Friday, December 20, 2019

Shaman, Now Boxed in by Powers in Sakha, May Triumph by Backing Siberian Regionalism, Zolotaryev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 18 – Aleksandr Gabyshev, the shaman from Sakha, who attracted the attention across the country for his attempt to march on Moscow and exorcise Putin, was far and away the most prominent figure to emerge in Siberia during the past year, Yaroslav Zolotaryev says.

            But the Siberian regionalist says that now, with the shaman having been forcibly returned to Sakha and blocked from leaving by the shameless abuse of power by the authorities who are violating their own laws to do it, Gabyshev appears to many a fading figure, someone who will exert no influence on the future (

            There are reasons for thinking, however, that such assessments are wrong, Zolotaryev says. The shaman does face a real choice. He launched his effort as a religious and political movement. “The religious component above all involves the expectation of a miracle.” That must either occur or one must speak less about it and more about politics.

            According to the activist, the shaman “in fact has made movements in both directions, formulating a political program and asserting in every possible way his status as a shaman.” What is clear now, Zolotaryev says, is that he must “strengthen his regional and Siberian component,” that is, he must speak for the region more than for the country or his faith.

            By making that shift, the activist says, the shaman will avoid attacks of Sakha nationalism like those he has received in the past and attract more people to his cause among Siberians who overwhelmingly view Moscow as a place filled with devils who are persecuting their land. 

            Gabyshev has been moving in their direction, in part because of his own convictions and in part because the authorities have blocked his ability to act otherwise. The first months of 2020 will show whether he becomes the new leader of Siberian regionalism or fades into a memory as just the brightest meteor in the Siberian sky in 2019. 

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