Khakas - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs and Practices. The Khakas used to be adherents of shamanism in its southern Siberian form. The last active shamans are reported to have survived only until the Stalin period; shamanist traditions have been more resistant. The Khakas have conceived of a pantheon of helping spirits ( tös ), each of which had a canonic representation in the form of a small idol. These idols were supposed to protect their owners in case of illness and other problems, and beliefs connected with them have existed until recent times. The significance of shamanist beliefs was gradually undermined by the influence of Orthodox Christianity, which was actively propagated among the Khakas during the last decades of czarist rule. By the October Revolution all Khakas had officially adopted Christianity, although the mixing of Christian conceptions with shamanist beliefs frequently resulted in syncretic ideas. The Soviet regime subsequently tried to extinguish both shamanism and Christianity among the Khakas, but these efforts were not totally successful. The period of Stalinist terror was followed by revived interest in Christianity, and even Protestant sects, notably Baptists, have gained some foothold among the Khakas. The details of these developments are still uninvestigated.

Arts. The cultural heritage of the Khakas involves a rare combination of southern (Central Asian) and northern (Siberian) elements, built upon an exceptionally rich and ancient local foundation. In many cases the Khakas seem to occupy an intermediate position between the two regions, and in several particulars display their idiosyncracies. The Khakas traditional ornament, with its curved lines and flowery patterns, is one such feature. Another may be found in the Khakas musical patterns, which differ markedly from those of the neighboring peoples. Of course, there are also examples of a profound areal affinity between the cultures of the Khakas and those of the neighboring peoples of the Sayan-Altai region. For instance, the Khakas share with the Tuvans and the western Mongols a tradition of overtone singing. Both overtone and normal singing are accompanied by a traditional string instrument ( chatkhan ) that is similar to instruments used by Tuvans and Mongols. Also, the Khakas folkloric traditions are characterized by the same basic types of heroic poems, tales, and proverbs as those of neighboring peoples.

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