By Kashishvara Dasa
One of the honor guards at Lenin’s tomb remembers the unusual sight all those years ago.
One visit behind the iron curtain that changed the course of history.
Moscow, USSR, the early morning of June 21, 1971. The first rays of the sun brightly illuminate the ruby stars on the towers of the Kremlin, the ancient citadel of Russian tsars. Its medieval red brick walls cast long shadows on the cobblestone pavement below. Vast, plain Red Square, the heart of Soviet Moscow, still empty, will soon fill up with visitors and tourists. At dawn there are only a few lonely passers-by. And some street cleaners, mostly older women, sweep the ground with their brooms. Small flocks of grey and motley pigeons, typical residents of Soviet cities, are swiftly taking wing. A water truck is lavishly flooding the pavement to keep down the city dust. The morning freshness is in the air. The big city is waking up.
The central object of Red Square is Lenin’s Mausoleum, the sacred shrine of the communist leader. The sanctuary resembles the Babylonian pyramid, the ziggurat. On great holidays, such as the days commemorating the October Socialist Revolution, WW2 Victory Day, and May Day, mass parades are organized in front of the memorial. On those occasions, Red Square shakes from the march of the numerous columns of Soviet laborers, the countless regiments of the Soviet Army, and the rumbles of military heavy equipment such as tanks, howitzers, and intercontinental ballistic missiles. The leaders of the USSR have welcomed them all from the rostrum of the Mausoleum. Stalin, Khrushchev, and others often stood here. On this June day in 1971, inquisitive tourists in a long queue will wait here to see the embalmed body of the great Lenin.
Red Square is still quiet. The chimes of the Spasskaya Tower strike five times, 5:00 a.m. Along the Kremlin Wall Necropolis, decorated with flowerbeds of yellow and red tulips and filled with marble tombstones covering the graves of eminent Bolsheviks, three young honor guards, coming from the direction of the Spasskaya Gate, march toward the Mausoleum. Wearing dress uniform, with rifles on their shoulders, they make their way in 210 steps (as is done every hour), exactly in 2 minutes 35 seconds. The three boys replace the current honor guards and stop in front of the Mausoleum’s entrance, where, sprung to attention, the young cadets with ruddy faces stand motionless and speechless. This is the number one post of the country, the most honorable place and their fulfilled dream.
For these military cadets, this day should pass as usual, a daily routine service, but not this time. A sleepy glance from one of them remarks the movement of some bright spots at a distance. He can’t turn his head to look carefully, but his mouth opens in amazement. From beside the State Historical Museum, three strangely dressed people are approaching. One is dressed in bright peach-colored clothes, while the other two are wearing white swaying robes. When the group comes close to him, he sees an elderly Indian flanked by two young men. The Indian gentleman looks aristocratic – short, with golden skin, long earlobes, and a shaved head. The radiance he emanates makes him look like Buddha. He walks a wide step, gracefully throwing his bamboo cane forward. The group stops in front of the Mausoleum, and one of them takes several pictures. These three look too bright for the gray Soviet everyday life, too unusual, like aliens who have landed at Red Square. Before they continue walking, the elderly Indian looks at the boy, and his face lights up with a broad, bright smile. The boy watches them, following them with his eyes until they disappear from his vision.
A Short Visit with Profound Results
The Indian monk was His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual leader of the Hare Krishna movement. After strenuous efforts he had obtained a five-day tourist visa and arrived in the USSR, accompanied by two of his American students – Syamasundara Dasa and Aravinda Dasa. His official purpose was to meet with a Soviet Indologist of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, Professor G. G. Kotovsky. But his real purpose was to preach the teachings of Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the Soviet Union.
Srila Prabhupada sincerely believed that Krishna’s teachings are universal, designed for all lands and capable of solving all the problems of modern society. He also believed that chanting of the holy names of Krishna would spread everywhere in the world. As such, he arrived in the most atheistic country of the world to prove Lord Chaitanya’s prophecy that the holy names of Krishna would spread to every town and village.
During his five-day stay in Moscow, Prabhupada was able to meet with Professor Kotovsky and discuss with him the basics of the Vedic understanding of the nature of life, the social structure of society, and many other topics.
He also met two young men. One of them, Anatoli Pinyaev, became his first and only Russian disciple – Ananta Santi Dasa. He would play a key role in the revolutionary spreading of the mission of Krishna consciousness in the Soviet Union.
On the last day of his stay in Moscow, Prabhupada wrote a letter to his disciple Tamal Krishna Dasa: