Acting in the underground: Life as a Hare Krishna Devotee in the Soviet Republic of Lithuania (1979–1989)

Rasa Pranskevičiūtė, Tadas Juras

Abstract


The article focuses on the origins and early development of the Hare Krishna community in Lithuania until 1989, when the collapse of the Soviet Union began and official registration of religious communities started. Using a historical narrative method, the authors retrace the formation of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) and how the movement came to Lithuania from Moscow, Russia through Tallinn, Estonia and Riga, Latvia. The community developed within the underground under the threat of the KGB repressions where it existed until the beginning of the Sąjūdis (the Reform Movement of Lithuania), when public community activities became possible, such as public programs, book distributing and founding of official temples. The ideas and practices of ISKCON were a form of resistance to the Soviet regime and the communist ideology, and the Lithuanian ISKCON community played a significant role in the development of ISKCON throughout the Soviet Union, because after the imprisonment of Armenian activists, Lithuanian members organized secret printing and distribution of the ISKCON literature throughout the Soviet region. The article depicts a very different ISKCON that, compared with today, lacked an organizational structure and functioned without the guidance by senior foreign ISKCON members.

Keywords


new religious movements (NRMs); ISKCON; Hare Krishna; resistance; Lithuania; Soviet Union; KGB.

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