On November 30, 2004 Slate reported, "After denying the Dalai Lama's visa requests for years, Russia has finally relented and allowed the Buddhist spiritual leader to visit the country. He will spend most of his time in the southern republic of Kalmykia, half of whose 300,000 residents are practicing Buddhists. How did there come to be so many Buddhists living in Kalmykia, an Ireland-sized region on Europe's eastern edge, thousands of miles from the religion's Asian heartland? The Kalmyks, as the republic's residents are known, were once Mongolian nomads who lived and practiced their faith on the Central Asian steppe. A Chinese military offensive drove them westward in the 17th century, until they hit the banks of Russia's Volga River." The article goes on to detail the history of the Kalmyks in Russia.