How come ISKCON has a massive presence in Russia compared to the rest of the world outside

In Russia, during the Soviet empire, any form of religion was illegal, and ISKCON was suppressed. Devotees had to practice in secrecy. The first initiated devotee in Russia was Ananta Shanti.

Srila Prabhupada visited Russia only once. He and a few devotees were staying in Moscow, at a hotel. One day Srila Prabhupada sent Syamasundara out to buy some food, which was scarce in those days. During his walk around Moscow looking for some shops, Syamasundara met a young man, and brought him back to meet Srila Prabhupada. He was initiated by Srila Prabhupada, and became Ananta Shanti.

Later Ananta Shanti was sent to a psych-ward by the KGB, for no other crime than preaching and practicing Krishna consciousness. In the psych ward Ananta Shanti later died, I think from malnutrition or tuberculosis.

So to be a devotee in Russia in those days, was at the risk of your life. Ananta Shanti managed to create many devotees, before he was arrested by the KGB.

Growing up in a totalitarian state like the Soviet Union, where it was illegal to practice religion, I think people become very hungry for religion. It’s actually inherent in the human psyche to worship God, so when it repressed like it was in Russia, religious feelings get pent up in people. and they kind of explode when they are released.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, and things opened up i Russia, young people joined Hare Krishna en masse, as did a lot of people from Eastern European countries, that had been part of the Soviet block.

Also, Russia is a massive country, in fact, the biggest country in the world, so it’s only to be expected that more Russians will join ISKCON, compared to other countries.

In the beginning most Hare Krishna devotees were Americans. Later on Europeans joined in large numbers. After that, Russians and former Eastern Europeans began literally flocking to ISKCON.

Now a days ISKCON is registered in most countries as a bona-fide religion. Especially in India, ISKCON is very well regarded.

Krishna says:

After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare. (Bg 7.19)

A Japanese devotee, Jagadvira Das, wrote in his Vyasapuja tribute from 2013 to Srila Prabhupada:

But the pure devotee of the Lord takes all risks to serve the mission of the Lord and now we can understand that all of your pastimes were transcendental adventures. And so many adventures did you have. Preaching to the hippies in San Francisco, ("Chanting Hare Krishna gets you higher than LSD"), going to London and meeting the Beatles ("John and his wife were very kind upon me when I was staying at Tittenhurst Park as their guest. I always prayed for them to Krishna for understanding this great movement.

Please inform him this message on my behalf. I have dreamt something very nice about John which I shall disclose in proper time. In the meantime, please ask him to cooperate with this movement as you are doing, and he will be very happy"), somehow going to Moscow where your preaching was very restricted (Syamasundara Prabhu was amazed that he could even obtain the visas).

Meeting Anatoly Pinyayev (Ananta-shanti Dasa) and as Syamasundara said, "You could just see Prabhupada transferring the potency, the power from his eyes, from his hands into this boy. I've never before or after seen such a display of Prabhupada's power entering into another person."

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