October 17, 2019

‘An Exorcism Must Be Done’: An Anti-Putin Shaman Sets Off Unrest

‘An Exorcism Must Be Done’: An Anti-Putin Shaman Sets Off Unrest

She began reading the opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s blog, which spotlights corruption in Russia’s ruling elite. She did not attend the rallies in Ulan-Ude, but is starting to think she needs to take responsibility for her country’s future.

“I understand that, probably, something needs to be done,” Ms. Matveyeva said.

Near a recent demonstration, a 55-year-old woman said she sympathized with the protesters but did not dare attend. As a company executive, she had too much to lose, she said, refusing to give her name for fear of retribution.

“I’m a woman of the old days” whose relatives were executed by the Soviets, she said. “The fear is in my bones. The regime is coming back.”

Mr. Gabyshev, the shaman, said that to exorcise Mr. Putin he would light a bonfire on Red Square, just outside the Kremlin wall. In the Sakha tradition, he would feed it fermented mare’s milk and horsehair, bang a leather drum and perform a prayer, and “Putin will come to his senses and quietly resign.”

If the authorities were to prohibit the ritual, he said, people would rise up by the millions, calling for Mr. Putin to go.

For now, he awaits his fate. He has moved out of his sister’s house, where after his detention he slept on two thin blue mattresses on the empty patch of floor, and is living in a separate cabin in the yard. The family still shares an outhouse.

Mr. Gabyshev compared himself to a caterpillar that had been crawling slowly along a road and then wrapped itself in a cocoon.

“A new world will appear out of this cocoon, flying very fast,” Mr. Gabyshev said. “No one knows when.”

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