Indians in Russia
|Regions with significant populations|
|Astrakhan · St. Petersburg · Moscow|
|Russian · Various Indian Languages · English|
|Hinduism · Christianity|
|Related ethnic groups|
|People of Indian Origin|
There is a small but recognisable community of Indians in Russia which includes Indian expatriates in Russia, as well as Russian citizens of Indian origin or descent.
Indian presence in Russia dates back to the 17th century when Astrakhan, a trading-port in the delta of the Volga river by the Caspian Sea was incorporated into Moscow state. By then, Indian traders had reached as far as Isfahan in Persia, Kizlyar in the North Caucasus and Astrakhan in Russia. The first Indians from Sindh and Multan arrived in Russian Astrakhan in 1615. In 1624, a special trading post for Indian merchants was erected in Astrakhan along with separate posts for Armenian and Persian merchants. Many of them were dealers in Astrakhan textiles, jewelry and medicines. There are records of Indians marrying Tartar women.
By the early 18th century Indian merchants lived not only in Astrakhan, but also in Moscow. Russian chroniclers reported the presence of Hindu traders in Moscow in the 18th century. Indian diamond trade was known then in Moscow and St. Petersburg. While it is impossible to speak of a continued Indian presence, Astrakhan Indians are known to have dispersed to Kazan, Moscow, and St. Petersburg and their descendents became assimilated, although, it may be assumed that some families of ‘Russian Indians’ still keep memories of their South Asian ancestors.
The Soviet era also witnessed the emergence of an Indian Communist community in Moscow and Leningrad in the 1920s and the 1930s. From the mid-1950s onwards significant numbers of Indian students began attending educational institutions in Moscow, Leningrad, Sverdlovsk and Kursk . A few managed to remain in Russia after completing their education. The situation however changed with the collapse of the Soviet Union.
A majority of Indians living in Russia are Hindus. Hinduism has been spread in Russia primarily due to the work of missionaries from the Vaishnava Hindu organization International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Brahma Kumaris and by itinerant swamis from India. There is an active Tantra Sangha operating in Russia. There is also a significant number of Indian Muslims in Russia who descendents from Indian traders who converted to Islam as well as Indians who follow Russian Orthodox Christianity.
A deep concern for the Russian Indian community is the rise of racism in post-Soviet Russia. The media has identified several instances where Indians were the victims – one was reportedly killed in St Petersberg. Most recently there was the murder of 23-year-old medical student Atish Kumar Ramgoolam, an Indian from Mauritius. Another incident where Nitesh Kumar Singh, a sixth-year Indian student from the Mechnikov Medical Academy in St Petersburg, was fatally stabbed by a group of eight masked persons in front of his hostel building.
Racist attacks on students of South Asian origin from Suriname and Guyana are also reported. Neo-Nazi groups in Russia have threatened and attacked not just Indians but other non-whites in general such as Chinese, Vietnamese and Pakistanis. The Russian government has assured to take all steps to ensure security of Indians in that country after New Delhi conveyed its concerns over their safety.
Another concern is that relating to the establishment of Indian religious and cultural institutions, particularly the proposed construction of a Hindu temple on Hodinskoye Pole in Moscow which has led to heated discussion in Russian society.