Baikal of wonders

The land of Baikal region in Russia has always been sacred for the local indigenous peoples – buryats. And shamans who could talk to local gods were revered as a hereditary caste of the chosen. After 70 years of stagnation the religious faith of their ancestors began to revive.


But even so locals refer to shamans just as to healers now. Many of shamans themselves are not aware of their destiny until, as they say, they won’t get a clear sign from Father Sky. For someone this sign can become a so-called shamanic illness. They believe that as long as they do not lead that being written, they will be accompanied by disease and failure. Someone recognises his path through a dream. Anyway, they sure, no one can refuse from gift of the gods. To preserve their culture they had to create professional unions, organize festivals, scientific conferences.

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

Alina Desyatnichenko went to the region of wonders to check what’s in this image, how much it costs and tried to understand whom shamans has become for locals and strangers: true followers of the faith of their ancestors, healers or just touristic amusements. She founded buryats that consider themselves as shamans and pictured them at their workplaces: either at the offices of local religious organizations of shamans, either at home. She also collected all thematic souvenirs that locals usually offer tourists when they gonna leave either legendary city or settlement, either the whole region.

About the author:
Alina Desyatnichenko (b. 1991) is a documentary photographer based in Krasnodar, Russia. Born in Uzbekistan, at the age of 16 moved to Russia. Studied journalism at KubSU. She graduates at the school of modern photojournalism “Docdocdoc” of Mikhail Domozhilov. She has been working as a freelancer since 2010 and published by Dekoder, Takie dela, Russian reporter, Metropol, Russian planet and others.

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