ISSN 2330-717X

Russia’s 4,000 Shamans Seek Official Recognition As A Traditional Religion

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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.)

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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.

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Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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