May 23, 1995
By Indradyumna Swami
During the morning in Rostov we received a call that Niranjana Maharaja was refused entry into Russia. He had been in Tbilisi, Georgia, and was coming up from there by car into southern Russia to meet us. It was sobering information. Last week we met Maharaja in St. Petersburg, and he told Govinda Maharaja and me that ISKCON leaders in Moscow had received reliable information from sources inside the government that the FSK (formerly the KGB) is preparing a serious strike against us. After communism was finished in Russia in 1990, the KGB was reorganized as the FSK, the government’s secret service unit. “Reorganized” means most of the same people remained in the service, only their titles were changed. It is obvious that every country needs a secret service, just as in the United States there is the CIA.
The recent events in Japan with the cult group Aum Shinrikyo, which is accused of a poison gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, caused a big stir in Russia. Aum Shinrikyo has many members here and they own a lot of property. One week after the incident in Japan, the Russian Government voted the group illegal and the FSK closed in on them and liquidated their assets. The FSK took four million American dollars from Aum Shinrikyo’s bank accounts and gave it to the most powerful anti-cult group in Russia.
The next week the Duma (Russian Parliament) met and unanimously passed a stronger and broader law giving it full power to close down any “cult” or “sect.” Niranjana Maharaja told us that the Russian Orthodox Church is strongly pushing parliament to do this.
The Church is upset about ISKCON’s success in Russia since perestroika and glasnost gave rise to democracy.
Last year Newsweek magazine wrote that the Hare Krsna Movement is the “fastest growing religion in Russia.”
When the Aum Shinrikyo incident happened in Japan, the Russian Orthodox Church used that to push the government to close the group down in Russia. But Niranjana Maharaja said that the Church’s ultimate target is ISKCON. Under Russian law a parliamentary ruling must be voted on twice and then ratified by the President. The second voting on the “new religions” bill is imminent and will then go to President Yeltsin for approval. Considering that he often appears at public functions with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, things don’t look very good for us.
Several weeks ago the government also reactivated Section 5 of the KGB, which oversees and investigates religious affairs. Since then, various temples have reported their telephone lines appear to be bugged, and one temple reported that its COM system had been infiltrated. Another ominous report is that Russian embassies in other countries are no longer issuing visas to ISKCON devotees desiring to visit Russia. My fear is that I may not be able to come back here. It is an uncomfortable thought because I have been preaching here for years, even secretly during the communist era, and have initiated more than three hundred and fifty disciples.