The corresponding petition was presented on the world’s largest petition platform Change.org.
Its author recalls that on September 21, 2022, Russian president Vladimir Putin declared “partial mobilization” in connection with the “special military operation” in Ukraine and signed Decree No. 647. The mobilization campaign is particularly hard for regions inhabited by Russia’s ethnic minorities. According to the available data, the percentage of conscripts of the total population in these regions exceeds Russia’s average.
In particular, the ongoing “partial mobilization” directly affected the regions where Buddhism is traditionally practiced – the Republic of Buryatia, the Tyva Republic, the Republic of Kalmykia, the Trans-Baikal Territory, the Altai Republic, some districts of Irkutsk Region and many others. For example, according to unofficial data, since February 24, 2022, the number of dead soldiers from Buryatia has made 2.8% of the total number of military personnel of the Russian Armed Forces, although the population of Buryatia is only 0.3% of the population of Russia.
Heads of traditionally Buddhist regions openly support mobilization and are actively working to fulfill conscription plans. The head of Kalmykia Batu Khasikov called the mobilization “a timely and fair response to the threat to the future of the country”. The head of Tyva Vladislav Khovalug promised to mobilize within the shortest possible time.The head of Buryatia Alexei Tsydenov demonstrated the highest result in the Far Eastern Federal District – 56 percent of the plan in a day and a half.
While such a reaction from government officials was quite expected, Russian Buddhists did not receive the expected support from spiritual leaders. The head of the Buddhist Traditional Sangha of Russia, the XXIV Pandito Khambo Lama Badma Ayusheev not only didn’t call for peace, but also supported Russian military actions in Ukraine.
According to the author of the petition, this position and numerous statements made by the Khambo Lama before and during the announcement of the mobilization directly contradict the principles of non-violence and humanity that underlie His Holiness’ teachings.
There are currently 700,000 to 1.5 million Buddhists living in Russia, most of whom are from ethnic regions. Many of them are now drafted into the army or have to leave the country for nearby Mongolia and Kazakhstan, leaving their wives and children in Russia – without any material and moral support.
By signing the petition, one can join in the request to the Dalai Lama to express support and compassion to Buddhists living in Russia.
“We have not received these from those who are supposed to lead us and do everything for our world, but we hope that His Holiness will respond to us and give us a shred of hope,” the text of the petition reads.
Of course, this petition is a way to draw global attention to the issue of indigenous peoples. But if the author expects the Dalai Lama to really sympathize with co-religionists from the Russian Federation – and this will fundamentally change the situation – then perhaps we have some bad news for him. And if the Dalai Lama also asks what Buddhists were doing in the Russian Armed Forces before September 21, things will be quite bad.