Conference e-mail

The Aleksanteri Institute

Unioninkatu 33 (P.O. Box 42)
00014 University of Helsinki

Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Valentina Isaeva (Sociological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences)

Pre-Soviet, Soviet and Post-Soviet Legacies as Cultural and Social Context of Conversion of Russians to Buddhism

In the pre-Soviet Russia Buddhism was the traditional religion of certain ethnic groups ― Kalmyks, Tuvans and Buryats. For more than seventy years of atheistic propagation in Soviet Union Buddhism was almost totally destroyed staying alive only in two monasteries of Buryatia region. In post-Soviet time the process of religious revival began. In the Law «On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations» of 1997 Buddhism was noted as «part of historic heritage of Russia». Ethnic Buddhism is taken for granted but the emergence of such a phenomenon as conversion of Russians to Buddhism in the historically Orthodox territories is perceived as a kind of aberration. Pre-Soviet, Soviet and post- Soviet legacy becomes the context of realization of the right to freedom of religious belief in which Russian Buddhists face a number of difficulties trying to overcome ethnic and religious prejudices. In the report the case of lay community of Diamond Way Buddhism Karma Kague which comprises 80 units in different regions of the Russian Federation is considered. I review macro- and meso-levels of the process of conversion to Buddhism in transitional and post-transitional period in Russia: social and cultural factors which become premises of conversion of Russians to Buddhism; cultural politics of the religious organization understood as strategy of choices made by Buddhist community in the interaction with the contemporary state and its policy. The report is based on the review of relevant literature, document analysis and data of the field research including 15 in-depth interviews with the experts and ordinary members of Karma Kague.