The Enlightenment stupa faces an uncertain future in Russia

The Russian Federation is under fire for their treatment of religions within their borders. One of the most recent religious issue to arise is against Buddhists. The Enlightenment Stupa in Moscow, a religious shrine, has become the target of the state. After all, the Enlightenment Stupa is home to a religious group that is different than the majority of Orthodox Christians which populate Russia.

The Enlightenment Stupa, also called the Three Jewels Stupa, was constructed under the guidance of His Holiness Dujom Sangye Pema Shepa Rinpoche, a major member of Tibetan Buddhism. The building houses many relics that are significant to the Buddhist religion, increasing the overall importance of the stupa. The few years after the construction of the stupa in 2008 were relatively peaceful as the stupa was the only one in Moscow at the time. The year 2016 proved to be a harsh one for the existence of the shrine because that is when it came under attack for the first time.

During 2016, the Russian Ministry of Culture declared it was an illegal construction, nearly resulting in its destruction. It was through the intervention of Vladimir Putin that it was preserved at all. However, that intervention did not last long. In early 2017, Buddhists were being denied access to the stupa, resulting in it falling into severe disrepair. Although the International Center of the Roerichs tried to intervene on its behalf, going so far as to open the stupa to local use, it was still not allowed to be repaired. An attempt to remove it altogether was launched in September 2018 but was ultimately protested to a great extent. Now, the shrine is in limbo, so to speak, awaiting repair or possible relocation.

This is not the first time Russia has violated religions in recent years. In fact, their crackdown on Jehovah’s Witnesses and other religions has made the nation a member of a notorious list. According to an annual report created by The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), Russia is a Tier 1 country of concern for its treatment of religions within its borders. This signifies an intensification of religious repression in the country and could be a sign of even worse things to come in the future.

For now, though, it remains clear the country is continually at odds with any religion but the Orthodox Christianity it holds above all others.

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