, the males at 15, the females at 13. The marriage ceremony consists in the couple holding a shoulder of mutton wrapped in a cloth, and pledging their troth before the idols. They are extremely superstitious, and will never enter upon any important transaction without previously consulting a priest. They are not deficient in intelligence, have a strong memory and great keenness of the senses, especially that of sight. They do not reckon from any fixed date, but count by cycles of 12 years, to which they give the name of some animal.
The year is composed of 13 months, each of which also bears the name of some animal.