Staunton, April 12 – Saying that he was proud that Russia is the only country in Europe where Buddhism is officially recognized as a traditional religion, President Vladimir Putin told the leaders of the two million followers of that tradition yesterday that he and the Russian government will back that community “100 percent.”
During his tour of the Trans-Baikal region, Putin visited the Ivolgin datsan, the seat of the Buddhist Spiritual Directorate the Soviets in 1946 to represent the Buddhists of Buryatia, Kalmykia, and Tuva as well as other regions and met with Damba Ayushev, who serves as the head of that body (sangharussia.ru/news/detail.php?ID=11251
The Russian president praised Russia’s Buddhists for helping others in both their “grief and joy,” noting that it was “well known how Buddhists helped during the First and Second World Wars,” and he expressed regret that they suffered in Soviet times “just as other confessions did but always remained with the people” (vesti.ru/doc.html?id=1074514&cid=5
The Dalai Lama has been to Russia six times since 1979, but his last visit was in 2004. Then he spent 36 hours in Kalmykia. Russian Buddhists have invited him many times since then but have been unable to get the necessary visa (rediff.com/news/interview/want-to-ask-putin-why-dalai-lama-cant-get-russia-visa/20121223.htm).
The exiled Buddhist leader for his part has shown increasing interest in the Buddhists of the Russian Federation, hosting special sessions for them at his residence in India over the past three years (dalailama.com/news/post/889-his-holiness-the-dalai-lama-teaches-a-group-from-russia-in-delhi---day-one).
Also not mentioned in the Russian accounts of Putin’s visit but perhaps equally sensitive are the expanding ties between the Buddhist communities of the Russian Federation and their co-religionists abroad, including with the active Kalmyk community in the United States (npr.org/2013/02/10/171630978/wests-allure-dulls-monkhoods-luster-for-some-buddhist-reincarnations).