When people dislike their government, there are many ways to voice opposition — whether it’s through protests or voting in an election.
Alexander Gabyshev, a shaman from Russia’s republic of Sakha in Siberia, has a different approach.
The shaman says he sees President Vladimir Putin as an “embodiment of dark forces” that must be expelled. For the past four months, Gabyshev has been walking on foot from his home in Russia’s Far East to Moscow in order to expel the darkness himself.
“Democracy should be without fear. Now, people are afraid to talk — they are afraid that they will be fired, their salaries will be cut. Simply put, our state power is infinite and demonic,” he told the sibreal.org news website.
The 51-year-old has covered nearly 2,000 kilometers since he began the trek in March, bringing him nationwide attention. He willingly chats with passersby who recognize him as well as journalists and bloggers. Videos of his sermons posted to YouTube have garnered hundreds of thousands of views combined.
“I left Yakutsk in March with 3,000 rubles ($47) in my pocket,” Gabyshev, who worked as a janitor and welder in his hometown, told sibreal.org. As his walk gained recognition, supporters started bringing him food, water and money.
To meet his goal of reaching Moscow by August 2021 to “cast out” Putin, Gabyshev walks 20 kilometers each day. With him, he tows an aluminum cart holding all his possessions, including a portable tent called a yurt, a stove, clothes and provisions.
He stops in towns and cities along the way, giving sermons and meeting with local opposition activists with the goal of inspiring a nationwide democratic movement.
“I will come to Moscow with a whole army. The people themselves will organize national gatherings. Even if Putin does not leave, the people will at least rally together this way,” he said.