Russian Shaman Who Wanted To Drive Putin From Power Detained

By Siberia Desk, RFE/RL's Russian Service

YAKUTSK, Russia -- Russian special police have detained Aleksandr Gabyshev, a shaman in the Siberian region of Yakutia who gained notoriety in 2019 after declaring that he wanted to drive President Vladimir Putin from power.

Aleksei Pryanishnikov, a legal coordinator for the opposition group Open Russia, told RFE/RL on May 12 that at least 20 officers from an OMON police unit of the National Guard had stormed into Gabyshev's home in the city of Yakutsk.

Pryanishnikov said Gabyshev was taken away barefooted and in handcuffs. He said two of Gabyshev's associates were also being held, although the reason for detaining them was unclear.

According to Pryanishnikov, several people who visited Gabyshev's house earlier on May 12 had introduced themselves as physicians who wanted to test him for the coronavirus.

Gabyshev's lawyer, Olga Timofeyeva, told RFE/RL that police had informed her he was being taken to a psychiatric clinic.

Timofeyeva said nobody can be sent to a psychiatric clinic in Russia without a court order.

Last week, Gabyshev posted a video on YouTube that showed him performing a traditional Yakut shaman's dance while declaring, "Very soon you all break out to freedom."

"Guys, in two months, you will not recognize the world, including Russia," Gabyshev says in the video. "Nobody will hold the people's power. The people's power is from nature, from God. And it will sweep out everything in two months. Consider it my forecast, my prophecy.... You will take care of your own destinies yourselves, you will take freedom with your own hands."

Gabyshev made headlines in 2019 when he called Putin "evil" and announced he would march to Moscow in an attempt to drive the Russian president out of the Kremlin.

Starting the journey in March 2019, Gabyshev walked more than 2,000 kilometers -- speaking with hundreds of Russians along the way.

As his notoriety rose, videos of his conversations with people were posted on social media and attracted millions of views.

In July, when Gabyshev reached the city of Chita, he gathered about 700 people together for a rally under the slogan "Russia without Putin!"

At the time, Gabyshev said, "God told me Putin is not a human, but instead a demon, and has ordered me to drive him out."

His march was halted when he was detained in the region of Buryatia in September. Authorities transferred him to Yakutia, where he was sent to a psychiatric clinic and then released.

In October, psychiatrists in Yakutsk said Gabyshev was mentally unstable. But independent experts hired by the shaman's lawyers concluded that Gabyshev was mentally sound, did not need forced treatment in a psychiatric clinic, and was not a danger to society.

In December, Gabyshev and two supporters attempted to resume the march to Moscow, ignoring Yakutia's sub-zero temperatures.

But they were stopped again by the police and forced to return home.

Shamans have served as healers and diviners in Siberia for centuries. During the Soviet era, they were harshly repressed. But in isolated parts of Siberia, they are now regaining importance.