Preaching in USSR

BY: SITALATMA DAS - 26.4 2017

Preaching in USSR 1973-1991

Sometime in 2009, ISKCON TV recorded a long interview with Kirtiraja Prabhu and Hari, former Harikesha Swami, where they talked about preaching in Soviet Union from their side of the Iron Curtain. They give a slightly different take on the story told by Shyamasundara Prabhu - they don't mention that Calcutta temple was also involved in that mass mail campaign of 1980-1981.

They had an extra ten thousand run of Russian translations of Introduction to Bhagavad Gita which they printed in Germany, and they mailed these introductions in different envelopes from different places to different addresses in Soviet Union. That was in addition to two thousand full Gitas they sent out, too. They hoped to overcome Soviet mail filtering facilities and it worked - they also set a mail box in Sweden to collect the replies, and hundreds and thousands came back asking for more.

That interview includes many more amazing stories and spans almost twenty years of trying to get Krishna Consciousness into USSR, from passing spy notes to devotees in airports to smuggling suitcases full of books and even cars full of books through customs, to stopping Soviet trucks on highways in Europe and to trying to give Bhagavad-gita to Gorbachev himself.

Somehow ISKCON TV didn't publish it, but it's available on Hari's own Youtube channel. The interview is split into four parts and it has some audio problems - sound only in the left channel or it's too low. I've fixed it up and uploaded to Youtube myself with links to the original.













Another interesting aspect of these stories - I once mentioned them to one of the ISKCON gurus and his first comment was that these pioneering days are in the past, we fight different wars now. At first I disagreed citing examples of countries like China. We've been there for forty years, he replied, in hundreds of cities all over the country. Eventually I realized that he was right - old days are not coming back.

Preaching in USSR 1980-81


In 1980-81 I was living in Calcutta, which at that time was ruled by Jyoti Basu's communist government. Even our next-door neighbor was the Polish embassy and down the street was the Soviet embassy (the temple was in the diplomatic section of town). Though Calcutta temple was far from Moscow we were part of a team that was using every possible means that we could think of to infiltrate the USSR with Krsna Consciousness.

How? Devotees like Kirtiraja Prabhu would smuggle phone directories of major cities out of the USSR and send them to Calcutta (not sure if other temples were involved). Then under Adridharana Prabhu's leadership we would take addresses from the phone directories and put them on envelopes containing a Russian translation of Prabhupada's introduction to the Bhagavad-gita. Then we would take these many thousands of "time bombs" and mail them to the USSR from many different Indian cities so that the KGB and their Indian collaborators could not figure out the source. Because India and the USSR were close allies, letters from India would not be scrutinized so closely if at all, but if thousands of letters had suddenly come from a Western country suspicions would be aroused.

Admittedly we were using a scatter-gun approach and had no idea who we were sending them to. The letter could end up at the home of a pious person or the head of the KGB, we just didn't know. Nor did we know if our endeavor was having any effect.

But our efforts were not in vain. In 1982 I was in Bangalore and looking through a copy of "The Hindu," a major newspaper. A small article in the back pages caught my eye; the substance of it was "KGB says the two greatest threats to the USSR were Rock n Roll music and the Hare Krsnas." Our small efforts had something to do with that. (-:

dasa dasa anu dasa

Shyamasundara dasa ACBSP

krsne matirastu