(in Russian, Shakhsei-vakhsei), a day of mourning observed by Shiite Muslims in memory of the death of the “great martyr” Imam Husein, a son of Caliph Ali. Husein perished in a battle at Karbala on the tenth day of the month of Muharram in A.D. 680, the 61st year of the Hegira; he had been ambushed by soldiers of the Umayyad caliph Yazid I (ruled 680–683).
The religious ceremonies associated with Ashurah are accompanied by fasting and songs of prayer. Self-flagellation is encouraged, and the participants in the processions whip themselves, crying, “Shah Husein, ah, Husein!” (Russians in Persia heard the phrase as “Shakhsei-vakhsei!”) In addition, they inflict saber and dagger wounds on themselves in accordance with the traditional belief that Husein was stabbed 33 times and slashed 34 times. A passion play (taziyat) is also performed; the play depicts scenes from the lives of Husein and Caliph Ali, with emphasis on the murder of Husein.
The Shiites have officially observed the day in memory of Husein since the 16th century.