An arid region on the northwestern shores of the Caspian Sea, Kalmykia has a population of just 290,000 people, half of whom are Kalmyk. The rest are mostly Russian and Caucasian.
But Mr Ilyumzhinov says there are between 300,000 and 500,000 ethnic Kalmyks in the relatively impoverished Chinese regions of Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia. The Kalmyks left these areas in the 16th Century and moved west in search of more fertile pastures, eventually settling in what is now Kalmykia. But in 1771, Catherine the Great abolished their autonomy and tried to make them accept Christianity.
From The Times Online.