Chapter-38: The Rostov Temple attacked

June 24, 1995

By Indradyumna Swami

This morning at Chelyabinsk we received horrible news. The Rostov temple, which we visited just a few weeks ago, was attacked by thirty thugs. The attack left fifteen devotees hospitalized.

The gang entered the temple compound in four cars and three motorcycles at 7:00 p.m., while the devotees were attending gaura- arati. The temple is surrounded by a large wall, having previously been a kindergarten. There are only two ways to enter and exit the compound, and the thugs stationed men at each exit so devotees couldn’t escape. After smashing all the cars in the driveway with sticks, they broke all the windows on the ground floor and entered the building. Most of the men were wearing black ski masks and helmets, and they all carried wooden sticks and small sharpened, shovel-like spades.

They entered the kitchen and began attacking the men and women there with the sticks, beating two devotees unconscious and destroying most of the equipment in the kitchen. Before leaving they sprayed the unconscious devotees with fire extinguishers.

The mob then went upstairs to the storage room where the books are kept and fractured the skull of one devotee and broke the arm of another. Anyone who resisted was beaten. Finding their way into the temple room they beat the men and women attending the ceremony. They tried to tear the sari from one woman.

“You are Russian!” they screamed at her. “Why are you wearing these clothes?”

Then they smashed the altar and threw the Deities to the ground.

The devotees were helpless. Acaryanidhi was knocked unconscious by a blow to the back of his head with a shovel. There was blood everywhere. Those devotees who managed to escape the building were beaten outside. After twenty minutes the gang departed, leaving the temple in a shambles..

The police arrived shortly afterwards and apprehended five of the men, who were found to be members of local extremist political groups. An investigation into the attack has begun, and the police have placed officers with machine guns around the temple to protect the devotees. The violence is getting extensive media coverage, and the devotees in Moscow have appealed to parliament for an inquiry, criticizing a growing tendency in Russia towards religious intolerance.

The incident has sent shock waves through all the temples in Russia, as devotees fear the attack could be connected with the rumored crackdown by the government and that trouble may erupt elsewhere.

Lord Nrsimhadeva, please protect the devotees.

vidikñu dikñürdhvam adhaù samantäd antar bahir bhagavän närasiàhaù

prahäpayaû loka-bhayaà svanena sva-tejasä grasta-samasta-tejäù 

“Prahlada Maharaja loudly chanted the holy name of Lord Nrsimhadeva. May Lord Nrsimhadeva, roaring for His devotee Prahlada Maharaja, protect us from all fear of dangers created by stalwart leaders in all directions through poison, weapons, water, fire, air and so on. May the Lord cover their influence by His  own transcendental influence. May Nrsimhadeva protect us in all directions and in all corners, above, below, within and without.”

[Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.8.34]

I gave class later this morning, but found it difficult to concentrate. My mind was on Rostov and particularly on Acaryanidhi, Lord Caitanya’s soldier who is lying in great pain in the hospital. It became clear to me that in the future many sacrifices will have to be made to spread this movement.

In the afternoon we went to the Chelyabinsk airport to catch a flight back to Novosibirsk for their Ratha-yatra. The city had officially invited the devotees to hold their Ratha-yatra parade along with other festivities for the annual City Day.

It was cool and rainy when we arrived back in Siberia, and the mosquitoes seemed more furious than ever. But the bright side was that His Holiness Prabhavisnu Maharaja had arrived at the airport an hour earlier and was waiting for us at the temple. It had been more than eight months since we had been together, and I was anxious to see Maharaja. We hurried to the temple and went upstairs to his room, where we exchanged obeisances and loving embraces.

As traveling preachers, we all have our responsibilities, often in isolated areas, and as such we don’t often get the association of Godbrothers. But when we do meet there is a camaraderie that   is difficult to express as we exchange stories of our preaching experiences.