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Liesbet Nyssen

PhD Candidate

Drs. E.A. Nyssen
+31 71 527 2171

Liesbet Nyssen is PhD candidate at LIAS.

More information about Liesbet Nyssen

PhD research

Khakas folk music-making in the first post-Soviet decade.
How Khakas professional folk musicians reinterpreted their heritage sonic performance traditions in a time of world-shaking transitions

My PhD project aims at providing a detailed ethnography of how after the demise of the Soviet Union new folk music and dance was being created among the Khakas people, a small Turkic-speaking community in southern Siberia, Russian Federation.

Since perestroika in the late 1980s, Khakas professional folk musicians have been reviving and reshaping their heritage performance traditions. My dissertation documents and analyses this drive for a more suitable collective cultural identity through musical means, both from a historical perspective and from a music-anthropological point of view. It is grounded in a diverse body of disciplines, including ethnomusicology, historical musicology, cultural anthropology, history, folklore studies, area studies and post-Soviet cultural studies.

Post-Soviet musical processes in the former Soviet space have been studied mostly through the lens of ethnicity and nationalism, overlooking the equally important component of religious re-awakening. In my Ph.D. research, beside analysing presentational music, I also take into account the manifold religious off-stage activities that musicians were exploring, and argue that the post-Soviet Khakas ethnic-cultural identity quest in the performing arts can as well be construed as a religious one, as a quest of an indigenous minority group towards carrying on vital elements of its local shamanic-tengriist worldview, in order to secure its continuation as a distinct people.

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Léon Buskens, Dr. Gabrielle van den Berg, Dr. Nienke. van der Heide


Liesbet Nyssen is an ethnomusicologist specialising in the performing arts of Turkic-speaking indigenous peoples in southern Siberia (Sayan-Altay Region). She has been conducting anthropological field research in Khakassia and adjacent regions (Tyva, Altai, Mountain Shoria) since 1996. She frequently writes and speaks about southern Siberian music and culture. She was invited as an expert to, inter alia, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival (Washington, 2002), the Echo’s uit de Steppen Festival (Amsterdam, Utrecht, Antwerp, 2007), forums in Kazakhstan (2011) and Siberia (2012), and a lecture series in Venice (2013). She collaborated in CD-productions in The Netherlands and Switzerland, and in radio and TV programmes in the Netherlands, Germany and Khakassia.

Research interests

  • contemporary folk and popular music of Turkic-speaking indigenous peoples in Southern Siberia (Sayan-Altai region)\

  • post-Soviet cultural and religious revitalization

  • role of music in shaping post-Soviet ethnic identities and in creating cultural sustainability

  • individual agency in shaping culture

  • indigenous aesthetics of sound, music, storytelling, creativity, artistic excellence, supernatural transmission of artistic capacities

  • animism, shamanism, Tengriism, human–non-human relations

  • indigenous communities and New Media


  • Assistant in Opleiding, CNWS Research School of Asian, African and Amerindian Studies, Leiden University. Research project: “Contemporary chatkhan music and its significance in shaping modern Khakas identity” (2000–2004)
  • Advanced Master in Non-Western Studies, CNWS Research School of Asian, African and Amerindian Studies, Leiden University. Specialization in intercultural studies and anthropological fieldwork (1999-2000)
  • Khakas music studies, Khakas State University, Abakan, Russian Federation (1999)
  • Khakas and Russian language studies, Khakas State University, Abakan, Russian Federation (1999)
  • Khakas language study, Department of Turkology, Goethe Universität, Frankfurt am Main, Germany (1998–1999)
  • Research Doctoraal (MA) in Musicology (cum laude), Universiteit van Amsterdam. Specialization in mediaeval studies (1987–1992; graduated 1999)


  • Tempus Tacis Individual Mobility Grant for teaching at Khakas State University, Abakan, Russian Federation (September 2005)
  • NW0 Research grant and Leiden University travel grant for field research in Khakassia, Russian Federation (March 2001–May 2002)
  • Travel Grant Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage Research for field research in southern Siberia (Khakassia, Mountain Shoria, Altai; June–August 2000)
  • Travel grant Leiden University for archival research in Abakan and Novosibirsk, Russian Federation (December 1999–January 2000)
  • Study grant Leiden University for CNWS Advanced Master’s Programme (September 1999–August 2000)
  • Study travel grants from Nuffic Netherlands, Stichting Internationale Informatie en Communicatie (ICC), and Genootschap Noorthey for study of Russian and Khakas languages and Khakas music in Abakan, Russian Federation (March–September 1999)

Courses and Invited lectures

  • 2013 Lecture series “Music practices from the Sayan-Altai region: Inspired and engaged by nature, homeland, and spirits” for Corso di canto difonico turco-mongolo: tradizioni musicali in Mongolia e nella Siberia meridionale, Dipartimento di Studi sull'Asia e sull'Africa Mediterranea, Università Ca' Foscari Venezia, Venice, Italy
  • 2012 Invited guest lectureНовые медиа – благо или угроза для хакасской музыки, культури, сообществи?” (New Media – Benefit or threat for Khakas music, culture, community?), Festival Mir Sibiri, Shushenskoe, Krasnoyarskiy Kray, Russian Federation
  • 2012 Invited guest lectureНовые медиа – благо или угроза для хакасской музыки, культури, обществи?” (New Media – Benefit or threat for Khakas music, culture, community?), Хакасия 2012 Форум «Историко-культурное наследие как ресурс социокультурного развития», Cheremushki, Khakassia, Russian Federation
  • 2011 Invited guest lecture “Музыкальное выражение в пост 1991 Хакасии” (Musical expression in post-1991 Khakassia), Международная научно-практическая конференция “Идея независимости в (и) искусств. Прошлое и настоящее", Казахский национальный университет искусств, Astana, Kazakhstan
  • 2005 Intensive course “Музыка как межкультурная коммуникация” (Music as intercultural communication), Institute of Arts, Khakassia State University, Abakan, Russian Federation

Publications and some conference presentations

available on: https://leidenuniv.academia.edu/LiesbetNyssen


International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM)

ICTM Study Group for Music of the Turkic Speaking World

Central Eurasian Studies Society (CESS)

Social media



PhD Candidate

  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Leiden Institute for Area Studies


  • No relevant ancillary activities
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