Russia and Ukraine, Theosophy in
Since the principal founder of the Theosophical Society (TS), Helena P. BLAVATSKY, was born in Russia it is understandable that early efforts were made to establish a theosophical presence in that country. Unfortunately, at that time, both the ruling faction and the Christian Church were quite hostile to this.
Initially, as early as 1854 an effort was made to introduce Spiritualism which met with very little success until Douglas Home, the medium, visited St. Petersburg in 1871. He gave demonstrations in the Imperial Palace. He was probably made welcome there because he was married to a relative of the Hon. Alexandre. The State Church placed an embargo on any reporting of the event in the press. Alexandre Aksakoff was the pioneer Spiritualist in Russia and since he was of the nobility the Church did not find it quite so easy to silence him.
Blavatsky was well known among the literate classes in Russia where much of her writing was published under her pen name of Rādā Bāi. She had translated into Russian Henry OLCOTT’s Chittenden letters and his People From the Other World. The theosophist Prince Emil de Sayn Wittgenstein who was a cousin of the Empress, was a close friend of Blavatsky and was instrumental in generating interest in Spiritualism in spite of the militant Church opposition. He probably, at a later date, introduced into royal circles, covertly, information about theosophy.
In 1882 a small magazine called Rebus was begun which was really devoted to spiritualism, but had to introduce the subject very prudently; Blavatsky was a frequent contributor. In the early 1880’s Blavatsky’s aunt Nadyezhda de Fadeyev formed a theosophical lodge, presumably in Moscow. Over the ensuing years a few theosophical groups came into existence, but all of them faced fierce opposition from Church and State until, finally, when the Communists assumed power, progressively from 1917 to 1922 all religious and spiritual activity was suppressed and Russian theosophy was maintained by scattered groups of ex-patriots in various parts of Europe.
In 1990, immediately after the break-up of the communist block, Radha BURNIER, the International President of the Theosophical Society, Adyar, was invited as a philosophical author by the Russian Writers’ Union to give some lectures in Moscow. Following this event, at the request of Peace through Culture Association, she offered, on behalf of the TS, five thousand copies of the Russian version of The Secret Doctrine to be dispatched to all public libraries in Russia.
In 1991, she visited the Ukraine. In its capital, Dnepropetrovsk, formerly Ekatarinaslav, where Blavatsky was born, Burnier unveiled a commemorative plaque at the house were Blavatsky once lived.
The work has been followed up from 1991 until 1995 by Curt Berg and Trân-Thi-Kim-Diêu respectively, then Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson of the European Federation (EFTS), and later and up to 1999 by Kim-Diêu, together with two members of the EFTS Executive Committee. Some of the sympathizers at the beginning became members (fellows-at-large, FAL). In 1994, President Burnier appointed Nina Veligon as Presidential Representative for Russia. Programs have been organized regularly by the EFTS together with Russian FAL in Saint Petersburg (1991, 1994), Moscow (1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999), Magnitogorsk (Urals) (1993, 1999), and with Ukrainian FAL in Dnepropetrovsk (1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999) and in Kiev (1999). From 1997 onward, a new format of programs was inaugurated and reserved for FAL in Moscow and Magnitogorsk, under the form of a short but intensive School of Theosophy.
In 1999 the International TS chartered a Lodge, Blavatsky Lodge in Magnitogorsk. In addition, a group of FAL meets regularly in Moscow and Dnepropetrovsk. In Kiev an informal group meets under the coordination of a TS member. In 2000 the FAL in Moscow organized a seminar gathering members in Russia and Ukraine. In 2001, the then Vice-President, Mary Anderson, conducted a seminar and a School of Theosophy in Moscow, and in 2002, programs in Kiev and Dnepropetrovsk.
Since the beginning, the Committee for Help to Eastern European Countries (CEEC), settled in France and working under the auspices of the EFTS, has been financing theosophical books, offered to FAL and sympathizers. It financed also the translation and publication of a few small books.
From the beginning, the European Federation regularly offered to Russian workers, promising members and sympathizers, scholarships to attend programs at the International Theosophical Centre (ITC) at Naarden, Holland, where since 2001 a new format, the School of the Wisdom, was settled. For its sessions of 2002, conducted by the International President, there were several Russians and Ukrainians among the participants.
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