- Sakha may refer to peoples known as the Sakha (formerly Yakut) living in the Sakha region (Yakutia) in northeast Siberia; the Sakha language, which belongs to the Turkic family of languages; or the Sakha Republic, the largest independent republic of the Russian Federation, home to more than 80 ethnicities, including such tribes as the hunting, fishing, and herding Sakha, Chukchi, Evenk (Tungus), and Tatar, of which some 40 percent of the population is Sakha. Extensive fieldwork in the region began in the mid-19th century, documenting shamanism among the Chukchi, Evenk, and the Sakha, with important reports of Sakha shamanic performances involving dialogue between shaman and spirits by Ivan Khudiakov. There is much local variation, but consistently, Sakha shamans inherit their vocation from ancestors who elect shamans, and these shamans undergo an initiation involving illness and “death.” Initiated shamans inhabit a three-tiered cosmos in which they travel in altered states of consciousness in order to negotiate with other-than-human helpers in the upper world and underworld for the benefit of their communities. The Sakha (and comparably the Buryat) distinguish between “black shamans” and “white shamans,” although Caroline Humphrey has drawn attention to the problematics of these terms. More recently, Piers Vitebsky has discussed the relationship between shamanism and environmentalism among the Sakha and the transformation of this relationship in the “global village.” Despite widespread persecution under Soviet state atheism, shamanism is today undergoing a reconstitution and revival in the region, with the Sakha Republic seizing on shaman genealogies and other elements of traditional shamanism as part of its emergent nationalism.
Historical dictionary of shamanism. Graham Harvey and Robert J. Wallis. 2007.