Power for the powerless: Oirot/ Amursana prophecy in altai and Western Mongolia, 1890s-1920s


The paper discusses and compares two millenarian movements that sprang up in Altai (Burkhanism or the Ak-Jang [the White/Pure Faith], 1904) and in Western Mongolia (Ja- Lama fiefdom, 1911) in response to Russian (Altai) and Chinese (Mongolia) economic/cultural advances on nomadic societies. Earlier scholarship has been focused on the Altaian White Faith, stressing its unique nature and downplaying its links with the Ja-Lama movement and with Mongol/Buddhist tradition in general. In contrast, this paper suggests that preachers of the White Faith, who propagated the coming of the legendary redeemer named Oirot, and warlord Ja-Lama, who declared himself the reincarnation of Oirot prince Amursana, capitalized on the same Oirot/Amursana prophecy shared by the populations in both areas. It is also argued that in the early 20th century the White Faith was gradually transforming into what could have become an Altaian version of Tibetan Buddhism - a process that was terminated by the advance of the powerful Communist prophecy that hijacked and then secularized the Oirot and Amursana legends. © Tous droits réservés.

Publication Title

Etudes Mongoles et Siberiennes, Centrasiatiques et Tibetaines