RUSSIA, May 7, 2021 (Bitter Winter): A prosecutor in Udmurtia, Central Russia, claims that organizing the Maha Shivratri festival, the “great night of Shiva” celebration for Hindus, and advertising the event on social media is a form of “illegal missionary activity” forbidden by Russia’s anti-proselytization law. A woman, Ekaterina Kalinkina, who teaches yoga and Vedic astrology to a small group of followers, was charged in Udmurtia and faces a fine of US$673. She posted on VKontakte that the incident “makes me think about the future,” and she is considering three options. First, “I’m going underground, continuing to do pujas, but will not inform people about them via the Internet.
Second, Kalinkina wrote, she may “keep it up to 3 more times (in most countries, the minimum number of precedents necessary to be granted political asylum because of religious persecution), and then I emigrate.” Third, she may try to “find two more indestructible and strong-willed people with residence permit in Udmurtia, and together we go to register Sanatana Dharma, a religious group, which aims to perform traditional Indian religious rites, traditional sacred texts (mantras and hymns) and spread information about traditional Indian Deities.” Precedents are not encouraging, as the move by the prosecutors against Kalinkina’s group is clearly part of a wider crackdown in Russia against all forms of religion perceived as “competing” with the Russian Orthodox Church.