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Hinduism in Russia

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Early 18th century engraving depicting Hindu temple in Astrakhan, Russia

Hinduism has been spread in Russia primarily due to the work of missionaries from the Vaishnava Hindu organization International Society for Krishna Consciousness from the West, Brahma Kumaris and by itinerant swamis from India. There is an active Tantra Sangha operating in Russia.

According to the Hindu Forum of Britain, there are 60,000 Hindus in Russia, over 10,000 of whom live in Moscow. [1]

Hindu organizations in Russia

Hindu groups which have presence in Russia are ISKCON, Brahma Kumari, Ramakrishna Mission, Ananda Marga, the organizations associated with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Sahaja Yoga, Chinmaya Mission, Satya Sai Baba and Osho Rajneesh.

While ISKCON and Brahma Kumari appear to have a relatively strong following in Russia, the other organizations in the list have a marginal presence in this country.[2]

As of December 2005, the Federal Registration Service recorded the number of registered Hindu groups listing Hindu group and Hindu groups with particular orientation on Krishna (78), Tantric sects (2), and one Sikh religious organisation. [2]

Hindu Krishna centered groups

As of December 2005, the Federal Registration Service of Russia has registered 78 Krishna centered Hindu communities.

Other Hindu groups

Brahma Kumaris has 20 centres in Russia. Ramakrishna Mission has one centre in Russia. Ananda Marga has a centre in Barnaul.[2]

Russian Tantra Sangha

Tantra Sangha has fifteen spiritual communities and satsang groups with estimated 250 members in Moscow and other towns. As of December 2005, the Federal Registration Service of Russia has registered only two Tantra Sangha branches.[2] The first registered branch is in Moscow, the Second Tantra Sangha branch at Nizhniy Novgorod was officially recognized on December 7, 1993. Tantra Sangha perform Vedic fire ceremonies under the open sky near rivers and forests according to orthodox Vedic Hindu rites adjusted for the Russian situation.

Excavation of Vishnu idol

During an excavation in an abandoned village in the Volga region, archaeologist Alexander Kozhevin excavated an ancient Vishnu idol. The idol dates from between the seventh and tenth centuries AD. Prior to this discovery, Kozhevin has already unearthed ancient coins, pendants, rings and weapon fragments. The village, Staraya Maina, had been a dense population center approximately 1700 years ago. The Times of India reported that this discovery raised questions about the prevalent view of the origin of ancient Russia. In an interview Kozhevin stated that, "We may consider it incredible, but we have ground to assert that Middle-Volga region was the original land of Ancient Rus. This is a hypothesis, but a hypothesis, which requires thorough research."[3]

Controversy over construction of a Hindu temple in Moscow

A large centre is being built in Moscow, which was initially opposed by the Russian Orthodox Church. In 2003 the authorities asked devotees to vacate their temple in exchange for a piece of land on which they could build a bigger temple.[4]

This was followed immediately by mass protests orchestrated by the Russian Orthodox Church which did not want land given to a temple that was "converting Russian Christians to a Hindu way of life". Hindus were victimized, threatened, bullied, beaten and subject to violence. A misinformation campaign was launched against Hindus by the Orthodox Church.[5]

Finally, in November 2005, the Mayor of Moscow canceled the land order and took away the piece of land given for the construction of the Hindu temple. Russia also has a history of passing laws that discriminate against minority faith communities.

On November 29 2005, Archbishop Nikon of the Russian Orthodox Church sent a letter to the mayor of Moscow, describing the Hindu deity Krishna as an 'evil demon'.[6][7] The letter continued in that manner, using words such as 'satanic'.

On January 14, 2006, Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone handed over letters expressing concern about the harassment of Russian Hindus by the Moscow Government and the Russian Orthodox Church to the visiting Mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov in London, even as British Parliamentarians led by Ashok Kumar MP, Lord Dholakia and Baroness Flather got ready to host the launch of the Defend Russian Hindus campaign at the House of Commons on 18 January of the same year.

British Parliamentarians and members of the Hindu, Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities will adopt a resolution at the Defend Russian Hindus launch at the House of Commons, urging the Moscow Government to stop harassment of minority religions in Russia. Parliamentarians from all three parties will later hand a copy of this resolution to the Russian Ambassador in London.[4]

See also


  1. "WorldWide Religious News-Website against harassment of Hindus in Russia". Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "Russia, International Religious Freedom Report 2006". US Gov. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  3. "Ancient Vishnu idol found in Russian town" Times of India 4 Jan 2007
  4. 4.0 4.1 "RDN Article: Hindu Organizations Launch "Defend Russian Hindus" Website (Russia, International)". Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  5. "DUMA DEPUTIES OPPOSE ERECTING OF MAJOR HINDU TEMPLE IN MOSCOW. IPR Strategic Business Information Database (November, 2003)". Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  6. "Lord Krishna a Demon? So says the Russian Archbishop". Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  7. "Defend Russian Hindus Campaign". Retrieved 2008-11-01. 

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