Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Russia Hard Times a Boon to Native Peoples REBIRTH OF ANCIENT WAYS

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Russia Hard Times a Boon to Native Peoples REBIRTH OF ANCIENT WAYS

Article excerpt

Standing among huge rocks at the burial site of her ancestors at what is known as Russia's Stonehenge, shaman Tatiana Kobezhnikova tears off an offering of bread to appease the spirits as the sun goes down.

Crowned by a feather headdress, she pounds a skin drum under the watchful eyes of two feral dogs who guard the site.

Well-dressed politicians from across Siberia approach reverentially, asking to be blessed. She obliges, eyes closed, and holding her fists up, she makes a silent wish. "More and more people are coming to me," says Ms. Kobezhnikova afterward, nibbling meat pies and sweets laid out on top of the car in a post-ceremony feast. "I think it is because of economic turmoil. People seek comfort in traditions when all else fails." Shamanism and ancient forms of worship are on the rise among Russia's indigenous people, as the full force of the economic crisis takes hold. Jobless, hungry, and cold, increasing numbers are turning to old customs. It is a trend that extends from this area on the steppes near the border with Mongolia - filled with 30,000 prehistoric burial sites - to the Far East across the Bering Sea from Alaska. Native people are hunting and fishing like their ancestors because food is so costly. Others are spurning expensive medicine and taking herbal cures instead. For others, the revival of ancient ways is part of a cultural rebirth under way since 1991, when the collapse of the Soviet Union allowed more religious tolerance. "The movement is picking up pace," says Evdokyia Gayer, a former parliamentarian and one of Russia's leading indigenous activists. There are 38 officially recognized indigenous groups in Russia, 14 of which live in the Siberian Far East. Many are the descendants of nomadic hunters who followed mammoths across Siberia when ice sheets melted thousands of years ago. They somehow preserved their language and worship practices despite the Soviet policy of relocating people from their homelands and discouraging religion and minority tongues. At the fishing hamlet of Sikatschi-Alan, near the border with China 5,000 miles east of Moscow, a group of women from different aboriginal groups met recently to discuss coordinating a national movement. The mayor, Nina Druzhnina, took the visitors to see rocks carved with mask and animal designs 15,000 years old. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.