Siberia has a special place in the study of shamanism as the area where it was first recorded. The word shaman originates from the Tungus, a native people living in eastern Siberia.
Its first occurrence is found in the Record of Exile, written in 1672–1675 by the Russian Orthodox archpriest Avvakum, who engaged in a weather prediction competition with a Tungus shaman: He considered him to be a rival serving the Devil instead of God.
The term shaman was then extended to all Siberian native peoples as the czarist empire’s colonization proceeded.
Thus Siberian shamanism has been documented, as well as undergone outside influences, for several centuries.
Shamanism did not change much under czarism, since imperial policies were mainly directed at exploiting the natural riches of this immense territory (12,765 square kilometers).
These policies favored settlers and imposed only superficial Russianization and Christianization on the natives, whose traditional nomadic way of life was preserved to a large extent. Changes were more radical under the Soviet regime, which carried out general collectivization and atheist propaganda with the aim of eradicating shamanism along with other religions.
The exchange of a nomadic way of life for a sedentary one, displacements, and interethnic marriages introduced additional changes. During the Soviet period, some private shamanic practices were, however, still performed clandestinely, and elements of collective rituals (such as sports and games) were integrated into local Communist festivals. Moreover, the belief in an intimate relationship between human beings and nature inherent in shamanism survived in popular thinking.
Since the Soviet Union collapsed at the end of 1991, shamanism, along with other local traditions, has been reviving.