Pioneers behind the iron curtain


by Swami B.A. Paramadvaiti


When Srila A.C. Bhaktivedant Swami Maharaj (Founder – ISKCON) went to America, the Cold War between communism and capitalism was going on intensively. The communist countries were gaining influence after winning the war in Vietnam and nobody in the world could imagine that there could be a change in the situation. Srila A.C. Bhaktivedant Swami Maharaj systematically sent His followers to penetrate the so-called “iron curtain” behind communism, where an atheistic philosophy and form of government was flourishing.

After several attempts Srila Swami Maharaj was officially invited to Moscow by Professor G. G. Kotovsky, the head of the Indian and South Asian Studies Department of the U.S.S.R. Nevertheless, the five days Srila Swami Maharaj spent on Russian soil provided Him with ample opportunity to establish the movement that would eventually play out in Soviet Russia. His initial strategy emerged when He met a young Russian seeker, Anatoly Pinyayev, who would soon become Ananta Shanti Das. Sri Ananta Shanti was Srila Swami Maharaj’s courageous and lone student in the Soviet Union and would later be responsible for opening many centers all over Russia.

Nandafalva in Hungary became the first Krishna Conscious farm community behind the Iron Curtain. According to one anecdote, pioneering devotees like Sri Krishnananda Das and Sri Janardan Maharaj had to face the local police.

Yugoslavia was a gateway, because even though the country was communist, its border policies were not as strict as those of other countries. In East Germany, preachers could only go in with a 24-hour visa and had to come back the same day; devotees went in at least a hundred times or more. The Library Party also visited communist countries and distributed Srila Swami Maharaj´s books in many universities by gaining recommendations of some professors who could understand the importance of His message.

The first disciple of Srila Swami Maharaj in East Germany was called Eka Das. When Sri Eka Das was arrested for his preaching activities and put in solitary confinement, he chanted 64 rounds of Japa and refused to take the untouchable food. After some months, the communist regime resolved that they could not handle this monk and that it was better to throw him out, so overnight they deported him to West Germany.

Books were smuggled into communist countries, and the Swedish BBT started publishing the books translated into Czech by Paraghati and Turiya and into Russian and Hungarian by Sri Bhakti Abhay Narayan Maharaj.

Who could have imagined that Krishna Consciousness would spread in Russia? But Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu predicted that the Krishna Consciousness movement would spread to every town and village of the world and He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead—so His prediction will never go in vain. It is by His mercy that these fruits of love are meant for everyone and it is up to you, dear reader, to both receive the fruit and to then distribute it to others. Today there are preachers circling the globe from different missions, and the name of Krishna has become a household word. Yoga and Ayurveda are even accepted by the ministers of education in many countries. Nevertheless, we should consider the spreading of the values of Vedic teachings across the whole planet to be only in its very beginning stages.


Srila A.C. Bhaktivedant Swami Maharaj also sent His blessings to China. Sri Dayananda Das was sent to South Arabia where he was also very active. Other disciples were sent to Pakistan and Beirut. Sri Tribuvanath Das was sent to Beirut, Turkey. Others pioneers were sent to Chile and Argentina, which were totally in the grip of military dictatorships.


We want to give special thanks to Srimati Hladini Devi dasi, one of the great pioneers of Krishna Consciousness in Lybia. This valiant disciple of Srila A. C. Bhaktivedant Swami Maharaj lost her life as she tried to defend the African devotees from an enraged dictator. Both, Srimati Hladini Devi Dasi and her boys were shot dead.

Srimati Premavati Mataji was pregnant (in the last month) at the time of arrest. After the birth of her baby, authorities only allowed her to spend 1 hour a day with her baby. Later her infant child was killed by the prison officers wanting to extract information from her regarding the whereabouts of other devotees whom they wished to capture.

Srimati Ananga Manjari came out of ‘home’ with completely white hair as if an old lady, even though she was only 23 years old at that time.

Sri Sachi Suta Das was an amazing personality, his main goal in life was to distribute Srila Swami Maharaja’s books as much as possible, he was eventually captured and tortured to death in jail.

Source: World Vaishnava Association Magazine

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