Shatra and Jurt: The “Return Address” in Rituals of Altaians

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This article examines the shatra – ritual votive fi gurines made by Altaian hunters, and their relevance to the history of chess. Based on the fi eld studies in an Altaian village, where the author has been conducting research since 2005, and on the museum and archival data collected in Saint Petersburg, Moscow, and Gorno-Altaysk, social relations mirrored by the shatra are examined through the lens of Altaian ethno-cultural history. Proceeding from Edmund Leech’s interpretation of ritual, the study reveals the communicative function of shatra and its relationship to the land and identity claims of people participating in the ritual. The concept of “return address” is introduced and applied to Altaian ritual. The local community is not only an “addressee”; it has agency in communications between human and nonhuman beings. It is concluded that the shatra may be metaphorically interpreted as a knot in the relationship network connecting humans, spirits, landscape, things, and materials.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111–120
Number of pages10
JournalArchaeology, Ethnology and Anthropology of Eurasia
Issue number3
Early online date31 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Altai
  • game
  • ritual
  • ritual objects
  • communication
  • agency theory
  • religious movement

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