The Controversial Case in Russia Centers on an Allegedly Extremist Hare Krishna Scripture Central to the Religion.
On Wednesday a Russian court ruled that a key Hare Krishna scripture was not extremist and thus does not promote social discord as alleged by prosecutors in the Siberian city of Tomsk. The Bhagavad Gita As It Is allegedly promoted hatred and violence towards non-believers according to the prosecutors in Tomsk.
The text Bhagavad Gita As It Is fuses the ancient text with commentary by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the International Society for Krishna Conciousness or the Hare Krishna movement.
The Siberian prosecutors requested that the text be added to the Federal List of Extremist Materials which includes texts from Adolf Hitler, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Scientology. The lawyer for the Hare Krishna movement in Tomsk, Alexander Shakov, is pleased with the verdict and praised Russia’s advance towards an increasingly progressive, democratic system. This ruling follows after Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna had a meeting with Russia’s ambassador to India, Alexander Kadakin, in which Krishna advocated for a progressive resolution of the controversy in Tomsk.
The prosecutors did not take issue with the Bhagavad Gita itself, an ancient text likely present in Russian libraries for some time, but rather the issue was with the author’s commentary and its relatively poor translation. The Hare Krishna movement interpreted the aggressive maneuvers on the part of the Russian legal system against the text as yet further evidence of the growing power of the Russian Orthodox Church and its intolerance of other religions. For example, in 2005 a Russian Orthodox archbishop asked Moscow to ban the construction of a Hare Krishna temple in the city, calling the deity Krishna, “an evil demon, the personified power of hell opposing God.”