Interactions between a collectivist culture and Buddhist teachings influence environmental concerns and behaviors in the Republic of Kalmykia.
In the Buddhist Republic of Kalmykia, Russia, which has recently experienced dramatic and complex social changes, environmental problems include declines in wildlife, desertification, and poor water quality and availability. Qualitative analysis of semistructured interviews showed that responsibility for tackling these environmental problems was attributed to authorities. This was linked to a culture of collectivism fostered in Soviet times, which constrained people's perceptions of their role and ability to take action to help their environment. However, where a community had received pro-ecological Buddhist teachings, individuals had a stronger sense of their own agency and took more action to help the environment. This study demonstrates the potential for wider cultural context to have an enduring influence on environmentally relevant behaviors (in this case, collectivism limited the perception of individual agency), and demonstrates that engaging with the local cultural and social context (such as religious views) can support conservation interventions.