Friday, January 20, 2023

Are Russian Governors who Reach Out to Shamans Pandering to a Constituency or Cultivating Magical Patriotism?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 17 -- Many Russian Orthodox were upset that Murmansk Governor Andrey Chibis took part in a Saami ritual on January 7; but in fact he is only the latest Russian governor to take part in celebrations by shamans of traditional faiths in Russia, Andrey Melnikov points out.  

            But the high-profile nature of Chibis’ action and the coincidence that it was on Russian Christmas has sparked a debate as to whether such gubernatorial moves are only pandering to a constituency of a trend toward cultivating “magical patriotism” in wartime, the editor of NG-Religii says (

            Roman Shizhensky, a specialist on religions at the Baltic Federal University in Kaliningrad, says that “interest in shamanism and other traditional faiths of numerically small indigenous peoples has ‘become fashionable,’” repeating a pattern when during difficult times, some are inclined to turn to non-traditional faiths for inspiration and guidance.

            Roman Lunkin, a religious affairs specialist at Moscow’s Institute of Europe, says that when a governor gets involved with such religious groups, he can build his authority in ways that don’t bring him into conflict with the  federal government’s “Orthodox agenda” and may even serve Moscow’s interests as well.

            He adds that “in the course of a military conflict, it is natural for people to appeal to the most varied spiritual powers and that doing so is thus patriotic. Local national traditions, including paganism and shamanism and not only major religions like Christianity and Islam can serve as a base of support for the authorities during times of crisis.”

            But Shizhensky for his part says that only after the current military conflict is over will it be possible to see whether governors will continue to engage in such activities and involve themselves in syncretic developments or instead will stop doing so because they will fear offending the Orthodox majority and the fundamentally Orthodox nature of Russian power.


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