Tuesday, October 8, 2019

For the Shaman! For Stalin! – Mixed Messages from Sakha

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 6 – All of Russia’s regions are extremely diverse, with people reflecting various values and supporting various causes, often completely at odds with each other – a reality that is often obscured by the only intermittent coverage they receive in the central Russian media.

            Often this diversity is not especially noteworthy, but occasionally, it is unexpectedly so, all the more often when the clashes in values are almost the occasion for mirth.  One such case is provided by Sakha, an enormous but sparsely populated Turkic republic (larger than the entire EU but with several orders of magnitude fewer people) in Russia’s Far East.

            There, to no surprise in Moscow, demonstrations continued in support of shaman Aleksandr Gabyshev whom many Sakha view as their own and who see support for him as a way of standing up for their nation and their republic (echo.msk.ru/blog/echomsk/2513869-echo/ and

            At the same time, other residents of Sakha, some of them Sakha ethnically and some ethnic Russians, were dedicating Russia’s sixth new memorial to Joseph Stalin who undoubtedly would have made quick work of Gabyshev or anyone else who pledged to “exorcise” him from the Kremlin (sakhalife.ru/v-yakutii-ustanovlen-shestoj-pamyatnik-stalinu/).

            Some might be tempted to rush to judgment that this second action was the work of ethnic Russians while the first was that of ethnic Sakha. But in fact the divisions are more complicated than that, with members of each of these nations to be found on both sides, albeit possibly for very different reasons.

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