Baikal of Wonders


Long ago shamans were revered as a hereditary caste of the chosen in Baikal region, Russia. But now everything’s changed. Whom has they become for locals and strangers: true followers of the faith of their ancestors, healers or just touristic amusements?
Photos and text by Alina Desyatnichenko

The land of Baikal region in Russia has always been sacred for the local indigenous peoples – buryats. And shamans who could talk to local gods were revered as a hereditary caste of the chosen. After 70 years of stagnation the religious faith of their ancestors began to revive. But even so locals refer to shamans just as to healers now. Many of shamans themselves are not aware of their destiny until, as they say, they won’t get a clear sign from Father Sky. To preserve their culture they had to create professional unions, organize festivals, scientific conferences.

In the wake of the popularity of the new-age culture the lake Baikal is mostly presented in guidebooks as the sacred center of the shaman’s world instead of the rare nature reserve. There are many tours offering visits to “the places of power”, advisory services from an “expert”, participation in ceremonies and sacred holidays. Amulets, totems and “real shaman drums” are in demand in local souvenir shops. I went there to check what’s in this image and how much it costs.

All my heroes are pictured at their workplaces: either at the offices of local religious organizations of shamans, either at home.

Photos and text by Alina Desyatnichenko

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