Magic, Prophecy, and Geopolitics in the Heart Of Asia







Shambhala is an ancient Tibetan Buddhist prophecy about the land of spiritual bliss.  At the same time, it was a powerful call for spiritual resistance originally directed against Muslim invaders in the early middle ages.  Using archival sources and memoirs, Red Shambhala explores how in our, modern age, particularly in the 1920s and the 1930s, a group of people (spiritual adventurers, revolutionaries, and nationalists) wanted to use Shambhala and related prophecies of the Tibetan-Mongol world (Oirot, Amursana, and Geser) to promote their spiritual and geopolitical schemes.


The greater part of the book is focused on the Bolshevik attempt to use Mongol-Tibetan prophecies in their “liberation theology” to railroad Communism into Inner Asia. It explores clandestine activities of the Bolsheviks from the Mongol-Tibetan Section of the Communist International who took over Mongolia and then, dressed as lama pilgrims, tried to set Tibet ablaze.  The reader will enter a bizarre geopolitical contest over indigenous prophecies between the Bolsheviks and their powerful opponents: Ja-Lama, an “avenging lama” fond of spilling blood during his tantra rituals, and renegade Baltic baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg, who wanted to plug into Tibetan Buddhist legends in order to revive monarchies both in the east and in the west.


We also meet Buryat monk Agvan Dorzhiev, a former tutor for the 13th Dalai Lama and a one-time Bolshevik fellow-traveler, who wanted to bring all Tibetan Buddhist people of Inner Asia into a huge theocracy, and his fellow countryman, Elbek-Dorji Rinchino, the first Red dictator of Mongolia, who nourished a utopian dream of building up a socialist republic that would unite Tibetan Buddhist nationalities from Siberia to Tibet.


Another prominent character profiled in Red Shambhala is Nicholas Roerich, the Russian painter and occultist, who toyed with the same idea of merging Tibetan Buddhism with Communism.  Driven by his otherworldly Master, he posed as a reincarnation of the Dalai Lama and flirted with the Bolsheviks in an attempt to unleash the Shambhala war in Tibet. The ultimate goal was to bring about the Sacred Union of the East – a Tibetan Buddhist theocracy that would spiritually regenerate humankind. The book also draws attention to Roerich’s friend and another interesting character - Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Vice-President Henry Wallace, who similarly tapped into Buddhist wisdom in the hope to engineer a better world.


Last but not least, we meet such characters as Gleb Bokii, the secret police commissar and the chief Bolshevik cryptographer, who, along with his friend writer Alexander Barchenko, tried to use the Shambhala prophecy and Kalachakra techniques to conjure the ideal Communist human being.


Despite their differences, all these seekers were driven by the same totalitarian temptation – a quest for power and ultimate solutions.  They were sincerely convinced that they would be able to build a paradise on the earth – an orderly human commonwealth devoid of any spiritual and social contradictions.  It was only natural that almost all of these “enlightened masters” ended their lives tragically. Essentially, Red Shambhala is a sad story about political power and spirituality – a story that is set in the turbulent environment the past 20th century, which one historian once called the age of extremes.



  • Preface
  • Shambhala, Kalachakra Tantra, and Avenging Gods of Tibetan Buddhism
  • Power for the Powerless: The Mongol-Tibetan World and its Prophecies
  • Alexander Barchenko: Budding Red Merlin and His Ancient Science
  • Engineer of Human Souls: Bolshevik Cryptographer Gleb Bokii
  • Prophecies Draped in Red: Blood and Soil in the Heart of Asia
  • Red Prophecy on the March: Mongolia to Tibet 127
  • Th e Great Plan: Nicholas and Helena Roerich 155
  • Shambhala Warrior in a Western Body: Nicholas Roerich’s Asian Ventures
  • Epilogue: The End of Red Shambhala 217


Excerpt taken from Chapter 7




As Nicholas and Helena explained to their adepts, on the morning of October 6, 1923, someone knocked on the door of their room at Lord Byron Hotel.  George Roerich opened the door. The visitor introduced himself as a clerk from the Paris Bankers Trust. The clerk quickly handed him a mysterious package and immediately departed.  When Helena, George and Nicholas opened the package, they found a small box inside decorated with silhouettes of a man, woman, kingfisher, and four gothic letters engraved “M” on the edges.  However, the real surprise was inside the box itself – a black shiny aeroliths stone.  The next day from Paris, telegrams flew to all associates of the Roerichs in various countries: lo and behold, the Great White Brotherhood entrusted the Roerichs with the sacred Chintamani stone. This magic jewel, which possessed incredible power, was to be carried on their Asian expedition and be delivered to the Shambhala kingdom. 


In Tibetan Buddhist tradition the Chintamani stone is known as a wish-granting gem.  Ferocious deities, protectors of the Tibetan Buddhist faith, were frequently portrayed on sacred scrolls holding this stone. On these scrolls the Chintamani is depicted as either an ordinary jewel or a stone engulfed in flames – this theological link to the Roerichs’ Agni (Fire) Yoga might have been a reason why they were attracted to this sacred item.  The Roerichs described Chintamani as a powerful occult geopolitical weapon that would help their Asian mission.  Now they could act not only as prophets who could fulfill wishes by using the “wish-granting gem,” but also as protectors of the Buddhist faith: “The stone draws people like a magnet.  Entire nations can rise up if one lifts the stone up.  An enemy can be destroyed if you say his name three times looking at the stone.  Only people who are pure in their spirit and thought can look at it.”28  It is highly probable that George Roerich, a professional student of Tibetan Buddhism who was shrewd in intricacies of this tradition, fed the Chintamani legend to his parents who then layered on it their own personal mythology and then manufactured the entire story about the mysterious gift. 


The fantasy of the couple moved further.  The Roerichs wrote to their friends that the Chintamani was not only about Asian tradition.  The magic gem was also known to the ancient Druids and to European bard singers (Meistersingers) as Lapis exilis.  The stone “delivered” to the Roerichs was wrapped in a piece of old fabric that has an image of the sun with mysterious Latin letters inside the sun circle: I.H.S., which might be rendered as “In hoc signo [vinces]” (“by this sign [you will win]).  The same Latin abbreviation was inscribed on the banner of Constantine the Great, the famous Roman emperor who was the first to legalize Christianity.  Weaving Buddhist and European mythology together, the Roerichs argued that the Chintamani magically disappeared and then reappeared at crucial historical moments to be handed to the righteous ones who guided humankind to a better future.  Of course, the righteous people were the painter and his wife. 


Armed with the power of the sacred stone, on December 2, 1923, George, Helena, and Nicholas, the three Shambhala warriors, reached Bombay.  By railroad, the family quickly traveled to northern India where they stopped in the town of Darjeeling (a corrupted version of Dorje Lingam (Hard Penis),29 the capital of Sikkim.  Here, in the “hard” town, famous for the tea that grows in the area, the Roerichs established their temporary base.  For their residency they picked up not just any house, but a small summer cottage called the Palace of Dalai right on southern slopes of the Himalaya; the place was once used by the 13th Dalai Lama when he had to flee from the wrath of the Chinese in 1910.  The painter and his wife feasted their eyes on the picturesque site surrounded by mighty cedar trees. From their windows they could enjoy a divine view of the Himalayan ranges and valleys.30  Somewhere north of these mountain ranges lay mysterious Shambhala and her prophecies, waiting to be stirred and awakened.



Red Shambhala enters a maze of intrigue with a colourful cast of Bolshevik secret police officers, spies, occultists, Mongolian warlords and Buddhist monks. Andrei Znamenski shows how Soviet Communists in the 1920s sought geopolitical influence over Mongolia and Tibet, projecting their world revolution onto ancient messianic prophecies amongst Inner Asian tribesmen. Inspired by the myth of hidden sages directing the world's destiny, the Roerichs add visionary adventure amid the great game of competing powers, England, Russia, China, for mastery of the East. A first-rate espionage story, all from recently opened Soviet archives. (Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, author of The Occult Roots of Nazism and Black Sun)

Red Shambhala is a rare, rigorous exploration of a landscape where occult drama and political intrigue meet, and where human hopes and ideological schemes inevitability, and tragically, collide. Andrei Znamenski handles all of this delicate material with depth, poignancy, and the drama of great historical writing. (Mitch Horowitz, author of Occult America)

Red Shambhala is a fascinating, and at times astounding, story about the interplay of mysticism and politics in the shadow of Stalin's Russia. The lines between mystical seekers, secret policemen, spies and charlatans constantly cross and blur and the story, not surprisingly, ends tragically for almost everyone. (Richard Spence, Professor of History, University of Idaho)

Fascinating, compelling and erudite, Red Shambhala, utterly readable yet a work of impressively pioneering scholarship, is a history of Western mysticism, Mongolian/Tibetan Buddhism and imperial geopolitics, filled with stories of derrring-do and a cast of unforgettable mystics, monsters and adventurers. A wonderful read. (Simon Sebag-Montefiore, author of Young Stalin and Jerusalem: The Biography)

Andrei Znamenski’s Red Shamabala draws on wide-ranging research but reads like the best of thrillers. Anyone interested in the complicated history of Russia’s relationship with the worlds of Tibet and Mongolia should read this fascinating and engaging book. (Willard Sunderland, Professor of History, University of Cincinnati)

An amazing story, told by a fine scholar, but writing accessibly rather than just for other scholars. Larger-than-life characters against the background of a myth of Shambhala that haunted the Russian imagination as it did the Western, but with rather different consequences. Sometimes worrying, sometimes entertaining, and always informative. (Mark Sedgwick, Associate Professor, Aarhus University and author of Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century)

Znameski’s new book is a challenge for everyone who refuses to accept connections between legend and politics. Red Shambhala gives a solid piece of evidence that the atheist communist ideology of the 20th century did not disdain to use a Tibetan Buddhist myth as a sort of instrumentum regni, actually a political tool for propaganda; Russian left and right thinkers, and spiritual seekers as well, were united in an old-fashioned idea of rebirth, dreaming of an egalitarian Land – a Red Shambhala –, where a changed humankind could live in a New Era of peace. Prof. Andrei Znamenski provides a ground-breaking investigation, through which we are aware that the Sacred and Profane can share the same mythical milieu: a must-read book for people interested in that fuzzy area between Mystique, Esotericism and Politics.
(Marcello De Martino, PhD, Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente, Rome, Italy and author of Mircea Eliade esoteric)

Professor Znamenski pursues the improbable merging of two prophesies after the Russian Revolution, the future Commmunist utopia with the ancient Buddhist myth of Shambhala, the return of a redeemer who would lead suffering people into a golden age of spiritual and sensual bliss. Combining Victorian parlour mysticism, a cast of eccentrics, the rise of modern nationalism, the intrigues of the Bolshevik secret police and a Comintern bent on world revolution, and an arena as big as all Asia -- this is high drama indeed. (Max J. Okenfuss, American Editor - Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas )

Internet, Video, Audio:


Red Shambhala Facebook page

Tibet and Occult: Red Shambhala with Andrei Znamenski

At the Rubin Museum of Himalayan Art:

Red Shambhala with Andrei Znamenski

Interview for Online with Andrea Radio

The East is Red (Magonia Review of Books)

Review of the book by Rene Wadlow for Transnational Perspectives

Review of the book at Blogtrotter

Review of the book - The Japan Times


Trimondi Magazine features Red Shambhala


Public Radio – Interview with Andrei Znamenski    


Paranormal Plus Club Interviews RED SHAMBHALA author Andrei Znamenski


Blogtalkradio – The-hermetic-hour – Interview with Andrei Znamenski 


Ja-Lama, ruthless warlord from Mongolia, maguswest channel


Red Shambhala: Magic, Prophecy, and Geopolitics in the Heart of Asia


Tibetan Buddhism, Communism, and Totalitarian Temptations


Quest Books


"Don Croner’s World Wide Wanders" profiles Red Shambhala


Quest Books Facebook


Baron von Ungern Sternberg as Mahakala



Historian, anthropologist and translator, Andrei Znamenski was a resident scholar at the Library of Congress, and then a foreign visiting professor at Hokkaido University, Japan. He has taught various courses at The University of Toledo, Alabama State University, and the University of Memphis.  Among them are World Civilizations, Russian history, and the History of Religions. 


Znamenski’s major fields of interests include the history of  Western esotericism, Russian history as well as indigenous religions of  North America, Siberia, Inner Asia, particularly Shamanism and Tibetan Buddhism.  Znamenski lived and traveled extensively in Alaska, Siberia, and Japan.  His field and archival research among Athabaskan Indians in Alaska and native people of the Altai (Southern Siberia) resulted in the book Shamanism and Christianity: Native Responses to Russian Missionaries (1999) and Through Orthodox Eyes: Russian Missionary Narratives of Travels to the Dena'ina and Ahtna (2003).


After this, Znamenski became interested in the cultural history of Shamanism.  Endeavoring to answer why shamanism became so popular with Western spiritual seekers since the 1960s, he wrote The Beauty of the Primitive: Shamanism and Western Imagination (2007) and edited the three-volume anthology Shamanism: Critical Concepts (2004).  Simultaneously, he continued to explore shamanism of Siberian indigenous people, traveling to the Altai and surrounding areas, which led to the publication of Shamanism in Siberia (2003). Between 2003 and 2004, he resided in Japan, where along with his Japanese colleague, Professor Koichi Inoue, Znamenski worked with itako, blind female healers and mediums from the Amori prefecture. 




© Copyright 2003 – Victor & Victoria Trimondi