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Historically, Buddhism was incorporated into Siberia in the early 17th century. Buddhism is considered to be one of Russia's traditional religions and is legally a part of Russian historical heritage. Besides the historical monastic traditions of Buryatia, Kalmykia and Tuva, Buddhism is now widespread all over Russia, with many ethnic Russian converts.
The main form of Buddhism in Siberia is the Gelukpa school of Tibetan Buddhism, informally known as the "yellow hat" tradition, with other Tibetan and non-Tibetan schools as minorities. Although Tibetan Buddhism is most often associated with Tibet, it spread into Mongolia, and via Mongolia into Russia.
Datsan Gunzechoinei in Saint Petersburg is the northernmost Buddhist temple in Russia.
The first evidence of the existence of Buddhism in the territory of the modern Russian (more specifically Siberia, near the lands of East Asian countries) lands belong to the 8th century AD. E. And are associated with the state of Balhae, which in 698-926 occupied part of today's Primorye and Amur. The Mohe, whose culture was greatly influenced by neighboring China, Korea and Manchuria, professed the Buddhism of one of the Mahayana directions. It primarily spread into the Russian constituent regions geographically or culturally adjacent to Mongolia, this region being known as the Mongolian Steppes, or inhabited by Mongolian ethnic groups: Buryatia, Zabaykalsky Krai, Tuva, and Kalmykia, the latter being the only Buddhist region in Europe, located to the north of the Caucasus. By 1887, there were already 29 publishing houses and numerous datsans. These ethnic regions, in 1917, had among them approximately 20,000 followers of the Buddhist faith with 175 temples being erected. When the Soviet Union came into power, it did not welcome the already presiding Buddhists in the country as with most religions with the Soviet Union stating that all religions including Buddhism were to be viewed as "tools of oppression." And by 1917, Joseph Stalin had not allowed any datsans to remain in the country. This was done as the USSR sought to remove Buddhism and other religions, as they found that there would be a link in lack of religion and urbanization to increase production power. In 1929, many monasteries were closed down, and monks were arrested and exiled. By the 1930s, Buddhists were suffering more than any other religious community in the Soviet Union with lamas being expelled and accused of being "Japanese spies" and "the people's enemies". It was by 1943 that all Kalmykians were forcibly exiled to Siberia due to the Soviet Union who had suspicions that they were collaborating with Nazi Germany when they had occupied part of Kalmykia. This caused about 40% of their population to die while in exile and those who did survive would not be able to return to their homeland till 1956.
However Buddhism had not disappeared yet because of Bidia Dandaron a Tsydenov follower as well as a famous Buddhologist and thinker. Dandaron attempted to revive Buddhism in an atheist state by introducing the concept of Neo-Buddhism a combination of Buddhist teachings and current Western philosophy with scientific theories. Dandaron was later arrested for creating a religious community and eventually died within a prison camp, however his disciples played a key role later in the 1990's with the revival of Russian Buddhism.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, a Buddhist revival began in Kalmykia with the election of President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. It was also revived in Buryatia and Tuva and began to spread to Russians in other regions.
Fyodor Shcherbatskoy, a renowned Russian Indologist who traveled to India and Mongolia during the time of the Russian Empire, is widely considered by many to be responsible for laying the foundations for the study of Buddhism in the Western world.
|Federal subject||Buddhists (2012)||Buddhists (2016)|
In 2012 it was the religion of 62% of the total population of Tuva, 38% of Kalmykia and 20% of Buryatia. Buddhism also has believers accounting for 6% in Zabaykalsky Krai, primarily consisting in ethnic Buryats, and of 0.5% to 0.9% in Tomsk Oblast and Yakutia. Buddhist communities may be found in other federal subjects of Russia, between 0.1% and 0.5% in Sakhalin Oblast, Khabarovsk Krai, Amur Oblast, Irkutsk Oblast, Altay, Khakassia, Novosibirsk Oblast, Tomsk Oblast, Tyumen Oblast, Orenburg Oblast, Arkhangelsk Oblast, Murmansk Oblast, Moscow and Moscow Oblast, Saint Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast, and in Kaliningrad Oblast. In cities like Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Samara, often up to 1% of the population identify as Buddhists.