After being asked to help with the Moscow temple project in 2000, I began to pay more attention to the Russian news. Two things became clear: Moscow’s newfound wealth, and the power Russia has come to possess within the international community. It is extremely important for the roots of Krishna consciousness to take hold in Russia now.
As I traveled over the next few years for organizational meetings with various departments and dedicated souls, I gained an overwhelming respect for the creative, cultural, and spiritual nature of Russians and have come to see that they are seekers of truth. They have suffered greatly. Krishna consciousness and answers that come from the Vedic literature are a welcome respite for their broken hearts.
The Krishna consciousness movement in Russia has been on a long journey. But ultimately the ordeal has been for the better, since the journey has afforded Krishna’s devotees many opportunities to transmit Vedic culture, build relationships, and enlist prominent supporters. Devotees in Russia have received support from the British parliament and the mayor of Delhi, as well as many high-ranking officials in the federal governments of India and Russia. All have used robust diplomatic pressure to help the devotees build the first major ISKCON temple in Russia.
The quest to build that first temple has been a long uphill battle. Through this prolonged struggle, the devotees have been forced to hold services in an abandoned parking lot, with no water or sewage system to speak of. Despite these trials and previous one, many have dedicated themselves to Krishna consciousness for over twenty years now. They have visited India, gone on devotional pilgrimages, and continued to increase their faith in many ways. They have developed over sixty communities in the former USSR, all created in a mood of self-sacrifice. The Krishna devotees in Russia possess a strong work ethic and are always eager to do whatever is needed to get the job done. I’m inspired to bear witness to this, and hundreds of my colleagues have expressed similar sentiments.
I have attended three gatherings festivals on the Black Sea resort area of Russia. What an experience! The huge assortment of Russian devotees spanned all ages and backgrounds. From the very young to the very old, entire families and many well-educated youths were in attendance.
Devotees have friends among sophisticated leaders in Russian society and the arts. Russian devotees are populating temples all over the world. Devotees have met with Vladimir Putin and former Indian Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee.
What a ride it has been thus far, with so many twists and turns in our history in Russia! Now we have entered a new phase, and the most exciting times are in front of us.
On September 4, 2007, after the Moscow city government allotted the land, the devotees finalized the temple designs and signed a contract with an architectural firm to build the temple. The temple and cultural center will be world class, located on high ground overlooking a beautiful river and protected forests. The upscale area is known as “the Switzerland of Moscow.”
We launched a fundraising campaign last November to raise the $15 million dollars it will take to build the exquisite temple, where Russians of all ages and backgrounds can be educated formally in Krishna consciousness. The center will provide a fertile environment for the further cultural exchange of Russian and Vedic cultures, which already contributes to the Russian devotees’ dynamic theater and arts program. Devotees have had an ongoing food relief program and are well respected for their public services. Endowed with the beautiful space a temple can provide, devotees will be able to branch out and expand these services.
As a growing spiritual community, the devotees face the challenge of maintaining strong community involvement from its members. It is a difficult time for families, who have to deal with harsh economic realities. Corruption is still rampant in Russia, and particularly so in Moscow. This, coupled with an atmosphere of distrust spawned from memories of the past, weighs heavily on the aspiring students of spiritual life. They are in need of our help.
Please join us in this once-in-alifetime opportunity to give something of permanent value to the souls of Russia.