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Tengriism (aka Tengrism, Tengrianism, Tengrianizm, Tengricilik, Tengerism) was the major belief of Xiongnu,Turkic peoples, Hungarian and Bulgar peoples in ancient times and it focuses around the sky deity Tengri (also Tangri, Tanrı, Tangra, etc.) and incorporates elements of shamanism, animism, totemism and ancestor worship.

"Khukh" and "Tengri" literally mean "blue" and "sky" in Mongolian language and modern Mongolians still pray to "Munkh Khukh Tengri" ("Eternal Blue Sky"). Mongolia is called the "Land of Eternal Blue Sky ("Munkh Khukh Tengriin Oron" in Mongolian). And also in modern Turkey Tengriism is sometimes called Gök Tanrı religion by some scholars. Note that the Turkish "Gök" and "Tanrı" mean the same as and sound very similar to the Mongolian "khukh" (blue) and "Tengri" (sky), respectively. Even though there is insufficient research, Tengriism is thought to heavily influence the Alevi belief system. Today, there are still a large number of Tengriist people living in inner Asia, such as the Khakas and Tuvans.

In Tengriism, the meaning of life is seen as living in harmony with the surrounding world. Tengriist believers view their existence as sustained by the Eternal Blue Sky, Tengri, the fertile Mother-Earth Spirit Eje, and a ruler who is regarded as the Holy Spirit of the Sky. Heaven, earth, the spirits of nature and the ancestors provide every need and protect all humans. By living an upright and respectful life, a human being will keep his world in balance and maximize his personal wind horse power. Shamans play an important role in restoring balance when it is thrown off by disaster or spirit interference.

It is likely that Tengriism was the religion of the Huns, Eurasian Avars, early Hungarians, and of the early Bulgars who brought it to Europe. It is still actively practised in Sakha, Buryatia, Tuva, and Mongolia, in parallel with Tibetan Buddhism and Burkhanism.

Tengriism in Europe

Tengriism was brought to Eastern Europe by nomadic tribes migrating or invading from the central Asian steppes. The faith was very closely connected to the nomadic lifestyle, so that in most cases people changed their religion after turning sedentary.


"Khadak" means blessing scarf. The scarf is blue because it also symbolises Tengri. Because Tengri resided in the blue sky, the color turquoise was its symbol of worship and constant reminder of the grace of the creator. Grace is the heart of belief. When Tengri chose to withdraw Grace, downfall was the result; when bestowed, it was the source of all benefaction.


Tengriism was ecologically sensitive. One who defiled water was immediately and physically condemned because water in this parched portion of the earth was one of the Graces granted by Tengri. For example, both crops and the reign of a monarch were entirely dependent on water; the good behavior of the adherents and the presence of Grace were thus linked.

Historically, Tengri followers chose different paths to salvation and happiness. For example, eastern Tengriists in particular concentrated on proper etiquette (because of population pressures and order of society). In contrast, other Tengriists have emphasized living harmoniously with nature (during the religion’s emergence, it was as necessary to co-exist with nature as it is today).

Post-Soviet Era Nationalism, Politics and Tengri

It has been leveled that Tengri has been politically deployed in the service of post-Soviet nationalisms in Kyrgyzstan and Tatarstan and to a lesser extent, in Kazakhstan, Bashkortostan and Buryatia. "Although the ideologues of Tengrism may be marginal to the political mainstream, it is nonetheless important to analyse the role of ‘ethnicized’ forms of religious expression and their relationship with the search for post-Soviet national identities.”

From this article: "Tengrism represents a paradoxical but important element of spirituality in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. It partakes of the re-appropriation of a national past which is as much real as it is reconstituted, and of the emphasis on national traditions within which the memories of the ancient religions plays a major part. It also allows, in urbanized and deeply Russified circles, a hope for reconnecting with the past: nomadism, yurts, cattle breeding, the contact with nature, all those elements that form part of the Kyrgyz and Kazakh national imaginative world which people have tried to rehabilitate since the disappearance of the Soviet Union and its ideology. Tengrism also reveals how Islam in limited but influential circles, not considered as being the obvious religious starting point. One can, however, notice the risks of a radicalization of the Tengrist discourse into words tinged with anti-Semitism, anti-western views and xenophobia, which would consequently affect in negative terms a much understandable spiritual quest."