From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This is about the modern revival or "Tengrist movement". See Tengri for the historical deity. For the wider sense of "Central Asian shamanism", see Shamanism in Central Asia.
Spelling of Tengri in the Orkhon script (written from right to left).

Tengrism (also Tengriism, Tengrianism; Russian: Тенгрианство, Turkish: Tanrıcılık, Mongolian: Тэнгэр шүтлэг) is a modern term[1] for the religion of the ruling class of the Central Asian steppe peoples in 6th to 9th centuries (Turkic peoples, Mongols and Hungarians).[2]

Worship of Tengri was prevalent in the six ancient Turkic states: Göktürks Khaganate, Avar Khaganate, Western Turkic Khaganate, Great Bulgaria, Bulgarian Empire and Eastern Tourkia. In Irk Bitig, Tengri is mentioned as Türük Tängrisi (God of the Turks).[3] As a modern "neopagan" revival, Tengrism has been advocated among intellectual circles of Central Asia, including Tatarstan, Buriatia, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, in the years following the dissolution of the Soviet Union (1990s to present).

Historical Tengri

Main article: Tengri

Historical Tengrism surrounded the cult of the sky god and chief deity Tengri and incorporated elements of shamanism, animism, totemism and ancestor worship. It was brought into Eastern Europe by the Huns and early Bulgars. It lost its importance when the Uighuric kagans proclaimed Manichaeism the state religion in the 8th century.[4]

In the context of the modern revival, the term is sometimes used in a much wider sense of the mythology of the Turkic and Mongolian peoples and Central Asian shamanism in general.

Tengrist movement in Central Asia

Further information: Burkhanism

A revival of Tengrism has played a certain role in modern-day Turkic nationalism in Central Asia since the 1990s. In its early phase, it developed in Tatarstan, where a Tengrist periodical, Bizneng-Yul, appeared from 1997. The movement spread through other parts of Central Asia in the 2000s, to Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in particular, and to a lesser extent also to Buriatia and Mongolia (Laruelle 2006).

Since the 1990s, it has also become usual in Russian language literature to use the term Тенгрианство (variously rendered tengrianism or tengrianity) in a much more general sense of "Mongolian shamanism, to the inclusion of all "esoteric traditions" native to Central Asia. Buryat scholar Irina S. Urbanaeva developed a theory of such "Tengrianist Esoteric Traditions of Central Asia" during the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the resulting revival of national sentiment in the former Soviet Republics of Central Asia.[5]

While the Tengrist movement has very few active adherents, its discourse of the rehabilitation of a "national religion" reaches a much larger audience, especially in intellectual circles. Presenting, as it does, Islam as being foreign to the Turkic peoples, adherents are mostly found among the nationalistic parties of Central Asia. Tengrism can thus be interpreted as the Turkic version of Russian neopaganism. Another related phenomenon is that of the revival of Zoroastrianism in Tajikistan (Laruelle 2006).

A number of Kyrgyz politicians are actively pushing Tengrism, to fill the ideological void. Dastan Sarygulov, secretary of state and formerly chair of the Kyrgyz state gold mining company, has established Tengir Ordo (tr) (Army of Tengri) which is a civic group that seeks to promote the values and traditions of the Tengrism.[6] By 2006, there was a Tengrist society in Bishkek, and an "international scientific centre of Tengrist studies", run by Kyrgyz businessman and politician Dastan Sarygulov. Sarygulov has also established the civic group "Tengir Ordo" ("army of Tengri"), his ideology incorporating strong features of ethnocentrism and Pan-Turkism, but his ideas did not find large support. After the Kyrgyzstani presidential elections of 2005, Sarygulov received the position of state secretary, and he also set up a special working group dealing with ideological issues. [7] Another Kyrgyz proponent of Tengrism, Kubanychbek Tezekbaev, was put on trial for inciting religious and ethnic hatred in 2011 because of statements he made in an interview, where he described Kyrgyz mullahs as "former alcoholics and murderers".[8]

In the judgement of Laruelle (2006), Tengrism

" allows, in urbanized and deeply Russified circles, a hope for reconnecting with the past: nomadism, yurts, cattle breeding, the contact with nature, all those elements that form part of the Kyrgyz and Kazakh national imaginative world which people have tried to rehabilitate since the disappearance of the Soviet Union and its ideology. [...] One can, however, notice the risks of a radicalization of the Tengrist discourse into words tinged with anti-Semitism, anti-western views and xenophobia"

See also


  1. ^ The spelling Tengrism is found in the 1960s, e.g. Bergounioux (ed.), Primitive and prehistoric religions, Volume 140, Hawthorn Books, 1966, p. 80. Tengrianism is a reflection of the Russian term, Тенгрианство. It is reported in 1996 ("so-called Tengrianism") in Shnirelʹman (ed.), Who gets the past?: competition for ancestors among non-Russian intellectuals in Russia, Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1996, ISBN 9780801852213, p. 31 in the context of the nationalist rivalry over Bulgar legacy. The spellings tengriism and tengrianity are later, reported (deprecatingly, in scare quotes) in 2004 in Central Asiatic journal, vol. 48-49 (2004), p. 238. The Turkish term Tengricilik is also found from the 1990s. Mongolian Тэнгэр шүтлэг is used in a 1999 biography of Genghis Khan (Boldbaatar et. al, Чингис хаан, 1162-1227, Хаадын сан, 1999, p. 18).
  2. ^ "There is no doubt that between the 6th and 9th centuries Tengrism was the religion among the nomads of the steppes" Yazar András Róna-Tas , Hungarians and Europe in the early Middle Ages: an introduction to early Hungarian history, Yayıncı Central European University Press, 1999, ISBN 9789639116481, p. 151.
  3. ^ Jean-Paul Roux, Die alttürkische Mythologie, p. 255
  4. ^ Buddhist studies review, Volumes 6-8, 1989, p. 164.
  5. ^ Irina S. Urbanaeva (Урбанаева И.С.), Шаманизм монгольского мира как выражение тенгрианской эзотерической традиции Центральной Азии ("Shamanism in the Mongolian World as an Expression of the Tengrianist Esoteric Traditions of Central Asia"), Центрально-азиатский шаманизм: философские, исторические, религиозные аспекты. Материалы международного симпозиума, 20-26 июня 1996 г., Ulan-Ude (1996); English language discussion in Andrei A. Znamenski, Shamanism in Siberia: Russian records of indigenous spirituality, Springer, 2003, ISBN 9781402017407, 350-352.
  6. ^ McDermott, Roger. "The Jamestown Foundation: High-Ranking Kyrgyz Official Proposes New National Ideology". Jamestown.org. Retrieved 2013-02-19. 
  7. ^ Erica Marat, Kyrgyz Government Unable to Produce New National Ideology, 22 February 2006, CACI Analyst, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute.
  8. ^ RFE/RL 31 January 2012.

External links