November 30, 2023

Shaman in Prison, Evil Spirit at Large


Shaman in Prison, Evil Spirit at Large
Alexander Gabyshev, wearing a T-shirt that reads "The Shaman Goes." EseniaSofronova, Wikimedia Commons.

On November 22, shaman Alexander Gabyshev celebrated his 55th birthday, behind bars at a hospital. In their latest series on political prisoners, Mediazona recounted the story of the man who intended to walk from Yakutia for Moscow to exorcise President Vladimir Putin.

In March 2019, Gabyshev loaded a cart with a tent and a camp stove and set off on the 8,000-kilometer journey. According to the self-proclaimed "warrior shaman," God ordered him to exorcise Vladimir Putin, "the demon," on Red Square.

As Gabyshev's step count increased, so did his story's renown. When he reached Chita, 1,500 km along his journey, he was invited to speak at a Communist Party rally. By August, he had reached Buryatia. Gabyshev wasn't alone: on the way, people joined his march to Moscow. 

By the time Gabyshev had walked 3,000 km, his name had become known all across the country, and Russia's internal security service, the FSB, began investigating the shaman for "extremism."

As he was entering Irkutsk, Gabyshev was detained and sent back to Yakutsk for a psychiatric evaluation. Gabyshev was duly declared insane, and, after being detained in a hospital, was released. His "extremism" case was closed. The shaman drew a lightning sign on his face to symbolize "God's wrath."

In January 2021, 50 National Guard soldiers raided Gabyshev's home. The shaman resisted with a fireplace poker and a Yakutian knife, wounding an OMON guard in the leg. Gabyshev's lawyer has argued there is no proof the shaman inflicted the injuries, as his house was in complete darkness when riot police broke in.

Gabyshev has been under arrest for attacking a security officer ever since. He is currently at a psychiatric hospital under the sort of intensive observation usually reserved for serial killers. Courts have continuously extended his detention at the hospital, which, unlike in penal colonies, has no limit.

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