President Vladimir Putin opened his visit to Buryatia by visiting Ivilga Datsan, the main monastery of the Buddhist Traditional Sangha in Russia.
President Putin opened his trip to Buryatia by visiting Ivolga Datsan, the main monastery of the Buddhist Traditional Sangha in Russia. Picture: kremlin.ru
He highlighted the long and important history of Budhism in Siberia, and spoke of how he valued his relationship with the head of Russian Buddhists, Pandito Khambo-lama Damba Ayusheyev.
'Russia is probably the only country in Europe where Buddhism is an official religion', he said.
'It began with Empress Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great, who was the first Russian head of state to recognise Buddhism. Since then Buddhism has played a very important role in the lives of the peoples of Russia, helping people in the times of trouble and sharing their joys. It has been like that at all times.
'It is well known that Buddhists behaved heroically in the years of hardship during World War I and the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War, despite the fact that they suffered greatly in the 1930s, along with representatives of all other faiths in Russia.
'Today you have a very noble mission: you always support the people.
'I just saw your most important, most revered shrines, which you treat with great care, preserving them for the people.
'Most importantly, you are promoting a very kind humanistic teaching that is based on people's love for each other and for their country. You carry on the traditions of interethnic and interfaith harmony, which is vitally important, and for that I want to express my gratitude to you once again.
'I have enjoyed a very close relationship with Pandito Khambo-lama for many years. I want to thank him for this relationship and for his friendship. I want to stress that the Russian Government, the regional authorities and I are always at your disposal, always ready to give you our support.'
Village of Bada, Buryatia, Vladimir Putin with local businessman Sergey Kukhtin. Pictures: kremlin.ru
The Budhist leader called on the president to change the system under which Buddhist universities do not have state accreditation, which means their students can be called up for conscription in the armed forces.
In mainstream universities, full-time students are exempt from military service during their studies. The president suggested that they could be drafted in the summer months only, so as not to interrupt their studies. The Lama said this would be 'more acceptable'.
There are up to 1.5 million Buddhists in Russia, mainly in the Siberian republics of Buryatia and Tyva, and also in Kalmykia.
During his visit to Ulan-Ude, the capital of Buryatia, Putin held a State Council aimed at boosting the efficiency of Russia's timber industry.
He was also touring two timber plants. Forests account for 69% of Russia's territory, with about 60,000 large, medium-sized, and small-scale enterprises operating in the sector.
Hot spring summit between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin can be start of 'win-win' relationship.