The Shaman's Coat: A Native History of Siberia [NOOK Book]

Overview


The fascinating history of an unknown people

A vivid mixture of history and reporting, The Shaman's Coat tells the story of some of the world's least-known peoples-the indigenous tribes of Siberia. Russia's equivalent to the Native Americans or Australian Aborigines, they divide into two dozen different and ancient nationalities-among them Buryat, Tuvans, Sakha, and Chukchi. Though they number more than one million and have begun to demand ...
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The Shaman's Coat: A Native History of Siberia

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Overview


The fascinating history of an unknown people

A vivid mixture of history and reporting, The Shaman's Coat tells the story of some of the world's least-known peoples-the indigenous tribes of Siberia. Russia's equivalent to the Native Americans or Australian Aborigines, they divide into two dozen different and ancient nationalities-among them Buryat, Tuvans, Sakha, and Chukchi. Though they number more than one million and have begun to demand land rights and political autonomy since the fall of communism, most Westerners are not even aware that they exist.

Journalist and historian Anna Reid traveled the length and breadth of Siberia-one-twelfth of the world's land surface, larger than the United States and Western Europe combined-to tell the story of its people. Drawing on sources ranging from folktales to KGB reports, and on interviews with shamans and Buddhist monks, reindeer herders and whale hunters, camp survivors and Party apparatchiks, The Shaman's Coat travels through four hundred years of history, from the Cossacks' campaigns against the last of the Tatar khans to native rights activists against oil development. The result is a moving group portrait of extraordinary and threatened peoples, and a unique and intrepid travel chronicle.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Reasoning that the state of Siberian shamanism "would be an indicator of the extent to which the indigenous peoples had preserved their identities under Russian rule," Reid (Borderland: A Journey Through the History of the Ukraine) traveled east across Siberia, chronicling the region's history from the first Russian invasion in the late 16th century to the present day, talking to nonindigenous as well as indigenous people and looking for modern shamans. There are many ethnic groups in Siberia, and in her engrossing book, Reid concentrates on a few of them, such as the Tartars, a Mongol-Turkic mix who inhabit Sibir; the Khant, related to the Finns and Estonians; the Buryat, a Mongol people on the Russian-Mongolian borderland; the Tuvans, Turkic-speaking people; and the Chukchi, a fierce people in the northeastern extremity of Asia who managed to avoid conquest until the 20th century. Each of these ethnic groups has its own complex, often confusing history, but Reid presents a clear picture of each, describing forcefully the bloody battles in which they were subjugated, their sufferings under Russia's brutal rule, their treatment at the hands of the various colonists and the hardships of Stalinism. She met several shamans, but they are few and far between in modern Siberia, where shamanism has been greatly watered down and is now a "rag-bag of vague, disconnected beliefs and rituals." The author acknowledges that her study is limited and subjective, but she concludes optimistically that a native identity is again emerging. Her book presents a rich and detailed history of a fascinating region often thought of as merely a frosty outpost for exiled convicts and political dissidents. Illus. not seen by PW. (Oct.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Foreign Affairs
Some books are sheer pleasure. Reid, a British journalist, has traveled Siberia from the Urals to the far northeastern lands of the Chukchi. She mixes history, landscape, and the lives of native peoples in post-Soviet Siberia with a lightness, acuteness, and masterful writing that speed the reader along. Thirty different peoples inhabit a region covering one-twelfth the world's land surface, and she visits nine of them (including the Khant, Buryat, Tuvans, and even the Nivkh on Sakhalin), sometimes even travelling on horseback. Her journey is driven by one question: What remains of traditional culture, particularly of faith in shamanism? To a surprising degree, given the wrecking effort of the Soviet years, shamanism survives — in remarkably different quarters. It is even being rekindled. Meanwhile, life in these desolate, isolated communities and outpost cities grows harsher amid the decay and neglect of Russia's new ways.
Library Journal
This well-researched exploration of a relatively unexplored region combines all the detail of a historical study with the day-to-day anecdotes of a travel narrative and does so nicely. Former Kiev correspondent for The Economist and the Daily Telegraph and author of Borderland: A Journey Through the History of Ukraine, Reid recounts four centuries of hardship, exploitation, and resilience in a land where an exhaled breath "falls to the ground in a shower of crystals." Reid's narrative, with its selected bibliography and index, offers a way into the ingenious and pained experiences of native Siberians whose history mirrors that of other indigenous groups like the Australian Aborigines and North American Apaches. In search of the shaman who helped native Siberians connect with their cold but animate surroundings, Reid finds a memorable assortment of disenfranchised inhabitants who have survived harsh terrain, angry intolerance, and forced conformity. Incorporating geography, politics, and cultural traditions, Reid brings a level of humanity to Siberia that may not increase Siberian tourism but will increase our awareness. Appropriate for travel and Russian history collections in public libraries. Mari Flynn, Keystone Coll., La Plume, PA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
From the former Kiev correspondent for The Economist, a portrait of indigenous Siberian cultures all but destroyed by European expansionism and Stalinist suppression. Siberia accounts for one-twelfth of the world's landmass and retains huge expanses of unpeopled wilderness, notes Reid; this has led to a popular conception of "the sleeping land" as a remote wasteland nearly incapable of supporting human life. "If this big, cold Siberia of the imagination has inhabitants," she observes, "they are probably Europeans: exiled revolutionaries, prisoners of war and Gulag slaves." Yet Siberia was in fact settled long ago by more than 30 ethnic groups, collectively numbering perhaps a quarter of a million inhabitants at the time of the Russian arrival in the late 1500s. That number has grown today to some 1.6 million, no thanks to a murderous program of conquest that began with the czars and continued into the age of Lenin and Stalin. Where the czars sought territory and raw materials, however, the Communists aimed for the wholesale extermination of non-Russian nationalities, "especially those who possessed no industrial proletariat and had fought against the Bolsheviks during the Civil War." Stalin's efforts to extinguish the native cultures of Buryatiya and break the powers of the Buddhist lamas there were appallingly successful; as late as the 1970s, prominent followers of these lamas were declared insane and disappeared inside Siberian psychiatric hospitals-a matter on which, the author notes, the KGB archives are still closed. Taking an approach similar to her work in Borderland (not reviewed), a history of the Ukraine, Reid has combed the historic and ethnographic literature on Siberia andtraveled a good portion of its territory. Yet this account is remarkably and regrettably colorless; readers will find it a challenge to distinguish Tuvan from Mongol, Ainu from Chukchi, on the strength of her descriptions, damning of European aggression though they are. Serviceable, but readers seeking a more fluent overview should turn to Bruce Lincoln's Conquest of a Continent (1994).
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802719171
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 5/26/2009
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • File size: 9 MB

Meet the Author

Anna Reid holds a master's degree in Russian history and reform economics from London University's School of Slavonic and East European Studies. She was the Kiev correspondent for the Economist and the Daily Telegraph from 1993 to 1995. Her first book, Borderland: A Journey through the History of the Ukraine, was published to wide acclaim in 1997. Ms. Reid lives in London.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
List of Illustrations
Introduction 1
1 Siberians and Sibiryaki 11
2 The Khant 38
3 The Buryat 64
4 The Tuvans 95
5 The Sakha 115
6 The Ainu, Nivkh and Uilta 140
7 The Chukchi 174
Afterword 199
Notes 203
Selected Bibliography 213
Index 218
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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2007

    Terrific book!

    I very much enjoyed reading this, and have recommended it to all of my friends. Enjoy!

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