By Paul Goble
Kara-ool Dopchun-ool, the supreme shaman of Tyva, says that the 4,000 shamans of the Russian Federation are now seeking official recognition as the fifth traditional religion of Russia. (The other four are Russian Orthodoxy, Islam, Buddhism and Judaism.)
They seek the benefits those religions now have from that recognition, including tax abatements and defense of believers from attacks by others. Shamans in Tyva, their leader says, currently suffer from attacks by Buddhist groups which they find it difficult to parry (ng.ru/faith/2021-12-24/12_8335_rel11.html).
To that end, Kara-ool Dopchun-ool says, they plan to create a centralized inter-regional shaman organization that would impose some order on shamanism, something that Moscow might find attractive given its problems with the so-called “warrior shaman,” Aleksandr Gabyshev, who has tried to march on Moscow to exorcise Vladimir Putin.
Unifying and standardizing shamanism, however, are unlikely to prove easy tasks, given that there are dozens of shamanistic traditions and no tradition of one central leader giving orders to the others. But it appears that at least some shamans have concluded that in Russia at least they need to move in that direction if they are to gain any protection from the state.
But doing so is not the only obstacle they face. If Moscow were to recognize shamanism as a traditional faith, it would likely be besieged by others, including much larger groups like Protestant and Catholic Christians, who also would like to have such official recognition. The Kremlin would be reluctant to do that, and the shamans may be the victims of that reluctance.