Until the arrival of Cossacks in Siberia and the Russian Far East, shamanism reigned as the dominant faith in the region. Even when Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity began to attract converts, most indigenous peoples of Asiatic Russia continued to employ shamans for purposes of health care and as spiritual guides, creating unique syncretic forms of faith. The word shaman is, in fact, of Tungusic origin and thus native to Russia’s extreme eastern periphery; it has been adopted in many European languages to describe intermediaries between humans and the spirit world. During the late Romanov period, the Russian Orthodox Church expanded its reach among the Sakha, Chukchi, Evenks, and other non-Russian peoples of the taiga and tundra zones; however, shamanism was not eliminated. Even in European Russia, the Mari continued to preserve folkloric traditions, venerate sacred groves, and observe pagan rites, even as they ostensibly embraced Christianity, exemplifying the so-called double faith (dvoeveriie). Under the Soviets, a vigorous anti-religion campaign weakened the influence of shamans and forced many practices underground.
   With the introduction of perestroika in the late 1980s, cultural groups among the indigenous peoples of the north and other traditionally shamanistic ethnic minorities blossomed. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, shamans have begun to accrue political, as well as cultural, influence among certain nationalities, including the Altays, Buryats, Tuvans, and Mari. In the post-Soviet period, the Russian government created the Shamans Register of Russia to provide some level of oversight over the practice of “neo-shamanism” and to prevent charlatanism.
   In recent years, some ethnic Russians have gravitated to neopaganism, which employs the use of Slavic shamans, who are more likely to be “New Age” enthusiasts as opposed to hereditary inheritors of shamanistic knowledge. In 2009, the country saw its first “Top Shaman” contest where adherents to shamanism could vote for their favorite candidate.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

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