Russia’s Shamans Set Up Their Own Power Vertical and Seek Official Recognition
June 20 – For the first time ever, the shamans of the Russian Federation have
come together and elected “the supreme shaman of Russia” – Kara-ool Dopchun-ool,
head of the Kyzyl Local Religious Organization of Shamans – done so by an
almost unanimous vote (115 out of 166 votes) and called for official
recognition as a traditional religion of the country.
are called many things in various cultures, and there is as yet little
agreement on exactly who is a shaman and who is not, Nikolay Karchurov, the representative
of the Supreme Shaman of Tyva tells Pavel Skrylnikov of NG-Religii. The meeting hoped to sort this out (ng.ru/ng_religii/2018-06-20/11_444_tuva.html).
that end, the assembly not only elected a supreme shaman but formed a
nine-member United Council of the Shamans of Russia and charged it with
preparing the formation of “a single religious organization for shamans from
throughout Russia,” including shamans from the Russian North, Buryatia,
Mongolian, Tyva, and Khakassia.
are more than a thousand shamans in Russia, Karchurov says. “At the present
time, the goal of unification is the introduction of shamanism into the legal
field. You understand,” he tells Skrylnikov, this is a question of “now or
never.”At present, the authorities
lump us with witches and others who are not shamans.
shaman,” he continues, “is a spiritual person. Legally, there is nothing about
this anywhere except in Tyva.” Our goal is to have a common law for all shamans
in Russia. (Skrylnikov notes that there are references to shamans and shamanism
in the laws of Buryatia and Sakha.)
is not the first time the shamans have tried to organize: they met in 2009 but
little came of it. Moreover, as Valentina Kharitonova of the Moscow Institute
of Ethnology and Anthropology points out, “in traditional shamanism, there
never was any organization or religious shrines let alone ‘supreme shamans.’”
shamans are already criticizing the work of the assembly, but its organizers
say they are less concerned about responding to such attacks than about
developing the opportunity to define who and what they are and to organize and
interact with the political authorities as other officially recognized faiths
in the West see this as an effort to create a Soviet-style top to bottom
organization or power vertical, Skrylnikov writes, “but the shamans who understand
the foundations of their tradition are trying to avoid this,” even if what they
are doing looks precisely like that. But the most important consequence of this
meeting may lie elsewhere.
attendance at the congress were representatives of Russian neo-pagan
communities who “are experiencing difficulties of a similar character as far as
self-definition” and thus look to the shamans as providing a model for their
activity especially in the face of hostility from the Russian Orthodox Church.
the shamans and perhaps the neo-pagans appear now well on the way to creating
their own “centralized religious organizations” and electing “a competent
coordinator” to run it, just as other faiths have been forced to do given the
structure and demands of the Russian political system.