July 29, 2004
Vrindavan Lila Dasi’s recounting of the history:
I had joined this movement in Moscow in 1988 in a very active way, so I was in contact with lots of senior Russian devotees from my very first steps and I was very eager to hear from them anything and everything. As I was serving them and with them I got plenty of chances to hear their memories of beginning days in Russia and it was very fascinating to me, I paid a lot of attention to their memories.
In 1971 Srila Prabhupada personally went to Russia along with Shyamasundara Prabhu, and initiated one disciple, whose name is Ananta Shanti Das.
Following that up, Srila Prabhupada personally sent a wife for Ananta Shanti - Mandakini Mataji from France. She used to come into Russia many times and they together were meeting people, doing preaching programs, which had to be held 'underground'. She related the story of their preaching to me personally.
Also sometime in early 70's H.G. Hamsaduta Prabhu went to Moscow for some time to give company to Ananta Shanti and teach him things.
Many devotees over those years tried to push Krishna Consciousness into Russia by sticking Bhagavad Gitas in all kinds of odd places (like trucks, toilets, window shelves, people's bags in airports, leaving books on the benches in airport's transit area, etc). There are many devotees who did that.
In 1976, HH. Gopal Krishna Goswami went to the International Book Fair in Moscow, with the mission to put Srila Prabhupada's books into major libraries in Russia, which he had done successfully. He met with Ananta Shanti and together they were holding house programs in Moscow.
However, the major names in pushing Krishna Consciousness in Russia are - Harikesh Prabhu (Swami then), as also Kirtiraja Prabhu, who was managing Russian yatra then, mostly from abroad, as he was not allowed to enter the country for 10 years.
The four photos above are from 1990, Moscow, taken during
first GBS meeting in Russia gathering. Harikesha Maharaj and Kirtiraj Prabhu
came then for the first time after long 10 years period of not being allowed in
the country. On that meeting
Russia was devided into few GBC zones for the first time, before that it was
one zone. About 3000 devotees gathered then to participate in the programs.
This is just to name some of Srila Prabhupada's disciples involved in the first steps of Krishna Consciousness in Russia (from what is known to me).
First Russian initiated devotees (except for Ananta Shanti) were initiated by Harikesha Swami(then) as early as 1979.
Here are some names (not all by any means), which I can remember just now of the first Russian disciples of Harikesha Prabhu. They got initiated in two batches in 1979 and 1980: Vrindavan das, Pundarik Vidyanidhi das, Aditi devi dasi, Ramabhakta das, Mahamantra Devi dasi, Ananga Manjari Devi dasi, Udara Kirti devi dasi, Premavati devi dasi, Satananda das, Vishvamitra das, Bharadvaja das, Sanatana Kumar das, Sanaka Kumar das, Vidura das, Mamu Thakur das, Jagya Devi Dasi, Narataki devi dasi, etc.. etc... (sorry I am not able to name all due to my bad memory).
Also, shortly after that, when Harikesha Swami (then) was not allowed to enter Russia any more, he initiated more and more disciples via mail. Some of them, like – Kamala-mala das, Sanyasa das, Atmananda das, Sachi Suta das, Vadyanatha das (HH Bhakti Vijnana Goswami now), Brahmananda das, Damayanti devi dasi, Yamaraj das, Sarva Bhavana das, Dayan Visha devi dasi, Achuta das and his wife, Manasi Ganga devi dasi, Atapa Rupa devi dasi, etc, etc...etc... (this list should be LOT-LOT-...LOT bigger, I am just writing what I can remember right now on the spur of the moment, mostly from my personal memories of association)
These early Russian devotes were REALLY BIG pushers of this movement in Russia and did a tremendous job for spreading Krishna Consciousness there. Some of them have left their bodies already. Many of them underwent awful tortures in jails and mental homes for being Hare Krishna's. - Sachi Suta Prabhu was tortured to death in jail... - Premavati Mataji was pregnant (on the last month) at the time of arrest and had her infant child killed by the prison officers for want of the whereabouts of other devotees whom they wanted to capture. They were only allowing her to spend 1 hour a day with her baby... - Ananga Manjari came out of 'home' with completely white hair as an old lady, even though she was only 23 then... etc...etc...etc...
Sachi Suta Prabhu was an amazing personality - his main
goal in life was to
distibute Srila Prabhupada's books as much as possible.
His humility seemed to be unlimited. He would go all day on sankirtan (in very dangerous situation of Soviet regime) and when he came back he would cook for all the devotees, wash their plates and whatever dirty clothes he found lying around. He was not talking much at all, not getting into any disagreements or discussions - just serving, serving, serving...
When I heard memories of Jayananda Prabhu from some senior devotees, I was
surprised how much simillarity it had with descriptions of Sachi Suta Prabhu!
When I joined in November 1988 there were only two (2) Gurus known to the Russian devotees - Harikesha Swami (then) and PrabhuaVishnu Swami, who had just came in Russia for the first time two months before I joined.
A month after I joined came HH Gopal Krishna Goswami, who became my spiritual master.
I also remember HH Indradyumna Swami coming for the first time at the last days of December 1988-begining of January 1989. I remember him renaming Premavati's daughter (child then) to Sarasvati (from Darya).
Other Gurus who are preaching in Russia at the present came there after that. I can remember many of them coming for the first time and been introduced for the first time to Russian devotees. First Russsian devotees went to India for Gaura Purnima 1989, they met a lot of Gurus there and started to invite them to come to Russia.
Every single devotee contributes a LOT to the development of Krishna Consciousness - be it in Russia or elsewhere. So I mean only to praise all the devotees who are preaching in any way, anywhere!
Now the opportunity has come to build a proper temple in Moscow as a tribute to the enormous efforts of so many devotees who struggled to establish Krishna Consciousness in Russia (since way before end of 80-s - 90-s) through unimaginable difficulties. This is a very worthy cause to donate for – no doubt!
Hare Krishna. Please excuse me if you see any inaccurate facts in my write-up and please-please correct me.
your servant, Vrindavan Lila Dasi