The Pre-Soviet History of Buddhism in the Russian Empire

There is a long history of the Tibeto-Mongolian tradition of Buddhism, predominantly the Gelug tradition, among the Mongol and Turkic peoples of Russia. The earliest wave was with the Oirat Mongols who migrated from East Turkistan to Kalmykia in the Caspian region in the early seventeenth century. Their route passed through Altai, and many of the Turkic people in this region adopted Buddhism from the Oirats. In the late eighteenth century, many Oirats returned to East Turkistan. The present-day Kalmyks are the descendants of those who remained. The most extensive development of Buddhism in the Russian Empire, however, was among the Buryat Mongols of Transbaikalia, Siberia, starting in the early eighteenth century. In the late eighteenth century, Buddhism came to the Turkic people of Tuva from Mongolia, as both Tuva and Mongolia at that time were under the control of the Manchu Qing Dynasty of China.