Udmurt Vos

Udmurt Vos (Udmurt: Удмурт Вӧсь, literally "Udmurt Faith") is the ethnic religious revival of the Udmurts, a Finno-Ugric ethnic group inhabiting the republic of Udmurtia in Russia. Among the Udmurts, as in other Finno-Ugric republics in the Volga region, the revival of Paganism is inextricably intertwined with the revival of national-ethnic culture and awareness.[1]

The Udmurtian Pagan revival circles sprang out of the Demen (Udmurt for "Society") movement which was established in December 1989 for the protection and restoration of the Udmurt ethnic culture.[2] Udmurt Vos as an institution was founded in 1994.[3]

According to 2012 statistics, 2% of the population of Udmurtia adheres to forms of Paganism. Victor Schnirelmann reported an adherence of 4% for the Udmurts alone.


The Udmurt word vös’ means "prayer", "sacrifice", "religion", "faith" and as a root derives many other words in the Udmurt language, among which vös’as’kon meaning "prayer", "sacrifice", vös’as’ meaning "priest", and the verbs vös’any meaning "to pray", "to sacrifice", "to hallow", vös’as’kyny that means "to pray", "to beg", and vös’atyny meaning "to sacrifice".[4]


The first date in the history of Christianisation of the Udmurts is 1557, when Ivan the Terrible conferred privileges on baptised Udmurt families by an imperial deed.[1] However, tough attempts to convert all the Udmurts were undertaken only in the middle of the 18th century, when the government began to implement measures to Christianise the population, sending missionaries who built churches and schools. Pagans were repressed, and sacred groves, prayer sites and pagan burial grounds were destroyed.[1]

Various attempts to restore the Udmurt native religion emerged, for example the movement of the "Lime-Tree Worshippers" in 1849.[5] However, in contrast to the Mari, the Udmurt Pagans did not display any tendency to centralise or formalise their religion.[5]

After 1917 began a short period of national reawakening, the Udmurt Republic was created an active national intelligentsia took shape. This helped a revival of the Udmurt Vos.[5] However, with the 1930s' rise of the Soviet Union the Udmurt intelligentsia was almost entirely destroyed, the high priests were declared enemies of the people and subjected to cruel repression, worship was forbidden, rural holy places, temples and family shrines were destroyed, and sacred groves were uprooted.[5]

By the perestroika period, the Udmurts had very high levels of alcoholism and suicide, and low birth rates. Moreover, Russification proceeded steadily.[5] In the late 1980s and the early 1990s ethno-national and cultural identity reawakened, and despite the significant Christianisation the Udmurt national movement was entirely outside the framework of Eastern Orthodoxy, and even hostile to it.[5]

The Udmurt native religion became the basis of the national movement, and in 1994 a group of Izhevsk intellectuals, artists, writers, scholars and entrepreneurs founded the Udmurt Vos as an institution and mass association.[6] Genuine high priests were sought, and Vasili Maksimov, a simple peasant from an Udmurt village in Tatarstan, became the head of the new church.[7] National worship services were organised (a thing that never happened before), and since then they are held yearly in different regions of the republic.[7]


According to the theory of the ideologues of the Udmurt Vos movement, the whole of nature is determined by the numinous presence of divinity, gods and spirits.[7] Existence has three basic levels: the cosmic, in which the central divinity Inmar takes first place; that of the aerial elements, the heavens, Kvaz'; and the earthly creation, the world of creatures, Kelchin'. Alongside the hierarchy of Inmar, Kvaz' and Kelchin' there is Lud (the world tree), genius (breeder) of all spirits, which is not good nor evil.[7] The dead actually live in another world which is a perfect mirror of our own.[7]

According to another source (Taagepera), traditional Udmurt Vos theory follows similar patterns of the Mari one, but in contrast to the Mari, female deities dominate. In-Mumy (Heavens Mother), Shundy-Mumy (Sun Mother) and (Gudyry-Mumy) are the head deities. Male deities of the air sphere are Inmar (god of the sky and air), Töl-Peri (wind) and Kwaz (weather). Earthly and chthonic gods are mostly males, among which Nulesmurt (forest man), Kyldysin (fertility and procreation), Invu (waters), Vorshud (genius of the kins and genius loci).[8]

According to the movement's leaders, peoples who have renounced their own gods have no future, because their spiritual betrayal has led to deep injury of the people's soul.[7] They look at the Japanese people, who have preserved their popular faith, as a model of better prospects.[7] Only peoples who find in themselves the strength to take the step of returning to their roots have any prospect for the future.[7]

It is a notable fact that it was in Izhevsk in 1994 that one of the first Slavic Rodnover communities, the Tur, first appeared.[7] It is difficult to say whether or not the propaganda of Udmurt Vos played any role in its origin, but the leaders of the Udmurt Vos welcomed its appearance.[7]


Some villages of followers of Udmurt Vos are organised to have sacrificial groves called lud in Udmurt[9] where often are located the "large temples" (byd’z’ym kuala, "large prayer house"), special buildings for worship dedicated to the spirit breeder-generator of the kin, whose worship comprises both the ideas of genius generis and genius loci. Both of them are connected in the Udmurt notion vorshud (formed by vordyny, meaning "to hold", "to contain" plus shud meaning "happiness", "luck").[10]

The "little temple" (pichi/pokchi kuala) is a kind of worship building located in the yard of each family that maintains the large prayer house. The clergy is made up of priests (vös’as’, vösias), local religious authorities elected amongst the males of the community for organising and performing prayers and sacrifices. They must be married and healthy, both mentally and physically.[10] Some of these priests may become high-priests (tuno).[5][10] Prayers are called kuriskon.[8]

Udmurt Vos in Tataria and Bashkiria

Northern Tatarstan and Bashkortostan were in ancient times areas of settlement of the Udmurt people. Many Udmurt villages are divided in these two republics. Over the centuries Udmurts there were subjected to enforced Islamisation by the dominating Tatars and Bashkirs, but they preserved strong national consciousness and Pagan faith.[11] In recent times pan-Udmurt worship services have taken place annually in Bashkortostan, and they have been subject of repression by Muslim authorities.[11]

See also

Uralic religions
Chuvash religion
Caucasus religions
Baltic religions
Slavic religions


  1. ^ a b c Filatov-Shchipkov, 1997, p. 177
  2. ^ Victor Schnirelmann. “Christians! Go home”: A Revival of Neo-Paganism between the Baltic Sea and Transcaucasia Archived 2014-09-22 at Archive-It. Journal of Contemporary Religion, Vol. 17, No. 2, 2002. p. 206
  3. ^ Taagepera p. 279
  4. ^ Aado Lintrop. The Spring Prayer Feasts in the Udmurt Village of Varklet-Bodya in Tatarstan. Cosmos 18 (2002), 43-55.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Filatov-Shchipkov, 1997, p. 178
  6. ^ Filatov-Shchipkov, 1997, p. 179
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Filatov-Shchipkov, 1997, p. 180
  8. ^ a b Taagepera p. 278
  9. ^ Lintrop, 2002, p. 44
  10. ^ a b c Lintrop, 2002, 44
  11. ^ a b Filatov-Shchipkov, 1997, p. 181


External links

Abkhaz neopaganism

Abkhaz neopaganism, or the Abkhaz native religion, is the contemporary re-emergence of the ethnic religion of the Abkhaz people in Abkhazia, a revitalisation which started in the 1980s. The most important holy sites of the religion are the Seven Shrines of Abkhazia, each one having its own priestly clan, where rituals and prayers began to be restored in the 1990s.

According to the 2003 census, 8% of the population of Abkhazia adheres to Abkhaz neopaganism. On 3 August 2012 the Council of Priests of Abkhazia was formally constituted in Sukhumi. The possibility of making the Abkhaz native religion one of the state religions was discussed in the following months.

Absolute (philosophy)

In philosophy, the concept of The Absolute, also known as The (Unconditioned) Ultimate, The Wholly Other, The Supreme Being, The Absolute/Ultimate Reality, and other names, is the thing, being, entity, power, force, reality, presence, law, principle, etc. that possesses maximal ontological status, existential ranking, existential greatness, or existentiality. In layman's terms, this is the one that is, in one way or another, the greatest, truest, or most real being.

There are many conceptions of The Absolute in various fields and subjects, such as philosophy, religion, spiritual traditions, mathematics, and even natural science. The nature of these conceptions can range from "merely" encompassing all physical existence, nature, or reality, to being completely unconditioned existentially, transcending all concepts, notions, and types, kinds, and categories of being.

The Absolute is often thought of as causing to come into being manifestations that interact with lower or lesser forms of being. This is either done passively, through emanations, or actively, through avatars and incarnations. These existential manifestations, which themselves can possess transcendent attributes, only contain minuscule or infinitesimal portions of the true essence of The Absolute.

The term itself was not in use in ancient or medieval philosophy, but closely related to the description of God as Actus purus (Pure Actuality) in scholasticism. It was introduced in modern philosophy, notably by Hegel, for "the sum of all being, actual and potential".

The term has since also been adopted in perennial philosophy.

Baltic neopaganism

Baltic neopaganism is a category of autochthonous religious movements which have revitalised within the Baltic people (primarily Lithuanians and Latvians). These movements trace their origins back to the 19th century and they were suppressed under the Soviet Union; after its fall they have witnessed a blossoming alongside the national and cultural identity reawakening of the Baltic peoples, both in their homelands and among expatriate Baltic communities. One of the first ideologues of the revival was the Prussian Lithuanian poet and philosopher Vydūnas.


Druwi (Old Prussian word meaning "Faith", cognate to tree; Samogitian: Druwē) is a Baltic ethnic religious revival claiming Old Prussian origins, and mostly present in Lithuania. Adherents uphold that it is distinct from Romuva, and that Romuva could be considered as a specific form of Druwi.The religion is primarily represented institutionally by the "Kurono Academy of Baltic Priesthood" (Lithuanian: Baltųjų žynių mokykla Kurono) founded in 1995. It trains men and women from the age of 18, into the Darna, as priests of the Baltic people. Like the Romuvans, they recognise Vydūnas as their founding father.

Estonian neopaganism

Estonian Neopaganism, or the Estonian native faith (Estonian: Maausk, literally "Native faith"), is the name, in English, for a grouping of contemporary revivals (often called "Neopagan", although adherents of Estonian native religion generally don't use the term) of the indigenous Pagan religion of the Estonian people.

It encompasses Taaraism (Estonian: Taarausk literally "Taara Faith"), a monistic religion centered on god Tharapita founded in 1928 by intellectuals as a national religion; and Maausk as a much broader definition of "Native Faith", encompassing grassroots movements of local gods worship, nature worship and earth worship. Both kinds of movements are administered by the Maavalla Koda organization. According to Ahto Kaasik, an unspecified 2002 survey revealed that 11% of the population of Estonia claimed that "out of all the religions they have the warmest feelings towards Taaraism and Maausk".

Finnish neopaganism

Finnish Neopaganism, or the Finnish native faith (Finnish: Suomenusko: "Finnish Religion") is the contemporary Neopagan revival of Finnish paganism, the pre-Christian polytheistic ethnic religion of the Finns. A precursor movement was the Ukonusko ("Ukko's Faith", revolving around the god Ukko) of the early 20th century. The main problem in the revival of Finnish paganism is the nature of pre-Christian Finnish culture, which relied on oral tradition and of which very little is left. The primary sources concerning Finnish native culture are written by latter-era Christians.

There are two main organisations of the religion, the "Association of Finnish Native Religion" (Suomalaisen kansanuskon yhdistys ry) based in Helsinki and officially registered since 2002, and the "Pole Star Association" (Taivaannaula ry) headquartered in Turku with branches in many cities, founded and officially registered in 2007. The Association of Finnish Native Religion also caters to Karelians and is a member of the Uralic Communion.

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.

Mari Native Religion

The Mari Native Religion (Mari: Чимарий йӱла, Čimarii jüla), or Mari Paganism, is the ethnic religion of the Mari people, a Volga Finnic ethnic group based in the republic of Mari El, in Russia. The religion has undergone changes over time, particularly under the influence of neighbouring monotheisms. In the last few decades, while keeping its traditional features in the countryside, an organised Neopagan-kind revival has taken place.The Mari religion is based on the worship of the forces of nature, which man must honour and respect. Before the spread of monotheistic teachings amongst the Mari, they worshipped many gods (the jumo, a word cognate to the Finnish Jumala), while recognising the primacy of a "Great God", Kugu Jumo. In the 19th century, influenced by monotheism, the Pagan beliefs altered and the image of a Osh Kugu Jumo, literally "Great God of Light", was strengthened.

Subject to persecution in the Soviet Union, the faith has been granted official status since the 1990s by the government of Mari El, where it is recognized as one of the three traditional faiths along with Orthodox Christianity and Islam. Some activists claim that the Mari native religion believers are subject to pressure by Russian authorities as part of a wider campaign to Russify Mari culture. Vitaly Tanakov, an adherent of the faith, was charged with inciting religious, national, social and linguistic hatred after publishing the book The Priest Speaks.

Mordvin Native Religion

Mordvin Neopaganism, or the Mordvin native religion or Erzyan native religion, is the modern revival of the ethnic religion of the Mordvins (Erzya and Moksha), peoples of Volga Finnic ethnic stock dwelling in the republic of Mordovia within Russia, or in bordering lands of Russia. The religion is often called Mastorava (Mordvin for: "Mother Earth"), from the homonymous epic poem or the mother goddess of the Mordvin pantheon. The name of the originating god according to the Mordvin tradition is Ineshkipaz.

The Mordvins have been almost fully Christianised since the times of Kievan Rus', although Pagan customs were preserved in the folklore and a few villages completely preserved the native faith at least until further missionary activities of the Russian Orthodox Church in the 17th century and in the early 20th century. The Neopagan revival was started in 1990, alongside that of many other native religions in Russia, as the Soviet Union was on the brink of dissolution.

According to scholar Victor Schnirelmann, 2% of the Mordvins adhere to the Mordvin native faith, while more recent figures by the Evangelical database Joshua Project report 5%. Adherents of the Erzyan Mastor organisation organise the Rasken Ozks (Mordvin for: "Native Prayer"), a national Mordvin worship service held yearly, with participation also of members of the Mastorava organisation and other ones.

Religion in Russia

Religion in Russia is diverse with Christianity, especially Orthodoxy, being the most widely professed faith, but with significant minorities of Irreligious people, Muslims and Pagans. A 1997 law on religion recognises the right to freedom of conscience and creed to all the citizenry, the spiritual contribution of Orthodox Christianity to the history of Russia, and respect to "Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism and other religions and creeds which constitute an inseparable part of the historical heritage of Russia's peoples", including ethnic religions or Paganism, either preserved or revived. According to the law, any religious organisation may be recognised as "traditional" if it was already in existence before 1982, and each newly founded religious group has to provide its credentials and re-register yearly for fifteen years, and, in the meantime until eventual recognition, stay without rights.The Russian Orthodox Church, though its influence is thin in some parts of the North Caucasian region and there are a lot of different religious movements in Russia, claiming the right to decide which other religions or denominations are to be granted the right of registration. Some Protestant churches which were already in existence before the Russian Revolution have been unable to re-register, and the Catholic Church has been forbidden to develop its own territorial jurisdictions. According to some Western observers, respect for freedom of religion by Russian authorities has declined since the late 1990s and early 2000s. Activities of the Jehovah's Witnesses are currently banned in Russia.

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 there has been a revival and spread of Siberian shamanism (which also mixed in some cases very strong with Orthodox elements) , and the emergence of Hindu and new religious movements throughout Russia. There has been an "exponential increase in new religious groups and alternative spiritualities", Eastern religions and Neopaganism, even among self-defined "Christians"—a term which has become a loose descriptor for a variety of eclectic views and practices. Russia has been defined by the scholar Eliot Borenstein as the "Southern California of Europe" because of such a blossoming of new religious movements, and the latter are perceived by the Russian Orthodox Church as competitors in a "war for souls". It must be added that Borensteins commentary is very imprecise and inaccurate, as many of the religions of Russia have been traditional components for several hundred of years and formed the Russian cultural identities over a long period of time through strong ethno-cultural interactions.

Udmurt people

The Udmurts (Udmurt: Удмуртъёс, Udmurt’jos) are a people who speak the Udmurt language. In the course of history, Russian-speakers have referred to them as Chud Otyatskaya (чудь отяцкая), Otyaks, Wotyaks or Votyaks (the most-known name). Tatar-speakers call the Udmurts Ar.


Udmurtia (Russian: Удму́ртия, tr. Udmúrtiya, IPA: [ʊˈdmurtʲɪjə]; Udmurt: Удмуртия), or the Udmurt Republic, is a federal subject of Russia (a republic) within the Volga Federal District. Its capital is the city of Izhevsk. Population: 1,521,420 (2010 Census).

Uralic neopaganism

Uralic neopaganism encompasses contemporary movements which have been reviving or revitalising the ethnic religions of the Uralic peoples. The rebirth has taken place since the 1980s and 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and alongside the ethnonational and cultural reawakening of the Uralic peoples of Russia, the Estonians and the Finns. In fact, Neopagan movements in Finland and Estonia have much older roots, dating from the early 20th century.

Among the Uralic peoples of the Volga Federal District of Russia (the Volga Finns and Udmurts), scholar Victor Schnirelmann has observed two cooperating patterns of development of Neopaganism: the reactivation of authentic rituals and worship ceremonies in the countrysides, and the development of systematised doctrines amongst the urban intelligentsia rejecting Russian Orthodoxy as a foreign religion. The Uralic Communion, founded in 2001, is an organisation for the cooperation of different institutions promoting Uralic indigenous religions.

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.

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