Byron Harmon Shamanism Term paper May 4th 2012 Nationalism in the Republic of Sakha: Economics and Shamanism

The lifting of Soviet oppression, a clash of worldviews or cold hard economics? How does one explain the rise of nationalism in the Republic of Sakha? This essay will attempt to shed light on the development of Sakha nationalism. First it will delve into the relationships between shamanism, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the opening up of space for selfexpression, and the influences of globalization. This will then be juxtaposed to the clear and present economic tension between the Republic of Sakha and Moscow over the ownership and exploitation of the region‟s resources. It is prudent to begin tangentially with a brief and by no means authoritative examination of the creation of nationalism and the framework that I will operating with. Largely speaking nationalism is the creation of self-identity in terms of a larger community in contrast to an other. This relationship is highly influential in the creation of the self. That is, the relationship of the self to the other will impact the manner in which the newly formed nationalism manifests itself. Very broadly speaking these relationships fit into two overarching categories. First, nations which hold positions as world powers. Loosely speaking this refers to whose identity arises from being a world power; take the rise of Prussia in the mid-to-late nineteenth century for example or the competing nationalisms of the UK and France at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The second, and more relevant, category is nations whose identity is fashioned out of conflict with a larger oppressing nation. Exemplary of this are South American nationalism, forged in conflict to western civilization and economic exploitation, and Irish nationalism crafted in opposition to hundreds of years of British domination. The reason why this relationship is of consequence is because it greatly impacts where people look in order to find “material” to create their sense of identity. To clarify, world powers draw upon their

At that time academics began to point back to and romanticize the old Celtic past in an attempt to essentialize the Irish people as peace loving and civilized in contrast to the barbaric Norman invaders. evoking notions of modernity. the Irish were in a position where they had to reconstruct what it meant to be Irish. Consequently. from the 1930‟s up until quite recently – shamanism was a taboo theme in the Soviet Union. claiming to reject it. Irish nationalism is in many regards analogous to Sakha nationalism. we must view Sakha nationalism as a synthesis between western and Sakha culture. In this sense the past may be seen as a tool to present objectives. p 212) This is similarly reflected by Marjorie . The relationship between the end of the Soviet Union and Shamanism is multifaceted. There is a significant irony at work when nations react to western civilization. Mihaly Hoppal characterizes it as “for long decades – actually. the means that one uses to express nationalism is very important. To provide an example.Byron Harmon Shamanism Term paper May 4th 2012 Nationalism in the Republic of Sakha: Economics and Shamanism current positions to develop their nationalism. by asserting their own nationalism. With the destruction of their national archives in the civil war. there is a clear divide between the harsh rule and oppression of the Soviets until the mid-1980‟s and the period after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The promotion of Irish nationalism was a means for providing unity and greater impetus for independence from Britain. They latched onto the remaining communities that still spoke Irish creating areas deemed “Gaeltachtai” and promoting the Irish language. Consequently. more than a millennia of primary source documents were lost.” (Ethnographic films on Shamanism. they are retrospective. Nationalism is a western phenomenon. In contrast. at the turn of the twentieth century Irish nationalism was created. the latter category draw from the past. In the literature surrounding the relationship between Shamanism and the USSR. Furthermore.

a group that acts upon these dualistic beliefs. First. With the disintegration of the Soviet Union came a loosening of censure and new opportunities. romanticization of shamanism. In contrast you . To provide analogy to Latin American nationalism. and at times… shot or dropped out of helicopters and challenged to fly. This creates two distinct starting points for the revitalization of shamanism in Sakha. people were very secretive about the continued existence of bear ceremonies. the potential realization of an independent Sahka republic existed.Byron Harmon Shamanism Term paper May 4th 2012 Nationalism in the Republic of Sakha: Economics and Shamanism Balzer when she claims (Sacred Genders in Siberia pg 250) “When I was in the Khanty region in 1976. Secondly. I submit that due to this bifurcation of motives (greater freedom. More specifically two main opportunities arose. shamans were ridiculed or exiled. That is. and the urban population. In the context of the collapse of the Soviet Union many nations seized the opportunity to split off from Russia. and national independence) it is prudent to examine the resurgence of shamanism in two parts that loosely correspond to the motives and the distinction of rural and urban. I wish to conflate the motivation of greater freedom to practice with the rural population and the actual increase in shamanic practice in contrast to the motivation of independence with the creation of nationalism.“ More explicitly Piers Vitebsky alleges that “From then until the mid-1980s. claiming they had been nearly eliminated or homogenized (made less sexy) by the Soviets. For the republic of Sakha this opportunity also existed.” (From cosmology to Environmentalism p 282) It is abundantly clear that The Soviet Union made clear attempts to stamp out shamanism in the east. there was a significant increase in personal freedom and ability to pursue one‟s own beliefs without fear of punishment. you have the rural population to whom indigenous beliefs form an integral part of their worldviews.

I would surmise that their motivations fall largely into two camps: a visceral reaction to globalism and empirical materialism and interest in independence. about seasons. given the renewed interest throughout Siberia in all forms of spiritual healing” (p 253) Piers Vitebsky notes how the shamanic worldview is still alive outside of urban centers “…among old herders and hunters in the wilderness. Marjorie Balzer notes that “…when I return in 1991. Next. and the resurgence of both the seven year periodic ceremony and the more impromptu bear festivals” (Sacred Genders in Siberia p 250) and optimistically supposes “… the possibility certainly remains for a reemergence of transformed shamans. Shamanic practices has seen an increase in the Sakha region. as they apologize to bears they have killed and return the souls of elks to the lord of the forest for reincarnation.Byron Harmon Shamanism Term paper May 4th 2012 Nationalism in the Republic of Sakha: Economics and Shamanism have people like Jose Marti who romanticize it and appropriate it in order to create a sense of identity that they can throw against Spanish and American Imperialism. despite the harsh suppression by the Soviet government. shamanistic practices continue amongst the rural population. The lifting of oppression has given them greater freedom to express their world view. medicinal herbs. the behavior of animals. health and illness. the weather. Marjorie Balzer states that “Both bear ceremonies and shamanism have become symbols of cultural resurgence in many areas of Siberia…” (Sacred Genders in Siberia p 253) . the motivations of the urban population must be examined. I learned of the emergence from underground.” (p 283) Additionally he claims that “Everyone still partakes of this worldview every time they toss a glass of vodka into the fire to feed the hearth spirit” (p 283) This evidences that. It is clear that shamanism is important to the Sakha people.” (p 289) and “This wisdom is the local knowledge contained in traditional ideas about man and nature.

Byron Harmon Shamanism Term paper May 4th 2012 Nationalism in the Republic of Sakha: Economics and Shamanism Piers Vitebsky agrees stating “The city of Yakutsk contains flourishing societies for the revival of shamanism…” (p 282) and adds later that “… many circles in the capital live in a feverish state of excitement over the idea of shamanism. Enzo Loner and Pierangelo Peri (Ethnic Identification in the Former Soviet Union p1357) suggest that identity among the Sakha was not due to a sense of national superiority but rather a sense of threat was more important to their sense of identity. and the ideas that are in the wider mainstream of blief for many Sakha” (Flights of the Sacredp 306) There is little reason to doubt that a strong interest in shamanism exists. according to Khanty participants. . was on the bear reincarnation itself and on teaching young boys sacred songs about Khanty ancestors” (Sacred Genders in Siberia p 251) If emphasis in the bear ceremonies is placed on the transmittance of information between generations it suggests that the resurgence of shamanism has the intent of passing on the culture to prevent it from disappearing. the icons of which reapper constantly in plays and newspaper articles and on television” (p285) In another work Marjorie Balzer also says “I shuttle between ideas that are in the esoteric domain of shamans. The fact that it does not originate from a sense of national superiority is more informative. This is ambiguous as it doesn‟t identify the source of the sentiment whether it is from Moscow or westernization undermining their culture. Perhaps more ambiguously. passed on as special knowledge through generations. Piers Vitebsky clearly delineates the question at hand when he asks “In what sense has shamanism suddenly become true again for Sakha nationalists after two generations of being false for these same people when they were Soviet communists?” (p 278) On the one hand Marjorie Balzer claims that “…the focus for revival.

on that the Sakha notice and the few Russian attending the festival might miss. and this word is sometimes even substituted for Sakha in epic tales. is used for „person‟ in conjunction with „Sakha‟. an archaic word. Piers Vitebsky hints at this when he says as an aside that “The Soviet regime (in which the Sakha intelligentsia were themselves implicated) never managed… (p282. however. “ (p 284) The shift toward a focus on ethnicity is reinforced by Marjorie Balzer in her study of shamanic poetry when she notes: (The Poetry of Shamanism p315) In this poem. a significant amount of evidence to the contrary. that the motive in the urban areas is derived from a yearning for independence and autonomy from Moscow. my emphasis added) What this is suggesting is that the same people who were in charge of the Soviet oppression of the Sakha play a similar role in its resurgence.Byron Harmon Shamanism Term paper May 4th 2012 Nationalism in the Republic of Sakha: Economics and Shamanism There is. He also notes how the members of revival groups in Yakutsk are primarily upper-middle class individuals. Enemies of the Sakha have of course changed over time and are not specified here. yrangkhai. but there is a strong sense of an us/them division being cultivated . Additionally he adds that “The urban Sakha interpretation of their shamanic tradition has shifted from the religious sensibility of the herder‟s and hunter‟s movement across a local landscape towards a more abstract sense of ethnicity. .

According to a BBC article. titled Russia coal offers hope for Seoul.” Another Article declared “Russia is one of the world‟s biggest diamond producing countries with Yakutia being its main stone reserve” (De Beers may lose Russian diamonds. Piers Vitebsky states that (p284): The position of the Republic‟s regional government is that coal. BBC) Furthermore. “Sakha… holds 45% of Russia‟s coal reserves. gold and diamonds must be mined – but that the profits must return to Yakutia. In this sense the Sakha people are powerless to control or reap the benefit of resources being extracted from their lands. rather than of a people. the majority of companies that do the mining and resource extraction are Russian not Yakutian. At this point we must turn out attention to economics. If one types “Yakutia” or “Republic of Sakha” into a major news site it will return a number of articles discussing the economic resources in the region and the tensions between Moscow and the regional government over their management.Byron Harmon Shamanism Term paper May 4th 2012 Nationalism in the Republic of Sakha: Economics and Shamanism The evidence seems to indicate that the shamanic resurgence in urban culture has more to do with ethnicity and independence than actual shamanic rituals. The idiom is economic and statist. Additionally. people who talk like this are thinking of the development and the autonomy of a region or territory. In ethnic terms. they deal with the government in Moscow for contract rather than the local government. Furthermore. It is the second largest coal deposit in the world. Sakha is also a major producer of oil in Russia. It is a means to an end. Their agenda for action works in terms of tariffs and an enhanced degree of sovereignty within the idiom of the modern state. .

" American Anthropologist 98. London: Routledge. Web. London:>. 307-23." Shamanism: A Reader. However. 4 May 2012. 03 "From Cosmology to Environmentalism: Shamanism as Local Knowledge in a Global Setting. Marjorie 2003.2 (1996): 305-18." BBC News. "The Poetry of Shamanism. 203-20. Balzer. 12 June 2001. BBC.8 (2009): 1341-370. Print. "Ethnographic Films on Shamanism. Balzer. Web. 04 May 2012. this conclusion is less tenable amongst the rural population." Shamanism: A Reader. 2003. 242-61. 04 May 2012. 276-98. it appears a much stronger impetus for the resurgence of shamanism and ethnic nationalism in urban areas than a visceral reaction to empirical materialism. Piers. "Russia Coal Offers Hope for Seoul. "Ethnic Identification in the Former Soviet Union: Hypotheses and Analyses. and PIERANGELO . Bibliography Balzer. EBSCOhost. Marjorie M. By Graham Harvey. By Graham Harvey.stm>. "Sacred Genders in London: Routledge. By Graham Harvey. BBC. "De Beers May Lose Russian Diamonds. Print. "Flights of the Sacred: Symbolism and Theory in Siberian Shamanism. Marjorie M. Vitebsky." Shamanism: A Reader. Enzo. Mihaly. Web. Print." Shamanism: A Reader. 2003. London: Routledge. 2003. Consequently. By Graham Harvey." BBC News. Hoppal.Byron Harmon Shamanism Term paper May 4th 2012 Nationalism in the Republic of Sakha: Economics and Shamanism The economic imperative for action is clear and pressing. <http://news. 2007." EUROPE-ASIA STUDIES 61. <http://news. Print. Print.

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