Steeped in history, ethnography and reportage, THE SHAMAN'S COAT tells the story of the indigenous people of Siberia. This vast expanse of land, much of it barely populated jungle and forest, has a population of just one million. One of the world's great unexplored peoples, they have a colonial history as shocking as that of the American Indians or the Aboriginies, and live in some of the world's harshest conditions. Until the 1950s they had no written language; the little we know about them is gleaned from outsiders' accounts. They believed nature possesses animating spirits to be worshipped, placated or guarded against and Shamans performed appropriate ceremonies. There has been an extraordinary revival in shamanism, with many communities again carrying out dog sacrifices, imbibing hallucinogenic drugs, corpses of bears being offered food to bring good luck. Siberians are also realising how rich the land in which they live is, and have embarked on a dangerous battle with Russia.
Anna Reid has a master's degree in Russian History and reform economics from London University's School of Slavonic and East European Studies. She was the Kiev correspondent for THE ECONOMIST and the DAILY TELEGRAPH from 1993 to 1995.