About Altai Pilgrim

” Pure connections, vital words “


geographical name  Al·tai  \ˌal-ˈtī\
variants: or Altay


noun  pil·grim  \ˈpil-grəm\


A person who makes a journey, often a long and difficult one, to a special place for religious reasons; 

A person regarded as journeying through life


adjective  vi·tal  \ˈvī-təl\
full of life and vigour; fundamentally concerned with or affecting life or living beings; tending to renew or refresh the living; of the utmost importance; recording data relating to lives

Altai Pilgrim Studio was born of a personal journey to the Altai Republic situated at the extreme south of Siberia. There I lived with the indigenous people of the Ongudai Region at the heart of Altai (the ‘Altai kijhi’) for a decade.

During this time I conducted research into the Altai indigenous spiritual philosophy, ritual text, rock art and the ancient symbolic texts of the nomadic peoples of the Eurasian steppe, otherwise known as the ‘Scytho-Siberian Animal Style’. I taught English as a foreign language and with time became a translator for nature parks and the United Nations Project ‘Conservation of Biodiversity in the Russian Portion of the Altai-Sayan Ecoregion’.

In Siberia, I learned all sorts of things; to survive in minus 40, to plait sheep intestines even, but what I value most about this time is how immensely it deepened my appreciation of the communicative power of words and images. I developed a profound trust in the transformative power of word and image for the deeper purpose of sharing cultural wisdom.

Based now in the United Kingdom on the North Norfolk coast, the experience of my ‘Siberian apprenticeship’ greatly informs my work. Through storytelling and translation, I share the treasures of my personal journey striving to communicate also the beauty and vitality of the Altai world.

Altai Pilgrim Studio is not just about my personal journey to Altai, ‘the pearl of Asia’, neither is it solely about the Altai in Siberia. Contemporary society thirsts for the vitality of spiritual renewal, for reconnection with the life force inherent in soul, nature and a dynamic relationship with the divine. But how do we get there? The search for an answer to this question is perhaps the most significant pilgrimage of our time. Altai Pilgrim Studio aims to contribute to the search by striving for purity in connection with land, community and spirit, and vital expression in words. Working with knowledge keepers, writers and other creatives, the Studio works to validate the voices which enliven hope and inspire courage in the pilgrim whatever form their journey might take.

My background

I completed a Cambridge University degree in Modern & Medieval Languages. My studies were in German and Russian from scratch and yet I so loved the Russian language, history and literature that I majored in Russian and spent my year abroad in Moscow. After graduating I moved to Siberia where I worked initially in Akademgorodok, Novosibirsk and later in the Ongudai Region of the Altai Republic. It was in Altai that my ‘translator apprenticeship’ began. I worked for Altai indigenous initiatives as well as WWF Russia, United Nations and the Russian Academy of Sciences. I am now based back in the UK and divide my time between creative writing and professional translation.

Joanna Dobson

In the words of my lovely clients


Travel, translation, transformation

Read more at Altai Pilgrim blog