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Native Encounters with Russian

Orthodox Missions in Siberia and

Alaska, 1820-1917


Contributions to the Study of World History, Number 70


Westport, Connecticut • London

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In order to keep this title in print and available to the academic community, this edition

was produced using digital reprint technology in a relatively short print run. This would

not have been attainable using traditional methods. Although the cover has been changed

from its original appearance, the text remains the same and all materials and methods

used still conform to the highest book-making standards.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Znam enski, Andre i A., 1960—

Sham anism and Christianity : native encounters with Russian

Orthodox missions in Siberia and Alaska, 18 20-1917 / Andrei A.



  cm.— (Contributions to the study of world history, ISSN

0885-9159 ; no. 70)

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 0-31 3-30 960 -4 (alk. paper)

1. Siberia (Russia)—M issions— History. 2. Chuk chi— Missions—

History. 3. Ural-Altaic peoples— Missions— Russia (Federation)—

Siberia—H istory. 4. Russkaîa pravoslavnaia tserkov— Missions—

Russia (Federation)—Siberia— History. 5. Alaska— M issions—

History. 6. De na'in a Indians—M issions— History. 7. Russkaia

pravoslavnaia tserkov—M issions—Alaska— History. I. Title.



BV3475.2.Z53 1999

266M9798—<ic21 99-11265

British L ibrary Cataloguing in Publication Data is available.

Copyright © 1999 by Andrei A. Znamenski

All rights reserved. No portion of this book may b e

reproduced, by any process or technique , without the

express w ritten consent of the publisher.

Library of Congress Catalog Card Num ber: 99-11 265

ISBN: 0-313-30960-4

ISSN: 0885-9159

First published in 1999

Greenw ood P ress, 88 Post Road West, Westport, CT 06881

An imprint of Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc.

Printed in the U nited States of America

  o o

The paper used in this book com plies with the

Perman ent Paper Standard issued by the National

Information Standards Organization (Z39.48-1984).

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to the Mem ory of

my brother,

Leonid Znamenski

and my mentor,

Professor Gerald Thompson

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List of Illustrations and Maps ix

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction 1

1.  Indigenou s Landscapes in Siberia and Alaska 15

2.  M issionary Landscapes in Siberia and Alaska 47


  Orthodoxy Becomes a Native Faith: D ena'ina

Enco unters with Russian M issionaries, 1849-19 17 95

4.  "Unresp onsive Natives": Chukchi Dialogues with

the Russian Mission, 1840s-1917 139

5.  Dialogues abou t Spirit and Power: Altaian Natives and

the Russian Orthodox Mission, 1828-191 7 193

Conclusion 253

Glossary 265

Bibliography 273

Index 299

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List of Illustrations and Maps


Map 3.1 Native peop les of southern Alaska 94

Map 4.1 Native peop les of northeastern Siberia 138

Map 5.1 Major native groups in Altai 192


Figure 3.1 Den a'in a Indians of the Upper Cook Inlet, c. 1890 99

Figure 3.2 Ioann Bortnovsky, a missionary to the Den a'ina

from 1896 to 1907 103

Figure 3.3 Alexand er Iaroshevich, a missionary to the D ena 'ina

from 1893 to 1895 103

Figu re 3.4 Th e old building of the Orthodox chapel in

the Dena' ina village of Eklutna 122

Figure 3.5 D en a'in a Orthodox funeral ceremony, c. 1900 122

Figure 3.6 Rem nants of old Den a'ina graves ("spirit houses")

in the Knik area, Septem ber 10, 1936 124

Figure 4.1 A scene at the Anui trade fair inside the Anui fort,

Kolym a area, 1895 152

Figure 4.2 Chukchi chiefs, Anui trade fair, 1895 152

Figure 4.3 M issionary Am philokhy (Anton Vakulsky), who

worked among the maritime Chukchi in 1909 and 1910 155

Figure 4.4 Orthodox chapel in the Sen-Kel,

western Chukchi country 170

Figu re 4.5 An Orthodox m issionary in traveling clothing,

northeastern Siberia, 1901 170

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  List of Illustrations and Maps

Figure 4.6 Russian O rthodox church in the village of Markovo,

southern border of Chukchi country, March 15, 1901 178

Figure 4.7 Chukchi reindee r sacrificing, mouth of

the Kolym a River, 1895 or 1901 178

Figure 5.1 Makarii Glukharev, the founder of the Altai

Orthodox Mission 196

Figure 5.2 Altaian med icine wom an, c. 1900 219

Figure 5.3 A scene of a Shor sham anistic session, 1907 219

Figure 5.4 Archim andrite of Tomsk and Altai M akarii, c. 1890 225

Figure 5.5 A Burkhanist prayer place in central Altai, 1915 233

Figure 5.6 A group of Altaians with a Burkhanist preache r

dressed in white in the center ' 233

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Funding for research leading to this publication was provided by the Research

Enablem ent Program, a grant program for scholarship supported by The Pew Chari-

table Trusts, Philadelphia, PA, and administered by the Overseas Ministries Study

Center, New Haven, CT, USA.

This book would not have been possible if it had been based only on my own

insights into the history of native populations of Alaska and Siberia. Therefore, it

will be better to describe the work as a result of involvement of many other p eople

who provided their materials, encouragement, and support. First of all, I would

like to thank Research Enablement Program for the generous financing of my


I also extend my gratitude to archivists from the Russian State Historical Archive

in St. Pete rsburg, Russia, and especially to Serafima I. Vakhareva. Her efforts saved

me much time and made my access to necessary docum ents of the Orthodox Church

Holy Synod easier than it could have been. My special thanks are to the librarians

at the Hilander Research Library of the Ohio State University, and first of all to

Lorraine Abraham. L orraine not only navigated m e through their rich microfilm

collections of old Russian magazines and documents, but also patiently looked for

sources I needed and corrected my mistakes in bibliographical entries.

I appreciate the support of Professor Alfred Cave, who provided me with con-

stant theoretical feedback and helpful words of advice on native beliefs. I also

extend my gratitude to Professor Sergei Kan, who read parts of this manuscript

and whose w orks on native responses to Russian O rthodoxy inspired m e to under-

take my own research. Despite their numerous commitments, Professors Ake

Hultkrantz, Christopher Vecsey, and Victoria Wyatt eagerly responded to my re-

quest that they review the whole manuscript. I want to thank them for the time and

trouble they took to read the more than four hundred pages of my volume and for

their critical comments. My words of gratitude also go to my Alaskan friends and

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xii  Acknowledgments

colleagues: Mrs. Barbara Sweetland Smith and Professor Stephen Haycox. Their

constant encouragement of my pursuits and valuable research tips helped me im-

prove this book significantly.

At different stages of the project, when I needed to be enlightened about pecu-

liarities of Russian Orthodox ways and terminology, both Fathers Nicholas Harris,

Stephen Janos, Paul Merculieff, and Macarius Targonsky and such lay people as

M ina Jacobs and Karen Jermyn readily helped m e, and I extend to them my deep

gratitude. At the early stage of this project Dr. Vera Goushchina kindly sent me

books and articles unavailable here in the United States. When the book was al-

most completed Professor David Collins generously agreed to review the portion

devoted to the Altai and gave m e helpful research feedback. Dr. Kira Van D eusen,

who is so knowledgeab le about ho listic'aspects of Siberian and Alaskan shaman-

ism, polished my chapter on indigenous religions. Although I do not fully agree

with her estimates of missionary activities among native peoples, she will find that

a number of her suggestions about interpretation of shamanism were incorporated

in this book. O thers who helped me in this project are India Spartz, Alaska Histori-

cal State Library, and Professor Irina Maksimova, Tomsk State University, who

identified and retrieved valuable photographs.

I would hardly have finished this work without my friend Adriana Greci Green

of the Anthropology Department of Rutgers University. I owe Adriana a great

deal. She postponed all her urgent commitments and volunteered to make this text

readable. My special words of gratitude go to the late Professor Gerald T hom pson


  my mentor, who invested much of his time in teaching me to say what I

wanted to say clearly without using sophisticated academic jargon. Although the

book is abundant in notes, I have tried to make it readable not only for specialists,

but also for a general audience who might be interested in the history of mission-

aries and native peop les. It is up to readers to decide w hether I succeeded in this or

not. Moreover, I will never forget that GT and also Professor Michael Jakobson

supported my interest in the history of indigenous peoples by helping me come to

the United States to continue research. Last, but not the least, my deep gratitudes

go to the Department of Humanities of the Alabama State University and its chair,

Dr. Virginia Jones, which bestowed on me the best gift, my current job, and to

Heather Staines, my Greenwood editor, whose support brought this project to


Everybody knows that a scholar who has to teach five days a week, unfortu-

nately, does not live a so-called regular life and does not get hom e at five or even at

six o'clo ck in the evening . That is why I use this occasion to thank my loving wife,

Susan, and my dear son, little Andrei, for patiently surviving my daily absences

and research trips.

Montgomery, Alabama

April 1999

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The road to religious change has converged with other kinds of roads, the mapping of

which takes us well outside the realm of religion.

—Rita Smith Kipp, "Conversion by Affiliation"

Doing research in the Russian Christianizaton of the Dena'ina in Alaska I was

stunned by the significant role the nineteenth-century Orthodox church played in

the life of this Native American group. Ironically, this happened not during the

Russian Alaskan tenure, but when these Indians had already lived a few decades

under American rule. My interest in the topic of native peoples and Russian Chris-

tianity increased when I found out that another indigenous people, nomadic

Chukchi, who resided in neighboring northeastern Siberia, part of Russia, on the

contrary, expressed little interest in the missionary propaganda. For the explana-

tion I turned to examining both native cultures and colonial circumstances that

influenced the interactions of these groups with Russian Christianity. Moreover, I

became curious about how other native groups reacted to Orthodoxy. My search

for additional examples of the variety of native responses to the Orthodox church

led m e to the Altaians w ho reside in southwestern Siberia. They became my natu-

ral choice because the Altaians had a history of intensive interactions with the

Orthodox missionaries. Also, in contrast to the areas mentioned, native-m ission-

ary relations in Altai were well documented in published m issionary records. The

result of my insights is this book, which describes and compares interactions be-

tween three indigenous populations and Russian missionaries throughout the

nineteenth and up to the beginning of the twentieth century. The work represents

three historical "snap shots" of missionary-n ative relations as seen by a world his-

torian. As such I do not claim to provide in my work an exhaustive discussion of

these interactions in all three areas. Moreover, I believe that a great deal still can be

done by future researchers, especially in studying Dena'ina and Altaian Ortho-


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2  Introduction

A brief overview of these groups might help the reader form a clear idea of what

specifically I am going to discuss in this book. Prior to the Alaska purchase the

Dena'ina were exposed to the Orthodox religion, but nothing beyond minor syn-

cretic adoption of a few Orthodox elements took place. By the turn of the twentieth

century, however, the entire Dena'ina population formally became Christian and

transformed Russian Orthodoxy into a native church. The experiences of the

Chukchi were different. Until 1917 this group largely maintained economic pat-

terns based on reindeer herding along with maritime and inland fishing, hunting,

and reciprocal trade exchanges with the Russians and Am ericans. Moreover, Ru s-

sian colonial and mixed-blood population in northeastern Siberia relied on these

natives for food supp lies. As a result, the Chukchi did not show interest in borrow-

ing much of Russian culture and "spiritual medicine." In contrast, the Dena'ina's

life and economy, based on fishing and hunting, faced radical transformation caused

by the influx of newcom ers. In order to retain their group identity along with other

tools the Dena'ina used Russian Orthodoxy, which was the most familiar Euro-

pean church to them and apparently appealed to them because of its ancient

ritualism. At the turn of the twentieth century this American Indian group started

to view Orthodoxy as their own popular indigenous religion.

In Altai relationships of natives and missionaries were uneven. In the northeast

indigenous peoples integrated themselves into the Russian economy through the

fur and nuts trade, openly mingled with newcomers, practiced a religious syncre-

tism, and manipulated Orthodoxy for political purposes. By contrast, the

south western Altaians lived as sovereign comm unities of stock breeders and m ain-

tained this status until the second half of the nineteenth century. Like the nom adic

Chukchi, the southwestern Altaians rarely responded to missionary doctrines.

However, in the 1860s fertile grassland and mountain pastures of the southwest

suddenly became the object of mass Russian agricultural colonization. An ensuing

messianic revitalization movement that blended native, Christian, and Buddhist

elements became an attempt of the Altaian nomads to build a new culture in order

to survive in the new colonial environment.

The political and strategic location of the three areas also differed. The Russian

governm ent viewed Altai, situated between the Russian -M ongolian and R uss ian -

Chinese borders, as a sphere of its vital interests. This region contained valuable

mineral deposits of gold and silver and other resources such as forest and farm-

lands.  In addition, the area became populated by numerous migrants from the

European part of the empire. As a result, in the Altai area the power of the Russian

church was backed up by considerable colonial hegemony. In sharp contrast, the

severe climate and apparent lack of resources made the authorities neglect north-

eastern Siberia. The third area, Alaska, stopped being a Russian colony in 1867.

Therefore, in the latter area the Orthodox church had to rely exclusively on per-

suasion in evangelization work and was in not the position to force religion on the


My inspiration for writing this book originates from the simple fact that there

are no studies on the Christianization of these specific indigenous gro ups. Further-

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Introduction  3

more, a large number of works that treat native-missionary relationships in Sibe-

ria and Alaska exam ine individual tribes. Only a few address the natives' resp onse

from a comparative viewpoint.


  There is also a certain reluctance, at least amon g

the students of Native American ethnohistory, to examine broad cultural and reli-

gious issues.


  This reticence might be explained by the general difficulties one

faces in making such attempts. First, a historian or anthropologist who explores

these broad topics automatically becomes an easy target for criticism by experts

on each specific "tribe." Incidentally, one colleague even cautioned me not to bite

off such a "huge piece of history." Second, some may feel uncom fortable with any

broad generalizations because they simply do not fit the currently fashionable

emphasis on subjectivity. The results are the unavoidable "tribalization" and par-

ticularization of native studies. Such statements are equally applicable to both Native

American and Siberian native ethnohistories.

Moreover, scholarship on Russian evangelization of natives tends to explore the

relationships between indigenous populations and Orthodox missionaries in Alaska

and Siberia separately. Certain obvious foundations exist for this approach, be-

cause of the differences in the political and administrative conditions found in

these two areas.


  In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Siberian natives car-

ried the burden of paying regular tribute. Meanwhile, the Alaskan indigenous

population faced domination by the Russian-American Company (RAC), whose

activities resembled those practiced by the European fur trade interests in native



Scholars indicate that after the 1867 Alaska purchase by the United States, the

two areas separated politically. However, the very fact that the Russian church

maintained its missionary stations and property and even expanded its influence

on native Alaskan p eop le underm ines that assum ption. It is also pointed out that in

Alaska the Russians constituted a tiny minority that economically depended on

Native Americans, while the situation in Siberia was different. Indeed, by the end

of the nineteenth century, the Russian population in certain areas of Siberia de-

mographically dominated the native population, especially in the southern areas

such as Alta i. Yet, this was not true as far as northeastern Siberia was concerned ; in

this region, for instance, in Chukchi country and other areas as well, the native

population composed a dominant majority and defined their own terms of cultural

dialogue with the newcomers.

Many similarities are also found between the native cultures of Siberia and Alaska.

This gives additional support for considering these areas as a single cultural zone.

Apart from the close environmental and economic con ditions, indigenous peoples

of the two regions had a number of common cultural, social, political, and reli-

gious features.


  Thus, in looking at the religious life in both regions, we may

observe closely related shamanistic practices, which even encouraged some ear-

lier researchers to coin a scholarly metaphor, the "shamanistic complex." In both

areas native peoples did not practice institutionalized religions. Their beliefs were

more concerned with a constant search for spiritual power in order to maintain the

natural harmony of the world. Under certain circumstances in this framework all

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4  Introduction

types of useful experiences with neighboring tribes or the Europeans could be

added as potentially helpful medicine. Therefore, the "native religions" depended

upon constant innovations, and the response to Christianity was no exception.

There is another piece of evidence to support discussion of the two regions to-

gether. The Russian Orthodox church did not draw strict lines between its policies

in Siberia and Alaska. Moscow church officials did not differentiate Siberian and

American natives much and applied to them the same term,




Shalkop notes that "the church in Alaska was always part of Siberian diocese, and

never developed an independent structure."


  The situation barely changed after

the 1867 United States purchase of Russian America because the Russian church

maintained its Alaskan land. In his recent article David Norlander draws attention

to a provision of the Alaska Treaty that stipulated that all church property would

remain under Orthodox control, even as the other Alaskan territory was trans-

ferred to the U.S. sovereignty. "Consequently," concludes Norlander, "the Russian

Orthodox Church continued to operate much as before the sale."


  Though since

1870 a separate Am erican See did exist, the Orthodox church in Alaska w as under

complete control of the Holy Synod. Therefore, the period before and after 1867

in Russian missionary history should be treated "as a single unit."


The period I consider in this book ranges from the 1820s to 1917. These years

are singled out as being a separate period for the following reasons. Prior to the

nineteenth century, the Russian missionary policy was not organized; nor were

there specific religious organizations responsible for the permanent Christianization

of natives. In addition, the government used mostly coercive m ethods during evan-

gelization of native peoples.


  Only at the end of the eighteenth century during

Catherine the Great's rule did the empire change its policy by simply neglecting

native Christianization.

In the 1820s a new period in Russian missionary policy started. To consolidate

the empire's periphery authorities becam e interested in the genuine Christianization

of native areas. Now both forceful methods and the late eighteenth cen tury negli-

gence were put aside. Instead, conversion relied more on persuasion and economic

benefits. During this time new Russian missions were founded while existing ones

were strengthened. In 1828 the Altai mission was created. During the same de-

cade,  the church improved the Alaskan mission and sent its first missionaries to

northeastern Siberia. Moreover, from 1826 the government formally granted the

new converts three-year tax and tribute exemption. Though throughout the nine-

teenth century there were differences in missionary methods, the general stance

called for Christianization through persuasion and the tolerant treatment of native

"superstitions." In 1917 the Bolshevik Revolution abruptly ended the political,

economic, and social powers of the Russian church, thereby halting any opportu-

nity for continuation of native-Orthodox dialogue in Siberia and curtailing all

financial assistance for overseas missions. At the same time, in Alaska creative

interactions between native peoples and the Orthodox continued uninterrupted,

although the Russian church now switched its major activities to the continental


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Introduction  5

My analysis does not reduce n ative-missionary relationships to a single pattern.

Neither do I intend to discuss a common native response. On the contrary, I want

to show the variety of indigenous-m issionary dialogues. In other words, my goal

is to dem onstrate how native peoples in these three areas constructed different

worldviews in the course of these contacts. An analysis of specific historical cir-

cumstances and indigenous people's own cultural orientations helps reveal what

stood behind such indigenous constructions. Exploration of indigenous cultural

stances and background events might help explain in which situations natives be-

came "responsive" or "unresponsive" to Christian messages.

It is also obvious that the topic of Orthodoxy and Siberian/Alaskan natives rep-

resents an aspect of a broader them e: the history of interactions between indigenous

beliefs and Christianity. Working on this book I benefited from studies that ad-

dress native-m issionary relations in different parts of the globe, especially in native



  Until the 1970s anthropological and historical scholarship treated the

problems of native Christianization as a "win-or-lose" battle between indigenous

traditionalism and "white man's" Christianity. Conversion of indigenous peoples

was judged as a harmful European impo sition, which dispossessed natives of their

"authentic" identity. Cornelius Osgood's research on the culture of the Dena'ina

in the 1930s illustrates this point.

Educated in the classic Boasian tradition, Osgood meticulously pulled out all

"traditional" aspects of the Dena 'ina culture and separated them from "non-tradi-

tional" elements. Like many other contemporary works on indigenous peoples,

his book,

 Ethnography of the Tanaina,

 ended with a grim pessimistic note: the old

culture was declin ing, natives were getting accu lturated, and there was no hope for

the Indians' future. To Osgood, the total embrace of Christianity by the Dena'ina

stood out as a symbol of their decline: "At Kenai the Indians ga ther in the Russian

church for service. They react strongly to the candles and the incense, the age-

worn rhythmical chanting of the ritual. At heart they seem fatalistic and without

hope for any future."


  As a matter of routine, scholars treated natives as passive

demoralized recipients of European religion and kept themselves busy by calcu-

lating how much "traditional" culture was left am ong these " declinin g" societies.

Ironically, partisan activist scholars in the West and Soviet Marxist researchers

who tended to reduce native-missionary relations to a total battleground strayed

not too far from assimilationists. Such authors also insist that missionaries ex-

ploited natives culturally or economically. George Tinker, one of these scholars,

writes about an unending genocide by missionaries against the American Indian



 Moreover, N. Y. Khrapova, a Russian historian, argues that clerics acted

as direct agents of economic exploitation of Siberian natives.


  These arguments

indirectly deny the creativity of native societies, and the variety and significance

of indigenous responses and missionary activities.

In his article "Some Thoughts on the Ethnohistory of Missions" James Axtell

stresses that scholars who viewed native ethnohistory through "colon ialist" glasses

emphasize the suppression of native "traditional cultures" by missionaries and

lament "a tragic loss" of indigenous cultural "innocence." Within this paradigm,

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6  Introduction

these scholars exaggerate the destruction of a native ability to survive within a

changing environment. The colonialism model, though still supported by a few

scholars, has lost its popularity. The majority of contemporary researchers now

stress native agency: an active role of indigenous peoples in shaping their own

fate. Current scholarship also dismisses the charges that missionaries were totally

responsible for imperialism and recognizes that the changes the missionaries pro-

duced in native societies involved a creative exchange, not a destructive impo sition.

It is also stressed that indigenous people converted for far more personal reasons

than scholars suggested and that incorporation of Christian values into native cul-

tures did not mean a superficial belief system.


 The g reater part of present-day

history and ethnohistory scholarship sees native societies as groups that creatively

experimented with particular Western religions and reinterpreted them to fit their

indigenous cultures. Consequently, this resulted in regular redefinition of the na-

tive identity


  On many occasions, indigenous communities absorbed alien

elements to the point that they becam e "traditiona l." Over time native group s could

perceive such elements as expressions of their own identity.


  Thus, speculating

about the origin of specific cultural elements (traditional or non-traditional) will

hardly provide us with a clue to the social and spiritual meaning that people them-

selves attribute to these elements. One recent work, which discusses thexon version

of a Native Am erican medicine m an to Christianity, stresses that neither evaluation

(Christian or non-Christian) represents an appropriate framing of the issue and

that native people if they felt necessity sought sacred power "on whatever new

horizon it might appear."


  In his essay on religious syncretism J.D.Y. Peel clev-

erly remarked that native people in their belief practice w ere "much less interested

in the cultural origins of items of behavior than some anthropologists are."


Ethnohistorians now note that in the course of both peaceful and hostile native-

missionary relationships, native peoples acted as creative role players, adopting

parts of the Christian doctrines, rejecting others, and even imposing native "rules

of the gam e" on the m issionaries.


Though the importance of native agency is undeniable, we should not rush to

the other extreme, the emphasis on "unsubmissive" cultural persistence that de-

nies the impact of surrounding conditions on native-m issionary dialogue, especially

when facts clearly indicate that colonial hegemony affected native decisions. It is

evident that interactions with Christianity displayed a variety of native responses

because of the environmental, econ omic, and historic circumstances colonization

brought to native borderlands. Therefore, equal attention to the study of the spe-

cific cases of colonial hegemony and native agency is needed. My analysis of

native reactions to Russian Christianity falls within the particular economic, so-

cial, and political conditions existing for each region during the nineteenth cen tury.

I will examine how these background forces affected particular reactions of indig-

enous peoples to Christianity. Therefore, I agree with the authors who discuss

indigenous Christianization as a "dialectical proc ess" that involved both individual

agency and structural settings.


 Moreover, my analysis attempts to balance these

two aspects.

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Introduction 1

Those works that address native-Russian missionaries' encounters in Siberia

and Alaska can be divided into three large groups. To the first group belong studies

that directly or indirectly dem onstrate an apologetic or pro-Christian bias. Au thors

of these works insist that Orthodox missionary tradition was totally lenien t toward

native customs. Some of these writers generalize about the civilizing role Russian

missionaries performed among the "backward" natives.


  It is notable that in

present-day Russian scholarship a few works that seek to disprove the negative

critique of missionaries dominant in former Soviet scholarship fall into the same

pattern: missionaries as civilizers and cultural heroes.


Second, there is a body of literature in old Russia and the former Soviet Union

that totally equates missionary activities with Russian colonialism. These works

emphasize a negative impact of missionaries on indigenous peoples. A few of

these studies draw connections between Orthodox activities and economic inter-

ests of the Russian monarchy, stamping Christianity as a subservient agent for

czarist colonization. Accordingly, they judge Orthodox missionary activities as an

imposition. Works by early twentieth-century Russian anthropologists like

Waldemar Bogoras and Waldemar Jochelson and historians like Nikolai Firsov

perpetuated this view.


  These assessments were later borrowed by Soviet histori-

ans, who started to stress that Orthodox missions were a "weapon of intimidation

and dispossession" (Lev Mamet). Moreover, there were scholars (Khrapova) who

asserted that missionary activities were subordinated to missionaries' own "en-

richment and profit." Among Western researchers McCarthy presents arguments

that sound very close to the earlier approach . This historian writes that all mission-

ary activities were colored with strong nationalism and stresses that priests sent to

natives served the interests of the Russian state.


The third and currently the most popular approach is represented by

ethnohistorical scholarship. Despite their marked differences the works in this trend

are unanimous in avoiding a discussion of native-Russian missionary encounters

as either harmful or helpful innovations, treating instead native interactions with

clerics as a com plex process of intercultural exchang e. Although they vary in their

particular assessments, these scholars emphasize native interpretations of Ortho-

doxy or the role Russian Christianity performed for indigenous ethnicity.


  I have

benefited a great deal from this school of thought, especially from current

ethnohistorical studies on interactions between Orthodoxy and Native Am ericans

in A laska.

Second, in doing this research, I built my ideas from recent insights into the

history of the Russian empire's nationalities' policy and the indigenous peoples of

imperial borderlands and their Christianization.


  Most recent works that discuss

relationships between the empire and its indigenous periphery, draw attention to

the flexible and constantly changing nature of indigenous ethnicity and stress that

the process of ethnic boundary formation depended on particular historical cir-



 Third, I have gained considerable research feedback from the works

of the historians and anthropologists who study popular Christianity in early and

modern Russia.


  Eve Levine, one of these scholars, suggests that instead of search-

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8  Introduction

ing for Orthodox or heathen origin of specific popular beliefs, researchers will

gain more by uncovering the role these beliefs played in a specific social milieu:

"Religious beliefs and observances grew out of people's own understanding of the

supernatural and the natural and social world around them."


My general premise is that we cannot view the interactions between natives and

Orthodoxy only through the glasses of conflict and native resistance. Neither can

we reduce indigenous contacts with Russian missionaries to either natives' total

accommodation of Christianity or so-called indigenous cultural persistence. Cir-

cumstances varied so much that even within a specific indigenous group, as for

instance, the history of the Altaians vividly shows, we may find different percep-

tions of Orthodoxy. It also appears that for native peoples both their own native

beliefs and Christian religion represented tools for solving various social and spiri-

tual problems. Incidentally, Michael Steltenkamp in his biographical study of a

Native American medicine man turned Christian catechist draws our attention to

the fact that for the native people religion was far from an aspect of their culture,

but rather an instrument "in nurturing their ability to confront change."


I am inclined to share a viewpoint that to a larger degree cultural va lues, includ-

ing religion, are a matter of a choice ("invention of ethnicity") depending on specific

historic, economic, and political situations.


 As Ann Swindler puts it in her "Cul-

ture as Action," in constructing ethnicity people treat both their own and surround ing

cultures as a "toolkit" or as "strategies for action " that include rituals, worldview s,

and symbols used to deal with various problems. In the course of their activities

people constantly reshape their worldviews. Therefore, "the significance of spe-

cific cultural symb ols can be understood only in relation to the strategies of action

they sustain."


  Hence, for my own interpretation of the process of native-mis-

sionary interactions I rely on the "ethnicity as strategy" approach that stands as a

promising method for understanding native dialogues with Western culture.



is not to claim that this construction fully explains the diversity of native dec isions

to accept, reject, or negotiate with Christianity. Yet, I suggest that this method

allows an understanding of their core decisions because it underscores the instru-

mental character of religion itself, which is concerned with easing people's living

and providing them w ith an expressive outlet.


 This approach stresses that practi-

cal ideological or power motives frequently drove indigenous groups to adopt

Christian living, to experiment with a few elements of white man's religion, or to

reject Christianity.

It should be stressed that indigenous strategies were concerned not only with the

goals of pure physical survival, but mo re with the search for spiritual survival tools

and meaningful explanations for changes. It was a quest for additional spiritual

power in order to persist in surrounding environments. The nature of pre-indus-

trial indigenous societies, where social life, economy, ideology, and spiritual life

were linked, and where success in these fields depended on accumulation of medi-

cine power, opened or, on the contrary, significantly reduced opportunities for a

dialogue between Christian and indigenous beliefs. Native peoples attached or did

not attach elements of Russian Christianity to their cultural and religious systems

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Introduction 9

depending on the given situation. In areas where indigenous communities had no

significant interest in the Orthodox medicine, they retained their own beliefs,

making few borrowings from Christianity and even influencing the religion of

newcomers. The Chukchi saw little social or spiritual sense in adjusting Christian-

ity to their culture. In contrast, Dena'ina in Alaska, who faced a life disrupted by

constant changes, displayed interest in borrowing Russian Christian elements to

aid in improving their social and spiritual integrity. Briefly, in this work I am inter-

ested in two things: determining what cultural constructions native peoples offered

in response to missionary activities, second, applying Swindler's orientation, ana-

lyzing, what specific historical changes undermine the vitality of some cultural

patterns and give rise to others.




 Among those


 works that


 address this specific topic


 would like




interesting article


  David Collins that compares Orthodox evangelization



Alaskan natives with Protestant


  Catholic Christianization


  indigenous peoples


Canada: David Collins, "Culture, Christianity

  and the

  Northern Peoples




Siberia," Religion, State & Society 25, no. 4 (1997): 381-392 .


 Frederick Hoxie,




  Indian History,"

 in Major Problems in American

Indian History, ed.





 Peter Iverson (Lexington,

 MA: D. C.




 1994), 39-40.

3. Raymond


 Fisher, "Ru ssia's Two Eastern Frontiers: Siberia


 Russian Am erica,"

Pacifica: A Journal of Pacific and Asian Studies 2, no. 2 (1990): 24 -34 .


 In the nineteenth century life of native Siberians was regulated by the 1822 Statute of

Alien Administration (Polozhenie



  Polnoe Sobranie Zakonov Rossiiskoi

Imperil, 1st


 vol. 38, no.

 29126; "Visochaishe Utverzhdennii


 Iiulia 1822 Goda Ustav

ob Upravlenii Inorodtsev,

in  Natsionalnaia Politika


  Imperatorskoi Rossii: Pozdnie



 Predklassovie Obshchestva Se vera Evrop eiskoi Rossii, Sibiri


 Russkoi Am eriki,

ed. Yu. I. Semenov (Moskva: Starii Sad, 1998), 141-17 6. The status of indigenous peoples

of Alaska



  by the



  Russian-American Company.

  Polnoe Sobranie

Zakonov Rossiiskoi Imperii,  2nd ser., vol. 19, no.



  247 -28 6; "Visochaishe





 Goda Ustav Ro ssiisko-Amerikanskoi Kom panii,"


Natsionalnaia Politika


 Imperatorskoi Rossii,



 Ake Hu ltkrantz, "Ecological and Phenomenological Aspects of Shamanism," in Sha-

manism  in Siberia, ed. V.


 and M.

 Hoppal (Budap est: Akadem iai K iado, 1978),


  idem: "North American Indian Religions

 in a

  Circumpolar Perspective,"

 in North

Am erican Indian Studies: European Contributions, ed.

  Pieter Hovens (Gottingen, West

Germany: Edition Herodot, 1981), 11-28;

 U'ia S.







Traditsionnoi Kulture Narodov Severnoi Azii


 Severnoi Ameriki


 Traditsionnie Kultury

Severnoi Sibiri i Severnoi Am eriki, ed. Il'ia S. Gurvich (Moskva: Nauka, 1981), 11 9-12 7;



 Dzeniskevich, "American-Asian Ties




  Athapaskan Material


ture," in Anthropology of the  North Pacific Rim, ed.






Chaussonnet (Washington,


 Smithsonian Institution P ress, 1994), 53 -6 2;

 J. A.


The Shaman: Patterns of Siberian and O jibway H ealing (Norman: University of Oklahoma

Press, 1984); Karl H. Schlesier, The Wolves


 Heaven: Cheyenne Shaman ism, Ceremonies

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and Prehistoric Origins

  (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987); see also the spe-

cific work that fits this comparative framework: William W. Fitzhugh and Aron Crowell,


  Crossroads of Continents: Cultures of Siberia and Alaska

  (Washington, DC:

Smithsonian Institution Press, 1988).

6. Literally "of a different kin." Such a translation of this word offered by Mikhail

Khodarkovsky most closely matches the meaning of its Russian original. Mikhail

Khodarkovsky, "'Ignoble Savages and Unfaithful Subjects': Constructing Non-Christian

Identities in Early Modern Russia, in R ussia's O rient: Imperial Borderlands and Peoples,


  ed. Daniel R. Brower and Edward J. Lazzerini (Bloomington and London:

Indiana University Press, 1997), 15. Some researchers prefer to translate this word as "aliens."

The name


  was commonly used in Russian colonial vocabulary, where it was

applied to all indigenous peoples of the Russian empire. See more about the origin and

usage of the term in John W. Slocum, " W ho/and W hen, Were the Inorodtsy? The Evolution

of the Category of 'Alien s' in Imperial Ru ssia," Russian Review 57, no. 2 (1998): 173-1 90.


 An toinette Shalkop , "The Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska," in

 Russia's American

Colony, ed. S. Frederick Starr (Durham, N C: Duke University Press, 1987), 196.

8. David Norlander, "Veniaminov and the Expansion of Orthodoxy in Russian Am erica,"

Pacific Historical R eview 64, no. 1 (1995): 33.

9. Shalkop, "Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska," 200, 202.


  Michael Khodarkovsky, "'Not by Word Alone': Missionary Policies and Religious

Conversion in Early Modern R ussia,"

 Com parative Studies in Society and History

 3 8, no. 2




  Among these works I would like to single out: Thomas O. Biedelman,  Colonial

Evangelism: A Socio-Historical Study of an East African Mission at the Grassroots

(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982); Clarence R. Bolt, "The Conversion of the

Port Simpson Tsimshian: Indian Control of Missionary Manipulation, " in

 Out of the Back-


  Readings on Canadian Native History,

  ed. Robin Fisher and Kenneth Coates

(Toronto: Copp Clark Pitman, 1988), 219 -23 5; Wendy Jam es, Douglas H. Johnson, eds.

Vernacular Christianity: Essays in the Social An thropology of Religion (New York: Lilian

Barber Press, 1988); Vicente L. Rafael,  Contracting Colonialism: Translation and Chris-





 Society under Early



 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University

Press, 1988); Mary T Huber,

 The Bishop's Progress: A Historical E thnography of C atholic

Missionary Experience on the Sepik F rontier

 (Washington, DC , and London: Smithsonian

Institution Press, 1988); Jean Comaroff,  and John L. Comaroff.  Of Revelation and Revolu-

tion: Christianity, Colon ialism, and Con sciousness in South Africa (Chicago: University of

Chicago Press, 1991); Kenneth M. Morrison, "Montagnais Missionization in Early New

France, in M ajor P roblems in American Indian History, ed. Albert L Hurtado ana Peter

Iverson (Lexington, MA : D. C. Heath and Co ., 1994), 10 4-117; Clara Sue Kidwell,


and Missionaries in Mississippi, 1818-1918

  (Norman and London: University of Okla-

homa Press, 1995); Martha McCarthy, From the Great River to the End of the Earth: Oblate

Missions to the Dene, 1847-1921  (Edm onton, Alberta: The U niversity of Alberta Press and

Western C anadian Pu blishers, 1995); Michael F. Steltenkamp , Black Elk: Holy Man of the


 (Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993);

 Christianity and Mis-

sions, 1450-1800,

  ed. J. S. Cum mins (A ldershot, UK and Brookfield, VT: Ashg ate, 1997);

Michael E. Harkin,

  The Heiltsuks: Dialogues of Culture and History on the Northwest


  (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1997); Pier M. Larson, "'Ca-

pacities and Modes of Th ink ing ': Intellectual Engagements and Subaltern Hegemony in the

Early History of Malagasy Christianity," American Historical Review  102, no. 4 (1997):

969-1002. I would also like to note the most recent comparative studies of conversion to

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Introduction  11

Christianity of three Native Am erican groups in Mexico and three indigenou s com mu nities

in India: Pauline G. Stedt, "Syncretic Religions: Merging Symbols (Mexico)" (Ph.D. diss.,

University of California Riverside, 1994); Richard M. Eaton, "Com parative H istory as World

History: Religious Conversion in Modern India,"

 Journal of World H istory

 8, no. 2 (1997):



 Cornelius O sgood,

 Ethnography of the Tanaina

 (New H aven, CT: Human Relations

Area Files Press, 1976), 194.

13. George E. Tinker, Missionary C onquest: The Gospel and Native Am erican Cultural

Genocide  (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993).


  N. Y. Khrapova, "Zakhvati Z emel G ornog o Altaia Altaiskoi D ukhov noi Missiiei v

Poreformennii Period " in

  Voprosi Sotsialno-Ekon omich eskogo Razvitia Sibiri




 ed. A. P. Boroda vkin (Barnaul: Altaiskii Gosudearstvenn ii U niversitet, 1984),


15. James Axtell, "Some Tho ughts on the Ethnohistory of Missions," Ethnohistory  29,


  1 (1982): 37; Ann Fienup-Riordan,

  The Real People and the Children of Thunder: The

Yup'ik Eskimo Encounter with Moravian Missionaries John and Edith K ilbuck


University of Oklahoma Press, 1991), 5; John Webster Grant,

  Moon of Wintertime: Mis-

sionaries and the Indians of Canada in Encounter Since 1534

 (Toronto and Buffalo: University

of Toronto Press, 1984), 225; Susan E. Gray, "The Ojibwa World View and Encounters

with Christianity alon g the Berens River, 1 875 -19 40 " (Ph.D. diss., University of Manitoba,


  Andrew H. Hedges, "Strangers, Foreigners, and Fellow Citizens: Case Studies of

English M issions to the Indians in Colonial New England and the Middle Colonies, 16 42 -


  (Ph.D. diss., University of Illinois at Urban a-Cham paign, 1996). One of the most

recent studies on native-missionary encounters emphasizes that those who reduce Native

Am erican interactions with Euroamerican clerics to a simple battleground simplify history

"to suit our current political beliefs, thus diminishing the humanity of people who acted

with a wide range of motives and from a multitude of perspectives." Michael Harkin and

Sergei Kan, "Introduction," in Special Issue: Native Am erican W omen's Respon ses to Chris-

tianity, ed. Michael Harkin and Sergei K an,


 43 , no. 4 (1996): 565 . A present-day

Native American theologian similarly stressed that "to dismiss all native Christians as ac-

culturated, anachronistic traces of religious colonialism, is to miss innumerable

dem onstrations of their insightful historical and social analysis, their complex and sophis-

ticated religious creativity." James Treat, "Introduction: Native Christian N arrative D iscourse,"

Native and Christian: Indigenous Voices on Religious Iden tity in the U nited States and


 ed. James Treat (New York and Lon don: R outledge, 1996), 10.


 Loretta Fowler,

 Shared Sym bols, C ontested Meanings: Gros V entre Culture and His-

tory, 1778-198 4  (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1987), 8, 10; Peter Iverson,

When Indians Became Cow boys: Native Peoples and Cattle Ranching in the American West

(Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994).



 Black Elk,

 157, 161.

18.  J.D.Y. Peel, "Syncretism and Religious Change,"

  Comparative Studies in Society

and H istory

 10, no. 2 (1968): 140.


  Interestingly, Jannifer S.H. Brown recently questioned the validity of the term re-

sponse for the description of native encounters with missionaries. Instead, she offers a

neutral term, interaction, to stress that both m issionaries and native peoples changed during

mutual contacts. Jennifer S.H. Brown, "Reading Beyond the Missionaries, Dissecting Re-



  43, no. 4 (1996): 714 -715 .


 Harvey A. Feit, "Dream ing of Animals: The Waswanipi Crée Sh aking Tent Cerem ony

in Relation to Environm ent, Hun ting, and Missionization,"

 Circumpolar Religion andEcol-

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Introduction  13


  Michael Oleksa,

  Orthodox Alaska: A Theology of Mission

  (Crestwood, NY: St.

Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1992).

26 .

  Andreas Kappeler, R ossiia-Mnogonatsionalnaia Imperiia: Vozniknovenie, Istoriia,


 trans, from G erman by Svetlana Che rvon naia (Moskva: Progress-Traditiia, 1997);

Yuri Slezkine, A rctic M irrors: Russia and the Small Peoples of the North (Ithaca and Lon-


  Cornell University Press, 1994); idem, "Savage Christians or Unorthodox Russians?

Missionary Dilemma in Siberia, in

 Between Heaven and


 The Myth of Siberia in

Russian C ulture,

 ed. Yuri Slezkine and G alya Dim ent (New York: St. Ma rtin's P ress, 19 93),

15-31; Willard Sunderland, "Russian into Iakuts? 'Going Native' and Problems of Russian

National Identity in the Siberian North, 1870s-1914," Slavic Review 55, no. 4 (1996): 80 6-


 Paul W. Werth, "Subjects for Empire: Orthodox Mission and Imperial Governance in

the Volga-Kama Region, 1825-1881" (Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 1996); idem,

"Baptism, Authority, and the Problem of Zakonnost' in Orenburg Diocese: The Induction

of over 800 'Pagans' into the Christian Faith,"

 Slavic Review

 56, no. 3 (1997): 456-4 80.


 Daniel R. Brower and Edw ard J. Lazzerini, "Introduction," in

 Russia's Orient: Impe-

rial Borderlands and Peoples, 1700-1917,

  ed. Daniel R. Brower and Edward J. Lazzerini

(Bloomington and Lon don: Indiana University Press, 1997), xv; Tho ma s M. Barrett, "Lines

of Uncertainty: The Frontiers of the Northern Caucasus," in   Imperial Russia: New Histo-

ries for the Empire,

 ed. Jane Burbank and David L. Ransel (Bloomington and Indianap olis:

Indiana University Press, 1998), 148-173.

28.  T. A. Bernstam, "Russian Folk Culture and Folk Religion," in  Russian Traditional

Culture: Religion, Gender, and Customary Law, ed. Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer (Armonk,

NY, and London: M. E. Sharpe, 1992), 34-47; Eve Levin, "Dvoeverie and Popular Reli-



 Reco very of Religious Identity in Orthodox Russia, Ukrain and Georgia,

 ed. Stephen

K. Batalden (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1993), 31-52; Alexandr A.

Panchenko, Issledovania v Oblasti Narodnogo Pravoslavia (St. Petersburg: Aleteia, 1998).


 Levin, "Dvoeverie and Popular Religion," 46.



 Black Elk,



 S ee major studies that belong to this tradition: Roy Wagner, T he Invention of Culture

(Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1975); Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger,  The

Invention of Tradition

 (Cam bridge, UK and New York: Camb ridge U niversity P ress, 1983);

The Invention of Ethnicity,

  ed. W. Sollors (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989);

Kathleen N. Cozen, et. al., "The Invention of Ethnicity: A Perspective from the USA,"

Journal of American E thnic History  12, no. 1 (1992): 5.

32 .

 Ann Swindler, "Culture as Action: Symbols and Strategies,"

 American Sociological

Review 51 (1986): 274, 283.

33 . Clyde Holler, Black Elk's Religion: The Sun Dance and Lakota Catholicism (Syra-


  NY: Syracuse University Press, 1995), 207-208.


 Peel, "Syncretism and Religious Change," 124.

35. Swindler, "Culture as Action: Symbols and Strategies," 284.

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Indigenous Landscapes in Siberia and


It is from unde rstanding that the power com es; and the power in the ceremony was in

unders tanding what it meant. After this, I went on curing sick people, and I was busy

doing this. I was in doubt no longer. I felt like a man, and I could feel the power with

me all the time.

—John G. Neihardt,

 Black Elk Speaks

Acting as protectors of their specific kin groups shamans carry purely clan functions,

which creates conditions for the growth of shamans' personal power.

—Sergei Shirokogoroff,

  Opyt Izsledovaniia O snov Shamanstva u Tungusov


An exploration of the native societies that confronted Russian missionaries helps

explain the motives of the indigenous population either to seek out Russian Chris-

tianity or to limit contact w ith it. Though ind igenou s peoples of Siberia and Alaska

differed from each other, common patterns can be generalized. However, this chapter

is not a detailed examination of native "traditional" cultures, a task that would

remain superficial given the continuous changes that occurred am ong the discussed

groups. Current ethnohistorical scholarship emphasizes that indigenous societies

were never static before contacts with European and American civilizations, and

that therefore all attempts to reconstruct an immanent native traditional world are

specu lative. At best, such efforts represent snapshots of native cultures during spe-

cific periods; at worst, they maintain European stereotypes of the indigenous

societies. Nevertheless, the word traditional is used here , as Melissa M eyer em -

ployed it, simply to define "cultural patterns or customs from an earlier time" to

the time of first contacts with Europeans.


The present examination is rather a summary of the results of recent Russian

and Western ethnohistorical research on Altaian, Chukchi, and Dena'ina econo-

mies,  social life and native beliefs during early-contact times, singling out those

aspects of indigenous social, economic, and spiritual culture that were crucial dur-

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16  Shama nism and Christianity

ing encounters with Russian clerics. Particularly, this chapter draws attention to

the intimate connections of economic, social, and spiritual life in indigenous tradi-

tional societies. Unlike in Western society, in traditional culture these spheres could

not be separated. In this approach to reality, all economic and social ac tivities, and

even amusements, were encompassed by or intertwined with religion.

Of this fact another important premise follows: we cannot single out native be-

liefs completely and examine them per se without addressing native environment,

economy, and social life. Second, my goal is to show that the worldview of the

three groups under discussion, like native beliefs in other areas, was concerned

with accumulating spiritual power for meaningful explanations of the surrounding

environment and for solution of various social and individual problems.



The Athapaskan-speaking Native Am erican group the Dena 'ina, occupied Kenai

area in southeastern Alaska. As did other groups who belong to the same language

family, in the eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth century Dena'ina de-

veloped sem inomadic hunting and fishing econo mies. However, they differed from

the Athapaskans of interior Alaska, who had more of a hunting culture, whereas

the Den a'ina displayed elem ents of both hunting and fishing econom ies. D ena 'ina

southern g roups hunted large anim als, but depended more on river and sea fishing.

Regular seasonal salmon fishing was the most important food resource for the

Dena'ina, especially when the caribou population decreased on the Kenai Penin-

sula in the nineteenth century. The salmon fishing economy allowed the D ena 'ina

to develop semisedentary lifestyle. Northern bands, though also fishers, relied m ore

on hunting. Generally, all Dena'ina devoted the spring and fall seasons to exten-

sive tribal hunts of large gam e, when they would mak e collective drives and set up

fences to capture caribou. During these long hunting expeditions, the Indians left

their sedentary villages and moved to small mobile hemispherical structures. Dur-

ing the summ er season w hole villages moved to the fishing sites to harvest salmon

and prepare for winter. By the second half of the nineteenth century the fur trade

introduced nom adic patterns for all of the semisedentary Dena 'ina population.


It is difficult to estimate the Dena'ina population during the early contact pe-

riod, the second half of the eighteenth century. At the end of the eighteenth century

they lived in semipermanent settlements with an estimated population of two hun-

dred people per village. However, more definite data exist, provided by Russian

missionaries for later years. Parish accounts indicated that by the end of the nine-

teenth century the population of six major Dena'ina villages after being reduced

by epidemics varied from 48 to 197 people in each settlement. Missionary ac-

counts of 1895-1896 show Dena'ina numbers at 2,507,


  and Joan Townsend

estimates that the Dena'ina population was approximately 3,000 at the end of the

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Indigenous Landscapes


nineteenth century.


  The Indians maintained relationships with neighbo ring Yupik

and with Athapaskan groups through trade, war, and intermarriage. Incidentally, it

was from the Yupik that the D ena'ina, o riginally forest hunters, later adopted m ari-

time living techniques that helped them survive in new surroundings.


In referring to the Athapaskans and the De na 'ina in particular, scholars em pha-

size an extreme flexibility to adapt to new ecological c ond itions. James V anStone

writes that the Athapaskans "moving into different environments in most cases

readily borrowed techniques and technologies from the people already present

and accommodated these techniques within Athapaskan culture." He concludes,

"Traditional Athapaskan culture must be thought of as essentially an accommo-

dating culture, and accommodation, in turn, greatly facilitated survival in a

demanding environment." Townsend also maintained that one of the most out-

standing characteristics o f the Den a'ina and apparently of the Athapaskans in general

was their extreme adaptability. She emphasized the respect for individual initiative

and the lack of excessive social sanctions, which gave them much freedom for

experimenting with alien values.


Like the Tanaina used in earlier ethnographies, the name D ena'ina is superficial

and is a later anthropological construction. The Dena'ina bands spoke closely re-

lated dialects and lived in small communities, independent of each other. Later, as

a result of Russian and American co lonization, epidemics, and subsistence chan ges,

they consolidated their villages, after which they apparently began thinking about

themselves as "the De na 'ina " and accepted this classification into a single entity.

Dena'ina society had changed so much by the middle of the nineteenth century

that it is difficult to speculate further about social organization during the pre-

contact period. Still, it appears that in the early nineteenth century, consisting of

ten to fifteen matrilineal clans, Dena'ina kin relations followed a matrilineal sys-

tem of succession. Consequently, women occupied an important place, con trolling

the distribution of food and the marriage of their daugh ters. Even chiefs and head-

men moved to the houses of their wives after marrying. During the nineteenth

century, an extended family occupying a large semisubterranean house was the

major social unit.


Anthropological works po int to the existence of an elite {qeshqa) and comm on-

ers  (os'qala),  although later contacts with the Russians enhanced this division.



  status and prestige depended on accumulating riches and regularly

distributing them among other members of the community through the potlatch

ceremo nies frequently described in anthropological literature. However, it was not

wealth itself or its distribution that fully defined


 power and status, but the

ability to organize supporters for productive purposes that elevated one's position

and prestige. Qeshqa were enterprising individuals who introduced technological

innovations into Dena'ina society and were mindful of the well-being of their

community. This group of people provided the candidates for headmen positions,

along with the village sh am ans.


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18  Shama nism and Christianity


In the early seventeenth century during the first contacts with the Russians, the

Chukchi were: inland nomads (reindeer hunters) and coastal dwellers (maritime

fishers and hunters). Inland hunters later switched to reindeer breeding and lived

in mobile iarangas, dwellings made from skins, while coastal residents resided in

the semisubterranean houses or permanent  iarangas until the middle of the nine-

teenth century. Official census data show that the Chukchi population was 11,771

at the close of the nineteenth century, whereas B ogoras estimates 12,000. Of these

natives only 3,000 were maritime fishers.


Before the seventeenth century, inland tundra natives concentrated on hunting

of wild deer along with fishing and srrcall-scale reindeer herding. From the eigh-

teenth century the latter already dom inated the entire native economy of northeastern

Siberia. Furtherm ore, the Chukchi herds along with the K oryak reindeer were the

most numerous among other indigenous groups.


  Although domestication of the

reindeer was on a rudimentary level, native herds were num erous and provided a

relatively stable food supply. The developm ent of intensive reindeer herding started

during the colonization period because of weather fluctuations and a decline in

hun ting. Igor Krupnik contends that the decision to breed reindeer involved favor-

able ecological conditions, a demand for reindeer skins, and the decline of both

intertribal conflicts and Russian-native clashes in the second half of the eighteenth

century. Specifically, Krupnik emp hasizes the growth of the deer skin trade in the

northeast as the major impetus for the rise of the reindeer economy."

Other scholars have stressed that excessive hunting destroyed the wild deer, elk,

snow sheep, and bear populations and triggered the domestication of the rein-



  Krupnik disagrees and argues that the wild reindeer population decreased

more because of natural ecological fluctuations than of human interference. Whether

it was a result of overhu nting, natural cau ses, or a com bination of both, by the late

1700s the wild reindeer almost disappeared from northeastern Siberia. These

changes forced groups of Chukchi to intensify reindeer breeding, which previ-

ously was only a marginal economic component. The nomadic Chukchi had

com pleted this transition by the 1790s. As a result, inland natives becam e "full-

t ime"

 reindeer nomadic breeders.

The reindeer provided tundra nomads with everything: meat, skins, clothing,

shelter, items for trade. In addition, these animals served as a means of transporta-

tion. "The reindeer is all for these people," writes Richard Bush; "they furnish

them with food, raiment, transportation, and shelter."


  Krupnik stresses that the

reindeer provided the Chukchi with major staple products found in their native

econom y. Consum ption of trade goods such as flour, tea, and sugar remained mini-

mal until the middle of the twentieth century.


  More importantly, as the

anthropologist Gapanovich emphasizes in a comparison of the northeastern Sibe-

rian reindeer econom y and the Am erican Indian hunting economy, the former better

protected people from the instability faced by Native American hunting communi-



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Indigenous Landscapes  19

Changing into reindeer breeders eventually brought innovations to the Chukchi

social institutions and beliefs.


  Now a large part of their social and religious ac-

tivities became concentrated around increasing of reindeer herds. Thus, the mass

slaughtering of the reindeer, which w as usually conducted in August and Septem-

ber, was also the time of major rites and ceremonies whose meaning was deeply

related to this slaughtering process.


  The connection of a household with its rein-

deer herd was also expressed in anointment with deer blood of the faces of family

mem bers during various rituals. A nom adic family and its herd w ere viewed as a

single whole. A large num ber of religious artifacts were used only within a house-

hold or band and were designated to protect the "reindeer pro sper ity" of this specific

family or band group. For this reason a nomadic household usually never agreed

to replace their ritual objects such as amulets with religious artifacts from another

family or a com munity in fear that it might result in decrease of the reindeer. Such

attitudes persisted throughout the


  century and survived until




In search of pasture lands the Chukchi expanded to the west and to the south. In

the course of these m ovem ents they had to split their herds; this resulted in grow -

ing isolation of nomadic camps and even individual households. In the second half

of the nineteenth century this process accelerated. By the beginning of the twen ti-

eth century clan organization was weakened and disintegrated. In the nineteenth

century a patriarchal family headed by an   ermichin,  a "powerful man" or "head-

man," became a major unit of the Chukchi social life. Heads of these extended

family group s succeeded each other on the hereditary principle. Eventually, a ter-

ritorial band based not necessarily on kin relations became the major unit of Chukchi



  Analyzing these economic and social changes, Vdovin draws an important

conclusion, stressing that increasing independence


  nomadic households and

families also led to independence in the matter of cult practice.


Both in the tundra and along the coast the sovereign Chukchi bands lacked a

central authority or comm on identity. The result was that such definitions as "the

Ch ukc hi" meant little to them. Argentov noted that the Chukch i "d id not have any

name for themselves," from which he concluded that no organized Chukchi soci-

ety existed.


  At the end of the eighteenth century, Sarichev, a pioneer observer of

northeastern Siberian natives, wrote that the Chukchi had "no chiefs or authori-


 Each com munity had an influential individual, w ho was richer than the others

or had a larger family, but such persons were "little obeyed and had no right to

punish anybody."


  In the nineteenth century a typical inland Chukchi nomadic

camp co nsisted of three or four families of about twenty p eople with a join t herd

ranging from two to three thousand reindeer.


  These camps occasionally united

into larger social groups num bering 150 to 200 persons.

In 1910 the Russian governmental surveyor Kallinikov pointed to the lack of

kin organization of the Chukchi bands by noting that the Chukchi moved with the

herd not on a kinship but on a "comradeship basis," depending on the number of

their reindeer. He added that these nomadic "com radeships" constantly fluctuated.

In coastal areas two or three of such big families were united in a

 bidara artel


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20  Shamanism and Christianity

skin-boat crew) that served as a major social unit.


  Not only relatives but neigh-

bors could also join this production g roup . In the nineteenth century the Chuk chi

society living in both the tundra and maritime areas started dividing themselves

into either the rich or the poor. This practice was especially noticeable in the no-

madic society, which defined itself as consisting of reindeer breeders and poor

"drifters." The latter did not own the deer but worked as herders for rich fellow

tribesmen or supported themselves by hunting and fishing.

Unlike their nomadic kin, the maritime Chukchi lived in sedentary villages num -

bering between fifty and one hundred people and practiced fishing and the hun ting

of seals, sea otters, sea lions, and larger species like the bowhead, gray whales,

walrus, and beluga. Land animals did not occupy a large place in their econo mies.

Each settlement had one to three communal semisubterranean houses and a few

dozen family houses for use in the summer. In contrast to their northern Alaskan

counterparts, coastal groups of northeastern Asia did not leave maritime areas ev-

ery summer to hunt wild caribou in remote inland regions. All necessary products

from inland like deer skins and meat they received through the trade with the

nom ads. Furtherm ore, coastal residents developed a system of perm anent exchan ge

by mediating with Alaskan natives, Russians Creo les, and nomadic camps in north-

eastern Siberia. Thus, unlike nomadic bands, sedentary communities were more

active in trade and cultural exchange with Russians and Americans.


There were intensive population fluctuations between maritime natives and re-

indeer groups. The former, especially during a decline of sea hunting, frequently

moved into the tundra and joined the nomads. The inland residents who lost herds

journeyed to the coast and engaged in sea hunting or fishing. At the same time, in

the eyes of nomads, the coastal groups merited little respect because of the latter's

unstable subsistence. Sea hunting and fishing remained unpredictable and natives

faced frequent starvation.

When hun ting and fishing in coastal areas were poor, reindeer camp s frequently

served as a source of food supply to starving coastal communities. In such cases

nom adic natives provided large quantities of reindeer m eat free of charge .



over, traditional philosophy of the Chukchi strengthened such regular benevolence

toward starving coastal and inland residents. The reindeer breeders viewed them-

selves not as owners of the herds, but as people who had been assigned by spirit

protectors of the reindeer to supervise these animals for the common benefit. The

circle of people who were expected to share the reindeer extended not only to

relatives and neighbors, but to sedentary coastal populations as well. The mass

slaughtering of the reindeer to help coastal populations, especially during periods

of severe starvation sometimes had a negative impact on the economic status of

the nomads.


 It appears that only with intensified A merican trade did som e mari-

time comm unities upgrade their social position by acting as go-betweens for various

native, including inland reindeer breeders, and white groups.

Incidentally, ethnic processes reflected these regional situations: interior rein-

deer natives assimilated coastal populations, but not vice versa. Gurvich, who

examined the eighteenth-century ethnic dynamic in northeastern Siberia, concludes

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Indigenous Landscapes  21

that as a result of acceleration of reindeer herding nomadic Chukchi camps ex-

panded, whereas the number of sedentary villages remained at the same level; this

suggests that some coastal residents m igrated to the tundra. Thus, some maritime

Inuit people moved to inland areas, switched to reindeer herding and were gradu-

ally assimilated by the Chukchi nomads. During the nineteenth century this

assimilation of the Inuit by the Chukch i continued.


  In the west we find a similar

picture: by expanding to the Kolyma River the Chukchi assimilated the neighbor-

ing Chuvantsy. On the whole, in northeastern Siberia nomadic Chukchi eventually

came to occupy important social and economic roles. In addition, their geograph i-

cal isolation and a relatively stable economy strengthened their ethnicity.



Like the other tribal definitions mentioned, the name Altaians is superficial.

Russian authorities coined and later ethnographers adopted this word defining re-

lated Turkic-speaking communities occupying the forests, grasslands, and

mountains of Altai, an area located in southwestern Siberia near the R uss ian-M on-

golian and Russian-Chinese borders. Incidentally, it was the missionary Vasilii

Verbitskii, the author of the first comprehensive anthropological works about this

group of peoples, who introduced this definition into scholarship; it was accepted

by scholars and continues in use to the present day.


  In 1897 the Altaians num-

bered 20,273 individuals. Historically, the Altaians were divided into northeastern

semisedentary hunters and gatherers and southwestern nomadic stock breed ers.

In the nineteenth-century administrative and travel jargon tribal units who re-

sided in the northern and eastern Altai regions were usually described as "Black


 Tatars" because of the location of their habitats in dense "black" for-


 Northeastern Altaians or "Black Tatars" included the Tubalars (in the area of

the Katun and Biya rivers), the Kumandins (around the Biya River), and the

Chelkans (the Lebed River area). Verbitskii and Vladim ir Radlov (W ilhelm Radioff),

another nineteenth-century scholar, also included the Shors to this group of peoples.

Although modern Russian anthropology defines the Shors as a separate group, in

my work I follow a traditional classification because of numerous sim ilarities and

connections between Shors' social, economic, and religious life and that of other

northeastern Altaians. The major areas populated by the Shors included the upper

reaches of the Tom River and its tributaries, the Kondoma and Mrass.

Among the nomadic Altaians to the south the following groups may be singled

out: the Telengits (the valley of the Chuia River), the Maimalar (the Maima River

area), and the Telesses and Teleuts, who resided in the Kemerovo area. Economi-

cally and politically the latter group occupied a transitional place between the two

geographical and cultural areas practicing both stockbreeding and forest hunting

along with gathering. The most numerous nomadic group was the Altai-Kizhi,

from the Katun river area; their numbers were apparently the reasons the Russians

applied this name to all other neighboring tribal groups. In addition, old Russian

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22  Shamanism and Christianity

sources and such nineteenth-century observers as Verbitskii frequently referred to

the Altaian nomads as Kalmuks.


The major difference between two geographical groups of the Altaians was the

role of stockbreeding in their economy. A subsistence based on nomadic

stockbreeding was the center of the native economy in the southwest. The moun-

tains and flat grasslands where the southwestern Altaians lived allowed them to

raise sheep, goats, cattle, and horses. The latter, as the most adaptable to the local

climate, dominated this nomadic pastoralism that depended on seasonal and cli-

mate changes. By the time native society first contacted the Russians, southern

and western Altaians had already developed divisions between the rich and poor.


  in 1756, the year when south Altai was incorporated into the Russian state,

50 percent of the nomads either did no't have horses at all or owned two or three

horses, whereas the greater part of the horse herds were concentrated in the hands

of 21 percent their households.


  Unlike northeastern groups, which retained more

collectivist elements in their social structure, nomad bands knew a system of ranks

based on the number of cattle owned. Likewise, kin relations gave way to single-

family units and patriarchy. Nevertheless, the hunting practices of southwestern

people continued a collectivist tradition, along with the use of pastoral lands.


Unlike in the southwestern region, among the northern Altaians stockbreeding

was minimal because of the unfavorable environmental conditions. In 1899 it was

reported that 10 percent of households among the Shor did not have horses, 19

percent had no cattle at all, and only 0.7 percent had more than 20 head of cattle.


Although both groups practiced sable hunting for commercial purposes, it was

only in the northeast that hunting as a subsistence activity dominated the native

econom y. In the northeastern areas Altaian com munities relied upon hunting sable,

squirrel, weasel, otter, fox, ermine, lynx, roe deer, maral elk, and wild goat. Fish-

ing for salmon-trout, grayling, ide, and burbot provided another primary economic

supply, while collecting cedar nuts and natural honey, the third economic branch,

was also important. Thus, in response to the growing Russian demand for forest

nuts the natives reoriented their economy, and by the end of the nineteenth century

70 percent of the people in some com munities turned to this com merce.

Yet, hunting continued to dominate the indigenous economy in the northeast.

For example, among the Kumandins collecting of nuts occupied as much of a

place in the native economy as hunting. Moreover, during the seventeenth and

eighteenth centuries extraction of tribute in furs and growth of the Russian-native

fur trade industry boosted the Altaian hunting econom y. Twice a year natives formed

hunting expeditions, one in winter and the other during the spring or summer

season. In the seventeenth century an Altaian hunter was able to obtain in a season

from ten to fifteen sable pelts , of which he had to deliver seven or eight to the

governm ent as a tribute payment. By the beginning of the eighteenth century preda-

tory hunting reduced the number of sables and Altaian hunters now were able to

catch only four to five sables in a season.


Until the end of the nineteenth century Altaian hunting methods maintained the

tradition of tribal collectivism. Some Shors' myths mentioned large tribal hunting

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Indigenous Landscapes  23

parties for reindeer, m arais, roe deer, and elk in which they set up collective enc lo-

sures to fence in the anim als. At the turn of the present century they still distributed

their catch equally among all members of a clan irrespective of the number of

animals killed. The northeastern Altaians applied the same principles to other oc-

cupations such as fishing and gathering. H owever, at the beginning of the twentieth

century some nouveau riches Shors ignored this system. As a result, owners offish

nets started expecting to receive a larger share of the catch and some well-to-do

natives began renting the equipment to clan members in exchange for shares with-

out taking part in the actual work.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the southwestern Altaians and some

northeastern Altaians lived in round felt or bark  yurts,  whereas northern Altai na-

tives primarily resided in wooden tents


 made of beams, planks, and poles

covered with birch bark as well as low four-cornered wooden huts with a birch

bark roof.  In the nineteenth century some Altaians in the northern areas, for in-

stance, the Kumandins, adopted the log huts introduced by Russian settlers.


A loose exogamic patrilineal clan  (seok),  translated as "bone/' of ten to forty

families served as the major social unit of these tribes. Earlier, in the seventeenth

and eighteenth centuries, these clans consisted of only kin-related people, but by

the nineteenth century,


 occasionally included non-kin members. Still, at the

beginning of the twentieth century  seok  members called themselves  karyndash,

meaning "from the same womb/' In the south the major economic and social unit

of the Altaians w as a nomadic cam p


  that united from three to five



belonged to relatives, and in the north a sedentary village called either ail or ulus,

which united from seven to twenty  yurts or cabins in a style distantly resembling

that of Russian dwellings.


 A council of respected clan elders supervised a camp

or a village ruled by a headman (called pashtyks  in the north and  zaisan  in the


  who inherited his position and exercised little authority beyond his own



The position of pashtykJzaisan  was inherited until the second half of the nine-

teenth century. Colonial authorities did not interfere directly in internal clan affairs

and communicated only with native leaders. As early as the seventeenth century,

the Russian empire integrated Altaian leadership in the pursuit of Russian political

causes. Afterward, from the 1880s and especially at the turn of the twentieth cen-

tury, Russian influences, at least in the northeast, made elections of native leadership

by the whole population the common practice. The major responsibility of the

Altaian headm en was collecting fur tribute and other taxes for the Russian govern-

ment. As a result, the authority of these native leaders w as primarily based on their

successfully mediating between colonial officials and their own clans.



Pre-contact and early contact indigenous beliefs varied so much in both Siberia

and northern native America and within the separate tribal groups that what is

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24   Shamanism and Christianity

called "native religion" often represented diverse individual and collective experi-

ences.  To define native worldviews as pure, unified "native religion" approaches

native philosophy from a European viewpoint. Unlike Western religious tradition,

indigenous beliefs stressed a personal spiritual improvisation. Except those schol-

ars who examine native worldview from the phenomenological point of view

popular in religious studies, few current ethnohistorians draw broad parallels be-

tween native Siberians and N ative Americans.

At the beginning of the twentieth century scholars such as Franz Boas, Waldemar

Bogoras, Waldemar Jochelson, and Robert Lowie tried to find similarities between

Siberian and Am erican Indian worldviews. However, their efforts emphasized vague

genetic sim ilarities and speculated about the diffusion of rituals and myths from

Siberia to North America. Lowie, for instance, found similarities between a few

Native American and Siberian elements: soul kidnapping as the dominant theory

of disease, shamans' songs, medicine men's and women's playing with fire, and

shaking of a lodge by shamans during their performances. As a result, he hypoth-

esized that Siberia and North America formed "one gigantic unit from the angle of

religious belief.


Though a few students of native Siberians and Native Americans adhere to this

type of interpretation (for instance , Galina Dzeniskevich and E. A. Okladnikova in

Russia and Karl Schlesier in the United States),


  current researchers avoid ge-

netic parallels and prefer another interpretation, stressing common features in

geographical, environmental, and social conditions. It appears that this approach

is best represented by the works of Ake Hultkrantz, a religious scholar and anthro-

pologist, who sees social and ecological similarities between indigenous peoples

in Siberia and those of northern Native America as preconditions for common

patterns of faith based on similar ecological niches.


Hultkrantz nevertheless cautions scholars that his search for parallels between

native Siberia and American Indian beliefs appears as a "crude instrument" and

that a com parative approach should "b e handled with care ." Yet, he argues that

"from the religio-ecological perspective" native cultures in northern Siberia and

northern areas of North Am erica constituted "the same type of religion " The ana lo-

gies are cited: environmentally oriented worldviews, animal ceremonialism, and a

strong emphasis on shamanism.


  Like Hultkrantz, the anthropologist of religion

S. A. Thorpe contends that common patterns of shamanism existed. He under-

scores that a search for "a generalized overview of the religious orientations of

many different localized groups" does not lose its validity.


Despite present-day cautious attitudes to comparative analogies, scholars hardly

dispute that a holistic approach to the environment is the most visible aspect of

indigenous beliefs, and some even prefer to define "native religions" in holistic


 seeing the whole scope of native beliefs as closely connec ted with land and

environmentally based activities. Accordingly, they describe these worldviews as

"land-based relig ions" or "religions of nature."


  Students of Native Am erican and

Siberian societies argue that the traditional beliefs of these groups depended on

their ecological adaptations. The existing religious practices provided tools that

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Indigenous Landscapes  25

helped, for example, hunting and fishing.


  In their study of Dena'ina Indian

ethnohistory Ellanna and Balluta note that for a land-based society the ties be-

tween humans and flora, fauna, and other elements of nature were foremost. They

point out that the "hunter and gatherer cosmologies are holistic in nature" and

"mirror the ways that societies, within which they are operative, are ordered."


In contrast to so-called Western religions, Siberian and Native Am erican beliefs

generally did not separate the natural from the supernatural world, but integrated

them with other elements such as polity, economy and social order.



more, dependence of native lifeways and economies and spiritual activity on the

unpredictable forces of nature did not allow creation of dogmatic structure or rigid

religious institutions. Rather, in their major approach to supernatural indigenous

beliefs they emphasized fluid individual religious experiences. In addition, Sibe-

rian native and Am erican Indian worldviews did not picture a battle between sinister

and good forces for a final victory, something that Euroamericans, who had been

raised in the spirit of Judeo-Christian tradition, could not grasp.

It was hardly surprising that many missionaries concluded that natives practiced

no religion. Clerics who w orked among the Indians believed that instead of genu-

ine religion they found a few superstitions. Because of this false perception,

missionaries seriously maintained that they had co me to fill a spiritual vacuum .


Christianity views the earth as transitory, a preparation for the new order that will

tell the ultimate meaning of history. In contrast, native Siberians and American

Indians believed overall that the meaning of existence was already given and the

purpose of religious practice was to sustain or restore the equilibrium inherent in

nature. For this worldview, the most feared thing was the fragmentation of the

existing order, which disturbed "the balance so necessary for the survival of soci-



Anim ated spirits of animals, moun tains, plants, and insects populated the native

universe, and people were to maintain constant contact with these "other human

beings." This idea made people act as an inseparable part of the natural system.

For example, no definitive borders between hum ans, animals, and other creatures

existed in Chukchi tradition. Human beings transformed themselves into animals,

or vice versa. Moreover, like people, all objects and species lived in commu nities.

Like other indigenous peoples of Siberia and North Am erica, the Den a'ina, Chukchi,

and Altaians believed that spirits controlled all living things , the land, and all natu-

ral objects.

Each river, hill, and lake was endowed with its master-spirits. Osgood stressed

that D ena'ina animated the entire animal world and all natural objects, which were

endowed with less or more power. They were also expected to speak like human

beings. It was believed that stones, mountains, trees, and grass were able to talk

with people, and animals were viewed as simply a different kind of people.


Bogoras reported that the Chukchi believed that each object possessed a "voice"

and expressed its will. Even human waste was animated. According to the Altaians

and the Chukchi, spirits moved around the earth monitoring people's behavior.


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26   Shama nism and Christianity

One of the six words the Altaians used for defining souls of animals and plants and

the vitality of the whole organ ic world was tin, or "everything that mov es, flies and

breathe;'* they believed that the souls moved to the other world, where the dead

herded them.


  This animism stunned missionaries when they tried to explain to

natives the Christian ideas of soul and spirituality. A missionary to the Altaians,

Verbitskii, asked one native woman not to sacrifice horses and to start con templat-

ing her soul. He challenged the woman with the question "What is the most prec ious

for y ou: a horse or a sou l?" In the m issionary's interpretation, she responded that

her fellow tribesmen had forgotten about the soul.


In the framework of indigenous worldview, people looked for rapport with sur-

rounding spirits so that the world m ight remain balanced . According to the northern

Altaians' beliefs, each person depended upon surrounding spirits. Being only a

part of the world populated by animated spirits, people w ere concerned with main-

taining positive relations with these "other human beings." In order to exist and

survive, they were expected to establish good relations with these "persons," who

dem anded appropriate and respectful conduct. These relations were reciprocal and

resembled those existing in human society.


  Thorpe notes, "It was necessary to

establish communication with spirit realms so that holistic harmony, once dis-

rupted, might be reinstated. Communication, then, lay very close to the core of

their holistic religious orientation."


In this context, indigenous peoples approached hunting, trapping, fishing, and

other daily occupations as both economic and religious activities. The success of

an individual in hunting was also a proof of his abilities to act according to the

requirements of forces of the universe. In the 1930s, Frank Speck, an ethnologist

studying northern Native American hunting culture, introduced a scholarly meta-

phor to stress such a link between indigenous religion and ecology, calling native

hunting a "sacred occupation."


Surrounding spirits displayed ambivalent attitudes and provided good or bad

medicine, depending on an individual's behavior. The Chukchi worldview treated

the same spirits as being either benevolent or aggressive. By the time of the first

intensive contacts w ith the Russians the Altaians, who had been earlier exposed to

Lam aism, had developed a concept of two major "go ds" (good and bad ); however,

they demonstrated the same lack of a strict dichotomy between "evil" and "good"

in a Christian sense . The "good god," Ulgen, created hum an b odies, and his brother

Erlic,  the "bad god," guarded human souls. These two superior beings were in-

separable because they were brothers and had equal powers. Since happiness, health,

and luck in the hunt depended on both of them, natives brought sacrifices to ap-

pease both.


  However, since Ulgen helped all people equally, he did not require



  But to buy the benevolence of Erlic, who challenged people more fre-

quently, they gave numerous stock offerings. Perception of Ulgen as one of these

two supreme deities was apparently a later creation under the influence of the

M ongols in the nineteenth century. Ethnographies of the eighteenth cen tury do not

say anything about U lgen. Ancient heroic epics of the Altaians do not mention him

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Indigenous Landscapes  27

either. As recently as the end of the nineteenth century the Teleuts applied this

name to both the supreme deity and all sky spirits.


Periodic communication with and cajoling of spirits were especially important

for hunting tribes. There was something mysterious about pursuing animals, and

success during the hunt was un predictable. As a result, "w here the sphere of rela-

tive well-being ended, in those spheres people had to rely on ritual."


 Among the

Altaians the hunting expedition was so abundantly filled with religion that the

hunting itself was something sacred.


  During hunting expeditions the Shors stopped

and "fed" the spirits of the mountains, of the campfire, and of the hunting hut.

They brought on the hunting expedition a special person with the responsibility to

enlighten hunters about local spirits and who w as generally know ledgeable in na-

tive mythology.


The Altaian hunting party followed strict rules and regulations: it was forbidden

to curse and shout. The hunters also used metaphoric names for animals. In the

same vein, the Dena'ina made offerings to the mountain spirits during hunting

expeditions, practicing appropriate and specific actions like remaining quiet and

not singing. Like Altaians, they avoided ordinary language and relied on special

names for all surrounding things.


 The Chukch i, reindeer breeders honored the

spirits who owned the pasturelands.

Current ethnohistorical scholarship stresses that the native search for additional

medicine power eventually sought resolutions for daily problems and prevention

of disruptions. Holler indicates that the essence of "traditional" religions was a

search for the spiritual power to survive in this world.


  Those who were able to

gain supernatural power could use it for either helpful or harmful purposes.


Hultkrantz no tes how some northern peoples in Siberia and also in North A merica

graded shamans according to the level of exercised power, setting apart strong

from weak shamans. In addition, indigenous leadership did not depend solely on

bravery, intelligence, and individual abilities, but also "on the power of the chief's



It is also important that this approach to sacred pow er allowed experimentation

with various beliefs and rituals if they m ight provide helpful medic ine. Along w ith

their own sacred power, the traditions of neighboring tribes and then also Chris-

tianity were potential sources for this medicine.


  The craft of communicating

with spirits was an unending process that operated without any fixed rules and w as

far from an established religion. An 1862 conversation between Verbitskii and

Ebiske, a headman from northern Altai, demonstrated this approach to the super-

natural. Ebiske asked Verbitskii how many times God gave the Russians written

laws and how frequently he sent instructions from the sky, but did not accept

Verbitskii's explanations about the origin of the Old and New Testaments. Instead,

the native insisted that he had heard that the "wh ite ma n's c zar" received his new

holy book from the sky each year.


Native beliefs were constantly filtered through personal, tribal, and other spiri-

tual experiences.


  Hultkrantz observed that American Indian traditions emphasized

the direct experience of spiritual power through dreams and visions. He added that

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28   Shama nism and Christianity

the sacredness and p restige of these striking revelations often resulted in the modi-

fication or replacement of previous traditional elements.


  The Altaians invited

shamans from different communities, considering them more powerful than their

own; nomadic and sedentary groups also sought the help of each other's spiritual



 Likewise, the Dena'ina sought help from neighboring Yupik sha-

mans. These frequent exchanges w ere continued later, when they borrowed various

European religions. Kenneth Morrison, a researcher of Micmac Christianization,

stresses that their traditional religious system provided no simple or easy solu-

tions.  Instead, it was a constant search for better remedies that could include

Christian beliefs, depending on particular circumstances.


This power approach to beliefs served as a tool for adap tation to the surround ing

environment and left no place for Christian salvation, because there was no origi-

nal sin. Native religions were equally concerned with well-being in this world and

in the afterlife. For instance, students of the Altaian beliefs stress that for these

natives the afterlife was essentially a continuation of the worldly existence.



Chukchi exemplified the same stance. I. W. Schklovsky, who visited them at the

end of the nineteenth century, reported how one native used a funeral ceremony

for a deceased woman as a good opportunity to return tobacco he had borrowed

from a friend who had already passed away.


  Although they are "distorted mir-

rors/ ' missionary accoun ts from both Siberia and Alaska also clearly po int to such

attitudes. In 1866, Verbitskii tried to persuade a native woman from northern Altai

to accept baptism. To his surprise, Verbitskii found out that "according to her rea-

soning, happiness constitutes the only well-being in this world." At the end of the

nineteenth century such an approach to spiritual life stunned N. B. Sherr, another

visitor to the northern Altaians. Having noticed such a general stance of native

beliefs distinct from Christian ethics, Sherr started to stereotype the Altaians as

"materialists" little interested in things "which go beyond the sphere of material

intere sts" and "indifferent to the internal essence of religion." Nestor, a missionary

who worked in northeastern Siberia, complained that the most notorious aspect of

the native beliefs in northeastern Siberia was that "shamanism is in charge of only

the material side of the life and does not contain any morality."


  Nestor stressed

what in his view was a "notorious practicality" of indigenous beliefs. He wrote

that northeastern Siberian natives "bribed" spirits by bloody sacrifices "in hope to

receive riches, health and well-being in this life."


In 1902 Petelin, a missionary to the Chukchi, described a group of unbaptized

reindeer natives from the Chevina River, who politely agreed to listen to his words,

but were very skeptical about his Christian message. In the missionary's interpre-

tation, their response was as follows:

They listened to me very attentively, but to my regret, I noticed that their faces showed

doubt in my words. Living the life full of hardships and dangers, these natives respect only

awesome crude power, which should be punishing and avenging and which they can use to

their benefit, when the opportunity presents


 The reason their shamans enjoy such re-

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Indigenous Landscapes  29

spect and influence is simply because natives view them as persons who are endowed with

such power. As for Christian religion, the religion of peace and love, its high ideas are

hardly understandable to the natives. They require from Christianity evident manifestation

of power to be used for practical life.


In the same vein, European observers of indigenous religions in native North

Am erica argued that "Indian religion" reinforced a "moral ambiguity." The " de als"

between human beings and spirits or "other human beings" pointed to a utilitarian

approach of indigenous beliefs.


  M oreover, those scholars who currently idealize

so-called native wisdom and traditional peoples' supposed ecological awareness

cannot deny this practical approach of indigenous peoples to their surrounding




Since communication with the sacred world and a search for additional spiritual

power occupied an important place in indigenous beliefs, a shaman stood at the

center of the religious system.


 Hundreds of special studies and popular w orks are

available on the topic of shamanism. Current roman ticization of the primitive has

contributed cons iderably to the popularity of the entire theme . Yet, with the excep-

tion of M irceaE liade's classic

 Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of




only a few works com pare Native Am erican and Siberian shaman isms. Those works

that are available (including E liade's) treat this subject from the phe nom enolog i-

cal point of view, widespread in religious studies. The most recent exam ples include

S. A. Th orpe's

 Shamans, Medicine Men a nd Traditional Healers

 and J. A. G rim's

The Shaman: Patterns of Siberian and Ojibway H ealing P

Hultkrantz, one of the major proponents ofthat approach, supports the concept

of a Siberian/American Indian "sham anistic com plex" offered by earlier scholars.

He maintains that North American sham anism is close to Siberian shaman ism and

"could without doubt be regarded as an attenuated prolongation of the latter."



both areas w e find parallels such as sham anistic journeys to a supernatural world

to convince masters of the game to release the animals, as well as retrieval of lost

souls. Also , in both regions medicine men and women performed sham anistic se-

ances that involved spirits who shook the tent.


 In the same m anner, Thorpe w rites,

"It has been generally accepted by m ost scholars of Native Am erican religions that

Native American spiritual leaders, especially those from the northern hunting tra-

dition, belong within the shamanistic complex."


 Another religious scholar, Rhonda

Packer, in her comparative research on four Native Am erican shamanisms, among

the Haida, Pawnee, Yurok, and M ohave, also comes to the conclusion that beliefs

of these particular groups "display the closest resemblance to the Eurasian sha-



The early twentieth-century Russian anthropologist Bogoras considered sha-

manism a religion in itself and insisted on interpreting this phenomenon as a stage

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30  Shamanism and Christianity

in the religious development of all societies, in keeping with evolutionary con-

cepts of his time. Som e modern researchers, like the well-known student of Altaian

ethnohistory Leonid Potapov, also view shamanism as a form of indigenous reli-



  However, Innokentii Vdovin, A. P. Okladnikov, and some other Russian

scholars disagree with this view and treat shamanism as a specific functional as-

pect of some indigenous religions, which stresses communication between the

shaman and spirits.


  This varied assessment of shamanism (religion or not) only

proves the elusive and fluid character of indigenous beliefs that do not fit into

European categories of religion. It appears that the very nature of shamanistic

performances consists of conducting improvised negotiations with and making

offers to spirits; this characteristic defies any attempt to pigeo nhole these rituals as

a religion with specific codes and ceremonies that must be followed.

Eliade also discussed shamanism in terms of the communication between a sha-

man and supernatural beings. He argued that it represented the soul flight and the

ecstatic experience to establish a dialogue with sacred celestial spirits.


 In one of

his later works Eliade defined shamanism by a neutral term, "a belief system ," and

stressed that "the shamans have played an essential role in the defense of the psy-

chic integrity of the community."


  This approach to shamanism goes back to the

Russian émigré anthropologist Sergei Shirokogoroff, who had in 1919 already

offered a similar interpretation, although tinged with psychoanalysis, stressing the

meditative role of shamans who helped native communities cope with sickness,

change, and stress.


Researchers further generalize the position of the shaman as a restorer of psy-

chic equilibrium. They examine how clients of indigenous spiritual brokers were

mostly people and groups in crisis.


  These scholars stress that shamanism re-

ceived much wider acclaim in so-called crisis-prone societies, which were primarily

societies of hunters, gatherers, or nomads, who gambled their existence on unpre-

dictable conditions of natural habitat. In contrast to agricultural societies, who

lived according to a calendar-based cycle, "crisis" groups solely depended on ex-

terior forces that they could hardly control.

Most recent anthropological research assails the discussion of shamanism as an

ideal construction, as Eliade had in his classic work. Instead, current anthropolo-

gists correctly put emphasis on the social and political functions of the phenom enon.

Caroline Humphrey notes that shamanism was not a reflection about the world,

but an action on the world. Native healers responded to the needs of comm unities,

and that role automatically placed shamanism in the context of power relation-

ships. Hamayon notes that the holistic background of shamanism was not important



 Rather, its significance was associated with the uncertainty that should be

symbolically overcome. Therefore, a shaman acted as a person who prevented

panic and brought the individual or the community back to normal daily life.



this regard, shamanism as an adaptive strategy used by native societies to cope

with changing reality deserves special attention. In trying to reach harmony and

balance shamans served as representatives of their own clan or community in an-

other world. As a result, they were not only mediators, but an embodiment of the

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Indigenous Landscapes  31

sacred life of the whole group, acting as spiritual brokers who worked within the

spirit world in order to restore equilibrium. The very structure of the shamanistic

seance reflected attempts to establish reciprocal communication with the spirit



Though the primary role of shamans was as healers, that did not exhaust their



  For instance, Townsend observes that the Dena'ina shamans also per-

formed as "magicians" and "priests." Am ong the Altaians, their w ork ranged from

fortune-telling to curing and responding to all extraordinary communal incidents,

but they did not interfere with regular events such as marriage, childbirth, or death.

Instead, involvement happened only when something unusual took place that de-

manded communication with spirits to help restore normality. For example, when

game food became scarce the involvement of a shaman was crucial: in this role,

the shaman embodied "all at once, the community's healer, the mystic, and the



  As was noted, Shirökogoroff was the first to indicate the social

aspects of the shamanic activities. He stressed that native healers helped indig-

enous communities to overcome stresses and radical changes. Indigenous societies

treated the process of healing not only as simple curing of ailments but as a general

restoration of cultural, economic, and political balance. Hamayon writes, "No-

where is the shaman only a healer, and nowhere the only healer." She adds that the

shaman performed other important activities, such as rainmaking, war making,

and sending of diseases, that had nothing to do with healing.


Thorpe correctly indicates that "in primal communities" health is not only the

mere absence of disease: "it includes present well-being, prosperity and fertility."

On all occasions, shamans acted as restorers of a disrupted order and were neces-

sary for the survival of society.


 Ripinsky-Naxon shares this approach and stresses

that a shaman was not "merely a healer of disease, but also a restorer of balance to

social dysfunction." Juha Pentikainen, who indicated that a shaman combined the

roles of healer, priest, fortune-teller, and politician, notes that society "elects him

-and puts him /her into office."


  The German-American anthropologist Schlesier,

who looked for genetic parallels between Siberian and Cheyenne sham anism, sum -

marized the basic functions of indigenous shamans as follows: (1) to maintain

harmony between the physical and the spiritual world; (2) to protect communal

areas symbolically against intruders and internal abuse; (3) to assist annual cer-

emonies of earth regeneration; (4) to approach the Earth Spirit ceremonially in

order to provide animals for their communities; (5) to cure ill members of their

community; (6) to guard souls of the dead safely in the spirit world.


At the same time, the variety and multiple functions of shamans make any

generalization or classification attempts very speculative. After examining the Tofa,

a small Siberian group numbering only between 430 and 440 people, Dioszegi

found sharp differences among individual shamans in almost everything, from

rituals and techniques to the duration of the shaman's illness.


  Recent studies of

Asian shamanism have questioned the validity of any general models, considering

instead the wide variety of tribal and personal shamanistic experiences and



 Despite these differences, Thorpe reminds researchers of the com-

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32  Shamanism and Christianity

mon characteristics shamanism shares. He calls for an approach that balances the

religious studies method, which treats religion as a separate realm, and that of

anthropology , w hich views it as part of wider culture.


 Most agree that the major

purpose of shamanizing was to achieve stability and prosperity for a community

through spiritual tools.


In his research on the Altaians Sagalaev provides a good metaphor for a defini-

tion of the place occupied by these spiritual mediators: "Shamanism was like a

central nerve of the traditional Altai culture that maintained its unity/'



ing spiritual, econom ic, and social life in a community p laced a greater responsibility

on the spiritual leader. Shamanistic performances required concentration, imagi-

nation, and considerable interpersonal skills. Because they had to prove their

capabilities, shamans did not enjoy established niches that automatically granted

them a permanent authority, but had a shaky status.


  The prestige and political

influence of the shaman in the society depended not only on his or her skill and the

nature of spiritual power, stressed Gilberg, but also on the ability to maintain a

harmo nious balance between the people and their environment, to manipulate the

social life of the individuals, and to control the relationships among the citizens of

the society by settling their quarrels.


 The status of the shaman constantly changed

and directly depended upon a supporting culture, its economy, the nature of its

social structure, and its practice of religion as a whole. If shamans successfully

used their power, they enjoyed social status as well as economic and political in-

fluence, whereas frequent failures undermined their prestige.

l0 9

Siberian and Native American ethnohistories provide numerous examples of

competition for power between sham ans. The Altaian, Chukchi, and Dena 'ina sha-

mans were frequently involved in an open rivalry and practiced p ublic contests to

demonstrate superiority over each other. Shirokogoroff wrote about a continual

state of war among the shamans. This perpetual struggle for status or "duels on a

nonm aterial level" represented an integral component of shamanism in native com-



  Thus, the Dena'ina shamans arranged regular public performances

not only to display their powers and to maintain prestige among the people, but

also to compete with rivals within a group or from other communities.

1 lJ

  Such a

stance found a reflection in oral history of native peoples. Thus, a large part of the

Chukchi mythology deals with stories that praise the deeds of the shamans and

relate their struggle with their spiritual competitors. Such competition for power

caused N . A. Alekseev to conclude that shamans cursed more than cured and un-

scrupulously manipulated their fellow tribesmen.


  Hamayon, however, judges

shaman riva lry as a positive feature, stressing that the constant com petition forced

them to introduce innovations into their art to keep up with their rivals.


The character of initiation for the shamanistic profession provides additional

evidence of the large responsibility placed on shamans. In Siberia and North

America individuals turned to shamanism after receiving a vision or a revelation

or any other communication with spirits during a dream or sickness or, for in-

stance, from a voice heard during the hunt. The D ena'ina designated shamans by a

specific word,  el'egen,  meaning "like a dream," pointing to the way people ac-

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Indigenous Landscapes  33

quired shamanistic power. Among the Dena'ina the personal gift of shamanic art

was a choice made by the spirits. Chosen persons who wanted to avoid being

shamans battled the spirits, but if they failed to resist or relinquished the battle,

then they had to live with this "assignment" until death. Therefore a Dena'ina

could become a shaman even against his or her personal wishes.


In the same vein, a selected Altaian could not avoid the involuntary initiation by

spirits. In the Altai area a chron ic sickness served as a direct message to becom e a

shaman. The Shors, a northern Altaian group, believed that when spirits "found" a

person, they "reported" this to Erlic, a "bad" god, one of the major Altaians dei-


 In his turn Erlic sent to such a person his messenge rs, evil spirits, who forced

disease on the chosen native. The pressure from dead spirits of ancestors forced an

Altaian to accept the shaman profession d espite any reluctance. Fighting back was

impossible and resulted in punishment by spirits, who made the individual men-

tally sick, crippled, or even dead. As a result, a would-be shaman stayed ill before

he or she submitted to the power of the spirits and became a shaman. After this a

practicing medicine man usually visited the novice and gave him or her necessary



  Such initiation through sickness helps explain why early observers and

students of shamanism referred to this "profession" as a mental ailment.


As among the Chukchi and Altaians, among the Dena 'ina both m en and women

were sham ans. After stressing their "great impo rtance" for the com munity, Osgood

noted the multipurpose function of a Dena'ina shaman, who, as in other indig-

enous societies of Siberia and Alaska, was a "doctor, prophet and high priest."


The Dena'ina also drew a distinction between little and big medicine men and

wom en, "ba d" and "g ood " ones. In addition, spiritual practitioners belonged to the

wealthy  qeshqa  rank. If they gained enough power, they could even occupy the

position of chief.


  During their sessions Dena'ina shamans used a special outfit,

a caribou skin parka and an apron decorated with bird claws, and used hand rattles

and masks. Osgood found that drums w ere rarely used and that the Den a'ina sha-

mans used instead simple wooden planks, which had been painted according to

the dreams received by their owners. One of the major parts of the shamanistic

session was, as missionaries called it, "devil" or "bewitched" doll, which repre-

sented a miniature human figure and served as a healing tool absorbing sickness

from a human body.


  On the whole, Dzeniskevich notes that generally the per-

formances of Athapaskan and Dena 'ina sham ans in the nineteenth century differed

little from those of their Siberian counterparts.


Like the Dena 'ina and Altaians w ho treated spiritual functions as a special voca-

tion, the Chukchi had "professional" shamans who experienced a spiritual crisis

that served as a forceful invitation to their assignment. Th is crisis could mean a

disease or a call from some sacred animal such as a wolf or a walrus. At the same


  scholars note that in the Chukchi society shamans were not so actively in-

volved in a regular cycle of feasts and sacrificing, unlike, for instance, among the

Altai, whose spiritual leaders were directly responsible for sacrifice and regular

clan cults. Moreover, the Chukchi shamanism developed outside many family and

band cults. Andrei Argentov, a Russian missionary who observed the Chukchi in

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34   Shamanism and Christianity

the 1850s, wrote: "The shamans are not responsible for public ritual services. A

head of each household himself performs his own religious rites. During public

gatherings a host, who invited other peop le, usually plays the role of the p riest/'

12 1

Basically each Chukchi could practice some elements of shamanistic ritual. Some

Chukchi selected the shamanistic vocation in the hope of gaining wealth and pres-



 Others could perform the ritual in an attempt to heal a sick relative. Also,

both "professionals" and "practicing laymen" are not reported to have used a spe-

cial costume. Among the reindeer Chukchi, heads of bands usually conducted

seasonal ceremonies that were related to regular economic cycles such as reindeer

slaughtering. Occasionally a head of a family or one of its members did all the

drumm ing and dancing. Harald Sverdrup, a Dutch explorer, who spent six months

among the Chukchi, stressed that "drumming, singing, and dancing take place in

every tent in the fall, when the four to five month old calves have been slaughtered

for skins for clothing."


  Each family owned its religious artifacts and a drum,

which was accessible even to the Chukchi children. Jochelson and Bogoras, well-

known students of northeastern Siberian native peoples at the beginning of the

century, called this "family shamanism."


On the whole, the greater part of the Chukchi religious life was concentrated

within a band, especially am ong the nomadic populations. This might be explained

by territorial isolation of the Chukchi communities from each other, which appar-

ently originated from the demands of the reindeer economy, which required small

band camps.


  However, Chukchi, especially reindeer comm unities, drew a bor-

der between professional shamans, who were recognized for their qualifications,

and numerous practicing laymen, whereas maritime communities did not make

such distinctions. The field of sham ans' competence was the most extreme situa-

tions that required terminating the impact of harmful spirits, for example, in cases

of sickness or reindeer die-offs. A Chukchi medicine man primarily dealt and ne-

gotiated with


 harmful evil spirits, whom natives viewed as their major enemies.

Therefore, the most widespread function of the Chukchi medicine men and women

was actual healing of sick people. Establishing connections with the spirits of

ancestors was another sphere of the shamans.

On the basis of these facts, Innokentii Vdovin concludes that the Chukchi prac-

ticed two types of shamanizing. The first type ("casual session s") was designed for

public occasions and based on family and band cults, whereas "special sessions"

were performed by a shaman and sought to establish connections with harmful

evil spirits and divert their attention from a community.


  On the whole, Chukchi

groups were familiar with the "classical" type of shamanism, which was oriented

to protecting a band and its individual m embers from "bad m edic ine" and devoted

to communication with harmful spirits through powerful evening seances.


Ethnohistorical scholarship refers to Altai shamanism as a classic example of

this institution.


  Satlaev indicates that among the Kumandin, a northern Altaian

group, shamanism bore a "clearly professional character," and shamans received

livestock or money as a reward. Alekseev notes that among the Shors shamans

occupied a privileged position and ordinary people treated them with awe. Still,

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Indigenous Landscapes  35

despite this specialization and high esteem, these spiritual brokers lived like other

ordinary stock raisers, and, on balance, income from shamanizing did not support

their material w ell-being. In cases of sickness, epidemic, or other incidents, Altaian

shamans supervised sacrificial offerings to the principal "ba d" god, Erlik. In Altaian

shamanistic performances these offerings reached tremendous proportions. The

Kumandin slaughtered the best horses, cows, or sheep to satisfy Erlic and other

spirits. The annual quantity of killed livestock numbered hundreds of heads. Satlaev

argues that this custom damaged the Kumandin economy.


  It was understand-

able that missionaries missed no chance to assail these sacrifices. It also should be

noted that among the Altaians the shamanic call fell not on anybody, but was ex-

pected to visit men and women who traditionally belonged to "shamanizing"

families. Setting limits to the establishment of potential medicine makers might

point to the beginning of professionalization of this vocation in Altai.

Another aspect of the Altaian shamanism places it apart from Chukchi and

De na'ina sha ma nisms. Until the beginning of the eighteenth century, Altai experi-

enced strong Mongolian influences in social, political, and ideological life. While

northern Altaians became politically and economically absorbed by the Russian

empire in the seventeenth century, southern nomads continued to maintain close

relationships with the Mongolian world. However, these connections were am-

bivalent. On the one hand, we may see many linguistic borrowings made by the

Altaians from western Mongolia and similarities in economic and social life, espe-

cially in stockbreeding . On the other hand, in the seventeenth century Dzhungaria,

a western Mongolian kingdom, subjugated and imposed heavy tribute on all of


The M ongo lians also sought to implant Lamaism and subjected traditional sha-

manism to severe persecution. However, it appears that Dzhungarian attempts to

eliminate the indigenous Altaian worldview produced a tradition of strong resis-

tance to foreign ideological intrusions. Such a tradition was especially noticeable

among the southwestern nom ads, who became involved in a long struggle against

Dzhungarian attempts to bring the Altaians into the sphere of influence of the

Lamaist ideology. Pieces of nomadic folklore collected in modern times distantly

reflect the intensity of this struggle. Interestingly, whereas Mongolian legends

emphasize the victory of lamas over


  (shamans), which reflected an estab-

lishment of Lamaism as the dominant religion in Mongolia, Altaian storytellers,

on the contrary, stressed that in such showdowns shamans were winners. S. A.

Poduzova and A. M. Sagalaev, students of Altaian ethnoh istory, indicate that de-

spite the acceptance of the Mongolian religion by some tribal chiefs, Lamaism did

not become in Altai an influential force. The result of the conflict between

Dzhungarian and Altaian ideologies was that for Altaian nomads shamanism was

not only a "religious affiliation," but a strong ethnic marker that separated them

from aliens.


In conclusion, despite significant differences in economic, social, and political

structure and worldview, the three groups discussed carried many similarities in

their belief system s. A few students of the Altaian beliefs, who stress the necessity

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  Shama nism and Christianity

of researching this kind of similarity, have caught the character of primal beliefs

by stressing their "fluidity," "openness," and "infinity."


  The Altaian, Chukchi,

and Dena'ina beliefs were not institutionalized and were devoted to maintaining

balanced relationships between people and natural forces that were animated and

treated as part of the living world (the "other human beings"). From this view-

point, all daily occupations and occurrences such as hunting, fishing, marriages,

and even conflicts were treated as spiritual occupations. Second, following the

interpretation offered in the collective symposium   The Anthropology of Power



which contends that native power should be approached not only from purely

materialistic or political angles, but in a broader sense of the word, the present

work suggests that the concept of power provides a convincing interpretation of

the character of indigenous beliefs. Accum ulation of medicine power meant a con-

tinuing search for spiritual tools to cope with existing reality. To be successful in

protecting the social integrity of their community and their personal balance, na-

tive peoples were expected to generate spiritual/medicinal power. The latter was

acquired as a result of the dialogue with natural forces, so that social and po litical

disruptions, epidemics, and personal failures in hunting or fishing were all as-

cribed to the lack of good medicine.

Although everybody in native societies could be a carrier of strong medicine, the

responsibility for a dialogue with natural forces on behalf of the whole community

lay on shamans. Involuntarily elected by spirits through a shamanic call or a psy-

chological ailment, they performed collective rituals to treat physical or social

diseases or disruptions. This chapter places indigenous beliefs and shamans' ac-

tivities in the social and political context of power relations. Indigenous medicine

men and women could accumulate spiritual power or they could lose it. Through

their performance and competition with each other they sought to convince sur-

round ing peo ple of their spiritual force. Their positions w ere naturally shaky, open

to constant scrutinizing, and their exercise of power was controlled by the com mu-



  Not surprisingly, shamans attempted to borrow medicine power from as

many sources as possible and were generally open to innovations, including both

neighboring band s' beliefs and Christianity. They readily blended their own rituals

with cerem onies of the other groups. The Christian religion apparently represen ted

one such source. It might be suggested that this stance later served as a back-

ground for a dialogue between native beliefs and Christianity.


1. Mary Young, "Pagans, Converts, and Backsliders All: A Secular View of the Meta-

physics of Indian-W hite Relations," in

  The Am erican Indian and the Problem of History,

ed. Calvin Martin (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), 79; Melissa L.

Meyer, The W hite Earth Tragedy. Ethnicity and D ispossession at a Minnesota Anishinabe

Reservation. 1889-1920  (Lincoln and London: U niversity of Nebraska Press, 1994), xiii.


 Cornelius Osgood,

 Ethnography of the Tanaina

  (New Haven, CT: Human Relations

Area Files Press, 1976), 26, 31 ; Robert E. Ackerman,

  The Kenaitze People

 (Phoenix, AZ:

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Indigenous Landscapes


Indian Tribal Series, 1975), 22-24; James Arthur Fall, "Patterns of Upper Tanaina Leader-

ship, 1741-1918" (Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1981), 216; Joan B.

Townsend, "Ethnohistory and Culture Chang e of the Iliamna Tanaina" (Ph.D . diss., Univer-

sity of California, Los Angeles, 1965), 72 ,9 9; idem, 'T h e Tanaina of Southwestern A laska:

A Historical Synopsis,"

  Western Canadian Journal of Anthropology,

  no. 2 (1970): 5, 7;

Linda J. Ellanna and Andrew Balluta,  Nuvendaltin Quhttana: The People of Nondalton

(Washington, DC: Sm ithsonian Institution Press, 1992), 268; William W. Fitzhugh, " Eco-

nom ic Patterns in Alaska," in C rossroads of Continents: C ultures of Siberia and Alaska,  ed .

William W. Fitzhugh and Aron Crowell (W ashington, DC, and L ondon: Smithsonian Insti-

tution Press, 1988), 191; Ioann Bortnovsky, "Kenaiskaia Missiia (Istoriko-Statistichesko e

Opisanie)," Russian-American Orthodox Messenger ,  no. 18 (1898): 53 1.

3.  Bortnovsky, "Kenaiskaia M issiia," 53 1.

4.  Townsend, "Ethnohistory and Culture Change of the Iliamna Tanaina," 99.


 Idem, "Tanaina of Southwestern Alaska," 7-8; Osgood,

 E thnography of the Tanaina,

73-75 .

6. James W VanStone,

 Athapaskan Adaptations: Hunters and Fishermen of the Subarc-

tic Forests  (Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company, 1974), 125; Townsend, "Tanaina of

Southwestern Alaska," 8, 15.

7. VanStone, Athapaskan Adaptations, 8; Townsend, "Tanaina of Southwestern Alaska,"

8; Ackerman,

  Kenaitze People,

 27; Ellanna and Balluta,

 Nuvendaltin Quhttana,


8. Ellanna and Balluta,

 Nuvendaltin Quhttana,


9. S. A. Arutiunov , "C huk chi: W arriors and Traders of Chuko tka," in Crossroads of Con-

tinents. Cultures of Siberia and Alaska,

  ed. William W. Fitzhugh and Aron Crowell

(Washington, DC, and Lond on: Sm ithsonian Institution Press, 1988), 41 .

10.  Yu. V. Chesnokov, "Olen' v Kulture Severo-Vostochnikh Paleoaziatov," in  Kultura

Narodov Sibiri,  ed. Ch. M. Taksami, Iu. A. Kupina and E. G. Fedorova (St. Petersburg:

Muzei Antropologii i Etnografii RAN, 1997), 76.

11. Igor I. Krupnik,

 Arctic Adap tations: Native W halers and Reindeer H erders of North-

ern Eurasia (Hanover, NH: Un iversity P ress of New England for Dartmouth C ollege, 1993),

. 177 183.


  Innokentii S. Vdovin,

 Ocerki Istorii i Etnografii Chukchei

  (Moskva and Leningrad:

Nauka, 1965), 10; W aldemar (Vladimir) Jochelson not only believed that overhunting drove

natives to reindeer h erding, but considered scarcity of animal p opu lations in the Arctic as a

sufficient motive for discontinuing the hunting economy. Waldemar Jochelson, "K amchadal

Materials," Box 6, Waldemar Jochelson Papers, Rare Books and Papers Manuscript Divi-

sion, New York P ublic Library, 37.

13. Richard James B ush, R eindeer, Dogs, and Snow-Shoes: A Journal of Siberian Travel

and Explorations Made in the Years 1865, 1866, and 1867

  (London: S. Low, Son, and

Marston, 1871), 37 3.


 Igor I. Krupnik, "E cono mic Patterns of Northeastern Siberia," in

 Crossroads of Con-

tinents: Cultures of Siberia and Alaska,

  ed. William W. Fitzhugh and Aron Crowell

(Washington, DC, and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1988), 189-190.


 G apanovich, Kam chatskie


 Sovremennoe Polozhenie Plemenie iZnachenie

ego Olennogo Khoziastva

  (T ientsin, China: A. J. Serebrennikoff & Co., 1932), 5.

16. Krupnik,

 Arctic Adaptations,

  175,161,  164, 174; Anthony Leeds, "Reind eer Herding

and Chukchi Social Institutions," in  Man, Culture, and Animals: The Role of Animals in

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38   Shamanism and Christianity

Hum an E cological Adjustment,

  ed. A. Leeds (Washington, DC: American Association for

the Advancement of Science, 1965), 102.

17. Chesnokov, "Ole n' v Kulture Severo-Vostochnikh Paleoaziatov," 76, 78.


 Ibid., 74 -75 .


  Innokentii S. Vdovin, "Social Foundation of Ancestor Cult among the Yukagirs,

Koryaks and Chu kchies," in

 Sham anism in Siberia,

 ed. V. Dioszegi and M. Hoppal (Budapest:

Akademiai Kiado, 1978), 415-416.


 Ibid., 417.


 Andrei Argentov, "Opisanie Nikolaevskago Chaunskago Prikhoda," Zapiski Sibirskago

Otdiela Imperatorskago Russkago Geograficheskago O bshchestva 3, no. 1 (1857): 90.


  Waldemar [Vladimir] Bogoras,

  The Chukchee

  (New York: AMS Press, 1975), 543;

the Krause brothers, who visited the Chukchi peninsula in 1881/1882, similarly stressed,

"Now here did we find traces of a political com mu nity; only the head of the family exercises

power over its members." Aurel Krause and Arthur Krause,

 To the C hukchi Peninsula and

to the Tlingit Indians 1881/1882: Journals and Letters by Aurel and Arthur Krause

(Fairbanks, AK: University of Alaska Press, 1993), 69.


 Vladimir I. Vasil'ev, "Social Structure of the Peoples of Northeastern Asia," in


thropology of the North Pacific Rim,

  ed. William W. Fitzhugh and Valerie Chaussonnet

(Washington, DC, and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994), 26 9,2 71 ; Chesnokov,

"Olen' v Kulture Severo-Vostochnikh Paleoaziatov," 78.


  N. F. Kallinikov,  Nash Krainii Sievero-Vostok  (St. Petersburg: Tip. Morskogo

Ministerstva, 1912), 56.

25.  S. A. Arutiunov, "Koryak and Itelmen: Dwellers of the Smoking Coast," in


roads of Continents: Cultures of Siberia and Alaska,   ed. William W. Fitzhugh and Aron

Crowell (Washington, DC, and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1988), 31; I. I.

Krupnik, "Economic Patterns of Northeastern Siberia," 184, 188, 185.


 Arutiunov, "Chukchi: Warriors and Traders of Chukotka" 39; William W. Fitzhugh,

"Crossroads of Continents: Review and Prospect," in  Anthropology of the North Pacific


  ed. William W. Fitzhugh and Valerie Chaussonnet (Washington, DC, and London:

Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994), 40; Gapanovich,

  Kamchatskie Koryaki,

  38; Bush,

Reindeer, Dogs, and Snow -Shoes,


27 . Vladimir (Waldemar) Jochelson, "Zametki o Naselenii Iakutskoi Oblasti v Istoriko-

Etnograficheskom Otnoshenii,"

 Zhivaiia Starina

 5, no. 2 (1895 ): 165; Chesnokov, "O len' v

Kulture Severo-Vostochnikh Paleoaziatov," 80.


 Il'ia S. Gurvich,

 Etnicheska ia Istoria Severo-Vostoka Sibiri

  (Moskva: Nauka, 1966),

117, 189.

29 . Arutiunov, "Chukchi: Warriors and Traders of Chukotka," 40; Il'ia S. Gurvich, "In-

terethnic Ties in Far Northeastern Siberia," in

 Anthropology of the North Pacific Rim,


William W. Fitzhugh and Valerie Chaussonnet (Washington, DC , and L ondon: Smithsonian

Institution Press, 1994), 313, 315-3 16.


  Vasilii I. Verbitskii,  Altaitsy  (Tomsk: Tip. Gubernskago Pravleniia, 1870); idem,

Atlaiskie Inoro dtsy: Sbornik Etno graficheskikh Statei i Izsliedovanii

 (Moskva: Izd. Etnogr.

Otd. Imp. Obshchestva L iubitelei Estestvoznaniia, Antropologii i Etnografii, 1893).


  Andrei M. Sagalaev,  Altai v Zerkale Mifa  (Novosibirsk: Nauka, Sibirskoe otd-nie,

1992), 143. At the same time, Dm itri Funk stresses a relative character of all these divisions

and points that the Altaians thought about themselves in terms of clans and later when the

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Indigenous Landscapes  39

latter disintegrated, in terms of small territorial un its. Dmitri A. Funk, "Bach atskie Teleuty

v XVIII-Pervoi Chetverti XX Veka: Istoriko-Etnograficheskoe Issledovanie," in   Teleuty,

ed. Y.B. Simchenko (Moskva: Institut Etnologii i Antropolog ii, 1993), vol 2, 11. During the

first Russian census in 1917-1920 many Altaians were tallied down as "persons of un-

known nationality," a practice that points to the artificial division of the natives into mentioned

groups. E.P. Batianova, "O bshchina u Teleutov v XIX -Nacha le XX V. V.," in Teleuty, ed. Y.

B. Simchenko (Moscow : Institut Etnologii i An tropolog ii, 1992), vol. 1, 220.

32 .

  N. S. Modorov,

  Rossiia i Gornii Altai: Polticheskie, Sotsialno-Ekonomicheskie i

Kultumie Otnosheniia (XVII-XIX VV)

  (Gorno-Altaisk: Izd-vo Gorno-Altaiskogo

Universiteta, 1996), 85 -8 7. See the latter work about social and econ omic life of the south-

western Altaians. In English the most informative sources are Lawrence Kräder, "A N ativistic

Movement in Western S iberia," Am erican Anthropologist  58, no. 2 (1956): 282 -29 2; L. P.

Potapov, 'The Altayas,"

 The Peoples of Siberia

  ed. M. G. Levin and L. P. Potapov (Chi-


 University of Chicago Press, 1964),


33.  The anthropologist L. P. Potapov put it this way: "A characteristic feature of the

village commune among the Altaians was the combination of private ownership of the

livestock and communal use of the Crown land." Leonid P. Potapov,

  Ocherki po Istorii

Altaitsev  (Moskva : Izd-vo Akademii Nauk SSSR, 1953), 249.


  Idem, 'The Shors," in

  The Peoples of Siberia,

  ed. M. G. Levin and L. P. Potapov

(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964), 452; about economic and social life of the

northeastern Altaians see: Tsentralnii Statisticheskii Komitet Ministerstva Vnutrennikh Diel,

Tomskaia Gubem iia: Spisok Naselennvkh Miest po Sviedieniiam 1859 Goda   (St. Peters-

burg: Tip. Karla Vulfa, 1868), Lxxxvii; Verbitskii,

 Atlaiskie Inorodtsy,

 17 ,24; Valerii Kimeev,

Shortsy, Kto Oni?: Etnograficheskie Ocherki (Kemerovo: Kem erovskoe K nizhnoe Izd-vo,


 88-89, 93-94.

35 .  Potapov, "Shors" 447; N. B. Sherr, "Iz Poezdki k Kumandintsam v 1898 Godu,"

Altaiskii Sbornik, no. 5 (1903): 103; N. S. Modorov, Rossiia i Gornii Altai,  92.


  Nikolai M. Iadrintsev,  Sibirskie Inorodtsy, Iikh Byt i Sovremennoe Polozhenie  (St.

Petersburg: Izd. I. M. Sibiriakova, 1891), 101; Konstantin V. Elnitskii,

  Inorodtsy Sibiri i

Sredneaziatskikh Vladienii Rossii: Etnograficheskie Ocherki

  (St. Petersburg: Izd. M. M.

Gutzatsa, 1908), 45; Verbitskii,

  Altaiskie Inorodtsy,

  23; Potapov, "Altayas," 314; idem,


 456; Kimeev,

 Shortsy, Kto Oni?


37 .

 E. P. Batianova, "Altaitsy," in

 Sibir: Etnosy i Ku ltury (Narod y Sibiri




Ulan Ude: Institut Etnologii i Antropologii RAN and Vostochno-SibirskaiaGosudarstvennaia

Akadem ia Kultury i Iskusstv, 1995), 57.

38 .

 A. V. Anokhin,

 Materialypo Shamanstvu u


 Sobrannye vo Vremia Puteshesvia

po Altaiu v 1910-1912 GG . Po Porucheniiu Russkogo Kom iteta Dlia izucheniia Srednei i

Vostochnoi Azii

  (Gorno-A ltaisk: Ak Chechek, 1994), 23. About the


  see Funk,

"Bachatskie Teleuty v XVIII-Pervoi Chetverti XX," 42-48; N. A. Todina, "Altaiskii Seok

Kak Orientir v Etnosotsialnoi Sisteme Obshcheniia," in

  Aborigeny Sibiri: Problemy

Izucheniia Ischezaiushchikh Iazikov i Kultur,

 Proceedings of the International Conference

(Novosibirk: Iz-vo Instituta Arkheologii i Etnologii Sibirskogo Otdeleneiia RAN, 1995),



  Potapov, "Shors," 459;

  Moskovskie Tserkovnie Viedomosti,

  no. 52 (1886): 791;

Batianova, "Obshchina u Teleutov v XIX -Nach ale XX VV," 208.

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4 0

  Shamanism and Christianity

40. Robert H. Low ie, "Re ligious Ideas and Practices of the Euroasiatic and North Am eri-

can Areas," in  Essays Presented to C G. Seligman,  ed. E. E. Evans-Pritchard, Raymond

Firth, Bronislaw Malinowski and Isaac Schapera (London: Kegan Paul, 1934), 187.

41.  Galina Dzeniskevich, "American-Asian Ties As Reflected in Athapaskan Material

Culture," in

 Anthropology of the North P acific Rim,

  ed. William W. Fitzhugh and Valerie

Chaussonnet (Washington, DC, and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994); E. A.

Okladnikova "Sibirskie Istoki v Pokroe i Dekore Odezhdi Indeitsev Iazikovoi Semii Na-

Dene, in Am erikanskie Indeitsi: Novie Fakti i Interpretatsii, ed. V. A. Tishkov (Moscow:

Nauka, 1996), 251-266; Karl H. Schlesien  The Wolves of Heaven: Cheyenne Sham anism,

Ceremonies and P rehistoric Origins  (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987).

42. Ake Hu ltkrantz, "North American Indian R eligions in a Circum polar P erspective," in

North American Indian Studies: E uropean Contributions,  ed. Pieter Hovens (Gottingen,

West Germany: Edition Herodot, 1981), 18; idem, "North American Indian Religions in A

Circumpolar Perspective," 11-27; idem, "An Ecological Approach to Religion,"


no. 31 (1966): 131 -150 ; idem, "Religion and Ecology among the Great Basin Indians," in

The Realm of the Extra-Hum an: Ideas and Actions, ed. Agehananda Bharati (The Hague:

Mouton, 1976), 137-150; idem, The Study of American Indian R eligions  (Chico, CA: The

Crossroads Publishing Co, 1983), 131-132.

43.  Idem, "North American Indian Religions in a Circumpolar Perspective," 16, 13, 1.5.


  S. A. Thorpe,  Shamans, Medicine Men and Traditional Healers: A Com parative

Study of Shamanism in Siberian Asia, Southern Africa and North America (Pretoria: Uni-


 of South Africa, 1993), 43 , 22.




  Pentikainen, "Introduction," in

 Shamanism and Northern Ecology,

 ed. Juha

Pentikainen (Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1996), 8-10; Harold Hickerson,

"Fur Trade Colonialism and the North American Indians," Journal of Ethnic Studies, no. 1

(1973): 13; Christopher Vecsey, "American Indian Environmental Religions," in  American

Indian Environm ents: Ecological Issues in Native American History, ed. Christopher Vecsey

and R obert W. Venables (Syracu se: Syracuse University Press, 1980), 2.


 Adrian Tanner, Bringing Home Animals: Religious Ideology and Mode of Production

of the Mistassini Crée Hunters

  (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1979); Robin Ridington,

Trail to Heaven: Know ledge and Narrative in a Northern Native Com munity (Iowa City:

University of Iowa Press, 1988).

47.  Ellanna and Balluta,

 Nuvendaltin Quhttana,


48 . Ibid., 285-28 6; Thorpe,



 Men and



 132; Vecsey,

"American Indian Environmental Religions,"


 ; D. V. Katsuba, D ukhovnaia Kultura Teleutov

(Kemerovo: Kemerovskii Gosudarstvennii Universitet, 1993), 62.

49. John Webster Grant,

 Moon of


 M issionaries and the Indians of



Encounter Since 1534  (Toronto and Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1984), 18, 24.

50 . Thorpe,

 Shamans, Medicine Men and Traditional Healers,


51 .


 Ethnography of the Tanaina,


52. Vdovin, "P riroda i Chelovek v Religioznikh Predstavleniiakh Chuk chei," 233, 245;

Ackerman, The Kenaitze People, 40; Osgood, Ethnography of the Tanaina, 169; Argentov,

"Opisanie Nikolaevskago Chaunskago Prikhoda," 95; Anokhin,

  Materialypo Shamanstvu


  6; Gapanovich,

 Kamchatskie Koryaki,

 49; S. la. Serov, "Guardians and Spirit-

Masters of Siberia, in

 C rossroads of

 Con tinents: Cultures

 of Siberia and

 Alaska, ed. W illiam

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Indigenous Landscapes


W. Fitzhugh and Aron Crowell (Washington, DC, and London: Smithsonian Institution


  1988), 244.

53.  Vasilii Verbitskii, "Zapiski Missionera Kuznetskago Otdelenia Altaiskoi Dukhovnoi

Missii za 1866 God,"  Pravoslavnoe Obozrienie  22, no. 2 (1867): 171, 173; Anokhin,

Materialypo Shamanstvu uAltaitsev,

  19; idem, "Dush a i Eiyo Svoistva po Predstavleniam

Teleutov, in Dmitri A. Funk,  Teleutskoe Shamanstvo: Traditsionnie Etnograficheskie

lnterpretatsii i Nov ie Issledovatelskie Vozm ozhnosti

  (Moskva: Institut Etnologii i

Antropologii, 1997), 202 .

54 .

  Vasilii Verbitskii, "Zapiski Missionera Kuznetskago Otdelenia Altaiskoi Dukhovnoi

Missii za 1864 God,"  Pravoslavnoe Obozrienie, no. 2 (1865 ): 273 .

55 .  Kimeev,  Shortsy, Kto Oni?,  116; D. V Katsuba,  Dukhovnaia Kultura Teleutov

(Kemerovo: Kemerovskii Gosudarstvennii Uiversitet, 1993), 119; Roberte N. Hamayon,

  Shamanism: A Religion of Nature? in Circumpolar Religion and Ecology: Anthropology

of the North,

 ed. Takashi Irimoto and Takako Yamada (Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press,

1994), 114; Jean-Guy Goulet, "A Christian Dene Tha Shaman? Aboriginal Experiences

among a Missionized A boriginal People," in

  Shamanism and Northern Ecology,

  ed. Juha

Pentikainen (Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1996), 350; Vdovin, "Priroda i

Chelovek v Religioznikh Predstavleniiakh Chu kchei," 243 .

56 . Thorpe,

 Shamans, Medicine Men and Traditional Healers,


57. Harvey A. Feit, "Dream ing of An imals: Th e W aswanipi C rée Shaking Tent C eremony

in Relation to Environment, Hunting, and Missionization," in  Circumpolar Religion and

Ecology: An Anthropology of the North, ed. Takashi Irimoto and Takako Yamada (Tokyo:

University of Tokyo P ress, 1994), 29 1.

58 .  Feofan A. Satlaev,  Kumandintsy: Istoriko Etnograficheskii Ocherk (XIX-Pervoi

Chetvert XX veka)

  (Gorno-Altaisk: Gorno-Altaiskoe Otd-nie Altaiskogo Knizhnogo Izd-

va, 1974), 147-164; Katsuba,  Dukhovnaia Kultura Teleutov,  100-106; Lev P. Mamet,


 Ocherk Natsionalno-Osvoboditelnogo

 Dvizheniia i

 Grazhdanskoi Voini

 na Gornom


  (Gorno-Altaisk: Ak Chechek, 1994), 40 -4 1 ; Leonid P. Potapov,

  Altaiskii Shamanizm

(Leningrad: Nauka, Leningradskoe Otd-nie, 1991), 245-260; V I. Verbitskii,


Inorodtsy: Sbornik Etnograficheskih Statei IIzsliedovanii A ltaiskago Missionera (Moskva:

T-vo Skoropechatni A. A. Levenson, 1893), 43-44; V. P. Diakonova, "Religioznie

Predstavleniia Altaitsev i Tuvintsev o Prirode i Cheloveke," in

  Priroda i Chelovek v

Religioznikh Predstavleniakh Narodov Sibiri iSevern , ed. Innokentii S. Vdovin (Leningrad:

Nauka, 1976), 268.


  M. Shvetsova, "Altaiskie Kalmiky,"  Zapiski Zapadno-Sibirskago Otdela

Imperatorskago Russkago Geograficheskago Obshchestva, no. 23 (1 898): 11.

60. Funk, "Bachatskie Teleuty v XV III-Pervoi Chetverti XX Veka," 206 -20 7.


  E. L. Lvova, I. V Oktiabrskaia, A. M. Sagalaev, M. S. Usmanova,  Traditsionnoe



 Juzhnoi Sibiri

  (Novosibirsk: Nauka, 1980), 197.

62. Ibid., 113; Mo dorov,

 Rossiia i Gornii Altai,



  E. L. Lvova, I. V Oktiabrskaia, A. M. Sagalaev, M. S. Usmanova,


Mirovo zrenie Tiourkov Juzhno i Sibiri,


64. A ckerman,

 Kenaitze People,


65.  Clyde Holler, Black Elk's Religion: The Sun Dance and Lakota C atholicism (Syra-

cuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1995), 213.

66 .

 Grant, Moon of Wintertime, 18-19.

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4 2

  Shamanism and Christianity


  Ake Hultkrantz, "Ecological and Phenomenological Aspects of Shamanism,"


manism in Siberia,

 ed. V. Dioszegi and M. Hoppal (Budapest: Akadem iai K iado, 1978), 35 ;

Michael Ripinsky-Naxon,  Nature of Shamanism: Substance and Function of a Religious


  (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993), 64.


  Kerry Abel,

  Drum Songs: Glimpses of Dene History

  (Montreal: McGill-Queen's

University Press, 1993), 121.


 Vasilii Verbitskii, "Zapiski M issionera Kuznetskago Otdelenia Altaiskoi Duk hovnoi

Missii za 1862 God,"

 Pravoslavnoe O bozrienie

  10, no. 2 (1863): 152.


 S. M. Shirokogoroff,

  Psychomental Complex of the Tungus

 (New York: AMS P ress,

1980), 272.


 Ake Hultkrantz, N ative Religions of North America: The Pow er of


 and Fertil-


 (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987), 21.


 Verbitskii, "Zapiski Missionera Kuznetskago Otdelenia Altaiskoi Dukhovnoi Missii

za 1864 God," 72.

73. Kenneth M. Morrison, "Montagnais Missionization in Early New France," in


Problems in American Indian History,

 ed. Albert L. Hurtado and Peter Iverson (Lexington,

MA: D. C. Heath and Co., 1994), 113-114.


  Katsuba, D ukhovnaia K ultura Teleutov, 62, 90.

75.  I. W. Shklovsky ("Dioneo"),

  In Far North-East Siberia

  (London: Macmillan and

Co.,  1916), 145.


 Verbitskii, "Zapiski Missionera Kuznetskago Otdelenia Altaiskoi Dukhovnoi Missii

za 1866 God," 167; Sherr, "Iz Poezdki k Kumandintsam v 1898 Godu," 102; Hiermonk


 Moia K amchatka: Zapiski Pravoslavnogo Missionera

  (Moskva: Sviato-Troitskaia

Lavra, 1995), 80.



 Moia Kamchatka,


78 .

 Mikhail Petelin, "Putevoi Zhurnal Missionera Chukotskoi M issii, Elombaiskago Stana,

Sviashchennika M ikhaila Petelina za 1902 God," Pravoslavnyi Blagoviestnik 2, no. 16 ( 1903):


79. Kimeev, Shortsy, Kto Oni?, 115; Anokhin,  Materialy po Shamanstvu uAltaitsev,  2;


 Moon of

 Wintertime, 19.


 David K insley,

 Ecology and Religion: Ecological Spirituality in Cross-C ultural Per-


 (Englewo od Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1995), 2 1.


  The word  shaman,  which originates from the Tungus  saman,  was introduced into

literature for the first time at the end of the seventeenth century by Avvakum, a famous

Russian Orthodox priest, who was exiled to Siberia for his heretical views and who had a

chance to observe a shamanistic performance of the Tungus. Hamayon, "Shamanism: A

Religion of Nature?" 110; Pentikainen, "Introduction," 13.

82 .

 M ircea Eliade, Sham anism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (Princeton, N J: Princeton

University Press, 1972).

83. John Grim, T he Shaman: Patterns of Religious Healing am ong the Ojibway Indians

(Norman: University of Ok lahoma P ress, 1987); Thorp e,

 Shamans, Medicine Men and Tra-

ditional Healers.  See more about existing concepts of shamanism in Peter T. Fürst,

"Introduction: An Overview of Shamanism," in

 Ancient Traditions. Shamanism in Central

Asia and the Americas,

  ed. Gary Seaman and Jane Day (Niwot, CO: University Press of

Colorado, 1994), 1—28; Pentikainen, "Introduction," 1-21.

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Indigenous Landscapes  4 3

84 .

  Ake Hultkrantz,

  The Religions of the American Indians

  (Berkeley: University of

Califonia Press, 1979), 86.

85.  Hultkrantz, "Ecological and Phenomenological Aspects of Shamanism," 53.


 Thorpe, Shamans, Medicine Men and Traditional Healers, 129.

87 .

  Rhonda Packer, "Sorcerers, Medicine-Men, and Curing Doctors: A Study of Myth

and Symbol in North American Shamanism" (Ph.D. diss., University of California Los

Angeles, 1983), 213.

88. Potapov,  Altaiskii Shamanism,  84-115; D. V. Katsuba, who has similar views and

who extensively q uotes Potapov, named one of the sections of his recent book on the Tele uts'

worldview "Shamanism as Religion." Katsuba,

 Dukhovnaia Kultura Teleutov,

 94-98 .

89 .

 See the reviews of Russian/Soviet studies of shamanism : Innokentii S. Vdo vin, "T he

Study of Shamanism among the Peoples of Siberia and the North," in   The Realm of the

Extra-Human: Agents and A udiences,

 ed. Ageha nanda Bharati (The Hague : Mouton , 1976),

261-273; M. M. Balzer, Introduction, in

 Sham anism: Soviet Studies of Traditional Reli-


  in Siberia and Central Asia,

  ed. Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer (Armonk, NY: M. E.

Sharpe, 1990), vii-xviii; V. N. Basilov, "Chto Takoe Shamanstvo?"


Obozrenie, no. 5 (1997): 3 -16 .



 Sham anism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy,

 Ham ayon, "Shamanism: A Reli-

gion of N ature?" 111.

91.  Eliade,

 Shamanism: Archaic



 Ecstasy, 206.


 S. M. Shirokogoroff,  Opyt Izssledovaniia Osnov Shamanstva u Tungusov 'Vladivostok:


 Oblastnoi Zemskoi U pravy, 1919), 47 -5 9.

93.  R. Gilberg, "How to Recognize a Shaman among Other Religious Specialists?" in

Shamanism in Eurasia,

  ed. Mihaly Hoppal (Gottingen: Edition Herodot, 1984), 27;

Hultkrantz, "Ecological and Phenomenological Aspects of Shamanism," 35.


 Caroline H umphrey, "Sh ama nic Practice and the State in Northern Asia: Views from

the Center and Periphery," in

 Sham anism, H istory and the State,

 ed. Nicholas Thom as and

Caroline Humphrey (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1994), 191-193, 224;

Hamayon, "Sham anism: A Religion of Nature?" 121; Gilberg, "How to Recognize a Sha-

man among Other Religious Specialists?" 26; Sagalaev,

 Altai v Zerkale Mifa,





 41 ; Anna-Leena Siikala and M ihaly Hoppal,

 Studies on Shamanism

(Helsinki: Finnish Anthropological Society, 1992), 127; Thorpe, Shamans, Medicine Men

and Traditional Healers,



 Hultkrantz, "Ecological and Phenomenological Aspects of Shamanism," 35; Mircea

Eliade, "Shamanism: An Overview,"

  Encyclopedia of Religion,

  ed. Mircea Eliade (New

York and Londo n: M acmillan, 1987), vol. 13, 206.


 Townsend, "Ethno history and Culture Change of the Iliamna Tanaina," 302, 30 3; N.

A. Alekseev, "Shamanism among the Turkic Peoples of Siberia," in

  Shamanism: Soviet

Studies of


 Re ligion in Siberia and



 ed. Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer

(Armonk, NY, and London: M. E. Sharpe, 1990), 92; Eliade,

 Sham anism: A rchaic Tech-

niques of Ecstasy, 181; Ripinsky-Naxon, Nature of Shamanism,  64.

98.  Shirokogoroff,  Psychomental Com plex of the Tungus; Jean Comaroff,  "Medicine,

Symbol and Ideology, in The Problem of Medical Know ledge: Exam ining the Social Con-


 of M edicine,

  ed. P. W right and A. Treacher (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University


  1982), 49 -6 5; Ham ayon, "Shamanism: A Religion of Nature? " 111.

99. Thorpe,

 Shaman s, Medicine M en and Traditional Healers,


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  Shamanism and Christianity


 Pentikainen, "Introduction," 11; Ripinsky-Naxon,

 N ature of Shamanism,




  Wolves of Heaven,

 41 .


 Vilmos Dioszegi, 'The Problem of the Ethnic Homogeneity of Tofa (Karagas) Sha-

manism," FolkBeliefs andSham anistic Traditions in Siberia, ed. Vilmos D ioszegi and Mihaly

Hoppal (Budapest: Akademiai Kiado, 1996), 1 8 1 - 235.

103. Caroline Humphrey with Urgunge Onon,

 Shamans and Elders: Experience, Know l-

edge and Power among the Daur M ongols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 1 ; D. A. Funk,

"Zametki o Sham skom Panteone Teleutov (Bozhestvo Too-Kaan)," in P roblemy Etnicheskoi

Istorii i Kultury Tiurko-Mongolskikh Narodov Iuzhnoi Sibiri,

  ed. D. A. Funk (Moskva:

Institut Etnologii i Antro pologii, 1994), 153.

104. Thorpe, Shamans, M edicine Men and Traditional Healers,  16.

105. Interestingly, Ham ayon, in discussing this pragmatic nature of shamanism , uses the

word goods in a reference to sacred goals of shamanistic performances. Hamayon, "Sha-

manism: A Religion of Nature?" 121.

106. Sagalaev, Altai v Zerkale Mifa,  125.

107. A. Kelemen, "M edicine M an Personality and Sham anic Worldview," in


in Eurasia,

 ed. Mihaly Hoppal (G ottingen: Edition H erodot, 1984), 185. Robe rte Hamayon


 "The sham ans' power is strictly depen dent on his efficiency. He enjoys authority not

by being a shaman but by proving useful as such." Roberte N. Hamayon, "Shamanism in

Siberia: From Partnership in Supernature to Counter-Power in Society," in   Shamanism,

History, and the State,  ed. Nicholas Thomas and Caroline Humphrey (Ann Arbor: The

University of Michigan P ress, 1994), 81 .


 Gilberg, "How to Recognize a Shaman among Other Religious Specialists?" 27.

109.  Shirokogoroff,  Psychomental Com plex of the Tungus,  273; Anna-Leena Siikala,

"Shamanism: Siberian and Inner Asian Shamanism,"

 Encyclopedia of Religion,

 ed. Mircea

Eliade (New York and Londo n: Macm illan, 1987), vol. 13 ,208 ; Ripinsky-Naxon, Nature of




 Alekseev, "Shamanism among the Turkic Peoples of Siberia " 87; Ackerm an,

 K enaitze

People,  47; Townsend, "Ethnohistory and Culture Change of the Iliamna Tanaina," 304;

Shirokogoroff,   Psychomental Complex of the Tungus, 371 ; Holger Kalweit, Shamans, Heal-

ers, and M edicine Men

  (Boston and London: Shambala, 1992), 193.



 Ethnography of the Tanaina,



 Siikala and Hoppal,

 Studies on Shamanism,

  129; Balzer, "Introduction," viii.

113. Ham ayon, "Shamanism: A Religion of Nature?" 118.

114. Galina I. Dzeniskevich, Atapaski Aliaski: O cherki Ma terialnoi i Duk hovnoi Kultury:

Konets XVHI-Nachalo XX V   (Leningrad: Nauka, 1987), 82; Ackerman,  Kenaitze People,

48; Osgood, Ethnography of the Tanaina, 181.


 D . Khlop ina, "Iz M ifologii i Traditsionnikh Religioznikh Verovanii Shortsev," in

Etnogra fiia Narod ov Altaia iZapadno i Sibiri,

 ed. A. P. Okladnikov (Novosibirsk: Nauka,


 78 . Vladimir Basilov, a Russian student of shamanism, drew attention to this invol-

untary character of shamanic vocation in the title of an article: Vladimir Basilov, "Chosen

by Spirits," in Sham anic Worlds: R ituals and Lore of Siberia and Central Asia, ed. Marjorie

Mandelstam Balzer (Armonk, NY, and London: M. E. Sharpe, 1997), 3-48.



 Atlaiskie Inorodtsy,

 44 ; A. N. Araviiskii, "Shoriia i Shortsi," in



  no. 1 (1994): 100-102; V. G. Bogoraz, "K Psikhologii Shamanstva u Narodov

Severo-Vostochnoi A zii,"

  Etnograficheskoe Odozrenie,

  no. 1-2 (1910): 6.

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Indigenous Landscapes


117. ösgood,

 E thnography of the Tanaina,


118.  Townsend, "Ethnohistory and Culture Change of the Iliamna Tanaina," 305, 308;


 Kenaitze People,

 48 .

119. Osgood,

 Ethnography of the Tanaina,

 177-179; Townsend, "Ethnohistory and Cul-

ture Change of the Iliamna Tanaina," 302, 303.


 D zeniskevich,

 Atapaski Aliaski,

 81 .


 Argentov, "Opisanie N ikolaevskago Chaunsk ago Prikhoda," 93.

122. Waldemar [Vladimir] Jochelson,  The Koryak  (New York: AMS Press, 1975), 103;


 Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy,

  25 1; Siikala/Hoppal,

  Studies on Sha-




  Harald U. Sverdrup,

  Among the Tundra People,

  trans. Molly Sverdrup (La Jolla,

CA: Scripps Institution of Oceanography University of California, San Diego, 1978), 167.

124. Jochelson,  Koryak,  48; Siikala, "Shamanism: Siberian and Inner Asian Shaman-

ism," 21 3; Vdovin, "Study of Shamanism," 265.

125. Innokentii S. Vdovin, "C hukotskie Shamany i Ikh S otsialnie Fun ktsii," in


Istorii Obsh chestvennogo Soznania Aborigenov Sibiri,

 ed. Innokentii S. Vdov in (Leningrad:

Nauka, 1981), 182-183.


  Ibid. , 191-191,200.

127.  Serov, "Guardians and Spirit-Masters of Siberia," 246; Bogoras,




413,  421; Siikala and Hoppal,  Studies on Shamanism,  3; Siikala, "Shamanism: Siberian

and Inner Asian Shamanism," 2 09; Hultkrantz, "Ecological and Ph enom enological A spects

of Shamanism," 34.

128. See the most recent analyses of Altaian shamanism: Potapov,

 Altaiskii Shamanism;

Sagalaev, Altai v Zerkale Mifa,  104-1 26; Katsuba, Dukhovnaia Kultura Teleutov, 94-106;

Funk,  Teleutskoe Sham anstvo.

129. Alekseev, "Shamanism among the Turkic Peoples of Siberia," 84 ,8 6 ,9 2 -9 3; Katsuba,

Dukhovnaia K ultura T eleutov,

 100, 62-63, 86; Satlaev,



130. S. A. Poduzova, A. M. Sagalaev, "Iz Istorii Shamanstva na Altae," Izvestiia Sibirskogo

Otdeleniia Akademii N auk SSSR, Seria Obshchestvennikh N auk

 6, no. 2 (1983): 113.

131.  E. L. Lvova, I. V. Oktiabrskaia, A. M. Sagalaev, M. S. Usmanova, "Traditsionnoe

Mirovozrenie Tiourkov Iuzhnoi Sibiri kak Predmet Etnograficheskofo Issledovania," in

Traditsionnie Verovania i Byt Narodov Sibiri,

  ed. I. N. Gemuev and A. M. Sagalaev

(Novosibirsk: Nauka Sibirskoe Otdelenie, 1987), 86.

132.  The Anthropology of Power: Ethnographic Studies from Asia, Oceania, and the



 ed. Ray mond D. Fogelson and Richard N . Adams (New York: Academic P ress,


133. Ham ayon, "Sham anism in Siberia," 81 .

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Missionary Landscapes in Siberia and


And my speech and preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but

in demonstration of the Spirit and power.

—1 Corinthians 2:4

They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.

—Hebrews 12:38

Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them and said, 'Assur-

edly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will be

no means enter the kingdom of heaven."

—Matthew 18:17

Without addressing why Orthodox missionaries ventured into Siberia and Alaska,

their organizational structure, and their perceptions of native northern ers, it will be

difficult to understand the specifics of indigenous-missionary encounters. If mis-

sionary-na tive relationships were a dialogue that transformed both groups, equal

attention must be given to both sides of this encounter.


  For better understanding

of missionaries' culture we should examine their biographies as well as personal

and doctrinal motives that drove clerics to borderlands and the adjustments they

made to adapt their practices to the native environment. Although we have a few

pioneering studies of the sociology of Christian missions among native peoples in

various parts of world,


  still we do not have work that addresses the history of

Russian missionary culture and politics. In addition to a discussion of the evolu-

tion of the Orthodox missionary enterprise during the nineteenth century, this

chapter considers ideas and values that shaped the worldview of Russian mission-

aries and their attitudes toward native peoples. I am also interested in metaphors

that clerics used in describing their m issionary journeys. Another important ele-

ment of my discussion are the images and stereotypes of indigenous groups and

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48  Shamanism and Christianity

shamanism that the Orthodox messengers constructed during their evangelization




Siberian and Alaskan missionary accounts and writings of Orthodox authors

highlight that the monastic northern tradition stood as a powerful force that drove

"Russian evangelists" to the eastern borderland frontier.


  Sixteenth- and seven-

teenth-century m onk s' experiences in the European Russian north and Siberia set

the pattern for later professional Orthodox missionaries. As late as the nineteenth

century many m issionaries still felt obliged to gain a monastic background to qualify

for the role of a missionary.

In The Russian O rthodox C hurch in the North A. V. Kamkin explores the devel-

opment of the early Orthodox church in the Russian north. Kamkin underscores

that some monasteries gradually evolved into missions. Monks started to put more

stress on missionary activities in those northern areas where the environment did

not encourage agricultural pursuits and began organizing as religious enterprises

that combined monastic and missionary activities.


  The Valaam monastery, lo-

cated on Lake Ladoga in northern Russia, had a long history of contacts with the

Saami, a traditional people in the northern part of European Russia. Their customs

and philosophical outlook were reminiscent of native northerners living in Siberia

and Alaska. Incidentally, this monastery paved the way for Russian missionary

activities in Alaska.


 In 1794, eight Valaam monks arrived in Alaska and founded

the Alaska Mission. These "Orthodox messengers" were "simply part of this

centuries-old missionary heritage of the Russian Orthodox Church," stresses Mark



 From the thirteenth century to the middle of the eighteenth century Rus-

sian monastic communities mushroomed in the northern forests and in the arctic

wilderness. Uninterested in missionary work in


 they nevertheless created an

economic and spiritual basis for later missionary expansion into the eastern bor-

derlands. Though relatively independent actors, in the seventeenth century Siberian

monasteries became agents of Russian colonization through economic activities

and particularly the fur trade.


Form ally, clerics entered the wilderness of the Russian frontier searching for an

experience to prove their asceticism. Monks looked for an ideal place that could

remind them of the Biblical desert and help them renounce the pleasures of life.

By doing so the monks could deny themselves worldly goods and fight tempta-

tion, becoming perfect Christians.


  Russian Orthodoxy substantially rejuvenated

the early Christian tradition that symbolized the desert as a testing ground where

Christian holymen could polish themselves and later attempt miracles as ancient

desert fathers. Living apart from the rest of human society, close to nature and to

the "animistic paganism of non-Christian tribes," allowed them to dwell on God's

involvement in all of creation.


  The metaphor of the desert was transplanted to the

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Missionary Landscapes  49

Russian environment as a northern desert, where severe cold and ice replaced the

extreme heat of the biblical desert. Monasteries populated by hermits and novices

supervised by monks spread throughout the Russian North and Siberia and be-

came known as the "Russian Thebaid," a derivation from "Egyptian Thebaid."


The Russian north, Siberia and later Alaska provided ideal opportunities to nour-

ish qualities of humility and to educate clerics in the readiness for "hero ic deeds."


"In search of religious exercises," stressed Smirnoff,  "the colonist-monks went

into the forests and there settled near rivers and lakes. The hollows of trees, mud-


 or hastily kn ocked-up log cabins served them as habitation. "


  By the turn of

the nineteenth century, the furthermost outpost of this tremendous Orthodox mo-

nastic journ ey was the Alaskan mission, opened in 1794 and staffed exclusively by

monks from the Valaam monastery.

The form changed but the essence of the metaphor remained the same: the north-

ern desert was a testing ground for Russian holy men. W hether it was hot or cold in

the desert was not important; rather, it was the wilderness and its numerous chal-

lenges that became meaningful for Orthodox experience. In researching the

"Russian Northern Thebaid," the theologian Ivan Kontzevitch argued that north-

ern desert was in no way inferior to its "African archetype." Russian hermits and

monks who fled to the eastern borderlands "in their spiritual power, the might of

their ascetic life, and the height of their attainments were equal to the Fathers of

the first centuries of Christianity." Both in Russia and in Egypt there were the sam e

"poetic activity" and "the same silence."

 l v

To survive in the desert, where one

confronted Satan, divine assistance was necessary. After all, Christ himself had

paved the way for his followers by fasting forty days in the wilderness.

Not surprisingly, the essence of the missionary way was to repeat Christ's jour-

ney or the jou rneys of his Biblical disciples. According to official church doctrine,

each missionary was to imitate Jesus' desert activities. In this context, self-denial

and humility w ere the most popu lar ideal patterns to follow.


  The Russian church

pushed this desert analogy to an extreme. The image of a Christian ascetic who

followed evangelical principles set by St. Paul, lived amid the wildlife, and "so-

cialized" with animals becam e a favorite m etaphor both in church and in m issionary

literature. Historians of Orthodoxy who referred to this aspect of the Russian church

doctrine note "a religious m asochism of massive proportions." "Imitation of Christ,"

writes Daniel Rancour-Laferriere, "is not some fuzzy, distant ideal for the reli-

gious Russian. It means concrete , physical and/or m ental suffering." Richard Pipes

also emphasizes such elements of Orthodoxy as patient acceptance of one's fate,

humility, and silent suffering. In The Icon and the Axe  James Billington stresses

"the almost masochistic desire" of monks to humble themselves.


Such generalizations are far from exaggerations, and missionary theoreticians

themselves constantly emphasized this aspect of Russian Christianity. In the 1900

guideline text for "Orthodox messengers," Bishop Dionisii stresses that the best

missionaries achieved their purposes through suffering and hardships. They as-

pired to "enslave and kill their bodies through much laboring, fasting, vigil,

neglecting cold and hot."


 The canonized semilegendary experiences of such as-

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  Shama nism and Christianity

cetics as Zosim a in Siberia or Father Herman in Alaska, and many others served to

support this Orthodox metaphor. Such clerics as St. Herman, who exemplified the

life of both the hermit monk and the missionary, were viewed as models. Accord-

ing to the Orthodox tradition, Herman brought a "monastic spiritual struggle" to

his missionary activities.


  Since he reached perfectness in his "genuine monk



  the Russian American church later canonized Herman as one of its

saints.  Herman widely practiced various ascetic experiences praised in the Rus-

sian church tradition. From the time of his com ing to Alaska in 1794 to his death in

1837 he confined himself to a solitary place on small Spruce Island, which b ecam e

known as "New Valaam."

Church tradition emphasizes that Herman rejected the high religious titles of

Hiermonk and Archimandrite, preferring instead a life as a simple monk.



other favorite episode underscored in missionary histories concerns Herman's

appearance. By wearing deerskin rugs, which he did not change for many years

and chains on his chest he attempted to resemble biblical ascetic fathers. He used

bricks for a pillow and a wooden board for a bed. Before he moved to a wooden

cabin, he lived for a while in a cave that he dug out for himself in the ground. This

cave later became his grave.


  In addition, church writings mention that through

his humbleness, Herman achieved a rapport with both the surrounding wildlife

and natives.


  Church authors also indicate that "in his life the elder [Herman]

imitated the ancient champions of piety."


It is also notable that in the 18 30 s-l 840s another missionary, Makarii Glukharev,

a founder and head of the Altai mission, also wore rugs until they fell apart. To

dem onstrate humility and the self-sacrifice of a true Christian believer, G lukharev

on occasion crossed all imaginable borders by refusing to receive a salary for his

work, doing chores in native homes and minding children. Glukharev also became

known for disturbing missionary neophytes in the middle of the night by forcing

them to recite prayers.


  Such extreme behavior reeked of the spirit of medieval

Orthodoxy and eventually became rare among missionaries in the nineteenth cen-

tury, except as a metaphor and as a formal church ideal.

Those clerics who gave their life for the sake of evangelization were canonized

and became the objects of church legends. One of these missionaries was Father

Juvenal, whose m ysterious death at the hands of the Yupik or Dena 'ina gave much

food for disputes and even scholarly forgeries. Orthodox authors claim that in

1795 Juvenal baptized more than seven hundred Alutiiq and Dena'ina. Excited by

his success, he allegedly went on to the Iliamna Lake groups, where local people

killed him for either taking children away to the Orthodox schools or attacking

polygamy. The half-mythologized story of his martyrdom represents an unavoid-

able part of all Russian missionary stories.


Before the nineteenth century, missionary work on the Siberian and Alaskan

borderlands was in many respects a combination of individual church and layman

initiatives and sporad ic governm ental efforts. One of the major au thorities on mis-

sionary history in old Russia, Kharlampovich, writes, "Siberian m issionary activities

lacked any organization and consistency until the nineteenth century."


  No mis-

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Missionary Landscapes


sionary establishment existed in Russia during these years, nor did Orthodoxy

have an organized religious order specialized in propagation of the faith such as

the Jesuits. Evangelization was not a major interest for Orthodox people on the

Russian eastern borderland. This work was simply treated as an extension of their

other duties in the wilderness.


Later, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when the work of evange-

lization was turned into a formalized church enterprise, the "desert tradition" did

not come to an end. As a religious m yth, it continued to occupy missionary d iaries,

reports, and theoretical works. In the nineteenth century, such writings insisted

that "Orthodox messengers" were to go through a practical training, best carried

out in a desolate monastery or through desert living.


  In his missionary guide-

book Dionisii focused considerable attention on the hardships of missionary

journeys and stressed that those who w ent through these rites of passage exem pli-

fied model behavior. The direct parallels some missionary publications drew

between asceticism or martyrdom and evangelization work show that the formal-

ized missionary enterprise of the nineteenth century inherited m uch from the earlier

tradition of self-humility and monasticism.


Moreover, until 1816 monks still served as the only source for Russian mis-

sions.  The first Alaska missions recruited exclusively from monks, approved

personally by Catherine the Great, seemed to be the last largest purely monastic

missionary project of the Russian ch urch. After 1816 the church started to send

regular parish (so-called white) priests to eastern borderlands along with monastic

(or "black") clergy.


 Still, until the beginning of the twentieth century the monks

or clergy with considerable m onastic expe rience occupied many positions in inter-

nal and overseas Orthodox missions. Many missionaries before accepting their

assignments obtained short solitude or monastery experience.


  For instance, three

other missionaries to the Altaians, Hiermonk Ioann, the priest Trofim Sokolovski,

and Abb ot Akakii, before coming to Altai had lived as mon ks. Ioann received his

training in the so-called Sarov Desert, a monastic solitude place in European Rus-

sia. Sokolovski, the son of a peasant, was interested in missionary work, but he

had only a secular education from the Kharkov Pedagogical College. As a result,

he turned to monastery living to fill the vacuum in his religious training . After one

year of monastic experience, Sokolovski came in 1878 to Altai to head the local

St. Nicholas Church. In a similar manner, Akakii, who had worked earlier as a

veterinarian, became interested in evangelizing natives. Apparently, he realized

that his training, although useful in Altai, was not enough and chose monastic

living as the best preparation for his missionary assignment.


Nestor, who worked in northeastern Siberia (1908-1910), studied in the Mis-

sionary Institute (Kalmuk-M ongolian program ) of the Kazan Theological Academy.

During his academy years he frequently stayed in the local Transfiguration mon-

astery, where he met the chief of the monastery, Arch imandrite Andrei, who became

for Nestor a role model as a "genuine ascetic monk." Before accepting his mis-

sionary assignment Nestor took a monastic oath symbolizing his devotion to

missionary w ork: "I consciously rejected worldly mundane benefits. Instead, driven

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  Shamanism and Christianity

by a desire to help those who suffered I chose a career in a far, desolated, hardly

populated and unfamiliar to me land."


  Monastic tradition also maintained its

influence on some Russian missionary stations. In Altai Glukharev organized "the

life in his mission according to rules of a monastery community."


Moreover, there were sporadic efforts to increase the number of monks-mis-

sionaries, who were supposedly better prepared for their duties in wilderness. In

1861 A. G. Molkov, w ho worked in the Altai mission, tried to promote an idea that

the mission should be equipped only with "b lack" clergy and argued that his project

had found support in St. Petersburg. Although later denounced, his speeches spread

fear among representatives of "white clergy" about the security of their jobs.



the turn of the twentieth century to strengthen Orthodox work in Alaska and Sibe-

ria one missionary project again suggested a total replacement of all "w hite" parish

missionaries with monastic clergy.


  Although rejected, these attempts tell us a

great deal about traditionally favorable attitudes toward persons with monastic

experience as potential missionaries. Later, in its 1910 decision the Russian Holy

Synod strongly recommended recruiting "monks and monastery-oriented clergy"

for missionary work.


  Unlike unmarried monks, the regular clergy were viewed

as peop le who did not always show much desire to sacrifice their personal life and

that of their families for the sake of missionary enterprise.

All these facts certainly do not prove that monks dom inated Russian missions. A

large number of active missionaries, from Ivan Veniaminov and Andrei Argentov

in the first half of the nineteenth century to Nikolai Mitropolsky and Mikhail

Chevalkov at the end of the century, were married priests. On the whole, it seems

that during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries both groups were evenly

represented among Orthodox m issionaries. For instance, the majority of the Altaian

missionaries came from regular parish clergy, whereas the Chukchi mission was

almost exclusively equipped with monks.


  As far as the Alaska mission is con-

cerned, it is difficult to make any generalizations, and available materials show

missionaries were recruited from both groups.


Descriptions of missionary ordeals amid the wilderness in search of native souls

represent an interesting aspect of missionary accounts in the nineteenth and the

beginning of the twentieth century. "Orthodox messengers" frequently used these

ordeals as illustrations of the heavy load they had to carry: the burden of


denial and humility. It appears from missionary accounts that the earlier ascetic

"desert living" tradition after being incorporated into a formal church structure in

the nineteenth century continued to live as a metaphor of hardships of the northern

desert journey. "Horrible severity of the climate, the savagery of the residents,

defenselessness and lack of elementary living conveniences are the normal condi-

tions of this journey . But servants of the church did not hold back before the

harshness of nature and crude nature of the resident of this area," wrote a nine-

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Missionary Landscapes  53

teenth-centüry author about a typical missionary experience in northeastern Sibe-



Virtually all missionary accounts chronicle hardships amid "impassable sw amps"

and "fierce snow storms" that missionaries had to overcome.


  Though missionar-

ies evidently added a certain dose of imagination to such descriptions in order to

establish their image in the eyes of superiors or get additional financing, the con-

ditions of work were indeed severe. Kostlivtsev, a governmental inspector, portrayed

Alaskan missionaries' conditions as follows in his report of 1860-1861:

The missionaries are forced to make long journeys in baidarkas and to march through moun-

tains, tundra and forest. Their fellow-travelers usually carry the baidarkas, food and other

traveling necessities themselves across portages with great difficulties, often enduring hun-

ger and cold, occasionally spending long periods of time in the rain without shelter, and

covering themselves only with a light tent. Because of the small population and the harsh

climate, there is no way to avoid these inconveniences.


Missionaries noted that not only did the natural stubbornness of the indigenous

"infantile children" hinder their enterprise, but overcoming the severity of the north-

ern terrain itself also presented prob lems. Students of native Christianization usually

did not pay much attention to the descriptions of the wildlife and natural land-

scapes that filled missionary accounts. In fact, missionaries themselves treated

these aspects as part of the same "savage domain." In his 1912 diary Nestor, who

worked among the Kamchatka natives, used the hardships of his own journeys to

construct a com posite picture of the Russian missionary. Nestor p lunges the reader

into the atmosphere of the winter m issionary trip: "Please, feel, at least for a while,

what a missionary has to go through, when he is caught in the blizzard, buried in

snow amid the wild severe desert without any food for four and more days, and

being frozen submitted himself to these funeral conditions, awaiting a death."


As in earlier monastic times, the formal implication of the desert metaphor re-

mained the same: by traversing northern landscapes, an "Orthodox messenger"

was to approach the ideals of ancient biblical desert prophets. Missionary narra-

tives are abundant in these kinds of analogies. Thus, throughout his

 Orthodoxy in


  Nestor referred to missionary journeys and trips as "apostolic travels."

Another theologian compared Dionisii, the missionary to the Sakha (Yakut) and

Chukchi, with the apostle Paul. In 1909 Anton Vakulsky (A mphilokhy), who worked

for a while in 1910 as a missionary to the Chukchi, compared himself and his new

converts to the "young ancient Christians who conducted their religious services

underground and in deserts quite far from the cultural centers."


  Some missionar-

ies carried this biblical zeal to an eccentric degree, like Father Venedict, w ho cam e

on foot from European Russia to Chukchi country, the place of his assignment.

Moreover, he promised the bishop of Yakutsk that, unlike other missionaries, he

would visit every nomadic Chukchi camp and baptize all of the people. Being

highly com petitive, Venedict ignored the w ork done by his predecessors and con-

stantly rem arried peo ple who had already been m arried by other clerics.


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54  Shamanism and Christianity

The missionary journey itself exemplified asceticism and hardships and corre-

sponded well with monastic tradition. For Orthodox authors, the model missionaries

were not only those who accomplished a great deal in catching native souls, but

also those who boldly challenged wilderness and traversed northern desert terrain.

Dm itri K hitrov, a missionary to the Chukchi, was described as a person who sup-

pressed in himself all remnants of hesitation and fear. An Orthodox author,

describing his experiences, emphasized that during severe winters he traveled

through "limitless wastelands" by dogs, or reindeer or simply on foot, "through

deep snow, high mountains, and horrible streams constantly in danger."



difficulty and risk for my life I struggled through the icy ground of swampy moss,

dirty lava, wet hills and slippery slopes," wrote Argentov, another missionary to

the Chukchi. With a sack on his back, Argen tov covered 126 miles for fifteen days

and converted fifty-seven "savages."


Vasilii Verbitskii, who w orked for thirty-seven years among the Altaians (1853—

1890),  maintained that "the missionary cause is the war without armistice. As

soldiers during wartime missionaries do not have daily conveniences."


  As "sol-


  they were humbly to accept their hazardous journeys. Verbitskii recounted

the difficulties missionaries coped with: trips through the rain, cold, hunger, "filthi-

ness of native dwellings " In the diary of Illarion, a missionary to the Athapaskan

Indians and Yupik, we also see numerous references to the hardships of the jour-

ney: cold, rain, and shortages of food.


A long journey full of hardships certainly not only was important for spiritual

purposes but served practical goals toward a professional promotion. Veniaminov

constructed a greater part of his image and a career as the greatest Russian mis-

sionary through his persistent attempts personally to supervise m issionary activities

in all distant corners of the Alaskan and eastern Siberian areas. He left an impres-

sive long-distance travel record: Kam chatka Peninsula, Sakha country, the Am ur

River area, Alaska. His annual trips sometimes reached  5,600  miles a year.



1903 the theological historian Smirnoff generalized about the "extraordinary geo-

graphical expanse of the [northern] country," where m issionaries encountered severe

conditions, and praised Veniaminov. Smirnoff noted that "during many years In-

nocent [a canonical name of Veniaminov] indefatigably journeyed in canoes,

sailing-vessels, reindeer sledges, and sledges drawn by dogs, and sometimes went

in snow-shoes, or simply on foot, over imm ense distances, everywhere christianizing

the natives of various race, erecting churches, establishing mission stations."


From the accounts of Siberian missionaries of the end of the nineteenth century,

Smirnoff conclud ed that in a single year a missionary traveled between 1,000 and

4,200 miles. For example, in 1897 in Chukchi country the priests Venedict and

Mikhail Petelin covered 1,503 miles and spent eighteen nights exposed to snow.

The report of the Russian Missionary Society for 1899 described how these two

missionaries were lost and wandered across Chukchi country from October 1898

to January 1899. They nearly died from the cold and fed themselves scrapings

from the inside rind of the larch tree or straps from their sledges.


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Missionary Landscapes  55

Sometimes the more dangerous and unpred ictable a locale, the more attractive it

was for missionary work. Missionaries directly or indirectly accentuated this fact

in reports to superiors. In 1851 Argentov went on foot almost 500 m iles, sailed the

same distance, and traveled by dogs 2,616 miles. He claimed that 212 nomads

were converted during this trip. "This fact consoles m e and eases my work, hard-

ships and dangers. My hopes are rising," concluded the cleric, "and I ask perm ission

to go to the Bering Strait and preach the gospel to the sedentary Chuk chi/'



Illarion conducted missionary work among the Inuit and Athapaskans of internal

Alaska between 1861 and 1868. After his stay at Kolmakovsky Red oubt, Illarion

heard that a few g roups in the Kuskokw im River delta area remained ambivalent

about converting to Christianity. Moreover, they were hostile to the Russians. Illarion

stressed that he was eager to meet this challenge and immediately set out for this



  A 1910 novel about Altai missionaries highlighted the courage that clerics

demonstrated during missionary trips. The author ascribed to Glukharev these

words: "Forw ard, forward, m issionaries are not supposed to fear."


  In 1868 Khitrov,

praised by an Orthodox writer as one of the most courageous missionaries, wrote

after h is departure to the Kolyma area, "The monk does not have anything to lose.

If I am doomed to die, it will be my sacrifice to God."


In 1863 the Dena'ina recommended that Nikolai Militov (Abbot Nicholas) not

make a short visit to the Athapaskan-speaking Eyak village, where some warlike

Tlingits were staying. "I do not care ," Militov stressed in his formal report; "if God

prepared me such an outco me I will have to accept this."


  It is difficult to general-

ize to what degree missionaries themselves believed in these kinds of declarations

found in formal reports. One assumes that those who voluntarily accepted mis-

sionary assignments were most probably sincere in making such statements. In

any event, these ordeals paralleled the Eastern Orthodox tradition with its cult of



Prior to Peter the Great's rule, the Russian state did not show much consistent

interest in the conversion of indigenous peoples of Siberia. There is a purely eco-

nomic explanation for this lack of interest. Unlike Orthodox Christians, indigenous

people of the eastern bo rderlands until the beginning of the twentieth century car-

ried the burden of an annual fur tribute (called iasak) to the governm ental treasury.


The enlargement of the Christian population would have decreased the num ber of

tribute-paying groups, although the government supported such division as an

additional attraction to natives to accept baptism. At the same time such practice

prompted local secular authorities to view missionary activities as a hindrance to

tax collecting.

Peter the Great changed these conditions by allowing priests to baptize natives

while retaining them in the tribute category. This practice was introduced in his

1710 guidelines to Philotheus Leshchinskii (1650-1727), a new Siberian metro-

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56  Shamanism and Christianity

politan, who started the conversion of the Ostiaks (Khanty). Furthermore, Peter

the Great w as also the first czar to issue a specific decree about Christianization of

Siberian natives, which sent a number of Orthodox missionaries, primarily Jesuit-

influenced Ukrainians, to convert "savages" into loyal imperial subjects. It should

be stressed that at this time government-sponsored Christianization relied prima-

rily on coercive baptism. The czar instructed L eshchinskii to find, "burn and ch op "

natives' "false gods," to "destroy their prayer places, and replace them with chap-

els and holy icons."


  In December of 1714 the czar issued another regulation,

which required burning down "idols and wicked praying sites" of all natives in

western and central Siberia.


Such evangelization pursued a practical goal of consolidation of all peripheral

areas into a single imperial entity. According to his broad program of imperial

bureaucratic centralization, Peter the Great formally abolished the colonial status

of Siberia, turning it into a Russian province. His centralization program included

undermining the power and sovereignty of the Russian church, particularly inde-

pendent monastery communities.


  In 1721 Peter the Great also completely

eliminated the autonomy of the Russian church, confiscated all its lands, and es-

tablished the Holy Synod as a separate imperial department that took full control

over Russian Orthodoxy.


 In the second half of the eighteenth century, Catherine

the Great completed the seizure of monastic property, and the government either

closed monasteries or turned them into military hospitals. By the end of the eigh-

teenth century the state had totally subordinated the Russian church to the empire.


From that time, to test oneself in the "northern desert" or to "hunt the natives"

stopped being an individual adventure and becam e a regular job .

The Russian government therefore institutionalized the formerly spontaneous

Orthod ox missionary zeal and made it part of the settlement of the eastern border-

lands and native Christianization. In his recent work Michael K hodarkovsky stresses

that from the sixteenth century to the beginning of the eighteenth century the most

"striking feature" of Russia's missionary activity was "the unusual degree of gov-

ernment involvement." As a result, "missions in Russia were part of a concerted

colonization process directed by the state and, as such, were subservient to gov-

ernment interests."


The government and church demanded that native groups go through only for-

mal baptism, symbolizing their political loyalty to the czar. After imposing

conversion, clerics sent by the governm ent regarded their jo b as done and were not

much worried about entrench ing Christianity in natives' minds. A natural result of

all these policies was the creation of great numbers of pseudo-Christians.



already-mentioned Leshchinskii, who was assigned to start mass conversion of

natives in western and southern Siberia, extended the Russian m issionary frontier

farther east and becam e one of the first w ho regularly practiced long-distance mis-

sionary journeys. Between 1702-1727 Leshchinskii formally converted forty

thousand natives, who evidently remained pseudo converts.


  Similarly, Joseph

Khotuntsevski, assigned to eastern Siberia, imposed Christianity on the Kam chatka

natives, and the number of formal converts mushroomed. Returning to Russia in

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1750, he announced that his mission had baptized and educated all natives in the

Kamchatka area with the minor exceptions of the nomadic Koryak. Moreover,

Khotuntsevski declared, "Th e whole cause of preaching the word of God has ended

and there is nobody left who should be brought to Christianity."


  In 1761 the

Holy Synod supported this statement and claimed that Khotunstevski's mission

had completely fulfilled its task and left a Christian com mu nity of five thousand

people as well as five church buildings.


Vigorous attack on non-Christian religious beliefs sporadically continued in the

post-Petrine period until the 1760s.


  Yet, despite frequently practiced intimida-

tion in imposing conversion , it appears that by the middle of the eighteen th century

state-sponsored missionary zeal had already subsided in both Siberia and other

parts of Russia. An imperial decree of 1740 forbade "im position of baptism " and

even asked missionaries to rely on persuasion. Ten years later the Holy Synod

obliged missionaries to collect written petitions from Moslems and all "other infi-

dels" who volunteered to accept Orthodoxy in order to prevent potential complaints

about forceful baptisms.


  By this time the goals of formal unification and central-

ization of the em pire started by Peter the Great were essentially com pleted, and, in

addition, fur resources of Siberia were greatly depleted. So on the whole, the state

lost interest in the area's people.


  Moreover, Catherine the Great, who came to

power in 1762, supported rationalistic and universalistic ideas. Medieval die-hard

Orthodoxy hardly inspired her. As a result the government started to restrain Rus-

sian missionaries in their persistent attempts to convert natives. Clerics w ere ordered

to avoid direct attacks on native traditions. In their 1769 guidelines clerical au-

thorities instructed missionaries "to influence them [non-Orthodox people] with

love and humbleness rather than force and suppression." Official regulations of

Catherine the Great such as the 1773 Edict of Toleration not only parted with a

policy of violent conversion, but put missionary work on a low priority list.


Yet there were exc eptions. One of them was the beginning of the Alaskan mis-

sion in 1794. Incidentally, this was the first overseas Russian mission. Gregory

Shelikhov, the head of the Russian-American Company (RAC), interested in es-

tablishing a permanent Russian presence in the northern Pacific Rim, invited the

group of Valaam m onks to come to Kodiak Island and organize a m ission. Follow-

ing Catherine's liberal inclinations, Metropolitan Gabriel in his instructions to

missionaries recommended that these monks restrict their activities to "planting

into the hearts of the natives a few seeds of gospel."


 However, it seems that these

clerics were still concerned about the number of people they converted: after a

year of zealous activities monks reported that they had allegedly baptized twelve

thousand natives.


The Orthodox church intensified its missionary efforts after the 1820s and espe-

cially during the reign of N icholas I. Catherine the Grea t's universalistic indifference

to Russian Orthodoxy and liberal cosmopolitan experiments at the beginning of

the nineteenth century later produced a backlash, a growth in conservatism, and a

revival of Orthodoxy. This reaction found an expression in the "theory of official

nationality," which united statism, nationalism, and Orthodoxy as cornerstones of

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58  Shamanism and Christianity



  The upsurge of official and church interest in native conversion in

the 1820s-1830s became a follow-up to these developments. Not satisfied with

superficial conversion, the state became interested in genuine Christianization of

the Russian colonial periphery. Yet, the major intention was not language and cul-

tural assimilation, but an attempt to draw indigenous elites closer to the empire in

order to maintain the status quo.


  Methods of evangelization practiced during the

reign of Peter the Great definitely did not fit the new goals of "gen uin e" evangeli-

zation. Church and state officials stopped forcing non-Christians to accept baptisms,

and those who chose to remain non-Orthodox still enjoyed the patronage of the


At this time, especially when Count Speransky introduced his 1822 project of

"indirect rule" over Siberian nomadic and so-called wandering natives, the gov-

ernment and church officials came to the conclusion that evangelization through

persuasion would be more productive than forceful methods. This corresponded

to the general goal of the entire Speransky project, which was designed to "up-

grad e" the natives to the level of "Russian civilization," but only gradually and on

a voluntary basis.


 This legislation, called the Statute of Alien Administration in

Siberia, which became the major imperial document regulating social, political,

and administrative life of Siberian natives, clearly indicated that those inorodtsy

who did not want to belong to the Christian faith were allowed to perform reli-

gious services "according to their traditional laws and rites," while Russian clerics

were to rely only on persuasion in their evangelization work and w ere forbidden to

harass those natives who were still inconsistent in their Orthodoxy.


Alm ost the same stipulations were included in the renewed 1844 charter of RAC,

which supervised indigenous peoples of Russian Am erica. First, the RAC charter

stressed that "natives w ho do not profess the Christian faith are free to w orship in

accordance with their own traditions." Second, the charter noted that those con-



 who "prove negligent in observing church cerem onies" because

of their "ignorance" "are not to be punished" and should be dealt with through

persuasion. In addition, in working with natives the Russian clergy in Alaska was

instructed to apply only "the rules of gentle behavior" and do not practice "any

compulsion whatsoever."


  Furthermore, in 1841 the government included in an

existing civil law an article that forbade forceful conversions. In those occasional

incidents in which authorities had to deal with zealous local priests who still tried

to impose baptism on natives, which incidentally took place outside Siberia, the

government and the church stressed that they did not share the enthusiasm for

missionary projects that relied on "dec isive" and coercive m easures.


 Yet, at the

same time, the government made it clear that it was interested in conversion of

native peoples and certainly would encourage dissemination of Christian faith

among inorodtsy.


 To help the conversion process the emp ire supplemented per-

suasion with material benefits to the newly baptized.

The church began looking for more efficient channels such as the use of native

tongues in order to instill Orthodoxy in native minds. Missionaries also realized

that they should not restrict themselves to simply converting "savages" untouched

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Missionary Landscapes


by Christianity, but should work with those natives who had earlier formally ac-

cepted Orthodoxy. Glukharev, chief of the Altai mission, who was influenced by

eighteenth-century Enlightenment ideas, and Veniaminov, a famous Alaska mis-

sion organizer and future metropolitan, who was affected by similar sentiments,

developed some major principles of native messianization. At the center of their

approaches was an optimistic belief in upgrading all indigenous peoples of the

empire through gentle persuasion. Glukharev especially stressed the necessity of

using natives in missionary work. This new method also manifested itself in the

Missionary Instructions

  introduced by Veniaminov for northeastern Siberia and

Alaska and later accepted by church officials as formal guidelines for evangeliza-

tion of natives. In order to succeed missionaries were prescribed to avoid direct

attacks on native customs and traditions, to be lenient about the "weaknesses" of

the new converts, and even, as Veniaminov, the archbishop of Kamchatka, the

Kurils, and the Aleutians, put it in his instructions to missionaries, "give credit to

their good c ustom s/'


It is clear that the 182Os-183Os, when these new approaches were articulated,

was the beginning of a new period in Russian missionary activities. Virtually all

major Russian missionary ventures in Siberia and Alaska started or were signifi-

cantly strengthened during these years. In 1823 the Holy Synod adopted a decree

to upgrade the Alaskan mission, and Veniaminov started his activities in Russian

Am erica and radically improved the entire missionary project. In 1840 he becam e

head of the newly created Kamchatka Diocese, which targeted both Alaskan na-

tives and the indigenous peoples of eastern Siberia.


In 1828 the Russian government and church founded the Altai Mission headed

by Glukharev. By a special act the government granted food and supply benefits to

all monk-missionaries who volunteered to work in the Siberian mission. More-

over, on June 17 ,1826 , the government introduced special benefits for all "heathens"

who "upon their own choice" accepted the Orthodox religion. These benefits in-

cluded relief from any dues and tributes to the empire for three years.



missionaries adopted a broad interpretation of this regulation and frequently also

supplemented their conversion efforts with various gifts and presents. Although in

special 1837 guidelines officials decreed that clerics not endow upon newly bap-

tized money or such articles as shoes or clothing in addition to already granted



  in practice such regulations were widely ignored.

The desire to reduce the possibility of mass and formal conversion was articu-

lated again in 1861 guidelines that stated:

Before beginning of a baptism both a clergyman and a representative of local authorities,

who is obliged to be present during the ceremony, shall carefully examine and confirm that

this person voluntarily and consciously accepts the holy baptism. Without such confirma-

tion, baptism shall not be performed and not be allowed. Upon completion of this church

ceremony, a representative of local authorities shall verify the performance of the baptism

act with his own hand in a book of registrations.


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60  Shamanism and Christianity

Two major cen ters were responsible for the preparation of missionaries and sup-

port of missions in the nineteenth century. The first one, the Russian Missionary

Society (RMS), was founded in St. Petersburg in 1865. Dogurevich claimed that

the RMS acted as one of the major agents in the evangelization of the eastern



 Five years later the society transferred its headquarters to Moscow,

where Veniaminov, the metropolitan of Moscow, led it. He wrote a draft of the

society's by-laws approved by Alexander II on November 21, 1869.


  Maria, the

wife of the emperor and a RMS member herself,  provided imperial patronage to

the society. Although formally the goal of the RMS was to support m issions w ithin

the borders of the Russian empire, the new organization eventually targeted over-

seas missions, particularly the Alaskan mission.


RMS was responsible for establishing many new m issions and increasing mon-

etary support for the work of native evangelization. Whereas in the 1860s the entire

amount of money allocated by the RM S was only 7,000 rubles, in 1903 -1904 the

sum of financial support for nine Siberian missions reached 170,528 rubles.



a large number of Russian missions sprang up during the last thirty years of the

nineteenth century apparently should also be attributed to initiatives of the RM S.


By the end of the nineteenth century the num ber of its mem bers, which constituted

7,000 in 1871, had increased to 14,243 persons, who represented the elite and

well-to-do segment of Russian society. In 1897 the overall RM S capital had reached

1,186,837 rubles.


The second center that promoted missionary work was a special two-year mis-

sionary college founded in 1854 as a branch of the Kazan Orthodox Academy.

Later, in 1897, this college, which by this time had received the status of an insti-


 moved to the local Spasski monastery. According to church officials, the new

facilities were to confine future missionaries exclusively to asceticism and to edu-

cate them for a life of "full hardships and self-restrictions/' Another goal was to

cut off future O rthodox messengers from the social life of Kazan, one of the major

university cities in old Russia. In short, the college tailored its curriculum and

order to make the institute look like a small model of a "good desert."


  The latter

objective became a fulfillment of Glukharev's testament that a future missionary

college should com bine both educational and monastery goals.

Would-be missionaries received training in native cultures and languages through

a special Mongolian Department, but instructors taught these subjects from an

outlook that stressed "superiority of Christian morality" over pagan values. It was

obvious from the name of the offered courses, for example, "the history and con-

demnation of Lamaism." Along with native anthropology ("ethnology of the

subjected tribes") and languages, students devoted much time to Russian mission-

ary history ("history of the mission among the subjected tribes").


  In 1898-1899

the Missionary Institute had sixty-two students. By the turn of the twentieth cen-

tury the college completely took over the job of missionary recruitment from the



  Still, the number of graduates was not enough to equip all internal and

overseas Russian missions, and the heads of various missions constantly com-

plained about lack of new recruits.

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Missionary Landscapes


Though ordinary parish clergy showed occasional interest in propagating the

gospel, they were not eager to choose missionary assignmen ts that required large

personal sacrifices. Stefan Landyshev, the chief of the Altai mission in the 1860s,

reported that "each parish priest in Siberia is provided much better than our mis-

sionaries. Therefore, no one from the graduates of the Tobolsk and Tomsk seminaries

wanted to work in the mission."


 Working among the Koryak in eastern Siberia,

Nestor expressed a similar concern about the lack of resources for evangelization



  Not surprisingly, the ranks of missionaries were staffed by either a minor-

ity of overzealous Orthodox individuals or clerics who were not able to find a

regular parish position and treated missionary work as voluntary exile.

From an administrative standpo int, in the nineteenth century the Russian church

usually did not draw strict borders between internal and overseas m issions. Thus,

until 1870 the Russian government did not separate its Alaskan mission from Si-

berian m issionary activities. Between 1821 and 1840 the Alaskan mission developed

as an integral part of one large Siberian/Alaskan missionary see with Irkutsk (Si-

beria) as its center. From 1840 Alaska and Eastern Siberia made up a separate

Kamchatka mission with headquarters in New Archangel (Sitka), the capital of

Russian Am erica, which w as also a location of the Russian Theo logical Seminary,

which served the needs of both eastern Siberia and Alaska. The western Siberian

missions becam e an autonom ous entity, with the Altai M ission founded in 1828 as

a backbone of missionary activities in this area.

Historians stress that the sale of Russian America to the United States in 1867

did not undermine Orthodox religious activities and the period that followed can-

not be separated from the earlier history of the Russian church in Alaska. Barbara

Smith emphasized that from 1867 into the early twentieth century the Orthodox

church in Alaska remained part of the state church of Russia. Another scholar, A.

Shalkop, wrote, "Politically, Russia was divorced from its colonies, but psycho-

logically it continued to be present in the lives of the people who had been trained

' to think that through serving the church they also served the czar."


  The Russian

church in the United States continued to develop under the umbrella of its mother

country, and until 1917 the American branch of the church received instructions

from the metropolitan of Moscow.


  Some missionaries, like Veniaminov and

Vakulsky (Amphilokhy), divided their time between Siberia and Alaska. More-

over, in the early twentieth century the eastern part of Chukchi country in

northeastern Siberia was made part of the Alaska see. The Russian Holy Synod

formally retained the land the O rthodox church owned in Alaska. In 1870, the new

Alaskan see was created and later moved from Sitka to San Francisco.


  After a

short decline, the Russian church expanded its work in Alaska and even estab-

lished new m issionary stations.

Training of the local Orthodox leadership from indigenous and mixed blood

populations was a major part of missionary work both in Siberia and in Alaska.

The church recognized that support for native low-level clergy would significantly

upgrade all missionary work. Veniaminov, the "apostle" of Russian m issions, de-

spite a few reservations, stressed that the Russian church at the periphery should

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62   Shamanism and Christianity

nourish native leaders, elders, and readers whose help could be crucial for the

cause of evangelization." In Alaska and Siberia natives and mixed bloods could

be found in positions of missionaries, deacons, subdeacons, interpreters and

churchw ardens. Furtherm ore, this practice received formal approval: in 1841 the

government at the advice of the Holy Synod by a special decree found it "neces-

sary " to admit trained natives and Creoles into the ranks of clergy in eastern S iberia

and Russian America. In 1866 this stipulation was extended to include the Altaian

natives, who received the right to join the ranks of clergy to bypass the objections

of their "heathen" tribal authorities.


 Such prominent missionaries in Alaska as

Iakov Netsvetov, John Orlov, Zakhar Bel'kov, Alexander Petelin, and a few others

came from Russian-Aleut/Alutiiq families. In northeastern Siberia among the most

notable native and mixed-blood clerics'were Grigorii Sleptsov (Sakha), Nikolai

Loginov and Mikhail Kollegov (Itelmens), and Mikhail Petelin (Russian-Alutiiq).

At the same time, documents contain no evidence about the existence of native

clergy or even lay readers am ong the Chukch i. By contrast, at the turn of the twen-

tieth century in Altai twelve missionaries were full-blood natives, including the

famous cleric Mikhail Chevalkov (the Teleut). However, none of them occupied

any leadership positions.

It also should be noted that even Russian clerics who demonstrated a tolerant

approach to natives still maintained am bivalent attitudes toward mixed-blood clergy,

whom they judged in an evolutionary sense to be somewhere between the "wild"

natives and the Russians, and did not extend to them complete trust or respect.

When the Creole Shishkin, who received theological training, applied for the va-

cant position of the Nushagak missionary, Veniaminov insisted on turning him

down, arguing that mixed-blood people were unreliable in such positions. In 1852

in one of his letters about the Shishkin case Veniaminov wrote, "Creoles can not

yet be called human beings. I have already stated this and confirm again that per-

haps one of the fifty Creoles deserves to be called a human being . Sub altero they

can be useful, but they are not capable to work as leaders."'


The advantage of native/Creole clergy was that they understood the aspirations

of local people and could employ traditional channels in making the Orthodox

message attractive and appealing. Furthermore, in Alaska and Siberia the major

transmitters of Orthodox tradition among indigenous peoples were primarily

Creolized native groups: the Aleuts in Alaska, the Teleut in Altai, the Itelmen in

eastern Siberia. However, they could equally be agents of reverse influence by

interpreting Christian doctrines in their own indigenous manner. It is difficult to

find information in missionary w ritings about such reinterpretations of Orthodoxy

by native/Creole clergy, but there is some indirect evidence contained in clerics'

reports. During his 1893 inspection trip to the Alaskan missions, Bishop Nikolai

assailed Orlov's and Bel'kov's church service practices. These two Creole mis-

sionaries served "natives when they want and how they want and did not follow

the church regulations."


  Interestingly enough, Protestant missionaries who

worked in the vicinity forwarded the same accusations against Bel'kov and other

Creole missionaries in the area.


  In another case, church officials blamed Iakov

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Netsvetov, a missionary to the Yupik and Athapaskans, for tolerating from 1851

his reader's illicit affair. Oleksa argues that most probably the "affair" was an

informal union, according to local native traditions.


On a local level, indigenous lay readers and catechists, the major agents of na-

tive Christianity, transmitted the Orthodox tradition through chapel services or

frequently by use of oral native channels that did not require a trained clergy.


Incidentally, the local structure and the whole tradition of Orthodox church en-

couraged such reinterpretation of Christianity through native glasses. Indeed, as

early as the fourteenth century the first "full-time" Russian missionary, the leg-

endary St. Stephen of Perm (1340-1396), ordained his native disciples, "some as

priests, some as deacons , readers, and chanters."


 Historically, the Russian church

placed m uch responsibility on local chapels, sometimes called praye r houses , and

their lay leadership. Religious life of many Orthodox communities often evolved

around these chapels and was little connected with the local parish. In those areas

where people did not have access to a church, a prayer house became the only

facility for religious activities. Laymen frequently decorated and enlarged the chap -

els without consulting priests and church officials. Moreover, people normally

elected an elder to supervise services and m aintain a building.

Formal laws that regulated the life of the Russian church themselves encour-

aged such practice. For instance, according to the 1841 "B y-Law s of E cclesiastical

Consistories," churchwardens were to be elected from the local population with

the consent of a priest for the duration of three years.


  Interestingly, in Russia

itself many such prayer houses were unlisted and the official church did not know

about their existence. There were also numerous misunderstandings between local

people and church authorities about how to interpret the activities of these chap-



  Rereading of Orthodoxy by indigenous and Creole clergy combined with

wide chapel autonomy opened a road to experimenting with Russian Christianity

and eventually attached different meanings to Orthodoxy.

In addition to raising native lay Orthodox leadership and clergy, a major part of

church officials encouraged missionaries to use indigenous languages in their work.

Glukharev and Veniaminov, "founding fathers" of the Russian missionary enter-

prise, pioneered translation of major religious texts into local languages. In its

curriculum the Kazan M issionary Institute reserved a large place for teaching na-

tive tongues to w ould-be missionaries. In the second half of the nineteenth century,

one of the professors at this college, Nikolai Ilminskii, undertook an ambitious

project of translating Russian Orthodox literature into indigenous languages, in-

cluding a number of Siberian ones.

10 9

  Though an ardent nationalist, who also

enjoyed support of his conservative patron, Coun t Konstantyn Pobedonostsev, ober-

procurator of the Holy Synod, Ilminskii nevertheless asserted that Russification

would only gain if prom oted through native channels. The system nam ed after him

emphasized two major points: Orthodox education of natives in their own conver-

sational languages and the recruitment of teachers from indigenous groups.

11 0

For purposes of clarity he even demanded elimination of specific Church Slavonic

and Russian sentence structures and interpretation of Orthodox ideas through na-

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  Sham anism and Christianity

tive patterns and metaphors instead.


  It appears that Ilminskii's approach was

based on a longtime Orthodox tradition that used national languages in liturgy and

writings, unlike, for example, the Catholic church, which relied on the Latin lan-


11 2

  Indirectly, this tradition, enhanced by Ilminskii, opened the doors to

officially sanctioned syncretism and religious fragmentation. Yet, Pobedonostsev

hoped that the Ilminskii System would indoctrinate natives with the Orthodox

worldview. He even optimistically declared that "a new epoch in missionary work

was opened in Kazan for the whole Russian East."


  At first designated for Mos-

lem p eoples, this system was later extended to other indigenous group s, including

Siberian natives. Along with books for Moslem peoples, Ilminskii and collaborat-

ing clerics translated and published books in Buryat, Altaian, Evenki, Nivkh , Sakha,

and Chukchi.


Officialdom and a majority of Russian missionaries adopted the Ilminskii Sys-

tem. Nevertheless, the Russian clergy did not reach unanimous agreement about

this project of native evangelization. On the one hand, there existed a tolerant

tradition, established by Glukharev and Veniaminov and incorporated into the

Ilminsk ii System. This lenient stance rejected Russification and encouraged a more

sensitive approach to native cultures. On the other hand, although blessed by offi-

cial approval, Ilminskii's ideas did not enjoy full support of Orthodox clergy and

missionary theoreticians. Therefore, it is hard to accept without reservations the

declarations of Orthodox authors that the entire Russian missionary policy was

tolerant toward native customs and traditions. Some clergymen openly or indi-

rectly equated Orthodox conversion with Russification and expressed a more

negative attitude toward the Ilminskii System. Such critics became especially out-

spoken at the end of the nineteenth century with the rise of Russian chauvinism

and pan-Slavism. In his recent article, Slezkine draws attention to the ambivalent

attitudes of the church establishment toward the "liberal" project of Veniaminov

and Ilminskii. Slezkine even goes further and suggests that regardless of the offi-

cial support and encouragement, no room existed for such innovations as the

Ilminskii System.


In 18 68 -1 87 3, Arc hbisho p Veniamin becam e a vocal crit ic of tolerant

Christianization and the Ilminskii System; moreover, he created obstacles to the

Ilminskii policy by forbidding the use of native language in the education of the

Buryat people, among whom he worked. According to the archbishop, "Special

education for natives with its respectful attitude toward their cultures will only

increase their national consciousness and alienate natives from the Russians. It is

high time to stop treating natives as children who need an indulgence."



realized that the Ilminskii System and the lenient treatment of native customs in

general m ight open a road to syncretism of Orthodoxy with indigenous religions.

The archbishop based his negative attitude toward the use of native languages

and cultures on the fact that historically Orthodoxy and the state were tightly con-

nected with each other. Thus, in his view, Orthodoxy existed as the Russian faith,

and missionaries' task was not only to make true believers of natives, but to turn

them into "Russians by nationality." The Archbishop stressed, "The Orthodox

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Missionary Landscapes  65

mission to natives is also to act as the mission of their Russification."

II 7

  He also

insisted on direct government involvement in evangelization and even offered to

adopt an official decree on compulsory Christianization.


  Ironically, assailing

Ilminskii's liberal approach, he correctly argued that one could hardly set apart

indigenous beliefs from the rest of indigenous culture. Veniamin indicated that

unlike those in Christian nations, where religion existed as a separate entity, people

with primal beliefs related to the sphere of religion "all life ways as well as other

traditional attributes including a language."


  Consequently, "the conversion of a

paganist should not be restricted only to preaching the Gospel. It should be ac-

companied by changes of his ways, manners and habits and followed by his

integration into the general civilian life of the Russian people."


Bishop Guru of Samara also continually fought against the Ilminskii System

and treated missionary work as a direct invitation for the Russification of indig-

enous peoples. Like Veniamin, Bishop Guru justified these views by arguing that

the Orthodox religion developed as an inseparable part of the Russian spirit and

could not be treated separately from Russian culture. Rather than restricting itself

to simple education and spiritual enlightenment, the Orthodox mission should be

the "mission of genuine Russification."

12 1

  The Kamchatka bishop, Martinian

Murativskii (1 877 -18 85 ), openly declared that missionary work should be a "tool

of state building."

12 2

  A num ber of Orthodox authors were in agreem ent with these

bishops' assessments. In the late nineteenth century historian of Siberian and Alas-

kan missions, T. A. Dogurevich, declared that missionary work represented "the

most important task of state and church" and should serve political and strategic

interests of the empire. Similarly, the Orthodox author N. Komarov called native

missionization "a matter of strategic importance."


The Russification tendency became noticeable in missionary literature and in a

few propagandistic pamphlets at the end of the nineteenth and in the beginning of

the twentieth century, when Russian nationalism was on the rise. The Alaskan

bishop Philip, in his 1918 pamphlet, described the poor manpower resources for

missionary work and appealed to the Russian people's feeling of nationalism to

support overseas missions. He called upon Russians to defend the sprouts of Or-

thodox life among Alaska natives against Protestant and Catholic intrusions. "Do

not downgrade our holy religion in the eyes of various alien beliefs," Philip ap-

pealed to his readers and added that passivity in propagating Orthodoxy in Alaska

would be a "disgrace for the Russians."


  Philip also exaggerated the Russian

church's appeal for Alaskan indigenous peoples, saying that one of the major ele-

ments of native Alaskans' character was their love for the Russian Czar. "Come to

any house of a Creole, an Indian, an Aleut, a Kenai native, an Eskimo," he wrote,

"and you will be astonished by the portrait of the Russian Czar or the whole czar

family on the walls."


  Natives "cam e to love everything connected with Russia in

the sam e way as they had com e to love Christianity nourished by Russian mission-



Two other pamphlets, written by Hiermonk Nestor in 1910 and 1912, appealed

to the government, the Russian population, and the church elite to implant as soon

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66  Shama nism and Christianity

as possible am ong eastern Siberian natives the love of Russia before foreign inter-

ests occupied these areas. He assailed the government for the selling of Alaska and

for neglect of the Orthodox cause in northeastern Siberia.


  Nestor also warned

that the Japan ese's "grab bing han ds" had already tried to eliminate gradually the

weak Russian presence in Kamchatka and to subject local natives to their influ-

ence.  "If Kamchatkan natives come to love Russia, if they come to feel in their

hearts that Russia takes care of them, they will remain devoted sons of the emp ire,"

stressed Nestor.


  For him the fact that the natives in northeastern Siberia did not

live in Russian-type cabins but "in yurts and even in underground houses" served

as an illustration of their miserable existence.


  To improve this situation they

were not only to part with their dwellings, institutions, and lan guages, but to com e

to love Russian culture. It is not surprising that Nestor especially praised Veniamin

for seeing the "vital connection of the state system with the spirit and light of


13 0

Although an influential segment of Russian clergy defended Russification, the

policy of direct attacks on indigenous cultures and languages did not receive offi-

cial support and did not direct the entire missionary enterprise. In his recent work

David Collins, a well-known historian of Orthodox church activities among Sibe-

rian natives, stresses that its missionary po licies were neither one-dim ensiona l nor

consistent, and adds that methods of Orthodox evangelization cannot be reduced

to either Russification or tolerance of native cultures. Moreover, the anthropolo-

gist Elena G lavanskaya, drawing on the conflicting views among missionaries about

native Christianization, concludes that by the turn of the century there existed two

distinct programs of native evangelization.


Inconsistency and ambivalence about crusading against native customs and tra-

ditions could be seen in official steps taken by the church. For example, in 1885

representatives of Siberian sees and a few Siberian governors who met in Irkutsk

recommended that the government "immediately" adopt legislative measures to

introduce m andatory education in Russian for all native schools.


  However, these

demands w ere not followed by any formal regulations. Moreover, during this meet-

ing some delegates were still not sure about the necessity of a total attack on native

culture s. Recognizing the need to curb native languages, they nevertheless pointed

out that destruction of native political systems should be postponed.


  As late as

in 1910, during the Siberian M issionary C ongress, missionaries still debated w hether

they should use Russian or indigenous languages for native education.


Ilminskii himself responded to Veniam in's assertions. In his response to the arch-

bishop, Ilminskii wrote that a native could be a good Christian and still maintain a

traditional lifestyles and warned about the potential danger of Veniamin's restric-

tions on the use of native languages for schooling. Many clerics strongly supported

Ilminskii in his debates with Veniamin. At the 1910 Siberian Missionary Con-


  the majority of clerics recognized that failures in evangelization originated

from inadequate use of native languages. For instance, the crude attacks by Veniamin

on the Buryat language resulted in this group's lack of interest in Orthodoxy.


During the cong ress Ioann Kirenskii, a church official, issued a report ("Orthodox

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Missionary Landscapes


Mission to the Heathen Countries of the Far East and Siberia") that indicated that

in those areas where missionaries ignored native ways they achieved no success.


During the same missionary congress, Archbishop Makarii spoke in favor of

indoctrinating natives in their own languages, stating that the purpose of the mis-

sion was the "enlightenment of natives with the light of Christ's teaching rather

than Russification."


  Similarly, Dionisii in his missionary gu ideline book strongly

objected to making Russification of the natives the major goal of missionary work

and tried to draw a strict border between Christianization and the crusade against

indigenous cultures.

13 8

  Dionisii insisted that the mixture of both concepts repre-

sented a common practice of Western European and American missionaries and

contradicted the Russian church tradition, which should instead base its mission-

ary activities on a "gentle" approach to national customs and habits.

13 9

  He argued

that the Russian mission was supposed to be "spiritual rather than political pur-

suit" and rejected the merg ing of governmen tal policy goals with missionary work,

which would eliminate the religious essence of the Orthodox evangelization.

Dionisii also maintained that throughout Russia's history missionaries stood in

opposition to the imperial colonial policy in eastern borderlands.

14 0


Like their counterparts in other areas of the world, Orthodox messengers looked

at indigenous societies through the glasses of Judeo-Christian tradition, addition-

ally tinged with common nineteenth-century biases. Unavoidably, missionaries

constructed their own versions of native lifestyles that reflected clerics' limited

cultural unde rstanding. Som e authors downplay stereotypes of native peoples that

clerics of the past century shared and took for granted and perpetuate a distorted

view of missionaries as humanists who supposedly demonstrated an understand-

ing of and deep sensitivity to indigenous pre-Christian spirituality.


  However, it

was the dominan t ethnocentric nineteenth-century philosophy that shaped the mis-

sionaries' view of natives. Even those clerics who treated native "superstitions"

quite liberally cannot be portrayed as present-day cultural relativists.

Personal and class backgrounds of clergymen played an additional role in shap-

ing their attitudes toward native custom s. Those from lower classes or were evidently

more familiar with popular Russian beliefs and adjusted themselves better to their

"native flock." According to Townsend, such priests tended to be more lenient.

Abbot Nicholas, who worked among the Dena'ina in the 1860s, grew up in the

family of a low rank clergyman (songleader) and did not expect much from his

"Indian children." He developed a good rapport with local people, and despite the

hardships of his m issionary journ eys, he wrote that it was a pleasure to w ork for

the Dena'ina, whom the abbot described as "children of nature" and "noble sav-

ages."  He readily shared any indigenous food to the satisfaction of his hosts and

accomm odated in his house poor and sick natives. M ilitov's journ als are generally

optimistic and show a person who knows how to adjust himself to the reality of

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68   Shamanism and Christianity

indigenous life. Prone to common cultural stereotypes of his time, this missionary

nevertheless showed some interest in exploring Dena'ina culture: "The savages

have their own custom s, which one has to know and to adjust oneself to them as far

as possible. In this case the native will endow upon you their love." At the request

of the Russian Geographical Society Nicholas wrote a short essay on the culture

and environment of the Dena'ina country, illustrating his interest in the region,

where he w orked and in the people, whom he served.


Verbitskii, an Altai missionary, who, likeMilitov, originated from a hum ble family

of a songleader, gives us a similar example of a person who was able to accom mo -

date himself to native cultural and physical landscapes. Despite numerous biases,

Verbitskii's diaries and reports attempt to identify "positive" elements of native

cultures. Moreover, between the 1870s Und 1890s Verbitskii estab lished himself as

a scholar famous for his numerous anthropological and linguistic works, which

suggest close interactions with the Altaians, who apparently shared with him their



Nikita Marchenkov, who had been a military officer and had com e out of a high-

class noble family, gives an opposite example. This missionary, who came to work

among the Den a'ina in 1881, had a negative stance. In his reports colored with

pessimism, Father Nikita assailed native traditions and never missed a chance to

castigate Indian shamanism. His writings are full of speculations about "savage

Indian character," which he constantly used to explain all social, economic, and

spiritual "draw back s" of the natives. Moreover, Marchenko v's expectations about

"genuine faith" were so high that he accompanied his words of frustration about

Dena'ina "superstitions" by pessimistic remarks about the poor religiosity of the

Russian common people themselves, among whom "shamanism also exists."

14 4

It appears that he did not enjoy working with the people from whom he was so

alienated. Trying to find an escape in heavy drinking, he eventually resorted to

solitude, living on Spruce Island. That many Orthodox missionaries originated

from rural clergy families in European Russia might also help us understand their

attitudes toward native cultures and especially their criticism of hunting or pasto-

ral life. In missionaries' eyes farming and settled life were the ideal "civilized"

ways, a stereotype that fit their own cultural background and certainly was at vari-

ance with Chu kchi, Den a'ina, or Altaians nomadic and seminom adic o ccupations.

It also seems that both missionaries' cultural background and their theological

training explain the numerous "farming" and agricultural metaphors in their nar-



On the whole, it was noted that Orthodox priests did not make the same de-

mands w ith reference to chang ing ways of life as did the Protestant.


  What were

the sources of the so-called great sensitivity the Russian church displayed toward

indigenous tradition? Unlike the French, Spanish, or Anglo-American overseas

missionary frontiers, the Russian eastern borderland was an extension of the em-


  This Russian frontier represented an area of unbroken continuity of peoples

and traditions that had blended together since the thirteenth century. As a result,

Russian expansion to Siberia and Alaska did not resemble the sudden collision of

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Missionary Landscapes


cultures that occurred, for example, in New England during the seventeenth cen-

tury. Large areas difficult to traverse plus a weak material basis for colonization

forced the Russian missionaries to accept natives on their own term s in many areas

of Siberia and Alaska. Orthodoxy lacked resources and m anpower and had to m ake

constant compromises with native traditions. Therefore, the "power" of the Rus-

sian church arose very much from its weakness. As a result, on the Russian eastern

borderland newcomers had to be lenient toward natives, with whom they became

more deeply and intimately connected than, for instance, did the white and Native

Americans populations of North America.

It also appears that Orthodox missionaries tolerated compromises with indig-

enous beliefs because of the ritualistic "traditionalist" nature of Orthodoxy


This side of the Russian faith appealed to the natives and created a certain com-

mon ground for a dialogue with m issionaries. The stress on worship and ritual that

Russian Christianity considered an essential expression of faith proved especially

attractive to indigenous peoples. The powerful effect of visual and aural aspects of

Orthodox ceremonies on people is very well known. Russian clerics understood

this and assigned a large role to these "sensory impressions."


  Native Alaskans

and Sibe rians easily accepted icons and other material objects of the faith as analo-

gous to representations of their own rituals. Not surprisingly, the missionary

theoreticians Dionisii and Popov recom mended that missionaries capitalize on these

parallels and conduct all ceremonies in colorful, solemn, and attractive manner.

According to Popov, even copies of the Bibles that clerics used were designated to

impress natives. He suggested binding these books in velvet and trimming the

cover with bright, shining, and beautiful pictures of crosses or angels.


  As a

matter of fact, such "preach ing through b eauty" went back to the old church tradi-

tion. According to an Orthodox legend, St. Stephen of Perm, the first Russian

missionary, succeeded among the native Komi largely because he attracted them

by decorating his chapel "as a beautiful bride."


Furthermore, the Orthodox doctrine maintained that each person contained the

potential for divinity; that, according to Richard D auenhauer, was another source

of success for the Russian church in its work with natives. Such an approach al-

lowed clerics to tolerate native customs, traditions and languages.

15 0


Protestantism, this stance did not require of natives imm ediate denunciation of all

their lifeways. According to Popov, "Newly baptized might not exactly follow

their Christian obligations. They might even continue some of their rituals from

their former faith."


  He suggested that missionaries be lenient in such cases. The

Orthodox church also emphasized the active involvement of believers in rituals.

As a result, communal participation and the collective nature of ceremonialism

also aided dialogue between natives and Russian missionaries. No wonder Rus-

sian missionaries often praised the collectivist traditions of natives, their mutual

help and sharing, as prerequisites for being true Christians.

Although to clerics natives were "devil worshippers," missionaries did not assail

all indigenous traditions as satanic, but tended to single out "bad" and "good"

elem ents. Such a stance w as especially noticeab le in the first half of the nineteenth

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70  Shamanism and Christianity

century. In his letters concerning the eastern S iberian peoples Veniaminov stressed

that natives should be credited for helping each other, particularly during famine.

Moreover, he concluded his observations by praising their communal qualities:

"The m ore I get acquainted with the wild people, the more I love them and becom e

convinced that we with our education have been diverted very far from a road to

perfectness. We hardly notice that in a moral respect so-called savages are much

better than the so-called enlightened ." Sim ilarly, in his Notes on Unalaska Islands

he credited the Aleuts for their collectivist nature and stressed that these qualities

migh t be very helpful for implanting Christianity in their minds.


 Like Veniaminov,

the missionary Khitrov, who propagated the Gospel in northeastern Siberia, be-

came fascinated with the "purity" of the natives' communal mores and related

so-called negative sides of their charactef to the influence of an unfavorable north-

ern environment.


Verbitskii also divided native ways into "good" and "bad" categories. "There is

much of good and bad in the Altaians' customs," he noted, and especially under-

scored that the people whom he had met were surprisingly honest. According to

this missionary, the Altaians returned all small things accidentally misplaced or

left by Russian visitors. Verbitskii also praised hospitality as another attractive

element of the Altaian cu lture. At the same time, he felt very confused by the fact

that the "sam e natives" might be "indirec tly" dishonest by taking money and goods

on credit and not paying their deb ts. Though very know ledgeable about the Altaian

culture, Verbitskii appears in this case not to grasp that the natives had no knowl-

edge of the concept of debt. Like Veniaminov, Verbitskii pointed to alleged laziness

as the most notorious feature of indigenous character, naming among "their favor-

ite amusem ents" sleeping, doing nothing, dully staring at the ground, and smoking



The amount of negative and positive qualities clerics attached to natives often

depended upon the specific group missionaries encountered. Those natives who

showed an interest in Orthodoxy, like the Aleuts or Dena'ina, received praise. On

the other hand, those who used Orthodoxy more selectively, as the Tlingit did, or

dismissed it, as the Chukchi did, were castigated by missionaries as stubborn or

animal-like and their traditions were depicted as harmful. Russian missionaries

often described the humble nature and endurance of the Aleut who em braced C hris-

tianity when their traditional system declined. In a similar manner, missionary

narratives made good-mannered and humble peop le out of the semisedentary north-

ern Altaians who expressed interest in Christianity, whereas their nomadic kin

residing in southern Altai were stamped as arrogant and stubborn "savages" for

their continual rejection of the Orthodox message. In Alaska, Dena'ina, especially

in the coastal areas, borrowed many elements of Christianity and earned the cler-


 pra ise. Thus, in 1848, Militov, the first m issionary to these Indians, wrote:

Generally Kenaitze [Dena'ina] accept Christianity willingly and with visible submissive-

ness to God's word. They listen to sermons with attention, zealously and carefully observe

Christian duties. As soon as the missionary reprimands the savages, they leave out their

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national dances and songs that they like very much. All their former shamans accepted

baptism, and the majority of them became the best Christians.


In 1889 Nikolai Mitropolsky also stressed that the Dena'ina were "extremely

humble," a view also shared by Arkhangelov, w ho depicted the "Kenaitze as peace-

ful, quite and patient people."


  Ironically, the neighbors of the Dena'ina, Ahtna

Indians, also an Athapaskan -speaking group, w ere called "wild and savage peo ple"

in the Mitropolsky report.


  In the same way, Russian missionary narratives de-

picted the "fierce" Tlingits as wild and misbehaving savages because they

maintained sovereignty, social structure, and a large part of their traditional economy,

on which the Russians depended for food supply.


 Such assessments of the Tlingit

survived until the end of the nineteenth century. Bishop Tikhon wrote, "They

[Tlingits] do not possess those Aleut qualities such as endurance and h um bleness.

On the contrary, they are smart, brave, and freedom-loving people. Proudness,

mutual quarrels, and inconsistency are also their characteristic features."


Veniaminov generally believed in "upgrading" natives,


  as did Glukharev. The

latter agreed that "ignorance, laziness, filthiness and lack of hy gien e" represented

endem ic parts of native life, but still he assailed those w ho did no t believe in native

enlightenment. "Christ loves all people," insisted Glukharev, who concluded, "There

is no nation inaccessible to the word of God." Missionaries w ere to lead all "down-

fallen people," including the savages, who, like everybody else, were destined to

become true "sons of light," to the "light of Christianity." Though the methods and

approaches should be different and gentle, Glukharev argued that the final goal

was to "enlighten all nations," and that "there should not be a people denied the

word of truth."


  Like Glukharev, many later Orthodox clerics and theoreticians

similarly believed that, although "savage" by nature, natives still had an inborn

rudimentary idea of the God. As Verbitskii wrote in 1877, "Although these people

distort and blur the image of true God, one should not treat them as Darwin's



To missionaries, the problem was simply that somewhere in the distant past

natives possessed a pristine idea of God. Later on, they believed, so-called native

superstitions and especially shamanism supposedly corrupted and downgraded

this originally "noble idea" of God. Authors of a reference manual for Siberian

missionaries stressed that despite all "savagery" and "ignorance of shamanism,"

there were elements of "natural basic religion" among indigenous peoples. The

manual stressed that this "grain of truth" might make the transition to the "true

faith" more natural and painless.


  Therefore, the primary goal of a missionary

was to "pu rge the idea of the Suprem e Deity from all this husk," as Vladimir Fialkin,

a missionary theoretician, put it.


  Stephen Borisov, an Altaian missionary who

tried to seek these "grains of truth" and strengthen this vague idea of the Supreme

Deity in native minds, generalized in similar manner: "In the long run this idea

will make them be aware that by recognizing the Supreme God they somehow

partially already believe in Him, although in a distorted manner and not com-



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72  Shamanism and Christianity

Missionaries did not restrict their activities to spiritual enlightening of natives.

Clerics understood that the "spiritual upgrading" of natives would be more suc-

cessful if supplemented by social and economic work. From the very beginning

missionaries tried to pay attention to helping the poor and needy. In this context

social work became an inseparable part of a spiritual message. In a formal report

of the Altai mission this social work approach received an unusual interpretation:

The more miserable general living conditions of the Altai paganists, the more satisfaction a

missionary may feel during his uneasy enterprise, when a former paganist step by step turns

into a new man not only in a spiritual sense but in his manners and ways, in his family life

and housekeeping, and even in his appearance.


Glukharev was the first cleric who, facing tremendous difficulties in conveying

the Gospel to Altaians, started to use this tool of evangelization on a wide basis.

Throughout the entire nineteenth century, from Veniaminov and Glukharev to

Verbitskii and Bortnovsky, clerics stressed that missionary work should include

sanitation, education, hygiene, mutual aid activities, and the temperance move-

ment. By the turn of the twentieth century this approach becam e a standard method

in missionary practice. In 1891 N. Elonskii reminded missionaries who worked

among Siberian natives not to restrict themselves to the spiritual side of the work:

Natives who are literally drowned in dirt, who are hungry and desperate or deadly passive,

cannot quietly and attentively listen to missionary instructions. For any missionary it is

clear that first of all natives need food, clothes and medicine or material help in general.


In 1907, after Nestor came to Kamchatka to spread the gospel among the Koryaks,

he "realized that among these backward peoples I should not only preach the Gos-

pel but conduct social work."


  The Holy Synod directly pointed out that the

"miserable" status of natives could be improved only through a combination of

social work and religious indoctrination.


 Eventually, this trend received support

of church officials. In its 1910 decision the Holy Synod decreed the need to

"strengthen educational, charitable and medical work in missions."


In this regard, during evangelization special attention was devoted to clergy's

medical performances. Dionisii stressed that for clerics medical knowledge was

the "golden asse t" that usually helped boost the entire conversion process.



sionary experiences demonstrated that the word of the Gospel sounded more

convincing if accompanied by actual medical treatment, which capitalized on tra-

ditional native concern with healing powers. "Orthodox messengers" very early

realized that this perfect tool to instill the Gospel in native minds would allow

them to compete successfully with indigenous medicine men and women, major

transmitters of native beliefs. Popov, a missionary theoretician, directly invited

missionaries to compare their roles with those of native sham ans, who acted among

their fellow tribesmen primarily as healers. He reminded missionaries that they

"might reach tremendous success if they combine regular work with healing."


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Earlier m issionaries, like Veniaminov and G lukharev, discovered the rewarding

effect of curing, and at the turn of the twentieth century many carried a set of

drugs, dressing materials, and ointments.


 A s a matter of fact, all successful mis-

sionaries usually combined both preachers' and healers' roles.


  It was hardly

surprising that as early as 1856 by a special decree the Holy Synod obliged m is-

sionaries to administer among their flocks regular smallpox vaccinations.

17 5

Moreover, Bishop Dionisii offered to equip each missionary station with two mis-

sionaries: one responsible for purely religious work and another in charge of the

social work. The project did not receive support, evidently for financial reasons.

Frequently missionaries, when they approached natives with the Gospel in one

hand and a medical toolkit in another, portrayed their indigenous flock as biblical

lepers crying for help. Grim pictures of native life not only were designated as an

additional demonstration of the "darkness" of "savage" life, but also served to

arouse public sympathies for the plight of the native peoples and stress the role of

missionaries w ho w ere to "heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out

demons" (Matt, 10:8). Pictures of the alleged social and physical degradation of

natives becam e especially no ticeable in missionary narratives of the late nineteenth

century, when optimistic ideals of Glukharev and Veniaminov abou t enlightening

natives became tinged w ith pessimism in the spirit of now popular concep ts about

the "vanishing native."

Nikita Marchenkov, after making a few rounds through Dena'ina villages in

1885, surmised in his report, "In each settlement one constantly has to run across

the wounded, crippled, blind, lame, who walk or literally crawl on the ground

almost naked in shirts, which are torn to pieces and almost fall apart."



missionary used almost the same words to portray the conditions of other indig-

enous groups in Alaska, concluding, "It is impossible to read or hear about these

heathens w ithout feeling that their very plight calls, 'Co me and h elp.'"

17 7

  In 1893

Sergei Postnikov, a missionary to the northern Altaians, elaborated on the decline

of the natives by stressing the lack of hygiene am ong the Altaians:

Natives never wash themselves and therefore are very filthy. Everybody has skin diseases.

Moreover, almost everywhere, especially at the sources of the Mrass River, many of them

suffer from syphilis. Even infants have this disease. It is hard to keep children in your hands

during baptism since they are all over covered with sore spots.


Nestor, who worked among the natives of northeastern Siberia in the early twen-

tieth century, draws a similar picture. Everywhere he noticed the "grim stamp of

some sickness and melancholy on their faces."


  Nestor opened his diary by de-

scribing the "horror of K amchatka native life." Social degradation, decline, endemic

hunger, unending diseases, filth, ignorance, and certainly "mental darkness" haunted

native people. As a result, he had felt sorry for "these miserable people."



grim snapshot of the K oryak s' life was so vivid that the 1910 missionary congress

in Irkutsk attached this material to its report. Sharing his experience of visiting one

Koryak village, Nestor described the "miserable idiotic smile" of an old Koryak

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74  Shamanism and Christianity

woman with rotten limbs and a boy covered with "horrible fester wounds." "In

native camps," continued the missionary, "you are almost always surrounded by

sick and hungry people. You may see the young and the old, with partially decom-

posed parts of their bodies, the legless, the handless, with twisted rotten faces."

Nestor's descriptions of native culture, traditions, and appearance w ere so wretched

that they silently cried out "for your help."

18 1

Some clerics saw no promising alternatives for indigenous peoples beyond the

temporary relief of their social and spiritual hardships. This shift in missionary

mentality toward pessimism was best captured by an anonymous author in the

Russian-American Orthodox Messenger  (1911). Generalizing about the plight of

Alaskan natives he asked himself,  "What do these aborigines face in the future?"

Responding to this question he reflected on the goals of the whole missionary

work: "In the near future they face only two roads: either to die out more or less

quietly and painlessly or mix with some o ther race and to disappear. The activities

of our Alaskan mission, therefore, are limited to preparing "the last of Mohigans"

to a peaceful Christian exodus to the eternal w orld.


 Likewise, in his 1907 report

from the Altai mission, Bishop Innokentii, portraying scenes of drinking sprees

and degradation in northern Altaian villages, pessimistically concluded that mis-

sionaries are left to "observe with sorrow the decline of their converted natives,

while unsuccessfully appealing to people for help."


Despite persistent missionaries' attempts, the word of the Gospel did not always

find an active response among natives. What prevented evangelization of "sav-

ages," accord ing to missionary accoun ts? Virtually all these records, depend ing on

personal priorities of individual authors, emphasize either an "infant" undevel-

oped nature of the "savages" or their so-called mental degradation. In addition,

stress was put on indigenous beliefs as tools the devil used to corrupt unsophisti-

cated native "children." Kharlampovich, a noted theoretician of missionary work

at the turn of the century, among major hindrances to Christianization of Altaians

pointed to their "low material and mental development" and named nomadic

Alta ians' stockbreeding along with hunting as "characteristic of the Alta ians' lazi-

ness and unconcern." Kharlampovich wrote, "Miserable material conditions

influenced their mental qualities. Dullness, lack of interest in any new ideas and

weak accommodation skills are the most notorious features of the Altaians."



1903 Hiermonk Irinarkh, describing conditions of Siberian missionaries, stressed

that Orthodox messengers had to work "among mentally undeveloped, dull and

unwilling to think natives [inorodtsy]."




  The Orthodox author Smirnoff, not ob-

jecting to the use of native tongues in missionary work, nevertheless referred to

indigenous languages of Siberia as an example of the savages' "low mentality." He

took it for granted that "every scho lar" knew that the languag es of Siberian peoples

were "rude and undeveloped," and concluded, "It is hardly conceivable to many

educated persons of the West how primitive and poor in lexicographical respects

these languages are."


Even those missionaries who closely studied native cultures did not eschew of-

fensive remarks about "savage primitiveness." Thus, Verbitskii in his notes about

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Missionary Landscapes  75

Altaian crafts wrote in passing, "Generally, the native is a simple-minded person

and uses primitive tools to satisfy his interests. For example, he might take a log,

hollow it out a little and it serves him as a boa t. Or he might hollow out of the same

log something resembling a washtub and calls this a musical instrument."


The effect of geographical con ditions on native minds represented another m eta-

phor of missionary narratives used to describe natives' poor material and social


 Thu s, Nestor insisted that the grim unattractive environm ent in Kam chatka

affected native peoples' mood and appearances. It was not surprising that all these

people "did not see any light in their life."


  However, one of the most telling

examples is Argentov's essay "Lower Kolyma Area" (1879), published by the an-

thropology section of the Russian Imperial Academy of Sciences. A missionary to

the Chukchi in the 184 0-18 50s , Argentov tried to explain the "anim al" conditions

of eastern Siberian natives through the harmful impact of the arctic climate: "It

seems that the plant life here degrades and withers. Maybe the man who depends

on climate and soil degrades and withers here in the same way." This w ork reads as

if its author wanted to give a reader a clear message: it is useless to attempt any-

thing in desolated areas. Argentov does not hold back in describing the so-called

animal-like behavior of the Chukchi, Koryak, and Yukagir. Throughout the text

analogies like "dog's life" describing their manners and "polar bear" depicting a

typical native are used: "The very dwelling of an ordinary native reminds of a

bear's lair. That is how they look like, all these yurts, balagans, ambarushk as, u ras

and so forth."


Argentov concluded with a description of a typical me al: "In a dim light, a bunch

of naked peop le came together. What are they doing? They chew raw bones. Here

is this polar man. By his habits a native resembles a polar bear." His use of such

clichés as "dog's life" and "dog's economy" are both descriptive and derogatory.

Argentov's m ostly unsuccessful attempts to evangelize the Chukchi d rove him to

a conclusion that any ideas about enlightening residents of northeastern Siberia

sound ridiculous. Even those Russians who came to this "dog's country" turned

into "animals." He described the mixed-blood (Creole) population depen dence on

native economies as an example of human degradation. To Argentov, "particular

features of the dog's economy" in this "dog's area" degraded the Russian popula-

tion in the north.


It was mentioned earlier that missionaries generalized about native beliefs through

the glasses of Christian tradition and therefore depicted them as manifestations of

infantile "ignorance" or "mental degradation" under the influence of dark forces.

It was hardly surprising that indigenous rituals w ere stereotyped as either "silly"

amusements, which did not make any sense; or as devil worshipping; or some-

times as a com bination of both. For example, in describing an Altaian sham anistic

session, an anonymous missionary stressed its trivial childlike character: "The sha-

man laughs, babbles about various nonsense, people and the host smoke, drink

wine, tell each other various absurdities and laugh again. Nobody thinks about

praying. No one's face shows any signs of seriousness or reverence that might

distantly remind of a prayer."


  This attitude found its most extreme exp ression in

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76   Shama nism and Christianity

the words of Sokolovski, a missionary who did not reach much success among the

nomadic Altaians. This cleric once exclaimed:

Good Heavens What impenetrable darkness and ignorance do these miserable nomads live

in One can observe everywhere heads of strangled and tortured sacrificed animals. Inside

of their dwellings there stand all sorts of idols and hang all sorts of small rags. Around these

dwellings and among birch trees there hang the same rags or ribbons on ropes. Here are

these Altaian gods It is hard to imagine that they worship all this junk


Such attitudes drew clerics to a conclusion that "savages" did not have any reli-

gion at all or had only a few superstitions. Indeed, how could they have a religion

if in the eyes of the missionaries shamans, the major carriers of the indigenous

worldview, did not even represent a specific "separate caste*' like priests in Chris-

tian societies.


 Small wonder, Sergei Ivanovskii, for instance, wrote, "The native

does not care about any religion. The paganist sometimes is not worried about

faith at all. It seems that he will have lived without any religion."


  Instead of

trying to catch the meaning of native beliefs, clerics frequently restricted them-

selves to a simplistic explanation that "savage" views of the gods were "too

complicated and unclear."


  Furthermore, the manual for Siberian missionaries

mentioned earlier wrapped this approach in a theoretical form: "A Religious

worldview of shamanists does not represent a clearly defined system. Shamanism

has numerous ideas which absolutely contradict any common sense."


Orthodox messengers found additional support for such assessments when they

stumbled upon the lack of strict division between the worldly life and the afterlife

existing in primal religions. The so-called practical materialistic stance of native

shamanism stunned clerics. Konstantyn Sokolov, a missionary to the Altaians, when

he visited his "native flock" for the first time found it surprising that natives " lacked"

"any spiritual interests" in the Christian sense of the word and were oriented to

"satisfying only materialistic strivings" in addition to the their "rude manners."


To m issionaries ' surprise, indigenous peoples believed that "the future life will be

a continuation of the present one only in a slightly different form. They expect a

satisfaction of their pure materialistic desires in that future life: an increasing of

herds, dogs, successful hunting, good wives or husbands."


 Sokolov was shocked

when an Altaian whom the missionary approached in order to enlighten him about

a Christian concept of soul started laughing. The native, who did not see any sense

in the priest's suggestion to care about one's own soul instead of daily life, re-

sponded, "T hough I heard many fairy tales in my life, I never heard such an absurd

one. That is why one cannot help but laugh."


When missionaries did not restrict themselves to simplistic remarks about the

"ch ildlike" trivial nature of native beliefs, they still used the same Judeo-Christian

categories to interpret indigenous rituals. Thus, clerics scrutinized native worldviews

through the prism of monotheism , of the duality of good and evil, or of the concept

of the original sin. Thus, missionaries were advised to view a hierarchy of indig-

enous gods as "satans of the lower rank" and "satans of the upper rank."


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Missionary Landscapes  77

Naturally, to missionaries, native shamanists who dealt with these "satans" or

"demons" were all devil worshippers. In many Orthodox narratives natives, once

"clean" and "p ure," later degenerated into devil w orshippers and found themselves

in a "spiritual prison." It is interesting how the missionary Ivanovskii explained

the origin of "devil worshipping" am ong natives. Dark forces of "igno ranc e" ma de

"savages" "accept passively their bitter lot from which they cannot escape by them -

selves." Thus, without proper guidance, natives were doomed to remain in the

hands of the Satan.


  As soon as "savages" accepted Christianity they became

people who "denounced Satan and his cause."


All missionary narratives are infected with misinterpretations of natives' mo-

tives to adopt conversion. We may find a typical example of such stories in a travel

diary of Benediktov, who baptized the ninety-seven-year-old Altaian Torgonok.

The native could not find a remedy for his disease in sham anism and decided to try

"Orthodox medicine." Benediktov interpreted Torgonok's decision as follows:

"During these long nights of his sufferings, Torgonok m ost probably went through

all his long sinful life. He regretted that earlier he had rejected baptism and prie sts'

words. Torgonok pictured horrors of his coming death and probab ly saw how de-

mons already surrounded him."


Native ceremo nies as manifestations of the dev il's power w ere described in black

and grim c olors. Animal sacrifices were commonly referred as "tortu res" of "poor

anima ls." Ivanovskii wrote that the Altaians replaced "prayers and spiritual sing-

ing by bloody sacrifices and crazy orgies."


  Shamanistic calls were similarly

treated as acts of "possession." A priest asked an Altaian who went "crazy" to

denounced Satan. The native's unclear murmuring was interpreted as an attempt

Satan to keep hold of the native. When the Altaian started to tremble, the mission-

ary again saw this as the power of the "prince of darkness," who still did not want

to leave the body.


An 1861 travel diary of the missionary Alexander G usev provides another inter-

esting illustration of how Russian clerics misinterpreted the shamanistic call. Gusev,

who worked in Altai among the Kum andins and was exposed to their lifeways for

a few years, seemed to remain ignorant of their culture. Thus, he described a young

female shaman's story, which she shared with him, about her initiation to the sha-

manistic profession as a "sincere confession" of a woman who was possessed by

demonic forces. He claimed that the shaman had supposedly opened to him her

heart by "confessing" that "evil sp irits" had forced her to start shamanizing.

20 6


missionary V. Toziakov described the conversion of an Altaian female shaman.

The cleric drew a picture of her baptism that looks like an exorcism session. At

first, the missionary took her hand, which was supposedly covered with blood, but

somehow, in the priest's words, the blood did not get on his hands. When Toziakov

and a few native Christians were burning her drum and other paraphernalia, the

shaman was described as vomiting blood. When they got rid of the shamanistic

paraphernalia, all of a sudden she stopped vom iting. In the end of this conversion

story, the missionary claimed that after bap tism she was glad "to be relieved from

the bondage and become God's child."


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  Shama nism and Christianity

To Orthodox messengers, shamans acted as the major agents of Satan and there-

fore embodied all evil aspects of the "savage" life. "A Reference Book for Our

Siberian M issionaries" does not reserve black colors to describe the behavior of "a

typical sham an," who aroused himself and started his "crazy dan ce" around a fire:

"His face looks horrible, and he produces wild meaningless sounds. People are

shocked. Half an hour later the shaman pretends that the demons (devils) appeared

and he is abou t to fight them."


  It is interesting to com pare this description of the

shamanistic session as a sinister ritual with the "typical" picture of the Altaian

shamanistic seance as a trivial and infantile amusement already mentioned. This

suggests that clerics' metaphors frequently changed from depicting native beliefs

as "possession" to describing them as "childish gam es," and vice versa.

In missionary narratives native medicine men and women were routinely de-

scribed as conversing with the devil, asking him how many sacrifices he needed.

As agents of the devil, shamans were frequently portrayed as natural deceivers,

who corrupted the souls and consciously exploited their simple-minded fellow

tribesmen. For exam ple, the reference manual stresses, "Being as ignorant as other

natives, shamans nevertheless claim they know everything, and by making gri-

maces they attempt to convince others that a certain superior force penetrates their



  Others, however, cautioned not to reduce medicine m en's and wo men 's

"evil" power to such simple explanations. In his 1881 diary Marchenkov, who

worked among the Dena'ina, stressed that indigenous shamans were not always

"deceivers and crooks." Rather, native spiritual leaders were "fanatics" who seri-

ously believed they were genuine "sorcerers."


Yet, the Devil's power manifested itself not only in shamans, but in native reli-

gious artifacts. Thus, in Marchenkov's diary, dolls used by Dena'ina medicine

men and women to extract illness from a body of a sick patient becam e "bew itched"

or "devil's dolls.


  Missionary narratives frequently depict such items as "ugly,"

"horrible," or "dirty." Mikhail Toshchakov, who visited the Altaian shaman

Bratishka, mentioned in passing that he saw a drum and an "ugly ido l" in the front

place of the medicine man's dwelling.


  To Marchenkov, the De na'ina "dev il's"

dolls were "so dirty that it was disgusting to keep them in hands."


 Another cleric,

after describing the "crudeness" of Siberian native idols in general, summarized,

"Now you can imagine all ugliness of these articles produced by savages who lack

taste,  art skills and necessary tools."


Paternalism represented the core of missionary approaches to natives. For in-

stance, while writing about the Eastern Siberians Veniaminov m entioned that these

small groups were not even worth being called peoples because of their small

numbers. He used the Russian patronizing word


  meaning "insignificant

small peoples" without intending any derogatory meaning. Furthermore, in his

instructions to Militov, a missionary to the Dena'ina, Veniaminov also stressed

that the priest was to demonstrate leniency toward new converts because they are

"infants in their faith."


  Such approaches should not appear strange, since in the

eyes of missionaries the essence of the "savage" mind was infantilism.


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Missionary Landscapes


The image of the infantile native, an innocent child of nature or a wild savage

child, populated Russian missionary narratives. For Argentov, those who loved

their unattractive "dog country" were "children of nature unspoiled by culture."

For Neverov, another missionary to the Chukchi, these natives, "like children,"

approached him with their questions about the meaning of the Bible pictures he

showed them.


 Even such a common thing as native hospitality was interpreted

as childish behavior. Thu s, to Benediktov, a missionary to the Altaians in 1892, the

escort provided by natives to the chief of the Altai mission illustrated a "ch ildlike

attachment of our newly baptized to their priests "


 Popov, a missionary theore-

tician, recomm ended that native shamanists be treated as "infants" during baptism.

Thus, converting to Orthodoxy mem bers of other denominations m issionaries w ere

to ask these people to denounce their former religions. By contrast, Popov sug-

gested that in dealing w ith native "hea thens" clerics use the same approach practiced

during baptisms of infants.


In 1860 the Alaska missionary Militov wrote that local Dena'ina considered

him "a father in their family, and as little children they come to me with their



  In another entry he maintained that "it was boring to speak with na-

tives. Th is could annoy an inexperienced person but I got used to their baby talk."


In 1889, Mitropolsky took it for granted that Dena'ina "cannot be counted on as

people who can do things on their own. Without proper guidance they are unable

to make a single step." In the same report he also stressed that the Indians were

"very religious in soul," but "extremely infantile."


  In 1896 Kamenskii instructed

the priest Bortnovsky, who also worked among the Dena'ina, to supervise these

Indians carefully: "They are not able to do anything without a proper c ontro l."

22 3

An 1885 Altai mission report similarly concluded that the Altaians "are like chil-

dren in faith who should be controlled and supervised because of their spiritual

infancy, lack of experience and weakness of their convictions. Otherwise, they

might get lost or morally corrupt themselves."


• Nestor used the same w ords in describing natives of northeastern Siberia. These

"small children," "children of nature," or "miserable people" were unable to take

care of themselves and lived in constant fear of their spirits and of the Russian

authorities. "Natives of Kamchatka are not familiar with love and nobody con-

soles them," stressed the cleric.


  He expanded these characteristics by saying,

"Kam chatka peoples did not know how to curse, steal and cheat. They were trust-

worthy as children with opened hearts but m iserable in their spirit " To Nestor,

religious ceremonies of the Koryaks were "childish games." In short, as children

of nature, aborigines w ere soft wax in skillful hands. As a result, in Ne stor's w ords ,

"this opens wide opportunities for missionary activities."

For Popov, w ho shared the sam e stance, this was not only an opportunity, but a

considerable advantage: "The more simple and the more ignorant natives are, the

sooner they will accept the message of Gospel." This missionary author added that

he did not mean to praise the "savagery" and "crude ways" of the natives, but

simply wanted to indicate that shamanists stood close to the "natural co nditions of

Adam ," unlike the other people, who had been already "corru pted" by rival Chris-

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80  Shama nism and Christianity

tian denominations. One of the annual reports of the Altai mission agreed with

similar assertions and also stressed, "The more primitive native  [inorodcheskie]

tribes,  the more sincere and more developed their religious feeling."


Missionaries were to take into account the "childlike" peculiarities of native

minds in their work. Bishop Veniaminov stressed in his famous

  Missionary In-

structions, "You should keep in mind that those with whom you will have to deal

with by their habits and minds are pagans and lost sheep and by their intellectual

development are children."


  According to the manual for Siberian missionaries,

natives' "inability to think in abstract terms and simplicity of their world view

created serious barriers for missionary propaganda."


  Vladimir, head of the Altai

mission, cautioned, "Although missionaries skillfully vary their religious talks,

natives, like little children, cannot concentrate for a long time on one problem and

their brains are quickly tired."


  Apparently for the same reason another mission-

ary, Iavlovsky, who worked among the Chukchi, stressed, "Of course, the major

character of my talks is simplicity, which is so necessary for the Chukchi—chil-

dren in their mental development."


Dionisii asked missionaries to remember that natives (inorodtsy)  stood on "the

lowest level of development" and "intellectually are children." For this reason, he

found it useful to reduce missionary propaganda to "baby talk."


  Moreover, in

making these generalizations he switched from a paternalistic metaphor to a

maternalistic one. "The m ode of preaching," he instructed m issionaries in the field,

"should be soft, hum ble, emanated with love. This must be a talk of a loving m other

with her children."

23 2

  This missionary "mother-father" was to take care of his

children even if they did not ask for help. When clerics asked superiors to open

new missions and expand existing ones or sought public support, they shaped the

requests in the form of a plea on behalf of the "native children." For instance,

missionary pamphlets by Nestor and Philipp contained appeals ("painful cries" in

the case of Nestor and "tearful supplication" in the case of Philipp) to a "loving

Mother Russia," who ought to take care of her Alaskan or eastern Siberian step-



Despite evident ethnocentrism and paternalism, it appears that on balance the

majority of Russian missionaries did not advocate the radical reshaping of native


 Although there existed an influential trend that insisted on Russification, the

dominant approach in evangelization was to lead native "children" gradually to

the light of Christianity. The explanation for such "sensitivity" may be found in

the practice and tradition of Russian Christianity as well as in a general attitude of

the empire toward indigenous peoples.

Reliance of the Orthodox church on local lay leadership and native languages

along with inadequate resources for missionary work prevented deliberate and

persistent attacks on indigenous cultures. In addition, nineteenth-century mission-

ary enterprise was colored with elements of monastic asceticism that emphasized

clerics' personal humility and "model behavior." The Orthodox tradition stressed

persuasion and conversion through personal example (ascetics, missionaries,

monks). Orthodoxy also maintained a large amount of ancient Christian ritualism

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Missionary Landscapes  81

that emphasized collective religious experience and artifacts of faith.



church ceremonies and religious objects directly or indirectly matched indigenous

rituals and eventually helped establish a dialogue between natives and missionar-


Many Orthodox clerics, in their turn, did not dismiss all native customs as evil,

but separated so-called good and bad ones and tried to locate those indigenous

traditions that might fit some Christian ceremonies. This tolerant trend manifested

itself in the missionary instructions and guidelines introduced by Veniaminov and

Glukharev and later in the Ilminskii System. Such a stance received official ap-

proval from the Holy Synod and also corresponded well with the general policy of

the empire, which did not pursue any consistent Russification of its eastern indig-

enous periphery or cultural offensive against minorities.


 At the same time, this

position did not reject assimilation of natives, but simply suggested that

Christianization would be more effective if missionaries employed indigenous

channels such as languages and native clergy to instill Orthodoxy in the savage



1. Sergei Kan, "Introduction," Arctic Anthropology  (Special Issue "Native Cultures and


 24, no. 1



2.  Thomas



  Colonial Evangelism:


  Socio-Historical Study


 an East

African Mission at the Grassroots  (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982), 7; Mary

T. Huber, The Bishops' Progress: A Historical Ethnography of Catholic Missionary Expe-

rience on the Sepik Frontier

 (W ashington,

 DC, and

 London : Sm ithsonian Institution Press,

1988), 213.

3.  "Monastic centers," noted Michael Oleksa, "represented Christian oases on the fron-

tiers of  'civilization* and  introduced nomadic tribes to the Christian faith, not so much by

preaching or teaching but by their effective witness as examples of Christian piety, philan-

thropy and lo ve " M ichael Oleksa,  Orthodox Alaska: A Theology of M ission  (Crestwood,

NJ: St. Vlad imir's Sem inary Press, 1992), 68.

4. A. V. Kamkin, Pravoslavnaia Tserkov


 Severe Ro ssii: O cherki Istorii


 1917 Goda

(Vologda: Vologodskii Gos. Ped. Institut, 1992), 51.

5. Serge Bolshakoff,  The

  Foreign Missions


 the Russian Orthodox Church


and N ew York: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and Macmillan C o., 1943), 44-


6. Mark Stokoe,  Orthodox Christians in North America 1794-1994  (Syosset, NY: Or-


  Christian Publications Center, 1995),


7. G. M. Soldatov, Mitropolit

 Filofei, v



  Prosvetitel Sibiri (Minneapolis:

Izdanie Soldatova, 1977), 25-26; Kamkin,

  Pravoslavnaia Tserkov


 Severe Rossii,


8. Oleksa,

 Orthodox Alaska, 74.

9. James H. Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture

(New York: Alfred


 Knopf,  1966),


10. A.N. Muraviev,

 Russkaia Fivaida na Severe

 (St. Petersburg:




 Otd. Sobstvennoi

E.I.V. Kantseliarii, 1855); G. P. Fedotov,

 The Russian R eligious Mind

  (Cambridge, Mass.:

Harvard University Press, 1966), vol. 2,  246-264; Iwan Kologriwof,  Ocherki po  Istorii

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  Shamanism and Christianity

Russkoi Sviatosti

  (Brussels: Izd-vo "Zhizn s Bogom," 1961), 119-137; S. A. Mousalimas,

The Transition from Shamanism to Russian Orthodoxy in Alaska

 (Prov idence, RI: Berghahn

Books, 1995), 203.



 Pravoslavnaia Tserkov na Severe Rossii, 5



 Eugene Smirnoff, A Short Account of the Historical D evelopment and Present Posi-

tion of Russian Orthodox Missions

  (Powys, UK: Stylite Publishing Ltd., 1986), 1.


  Ivan M. Kontzevitch, "Introduction: Acquisition of the Holy Spirit in Ancient Rus-

sia," in

 The Northern Thebaid: Monastic Saints of the Russian North,

 ed. Fathers Seraphim e

Rose and Herman (Podmoshensky) of Platina with an Introduction by I.M. Kontzevitch

(Piatina, CA: Fr. Seraphime R ose Foundation, 1995), 7.


 Luke Alexand er Veronis, Missionaries, Monks, and Martyrs: Making Disciples of All

Nations  (Minneapolis: Light and Life, 1994), 11.

15. Daniel R ancour-Laferriere,

  The Slave Soul of Russia: Moral Masochism and the Cult

of Suffering

  (New York and London: New York University Press, 1995), 21, 27; Richard


 Russia under the Old Regime

 (New York: Charles Scribner's, 1974), 222 ; Billington,

Icon and the Axe,



  Hieromonk Dionisii, Idealy Pravoslavno-Russkago Inorodcheskago Missionerstva

(Kazan: Tipo-lit. Imp. Universiteta, 1901), 149.


 Ibid., 263.


 Serafim A . Arkhangelov,

 NashiZagranichnyia Missii

 (St. Petersburg, Izd. P.P. Soikina,


 158. For more about St. Herm an, see the most recent wo rk: Ann Elizabeth W illiams,

"Father Herman: Syncretic Symbol of Divine Legitimation" (M.A. thesis, University of

Alaska Fairbanks, 1993).


 A rkhangelov,

  Nashi Zagranichnyia Missii,

  158-9; Victor Petrov,

  Russkie v Istorii


  (Moskva: Nauka, 1991), 143.


 O leksa,

  Orthodox Alaska,

  119; Arkhangelov,

 N ashi Zagranichnyia M issii,



  Ivan Veniaminov, "Sostoyanie Pravoslavnoi Tserkvi v Rossiiskoi Amerike," in

Pamiatnik Trudov Pravoslavnykh Blagoviestnikov Russkikh s 1793 do 1853 Goda,   ed.

Alexandru Sturdza (Moskva: Tip. V. Go te, 1857), 205 ; Arkhangelov, Nashi Zagranichnyia


  161. "Wild beasts and animals did not harm the holy starets [wise man, elder].

People saw, for exam ple, how he fed the bears," noted D ionisii. Dion isii,

 Idealy Pravoslavn o-

Russkago Inorodcheskago Missionerstva,

  170. A few Aleut orpahan boys and girls lived

and worked with this elder. Ignatii Aligiaga, one of them, stayed long after H erm an's death.

Mousalimas,  Transition from Shamanism to Russian Orthodoxy in Alaska,  193.


 A rkhangelov, N ashi Zagranichnyia Missii,  159.

23.  David Collins, "The Role of the Orthodox Missionary in the Altai: Archimandrite

Makarii and V. I. Verbitskii," in Church, Nation and State in Russia and Ukraine, ed. Geoffrey

A. Hoskin (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991), 99; Dionisii, Idealy Pravoslavno-Russkag o

Inorodcheskag o Missionerstva, 153; "Altaiskaia Dukhovn aia M issiia,"



  1, no. 8 (1900): 338 .


 A rkhangelov,

 N ashi Zagranichnyia M issii,

  153. Orthod ox tradition also stresses that

Juvenal supposedly rose three times after he had been murdered and "savages" had to kill

him again. Finally, they cut him into pieces, but at the place where he died his murderers

saw a smoke column that they interpreted as an omen. The circumstances of his death are

not clear. Legends about his martyrdom were so colorful and the evidence about his last

days was so scarce that Ivan


 once a employee of the U.S. Interior Department and

a member of H. H. Bancroft's "history team," decided to use his imagination. He forged and

then translated the "origin al" Juvenal diary. Until recently some scholars treated this docu-

ment as a genuine reference source. See more about this story: Lydia Black, "The Daily

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Missionary Landscapes  83

Journal ofReverend Father Juvenal," Ethnohistory 2 8, no. 1 (1981): 33 -5 8; Michael Oleksa,

'The Death of Hiermonk Juvenal,"  St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 30, no. 3 (1986):



 K. V. Kha rlampovich,

 Arkhimandrit Makarii Glukharev

  (St. Petersburg: Tipografiia

M. Merkusheva, 1905), 10.

26. Nikita Struve, "Orthod ox M issions. Past and Present," St. Vladimir's Seminary Quar-

terly 7, no. 1 (1963): 32;


 Short Accoun t of the Historical Developm ent and Present

Position of Russian Orthodox Missions, 8-9, 13-14.

27.  Dionisii,

 Idealy Pravoslavno-Russkago Inorodcheskago Missionerstva,


28 .

  D. A. Molchanov, "O Vlianii Khristianskago Muchenichestva na Rasprostranenie

Evangeliia Sredi Iazichnikov,"


 no. 29 (1877): 22 9-2 32.

29 . G. I. Dzen iskevitch, "R eligioznie Traditsii Indeitsev Alaski i Khristianstvo," in


Ameriki Prodolzhaetsia,

  ed. G. I. Dzeniskevitch, A. D. Dridzo, E. A. Okladnikova (St.

Petersburg: Muzei An tropolog ii i Etnografii, 1994), 89.

30 .


  Idealy Pravoslavno-Russkago Inorodcheskago Missionerstva,

  79-80. For

such nineteenth-century clerics as Veniaminov, who did not have a monastic backgrou nd, in

the words of Dinonisii, the life of an orphan served as an appropriate substitution for an

ascetic life. Ibid.

31. M. P-v (Putintsev), "Iz Altaiskihk Vospomimanii,"

 Dushepoleznoe Chtenie

 2 5, no. 3

(1884): 294-295; V. V. Eroshov and Valerii Kimeev,

  Tropoiu Missionerov: Altaiskaia

Dukhovnaia Missiia v Kuznetskom Krae

  (Kemerovo: Kuzbassvuzizdat, 1995), 19; Makarii

Abyshkin, "Iz Gornago Altaia: Dnevnik M issionera," Pravoslavnyi Blagoviestnik  3, no. 21

(1904): 159.


 Archbishop of Kamchatka and Seoul N estor,

 M oia Kam chatka: Zapiski Pravoslavnogo


 (M oskva: Sviato-Troitskaia Sergieva Lavra, 1995), 59, 40, 4 5- 4 6, 51 .


 P-v, "Iz Altaiskihk Vospominanii," 283.

34.  Vasilii Postnikov, "Iz Istorii Altaiskoi Missii. Miutinskii Stan,"  Pravoslavnyi

Blagoviestnik  1, no. 2 (1898): 69-73 ; 2, no. 3 (1898): 127 -137.

35 .

  Bishop of Yakutsk Nikanor, "K Uluchsheniu Missionerstva na Dalnem Severe,"

Pravoslavnyi Blagoviestnik

 2, no. 9 (1903): 33.

36 .  "Vipiska iz Opredelinia Sviateishago Sinoda, May 26/ June 19 1910," Po Vipiske

Sinodalnago O predelenia o M eropriatiakh Dlia Uluchsheniia M issionerskago Delà v Sibiri,

July 17- February 11, 1911,


 f. 797, op. 80 , II otd. 3 stol, 1 911 , ed. khr. 330 ,1.2.


 N ikanor, "K U luchsheniu Missionerstva na D alnem Severe," 35.


  N . M ushkin , "Miss ioned u Chaukch e i , "

  Pamiatnik Trudov Pravoslavnykh

Blagoviestnikov Russkikh s 1793 do 1853 Goda, ed. Alexandru Sturdza (Moskva: Tip. V.

Gote, 1857), 337 .

39 . Yuri Slezkine, Arctic Mirrors: Russia and the Small Peoples of the North (Ithaca, NY:

Cornell University Press, 1994), 25.

40. Quote after Gregory Afonsky,

 A History of the Orthodox Church in Alaska, 1794-

1917 (Kodiak, AK: St. Herman 's Theological Seminary, 1977), 65 .


  Hieromonk Nestor, Iz Zhizni Kam chatskago Missionera i Zapiski iz Dnevnika (St.

Petersburg: Otechestven naiaT ip., 1912), 6.

42.  Amphilokhy (Anton Vakulsky), "Paskha v Sugrobakh Snega. Iz Moikh Starikh

Vospominanii na Missionerskoi Sluzhbe," Russian-American Orthodox Messenger 2 8, no.

4 (1927): 54.

43. Waldemar (Vladimir) Bogoras, The Chukchee  (New York: AM S Press, 1975), 7 2 7 -



 Dionisii, Idealy P ravoslavno-Russkago Inorodcheskago Missionerstva, 162.

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84  Shamanism and Christianity


 M ushkin, "Missionen u Chaukchei," 338, 341 .

46. V. I. Verbitskii,

 Altaiskie Inoro dtsy: Sbornik


 S tatei i Izsliedovanii

Altaiskago Missionera

  (Moskva: T-vo Skoropechatni A.A. Levenson, 1893), vii-viii.


  Wendell H. Oswalt, "Eskimos and Indians of Western Alaska, 1860-1868: Extracts

from the Diary of Father Illarion, Anthropological Papers of the Un iversity of Alaska 8, no.

2(1960): 111.

48.  N. D. Talberg,  Istoriia Russkoi Tserkvi  (Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery,

1959), 769.

49. Smirnoff,

  Short Account of the Historical D evelopment and Present Position of Rus-

sian  Orthodox Missions,  69, 23. See another Orthodox work that stresses Veniaminov's

travel ordeals: "L ichnost Sviatitelia Inn okentiia,"  Russian-American Orthodox Messenger

1, no. 24 (1897): 515.


  "Otchet Chukotskoi Missii Iakutskoi Eparkhii 1899,"

  lakutskie Eparkh ialnie


 no. 18 (1900): 24 7- 25 0; Smirnoff,

  Short Account of the Historical D evelop-

ment and Present Position of Russian Orthodox M issions,

 63- 64; about Venedict the Russian

anthropologist Bogoras, who was generally very skeptical about Orthodox missionaries,

nevertheless wrote that this monk "without an assistant or provisions, made a remarkable

trip among the Reindeer Chukchi, and thence through all the villages on the Arctic and

Pacific." Bogoras,




  Mushkin, "Missionen u Chaukchei," 341-342.


 Oswalt, "Eskimos and Indians of Western Alaska," 110.


  A. I. Makarova-Mirskaia,  Na S luzhenii Altaiu. B iograficheskaia Poviest (Kharkov:

"Mirnyi trud," 1911), 40.

54 .


 Idealy P ravoslavno-Russkago Inorodcheskago Missionerstva,


55.  Nikolai Militov, "Zhurnal Kenaiskago Missionera Igumena Nikolaia za


 R e-

ports/Records, Nikolai Militov and Makarii Ivanov, 1855-1871,


  roll 20 1.


 The average amou nt of this tribute at the turn of the century ranged b etween five and

twelve sable pelts per person. Elena Glavatskaya, "Christianization=Russification? On Pre-

serving the Religious and Ethnic Identity of the Ob-Ugrians," in Shamanism and Northern

Ecology, ed. Juha Pentikainen (Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1996), 384.

57.  Pamiatniki Sibirskoi Istorii XVIII Vieka,

 ed. A. I. Timofeev (St. Petersburg: T ip.

Ministerstva Vnutrennikh Diel, 1882), vol. 1,41 3-4 14 .

58.  Polnoe Sobranie Zakonov Rossiiskoi Imperil,

  1st ser., vol. 5, no. 28 63 ; Ob

Unichtozhenii Kumirov i Kumirnits u Vogulichei u Ostiakov u Tatar i Iakutov, i o Kreshchenii

Sikh Narodov v Khristianskuiu Veru, in Natsionalnaia Politika v Imperatorskoi Rossii:

Pozdn ie Pervob itnie i Predk lassovie Obshchestva S evera Evrop eiskoi Ro ssii, Sibiri i Russkoi


  ed. Yu. I. Semenov (Moskva: Starii Sad, 1998), 79.


  Egor S. Shishigin,

  Rasprostranenie Khristianstva v lakutii

  (Iakutsk: Iakutskii Gos.

Obedinennyi Muzei Istorii i Kultury Narodov Severa, 1991), 17; Michael Khodarkovsky,

"'Not by Word Alone': Missionary Policies and Religious Conversion in Early Modern

Russia, Com parative Studies in Society and H istory 38, no. 2 (1996): 279-2 80.

60. Paul R. Spickard and Kevin M. Cragg, G od's People: A Social H istory of Christians

(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1994), 118; M. O. Akishin,

  Politseiskoe Gosudarstvo i

Sibirskoe Obshchestvo. Epokha Petra Velikogo

 (Novosibirsk: Avtor, 1996), 110 -12 0;


 Rasp rostranenie Khristianstva v lakutii,


61.  Pipes,

 Ru ssia under the Old Regime,



 Khodarkovsky, "'Not by Word Alone,'" 290-292.

63. Frank T. McC arthy, "The K azan's Missionary C ongress,"

 Cahiers du Monde Russe et

Soviétique  14, no. 3 (1973): 309; Khod arkovsky, "'N ot by Word Alon e,'" 293. A good short

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Missionary Landscapes  85

analysis of the evangelization of the Siberian natives and their status in the seventeenth and

eighteenth centuries may be found in M. M. Fedorov,

  Pravovoe Polozhenie Narodov

Vostochnoi Sibiri (XVII-Nachalo XIX Veka)

 (Yakutsk: Yakutskoe K nizhnoe Izdatelstvo,

1978), 81-99.

64.  For a positive appraisal of Philotheus (Filofei) and his activities, see Soldatov,

Mitropolit Filofei; Sister Th ais, "The L ives of the Siberian M issionaries," O rthodox Alaska

4, no . 1 (1978): 3 ; T. A. Do gurevich,  Sviet Azii: Rasprostranenie Khristianstva v Sibiri v

Sviazi s Opisaniem Byta, Nravo v, Obyc haev i Religioznykh Vierovanii Inorodtsev E togo


 (St. Petersburg: Tip. P. P. Soikina, 1897), 70; Struve, "O rthodox M issions. Past and

Present," 35; Nestor,



  Sibiri. Istoricheskii Ocherk

  (St. Petersburg:

Otechestvennaia Tip., 1910), 21-25. For critical assessments of Philotheus and the early

native evangelization in Siberia, see Akishin,  Politseiskoe Gosudarstvo i Sibirskoe

Obshchestvo,  120-141.


 N. A. Abramov, "Materialy dlia Istorii Khristianskago Prosveshcheniia Sibiri "


Ministerstva Narodnago Prosveshcheniia

 8 1, no. 5 (1854): 50.

66 . Dogurevich, Sviet Azii,  133.

67 . Khodarkovsky, "'Not by Word Alon e, '" 283-28 4.

68 . Polnoe Sobranie Zakonov Rossiiskoi Imperil,  1st sen, vol. 11, no. 823 6; vol. 13, no .



 Yuri Slezkine, "Savage Christians or Unorthodox Russians? Missionary Dilemma in

Siberia," in

  Between H eaven and Hell: The Myth of Siberia in Russian Culture,

 ed. Yuri

Slezkine and Galya Diment (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993), 17. Incidentally, the

depletion of Siberia fur resources gave rise to Russian expansion into Alaska.


  Polnoe Sobranie Zakonov Rossiiskoi Imperil,

  1st sen, vol. 16, no. 12126. See also

about this period of negligence of native evangelization in James Fo rsyth, A History of the

Peoples of Siberia: Russia's North Asian Colony, 1581-1990   (Cambridge and New York:

Cambridge University Press, 1992), 169-1 70; Khodarkovsky, '"No t by Word Alo ne,'" 287;

Soldatov, a theological h istorian, called C atherine's rule a "period of decline " in missionary

work. Soldatov,

 Mitropolit Filofei,


71. Antoinette Shalkop , "The Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska,"

  Russia's American


  ed. S. Frederick Starr (Durham: Duke University Press, 1987), 197; Afonsky,


History of the Orthodox Church in Alaska,

  66. For more about the beginning of the Alaska

mission see Lydia Black, "Put' na Novii Valaam: Stanovlenie Russkoi Pravoslavnoi Tserkvi

na Aliaske," in  Istoriia Russkoi Ameriki, 1732-1867,  ed. N. N. Bolkhovitinov (Moskva:

M ezhdunarodnie O tnosheniia, 1997), vol. 1, 251-276 .

72. Petrov, Russkie v Istorii Am eriki,  142.

73 .

 See more about the "theory of official nationality" in Nicholas



 N icholas

land Official Nationality in Russia, 1825-185 5

  (Berkeley: University of California Press,


74.  Andreas Kappeler,

  Rossiia-Mnogonatsionalnaia Imperiia: Vozniknovenie, Istoriia,

Raspad,  trans, from German by Svetlana Chervonnaia (Moskva: Progress-Traditiia, 1997),




 Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer, "Strategies of Ethnic Survival: Interaction of Russians

and Khanty (Ostiak) in Twentieth-Century Siberia" (Ph.D. diss., Bryn M awr College, 1978),

431 ; Kappeler,

  Rossiia-Mnogonatsionalnaia Imperiia,

 125; for more about this reform, see

Marc Raeff,

  Siberia and the Reforms of 1822

  (Seattle: University of Washington Press,


76. Polnoe Sobranie Zakonov R ossiiskoi Imperil,  1st. sen, vol. 28 , no. 291 26 , § 286-291;

"Visochaishe Utverzhdennii 22 Iiulia 1822 Goda Ustav ob Upravlenii Inorodtsev," in

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86  Sham anism and Christianity

Natsionalnaia Politika v Imperatorskoi Rossii, 167. For more about the connection between

the Speransky reform and the new approach to missionary work see A. P. Borodavkin and

N. Y. Khrapova, "M . M. Speransky i Altaiskaia Dukhovn aia M issiia," in Kultumoe Nasledie

Sibiri,  éd. T. M. Stepanskaia (Barnaul: Altaiskii Gosudarstvennii Universitet, 1994), 24-


77.  Polnoe Sobranie Zakonov Rossiiskoi Imperii,

  2nd ser., vol. 19, no. 18290, § 27 1 ,

272, 274;

 To Siberia and Russian America: Three Centuries of Russian Eastward Expan-


 R ussian American Colonies, J 789-J867, A Documentary

 Record, ed. and trans, by

Basil Dmytrishyn, E.A.P. Crownhart-Vaughan and Thomas Vaughan (Portland: Oregon H is-

torical Society Press, 1989), vol. 3, 47 2; "Visochaishe Utverzhdennii 10 Okriabria 1844

Goda Ustav Rossiisko-Amerikanskoi Kompanii," in  Natsionalnaia Politika v Imperatorskoi

Rossii,  220.


  Paul W. Werth, "Baptism, Authority,«and the Problem of Zakonnost' in Orenburg

Diocese: Th e Induction of over 800 'Pa ga ns' into the Christian Faith,"

 Slavic Review

 56 , no.

3 (1997): 458, 475, 479.

79.  Polnoe Sobranie Zakonov Rossiiskoi Imperil,  1st. ser., vol. 28, no. 29126, § 290;

"Visochaishe Utverzhdennii 22 Iiulia 1822 Goda Ustav ob Upravlenii Inorodtsev," 167.

80.  Makarii Glukharev,

  Mysly o Sposobakh k Uspeshneishemu Rasprostraneniiju

Khristianskoi Very Mezhdu


 Magom etanamy, i Yazychnickami v Rossiiskoi Derzha ve

(Moskva: Tip. Snegiryova, 1894); Innokentii (Ivan Veniaminov),  Tvorenia Innokentiia

Mitropolita Moskovskago,  ed. Ivan Barsukov (Moskva: Sinodalnaia Tip., 1886), vol. 1,


  Veniaminov used his guidelines, which were formally adopted by the Holy Synod in


  to tailor insructions to individual missionaries in both Siberia and Alaska. See, for

instance, "Nastavlenie Ieromonakhu Nikolaiu, Naznachaemomu dlia Obrashcheniia

Inovertsev i (Otchasti) Rukovodstva Novoobrashchennikh v Khristianskuiu Veru, v

Rossiisko-Amerikanskikh Vladeniakh, v Kenaiskom Zalive i Prilegaiushchikh k Nemu

Mestakh," Clergy Dossier, Nikolai Militov, ARCA,  roll 20. See also Veniaminov's instruc-

t ions to the Nush agak m iss iona ry Hie rmonk The op hi lu s : " Na s tav len ie

Visokopreosviashchennago Innokentiia, Bivshago Arkhiepiskopa Kam chatskago, Kurilskago

i Aleutskago N ushagakskomu Missioneru Feofilu,"

  Russian-American Orthodox Messen-


  no. 20 (1899): 53 4- 54 3; 3, no. 21 (1899): 56 4-5 74 . Excerpts from the latter document

were published in Barbara S. Smith,

 O rthodoxy and Native Americans: The Alaskan M is-


  (Syosset, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1980), 28-30. For philosophical sources

of Veniamonov's ideas, see Sergei Kan, "Recording Native Cultures and Christianizing the

Natives: Russian Orthodox Missionaries in South-Eastern Alaska," in  Russia in North

America,  ed. Richard P. Pierce (Kingston, Ontario: The Lim estone Press, 1990), 29 8- 31 3;

Viacheslav V. Ivanov,  T he Russian Orthodox C hurch of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands

and its Relation to Native American Traditions: An Attempt at a Multicultural Society,


  (Washing ton, DC : Governm ent Printing Office, 1997), 30. About Gluk harev's

ideas, see A. P. Borodavkin and N. Y. Khrapova, "K Voprosu o Kulturno-Prosvetitelskoi

Deiatelnosti Arkhimandrita Makariia (M.Ia. Glukhareva)-Ideologa i Osnovatelia Altaiskoi

Dukhovnoi Missii," in  Altaiskii Sbornik,  ed. V. A. Skubnevskii, A. V. Dobrikova, A. D.

Sergeev (Barnaul: Altaiskoe Otdelenie Vserosiiskogo Fonda Kulturi, 1992),


81.  Adm inistratively, from 1821 to 1840 the Alaska m ission developed as part of the

large Siberian See with a center in the Irkutsk city in western S iberia. Arkhangelov, Nashi

Zagranichnyia Missii,



  Polnoe Sobranie Zakonov Rossiiskoi Imperil,

  2nd ser., vol. 1, no. 409; vol. 7, no.


  See more about these benefits: O Slozhenii Iasaka s Inorodtsev Vstupaiushchikh v

Khristianskuiu Veru: Matériau Pervogo Sibirskogo Komiteta, November 15-December 29,

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Missionary Landscapes  87

1832. RGIA,  f. 1264, op. 1, 1832, ed. khr. 289, 1. 1- 8. As a matter of fact, a special Senate

decree that granted three-year tax benefits to new native converts was adopted as early as

1720. Polnoe Sobranie Zakonov Rossiiskoi Imperil,  1 st. ser., vol. 6, no . 3637 , but in reality

the stipulations of this law were mostly disregarded.


 Polnoe Sobranie Zakonov Rossiiskoi Imperil,

 2nd ser., vol. 12, no. 10135.

84 . Ibid., vol. 36, no. 377 09.





86 .

 P isma Innokentiia, M itropolita Moskovskago i Kolomenskago,

  1828 -1878 , ed. Ivan

Barsukov (St. Petersburg: Sun odalnaia Tipografiia, 1901), vol. 3, 29 5; Talberg,


Russkoi Tserkvi, 11 A;


 Short Account of the Historical Development and Present

Position of Russian Orthod ox Missions, 26 ; Paul D. Garrett, St. Innocent, Apostle to Am erica

(Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1979), 305. See the by-laws of this soci-

ety:  Novoe Missionerskoe Obshchestvo v Rossii: Ustav Missionerskago Obshchestva  (St.

Petersburg: Tip. Doma Prizreniia Maloletnikh Bednikh, 1865);  Ustav Pravoslavnago

Missionerskago Obshchestva

  (St. Petersburg: Pravoslvnoe Missionerskoe Obshchestvo,

1869); "Ustav Pravoslavnago Missionerskago O bshchestva,"

  Pravoslavnyi Blagoviestnik,

no . 1 (1893): 12-2 0.

87 . Russkoe Pravoslavie, Vekhi Istorii, ed. Aleksandr I. Klibanov (Moskva: Izd-vo Polit.

Lit-ry, 1989), 439; N. Komarov, "Po Povodu Otcheta Pravoslavnago Missionerskago

Obshchestva za 1892 God ,"

 Pravoslavnyi Blagoviestnik

 2 , no. 18 (1893): 9-1 0; "O Priniatii

Pod Pokrovitelstvo Pravoslavnago Missionerskago Obshchestva Amerikanskoi Missii,"

Pravoslavnyi Blagoviestnik

  2, no. 5 (1900): 28 7-2 88 .


 Archimandrite Dionisii, "Sovrem ennoe S ostoianie, Zadachi i Nuzhdy Pravoslavnago

Inorodcheskago Missionerstva v Sibiri,"

 Pravoslavn yi Blagoviestnik

 2, no. 15 (1904): 292.



 S hort Account o f the Historical Develop ment and Present Position of Rus-

sian Orthodox M issions,


90. "Izvestiia i Zam etki," Russian-American Orthodox Messenger 2, no. 21 ( 1898): 622 .

91. Dionisii,  Idealy Pravoslavno-Russkago Inorodcheskago Missionerstva,  100.

92 . See, for instance, the school record of the Alaska and Chukchi missionary Am philokhy,

who graduated from the institute in 1901 : "Diploma," Clergy D ossier, Am philokh y (Anton

Vakulsky) , /U?C4,rol l31.


 Dionisii, "Sovrem ennoe Sostoianie, Zadachi i Nuzhdy Pravoslavnago Inorodcheskago

Missionerstva v Sibiri,"

  Pravoslavnyi Blagoviestnik

  2, no. 15 (1904): 293; idem,


Pravoslavno-Russkago Inorodcheskago Missionerstva,

  98; Smirnoff,

 Short Account of the

Historical Development and Present Position of Russian Orthodox M issions,

  53, 27. For

more on the work of the Missionary Institute see "O Missionerskih Kursakh Pri Kazanskoi

Dukhovnoi Akademii " RGIA,  f. 796, op. 179, 1898, ed. khr.


  1-103; "O Sostoianii

Kazanskih Missionerskikh Kursov za 1900-1901 G.G.," RGIA,  f. 796, op. 183, 1902, ed.

krh. 367,1.  1-16.

94. Stefan Landyshev,

 Sviedieniia obAltaiskoi Dukh ovnoi Missii za Shest Liet: sAvgusta

1856poAvgust 1862 Goda

 (Mo skva: Tipografiia V. Go te, 1863), 34.



 Iz Zhizni K amc hatskago Missionera i Zapiski iz Dnevn ika,

  15, 17. At the turn

of the present century, Siberian missionaries received a monthly salary of 40 rubles 83

kopeks and 100 rubles for travel expences. Ibid., 14. Eroshov and Kimeev provide similar

information. They write that a missionary received an annual salary of 582 roubles, and

songleaders had 196 roubles. Eroshov and Kimeev, Tropoiu Missionerov, 26.

96. Smith,

 Orthodoxy and N ative Americans,

  18; Shalkop, "Russian O rthodox C hurch in

Alaska," 20 0.

97. Shalko p, "Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska," 20 1.

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  Shamanism and Christianity

98.  Stokoe, O rthodox Christians in North America,  15. In 1888, in San Franscisco the

Russian church established a school that prepared future missionaries and low-level native

clergy for Alaska. In April 1889 the school numbered twenty-six Russian-American, Cre-


 Aleut, and American Indian students. Arkhàngelov,

 N ashi Zagranichnyia M issii,



 Ivan Veniaminov, "Sostoyanie Pravoslavnoi Tserkvi v Rossiiskoi Amerike," 239.


 To Siberia and Russian America,


 Polnoe Sobranie Zakonov R ossiiskoi Imperil,

2nd ser , vol. 42, no. 43287 .

101. P isma Innokentiia, Mitropolita Moskovskago i K olomenskago, 1828-1878,  ed. Ivan

Barsukov (St. Petersburg: Syno dalnaia Tipografiia, 1897), vol. 1, 383 .


  Archbishop of Warsaw Nikolai,

  Iz Moego Dnevnika: Putevyia Z amietki i

Vpechatlieniia po Aliaski i Aleutskim Ostrovam

  (St. Petersburg: Synodalnaia Tip., 1893),


103. Oleksa,  Orthodox Alaska,  142.

104.  Ibid., 140.


  Ibid., 152-153.

106. Fedotov,

  Russian Religious

 Mind, 237.


  Polnoe Sobranie Zakonov Rossiiskoi Imperii, 2nd ser., vol. 16, no. 14409, § 99-



 Vera Shevzov, "Chapels and the Ecclesial World of Prerevolutionary Russian Peas-

ants," Slavic Review

 55 , no. 3 (1997): 607, 588, 609, 612.

109.  Smirnoff,  Short Account of the Historical Development and Present Position of

Russian Orthodox Missions,  30, 39.


  N. I. Zelenin,

  Ilminskii i Prosveshchenie Inorodtsev

  (St. Petersburg: Tip. I. N.

Skorokho dova, 1902), 4; Petr V. Znam enski,

 N a Pam iat' o Nikolae lvanoviche Ilminskom

(Kazan: Bratstvo S viatogo G uria, 1892). See also specific studies of the Ilminskii S ystem:

Isabelle Kreindler, "Educational Policies toward the Eastern Nationalities in Tsarist Russia:

a Study of Ilminsk ii's System " (Ph.D. diss., Colum bia University, 1969); S. J. Blank, "Na-

tional Education, Church and State in Tsarist Nationality Policy: The Il'minskii System,"

Canadian-American Slavic Studies

  17, no. 4 (1983): 46 6-4 86 .

111. Zelenin, Ilminskii i Prosveshchenie Inorodtsev, 13.

112. Pipes,

 Russia under the Old Regime,


113.  Smirnoff,  Short Account of the Historical Development and Present Position of

Russian Orthodox Missions,



 Ibid., 48.


 Slezkine, "Savage Christians or Unorthodox Russians? Missionary Dilemma in Si-

beria," 2 4- 25 ; Glavatskaya, "Christianization=Russification?" 383 .

116. Veniamin, Zhiznennie Vopro si Pravo slavnoi M issii v Sibiri  (St. Petersburg: Tip. A.

M. Kotomina, 1885), 14.


  Ibid., 7-8.


  Ibid., 12,20.



 K hristianskom Prosvieshchenii Inorodtsev: Perepiska Arkhiepiskopa Veniamina

Irkutskago s N. I. Ilminskiim,

  ed. Konstiantyn V. Kharlampovych (Kazan: Tipo-lit. Imp.

Universiteta, 1904), 8.

120. Dogurevich, S viet Azii, 37.

121. Quoted after Dionisii, Idealy Pravoslavno-Russkago lnorodcheskago Missionerstva,




 Pravoslavie v Sibiri,

 6 3.



  Sviet Azii>

 4; Komarov, "Po Povodu O tcheta Pravoslavn ago

Missionerskago Obshchestva za 1892 God," 7.

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9 0





 Archimandrite D ionisii, "Sovremennoe Sostoianie, Zadachi


 Nuzhdy Pravoslavnago

Inorodcheskago Missionerstva



  Pravoslavnyi Blagoviestnik 3, no. 17



Evgenii Popov, Ob



 Missionerskamu Delu



 Popov oi, 1874),




 Russian R eligious Mind, 236.








 Alaska," The

 Pacific Historian 26, no. 1




 Popov, Ob



 Missionerskamu Delu, 136.

152. Pisma Innokentiia, M itropolita Moskovskago i Kolomenskago, 1828-1878,  vol. 1,

104-105; Garrett, St. Innocent, 184; Ivan Veniaminov, Notes on the Islands of



District, trans. L. T. Black and R. H. Geoghegan (Kingston, Ontario: The Limestone Press,




  Dmitri Khitrov, "Opisanie Zhiganskogo Uezda,"

  Zapiski Sibirskago Otdiela

Imperatorskago Russkago Geograficheskago Obshchestva, no. 1



154. Verbitskii, Altaiskie Inorodtsy, 79-80.


  Quoted after

  Pisma Innokentiia, Mitropolita Moskovskago






 Nikolai Mitropolsky


 Bishop N ikolai, "Pochtitelneishii Raport,"


 7, 1892,

 Repo rts/Records, Nikolai Mitropolsky, 188 8-18 92,





 N ashi Zagranichnyia Missii,


157. Arkhangelov, N ashi Zagranichnyia M issii, 199.


 Sergei Kan, "Clan Mothers and Grandmothers: Tlingit W omen and Russian O rtho-

dox Christianity, 1840-1940,"

 Ethnohistory 43, no. 4




 Anonym ous, "Pravoslavnaia Missiia


 Aliaske (Severnoi A merike)

 v 1902 G., Rus-

sian-American Orthodox Messenger

 1, no. 3



160. Kan,

 "Recordin g Native Cultures






161.  Makarii Glukharev, "Izvlecheniia  iz  Putevikh Zapisok Missionera Arkhimandrita

Makaria Glukhareva," in Pamiatnik Trudov Pravoslavnykh Blagoviestnikov Russkikh s 1793

do 1853 Goda,

  166-167; "Altaiskaia Dikhovnaia Missiia,"

  Pravoslavnyi Blagoviestnik 1,

no . 8




 Vasilli Verbitskii, "Zapiski Altaiskago Missionera Kuznetskago Okruga, Proteireia

Vasilia Verbitskago za 1876 God,


 no. 22 (1877): 176.

163. Nechto v Posobie Nashim Sibirskim Missioneram  (Moskva: Tip. A. I.  Snegirevoi,




 Vladimir Fialkin,

  Put'k Prosveshc heniu Iazichnikov



 Khalizeva, 1904),


165.  Iz

 Zhizni A ltaiskoi Missii,"

 Pravoslavnyi Blagoviestnik 2, no. 10



166.  Sbornik Sviedenii o Pravoslavnikh Missiakh i Deitelnosti Pravoslavnago

Missionerskago Obshchestva  (Moskva: V. G ot'e, 1872), vol. 2, 267.

167. N.

 E-skii (Elonskii), "Nashi Missionen


 Severe Sibiri,"

 Pravoslavniy Blagoviestnik,

no. 13




 Nestor, Moia Kam chatka: Zapiski Pravoslavnogo Missionera, 105.

169.  Po  Vipiske Sinodalnago Opredelenia  o  Meropria t iakh dl ia U luchshenia

Missionerskago Delà v Sibiri, July  17, 1910-February


 RGIA, f. 797, op. 80 II


 3 St.,


 ed. khr.





 D ionisii,

  Idealy Pravoslavno-Russkago Inorodcheskago Missionerstva, 102.

172. Popov, Ob Userdii k Missionerskamu Delu,\23.

173. Nestor, Moia Kam chatka: Zapiski P ravoslavnogo M issionera, 116.


 D ionisii,

 Idealy Pravoslavno-Russkago Inorodcheskago Missionerstva,

  30-31 .

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M issionary Landscapes 91

• 175. Veniaminov,  Tvoreniia Innokentiia, Mitropolita M oskovskago, vol. 2, 48 8.


 Hiermonk Niki ta to the Alaska Ecclesiastical C onsistory, May 1885, Travel Journal,

Nikita Marchenkov, 1881-1885, ARCA,  roll 20 1.


 Anon ymo us, "Pridi i Pomogi (O M issionerskom Dele)," Russian-American Ortho-

dox Messenger 7, no. 2 (1903): 21 .

178. S. Postnikov, "Iz Zapisok Missionera, " Pravoslavnyi Blagoviestnik, no . 22 (1893):



 Nestor, Moia Kam chatka: Zapiski Pravoslavnogo M issionera, 72.


 Idem, Iz Zhizni Kamchatskago Missionera i Zapiski iz D nevnika, 5.

181.  Ibid., 8.


 P., "Na Poroge Z hizn i: Aliaskinskii E tiud," Russian-American Orthodox Messen-

ger   13, no. 23 (1911 ):  390-391.

183.  Otchet ob Altaiskoi D ukhovnoi Missii za 1907 God  (Tomsk: Tip. Mikhailova i

Makushina, 1908), 5 1.




 A rkhimandrit M akarii Glukharev, 32, 28-29.

185. Hiermonk Irinarkh, "Eshch e Dva Slova ob Uluchshenii M issionerstva na Dalnem

Severe," Pravoslavnyi Blagoviestnik  3, no. 19 (1903): 125-126.

186.  Smirnoff,

  Short Account of the Historical Development and Present Position of

Russian Orthodox M issions,



 Verbitskii, "Zapiski Altaiskago Missionera Kuznetskago Okruga, Proteireia Vasilia

Verbitskago za 1876 God," 177.


 Nestor, Moia Kam chatka: Zapiski Pravoslavnogo Missionera, 73 .

189.  Andrei Argentov, "Nizhne Kolymskii Krai,"

  Izviestiia Imperatorskago Russkago

Geograficheskago Obshchestva

 15, no. 6 (1879): 438, 450 .

190. Ibid., 45 1, 43 8-4 39 , 444.

191.  Anonymous, "Kamlanie na Altae,"  Pravoslavnyi Blagoviestnik  2, no. 14 (1904):


192. Trofîm Sokolovski, ' 'Zapiski Missionera Altaiskoi Missii,"


 no. 5 (1876):

40 .


 Nechto v Posobie Nashim S ibirskim M issioneram, 9.

194. Sergei Ivanovski, "Iz Zapisok Missionera Kabezenskago Otdelenia, Altaiskoi M issii,

Sviashchennika Sergeia Ivanovskago za 1892 God," in Altaiskaia i Kirgizskaia Missii T omsko i

Eparkhii v 1892

  (Biisk: Tipo-Litografiia I. D. Rebrova, 1893), Appendix III, 7.


 Nechto v P osobie Nashim Sibirskim Missioneram,



 Ibid., 11.


  Otchet Altaiskoi Dukhovnoi Missii v 1898

  (Tomsk: Tip. Eparkhialnago Bratstva,

1899), 14.


 Nechto v P osobie Nashim Sibirskim Missioneram, 17.


  Otchet Altaiskoi Du khovnoi Missii v 1898,



 Nechto v Posobie Nashim Sibirskim Missioneram,


201.  Sergei Ivanovskii, "Zapiski Missionera Kebezenskago Otdeleniia, Altaiskoi

Dukhov noi Missii, Sviashchennika Sergia Ivanovskago za 1888," in

 Otchet ob Altaiskoi i

Kirgizskoi Missii Tomskoi Eparkhii za 1888  (Tomsk: Tipo-Litografiia Mikhailova i

Makushina, 1889), 11.


 M issionerstvo na Altae i v Kirgizskoi Stepi v 1885 G odu  (Tomsk: Tipo-Litografiia

M ikhailova i Makushina, 1886), 35.

203. Petr Benediktov, "Iz Zapisok M issionera Chem alskago O tdelenia Altaiskoi M issii,

Sviashch ennika Petra Benediktova za 1892 God " in Altaiskaia i Kirgizskaia Missii Tom skoi

Eparkhii v 1892,  6-7.

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  Shamanism and Christianity '

204. Sergei Ivanovskii, "Iz Zapisok M issionera Kabezenskago O tdelenia, Altaiskoi M issii,

Sviashchennika Sergeia Ivanovskago za 1892 God," 1.

205. Missionerstvo na Altae i v Kirgizskoi Stepi v 1885,


206.  Alexander Gusev, "Zhurnal Missionerskih Deistvii po Makarievskomu Otdeleniu

Altaiskoi Dukhovnoi Missii," December 3 1, 1861,


 f. 796, op. 440, 18 59- 186 1, ed.

khr. 1256-1257,1.5.

207. O tchet ob Altaiskoi i Kirgizskoi Missii 1888, 21.

208. N echto v Posobie Nashim Sibirskim Missioneram,


209. Ibid., 21 .

210.  Marchenkov, "Iz Putevikh Zapisok Kenaiskago Missionera Iermonakha Nikiti za

1881 G."

211.  Ibid.

212. Otchet Altaiskoi Dukhovnoi Missii v 1898 Godu (Tomsk: Tip. Eparkhialnago Bratstva,

1899), 39.


  Marchenkov, "Iz Putevikh Zapisok Kenaiskago Missionera Iermonakha Nikiti za

1881 G."

214. Nechto v Posobie Nashim Sibirskim M issioneram,


215.  Pisma Innokentiia, Mitropolita Moskovskago i Kolomenskago,

  vol. 1, 104; Ivan

Veniaminov, "Nastavlenie Ieromonakhu Nikolaiu,"

216.  Slezkine, Arctic Mirrors, 388-389.


 Argentov, "Nizhne Kolymskii K rai," 43 3, 44 3; "Iakutskaia Pravoslavnaia M issiia v

1873 Godu,"

 M issioner,

 no. 23 (187 4): 179.


 Petr Benediktov, "Iz Zapisok Missionera Chemalskago Otdelenia Altaiskoi Missii,

Sviashchennika Petra Benediktova za 1892 God," 4.

219. Popov,  Ob Userdii k Missionerskamu D elu, 131.

220.  Igumen Nikolai (Militov), Vipiska iz Zhurnala Kenaiskago Missionera Igumena

Nikolaia s 1858 po 1862 God., 19; Townsend, "Journals of Nineteenth-C entury Russian

Priests to the Tanaina," 9.


  Igumen Nikolai (Militov), "Iz Zhurnala Kenaiskago Missionera Igumena Nikolaia

za 1862 God," in

  Russkaia Amerika: Po Lichnym Vpechatleniam Messionerov,

Zem leprokhodtsev, Mo riakov, Issledovatelei iDrugikh Oche vidtsev, ed. A. D. D ridzo and R.

V. Kinzhalov (Moskva: Mysl, 1994), 23 1.


 Nikolai Mitropolsky, "V Aliaskinskoe Dukhovnoe Pravlenie Raport," March 1889,

Reports/Records, Nikolai Mitropolsky, 1888-1892,


 roll 201.


  Hiermonk Anatolii to Ioann Bortnovsky, June 29, 1896, Buildings-Property, Re-


 New Assumption Church, School, 1882-1909,


  roll 181.

224. Missionerstvo na Altae i v Kirgizskoi Stepi 1885, 31 .


  Nestor, Iz Zhizni Kam chatskago Missionera i Zapiski iz Dnevnika, 20, 46-4 7, 11.

226.  Idem,  Moia Kamchatka: Zapiski Pravoslavnogo Missionera, 76, 78, 235; Popov,

Ob Userdii k Missionerskamu Delu,

  145; "Altaiskaia Dukhovnaia Missiia v 1902 Godu,"

Pravoslavnyi Blagoviestnik

 2, no. 11 (1903): 105.

227. V eniaminov,

  Tvoreniia Innokentiia, Mitropolita Moskovskago,

 vol. 1, 243 .


 N echto v Posobie Nashim Sibirskim M issioneram, 24.

229.  Archimandrite Vladimir, "Vipiski iz Dnevnika Altaiskago Missionera,"  Zapiski

Missionerskago O bshestva, no. 4 (1868): 307.


 "Otchet o Sostoianii Iakutskoi Eparkhii za 1915 God,"


 f. 796 op. 442 , 1916,

ed. khr.





 Idealy P ravoslavno-Russkago Inorodcheskago M issionerstva,


232.  Ibid., 198.

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Missionary Landscapes  93

• 233. Nestor, hZhizni Kam chatskago Missionera i Zapiski iz Dnevnika, 20-21; Filipp,

Pogibaiushchaia M issiia,



 T. A. Bernstam, "Russian Folk Culture and Folk R eligion," in

  Russian Traditional

Culture: Religion, Gender, and Customary Law,

  ed. Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer (Armonk,

NY and London: M. E. Sharpe, 1992), 37.

235. Theodore R. Weeks,

 Nation and the State in Late Imperial Russia

  (DeKalb: North-

ern Illinois University Press, 1996), 12; Kappeler,

  Rossiia-Mnogonatsionalnaia Imperiia,


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Lake Clark



?«, Island


Map 3.1  Native peoples of southern A laska

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Orthodoxy Becomes a Native Faith:

Dena'ina Encounters with Russian

Missionaries, 1849-1917

This is our only church here. And you are going to find that even young kids here say,

"I am a Russian Orthodox Christian." Everybody knows that Orthodox are here. Even

if they might not go to church, they are Russian Orthodox Christians. It has been our

church for many many years. And that is how we all talk.

—Karen Standifer, Dena'ina from the Tyonek village (1998)

A Dena'ina elder, Maxim Chickalusion, Sr., related that during the 1895-1896

winter natives from the Kustatan village tried all means in order to get rid of a

rampaging bear, but failed. Finally, their chief and his brother went into a Russian

Orthodox church, armed with the Bible, a cross, and rifle shells.

They cut holes in the shells. They put what we call holy smoke from incense in the shells.

Three shells to baptize and sprinkled holy water on it. They took the Bible and the cross and

went to that building where the bear was. They went around the buildings with the cross and

Bible. They shot the bear with the shell that had been baptized and had holy water on it.


In addition to the "Orthodox connection," the Kustatan Bear story also contains an

indigenous element. In reality, according to the legend, the bear was a shaman

from the Lake Clark D ena 'ina village, whose residents decided to take revenge on

the Kustatan people because of some stolen property. When the bear was killed

with the help of "holy shells," a Kustatan shaman woman performed a special

ritual with snow, tobacco, the bear skin, and fire to chase away the alien "bear

shaman" from the village. In conclusion, the elder who told the story uttered a

noteworthy remark, "If it weren't for her power and the cross and the Bible, that

bear might have cleaned out both Kustatan villages."


 According to Jim Kari, the

Dena'ina regard the story as one of the major episodes of their modern history.

This specific story offers a visible illustration of how the Dena'ina used Russian

Christianity for their own purposes.

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96  Shamanism and Christianity

In the documents left by Russian missionaries we find indirect evidence of the

indigenization of the Russian Orthodox religion by this native group. At the turn

of the century one Russian missionary optimistically claimed, "The Kenaitze [the

Russian name for the Dena'ina] should be credited with strong Orthodox beliefs

and no temptations will force them to change their affiliation." However, another

priest, who visited them during an inspection trip around the same time, observed,

"The closer I came to knowing the Kenaitze, the less Christianity and Orthodoxy I

found among them."


  The truth was that the De na'ina , who embraced Orthodoxy,

creatively adjusted Orthodox beliefs for their own needs and even adopted Rus-

sian church brotherhoods as part of their social and political structures.

There are no specific works on Dena'ina re lationships with the Orthodox church,

although a few general ethnographies on this Native American group do address

this topic. Joan Townsend in her work on Dena'ina of the Uiamna Lake was the

first scholar who used several available translations of Russian missionaries' re-


 In a comprehensive study of the Alaskan Athapaskan s, another anthropolo-

gist, Dzeniskevich, used a few documents from Russian archives that contain in-

formation on Dena'ina Orthodoxy. There is also a theological essay by Sister

Victoria Schnurer, who p rovides a general historical sketch of the Orthodox activi-

ties in the Kenai area. Yet, her work is seriously hindered by uncritical use of

missionary sources. The most recent anthropological research by Linda Ellana

and Andrew Balluta does m ake an attempt to explore the role Russian Christianity

played for Dena'ina ethnicity. These authors also draw an important conclusion,

which I share, that in some respects Orthodoxy cam e to be identified with D en a'in a

culture and as such it is no longer associated with an alien culture.


  This chapter

significantly expands this argument and provides additional materials to illustrate

under what circumstances and how Russian Christianity became an indigenous

Dena'ina religion.


In the wake of Vitus Bering's discovery of Alaska and its abundant fur resources,

the first Russians who reached the coastal Dena'ina, the promishlenniki  (fur trap-


  pursued the procurement of furs by hunting, trading, or engaging in direct

extortion. The colonization of Dena'ina country in the 1790s strongly resembled

that of Kamchatka, the land of the Koryak in easternmost Siberia. Here the same

patterns of Russian-native contacts were tinged initially with violence and hostil-





 groups fought each other and also attacked the natives.

Fur traders seized native furs and women, took hostages to guarantee their loyalty,

and forced them into indentured servitude. In 1787 one of such bands of thirty-

eight prom ishlenniki,  headed by Petr Kolomin, invaded Cook Inlet, the southern

outlet of the Dena'ina territory. After heavy fighting, the newcomers forced the

Dena 'ina and local Alutiiq groups to provide four hundred hostages as a guarantee

of peace.


  Furthermore, in the 1790s the Russians made a few somewhat unsuc-

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cessful attempts to penetrate the inland areas by setting up two additional trading

posts, one at Lake Iliamna and the other at Bristol Bay. This inland area was an

important source of beaver furs for the Russians both at the end of the eighteenth

and at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Yet, harassment of the natives by

the fur traders provoked D en a'in a to revolt. Thus, the Iliamna post staffed by fif-

teen Russians and Siberian natives (the Itelmens) was destroyed about 1800.


The Siberian governor general informed the authorities in St. Petersburg that in

1788-1789 the "Kenai natives" revolted as a result of constant Russian harass-

ment. He also reported that the Indians killed ten fur traders from the Shelikhov

company and four from the rival Lebedev-Lastochkin company.


  The nineteenth-

century historian of the Russian-American Company (RAC), Petr Tikhmenev,

stressed, "The dissentions among the Russians and persecutions of the natives

reached such an extreme that the infuriated Kenais destroyed the two outposts at

Iliamna and Tuiunuk [Tyonek], killing 20 Russians, and almost one hundred sub-

ject natives."


  Thus, in 1798, the Dena'ina besieged St. Nicholas Fort, founded

near present-day Kenai by a group of


  According to Tikhmenev,

the "Kenaitze" also attempted an attack on a trade outpost on Kodiak Island.


Despite such hostilities it is wrong to depict R ussian -D ena'ina relations as a state

of total war. Rather, by 1800 Dena'ina country represented a common frontier

with a kaleidoscope of interactions, which involved trade, peace, and occasional

military con flicts. The Russians and the Siberian C reoles traded with the D ena 'ina

for sea otters, beaver pelts, river otters, and m artens. The new comers also married

into Dena'ina society and remained with their native wives after the fur animal

population diminished in the Kenai area. '

Formally, the Den a'ina were declared subjects of the czar and w ere at first obliged

to pay tribute as Siberian natives did. Yet, after 1799, when the RA C received full

monopolistic control over Russian Ame rica, the status of the Den a'ina changed in

comparison to that of indigenous Siberians. At first, the RAC stopped taking hos-

tages and collecting tribute. Rivalry among competing groups of Russian fur trad-

ers and v iolence toward Alaskan indigenous peoples decreased as well. Although

the first chief administrator of Russian America, Alexander Baranov, reported for

1800 that in Kenai the natives w ere still "in a state of unrest and full of the spirit of



  after this time major clashes between the Dena'ina and Russians

stopped. Interestingly, indigenous oral histories more often mention conflicts with

neighboring Yupik and Alutiiq groups than wars with the Russians. It suggests

that, despite earlier hostilities, the newcomers were more interested in establishing

trade relations with the Indians than in fighting them.


  Natives provided furs ei-

ther as independent hunters connected to Russian trading posts through credit ob-

ligations or as RAC salaried trappers. Although those in coastal areas already worked

for the company on a regular basis, the Dena'ina primarily belonged to the cat-

egory of semi-independent hunters.

There is little information about De na'in a-R uss ian relations in the first two de-

cades of the nineteenth cen tury. It is also importan t that from 1821 the RAC char-

ter required that its employees receive formal permission from local natives to

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98  Shamanism and Christianity

establish trading posts, which helped stabilize relationships between newcomers

and indigenous peoples.


  In the coastal areas of Cook Inlet, especially after the

1844 smallpox epidemics, the RAC also attempted to establish a few agricultural

Creole (Russian-Aleut and Russian Alutiiq) settlements in Ninilchik, Kachemak

Bay, Kasilov, Kenai, Knik, Matanuska, and Rossiiskoe Selenie (Tyonek). With the

exception of the village of Ninilchik and of Kenai, all of these attempts failed.



Kenai, the administrative area of Cook Inlet, the Russians planted gardens and

also founded a small brickyard that employed local natives as part-tim e workers.


Formally, according to the renewed RAC charter of 1844 "Kenaitze" were singled

out into a category of settled natives, who were subjected to the Russian jurisdic-

tion, along with the Aleuts and Alutiiq.


  Yet, this categorization was largely a

wishful thinking. In reality, RAC administrative and political control never ex-

tended beyond Lower Cook Inlet. Therefore, Russian influence was weak in in-

land Dena'ina country, and the company had to treat this whole native group as

only partially dependent people. As a result, the RAC leadership described the

Dena'ina as "semi-dependent" people, who stood somewhere between the fully

dependent Aleut/Alutiiq and the independent Tlingit and the Athapaskans of inte-

rior Alaska. Moreover, Boris Okun, a historian of RAC, goes further, c laiming that

"the semi-independent Kenais were not dependent on the Company in any way."

He indicates that the Dena 'ina's degree of sovereignty was much greater and that

RAC actually defined the Dena'ina as "semi-independent" only for self-serving



Such a different interpretation of the Indians' status goes back to the distinct

types of Den a'ina-R ussian relationships in the coastal and inland regions. Coastal

people, especially in Kenai, were more closely connected with the Russians, lived

a more settled life, and became directly influenced by administrative and mission-

ary control than did their inland fellow tribesmen, who only experienced episodic

contacts with the newcomers, freely traded with them, and never paid tribute.

Throughout the first half of the nineteenth century inland Dena'ina (Figure 3.1)

further advanced their independent position by becoming cultural and trade middle-

men between the Russians and interior Athapaskan groups.


  Similar conditions

continued in the 1870s-1880s, after Alaska became an American territory.

Though a majority of the Dena'ina maintained basic hunting and fishing econo-

mies and social patterns, it cannot be said that they remained untouched by Rus-

sian con tact. As early as the 1830s, after the first known wave of epidemic d iseases

hit the area, the remaining Dena'ina settled around stores, chapels, and schools.


Also, with the intensification of the fur trade in the nineteenth century, even those

in the coastal areas left the permanent villages taking entire families in search of

"soft gold." Because of the depleted fur supply, the search for new trade routes in

inland Alaska becam e a priority under Baron Ferdinand P. W rang ell's administra-

tion (1830-1835). The Russians in Cook Inlet pressed the Dena'ina to journey

across the mountains in search of furs.


  At the end of the nineteenth century the

residents of only one Dena'ina village, Seldovia, still lived a relatively sedentary

life,  but all other communities regularly endured long hunting and fishing trips a

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Figure 3 .1. Den 'ina Indians of the Upper Cook Inlet, © 1890. Photograph courtesy of the Wetherley Collection, Alaska, and Polar

Regions Archives, Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks (866 -3 IN).

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  Shamanism and Christianity

few miles from their villages or even journeyed into the interior territories of an-

other Athapaskan tribe, the Athna. For example, K nik, a typical D en a'ina village,

by 1893 had only three permanent residential houses and one trading post. The

greater part of the population normally was scattered around, two, three, six, and

mo re miles from the village. In the 1880s, in another village, Tyonek, people stayed

only about four months in a year at hom e. The rest of the time they spent in forest

hunting and fishing.


  A Russian missionary to the Dena'ina, Ioann Bortnovsky

(Figure 3.2), noted that only in May and August did the Indians remain in their

permanent settlements; all other months "residents of all Kenai villages primarily

live as nom ads, especially in the northern part of the parish."


It is not known whether the Dena'ina food supply remained stable, but no evi-

dence shows that the Indians became overly dependent on Russian staple foods.

Ellanna and Balluta contend that, despite the decreasing of the caribou and beaver

popu lations in the inland country, the Indians controlled the nature and frequency

of contacts with the Russians and maintained their annual hunting and fishing

cycles. It is correct to define Ru ssian -Dena 'ina relationships as a dialogue of mu-

tually interested equa ls. Indian dependency on the Russian traders existed but con-

cerned "the staples of social status rather than the staples of life."


  In the course

of the trade relations,  qeshqa,  the traditional Dena'ina leadership, significantly

increased in their influence and prestige. A variety of European merchandise was

included in the system of regular potlatch redistribution, a tradition practiced to



 power among the kinfolk. Additionally,


 acted as middle-

men between Russian (later Am erican) and northern Athapaskan traders. Fall points

out that by the second half of the nineteenth century, Dena'ina society had sepa-

rated into two ranks:


 rich "strong" people, and




After the Alaska purchase, a competition among several American fur compa-

nies replaced the RAC m onopoly. These companies included the Alaska Comm er-

cial Company (ACC) and Western Fur and Trading Company (WFTC). By 1883

the ACC had built five trading posts in the Cook Inlet area.


  In order to win native

markets, trade companies paid inflated prices for furs and provided unlimited credit.

As a result, the Indians occupied a favorable position, since the prices constantly

increased. Assessments made in 1881 listed the most favorite items of the trade:

sugar, flour, hard bread, lead, percussion caps, rifles, tobacco, and calico.



all,  the time from 1867 to 1895, when natives and new comers maintained bal-

anced relationships based on trade, proved a stable period for the Dena'ina.


However, by the end of the century, fur resources in Dena'ina country dimin-

ished. In 1899 natives from the Knik village even complained to a Russian mis-

sionary that local agents for the Alaska Commercial Company refused them cred-

its and forced them to venture farther north into the mountains searching for the

fur anim als practically depleted in the coastal areas. In addition, the situation dete-

riorated as the construction of three fishing canneries endangered the traditional

fishing resource and caused severe famine among the Dena'ina.


  No less harmful

was the influx of white prospectors and cannery workers, who were responsible

for frequent forest fires and hampered traditional hunting.

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Orthodoxy Becomes a N ative Faith


• From 1883 a gradual decline of trade competition began. The WFTC wen t out

of business and the ACC became the sole fur trade market monopolist. By 1897

the decline of the fur trade and reorientation of the Alaskan economy toward com-

mercial fishery caused fur prices to decrease over 50 percent.


  The ACC decided

to recuperate the total amount of old Indian debts and in 1901 discontinued its

activities in the area. This resulted in a decline of buying power for inland D ena'ina.

Fall and Townsend believe that the price reductions dealt a severe blow to the

entire D ena 'ina economy and society.


  Economic subsistence and social structure

created during the fur trade era were undermined. N ative leadership, village chiefs,

and qeshqa  who accumulated large wealth and supported their prestige through

regular potlatch redistributions lost power; nor could the traditional shamans cope

with this new reality. Eventually, the Dena'ina faced the necessity of adapting to

different circumstances and readjusting their social and political structures in or-

der to persist in the new environment.

After the 1895 discoveries of gold at Bear and Palmer creeks, thousands of

miners flooded the northern Kenai Peninsula. Gold seekers ventured to the D ena'ina

country as early as 1876, and even during the Klondike gold rush mining never

stopped in this area. Prospectors who m oved to Kenai in great numbers destroyed

the equilibrium established between the natives and newcomers. The Dena'ina

villages of Tyonek and Knik became major supply and disembarking points for

prospectors. In 1906, 150 Indians and 40 whites lived in the village of Knik. A

decade later, in 1915, the number of Europeans in Knik had increased to 500



  Som e of these miners married Indian wom en and joined D ena'ina soci-

ety, and even after the boom ended they remained in Indian country working as

trappers and hunters, freighters, and sawmill operators. Ellanna and Balluta stress

that they acted as cultural brokers who introduced to Dena'ina society the values

of middle-class American culture.


  The fact that a greater part of present-day

Dena'ina are descendants of white miners and Indian women demonstrates the

profound influence of mining development on the Dena'ina.


In 1903, a railroad project cut through the Dena'ina country and reshaped the

traditional economic and ecological landscapes. Many Indians left their villages to

work on the railroad construction to supplement declining hunting and fishing

with wage labor, and gradually they integrated themselves into the market



  In the 1880s and the 1890s canneries had added to the decline of salmon

runs in Bristol Bay and the Indians could not rely on them anym ore. Also, to make

things worse, the caribou population started to decrease as a result of natural envi-

ronmental causes, and for natives it became "more difficult to harvest these spe-

cies in adequate numbers," a situation that led to the reliance on the commercial

food sources.


  Bortnovsky, who worked closely with the D ena 'ina from 1896 to

1907, pointed to the social and econom ic conditions in the Seldovia village as the

result of the afore-mentioned changes: "Seldovia people currently face a horrible

economic crisis. There is nothing promising for them in the future, because all

kinds of intruders devastated the country in a literal sense of the word."


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102  Shamanism and Christianity

Additionally, native populations found themselves in a state of legal limbo , when

their own and Russian social and political structures were undermined, while the

new ones were not yet established by the territorial government. Russian depar-

ture and American neglect of this "God forsaken place" left Alaska for several

decades without legitimate governmental representatives and localized law and

order. Residents of the Kenai village characteristically wrote in an 1895 petition to

District Judge Warren Truitt, "We have been deserted by the Russians and are not

accepted by the Americans under the protection of the law."


  From the 1870s to

1890s, law and order rem ained to a greater extent "an im provisation" of the ACC's

local agents. Moreover, the increasing population of miners and prospectors in the

Dena'ina territory worsened the situation. A good part of Alaskan history at the

turn of the century consisted of an unending chain of complaints made by both

natives and whites about lawlessness and requests for federal intervention.


Poverty and widespread alcohol consumption followed the rapid transformation

of Den a'ina society. The Indians had learned moonshining from the Russians, and

they also obtained liquor from miners and Chinese cannery workers at the end of

the nineteenth century. Even Christian ceremonies were occasionally accompa-

nied by regular drinking. For example, in Tyonek, natives were accustomed to a

shot of vodka on the day of communion. The missionary Alexander Iaroshevich

(Figure 3.3), who tried to replace this shot of vodka with a cup of tea, had to devote

a greater part of his tenure in 1893-1894 to fighting alcohol abuse among the

Dena'ina. He complained that "vodka is the curse of this people" and also ac-

knowledged that his campaign had little success:

Alcohol abuse is widespread in this village [Seldovia] beyond  belief.  I used everything

trying to make Seldovians stop drinking vodka, but reached only partial success. I was only

able to convince them to give me a promise to drink vodka with measure. I view this prom-

ise only as the beginning, and hope that Our Lord himself will make them aware of the

miserable conditions they found themselves in because of vodka. On the whole, in the

Kenai parish drunkenness reached unbelievable proportions. I made it my goal to erase

from the Kenaitze life this evil that hinders their well being. When they drink, the Kenaitze

know neither measure nor time and because of this, the population of the Kenai parish

decreases from year to year.


Although Iaroshevich claimed that in 1894 in such Dena'ina villages as Tyonek,

Susitna, Knik, and Kustatan alcohol abuse had completely ended, in 1898

Archimandrite Anatolii still indicated that "the major vice raging in the Kenai

Peninsula is drunkenness."


  The most notorious was Seldovia, which was referred

as a "drunk village." According to Bortnovsky, "Everybody here drinks, not only

men but women and even children." He mentioned particularly that Am erican m iners

and traders contributed much to the spread of this habit.


The European epidemic diseases also took a toll on the D ena 'ina p opulation. An

1884 influenza outbreak that claimed the lives of many children up to two years of

age proved especially severe. In 1895 Vladimir Modestov described the conse-

quences of smallpox and cholera epidemics among the inland Dena'ina: "In the

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v̂ k̂ -"

 W \



Figure 3.2. Ioann Bortnovsky, a missionary to

the Dena'ina from 1896 to 1907. Photograph

courtesy of the M. Z. Vinokouroff Co llection,

Alaska State Library Historical Collections

(#PCA 243-93 ).

Figure 3.3. Alexander Iaroshevich, a missionary to

the Dena'ina from 1893 to 1895. Photograph cour-

tesy of the M. Z. Vinokouroff Collection, Alaska State

Library Historical Collections (#PCA 243-88).

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104   Shamanism and Christianity

present time there are only 138 Kenaitze of both sexes alive, whereas ten or eigh-

teen years ago their number reached 600-800 people"


  In 1901-1902 a measles

epidemic additionally depleted all native settlements. These-devastations also re-

sulted in large population movements.

Some Dena'ina left old villages, formed new ones, or moved to larger settle-

ments. During his 1880 visit to the Den a'ina of the Mu lchatna area the missionary

Vasilii Shishkin drew a grim picture of devastation produced by epidemics:

Last fall in this village nine people died from an epidemic that looks like a scarlet fever.

Moreover, during my visit their toion, Jacob Kakilishtukta, also died and I performed a

funeral service for him. Until the present day, according to our confessional rosters there

were 144 residents in Mulchatna, but later a large part of them died out or moved out

somewhere, I do not know where. So that, according to the new rosters, it turned out that

the village has only twenty-seven people of both sexes.


The w hole population of the inland D ena 'ina dropped from 324 persons (1878)


to 127 by 1915. Dena'ina of the Kijik village who suffered a few epidemics also

came to the conclusion that the ground where their village stood had been poi-

soned and apparently on both a missionary's and their elders' advise they aban-

doned the old site in 1901 and founded a new settlement, Nondalton, close to the

trading post on Iliamna Lake and the canneries of Bristol Bay.


  In 1918 the sec-

ond wave of the influenza epidem ic killed many Den a'ina elders.


 Fall stresses, in

particular, "by 1918, when the Alaska railroad pushed through the Cook In let area

and an influenza epidemic hit the Upper Inlet, the Tanaina [Dena'ina] had become

a disadvantaged minority in one of Alask a's m ost dynamic regions."


By the turn of the century a num ber of small depopulated villages located around

Kenai were in the process of disintegration. Later, in 1921, the last missionary to

the Dena'ina appointed from Russia, Pavel Shadura, wrote that in four major

Dena'ina villages many residents died, while others moved to nearby booming

towns. According to his information, the Indians "die like flies" from the flu and

measles. "If it goes like this," Shadura conc luded, "the priest will have to leave the

parish." Twice in his account he stressed that the population of the Kenai parish

had decreased by



Demographic changes accompanied by a large number of mixed marriages al-

tered matrilineal kinship organization, and by the early twentieth century single-

family units replaced kin-related extended entities.


  No "pure " D ena'ina villages

remained because of the intermarriages and population fluctuations that started

with the Russian presence and increased during the American period. It appears

that at this time, a typical Dena'ina village comprised full-bloods and Creoles of

both Russian-Aleut/Alutiiq and Russian-Aleut/Alutiiq-Dena'ina origin. To these

people there should be added American miners and merchants who also settled

down in the Dena'ina villages at the turn of the century. Incidentally, missionary

reports made frequent references to the mixed population composition of the

Dena'ina settlements. For instance, in 1889 Shishkin reported that on St. Nicholas

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Orthodoxy Becomes a N ative Faith


Day he gave com mu nion to the entire Iliamna village, num bering fifty-three

Dena'ina and a few Creole families with infants. In his 1895 roster of the residents

of the same village another missionary, Modestov, provided more specific infor-

mation, counting twenty-four Creole people and fifty-two Dena'ina Indians.


On the whole, until the second half of the nineteenth century Dena'ina were

able to maintain balanced reciprocal relationships with the newcomers. This situ-

ation changed between the 1890s and the 1920s, the crucial period of Dena'ina

history, as they faced the challenges to them by external forces and had to survive

in an unfamiliar environment. This period, however, cannot be treated as a chain

of "grim" events that brought only negative consequences for Dena'ina culture

and made them dissolve into American society. On the contrary, the natives be-

came involved in a creative dialogue with Euroamericans by making purposeful

decisions to build a native culture by reexamining their traditional order in the

light of the new values brought by newco mers. In trying to capture the essence of

this reexamination the anthropologists Alan B oras and Donita Peter introduce the

metaphor of the "Dena'ina enlightenment" in order to stress the active role of the

natives in shaping their new culture and identity.



It appears that one aspect of this "native enlightenm ent" was adjustment of Or-

thodox Christianity to Den a'ina tradition. Part of the explanation why the Ind ians

adjusted themselves to the changing conditions with relative speed apparently lies

in certain Athapaskan general cultural characteristics. James VanStone and Joan

Townsend noted that the Athapaskans demonstrated ex treme adaptability, respected

individual initiative and lacked excessive social control over the community's

members. Athapaskans, on the whole, and the Dena'ina in particular readily inte-

grated alien elements into their cultures.


  The Indian responses to the changes of

the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries confirm this assessment. The social and

economic transformation the natives faced at the turn of the century allowed them

to turn to certain elements of Russian Christianity, which helped them cope with

the changes.

Their increased interest in O rthodox ways even drove one author to the exagger-

ated conclusion that the Kenai natives "clung fondly to the Russian ways they had

adopted, learning the Russian language and entertaining no small interest in the

affairs of the Em pire that lay across the Bering Sea."


 Such assessments downplay

a simple fact, that Orthodoxy 's being integrated into Den a'ina society constituted

neither a superficial imposition on "traditional" beliefs nor a carbon copy of Rus-

sian Christianity. It rather became a native church or popular Indian Orthodoxy,

within which Christian and "shamanistic" values were merged to the point that

they became inseparable.

Evidence collected in this chapter suggests that the natives used the Russian

church as an instrument for survival to cope with the Euroamerican society that

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106  Sham anism and Christianity

was being established in their territories. Ellanna and Balluta, authors of the most

recent Dena'ina ethnohistory, draw attention to the fact that the Russian church

"served as a rallying point for more conservative, tradition-oriented local resi-

dents." This contention is strongly reminiscent of Kan's earlier assumption that

among another native Am erican group, the Tlingit, more conservative individuals

pressured by Protestant missionaries turned instead to Russian Orthodoxy as a

more convenient niche for survival of.traditional customs.


  I would like to expand

these observations and suggest that in the Dena'ina case not only conservative

elements, but the entire population gradually embraced and reinterpreted Ortho-

doxy. The latter was turned into a native church not only for spiritual purposes, but

also for the purposes of maintaining social integrity and local self-government.

Why was it Orthodox Christianity and not some other denomination that was

used as a building block to construct a new Dena'ina identity? A first probable

explanation that lies on the surface is that Orthodoxy was the Christian church

most familiar to the Indians. Second, it seems that to the Den a'ina , Russian O rtho-

doxy with its ancient ceremonialism stood as a structure both "European" and

"traditiona l" enough to help build a bridge of continuity between the "o ld" times,

prior to the 1867 Alaska purchase, and "ne w" American society. Yet, it should be

noted that before the 1880s, Russian Orthodoxy exercised little influence over the

Dena'ina. Although the Orthodox had worked among these Indians since the end

of the eighteenth century, established the Kenai mission in 1849,


  and remained

for a long time the only C hristian missionaries in the region, docum ents up to this

time yield evidence of minimal church presence in the area. By contrast, an up-

surge of religious activities among the D ena 'ina occurred between the 1890s and

the 1920s.

Apparently, growth of native interest in Russian Christianity at the end of the

nineteenth century was also associated with epidemic diseases. No attentive ob-

server can ignore the fact that the two major epidem ics in De na 'ina history corre-

lated with the Indians' increasing interest in seeking out Orthodoxy. Incidentally,

the establishment of the first Orthodox mission among the Dena'ina in 1849 fol-

lowed the disastrous smallpox epidemic of 1836-1840, when the Dena'ina popu-

lation declined by 50 percent.


  The second period of active missionary work started

at the turn of the 1890s and followed the epidemics of 1883-1884. It is hard to

avoid generalizations that these two examples suggest that the Indians (among

other goals) decided to use the "Russian medicine" for the spiritual purpose of

powerful and collective treatment.

Abbot Nicholas (Nikolai) Militov became the first priest to conduct regular work

(18 45 -18 67) am ong the De na'ina . As early as 1845, he came to the Kenai village

and baptized local Indians who had been previously converted by a layman. In

September 1849, M ilitov rebuilt the existing chapel into a perman ent church and

stayed in this area for the next twenty-five years.


  Unlike later Kenai missionar-

ies, Militov operated not only among Lower Inlet Dena 'ina, but also among inland

groups (Iliamna, M ulchatna, and Kijik). About 1850 he was even able to convert

fourteen Ahtna Indians, "Kenaitzes"' northern neighbors, who lived very far from

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Orthodoxy Becomes a Native F aith  107

Russian settlements and w ere considered independent.


 Yet, it appears that M ilitov 's

major activities were concentrated in the Kenai area, the place of his residency.

Later on, inland Dena'ina along with Yupik were separated into the Nushagak

parish and H iermonk Theoph ilus becam e the first m issionary to begin regular ac-

tivities in this region. His parish records for 1857 show that there were 143 Dena'ina

in the Nushagak area, residents of Kijik, Iliamna, and Mulchatna villages. Still,

Theophilus stressed that geographically it was very hard for him to reach these

Indians. Thus, in 1858 he was able to confess and give commu nion to 144 Indians .

However, in 1860, 1862, and 1867 the missionary did not visit the villages men-

tioned at all and no inland Dena'ina partook in sacraments.


  It appears that per-

manent presence of m issionaries in this region was established only in the 1870s.

Conversely, in the Lower Cook Inlet the activities of Abbot N icholas were m uch

more noticeable. Here he lived amid the Dena'ina and contacted them on a daily


  To make his Orthodox message more effective, abbot organized a small

parochial school. Along with his assistant he vaccinated hundreds of natives for

smallpox in the 1860s and treated injuries and wounds. These vaccination cam-

paigns deeply affected local Indians. In his 1860s diaries and reports Militov re-

ferred to himself and his deacon as "healers of the natives." This medical help

paved the road for a dialogue between the Indians and the missionary. In fact, later

on, after the first successful results of the vaccination, when they heard about a

coming smallpox epidemic, Dena'ina themselves started to approach the mission-

ary asking for treatment and evidently connecting healing with the power of Or-

thodoxy. One w oman did not w ant to die unless the missionary sent her a shirt and

a cross to cover her in the coffin.


  It seems that Abbot Nicholas realized that the

De na'ina considered him a great shaman in possession of strong medicine. Militov

used this opportunity to inculcate Russian Orthodoxy among the natives. Refer-

ring to his successful medical performances he underscored that "their vivid re-

sults had instructive influence on the Kenaitze."


  In 1863 he made the following

self-serving entry in his jou rna l: "They [the Indians] consider m e a superman."


Abb ot Nicholas did not dismiss gifts as one of the ways to win D ena'ina hearts.

Thus in 1849 he reported to Bishop Veniaminov:

Without giving too much credit to myself, I still feel obliged to mention that I dressed many

of the local poor in clean white clothing to ensure that Our Lord gives me strength to

conduct services in this temple. As a matter of fact, I practice this good Russian tradition of

generosity during all major feasts right before or on the eve of the liturgy. Though mod-

estly, I nevertheless dress and feed natives several times a year.


Thus, in 1859 at St. Nicholas Day and Christmas Nicholas fed all common

"Kenaizte" who visited the church fish soup, whereas their headmen were served

tea and pies.


 T he missionary also claimed that during his tenure "heathen super-

stitions" of Dena'ina disappeared. On the whole, Militov stated that he converted

four hundred natives, but the effect of these conversions rem ained d ubious. On the

one hand, the missionary journals provide examples of the D ena 'ina's pious be-

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108  Shamanism and Christianity

havior such as reverence toward crosses and regular mass participation in Ortho-

dox feasts.

On the other hand, from the same accounts it may be assumed that despite vig-

orous evangelization activities Orthodoxy coexisted with indigenous shamanism

in a syncretic form. Thus, at the turn of the 1860s, despite total conversion of the

Lower Inlet Dena'ina, Nicholas still had to confront shamans among them. In

1859 he repeatedly m ade two "die-hard shamans" kneel down in the Kenai church

as a punishmen t, and these medicine men supposedly promised not to sham anize

anymore. Next year again in another village, Kustatan, he persistently tried to

convince a medicine man to quit his "disgusting vocation," but Nicholas does not

inform us of what came of it.


  At the end of 1863 Nicholas openly admitted the

coexistence of Orthodoxy and shamanism:

According to my instructions, almost all Kenaitze make it sure that before going to hunting

expeditions and after completing them, they come to church and ask for molebens [short

church services]. They also approach me to serve molebens on the occasion of a birthday or

to sing a funeral service for their deceased relatives. However, they still do not leave their

heathen customs. Sometimes one can hear among the young Kenaitze their singing or some

wild roaring and sounds of dancing. Yet, they try do it in such a way that I will not find out

about this. I do not leave such incidents without my reprimands.


As a matter of fact, in 1860 Bishop Petr described the character of the D ena 'ina

affiliation with Orthodoxy thus: "They are of a rather gentle nature, obed ient and

cross themselves when they are persuaded that it is necessary, but generally they

are indifferent to religion."


  Nevertheless, it seems that the Indians w ere aware of

the general church doctrines and ostensibly accepted Christianity, while still practic-

ing activities based on traditional beliefs.

After the Alaska purchase by the United States in 1867, the Russian governm ent

reduced support for the Orthodox church in the region and missionary activities

temporarily subsided. Until 1880 the Kenai area was left without a priest and all

services were performed by Creole readers educated by Militov. However, during

the 1880s, when the Russian government renewed its funding to the mission, Or-

thodoxy in Alaska increased its activities. As a result, in 1881 the Russian church

sent Nikita Marchenkov (Hiermonk Nikita) to Kenai, where he stayed until 1887.

Although Hiermonk Nikita worked fervently to secure the Dena'ina for the Rus-

sian church, Vladimir Donskoi, the dean of Alaska clergy, did not give him much

credit and stressed that Nikita's missionary work did not produce any significant

results. During Marchenkov's entire stay this missionary was able to convert only

two Ahtna Indians (Copper, or

 M ednovtsy

  in Russian).


In reality, Nikita's conversion report indicated that the natives he baptized could

be better described as returned to Orthodoxy rather than newly acquired souls.

During his 188 1-188 2 trip, he also wrote that among the Dena 'ina "superstitions

and crude paganist customs characteristic of the semi-savage people still exist ev-

eryw here." In 1883 he complained that in most Dena'ina villages people "switched

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Orthodoxy Becomes a N ative Faith  109

from the Christian religion to their former customs," and that he had to reconvert



  Nikita reported to his superiors, "In each village, especially in the distant

ones, where there were no Russian Creoles, I found one, two or even three sha-

mans, who keep people so firmly in their grips and who are trusted so much that

one even cannot imagine the extent of it. One should see it."


He also complained that even some Creoles became addicted to shamanism,

more specifically that "the Creoles who settled in the native communities turned

savage and adopted the native habits. Such for instance is the chief of Chkituk

village who forgot how to speak Russian. Besides, the Creoles, to my regret, are

often the first to set bad examples for the semi-savage people."


 A s a result, ac-

cording to Nikita, the entire work of his mission was devoted in that time to "cor-

rection of native manners and their erratic custom s."


  In fact, what could be found

in the settlements visited by this missionary was an intimate coexistence of native

rituals and Christianity that gradually became incorporated into the village tradi-

tion. An agent of the ACC in Tyonek, Vasilii Stafeev, who left the most compre-

hensive record of Dena'ina village life between 1884 and 1888, described the

same people visited by Nikita as participants in both potlatch cerem onies and Or-

thodox feasts along w ith C hristmas carols.


In the meantime, another missionary, Shishkin, worked to secure the inland

D ena 'ina for the Orthodox church. In 1878 Shishkin reported that all De na'in a of

this area were converted except "twenty-eight souls" in the Mulchatna area, who

two years later finally agreed to accept baptism.


  Still, Deacon Krilianovski was

not optimistic about the general state of Dena'ina Christianization. In 1880 he

noted that more that one-third of the baptized Kenaitze "remained in the grips of

Shamanism and were ignorant of Orthodoxy."


At the same time, despite the persistence of shamanism, in the 1870s and 1880s

there existed a large group of D ena' ina and Creoles in the coastal areas who appar-

ently started to treat Orthodoxy as their own religion. An 1878 petition by the

"residents of all Kenai G u l f indicates that the Indians played an important role in

the church life in the Cook Inlet. In this petition Kenai area people com plained that

they had not had a priest since 1867 and asked Orthodox ecclesiastical authorities

to send them one. More im portant, the petition indicated that 105 Creoles and 746

"Kenaitze" signed the document, including chiefs of Tyonek and two Knik vil-


 although a num ber of the neighboring Alutiiq m ost probably also signed the



  Moreover, Hiermonk Nikita, who lamented the weak Dena'ina

Christianization, still felt obliged to stress that "shamanism which was about to

spread around villages now subsided and does not exist openly."


  This evidence

suggests that in the Dena'ina worldview at this time shamanism and Christianity

started to evolve into one whole system of popular Orthodoxy. The records of

Iaroshevich, who worked among the Dena'ina in the beginning of the 1890s, also

point to such merging. In 1893 this missionary indicated that he had to reprimand

two Dena'ina medicine men who were simultaneously local healers and practic-

ing Orthodox.


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  Sham anism and Christianity

Zealous Nikolai Mitropolsky (1888-1892), who succeeded Marchenkov, suf-

fering from alcohol-related problems, expanded the missionary work and made

advances into the northern part of Dena'ina country, specifically to Knik village,

where he wintered in 1888. Apart from the D ena 'ina, he w as able to "catc h" m ore

than one hundred souls of the Athna Indians, who had proved uncooperative to

priests before.


  It was not only the attempts to keep "savages" away from "sha-

manistic temptatio ns" that drove the Russian church to increase its activities at this

time, but also the fact that after 1867 Orthodoxy lost its monopoly over Alaska and

had to com pete with other European denom inations. Alaska was considered a valu-

able battleground, and Moravian and Presbyterian missions becam e the most seri-

ous challenge to Russian Orthodoxy, since they took seriously the issues of eco-

nomic and social improvement of the liative communities. In 1891 the priest

Vladimir Donskoi alerted Innokentii, one of the chiefs of the Alaskan Orthodox

church, that "now the time has already come not to convert the Indians, but to keep

them loyal to our church."


Trying to entrench themselves in native society, Russian priests attempted to

play the role of protectors from "harmful" and "corrupt" settlers and American

civilization in particular. Mitropolsky's successor, Iaroshevich, sided with the In-

dians w hen their interests clashed with those of the ACC. His Kenai church even

became a "bastion of resistance" against the company's storekeeper Alec Rayan,

who had tried im posing his "Wild West" justice in the Kenai area by harassing and

intimidating the natives. Vladimir Donskoi, w ho w ent to Kenai to investigate this

conflict, stated that "the agents of the Alaska Commercial Company, profiting

from the absence of any kind of government in Kenai deal with a free hand, not

only with the natives, but with the white people, who take the liberty of not com -

plying with their unlawful desires."


 When Dena'ina and local Creoles asked the

Russian church to help them compose a petition to District Judge Truitt about

Ryan's behavior, Orthodox missionaries quickly responded. For this reason, the

native leaders and residents used the Kenai mission not only to strengthen their

identity, but also to fill the power vacuum caused by the demise of indigenous

leadership and the lack of official law and order.

In the 1870s-1890s, Dena'ina communities and the mission collaborated in build-

ing chapels (prayer h ouses). It was expected that after the construction was com-

plete, natives would maintain and improve thèse structures themselves. Thus, by

1889 with the help of Mitropolsky the Den a'ina built St. Nicholas chapel in Knik.


A Bortnovsky report describes the role the community played in controlling this

chapel. When local American traders in Knik learned about the decision by the

Dena'ina to move St. Nicholas chapel to the more convenient location of New

Knik (Eklutna) (Figure 3.4), they asked Bortnovsky to prevent this and even of-

fered financial support for the old chapel. The Indians, however, made all arrange-

ments to move the church without notifying the priest. The Am erican merchants'

reaction dem onstrates that dismantling the old chapel w ould mean that the entire

village population would also have to move, and the traders would need to replace

their stores.


  Bortnovsky also reported that in 1901 when he had asked the New

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Orthodoxy Becomes a Native Faith


Knik Indians to donate to the improvem ent of a chapel, the natives again becam e

very responsive and even added some extra money.


  However, in the same year

Seldovians, whose chapel also needed repairs, did not agree to donate money,

most probably because of their financial difficulties. Bortnovsky threatened that

he would not visit Seldovia anymore because its residents acted "as misbehaving

children who do not listen to the adv ice of their father.'* Only after this reprimand

did they agree to rebuild the chapel.


In Iliamna, an inland Dena'ina village, a prayer house was constructed in 1877

"by residents themselves," who maintained the building and in 1907 even reno-

vated it.


  In the village of Tyonek, where a chapel existed from around 1882,

natives decided in 1892 to rebuild it at their own expense. In one of his letters

Iaroshevich reported that a chapel in Kustatan village built in 1892 was started as

a totally native initiative, and that "residents of the village conducted all work

upon their own inspiration."


  D ena'ina of the Kijik v illage constructed their chapel

in 1889.


  Incidentally, this was the time of the severe influenza epidem ic, which

killed many residents of this village. The styles of these buildings combined an-

cient Orthodox elements and the forms brought from eastern Siberia. Thus, the

Kijik church was a six-sided structure with the east side of sanctuary having three

sides. The latter form goes back to ancient Christian baptismal chapels of the pre-

Byzantine era. The altar faced east, symbolizing the true faith that comes from the

rising sun.


On the whole, by the turn of the twentieth century all major Dena'ina villages

had set up nine chapels headed by Dena'ina or Creole churchwardens, readers,

and song leaders, w ho received rudimentary religious training. It also appears that

natives attempted to turn these chapels into centers of Dena'ina religious and so-

cial life. Along with trade stations the prayer houses attracted those Indians who

survived epidem ics and econom ic disruptions. About Chkituk, one of the depopu-

lated villages struck by influenza and haunted by famine, H iermonk A natolii wrote

in 1896 that its inhabitants were planning to "move to Kenai, closer to the church



 Also, in 1902 Trefon, a


 of the village Telaquana, decided to move

close to Iliamna, the larger Den a'ina v illage, because it had the chapel and a school,

which Telaquana did not have.


 As a characteristic feature of D ena 'ina religious

life the priest Modestov noted "special love" of Dena'ina for their chapels, par-

ticularly for their maintaining and decorating.


  We also learn from missionary

reports that by the turn of the century virtually all residents of the Dena'ina vil-

lages visited by priests took part in church services. For example, Bortnovsky

related that the entire population of the Tyonek village gathered for his service in

the local cha pel. To keep track of Orthodox feast days residents of this village as

well as Susitna and Knik kept "improvised wooden calendars" carved on boards

that helped illiterate Indian s. M oreover, in 1892 Tyonek Indians asked M itropolsky

to send them one or two readers, but he could not promise any beca use of the lack

of resources.


In light of this evidence, it is hard to agree with Dzeniskevich's statement that

the Athapaskans "demonstrated complete lack of interest in Christian sermons,"

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112  Shamanism and Christianity

though they did not refuse to accept baptism. Furthermore, the evidence does not

support her other argument, that Athapaskan society was not ready to accept Chris-

tianity because socially and economically the Indians were not advanced enough

for such sophisticated religion.




The adjustments of Orthodox mutual aid societies or brotherhoods to the Indian

social and political system demonstrate that the Dena'ina were ready to accept

Christianity, but on their own terms. In North America Orthodox brotherhoods

had appeared since the second half of the nineteenth century with the goal of

increasing the prestige and social role of Orthodoxy among Slavic immigrants.

With regard to the native groups in Alaska, these mutual aid societies pursued not

only economic and social goals, but also missionary purposes.


  In October 1893,

when the priest Iaroshevich and local Creoles proposed the creation of a native

Orthodox brotherhood the Indians responded favorably but did not really under-

stand what it was all about. Yet, in 1894-1895 the membership of the newly cre-

ated society named after the feast day of Protection by the Most Holy Lady

Theotokes (Virgin M ary) quickly grew from 14 to 132 persons.


 It seems that the

Russian church and the Dena'ina pursued their own goals. The missionaries at-

tempted to create an umbrella organization for more effective control of the Dena'ina

and secure them for the Russian church through social work.

It was clear that the Dena'ina enjoyed the economic and social benefits of the

society and its communal orientation, along with the elaborate ceremonialism of

the brotherhood's meetings. Natives, however, did not adopt to the offered struc-

ture passively. Although the Indians responded favorably to the mutual aid aspects

of the brotherhoods' work, at the same time, they demonstrated a selective ap-

proach to the ideological and administrative structures the missionaries offered.

For example, the Dena'ina resisted Iaroshevich's efforts to unite all Cook Inlet

communities into a single society, with the Kenai village serving as headquarters.

Treating a centralized system as alien to their tradition, they were reluctant to

support an organization outside their individual villages. Iaroshevich, who barely

understood the decentralized social organization of Dena'ina society, desperately

attempted to persuade the natives to pay dues. Brotherhood members at Susitna

openly refused to pay, saying, "We do not know w hat you do there with our money

and w e do not see any use for us." The Indians of the Knik village a lso refused to

take part in the work of the Kenai brotherhood.


Explaining their position, the natives insisted on the creation of independent

local brotherhoods, which would reflect their traditional political and social struc-


  Only after the missionary fully agreed with this did the Indians accept the

mutual aid societies. As a result, five native brotherhoods instead of only one were

created: Kenai Holy Protection Brotherhood ( 1893), Seldovia St. Theodosius Broth-

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Orthodoxy Becomes a Native Faith  113

erhood (1896), Knik St. Sergius Brotherhood (1896), Susitna St. Metrophanes

Brotherhood (1896), and Tyonek St. Innokenti i Brotherhood (1897). In

Alexandrovsk and Ninilchik villages two other brotherhoods, formally part of the

Kenai mission, united the Aleuts and Alutiiq and Creoles." My discussion will

focus on the Kenai Brotherhood because it was the most active and well-covered

by documentary materials.

Missionaries defined the formal goals of the Kenai Brotherhood as follows: (1)

to care for the parochial school in K enai, (2) to care for the church building, (3) to

help the poor in the parish, (4) to take care of the church cemetery.


  Because the

Orthodox church did not restrict membership to a specific ethnic group, in the

Kenai Brotherhood besides the Dena'ina there were Russians and Creoles (occu-

pying leadership positions), Aleuts and Alutiiq, and even some American trad-



  Although Orthodoxy considered the Americans potential carriers of the

"Protestant heresy /' when the missionaries inquired about their admission as broth-

erhood members, they always received favorable responses from higher church



  The Kenai Holy Protection Brotherhood gained respect and recogni-

tion among the natives through various communal activities that benefited both

members and nonmembers. For example, this society provided regular help for

the sick and the poor, whether native or white. In 1895, it also mobilized resources

to fight against a severe famine in Kustatan, a village on the opposite shore of

Cook Inlet.


 As a result, unlike other Dena'ina villages, the residents of Kustatan

became the only ones who did not split from the Kenai Brotherhood. The society

spread its activities to all spheres of the Dena'ina life in the Kenai area. Its mem-

bers planted potato fields, kept schools, improved Orthodox cemeteries, and even

set up a library and drugstore.


  To challenge high prices in the local ACC general

store, members set up their own "brotherhood grocery" with reduced prices to

force the company to do likewise.


  Not surprisingly, the ACC's local agent ob-

structed the work of the Russian church in Kenai and even attempted in 1897 to

prevent the building of a new church.

At first, brotherhoods also concentrated on fighting the excessive drinking of

local natives and whites. It was mentioned earlier that alcohol abuse was a prob-

lem on the northern frontier and in the Kenai area particularly. In November 1905

a U.S. federal marshal appealed to the Kenai Brotherhood to battle alcoholism as

soon as possible.


  In the beginning of the present century the social drive for

general temperance, both in Russia and in the United States, convinced the Ortho-

dox church to treat this social problem separately from other. To relieve brother-

hoods of temperance activities the church founded special temperance societies.

One of them, St. Nicholas Temperance Society, was established in Kenai in 1906.

The new organization copied the structure of existing brotherhoods.


  It is also

interesting that in contrast to the brotherhoods, the idea of a united temperance

society with headquarters in Kenai was accepted by the Indians, who set up local

branches in their settlements. It might have been a growing realization that alcohol

abuse was a common problem that should be treated by all villages together. Those

who became its members took an oath not to drink for one year. They could then

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  Shamanism and Christianity

renew the oath the following year or take it for their w hole life. In Seldov ia, which

was reported as the most addictive to alcohol, forty-three Indians and Creoles even-

tually joined the St. Nicholas Society and eleven members took the oath never to

drink again.


In addition to the regular meetings filled with prayers and hymns, the temper-

ance society arranged collective readings of religious literature translated from

Russian to Dena'ina. A Creole translator, Aleksei Pamfilov, usually interpreted the



 Members of the Kenai Brotherhood and the St. Nicholas Society had

their own insignia, banne rs, and "brotherhood bad ges" as well as separate places

at village cemeteries. Missionaries insistently cultivated a corporate spirit among

members by stipulating a system of various penalties and awards. Despite the ob-

vious pro-Orthodox bias of missionary'accounts, it was clear that the brother-

hoods and the temperance society wielded significant influence on native mem-

bers.  Many Dena'ina who were excluded for various violations of the Kenai

Brotherhood's by-laws (drinking, polygamy, not paying dues, and so on) often

asked to be readmitted. Russian priests publicized the most active members as

village leaders, "mo del" residents, and Christians and regularly recom mended them

for various religious and even secular positions.

Normally, village leadership, controlled both by the church and by the natives

themselves, centered on three positions:

  toion, zakazchik,

  and churchwarden. At

the second half of the nineteenth century by virtue of its ethnic origin in some

Dena'ina villages the leadership was composed of the Dena'ina and Creoles; in

others all leaders were full-blood Dena'ina. For exam ple, in 1893 in the village of

Seldovia native leadership included a Creole (Russian-Alutiiq)  toion,  Zakhar

(Zackar) Berestov; a Dena'ina


 Nikolai Baiu; and a churchwarden, the

Creole Zakhar (Zackar) Balashov. In Tyonek all positions were occupied by

Dena ' ina : Kons tan t in Kundukul iash in , who was a  toion,  and Petr

Unikhliachuliakhlian, who combined positions of


  and churchwarden.

As in Tyonek, in Kustatan, Susitna, and Knik leadership was similarly represented

by full-blood Dena'ina.

11 0

Toion (village chief) w as the Russian word for native leaders, which had origi-

nated in Siberia.  Zakazchik  (also a Russian w ord) was a type of local unofficial

marshal who supervised social and economic activities and church services.

Churchw ardens usually m aintained chapel bu ildings, sold candles, and occasion-

ally acted as readers. W hereas the definition of toion does not cause disagreements

among scholars, the same is not true for zakazchik. Fall writes that this position as

introduced by the Russians meant "se cond" or "hunting



 However, care-

ful investigation of missionary documents only partially supports Fall's explana-

tion, especially as related to Den a'ina life of the end of the nineteenth century. No

evidence supports his other contention that the


 were sons of the


Ellanna and Balluta provide a more correct definition of  zakazchik  as a "church

leader" and "second



It appears that the Dena'ina used  toions, zakazchik, churchwardens, and broth-

erhood structures for communal self-government but still did not eliminate tradi-

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Orthodoxy Becomes a N ative F aith  115

tiônal headmen. Rather, Orthodox structures reinforced indigenous leadership.

Ellanna and Balluta write, "In fact, the inclusion of caring for the church and

ensuring attendance as duties of the chief and second chief comformed to the

traditional spiritual expectations of the


 within a different institutional frame-



 As a rule, in addition to their secular duties, Den a'ina




frequently shared with the churchwarden responsibilities for maintaining a local

chapel and supervising chapel attendance. Iaroshevich informed his superior,

Vladimir Donskoi, that in each "Kenaitze" village (Knik, Tyonek, Susitna, and

Kustatan), the entire local leadersh ip, toions, zakazchiks, and churchwardens, were

in charge of chapel maintenan ce and religious life. This suggests that, despite their

various functions, Dena'ina headmen were actively involved in chapel life. More

specifically, they divided their functions as follows: the


 was responsible for

chapel money; the


  supervised economic activities of the village, col-

lected church dues, and gave them to the


 and the churchw arden maintained

the building, cleaned it, and was also responsible for selling church candles. It

should be pointed out that some  toions, zakazchiks,  and churchwardens simulta-

neously acted as church readers.


  For example, the


  of the Old Nondalton

village, Zackar Evanoff,  who treated Orthodoxy as an indigenous religion, en-

couraged p eople to attend chapel. In addition, D ena 'ina oral history indicates that

several powerful shamans and  qeshqas  became the most active and devout lay

readers for local Orthodoxy. Docum ents of the ACC also show that during the first

four decades of the Am erican presence the previous Russian system of leadership

survived as a local native institution.


Missionary documents and independent observations indicate that the heredi-

tary principle for nominating Dena'ina leaders gave way to an election process.

Some information about the procedure of these elections also exists. Hanna B reece,

who worked as a schoolteacher in Nondalton during 1910-1911, stressed that a

"chief had not inherited his position, but was elected by his people and then they

all stand by him."


  Anthropological evidence supports this observation. Fall ar-

gues that as kin organization weakened, selection of leadership positions started

following Western models. He also emphasizes that the political effectiveness of



 rested not only on occupation of this position, but on village res iden ts'

recognition of them as qeshqa.  Therefore, some qeshqa  merged both traditional

position with the formal office. Missionary accounts indicate that local natives

took an active part in selecting the

  toions, zakazchiks,

  and churchwardens. By

nominating Dena'ina traditional leaders to the positions recognized by the Rus-

sian church, missionaries reinforced the influence of these community leaders in

their villages.


Priests understandably attempted to stress their own role in selecting native vil-

lage headmen. For example, in 1893 Iaroshevich said of the Seldovia Dena'ina:

"Local natives have a wonderful tradition not to do anything without a priest's

blessing. Therefore, nomination of the




  who are elected by a

community, is always confirmed by a priest's blessing." In his 1896 diary,

Bortnovsky also indicated that "in case of the death of one of the chiefs, his sue-

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  Shamanism and Christianity

cessor is not elected by the people until the arrival of the priest." To strengthen the

Orthodox leadership among the Indians, Hiermonk Anatolii recommended to the

Kenai priest that "newly appointed  toions take an oath in the presence of a solemn

gathering of chapel parishioners."


 Later, missionaries did introduce this proce-

dure in Dena'ina villages. Nevertheless, the same reports point out that all adult

village inhabitants also influenced the selection of

  toions, zakazchiks,


churchwardens. Modestov supervised the election of a churchwarden/reader in

Iliamna. The priest indicated that the new warden, the Creole Ignatius Rickteroff,

and his two full-blooded Dena'ina assistants (one of them Evanoff) had been elected

"with an agreement of all village residents."


 Also, we have detailed and repre-

sentative data on the elections in the Dena'ina village of Seldovia for different


Thus,  in his statement Iaroshevich clearly pointed that an entire community

elected the Seldovia leadership. Later, in 1897 after a brotherhood meeting, all

Seldovians participated in the election of


 Then the newly elected Indian

was led to the church and took an oath before all the people. In August 1900, in the

same village, the Indians elected a new




  to replace those who

died. In addition, these new leaders again took the Orthodox oath and received

instructions from a missionary. In a similar way, after the priests' approval, all

residents of the village elected and swore in the churchwardens.

12 0

  In 1901

Seldovians nominated Vasilii Baiu, a Dena'ina, to the position of churchwarden.

According to Bortnovsky, he was "a person truly honest, sober, morally reliable

and a zealous Orthodox believer" After Baiu died, a Creole, Ivan Alexandrov,

succeeded him with the approval from all residents.


 Some of these leaders, like

Nikolai Kuncialtuhlin, a Dena 'ina


 from the Knik village, gained author-

ity and influence not only in their own communities but among local Am ericans.


From the available information, it can be concluded that missionaries and brother-

hoods recommended specific candidates for village leadership that were subse-

quently ratified by all residents, or vice versa.

A system of regular church awards to distinguished individuals was an addi-

tional tool Orthodoxy used to raise native leadership. An indication of this practice

is given in the scarce Kenai mission documents of the 1840s-1850s, which men-

tion ten icons presented as an award to the "Kenaitze   toion"  Vasilii Kistakhin in

1851 for "zealous assistance in conversion of natives and supervision of their vil-



 At the turn of the century, Kenai m issionaries in their letters to the Eccle-

siastical Consistory in Sitka asked church officials to award specific people not

only for religious zeal, but for the general improvement of native living condi-

tions.  In his 1896 report, Bortnovsky nominated Petr Chickalusion,  toion  of the

Kustatan village, and Stepan Tuchketelketan,


 as possible recipients of

awards for both their religious and their secular work. Bortnovsky also campaigned

for another Dena'ina, Aleksei Kalifornsky, who combined positions   of zakazchik

and churchwarden in Kalifornskoe. The missionary identified him as a person

who "absolutely alone built the local chapel" and contributed much to the general

improvement in the village, which then "enjoyed order and good life."


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Orthodoxy Becomes a Native Faith  117

Though missionaries also attempted to use parochial schools for more success-

ful indoctrination of local natives, the Dena'ina did not treat Orthodox education

as an imposition. They employed schooling for their own benefit to strengthen

their social integrity. Iaroshevich reported, "They regularly went to school despite

severe frosts. Children of the Kenaitze were especially persistent. Each day they

had to cover around three miles. There were incidents when children less resistant

to cold had to be taken back home on their way to school."


  Despite insistent

efforts of clerics, apart from a few temporary schools there was only one perma-

nent Orthodox school, opened by Iaroshevich in K enai. Twenty-two D ena 'ina and

Creole children studied here. Among the major subjects taught were catechism,

church service, Russian language, Old Church Slavonic, English, mathematics,

and church singing. The priest and psalm reader acted as teachers.


Although on a few occasions missionaries complained that it was "hard to at-

tach the native to school," it was evident that Dena'ina did not have any animosity

toward education. Rather, seasonal economic cycles required that children partici-

pate in village work, which sometimes hindered regular schooling. For instance,

Bortnovsky mentioned that the Knik Dena'ina loved school, studied very zeal-

ously, and also sought to learn R ussian. However, they were not able to devote all

their time to studying, because of their long hunting expeditions. It was also clear

that some Indian parents did want their children to get an Orthodox education,

aside from requ iring their help in impo rtant economic activities. Aleksei Ivanov, a

psalm reader from Kenai who was sent to Tyonek to organize a school, com plained

that virtually all the residents, including children, left the village for summer hunt-

ing or fishing and would not be back until late fall. Nevertheless, the chief of the

village and a few other Indians allowed their children to stay at school.


 It also is

noteworthy that in 1899, a Dena'ina  zakazchik  from Seldovia, Nikolai Baiu, al-

lowed his own house to accommodate a local missionary school. Bortnovsky

stressed that this fact demonstrated "Seldovia natives' strong desire to educate

their children in the spirit of their own Russian O rthodox beliefs [italics added]."



While the Dena'ina used local chapels, brotherhoods, and Orthodox rituals for

the construction of their social structure and identity and accepted much of the

Orthodox tradition, they ignored elements not reconcilable to their own culture.

Missionary reports, generally praising "the humble Kenaitze," show that many

D ena 'ina did not know the comm on prayers and "prayed in their own way w hen in

church." The lack of knowledge of Dena'ina and other Athapaskan languages se-

riously hindered missionary activities. Although some D ena 'ina, for exam ple, the

entire population of the Seldovia village, spoke Russian and therefore could be

directly exposed to church doctrines, in Knik, Tyonek, and even Kenai, missionar-

ies always worked through translators. Furtherm ore, m issionaries who usually lived

and worked in Kenai did not have many chances to supervise other Dena'ina vil-

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118   Shamanism and Christianity

lages because of weather conditions. Priests usually visited native settlements on ce

a year, certainly not often enough for intensive indoctrination of people in Ortho-

doxy. For instance, Shadura visited De na'ina villages during the sum mertime and

stayed in each for a week.

Not surprisingly, clerics were keenly interested in finding and promoting na-

tives or mixed-bloods who could be useful as mediators, and they relied on these

brokers for regular religious work. In the Knik village the churchwarden was a

full-blooded Dena'ina, Mikhail Tishuveljushin, who later was succeeded by an-

other, Ivan Natusha. Bortnovsky stressed the latter was chosen because of his ac-

tive role as a "foreman" in building and decorating the new chapel in New Knik



  In Tyonek, Iaroshevich entrusted Alexander Shichkatakhik, a K enaitze

fluent in Russian, to conduct baptism of infants.


  In Susitna, another Dena'ina

village, Nikolai Kuliktukta, also a full-blood, while still an "imperfect song leader,"

regularly read psalms and even asked permission to lead Sunday and holiday chapel



  Bortnovsky specified:

For the lack of any appropriate candidates, I have to grant him this permission. Although a

slow reader, he reads in a correct manner and also understands something about church

singing. In any case, employing him will be better than simply locking the chapel, denying

local Kenaitze an opportunity of collective praying.


Later Kuliktukta was also recommended for a schoolteacher position.


  In addi-

tion to these Dena'ina cultural brokers, mixed-blood Russian-Aleut/Alutiiq and

Russian-Dena'ina also served a similar role as readers, interpreters, and teachers

in Dena'ina villages.

In an Iliamna v illage, a Creole of Russian-A Iutiiq-Dena' ina origin, Old William

Rickteroff, served as a reader. Breece , who worked there as a teacher, noted, "He

stood in place of a priest. The priest was supposed to com e once every three years,

but at this time had not turned up for the past five."


  In an 1895 travel report

Modestov mentioned that another Rickteroff, named Mikhail, accom panied him

in his trips to the Dena'ina villages as an interpreter. Mikhail Rickteroff proved

fluent in Dena'ina, Yupik, Russian, and English. Incidentally, Modestov portrays

members of the Rickteroff family as influential leaders and cultural brokers in the

inland Dena 'ina country. A Creole of Russian-Alutiiq origin, Savva Rickteroff,

the founder of the family, was a local RAC manager responsible for transporting

merchandise and various goods from Kenai to Nushagak. He established the Iliamna

trading post and started to build the St. Nicholas chapel in 1871 . The post becam e

a gathering place for the local Dena'ina, who turned it into the Iliamna village.

Savva Rickteroff had two Indian wives, one legal and one illicit. In the 1890s, his

oldest son becam e a local agent for the ACC. Modestov noted that all the Rickteroff

brothers spoke Russian, English, and Dena'ina and that the family dominated the

church and administrative life of the Iliamna village.


In Kenai, Pamfilov, of Russian-Alutiiq origin, acted as a reader and an inter-

preter, who regularly translated missionaries' sermons and prayers into the Dena'ina

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Orthodoxy Becomes a Native F aith


language. Two Seldovian Creoles, Ivan Alexandrov and Zakhar Balashov, simi-

larly did readings and interpreting, and in addition supervised the building of a

new chapel in 1891.


  In 1902 Bortnovsky referred to another Creole, Ivan Soloviev,

as a "good catch." Soloviev accompanied the priest in his trips to the De na 'ina as

an interpreter for three years, earning one do llar per day. In addition to his work as

a language broker, Soloviev acted as a psalm reader. Bortnovsky also recom mended

Ivan Kvasnikoff, one more person of mixed-blood origin (Russian-Alutiiq), from

the Ninilchik village for a position of schoolteacher among the Indians since

Kvasnikoff was fluent in Dena'ina and had been educated by Abbot Nicholas at

the Kenai school.


Such interpreters and lay readers with only rudimentary Orthodox education

unavoidably gave their own creative spin to Russian C hristianity. M ikhail Rickteroff

provides a good example. According to a missionary report, although Rickteroff

knew "rather we ll" how to read Old Church Slavonic and taugh t local children, he

performed chapel service and a baptism "in his own way" (the priest does not

specify how) and the missionary had to correct him.


 Breece provides a descrip-

tion of a sermon by Evanoff (of Russian-Jewish-Dena'ina origin), a village chief

in Nondalton:

On the important Russian religious holiday we all went to church in the village, even though

the rain was pouring torrentially as we made the three-mile trip up the lake in open boats.

This time the service was not silent. Zackar stepped out in front of the standing congrega-

tion and in Kenai preached a sermon. If his words were as eloquent as his expression and

gestures, it was an excellent sermon. Afterwards I asked him about it. He said that he had

been speaking this way in church, drawing upon truths from Bible, stories from the Sunday

school lessons and from the discussions and stories told among us in his tent.


Students of the Dena'ina have commented on this rereading of Orthodoxy by the

Indians. For instance, Ellanna and Balluta write, "The delegation of liturgical re-

sponsibilities to lay readers promoted free personal interpretations of Russian Or-

thodoxy which corresponded to the needs of the Dena'ina Indians."



ies often attempted to downplay these inconsistencies by stressing that despite

their "ignorance," the Indians nevertheless prayed sincerely "with childish sim-

plicity and deep belief to the Christian God.


By the turn of the twentieth century the entire Dena'ina population formally

belonged to Orthodoxy, which became an intimate part of their religious and so-

cial life.


  The idea of the supreme deity had also already entrenched itself am ong

the De na ' ina and w as identified by the D ena ' ina word

 naq 'eltani



14 3

Yet, although from the 1890s onward missionary accounts do not mention

shamanizing on a mass scale, clerics did indicate that this practice still existed on

a limited scale and as a matter of fact successfully coexisted with Christianity. It is

certainly difficult to expect detailed descriptions of these remnants of traditional

religion from missionaries, and the reports recorded few instances of direct "sha-

manistic challenges" to Christianity. Thus, Iaroshevich during his 1893 visit to the

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  Shamanism and Christianity

Seldovia village during a vesper service had to speak about the evils of sham anism

"because recently sham ans again became active among the Kenaitze." At the same


  it seemed that not all residents in this village were eager to support these

medicine men. Those who were concerned about their activities approached the

missionary, asking him to denounce publicly this "disgusting business." Iaroshevich

claimed in his report that eventually one of the shamans apologized for his prac-


After the vespers I called for one shaman and started to persuade him to leave his shameful

trade. After my admonition he promised to quit shamanizing and added in particular: "Fa-

ther, I am grateful to you for opening my eyes. Now I clearly see all misery of shamanism,

and since now on I will try to take care Qf my soul and will start to live in a Christian

manner." I imposed on him a church punishment, which he accepted willingly because he

knew that he deserved it.


In the same year, during his trip to Laida, a small Dena'ina village of twenty

people, this missionary again had to confront two native medicine men. From

Iaroshevich's report it follows that despite their shamanizing both natives were

practicing Orthodox:

I told them about the punishment the church imposes on apostates from the holy faith, and

especially on those who call themselves Orthodox Christians and wear crosses, but at the

same time carry the name of shamans, servants of the devil, and confuse people, who so

rarely see priests. My words affected the shamans and they sincerely repented, and added

that they had shamanized exclusively for material profit, because people generously pay for

their magic. The shamans gave a firm promise not to shamanize anymore, and during the

vespers service they announced in public that they were not shamans anymore, and asked

people not to bother them with various requests, because they realized all the falsity of

shamanism, and from now on they wished to take care of their souls, since they were al-

ready in old age.


Iaroshevich stressed that "all Kenaitze have been considered Orthodox Christians

for a long time," and wondered what prompted some of them to retain rem nants of

their "old beliefs and delusions." Unable to understand the causes of native syn-

cretism, he explained away the survival of shamanism as attempts of some old

people to gain material profit.

In his 1895 report Iaroshevich made special note of the general decline of sha-

manism among the Dena'ina, but acknowledged that traces of it still remained,

especially among the interior Dena'ina groups, which resided far from direct mis-

sionary influence.


  Modestov, who worked among these inland groups, while

praising them for their special love for chapels and Orthodox feasts, nevertheless

pointed to the survival of Dena'ina mourning rites: "Among the Kenaitze a hea-

then custom of commemorating the dead is not eradicated yet. These funeral rites

consist of dancing accom panied by a song, which praises the valor of the deceased

and oscillates between furious ecstasy and currents of tears."


  Furthermore, the

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Figure 3.4. The old building of the Orthodox chapel in the Dena'ina village of Eklutna.

Photograph by the author, July 13, 1998.

Figure 3.5. De na'ina Orthodox funeral ceremony, 1900. Photograph courtesy of the W. T.

Roberts' Album, the Anchorage Museum of History and Art (# B87.56.380).

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Orthodoxy Becomes a Native F aith


elements of the Christian rituals could remind the natives of their own tradition,

especially during the beginning of their evangelization, w hen R ussian Christianity

was not yet implanted into the indigenous tradition. Dzeniskevich indicates that

the Athapask ans m ay have viewed certain R ussian church c erem onies, like funeral

services and communion to the sick, as "shamanistic seances/'

15 2


priests themselves as middlemen between the earthly world and the "world of

God" could be viewed as analogous to native medicine men and women. Anthro-

pologists observed that the Christian cross played the role of a "magic artifact,"

representing an amulet responsible for general good fortune, specifically success

and safety in hunting, and as such echoed stone amulets that Dena'ina shamans

had used in the past.


  Orthodox services also were made relevant to hunting

rituals. Militov reported as early as the 1860s that before the Indians went off to

hunt mountain sheep, they regularly asked him to serve molebens, and he gladly

performed these services.


Orthodoxy also could be used as "medicine" against epidemic diseases, which

frequently visited Dena'ina. Thus, during his 1890 visit to the Iliamna village

Shishkin agreed to perform a few cerem onies to chase away the disease, a practice

that as a matter of fact fit the Orthodox tradition:

Having finished a moleben to the Most Holy Lady Theotokes and St. Nicholas, at the re-

quest of the residents of the village we went with a cross by a religious procession [krestnii

khod] throughout the village. The religious procession with the cross was conducted in

order to prevent in future the epidemic disease that visited them in the fall of 1888 and

continued until February of 1889. During this period of time twenty-one people died from

this disease (it was an influenza).


Another example of merging of Dena'ina and Russian religious traditions was

"spirit houses" (Figure 3.6), the small boxlike constructions on a grave site, with

the Russian Orthodox cross erected in front of the "door." For example, at the

abandoned Kijik village cemetery archeologists found more than one hundred three-

barred Orthodox crosses from the turn of the century. Many of these crosses stood

or lay in front of the "spirit houses."


 The present-day archpriest Nicholas Harris,

referring to the endurance of this practice among the New Knik (Eklutna) natives,


They are an Indian institution; the Orthodox church does not know of this in the way the

Indians do. In the case of the Eklutna Indians, the spirit houses bring together both tradi-

tions in their burial rites. They still have the aboriginal spirit house, but over the house is the

Orthodox Cross, which shows that the person buried there is a member of the Orthodox



The Russian tradition of commemorating the dead with feasts also seemed fa-

miliar to the Athapa skans who practiced the funeral potlatches. Characteristically,

the Dena'ina potlatch, which occupied central stage in their traditional ceremoni-

alism, functioned primarily as a funeral rite.


  By the turn of the century, they

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Figure 3.6. Remnants of old Dena'ina graves ( spirit houses ) in the Knik area, September 10, 1936. Photograph

courtesy of the Agricultural Collection, Alaska and Polar Regions Archives, Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska

Fairbanks (# 68-4-441N).

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Orthodoxy Becomes a Native Faith  125

apparently adopted the Orthodox mortuary rituals and abandoned the tradition of

burning the dead. For instance, natives adopted the Orthodox practice of com-

memorating the dead on the fortieth day. Ironically, Osgood, who visited the

Dena'ina in 1931-1932 and tried to locate remnants of "authentic" indigenous

culture described as "traditional" a Dena'ina belief that after the death of a person

his or her breath w ent up into the sky, "but the shadow spirit lingers for about forty

days before going underground."


  At the end of the nineteenth century the Kenai

Brotherhood introduced regular commemorations of its deceased members and

sacred pilgrimages to the brotherhood cemetery with full Orthodox regalia: icons,

banners, and candles. Bortnovsky left a colorful description of one of such cer-

em onies. On the occasion of an Orthodox feast in 1900, after a regular m eeting of

the Kenai Bro therhoo d, its members took part in a funeral service dedicated to the

members who had passed away, followed by a liturgy. Then peop le knelt down for

a prayer to the Most Holy Virgin M ary: "During a church service all brotherhood

members stood and kept lighted candles. At the end of the service, long life and

many happy years were wished to the Russian Emperor, to the whole czar family

and to the President of the United States."


Missionaries stressed the appeal of Orthodox singing to the Dena'ina. As early

as 1861 Abbot Nicholas stresses: "Kenaitze love to sing Easter verses and because

of their zeal they sing very loudly. But I do not restrain them, let them sing and

glorify our resurrected Savior."


 Anthropologists find partial explanation for this

fact in the significant role the Dena'ina attributed to "medicine songs" and "lucky

songs," which brought hunting success and a long life.


  The way Dena'ina oral

tradition describes the use of the Orthodox "medicine power" also illustrates a

native rereading of Russian Christianity. The legend about the bear on a rampage

and "holy bullets," which was men tioned in the beginning of this chapter, is a good

example. In addition, elders of Nondalton like to tell stories about a priest who

used holy water in order to get rid of a monster that lived in a pond in the vicinity

of the abandoned Kijik village. According to this story, after a cleric threw holy

water into the pond, peop le heard a great noise at night, and the groun d was rent in

this place. Both water and the monster were gone.


 Last but not least, the Ortho-

dox principle of charity, which found its expression in the activities of the Chris-

tian brotherhood, also matched traditional Dena'ina ideas of caring for the weak

and disabled.

Despite num erous inconsistencies, the relative easiness with which the D ena 'ina

incorporated elements of Orthodoxy into their culture flattered missionaries. In

their reports clerics constructed a favorable image of the Dena'ina as "sincere and

ignorant children " eager to be enlightened. Thus, in 1895 during his visit to Iliamna

Modestov, who rarely visited this village, was pleasantly surprised when he found

out that many natives knew major prayers : "It turned out that all adults and ado les-

cent boys and girls know all basic prayers. The chapel reader, Mikhail Rickteroff,

reads quite well and also teaches local children. I showed him the sequence and

order of the church service and explained how to baptize children."


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126   Shamanism and Christianity

The missionary reports also provided numerous references to the "urgent re-

ques ts" and "app eals" by the De na'ina to send them missionaries. For exam ple, in

1892 residents of Tyonek, Susitna, and Knik asked Mitropolsky to give them church

readers, but the priest refused them because of the lack of funds.



these accounts, despite all the biases and exaggerations, note that many Indians

excluded from the Kenai Brotherhood for various violations of the by-laws, such

as drinking, polygamy, and n onpayment of dues, often asked to be admitted again.

Even the Dena'ina's neighbors the Athna Indians, who barely had contact with

Orthodoxy, expressed a desire to have m issionaries. This suggests that the Ahtna

had now apparently found something in Orthodoxy that sounded attractive. It ap-

pears that one of their motives might have been simply a desire to accept conver-

sion for trade purposes: the Ahtna depended very much on trading posts in Knik

and Tyonek, where they regularly came in winter and stayed in De na 'ina 's dwell-


 Incidentally, during Ahtna baptisms, Dena 'ina usually acted as their godpar-

ents. In April of 1900, Hierm onk Antonii wrote , "Today with the arrival of the ship

St. Paul

 I was forwarded a petition from the tribe of the Mednovsty [Russian name

for the Athna], who live on the Copper River. More than four hundred of them

expressed a desire to be baptized and accept the Orthodox religion. These

Mednovsty ask for a chapel and a school."


Dena'ina oral tradition also provided another example of the natives' interest in

Orthodoxy. In the 1980s Nondalton elders still recalled how in the 1890s a young

native couple from the upper Stony River spent considerable time in an attempt to

find a priest to marry them according to the Orthodox ritual. Trying to locate the

cleric, they made a long journey, during which they visited several native villages

but failed to locate the missionary.


 These and comparable accounts significantly

challenge the argument that Orthodoxy was imposed on the Indians, especially

with respect to the second half of the nineteenth century.


In the situation of rapid economic and cultural changes of Dena'ina society, the

"medicine power" of the Russian church could be helpful as traditional religious

and social leaders proved unable to find "medication" against econom ic and social

instability. The search for powerful remedies obviously prompted the natives to

put their customary worldview in new clothing, tinged with Orthodox colors. As a

result, in the beginning of the twentieth century the indigenous version of Chris-

tianity b ecam e firmly established among the Dena'ina, who turned it into popular

Orthodoxy. The evidence also suggests that in addition to their spiritual role, the

church institutions were also used by the Dena'ina people to fill the vacuum of

social and administrative power in the wake of the demise of Russian and indig-

enous structures after the Alaska purchase in 1867. As a result, between the 1890s

and the 1920s, Orthodox brotherhoods occup ied a noticeable place in native social

and political life before the United States federal government finally established

an effective legal and administrative system throughout Alaska, which replaced

these societies as semiformal agents of local power in the 1930s and 1940s.

Dena'ina interactions with Russian Christianity demonstrate the behavior of an

indigenous group that had to reexamine its tradition as a result of dramatic eco-

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Orthodoxy Becom es a Native Faith 111

nomic and social changes. The De na'ina demon strated a readiness to borrow ele-

ments of Orthodox church ritual and organization, which allowed them to build

the bridge to the new American society. Before the 1880s, Russian Christianity

had played a marginal role in their worldview, but under the new circumstances

they used Orthodoxy as a convenient device to reinforce their identity before the

advancing Protestant culture of the white majority.

Orthodoxy played such an important role that it eventually became identified

with D ena 'ina cu lture as a whole. Thus, Old Church Slavonic was accepted by the

Dena'ina for their church services and continued to exist as an integral part of

native Orthodoxy until the 1940s and 1950s, when it became combined with En-

glish. It appears that, as with some other indigenous groups in Alaska, Church

Slavonic started functioning among the Den a'ina as an "indigen ous" sociolinguistic

symbol of their ethnic identity. It is also interesting that in 1910-191 1 the D ena' ina

claimed that they had Bible stories long before the Russians came.



when Osgood visited them two decades later and tried to retrieve some "tradi-

tiona l" cosm ogonie or creation stories he was frustrated that many of his Den a'ina

informants gave him "as pure Indian" slightly tarnished Mosaic tradition.

17 0

Present-day testimonies of native elders point in the same direction. For example,

the Nondalton community elders in the 1980s and 1990s spoke about the Russian

Orthodoxy as part of their native tradition, and elders from the Cook Inlet area

referred to Orthodoxy as "our church" or "Athabascan Church, Russian Ortho-

dox." Even those Dena'ina who do not go to church on a regular basis affiliate

themselves with this denomination when they generalize about their ethnicity.



1.  The Kustatan Bear Story: Qezdeghnen Ggagga,

  told by Maxim Chickalusion, Sr.,


 into Dena'ina by Peter Kalifornsky, ed. Alice Taff and Jim Kari (Fairbanks: Alaska

Native Language Center, University of Alaska, 1982), 13 -14 .


 Ibid., 17; see also Peter Kalifornsky's version in Peter Kalifornsky, A Dena 'ina Legacy:

K'tl'egh'i Sukdu. The Collected Writings of Peter Kalifornsky,  ed. James Kari and Alan

Boras (Fairbanks: Alaska native Language Center, University of Alaska, 1991), 297-299.

3. Ioann Bortnovsky, Kenaiskaia Missiia (Istoriko-Statisticheskoe Opisanie), Russian-

Am erican Orthodox Messenger-2, no. 18 (1898): 533 ; Hiermonk Anatolii, Iz Puteshestviia

po Aliaske v 1896 G. Blagochinnago M issionera Ieromonakha Anatoliia, ibid. 1, no. 13




  Joan Broom Tow nsend, Ethnohistory and Culture Change of the Iliamna Tanaina

(Ph.D. diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 1965); Galina I. Dzeniskevich, Atapaski

Aliaski: Ocherki M aterialnoi i Dukhovnoi Ku ltury: K onets XVllI-Nachalo XX V (Leningrad:

Nauka, 1987); Victoria Schnurer, 'The Russian Experience,

Orthodox Alaska

  5, no. 3-4


  16 -3 3; Linda J. Ellanna and Andrew Balluta,

 Nuvendaltin Quhtana: The People of

Nondalton (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992), 2 91 -3 00 .

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128  Shamanism and Christianity

5. James Kari and James A. Fall, "The Russian Presence in Upper Cook Inlet," in


Pete's Alaska: the T erritory of the Upper Cook Inlet Dena 'ina (Fairbanks and Anchorage:

Alaska Native Language Center, University of Alaska, CIRI Foundation, 1987), 16.

6. Andrei V. Grinev, "Russkie Promishlenniki na Aliaske v Kontse XVIII V., Nachalo

Deiatelnosti A. A. Baranova," in

 Istoriia RusskoiAmeriki, 1732-186 7,

 ed N. N. Bolkhovitinov

(Moskva: Mezhdunarodnie Otnosheniia, 1997), vol. 1, 154-155.

7. Fall, "Patterns of U pper Tanaina Leadership, 174 1-19 18," (Ph.D. diss., University of

Wisconsin, Madison, 1981), 71; L. A. Sitnikov, "Materialy dlia Istorii Russkoi Ameriki

( Otvety Filippa Kashevarova), in Novie Materialy po Istorii Sibiri Dosove tskogo Perioda,

éd. N. N. Pokrovskii (Novosibirsk: Nauka S ibirskoe Otdelenie, 1986), 101.

8. Aleksandr I. Andreev,

 Russian Discoveries in the Pacific and in North America in the

Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries: A Collection of M aterials  (Ann Arbor, MI: J. W.

Edwards, 1952), 107.

9. Petr A. Tikhmenev,

 A History of the Russian-American Com pany

 (Seattle: University

of Washington Press, 1978), 46.

10.  Grinev, "Russkie Promishlenniki na Aliaske v Kontse XVIII V," 192; Tikhmenev,

History of the Russian-American Company,

 16-17; Hubert Howe Bancroft,

 History of Alaska,

1730-1885  (Irvine, CA: R eprint Services Corp ., 1990; reprint, San F rancisco: A. L. Bancroft

& Co ., 1886), 228.


 Tikhmenev, History of the R ussian-American Com pany, 96 .

12.  Ibid., 130.


 Alice J. Lynch, Qizhjeh: The Historic Tanaina Village ofKijik and the Archeo logical


 (Fairbanks: Anthropology and Historic Preservation Cooperative Park Studies Un it,

University of Alaska, 1982), 7.

14. Ellanna and Balluta, Nuvendaltin Quhtana, 226.


  The government granted the RAC permission to found special agricultural settle-

ments in 1835. Semen B. Okun,  The Russian-American Company  (New York: Octagon

Books, 1979), 174.

16. Tikhmenev, H istory of the R ussian-Am erican Com pany, 416.


  Polnoe Sobranie Zakonov Rossiiskoi Imperil,  2nd sen, vol. 19, no. 18290, § 247;

"Visochaishe Utverzhdennii 10 Okriabria 1844 Goda Ustav Rossiisko-Am erikanskoi

Kompanii, in

  Natsionalnaia Politika


  Imperatorskoi Rossii: Pozdnie Pervobitnie i

Predklassovie Obsh chestva Severa Evropeiskoi Rossii, Sibiri i Ru sskoi Am eriki,

 ed. Yu. I.

Semenov (Moskva: Starii Sad, 1998), 218.

18. Okun, R ussian-American Com pany, 206.

19. Svetlana G. Fedorova,  The Population of Russian Am erica (1799-1867): The Rus-

sian  Population of Alaska and California  (Fairbanks: Institute of Social, Economic and

Government Research, University of Alaska, 1973), 200; Fall, "Patterns of Upper Tanaina

Leadership, 17 41-1 918 ," 70; Gavriil I. Davydov, T wo Voyages to Russian America, 1802-

1807 (Kingston,

  Ont.: Limestone Press, 1977), 199.


 Fall, "Patterns of Upper Tanaina Leadership, 174 1-19 18," 218.

21. Ibid., 75 .

22.  Alexander Iaroshevich, "Putevoi Zhurnal Kenaiskago Missionera Sviashchennika

Alexandra Iaroshevicha,"


  no. 20 ( 1894): 186; "Tyonek, Febru-

ary 13/25, 1 8 8 5 " Vladimir Vasiliev Stafeev Papers (186 9-18 95), M anuscript Collection,

Alaska State Historical Library, Juneau.

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Orthodoxy Becomes a Native F aith  129


  Ioann Bortnovsky, "Iz Putevogo Zhurnala Sviashchennika Kenaiskoi Missii I.

Bortnovskago za 1898 God,"

  Russian-American Orthodox Messenger

  3, no. 19 (1899):


  Ioann Bortnovsky to Hiermonk Anatolii, "Pochtitelneishii Raport," September 19,


  Church Buildings, Repairs, New Assumption Church School, 1882-1900,


roll 181.


 Ellanna and Balluta, Nuvendaltin Quhtana, 227-228.

25. Fall, "Patterns of Upper Tanaina Leadership, 1741 -1918 ," 240.


 Ibid., 83.



  Population and Resources of Alaska,


28 .

 Fall, "Patterns of Upper Tanaina Leadership, 1741-1918," 82.


 Ioann Bortnovsky, "Zimovka Pravoslavnago Missionera v Kenaiskom Selenii Knik,"

Russian-American Orthodox Messenger

 2, no. 20 (1898 ): 583.


 Townsend, "Ethnohistory and Culture Change of the Iliamna Tanaina " 63.


  Fall, "Patterns of Upper Tanaina Leadership, 1741-1918," 84-85, 293; Townsend,

"Ethnohistory and Culture C hange of the Iliamna Tanaina," 63 . See also Robert E. Ackerman,

The K enaitze People

 (Phoenix, AZ: Indian Tribal Series, 1975), 72; Hannah Breece,

 A School

Teacher in Old Alaska,

  ed. with commentary by Jane Jacobs (New York: Random House,


  99. However, Ellanna and Balluta do not agree with such statements. They argue

that documents of the Alaska Commercial Company indicate that prices fluctuated rather

than declined. Ellanna and Balluta,

 Nuvendaltin Quhtana,

 2 31 . At the same tim e, this cor-

rection does not change the whole picture of the radical reshaping of the Dena'ina nine-

teenth-century eco nomy and social patterns as a result of the changes wrough t by the rise of

commercialism and the influx of the Americans. In their recent study of the Dena'ina re-

sponses to the changes caused by the Euroamerican advancement at the turn of the century,

Alan Boraas and Don ita Peter stress (in my view, correctly) that not the elimination of game

animals in


  but the whole transformation of native cosmological order was respon-

sible for the changes in the De na'in a world view. Alan S. Boras and Don ita Peter, "Th e True

Believer among the Kenai Peninsula Dena'ina," in

 Adventures through Time: Readings in

the Anthrop ology of Coo k Inlet, Alaska,  ed. Nancy Y. Davis and William E. Davis (A nchor-


 AK: Co ok Inlet Historical Society, 1996), 191.


 Louise Potter, A Study of a F rontier Town in Alaska, Wasilla to 1959 (VT: Thetford

Center, 1963), 7, 10; Fall, "Patterns of Upper Tanaina Leadership, 1741-1918," 98.


 Ellanna and Balluta,

  Nuvendaltin Quhtana,



 Fall, "Patterns of Upper Tanaina Leadership, 1741-1918," 97.

35. Andrew B alluta, "The De na'in a of Kijik and Lake Clark N ational Park and Preserve,"

in Russia in North America, ed. Richard P. Pierce (Kingston, On tario: The Limeston e Press,




 Ellanna and Balluta,

 Nuvendaltin Quhtana,



  Ioann Bortnovsky to Hiermonk Antonii, "Pochtitelneishii Raport," March 29, 1899,

Seldovia, School Building, Nikolai Baiu, 1899,


  roll 202.


  Alexander Iaroshevich to District Judge Warren Truitt, "Pokorneishaia Zhaloba,"


  roll 201 ; "Copy of Petition of Twenty-Three Kenai People to District Judge W arren

Truitt, 1895,"


  roll 1, vol. 2, 177-179.


 U .S. Department of the Treasury. Special Agen ts Division,

 Report upon the Customs

District, Public Service, and Re sources of Alaska Territory (Washington, D C: Government

Printing Office, 1879), 133 -13 5; Schnurer, "Russian Expe rience," 2 3 ,2 5; W illiam R. Hunt,

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130  Shamanism and Christianity

Distant Justice: Policing the Alaska Frontier

  (Norman and London: University of Okla-

homa Press, 1987).


  Alexander Iaroshevich, "Putevoi Zhurnal Kenaiskago Missionera Sviashchennika

Alexandra Iaroshevicha,"  Pravoslavnyi Blagoviestnik, no. 19 (1894): 123.


 Ibid., no. 8 (1896): 375; Hiermonk Anatolii, "Iz O tch eta o Poez dked liaBlago chinno i

Revizii Prikhodov Kenaiskago, Kadiakskago, Afognakskago i Nuchekskago Letom

Tekushchago Goda 1898,"

 Russian-American Orthodox Messenger

 3 , no. 3 (1899): 94.


  Ioann Bortnovsky to Antonii, March 12, 1901, Kenai Peninsula, Seldovia, Reports/

Records, Ioann Bortnovsky, Alcoholism among Inhabitants, ARCA,  roll 20 1.

43. Vladimir Modestov to Alexander Kedrovski, June 29, 1895, ARCA,  roll 149.


 Shishkin to Bishopt Nestor, "Nizhaishii Raport."

45.  "Viedomost Nushagakskoi Missionerskoi Petropavlovskoi Tserkvi s Pokazaniem

Prinadlezhashchikh k Onoi Molitvennikh D omov, Selenii, Razstoianie Selenii i Molitvennikh

Domov ot Tserkvi pri Kakom Ozer ili Rek i Skolko Zhitelei po Natsionalnostiam za 1878

God," Nushagak, Reports/Records, Vasilii Shishkin,


  roll 149; "Viedomost Petro-

Pavlovskoi Tserkvi, Nushagakskoi Missii o Liudiakh Byvshikh i Ne Byvshikh u Sviatogo

Prichastiia, Rodivshiksiia, Miropomazannikh, Brakosochetavshikhsiia i Umershikh v 1915

Godu," Nushagak, Vital Statistics, Separate Reports, 1876-1918, Ibid., roll 150.


  Lynch,  Qizhjeh,  10, 76; Balluta, "Dena'ina of Kijik and Lake Clark National Park

and Preserve," 4 1.

47.  Townsend, "Journals of Nineteenth Century Russian Priests to the Tanaina," 13;

Schnurer, "Russian Experience," 25; Modestov to Alexander Kedrovski, June 29, 1895;

Fall, "Patterns of Upper Tanaina Leadership, 174 1-1 918 ," 100. See also the dispatch about

the death of twenty-nine Dena'ina children in the Kenai parish during one single year.

Hiermo nk N iki tato the Alaska Ecclesiastical Consistory, May 1885, Travel Journal, N ikita

Marchenkov, 1881-1885,


  roll 201 . By 1893 Vladimir Don skoi, the dean of clergy,

provided the following information about the number of residents in Dena'ina villages:

Kenai village, including Creoles, is fifty-five people, Seldovia is seventy-three natives, the

Kustatan village is forty-nine residents. The most numerous were Tyonek village (107

people), Susitna village (140 people) and Knik village (156 people). Vladimir Donskoi,

"Otchet o Sostoianii Tserkvei i Chasoven Kenaiskoi, Kodiakskoi i Belkovskoi za 1893

God," Kenai Peninsula, Reports/Records, Vladimir Donskoi,


  roll 201. In 1896 the

inland Denaina population numbered 151 people. "Viedomost o Kolichestve Prikhozhan i

Vsekh Zhitelei Muzhskago, Zhenskago i Oboikh Polov po Plemenam i po Zvaniam, po

Nushagakskoi Petropavlovskoi Missionerskoi Tserkvi za 1896 God," Nushagak, Vital Sta-

tistics, Separate Reports,


  roll 150. This gives us the total number of the Dena'ina

population, including some Creoles, as 732 people between 1893 and 1895.


 Fall, "Patterns of Upper Tanaina Leadership, 1741-1918," 82.


 Hiermonk A natolii, "Iz Puteshestviia po Aliaske v 1896 G. Blagochinnago Missionera

Ieromonakha Anatoliia,"  Russian-American Orthodox Messenger  1, no. 11 (1897): 208;

Pavel Shadura to Bishop Alexander, "Kratkii Otchet o Sostoianii P rikhoda Kenaiskoi Missii

za 1920 God ," February 7, 1 921, Repo rts/Records, Pavel Shadura, 190 9-1 923 , ARCA, roll



 Fall, "Patterns of Upper Tanaina Leadership, 1741-1918," 254.


  Vasilii Shishkin to Bishop Vladimir, June 5, 1889, Travel Journals, Vasilii Vasiliev

Shishkin, 1877-1893, ARCA, roll 149; "Spisok Z hitelei S eleniia Ili am na " Vital Statistics,

Nushagak, 1876-1918, ARCA,  roll 150.

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Orthodoxy Becomes a N ative F aith


52.  Alan S. Boraas and Donita Peter, "The True Believer among the Kenai Peninsula

Dena' ina" 192.

53. James W. VanStone,

 Athapaskan Adaptations: Hunters and





tic Forest

 (Chicago: Aldin e, 1974), 125; Joan Townsend, "The Tanaina of S outhw estern

Alaska: A Historical Syn opsis,"

 Western Canadian Journal of Anthropology

 2, no. 1(1970):

8 ,15 .

54.  Schnurer, "Russian Experience," 27.

55 .

 Ellanna and Balluta, Nuvendaltin Quhtana, 299.

56.  See the ecclesiastical order about the consecration of the Kenai church: "Ukaz iz

Novo-Arkhangelskago Dukhovnago Pravleniia Kenaiskomu Missioneru Nikolaiu," June

11,1849, Buildings-Property, Church Buildings, Assumption Church, Consecration,  ARCA,

roll 181.


  Fall, "Patterns of Upper Tanaina Leadership, 1741-1918," 75. Ellanna and Balluta

indicated that after the epidemic the activities of the Russian missionaries am ong the D ena 'ina

intensified. Ellanna and Balluta,

 Nuvendaltin Quhtana,


58 .  "Report of Bishop Innokenty to the Holy Ruling Synod, # 153," January 3 1 , 1845;

and "Report of Bishop Innokenty to the Holy Ruling Synod, N ovo-Arkhan gelsk," Novem-

ber 28, 1852, DRHA, vol. 1, 35 4-3 56 , roll 1.

59. "K opiiia Ispovedalnoi R ospisi K enaiskoi Missii za 1847 God ," and "Viedomost Skolko

Kakova Zvaniia Prikhozhan Kenaiskoi Missii Nalichnikh v 1851 Godu," Parish Records

Confessional List, 1849-1858, ARCA,  roll 196.


 "Klirovaia Viedomost N ushagakskoi M issionerskoi Petropavlovskoi Tserkvi na 1857,"

Parish Records, Clergy/Church/Register, St. Peter and Paul Church,


  roll 143;

"Viedomost Nushagakskoi Missionerskoi Petropavlovskoi Tserkvi na 1858," "Viedomost

Nushagakskoi M issionerskoi Petropavlovskoi Tserkvi na 1860," "Viedom ost Nushagakskoi

Missionerskoi Petropavlovskoi Tserkvi na 1862," "Viedomost Nushagakskoi Missionerskoi

Petropavlovskoi Tserkvi na 1867," Parish Records, Confessional L ist, 1857-1 86 8,  ARCA,

roll 146.

61.  Igumen Nikolai [Militov], "Iz Zhurnala Kenaiskogo Missionera Igumena Nikolaia,

Nikolaevskii Redut, 1862 God,"  Pravoslavnoe Obozrienie  24 (1867): 8. In his diary for

1863, he noted that the Kenai deacon had regularly visited a D ena'ina wom an in one neigh-

boring village to change her bandage. Igumen Nikolai [Militov], "Zhurnal Kenaiskogo

Missionera Igumena Nikolaia, Nikolaevskii Redut, 1863 God," Travel Journal, Nikolai

Militov, 1858-1864,


  roll 201.

62.  Idem, "Iz Zhurnala Kenaiskogo Missionera Igumena Nikolaia, Nikolaevskii Redut,

1862 God," 6.

63.  Joan Townsend, "Journals of Nineteenth Century Russian Priests to the Tanaina:

Cook Inlet, Alaska," Arctic Anthropology  11, no. 1 ( 1974): 9; Igumen Nikolai [M ilitov], "Iz

Zhurnala Kenaiskogo Missionera Igumena Nikolaia, Nikolaevskii Redut, 1863 God," in

Russkaia Am erika: PoLichnym Vpechatleniiam M essionerov, Zemleprokhodtsev, M oriakov,

Issledovatelei i Drugikh Ochevidtsev

 (Moskva: Mysl, 1994), 236.


 Ivan Veniaminov, Pisma Innokentiia, Mitropolita Moskovskago i Kolomenskago. 1828-


 ed. Ivan Barsukov (St. Petersburg: Sinodalnaia Tipografiia, 1897), vol. 1, 37 1 .

65 .  Igumen Nikolai [Militov],  Vipiska iz Zhurnala K enaiskago Missionera Igumena

Nikolaia s 1858 po 1862 God (Moskva: n. p ., 1863), 11.

66. Idem: Vipiska iz Zhurnala Kenaiskago Missionera Igumena Nikolaia s 1858 po 1862



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132  Shamanism and Christianity


 Militov, "Iz Zhurnala K enaiskogo Missionera Igumena Nikolaia, Nikolaevskii Redu t,

1863 G od," 239.

68 . Fedorova,  The Population of Russian America,  265.


 Donskoi, "Otchet o Sostoianii Tserkvei i Chasoven Kenaiskoi, Kodiakskoi i Belkovskoi

za 1893 God."


 Hiermonk Nikita to Bishop N estor, April 15,18 82, Travel Journal, N ikita Marchenkov,


  ARCA,  roll 20 1; Nikita Marchenkov, "Iz Putevikh Zapisok Kenaiskago

Missionera Iermonakha Nikiti za 1881 G.," ibid.; Kenai Peninsula, Conversion Reports,

Shamanism, Nikita Marchenkov, 1883, ibid., roll 182.


  Kenai Peninsula, Conversion Reports, Shamanism, Nikita Marchenkov, 1883;

Townsend, "Journals of Nineteenth Century Russian Priests to the Tanaina," 12.


 Townsend, "Journals of Nineteenth Century Russian Priests to the Tanaina," 12.


  Kenai Peninsula, Conversion Reports, Shamanism, Nikita Marchenkov, 1883.


  "Tyonek, December 1884 -Janua ry 1885," Vladimir Vasiliev Stafeev P apers.

75.  "Viedomost Nushagakskoi Missionerskoi Petropavlovskoi Tserkvi s Pokazaniem

Prinadlezhashchikh k Onoi M olitvennikh Domov, Selenii, Razstoianie Selenii i Molitvennikh

Domov ot Tserkvi pri Kakom Ozer ili Rek i Skolko Zhitelei po Natsionalnostiam za 1878

God"; Vasilii Shishkin to Bishop Nestor, "Nizhaishii Raport," April 24, 1882," Nushagak,

Reports/Records, Vasilii Shishkin,


  roll 149.


  Ioann Krilianovski, "V Aliaskinskoe Dukhovnoe Pravlenie, Chlena Sego Pravleniia

Diakona Ioann a Krilianovskago D ikladnaia Zapiska," February 7, 1880, Kodiak Island and

Kenai Peninsula, Travel Reports,


  roll 181.


 "V Aliaskinskoe D ukhovnoe Pravlenie, Zhitelei Vsego Kenaiskago Zaliva Proshe nie,"

May 20, 1878, Diocese Administration, Request for Priest,


  roll 182.

78.  Hiermonk Nikita to Bishop Nestor, April 15, 1882; "Report of Hiermonk Nikita of

Kenai to the Alaska Ecclesiastical C onsistory," May 28 , 1884,


  roll 1, vol. 1, 357.

79.  Alexander Iaroshevich, "Putevoi Zhurnal Kenaiskago Missionera Sviashchennika

Alexandra Iaroshevicha,"

  Pravoslavnyi Blagoviestnik,

 no. 19 (1894):


80 .

 Nikolai Mitropolsky, "Kniga o Vn ov' Prisoedinennikh v Kenaiskoi M issii za 1888-oi

God," Kenai Peninsula, Conversion Reports, Shamanism, N ikolai M itropolsky, 1888,


roll 182. Donskoi, however, indicates that Mitropolsky converted eighty-eight Ahtna.

Do nskoi, "Otchet o Sostoianii Tserkvei i Chasoven Kenaiskoi, Kodiakskoi i Belkovskoi za

1893 God"



 Atapaski Aliaski,


82 .

  Townsend, "Journals of Nineteenth Century Russian Priests to the Tanaina," 16;

Schnurer, "Russian Experience," 27.


  Nikolai Mitropolsky to the Alaska Ecclesiastical Consistory, March 1889, Reports/

Records, Nikolai Mitropolsky, 1888-1892,


  roll 20 1.


  Bortnovsky, "Zimovka Pravoslavnago Missionera v Kenaiskom Selenii Knik," 583.

See also about this story in a special article about Old and New K nik: Michael R. Yarborough,

"'A Village Which Sprang up before My Very Eyes': An Historical Account of the Found

ing of Eklutna," in

 Adventures through T ime: Readings in the Anthropology of Cook Inlet,


  ed. Nancy Yaw Davis and William E. Davis (Ancho rage, AK: Cook Inlet Historical

Society, 1996), 111-122.

85.  Ioann Bortnovsky, "Putevoi Zhurnal Sviashchennika Ioanna Bortnovskago za 1900

God, Kenai, Aliaska,"

 Russian-American Orthodox Messenger

 5, no. 15 (1901): 322.

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Orthodoxy Becomes a Native Faith


86 . Ibid. 5, no. 13 (1901): 275.

87 . "Viedomost o Tserkvi Sviatikh Ap ostolov P etra i Pavla N ushagakskoi M issii, Chto

Pri reke Nushagak v Aleksandrovskom Redute, na M aterike Poluostrova Aliaska Aleutskoi

Eparkhii za 1910 God," Nushagak, Parish Records Church/Clergy Registers, St. Peter and

Paul Church,


  roll 144; "Viedomost Nushagakskoi M issionerskoi Petropavlovskoi

Tserkvi s Pokazaniem Prinadlezhashchikh k Onoi M olitvennikh Domov, Selenii, Razstoianie

Selenii i Molitvennikh Domov ot Tserkvi pri Kakom Ozere ili Reke i Skolko Zhitelei po

Natsionalnostiam za 1878 God." At the same time, Modestov indicated that the chapel was

built in 1871 by Savva Rickteroff. Vladimir Modestov, "Bogosluzhebnii Zhurnal za 1895

God, No. 181 ," July 1894 to June 1895, Nushagak, Reports/Records, Vladimir M odestov,

ARCA,  roll 144.

88.  Alexander Iaroshevich to Vladimir Donskoi, August 2, 1893, Reports/Records,

Alexander Iaroshevich,


  roll 20 1.

89 .

 "Viedomost o Tserkvi S viatikh Apostolov Petra i Pavla v Aleksandrovskom Redute

na Materike Aliaske za 1894 God," Parish R ecords, Church/Clergy Reg isters, Sts. Peter and

Paul Church, 1862-1895, ARCA,  roll 144.

90. Lynch,



91 .  Anatolii, "Iz Puteshestviia po Aliaske v 1896 G. Blagochinnago Missionera

Ieromonakha A natoliia," 208.


  Ellanna and Balluta,

 Nuvendaltin Quhtana,



  Vladimir Modestov, "Tserkovno-Istoricheskoe Opisanie Nushagakskoi Missii

Aleutskoi E parkhii,"

 Russian-American Orthodox Messenger


 no. 15

 (1897): 304.


  Ioann Bortnovsky, "Iz Putevogo Zhurnala Sviashchennika Ioanna Bortnovskago za

1901 God,"  Russian-American Orthodox Messenger  6, no. 12 (1902): 268; Nikolai

Mitropolsky to Bishop Nikolai, "Pochtitelneishii Raport," September 7, 1892, Reports/

Records, Nikolai M itropolsky,


  roll 20 1.


 D zeniskevich,

 Atapaski Aliaski,

  90, 109.

96 . For more about the origin of these brotherhood s see Constantance J. Tarasar and John

H. Erickson, eds., Orthodox America, 1794-1976: Development of the Orthodox Church in


 (Syosset, NY: Department of History and Archives, Orthodox Church in America,



97 .

 Missionary sources usually shorten the name of this society as Kenai Holy Protection

Brotherhood (Kenaiskoe Sviato-Pokrovskoe Bratstvo).


  "Godovoi Otchet Kenaiskago Bratstva vo Imia Pokrova Presviatoi Bogoroditsi za

1895 G od," Brotherhood, M eetings and Yearly Reports,


  roll 181.

99. Ioann Bortnovsky, "Viedomost o Khramakh, Chasovniakh i Tserkviakh za 1900, No.

8," Brotherhood, Cumulative, 1900-1907,


  roll 181. The nu mber of b rotherhood

mem bers varied. W hereas the biggest society in Kenai numbered up to 150 peop le in 1902,

St. Innocent Brotherhood in Tyonek had only 20 members. Ioann Bortnovsky, "Putevoi

Zhurnal Sviashchennika Ioanna Bortnovskago za 1902 God," Russian-American Orthodox

Messenger 1,

 no. 12 (1903): 2 03 ; Serafim A. Arkhangelov,

  Nashi Zagranichnyia Missii:

Ocherk o Russkikh Dukhovnykh Missiiakh (St. Petersburg: Izd. P. P. Soikina, 1899), 199.


  "Zakony Tserkovnago Bratstva Pokrova Presviatoi Bogoriditsi v Selenii Kenai

Territorii Alaska, Soedinennikh Shtatov Ameriki "


  roll 181.

101. N either did the society hav e gender restrictions. There w ere examples when women

became heads of brotherhoods; during the 1901 elections of a brotherhood chair in the

Seldovia village members chose a Creole woman, Lubov Berestova, a "very serious and

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  Shamanism and Christianity

reliable person," according to a missionary report. Ioann Bortnovsky, "Putevoi Zhurnal

Sviashchennika Ioanna Bortnovskago za 1900 God, Kenai, Aliaska"


Orthodox Messenger

 5, no. 17 (1901): 366.

102. Idem, "Iz Putevogo Zhurnala Sviashchennika Kenaiskoi Missii I. Bortnovskago za

1898 God,"

 Russian-American Orthodox Messenger

 3, no. 22 (1899): 597.

103.  "Godovoi Otchet Kenaiskago Bratstva vo Imia Pokrova Presviatoi Bogoroditsi za

1895 God, Bratskii Zhurnal No. 445," Meetings and Yearly Reports, 1895-1905,


roll 181.



  Nashi Zagranichnyia Missii,

  199; "Kenaiskoe Sviato-Pokrovskoe

Bratstvo v 1902 Godu," Brotherhood, Meetings and Yearly Reports,


  roll 181;

"Godovo i Otchet Kenaskago Sviato-Pok rovskago Bratstva s 1-go Okriabria 1901 Goda po

1-oe Oktiabria 1902 Goda," ibid.; "Godovoi Otchet Kenaiskago Bratstva vo Imia Pokrova

Presviatoi Bogoroditsi za za 1895 God," ibid'


  "Godovoi Otchet Kenaiskago Bratstva vo Imia Pokrova Presviatoi Bogoroditsi za

1900 God " Brotherhood, Meetings and Yearly Reports,


 roll 181 ; "Kenaiskoe Sv iato-

Pokrovskoe Bratstvo za 1899-1900 God,"

 Russian-American Orthodox Messenger

 4, no.

23 (1900): 470.


 "Bratskii Zhurnal N o. 44 5," Brotherhood, Meetings and Yearly Rep orts,




107.  "Pravila Kenaiskago Sviato-Nikolaevskago Obshchestva Trezvosti," February 22,

1906, Kenai Peninsula, Brotherhood, St. Nicholas Temperance Society, ARCA,  roll 181.


  "Spisok Sv. Nikolaevskago Obshchestva Trezvosti v Seldevskom Selenenii,"

Seldovia, Brotherhood, Tempereance Society, 1907,


 roll 202.

109. "Protokoly Zasedanii Sviato-Nikolaevskago Obshchestva Trezvosti," Kenai Penin-

sula, Brotherhood, St. Nicholas Temperance Society,


  roll 181.


 Iaroshevich to Vladimir Don skoi, August 2, 1893.


 Fall, "Patterns of Upper Tanaina Leadership, 1741-1918," 255; Cornelius Osgood,

Ethnography of the Tanaina

 (New Haven: Human R elations Area Files Press, 1976), 132.


 Ellanna and Balluta,

 Nuvendaltin Quhtana,


113. Ibid., 272.

114. Iaroshevich to Vladimir Donskoi, August 2, 1893.


 Ellanna and Balluta,

 Nuvendaltin Quhtana,

 272, 278, 300, 231 .

116. Breece,

 School Teacher in Old Alaska,



 Fall, "Patterns of Upper Tanaina Leadership, 1741 -1918," 220, 254 -25 6, 358.


  Iaroshevich, "Putevoi Zhurnal Kenaiskago Missionera Sviashchennika Alexandra


  Pravoslavnyi Blagoviestnik,

  no. 19 (1984): 122; Townsend, "Journals of

Nineteenth Century Russian Priests to the Tanaina," 19; Hiermonk Anatolii to Ioann

Bortnovsky, June 29,1896, Buildings-Property, Repairs, New Assumption Church, School,



 roll 181.


  Vladimir Modestov, "Bogosluzhebnii Zhurnal," July 17, 1894, to June 30, 1895,

Nushagak, Reports/Records, Vladimir Modestov,


  roll 144.


 Ioann Bo rtnovsky, "Putevoi Zhurnal Sviashchen nika Ioanna B ortnovskago za 1900

God, Kenai, Aliaska,"

 Russian-American Orthodox Messenger

 5, no. 13(190 1 ): 276; 5, no.

17 (1901): 365 ; Townsend, "Journa ls of Nineteenth Century Russian Priests to the Tanaina,"


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Orthodoxy Becomes a Native F aith  135

121. Ioann Bortnovsky to Bishop Innokentii, "Nizhaishii Raport," May 30 ,19 07 , Seldovia,

Clergy/Appointments, Ivan Aleksandrov, 1907,


  roll 202.

122.  Ioann Bortnovsky to Bishop Innokentii, May 20, 1907, Clergy Miscellaneous, Re-

wards to Assistants, 1852-1907,


  roll 182.


  "Ukaz iz Novoarkhangelskago Dukhovnago Pravleniia Kenaiskoi Missii Igumenu

Nikolaiu, Otvet na Predstavlenie ot Sentiabria 1851 Goda o Nagrazhdenii Toiona Vasiliia

Kistakhina za Userdnoe Sodeistvie k Obrashcheniiu i Polozhitelnii Nadzor nad Seleniami

Tuzemtsev," November 22 ,18 52 , Clergy Miscellaneous, Rewards to Assistants, 1 852 -190 7,


  roll 182.

124. Bortnovsky to Hiermonk An atolii, September 27 ,18 96 ; Ioann Bortnovsky to Bishop

Innokentii, May 20 ,19 07 , Clergy Miscellaneous, Rewards to Assistants, 185 2-19 07,


roll 182.


  V Kenae, Russian-American Orthodox Messenger 1, no. 5 (1896): 80; P ravoslavnyi


 3 , no. 22 (1896): 288.

126. Ibid.

127. Bortnovsky, "Zimov ka Pravoslavnago Missionera v Kenaiskom Selenii K nik," 586;

Aleksei Ivanov to Ioann B ortnovsky, "Nizhaishee Proshen ie," July 28 , 1896, Tyonek, B uild-

ings-Property, Chapel Needed, 1896,


  roll 203.


 "Udostoverenie," March 28,1899, Kenai Parish, Seldovia, Buildings Property, School

Building, Nikolai Baiu; Ioann Bortnovsky to Hiermonk Antonii, "Pochtitelneishii Raport,"

29 March, 1899, ARCA,  roll 202.

129. Bortnovsky, "Zimovka Pravoslavnago Missionera v Kenaiskom Selenii Knik," 584.


 Iaroshevich to Vladimir Donskoi, August 2, 1893.


 Bortnovsky, "Kenaiskaia M issiia (Istoriko-Statisticheskoe Op isanie)," 53 1.

132. Idem, "Putevoi Zhurnal S viashche nnikaloan na Bortnovskago za 1899 God, K enai,


Russian-American Orthodox Messenger A,

 no. 9 (1900): 183.


  Ivanov to Ioann Bortnovsky, "Nizhaishee Proshenie."

134. Breece,

 School T eacher in Old Alaska,

 99 .


  Modestov, "Bogosluzhebnii Zhurnal" July 17, 1894, to June 30, 1895.

136. Mitropolsky to Bishop Nikolai, "Pochtitelneishii Raport," September 7, 1892.


 Bortnovsky, "Iz Putevogo Zhurnala Sviashchennika Ioanna Bortnovskago za 1901

God," 263; idem, "Putevoi Zhurnal Sviashchennika Ioanna Bortnovskago za 1902 God,"


  idem, "Putevoi Zhurnal Sviashchennika Ioanna Bortnovskago za 1900 God, Kenai,

Aliaska," 321 ; Ioann Bortnovsky to Arkhimandrite Anatolii, "Pochtitelneishii Raport," August


  1897, Brotherhood, Correspondence, 1894-1905,


  roll 181.


 Modestov, "Bogosluzhebnii Zhurnal," July 17, 1894 to June 30, 1895.

139. Breece, School T eacher in Old Alaska,  126, 151-152.


 Ellanna and Balluta,

 Nuvendaltin Quhtana,


141. Ioann B ortnovsky to Hiermonk Antonii "Pokom eishii Raport," May 2 4,1 90 0, Church

Buidings, Conditions of, 1900-1903,


  roll 181.


 Ellanna and B alluta point out that by the early 1900s the eradication of shamanism

and paganism was complete. Ellanna and Balluta,

 Nuvendaltin Quhtana,


143. O sgood, Ethnography of the Tanaina, 174.


  Iaroshevich, "Putevoi Zhurnal Kenaiskago Missionera Sviashchennika Alexandra

Iaroshevicha,"  Pravoslavnyi Blagoviestnik,  no. 19(1894):



  Ibid., 123.

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136  Shamanism and Christianity

146. Alexander Iaroshevich to Vladimir Donskoi, Dean of Clergy, "Otchet o Missii,"

May 14, 1895, Reports/Records, Alexander Iaroshevich, 1891-18 96,A/?CA , roll 20 1.


  Modestov, "Tserkovno-Istoricheskoe Opisanie Nushagakskoi Missii Aleutskoi

Eparkhii," 304.


 "Protokoli Zasedanii Kenaiskago Sviato-Pokrovskago Bratstva," Augu st 13, 1904,

ARCA,  roll 181; Pavel Shadura to the Alaska Dean of Clergy, April 25,  1913,"  Reports/

Records, Pavel Shadura, 1909-1923, ARCA,  roll 201; Savva Stepan, a Tyonek elder and

churchwarden, Mary Conrad Center, Anchorage, AK, interview by author, July 12, 1998.


  "Kenaiskoe Sviato-Pokrovskoe Bratstvo za 1897/8 God,"  Russian-American Or-

thodox Messenger

3, no. 13 (1899): 363; "Godovoi Otchet Kenaiskago Sviato-Pokrovskago

Bratstava s 1-go O ktiabria 1904 G. po 1-oe Oktiabria 1905 G.," ibid. 10, no. 3 (190 5): 54.

150. Ioann Bortnovsky to Bishop Tikhon, October 25 , 1901, Cases, Stepan and Fedosiia



  roll 182.




 D zeniskevich, Atapaski Aliaski,  109-110, 113.

153.  Ellanna and Balluta, Nuvendaltin Quhtana, 290.

154. Nikolai,  Vipiska iz Zhurnala Kenaiskago Missionera Igumena Nikolaia s 1858 po

1862 God,  2; idem, "Iz Zhurnala Kenaiskogo Missionera Igumena Nikolaia, Nikolaevskii

Redut, 1862 God," 9.


  Vasilii Shishkin to the Alaska Ecclesiastical Consistory, "Nizhaishii Raport," Au-

gust 1890, Nushagak, Records/Reports, Vasilii Shishkin,


  roll 149.

156. Lynch,  Qizhjeh, 6 3.



  On the Trail ofEklutna,


158.  Joan Townsend, "The Tanaina of Southwestern Alaska: A Historical Synopsis,"

Western Canadian Journal of Anthropology,  no. 2 (1970): 10.

159. Ellanna and Balluta, Nuvendaltin Quhtana, 290-2 91 ; Osgood,  Ethnography of the

Tanaina, 170.

160. "Protokoli Zasedanii Kenaiskago Sviato-Pokrovskago Bratstva," October 1, 1900,

ARCA,  roll 181.

161. Nikolai,  Vipiska iz Zhurnala Kenaiskago Missionera Igumena Nikolaia s 1858 po

1862 God, 2 4.

162. Fall, "Patterns of Upper Tanaina Leadership, 174 1-19 18," 316.




 75 .

164. M odestov, "Bogosluzhebnii Z hurnal za 1895 God, N o. 181 ," July 1894 to June


165. M itropolsky to Bishop Nikolai, "Pochtitelneishii R aport," September 7, 1892.

166. Hiermonk Antonii to Bishop Tikhon, April 13, 1900, Copper River, Diocese Ad-

ministration, Establishment of a Parish, 1900, ARCA, roll 20 3.

167. Ellanna and Balluta,

 Nuvendaltin Quhtana,

 297-98 .


  In this regard, it seems strange that Ellanna and Balluta insist that in the religious

practice of the inland Dena'ina we may observe "continuity of non-Christian ideologies

and related behaviors in the face of repression from Euroamerican religious practitioners

and public educational policies." Ellanna and Balluta,  Nuvendaltin Quhtana, 287. Avail-

able literature and sources hardly allow the sugg estion suggest that both the Russian church

and American educators forced Christian beliefs on the Dena'ina.

169. Breece, School Teacher in O ld Alaska,  131.

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Orthodoxy Becomes a Native Faith  137

170. Osgood,

 Ethnography of the Tanaina, 173.

171. Our Stories, Our Lives: A Collection of Twenty-Three Transcribed Interviews with

Elders of the C ook Inlet Region,  ed. A. J.

 McClanahan (Anchorage: CIRI Foundation, 1986 ),

4 2 - 4 3 , 50, 126, 86; Subd eacon Michael Balluta of St. Nicholas Church, Nondalton, AK,

interview by author, Au gus t  13, 199 8; Karen Standifer of Tyonek, AK, interview by author,

July  15, 1998.

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Map 4.1 Native peoples of northeastern Siberia

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Unresponsive Natives": Chukchi Dialogues

with the Russian Mission, 1840s-1917

Here the Tatar way of life is winning out over the R ussian.

—Elisée Reclus, Nouvelle G eographie Universelle


Chukchi interactions with missionaries visibly indicate that under certain histori-

cal circum stances coupled w ith native self-sufficiency, newcom ers had to accept

native customs and beliefs on their own terms, and even adjust themselves to in-

digenous lifeways. Not many know that these "Apaches of Siberia,"


  as two

American writers metaphorically called them at the turn of the century, main-

tained semi-independent status within the Russian empire until 1917. Moreover,

these natives, who numbered only about twelve thousand at the close of the nine-

teenth century,


  were the only Siberian tribal group that did not pay obligatory

tribute to the imperial authorities.


  In my interpretation of the Chukchi relation-

ships with missionaries I rely on the model of cultural and political "middle grou nd"

offered by Richard White in his groundbreaking analysis of interactions among

Native American, British, and French interests in the eighteenth century. White

indicates that in certain situations a weak colonial presence made natives and

colonials equal partners in a cultural dialogue. Second, com petition among colo-

nial powers significantly diminished pressure of colonial hegemony on native

peoples. Under these circumstances native peoples were frequently able to dictate

their own terms of the cultural dialogue. To describe this balance of powers and

cultural equilibrium, White introduces the middle ground m etaphor. He also stresses

that native groups used this middle ground to create a cultural space for them-

selves and to enjoy sovereignty.


Ano ther scholar, Ann Royce, in her Ethnic Identity points to the circumstances

that might have improved indigenous peoples' abilities to enter into a dialogue

with newcomers as equal partners. First, she indicates that an indigenous group

greatly enhanced its agency by maintaining a large part of its territory or econom ic

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  Sham anism and Christianity

subsistence. In those areas where colonial forces brought little disruption or even

enhanced native precontact economies indigenous peoples had much more oppor-

tunity for a dialogue as equals. Conversely, in situations of intense pressure when

native economies and societies went through radical changes, the indigenous peoples

sought new strategies of survival by creatively using values brought by newcom-

ers.  Royce points to geographical isolation as the second important aspect that

determined how much autonomy a group possessed: "U nless there are other, over-

riding concerns, such as valuable mineral deposits in the area, difficulty of access

seems to dampen the enthusiasm of colonial powers for incorporating isolated

group s." If agents of an encoun ter accepted an existing balance of power and did

not encroach on each other's land base, along with "material reliance on each

other went a mutual respect."


  In my View, conditions similar to those described

by White and Royce existed in northeastern Siberia. Sunderland's excellent in-

sight into ethnicity formation in northeastern S iberia from the 1870s to 1914 seems

to support this assertion.


  My thesis is that the Chuk chi's attitudes toward Russian

Christianity reflected balanced relationships of mutual respect, which had been

established between these natives and colonizers in the northeastern Siberian

"middle ground." To understand why Orthodox missionaries essentially failed to

reach Chukchi I devote a large part of this chapter to a discussion of native eco-

nomic self-sufficiency, political sovereignty, and power relationships between the

empire and the Chukchi. The reader will clearly see that the story that is told will

address not so much missionary activities themselves as the circumstances that

kept the Chukchi aloof from Christian religion.


Prior to the Russian advance into northeastern Siberia, nom adic, sem i-nomadic,

and maritime groups of the Itelmens, Evenki, Yukagir, Chukchi, Koryak, and Yupik

populated the area. After entering this area in the seventeenth and eighteenth cen-

turies, the Russians joined the native barter trade and became one of the elements

of regional intergroup relationships. From the very beginning, the Russian partici-

pants in these relations, namely, the Cossacks, m erchants, and



interested in the procurem ent of furs, especially sables. The imperial government

shared the same goal and imposed a fur tribute on the local natives. The empire

valued Siberian fur resources so highly that in the seventeenth and eighteenth cen-

turies sable pelts began to play a currency role. However, such resources were

distributed unevenly. For instance, the area southwest of the Chukchi, Kam chatka,

abounded in sables, but the Chukchi country, located at the very edge of northeast-

ern Siberia, lacked valuable fur animals. In their attempts to compensate for this

absence and to maintain trade relations with the Russians, the maritime Chukchi

as well as their neighbors, Siberian Yupik and Inupiaq, bought furs from Alaskan


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 Unresponsive Natives

 " 141

Not surprisingly, given the abundance and high quality of sable, Kamchatka

became the object of intensive Russian colonization between the 1600s and 1700s.

Kamchatka's strategic location explained the persistent Russian attempts to con-

trol this region, w hich w as also on the route of Russian trade and m ilitary traffic

between Okhotsk and the Anadyr fort. The Russians wanted to subjugate its na-

tives in order to establish a direct transport network along the Okhotsk Sea coast.


Chukchi cond itions were different. W hile the Kam chatka natives faced the conse-

quences of refusing Russian demands, the Chukchi resided beyond the physical

borders of Russian domination and refused to pay tribute. The severe climate of

the Chukchi region and lack of precious sables convinced the Russian governm ent

that this territory was hardly worth colonization. In addition, during the 1740s,

when Vitus Bering discovered new trade routes from Kamchatka to Alaska, the

czarist government stopped viewing Chukchi country as a bridge for penetrating

into North America. In the 1720s-1740s a series of defeats of Russian Cossacks

and allied native forces recruited from the Koryaks and Itelmens at the hands of

the Chukchi added to the government's lack of interest in the area. During the

1760s, Russian autho rities stopped engag ing in expensive campaigns to pacify the



In 1769, the Russians reduced a garrison in the Nizhne-Kolymsk fort, and in

1771 they abandoned the Anadyr fort, the major imperial military base on the

fringe of Chukchi country.


  Incidentally, between 1710 and 1764 ma intenance of

this fort had cost the imperial treasury  1,381,007 rubles, whereas tribute collected

in the area provided only 29,152 rubles. Finally, the empire imposed only formal

control over Chukchi country by allowing its natives to retain sovereignty.



thermore, throughout the nineteenth and up to the turn of the twentieth century,

Russia still could not establish full domination in this region, nor throughout the

entire region of northeastern native Siberia. As a result of this uneven imperial

control, native peoples of this area established tw o types of relationships with the

empire. The nomadic and maritime Chukchi did not pay any real tribute or taxes

and enjoyed sovereign status, while the rest of the native population such as the

Yukagir, the Itelmen, the Eve nki, and the Koryaks carried the full burden of pay-

ing tribute and other imperial im positions.

Despite conflicts, confrontation was not the sole elemen t that dom inated these

populations' encounters with the Russians. In reality, from the end of the eigh-

teenth century in northeastern Siberia, commerce and intermarriages occupied a

far greater place in these relationships than conflict. The Itelmen, Evenki, and

Koryak and to a lesser degree Chukch i traded and intermarried with R ussians and

Creo les. Generally, colonizers, who w ere primarily males, took advan tage of local

buying and selling of native women by acquiring them for household chores and

com panionship. Moreover,


 ("human tribute") was considered a substitute for

the fur tribute and bolstered the mixing between Russian and native group s. Nikolai

Firsov even asserted that "the history of abdication of native women" represen ted

one of the major aspects of native-Russian relationships in this area.


  It should be

also noted that the greater part of Russians w ho ventured far up into no rtheastern

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142  Shama nism and Christianity

Siberia were already the children of native-Russian intermarriages. However,

Chukchi intermarriages clearly differed from the others. From the second half of

the nineteenth century, in maritime areas not Russians, but Am erican whalers and

traders sometimes took Chukchi as their concubines. Moreover, for the nomadic

Chukchi intermarriages frequently worked in a reverse way: Russian and Creole

women generally married native males, especially those who owned large herds of


Additionally, in northeastern Siberia, the Chukchi and other natives outnum-

bered the Russians and Creoles, who composed a small minority. Thus, in the

Anadyr district, natives, primarily Chukchi, numbered 98.9 percent of the entire



  Russian presence was more noticeable farther south, in m iddle and

southern Kamchatka, the areas with milder climates.


  It is no surprise that under

these circumstances indigenous groups retained authority over the econo mic, so-

cial, and cultural life. When the Russians and Creoles reached northeastern Siberia,

regular exchange and reciprocity fueled these new relations. The newcom ers be-

came part of the local economic and social relationships as providers of alcohol,

tobacco, and metal tools, and in return, the nomadic natives acted as regular sup-

pliers of reindeer meat and skins. The scarcity of arctic resources and the

unpredictable seasonal fluctuations forced local Russians/Creoles to depend upon

the native foodstuffs. It was hardly surprising that in the nineteenth century, native

reindeer breeding drove a greater part of the northeastern Siberian economy.


Nomadic communities experienced only minor Russian influence. A relatively

stable reindeer supply allowed the inland tundra Chukchi nomads the privilege of

maintaining economic sovereignty, which the coastal Chukchi and communities

lacked. Yet, the latter, being exposed to intensive Am erican contacts, attempted to

reach self-sufficiency and stability by taking over middleman roles in trade.


Though the nomadic Chukchi strove for independence , they did not isolate them -

selves from surrounding communities. Nomads purchased wood, mammal skins,

metal utensils, sugar, tea, tobacco, liquor, and sometimes guns. These trade rela-

tions with the Russians, Americans, their maritime kins, and neighboring natives

occurred on a permanent basis. However, for their basic food supply and subsis-

tence, nomadic natives relied on their own resources. Although desirable, trading

for them was, therefore, only complementary. It is important to emphasize that

reindeer breeding created a more stable source of food supply than hunting or

fishing did.

Moreover, reindeer nomads did not need ammunition and firearms from the

Russians or Americans, because of the pastoral nature of their economy. Even in

the early twentieth century, the Chukchi barely relied on manufactured tools and

implements. When necessary they usually obtained these items from sedentary

fellow tribesmen.


 At first glance, some travel accounts contradict these facts. In

1912 Unterberger reported that the Chukchi were used to European merchandise

and would perish without it.


  However, he based this observation only on en-

counters with the maritime Chukchi, who were active middlemen in the

Russian-American-native trade. Overall, the most acceptable assessment is

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"Unresponsive Natives"  143

Kru pnik's conclusion that the reindeer nomads "maintained a distinctive degree of

autonomy and almost completely sufficed to meet all the comm unity's consum p-

tion needs based on indigenous production alone."


  In this regard, it is hard to

support without reservations the contention made by the Russian historian Nefedova

that the Chukchi could not survive without Russian/Am erican merchan dise.


To survive in the harsh local environment, the Russian and Creole population

followed native ways. A m issionary to the Chukchi, Andrei Argentov, who achieved

little success in evangelization, remarked that in this country the average Russian

or Creo le man "deteriorated within a coup le of years," and after about fifteen years

he was usually transformed into a complete "savage": "Here the Russian tribe

turned into a nomadic tribe. All of them were gradually changed into miserable

nomads, fishermen, hunters."


  Russian settlers from a farming background could

not recreate in the Arctic the economic or agricultural successes of their ancestral

lands. Moreover, m any newcom ers were already too far removed from past farm-

ing experiences, because they were second- or third-generation Siberians. In

hunting, fishing, transportation, and clothing styles they adopted native ways, which

were the most appropriate methods of survival in this area.


  Yet, Russians and

Creoles did not accept nomadic reindeer herding, which required a complete ad-

aptation to native ways.

Twice, between 1780 and 1783 and then again in 1852, Russian authorities

brought to Kamchatka domestic animals and peasant farmers hoping to implant

agriculture. However, weather conditions and the lack of interest of local Creole

and native peop le ensured that the experiments failed.


  Given irregular food ship-

ments from Russia, newcom ers increasingly depended on nomadic natives for food

supply. This condition forced both settlers and authorities to foster reciproca l rela-

tions with the nom ads, especially the Chukch i. On the whole, the Russians retreated

to the fringes of the indigenous economies. This ultimately led to the establish-

ment of indigenous influences on the newcom ers, which were reflected, for instance,

in Russians' reliance on the indigenous languages of Sakha and Chukchi.



cording to a government surveyor, in the Anadyr district the most formidable of

the reindeer groups, the Chukchi, made theirs the lingua franca of northeastern

Siberia. All natives, Creoles, and some of the Russians living in this area spoke this



 This meant that the Chukchi possessed little motivation to adopt Rus-

sian ways. It was rather Russian and Creole families who attempted to form close

relationships with the nomads through marriages.

Waldemar Bogoras and a missionary to the Chukchi, Ioann Petelin, stressed that

many mixed marriages in Chukchi country were between Russian/Creole women

and native men. For example, Petelin, who visited reindeer Chukchi of the Kolyma

area in 1902, mentioned that he stayed in the cam p of the native Aleksei Kozonov,

whose m other, Evdokia, a resident of the town of Nizhne-Kolym sk, was married

to a Chukchi and by the time of the missionary's visit she had partially forgotten

Russian. A week later, Petelin reached another cam p, headed by the Chukchi Matvei

Echesia, who also took for his wife a woman from the same town. When the mis-

sionary inquired of her when she had received last sacraments, the woman

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144   Shamanism and Christianity

respond ed, "L ong time ago We moved very far with our herds and I almost forgot

how to speak Russian ,"


  This pattern of intermarriages, unusual for indigenous

borderlands, tells us much about the general direction of ethnic development in

Chukchi country. Characteristically, as early as 1858 a worried priest, Petr Sleptsov,

petitioned Chertkov, the Nizhne-Kolymsk comm ander, to make sure that Russian

and Creole Kolyma residents "do not give away their girls to the Chukchi for

married life without receiving preliminary consent of the priest and performing a

rite of holy matrimony."


  Frequently Russian, Creole, Yukagir, and Evenk i women

married Chu kchi to save themselves and their kin from starvation. For the relatives

of these Russian/Creole women, Chukchi husbands became the breadwinners.

Describing the life of these women at the turn of the century, Bogoras added that

he personally did not know anyone wh'o volunteered to go back to her "civilized


  after such a marriage. Observations made by I. W. Shklovsky at approxi-

mately the same time confirm such assessm ents: "The Nijne K olymyans willingly

give their daughters in marriage to the Chook tchi, and the women easily accom-

modate themselves to the savage life, readily sharing the home with other wives.

In a year's time they become so acclimatized that w hen they visit the fort they, like

the savages, cannot sleep in the huts; they say that 'th e roof presses upon them .'"


Such intermarriages are only an illustration of the whole complex of peculiar

relations, which not only nourished Russian-native reciprocity, but also increased

Chukchi hegemony in northeastern Siberia. The Russians only represented one

segm ent of this balance of interests and were not necessarily crucial in shaping the

social, economic, and cultural landscapes. Only after American commercial inter-

ests made successful inroads into the native trade in the 1880s and 1890s did the

Russian government attempt to increase its administrative control over northeast-

ern Siberia. Nevertheless, the empire was crippled by its weak resources, and its

rigid bureaucracy proved no match for the persistent intrusions made by American

whalers, miners, and fur traders. The advance by American and other foreign in-

terests into northeastern Siberia strengthened the Chukchi's bargaining positions.

This trend balanced Russian influences, giving the native population the option of

making more choices in this area, where the empire overreached  herself.  Until


 Russia shared northeastern Siberia with American merchants and other for-

eign trade interests despite possessing formal administrative control of the Chukchi



 These conditions not only supported equilibrium of power but de facto

established the sovereign status of the natives.

Throughout the nineteenth century the number of Chukchi reindeer herds in-

creased. It should be mentioned that during these years and later in the early

twentieth century Chukchi herds did experience a few die-offs. One of the most

severe was an epidemic of 1905 that devastated some Chukchi bands of the eastern

tundra and the Chaun area, who fled to the west to their rich kin who had not been

touched by this epidem ic. Nevertheless, on balance, the Chukchi reindeer econom y

prospered and expanded. Baron von Maydell, who worked among the western

Chukchi, reported that an individual who owned between five thousand and eight

thousand reindeer was not a rare case. In the Amrawurgin band, which moved

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"Unresponsive Natives

" 145

west in search of good pastures, each household numbered between twenty thou-

sand and twenty-five thousand animals.


  To support the expanding nomadic

economies, the Chukchi pushed beyond traditional borders, often clashing with

neighboring tribes for pasturelands. For instance, in the 1850s in the course of

these advances, the Chukchi expanded farther w est to the Kolyma River and forced

the greatly reduced Yukagir, Evens, and Chuvantsy out of their former lands and

captured their herds.


Despite the apparent hostile relationships among some natives, an interest in

mutual trade relations predominated over warfare. In other words, indigenous groups

were connected through regular exchange, family relations, and constant popula-

tion fluctuations. Nomadic camps received sea products from coastal natives. In

turn, the tundra dwellers provided sedentary populations with reindeer skins and

meat. At the same time, the food supply produced by reindeer herding far sur-

passed the unsteady food resources of the sedentary residents, who, because the

arctic weather frequently prevented fish from entering the mouth of rivers, even in

the summ er were subject to bouts of famine. Nor did maritime hunting g uarantee

a regular catch. Argentov and Suvorov indicated how the coastal Chukchi often

faced food sho rtages because of poor fishing catches, and Richard Bush, an Am eri-

can participant in the Russian-American Telegraph Expedition, described a famine

in the Kamchatka coastal villages and stressed that it was an annual event.


In the 1880s the destructive sea hunting conducted by Russians, Americans, and

Japanese victimized coastal econom ies.


 The Krause brothers visited the coast of

the Chukchi country in 1881 -1882 and reported, "W hile a few years ago the entire

Bering Strait and parts of the Arctic Ocean w ere full of walrus, now only a few are

found there. The natives, therefore, rarely succeed in catching whales or walruses.

They more and more depend on the whalers."


  Lay and missionary observers

noted that Chukchi, especially the nomadic groups, faced fewer famine conditions

than did the Evenki, Yukagir, Evens, m aritime Koryak, Alaskan Yupik, or Russian

and Creole pop ulations.


 For instance, Bogoras noted:

The possession of reindeer herds makes the materiaJ life of the nomadic Chukchi more

stable, especially when compared with the precarious subsistence of most of the fishing and

seal-hunting tribes in this neighborhood, not excepting even the Russians and Russianized



Current anthropologists essentially agree with Bogoras. The simple fact that the

reindeer economy was four times more productive than land/sea hunting and fish-

ing speaks volum es about the conditions of reindeer nomads.


An expert on ecological adaptations of arctic natives, Krupnik, stresses that "re-

indeer herders never experienced the ravages of famine that visited the coastal

com munities regularly, and more than once they actually saved the sedentary hunters

and fishers from starving to death."


  Interestingly, the same was true for the no-

madic K oryaks, Chukchi neighbors. The Russian anthropologist Gapanovich, who

conducted research work among this group in 1918-1919, referred to sedentary

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146   Shama nism and Christianity

Koryaks as being poorer than their nomadic kin: "Sedentary Koryaks do not have

such foundation for their economy as reindeer herding and, therefore, they live

poorer than their nomadic fellow tribesmen."


  Indigenous coastal communities

frequently decreased in number and intermingled with Creole populations. On the

other hand, population growth for the nomads reflected their healthy sta tus. M ore-

over, Chukchi numbers increased during the transition to a reindeer econom y and

later stabilized, remaining the same between the eighteenth and the early tw entieth

centuries. Infrequent contacts with the Russians meant that the natives did not

experience a drastic population decline caused by epidemic diseases.


  Gurvich in

his study of the ethnic development of northeastern Siberia stresses that because

of infrequent reindeer epizootics and epidemic diseases and a growing pastoral

economy the Chukchi population increased.


  Krupnik, who also researched the

demographic fluctuations of the Chukchi, draws similar conclusions and notes

that the Chukchi's "fertility and overall stamina were the highest compared to all

other neighboring peoples."


  Krupnik challenged widespread assertions that the

reindeer nomads were "dying out" and showed that the Chukchi reproductivity

contradicted these claims. He agreed with estimates Gurvich and another scholar,

Dolgikh, made that the Chukchi population comprised approximately two thou-

sand in the 1600s and increased to eighty-eight hundred by the late 1800s despite

two epidemic diseases that hit a few Chukchi groups.


  In addition, materials of

the 1897 census analyzed by Patkanov indicate that the number of the reindeer

Chukchi increased, while their sedentary population diminished.


Nomadic groups provided meat to starving native and Creole villages that bor-

dered Chukchi country and Kamchatka, and also to the Russian population.


Maritime natives turned to the reindeer Chukchi every spring when the number of

fish caught was exhausted. At the turn of the twentieth century Bogoras empha-


Even the officials of the towns of Sredne-Kolymsk and Nizhne-Kolymsk find themselves

obliged to visit the wealthy camps, and urgently beg the reindeer breeders to come nearer to

the river with animals for slaughter, as otherwise the people of the town and the Cossacks

will be starved.


The British traveler Dobell, in his 1830s account of native nomads in northeastern

Siberia, described how Gizhiga, the Russian and Creole village in Kamchatka,

faced regular spring food shortages. Dobell stressed that in the year when he vis-

ited Kamchatka the Gizhiga general manager received five hundred reindeer from

the nomad Koryak and Chukchi groups to feed the starving Creole population.


During his 1868 visit to the western Chukchi country, Bishop Dionisii referred to

local Russians and Yukagir as people who routinely "live off the Chukchi."


The missionary Suvorov provided an even more vivid example of the depen-

dence of local populations on this indigenous group. He described how in winter

1860 the Russians and C reoles gathered in the Anui fort located on the Little Anui

River and impatiently waited for the arrival of the Chukchi for an annual fair:

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"Unresponsive Natives'"


"However, w e did not lose our hope to w ait for the Chukchi. We waited one, then

two days and then on the third day at eleven o'clock one of my fellow travelers

runs toward me full of incredible joy and shouts, 'Chukchi arrived, Chukchi ar-

rived ' Everybody was happy. It was impossible not to be happy for w e were about

to share our last meal."


  In another situation, when a Chukchi chief and his son

visited Suvorov, the missionary asked them to help the starving Russian people.

The next day the natives brought seven reindeer.


  In summer of the same year

Suvorov again set out to visit the Chukchi, who were going to meet the Russians

for trade purposes. Describing the conditions in the Anui fort Suvorov drew the

same picture of starving people waiting for help from the reindeer natives: "The

Yakut, Yukagir, and Russians, who had come here in hope of avoiding starvation

they suffered in Nizhne-Kolymsk, already gathered in the fort. They sought to get

food and clothing from the Chukchi."


  Indeed, another priest, Ioann Neverov,

who worked in the Kolyma area in the 1870s after Suvorov, referred to the annual

starvation in the Anui fort and Russian/Creole dependence on the Chukch i m eat as

common facts.


In September 1868, upon the request of the governor general of eastern Siberia,

the government awarded Alexander Kuteugin, a Chukchi from Chaun, a silver

medal with the inscription "For an expression of zeal" (za userdie) "for helping

starving population of the town of Nizhne-Kolymsk." The next year three more

Chukch i (Luka Atato, G rigorii Tineimit, Petr Pene l'keut-Veigin) also received sil-

ver medals for feeding Russian and Creole people of the same area. A governm ental

roster of awards emph asized, "M oving around w ith their herds within the Kolyma

area during a regular famine caused by poor fishing these natives intentionally

stayed close to the starving people and provided them with absolutely free meat

killing for this purpose hundreds of their own reindeer."


  The situation hardly

changed at the turn of the twentieth century. The anthropologist Jochelson left

vivid descriptions of impoverished Yukagir, Evenk i, and Chuvan tsy families regu-

larly following the Chukch i camp s in the role of "spongers," who fed on "han dou ts"

and "leftovers" from the reindeer nomads. Moreover, Jochelson argued that such

widespread Chukchi benevolence corrupted neighboring natives and Creoles, who

were frequently distracted from hunting and fishing and gradually became used to

the life of freeloaders.


  The abuse of traditional Chukchi generosity by their "con-

stantly hungry neighbors" became so widespread that in some cases it led to

impoverishment of reindeer nomads. In the Kolyma area such freeloading along

with a smallpox epidem ic the Chukchi contracted in 1884 from Russian and C re-

ole settlements forced some reindeer bands to stop their expansion to the west and

flee from the "new friends" back to the eastern tundra.


The economic status of the Chukchi nomadic bands raised their prestige in the

eyes of the Russians and m aritime natives. Sliunin wrote, "As far as the supp lies of

food, the reindeer and sedentary Chukchi drastically differ from each other. While

the former are rich and aristocrats, the latter are poor pariahs w ho miserably sub -

side off the seacoast." The governmen tal surveyor, K allinikov, supported Sliunin 's

observation by mentioning that "a nomadic life of a reindeer breeder is the ideal

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148   Shamanism and Christianity

for a Ch ukchi." By contrast, residents of maritime areas were viewed as econom ic

weaklings. Oral Chukchi tradition compared coastal "dog-breeders" with the

tundra's strong independent herders. Those who lost reindeer usually resorted to

hunting or moved to the seacoast, where they supported them selves by fishing and



 Argentov's account of the 1840s pointed to the respect maritime natives

paid to the nom ads. He mentioned that if reindeer Chukchi found themselves in a

camp of maritime residents they automatically received the best camping spot. In

turn, Kiber stressed that reindeer natives enjoyed power over sedentary Chukchi.

One of the later observers, the missionary M-v, wrote in 1874, "The Chukchi are

especially hostile and rude to the meek and timid Lamut, who adopted Russian

Orthodoxy and lived settled life. When a Chukchi enters a dwelling and sees a

Lamut sitting at the best place, he immediately pushes him aside and takes his




Argentov, a missionary to the Chukchi, after his frustrating experiences among

the Chukchi, wrote in his memoirs, "This nation is not completely subjected to

Russia and occupies a special status in our state. Our laws are meaningless to the

Chukchi and have no power for them. Whatever they do in their nomadic habitats,

the government does not interfere in their internal affairs."


  Many other writers

stereotyped them in similar manner. By the end of the 1860s Bush observed that

the Chukchi were "a bold, independent, and warlike people, and are the dread of

the neighboring tribes."


 T he Russian official N. L. Gondatti m ade a similar state-

ment: "They are warlike, freedom-loving and extremely proud people."


  In the

beginning of the twentieth century Pavel Unterberger, then military governor of

the Amur region, who also supervised Chukchi country, was even more lucid:

"Chukchi view themselves as a free nation and do not pay tribute to the Russian



  These and other similar missionary and traveler images of the

Chukchi suggest that throughout the nineteenth century this indigenous group es-

tablished its own standards in their political relationships with the Russian authorities

and population.

At the end of the eighteenth century, after the "Chukchi W ars," natives sought to

reinstate peaceful relations with the Russians and even asked the local administra-

tion to expand trade.


  In 1775 a few Chukchi bands sent a delegation headed by

two native headm en, K hargitita and Am govgova, to m eet with the Russians, who

were interested in maintaining peace in northeastern Siberia. Trade appeared as a

good alternative to expensive military cam paigns. On October 11,1 779 , Catherine

the Great, who saw no purpose in dominating the Chukchi country, decreed that

they be relieved from all


 tribute for ten years on the condition that the natives

live in peace. She also allowed the Chukchi to trade freely with the Russians "without

any reservations and restrictions."


 Later, the Statute of Alien Administration in

Siberia of 1822, the major Russian law that defined the status of Siberian natives,

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" Unresponsive Natives "  149

strengthened the specific status of the Chukchi. This law relieved them from all

obligation forever and singled them out as a special category of natives who were

"not completely dependent," and who therefore were to pay tribute voluntarily as

much as they wanted in terms of both quantity and quality.


 A later regulation of

1857 again confirmed the Chukchi's right to deliver the tribute "as much as they



  Thus, the Chukchi became the one native group in Siberia who paid no

tribute and maintained a semi-sovereign status. Frequently the price of such pre-

sents exceeded the "tribute." Even after 1888, when the Russian governm ent created

the Anadyr District, the first administrative division in Chukchi country for the

purposes of better control, the Chukchi retained their semi-independent status.

The peculiar status of the Chukchi within the Russian empire paved the way for

a few reciprocal agreem ents between natives and Russians. Article four of an 1837

"treaty" between the Russian com missioner of the Interior Dep artment and Andrei

Yatargin, a Chukchi  toion, stipulated that "Russians are not to build any forts and

any kind of settlements on our land." Article eight forbade the Russian govern-

ment from interfering in native affairs: "Our beliefs, ways, manners and clothing

will not be infringed upon." The Chukchi also required the Russians to provide

free medical services, while they promised to deliver the tribute, but only as much

as they could.


  The sovereign status of the Chukchi looked so attractive to the

surrounding native population that several Creoles burdened with imperial taxes

claimed in the 1890s that they were "Chukchi" in order to receive immunity from



 Furthermore, Siberian Yupik and Inupiaq, who heavily mixed with mari-

time Chukchi, capitalized on the same special status and were similarly excluded

from the category of tribute payers.

The Chukchi experienced none of the subjugation or moral intimidation that

local officials used against the neighboring Itelmens and Koryaks. Moreover, until

the end of 1850s the fear of a conflict with the Chukchi persuaded the government

to prevent the Russians from trespassing into native lands. Thus, in 1859 authori-

ties warned all Russians not to visit the Chukchi without securing official permission

in order to prevent conflicts with natives.


 On occasions, the image of a sovereign

Chukchi nation produced panic, such as the 1877 "Chukchi fear" in the town of

Petropavlovsk (Kamchatka) when residents expected a Chukchi invasion. Even

later, Russian officials remained concerned about the peaceful relations with this

native group. In 1884 the Kolyma district police chief ordered that all local au-

thorities "immediately implant into minds of all Russian population of the

Nizhne-Kolymsk area the idea not to irritate the Chukchi. Otherwise, those who

will disobey will be tried by a military court." In 1891 , the police chief advised all

Russian visitors to Chukchi villages to "treat natives gently" in order to prevent "a

Chukchi war"


Thro ugho ut the nineteenth century, the Chukchi restricted contacts with the Rus-

sians mainly to officially sponsored annual trade fairs, of which there w ere two : at

the Anui fort (Figure 4.1) and on the Anadyr River. The Anui fair was supervised

by the Kolyma chief administrator, while the Anadyr fair was under the jurisdic-

tion of the Gizhiga commissioner. The political purposes of this Chukchi trade

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  Shama nism and Christianity

were obvious. Until 1837 the government controlled all Chukchi trade and p rohib-

ited merchan ts from penetrating into the Chukchi country.


  Officials also watched

over the liquor traffic and attempted to punish those who provided alcohol to the

natives. Only in 1869 did the new Kolyma governor, Baron von Maydell, repeal

the last restrictions and introduce free trade. The first organized trade meeting

between the Chukchi and the Russians took place in 1789. One year earlier the

ispravnik  (district police chief) of Yakutsk Ivan Banner sent gifts to the Chukchi

with an invitation to organize a regular barter exchang e. As a result, from 1789 the

Chukchi became regular visitors to trade fairs in the local Anui fort.



axes,  iron spears, copper pots, kettles, knives, and other household items were

exchanged for native sable, beaver, otter, and fox pelts.


These fairs increased the supply of European g oods delivered to the Chuk chi. At

the same time, the trade created a large demand for native furs. Th e natives tried to

satisfy this need by expanding their middleman role between the Alaskan tribes

and the Russians. These activities became especially important for m aritime Chukchi

groups, which w ere geographically positioned for the role of m iddlemen. A ccord-

ing to John Cochrane, who visited northeastern Siberia between 1820 and 1823,

coastal Chukchi merchants, "so commercial a people,'* regularly visited the Alas-

kan Yupik tribes and supplied them with Russian-made goods, especially tobacco.

In exchange they received beaver pelts, not found in Chukchi country. Cochrane

reported to Siberian Governor General Speransky that all the Chukchi furs for the

Russian trade fairs, except the deerskins, were from Alaska. Kiber, who visited

northeastern Siberia at the same time, even called the Chukchi "peop le of the trade"

and pointed out their middleman position between the Russian and Alaskan na-



This native trade reached its peak du ring the first half of the nineteenth century.

Beaver pelts the Chukchi procured from the natives of the Alaska coast they took

to fairs and traded to both Russians and natives. Like earlier observers, Unterberger,

who personally visited Chukchi country between 1906 and 1910, reported that the

natives bought beaver furs and resold them to the Russian merchants at annual



  The Chukchi active intermediary role disrupted the interests of the Rus-

sian-American Company (RAC), causing the company to lose profit. The RAC,

which included within its sphere of interests Kamchatka and part of the Chukchi

maritime area, attempted to stop the traffic of trade goods between Alaskan and

Siberian n atives. In 1803 the company started a trading post on the Anadyr River,

but the Chukchi destroyed it in 1806. However, in 1810 a brother of the RAC chief

adm inistrator, P. Baranov, rebuilt the trade station. After 1815 he supervised a

regular trade fair that attracted around three hundred Chukchi, Koryak, and Evens.


During the trade fairs, the Russians and Chukchi acted as equal partners, an

arrangem ent that continued until the start of the twentieth cen tury. Even historians

who exaggerate Russian colonial domination and influence in the area recognize

this fact. One of such scholars, Okun, conc ludes: "Com ing once a year to a desig-

nated spot for the trade with the Russians, the Chukchi essentially dictated their

own terms of this trade."


  In 1820 the natives complained to missionaries that

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 Unresponsive Natives "


they had waited too long for the arrival of Russian merchants and the Kolyma

commissioner at the Anui fair. This complaint was conveyed to government offi-


  who then ordered that in the future local commissioners hurry to fairs.



addition, a mandatory gift exchange between the Russian officials and Chukchi

headmen accompanied all trade meetings. Noteworthy were the reciprocal Chukchi

presents that Russian officials reported as the "native tribute." For example, the

opening of the Anui fair was always accompan ied by a special ritual. The Kolyma

district marshal met Chukchi chiefs (Figure 4.2) and on behalf of the Russian czar

gave them gifts of tea, tobacco, axes, knives, and kettles and occasionally awarded

them medals. Native headmen made complimentary presents with furs, which of-

ficials registered as "tribute," and the fair was considered opened.


  Banner, a

commissioner, who introduced the practice of the Chukchi fairs, was also the first

official who asked the government for money to cover "Chukchi presen ts."



ing the 1820s, the govern ment allocated five hundred rub les per year to the Kolyma

chief adm inistrator for these presents. Later this money w as divided into two parts,

so a share w ent to the Gizhiga com missioner in Kam chatka, the region also visited

by the Chukchi.


 The items acquired as gifts included tobacco , kettles, and knives.

In turn, the Chukchi "tribute" consisted of red fox furs. On the whole, the arrange-

ment satisfied both sides.

Generally, natives and Russians provided com pletely different in terpretations of

these "tribute rituals." The Chukch i viewed such gifts as necessary for ma intaining

mutually useful relations and as prerequisite to continuing trade.


  The Russian

representatives treated "Chukchi presents" as a device to induce the natives to pay

real tribute and transform them into loyal imperial subjects. For this reason, local

officials registered gifts (furs) brought by the Chukchi as tribute payment, then

stamped and sent the "tribu te" to St. Petersburg to flatter the imperial ambitions of

their superiors. Yet, officials understood very well the diplomatic nature of this

exchange and made a few abortive attempts to convince natives to pay genuine

tribute. The official guidelines provided in 1888 to Leonid F. Grinevitski, the chief

of the newly created Anadyr district in Chukchi country, instructed him to "culti-

vate among the Chukchi an awareness of their belonging to the Russian Empire

and try to make them pay tribute, not for the sake of the profit to the g overnm ental

treasury, but for the development of their recognition of being under the Russian



  Still, as late as 1908 during a trade fair in Nizhne-K olymsk the Chukchi

again agreed to continue to pay tribute, but only at the exchange of presents with

the Russians.


On the w hole, this "diplom atic" tribute lacked econom ic significance and only

served political purposes. Russian officials themselves recognized that this pecu-

liar exchange did not yield any profit. For instance, in 1866 the Kolyma governor

provided the Chukchi with 255 ruble gifts, while the natives brought a "tribute"

costing between 15 and 65 rubles.


  In 1869, the new Kolyma governor, Baron

von Maydell, attempted to abrogate this practice. During the annual Anui fair, he

stunned Chukchi headmen by not giving them a single present while trying to

extract tribute from the natives. As a result, the native bands retaliated by ign oring

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Figure 4.1. A scene at thé Anui trade fair inside the Anui fort, Kolyma area, 1895. Image

#11125.  Photograph by Waldemar Bogoras. Courtesy Department of Library Services,

American Museum of Natural History.

Figure 4.2. Chukchi chiefs, Anui trade fair, 1895. Imag e #11140. Photograph by Waldemar

Bogoras. Courtesy D epartment of Library Services, Am erican Museum of Natural History.

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"Unresponsive Natives"


this Russian fair.


 Eventually, in 1871 the chief administrator of the eastern Sibe-

ria reintroduced the system of the Chukchi presents, a practice that survived until


Involvement of American trade interests, the third party in the northeastern Si-

berian balance of interests, strengthened the sovereign status of the Chukch i w ithin

the Russian em pire. The first Am erican vessels sailed to the Chukchi coas t in 1819,

and in the early 1820s the Bering Strait Chukchi were in the process of switching

to the American trade and delivered fewer pelts to the Anui fair. However, the

active advance of American interests only started in the midnineteenth century. At

first, the Americans restricted themselves to whaling and walrus hunting, but after

the population of whales and walrus decreased in the northern Pacific area during

the 1880s they began trading with natives for furs. The pressure from American

comm ercial interests in the area increased after the Alaskan p urcha se in 1867 and

the general weakening of Russian positions in the Pacific.


  American visiting

traders attracted natives by a wide variety of inexpensive merchandise and proved

more honest in their dealings.


  The Am erican "cheap m erchandise leveled a death

blow to the Anui fair," wrote N. F. Kallinikov, whom the Russian government sent

to the Chukchi country to examine the disruptive influence of foreign traders and



 Especially harmful to imperial interests were 1904 restrictions imposed

by the governm ent on liquor trade with the Chukchi.


  Boris Okun, who examined

the Russian presence in the northern Pacific, even argued that until the end of the

empire Americans had monopolized the entire native trade in northeastern Sibe-



As early as the 1850s the native headmen realized they had a choice in whom to

deal with. In 1858 the Yakutsk governor general, Stubendorf, invited one of the

Chukchi leaders, Dmitri Khotto, to come for negotiations. Although he accepted

the invitation, Khotto planned his visit to Yakutsk primarily as a reconnaissance

mission and tried to find out which side offered the better deal. He defended Chukchi

trade with American whalers, his major interest, and did not accept Russian pa-

tronage. In contrast, another Chukchi


 Nikolai Am rawurgin, who also visited

Yakutsk for negotiations in 1859, formally became a Russian subject; later he

strengthened his position by converting to Orthodoxy. He accepted symbols of

imperial power such as a gold medal and the title of "highest chief* granted by

officials. Amrawurgin's band was part of about 360 reindeer Chukchi who ex-

panded farther westward and southward in the 1850s -1860 s in search of additional

pastures for their increasing herds.


  In 1857 Amrawurgin and his group crossed

the Kolyma River and asked authorities for permission to stay on its left bank,

which belonged to Russians. Permission was granted.


 We also may assume that

his visit to Yakutsk was somehow related to this resettlement.

Such interactions with the newcomers suggest that Am rawurgin did not so much

care about relations with the Americans as he was interested in the Kolyma pas-

tures and sale of reindeer meat to the Russians. In light of all this, it was hardly

surprising that his group established reciprocal relationships with the Russians

and later converted to O rthodoxy. Still, when in 1860 Anatovsky, the Kolyma d is-

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154  Sham anism and Christianity

trict police chief,  along with the missionary Suvorov attempted to extract from

these reindeer Chukchi an oath of allegiance to the empire, only five natives agreed

to do this, two of them only after persistent requests of the priest.


 All in all, from

the 1870s a considerable part of the Chukchi trade, especially in eastern areas, was

more oriented to American interests. In general, eastern villages found it more

lucrative to deal with American traders, and som e natives from maritime commu -

nities actually became agents for American trade groups.


  American traders

encouraged this practice to avoid formal Russian restrictions on foreign trade. The

Krause brothers, who visited maritime Chukchi in 188 1-18 82, described in detail

this native trade with foreigners and also mentioned that a few maritime Chukchi

accumulated large supplies of trade goods from Alaska to be delivered to their

inland kin. One Chukchi trader stored goods estimated at five thousand dollars.


The newcomers established connections with the Chukchi through intermar-

riages and mutual credit obligations. In the beginning of the twentieth century, a

large segment of mixed American-Chukchi people populated a few maritime



 Gapanovich, who visited northeastern Siberian natives at the beginning

of this century, reported that "the culture of a white man becomes known to the

Chukchi and the Eskimo people only through the Americans."


  Furthermore, a

few coastal Chukchi villages did not realize that officially they were part of the

Russian empire. In these areas the Chukchi preferred to use English, rather than

Russian, as a trade language.


 As late as 1910 the Alaskan m issionary Amphilokhy

(Anton Vakulsky) (Figure 4.3), who worked with the coastal Chukchi, similarly

stressed that the natives used English in their contacts with outsiders. The m ission-

ary added: "The Chukchi do not recognize Russian money and try not to accept

them. The natives prefer American money, for they maintain trade relations with

the Am ericans only."


Abramov, who examined trade interactions in northeastern Siberia, argues that

"the end of the nineteenth century is commonly considered as the beginning of the

decline of the Anui fair and the Russian trade in the northeast in general."



estingly enough, the coastal sedentary Chukchi started to bring not only sea animal

and Alaskan furs but Am erican-made merchand ise for trade with the Russians and

Creoles. Thus, in 1894 at the Anadyr River fair in addition to beaver and squirrel

pelts, the natives traded to Russian m erchants American calico, powder, and lead.


At the turn of the twentieth century R ussian com modity turnover in this region had

decreased by three times. An influx of American/Canadian gold miners added to

the Russian decline. The joint Russian-American Northeastern Siberian Society

took control of the mines and worked them until 1909, when the Russian govern-

ment, unable to extract profitable revenues, finally disbanded the society.


Am erican competition became so intense that in 1889 the government declared

the Chukchi Peninsula a specific Anadyr administrative district in order to rein-

state there an imperial presence.


 At the end of the nineteenth century, imperial

authorities also tried luring the Chukchi back to their fairs by providing gifts for

the natives. In 1889, Svetlitsky, the governor of Yakutsk, who formally supervised

the western segment of the Chukchi, ordered an increase in the amount of presents

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Figure 4.3. Missionary Amphilokhy (Anton Vakulsky), who worked among the mari-

time Chukchi in 1909 and 1910. Photograph courtesy of the M. Z. Vinokouroff Col-

lection, Alaska State Library Historical Collections (#PCA 243-58).

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156   Shamanism and Christianity

the Chukchi received. Officials even introduced a special bonus to those Chukchi

who volunteered to bring a com panion or a friend to a Russian fair. As part of these

attempts, authorities decided to sell Russian merchandise to the Chukch i for cheaper

prices than in the past in order to "adjust them gradually to the Russian-made



 Thus, the Siberian governor general forced Russian traders to sell Chukchi

tea, one of their favorite drinks , at artificially low prices with the sole pu rpose of

attracting natives to the empire.


In 1894 Gondatti, the newly appointed chief of the Anadyr District, opened

government stores with staple food products available at subsidized prices in such

towns as Novo-Mariinsk, Ust-Belaia, and Markovo. Later, at the beginning of the

twentieth century native food stores were built in Providence Harbor and on the

cape of Dezhnev. Their sole purpose was to expose the natives to Russian goods.

In his 1910 memorandum deputy secretary of interior requested that a secretary of

trade and industry help organize more government stores for the Chukchi to force

out Americans traders from the area.


  Local authorities were instructed "in each

appropriate moment during contacts with the natives to implant in their minds

respect to the stores as the governmental enterprise."


  Governor Unterberger,

however, did not put much hope in this bureaucratic measure because it failed to

match American commercial advance.

In addition, officials tried w inning native loyalties by cultivating particu lar indi-

viduals as "Chukch i chiefs" or


 the practice introduced by Baron von M aydell

among the western Chukchi in 1870.


  In addition, Maydell attempted to im pose

political units on the Chukchi for the purposes of control. He divided the whole

Chuk chi territory into five territorial " clans" and personally selected clan





 (little princes) for each one.


 The Anadyr governor, Gondatti,

who later supervised some of these nominations, gave to each " ch ie f an official

certificate and a Russian flag, asking him to show these symbols of imperial power

to all Russian and foreign visitors. According to governmental regulations of 1872

these headmen also received the right to wear caftans and carry daggers as the

symbols of their leadership.


  The practice of regular awards of gold and silver

medals to Chukchi headmen also was designated to draw the natives closer to the

Russians. Thus, in 1860 Nikolai Am rawurgin, who established close relationships

with the Russians and adopted Orthodoxy, received a gold medal for "his loyalty

to the Russian governm ent."


  In 1872 his son, Andrei N ikolaevich Am rawurgin,

received the Order of H oly Anna. Lieutenant G eneral Korsakov, who was in con-

tact with this headman, stressed that the practice of awarding Chukchi headmen

should be supported because it might draw native headmen closer to the govern-



Maydell even established the rank of "the highest chief of all the Chukchi." In

Russian w orks this "highest ch ie f rank is sometimes also called "Chu kchi king,"

"black king of the tundra," or "Chukchi czar." The Amrawurgin family, who re-

ceived this title and provided candidates for the positions of "highest



simply a wealthy clan whose headmen did not exercise any influence beyond their

own comm unity.


  It is interesting that while visiting Russian settlements, Andrei

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"Unresponsive Natives"


Amrawurgin,  who  occupied this position in the  1890s, regularly inquired about

the health ofhis "brother," Nicholas II.


 In 1897 the Russians p laced another rich

headman, Omrirol, in the position of a clan chief  toiori) among the reindeer C hukchi

of the W hite Sea. Sokolnikov, the head of the Anadyr  uezd  (district), gave him a


 as a



 Russian power.


 At the

 same time,


 Russian administra-

tor recognized that Omrirol did not "have any influence outside of his clan and for

everybody else he was and still is the head of his own kin group and a few  friends

who move around with him/'

11 6

 Sovereign native populations, who did not recog-

nize the  concept  of  centralized authority, paid little attention  to  these invented


 toions, and "highest chiefs."


 Bogoras described an 1890s incident when

an official made



  of his an


  to the chief.

  This "leader"

lamented,  Now I am a chief, and I  have this dagger and a package of papers as


 of my

 dignity. Still where

 on the


 are my


 I am






 At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Siberian governo r general in

his letter to the minister  of the  interior complained that, although formally  all

Chukchi had  chiefs nominated by the  Russians  and  even  the chief  of  western

tundra" ( the highest c h ie f) , these native "adm inistrators" were aware of neither

how many "subjects" they

 had nor

 where these "subjects" lived.


Eventually, as a result of the inefficiency  of this "chiefdom," some government

officials simply sought to eliminate the "ridiculou s" sovereign status of the Chukchi

and impose direct imperial presence in northeastern Siberia to strengthen the Rus-

sian position in the area. In his 1908 letter to P. A. Stolypin, the worried Siberian

governor general stressed that because


  their semi-autonomous status



of separate statehood penetrates  the  consciousness of the  savage Chukchi." He

also cautioned that because of the small number of Russian people in northeastern

Siberia and  strong influence of the Am ericans  on  coastal bands, "there exists a

possibility of revival of national consciousness among the Chukchi."


The 1910 Stolypin adm inistrative reform formally removed Chukchi sovereignty

and various privileges, but produced little change in the Ch ukc hi's effective status.

The reindeer cam ps proved especially hard




 they retained their


ways, recognizing none of the empire's laws. It is interesting to note that from the

very beginning local officials were a little paranoid and  ambivalent about impos-

ing these new regulations because they were afraid that the Chu kchi m ight simply


 out of the




 as it may

  sound, even migrate




instance, Unterberger cautioned, "Such possible exodus of the Chukchi, who pro-

vide furs to our markets or reindeer meat to the Kolyma residents during seasons

of poor fishing, would be devastating."


  On paper, the natives became subjected

to standard Russian laws




 "peasan ts," since


 government expe-

rienced difficulty  in  pigeonholing nomadic  and  semi-nomadic populations. For

those Chukchi  who lived in  coastal areas authorities introduced  the Russian vil-

lage administrative system, which again existed only



In March  1910, during  a  trade fair near Nizhne-Kolymsk, Melnikov,


zasedatel  (governmental representative), desperately attempted  to explain  to the





 judicial concepts


 local government imposed

 by the new

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158   Shamanism and Christianity

imperial regulations. Still, in his words, "the Chukchi displayed absolute lack of

knowledge of basics of internal government because of their extreme ignorance

and distrust of the Russians."


  In the same year, in his mem orandum to the secre-

tary of the interior Unterberger complained that the "population of the Chukchi

Peninsula still remains an alien people to us. They are aware of neither the Ortho-

dox faith nor Russian language, and have only a vague sense of their belonging to

the Russian em pire. Therefore, we still have much work to do to draw the C hukchi

closer to




Missionaries also were not thrilled with the peculiar Chukchi status. One of

them complained, "Taking advantage of their savage and desert land the Chukchi

still live independently and stand apart from the control of the Russian govern-


12 4

  Henry Lansdell, who visited the southern border of Chukchi country in

the 1870s, directly stressed that the very hopes for evangelization of these "only

nominal subjects of Russia" looked shaky.


  By achieving this semi-sovereign

status, the Chukchi selectively used various elements of Russian civilization. Eco -

nomically and politically, they not only m aintained but actually strengthened their

lifeways. This position proved a big challenge to the Orthodox missionaries. One

interesting story that the missionary Argentov recorded in his diary involves how a

Chukchi shaman, Tnepo, refused to accept Orthodoxy and justified his stance by

referring to the stability of the aboriginal traditional economy:

You are Russian people; God gave you the Russian faith and horses; therefore, you have the

Russian faith and use horses, while God is in the sky. We are the Chukchi people; God gave

us the Chukchi faith and reindeer; therefore we have the Chukchi faith and use reindeer,

while the God is in the sky. And so you Russians worship the Russian way and keep your

horses, while we Chukchi will worship the Chukchi way and keep our reindeer. The God,

who watches all of us, will look at us from the sky and keep an eye on how the Russians

observe their Russian ways and how the Chukchi follow theirs, and how each one maintains

its faith.


In addition, the native nomads faced few of the unfamiliar "ev ils" evident in the

coastal areas and had no need to borrow from Russian "medicine power." For

example, indigenous medicine men and women rarely faced the problem of fight-

ing epidemic diseases because of limited contacts with the Russians. All observers

stressed that such diseases touched the Chukch i less than other natives.



mentioned that in 1852 in the Chaun area a measles epidemic that ravaged the

entire Russian and Creole populations from Yakutia to Nizhne-Kolymsk affected

none of the Chukchi. As a result, Argentov called the latter "extremely healthy

people," who, although they refused vaccination, still did not die out.



seven years later, another missionary, Amphilokhy, who visited the maritime

Chukchi, stressed that he hardly met "sickly and tuberculous people" among

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"Unresponsive Natives"




  In contrast, epidemics wiped out many Koryak villages, especially in the

maritime region, more exposed to Russian influences.

Argentov summarized his unsuccessful experiences among the Chukchi as fol-


Who needs a priest here? Shamans support their influence through their personal charisma

devoid of anything that even distantly resembles police or bureaucracy. Therefore, these

shamans, who are welcomed uy ignorant masses, stand, so to speak, on solid ground.



He concluded that, to his deepest regret, native healers in that arctic country were

much more useful to the natives than priests.

Nineteenth-century Russian and later Soviet researchers explained the unsteady

presence of Orthodoxy, especially among the nomadic Chukchi, by alleged m oral

corruption of priests or by econ om ic exploitation of natives by clergy. At the turn

of the century, Bogoras and Jochelson, both anthropologists, depicted Russian

missionaries as either dishonest or eccentric individuals. This allowed Bogoras to

conclude, "No wonder that most of the Chukchi, w ith the exception of those who

live nearest to the Russian settlements, have remained until now, unbaptized."


These scholars correctly referred to a weak interest among the natives in experi-

encing Christianity. However, they failed to locate the roots of natives' indifference

to the Orthodoxy.

Soviet authors readily accepted Bogoras's and Jochelson's assessments, which

fit a Marxist anthropological framework.


  In his book on Russian expansion to

Kamchatka, Okun even pushed this approach to an extreme. His major thesis is

that Kamchatka was a colony and the clergy were an integral part of the imperial

colonial expansion. Therefore, the Russian church not only served political and

strategic interests of the state but exploited the Koryaks, Chukchi, Itelmens, and

other natives for profit. Unfortunately, he found little support for his thesis. By

emphasizing native hatred of Orthodoxy he dismissed all indigenous conversions

in northeastern Siberia as false and superficial.


  On the other hand, Dogurevich,

an Orthodox historian of the turn of the century, in his book, w ith the charac teristic

title  The Light for Asia,  totally relied on missionary accounts and spoke about

"thousands" of Chukchi converts. Moreover, he argued that by his time (1897)

evangelization of these natives was almost completed.


  This unfounded opti-

mism originated from reports of missionaries, who at times were stunned by the

relative ease with which arctic nomads accepted baptism after a short instructive


As in many other cases of indigenous-European encounters, dialogues between

native northerners and Russian missionaries illustrated the common situation that

both sides attached different meanings to the same events. To the Orthodox mes-

sengers, the supposed responsiveness of the "savages" proved that natives kept

their hearts open to conversion. In a letter to his Moscow superiors Bishop

Veniaminov, who supervised missionary work in Alaska and eastern Siberia, de-

clared that by 1851 his subordinates had baptized 2,940 Chukchi.


  Another cleric

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  Shama nism and Christianity

who worked among the Chukchi, who signed his report as M-v, optimistically

wrote, "Chukchi respect our missionaries very much, wholeheartedly welcome

them, willingly listen to their talks and frequently themselves express a desire to

accept a baptism. Although these natives are ignorant and crude, they are aware of

the uselessness of shamanism and easily amazed by the truth of Christianity."


As early as 1821 the Russian Bible Society, inspired by similar optimistic m ission-

ary accounts, made a bizarre attempt to print one hundred copies of basic prayers

translated to the Chukchi language and distribute them to the natives, who had no

idea what the printed word signified. We do not know what particular groups of

the Chukchi received these books. However, a nineteenth-century observer in-

forms us that the natives hid them inside clothing on their chests, using them as



As we find both directly from travel accounts and indirectly from missionary

reports, conversion for the natives served primarily two purposes. First, it could be

an expression of traditional reciprocity to maintain commercial dealings with the

Russians, especially important during annual trade fairs. According to Bogoras,

the Chukchi approached a baptism in the same way that they viewed the "tribute

payment," as a sort of prerequisite for the continuation of trade relations with the

Russians. Second, it seems that the Chukchi often took advantage of the mission-

aries'  gifts given at baptisms. Conversions and religious talks were usually

accompanied by collective tea drinking. Also, the newly baptized received sugar,

tobacco, shirts, and som e metal utensils from clerics. Suvorov referred to tea drink-

ing and gifts to the newly baptized as regular treats provided by missionaries.

13 8

Not surprisingly, many observers noted a phenomenon of multiple conversion

among these natives.

Before accepting baptism som e Chukchi even insisted on obtaining presents. A

Russian naval officer, Matushin, who was a witness to a scene of the Chukchi's

conversion during the Anui trade fair in the 1820s, vividly illustrated their mo-


 "A desire to get tobacco , a knife or beads forces them to accep t baptism one,

two,  three and more times." He also described a young Chukchi who suddenly

jumped out of the baptism font with cold water and ran naked around the room

shouting, "Eno ugh I do not want any more of it Give me my tobacco, give me my



 The British explorer of Siberia Cochrane, who, incidentally, observed

the same scene of baptism described here, similarly noted that each new convert

received tobacco "by way of inducing others to follow the example." Like M atushin,

he stressed that the Chukchi tried to accept baptism twice and three times "for the

privilege of the presents."


 Matushin's fellow traveler, Dr. Kiber, who supported

these observations, surmised:

To be true, Christianity will not blossom here too soon. Formally, all Chukchi who come to

the fair are baptized, but they accept baptism only when they are given tobacco, iron articles

and so forth. No Chukchi will accept baptism by conviction. No sooner does he get his

presents he comes back home and forgets both baptism and his new name.


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As a result, as Cochrane informs us, "good people of Irkutsk" were tired of

sending priests and tobacco "to such a people."


  Treskin, Siberian governor gen-

eral, stationed in that city, leveled the most devastating criticism of missionary

efforts to enlighten nomads. In reference to a missionary trip to the Chukchi area

that the church judged successful, Treskin wrote:

The claim made by preacher Sleptsov that fifty-five Chukchi accepted baptism and became

Russian subjects is absolutely unfounded. Because of their savage way of life the Chukchi

people grasp neither idea of Christianity nor imperial citizenship. If by a chance they accept

holy baptism, they do this only in hope to receive an award or a present.


Interestingly, in his 1868 report to Veniaminov, Mitrofan Shipitsin, a m issionary

to the Chukchi of the Anadyr area, even directly suggested using presents as tools

to speed up evangelization of natives.


  Veniaminov himself admitted the prag-

matic Chukchi approach to conversion. He mentioned that after accepting baptism

and receiving presents the natives went to other priests the next year. One year

later they again were ready to be baptized by the first missionary. Though

Veniaminov was well aware that, for instance, "a shirt for local savages is a valu-

able and important thing," nevertheless, he instructed missionaries to abolish the

practice of gift giving in order to test the sincerity of the new converts.



issuing such recommendations Veniaminov, who as a missionary dealt primarily

with the " subm issive" Aleuts and Alutiiq, displayed no understanding of the sov-

ereign Chu kchi no mad ic and maritime bands. Otherwise, he could have utilized a

more realistic strategy. It was evident that he overestimated the predisposition of

this tribal group for conversion. In all fairness, it should be mentioned that some

missionaries to the Chu kchi did not have any illusions abou t the native motives. In

the 1860s Suvorov and Shipitsin stressed that the Chukchi were indifferent to adop-

tion of Christianity, "although they are always ready to be baptized without any

conviction for some worthless present."


According to Bo goras, the first missionary to the Chukchi, Flavian, visited them

in 1744,


 but the following year a Koryak war party murdered him and his three

assistants. In 1753, Mikhail Trifonov, a missionary to the Sakha, made the second

attempt to Christianize the Chukchi. Another priest, Prokopii Trifonov, ventured

into Chukchi country four years later.


  Finally, in 1799 a native priest from the

Sakha tribe, Grigorii Sleptsov, established a mobile church for the western Chukchi

in A nui.


  Slep tsov's w ork is described in one of the first documented accoun ts of

missionary activities among the Chukchi. From his 1805 report we learn that

Sleptsov asked for a military detachm ent to accompany him. In the same acco unt

the missionary claimed that he had converted fifty-five natives (the event that an-

gered Treskin). Like local officials, the church was afraid to provoke the natives

and, instead of the Cossacks, sent fourteen civilians with the priest.


In 1812 a Chukchi war party from Chaun Bay attacked Sleptsov. Conflicting

interpretations exist of why this attack occurred. One, offered by a nineteenth-

century writer, states that Sleptsov was to be a sacrifice to the "sacred earth."

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  Shamanism and Christianity

However, Bogoras argued that the Chukchi had less exotic purposes and only wanted

to take furs and walrus ivory that Sleptsov had taken from a few Chukchi cam ps as

presents to the Russian officials. The missionary was spared by a local Chaun

elder, Valetka.


  Also, Sleptsov marked his presence by erecting a big cross in

Chaun Bay in 1812, but local natives cut it down, thinking that the cross caused

fish shortages in the neighboring river. From his account we see that Sleptsov

worked am ong coastal sedentary or semi-nomadic natives. In 1816, after his death,

Sleptsov was succeeded by a missionary from N izhne-K olym sk, A lexander

Trifonov. Trifonov baptized a few Chukchi who visited a fair at the Anui fort in


  In order to reach Chukchi in 1818 this missionary also suggested erecting

chapels in their country, but his project did not find support at that time. Appar-

ently, Trifonov should also be credited with m aking the first translations of Christian

commandments and basic prayers into Chukchi.


The first active attempts to evangelize the Chukchi w ere made only in the 1830s

and 1840s, when natives and Russians reinforced trade relations.



some natives who visited trade fairs asked for baptism . For instance , in 1831 in the

Gizhiga area (Kamchatka) only one Chukchi accepted baptism, in 1835 four more

did, and four years later fifteen natives volunteered for conversion.


  It appears

that in the latter case it was a group of Chukchi headed by the warlike chief Chinnik

who visited Gizhiga in 1839 for trade purposes. According to the priest Gromov,

before all neighboring Koryak and Itelmen tribes had feared Chinnik, who was

notorious for his "animal-like behav ior/' Nevertheless, this native headman came

to the fort and asked a local priest, Rom an Vereshchagin, for baptism. Th is was so

unexpected that even Nicholas I, after receiving this information, supposedly ex-

claimed , "Good God, at last."


  Since Chukchi mainly restricted Russian contacts

to trade relations, Trifonov, Vereshchagin, and some later missionaries carried on

their work of evangelization during annual trade fairs. Thus, in 1840 during a

annual fair in the same fort Trifonov met and converted ninety-three reindeer

Chukchi headed by the  toion  Yatargin, who came for trade and asked for bap-



  Incidentally, the missionary Suvorov referred to this headm an as "the first"

and "the best" Christian among the Chukchi."


All these facts drove Bishop Veniaminov to the conclusion that the Chukchi

actively sought conversion and that general prospects of Chukchi evangelization

looked very promising.


  Particularly, in his memorandum about the beginning of

the Chukchi evangelization he optimistically stated that "a few examples demon-

strate that the Chukchi, residents of the north, even more than the Koryaks, are

predisposed to accept holy baptism."


  In 1843 he commissioned Vereshchagin,

as the person with relevant experience, to stay in southern Chukchi country ex-

tending to Kamchatka for three years in order to start their evangelization. The

activities of this priest laid the foundation for the so-called Anadyr mission. The

Bishop supplied Vereshchagin with a copy of his guidelines for the missionaries in

Russian America and ordered him to visit an annual Chukchi fair on the Anadyr

River to seek new converts among both nomadic and maritime natives.


  On the

bishop's recommendation and with the material help of a Russian merchant,

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"Unresponsive Natives "  163

Baranov, Vereshchagin built a small chapel within the area of greatest Chukchi

concentration. Furtherm ore, Veniaminov suggested that Russian-American Com -

pany boost the trade relations with the Chukchi in the Anadyr region, as that might

bring them close to the mission.


By 1845 Vereshchagin p repared a baptism roster and sent it to Veniaminov, but

contrary to the latter's optimistic expectations, the roster reported only ten Chukchi

conversions. The missionary's attempts to convince local natives to send two na-

tive boys to Alaska for theological training also failed. In a formal letter to his

superiors in Moscow Veniaminov, however, insisted that all the Chukchi visited by

Vereshchagin were eager to accept baptism.


 It appears that to speed up evange-

lization work Vereshchagin tried to distribute shirts and tobacco among the newly

baptized. Thus, his 1844 Anadyr mission report contained abundant entries indi-

cating that every month he treated each newly converted Chukchi to three pounds

of tobacco.


  However, Veniaminov did not welcome such methods and stressed

spiritual enlightening of the Chukchi, which should not be supplemented by gifts.

It is obvious from the Vereshchagin account that he had to face the dilemm a. On

the one hand, the results of his work were estimated by the number of newly con-

verted. On the other, Veniaminov's dismissal of gifts as tools for baptism confused

the missionary. In his report that accompanied the roster, Vereshchagin let

Veniaminov know that the bishop's insistence on cultivating sincere baptisms would

not work. Point twenty-four of Veniaminov's instructions,


  which did not allow

missionaries to distribute shirts among the newly baptized, especially disturbed

him. "How can I not give them these shirts," Vereshchagin exclaimed. Though

those he met did not directly demand gifts, they never missed the chance to draw

the priest's attention to the fact that the Chukchi w rapped newborn babies in white

furs, suggesting that through conversion they would become "newborn" and there-

fore eligible for Russian shirts.


 It was not clear how the bishop and the missionary

resolved this specific dilemma. Evidently, Veniaminov had to back off since later

missionary records from the Anadyr mission show that evangelization of the

Chukchi was regularly supplemented by distribution of gifts. Such a practical ap-

proach to baptism apparently provided a constant increase of the "new born." For

instance, 1849 St. Nicholas chapel rosters numbered 296 baptized natives.


In 1845, on Veniam inov's ord ers, Trifonov, a priest from the Kolyma area, in the

western part of Chukchi country, again visited the trade fair in Anui. His "catch"

suggests that Trifonov never bothered himself with the "shirt dilemma." Thus, he

reported that he had baptized six hundred Chukchi. Although, according to his

report, all natives were "good-mannered and friendly or inclined to accept Chris-

tianity," they were still "full of die-hard ignorance." It is notable that the baptism

roster Trifonov attached to his report listed no reindeer nomads, and the fact that

he worked mostly with a sedentary population might be an additional explanation

for the large number of converts. All native names he registered as new converts

were accompanied by a mark  sidiachie,  which meant sedentary.



missionary efforts in this region resulted in the establishment of the St. Nicholas

chapel, which should not be confused with the previous one that carried the same

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164   Shamanism and Christianity

name and was built by Vereshchagin. The Kolyma area permanent chapel was

erected in 1848 in the Chaun Bay. Interestingly, one of the Chukchi headmen in

this area, Kamora, selected the place for the chapel and one Russian merchant

sponsored the building of the church and a house for the missionary.


  This in-

volvement suggested that both sides treated missionary work as a channel to

strengthen trade relations. In fact, Chaun Bay was a convenient locale for trade

purposes, attracting once a year over one thousand Chukchi coastal hunters and

nomadic groups as well as the Evens and Yukagir.


The missionary who turned the St. Nicholas chapel into the permanent base of

his evangelization work was Argentov, a successor of Trifonov from 1848. Argentov

also became the first missionary to attempt to break the practice of "trade fair

conversions." Unlike earlier clerics, this* most famous and aggressive missionary

to the Chukchi stayed among these natives for nine years (1848-1857), learned

basics of their language, and frequently worked without a translator. In 1850 he

entered the heart of the nomadic country several times. Argentov claimed that as a

result of his ventures he baptized more than one thousand natives. He usually

traveled in the company of two native readers from the Russianized Chuvantsy

tribe. This group and also the Even tribe were fluent in both Chukchi and Russian

and acted as cultural brokers between the newcomers and the Chukchi.



his efforts to reach the nom ads, his St. Nicholas chapel w as located far from major

native camps. Moreover, Argentov complained that this transit area, with a small

number of permanent residents, was not helpful for missionary activities and the

church did not make much progress. In order to reach the distant Chukchi camp s

Argentov made adventurous trips into the nomads' country, but with few results.

The Russian historian Nefedova even argued that Argentov never baptized a single



This missionary desperately attempted to implant Christianity in Chukchi soil,

and his diaries suggest that he was ready to go very far in trying to adjust the

Orthodoxy to local tradition. Since the Chukchi never buried the dead in the ground,

Argentov told them not to worry much about the burial process:

Human souls are deathless, they do not die. Human bodies, which are burned down, sunk or

eaten by animals, or buried in the ground, will eventually resurrect after a while for better

life. There is a future eternal life, an evil one for evil people, and a good one for the good.


Finally, Argentov fled from his desolate church after a local native he befriended

insisted on practicing the Chukchi ritual of wife switching.


  Despite his toler-

ance, the missionary was not prepared to go so far. He tinged all his later writings

about northeastern Siberia with grim pessimism and offensive assessments of arc-

tic people and environment. In his 1879 notes, Argentov stated that it was useless

to implant civilization and Christianity among the northern natives, especially in

the arctic desert. In his view, both the natives and Russians who settled there sooner

or later degenerated to "animal life" or turned, as he metaphorically put it, "into a

white polar bear."


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166  Sham anism and Christianity

might teach them m yself at home " Despite such native attitude towards Christian-

ity, the missionary insisted that more than three thousand Chukchi eagerly expected

"the word of Gospel."


In 1870 Suvorov became ill and the position of the Chukchi missionary re-

mained vacant. In his 1870 letter to the Holy Synod Dionisii, bishop of Yakutsk,

stressed that the Chukchi had no missionary for almost two years. He also indi-

cated that a priest (most probably Ioann Neverov) from the town of Nizhne-Kolymsk

acted temporarily as the Chukchi missionary. Part of the reason why Chukchi coun-

try was still a weak spot in missionary activities in northeast Siberia was that

administratively the region was subjected to the Yakutsk and Kamchatka sees. The

large size of these sees and their limited resources along with geographical diffi-

culties in reaching C hukchi did not place this area on the high-priority list. Therefore,

although m issionary work started among the Chukchi in the 1820s, formally there

was no special mission to this tribal group. Eventually, church officials decided to

establish such mission.

In 1870 Dionisii asked the Synod to approach the Russian Missionary Society

(RMS) to provide help for this project. However, in his response to the synod

Veniaminov, as head of RMS, pointed out that for the lack of available candidates

he could not satisfy this request.


  In order to move evangelization of the Chukchi

into the heart of their country, the Yakutsk bishop D ionisii, who persona lly visited

them in 1868-1869, convinced Andrei N. Amrawurgin, "the highest chief of all

Chukchi," to build the chapel and a rectory in the most convenient location.

Amrawurgin, who was very interested in close trade relations with the Russians

and who probably hoped that merchants would follow missionaries, himself se-

lected the place along Elombal, a tributary of the Anui River; invested fifteen

thousand rubles in the construction; and even donated four hundred reindeer to the

prayer ho use. In 1873 the building of the chapel was comp leted. As in the case of

the Chaun Bay St. Nicholas chapel, this project was also supported by a Russian

merchant active in this area.


  Missionary Neverov, who consecrated the chapel,

left a colorful description of this ceremony:

Amrawurgin with his son and entire clan along with a few other Chukchi participated in the

consecration ceremony. Toion Amrawurgin was dressed in a full uniform, which is very

beautiful: a caftan of light blue color with golden braids and a sable on the golden lace, a

few gold and silver medals of large size along with a bronze one, which is the largest. In this

uniform Andrei Nikolaevich is a real toion. I was ready to cry that during such an important

ceremony I was not able to say a single word to my parishioners due to my lack of knowl-

edge of the Chukchi tongue.


Later for his pious behavior Amrawurgin was awarded the Order of Holy Anna

of the Third Grade. It is essential to note, however, that Dionisii emphasized that

such behavior w as very unusual am ong the Ch ukchi: "Among the Chukchi it is the

only one example of such piety, which never happened before since the time they

had been endowed with the light of the Christian faith."


  Andrei Amrawurgin's

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" Unresponsive Natives " 167

band, although it still practiced shamanism, was among the few groups of the

Chukchi in which missionaries were able to entrench themselves. This headman

and his son, Afanasii Amrawurgin, who succeeded him, encouraged baptism for

commercial purposes and for the purposes of maintaining reciprocal relations with

the Russians. Missionaries, who constantly referred to this group of sixty-seventy

Chukchi as an example of their success, did not miss a chance to impress natives

with the glamour of Orthodox rituals and respect for those Chukchi who accepted

Christianity. Thus, in 1897 clerics took advantage of the funeral of Afanasii. His

body was brought to Sredne-K olymsk town and buried in the yard of a local cathe-

dral. In addition to Orthodox rituals, Russian officials and a military escort joined

the funeral p rocession "in order to convince the Chukchi to adopt Christianity," as

the priest Zinovii Vinokurov put it.


Despite Veniaminov's negative response, the search for missionaries to the

Chukchi continued. Considering Argentov's experience and the desolated nature

of the area church officials decided to recruit missionaries for the Chukchi exclu-

sively from monks. Later governmental representatives also admitted that "black

clergy," as monks were commonly known, would make ideal candidates for such

assignments. In 1896 Nikolai Sliunin, sent by the Naval Ministry to examine the

area, recomm ended more persistent use of monks-hermits, who overcrowded Rus-

sian European "deserts." Governor Unterberger, who supervised the area, suggested

recruiting Chukchi missionaries only among ascetic monks from northern Rus-

sian monasteries as they were more prepared for the arctic environment.


In 1873 church officials finally founded the Chukchi mission and divided their

country into three areas called stations to reach most distant native camps. The

synod also found three missionaries and six readers to staff these stations.



Chaun Bay area, the place where Chukchi evangelization started in 1848, became

a Chaun station, which inherited St. Nicholas chapel, built by the Yakutsk mer-

chant Vasilii Trifonov in 1848. However, by 1870 this church and surrounding

buildings, located far from native camps and ignored by the Chukchi, were com-

pletely ruined. In addition, the head of the station lived almost three hundred miles

from this area, in Nizhne-Kolymsk, a Russian-Creole town, and this arrangement

also did not help missionary work. At the same time, clerics claimed that in the

1870s two hundred sixty Chaun Chukchi w ere registered as Russian Orthodox .

The second station, founded in 1873-1876, was called Elombal (or Anuisk).

This area, located between the small and big Anui rivers close to the Gizhiga vil-

lage, was often referred as "stone tund ra" because of numerous hills and mountains.

The local chapel built by Amrawurgin and his band in 1873 allegedly served six

hundred thirteen baptized Chukchi. The third one, Alazesk (or Sen-Kel) (Figure

4.4),  which was founded in 1874 and occupied the western part of the Chukchi

country, formally numbered three hundred Christian Chukchi. Unlike in the first

two stations, a missionary who worked in this area lived permanently in the vicin-

ity of achap el at Sen-Kel.


 Bishop Nikodim, who provided the information about

the number of the converted Chukchi in all three areas, nevertheless admitted:

"This tribe still clings to the shamanistic religion. They also move around and do

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  Shamanism and Christianity

not have a permanent place of residence. Therefore, missionaries have to track

their journeys, chase them , and meet them at the places of their accidental stops."


In the 1870s, these stations were headed by m onk-m issionaries: two h iermon ks,

Dionisii ( 1873-18 83) and Anatolii ( 1873-1 885), and one monk, Agafangel ( 18 75 -

1886). They left few written records. Dionisii and Anatolii were considered more

active, since they claimed that they had baptized four hundred twenty-three and

two hundred sixty-five Chukchi. Yet, other priests from the neighboring Yakutsk

and Kam chatka sees continued occasionally to visit the Chu kchi: Neverov ( 18 70 -


  Ioann Vinokurov (1883-1888), Zinovii Vinokurov (1883-1887), and

Shipitsin (1867-1870).

18 9

 At the turn of the century Hiermonk Victor Kirilov, the

monk Venedict (Viacheslav Bokterev), and the diakon Mikhail I. Petelin were re-

sponsible for the Chukchi mission. Father Victor worked among the maritime

Chukchi of Chaun and lived in the town of Nizhne-Kolymsk. Two others, who

worked am ong the reindeer Chukchi, w ere more active. Bogoras described Venedict

as an eccen tric who attempted a bizarre venture by com ing on foot from European

Russia to the place of his assignment in northeastern Siberia. Once Venedict and

Petelin traveled to distant reindeer camps, living and moving around with the rein-

deer Chukchi from 1896 to 1899. In addition, they visited all Chukch i v illages

along the Arctic and Pacific oceans. Even B ogoras called Venedict's journey s "quite



Like Argentov, Venedict worked with Creole interpreters, but the way he con-

veyed the Christian m essage opened the door not only to native reinterpre tation of

Orthodoxy but to total confusion. While one interpreter translated Venedict's talks

from Russian to the Sakha langu age, the other translator, a Yukagir, then put this

translation into Chukchi. Once, Venedict was fortunate to have as a translator a

Russian woman who had married a Chukchi.


  Unfortunately, little information

about such persons who mediated between missionaries and natives is recorded. A

more practical missionary to the Chukchi was Petelin, apparently a mixed-blood

cleric from Alaska, who worked in Siberia between 1898 and 1905. In 1902 he

went across the inland of the Chukchi country from the Kolyma River area to

Chaun Bay. During his eight-month journey Petelin visited forty villages and cam ps.

In addition to exposing the Chukchi to the Gospel and distributing crosses, he

treated them with bread and tea. His "ca tch" numbered fifty-two native souls. The

Alaska bishop Innokentii, who called this missionary the "most zealous," stressed

that "such a success for a Chukchi missionary is very rare." It might be explained

by this missionary's knowledge of the basics of Chukchi language, and customs

and his readiness to share their lifeways.


The employment of Alaskan clerics like Petelin for missionary propaganda in

Chukchi country was not accidental. For church officials, this procedure sought to

upgrade the missionary work in this far-off Siberian diocese. As early as 1903

Nikanor, bishop of Yakutsk, complained that his missionaries were not able to

reach eastern Chukchi and suggested that these natives be included in the Alaska



  On October 11, 1906, the Holy Synod agreed with this and incorpo-

rated the Chukchi Peninsula into the Alaskan diocese. Not only the poor results of

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 Unresponsive Natives "


missionary work compeled the church to bring about this change; the reorienta-

tion of the Chukchi life to the American trade was also a factor. By the beginning

of the present century the Chukchi had not visited Russian western settlements

and fairs as frequently as they had before.


In 1908 the bishop of Alaska, Innokentii, personally inspected the coastal areas

of Chukchi country. Next year he assigned to Abbot Amphilokhy, earlier a mis-

sionary to the Yukon Yupik and Athapaskan Indians,


  and to Stephen Repin, a

Creole (Russian-Aleut) psalm reader, the establishment of a permanent mission-

ary station in the most convenient location of the eastern part of the Chukchi country.

Vakulsky selected Uriliak, a maritime C hukchi village in Providence H arbor, where

each summer five hundred natives gathered for a trade fair. In addition to regular

missionary activities, Amphilokhy put great stress on schooling. He opened his

school in September 1909 with twelve students.

By April 1910 Amphilokhy was able to convert about eighty natives and had a

few basic prayers translated into Chukchi. Documents from the Alaska Church

Collection also show that in 1910 106 Chukchi people from four maritime v illages

visited him to make confessions.


  At the same time, Am philokhy's 1909-1910

church service journal points to an ambivalent response of the natives to his mis-

sion. Moreover, his records provide snapshots of confrontation between the

missionary and the natives, specifically a Chukchi shaman, whom Amphilokhy

called "an old scoundrel." The missionary also reported about ostracism by the

Chukchi of Olga Bychkov, a fellow tribeswoman who accepted O rthodoxy. Only

when Vasilii Bychkov, her Russian husband and also a local police officer

(strazhnik),  intervened did the open native resistance partially subside. Although

Am philokhy stressed that some natives "learned the truth and do not want to linger

in darkness anymore," his general verdict was that the Chukchi were still people

"rather rude and capricious."

19 7

The picture was not much different in the western part of the Chukchi country.

In 1914 Alexander Iavlovsky, who visited these natives in the Kolyma area, still

had to ask them "to abandon the sham anistic faith," reminding them that they were

already considered Orthodox. He also had to explain persistently to these baptized

natives that an icon was not a god, but an image of God. Iavlovsky also tried to

convince them that "polygam y is sinful," but admitted that because of the Ch ukchi's

"loose mores," he was not sure at all whether they accepted his arguments. In

addition, he stressed that converted people prayed to the souls of the deceased

rather than for their souls as Christianity prescribed. On the whole, the missionary

felt that his attempts had little success and blamed the Chukchi themselves, who

supposedly "have not moved yet to the expected level of development."


Furthermore, there were simply few opportunities for clerics to catch Chukchi,

especially a nomadic segm ent of their population. Sedentary coastal com mun ities

were also hard to access because of the weather. If missionaries ventured into

Chukchi country it mostly happened only in winter (Figure 4.5) because during

summ er swampy and flooded lands made travel impossible. For their evangeliza-

tion work clerics also occasionally tried to work in June, when the nomadic C hukchi

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Figure 4.4. Orthodox chapel in the Sen-Kel, western Chukchi country. Im age #197 2. Photo-

graph by Waldemar Jochelson. C ourtesy Department of Library S ervices, Am erican M useum

of Natural History.


 ' - ̂*..







'.  If

Figure 4.5.


 Orthodox missionary


 traveling clothing , northeastern Siberia, 1901. Image

#22300. Photograph by Waldemar Bogoras. Courtesy Department


 Library Services, American

Museum of Natural History.

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"Unresponsive Natives" 111

moved closer to coastal areas , escaping the mosqu ito harmful to their reindeer. As

missionaries themselves recognized at the end of the nineteenth and at the turn of

the twentieth century, a trade fair normally held in February or in March remained

the major meeting ground between clerics and natives.


  Thus, in 1915 Nikolai

Vinokurov, a missionary in charge of Elombal station, reported that it was on the

occasion of a February trade fair that he initiated religious talks with the Chukchi.

Although after opening of the fair during the liturgy the Chukchi approached

Vinokurov and kissed the cross, the missionary nevertheless had to admit: "Dur-

ing our conversions it becam e clear that many natives, though baptized, completely

forgot their Christian nam es. They also could not explain what specific missionary

baptized them." During this year Vinokurov was able to convert only two Chukchi.


By the turn of the twentieth century, despite all missionary efforts, both sedentary

and "wandering" Chukchi generally remained indifferent to Christianity.



If the Chukchi retained such a large degree of sovereignty, did it mean absolute

immunity from Russian religious influences? Despite the general lack of interest

in missionary talks, random encounters with priests did affect these natives. It

would be a mistake to conclude that Orthodoxy left no trace on this tribal group.

By the middle of the nineteenth century, some C hukchi who resided close to Cre-

ole settlements recognized the Christian God along with their own "gods" and

developed a vague concept of the "reindeer master." Yet, those few Chukchi who

adjusted some elements of Christianity to their worldview were not monotheists

and apparently added the Christian God to the indigenous pantheon of traditional

spirits, translating Orthodoxy through native glasses.

Even zealous Hiermonk Venedict in his essay where he assailed critics who

questioned the validity of Chukchi conversions, indirectly recognized indigenous

rereading of Christianity. Thus, on the one hand, Venedict stated that "many Chukchi

already regularly fulfill their Christian duties of confession and communion." On

the other hand, when the missionary needed to illustrate his statement with ex-

amples, he revealed the essence of this piety: "When Chukchi or their reindeer

become sick and during other accidents, they feel that it is their duty to seek for

help from high above by asking priests to serve molebens [short church services]."


Summarizing the status of Orthodoxy in northeastern Siberia Soliarskii wrote in


Natives adopted the outward side of Christianity, its ritual aspects, while the internal es-

sence of the religion still remains alien to them and until the present time, these Christian

natives cling to heathen religious beliefs and attach to the Christian ceremonies the same

magic meaning, which they attribute to the Shamanistic rituals.


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172   Shamanism and Christianity

By openly remaining shamanists, those natives who lived in the proximity of

Creole villages and who became interested in Orthodoxy occasionally appealed to

Russian m edicine , if they found it useful, in addition to their native spiritual tools.

For exam ple, in one case a Chukchi named Afanasii, a resident of a Russian/Cre-

ole border town, appealed to Bishop Dionisii in 1869 to heal him. His decision

Afanasii explained by the fact he had exhausted all other medicine.



some Chukchi families sometimes ascribed the increase of their herds to their

adoption of Orthodox rituals, especially when their conversion coincided with a

growth in number of the reindeer.


  For instance, Iavlovsky, who was frustrated

about the general indifference of the Chukchi toward Christianity, nevertheless

described a camp of Egor Vancha, a reindeer Chukchi, who welcomed the mis-

sionary and "with great pleasure" related that that year ( 1914) the number of reindeer

in his camp increased: "As an explanation Vancha pointed to their acceptance of

baptism. Vancha and his wife also asked m e to baptize the rest of their children."


Mikhail Petelin mentioned that during his 1902 journey to the Chukchi nom adic

habitats, natives asked him to sprinkle with holy water their camps and herds.


The word the natives used for describing healers and the sacred also suggests that

at least some of them might have viewed Orthodoxy as spiritual medicine. When

they needed to say "G od," a "cross," or "icons" Chukchi used the word e'nen,  one

of the indigenous terms, which literally meant both "shamanistic spirit" and "Rus-

sian (Christian) God." Incidentally, the Chukchi used the same word e'nen to define

"crucifix," "image of a saint," and medication. Consequently, they called a Rus-

sian doctor




  It is noteworthy however that available sources

do not say anything about using  ene'nilin  to describe missionaries or priests.

Individual and group encounters of the Chukchi with missionaries therefore

varied and canno t be totally reduced to a specific pa ttern. Yet, on ba lance, mission-

ary reports clearly draw a picture of general indifference of majority of the reindeer

and maritime Chukchi toward Christianity. Interestingly, although some Chukchi

did ascribe the increase of their herds as the effect of Orthodoxy, many others , on

the contrary, refused to respond positively to Orthodox doctrines by pointing out

that the Christian God led to the disappearance of the reindeer rather than to their

growth. To support this negative stance they referred to the experience of the Evens

and other assimilated ne ighbors who were totally Christianized and lost their rein-

deer herds.


  Thus, in the 1840s Ulevek, one of the Chukchi elders, confronted

Argentov: "W hat w ill we get from the baptism? I have seen this for myself. Those

who accepted the baptism are getting poorer. Their herds decrease in number; the

reindeer disappear and die out. And people themselves disappear and die out as

soon as they start to accept the baptism. N o, I will not allow any of my re lations to

adopt your religion and I, myself, want to die as a normal human being." His son

was even mo re explicit: "We live by the reindeer and cannot survive w ithout them

in this land. Since we do not want our herds to be decreased and do not want to get

into poverty, we reject the baptism."


Although this incident might be related to the earlier period of the Chukchi-

missionaries encounters, later accounts also point in the same direction. The

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 Unresponsive Natives

 " 173

missionary M ikhail Petelin, who worked am ong nomadic groups in 1902, explic-

itly admitted that the Chukchi simply did not see in Orthodoxy a spiritual power

that might be used for prac tical purposes.


  Petelin went down along the Chevina

River to a Chukchi camp populated by both baptized and unbaptized natives. In

one camp its residents though t that he was a merchant and expressed their disap-

pointment that the missionary did not come for a trade. Petelin also found out that

even converted people "had not the slightest idea of the Orthodox faith." In addi-

tion, he discovered that they were not able to make the sign of the cross and had

lost the crosses they had received during baptism. In many camps that he visited

Petelin felt that nobody needed his spiritual guidance. With bitterness he made in

his diary the following remark: "On their faces I clearly read a silent question : why

did this priest travel such a great distance suffering difficulties and hardships?"

21 2

Even a few loyal supporters of Orthodoxy such as Nikolai and Andrei

Amrawurgin, routinely praised in missionary accounts for their piety, showed off

their Christianity for political and commercial purposes. In reality, according to

Dionisii, Andrei Amrawurgin was still a practicing shamanist.


  Furthermore, in

1861 Suvorov complained that during an 1861 Anui fair twenty-five members of

Nikolai Amrawurgin's band, who "had been enlightened before," at first decided

to prepare themselves for confession and comm union, but then changed their minds,

being busy with trading. The m issionary Neverov, who worked with the Am rawurgin

group in 1873, had to face exactly the same situation. During his visit to the Anui

trade fair Andrei Amrawurgin brought to Neverov a group of fifty baptized and

unbaptized C hukchi for "instruc tions." After exchange of formal gree tings and a

baptism of infants, Neverov suggested that the baptized Chukchi come for confes-

sion. Of fifty people only Amrawurgin and three more native agreed to return next

day, while the rest of the group refused, saying that they did not have time. Still,

according to Neverov, four individuals was something, and he even thanked the

Lord for this "scanty harvest."


Interestingly, in 1860 Suvorov described a similar incident that tells us a great

deal about indifferent attitudes of the Chukchi toward C hristianity. During an Anui

trade fair Suvorov had a cordial meeting with Yatargin, who "as the best Christian

among all Chukchi, teaches many of them Orthodox faith."


  The cleric strongly

hoped that the next day Yatargin and his band w ould show up for Christian instruc-

tion. Yet, having waited in vain for two days, Suvorov wrote in his diary:

"Unfortunately, m y hope did not come true." As the missionary found out later the

Yatargin band and other Chukchi were preoccupied with reindeer races, a tradi-

tional recreational cerem ony they performed on an important occasion, for exam ple,

before the beginning of trade, after com pletion of a journey, or after recovery from

a disease. With sadness Suvorov had to conclude: "For them these races carry

almost the sam e meaning as a moleben does for us. The difference is that we have

God and they have their own spirit. Desp ite all the efforts I made to persu ade them

to stop such races, my attempts failed."


It is hard to generalize about how those few persons like Andrei Am rawurgin or

Yatargin perceived Orthodoxy. However, available materials suggest that for these

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  Shamanism and Christianity

individuals interactions with missionaries were essentially part of their reciprocal

trade and political relationships with Russians. It might be also suggested that at

the turn of the century these attitudes started to develop into a syncretism since

some natives who lived close to newcomers occasionally supplemented their cer-

emonies with Orthodoxy.

In the west in the Kolyma River area, where the Chukchi nomads mingled more

actively with Russian/Creole people, anthropologists found that natives pictured

"the one who created" or simply "Creator"


  in Chukchi) as an old

man who created the earth and all living creatures and taught them how to breed

reindeer. Yet, the natives did not develop any special worship of this "deity." Fur-

thermore, according to the Chukchi oral history,


 did not establish a

proper harm ony in the world and this job had to be completed by the Raven. More-

over, many oral stories do not mention the Creator whatsoever, and others attach


 role to the Raven. It might be assumed that those tales that do

mention the Creator might have experienced some Christian influences. As far the

Raven is concerned, this character similarly did not develop into a "go d" that should

be approached, appeased, or given sacrifices.


  In the east, according to the records

of Harald Sverdrup, a Dutch explorer who spent about six months in 1919 -192 0

with semi-sedentary Chukchi, some natives also seemed to "have an idea of a

highest being." Yet, Sverdrup himself was not sure about this and found it neces-

sary to add a remark that the natives "probably" believed in this highest being.


It appears that as a result of the weak Russian and missionary presen ce the process

of syncretism did not develop further.

By the turn of the century, only 6 percent of the Chukchi were formally Chris-


 according to official statistics.


 In 1894 Bishop Nikodim surmised, "Because

of their life way the Chukchi have weak contacts with local residents such as Rus-

sians and the Sakha. Therefore, the latter hardly influence the former or better to

say do not influence them at all."


 Short and random meetings with missionaries

did not help either. As a result, the natives still clung to "the old pagan religion."

Another major disadvantage of missionary work was a lack of knowledge of the

Chukchi language. Except for Argentov and Petelin, who mastered som e basics of

this tongue, clerics normally worked through translators.


Additionally, missionaries were not able to establish in their stations schools,

hospitals, or other institutions of control. Although in 1883 in the village of Markovo

missionaries opened a school, it worked only with the mixed-blood natives of

other tribal groups and hardly affected the Chukch i. Two more schoo ls, opened in

1916 in Uelen and Chaplino, recruited some maritime natives but did not attract

reindeer nomads at all. Unlike with some Creole or native groups, like the Itelmens,

clerics could identify no Chukchi who volunteered to act as lay readers, let alone

as missionaries. At the turn of the century the situation had hardly changed. Thus,

in 1895, an adjunct to commander of the Amur Military Region, Colonel A. B.

Olsufiev, concluded:

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"Unresponsive Natives"  175

Christianization of the Chukchi people did not bring so far any significant results. Though

now the majority of the Kolyma Chukchi and around 700 other natives from Anadyr area

are formally Russian Orthodox, the baptized themselves remained loyal to their former

pagan beliefs.


According to Sliunin, who visited the area in the early twentieth cen tury, the few

Christian Chukchi who observed Orthodox ceremonies lived only in the Markovo

village (Figure 4.6), where they mingled with the Creoles.


  Not surprisingly,

during the 1910 Siberian Missionary Congress, one of the church leaders in Sibe-

ria, Ioann Kirenskii, recognized that the Chukchi and some other natives of eastern

Siberia "remained unenlightened."

22 4

  The reports of the 1914 Kamchatka Mis-

sionary Congress supported such assessments. During the congress clerics adm itted

that many natives were still in the "grips of shamanism," even failed to remember

their Christian names, and were unable to make the sign of the cross.


Moreover, som e missionary and travel narratives describe the reverse influences

the Chukchi and other natives of northeastern Siberia had on the Russians and

Creoles. Such influences found expression not only in the economic and social

life,  but in the cultural and spiritual sphere as well. The Russian government in-

spector, Kallinikov, who observed the work done by Amphilokhy and other

missionaries, wrote in 1912:

Christianization and Russification still did not touch this tribe. On the contrary, the Chukchi

made the Russians and the Russianized natives learn their own language. In Nizhne-Kolymsk

and its outskirts everybody speaks or at least understands the Chukchi tongue.


Local Russian and Creole populations reinterpreted a greater part of the Orthodox

dogm a by replacing some C hristian tenets with elements of shamanism, as a result

of their need to adapt to local social and economic patterns. Kuzmina, who con-

ducted research on this reverse impact of indigenous religions on the Russians/

Creo les, stresses, "In the process of developing econom ic ties and marital relation-

ships, the Russians borrowed everything they needed to sustain their life and trading

pursuits from the peoples of the north, including religious concepts."


Like Argentov, a nineteenth-century observer, Golovachev, emphasizing the weak

piety of the Russians in Siberia, ascribed this to natural environment: "The sur-

rounding nature made the Russians adopt native ways of coping with environment

and little-by-little to becom e adjusted to their traditions."


  Iadrinstev mentioned

that this adjustment was the result of the numerically small and weak Russian

presence in many areas of Siberia. The Russians sought survival in an unfamiliar

and severe country. Therefore, they adopted native languages and w ays.



and Gapanovich noted how both Creoles and Russians occasionally appealed to

shamans and were "full of superstitious fear" before the magic power of native

healers. "The stories about native shamans' power are abundant among the Rus-

sians," wrote Gapanovich about the status of indigenous healers in 1919.



reported that the Russians/Creoles adhered to the warnings received in dreams and

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176  Shamanism and Christianity

were afraid of threats made by native shamans.


  According to the British an-

thropologist Czaplicka , who visited northern Siberia in the 1910s, the great majority

of the Russian C reole population or, as she called them, "Sibiriak s," could be called

"Christian shamanists."


  "They speak poor Russian, seek help from shamans,

and are hardly acquainted with Orthodoxy," wrote Gapanovich who visited the

Kolyma Creoles in 1919-1920.

23 3

Czaplicka argued, "Christianity in the form in which it has reached aboriginal

Siberia, has simply added a new divinity to the shamanist hierarchy, and enriched

the shamanist body of doctrine by the creation of some superstitious beliefs and

observances of the Russian peasantry."


  She also emphasized that in the northern

part of Siberia the Russian population was sparse and the native medicine m an and

wom an w ere more familiar figures than the Russian priest.


  The early twentieth-

century anthropologist B ogoras came to the same conclusion. He related examples

of the Russians approaching native medicine men and women. In 1902, when a

large sum of money (twenty-eight thousand rubles) disappeared from police head-

quarters in Kolyma, an officer asked a local shaman to help retrieve the money.

Creole women who felt ill turned to singing in a shamanistic manner and believed

that this activity relieved suffering.


Nestor's memoirs abound in lamenting the "harmful effect" of native traditions

on the Russians and Creole groups like the Itelmens. Nestor wrote, "Some Rus-

sians adopted from the natives many habits, customs and superstitions, while natives

acquired from Russians drunkenness and cursing." With "great sorrow" he men-

tioned that the Creoles demeaned the "Russian cause and Russian name i ts el f as

well as their spirit and body. According to Nestor, these mixed-bloods were "men-

tally backward people, morally ignorant and corrupted by free and unsupervised



  During his inspection trip to Chukchi country, the Alaska b ishop Innokentii

similarly com plained that local Cossacks, many of whom were offspring of mixed-

blood families, completely forgot not only about Orthodox feasts and fasting days,

but even about how to count days in a week or in a month.


In his article (1979) on the Chukchi and Koryak encounters with Russian mis-

sionaries, which remains the only work on this topic, Vdovin attempted to explain

the roots of the Chukchi relative indifference to Orthodoxy. H is major thesis is that

the Russians and the nomadic natives belonged to distinct evolutionary stages.

According to Soviet/Marxist anthropology , the Chukchi lived at the stage of primi-

tive communism. As a result, their beliefs could not match Orthodoxy, which

belonged to the ideology of an advanced Russian feudal/capitalist society.


Vdovin's implication is simple: in their stage of evolutionary development the

natives were not "ripe" yet to understand Christian doctrines. It is hard to say

whether the author himself fully shared this argum ent, which was tailored accord-

ing to the standards accepted at that time in Russian anthropology. S till, it is obvious

that this interpretation hardly explains the motive of the Chukchi to dismiss Ortho-

doxy as an alternative.

Those authors who point to the specifics of nomadic reindeer economy of the

Siberian northeast are more convincing in their assessments. Shishigin notes that

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" Unresponsive Natives "  177

Orthodoxy as the reflection of Russian ways could not compete against economic

practices of the northern Siberian natives. Using religious encounters of the Sakha

(Chukchi neighbors) with missionaries, he explains natives' weak interest in Or-

thodoxy as follows: "Orthodoxy was not adjusted to the peculiarities of their

economy. Natives naturally appealed more often to their own pagan spirits and


 and clung to corresponding traditional ceremonies."

24 0

  Writing specifically

about the Chukchi, the anthropologist Chesnokov elaborates on this point and

stresses that Chukchi beliefs abou t the existence of reindeer masters, special spiri-

tual protectors of reindeer herd s, as well as numerous family and band rituals were

tightly connected with the prosperity of their entire reindeer economy (Figure 4.7),

and this association apparently did not allow missionaries to find a niche for their

activities. All in all, this author comes to the conclusion that such a stance of the

nomadic Chukchi culture helps explain why it was so difficult for missionaries to

work among them.


It seems that to this should be added the peculiar status of shamans in Chukchi

society, which relieved them of performance of a greater part of family and band

rituals, especially those related to ceremonial reindeer slaughtering, usually super-

vised by band headmen. This might suggest that in their routine religious life the

Chukchi had less need of "religious prac titioners," whose skills were required only

in extreme situations like sickness or reindeer die-offs. Even funerals, which in

other native societies of Siberia and Alaska were normally a domain of medicine

men and women, in the Chukchi society were conducted by "lay" members of a

band. On the whole, it might be suggested that the Chukchi culture along with

their relatively stable social and economic status did not leave for "Orthodox mes-

sengers" much space to entrench themselves in the role of "new sham ans" or even

to disseminate Christianity among the natives.

Yet, to reduce the Chukchi's general lack of interest in Orthodoxy to the expan-

sion of their reindeer economy would be simplification of the whole picture. It is

obvious that not only the native cultural orientations and the self-sufficient rein-

deer herding made Chukchi communities immune to sermons by Russian clerics:

so did wider power relationships that existed between the participants of native-

missionary encounters. The weak imperial presence, competition between the

empire and the United States in the region, the strong positions of maritime Chukch i

as middlemen traders, and Russian dependence on natives for food supplies were

also significant factors. Particularly, these facts might explain to us why not only

nomadic Chukchi, but also their maritime sedentary kin and neighboring Yupik

who did not breed reindeer, were uninterested in Russian Christianity. Therefore,

all those circum stances toge ther increasingly diminished the influence of the Chris-

tian message on natives. On the whole, in northeastern Siberia native hegemony

placed the Orthodox w orldview on the margins and allowed the Chukchi to main-

tain their beliefs. Simply put, the evidence strongly suggests that in this area

indigenous groups did not feel that Orthodox "medicine" provided a promising

alternative to their own ways.

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Figure 4.6. Russian Orthodox church in the village of Markovo, southern border of Chukchi

country, March


 Image #22057 . Photograph by N. G. B uxton. Courtesy Department

of Library S ervices, Am erican Museum of Natural History.

Figure 4.7. Chukch i reindeer sacrificing, mouth of the Kolyma River, 1895 or 1901. Image

#22403. Photograph by Waldemar Bogoras. Courtesy Department of Library Services, Ameri-

can Museum of Natural History.

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"Unresponsive Natives"  179



 The translation of this phrase is that of Willard Sunderland. W illard Su nderland, "Rus-

sian into Iakuts? 'Going Native' and Problems of Russian National Identity in the Siberian

North, 1870s-1914,"

 Slavic Review

 5 5, no. 4 (1996): 807.


  Washington B. Vanderlip and Homer B. Hulbert,

  In Search of a Siberian Klondike

(New York: The Century C o., 1903), 224 -22 5.

3.  Igor I. Krupnik, "Kulturnie Kontakti i Ikh Demograficheskie Posledstviia v Raione

Beringova M ona," in Amerika Posle Kolumba:


 Dvukh Mirov, ed. V. A. Tishkov

(Moskva: N auka, 1992), 33; S. A. Arutiunov, "Ch ukchi: Warriors and Traders of C hukotka,"


 Crossroads of Continents: Cultures of Siberia and Alaska,

 ed. William W. Fitzhugh and

Aron Crowell (Washingron, DC , and London: Sm ithsonian Institution Press, 1988), 4 1 .


  For more about the evolution of the Chukchi tribute status, see S. P. Nefedova,

"Iasachnaia Politika Russkogo Tsarizma na Chukotke (XVII-XIX Veka),"  Zapiski

Chukotskogo Kraevedcheskogo M uzeiia,

  no. 4 (1967):



  Richard White,

  The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great

Lakes Region, 1650-1815

  (Cam bridge and New York: Cam bridge University Press, 1991).

6. Anya Peterson Royce, Ethnic Id entity: Strategies of Diversity  (Bloomington: Indiana

University Press, 1982), 58 -5 9.


 Sunderland, "Russians into Iakuts?" 806-825.

8. i r i a S. Gurv ich, "Interethnic Ties in Far Northeastern Siberia," in Anthrop ology of the

North Pacific Rim,

  ed. William W. Fitzhugh and Valerie Chaussonnet (Washington:

Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994), 135; G. Patrick M arch,

  Eastern Destiny: Russia in

Asia and the North Pacific

 (Westport, CT, and Lo ndon: Praeger, 1996),

 71-73 ;


S. Vdovin,  Ocherki Etnicheskoi Istorii Koriakov  (Leningrad: Nauka, 1973), 203; I. I.

Gapanovich,  Kamchatskie Koryaki: Sovremennoe Polozhenie Plemeni i Znachenie ego

Olennogo K hoziastva  (Tientsin, China: A. J. Serebrennikoff & Co., 1932), 56.


 K olonialnaia Politika Tsarizma na K amchatke i C hukotke v XVIII Veke,

 ed. la. P. Alkor,

A. K. Drezen and S. B. Okun (Leningrad: Izdatelstvo Instituta Narodov Severa, 1935),



  S. Gurvich,

  Etnicheskaia Istoria Severo-Vostoka Sibiri

  (Moskva: Nauka,




 Yu. A. Shirokov, "K Istorii Goroda

 Anaàma" Zapiski Chukotskogo Kraevedcheskogo


 no. 5(1968): 14.

11. Kolonialnaia Politika Tsarizma na K amchatke i Chukotke v XVIII Veke,

 191 ; Waldemar

[Vladimir] Jochelson, "Kamchadal Materials," New York Public Library, Rare Books and

Papers Manuscript Division,

  Waldemar Jochelson Papers,

 Box 6, 112; V. V Antrop ova and

V G. Kuznetsova, "The Chukchi," in   The Peoples of Siberia,  ed. M. G. Levin and L. P.

Potapov (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964), 803; V. V Leontiev, "Chukotka v

Period Razvitiia Kapitalizma v Rossii (1861-1917)," in

  Ocherki Istorii Chukotki s

Drevneishikh Vremen do N ashikh Dnei,

  ed. N. N. Dikov (Novosibirsk: Nauka, 1974), 93;


  E-skii, "Sibirskie Inorodtsy: Chukchi,"

  Pravoslavnyi Blagoviestnik

  2, no. 14 (1898):



 Nikolai N . Firsov, C hteniia po Istorii Sibiri (Mo skva: A. i I. Granat, 1921 ), vol. 1,58,


  See more on these intermarriages in Siberia: Gapanovich,  Kamchatskie Koriaki,  58;

James Forsyth,  A History of the Peoples of Siberia: Russia's North Asian Colony, 1581-


  (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 67-68; Ludmila

Ku zmina ,"The Effect of the Confessional Factor on Ethnicity," in

  Shamanism and North-

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180  Sham anism and Christianity

em Ecology,

 ed. Juha Pen tikainen (Berlin and New York: Mouton d e Gruyter, 1996), 366 ;

Sunderland, "Russians into Iakuts?" 812-8 13 .

13. Statisticheskiia Dannyia, Pokazyvaiushchiia Plemennoi SostavNaseleniia Sibiri, Iazyk

i Rody Inoro dtsev: Na O snovanii Spetsialnoi Razrab otki M ateriala Perepisi 1897 G ., comp.

S. Patkanov (St. Petersburg: Tip. Sh. Bussel, 1911), vol. 1, 22 .

14. Ibid. Even in more Russianized Kam chatka the ratio was 76.3 percent of natives and

23.7 percent of Russians: Jochelson, "Kamchadal M aterials," Box 6, 111.


  Leontiev, "Chukotka v Period Razvitiia Kapitalizma v Rossii," 116; Waldemar

[Vladimir] Bo goras,  Chukchee  (New York: AM S Press, 1975), 592 -59 4; Anthony Leeds,

"Reindeer Herding and Chukchi Social Institutions," in

  Man, Culture, and Animals: The

Role of Animals in Human Ecological


 ed. A. Leeds (Washington:, D C: Ameri-


 Association for the Advancement of Science, 1965), 124.

16.  Innokentii I. Vdovin,"Vlianie Khristianstva na Religioznie Verovania Chukchei i

Koriakov, in  Khristianstvo i Lamaizm u Korennogo Naseleniia Sibiri,  ed. Innokentii S.

Vdov in (Lening rad: N auka, 1979), 94; Igor I. Krupn ik,

 Arctic Adaptations: Native Wha lers

and R eindeer Herders of Northern E urasia  (Hanover, NH: Dartmouth College/University

Press of New England, 1993), 86 -8 7.


 Krupnik, Arctic Adaptations,  105; Harald U. Sverdrup, Am ong the Tundra People,

trans. Molly Sverdrup (La Jolla, CA: Scripps Institution of Oceanography University of

California, San Diego, 1978), 10.

18.  Pavel F. Unterberger,  Priamurskii Krai, 1906-1910 G.G.  (St. Petersbu rg: T ip. V. F.

Kirshbauma, 1912), 274.



 Arctic Adaptations,



 Nefedova insisted that the Chukchi had agreed to take part at trade fairs because they

"desperately needed R ussian m erchandise." S. P. Nefedova, "R azvitie Torgovikh Sviazei na

Chuko tke s Kontsa XVIII do Seredini XIX V ," in Ocherki Istorii Chukotki s Drevneishikh

Vremen do Nashikh Dnei,  ed. N. N. Dikov (Novosibirsk: Nauka, 1974), 101.

21.  Andrei Argentov, "Nizhne-Kolymskii Krai,"

  Izvestiia lmperatorskag o Russkag o

Geograficheskago Obshchestva 15, no. 6 (1879): 438, 441.

22. Terence Arm strong,

 Russian Settlement in the North

 (Lond on and New York: Cam-

bridge University Press, 1965), 121; Vladimir [W aldemar] G. Bogoras, "Russ kie na Reke

Kolyme," Z/HZAZ, no. 6 (1899 ): 103 -125 ; 1.1. Krupnik, "E conom ic Patterns of N ortheastern

Siberia, in

  Crossroads of Continents: Cultures of Siberia and Alaska,

  ed. William W.

Fitzhugh and Aron Crowell (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1988), 191;

Yuri Slezkine, Arctic Mirrors: Russia and the Small Peoples of the North (Ithaca: Cornell

University Press, 1994), 97-98.



  Chteniia po Istorii Sibiri,

  vol. 2, 38; Nikolai V Sliunin, "Ekonomicheskoe

Polozhenie Inorodtsev Sievero-Vostochnoi Sibiri,"

  Izviestiia lmperatorskago Russkago

Geograficheskago Obshchestva,

  no. 31 (1895): 159; Semen B. Okun,

  Och erki po Istorii

Kolonialnoi Politiki Tsarizma v Kam chatskom Krae

 (Leningrad: Sotsekgiz, 1935), 127; F.

G. Safarov,

 Russkie na


 Azii v XVH -Seredine XIX

 V (Moskva: Nauka, 1978),

13 0-1 37; Jochelson, "Kamchadal M aterials," Box 6, 101.

24. A. P. Slovtsov,

 Istoricheskoe Obozrenie Sibiri, 1767-1843

  (St. Petersburg: Tip. I. N.

Skorokhodova, 1886), vol. 1, 77.

25.  N. F. Kallinikov,  Nash Krainii Sievero-Wostok  (St. Petersburg: Tip. Morskogo

Ministerstva, 1912), 45.

26 . Ioann Petelin, "U Chukchei: Iz Dnevnika," PravoslavnyiBlagoviestnik  1, no. 7 (1895):


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 Unresponsive Natives "


27. Gurvich, Etnichesk aia Istoria Severo-Vostoka Sibiri, 198.

28 .



 592 -59 4; I. W. Shklovsky ("Dioneo"),

 In Far North-East Sibe-


 (London: Macmillan and Co., 1916), 25.


  For more about foreign activities in the northeastern Siberian borderlands, see

Armstrong, Russian Settlement in the North, 107-112.

30. G. L. Maidel, P uteshestvie po Severo-Vo stochnoi Ch asti Iakutskoi Oblasti  v  1868-

1870 Godakh (St. Petersburg: Tip. Imp. Akademii Nauk, 1894), vol. 1, 78-80, 97.


 L eeds, "Reindeer Herding and Chukchi Social Institutions," 99; Krupnik,

 Arctic Adap-


 126-127; Bogoras, Chukchee, 73,703; Statisticheskiia Dannyia, Pokazyvaiushchiia

PlemennoiSostavNaseleniiaSibiri, IazykiRody Inorodtsev, 120 ;Il'iaS . Gurvich, Chuvan-

tsy, Etnograficheskoe Obozrenie, no. 5 (1992): 76-8 3.

32 .

 Andrei Argentov, "Opisanie N ikolaevskago C haunskago Prikhoda," Zapiski Sibirskago

Otdela Russkago Geograficheskago Obshchestva 3, no. 89 ( 1857): 98; Petr Suvorov, Zapiski

Sviashchennika Petra Suvorova o Poezdke v Chukotskiia Zhilishcha,"   Zapiski

Missionerskago Obshchestva,

 no. 4 (1868): 143; Richard James Bush,


  Dogs, and

Snow-Sho es: A Journal of Siberian Travel and E xplorations Made in the


 1865, 1866,

and 1867

 (London: S. Low, Son, and Marston, 1871), 328-3 29.

33. Unterberger, P riamurskii Krai, 3 21 ; Krupnik, Arctic Adaptations,  192-193.

34 . Aurel Krause and Arthur Krause,  To the C hukchi Peninsula and to the Tlingit Indi-

ans: Journals and L etters by A urel and Arthur Krause (Fairbanks: University of Alaska


 1993), 55.

35. Mikhail Petelin, "Putevoi Zhurnal Missionera Chukotskoi Missii, Elombaiskago Stana,

Sviashchennika Mikhaila Petelina za 1902 God ,"

 Pravoslavnyi Blagoviestnik

 3, no. 19 ( 1903):


  Bishop of Alaska Innokentii, "Iz Otcheta o Sostoianii Alaskinskago Vikariatstva za

1908," Russian-American Orthodox Messenger  13, no. 7 (1909): 133; Am philokhy (Anton

Vakulsky), "Bogosluzhebnii Zhurnal na 1909 God Pokrovskoi Tserkvi v Mikhailovskom

Redute, Archive of the Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska (Juneau: Alaska Division of

State Libraries and Museums, 1975), roll 10,1. 111-112, 122.




 9 5.

37 .


 Arctic Adaptations,

  179 -180 . Jochelson stressed, "The acquisition of do-

mesticated reindeer or the taming of wild ones insured the people against starvation in case

of failure in fishing and against accidents in hunting land anim als." Jochelson, "Kam chadal

Materials," Box 6, 37.

38 . Krupnik, Arctic Adaptations, 87 .

39 . Gapanovich,

 Kam chatskie Koriaki,


40. Krupnik, Arctic Adaptations,  180.


 H 'ia. S. Gurvich , "Severo-Vostochnie Paleoaziaty i Eskimosy," in

 Etnicheskaia lstoriia

Narodov Severa,

  ed. Il'ia S. Gurvich (Moskva: Nauka, 1982), 209.


 Krupnik, A rctic Adap tations, 101.


  Ibid., 102, 179; idem, "Kulturnie Kontakti i Ikh Demograficheskie Posledstviia v

Raione Beringova M oria," 33.

44. Statisticheskiia Dannyia, Pokazyvaiushchiia Plemennoi Sostav Naseleniia



i Rody Inorodtsev: na O snovanii Spetsialnoi Razrabotki Materiala Perepisi 1897 G.,


Later Gurvich confirmed such assessments. Gurvich, Etnicheskaia Istoria Severo-Vostoka

Sibiri,  117.

45. Yu. V. Chesnokov , "O len ' v Kulture Severo-Vostochnikh Paleoaziatov," in Kultura

Narodov Sibiri,

  ed. Ch. M. Taksami, Iu. A. Kupina and E. G. Fedorova (St. Petersburg:

Muzei Antropologii i Etnografii RAN, 1997), 80.

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  Shamanism and Christianity






 Peter Dobell,

 Travels in Kam tchatka and Siberia

 (London: Henry Colburn and Rich-

ard Bentley, 1830), vol. 1, 153, 157.

48 . Trudy Pravoslavnikh Missii


 Sibiri (Irkutsk: Irkutskii Komitet Pravoslavnago

Missionerskago Obshchestva, 1884), vol. 2, 152.

49.  Petr Suvorov, "Pokhodnii Zhurnal Missionera Sviashchennika Petra Suvorova vo

Vremia Poezdki Ego v Anuiskuiu Krepost v 1860 Godu,"

 Zapiski M issionerskago Obshche-


 no. 4 (1868): 118.


  Ibid., 127.


 Idem, "Zapiski Sviashchennika Petra Suvorova o Poezdke v ChukotskiiaZhilishcha,"


52. "Iakutskaia Pravoslavnaia Missiia v 1873 Godu," M issioner, no. 21 (1875): 165.

53.  "Po Otnosheniu General-Gubernatora Vostochnoi Sibiri o Nagrazhdenii Medaliami

Glavnago Erema Chukotskago Naroda Amravurgina i Drugikh Piati Chukchei," RGIA,  f.


 op. 11, 1869 ed. khr.


 5, 10 ob.


 Vladimir [Waldemar] Jochelson, "Brodiachie Rody Tundry Mezhdu Rekami Indigirkoi

i Kolymoi, Ikh E tnicheskii Sostav, Narechiia, Byt, Brachnie i Inie Obychai i Vzaimodeistvie

Razlichnikh Plemennikh Elementov,"

 Zhivaiia Starina

  10, no. 1-2(1 90 0): 165, 189-19 0.

55.  Ibid., 187.


  Sliunin, "Ekonomicheskoe Polozhenie Inorodtsev Sievero-Vostochnoi Sibiri," 183;


  Nash Krainii Sievero-Vostok,



 Argentov, "Opisanie N ikolaevskago Chaun skago Prikhoda," 90; Vagin,


Sviedieniia o Dieiatelnosti Grafa M. M. Speranskago v Sibiri s 1819 po 1822 G od,

 vol. 1,


 M-v, "Chukotskaia Zemlia i Eiyo Obitateli,"

 M issioner,

 no. 46 (1877 ): 378 ; Merck, a

participant in the northeastern geographical expedition in 1785-1795, stressed, "Reindeer-

breeders do not marry the daughters of sedentary people because they consider them unworthy

of themselves." Gurvich, "Interethnic Ties in Far No rtheastern Siberia," 31 3.

58.  Andrei Argentov,

  Putevie Zapiski Missionera Sviashchennika Andreia Argentova:

Vostochn aia Sibir  (Nizhnii Novgorod: Tip. Roiskogo i Dushina, 1886), 13.



 Reindeer, Dogs, and Snow-Shoes,



 "Izvestiia i Zametki " Pravoslavnyi Blagoviestnik 3, no. 20 (1898): 189.


 Innokentii S. Vdo vin,

 O cherki Istorii i Etnogra fii Chukch ei

  (Moskva and Leningrad:

Nauka, 1965), 243.

62 .  Kolonialnaia Politika Tsarizma na Kamchatke i Chukotke v XVIII Veke,


Egor S. Shishigin,  Raspro stranenie Khristianstva v lakutii  (Iakutsk: Iakutskii Gos.

Ob iedine nny i Muzei Istorii i Kultury Narodov Severa, 1991), 7 1 ; An tropov a and

Kuznetsova/'Chukchi," 803.

63.  "O Priniatii Chukchei v Poddanstvo Rossii s Osvobozhdeniem na Desiat' Let ot

Uplati Iasaka,"


 f. 1146, op. 1, 1779, ed. khr. 4 ,1 . 69 -7 0.

64.  Polnoe Sobranie Zakonov Rossiiskoi Imperii,

  1st ser., vol. 38, no. 29126, § 78;

Natsionalna ia Politika v Imperatorsko i R ossii: Pozdnie Pervobitnie i Predk lassovie

Obshchestva Severa E vropeiskoi


 Sibiri i RusskoiAm eriki,

 ed. Yu. I. Semenov (Moskva:

StariiSad, 1998), 149.

65. Nefedova, "Iasachnaia Politika Russkogo Tsarizma na Chukotke," 30.


 Okun,  Ocherki po Istorii Kolonialnoi Politiki Tsarizma v Kamchatskom Krae, 115.




 708, 717.


 Vladimir [Waldemar] Jochelson, "Zametki o Naselenii Iakutskoi Oblasti v Istoriko-

Etnograficheskom Otnoshenii,"

 Zhivaiia Starina

 5, no. 2 (1895): 159.

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Unresponsive Natives "


69. Bogoras, Chukchee,  143-144.

70. "Vsepoddanneishii Otchet po Upravleniu Vostochnoi Sibiriiu za 1837 God," RGIA,  f.

1281, op. 3, 1838, ed. khr.  116,1. 67-68 .

71. Nikolai V. Sliunin,

  Sredi Chukchei

  (Moskva: Tip. A. I. Mam ontova, 1896), 43 ; E-

skii, "Sibirskie Inorodtsy: Chukchi," 258-259.

72 . F. G. Safronov,

 Russkie Promisly i


 na Sevew-Vostoke Azii v XVlI-SeredineXIX


 (Moskva: Nauka, 1980), 119 -120; Okun,


v Kamchatskom Krae, 82. Antropova and K uznetsova,"Chukchi," 804; Nefedova, "Razvitie

Torgovikh Sviazei na Chuk otke s Kontsa XVIII do Seredini XIX V "1 01 . Abou t the Anui

fair also see John Dundas Cochrane, "Narratives of a Pedestrian Journey through Russia

and Siberian Tartary,"


 roll 1, vol. 3, 34 6- 35 3; Argentov, "Nizhne-Kolym skii Krai,"


 Bogo ras,


 56 - 58 .

73 . Vagin,

 Istoricheskiia Sviedieniia o Dieiatelnosti Graf a M. M. Speranska go v Sibiri s

1819po 1822 God, vol. 1,299,311 ; vol. 2,60 6- 60 7. See more about this trade in Nefedova,

"Razvitie Torgovikh Sviazei na C hukotke s Kontsa XVIII do Seredini XIX V ,"1 03 ; M-v,

"Chukotskaia Zemlia i Eiyo Obitateli,"  Missioner,  no. 47 (1877): 385; Unterberger,

Priamurskii Krai, 324; Konstantin V Elnitskii, Inorodtsy Sibiri i Sredneaziatskikh Vladienii

Rossii: Etnograficheskie Oche rki

 (St. Petersburg: Izd. M. M. Gutzatsa, 1908), 70 ; Antropova

and Kuznetsova,"Chukchi," 803.

74. Unterberger, P riamurskii Krai, 271 .


  F. G. Safronov,  Russkie Promisly i Torgi,  119; G. S. Abramov, "Rossiisko-

Am erikanskaia Komp ania i Eiyo Roi v Razvitii Torgovikh Otnoshenii na Severo-Vostoke,"

in  Ocherki Istorii Chukotki s Drevneishikh Vremen do Nashikh Dnei,  ed. N. N. Dikov

(Novosibirsk: Nauka, 1974), 108-109;

  izvestiiaiZam etki Pravoslavn yi Blagoviestnik 3,

no. 20(1898): 188-189.





 Istorii Kolonialnoi Politiki Tsarizma





77. Vagin,

 Istoricheskiia Sviedieniia o D ieiatelnosti G rafa M. M. Speranskago v Sibiri s

1819 po 1822 God, vol. 1, 298.


 Z . V. Gogolev,

  Iakutiia na Rubezhe XIX i XX Vekov

 (Novosibirsk: Nauka Sibirskoe

Otdelenie, 1970), 59.

79 . Argentov, Pu tevie Zapiski M issionera Sviashchennika A ndreia Argentova, 12; Okun,

Ocherki po Istorii K olonialnoi Politiki Tsarizma v Kam chatskom Krae, 83.

80 .


 Istoricheskiia Sviedieniia o D ieiatelnosti G rafa M . M. Speranskago v Sibiri s

1819po 1822 God, vol. 1,297-298; Okun, Ocherki po Istorii Kolonialnoi Politiki Tsarizm a

v K amchatskom Krae, 83; Bogoras, Chukchee,  701.

81. Bogo ras, Chukchee, 44. For instance, as early as 1815 they sent comp limentary gifts

of fox furs to the Russuan czar Alexander I. "O Pripodnesenii Aleksandru I v Dar ot Chukchei

Shkur Lisits," RGIA, f. 797, op. 2, 1815, ed. khr. 629,1.  12. Andrei Argentov, a m issionary

to the Chukchi, provided a detailed description of this "complimentary tribute" he wit-


  in the Anui fort. Argentov,  Putevie Zapiski M issionera Sviashchennika Andreia

Argentova, 25.

82 .


 Och erki Istorii i Etnografii Chu kchei,


83.  "Delo o Vvedenii O bshchestvennogo Upravlenia i Suda Sredi Chu kchei," 1. 7.

84 .

 Vdovin, Och erki Istorii i Etnografii Chu kchei, 251.


 Bogoras, Chukchee, 705 ; Nefedova, "Razvitie Torgovikh Sviazei na Chukotke s Kontsa

XVIII do Seredini XIX V," 103.

86 . Abramov, "Ro ssiisko-Am erikanskaia K ompania i Eiyo Roi v Razvitii Torgovikh O tno-

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  Sham anism and Christianity

shenii na Severo-Vostoke," 111; Bogoras,  Chukchee,  708; Antropova and Kuznetsova,"

Chu kchi," 804; Nefedova, "P ravitelstvennaia Aktivizatsia na Severo-Vostoke," in Ocherki

Istorii C hukotki s D revneishikh Vremen  do Nashikh Dnei,  ed. N. N. Dikov (Novosibirsk:

Nauka, 1974), 122.


 Ernest S. Burch, War and Trade, in

 Crossroa ds of Con tinents: Cultures of Siberia

and Alaska,

  ed. William W. Fitzhugh and Aron Crowell (Washington, DC: Smithsonian

Institution Press, 1988), 238-240; Sliunin,  Sredi Chukchei,  16-17; "Delo o Vvedenii

Obshchestvennogo Upravlenia i Suda Sredi Chukchei," 1.6; Jochelson, "Zam etki o N aselenii

Iakutskoi Oblasti v Istoriko-Etnograficheskom Otnoshenii," 158.

88 . Kallinikov, N ash Krainii Sievero-Vostok, 54.


 "Delo o Vvedenii Obshchestvennogo Upravlenia i Suda Sredi Chukchei," 1. 20 ob.

90 . Okun, Ocherki po Istorii Kolonialnoi Politiki Tsarizm a v Kamchatskom Krae,  144.


  For territorial expansion of the Chukchi in the eighteenth and nineteenth

centuries, see Gurvich, Etnichesk aia Istoria Severo-Vostoka Sibiri,  116, 189-191.


  "Vsepoddanneishii Otchet po Upravleniu Vostochnoi Sibiriiu za 1859,"



1281, op. 6, 1860, ed. khr.  105,1. 2, 550 -55 7; Jochelson, "Zametki o Naselenii Iakutskoi

Oblasti v Istoriko-Etnograficheskom Otnoshenii," 155.

93.  Suvorov, "Zapiski Sviashchennika Petra Suvorova o Poezdke v Chukotskiia

Zhilishcha," 142-143.


 Sliunin, Sredi Chukchei, 16; N. E-skii, "Sibirskie Inorodtsy: Chu kchi," P ravoslavnyi


 2, no. 15 (1898 ): 298; Leontiev, "Chukotka v Period Razv itiia Kapitalizma v

Rossii," 127.

95. Krause and Krause,

 To the Chu kchi Peninsula and to the Tlingit Indians,




 P riamurskii Krai,


97.  I. I. Gapanovich,  Rossiia  v Severo-Vostochnoi Azii  (Peiping: Pekinskaia Russkaia

Missiia, 1933), 135.


 In their 1 881 -188 2 travel narratives, the Krause brothers and I. W. Shklovsky in his

1890s observations indicated that the coastal Chukchi and Yupik knew English language

quite w ell. Krause and Krause, To the Chukchi Peninsula an d to the Tlingit Indians, 45, 68;

Shklovsky, In Far North-East Siberia,  134. See also the Krauses' interesting remark about

one coastal Chukchi village: "The inhabitants of Uedle were not aware of being part of

Russia. Krause and Krause, To the Chukchi Peninsula and to the Tlingit Indians, 70.


  Amphilokhy (Anton Vakulsky), "Bogosluzhebnii Zhurnal Pokrovskoi Tserkvi v

Mikhailovskom Redute na 1910 God i Dlia Chukotskoi Missii,"   Archive of the Russian

Orthodox Church in Alaska  (Juneau: Alaska Division of State Libraries and Museums,


 roll 1 0,1.4 0, 42.

100.  Abramov, "Rossiisko-Amerikanskaia Kompania i Eiyo Roi v Razvitii Torgovikh

Otnoshenii na Severo-Vostoke," 111.

101. Unterberger, P riamurskii Krai, 269; N. E-skii, "Sibirskie Ino rodtsi: Chuk chi," 358.

102. Leontiev, "Chukotka v Period Razvitiia Kapitalizma v Rossii," 131-132.

103. Nefedova, "Iasachna ia Politika Russkogo Tsarizma na Chukotke ," 30; Shirokov, "K

Istorii Goroda Anad iria," 15.


 "Po Voprosu o Neobkhodimosti Priniatiia R aznago Roda Meropriatii na Chukotskom

Poluostrove i v Kamchatskoi Oblasti,"


 f. 1284, op. 185, 1910, ed. khr. 40 ,1 . 15-16 ;

Unterberger, P riamurskii Krai, 273.


 "Delo o Vvedenii Ob shchestvennog o Upravlenia i Suda Sredi Ch ukchei," 1. 5.

106. "Po Voprosu o Neobkhodimosti P riniatiia R aznago Roda Meropriatii na Chukotskom

Poluostrove i v Kamchatskoi Oblasti," 1. 15-16.

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  Unresponsive Natives  185

107. Leontiev, Chukotka v Period Razvitiia Kapitalizma v Rossii, 126.


 As early as 1791 Catherine the Great issued a special memorandum to General Pil

concerning the Chukchi, specifying, It will be helpful to distribute among the most impor-

tant of their  toions medals of which twenty silver and eighty copper ones you will soon

receive/' Okun, Ocherkipo Istorii Kolonialnoi Politiki Tsarizma v K amchatskom Krae, 82.


  Unterberger,  Priamurskii Krai,  280 ; Nefedova, Iasachnaia Politika Russkogo

Tsarizma na Chukotke, 30; Vdovin, Istoriia i Kultura Chukchei v Dooktiabrskii Period,

134 -135; Delo o Vvedenii Obshchestvennogo Upravlenia i Suda Sredi Chukchei, 1. 4.


  Polnoe Sobranie Zakonov Rossiiskoi Imperil,

  2nd sen, vol. 47, no. 51180;

Natsionalnaia Politika


 Imperatorskoi Rossii,

 22 7- 22 9; Zhurnal Komiteta Ministrov po

Predstavleniu Ministra Gosudarstvennikh Imushchestv o Razreshenii Nagrazhdat'

Dolzhnostnikh Lits Chukotskih Obshchestv i Drugikh Narodov Sibiri Formennimi Kaftanami

i o Razreshenii im N osit' Kortiki, RG1A, f. 1263, op. 414, 1872, ed. khr. 3592,1 . 335 o b -


111.  PoOtnosheniuG eneral-GubernatoraVostochnoi Sibiri o Nagrazhdenii Medaliami

Glavnago Erema Chukotskago Naroda Amravurgina i Drugikh Piati Chukchei, 1. 7.

112. Ibid.

113. Bogoras, Chukchee, 543; Vdovin, Istoriia i Kultura Chukchei v Dooktiabrskii Pe-

riod, 134-135.

114. Bogoras,  Chukchee, 703; Delo o Vvedenii Obshchestvennogo U pravlenia i Suda

Sredi Chukchei, 1. 2.


 Vdovin,  Och erki Istorii i Etnografii Chu kchei, 247; Leontiev, Chukotka v Period

Razvitiia Kapitalizma v Rossii, 135.

116. Vdovin,

 O cherki Istorii i Etnografii Chu kchei,


117. Elnitskii, Inoro dtsy Sibiri i Sredneaziatskikh  Vladienii Rossii, 67.

118. Bogoras, Chukchee, 703.

119.  Delo o Vvedenii Obshchestvennogo Upravlenia i Suda Sredi Chukchei, 1. 20 ob.

120. Ibid., 1. 2.

121. Ibid., 1.22 ob.

122. Ibid., 1.21.

123.  Po Voprosu o Neobkhodimosti Priniatiia Raznago Roda Meropriatii naC hukotskom

Poluostrove i v Kamchatskoi Oblasti, 1. 1.


  M-v, Chukotskaia Zemlia i Eiyo Obitateli


 no. 46 (1877): 378.

125.  Henry Landsdell,  Through Siberia  (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1882),


126. The way Argentov challenged Tnepo's words shows how the Christian doctrine of

afterlife clashed with the general stance of the Chukchi beliefs. Specifically, Argentov asked

the native shaman, When you, Chukchi, enter the other world, God w ill no tice that you

were not stupid and wicked, but smart and sweet people. But, at the same time, he m ight be

surprised how it happened that all your life you had cared only about the reindeer and did

not take any care about your souls. Argentov, Putevie Zapiski Missionera Sviashchennika

Andreia Argentova,

 41-42. See the Tnepo story in the interpretation of two other authors,

one a nineteenth-century Orthodox writer and the other a present-day American historian:

N. Mushkin, Missionen u Chaukchei, in Pamiatnik Trudov PravoslavnykhBlagoviestnikov


 s 1793 do 1853 Goda,

 ed. Alexandru Sturdza (Moskva: Tip. V. Gote, 1857), 3 4 3 -

344; Yuri Slezkine, Savage Christians or Unorthodox Russians? Missionary Dilemm a in

Siberia, in Between Heaven and Hell The Myth of Siberia in Russian Culture, ed. Yuri

Slezkinre and Galya Diment (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993), 26.

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  Shamanism and Christianity

127. Krupnik, Arctic Adaptations, 222.


  Argentov, "Opisanie Nikolaevskago Chaunskago Prikhoda," 88; idem, "Nizhne-

Kolymskii Krai/' 447.

129.  Amphilokhy, "Bogosluzhebnii Zhurnal na 1909 God Pokrovskoi Tserkvi v

Mikhailovskom Redute," roll 10,1. 112.

130. Argentov, "Nizhne-Kolymskii Krai," 445.






  Bogoras himself repeated his critical assessment of the Chukchi missionaries in


  Vladimir [Waldemar] Bogoras, "Prezhde na Severe,"

 Sovetskii Sever,

 no. 1 (1930):

71-73 .

133. Okun,

 Ocherkipo Istorii Kolon ialnoi Politiki Tsarizm a


 Kamchatskom Krae,

  9 8 -



  T. A. Dogurevich,  Sviet Azii: Rasprostranenie Khristianstva v Sibiri v Sviazi s

Opisaniem Byta, N ravov, Obychaev i Religioznykh Vierovanii Inorodtsev Etogo Kraia (St.

Petersburg: Tip. P. P. Soikina ,1897),



 Pisma Innokentiia, Mitropolita Moskovskago i Kolom enskago: 1865-1878, ed. Ivan

Barsukov (St. Petersburg: SinodalnaiaTip., 1897), vol. 1, 272.


 M-v, "Chukotskaia Zemlia i Eiyo Obitateli,"


 no. 47 (1877): 386.

137.  Molitva Gospodnia, Simvol V ery i Desiat Z apovedei Zakona Bozhiia,  trans.

Mordovsky and Kobelev (Irkutsk: Irkutskoe Otdelenie, Rossiiskoe Bibleiskoe O bshchestvo ,

1821); M ushkin, "M issioneri u Chaukchei," 345.


  Suvorov, "Zapiski Sviashchennika Petra Suvorova o Poezdke v Chukotskiia

Zhilishcha," 136-137.


 F. P. Vrahgel,

  Puteshestvie po Severnim Beregam Sibiri i po Ledovitomu Moriu:

1820-1824  (Moskv a: Izdatelstvo Glavsevm orputi, 1948), 388. This story can also be found

in Bogoras,  Chukchee, 726; Shklovsky, In Far North-East Siberia, 135.

140. Cochrane, "Narratives of a Pedestrian Journey through Russia and Siberian Tartary,"

346; Vagin,

 Istoricheskiia Sviedieniia o Dieiatelnosti Grafa M. M. Speranska go


 Sibiri s

1819 po 1822 God,

  vol. 1,301.


 Ibid., 314.

142. Cochrane , "Narratives of a Pedestrian Journey through Russia and Siberian Tartary,"




 Ocherkipo Istorii Kolonialnoi Politiki Tsarizma v Kamchatskom Krae,



  Trudy Pravoslavnikh Missii Vostochnoi Sibiri,





 Veniamonov, "Sostoyanie Pravoslavnoi Tserkvi v R ossiiskoi Amerike," in

 Pam iatnik

Trudov Pravoslavnykh Blagovestnikov Russkikh s 1793 do 1853 Goda, ed. Alexandru Sturdza

(Moskva: Tip. V. G ot'e , 1857), 237.

146. Trudy Pravoslavnikh Missii Vostochnoi Sibiri, vol. 2, 134-13 5.






  The midnineteenth-century Russian author N. Mushkin argued that the Chukchi

were exposed to Orthodoxy for the first time in 1780. Mushk in, "Missioneri u Chau kchei,"


149. Dogurevich, S viet Azii,  134; Zinovii Vinokurov, "Kratkie Sved eniia o Chukchak h,"

Iakutskie Eparkhialnie Viedomosii, no. 6 (1890): 89.

150.  Shishigin,  Rasprostranenie Khristianstva v lakutii, 71; Okun,  Ocherki po Istorii

Kolonialnoi Politiki Tsarizma v Kam chatskom Krae,





 726; Dogurevich,

 Sviet Azii,

 134; Mushkin, "Missioneri u Chauk-

chei," 328-329. See Sleptsov's diary for 1812:


 f. 797, op. 4699 ,



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 Unrespo nsive Natives


152.  O  Kreshchenii Sviashchennikom Iakutskoi Dukhovnoi Missii Trifonovim  10

Chelovek Chukchei," RGIA, f. 796, op. 99, 1818, ed. khr. 1118; Sliunin,  Sredi Chukchei,

37; M ushkin, "Missionen u Chaukchei," 32 8-3 29 ; Argentov,

  Putevie Zapiski Missionen

Sviashchennika Andreia Argentova,  10. The  missionary Vereshchagin mentioned that he

had borrowed translated comm andments


 prayers from Trifonov. Rom an V ereshchagin

to Bishop Veniaminov, "Pokorneishii Raport," April  1845, Anadyr, Diocese Adm inistra-

tion, Chuk chee Mission,


  roll 40.


 Dogu revich, SvietAzii,  155.

154. Vereshchagin to Veniaminov, "Pokorneishii Raport."

155.  Dogurevich, SvietAzii,  155; Prokopii G romov, "Istoriko-Statisticheskoe Opisanie

Kamchatskikh Tserkvei." Trudy Kievskoi Dukhovnoi Akademii,

 no. 2




 M ushkin, "M issionen u Chaukch ei," 333.

157. Suvorov, "Pokhodnii Zhurnal Missionera Sviashchennika Petra Suvorova vo Vremia

Poezdki Ego v Anuiskuiu Krepost v 1860 Godu," 119, 121.

158. Ivan Veniaminov,

 Tvoreniia Innokentiia, Mitropolita Moskovskago ,

 ed. Ivan B arsukov

(Moskva: SynodalnaiaTip., 1887), vol. 2, 143.


 Ivan Veniaminov,  Ob Otpravlenii Missionera na Reku Anadyr D lia Obrashcheniia

Chukchei v  Pravoslavnuiu Veru: Gizhiginskoi Spasskoi Tserkvi Sviashchenniku Romanu

Vereshchaginu Predpisanie," February

  27, 1843,

 Anadyr C onversion Reports, C hukchi



  roll 40.

160. Ibid.

161.  Idem,  Tvoreniia Innokentiia, Mitropolita Moskovskago, vol. 2, 143, 220.


 Ibid., 221; idem, "B ishop Innocen t's L etter," Orthodox Alaska 7, no. 1 (1969): 19.


  Roman Vereshchagin, "Metricheskaia Kniga Novokreshchennikh

  za 1844,

Anadyrskaia Missiia," Anadyr, Diocese Administration, Chukchee Mission, 1843-1844,

ARCA,  roll 40.

164. Ivan Veniaminov, Tvoreniia Innokentiia, Mitropolita Moskovskago, ed. Ivan Barsukov

(Moskva: SynodalnaiaTip., 1886), vol. 1, 252.

165. V ereshchagin  to  Veniaminov, "Pokorneishii Raport," September  1, 1845. Anadyr.

Diocese Adm inistration. Chukchi M ission, ARCA,  roll 40.


  Dogurevich,  SvietAzii,  155;  Pisma Innokentia, Mitropolita Moskovskago i

Kolomenskago: 1828-1878,

  vol. 1,255; "Klirovaia Viedomost Anuiskoi Missii Nikolskoi i

Innokentievskoi Chasoven



 Anadyr Parish Records, Church/Clergy Registers,


Nicholas Chapel and St. Innokentii Chapel, 184 8-18 51, ARCA,  roll 40.

167. Alexander T rifonov to Bishop Veniaminov, "Pokorneishii R aport," March 20, 1845,

Anadyr, Diocese Administration, C hukchee Mission," ARCA,  roll 40.

168. Dogurevuch, SvietAzii,  157; S.P.  Nefedova, "Khristianizatsiia Chukchei, Evenov,

Yukagirov, Chuvantsev," in  Ocherki Istorii Chukotki  s  Drevneishikh Vremen do N ashikh


 N. N.

 Dikov (Novosibirsk: Nauka, 1974), 128; Mu shkin, "Missionen






  Dogurevich,  Sviet Azii,  156; Argentov, "Opisanie N ikolaevskago Chaunsk ago

Prikhoda," 81-106.


 Mushkin, "M issionen u Chaukchei," 334, 337, 345.


 Nefedova, "Khristianizatsiia Chukchei, Evenov, Yukagirov, Chuvantsev," 128.

172. Argentov, "Putevie Zapiski M issionera Sviashchenn ika Andreia Argentova,"


Sibirskago Otdelenia Russkago Geograficheskago Obshchestva, no. 4  (1857): 47; idem,

Putevie Zapiski Missionera Sviashchennika Andreia Argentova,  42-43 .

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174. Argentov, "Nizhne-Kolymskii Krai,"



 D ogurevich, SvietAzii,  156, 159.

176. Suvorov, "Pokhodnii Zhurnal Missionera Sviashchennika Petra Suvorova vo Vremia

Poezdki Ego v Anuiskuiu Krepost v 1860 Godu," 123.


 Ibid., 125. On the reindeer racing see Bogoras,


 264 -26 5; Sverdrup,


the Tundra People,



  Interestingly, the work by the Orthodox historian Dogurevich demonstrates how

myths w ere shaped about "eager" responses of the Chukchi to Christianity. First, by ignor-

ing the nature of of the Chukchi visit to the Anui fair, this historian down played the general

context of the baptism. Second, Dogurevich described the meeting of Khotto and Suvorov

as a totally Ch ukchi initiative. Dogu revuch, SvietAzii,  160.

179. Suvorov, "Pokhodnii Zhurnal M issionera Sviashchennika Petra Suvorova vo Vremia

Poezdki Ego v Anuiskuiu Krepost v 1860 Godu," 126.


  "O Chukotskoi Dukhovnoi Missii



  f. 796, op. 152, 1871, ed.'khr.

1 5 2 7 , 1 . 5 -6 , 2 3 -2 4 .

181. Bogoras,


 72 5; Dogurevich,



182. "Iakutskaia Pravoslavnaia Missiia v 1873 Godu," M issioner, no. 23 (1875): 180.

183.  Nikodim, "Svedenia o Stanakh Chukotskoi Missii," 1. 7 ob; "O Nagrazhdenii

Kam chatskago 2-oi Gildii Kuptsa Baramigina i Chukotskago Toiona Am ravurgina O rdenom

Sviatoi Anni 3-ei Stepeni za Postroenie imi Dereviannoi C hasovni i Kh rama," RGIA, f. 79 6,


  155, 1874, ed. khr. 1539, 1-2, 13.

184.  "Pokhoroni Chukotskago Toiona pri Sredne-Kolymskom Sobore,"  lakutskie

Eparkhialnie Vedomosti,

 no. 16 (1898): 24 3-24 7; Zinovii Vinokurov, "Kratkie Sv edeniia o

Chukchakh," 89.



  Sredi Chukchei,

  38; "Po Voprosu o Neobkhodimosti Priniatiia Raznago

Roda Meropriatii na Chukotskom Poluostrove i v Kamchatskoi Oblasti," I. 4, 15-16.


  "O Chukotskoi Dukhovnoi Missii  1871," 1. 23 -24 .

187. Bishop of Yakutsk and Viliusk Nikodim, "Svedenia o Stanakh Chukotskoi Missii i

Pokhodnikh Svishchennikah Iakutskoi Eparkhii,"  RGIA,  f. 796, op. 440, 1894, ed. khr.

1268,1 .2 ob-3 .


  Ibid., 1.4.


 Nikodim, "Svedenia o Stanakh Chukotskoi Missii," I. 5 ob -7 ;

 Trudy Pravoslavnikh

Missii Vostochn oi Sibiri,

 vol. 2, 1 34-13 5, 53 1.

190.  "Otchet Chukotskoi Missii Iakutskoi Eparkhii 1899,"  lakutskie Eparkh ialnie

Viedomosti, no. 18 (1900): 246 ; I. Trifonov, "O tchet O Sostoyanii i Dietel'nosti Iakutskogo

Eparkhialnogo Komiteta Pravoslavnogo Missionerskago Obshchestva i Missii Iakutskoi

Eparkhii za 1897 God,"

  lakutskie Eparkhialnie Viedomosti,

 no. 10 (1898): 150; Bogoras,




 Hiermonk Venedict, "U C hukche i: Dnevnik Venedicta,"



 no. 5 (1895): 248-255; Bogoras,




  Bishop of Alaska Innokentii, "Otchet o Sostoianii Aliaskinskago Viktoriatstva za

1908 God," Russian-American Orthodox Messenger  13, no. 8 (1909): 14 4-145 . Moreover,

Petelin compiled a Russian-Chukchi dictionary, which indicates his deep interest in the

Chukch i language. Mikhail Petelin,

 Russko-Chukotskii Slovar(Opyt)

  (Kazan: Tipo-lit. Imp.

Universiteta, 1898). See also Petelin's travel journal: Mikhail Petelin, "Putevoi Zhurnal

Missionera Chukotskoi Missii, Elombaiskago Stana, Sviashchennika Mikhaila Petelina za

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 Unresponsive Natives  189

1902 God," Pravoslavnyi Blagoviestnik 2, no. 14 (1903): 265-27 1 ; 2, no. 16 (1903): 34 3 -

349; 3, no. 18 (1903): 61 -6 6; 3, no. J9 (1903): 102-1 09.


  Bishop Nikanor, "K Uluchsheniu Missionerstva na Dalnem Severe,"

 P ravoslavnyi


  1, no. 8 (1903): 36 3-3 65 .

194. Russian-American Orthodox Messenger

 13, no. 8 (1909): 145; "Delo o R assmotrenii

v Sinode Raportov Arkhiepiskopa Aleutskago i Severo-Amerikanskago Tikhona ot 6

Oktiabria 1905 G. i Episkopa Iakutskogo i Viluiskogo M akaria ot 26 Aprelia 1906 ob Otkritii

Missii v Selenii Nikolskom Chukotskogo Poluostrova Dlia Prosveshchenia Chukchei i o

Peredache Chukotskoi Missii v Vedenie Vikaria Aleutskoi Eparkhii," RGIA, f. 796, op. 186,


 e d k h r . 5 9 7 5 , 1 .6 -7 .

195. See more about Am philokhy in Orthodox Am erica, 1794-1976: Development of the

Orthodox C hurch in America,

 ed. Constance J. Tarasar and John H . Erickson (Syosset, NY:

The Orthodox Church in America Department of History and Archives, 1975), 289-290.

196.  Am philokhy, "Bog osluzheb nii Zhu rnal na 1909 God Pok rovskoi Tserkvi v

Mikhailovskom Redute," 1. 123; idem, "Paskha v Sugrobakh Snega: Iz Moikh Starikh

Vospominanii na Missionerskoi Sluzhbe," Russian-American Orthodox Messenger 2 8, no.

4 (1927): 53-54; idem, "Ispovedalnaia Viedomost Chukotskoi Missii na Chukotskom

Poluostrove za 1910 God ," Chukotka Peninsula Vital Statistics, Separate Report


roll 41; Kallinikov,

  Nash Krainii Sievero-Vostok,

  50; Innokentii, "Otchet o Sostoianii

Alaskinskago V iktoriatstva za 1908 God," 146; Unterberger,

 P riamurskii Krai,



  Amphilokhy, "Bogosluzhebnii Zhurnal na 1909 God Pokrovskoi Tserkvi v

Mikhailovskom Redute," 1. 122, 126-130, 139. See some published excerpts from

Am philokhy's diary: "Pokhod Po Aleutskim Ostrovam: Iz Bukhty Provideniia na Vostochnii

Mys (Dezhnevo),"

  Russian-American Orthodox Messenger

  15, no. 11 (1911): 205-208;

15, no. 12 (1911): 219 -22 0.


  Alexander Iavlovsky, "Dnevnik Missionera Senkelskogo Stana, Sviashchennika

Alexandra Iavlovskogo,"

  Pravoslavnyi Blagoviestnik,

  no. 2-3 (1916): 180.

199.  "Usloviia Uspekha Missionerskoi Deiatelnosti Mezhdu Chukchami v Iakutskoi

Oblasti," Missioner, no. 5 (1874): 48 -4 9; H iermonk Venedict, "O Vlianiii Khristianstva na

Chukchei," Pravoslavnyi Blagoviestnik, no. 24 (1892 ): 21 ; Nikodim , "S vedenia o Stanakh

Chukotskoi Missii," 1. 7.


 "Otchet o Sostoianii Iakutskoi E parkhii za 1915 God,"


 f. 79 6, op. 44 2,1 91 6,

ed. krh.

  2745,1. 160-161.

201. Krupnik,

 Arctic Adaptations,


202. Venedict, "O Vlianiii Khristianstva na Chuk chei,"  20-21 .

203. Vdovin/'Vlianie Khristianstva na Religioznie Verovania Chukchei i Koriakov," 99.


  Trudy Pravoslavnikh Missii Vostochnoi Sibiri, vol. 2, 148.

205.  "Otchet o Sostoianii Iakutskoi Eparkhii za 1915 God," 1. 171.


  Iavlovsky, "Dnevnik Missionera Senkelskogo Stana," 183; "Otchet o Sostoianii

Iakutskoi Eparkhii za 1915 God," 1. 171 .

207.  Mikhail Petelin, "Putevoi Zhurnal Missionera Chukotskoi Missii, Elombaiskago

Stana, Sviashchennika Mikhaila Petelina za 1902 God," Pravoslavnyi Blagoviestnik  2, no.

14 (1903): 26 9.


  Vdovin, "Vlianie Khristianstva na Religioznie Verovania Chukchei i Koriakov,"


  idem, "Chukotskie Shamany i Ikh Sotsialnie Funktsii ," in

  Problemy Istorii

Obshch estvennogo Soznania AborigenovSibiri,

  ed. Innokentii S. Vd ovin (Leningrad: Nauka,


 208; Bogoras,


 44 .

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19 0  Shamanism



209. Gapanovich, Kam chatskie Koriaki, 67.


 Argentov, Putevie Zapiski Missionera Sviashchennika A ndreia Argentova, 44.


  Mikhail Petelin, "Putevoi Zhurnal Missionera Chukotskoi Missii, Elombaiskago

Stana, Sviashchennika Mikhaila Petelina za 1902 God,"  Pravoslavnyi Blagoviestnik  2, no.

16 (1903): 344.


 Ibid., 345.


  Trudy Pravoslavnikh M issii



  vol. 2, 153-154.


 "Iakutskaia Pravoslavnaia M issiia v 1873 G od u"


 no. 23 (1875): 181.


  Suvorov, "Zapiski Sviashchennika Petra Suvorova o Poezdke v Chukotskiia

Zhilishcha," 137.

216.  Idem, "Pokhodnii Zhurnal Missionera Sviashchennika Petra Suvorova vo Vremia

Poezdki Ego v Anuiskuiu Krepost v 1860 Godu," 121.

217. Innokentii S. Vdovin, "Pri rodai Chelovek v Religioznikh Predstavleniiakh Chukchei,"

in Priroda i Chelovek v Religioznikh Predstavleniakh Narodov Sibiri i Severn, ed. Innokentii

S. Vdovin (Leningrad: Nauka, 1976), 228-2 29.



 Among the





 S tatisticheskiia Dan nyia,



 Nikod im, " Sv eld en ia o Stanakh C hukotskoi Missii," 1. 4 ob.


 Still, despite his knowledge of the basics of Chukchi language , Petelin frequently

traveled with an interpreter, Georgii Diachkov, an Even native, who helped him deliver

sermons. Petelin stressed in his journal that "all spiritual and moral talks were conducted

through an interpreter." Mikhail Petelin, "Putevoi Zhurnal Missionera Chukotskoi Missii,

Elombaiskago Stana, Sviashchennika Mikhaila Petelina za 1902 God,"  Pravoslavnyi


  3, no. 19(1903): 106.

222.  A. V. Olsufiev,

  Obshchii Ocherk Anadyrskoi Okrugi, Eiyo Ekonom icheskago

Sostoianiia iByta Naselenia

  (Khabarovsk: Priamurskii Otdel Russkago Geograficheskago

Obshchestva, 1896), 108.

223. Sliunin, "Ekonomicheskoe Polozhenie Inorodtsev Sievero-Vostochnoi Sibiri," 186.

224. Aleksii, Irkutskii M issionerskii Siezd, 19.

225. Archbishop of Kamchatka and Seoul Nestor, Moia Kam chatka: Zapiski Pravoslav-

nogo M issionera

  (Moskva: Sviato-Troitskaia Sergieva Lavra, 1995), 223.



 N ash Krainii

 Sievero-Vostok,  55 .


 Kuzm ina,"The Effect of the Confessional Factor on Ethnicity," 367.


 Petr M. Golovachev,

 Sibir: Priroda, Liudi, Zhizn

  (Moskva: I. D. Sytin, 1905), 57.

229.  Nikolai M. Iadrintsev,  Sibirskie Inorodtsy, Ikh Byt i S ovremennoe Polozhenie:

Etnog raficheskiia i Statisticheskiia Izsliedovaniia s P rilozheniem Statisticheskikh Tablits

(St. Petersburg: Izd. I. M. Sibiriakova, 1891), 171.


 Gapanovich, Kam chatskie Koriaki, 52.






 M arie Antoinette

 Czaplickz, M y Siberian Year

 (London: M ills & Boon, 1916), 1 87 -




 Sibir: Priroda, L iudi, Zhizn,




 M y Siberian Year,



  Ibid., 188, 191-193.

236. Bogoras, Chukchee, 46 3, 730.



 Moia Kamchatka,



  Bishop of Alaska Innokentii, "Otchet o Sostoianii Alaskinskago Viktoriatstva za

1908 God,

Russian-American Orthodox Messenger

 13, no. 7 (1909): 133.

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"Unresponsive Natives"



 Vdovin,"Vlianie Khristianstva na Religioznie Verovania Chukchei i Koriakov," 96.



 Rasprostranenie Khristianstva v Iakutii,


241. Chesnokov, "Olen' v Kulture Severo-Vostochnikh Paleoaziatov," 76.

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3 D I S T R I C T





Nizhnii U im on V ^ Chibit


  \Katun River_



fe, Kosh-Agach




  Major native groups



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Dialogues about Spirit and Power: Altaian

Natives and the Russian Orthodox Mission,


Missionaries send these people [catechists] to preach Christianity. Now you see what

you should believe in. We must think about this, especially you, young people, be-

cause soon all of us will be baptized. Our czar is baptized, and he wishes that we also

share his faith. They say that he also gives tribute exemption for three years to those

who adopt baptism.

—Chotpok-Pash, a Shor leader (1884)

But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the


—1 Corinthians 10:5

We appeal to the spirit of Altai and pray

Make our stock healthy

Make our life better

Give our people happy life.

—from a Burkhanist prayer

Altai is like the Pa lestin e of Inner Asia. For centuries this small area, located at

the intersection of the Russian, Chinese, and Mongolian borders, was a place w here

Orthodox, Old Believer, Lamaist, and shamanist traditions interacted with each

other. This makes Altai extremely attractive for scholars who research religious

syn cretism /One of the interesting aspects of these interactions is the relationship

between shamanism and Orthodox Christianity. Unfortunately, until recently schol-

arship had hardly addressed this topic. Those an thropologists who have researched

Altaian religions have been primarily interested in indigenous shamanism, seek-

ing gen uine and authentic native beliefs. These scholars frequently downplay

almost one hundred years of contacts between native Altaians and the Russian

Orthodox mission and stress the persistence of the Altaian shamanism. For in-

stance, N. A. Alekseev and E. V. Revunenkova emphasized the superficial character

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194  Sham anism and Christianity

of native Christianization and stressed the persistence of indigenous religion.



his recent work, L. P. Potapov similarly conclude s:

The Altaian shamanism endured in spite of the influence of Orthodox populations and the

policy of active advancement of Christianity carried by the Orthodox Mission. Moreover,

shamanism maintained its dogmas, ceremonial practice and active believers although it

lacked institutionalized preachers and propaganda.


The first specific works that discussed the history of activities of Orthodox mis-

sionaries in native Altai were written by N . Y. Khrapova and A. M . Sagalaev (198 4).

The first work is tailored according to "classical" standards of Soviet social schol-

arship and asserts that Russian missionaries were subservient agents of imperial

colonialism. Khrapova also argues that clerics acted as "traders-missionaries,"

who did not care at all about Christianization and native well-being. She summa-

rizes such generalizations with the conclusion: "Nothing in missionary activities

points to pure enlightening ideas. Everything was subordinated to their quest for

enrichment and profit."


  Khrapova dismisses educational achievements accom-

plished by missionaries and their attempts to protect the interests of native

populations, and emphasizes only the negative aspects of mission activities, spe-

cifically the seizure of some native lands by two monasteries. On the bas is of these

separate facts she concludes that the Orthodox mission occupied the most valu-

able native pastures and contributed to the shrinkage of Altaians' land domain.

Sagalaev's paper, which is more balanced, explores a variety of primary docu-

me nts, particularly statistical materials about the num ber of converted natives. The

author essentially reduces his discussion of native-missionary contacts to the ques-

tion of whether the Russian Orthodox m ission failed or succeeded in evangelization

of natives. His general conclusion states that the clerics failed to reach the natives

and natives remained shamanists.


  Unfortunately, he ignores the complexity of

native relations w ith clerics and does not show the differences that existed in Altaian

responses to Orthodoxy in southern pastoral areas and the northern forest region.

Som e researchers were ambivalent about missionary activities. Such prom inent

student of Altaians' history and anthropology as (1953) in his general history of

the Altaians stresses that the direct influence of Christianity on natives was harm-

ful, but in a long-term perspective, Christianization became a blessing, since the

Russian church linked Siberian natives to the "more advanced" Russian culture.

Although, according to Potapov, the Altai mission allegedly neglected native ma-

terial well-being , clerics helped erase "primitive sham anistic beliefs" that allegedly

devastated native economies by necessitating numerous sacrifices. They also in-

troduced advanced forms of agriculture and progressive living. "Russian people

taught the Altaians more broad and intensive utilization of the natural resources

through emp loyment of new methods of production." Simply put, Potapov depicts

priests as cultural heroes who upgraded "primitive natives."


  One of the recent

studies by M odorov (1996) essentially follows the same pattern. On the one hand,

M odorov believes that the mission acted as a "reliable agent" of the go vernm ent's

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Dialogues about Spirit and Power  195

colonial policy. Like Potapov, he disregards the cultural interactions of sham anism

and Christianity in Altai, and native syncretism and writes that the mission "de-

prived the natives who cam e under its influence of their spiritual identity." On the

other hand, he stresses that the Altaian mission contributed a great deal to the

"civilization" of natives, especially in the first period of its activities.


At the present time, some Russian students of the Altaian mission have capital-

ized on this appraisal and switched from severe critique of Orthodox missionaries

to praise of clerics ' activities. The latter might be partially explained by the general

rise of nationalism in present-day R ussia, which makes the Russian Orthodox church

and its missionary activities a fashionable research topic. Almost all recent Rus-

sian discussions of Christian-native interactions in Altai still revolve around the

question of whether missionaries succeeded or failed in converting natives. A com -

mon conclusion nowadays is that the mission did succeed. Two students of the

Altai missionaries, D. V. Katsuba and Kh. V. Poplavskaia, even go so far as to

suggest that the "positive experien ce" accumulated by the nineteenth-century mis-

sionaries in the fields of native welfare and resolving of ethnic and religious conflicts

might be used in the present day.


  In addition, Katsuba insists that shamanism

"hindered" natives' "economic and cultural development" achieved under the in-

fluence of Russian culture and therefore "is related to the negative aspects of the

traditional culture of the nomadic Altaians, Shores and Teleuts and other peoples "


Khrapova now stresses that the activities of Makarii Glukharev, the founder of the

Altai mission (Figure 5.1), not only pursued narrow religious goals, but were di-

rected to enlightening natives in order to attach the Altaians to the "values of the

world culture."


 V ladimir Eroshov and Valerii Kimeev, the major R ussian studen ts

of the history of the Altaian mission, have similarly generalized about the civiliz-

ing role Orthodox missionaries allegedly performed among the "back ward" natives.

Though their work is very well grounded in primary sources and stands out as the

most comprehensive, these scholars do not address Altaian creative interactions

with Christianity and do not attempt to explore native motives for adoption of



It should be mentioned, however, that in 1986 Sagalaev produced original work

that goes far beyond his previous and more simplistic approach and did make an

attempt to show how native Altaians reinterpreted elements of Lamaism and Or-

thodoxy. Although he again did not address the variety of native responses to these

religions and dow nplayed the influence of Christianity on the indigenous world view,

his paper broke new ground in the discussion. Unfortunately, the present works

show that his approach has not yet found a response among Russian students of

Altaian native evangelization. In Western scholarship the first work that explored

native-m issionary relations in Altai was written by David Collins. Until the present

day his article remains the best succinct review of the history of the Altai Orthodox

mission bo th in Russia and in the West. Collins not only drew attention of scho lars

to this neglected topic, but also showed that the perception of Altai m issionaries as

loyal agents of colonialism is too simplistic.

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Figure 5.1. Makarii Glukharev, the founder of the Altai Orthodox Mission.

Photograph from the portrait courtesy of the Tomsk State Historical and Ar-

chitectural Museum (#TOKM 10973).

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Dialogues about Spirit and Power


Still, we do not have enough balanced studies that address the problem of inter-

actions between missionaries and Altaians as well as a native religious syncre tism.

To view religious processes in the region as a cultural persistence or insist that the

missionaries educated the Altaians in the spirit of more advanced Russian civiliza-

tions hardly helps one to grasp the complexity of a cultural dialogue between

shamanism and Christianity. Therefore, it is hard to accept the approach to the

history of the Altaian native evangelization suggested recently by Poplavskaia

(1995),  who still attempts to restrict the whole discussion to a simple dilemma:

missionary failure or success.




Russian penetration into Altai started in the seventeenth century, and by the end

of the eighteenth century the empire had annexed the northeastern and southwest-

ern Altai regions. Despite incorporation into the empire, there existed telling

differences in the relationship between Russians and natives in each of these two

areas.  The empire absorbed the northeastern groups of the Altaians during the

1640 and 1650s; the southwest was added in the 1750s. Also, the northeastern

communities established more intensive economic and social contacts with the

Russians than did the southwestern ones. The Kumandins, a northern group of

natives, paid tribute to the Russians as early as the 1620s.


Unlike the northeastern part of Altai, the southwest in the seventeenth and in the

first half of the eighteenth century was exposed to the strong influence of Mon gols,

who forced local tribes to join the Dzhungarian Federation with its center in north-

western Mongolia. These southwestern Altaians called themselves Oirot ("allies"),

and the legendary folk hero Oirot Khan personified this local tradition. Centuries

of cultural exchange with the Mongolians and with Chinese left visible marks on

southern Altaian culture, specifically in social relations, clothing, and language.

Despite close relationships with the Mongolian tradition, military raids of the

Dzun garians plundered the southwestern groups, so they appealed to the czar for

imperial protection.

The Russian empire, interested in cultivating loyal supporters on its southern

borders, not only granted them refuge, but also allowed the new subjects to retain

cultural and political autonomy. That meant, first of all, that the hereditary chiefs

of the nomads,


  paid no tribute. Moreover, the empire attempted to inte-

grate indigenous headm en into a colonial system by equating the position of zaisan

to the Russian rank of "major." Until the 1860s, the southwestern Altaians only

formally recognized Russian power, and the Cossacks saw the region as an enemy



  Furthermo re, from the end of the 1700s, as a result of inclusion of the

Altaians in the empire and the discontinuance of tribal wars, both geographical

areas saw a dramatic increase of the native population. Thus, from 1769 to 1897

the num ber of southern Altaians rose to eighteen thousand. Between 1858 and

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198   Shamanism and Christianity

1898 among the Kumandins, a sedentary northern group, the annual population

growth was 3 percent.


  These statistics suggest that, on the whole, in the nine-

teenth century native society in Altai did not face any serious dem ographic collisions

and did not die out, as some contemporary critics have argued.

As in other areas of Siberia and Alaska, the Russian interest in Altai was the

exploitation of fur resources, which they managed by imposing tribute payments

on all Alta ians. Only later, in the 1860s, with the depletion of fur anim als, did the

government switch to an intensive exploitation of agricultural and m ineral resources

of the region. Besides the fur tribute, the Altaians paid twelve other taxes. In the

nineteenth century 26 percent of the Altaian income was earmarked as tribute or

taxes for the Russian governm ent.


 The colonial administration used native


tains to collect tribute in both the northeast (pashtyks) and the southwest  (zaisans).

Until the 1880s, the empire did not interfere with native internal affairs and re-

stricted itself to regular contacts with zaisans or pashtyks. All Altaians were under

the jurisdiction of the


 a district police


  and simultaneously to that

of a Tomsk regional governor, w ho acted as a civilian representative of the empire.

Native zaisans  and pashtyks acted as agents for these authorities.


Although the empire did not control the internal life of the natives, the govern-

ment divided traditional territories into tribute-collecting districts. These units were

designated in the northeast by a Russian w ord, volost, and by the Mongolian word


  in the southwest. Until the end of the nineteenth century the government

cultivated both




 as imperial tools of indirect control over na-

tives.  These leaders received gold medals from the empire as symbols of alleged

authority. In 1804, for instance, a Shor


  visited St. Petersburg, where the

Russian emperor awarded him a gold medal. Later, both   zaisans  and  pashtyks

obtained another standard token of power, a coppe r plate with the inscription "clan

elder" to be worn on their chest. At the same time, headm en's status depended not

only on imperial recognition, but also on their acknowledgment by fellow tribes-

men as successful mediators between natives and Russians.

Prior to 1822, natives themselves had selected




  Later, after

introduction of Speransky's Statute of Alien Administration in Siberia and the

beginning of the Altai mission, northeastern Altaians began electing chiefs ap-

proved by missionaries. Among the Shors, a northern group from the Kuznetsk

area, pashtyks  were elected for three years and recruited exclusively from baptized

natives, although in the neighboring Biisk area, populated by nomads, indigenous

leadership remained hereditary.


  In southern and western areas, less exposed to

Russian influences, all natives still followed the traditional pattern and selected

leaders from an old tribal "aristocracy." In 1880, the Russian government formally

abolished the hereditary principle of zaisanlpashtyk succession in both the north-

east and the southwest.


  Eventually, in 1912, native indirect rule based on internal

sovereignty received its second hardest blow from the governm ent, which replaced

the remnants of the traditional system with the standard Russian administration

based on a territorial principle.

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Dialogues about Spirit and Power


Northeastern Altai

In the northeast the very structure of native econom ies and residential patterns

made it easier for forest hunters and fishermen to adjust their lifeways to the de-

mands of the colonial economy. From the end of the eighteenth century, w hen the

government voided the state monopoly on the fur trade, private merchan ts flooded

northern Altai and established strong connections with natives. On many occa-

sions such relations were strengthened by intermarriages, the number of which

increased by the end of the nineteenth century. Many natives also switched to the

language of the newcomers. Thus, by this time, about 47 percent of the northern

Teleuts started to view Russian as their native language.


  Gradually, natives be-

came integrated into a Russian trade network through num erous credit obligations.

At first, Russian-born merchants conducted their business in the area, but subse-

quently they started to cultivate local native agents to act as middlemen between

the Altaian g roups and trade interests. A large num ber of such brokers were mem-

bers of the local native leadership, which by tradition was accustomed to mediating

between colonizers and their fellow tribesmen.


The northeastern Altaians connected themselves with fur traders economically,

politically, and socially. Additionally, natives developed regular contac ts with Rus-

sian miners, who purchased from them meat and fish. Not surprisingly, m issionaries

frequently wrote positive assessm ents of the northeastern tribes. According to Vasilii

Verbitskii, in practicing hunting, fishing, weaving nets for sale, and even agricul-

ture on a small bas is the Shors of the Mrass River lived a "clean and neat life."



the same vein, he described h is encounter with a native village that was involved in

a regular fishing trade with the Russian town of Kuznetsk. Verbitskii noted that

these Shors were "more civilized" than the other "wild savages" of the area.


Officials and private traders concerned with regular fur tribute shipments en-

couraged excessive hunting. Although, according to Iadrintsev, they w ere turning

into "nomadic proletarians,"


  the Altaians were able to adjust their hunting and

gathering econom y to the demands of the fur and forest nut trade, which allowed

them to maintain indigenous lifeways. S. P. Shevtsov indicated that by 1900 80

percent of the Shor families on the Kondoma and 90 percent on the Mrass River

practiced hun ting. In some areas the percentage of such people w as even higher, as

on the upper M rass River, where 99.9 percent of the Shors hunted.


  At the end of

the nineteenth century, the population of sable living in Shor country diminished

to such a degree that traders replaced this forest "currency" with squirrel skins.

Furthermore, Russian merchants became interested in groundhog furs, which cam e

to dominate 50 percent of all Russian-native trade.


 As a result of the growth of

the fur market not only squirrels and groundhogs, but hoofed animals became

objects of commercial hunting.

Such diversity of the fur m arket allowed the Altaians in the north and the east to

retain and reproduce a hunting economy. Forest nut collecting, the second major

native occupation in this area, which also gave them access to the Russian market,

supplemented Altaian income, protecting them against fluctuations in fur prices.

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200  Shamanism and Christianity

The fur and forest nuts trade still played the most significant role in Russian-

native commerce until the 1920s.

More important were the social consequences that the fur trade produced in

northeastern Altai. For the purposes of regular trading, native and Russian mer-

chants developed a system of informal comradeship that the Altaians called


Russian traders v isited indigenous villages and singled out specific natives as their

trade agents responsible for buying furs from their fellow tribesmen. Traders pro-

vided these people with a supply of goods on credit. A merchant also regularly

treated these native agents with gifts, food, and liquor refreshments at his expense.

After indigenous middlemen returned to the forest, they resold goods, supplies,

and powder to native hunters also on credit.


  Thus, the Altaians and Russians

supported a system of supply and demand, bringing them to mutual dependence.

During the fur trade era a number of native traders enriched themselves by medi-

ating between fellow tribesmen and Russian merchants. One middleman, A. P.

Kandarakov, cooperated with Russian merchants by establishing a monopoly on

the purchase of furs, honey, wax, and nuts from the Lebed River valley. Another

native merchant, Polikarp Pustogachev, concentrated in his hands the sale of furs

and nuts from the Baygall River valley.


  On the whole, the Russian fur and nuts

trade did not bring radical changes to the indigenous economy of the forest dwell-


 but rather promoted and enhanced traditional economic and social systems.,


At the same time, close reciprocal relations with the Russians established a back-

ground for native dialogues with Orthodoxy. Missionaries themselves understood

very well the significance of the trade. One cleric recommended expanding such

commerce in order "to advance the cause of Christianization," adding that com-

mercial relations with the natives would be "the most reliable help to missionaries

because savages who com e for goods will be indirectly exposed to the spirit of the

Christian faith." With that in mind, he suggested the building of trade stores near

two Orthodox monasteries in Altai.


  A Russian-German scholar and traveler,

Vladim ir Radlov (W ilhelm Radloff), also reported that missionaries to the Altaians

provided facilities to Russian merchants to store their goods.


  Such facts appar-

ently drove some Soviet historians to a simplistic conclusion that missionaries

acted as agents of economic exploitation of natives.

Southwestern Altai

Unlike that of northeastern forest areas, the landscape of southwestern Altai

included mountain and steppe (grassland) terrain. Environmental conditions of

the region defined specific native occupations and eventually relations of local

populations with the Russians. Until the second half of the nineteenth century the

empire had little influence in southwestern Altai and the government showed no

interest in the natural resources of this area except for the annual procurement of

fur tribute. Except the Teleuts, who economically and politically occupied a tran-

sitional place between southern and northern natives, nomads lived in isolation

from the empire and did not mingle with the Russian population. Stereotyping

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Dialogues about Spirit and Pow er

  20 1

their semi-sovereign status, a Russian government official wrote about them in

1840, "The Kalmuks are extremely unrestrained, rude, perfidious, wicked, stub-

born and even impudent."


  Moreover, as mentioned, historically the government

itself encouraged their isolation. After admission into the Russian empire and on

the basis of the 1811 official regu lations, the Altaian nomads formally reserved for

themselves pasturelands that covered a loosely defined territory of about seventy-

seven thousand square miles. The empire declared this region "Kalmuk habitats"

closed for Russian settlement and trespassing.


Settlers, however, ignored these borders and entered nom adic areas that, unlike

the northeast, were suitable for farming. Authorities did try to remove Russian

intruders back beyond the borderline of "Kalmuk habitats," but such modest en-

deavors failed. As early as 1815, without permission, Russian settlers founded

seventeen villages south of the "line" of nomadic territories, and by 1825 the num-

ber of these settlemen ts reached twenty-one.


  Despite these encroachments, until

the 1860s Russian presence had no radical consequences for the local landscape

and native customs. Except for fur traders, runaway serfs, and Russian Orthodox

schismatics (Old Believers), southwestern Altai still did not face mass peasant



During the second half of the nineteenth century, however, the government ex-

pressed a considerable interest in the agricultural settlement of Altai.


  First, the

empire intended to turn the Altai region into a Far Eastern base to feed Siberian

colonization, and, second, officials wanted to "drain" out of European Russia the

peasant population, which had become landless after the 1861 reform that released

them from the bondage of serfdom. T he beginning of the mass intrusion into south-

ern and western Altai started in 1865, when groups of peasants from European

Russia requested permission to settle in Altai. On July 30, 1865, the government

approved this request. The Altai area became the "settlement Eldorado" for peas-

ant settlers because of its most fertile soil and variety of climatic zones, which

reminded settlers of European Russia. Sixty-two percent of all settlers to Siberia

between 1861 and 1899 selected Altai as their point of destination.



the empire intervened because the population influx reached such proportions that

settlers and natives started to clash over land tenure.


Local officials, however, still advocated mass colonization. In 1874 the gover-

nor of Tomsk, Suprunenko, who was in charge of Altai, approached the Siberian

governor general complaining about the harmful influences of the Statute of Alien

Administration in Siberia, the major document that defined the administrative and

political systems of Siberian natives. In his view, the guidelines, with their empha-

sis on indirect rule, restricted advance onto native lands and cut off the nomads

from Russian civilization. In his attempt to justify imperial advance onto the in-

digenous lands Suprunenko appealed to the household image of a "lazy native"

who supposedly was not used to regular work and was not able to use his land

productively. Lamenting that so far the Russian presence was noticeable only in

the northern part of Altai, the governor of Tomsk complained, "The rest of the

country is reserved for the exclusive use of a handful of Kalmuks who spend their

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202  Shamanism and Christianity

time in complete idleness because the stockbreeding does not take any effort and

because they lay all house work on women."


 The conclusion of his report to the

Siberian go vernor general sounded a direct call to force out the Altaian s from their

native lands: "This semi-savage people were not even able to create appropriate

living conditions for themselves. Also, nothing indicates that they will improve

their life in future. Do we want to allow them to waste this rich country?"



the chief council of western Siberia attached to the Suprunenko report one more

argument: the necessity to protect the Russian southern border. Finally, the docu-

ment was sent to St. Petersburg.


In 1879 the czar approved regulations that allowed local Russian authorities to

grant all interested people perm ission to settle freely in western Altai lands . After

the payment of six rubles per male, each settler's family received a right to take

135 acres of surveyed "uncultivated land."


  The government designed the 1879

instructions as a three-year pilot project, which was later extended. Moreover, the

program provided for the establishment of twenty-six Russian settlements on na-

tive lands.


 Still, after the issuance of these regulations colonization remained an

unregulated process. Peasants occupied unsurveyed lands of their choice, never

bothering to pay taxes and ignoring native titles. In the 1870s Radlov, who visited

the area, noted: "The dense circle of Russian villages rounds up Altaians tighter

and tighter. Through rich river valleys the Russians pene trate deeper and deeper in

the heart of the area. As a result, the Altaians keep on retreating farther into m oun-

tains and get poorer due to the loss of pasturelands."


A m issionary, Sinkovskii, who observed the nomads at the same time, similarly

stressed that Altaian lands had been surrounded by settlers. In addition, he po inted

to armed clashes between natives and newcomers.


  In 1889, officials again at-

tempted to impose modest regulations by requiring peasants to file settlement

petitions with governors and to secure permission from the police. Once again,

such restrictions failed to stop the influx of settlers, so the governm ent succum bed

to their pressure and excluded Altai from imperial regulations that remained valid

for the rest of Siberia. The population movement reached its peak during the 1 8 9 1 -

1892 famine in European Russia. As Mam et summ arized, "The arbitrary occupation

of the Altaians' lands resulted in terrible complication of land tenure rights."


In 1894, the pressu re for land becam e so strong and colonization so chaotic that

the government temporarily prohibited the settlement of native lands, but this re-

striction again did not result in any practical action. To diminish the tide of landless

peasants was impossible: by 1894 more than 100,000 settlers who still could not

find free land plots concentrated in Altai.


  This group of people openly seized

land and represented a threat not only to the native populations, but also to those

Russian settlers who had entrenched themselves in the region earlier on. The only

solution to this massive influx was to remove all legal obstacles to free occupation

of indigenous lands. To this end, an interdepartm ental council of the Russian gov-

ernment responsible for the colonization policy provided that each peasant family

would receive a 135-acre land allotment "within the area of nomadic Kalm uks' re-

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Dialogues about Spirit and Pow er  203

sidency and within territories of other natives who did not practice individual land



Finally, the government adopted a new law formally permitting m ass settlement

by shrinking the borders of nomadic pastures. This law was approved on May 31 ,

1899, far before an official land survey expedition completed work in Altai. Such

negligence was no surprise, for the com mission later found that the majority of the

southwestern Altaians were nomads not interested in and not used to sedentary


  Incidentally, the 1890 Russian Census also indicated that the majority of the

southern Altaians lived as nomads.


 Unlike earlier regulations, the 1899 decree,

in order to create a large reserve of surplus lands demanded the Altai nomads

adopt sedentary living. Like R ussian settlers, native nomads received an allotmen t

of 135 acres per head. The remaining 18,690,000 acres "freed" from indigenous

tenure now became the crown's possession and were leased to Russian farmers.

This law threatened to undermine the traditional way of life and economy of na-

tive communities.


  The wide mountain and steppe pastures necessary for native

subsistence were reduced to small land plo ts. Many natives leased their allotmen ts

to the new comers because Altaians could not make a living off this land by prac-

ticing their traditional pastoralism.

The building of the Trans-Siberian Railroad in the 1890s revitalized peasant

settlement in the eastern borderland. In 1891 Iadrintsev stressed that native territo-

ries had shrunk ten times since the beginning of intensive Russian colonization.


From the 1890s to 1912 two million European Russians settled the "em pty" lands

of southern Siberia and the Far East. The greater part of these people again chose

Altai, with the major tide of settlers arriving in this area between 1897 and 1917.


Altai became the only area in Siberia with the densest population concentration of

Russian inhabitants, which resulted in the total exhaustion of "free land" reserves.

The majority of Altai nomads were totally unprepared for sedentary life, and the

governm ent and local officials could not ignore this fact. Fearing that quick breakup

of nomad communal patterns would lead to social tensions, in 1904 officials is-

sued new instructions that slowed the application of the 1899 allotment law to the



  Unfortunately, the governm ent was repeatedly inconsistent in its deci-

sions. In August of 1906 a czarist decree, "On Providing for Settlement of Free

Lands in the Altai Mountain Region," nullified these restrictions and finally re-

moved all remaining barriers to peasant colonization. From 1907 on Russian

settlement in Altai became especially intensive.


In 1910 the government sent a survey commission headed by the chief of the

Altai region , V. P. M ikhailov, to sou thwestern Altai, to confirm that the majority of

the natives had become sedentary and were ready to accept individual allotments.

The expedition received direct instructions to find proof that the nomad ic Altaians

were now interested in land allotment. By falsifying the real conditions of natives,

M ikhailov m aintained that nomads w ere ready to accept individual land plots and

therefore fulfilled his assignment.


  He also argued that the 1822 statute defined

no exact borders of the "Kalmuk habitats," which he interpreted as an open invita-

tion to any governmental initiative. Like Suprunenko earlier, he also pointed out

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204  Shama nism and Christianity

that it would be unreasonable to leave the rich natural resources of the area in the

hands of "backw ard people." In 1911, on the basis of this report, the go vernment

voided the modest restrictions of 1904 and proceeded with an immediate land

reform in Altai. As a result, native lands were parceled out into individual hold-


This land policy openly ignored indigenous interests and was devoted to the

sole purpose of seizing indigenous "surplus" lands generated from the allotment



  Adm inistrative changes imposed on the Altaians became a logical con-

tinuation of the land dispossession. In 1913-1914 the government abrogated the

entire system of indirect rule with its  zaisans  and pashtyks  and replaced tribute

paym ents with regular taxes. Formally, natives became subject to the same regula-

tions as the Russian population.


  The* crackdow n on the indigenous land and

administrative system during 1899-1914 produced mass panic, particularly among

the nomads. In hope that the government would return to the old system some

leaders hid their seals, medals, and other regalia earlier granted by Russian au-

thorities and now no longer valid. Many native families escaped to the mountains

afraid that they would forcefully be turned into peasants or converted to Christian-

ity. There w ere even inciden ts of armed confrontation. For instance, the resistance

of the nomadic Teleuts to the land reform was so persistent that the authorities had

to send three police marshals to their village Zimnik "to maintain order."


The mass colonization of the southwestern areas of Altai not only reduced dra-

matically the native land domain and attacked their traditional culture, but also

had considerable psychological consequences by decreasing indigenous spaces.

The traditional cosmos, which earlier had not had any barriers and fences, was

shattered. Furthermore, the general increase of mobility and the speed with which

the patterns familiar to natives were modified altered the whole concept of native

time.  The flood of settlers soon changed the population balance and the natives

became a minority. By the beginning of the twentieth century newcomers com-

posed 87 percent of the entire population in both the northeast and the southw est.




In Altai the Russian Orthodox church demonstrated an unusual zeal among the

native population. Two major factors stood behind these activities: first, the gov-

ernment provided generous land donations to the mission; second, the church

became attracted to this area because of its proximity to the Buddhist-Lamaist

area. "The native periphery on the international borderlands should be populated

only by Orthodox people who would be able to assimilate the native segment and

to form a solid state shield against alien nations," stressed one missionary report.

On December 15, 1828, on an initiative of church authorities, the government

issued a formal permission to open the Altai Orthodox Mission. Actual conversion

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Dialogues about Spirit and Power  205

work among the Altaians started in the 1830s, when Glukharev (1792-1848) be-

came head of the m ission.


Glukharev established a good rapport with the local population by combining

roles as an amateur healer and a priest. By translating Russian religious literature

into Altai dialects, he anticipated the famous Ilminskii System. Glukharev's suc-

cessors turned the propagation of the Gospel among the Altaians into a huge

religious enterprise, the largest of the Russian missions. From 1830 to 1913 clerics

established twenty-one stations, two monasteries, two convents, and seventy-four

schools with m ore than on e thousand native students. M issionaries also founded a

Catechism College, which gave room and board to twenty-two students desig-

nated to becom e native clergym en. By 1913 the majority of the native Altaians had

formally become Russian Orthodox.


Incidentally, the Altai mission relied strongly on indigenous clergy, w ho worked

on all levels. More than half of the mission priests were natives. Additionally,

indigenous clergymen occupied almost all low-level church positions and also

worked as missionary school teachers. The most promising students of the Cat-

echism College later went to study at the Missionary Institute in K azan, in European

Russia. In 1874, the Holy Synod granted the Altaian mission permission to estab-

lish a printing p ress. Eventually, church authorities assumed that the mission fulfilled

its role and after 1910 discon tinued its activities by dividing the region into native



Indigenous responses to the mission were uneven. In the northeastern areas,

populated by sedentary groups connected w ith the Russians through intensive trade

links, many native communities found it useful to conduct a dialogue with mis-

sionaries, but in the southwestern steppe and mountain areas, populated by nomad s,

this relationship hardly existed.


  Not only nomadic life-styles and lack of tight

contacts with the Russians made pastoralists immune to the message of Ortho-

doxy; historically, before becoming Russian imperial subjects, Altaian nomads

had to suffer severe religious persecutions from the Dzhungarian Federation. The

latter was a typical oriental despotic state, which widely used violence to implant

Lamaism in the Altaian society by punishing and executing native shamans. The

Dzhungarians did not succeed in their attempts to crush native beliefs.

Stories about resistance of shamans to Lamaism occupy a significant place in

the Altaian oral tradition. It appears that this tradition nourished among the no-

mads a strong negative stance against any religious imposition. Thus, in 1848

Tudunekov, one of the first natives to adopt Christianity in the southwest, was

killed by his fellow tribesmen as a traitor.


  Radlov, who visited Altai in the 18 60 s-

1870s, noticed this ideological stance popular in nom adic cam ps: "As soon as the

Shors [a northern Altaian group] get in touch with the Russians they immediately

advance themselves to a higher stage of culture with extreme easiness, while the

Altaians [southern A ltaians] can live for decades together with the Russians, w ith-

out changing their culture at all/'


In his 1864 travel report Verbitskii mentioned that in contrast to the sedentary

commu nities of the Kuznetsk area, the nomadic natives of the Biisk steppe did not

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206  Sham anism and Christianity

welcome missionaries. Furthermore, he indicated that in the 1860s-1870s there

was no single case of voluntary baptism during a missionary's visits to the no-

madic cam ps. In the 1870s Verbitskii, w ho supervised the northern Altaians, alone

converted m ore natives than eight other missionaries who w orked among nom adic



  Likewise, Stefan Landyshev, who succeeded Glukharev as head of the

mission, in 1863 reported that it was extremely hard to work with nomadic na-



  Sinkovskii indicated that the nomads who rejected Orthodoxy and did not

want to be involved in any talks with missionaries usually silenced the clerics by

answ ering: "Th e czar does not order us to accept baptism. Therefore, we can live

without Orthodoxy."


  Accordingly, missionaries hardly had any success in the

southwest. As late as 1907 a mission report still recognized that conditions for

missionary work in "nomadic habitats", were difficult and that despite the persis-

tent efforts of missionaries, Christianity still did not reach the major segment of

"paganists" in southwestern Altai.


Nomad ic groups exercised such strict comm unal control over religious life that

dissenters who for various personal reasons volunteered to accept a baptism did it

secretly. The missionary T. Petrov, who worked among the nomads, stressed that

the "Kalmuks," even if they sought conversion, were embarrassed to admit this

among their fellow tribesmen. Verbitskii, Postnikov, and Sinkovskii reported that

if nomads discovered an intention among some of their kinsmen to accept Chris-

tianity, they pursued such people, turned them back, and punished or kept them

under guard.


  Akakii, who worked amid nomads, provided colorful descriptions

of the contempt and harassment the newly baptized experienced at the hands of

their fellow tribesmen in the 1860s. Thus, after one ceremony of baptism, a crowd

of "K alm uks" surrounded missionaries and the converted natives, cursing the "trai-

tors" and spitting on them.


Ra dlov's travel diary pointed to the general attitude of the southwestern Altaians

toward Orthodoxy: "The nomadic Altaian treats any m ission as the institution that

dam ages his social status. He tries to avoid missionaries if he can, clings to his old

manners and customs and regards everyone who switched to Christianity as a trai-



  Interestingly, for some nomadic natives the artifacts of Russian Christianity

became connected with agricultural colonization of Altai. After her refusal to lis-

ten to missionary talks one native woman stressed that she did not want to pray to

a portrait of the Russian peasant, meaning Orthodox icons.


  The best that mis-

sionaries could gain in this situation was polite inattention. Trofim Sokolovsk i left

a characteristic description of one such incident: "For a long time did I talk about

Christ the Savior and related the basics of the Christian faith. The natives, how-

ever, did not pay too much attention. Som e of them smoked their pipes or looked

at the ground with a dull expression on their faces, others began to doze."


Moreover, objective administrative obstacles restricted the spread of Christian-

ity. The Statute of Alien Administration in Siberia of 1822 clearly forbade local

officials to prac tice any religious imposition on native popula tions. Until the 1880s

Russian officials did not interfere with native internal affairs and supported the

zaisans,  traditional unbaptized leaders. Those who accepted baptism lived under

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Dialogues about Spirit and Power  207

the jurisdiction of these unbap tized chieftains. N ot surprisingly, in all disputes

with fellow tribesmen, the newly baptized almost always lost. Furthermore, the

peasant settlers in frontier villages did not treat baptized natives as equals and

ridiculed those who insisted on being treated as Russians.


A story about the powerful Altai shaman Kazak illustrates the southwestern

Altaians' attitudes toward Orthodoxy in the period between the 1860s and the

1890s. In a missionary interpretation, the conversion of this medicine man started

with a search for the sources of the Russians' "prosperity and well-being." Kazak

came to the conclusion that Russian power originated from the Christian faith and

experienced visions that strengthened this discovery. A firelike creature that vis-

ited him in the vision ordered Kazak to accept bap tism. During a second vision the

shaman was exposed to a priest's face, and then he saw a wide rainbow road from

the earth up into the sky. After these experiences he stunned all his relatives and

friends by convincing them to accept Christianity. Kazak even started to build a

road in his village as a partial fulfillment of his vision. At first, his fellow tribes-

men treated him as mentally ill. Then, when Kazak became too persistent, they

intimidated h im. This did not help , so kinsmen tied him up with ropes and hid him

from the missionaries. Eventually, this dissident shaman deceived his guards, es-

caped, found a priest, and accepted baptism.


This example not only portrays attitudes of the nomad Altaians toward Ortho-

doxy, but also indicates how native shamans attempted to employ elements of

Russian Christianity as potentially useful pow er, far before cond itions for the mis-

sionary-native dialogue came into view. Another traveler to southwestern Altai,

Vereshchagin, describing the nomads' negative attitudes toward the Russian Or-

thodox Church, wrote, "I personally saw how natives of the Chulishman valley

demonstrated their open hatred of the monastery located on their lands."



probably, he mean t that until 1910 local natives challenged the clergy by conduct-

ing shamanistic performan ces in the vicinity of this monastery.


 In 1910 the chief

of the Altai mission summarized the status of Christianity among the nomads. His

words sounded like a com plaint: "The Altaians are like blind and deaf peo ple. We

take care of them for almost seventy years, they enjoy various privileges, but they

still did not appreciate all benefits offered by the Russian Orthodox church and

Russian government."


  Not surprisingly, he interpreted the stock epidemics that

devastated Altai herds that year as God's punishment for their refusal to accept


It is interesting that nom adic headmen who rejected the Orthodox message un-

derstood very well that they had to act and work within the imperial system . Facing

the need to read and respond to regulations of local and central authorities, these

chiefs sought to master basics of reading and writing, avoiding at the same time

paroch ial schools and missionaries, who usually helped sedentary Altaians to solve

problem s. So-called heathen schools, established and financed by native pastoralists,

who tried to recruit secular Russian teachers, became a peculiar nomadic response

to this challenge. Som e natives, when they were not able to locate a Russian teacher

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208  Shama nism and Christianity

themselves, had to approach and mislead missionaries by claiming that they were

already baptized and needed a school.


To mission aries, nom adism lay at the roots of the native disregard of Orthodoxy,

so it is hardly surprising that in addition to shamanism, Altai clerics targeted pas-

toralism as the major enemy of Christianity.


  Landyshev expanded a project

started by Glukharev of organizing Christian sedentary villages for natives. In

order to settle nomads and implant agricultural patterns, missionaries provided

houses and agricultural tools to those Altaians who volunteered to move into such

villages. Landyshev made the Orthodox settlements project his highest priority

and established thirty Christian villages. He also developed an ambitious program

of transforming natives into agriculturists, teaching them gardening, sewing, and

bread baking.


  Radlov mentioned that in such settlements a cleric attempted to

act as a "father to his com mu nity/'


  The project, however, had little success. Liv-

ing in artificially organized sedentary villages proved too painful and traum atic an

experience for even those natives who voluntarily accepted this type of living.


The population of these villages was not large, from twenty-six to ninety-seven

persons in each settlement.


  Accounts also indicate that in the 1860s-1890s the

majority of these Christian natives were uprooted individuals and outcasts, who

sought material or moral benefits offered by missionaries. Radlov noted, "It is

only people who either live in horrible poverty or those who by their dishonest

behavior provoked hatred from their neighbors that approach missions. By escap-

ing to missions and accepting baptism, they hope to avoid unpleasant conflicts

with their fellow tribesmen. Under these circumstances, the mission may reach

only a modest success."


 In a similar vein, ladrintsev, another traveler, described

these missionary villages as havens for poor and uprooted people.


Exposure of Altai nomads to Buddhist-Lamaist tradition may additionally ex-

plain the cold reception Orthodoxy received in the southwest. Desp ite their formal

affiliation with the Russian empire and conflicts with Dzhungaria in the past, the

nomads had maintained active trade and cultural relationships with Mongolian

world. As late as the turn of the twentieth century missionaries indicated that

 la -

mas (Lam aist preachers) frequented southern Altai, stayed there from two to three

months, and advertised themselves as skillful healers. Sometimes nomads them-

selves invited  lamas to come and cure them.


  The twenty-three thousand Russian

Orthodox schismatics who arrived in Altai before the major tide of the Russian

settlers also "confused" the Altaians about the "genuine" Orthodox religion.


In the northeastern areas the situation was far different. In the same 1864 report

where he lamented unresponsive nom ads, Verbitskii indicated that in the northeast

natives demonstrated lenient attitudes toward Orthodoxy and did not exercise any

strict community control in matters of faith. Whereas the southwestern nomads

turned a deaf ear when missionaries insisted on speaking to them, the northerners

at least never refused to listen to missionary talks, often out of pure curiosity.




 Bishop Innokentii indicated that the close interactions of native and Russian

economies and societies made the success of the mission possible in the north-



 Verbitskii considered this area the most promising in terms of conversion.

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Dialogues about Spirit and Power  209

He stressed that in northeastern Altai paganism had shaky status and even sham ans

tended to accept baptism.


  To capitalize on this situation as early as 1857 the Altai

mission created a special Kuznetsk branch for the Shors, Kumandins, and indig-

enous groups of the northeast. Verbitskii (1 827 -18 90) became chief of this branch

and the first missionary to these natives.




What in the first place drove the northeastern Altaians to attach Orthodox ele-

ments to their tradition? Since they maintained their social ways and economy

based on hunting and gathering, there was no urgent drive to reevaluate radically

the old worldview. It would seem that the initial choice to borrow some Orthodox

"artifacts" depended on power considerations. First, the natives were connected

with the Russians by close contacts, through numerous reciprocal obligations and

trading relations. Second , political subordination to Russia added to their decision

to maintain a dialogue with Orthodoxy. Though it did not have legal and adminis-

trative tools to impose its will on the natives, the Russian church represented a

symbol of imperial power. To be associated with this power could be helpful both

for both economic and social and for psychological reasons. The Altaians might

have been concerned with supporting good rapport with merchants and colonial

authorities. Missionaries regularly pointed to the role of Orthodoxy among the

northeastern Altaians as a symbol of the voluntary loyalty demonstrated by natives

to the "white czar."

An incident that happened to Verbitskii tells much about this stance. In 1865,

when he visited the Kuznetsk natives, somebody passed a word that Verbitskii was

a Chinese subject. Stunned, the missionary found out that it became difficult for

him to perform conversions. One woman finally agreed to accept baptism, but

provided that Verbitskii swear that he was a subject of the Russian em peror, stress-

ing that she wanted to accept only one god in the sky and one czar on the earth.


Radlov reported that northern Altaians whom he visited thought he was a Russian

official. Accord ingly, they demonstrated their Christian loy alties. In a house w here

Radlov stayed, a native host pulled out icons from a box and prayed with his

family for a whole hour, showing off his piety. When Radlov mentioned that he

cared little about praying and Orthodoxy, the native put the icons back in the box.

Later Radlov found out that his host was one of the powerful local shamans.


Verbitskii appealed to the native feeling of loyalty, especially when he worked

among chiefs and headmen, whose survival as leaders depended on successful

mediation with the empire and the neighboring Russian population. In 1864, try-

ing to convert Tibekei, a headman from Kuznetsk, Verbitskii showed portraits of

imperial family members wearing crosses. Looking at the image of the czar's

brother, Tibekei asked the missionary, "Does the czar himself also wear a cross on

his chest?" The affirmative response of the missionary finally convinced this in-

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210  Shamanism and Christianity

digenous leader to accept baptism and a new name, Nikolai.


  The adoption of

Orthodoxy as a political act was quite obvious in all these cases. Such attitudes

among the northern Altaians became especially noticeable by the end of the nine-

teenth century, when Russian presence expanded. Moreover, the drive toward

Christianity increased after the 1880 reform that undermined positions of tradi-

tional hereditary leadership. In 1884 Chotpok-Pash, a Shor leader, directly invited

his band to accept Christianity because the "czar wishes that we also share his



  To the natives, such demonstrations of loyalty to the "white czar" appar-

ently opened a road to the Russian emperor's spiritual and political power carried

by his Orthodox messengers.

The political motives, in addition to spiritual and psychological ones, that drove

the Altaians to accept Christianity are evident if we exam ine personal biographies,

which provide more insight into intimate details of a native dialogue with Ortho-

doxy. The memoirs of Mikhail Chevalkov, who belonged to the Teleut tribe, present

a good illustration. During his thirty-one-year career, Chevalkov served as both a

translator and a missionary, and in 1863 he received a gold medal for his work

from Emperor Alexander  II.


  His autobiography, written as a testament for his

heirs,  provides a few important details about his childhood and how it prepared

him for acceptance of the missionary message. Chevalkov's mother died of a fe-

ver, causing him great distress: "After the death of my beloved mother, I cried

more than laughed. Thus, I lived crying for two years. During this time I myself

milked cow s, did laundry and cooked meals."


 This image of the crying and weep-

ing Chevalkov recu rs throughout the entire narrative, as do his tense relations with

an abusive father.

At the beginning, Christianity for Chevalkov was a psychological outlet and

literally a survival tool. His father resisted missionary activities and joined a few

other native families in moving out of the area to avoid any contacts with clerics

and baptized fellow tribesmen. However, Chevalkov rebelled against the parental

authority. Helped by Glukharev he started reading, while hiding from his family.

Soon Glukharev asked him to help translate religious literature into Altaian.

Chevalkov's decision to join the Christian com munity strengthened when his fa-

ther denied him a share in the household, economically devastating for any Altaian.

Left w ithout any means for survival, he stayed in a deserted barn for four days, and

eventually he turned to Glukharev for support and accepted baptism. The founder

of the Altai mission apparently took advantage of the situation: he built the new

convert a house, gave him money to buy various household items, and provided

him with a horse. In return, the missionary acquired a valuable translator.

Chevalkov's relationships with Glukharev and the mission became very close, so

that even after 1840, when Glukharev left for Russia, Chevalkov continued to

work as a translator in exch ange for a very modest salary. After a flood destroyed

Chevalkov's place, missionaries again helped him rebuild the house.


At first, Chevalkov accompanied missionaries on trips and occasionally propa-

gated Orthodoxy at the clerics' request. Before he was ordained in 1870, Chevalkov

supplemented his income by trading, never abandoning Christianity. He regularly

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Dialogues about Spirit and P ower


read to his fellow tribesmen and neighboring Shors from the Bible and interpreted

its stories for them. Chevalkov enjoyed not only the role of an educated person

among the natives, but the power and influence he also gained in their eyes. A

greater part of his autobiography reflected on his med iating between the Ru ssians

and Altaians as well as between indigenous groups and individual natives. Chevalkov

described in detail how Governor Lerhe asked him to arbitrate a serious dispute

between two natives and pointed out that he had saved one woman from an unfair

punishm ent. We also learn that another Altaian woman supposedly "bowed to the

ground" asking Chevalkov to help prove that her son w as innocent in a theft case.


At first, the Teleuts appeared not to like Chevalkov, judg ing him an opportunist,

and blocked h is efforts to build a small house-convent for native Orthodox girls on

the communal lands. Eventually, according to Chevalkov's interpretation, fellow

tribesmen not only accepted him, but even agreed to help his project. It is evident

from the text that the Teleuts needed his help as an educated person to deal with

Russian au thorities. First, they faced a problem of comm unicating with a govern-

ment land surveyor assigned to define borders of native lands between M aima and

Ulala. The surveyor asked the Teleuts to find a native representative qualified to

help in charting indigenous lands. Since Chevalkov was the only such man avail-

able in the Tea, natives turned to him.


According to Chevalkov, later people decided to elect him a headm an


but he refused the position so he could instead accompany an imperial chief in-

spector sent from St. Petersburg to demarcate borders between Russia and China

in southern Altai. This assignm ent gave him additional scores as a native m ediator:

Chevalkov helped persuade one Altaian community to move under the "protec-

tion" of Russia, thereby extending the imperial border farther into Chinese



  Chevalkov never missed a chance to stress how the chief inspector,

while talking with local natives, allegedly emphasized that Chevalkov's name "was

known in St. Petersburg."


In this context, missionary work for Chevalkov becam e a logical step to find a

niche for himself within the Russian ideological and political system. In summary,

the decision of the northeastern Altaians to merge elements of Orthodoxy with

indigenous beliefs might have originated from their strategy of survival. The na-

tives who were politically and economically integrated in the empire sought to

take advantage of the ideological power of Orthodoxy. They worked to upgrade

themselves within the new system as the only available alternative for maintaining

social integrity. As such, the moral authority of the Russian church provided addi-

tional spiritual power for social "healing."

It is not surprising that by the late nineteenth century the Russian church came

to play an active role in the nomination of the native leadership in northeastern

areas, with m issionaries promoting their own headman candidates. At first, secular

authorities did not recognize missionary-sponsored leaders and worked with the

traditional chiefs who inherited their powers. It took time before the government

accepted these elected leaders and gave them special


  seals. Later, in the

1870s and 1880s, clerics convinced authorities to replace the hereditary succès-

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212  Shamanism and Christianity

sion o f pashtyks with their election, which in the words of Sinkovskii would auto-

matically "destroy all existing evils," a reference to the sovereignty of local chiefs

in their internal affairs. M issionaries offered to make the positions of pashtyk  elec-

tive for three years and to nominate them from baptized candidates.


  After the

elective system was introduced in native villages, some headm en themselves started

to seek conversion.

Initially, missionaries introduced these elections in Christian sedentary villages.

Then Shors in northeast and Teleut in central Altai adopted the same practice.

Finally, in 1880 the government made election of native headmen a mandatory

practice for entire Altai. In northern areas the missionary project did not face seri-

ous resistance. Here indigenous leaders voluntarily sought missionaries' help in

their dealings with Russian authorities.


^ Every year pashtyks  received numerous

written regulations and m emoranda that they could not understand; so to comm u-

nicate successfully with officials, native leaders approached missionaries who could

read and translate the content of the government's documents. Moreover, the de-

sire to master reading and writing becam e one of the driving m otives for conversion

because the Altaians considered "the ability to compose a written requ est a sign of

the highest education."


Verbitskii noted that he worked closely with pashtyks, helping them respond to

police and governmental regulations. In addition, some native headmen used him

as the keeper of seals granted by authorities. Verbitskii also acted as a middleman

between officials and native chiefs. In addition to authorities,



cated with Russian settlers and merchants on a daily basis. When convinced that

switching to Christianity was helpful for personal or communal prosperity, native

headmen did so without hesitation.


  Their drive to adopt Russian church doc-

trines especially increased after the government in 1880 abolished the hereditary

powers of indigenous leaders.

In 1878, led by Omiska, who openly practiced shamanistic performances, the

Shors of the Mrass area persistently objected to the activities of the missionary

Trofim Sokolovski and consolidated opposition of all non-baptized natives in this



  Nevertheless, Om iska and his village voluntarily accepted baptism in 1881.

Headman Biarta, who earlier had sympathized with Christianity but avoided a

formal conversion, decided to accept baptism in 1887.


 App arently, these head-

men hoped to retain prestige and au thority in the new elective structure offered by

the Orthodox church.


  According to a 1885 missionary report, in the northeast

"am ong the paganists we observe a strong drive toward Christianity."


 This point

suggests that native leaders considered adoption of Christianity as one of the ways

to reduce political weakness.

In a similar vein, in the 1880s native merchants started making donations to the

churches and contributing to the construction of church buildings. By accepting

Orthodoxy many hoped to win positions of pashtykslzaisans or receive other sta-

tus symbols. For instance, missionaries helped a Shor trader, Mikhail Tabokov,

who accep ted baptism receive a position of zaisan. Tabokov later used his status to

control econom ic activities in his area. As a sign of reciprocation, he built a chapel

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Dialogues about Spirit and Power  213

for the Pastula native village at his own expense and also donated one hundred

rubles for rebuilding the burned house of the Altaian mission



  Two other

Shor merchants, Nazar Kurtugushev and Belei, sponsored construction of church

buildings in the Osinovski village and on the Bashkaus River. The government

granted Kurtugushev the title of "merchant of the first guild" for his regularly

delivering furs and nuts to Russia. In turn, Belei received a silver medal from the



Another Altaian native trader, Nikolai Tokochakov, although still unbaptized,

donated money to the building of a church in the Beshpeltir village. Nikolai

Shidikov, after he accepted Orthodoxy, decided to build a chapel in his native

Kuium village at his own expense. Iona Ryspaev, a Kumandin native, similarly

expressed a desire to finance the building of a chapel with an altar and a bell



  Russian Christianity enjoyed more power and influence. By the end of

the nineteenth century a greater part of the so-called best people, chiefs or native

traders, in northeastern Altai tended to accept Christianity.

In addition, missionaries identified poor and outcast segments of the Altaian

population as the perfect candidates for baptism. Mission reports stressed that the

transition to Christianity began am ong the poor, the homeless, and the uprooted.


Usually natives accepted baptism by bathing in a river and taking a steam bath,

after which they received a small copper cross and clean clothing, sym bolizing the

beginning of a new life.

11 7

  Missionaries certainly did not restrict themselves to

such modest Christian tokens, but also widely used material help to the poor as a

conversion tool. In her diary Sophia De Valmond, who cam e to work with Glukharev

in 1840, stressed: "All newly baptized who are in need receive various necessary

benefits such as cabins, horses, cows or, in a word, whatever they need."



missionaries offered substantial help to the newly baptized Shors and Teleuts, north-

ern and central Altaian groups who w ere more responsive to cleric s' sermons. For

exam ple, the Altai m ission 1875 gift list to the newly baptized looked very impres-

sive: clothing, money, neck crosses, fur coats, fur hats, boots, flour, barley, wheat

grain, tea, salt, fabric, cows, horses, plows, coffins, and lumber. Total expenses for

all these items reached 825 rubles, which was a lot in nineteenth-century Rus-



 In the beginning of its activities ( 1844-1869) the mission spent 22,000 rubles

for material benefits to the newly baptized.


Incidentally, the Altai mission was better equipped with clergy and finances

than other Orthodox missions of Siberia and Alaska. Chiefs of the Altai mission

were able to solicit support of the Russian Missionary Society and individual rich

benefactors such as Countess Maria Adlerberg. In 1832 Glukharev became the

first m ission organizer w ho implemented the gove rnm ent's 1826 regulations that

gave natives three-year relief from their dues and tributes after baptism.



also provided foodstuffs to poor natives who were not necessarily affiliated with

Christianity. Moreover, during a famine in Altai during 1839-1840, he traveled to

Moscow for a fund-raising campaign. His successor, Landyshev, distributed over-

coats among the newly baptized and made provisions to build houses for the new

converts who volunteered to move into Christian villages. He also added that na-

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214  Shama nism and Christianity

tives became so used to these benefits that they even demanded gifts from mis-

sionaries in exchange for baptism.


  Not surprisingly, missionary Sinkovskii no ted,

"Many natives started to view the mission as the institution that needs the bap-

tized. They think that the mission receives all its funds from the government and

that these funds are limitless,"


It is interesting how missionaries attempted to rationalize their conversions ac-

companied by various presents. Thus, the 1875 report of the Altaian mission in

response to critics who blamed missionaries for buying native conversions stressed,

"Why do you say that to use benefits to encourage natives to move to the light of

the truth contradicts moral principles? Sometimes there is simply no direct way to

implant in their minds at least a ray of spiritual light, especially when their own

savage religion puts emphasis on these benefits. Is it immoral to use candy to lure

a child or mentally ill person from a burning house?"

12 4

  At the same time, for

bureaucratic reasons, relief from all taxes, the major benefit, proved unsuccessful.

Altaian family names in tribute and conversion rosters frequently did not match.

Verbitskii made a futile attempt to review tax rosters to locate the names of the

baptized natives, but despite his efforts, only one-tenth of all Altaians in his area

received the promised three-year relief.


The Altai mission did not neglect such an important factor in native evangeliza-

tion as gender. Unlike many contemporary clerics, Glukharev, the founder of the

Altai mission, understood the role native females played in the transmission of

native culture. To target "the hidden h a l f of the native population, he established

an indigenous w om en's Christian com munity, which provided native women with

medical help and at the same time exposed them to Orthodoxy. A nun, De Valmönd,

was invited by Glukharev to supervise this work.


It is obvious from Glukharev's letters that the combination of medical help to

women and spiritual indoctrination was a successful maneuver. After that, a bap-

tized Teleut girl, Anna Chevalkova (a daughter of the native missionary Chevalkov),

and ten other native girls approached the church and gove rnment seeking perm is-

sion to organize a convent along the Maima River near Ulala, the mission center.

In 1 861 , after the church granted permission, the Ulala native comm unity set aside

some land for this project. Interestingly, the woman elder who came to supervise

this convent was Anastasia Semenova, a nun and a former student of a famous

Orthodox hermit monk, Seraphim of Sarov. Later, missionaries established a board-

ing school in the convent. They strongly hoped that such schooling "within the

convent's walls" might help partially erase "harmful influences" of indigenous

families on young females.


Among all missionary activities the natives paid special attention to clerics'

medical performances, which established a common ground between two cultures.

M ysterious diseases, earlier the domain of shamans, now were successfully treated

by the missionaries, who provided medical help to both the baptized and unbap-

tized. Altai mission annual reports repeatedly stressed the ideological significance

of medical service that undermined the influence of traditional medicine men and

women. "By healing the sick the mission diverted attention of the newly baptized

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Dialogues about Spirit and P ower  215

from ruinous sham anizing," stressed its 1888 report. The earlier 1870 report indi-

cated how clerics' healing skills attracted natives to Orthodoxy: "It happens that a

paganist visits a missionary only to take his medication and does not think about

accepting Christianity. But sometimes he comes back home being healed spiritu-

ally and carries in his soul a key to the eternal life." Not surprisingly, mission

records mention that for their trips clerics regularly took first-aid kits. For a long

time Altai clergymen were the only physicians in the whole area, and they were

also the ones who introduced smallpox vaccination.


Through h is own mistakes, Glukharev realized that without medical know ledge,

the missionary enterprise in Altai was doomed. During Glukharev's first year the

Altaians completely ignored him and even refused to listen to his sermons. Only

when he began treating natives did they start to view Glukharev as a different type

of shaman and accept his talks . As a matter of fact, G lukharev and othe r successful

missionaries like Verbitskii built their entire power and prestige am ong the natives

on their medical skills and knowledge. Even the natives who most persistently

refused baptism changed their mind after priests demonstrated their healing abili-


  This fact shows that the Altaians reinterpreted Russian Christianity through

indigenous power metaphors. Frequently natives approached missionaries only

when they exhausted the medicinal potential of shamanistic seances or faced bank-

ruptcy because of numerous sacrifices to Erlic. The anthropologist Anokhin adds

that the Altaians appealed to clerics or accepted baptism only in the most severe

cases of sickness.


Verbitskii in his 1858 report indicated that an unbaptized Shor woman from

Ust-Kalta, Kiikholu, approached him and asked for medication for her sick son,

who had adopted Christianity earlier. The missionary tried to convert her and pointed

out that the medication would not be enough for full recovery: that her son was

being punished for her own reluctance to convert. Eventually, K iikholu accepted

the missionary's suggestion.


  In another incident in 1864, Stepan, a Shor, prom-

ised Verbitskii to accept baptism if his sick wife recovered. In the same year,

Verbitskii gained additional native favor by removing a devastating dysentery epi-

demic. In 1902 another missionary w as invited to baptize a native woman, M ochaan ,

who suffered from pneumonia. To the question of the cleric why she had not ac-

cepted conversion earlier, Mochaan responded that she had tried numerous

shamanistic sessions, which had not helped, and she added, "Now if baptized, I

might recover."


Publications of religious literature in Altaian languages also played a large role

in missionary work. Missionaries translated practically all major works of Ortho-

dox literature and service books into local indigenous dialects. The se efforts were

widely advertised as the model experience for other missions.


  As early as the

1830s Glukharev translated basic Christian texts into the Teleut dialect. Later,

Verbitskii and Landyshev, with the help of the native missionaries Chevalkov and

Ioann Shtigashev, created an Altaian written language based on the Cyrillic alpha-

bet. This translation project was based on the system developed by Ilminskii, who

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216  Shamanism and Christianity

actively helped Altaian missionaries in their linguistic pursuits.


  In 1865 the Holy

Synod also permitted the Altai m ission to conduct its liturgy in Altaian dialects.

13 4

Missionaries also paid serious attention to the education and indoctrination of

indigenous children. In 1894 the chief of the mission considered the young gen-

eration of the Altaians the most promising conversion candidates.



these indoctrinated children were designated to act as messengers of Orthodoxy in

their pare nts' hom es. From the beginning, the Altai mission sent the most prom is-

ing children to its Catechism College to prepare them as teachers and priests. "In

future these helpers to the Russian priests might become good missionaries and

decent clerics who will be able to provide large and multiple benefits to the mis-

sion," stressed Landyshev. Later, the 1895 report similarly concluded that the

Altaians had enough spiritual potential to provide native "activists" for their own

spiritual enlightenment.

13 6

On the whole, missionaries regularly stressed that reliance on indigenous clergy

proved vital for mission work.


  The Holy Synod strengthened this practice by

permitting the mission to ordain native preachers. By 1908, of twenty-two Altai

missionaries only two were Russians without knowledge of native languages; the

rest were either full-blooded natives or the newcomers who grew up in the area

and were fluent in local tongues.


  One of the first indigenous Orthodox cat-

echists was Kosma Vasiliev, a native psalm reader who as an orphan was raised by

the mission.


  Another prominent Orthodox native was Ioann M. Shtigashev, a

full-blood Shor, who graduated from the Catechism College and the Kazan Theo-

logical Seminary. He also took an active part in writing and publishing the "Shors

ABC book." In his attempts to master doctrines of Christianity, Shtigashev made

pilgrimages to Orthodox holy places and relics in European Russia. He started his

career in 1885 as a teacher in a school at the Kondoma branch (later renamed the

Kuznetsk branch) helping a local missionary. Shtigashev taught Shor children

mathematics and the Bible both in Russian and in the Shor dialect, according to

the Ilminskii methods, which he mastered in Kazan. Later, Shtigashev succeeded

the priest he worked for and was ordained as a missionary.

Some of these native clergymen became successful cultural brokers who at-

tempted to contribute to the well-being of their communities. An indigenous

missionary from the Teleut, Gavriil Ottigashev, also graduated from the Catechism

College and demonstrated such com munity-oriented concern. From the available

information, it appears that he employed the Russian church system for his people's

benefit. H e worked am ong the Teleuts and Shors from 1883 and defined his major

goal as strengthening indigenous Orthodoxy. Ottigashev understood the latter not

only as a pure religious indoc trination, but also as a tool of social he lp. Ottigashev

encouraged among natives herbal medicine, beekeeping, and gardening and helped

the Altaians during famines. He even used his own salary to cover living expenses

for impoverished native students at a local missionary school. Later, Ottigashev

founded a church mutual-aid fund to help the poor and uprooted. Like all other

missionaries, he conducted his sermons in Altaian vernacular. Ottigashev allowed

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Dialogues about Spirit and Pow er


his native parishioners to sit during the service, a gesture that represented another

concession to the Altaians.


There was another native missionary from the same Teleut tribe, Stefan Borisov,

and one from the Spassk branch of the Altai mission, Alexander Oturgashev, who

acted as a missionary, p salm reader, and teacher. Another Altaian, M . Tashkinov,

who formally was a translator, similarly com bined a role of psalm reader and m is-

sionary. At first, Tashkinov received his education at the Ulala catechist school.

Then he w as sent to the K azan Teachers College. In 1885 he becam e a translator in

the mission with a special assignm ent to visit native villages and spread the Gos-



 The m ost known in this group of native clergymen was Chevalkov (a Teleut),

baptized and educated in the 1830s by Glukharev.


  Interestingly, the majority of

native clerics came out of the Teleut tribe. The specific geographical location of

this tribal group (central Altai) and its lifeways, which combined sedentary and

nomadic traditions, made the Teleuts skillful cultural brokers. Missionaries also

capitalized on the fact that these natives had originally moved from the nomadic

areas to the north and en couraged them to move back to their homeland in order to

bring the Gospel to the "Kalmuk habitats." Around one thousand Teleuts eventu-

ally agreed and helped clerics found a few m issionary stations among the nomads,

including U lala station, w hich later became the center of the mission. In add ition,

it was the Teleuts who dom inated the population of Christian villages in the sou th-

western sector. They also actively adopted from Russian peasants life-styles and

agricultural techniques.

14 3


As early as 1859 Verbitskii rushed to inform his superiors that "through various

methods" and with a "danger" to his life he eradicated open manifestations of

shamanism. At the same time, the missionary recognized that natives still prac-

ticed traditional ceremonies in desolated forest places far from the villages

supervised by m issionaries.


  In his 1860s diaries Radlov provided m ore insights

on the status of Orthodoxy in this area, reporting that the Shors were superficial

Christians or "Christians only by n ame." According to his observations, "they only

knew that they were supposed to make a sign of the cross and to receive refresh-

ments of 'red vodka' (comm union wine) during a priest's visit." Even among natives

who moved to Orthodox villages "old superstitions are not forgotten, they are

adsorbed into the ideas of the new religion," continued this traveler.



also mentioned in passing that missionaries had to watch the newly baptized con-

stantly since these natives did not consider it sinful to appeal to both priests and



At the same time, missionary and travel accounts give a complex picture of

Orthodoxy's status among the northeastern Altaians. In the 1860s, Radlov, who

elsewhere pointed to the persistence of native beliefs, indicated that shamanism

among the Shors was at the stage of decline.


  Ironically, much later, an 1892

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Figure 5.2. Altaian medicine wom an, c. 1900.

Postcard courtesy of the personal collection of

Yu. I. Ozheredov.

Figure 5.3. A scene of a Shor shamanistic session, 1907. Courtesy of the personal collection

of Irina E. Maksimo va.

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  Shamanism and Christianity

life and social meetings or public gatherings attractive from an aesthetic and psy-

chological viewpoint.

According to Verbitskii, one native named V. hesitated about bap tism. However,

when the native became a witness of a "majestic picture" of baptism performed by

Archbishop Vitalii for ten natives ("baptism was conducted with special solemn-

ness so characteristic of the archbishop ceremonies") V. changed his opinion and

converted to Orthodoxy.


  Another missionary, Sinkovskii, who worked among

the Teleuts in the 1870s, similarly emphasized that he knew "their love of church

ceremonies/' As a result, he attempted to conduct all religious processions in the

most solemn manner, attracting up to three hundred natives.


Eventually, indigenous groups and missionaries became involved in constant

negotiations to find a common ground for the development of the most appropri-

ate forms of specific church rituals. Natives volunteered to replace indigenous

ceremonies with Orthodox ones if they could attach to them traditional meaning.

On the other hand, clerics also adjusted Christian rituals to some native rites. In-

stead of the native spring rite Shachil, which was centered on the birch, Shors

accepted the Russian Orthodox Easter. Earlier each village had had its own birch

tree, under which members of a community gathered to decorate the tree and ask

for help in hunting and fishing. In the spring of 1861 Verbitskii suggested the

natives substitute this "indecent" tradition with an Orthodox Easter. It is interest-

ing how he decided to divert the natives from the birch tree ceremony to channel

their practice into the Christian mainstream.

Though the Shors issued no challenge to the priest in this matter, their initial

response was grim and hostile. To discharge the negative reaction, Verbitskii sug-

gested not restricting the festivities to a standard Orthodox Easter gathering in the

church building. Instead, he persuaded them to make the Easter procession through-

out the whole area carrying icons and to end the ceremony by blessing river water

to bring health to the people and stock. In Verbitskii's interpretation, natives ac-

cepted this option, and for the first time "the birch tree w as left without any spring



 From V erbitskii's account it is possible to think that the priest man ipu-

lated natives to force them to adopt Orthodox doctrines. However, the opposite is

also possible: that native manipulation of the Russian church occurred too.

There is not enough material to make any exact generalizations about native

Altaian vo ices in these matters. Nevertheless, Verbitskii's adjustment of the Ortho-

dox Easter to the Shachil ceremony suggests that it was not only a missionary

maneuver but also a native reinterpretation of the Christian ritual. Missionary re-

ports provide vivid evidence of native agency in their responses to Orthodoxy. In

1864 Verbitskii visited a Shor camp headed by a baptized native, Todushev. The

latter asked the priest to sprinkle holy water on his beehives to chase away the bees

of his neighbor.


  To help the native, the missionary gladly agreed to perform this

ritual, which was not contrary to Orthodox dogma. At the turn of the twentieth

century, in the same area a native named Nikolai, whose wife supposedly recov-

ered after his prayers to St. Nicholas, decided to approach a missionary and ask

him to use Orthodox power to force out of the Kokoe River a spirit of a bull whose

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Dialogues about Spirit and P ower


voice disturbed the native at night. The missionary similarly agreed to fulfill this



In the same manner, specific artifacts of Orthodoxy did not necessarily contra-

dict indigenous tradition and as such could be easily adjusted to native beliefs. For

instance, the Orthodox cross and icons w ere seen by som e Altaians as possessing

a protective power com parable to that of native amulets, which hardly opposed the

role of these objects in Russian C hristianity. In 1865, a sick Shor asked V erbitskii

to heal him, complaining that a local shaman had bewitched him and implanted a

disease in his throat. Accord ing to the patient, the shaman also promised to "sp oil"

Verbitskii when the missionary would put aside his cross while taking a bath.



1879 in Ulala and Biisk a religious procession carried an icon dedicated to St.

Panteleimon, one of the martyrs in the Orthodox church. According to missionary

observations, during the procession natives "did not fall behind the Russians in

expression of their pious feelings."


  In another case, the Altaians in the Bachatsk

branch used Christian icons to bless fields in the summ er, a practice that perfectly

fit the Orthodox tradition.


  In addition to the cross and icons,



remains or relics) of the Orthodox holymen were adapted as ancestral forces help-

ful to the Altaians. In the 1890s even the unbaptized T eleuts and Shors considered

very powerful the


  and the icon of St. Panteleimon and regularly came to

worship these artifacts of Orthodox faith.


It was evident that where forms of native beliefs and Orthodoxy did not conflict

too much with each o ther or even matched both sides were able to find a common

language, although the meanings attached to these Orthodox rituals by the mis-

sionaries and the natives were different. However, despite the desire of m issionaries

and natives to go far enough in order to establish a compromise, on many occa-

sions neither form nor content matched. In responding to a missionary suggestion

to accept baptism in order to prevent divine punishment, some Shors offered a

horse as a sacrifice to the Russian god.


 Although a missionary could respond to

a request to sprinkle stock or beehives with holy water or permit natives to bless

their fields with icons, he certainly would not accept a sacrifice. A missionary

would also most probably be stunned when confronted, as Verbitskii was, with the

question, logical in the shamanistic tradition, "W hat do your spirits respond when

the priest prays?"


Likewise, words evidently failed Verbitskii when a native woman approached

him with a com plaint about a local Teleut shaman , who refused to perform a se-

ance for her sick son,


  another example of how natives equated missionaries

with medicine men and women. We also can find an interesting shamanistic re-

reading of the role of a priest in the following stories. A Sh or w oman who could

not move her limbs decided to try baptism, an Orthodox medicine, as the final

remedy. After the baptism she partially recovered, and that also prom pted her hus-

band to accept Christianity. Ironically, the husband, who came to thank the

missionary, who had read a passage from the Bible in front of the sick woman,

added, "It seems that you, father, at that time did not finish reading some small

piece in your book: my w ife almost recovered except the pain in her left leg." The

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  Shamanism and Christianity

missionary who recorded this story m entioned that he had had a hard time explain-

ing to this native that it had not been the ceremony itself but God's will that had

brought recovery to his wife.


  A similar incident of different interpretations of

Christian baptism was described by Borisov, an indigenous cleric. Natosh, a fe-

male sham an, an ardent opponent of Christianization, was hit by "some unknown

disease" and could not recover despite frequent shamanistic sessions performed

on her behalf. As her last cure she decided to try Orthodox baptism. The dialogue

that followed between the cleric and the medicine woman clearly indicates two

distinct approaches to baptism:

Natosh: Cure me as soon as possible; I feel that the end my life is coming.

Borisov: It would have been better of you to say, "Baptize me as soon as possible," if you

feel that the end comes.

Natosh: If you cure me, I will accept baptism.

Borisov: I cannot assure you that I will cure you like a shaman, for life and death are in

God's hands. Who will dare to ascribe to oneself His deeds and power?


The actual medication the missionary prescribed for the sick shaman did help and

Natosh, who became convinced that the "Orthodox medicine" worked, was bap-

tized and received a new name, Natalia.

Local tradition also freely reinterpreted C hrist and Orthodox saints and instilled

them into indigenous beliefs. Furthermore, in the Christian doctrines reread by the

Altaians, Jesus Christ did not occupy the top of the religious pyramid. In the 1870s,

Radlov pointed out that the natives considered their "major god" Mukola (derived

from the Russian St. Nicholas, the protector of common people) and also believed

that another "evil god," Aina, devoured the souls of the dead and lived under-



  Incidentally, St. Nicholas was revered even by the unbaptized peo ple in

the Kuznetsk area, who placed candles in front of an icon dedicated to this saint.


A native missionary, Chevalkov, visited the Shors and the Teleuts approximately

at the same time. According to his information, in addition to St. Nicholas they

included in their pantheon St. Elijah, a prophet saint. Chevalkov also described a

few scenes that pictured native reinterpretation of Russian Christianity. When he

inquired whether they prayed to God in a Russian way, the Shors and Teleuts of

Kuznetsk responded that they did. However, when asked how they called God,

natives answered, "Father Nicholas as well as Elijah the Prophet; Jesus Christ is

also a god." Chevalkov tried to explain to them that St. Nicholas and Elijah were

only saints, but in vain. The Shors and Teleuts added, "We heard tha t Jesus Christ

is a genuine god but we do not pray to him too much." In another village, called

Myss, Chevalkov posed the same question. Among native gods, the Shors again

named both Jesus Christ and St. Nicholas .

17 3

 Chevalkov received similar responses

in other native villages, which he and his superior, Father Arsenii, visited in the


Such evidence clearly indicates how the Altaians dissolved Christian monothe-

ism in the plurality of their spirits' world. The Altaians also implanted biblical

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Dialogues about Spirit and Power


stories in their mythology. Natives started to treat such Christian metaphors as the

Great Flood, Noah's Ark, the appearance of peoples and tongues as part of their

own tradition. Thus, Noah was renamed Nam or Iaik-Khan and became a native

mythological character, a helper to Ulgen and an object of the Shors' sacrifices.

According to M. Shvetsova, who visited the northern Altaians in 1897, Nam was

natives' "most popular saint