Krishna Consciousness in Russia

Nanda-tanuja Dasa - October 8, 2004 9:47 pm

Some devotees have been curious about my experiences with Krishna Consciousness in Russia that with combination of deep gratitude to my brothers and sisters overseas prompted me to think about it, remembering old friends, places and I've decided to make a couple of translations of some articles with memories and historical facts from Russian to English for you. I hope you’ll find them somewhat appealing and moving.

Nanda-tanuja Dasa - October 8, 2004 9:48 pm

Shrila Prabhupada in Moscow


The speech given by Shyamasundara dasa at the 25th anniversary of ISKCON in Russia (Moscow, July 14, 1996)



It is likely that you are too young to remember how the world was twenty-five to thirty years ago. At that time, the two greatest and most powerful nations in the world – the Soviet Union and America – were involved in a war that was lengthy and could not be turned to peace. This was the longest, most expensive, and most dangerous war in the history of mankind – the Cold War. The Berlin Wall, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam… the world was in a constant state of unrest. At any moment, the world could have perished in the flames of the nuclear war these two superpowers could have started. And now imagine Shrila Prabhupada – a man seventy years of age, with neither friends nor money, who arrives alone in the West and carries with him the perfect recipe for peace. “Chant Hare Krishna and be happy.” Very quickly, this recipe of Shrila Prabhupada’s – “the formula for peace” – spread through all of the western countries. But what about the world’s other great nation – the Soviet Union? How was he to spread this Movement here, in the Soviet Union?

In the latter part of the Sixties, Shrila Prabhupada constantly pondered as to how to start and accomplish this task. How could he penetrate the iron curtain? How could he begin to speak to the people of the Soviet Union about accepting Krishna? To his first disciples, he repeated again and again: “One way or another, I must depart for Russia; please, help me with this.”

Somehow, Shrila Prabhupada obtained the name and address of professor Kotovskiy. Doctor Kotovskiy was a famous scientist/indologist working in the Soviet Academy of Sciences. And at the end of the Sixties, Shrila Prabhupada began a correspondence with professor Kotovskiy which lasted several years. Invariably, the same answer arrived from Moscow: “If you can visit here, I would gladly meet you.” Prabhupada took this to be an official invitation. He asked his students to obtain a visa for him and do everything possible for him to come here, to Russia. Krishna das attempted this – he failed. Hamsadutta attempted this several times as well. In the middle of 1971, all of the many attempts to get a visa to visit Russia for Shrila Prabhupada crashed and burned. In early June of 1971 Shrila Prabhupada was in Bombay. At that time I was the president of the Bombay temple. Hamsadutta arrived from Germany, and we agreed to meet with him in Shrila Prabhupada’s chamber. Shrila Prabhupada immediately asked Hamsadutta, “Have you arranged for me to journey to Russia?” Hamsadutta answered, “No, Shrila Prabhupada, obtaining a visa there is extremely difficult.” Then Shrila Prabhupada glanced at me and said, “Shyamasundara, can you get me a visa to Russia here in Bombay?” I said that I would attempt to. That same day, I went to the Soviet embassy in Bombay. I discovered that obtaining a visa to Russia wasn’t difficult at all if Shrila Prabhupada and two of his helpers departed for there as tourists on a five-day tourist’s visa. In reality, at that time everything was included in that visa: a stay in a hotel, tours in which they would have to take part, etc. I informed Shrila Prabhupada of this and he said, “Obtain the visa. Since Hamsadutta is incapable of doing so, you must accompany me.” He asked me, “Will you be able to type on a typewriter?” I answered, “Yes, I can type.” One way or another, it was extremely hard for two Americans to come to Russia at that time.

I obtained our visas. We had a letter of invitation from Mister Kotovskiy. But I cannot remember why we were forced to leave immediately. We did not have enough time to inform Mister Kotovskiy of the fact that we were arriving and receive his answer. I remember how we feverishly packed, and I didn’t really know what to pack because I didn’t know what Shrila Prabhupada needed. And at the very last moment I thought that we need to get a camera somewhere. I ran around Bombay and at last I found some cheap, simple camera and a roll of film with twelve shots on it. That was all that one could find in Bombay at the time. And so, when we were flying here, we had absolutely no idea what was to be expected of Russia. I was raised on the horror stories and tales of the doings of the KGB and of various concentration camps which were in Russia, so while we were flying, I was experiencing a bit of nervous tension. But, as we were traveling with our fearless teacher and master, I felt myself to be completely safe. The only thing that I was afraid of was whether or not I would be able to properly serve him their in the role of a secretary and whether or not I would accidentally allow some horrible mistake to occur.

We had no meeting scheduled with Mister Kotovskiy. We didn’t even know if he was in Moscow, if he had left on vacation, or maybe for some other reason he would be unable to meet with us. We thought, “What are we going to do in this country and this city over the course of five days?” We flew literally blindfolded, seeing nothing, flying on yet another magic airplane which Shrila Prabhupada was building.

Do you know the story of Mister Lal, the pilot who was flying this plane to Moscow? How he invited Shrila Prabhupada to remain in the cockpit with him during the flight? And when Shrila Prabhupada returned from the cockpit to his place on the plane, he said, “This is just some sort of car – just a little bit bigger.” In other words, the plane didn’t impress him much. When we arrived in Moscow, we had to go through various formalities in customs, which took a great deal of time and was rather difficult. Shrila Prabhupada was being accompanied by two Americans, so the customs officials thoroughly inspected all of our belongings. All the books on religion were strictly forbidden, and it was illegal to bring them into the country. When they opened the Bhagavad-Gita, a number of photographs and images of Krishna and Shrila Prabhupada fell out of it. The customs official inspected these photographs for a long time, and I thought to myself, “He’s going to confiscate all of this.” But after some time, he just put everything back into the book, closed it, and let us through. In reality, this was a stroke of luck, because it was from this very copy of the Bhagavad-Gita that I brought with me that the Movement recognizing Krishna sprang up in Russia.

When we were driven to the hotel in a huge limousine, Shrila Prabhupada began to insist that we cook our own food. And after a long discussion with the hotel’s management we were allowed to use the staff kitchen, which was near Shrila Prabhupada’s room. Fortunately, Shrila Prabhupada brought three-tier stackable pots with him. Our rooms were very small. My room was located one floor lower than that of Shrila Prabhupada, while Arvada slept in the same room as Shrila Prabhupada, but on the floor. Immediately after our arrival I went to buy some groceries, and I immediately understood that this would be a great problem for us. To tell you the truth, I spent most of my time in Moscow searching for food. On the first day, I called Mister Kotovskiy and arranged a meeting with him. Luckily for us, he agreed to meet with us, and on the next day we left for the Academy of Sciences. I think that you have all read the recording of Shrila Prabhupada’s conversation with professor Kotovskiy, so I won’t go into detail about it. I secretly recorded it. The microphone was located under my dhoti. (At the time, I was attempting to imitate the KGB). Near the end, Shrila Prabhupada provided evidence against all of his arguments and spoke of accepting Krishna in a very attractive and charming manner. From the start, however, it was obvious, that Kotovskiy was a Marxist, and this ideology would get in the way of his understanding of the true meaning of the Vedic scriptures. Namely, who is God? What is a soul? What is the meaning of life? And how can one establish world peace? The professor saw meaningless history and archeology in everything. He did not see in all of this a living, life-asserting, spiritual culture. For this reason, it was obvious that Mister Kotovskiy would not help Shrila Prabhupada speak of accepting Krishna in some other place in Russia. When we returned to the hotel, Shrila Prabhupada was very disappointed and experienced a great deal of restlessness. He constantly asked me, “What am I to do now, what am I to do?” Once, early in the morning (this was at the end of June, 1971) we took a walk down the streets of Moscow. We were walking, and Shrila Prabhupada made various remarks. He liked walking in a large city where there were very few cars and the streets were washed clean. He saw hundreds of people who formed a huge line in front of Lenin’s mausoleum at six in the morning. This, of course, brought him to the analogy that Marx and Lenin took the place of God in the consciousness of the people. He saw a large number of churches which were being guarded by soldiers and which were closed at the time. For this reason, he said that Russians were naturally inclined towards spirituality, and yet they had lost their spirituality, replacing it with demon worship. At one moment he managed to see a number of tanks and missiles, which were driving along the streets. This evoked the following remark from him: “This government won’t last long, as it is impossible to keep people in such a state through force and terror.” He said that these people were very patient and pious, and for that reason they bore all of this for such a long period of time. And yet, this won’t last long. He said that somewhere, in maybe 20 years, communism would meet its end. This demonstrated how deeply Shrila Prabhupada understood the course of history. When we returned to the hotel, Shrila Prabhupada again became restless. For this reason, we went on an official tour of Moscow by bus. And while we drove along the streets, he saw that the police stood near several churches, and that the churches were all rundown. By that time, when we drove up to the Moscow University, Shrila Prabhupada was deeply affected by the fact that everywhere you could only see concrete structures, which had no spiritual meaning to them. He was already tired of talking about this so-called social progress. (He said, “What’s the use of all this social progress? Now is the best time to grow food, but we can’t find food in this country!”) For this reason we returned to the hotel by taxi. And I remember that the taxi driver reacted to Shrila Prabhupada with great respect because he felt that there was a holy man with him. And, when I asked him how much we owed, he said, “Give me what you can, if you want.” After that I went off again in search of groceries. I discovered that everywhere yogurt, buttermilk, and milk were being sold, but there were almost no vegetables and absolutely no fruits. In the end, I was able to buy 2 kilograms of relatively decent North Korean rice. Then Shrila Prabhupada said, “Let’s prepare a great amount of sweet rice. At least we won’t die of hunger.” We made so much sweet rice that we had nowhere to store it. For this reason, Prabhupada told Aravinda, “Bring me my lota.” Aravinda protested, “Shrila Prabhupada, you use this lota in the bathroom and restroom…” But Shrila Prabhupada said, “For Krishna, one can use anything that has meaning.”

Once, when I was returning from my journey for groceries, I saw something extremely funny. I was waling by the hall of the hotel National, and suddenly I saw Aravinda running with extreme discomfort from the kitchen, and some sort of pots and plates flew after him. Then a large maid ran out after him with a broom in her hand and tried to hit him with it. Apparently, he had user her sugar to make the sweet rice, and she wasn’t too pleased. Two days passed thus. We had three days left and no idea what to do. Shrila Prabhupada constantly said, “This is a hopeless place, let’s leave here.” But we could not leave, since we had taken upon ourselves a duty to “Intourist.” For this reason I always thought of how and with what I could occupy Shrila Prabhupada for the next three days. Krishna answered my prayers.

When I left for groceries the next day, I was stopped in the street by two youths, one Indian and one Russian. They introduced themselves. The Indian was Narayana, whose father was the second-in-command at the Indian embassy. The other, whom we know under the name Ananta Shanti das, was a student of Indian philology. The first question they asked me was whether or not I had any dollars that I could exchange for rubles? I said, “No.” The next question was, do I have any American jeans? Again, I answered, “No.” But I said, “I want you to come with and meet my spiritual teacher.” I got very lucky because one of them was Indian and knew what swamiji was, so he convinced his friend to come with me. When I brought them to the room of Shrila Prabhupada, he was happy, and he shined like an electric bulb. At last, he had somebody to preach to. Over my many years of socializing with Shrila Prabhupada I had never seen him so radiant, so powerful in his preaching, and at the same time, so attractive. He immediately began to feed the youths sweet rice. At the same time, he began to speak to them. At the start, he just started a meaningless conversation. But soon he approached the very meaning of accepting Krishna. He could see that the Russian youth was unusually intelligent. For that reason, Shrila Prabhupada literally poured the whole point of accepting Krishna onto him in a short amount of time – in several sentences. He explained to him the meaning of life in acceptance of Krishna with all the detailed instructions on what must be done and how it must be done. He even game him lessons on how to prepare and eat prasadam. And all of this in the space of three short days! I gave my Bhagavad-Gita to Ananta Shanti. He asked me to find him a foreign wife. We decided that this would help him preach. We came to an agreement with the Indian Adumbhar that he would receive books by diplomatic mail and pass them on to Ananta Shanti.

Thus began that which eventually became one of the most successful stories of Krishna Consciousness. For us, the people of the West, it is very hard to imagine all this. Ananta Shanti was imprisoned for six years. And many others loyal to the cause, his friends, spent from two to four years in prison. And to recognize even further the extent sufferings, one must take into account the fact that if they had betrayed others loyal to their cause, they would have been released. Several did this: they betrayed their friends and were released. However, most preferred to suffer in asylums and prisons rather than betray their cause. The greatest Russian supporters of the cause, as I see it, are the best and brightest proof of the power of the teachings of Shrila Prabhupada – teachings which he brought to Russia. From these many Russian supporters only one personally met Shrila Prabhupada and spoke with him for only three days! And that one loyal supporter did not just understand Shrila Prabhupada, but he accepted him and became loyal to him. These supporters accepted Shrila Prabhupada wholeheartedly and swore loyalty to him without any outside help available in spreading the word of Prabhupada. They were willing to sacrifice their lives for him. And more importantly, they were willing to suffer for endless years in prison for all of this. Now, when I have returned to Moscow twenty-five years later, I have been able to see with my own eyes that the recipe of peace that Shrila Prabhupada brought here – the formula of peace – truly works! In my country, peace prevails, and in yours peace also prevails. And now, when I see all of you – perfect, clean, polite angels, giving off the radiance of the children of Shrila Prabhupada – I cannot fight the transcendental feelings within me. I am so grateful to you all!

If in my pointless and ignorant life there was nothing else than this, I could still say that I have seen the great wonder, built by the hands of Shrila Prabhupada, that is the Russian yatra.


Picture of Ananta Shanti das:


Nanda-tanuja Dasa - October 8, 2004 9:51 pm

The years of repression.


Article by Gana das.



When the Olympic torch was taken out of Moscow (in summer of 1980) and the restless capital calmed down after the unprecedented presence of foreigners, the leaders of the KGB thought of the followers of the Krishna Consciousness, of whom there were already over one hundred, with thousands of others reading Prabhupada’s books. The missionary activity of the devotees upset several high-level members of the government, whose ideology had no room for a God and his just laws, which are the foundation of a Vedic government. The activities of Prabhupada’s followers in the USSR not only remained unacknowledged, but were misrepresented. A row of KGB officers took bhakti yoga to be an ideological diversion introduced by the USA. Their interest in the matter increased as a result of the opportunity to receive medals and awards for their work. The group “Search” was created, headed up by a certain major Belopotapov. The KGB formed a plan – hold several trials in various regions of the country, declare the activities of the Movement to be anti-Soviet, and get rid of them as a result.

By that time several tightly knit groups of loyal followers of the Movement formed – in Moscow, Riga, Tallinn, and Kaunas. In Leningrad, Krasnoyarsk, and Yekaterinburg groups of vaishnavas were also forming, but they were not organized yet. Two missionary groups, headed by Ananta Shanti (Anatoly Pinayev), whose secretary was Bharadwaj (Valentin Yaroshuk), and Vrindavan (Vladimir Kustra), whose constant companion was Japa (Yuri Fedchenko), were traveling the country.

Especially large programs were going on in Moscow. Here, devotees were very open and even petitioned the government to be allowed to register themselves. They gave lectures in clubs, movie theaters, Red Corners (1), apartments, and auditoriums. At Spirkin’s Institute and the Institute of Physical Education were official groups of mantra study, simultaneously teaching the basics of the philosophy of vaishnavism and parapsychology. The eldest instructors – Ananta Shanti, Surya (Sergey Mitrofanov), and Vidura (Vladimir Devatkin) – were able to go through several groups of students. Similarly, lectures were given at the Moscow Aviation Institute, the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Moscow State University, and other institutes of higher learning.

One of the programs, which took place in the Red Corner of the dormitory of the Physics department of the Moscow State University, was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and immediately after that program was held, the persecution began. From the point of view of the Party’s leadership, there was something to be irritated by – in the nation’s most prominent university, posters saying “The ancient system of yoga – bhakti yoga. Partaking of blessed food – prasadam. Mantras.” were hanging on the walls. Tickets to the program were being sold in the Komsomol (2) committee, and the auditorium, whose maximum occupancy was seventy people, was forced to accommodate twice that amount. Many of those who wanted to attend were unable to. On the morning of the next day, rector Lagunov was asked an assembly of professors, “Do you know that yesterday in a building of the Moscow State University a mass prayer was held? They’ve set up missionary shop here!”

Soon after this, an instructor and Moscow State graduate student, Vladimir Kritskiy (Vishvamitra), who organized the program, was called into the rector’s office, where he was being awaited by an agent of the KGB. Vishvamitra was given a choice – to either give up his new convictions, or to leave his job and give up on his Ph.D. Fate was testing his reliability, and demonstrating loyalty to Prabhupada, he abandoned Moscow State, inside whose walls he had spent nearly ten years. In the beginning of 1982, KGB agents searched his apartment and confiscated Vaishnava literature, store-bought Indian vases, a cassette player, and even a bathrobe, giving the explanation that the robe could be used by a cult. This young man was seen as the organizer of the Movement in the USSR and was the first of the Soviet followers of the Movement to be arrested. In a few months, they also arrested Muscovites artist Sergei Kurkin (Sadananda), who had been monitored in the Caucasus and literally plucked from the mountains. In October of 1982, there was a trial, and both were sentenced to work camps. Kritskiy was given four years, while Kurkin was given two and a half. To convict these controversial thinkers, the judges cited the “deadly” 227th article of the penal code of the RSFSR, which had rarely been used before then. The two were accused of causing physical and mental harm under cover of religious activity and of stirring the citizens of the USSR to refuse to participate in community service.

A year later, five other followers of the movement were tried, and sentences of the same sort were given out in Sverdlovsk, Krasnoyarsk, Stavropol, Vinnitsa, Suhumi, and Yerevan. In order to obtain the evidence necessary for convictions, psychiatrists were forced to give false testimony based on false medical evidence, and witnesses were usually weak-minded people who were either blackmailed, rewarded, or told that they were being patriotic by testifying. This activity on the part of the KGB added fifty people to Soviet prisons. As a result, at the end of the Eighties, all of the crimes attributed to followers of the Movement were re-examined and found to be falsified. The verdicts contained language regarding all of the trials that declared that all of the accused were found innocent of any crime and all of their sentences must be lifted. Not only did they use the courts to stifle belief, but they were not above using psychiatrists to lock people up in asylums. To break the spirit of the vaishnavas, doctors prescribed them drugs and various mind-altering substances. They picked specific drugs that caused a person to be unable to concentrate on his thoughts. Devotees used their spiritual energy in the repetition of mantras, on concentration on the Vaishnava writings, and now doctors dissolved their concentration and impeded the ability to be nourished by spiritual energy. Nonetheless, the wills of the vast majority of the followers of Prabhupada were not broken, and after rehabilitation the continued their service to god, remembering hospitals and prisons that were like hell.

Blackmail and threats were used in this fight against new ways of thinking, and sacrifices were made. Sachisuta (Sarkis Ogandjanyan) died December 26, 1986 of starvation in ITK (3) No.5, never getting that which any civilized country should provide – vegetarian food. Refusing food containing meat, fish, and eggs, he ate only bread, receiving nothing other than the daily rations due a prisoner. As a result he died, and other devotees, exposed to similar circumstances, lost some of their immunity, which led to serious illness. On July 26, 1986, in the second division of the Sovetashin asylum in Yerevan, Martik Zhamkochan died. This happened on the fifth day after he was placed in the asylum, where doctors started force-feeding him non-vegetarian food and were giving him ejections of haloperidol (4). This is a horrible mind-bending weapon, which is intended for stifling of the will. Another sacrifice of this unprecedented persecution was Gegam Murdzyan, whose mutilated body was found in the mountains of Garni, not far from the university. Before then he had constantly been threatened by members of various committees. Needless to say, the murderers were never found.

A woman and a child were also subjected to persecution. Her name was Premavati (Olga Kisileva), and she was the mother of two infants. She was accused of assembling religious meetings. Also the accusers said in court that the reading of maha-mantra leads to insanity, to which one of the accused, journalist A. Levin, answered that in that case one must consider seven hundred million Indians insane. This phrase made a big impression, and the court went silent. And yet, major Belopotapov did not allow the judges to take note of any valid statements made by the accused. He knew that if the trial was extended, information about it would leak. Because of this he hurried the judges, openly giving them commands. Seeing this lawlessness, Olga Kisileva’s lawyer, an old lady, fainted. The judges stated that since the statement of one of the witnesses had not been heard, the trial should be postponed to the next week. However, Belopotapov said that he would bring the lady back to consciousness. Immediately she was taken out of the court, and after doing something to her, they woke her up. When she was allowed to speak, she immediately asked the judges, “Who is this man in the leather jacket (5)? Why is he running the trial?” Hearing this, the judges did not know what to answer. However, her statement did not affect the trial, and even when she said that throwing the pregnant Olga Kisileva in jail was a violation of her rights and that it was necessary to take into account the fact that she had two infants, and that in the worst case, she should only be subjected to a minor punishment – even then the judges could not act on principle and had to listen to the man in the leather jacket. Premavati was sentenced to four years in a labor camp. She was forced to give birth in the presence of security guards, who thought she might attempt to run away in such circumstances. The birth was rather painful, but nonetheless Premavati had an adequate young girl, who was given the name Marika. In 11 months, Marika died in the House of the mother and child, which was located on the grounds of the labor camp. This name, however, did not reflect the truth – mothers were only given one hour a day to be with their children, and the rest of the time they were cared for by nannies. Premavati bore the death of her daughter with great difficulty, but her belief in Krishna did not go out. The memories of Marika, Sarkis, Martik, and Gegam will eternally protect the vaishnavas of the world.

Located in prison camps and hospitals, devotees did not stop their spiritual practices – they chanted and sang mantras, they spread their beliefs, and some even managed to read books. Their behavior in the tough circumstances of prison life evoked the respect of all of the prisoners. Always clean, every morning they washed themselves, they washed their hands before and after eating, they taught the prisoners yoga, and they gave wise advice and demonstrated a surprising calmness – a quality of which many dream. In several places devotees managed to preach on a large scale. For instance, in Tsulinkidz, the prison camp at which Ambarisha (Otar Nachkebiya) and Mayuradhvaj (Nuzgar Chargazia) were held, the prisoners chanted Hare Krishna as they marched. In the tea-harvesting season, they were led out into the fields, and on the way they constantly sang Hare Krishna for at least two hours a day. And they understood that this way they were purifying their consciousness. In this camp they came to love prasadam – blessed vegetarian food. The prisoners freed Ambarisha and Mayuradhvaj of the responsibility of work, brought them vegetarian food, and at night the whole regiment sat down to a feast prepared by them, a feast without alcohol, meat, fish, or eggs. Then they listened to stories of Krishna and conversed on philosophical topics. Since the overseers of this camp were not very anti-religious and were interested in good, hard work, they did not impede any of these happenings, seeing that the level of aggression among the prisoners was decreasing. However, agents of the KGB destroyed this harmony – they sent Ambarisha to the north, and they started threatening Mayuradhvaj and hampering his efforts. And although these and other loyal devotees of Krishna were not allowed to preach in areas where their freedom was taken away, their activity in prisons played an enormous role in the lives of many prisoners. Thanks to these preachers many criminals changed their ways of life after being released and continued to meet with vaishnavas and other religious people.

During the period when the persecution was occurring, the Movement continued to develop. Its followers acted conspiratorially. They were aided by stories they read in school about hero-soldiers and other activists of red underground. They changed passwords in secret hideouts, learned to figure out when they were being followed, and wrote down names and addresses in Sanskrit. Of course, the KGB started using scientists to decode the alphabet, and then several followers of the Movement started working on their memory. A. Olshevskiy (Arjuna) started writing things down in ancient Tibetan, which was known to practically nobody in the USSR. This was the difficulty of the circumstances in which devotees were forced to spread the Vedic sciences. In all of the republics they spread the work of Prabhupada, translated by them into Russian, which were distributed in tens of thousands in Armenia and Lithuania. To transport books around the country and sell them was dangerous, but vaishnavas took that risk, since their own experience told them that these books, giving higher knowledge and opening the eyes to the world, literally got rid of suffering. The books were often confiscated, but despite financial losses, the Movement continued its missions, since they were interested in the idea of spreading Vedic knowledge, which led man to happiness. The most mobile and bright preacher in the years of repression was Mamu Thakur (birth name Michael Shilov, current name Murali Mohan das), in the past the chairman of a huge Leningrad committee of artists. His wife was daughter of a famous Soviet composer, and his friends were bohemians. He had no problems with money and career, but he did not like the fate of a materially rich but spiritually poor man. Attempting to find the meaning of life through philosophic searches, he ended up in Riga in 1980, taking part in a program led by students of Prabhupada – Harikesha Swami and Kirtiraj Prabhu. It is hard to value their contribution to the growth of the Movement in the Soviet Union. Risking their lives, they came to an atheist country under cover of tourists, taught devotees of the USSR Vedic culture, and passed books, musical instruments, images and objects of worship on to them. At the time of their visit in 1980, agents of the KGB constantly watched them, and they even escorted them on the plane flying from Moscow to Riga. At the time of the spiritual program in the capital of Latvia, Harikesha Swami and Kirtiraj Prabhu were arrested, and after several days they were deported from the USSR and refused the right to enter the country. Mamu Thakur became a witness of everything that happened in Riga, but this did not scare him, rather, this taught him and gave him enthusiasm. Having entered into Prabhupada’s instruction, he saw in him a perfect philosophic model and chose to devote his whole life to enlightening activity. Using his accumulated resources, he started traveling the country, and later, when his money ran out, he sold one of his cars. Thanks to his selfless spiritual efforts in the Ural Mountains, in Central Asia, and in Leningrad, groups of true devotees sprang up. He went to other regions too, invariably remaining untouched by the agents of the KGB. Their dream – to throw Shilov behind bars – never came true. Mamu Thakur possessed a special intuition, and this intuition allowed him to stay free and continue Prabhupada’s mission. At the start of the Nineties he left for the United States, and since then he has been preaching to Russian immigrants and Americans there.

The growth of the Movement directly depended on the translation of Bhaktivedanta Swami’s books into Russian, and the leading role in that respect was played by Vaidyanathan (Vadim Tuneyev, now known as Bhakti Vigyan Goswami Maharaja), once the leader of the Movement in Russia. He started to learn and practice vaishnavism in 1980 as a graduate student at Moscow State University. Even earlier, as a chemistry student at the University, he heard the Hare Krishna mantra when his roommate Japa was chanting it in the shower. Later, Japa introduced Vaidyanathan to the Rigan and Muscovites devotees of Krishna. After finishing graduate school, Vaidyanathan, who was being hunted by the KGB, went to his hometown of Tashkent, where he got a job as a scientist in the academic institute. Here, together with the artist Madhava Ghosh (Timur Fayzirahman) and Jagadyoni (Irina Fayzirahman) he propagated the teachings of vaishnavism. However, the Uzbek government refused to leave him in peace, and in 1987, he moved to Sweden, where he moved into a traditional Vaishnava monastery. Now he could devote the lion’s share of his time to translation without fear of hindrance. His first task was to edit the translations that already existed, fixing their grammar and style. Doing this was far from simple, since as a rule, several people translated the same book, their styles did not coincide, and not all of them were qualified to do the translation. For several books, it was easier to just translate them all over again. At the start, Vaidyanathan had the help of Vedavyas (Valentin Yurov), who lived in Sweden. Finally, Vaidyanathan sent his first translation, the 350 page “Teachings of Lord Chaitanya”, to the Soviet Union.

The torch was passed to the Caucasian followers of the Movement. Sanatana Dharma, a specialist in underground publishing, and his friend Ananda Chaitanya decided to try and publish the book legally. Dressed in traditional vaishnava clothing and with a traditional clay brahmana mark on his head, Ananda Chaitanya came to the typographer of the communist party of Lithuania “Lituanos” and had a business meeting. However paradoxical this may have looked or sounded, the communists agreed, and so for the first time ever, a book by Shrila Prabhupada was published by official means in the USSR. One hundred thousand copies were made, and then the management of the Soviet branch of the publishing company “BBT” started looking for legal ways to publish these books. However, several bureaucrats continued to impede this process. In 1989, the government, having allowed into the country containers with three different vaishnava books in them, did not want to give it to Prabhupada’s followers. The writings were printed and sent from East Berlin. They arrived at Moscow customs on September 12, 1989. There were one hundred and ninety-one thousand copies. Despite the fact that all the laws regarding the import of literature had been followed and tariffs had been paid, the books were locked up in storage with no hurry to hand them over to their owners. Asking for fairness from the customs officials, the vaishnavas waited for a decision, but never received an answer, and because of this they began to stage demonstrations in Moscow, demanding that the books addressed to them be given them. Finally, on September 22, the vaishnavas met with E. Zaykov, the deputy manager of the humanitarian problems department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who demonstrated intelligence and flexibility and admitted that the actions of the customs officials breached the Viennese agreement and promised to get involved in this problem. Nonetheless, on the same day, the peaceful demonstration of the vaishnavas was attacked by people in state and police uniforms, using martial arts and trampling banners with slogans on them. However, in the end, the books were given to their owners, and soon it became obvious that the demand for vaishnava literature in the Soviet Union was enormous. Over several months, its citizens bought all one hundred and ninety thousand volumes. The books were read with great enjoyment, and then people started searching the carriers of this knowledge, the followers of the Movement, and now the Movement gained a mass character. Despite the difficult conditions, it did not die; it triumphed, showing the triumph of love over fear, proving that the soul is stronger than and above matter. And those who were familiar with the KGB’s attempt to stop the growth of the Movement in the USSR came to an important conclusion. The greatest intelligence operation in the world, lacking no means to influence people, was morally defeated by a handful of peaceful vegetarians who worshipped Krishna, in whose hands there were no weapons, no mind-altering substances, and no dungeons.



1 – Traditionally, the Red Corner - krasnyi ugol - was a place in a house for religious icons. Soviet leaders, as part of their attempt to eradicate religious superstition, changed the name to Little Red Corner (krasnyi ugolok) and established one in every enterprise, school and institution. From a sacred place for icons, it became a wall space for Soviet propaganda. The content varied from place to place; it might be a little museum with portraits of shock-workers (udarniki) or war veterans or exemplary pupils, but universally it was a place for the propagation of Soviet ideas and local information. The wall would have propaganda, texts, portraits, and wall newspapers (stengazeta). The color red - a sacred color for pre-Soviet Russians as well as for Russian revolutionaries - was always present.

2 – "Communist Union of Youth", the organization served as the youth wing of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union The Communist Party of the Soviet Union the youngest members being fourteen years old, the upper limit for an age of rank and file being 28.

3 – Ispravitel'no-trudovaya Koloniya – Corrective Labor Colony.

4 – Haloperidol is indicated in the management of manifestations of acute and chronic psychosis, including schizophrenia and manic states. It may also be of value in the management of aggressive and agitated behavior in patients. Drug of choice used by KGB for suppression of political prisoners.

5 -- Black leather jacket is a KGB uniform.


Picture of sankirtan on Red Square:


Nanda-tanuja Dasa - October 8, 2004 9:53 pm

Special Mercy


An interview with Vidura das in 1998.



Q: Please, remember how it all began.


A: That time was so surprising that it now seems story-like and surreal. It seemed that in this country, where any spiritualism was declared to be an ideological diversion created by the USA and were purged by the machine very thoroughly and several times, nothing spiritual could possibly spring up, something that differed from Marxist-Leninist ideology. But it happened! And here is the result: I was once a very honest member of Komsomol, and now I am a worshipper of Krishna.

Even our fingers prickled with the energy that filled us. There was no fear that something would not work, that the wife would throw us out of the house, that we’d be thrown in jail, or of anything else. There was no fear.

I remember how we impatiently waited for the Saturday and Sunday programs. By the way, it is interesting to remember how the programs started up in Moscow. There was a bioelectronics laboratory where occult research went on (1), among which was a group dedicated to the mantras. I was also in this laboratory. At the time there were no lectures, no programs, and nobody knew that we could all get together and sing. Pianev (Ananta Shanti) gave these people a mix of several systems of yoga and occultism. He also spoke a little of bhakti yoga. After we met, a small group of the most devout sprang up, of whom you all know. They were, above all, Sadananda, Sanatana Kumar, and Vishvamitra. Once, we met and Pianev described his point of view on the Acceptance of Krishna. Sanatana Kumar had a two-room apartment in an old house and from this apartment, the Moscow ISKCON sprang up. The first programs were very specific. We just listened to Vedic music on cassettes. But nobody opened there mouth, and nobody even suggested that we could sing. Maharaja (Ananta Shanti) would show up, he would be given a newspaper so that he could sit on a clean surface, and he began to speak. I was shocked by how he spoke. I remember my sensations. I don’t remember what he said, as I didn’t even listen to what he was saying. I was satisfied just by how he spoke. And this is what is surprising: some time later, everybody began to speak just like him. We were learning to preach from Ananta Shanti. If only you had heard his first sermons! Once I preached in one of the laboratories at my institute of physical education. One colleague recorded this sermon on a tape recorder. Some time later, I heard this recording. I was surprised, and asked, “Where did you get a recording of Ananta Shanti?” even though this was a recording of my sermon. I did not recognize my own voice! The intonation, the energy, the expressions, the twists – all of these reminded me of that which Ananta Shanti said to us.


Q: How did the regular singing of sacred names start in Moscow?


A: We used to not sing at all. We would just show up and listen to music. Before then the programs went like this: people would show up, wait for Maharaja (Ananta Shanti), who could be late by six hours, and all this time music would play. Everybody sat and listened, but they did not sing themselves, they stifled this desire within them. And once, when Maharaja wasn’t there for a very long time, one of the devotees, Ayodhya-pati, suggested, “Let’s sing Hare Krishna.” For us, this was very unusual. Everybody looked around confused. “Alright, let’s sing. Who can sing? Ayodhya-pati, go on!” We made Ayodhya-pati sing. And he sang Shrila Prabhupada’s famous melody. Our eyes went wide, and we began to sing along. We sang for a mere ten to fifteen minutes. We liked it so much! The next day, we did not go to work. I was cutting something out of some sort of material, and my mother in law was mad because I had ruined the scissors.

That something was metallic, like a soup can, but a little thicker. I cut a circle out of it, made a hole, and used a hammer to give it the form of a karatal. The sound was surprisingly beautiful! The next day, we got together on Preobrazhenskaya square, at the house of one of our acquaintances. We showed up, and Sadanada, Vishvamitra, Sanatana Kumar, and I began to sing! This was something special… we were tearing our homemade karatals out of each others hands, saying, “Let me lead! Let me!” We sang, “Govinda jaya jaya” and Hare Krishna. We were thirsty! We wanted to hear, we wanted to sing. But we only got together once a week at that time, since we had to go to work, see all the faces there, listen to what they said, and see what they ate. Monday, Tuesday went by find after Sunday, since we had just recently seen each other. By Wednesday or Thursday our transcendental charge ran out, and we became thirsty. We developed a desire to meet with devotees. And Friday was just impossible. We were already calling each other, “Are you coming? How about you? Who did you invite? Did you invite him? Invite him.” And when we met, it was a holiday because we had not seen another devotee worshipper all week! Can you imagine what it’s like not to see another worshipper all week?

And after the program, we could not part for a long while. It got to the point where somewhere around nine in the evening we would begin to say good-bye to the owners of the apartment, who graciously allowed us to use it for the program, but somehow at the apartment’s door a crowd would form. Everybody was standing in their hats, jackets, and shoes… and saying goodbye! The farewells always lasted several hours. Sometimes they looked at the clock to see, will I make it to my line on time to catch the last subway? Then everybody would get up and run for the subway. Sometimes after this somebody would return and say, “Well, I missed it.” Two hours later he would come home, when all the subway stations were closed and the subways would no longer be running.


Q: Did you ever go outside?


A: That happened much later, in maybe 1987. We started out with small groups on the Arbat Street and at the Exhibition of the Achievements of the People’s Economy. There was one worshipper in the West – Kirtiraj das, who was responsible for Russia. He gave us the assignment to sing on the Arbat every day. After that the singing on the Arbat began. First, we sang opposite the restaurant “Prague”, and then we went down to the subway station and sang there. And we sang every day.


Q: In what clothing did you go to the harinam?


A: We went in normal clothing – in pants or jeans. We sang very well. Crowds would get together to listen to us. This was unusual – at the time, we were in the Soviet Union, and there we were taking part in dissident activities. Then for the first time everything was allowed. Lyubera (2) arrived, and a police regiment was posted on the Arbat. Everybody attacked us: local hooligans, the police, and even the KGB. But, we sang every day. For him, who researches Krishna consciousness, this is a treasure trove of information. There were so many stories, so many scenes! There was one worshipper, Kostya. He sang, and a hooligan was waving his fist in front of his face, unable to hit him. His gang all came to his aid, but couldn’t beat us up, as they suddenly had no energy. They looked and saw the devotee, singing sincerely, and they could not attack us. Once he actually hit Kostya and the next day somewhere else his mouth was ripped. He came and told us, “That’s it. I’m not touching you anymore.” We even made friends with him, and he told us, “I don’t want to do it, but they ask us to, and they’re poisoning us.” After some time he died. And there were many other stories. Once, at the time of the Olympic Games in 1980, we got together, 300 or 400 of us, in the middle of Moscow and staged a demonstration. The KGB and police immediately showed up, about 150 of them. Everybody was identified and they started to try and figure out who organized the demonstration. They didn’t have the brains to cover up this event. Every person from their list was summoned by the party committee at work. The whole organization would find out about Hare Krishna. Great missionary work began at that time throughout Moscow. In 300 to 400 organizations, they began to ask, “Who is Krishna?”

When it was established that many were invited by me, a whole story spread in the institute. They began to summon me to the department head’s office, and the whole institute began to talk about Hare Krishna. They made a large strategic mistake. Everybody began to tell stories of Krishna. Thus, they made one mistake after another.

At that time, there were no books, no cassettes, and we did not know philosophy. The sermons were successful if we managed to teach somebody the Hare Krishna mantra. We prepared special papers with the mantra. If you were riding on the train or the subway and you saw an uplifted face, you would approach, hand over the paper, and say, “Sing this and your life will change. I already do this, and I am experiencing surprising changes in my life. Try it.” We had no books, and so this was our missionary work. We consider our day to be successful if we were able to give somebody the mantra. We got together outdoors in winter and in summer.


Q: Even in winter?!


A: This was surprising. We would get a huge fire going, sit in a circle around it, and sing for five to six hours. At home, we would cook rice and bring it with us. We poured ghee into a large cauldron, put spices in, added rice, and after several minutes we would obtain a wonderful prasadam. We had bread and drink and everybody was happy. We all held onto singing. It was a surprising state.


Q: What about when the persecution began?


A: That began in 1979. At that time, the head of the sixth branch of the KGB was Belopotapov. He was responsible for the Movement. At that time, many were thrown into prison. Sucharu, Vishvamitra, Vrindavan were all imprisoned.


Q: How did it happen that you were not imprisoned?


A: First of all, nobody implicated me in any of this. Secondly, I didn’t implicate myself in any of this. I gave them no reason to imprison me. The investigator said, “Your Sucharu is one tough nut to crack, we barely got to him. But Vidura is even tougher!” I was helped by one dissident. When I was being interrogated on Lyubyanka (3), I answered everything with, “I don’t remember.” I didn’t contradict them, I said that I was a scientist studying the effects of sound on a human, and I did not remember whether or not I was involved. Then almost everybody was imprisoned. We began to get together in groups of fifty to sixty people. And Belopotapov told us, “We can no longer allow you to operate. Sixty people are very dangerous.” After that, they began to raid devotees in Moscow. The started to show up for the programs, record them, and get people fired. They saw that these weren’t the dregs of society getting together. Scientists and other educated people were showing up. They were worried by the fact that such people had become interested in this philosophy. But then, perestroika (4) began and the situation began to improve.


Q: What other events of the time do you remember?


A: The strength of the devotees is unbeatable. Nobody can stand against the strength of the devotees! This was when there were many of us and they began to persecute us. KBG agents showed up to our program with search warrants and began to take away our religious paraphernalia and everything that had to do with worship. We especially didn’t like one of the agents, then a young “worshipper” of communism, whom we called “obnoxious”. And we observed a scene where our dear Vishvamitra fought with this very agent. This agent wanted to confiscate our mridanga. This was a plastic mridanga – not fragile at all. Vishvamitra pulled it his way, the agent pulled it his way, and we watched to see how it would end. Vishvamitra pulled his way, the other his way. They switched hands, grabbed belts… this looked like a tug-of-war. And Vishvamitra won! The mridanga remained in the hands of the worshipper of Krishna! And the “worshipper” of communism lost. This was very significant.

Vishvamitra was very decisive. He borrowed Shrila Prabhupada’s books from the Lenin library, which by the mercy of Kirtiraj Prabhu miraculously happened to be there. He had some acquaintances there. He borrowed them there and read them at the programs. And once, during one of the searches, a KGB agent took one of Shrila Prabhupada’s books. This occurred in a two-room apartment. Some of the agents went to the kitchen, where they recorded somebody’s name, and part went to the other room, and in the big room Vishvamitra and this one agent remained. Vishvamitra locked this room and told him, “While you have the book, I will not open the door.” The rest of the agents got very upset and began to knock on the door. “I won’t open it; he should give the book back.” In the end, Vishvamitra won this psychological battle. They returned the book to him. There is one other wonderful worshipper, Bharadwaj Prabhu. At that time he had some problems with his documents and he had a lot of experience in the area of dealing with the police. Once, he was taken by the police, and how he yelled! He did not yell “Krishna!” He yelled, “I’ll bleed you!” He yelled very petulantly, and they left him alone. He was very sly. Once, when they showed up with a search warrant, he shut himself up in the bathroom and wouldn’t leave. Everybody was arrested, and he was not touched. Everybody was taken away, and he remained. Another time, he got under the bed. One of the devotees sat on the bed, and thus he was hidden by their feet… what a wonderful worshipper!

Once Ananta Shanti scolded me because I gave Bharadwaj the chance to develop hubris. After school graduation, I had a very nice suit. For a long time, it just hung in my closet. You probably know of such things – they stop being fashionable and just hang in your closet. I gave him that suit because had nothing to wear. And the next day, Ananta Shanti started telling me, “Why did you give him that suit! He put it on and now he won’t listen to me.” Obtaining something that causes a worshipper to question authority is dangerous for him.

When in 1980 Sri Vishnupad told us to leave Moscow, the devotees all left for different place. We (two families) left for the hills. I sang a lot there. There was nothing to do – at that time there were no English books. All we had left to do was sing. I had a guitar. I would hold it in my right hand and use matches to hold the strings to the frets. In my left hand, I had cymbals, with my right leg I stomped on the ground, and the result was like a mridanga. With my left leg I worked the pump of a rubber boat, whose hose could be used to play a harmonica. I bought a child’s harmonica, which I set to play the same chord as the guitar. Thus, I was a one man band. With my left leg, I played the harmonica, with my right leg, I drummed on the floor, I had a guitar and cymbals. I would close my eyes and imagine that around me were many devotees. It was as though many devotees were playing, devotees were dancing, singing… I entered into an unbelievable state of ecstasy! I sing much better when I am alone…

Things went on like this for a long time, until the search. What happened as a result of such singing? My way of walking changed! As a result of singing, my way of walking changed. The KGB agents who came from the regional center told Nrisimha, “This is your manager.” She told me, “Vidura, walk more simply. You’ve been marked.” I didn’t understand. How was I to walk simply? I walked like a king. I had sung for a year! People moved over to let me pass. I walked, and they moved over. My walk had changed. Everything changes. Now I don’t sing like that. I haven’t been singing for a long time, and my walk went back to the way it was. That is the strength of song. Nothing can replace the singing of a holy name. You can tell many stories about this. These were surprising time. Now, some of the times when I repeat mantras or during a kirtan I start remembering those times, and tears come to my eyes. The taste of the energy which sustained us, which gave us enthusiasm and decision, is indescribable. You have to experience it.



1 -- occult research meaning government sponsored mind control and remote viewing experimentation.

2 – name of the gang intolerant to hippies, Hare Krishnas, etc.

3 -- KGB headquarters and prison.

4 -- Perestroika [restructuring] was the term attached to the attempts (1985–91) by Mikhail Gorbachev to transform the stagnant, inefficient command economy of the Soviet Union into a decentralized market-oriented economy.


Sankirtan on Arbat Street in Moscow:


Nanda-tanuja Dasa - October 8, 2004 9:56 pm

The hunt for Vaishnavas


An excerpt from book by Alexander Nezhny



Having finished the Moscow Institute of Aviation, Sergey stayed here to work in the research laboratory. He occupied himself with problems of higher learning that had long interested him. As a student, he had run a group which did socio-psychological research. They studied the learning process, and in such a way tried to influence the intellectual activity of the students.

For this, by the way, the group got the Lenin’s Komsomol award – an intangible addition to an insignificant scholarship.

Having become active followers of the Movement, a worshipper, Sergey got a new name – Sucharu das (birth name is Sergey Zuev, current name is Radka Damodara das). This witnessed the new life which the newly converted man was entering. This is the same as when Christians give a person a new name at Baptism, to his name is added the name of a Saint – his heavenly benefactor.

Knowledge in the East is compared to the greatest riches, while ignorance is equal to sin. Because of this, the problems of education had a higher religious meaning to Sucharu. His activity in this field was immediately noticed. The KGB, in the form of Ernest Fyodorovich Belopotapov once walked up to Sucharu and showed him his little red ID. This happened at work, in his laboratory. The young man was invited to the dean’s office, where another “representative” sat.

The conversation was harsh – “We know that you are spreading the religious teachings of the vaishnavas. Your leaders are agents of the CIA. In your group, there are twenty men, all of whom are potential enemies of the Soviet government. We suggest that you abandon your beliefs, change them and work with us. Refuse, and you will be fired from the university, which means that nobody will ever hire you to do any decent work.”

Sucharu listened calmly to their threatening speech. In his group, there were female students. One of their mothers wrote a letter to the KBG, directly accusing Sergey Zuev of corrupting her daughter: “He worships a god, he reads some kind of Indian books, he prays, and he doesn’t eat meat.” And in the end she asked for help: “I ask you to protect my daughter from this corrupting influence.” This letter was shown to Sucharu. “So choose.”

But he chose when he joined Krishna Consciousness. Because of this, he acted calmly and fearlessly.

“You’re wasting your time trying to scare me. My views are my personal belief. The constitution guarantees me that my views are untouchable and that I have freedom of religion. So stop sticking your nose in my personal life. You could do that in the thirties, but today nobody’s afraid of you.” Belopotapov was hurt. “You’ll regret this! There are cosmic projects at MAI! You have security clearance! And you are working for foreign intelligence! We will break you!”

After some time Sergey was called by the dean and told, “Either leave of your own accord, or we will fire you.” A formal reason was found. Sergey had been late to work several times, and this was fixed in the records and reported by his superiors. The agents of the KGB were working hard. It wasn’t by accident that in those years it was said of them, “On the gates of Lyubyanka it says, whoever doesn’t work here doesn’t eat.” (1)

Sucharu’s spiritual teacher suggested that he leave for Georgia. A small community of Vaishnavas had sprung up there. The community was an exaggeration. It was just a dream. They hoped that it would grow out of a small group of Armenian devotees. In Svanetia they bought a house, land, and an orchard. They thought of getting cows and bees… To pray to god and live off the fruits of your own work – what could be simpler and more just for a citizen of the Earth?

The idea of settling devotees in the periphery, in villages, seemed promising. If the government was opposed to sermons of Krishna’s devotees in the cities, they would obediently move somewhere far away, closer to the perfect way of life which God calls them to.

Sucharu went to Upper Svanetia, to the village of Tsana, not only to talk to people of the same faith and spiritual grow, but also to find blessed locations for future settlements.

The village was located high up in the mountains. It was a handful of clay houses. The population was kindhearted and talkative. However, they weren’t very happy about the fact that some of the new settlers were of the Armenian descent (2).

Winter in Svanetia isn’t as freezing as in Russia. But in the hut where they settled, there was no glass in the windows and there was no electricity. But there was an iron oven, around which they gathered on long evenings and read the Bhagavad-Gita by the light of an oil lamp and sang mantras. They closed the windows with a polyethylene film, because of which dark came a lot earlier than in the yard.

It is known that Krishna’s devotees treat animals peacefully, and even go so far as to worship cows.

The neighbor’s cow, which they fed every now and then, was treated especially well by them and used this shamelessly. Once in the morning she came up to the house, and not finding any food in the pail, she demanded it by hitting the polyethylene screen. Overall, they lived peacefully, working and praying. While it was light they translated “The Teachings of Lord Chaitanya” from English to Russian. They started this great and necessary work.

One of them was very good with radio technology, which turned out to be a blessing for a small settlement lost in the hills. The demand for a radio technologist was no less than that for a dentist. There were many orders. He barely managed to meet them in time. For some reason, he was unable to fix the radio of a man whose owner was a native, while he was an Armenian. His nationalism was hurt, and he told the police that some random Armenians had showed up and sang all the time and that they do something with radios. They had just entered into the rhythm of their new life when their house was approached by soldiers carrying automatic assault rifles.

The soldiers demanded that they show their documents. They searched the house and found books, two bags of potatoes, firewood, a can of sunflower oil, and flour. They tried to find out if they were tourists or spies. They were stumped, and so they decided to evict them. They were given a week to pack.

Sucharu had his father’s military uniform. This protected them about as much as their imported radio set.

Sucharu’s passport was examined with especial attention, and they were looking at the watermarks and the photograph.

So, they had a week to find a new house. They chose to stay there and not go back to Moscow. They hoped to settle in Sokhumi or nearby. But they had no hope of buying a house. Their society, their small ashram was being watched by all levels of local government. But Sucharu had further plans. Even if they were rooted in Svanetia, he would leave them in the spring. He would have gone to seek a new place. And so he went to Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and finally Frunze. And he found what he was looking for: a settlement in Central Asia where he could establish a base in the near future. He kept the addresses in his memory, as he didn’t trust paper. Sometimes he met devotees.

From Frunze he returned to the Ukraine. In the Don area in the village of Blagodatno lived his grandmother, who at one time had baptized him. Here there was a lot of promise. The young were leaving the villages, and the old were dying out. There were many houses without owners and they were cheap. There was no better place to settle: the climate was mild, the earth was fertile, and his relatives were near. A family moved from the nearby village of Big Shishovka to the Far East. Their brick house cost 1200 rubles – it had an orchard, a bathhouse, a coop, and a well. It was on the edge of the village, and farther out there was just sky and steppe. Near the house was a stream.

Having been to Moscow, Sucharu returned to Big Shishovka with his friend Sadananda and his mother Anna Sergeyevna, who was an expert at agronomy. She dreamed of having her own orchard. The house had three rooms, which allowed them to be relatively comfortable.

Sadananda was a good artist. He immediately appealed to the villagers and suggested starting an art club. He hung announcements and on the next day ten local children had already started. The classes were started on September 1st. In a village, there is always something to do. They fixed the porch, cleaned the coop, fixed the fence around their land. In this area the fences were made of flat rocks. The waited from day to day for Nadezhda, Sadananda’s sister. Unlike her brother, Nadya and Anna Sergeyevna did not worship Krishna. Rather, they sympathized with the devotees. But under the leadership of their experienced men they studied the Bhagavad-Gita over the summer.

Suddenly, Kurkin got a telegram saying, “The police are searching for you.” It was signed Nadya. The men looked at each other. How were they to call such an action? Naivety? Girlish infantilism? One who believes in a higher law must follow earthly laws. Especially when such a one lives in a country which “celebrates” this higher law.

How was the local authority to react to such news, having received it before the addressees? They reacted the only way they could. And so, early one morning both Sergeys were reading the chapter of the Bhagavad-Gita called Karma-yoga. The text they were meditating on said, “All living things feed on grain, and grain comes from the ground, which feeds on rain. Rain is called by practicing yoga, which is born by fulfilling your duties.”

Five policemen in civil clothes showed up early morning. They wanted to know, “Who are you, why did you come here, and what do you do?” They showed their search warrant, and began to search.

“What are you looking for?” asked Sucharu.

“For whatever we find!” answered the searchers.

They were told to find religious literature, cult items, cassettes, radios, papers. But the men lived carefully. They did not keep any of this where it could be found, but kept it well-hidden. They didn’t even find the papers that had just been hidden under the rocks of the fence. However, they didn’t want to leave empty-handed. Orange is a holy color, and they seemed to know this, so they took orange clothing. They also took Chinese vases. They took the bell. And yet, they didn’t find what they were looking for. They started asking, “Where are the cassettes and images? Damn your gods.” The men stayed silent, hoping that their guests would soon leave.

The probably had showed up hoping to find the “sect” which central intelligence had given them detailed information about. How could they now report that they had found nothing? Because of this, they order the men to sell the house and leave the village forever. They said that they would buy them tickets to Moscow, explaining that they men were called to Moscow as witnesses of something or other. They could only sell the house for 600 rubles, half of what they paid for it.

They had few belongings, but they were hiding the texts and tapes in a suitcase in the yard. It would be risky to take that suitcase with them, but to leave it was impossible. They understood that they would never be back. They new owner could find their hiding place and report to the police. They were forced to relocate the suitcase to the forest past the stream.

They hid it at three in the morning, but when they rose to the hillock they instantly noticed people in the court of their house. Professional intelligence officers, guards of universal security, outwitted young people. They’ve been monitoring the house with night vision goggles. The stash was eventually found. The sun was very high in the sky by the time it was found. All of the villagers were called in, and a table was set in the middle of the yard. An officer told everybody, “Comrades! In your peaceful village, a religious sect has grown. We have long suspected them. We asked Moscow about them, and our fears were confirmed. The came here with hidden intentions, but we have unmasked them. Tonight we saw how they buried this suitcase. We found a list of children on whom they were going to perform their savage rites. This list has the name of the daughter of one of your leaders. She would have been the first innocent sacrifice.”

The people didn’t know how to react to this. “We will now play you a cassette so that you can be convinced of what was going to happen to your children!”

The officer’s tired face froze in apprehension of what he was about to hear. But nothing scary occurred. Rather, the cassette player, like a bird in a cage, sang a beautiful, joyful melody. The melody seemed as though it was joyful that it had at last broken out of its cage, and that it could sing in front of so many people!

Nobody chose to interrupt the melody, and the people, enchanted by its purity, listened thoughtfully. Someone smiled, and someone yelled at the officer, “End the concert!” The people guessed, something’s wrong, they must be making fun of us. The officer also understood that there had been a misunderstanding, and tried hitting all of the buttons on the cassette player at the same time. This did nothing to help him. The people started to leave, the neighbors helped the men pack their stuff into the truck, and then the men got in the truck with their stuff. The next day in Moscow, Sucharu was already being questioned by the prosecution. He could not understand who the KGB could possibly be building a case against. Who was he witnessing against? This confusion was part of the plan. However, it was obvious that they were especially interested in Sadananda, and it was better to be safe and not answer the court summons. Vishvamitra had already been arrested. And most likely, Sadananda was necessary not as a witness, but as a defendant, as a sacrifice.

Because of this, he didn’t want to stay in Moscow. He told him to have less meetings and phone conversations. He went down south again, to Yalta, where his mother worked in a botanical garden. He managed to get a job as a guard there.

As soon as Sadananda disappeared from Moscow, the KGB announced a nationwide search for him. His apartment was considered by them to be the headquarters of the Movement in the capital. They never stopped watching it and yet they could not find the owner!

They had already had him, and he disappeared. Neither his sister nor his friends risked writing to him, as all the post offices could possibly be part of the nationwide search.

How happy he must have been when he found Sucharu standing in front of him, smiling. Sucharu had brought letters and, sadly, non-comforting news. In the summer, Crimea is reminiscent of an overpopulated communal apartment as packed like a brick of tea with vacationers, especially on the beach, where everybody would go swimming. But young people lived in a shack, hidden in the woods on the southern edge of the hills. Two or three times a week Anna Sergeyevna would visit, bringing groceries and food. Their pine-needle and sea air filled exile was not blissfully unaware of the world around them. They tried not to be scene by the vacationers, rarely wandering into the hills. But mainly they were visited by wildlife. Their nights, like in the jungle, were filled with the sounds of buzzing and scratching and an inexplicable stomping. The thick bushes were full of overripe berries. It was said that that year saw an unprecedented harvest.

A path led to the shack from below. This path was taken by Anna Sergeyevna. The organization seeking her son was of course forced to watch his mother. Anna Sergeyevna discovered this too late.

One evening, she was descending along the rocky path and saw a police officer with a dog and two agents of the state. She looked around and found that there was nowhere to hide, and she was seen. Had she stayed for another minute with her son, she would no doubt have avoided the eager detectives: they were walking along the foothills and were already going past the path. And now she had walked right into them and frozen on the spot. The policeman shortened his dog’s leash.

The search was being headed by Belopotapov, who had once promised to break Sergey. Now he was obviously pleased at the conclusion of this operation. He was making jokes about the holes in the shack’s roof and, certain that the criminals had been capture and had nowhere to go, he went aside into the bushes.

In the Yaltan branch of the police, the friends were interrogated again about the same old case, where Sadananda was the defendant, and Sucharu was still being used as a witness. They were separated. One of them was sent in stages to Moscow – a long and exhausting journey, while the other, who was unguarded, went to Moscow on his own.



1 – KGB employs huge number of informants of every walk of life which are hired under pressure of loosing their jobs.

2 -- Svans are one of the main ethnic groups making up the Georgian nation, generally hate Armenians.


Picture of Russian devotees in 1988:


Nanda-tanuja Dasa - October 8, 2004 9:59 pm

Caucasian prisoners.


Excerpts from Ananta Acharyi das’s book.



When Mayuradhvaj was tried, his mother stopped chanting japa. Upon finding out about this, Mayuradhvaj understood his old mother – she was mad at Krishna. He tried to explain to her what Krishna’s plan in all this was, that he would preach in prison, and his acceptance of Krishna had not decreased, but had rather increased. He wrote to her in detail about his spiritual observations and adventures in prison.

Finding himself in prison, Mayuradhvaj understood that he must preach, otherwise he could easily fall into maya. He noticed that not everybody around him were bad people. There were educated people who even had good qualities. Mayuradhvaj decided to preach to those who became interested in accepting Krishna and started to practice morning sadhana.

In prison one is totally exposed. Since he told people that he got up early in the morning, he couldn’t not get up, and he couldn’t not behave as he said he would. Every word counted here, and the governing law is that he who says something and goes back on his word gets no mercy. But spiritual discipline truly helped Mayuradhvaj: when somebody is not thinking of material pleasures and doesn’t try to satisfy himself, he is not uncomfortable and feels good.

Mayuradhvaj noticed that if something touched the prisoners in his stories, they listened with pleasure. There was no rush. He felt that if he gave the people love and care, this was very important to them. You can learn the Bhagavad-Gita by heart, but if you don’t speak lovingly, you won’t reach your audience.

So Mayuradhvaj understood that Krishna had provided for him an opportunity to preach and learn about people.

When Mayuradhvaj was taken to prison, the administration decided to scare him.

“We will put you in a cell with a murderer and see how you feel.”

The murderer didn’t look much like a murderer, although he was quite strong.

“What are you in for?” he asked Mayuradhvaj.

“For accepting Krishna.”

“What!? Krishna!” The man jumped up in the air.

Excitedly, the prisoner “Bullet”, in whose cell Yamaraj had been in a year ago, and whom Yamaraj had taught to repeat mantras, hugged Mayuradhvaj. He was so excited and took so well to this new prisoner that he started banging on the cell door and asking for fruit to give to his new cell-mate.

Bullet started asking about Krishna, and they sang, and one could tell that Bullet was pleased and that he liked Krishna and his devotees.

Soon Bullet and Mayuradhvaj were transferred to a camp. Here, Bullet could ask for his parents for vegetable ragout. He taught them:

“The pot must be clean. You don’t need to add onions or garlic. And don’t taste it either, we’re going to offer it to our Lord. There is a saint in the cell with me. Then we will eat it and feel the presence of God.”

Mayuradhvaj began to wonder if one could offer food thus prepared to Krishna. And he offered it, inspiring Bullet.

Bullet ate and said:

“I am sure that there is a God.”

Sometime later, Mayuradhvaj and Ambarisha were transferred to a different camp in Tsulinkidz. Here, Mayuradhvaj met his younger brother, who was in prison for criminal activity. His brother tried to argue with and contradict Mayuradhvaj, as he could not understand and not believe in the religion of his brother and the other devotees.

“Psh! We’ll see if you don’t eat meat after they put you behind bars!”

Now he was put behind bars with other devotees and could see what they ate. Meat wasn’t given to the prisoners of course, but their food was fried. And even if they cooked without meat, they still didn’t cook cleanly, and Mayuradhvaj and Ambarisha could not offer this to Krishna. And on the floor where the prisoners worked, Mayuradhvaj and Ambarisha dug up beats, washed them, and ate them.

Mayuradhvaj’s brother, seeing how hard he was trying, tried to help them get vegetables. When the weekends came and the inmates’ relatives brought them food, they tried to help out the vegetarians. Vegetables were obtained in the kitchen, and the devotees managed to prepare prasadam right in their cell. When Janmashtami, the day of Krishna’s appearance, came around, Mayuradhvaj prepared food for Lord Krishna all day, and gave it out to the whole cell block at night.

Summer was ending, and the prisoners were taken out to the tea plantations increasingly often. An escort with automatic rifles and dogs escorted the inmates to the tea fields. The walked for a whole hour and everybody liked this since compared to trips through the yard of the prison this road seemed like an interesting trip. They marched in a file, and the guards commanded, “SING!”

And Ambarisha sang the Hare Krishna mantra, and the whole file sang along. Ambarisha changed the melody but didn’t change the words. The marchers knew that this was the song for which the singer was thrown behind bars. So for them, this was a song of freedom, and the closer they got to the plantation, the more satisfaction the singing gave them.

Ambarisha and Mayuradhvaj were exempted from picking tea, and they made beads for their japa-mala out of the branches of the tea plants. But this did not last long, and in a month Ambarisha was taken away to the north. The prison overseer summoned Mayuradhvaj and told him, “Your friend has been sent off to the white bears, and if you continue in this fashion we will break your ribs.”

Mayuradhvaj was mad that he has been separated from Ambarisha, and darkly said, “We’ll see who breaks whose ribs.”

The overseer was surprised, but chose not to punish this outburst.


Mayuradhvaj got up early and said his mantras outside. Every day, in any weather he would keep this up. The overseer would come to work every day and see Mayuradhvaj.

“So you’re praying?”

“What else is there to do but pray?” answered Mayuradhvaj. A year later Mayuradhvaj was given amnesty, and he was sent to the Far East for “chemistry.” (1) The overseer announced to the inmates:

“You scum. This is the best man among you… and among us.”

He hugged Mayuradhvaj.

“Go, son. All the best to you.” Apparently, he had been informed of Mayuradhvaj’s sermons and prasadam preparations. The overseer was shocked by and worriedly escorted this young man. Mayuradhvaj went to the Habarov.

The special transport reached the Far East in half a month, when at the time such a journey usually took half a year. In one transport, there were twelve people, and if not for the stories about Krishna, this would have been torture. Somehow, Ambarisha was in the same transport. They couldn’t talk, but they knew that nearby sat a devotee of Krishna, repeating His Holy Name, and this gave them joy and strength.

Finally, Mayuradhvaj and his companions reached their destination.

“Do they really put people in prison for that?” asked his new neighbors when they found out what he was in prison for. Wages were high at the construction site – 500 rubles. All this money was spent on prasadam. To prepare it and treat his friends to it became Mayuradhvaj’s hobby. Several times he didn’t even go to work. Nobody scolded him for this, as everybody accepted that this man’s main task was to prepare vegetarian food for Krishna.

But his diet of beets in the Caucasian prison camp and the winter chills on the shore of the Amur River had weakened him, and Mayuradhvaj ended up in a hospital with tuberculosis. This served as a reason for his early release.

“He’s a good man,” concluded the general who was examining his petition to be released.

“But the KGB…” worried the overseer of “chemistry.”

“What about the KGB? He’ll break some other law and be brought back.”

Even before his arrest, colonel Zakeryan told one of the Armenian devotees directly, “We will start to catch and kill you.” He liked to express himself floridly and liked to make toasts and told him, looking in his eyes, “And you will have to appeal to Krishna.”

“We will do just that,” answered the devotee.

When four Armenian devotees were arrested, Sarvabhavan and Sachisuta, who remained free, decided to become more active, like what “young guards” did in similar situations when their comrades were captured by the Gestapo. They began to distribute books in areas where they were sure the government would find out that there were man more devotees of Krishna spreading books out there and that the arrest of four would not stop the spread of Krishna Consciousness.

Sachisuta was a very humble and unnoticeable devotee, and he was from Yerevan and lived in a private apartment, so the police did not know where he lived. His enthusiasm was so great that in a month he sold 1000 books.

Once he was arrested thrice in one day. He was interrogated, his books were confiscated, and he was released. His friends, people whom he loved so much, were imprisoned. These were devotees of Krishna, and he could not forget them. “Absolute Truth,” thought Sachisuta. “It is omnipotent, and Krishna will do everything, and all I must do is speak of all this. After all, everybody has an eternal soul. Everybody thirsts for that free, joyful acceptance.” He remembered the Gita, where it was said that every cow, elephant, dog, dog-eater, or learned Brahman had an eternal soul. The whole world consists of brothers, children of one God. Everybody radiates like ten thousand suns. He spoke without stopping, breaking into his listener’s heart. And when people listened with their breath held, Sachisuta loved them, so his voice cracked and shook, and he saw in them another wonderful, eternal, and joyous soul, and he could not see that this was his neighbor.

When he was detained, he could not be angry at the police, and so he apologized and promised not to distribute books anymore.

“You promised!” he was told when he was detained again.

Soon it became impossible for him to go outside in Yerevan, as the police immediately recognized him. He would get on the bus and go off to Echmiadzin. But even there he was detained. Finally, returning from such a trip, he got to the room he was renting on the edge of Yerevan. He wanted to bathe himself, prepare and revere his prasadam, wash his clothes, read several poems of the Bhagavad-Gita, and go to bed, but he was expected. Several police officers were searching his apartment. The frightened hostess was answering all of the officers’ questions.

“Whose statue is this?” asked the policeman, picking up a plaster sculpture of Madonna. This statue was given to Sachisuta by Yuri, who thought that he was preparing these statues for church. When Sachisuta told Yuri about Krishna, he liked it very much, and asked for a book in exchange for a statue. Sachisuta gave Madonna to the hostess just before Christmas. The hostess, like many old ladies in Yerevan, believed in God and sometimes went to church.

Now this statue was being held by the police officer. Finding out whose present it was, he hit Sachisuta in the head with Madonna. Then he hit him again.

“Have you gone insane!?” asked Sachisuta.

The officer hit him again.

Sarvabhavan recognized one of the people living in his apartment. Once they had met in the city. This man, named Edward, surveyed him in the city, and they even struck up a conversation.

“We’ll meet again,” said Edward by way of good-bye.

Soon everything was overturned in the apartment. Edward good-naturedly asked him, “What do you need out of all of this?” Sarvabhavan took a clay drum.

He was put in a car and driven off.

There was a pause in the police department, and Sarvabhavan started to sing Hare Krishna, accompanying himself with the drum. The officers on duty smiled and started clapping in time with him. This was the Myasnikyanskoye division of the police.

The interrogation began. In the room there were six men.

“Where are your books printed?”

“I don’t know, and I don’t want to know.”

“How do you not know? You know! Where do you get these books? You have to get them from somewhere! Where from?”

“I get the books and I distribute them.” He was beaten all day. They took turns so that they wouldn’t get tired and have to rest. The officer who was somewhere around fifty years old tried the hardest. He stomped on Sarvabhavan with the heels of his boots.

The next day, they continued to beat him. They beat him in the stomach and about the head from morning to evening. In the evening, Edward walked up.

“You’re from the Committee,” (2) said Sarvabhavan to him. “I can tell. Why do just sit down and don’t get involved? They could kill me.”

“They won’t kill you,” said Edward. “This is the Soviet police. Don’t you know the Soviet police? This isn’t their first similar case. It happens, you know.”

He was being sarcastic.

“I told you that we’ll meet again, and here we are.”

The weather turned cold, and in the corner of the room lay an electric plate that was warming up.

“I don’t think they’d do that,” thought Sarvabhavan. The officer picked up the pate, and Sarvabhavan pressed himself against the wall. The pushed his knees up against the wall, and started bringing the plate closer and closer to his face.

“A kebab! We’ll make a kebab out of a believer in Hare Krishna!” said another, also sarcastic officer.

“They like kebabs in Armenia,” added another, and Sarvabhavan couldn’t take the pain anymore and yelled, “Hari-i-i bol!”

They took the plate away, and one eye went blind.

He was returned to his cell. After dinner, a guard came in and asked if he had eaten the meat.

“No, I don’t eat meat.”

They guard, swearing at him, hit him twice, in the neck and in the head.

“You idiot! You’re in prison for nothing! Give Krishna up and everything will be alright!”

Sarvabhavan starved for three days, after which one of the inmates gave him apples. Sarvabhavan, having eaten the apples, felt pain in his bladder and asked to go to the bathroom. There he found that he was bleeding. The guard also saw the blood and said, “You’re not the first and you won’t be the last.”

After the trial, Sarvabhavan was taken out of isolation to a prison camp. His food was black bread and salt. When he ate, he quickly felt full, but later he became hungry again. He took a piece of bread out of the dining hall to eat at night. In his cell, he took the bread out and put a piece on his nightstand.

“Where did you get that bread?” asked a guard.

“This is my bread. I got it from the dining hall.”

”Aren’t we presumptuous? Didn’t they tell you that you can’t take bread out of the dining hall?” The guard threw the bread away and threatened to throw him in the dungeon.

Walking past the electrified fence, Sarvabhavan stopped. He wanted to grab the electric wire and end it all. He had no strength, and no will to live.

Suddenly, he was told, “Go, somebody has come to visit you.” Two devotees, Haridas Thakur and Nityanan-daram had come to visit him. They told him that he had been initiated and gave him his name – Sarvabhavan.

In Yagya devi dasi’s Moscow apartment, it was getting crowded.

They had to rescue the devotees that were still in prisons and asylums. Hope of registration of the ISKCON in Russia had appeared. A trip to India to the place where Krishna had appeared no longer seemed to be a dream. Somebody had gotten in touch with correspondents. New devotees and guests kept coming to the apartment. Holy names were sung and books were distributed.

Harry Lee, the correspondent of the Washington Post, had prasadam sitting with all the devotees on the floor, and said, “They don’t understand that you are their saviors!”

On Gaura-purnima, the birthday of Lord Chaitanya, a full house of devotees was assembled. A friendly, loud kirtan seemed to be melting the walls. Suddenly the glass in the window shattered.

“What is it?”

“What do you mean by what? The KGB!”

But this evoked a sharp sensation rather than fear.

In Yerevan mataji Damayanti donated her apartment in a similar way to the local ashram. She spent all of her savings on the publishing of scriptures. Her son was growing up, and in Vedic tradition he could be tested to see if he had inclinations toward brahmanhood. A knife, money, and the “Sri Ishopanishad” were placed before him. The boy took the book. The preaching activated, spread, became more successful, bringing with it a certain level of satisfaction. Understanding of the Krishna consciousness deepened, and the more energy and time she put into it, the happier and fuller her life became. Damayanti called Moscow and asked for Atmananda. She cried over the phone, unable to speak. Finally, she said, “Sachisuta died in prison.”

Everybody was lost, silent, and the women began to cry. For a long time, they did not know what to do. Atmananda called Harry Lee and began to speak with uncharacteristic anger.

“On this day, when I am calling you, the last political prisoner died in a Soviet prison. He was a vaishnava. Now this whole system, which killed a vaishnava, will crumble, and the Soviet Union will crumble. Yes, yes. He died in the Orenburg prison, or more specifically, as we say, Sachisuta Prabhu left his body, a pure devotee of Krishna… Yes, yes. Karma to the Russians, karma to the Armenians… No, no karma is a law, a natural law, God’s law.”

Vrindavan remained in prison, and it was known that he was on the verge of death. They had to rescue him. Sanyasa and Kamalamala were in prison. They were getting shots. Yamaraj felt that he had to go to Moscow to help out. And though he did not feel physically fit, he felt himself to be decisive enough to be useful. And so Yamaraj also turned up in Moscow.

The devotees were being released. The government registered the Moscow yatra as a legal religious organization. The next step was the departure of the pilgrims for India. The devotees made friends with the man in charge of religious affairs, gave him books, prasadam, surprised him with philosophy which turned out to be no less than the moral code of the builders of communism, no less logical and strong than communist dogma, and like Christianity, it was built on the idea of a single god. Yevgeniy Vasilievich Chernetsov was amazed. Atmananda jokingly called him “bhakta Chernetsov.” And he really did help the devotees prepare all of the necessary paperwork and get all the proper authorization to leave for India.

In the heat of all these worries, Zurab, a Georgian artist, turned up in the apartment. He sat in prison and lay in a prison hospital with Sachisuta. He sometimes conversed with Sachisuta and was shocked by his death, and so upon his release he chose to find people of the same faith and tell them the story.

At the hospital, they were fed meat or meat broth. Sachisuta asked them to bring him potatoes.

He was answered, “Eat the meat.”

“According to the shastras,” interjected Atmananda, “in a situation where one is threatened by death by starvation, one may break the laws and eat meat to save one’s life, but Sachisuta did not choose to use this opportunity, as he chose to remain with the guru and Krishna.”

Sachisuta left his body, while the body, sitting in the lotus position with prayer beads in hand in front of the spiritual teacher’s photo, was left on the prison bed. Three days earlier, the head doctor evacuated the other patients from that particular tent. But when the nurse saw the seated, dead body of Sachisuta, she was scared and called everybody, all the nurses and doctors, into the tent containing the corpse of the devotee, and several patients, including Zurab, entered as well.

“A page of the Gita was opened. And he who at the end of his life leaves his body remember only Me will immediately reach My nature,” quoted Atmananda.

In the spring of 1989, a group of Soviet vaishnavas turned in their passports to be registered at the Sheremetyevo airport. For a long time, there was no reaction, and the women were worried.

“No, no. They won’t let us out, the will never let us out.”

“We must chant the mantras,” said one of the many. “Otherwise the KGB will not let us out.”

Nonetheless, boarding started.

Eight hours later, the Bengal Bay was visible underneath. Then, they could see the squares of the neighborhoods of Calcutta.

“Look, the Ganges!”


The plane landed. At night, the bus full of Soviet devotees of Krishna drove up to the gates of the Mayapur complex. The devotees lay on the sacred land of the Navadvipa, where there are fresh breezes, where for one day and one night they clean like ashwamedha-yagya, where there are swans and bees, where there are beautiful flowers, where there are grapes, wonderful gardens and palaces, where the waves crash onto golden shores, where Lord Gaura meditates on the Holy Navadvipa, where everywhere there is mercy…

In the morning, the eldest of the Soviet devotees met with their spiritual teacher in his apartments. Other disciples of Prabhupada surrounded the Soviet vaishnavas with their attention, teaching them, and giving them tours. They were driven through many sacred places in India, like Vrindavan and Ayodhya. They visited Bombay and Delhi. They met President Rajiv Gandhi. Everywhere, they received a hero’s welcome. These people, who went to prison for Krishna in a country far to the north and had now come here to India. On stone walls, many hammer and sickle designs were graffitied. This surprised many people more than Yuri Gagarin’s flight.

Having visited the sacred dhams, they returned to Moscow, bringing with them the dust of the heavenly Vrindavan, the eternal residence of Sri Krishna.



1 – work on a factory for production of chemicals or production which involves use of dangerous chemical compounds. Within two years of work in such conditions prisoners usually permanently damage their health.

2 -- Komitet Gosudarstvenoi Bezopasnosti (KGB), in contrast to the United States government, which assigns the functions of domestic counterintelligence and foreign intelligence to separate agencies, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), respectively, the Soviet system combined these functions in a single organization. This practice grew out of the ideology of Soviet governance, which made little distinction between external and domestic political threats, claiming that the latter were always foreign inspired.


Picture -- work to free devotees in Yagya dd's apartment:


Jagadish - October 9, 2004 2:38 pm

Obeisances to you Nanda tanuja!


Thank you for sharing these amazing and humbling stories. I pray for one atomic portion of the determination of these great souls who perservered under such horrendous conditions. These stories can't but remind us of the great power in simply trying to follow and represent the teachings of Guru and Krsna.


Dasanudas, jagadisvara das