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.

You Might Also Like

Integration through Education?
  • October 08, 2023

Integration through Education?

Russian President Putin stressed the importance of education in regions newly annexed from Ukraine. But is there a more sinister motive at play?
One Country, Two Wars
  • September 16, 2023

One Country, Two Wars

The Kremlin is currently conducting not one, but two horrific wars.
Flagpole Ripper
  • April 13, 2023

Flagpole Ripper

A man was arrested for tearing down a Russian flag at a police department.
Like this post? Get a weekly email digest + member-only deals

Some of Our Books

22 Russian Crosswords

22 Russian Crosswords

Test your knowledge of the Russian language, Russian history and society with these 22 challenging puzzles taken from the pages of Russian Life magazine. Most all the clues are in English, but you must fill in the answers in Russian. If you get stumped, of course all the puzzles have answers printed at the back of the book.
Fish: A History of One Migration

Fish: A History of One Migration

This mesmerizing novel from one of Russia’s most important modern authors traces the life journey of a selfless Russian everywoman. In the wake of the Soviet breakup, inexorable forces drag Vera across the breadth of the Russian empire. Facing a relentless onslaught of human and social trials, she swims against the current of life, countering adversity and pain with compassion and hope, in many ways personifying Mother Russia’s torment and resilience amid the Soviet disintegration.
Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

A book that dares to explore the humanity of priests and pilgrims, saints and sinners, Faith & Humor has been both a runaway bestseller in Russia and the focus of heated controversy – as often happens when a thoughtful writer takes on sacred cows. The stories, aphorisms, anecdotes, dialogues and adventures in this volume comprise an encyclopedia of modern Russian Orthodoxy, and thereby of Russian life.
Russia Rules

Russia Rules

From the shores of the White Sea to Moscow and the Northern Caucasus, Russian Rules is a high-speed thriller based on actual events, terrifying possibilities, and some really stupid decisions.
Survival Russian

Survival Russian

Survival Russian is an intensely practical guide to conversational, colloquial and culture-rich Russian. It uses humor, current events and thematically-driven essays to deepen readers’ understanding of Russian language and culture. This enlarged Second Edition of Survival Russian includes over 90 essays and illuminates over 2000 invaluable Russian phrases and words.
At the Circus

At the Circus

This wonderful novella by Alexander Kuprin tells the story of the wrestler Arbuzov and his battle against a renowned American wrestler. Rich in detail and characterization, At the Circus brims with excitement and life. You can smell the sawdust in the big top, see the vivid and colorful characters, sense the tension build as Arbuzov readies to face off against the American.
Jews in Service to the Tsar

Jews in Service to the Tsar

Benjamin Disraeli advised, “Read no history: nothing but biography, for that is life without theory.” With Jews in Service to the Tsar, Lev Berdnikov offers us 28 biographies spanning five centuries of Russian Jewish history, and each portrait opens a new window onto the history of Eastern Europe’s Jews, illuminating dark corners and challenging widely-held conceptions about the role of Jews in Russian history.
Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

Stargorod is a mid-sized provincial city that exists only in Russian metaphorical space. It has its roots in Gogol, and Ilf and Petrov, and is a place far from Moscow, but close to Russian hearts. It is a place of mystery and normality, of provincial innocence and Black Earth wisdom. Strange, inexplicable things happen in Stargorod. So do good things. And bad things. A lot like life everywhere, one might say. Only with a heavy dose of vodka, longing and mystery.
Driving Down Russia's Spine

Driving Down Russia's Spine

The story of the epic Spine of Russia trip, intertwining fascinating subject profiles with digressions into historical and cultural themes relevant to understanding modern Russia. 
Bears in the Caviar

Bears in the Caviar

Bears in the Caviar is a hilarious and insightful memoir by a diplomat who was “present at the creation” of US-Soviet relations. Charles Thayer headed off to Russia in 1933, calculating that if he could just learn Russian and be on the spot when the US and USSR established relations, he could make himself indispensable and start a career in the foreign service. Remarkably, he pulled it of.
The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas

The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas

This exciting new trilogy by a Russian author – who has been compared to Orhan Pamuk and Umberto Eco – vividly recreates a lost world, yet its passions and characters are entirely relevant to the present day. Full of mystery, memorable characters, and non-stop adventure, The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas is a must read for lovers of historical fiction and international thrillers.  
The Frogs Who Begged for a Tsar

The Frogs Who Begged for a Tsar

The fables of Ivan Krylov are rich fonts of Russian cultural wisdom and experience – reading and understanding them is vital to grasping the Russian worldview. This new edition of 62 of Krylov’s tales presents them side-by-side in English and Russian. The wonderfully lyrical translations by Lydia Razran Stone are accompanied by original, whimsical color illustrations by Katya Korobkina.

About Us

Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

Latest Posts

Our Contacts

Russian Life
73 Main Street, Suite 402
Montpelier VT 05602

802-223-4955