Russia: Buddhism Becoming ‘a Protest Religion’ And Kremlin Is Worried – OpEd


The forcing out of the leader of the Buddhist community of Kalmykia had more to do with Moscow’s wanting to show deference to Beijing by getting rid of someone closely linked to the Dalai Lama and the cause of the restoration of the independence of Tibet than his criticism of Putin’s war in Ukraine (; cf.

But two Russian supporters of Buddhism say that there is more at work. Journalist Aleksandr Plyushchov says that “right before our eyes, Buddhism is becoming a protest religion in Russia” ( And commentator Stanislav Kucher, himself a Buddhist, says that the Kremlin fears Buddhist ideas and may seek to ban it (

Such a prediction may seem “rash,” Kucher continues, especially to those who think that Buddhists are quietist and passive. But in fact the basic principles of Buddhism are about questioning all authority, something anathema in Putin’s Russia, and can become the basis for radical even militant action as happened in Mongolia during the Russian Civil War.

Because Buddhists have these ideas and because there is evidence that Buddhism is not only intensifying among historically Buddhist peoples but spreading to Russians and becoming a source of radicalism, Moscow has good reason for fearing them, especially because the Russian state is in fact virtually powerless against radicalized Buddhists.

(For background on this faith in Russia that has seldom received much attention and that is having unexpected impact on people there, see among others,,,,

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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