Burkhanism or Ak Jang (Altay: Ак јаҥ) is a new religious movement that flourished among the indigenous people of Russia's Gorno Altai region (okrug) between 1904 and the 1930s. Czarist Russia was suspicious of the movement's potential to stir up native unrest and perhaps involve outside powers.[1] The Soviet authorities ultimately suppressed it for fear of its potential to unify Siberian Turkic peoples under a common nationalism.

Originally millenarian, charismatic and anti-shamanic, the Burkhanist movement gradually lost most of these qualities—becoming increasingly routine, institutionalized (around a hierarchy of oral epic singers), and accommodating itself to the pre-existing Altaian folk religion. It exists today in several revival forms.

On the whole, the Burkhanist movement was shown to be a syncretistic phenomenon combining elements of ancient pre-Shamanist, Shamanist, Lamaist and Orthodox Christian beliefs. According to a Professor of Tomsk State University L. Sherstova, it emerged in response to the needs of a new people - the Altai-kizhi or Altaians who sought to distinguish themselves from the neighboring and related tribes and for whom Burkhanism became a religious form of their ethnic identity.[2]

Origins of the name

Burkhanism is the usual English-language scholarly name, which has its origin in the Russian academic usage. One of the Burkhanist deities is Ak-Burkhan, or "White Burkhan." Burkhan means "god" or "buddha" in Mongolic languages, yet Burkhanism is not considered Buddhist, as the term is also used in shamanistic nomenclature. For example, in Mongolian Shamanism, the name of the most sacred mountain, the rumored birthplace and final resting spot of Genghis Khan, is also Burkhan Khaldun.[3] Ak-Burkhan is only one of a pantheon of deities worshiped by Burkhanists (see list below), but Ak-Burkhan nevertheless provides the name of the religion in Russian, and thence into other languages.

The Altaian name for the religion is Ak Jang ("White Faith"). "White" refers to its emphasis on the upper world (in the three-world cosmology of the Turkic and Mongolian Tengriism). Alternatively, the name may also allude to Ak Jang's rejection of animal sacrifices in favor of offerings of horse milk or horse-milk alcohol. "Jang" means authority; faith; custom; law or principle; and canon or rules of ensemble. In more colloquial settings, the term may also be used as a "way of doing things" and is used in reference to religions as well as political systems.[4]

Early history


Chet Chelpanov
Chet Chelpan and his wife Kul

In April 1904 Chet Chelpan (or, Chot Chelpanov) and his adopted daughter Chugul Sarok Chandyk reported visions of a rider dressed in white, and riding a white horse. This figure, whom they called Ak-Burkhan ("White Burkhan"), announced the imminent arrival of the mythical messianic hero Oirat Khan who was actually a real historical figure—Khoit-Oirat prince Amursana.[6] The central figure in the research of Burkhanism in the past forty years, however, has demonstrated that Oirot-khan is a mythologized image of the Dzungar past of the people of Altai-kizhi.[7] Chet and Chugul gathered thousands of Altaians for prayer meetings, initially in the Tereng Valley. These were violently suppressed by mobs of Russians, instigated by the Altaian Spiritual Mission, who were afraid of the potential of the competing religion to decrease the Orthodox Christian flock in Altai.[8] Chet and Chugul were arrested, Chugul was released, and after a prolonged trial Chet was fully exonerated by court and released in 1906.[9]

Researcher Andrei A. Znamenski (see article below) compares the Burkanist movement to other indigenous revitalizing movements around the world, such as the Native American Ghost Dance or the Melanesian Cargo Cult. An excruciatingly detailed treatment of the comparisons and comparability of Burkhanism with the Melanesian Cargo Cult, the Mennonites, the Dukhobors of Georgia, the Mariitsy of Nizhnii Novgorod, and many other movements, is provided in Sherstova's dissertation from the 1980s.[10]

Znamenski says, the prime motivating factor was Altaians' fear of displacement by Russian colonists, Russification, and subjection to taxation and conscription on the same basis as Russian peasants.[11]

Andrei Vinogradov (thesis linked below) sees Burkhanism as a typical nomadic Turko-Mongolian mobilization pattern—aiming to link families and clans (seok) into a steppe empire (which in this case never materialized). The Burkhanists' veneration of heroes from oral epics, he says, serves much the same cultural centralizing function as the veneration of other divine heroes such as Gesar, Manas, or Genghis Khan. As such it constitutes a major aspect of Turko-Mongolic religion, distinct from shamanism.

After the arrest of Chet and Chugul, Tyryi Akemchi arose to become the most prominent iarlikchi, and helped organize the movement. Having been exposed to Buddhism through his years as a translator in Mongolia, Tyryi added a number of Buddhist trappings to Burkhanist ritual, such as bells. Within a decade, most of the Altaian population had joined the new faith.

In 1918 Gregorii Choros-Gurkin and other Altaian leaders declared the formation of something called the "Karakorum Regional Committee" (Karakorumkaia Okruzhnaia Uprava), with the object of establishing an "Oirat Republic". This was intended to include not only Altai but also neighboring republics of Tuva and Khakassia. It was forcibly dissolved with arrival of Bolshevik power in 1921.


Oirat – Messenger of the White Burkhan by Nicholas Roerich.

Burkhanism accepts the "three worlds" of Mongolic and Turkic tradition. (These are the upper, middle, and lower worlds—in other words heaven, earth, and the underworld.) However, it rejects worship of traditional deities associated with the underworld. In addition, it imports into worship many figures from Altaian oral epic lore, which were not worshipped in the "shamanic" part of the Altaian religion.

Uch Kurbustan--"Uch" means "three," while "Kurbustan" comes from the Soghdian "Khormazta" (and thence from the Avestan "Ahura Mazda"). Thus, a triune God. Though imported from oral epics, Uch Kurbustan is a generalized spirit rather than a hero of stories with a personality. He may be analogous with the Turko-Mongolian High God Tengri ("Heaven").

Rather than an import from Buddhism, Christianity, or Turkic Islam, this particular trinity is likely to have been inspired by other triune gods and heroes from Turkic culture (sometimes in the form of a god with three sons). Uch Kurbustan is connected with the following three messianic heroes, also from Altaian oral epic lore:

Oirat or Galden-Oirat--mythological ancestor of the Western Mongols. A conflation / dim historical memory of a number of real-life Western Mongolian leaders from around the seventeenth century including Galdan Tseren.
Amursana--a legendary Khoit-Oirat chieftain who fled Chinese territory for Russian after the 1756 Qing destruction of Dzungaria.
Shunu ("Wolf")--the Altaian version of Asena, the totemic lupine ancestor recognized by various Turkic peoples.

The gods of the upper world, or aru tos ("pure ancestors"), are considered fragments or eminations of Uch Kurbustan. Burkhanism calls these Burkhans. Among them are:

Ak-Burkhan ("White Burkhan)--depicted as an old man with white hair, a white coat, and white headgear, who rides a white horse. Possibly analogous to the Mongolian "white old man," Tsagan Ebugen. A symbol of good fortune.
Jajyk--a formless spirit-mediator, assists with human-divine communication. Vinogradov compares with the Holy Spirit. Altaians distinguished between an Ak-Jajyk ("White Jajyk") who carried messages to the gods of the upper world, and a Sary-Jajyk ("Yellow Jajyk") who did the same for gods of the middle world, and is identified with the hearth.
Umai--the goddess of childbirth and children. Other Turkic lore--but not the Altaian--makes her the consort of the High God Tengri, and thus a primordial mother figure.
Ot-ene, the "Mother of Fire"--worshipped before every sacrifice, but especially during one of the three major Burkhanist festivals

Gods of the "middle world"—i.e. the familiar spheres of nature and human affairs—include numerous local spirits, such as spirits associated with mountains (taika-eezi) or springs (arzhans), or "masters of the game". They may also be associated with particular clans (seok). More generalized ones include:

Altai-eezi, the "Master of Altai"--a sort of genius loci, suitably adapted for an Altaian national consciousness.
Ul'gan--a spiritual ancestor of several Altaian clans. Originally a proper name, now generalized. Some sources describe Ul'gan as the creator of the universe in Burkhanist theology; this is probably a misunderstanding.

Historically, Burkhanism rejected the traditional gods of the underworld, notably Erlik (Yerlik), its chief. This rejection is closely related to Burkhanism's rejection of Altaian shamanism, and corresponding elevation of oral epic singers (yarlikchi). (By "shaman" is here meant manjaktu kams, i.e. the "costume-wearing" specialists who communicate with the underworld gods.) Both rejections are likely to have been inspired by oral epic lore, which regularly features shamans as villains.


  • Burning juniper (archyn) for blessing, purification, or healing
  • Home or hilltop altars (kure or murgul), with candles and milk-offerings
  • Erecting of cairns (oboo)
  • Recitation / composition / patronage of oral epics
  • Divination and weather-control
  • Display of white and yellow ribbons or streamers (from trees or strings, or dangling from the back of one's headgear)
  • Prayer while standing, with hands raised; or with prostrations
  • Celebration of festivals:
    • Shuten or Murgul—a semiannual (spring and fall) festival dedicated to Uch Kurbustan
    • Chok or Jajyk Choktor—a fall festival dedicated to jajyks
    • Ot Takyr—dedicated to Ot-Ene

Some sources speak of a list of "Twenty Commandments" for Burkhanism. The evidence for this is sparse. Alcohol and tobacco were proscribed in the early years.

Chugul came to be venerated as the main recipient of the original message. This was much less true of Chet, although both were addressed with honorific titles.

Notable Burkhanists

Grigorii Choros-Gurkin, a Soviet landscape artist and leader of the Karakorum Executive Committee.

Burkhanism today

Russian painter Nicholas Roerich and his wife Helena Roerich passed through Altai in 1926. Nicholas painted Oirat—Messenger of the White Burkhan based on his understanding of the movement.

(Note that the painting's title apparently gets the theology backward—it was rather White Burkhan who was the messenger for Oirat.) Followers of Agni Yoga, an esoteric movement founded by the Roerichs, have encouraged a recent revival of interest in Burkhanism among non-Altaians. At the same time they have insisted on a link with Tibetan Buddhism and a veneration of Mount Belukha, elements not found in traditional Burkhanism.

A number of Burkhanist revival organizations emerged during the 1990s, mostly as attempts to formulate or preserve an Altaian ethno-nationalist identity. To that end many of them have been persuaded to reconsider earlier Burkhanism's vexed relationship with shamanism and / or Buddhism. A list of movements follows, with the name of a founder or leading supporter in parenthesis. For more information see Agniezka Halemba's article (linked below).

  • Ak Jang (Altaichy Sanashkin)
  • Ak Sanaa (Dzhana Alekseeva)
  • Teneri (Nina Antonova and Danil Mamyev)
  • Ak Suus (Nikolai Shodoev)
  • Ak Jang (Sergei Kysnev)
  • Agaru Jan (no single leader)

English-language sources

Russian-language sources


  1. ^ The most detailed account of the events of 1904-1906 is available in Russian. Sherstova (1986, 2010), Burhanizm [Burkhanism]), Tomsk State University Press. Chapter 2.
  2. ^ Sherstova, Burhanism, Chapter 1, 2, 3. Almost three hundred pages of the book leave little doubt about the validity of this conclusion by Sherstova made in 1977-1986.
  3. ^ Reinhold Neumann-Hoditz; Dschingis Khan, published by Rowohlt Verlag GmbH; trans. 2005 by Piet de Moor, ISBN 90-5466-910-1
  4. ^ Agnieszka Helmba, 2003. "Contemporary Religious life in the republic of Altai: The Interaction of Buddhism and Shamanism", Sibirica 3(2):165-182, p.4
  5. ^ The most detailed account of what happened in Altai in 1904-1905, including the files of the court trial of Chet Chelpanov and his "colleagues" is only available in Russian. See: Sherstova, Burhanizm, Tomsk (1986, 2010). Chapter 2.
  6. ^ Andrei A. Znamenski. "Power for the Powerless : Oirot/Amursana Prophecy in Altai and Western Mongolia, 1890s-1920s". Millénarismes et innovation rituelle en Asie du Nord. revues.org. Retrieved 19 August 2014.
  7. ^ Sherstova, Burhanism, Tomsk (1986, 2010)
  8. ^ Sherstova, Burhanism, Tomsk (1986, 2010), Chapter 2.
  9. ^ Chapter 2 of Sherstova, Burhanism, Tomsk (1986, 2010) provides a reconstruction of the court proceedings on the basis of the court files that the author discovered in 1985 in the State Archive of Tomsk Region. The discovery caused a major sensation during the defence of Sherstova's dissertation in the Leningrad branch of the Institute of Ethnography of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.
  10. ^ Sherstova, Burhanism, Tomsk State University Press (2010), Chapter 4
  11. ^ See Chapter 2 of Sherstova, Burhanism, Tomsk (1986, 2010)

Ali Illahism (Persian: علی‌اللّهی‎) is a syncretic religion which has been practiced in parts of Iranian Luristan which combines elements of Shia Islam with older religions. It centers on the belief that there have been successive incarnations of the Deity throughout history, and Ali Ilahees reserve particular reverence for Ali, the son-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, who is considered one such incarnation. Various rites have been attributed as Ali Ilahian, similarly to the Yezidis, Ansaris, and all sects whose doctrine is unknown to the surrounding Muslim and Christian population. Observers have described it as an agglomeration of the customs and rites of several earlier religions, including Zoroastrianism, historically because travelogues were "evident that there is no definite code which can be described as Ali Illahism".Sometimes Ali-Illahism is used as a general term for the several denominations that venerate or deify Ali, like the Kaysanites, the Alawis or the Ahl-e Haqq/Yarsanis, others to mean the Ahl-e Haqq.

Altai Republic

The Altai Republic (; Russian: Респу́блика Алта́й, translit. Respúblika Altáj, pronounced [rʲɪˈspublʲɪkə ɐlˈtaj]; Altai: Алтай Республика, Altay Respublika) is a federal subject (a republic) of Russia. It is geographically located in the West Siberia region of Asian Russia, and is part of the Siberian Federal District. The Altai Republic covers an area of 92,600 square kilometers (35,800 sq mi) and has a population of 206,168 (2010 Census), the least-populous republic of Russia and federal subject in Siberia.Gorno-Altaysk is the capital and the largest town of the Altai Republic.

The Altai Republic is one of Russia's ethnic republics, primarily representing the indigenous Altay people, a Turkic ethnic group that form 35% of the Republic's population, while ethnic Russians form a majority at 57%, and with minority populations of Kazakhs, other Central Asian ethnicities, and Germans. The official languages of the Altai Republic are Russian and the Altay language.

Altai people

The Altaian (also Altayans) are a Turkic people living in the Siberian Altai Republic, Russia. For alternative ethnonyms see also Teleut, Tele, Telengit, Black Tatar, and Oirats.

The Altaians are presented by two ethnographic groups:

The Northern Altaians include the Tubalar (the Tuba-Kizhi), the Chelkans, the Kumandin, the Shors

The Southern Altaians include the Altaian (the Altai-Kizhi), the Teleut, the Teles, the TelengitThe Northern and Southern Altayans formed in the Altay area on the basis of tribes of Kimek-Kipchaks. According to a recent (2016) study, Altaians, especially Southern Altaians, are descedants of the Yeniseian people and closely related to the Paleo-Eskimo groups.


Antireligion is opposition to religion of any kind. The term has been used to describe opposition to organized religion, religious practices or religious institutions. This term has also been used to describe opposition to specific forms of supernatural worship or practice, whether organized or not. Opposition to religion also goes beyond the misotheistic spectrum. As such, antireligion is distinct from deity-specific positions such as atheism (the lack of belief in deities) and antitheism (an opposition to belief in deities); although "antireligionists" may also be atheists or antitheists.

Comparative religion

Comparative religion is the branch of the study of religions concerned with the systematic comparison of the doctrines and practices of the world's religions. In general the comparative study of religion yields a deeper understanding of the fundamental philosophical concerns of religion such as ethics, metaphysics, and the nature and forms of salvation. Studying such material is meant to give one a broadened and more sophisticated understanding of human beliefs and practices regarding the sacred, numinous, spiritual, and divine.In the field of comparative religion, a common geographical classification of the main world religions includes Middle Eastern religions (including Iranian religions), Indian religions, East Asian religions, African religions, American religions, Oceanic religions, and

classical Hellenistic religions.

Gorno-Altai Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic

The Gorno-Altai Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (Russian: Горно-Алтайская Автономная Советская Социалистическая Республик) was an autonomous republic within the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic of the Soviet Union. It was formed on 1 June 1922 as the Oyrot Autonomous Region and became the Gorno-Altai Autonomous Oblast on 7 January 1948. It was upgraded to the level of Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic on 25 October 1990, and was declared a Soviet Socialist Republic on 3 July 1991, although it was not recognised as one. It became the Altai Republic on 31 March 1992. Its capital was Gorno-Altaysk. Agriculture is the main occupation for most of the inhabitants. Like the modern Altai Republic, the Gorno-Altai ASSR shared its international border with the People's Republic of China.

The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and some of the other republics also contained administrative subdivisions with boundaries drawn according to nationality or language. The three kinds of such subdivisions included twenty autonomous republics, eight autonomous oblasts, and ten autonomous okruga.

Kut (mythology)

According to Turkic shamanism belief, Kut is a kind of force vitalizing the body. Through Kut, humans are connected with the heavens. When Kut ends, the person dies. Further, the sacred ruler is believed to be endowed with much more Kut than other people, thus the heaven would had appointing him as the legitimate ruler.

List of Neopagan movements

Modern paganism, also known a "contemporary" or "neopagan", encompasses a wide range of religious groups and individuals. These may include old occult groups, those that follow a New Age approach, those that try to reconstruct old ethnic religions, and followers of the pagan religion of Wicca.

List of religions and spiritual traditions

While religion is hard to define, one standard model of religion, used in religious studies courses, was proposed by Clifford Geertz, who defined it as a

[…] system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic." A critique of Geertz's model by Talal Asad categorized religion as "an anthropological category." Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws, or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature. According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world.The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with "faith" or "belief system", but religion differs from private belief in that it has a public aspect. Most religions have organized behaviours, including clerical hierarchies, a definition of what constitutes adherence or membership, congregations of laity, regular meetings or services for the purposes of veneration of a deity or for prayer, holy places (either natural or architectural) or religious texts. Certain religions also have a sacred language often used in liturgical services. The practice of a religion may also include sermons, commemoration of the activities of a god or gods, sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trance, rituals, rites, ceremonies, worship, initiations, funerals, marriages, meditation, invocation, mediumship, music, art, dance, public service or other aspects of human culture. Religious beliefs have also been used to explain parapsychological phenomena such as out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences and reincarnation, along with many other paranormal and supernatural experiences.Some academics studying the subject have divided religions into three broad categories: world religions, a term which refers to transcultural, international faiths; indigenous religions, which refers to smaller, culture-specific or nation-specific religious groups; and new religious movements, which refers to recently developed faiths. One modern academic theory of religion, social constructionism, says that religion is a modern concept that suggests all spiritual practice and worship follows a model similar to the Abrahamic religions as an orientation system that helps to interpret reality and define human beings, and thus religion, as a concept, has been applied inappropriately to non-Western cultures that are not based upon such systems, or in which these systems are a substantially simpler construct.

Millenarianism in colonial societies

Millenarianism has been found through history among people who rally around often-apocalyptic religious prophecies that predict a return to power, the defeat of enemies, and/or the accumulation of wealth. These movements have been especially common among people living under colonialism or other forces that disrupt previous social arrangements.

The phrase "millennialist movement" has been used by scholars in anthropology and history to describe the common features of these religious phenomena when viewed as social movements, and has most often been used to describe the social movements that have taken place in colonized societies.Christianity itself can be seen as originating in a millenarian movement among Jewish people living under Roman rule, although its characteristics as a social movement quickly changed as it spread through the Roman Empire. The Book of Revelation also predicts a thousand-year reign of Jesus prior to the defeat of Satan.

Some millenarian movements include:

The Ghost Dance movement among Native Americans.

Tenskwatawa the "Shawnee Prophet" called for return to ancestral ways and defeat of European colonial power.

The Xhosa cattle-killing movement of South Africa, led by the prophetess Nongqawuse.

The Righteous Harmony Society during the Boxer Rebellion was a Chinese movement reacting against Western colonialism.

The God Worshipping Society of the Taiping Rebellion, which fused Anglo-American Protestant Christian and Chinese elements into a movement that focused the resentment of Han Chinese against the ruling Manchu Qing Dynasty. Hong Xiuquan, their leader, proclaimed himself to be the second son of God and brother of Jesus Christ, as well as the Tian Zi (Son of Heaven), a sacred title of the Chinese emperor. He would establish the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, which controlled much of southern China from 1851-1864.

The Maji Maji Rebellion was influenced by an African spirit medium who gave his followers war medicine that he said would turn German bullets into water.

Bábism and Bahá'ism, two perennialist movements founded in Qajar Persia by self-proclaimed prophets.

The Mahdist State in Sudan, which was established by Muhammad Ahmad, who proclaimed himself the Mahdi and led a jihad against the Khedive of Egypt's rule over the Sudan and the British Empire.

Chilembwe uprising - a 1915 uprising in Nyasaland led by a Baptist minister named John Chilembwe, with diverse social, political, and spiritual motivations that included some member with millenarian beliefs.

The Melanesian John Frum cargo cult believed in a return of their ancestors brought by Western technology.

Burkhanism was an Altayan movement led by a visionary that reacted against Russification.

The Battle of Kuruyuki was the 1892 attempt of the Eastern Bolivian Guarani to combat Christianity and Bolivian settlers.

The Guaycuruan-speaking Toba attempted to regain control of the Gran Chaco in Argentina in 1904.

The Tepehuán Revolt in 1620s Mexico was an attempt to expel Spanish colonists and priests and return to traditional ways.

A number of religious movements in the African diaspora -- for example, Haitian Vodou, Louisiana Voodoo, Santería, Candomblé, and Hoodoo -- syncretise Christian and traditional West African beliefs and practices, sometimes with influence from other traditions such as Native American religions, Islam, Spiritism, or Western esotericism. While these religions are not themselves especially millenarian, they would have a heavy influence on later religious movements in the African diaspora, such as Rastafarianism, the Nation of Islam, the Nuwaubian Nation, and the Black Hebrew Israelites which do have strong millenarian doctrines. These later movements also greatly emphasise black nationalist identity, present themselves as movements for political as well as spiritual liberation, have a history of encouraging black solidarity and political activism, and have variously been involved in political violence.

Other religious movements in the African diaspora -- such as Ethiopianism (a movement among black Americans to adopt Ethiopian Christianity) or the American Society of Muslims (an organisation of black Sunni Muslims, in opposition to the Nation of Islam) may, like these millenarian new religious movements, share an emphasis on black identity, political activism, and community building, but they also emphasise the teachings of existing religions (Ethiopian Christianity and Sunni Islam, respectively), and so are not millennarian religions.

Organized religion

Organized religion (or organised religion—see spelling differences), also known as institutional religion, is religion in which belief systems and rituals are systematically arranged and formally established. Organized religion is typically characterized by an official doctrine (or dogma), a hierarchical or bureaucratic leadership structure, and a codification of rules and practices.

Polytheistic reconstructionism

Polytheistic reconstructionism (or simply Reconstructionism) is an approach to modern paganism first emerging in the late 1960s to early 1970s, which gathered momentum starting in the 1990s. Reconstructionism attempts to re-establish historical polytheistic religions in the modern world, in contrast with neopagan syncretic movements like Wicca, and "channeled" movements like Germanic mysticism or Theosophy.

While the emphasis on historical accuracy may imply historical reenactment, the desire for continuity in ritual traditions (orthopraxy) is a common characteristic of religion in general, as seen in Anglican ritualism, or in much Christian liturgy.

Religion in Kazakhstan

According to various polls, the majority of Kazakhstan's citizens, primarily ethnic Kazakhs, identify as non-denominational Muslims, while others incline towards Sunni of the Hanafi school, traditionally including ethnic Kazakhs, who constitute about 63.6% of the population, as well as ethnic Uzbeks, Uighurs, and Tatars. Less than 1% are part of the Shafi`i (primarily Chechens) and Shi'a. There are a total of 2,300 mosques, all of them affiliated with the "Spiritual Association of Muslims of Kazakhstan", headed by a supreme mufti. The Eid al-Adha is recognized as a national holiday.Less than 25% of the population of Kazakhstan is Russian Orthodox, traditionally including ethnic Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians. Other Christian groups include Catholics, Protestants (Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Pentecostals, Methodists, Mennonites and Seventh-day Adventists), Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons. There are a total of 265 registered Orthodox churches, 93 Catholic churches, and 543 Protestant churches and prayer houses. Christmas, rendered in the Russian Orthodox manner according to the Julian calendar, is recognized as a national holiday in Kazakhstan.Other religious registered groups include Judaism, the Bahá'í Faith, Hinduism, Buddhism, the Church of Scientology, Christian Science, and the Unification Church.The country is multiethnic, with a long tradition of tolerance and secularism. Since independence, the number of mosques and churches has increased greatly. However, the population is sometimes wary of minority religious groups and groups that proselytize. There were several reports of citizens filing complaints with authorities after their family members became involved with such groups. Leaders of the four religious groups the government considers "traditional" – Islam, Russian Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Judaism – reported general acceptance and tolerance that other religious groups did not always enjoy.

Republics of Russia

According to the Constitution, the Russian Federation is divided into 85 federal subjects (constituent units), 22 of which are "republics". Most of the republics represent areas of non-Russian ethnicity, although there are several republics with Russian majority. The indigenous ethnic group of a republic that gives it its name is referred to as the "titular nationality". Due to decades (in some cases centuries) of internal migration inside Russia, each nationality is not necessarily a majority of a republic's population.


Tengrism, also known as Tengriism, Tenggerism, or Tengrianism, is a Central Asian religion characterized by shamanism, animism, totemism, poly-, and monotheism, and ancestor worship. It was the prevailing religion of the Turks, Mongols, Hungarians, Bulgars, Xiongnu, and, possibly, the Huns, and the religion of the several medieval states: Göktürk Khaganate, Western Turkic Khaganate, Old Great Bulgaria, Danube Bulgaria, Volga Bulgaria and Eastern Tourkia (Khazaria). In Irk Bitig, Tengri is mentioned as Türük Tängrisi (God of Turks).Tengrism has been advocated in intellectual circles of the Turkic nations of Central Asia (including Tatarstan, Buryatia, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan) since the dissolution of the Soviet Union during the 1990s. Still practiced, it is undergoing an organized revival in Sakha, Khakassia, Tuva and other Turkic nations in Siberia. Burkhanism, a movement similar to Tengrism, is concentrated in Altay.

Khukh tengri means "blue sky" in Mongolian, Mongolians still pray to Munkh Khukh Tengri ("Eternal Blue Sky") and Mongolia is sometimes poetically called the "Land of Eternal Blue Sky" (Munkh Khukh Tengriin Oron) by its inhabitants. In modern Turkey, Tengrism is known as the Göktanrı dini ("Sky God religion"); the Turkish "Gök" (sky) and "Tanrı" (God) correspond to the Mongolian khukh (blue) and Tengri (sky), respectively. According to Hungarian archaeological research, the religion of the Hungarians until the end of the 10th century (before Christianity) was Tengrism.

Vattisen Yaly

Vattisen Yaly (Chuvash: Ваттисен йӑли, Tradition of the Old) is a contemporary revival of the ethnic religion of the Chuvash people, a Turkic ethnicity of uppermost Bulgar ancestry mostly settled in the republic of Chuvashia and surrounding federal subjects of Russia.

Vattisen Yaly could be categorised as a peculiar form of Tengrism, a related revivalist movement of Central Asian traditional religion, however it differs significantly from it: being the Chuvash a heavily Fennicised and Slavified ethnicity (they were also never fully Islamised, contrarywise to most of other Turks), and having had exchanges also with other Indo-European ethnicities,The Chuvash are not simply Finns Tatarized in language, but show evidence in face form, nose form, and in the scarcity of true blondism, that the Turkish influence did bring some mongoloid traits. Their religion shows many similarities with Finnic and Slavic Paganisms; moreover, the revival of "Vattisen Yaly" in recent decades has occurred following Neopagan patterns. Thus it should be more carefully categorised as a Neopagan religion. Today the followers of the Chuvash Traditional Religion are called "the true Chuvash". Their main god is Tura, a deity comparable to the Estonian Taara, the Germanic Thunraz and the pan-Turkic Tengri.The Chuvash Traditional Religion has an unbroken continuation, having been preserved in a few villages of the Chuvash diaspora outside Chuvashia until modern times. In the late 1980s and early 1990s together with the demise of the Soviet Union a cultural and national revival blossomed among the Chuvash, and its leaders gradually embraced the idea of a return to indigenous Paganism, also supported by Chuvash intellectuals. The identitary movement looked to movements in the Baltic states for inspiration.

The national movement, meanwhile embodied in a Chuvash National Congress, carried on its "national religion" idea during the 1990s. Intellectuals started to recover and codify ancient rituals and started practicing them among the population both in cities and countryside villages, declaring themselves the guardians of tradition and the descendants of elder priests.


The Xueyantuo (薛延陀) (Seyanto, Se-yanto, Se-Yanto) or Syr-Tardush were an ancient Tiele Turkic people and Turkic khanate in central/northern Asia who were at one point vassals of the Gokturks, later aligning with China's Tang Dynasty against the Eastern Gokturks. The Xueyanto homeland is near the Selenga River/Xueyanhe River (薛延河江/偰輦河江), so their tribe's name is Seyanto/Xueyantuo (薛延陀), Chinese Han characters underwent considerable changes according to changes in Chinese dynasties, so the tribe is variously known as Xueyantuo, Xueyanhe, Xienianhe, Seyanto, Selenga, Selyanha, etc.


Yazdânism, or the Cult of Angels, is a proposed pre-Islamic, native religion of the Kurds. The term was introduced by Kurdish scholar Mehrdad Izady to represent what he considers the "original" religion of the Kurds.According to Izady, Yazdânism is now continued in the denominations of Yazidism, Yarsanism, and Ishik Alevism. The three traditions subsumed under the term Yazdânism are primarily practiced in relatively isolated communities; from Khurasan to Anatolia, and parts of western Iran.

The concept of Yazdânism has found a wide perception both within and beyond Kurdish nationalist discourses, but has been disputed by other recognized scholars of Iranian religions. Well established, however, are the "striking" and "unmistakable" similarities between the Yazidis and the Yaresan or Ahl-e Haqq, some of which can be traced back to elements of an ancient faith that was probably dominant among Western Iranians and likened to practices of pre-Zoroastrian Mithraic religion. Mehrdad Izady defines the Yazdanism as an ancient Hurrian religion and states that Mitanni could have introduced some of the Vedic tradition that appears to be manifest in Yazdanism.

Historical polytheism
Myth and ritual
Modern pagan movements

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