Kyalmyk President proposes Buddhist stupa in Lhasa
by Julia Jironkina, www.savetibet.ru, August 20, 2007
Elista, Kalmykia (Russia) -- President of Kalmykia Kirsan Ilyumzhinov proposed to build a Buddhist stupa in Lhasa to commemorate strong ties that have long existed between Tibet and the Russian Buddhist Republic.
The proposal was made during a recent visit of a so-called Russian Expedition to the Tibetan Autonomous region which was part of a current Year of China in Russia. Kalmyk President was among several high profile politicians and businessmen who had been invited to Tibet by the Chinese government earlier this month to see “positive developments” in the region.
Well known in Russia for the role he played in reestablishing Tibetan Buddhism in Kalmykia, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov took this opportunity to ask Deputy Chairman of TAR’s government Pema Tsewang to allocate a piece of land, where “Kalmyk people would build a stupa or beautiful pagoda” in memory of Kalmyk monks who used to study and teach in Tibet.
He reminded that Buddhism was brought to Kalmykia from Tibet in 16-17th centuries, and since that time many Kalmyk monks made pilgrimage to the holy city of Lhasa to study Buddhist philosophy. “There were cases when they even taught in Tibetan monasteries”, said Ilyumzhinov.
The proposal was actually a reminder of an earlier move made by Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and the Head Lama of Kalmykia Telo Tulku Rinpoche in October 2003, when they were first invited to the Tibetan Autonomous Region on an official visit and suggested to built a stupa.
“We were told at that time that they (TAR authorities) would inform Beijing and ask for their approval”, says Telo Tulku Rinpoche. “Till now we haven’t heard anything. But I am glad that Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has not forgotten about this and again brought up this matter during his recent visit. We hope that this issue will be resolved in the nearest future,” he added.
The Russian Expedition to Tibet was part of a Chinese propaganda campaign in Russia and Kalmykia that has intensified after Kirsan Ilyumzhinov had sign a decree awarding a White Lotus Order (the highest award of the Republic) to His Holiness the Dalai Lama last December.
Chinese propaganda efforts, however, seem to be far from being successful. NTV, a leading Russian TV channel who sent their crew to cover the trip, pointed to the red flag flying over the Potala Palace and a wide square in front of it “which was allegedly built to make it easier to bring up military troops”.
“Peaceful Liberation of Tibet - Chinese are talking about – is actually an annexation of this center of Buddhist spirituality to People’s Republic of China,” the reports said.
NTV news report also featured interviews by the head of the Expedition Alexander Shokhin and Kalmyk President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.
Alexander Shokhin (Chairman of the Russian Union of Manufacturers and Entrepreneurs) said it’s quite clear that “the inviting party finds it important to convince us that traditional culture of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism are protected by the State and develop freely”.
While Kirsan Ilyumzhinov courageously stated in his interview on top of the Potala Palace: “I am a Buddhist. And for us, Kalmyk people, and Buddhists in general, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama is spiritual leader”.
Head Lama of Kalmykia called the interview given by Kalmyk President “a very bold move”. “It shows his (Kirsan Ilyumzhinov’s) unbiased faith and dedication to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and relationship between Tibet and Kalmykia which we have had for centuries”, said Telo Tulku Rinpoche.