The "white faith" movement in the mountain altai: Tibetan buddhism, mongolia, and the oirot prophecy, 1880s-1920s


This paper explores the influence of Tibetan Buddhism on the development of Ak-Jang (White Faith or Burkhanism), an ethno-religious movement that sprang up in the Mountain Altai in the early twentieth century. It is emphasized that a large part of the "White Faith" pantheon and spiritual practices originated from Tibetan Buddhism that was coming from Mongolia. The article is particularly focused on the links between the messianism of the White Faith and ethno-religious messianic movement Amursana that developed in Western Mongolia from 1910 to 1923. Both movements received their spiritual and cultural inspiration both from Tibetan Buddhism and the shared set of heroic oral tales about the coming of the glorious redeemer prince Oirot (Amursana). Scholars frequently approached the Altaian "White Faith" movement as a purely local phenomenon stripped of significant neighboring political and spiritual influences. The goal of the present article is to expand the revisionist scholarship that questions that narrow approach. It is argued that the rapid expansion of Tibetan Buddhism into the Altai and the rise of the Ak-Jang messianic movement became possible as a result of the spiritual and political void created by Russia's defeat in the Russo-Japanese War and the eventual collapse of the Manchu and Russian empires. The article is based on the wide range of primary sources.

Publication Title

Gosudarstvo, Religiia, Tserkov' v Rossii i za Rubezhom/State, Religion and Church in Russia and Worldwide