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148. Present State And Future Of Shamanism

From the preceding sections of the present - chapter and from earlier chapters it can be seen that shamanism, as a complex which has resulted from peculiar conditions and various influences, reactions on them, and adaptation of complexes for the maintenance of the psychomental equilibrium, was an always changing, varying complex in spite or a very strong pressure and even prohibitions, shamanism has been able to survive up to the present time. Among the Tungus groups which preserved their ethnical integrity it is not in a state of decline, but in a state of elastic adaptation and therefore is subject to variations.

It may be reasonable to ask oneself how long will shamanism survive? This question might be left unanswered, as it concerns the future; however, such a question would be natural on the part of the reader, and I feel myself sufficiently prepared to answer it, at least hypothetically.

I have already shown that the chief factors of the disintegration of shamanism are the strong penetration of alien complexes and particularly the elimination of a great number of cases formerly of the competence of shamans. From this point of view the Tungus and Manchus are now found in a quite different position than before. They are now surrounded by groups more numerous than they are themselves, and these groups possess cultural complexes with which shamanism cannot compete. As a matter of fact, this is a new era in the history of the Tungus in Siberia there is the strong influence of the Russians who are opposed to shamanism and may destroy its old theoretical foundations by the introduction of medical art, school education, and a new complex of religion, based upon a certain ethical teaching. The Tungus come more and more in contact with the Russians who during the nineteenth century have gradually involved the Tungus in their economic system in my SONT I have shown the degree of the dependence of the Tungus on the economic system and the new interethnical relations to which the Tungus were subjected. The situation in Manchuria did not differ much. With the millions of Chinese Immigrants from China, Manchuria ceased to be a Tungus territory even in its remote regions - the Chinese penetrated everywhere and gradually bound the Tungus with new economic relations. In a lesser degree than in Siberia the Tungus began to use the assistance of Chinese medical professionals and to absorb Chinese theories. These Tungus had no other issue but to submit to the strong pressure., One of important conditions of this situation is that all territories around the Tungus are peopled more densely than their own territory and they have no more place to escape from the pressure of these new, powerful groups. In recent years a new ethnical factor has appeared, namely, the Japanese who will perhaps produce a still stronger cultural pressure upon these populations.

However, the chief condition of the present situation is not the pressure, as such, but the fact that the Tungus, as well as the Manchus, cannot withstand this pressure having already lost their former power of resistance in the given interethnical milieu. Owing to the new forms of adaptation, new ethnical groups being very numerous will undoubtedly, sooner or later, absorb the Tungus, as dispersed ethnical groups. However, the blow has come even earlier than it might have been expected, and from a side unforeseen before, namely, a very intensive disintegration of all Tungus groups living in Siberia and the regrouping in the ethnical equilibrium in Manchuria.

I have shown in SONT that, owing to the collapse of the former economic relations which had been established between the Russians and the Tungus groups, the Tungus found themselves in a more difficult position than other ethnical groups, so that some of the Tungus groups physically perished soon after the collapse. This position of the Tungus may be better understood, if we remember that a great number of them could not live any more without food supply, without a regular supply of fire-arms and powder, without a supply of cloth for clothing etc., for animal food was not sufficient for maintaining the Tungus population. Moreover, their organization and knowledge were already adapted to the new conditions of ethnical existence on the principle of close co-operation [706] with another ethnical group — the Russians. When the latter fell into a state of disorganization, the Tungus could not readapt themselves to the new condition — their organization was not elastic enough — and they began to die out. Such was the fate of two groups in Transbaikalia, namely, the Samagir who lived on the Lake Baikal and the Reindeer Barguzin Tungus, which is evident from the report of E I. Titov's introduction to his Tungus Dictionary (cf. SONT). A large group of the Nomad Tungus of Mankova and Borz'a migrated to Mongolia, where, being surrounded by other ethnical groups, they will soon be assimilated, and thus will ethnically perish V. N. Vasiliev (op. cit.) gives a picture of the physical extinction of the Tungus in the Aldan-Maja region and the Ajan-Oxotsk region. So, for instance, he says that only 12 families remain (about 50-60 souls) from the third Ezhan rod (administrative unit) which in 1897 (according to S. K. Patkanov, op. cit. pp. 123) consisted of 512 members (a great part of them lived then in the Amur prov. and other regions). Some of these groups took part in the civil war on the White-Russian (anti-communist) side that resulted in a great loss of lives, which, considering the small number of Tungus, is very important. They also took part in the migration to other regions, where naturally they may survive only on one condition, namely, that other Tungus units would become extinct, as it was observed in Transbaikalia, when it was occupied by the groups coming from the North. It is thus evident that a great number of Tungus physically perished during this period. However, the destruction of the Tungus attracted the attention of the Soviet Government which realized the economic effect of the Tungus decline, i.e. the impossibility of producing furs for the world market without Tungus work. But this plain fact was perhaps not sufficient for a fruitful attention of the government absorbed in still greater problems of a planetary revolution. However, the sentimentalism of the revolutionaries was greatly affected by the perishing of the Tungus groups, as well as of other non-Russian natives of Siberia. Thus, two movements combined in one, quite sympathetic with the Tungus, namely, in the decision to support them economically and to reorganize them according to a new system which, according to the ideas of the inventors, must save these units from a complete destruction and at the same time which would not allow them to fall under an anti-communistic influence.

In the firm belief that one day mankind will not be differentiated into ethnical and racial groups, but will form a homogeneous mass of population equally enjoying the advantages of a new economic and social system, the communistic theoreticians do their best to approach this ideal condition by the unification and the cultural leveling of all groups, on the one hand, and by supporting small ethnical groups against the populous and culturally superior groups, on the other hand. Practically the first aim is achieved by the creation of a uniform administrative organization and by the propaganda of Marxism; the second — by giving autonomy to the small units. An ethnological analysis of the situation shows that these two seemingly contradictory positions merely reflect new ethnical relations which were created after the collapse of the Russians, chiefly the Great Russians, who as an ethnical group used to play the part of the consolidator of the greater unit — the Empire, on the one hand, and a strong centrifugal movement in general resulting in the consolidation of the territorial and ethnical groups, brought about by the collapse of the Empire (in the sense of a greater economic and political unit), on the other hand. In so far as political control of the territories and populations is taken up by a new social group of a different psychomental complex — first a secret society and later a political communistic party — the latter acts, quite unconsciously, as a regulator of two movements -the centripetal and the centrifugal — manifested in the creation of new local equilibria and expressed in a new slogan: «communistic constructive work» and «self-government of nationalities» (viz. ethnical units). Considering this as an ethnological phenomenon, nothing new is observed in this respect, except a great uncertainty of steps, their tentative character, poor theoretical justification and lack of experience in the art of government, owing to which privileged groups and oppressed groups are formed, resulting in a general weakening of these populations, taken as a unit (empire), and a further disintegration of these populations. The position of the Tungus groups is especially difficult.

Strong units, like the Buriats and Yakuts he are numerous enough to oppose the pressure of the central government and to maintain their independence, have given rise to unfavourable conditions among the Tungus groups, owing to which the Tungus had to submit to their assimilation by these strong units. Moreover, when the Tungus leave their territory, the Buriats and Yakuts try to occupy it, and when they meet with opposition, they refer to the principles of equality, rationality etc., owing to which they cannot be prevented from penetrating [707] into that territory. The effect will soon appear — the strong units will multiply quicker and will eventually occupy the Tungus territory. With the increase of the economic difficulties the exploitation of the Tungus populations has already become unbearable for the Tungus in spite of the stopping of the extermination of fur-animals by hunting, characteristic of a long period of «civil war», and notwithstanding the lack of munitions among the Tungus, the former level of the fur production cannot be attained. Thus, economically the Tungus are no more interested in maintaining their ethnical independence. But the cultural disintegration of the Tungus goes still deeper. Here the pressure of the communistic party and their agents is especially important. From the theoretical point of view the Morgan-Marxian attitude is simple: the clan organization, barbarian economic methods, and ideological superstructure are doomed to perish in the face of a «new society», therefore everything must be done for facilitating this process. Practically, first the clan organization must be destroyed; modern methods in the economic exploitation of the territory must be applied and «superstitions» must be exterminated. As regards the destructive part of this work, it is not difficult to carry it out, for the Tungus cannot resist it and defend themselves; but the economic reorganization is senseless for the Tungus as such, for they will simply perish as an ethnical body. In the process of this activity, the Tungus will receive a new administrative system, the Soviets, with a great number of officials, and, on paper, the right to their territory etc. For bringing up the new system, naturally opposed by the old generation, the young generation - which has not yet been trained for the hard work of the hunter and which does not yet know the technique of this profession — is supposed by the government to suppress the resistance of the old generation. In the preceding chapters I have already pointed out that in former times the young generation often opposed the old generation and only owing to the existence of the clan organization it was possible to maintain the Tungus complex and particularly the oral traditions concerning the technique.

With the help of the government the whole Tungus organization will be split into two halves, in which state it will become paralyzed and the old professional experience will be lost. The loss of their cultural complex by the Tungus will evoke no regret in the leaders, for they are theoretically prepared for the fact that «backward» ethnical groups must give place to «advanced» groups, as they consider themselves (a curious case of ethnocentric manifestation within a not yet completely formed ethnical unit - the communists). This process is helped by giving special education to the Tungus youth. Some of them are selected among the Tungus groups, sent to the present surrogates for middle schools or the universities, and to special schools for political education, and later they may be given a higher education. The first aim to be reached is the appropriation by the pupils of the communistic teachings. After which they must go further and become propagandists of Marxism among their own people in order to fight «superstitions» and to prepare their people for the joining of «free mankind, liberated from the capitalistic oppressions In the psychology of these representatives of the Tungus groups the most important point is that, in looking at the wealth accumulated for centuries, which resulted from the former cultural adaptation or the Russians, they believe it to be a communistic achievement — they are impressed by it; secondly, after learning the elements of Marxism they assume a special vulgarity of mind of half-educated people, who believe themselves strong enough to discuss any given problem (a state which is characteristic of the culturally low classes of population in so-called democratic countries); thirdly, they lose their ethnical consciousness and do not want to return to their people. In reality, even in this respect, there is nothing new as compared with the attempts at the introduction of another alien complex among the Tungus-Christianity. There is a difference in the quantity, namely, the missionaries and Church authorities were not permitted to spend too much for the individual education of the Tungus in their schools, and the number of Tungus involved was not very large; with the communists, who have no administrative experience and are not satisfied with experiments on a small scale, the idea of the re-education of the Tungus is very strong and they want to attract the greatest possible number of them [708].

The effect is evident: those who do not return to their own people will become petty officials of low ranks in the communistic centers of activity, and in this way the Tungus will lose them; and those who will return to their own people will continue the unfinished work of the disintegration of the Tungus and complete their assimilation by the communists (chiefly Russian speaking communists), i.e. exactly the process induced by the missionaries before the old government realized the undesirability of the complete ethnical extinction of the Tungus, as an important economic factor in the scantily peopled regions of the taiga. However, a change of this policy on the part of the communists is impossible, for it would mean the denial of all theoretical background of communism and the abandoning of this population as being beyond control. On the other hand, this measure will come too late, for other ethnical groups, like the Buriats and Yakuts, are now relatively stronger than they were before, and they will overwhelm the Tungus.

Such are the present conditions of the existence of the Tungus and there is no doubt that the Tungus ethnical units, which may survive the economic collapses, will not survive cultural disintegration. Since the clan organization can be destroyed and replaced by the common sovietic administration, the Tungus will be gradually incorporated into the mixed population of Siberia which, because of its numerousness will absorb the inherited Tungus complex, and the Tungus, as a group, will perish for ever and shamanism too will perish with this physical extinction of the Tungus groups and with a cultural disintegration of their remains [709].

The present position of the Tungus groups in Manchuria has also changed, for they are now found deprived of their rights as a privileged group, as they were in the Manchu military organization. The influx of the Chinese population into the regions of the Tungus territory continues. For instance, the Xulun region, formerly occupied by the Birarchen, is now an important agricultural region peopled by Chinese. Regions of the taiga are overfilled by Chinese hunters who exterminate local animals, so that the Tungus who live on hunting, e.g. in the Little Khingan mountains, sixteen years ago already found it difficult to earn their living and, now it has probably become impossible. The Chinese migration into remote regions will not stop, because of the almost inevitable economic development of Manchuria, now covered with railways, navigation along the rivers, a new system of roads and a net of business organizations. The Tungus will be compelled to leave their mountains and settle in villages amid a mixed population. Since the fur bearing animals are decreasing in number and will soon be extinct, there will even be no economic stimulus to maintain the Tungus as good hunters — they will meet, with no assistance from any government. When they settle in villages, they will be first of all disorganized in respect to their clan system, which is the back-bone of shamanism, and the functions of the shamans will be taken up by the Chinese professional doctors, in so far as treatable diseases are concerned. The process of loss of shamanism will be accelerated by the adoption of Chinese schooling, quite indispensable under the new conditions. So the Tungus language will soon be forgotten, as it has already happened with Manchu. Naturally, under these new conditions, there is no chance for the survival of shamanism in Siberia, in Manchuria and in Mongolia. It seems to me that the material gathered by myself and presented here in an analysed form will become the last trace of shamanism. Even at my time signs of an approaching end could be seen. Perhaps, in some remote regions, some remains of it are still preserved, for since my visit to those regions from fifteen to twenty-two years have already elapsed, which, under the present circumstances, is a very long period with regard to changes. However, a reserve must be made, namely, as a Tungus told me one day (vide SONT), the ethnical units, which are now in play, will Perhaps perish, as a great number of them have perished before, and the Tungus will be able to survive, and grow up again. What will be left of shamanism as a self-regulating psychomental complex after all these ethnical cataclysms, is difficult

to say. But one thing is evident: should the Tungus really survive, shamanism will not be the same as it was observed by me and there will be a new complex to be investigated from beginning to end, element by element, and in a new ethnical complex.

Since I have recorded here analysed ethnographical facts almost accidentally — my choice of the Tungus as a material for ethnological observations was more or less incidental — and since there were hundreds, and thousands of similar complexes which perished and which will never be repeated, I am inclined to see in my investigation into shamanism chiefly one side, namely, that of a study of the function of the psychomental complex under the variable conditions of on ethnographical complex in a variable ethnical and interethnical milieu, which can be studied, perhaps even with better success, on some other ethnographical material. Therefore, I shall not particularly emphasize the great loss for science, should the end of shamanism actually occur. I always have in mind that perhaps in the past there were phenomena still more complex and more interesting from the ethnological point of view than shamanism. Perhaps, if ethnologists turn their attention to similar mechanisms in other cultural and ethnical complexes, they will and still richer material for their deductions.

706. I do not discuss here the question who was favoured by this co-operation which very often turned into a merciless «parasitism» of small groups of «merchants» on the Tungus.

707. A few interesting facts are scattered e.g. in V. N. Vasiliev's report concerning the Yakuts. I have also similar facts from my informers familiar with present conditions in Transbaikalia. Very interesting facts are communicated by Kai Donner who had an opportunity to work with an Enissei Ostiak in Finland. This group is not numerous and has rather strong neighbours — the Yurak and Tungus. These groups made attempts at the occupation of Enissei Ostiak territory. The territory was saved, because the Enissei Ostiaks were well armed. (Kai Donner, Ethnological Notes about the Yenisey Ostyak, Memoirs de la Societe Finno-Ougrienne LXVI, 1933, Helsingfors, pp. 14 et seq.). Naturally, if the Tungus were numerous enough, they would not hesitate to act as the Yakuts and Buriats.

708. As to the psychology of the actors, it is interesting that this side of the ethnical disintegration of the Tungus is carried out by the group of sentimentalists-ethnographers who want to save these groups from their enemies, and by their interference only accelerate this process. The point of interest is the psychomental reactions of this group of «benefactors» on the process and their own idea as to their part in it.

709. Many facts regarding Tungus disintegration and even physical extinction are found in special sovietic publications. However, the analysis of these facts is not easy, because they are sometimes represented so as only partially to reflect the actual situation. On the one hand, a great body of facts be not published at all, because the facts are compromising; on the other hand, the organizer of the disintegration are interested only in some facts, directly concerning them as professionals. Moreover, for understanding the meaning of the facts, one must be familiar with the conditions of the groups before the collapse of the national government. I give here a quotation which is rather typical of the justifications of the Tungus disintegration and which also deals with shamanism. An analogous attitude can be found in reference to the family, the clan and the ethnical units of several other aborigines. «Pointing out that the fighting against shamanism and other religious cults in the North» (the northern regions of the territories controlled by Soviets) «is one of the sections of class struggle, a struggle for a socialistic construction, for a cultural revolution, the VIIIth plenary meeting of the Committee for the North» (i.e. the regions chiefly peopled by non-Russian groups; the Committee was organized by the government in order to introduce the socialistic system within these groups) «has decided to introduce in the North a deep, systematic anti-religious propaganda as an inseparable part of all politico-enlightening work, showing to the working masses the counter-revolutionary activity of the shamans, the sectarian propagandists and other servants of religious cults» (Cf. Materials of the First All-Russian Conference on Development of Languages and Writing among the peoples of the North, edited by J. P. Alkor (Koshkin) and I. D. Davydov, M.-Leningrad, 1932, pp. 35-36, and repeated on p. 74) Indeed, these desiderata, as many other great schemes and plans of communists, will remain only on paper.

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