Opening the roads: History and religion in post -Soviet Buryatia
This dissertation compares Buddhist devotional practices around the imperishable body of Dashi-Dorzho Etigelov, a pre-revolutionary Tibetan Buddhist lama, and ancestral trance possession as practiced by the shamans at the Local Religious Organization Tengeri, in order to examine how Soviet discourse influences post-Soviet religious revival. I argue that religious practices at these two organizations in Ulan-Ude provide a creative sphere within which Buryats can re-configure visions of the Buryat nation and its history. Through these religious practices, Buryats are opening roads to and from their republic, thereby inviting recognition for their organizations and their republic from local, federal and international audiences. I argue that religion becomes a medium for reimagining the Buryat nation because of the way in which religion came to be defined in Soviet anti-religious discourse. Soviet anti-religious discourse produced a tension between science and faith, and a tension between religious practice, national identity and the idea of the religious marketplace. These tensions shape a local field of debate about religion, about Soviet and Buryat history, and about what the Buryat nation is and should be. Both Etigelov's imperishable body and the physical afflictions of the Tengeri shamans embed discourses of nationhood in physical bodies, and link these bodies to local, national and transnational communities, thereby opening roads for their organizations and their communities into the future.
0326: Cultural anthropology
0724: Russian history