Designs will be selected this month for the construction of two new Buddhist temples in Moscow, one in the Poklonnaya Gora (“Bow-down Hill”) war memorial park and the other in Otradnoye District.
Poklonnaya Gora is home to the “Poklonnaya Gora Great Patriotic War Memorial,” as well as an orthodox church, a synagogue, and a mosque. The construction of buildings of worship from different religions here is to commemorate the combined efforts of soldiers of these faiths during World War II, and the new temple will be devoted to the Buddhists who sacrificed their lives. President Vladimir Putin told the lamas of the Ivolginsky datsan (an important state-protected Buddhist temple in Buryatia, Russia) that “Buddhism plays a significant role in Russia. . . . It has always been that way. It is well known that the Buddhists helped during both world wars.”
In 2010, the new website RIA Novosti reported that Moscow’s deputy mayor, Sergei Baidakov, had announced the allocation by Moscow authorities of a small piece of land on the hill for the Buddhist temple. While its construction had been discussed for a while, plans had not yet been finalized because “when the Poklonnaya Hill territory was planned, the mayor's instruction on construction of temples for representatives of different religious beliefs who died during the war had not been taken into account,” Baidakov explained.
The Moscow Times has reported that the chairwoman of Moscow’s Buddhist Society, Dulma Shagdarova, told Moscow24 (Moskva24) that the total expenditure for building the two-story temple would amount to approximately US$5.4–6.4 million.
The proposal to build a temple in Otradnoye District was made in the early 2000s, but the project never got off the ground. President of Russia’s Association of Buddhists at Karma Kagyu School, Alexander Koybagarov, told Voice of Russia that the project was revived under pressure from the Moscow Buddhist community. The temple will be a 3,000-square-meter facility with a cultural and medical center, a conference area, and a soup kitchen. The only problem, according to Koybagarov, is funding. “Anyway, when we last saw the chairman of the Moscow Buddhist Community, Dulma Shagdarov, he assured us that they are almost ready to begin the construction,” he concluded.
Both the Poklonnaya Gora and Otradnoye temples are to be built entirely with the help of donations.
Orthodox Christianity is Russia’s most popular religion, with a following of about 75 per cent of the population. Next is Islam at 5 per cent, with Buddhism reckoned at about 0.5 per cent. Buddhism came to Russia in the early 17th century, and the main historical monastic traditions are still practiced mostly in Buryatia, Kalmykia, and Tuva. However, the Gelukpa school of Tibetan Buddhism remains the main form of the religion in the country. Read more about the history of Buddhism in Russia here.