Buddhism in Russia


 Buddhism is the most ancient world religion that appeared in India more than two thousands years ago. Its universal character and solemn ceremonialism promoted its ample diffusion across the boundaries of India. In the course of its centuries-long history Buddhism strongly impacted the ideology and rituals of the peoples who live not only in South, South-Eastern and Eastern Asia, but also in Russia. The penetration of Buddhism into the present Russian territory started in the 11th -12th centuries. The Kalmyks, who migrated in the 17th century from Dzungaria to the Lower Volga Basin, adopted Buddhism in the 16th century.  On the Russian territory the most intensive diffusion of Buddhism in its Central Asian variant dates from the early 18th century. At that period, the doctrine of religious school Gelug, founded by Tibetan spiritual leader and scholar Dzonkhava in the early 15th century, reached the Buryats, the Tuvinians, and partly the Evenks and Nanaians, spreading from Tibet via Mongolia to Siberia. In the early 20th century a new hybrid religion Burhanism emerged among the Altaians as a result of Central Asian Buddhism influence on their traditional shamanistic beliefs. Some elements of Buddhism in its Central Asian and Far East variants have preserved among the Evenks of Baikal and Upper Amur Basin, the Nanaians, and the Udeghe.

There are two clearly distinguishable traditions in Buddhism.  The first one is monastic lore based on continuity in study of written religious and philosophical heritage. The second tradition is so called folk Buddhism oriented to the archaic non-literal culture. The Buddhist folk tradition bore syncretic character, and formed on the base of simplified interpretations of Buddhist religious ideas, local cults and shamanism. The main goal of this exhibition is to present the ethnocultural specifics of Buddhism among the peoples of Russia which reflected in these two co-existing traditions.