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Krishna Yet to Win Russian Hearts

By: for The Hindu on Oct. 11, 2013
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Bookshelves and other furnitures from the dismantled Moscow Krishna temple lay on the street  

The long-running feud over Moscow’s ISKCON temple shows the suspicion and hostility that the Hare Krishna movement, legalised in Russia in 1988, still evokes in that country.

When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visits Russia next month for the annual summit with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin he will be asked to wade into the long-running stand-off between Moscow’s Krishna community and local authorities over the fate of the city’s only Krishna temple which is faced with a second eviction over the past decade.

“We are preparing a letter to our Prime Minister asking him for help in the temple controversy,” said Sadhu Priya Das of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), Moscow.

Moscow ISKCON has also appealed to Mr Putin and hope for his positive response, he told The Hindu.

Bailiffs have warned ISKCON that the city’s only Krishna temple on Leningradsky Prospect may be forcefully evicted any time now that it missed the July 31 deadline for vacating the land.

Start of troubles

The Krishna community’s ordeal began in 2004 when its temple on Begovaya Street was demolished to make way for high-rise construction under an urban development plan. The city government offered ISKCON a patch of land for temple construction on Leningradsky Prospect, but two years later tore up the agreement following strong protests from the Russian Orthodox Church.

Orthodox hierarchs objected to the large size of the proposed Krishna temple and its location on the site where thousands of Muscovites had been trampled to death during the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II in 1896.

ISKCON was offered another plot of land on the sparsely populated outskirts of Moscow, but that was again taken away earlier this year just as the Krishna community was about to launch the construction.

“We spent about 70 million roubles ($2.5 million) donated by our followers on preparing the project, but the Moscow government withdrew its permission just as we completed the long-winding project clearance procedure,” said Sergei Andreyev, who is in charge of the temple construction at Moscow ISKCON.

In their terse written response to questions from The Hindu, the Moscow Mayor’s Office cited “mass protests by residents” as a reason for cancelling the allocation of land for the Krishna temple.

This argument raised eyebrows at ISKCON.

“The nearest apartment houses are about one kilometre away from where our temple was to be built,” said Mr. Andreyev.

 Read more: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/krishna-yet-to-win-russian-hearts/article5151000.ece

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