Father Aspet of Haghpat Monastery

The little square in front of the UNESCO World Heritage Haghpat monastery in Lori province of Armenia is not crowded when we arrive there, hitchhiking from the town of Akhtala. Three or four grannies sit by the entrance to the monastery waiting for the occasional tourist to sell their handmade socks, hats or scarves along with honey, herbs or nuts to. Showing no interest, we pass by them and walking up the stairs we reach the gates where we meet father Aspet in his black robes. He greets us with a warm smile, we exchange few words and introduce ourselves. “Welcome to Haghpat,” says he, and as we walk away to explore the monastery, he joins some old women to continue their conversation.
Father Aspet in conversation with parishioners of Haghpat Monastery

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Jai Guru Deva Om

“Everything else can wait but the search for God cannot wait, and love one another.”
G. Harrison

Back in my university years I was very much into Hare Krishna movement, of which I came to know through George Harrison. Although a big fan of The Beatles, I wasn’t particularly interested in George’s music then. So when I first heard his song “My Sweet Lord”, the words “Hare Krishna Hare Rama” sounded strange to me. I had no clue of what it was about, but there was something magical and attractive in the mantra. Then during my first year in the university I received a precious gift from my close friend from Mauritius, Kevin. It was the “Bhagavad Gita as It Is”. In Russian. From that moment on began my journey to the beautiful world of Hindu religion, and particularly the Hare Krishna movement. And of course, George became my favorite Beatle, and today I call him my first guru – the one who awoke me from a deep sleep.

Years passed, and in the end of July of 2008, when I was back in Moscow for a few days after just another hitchhiking trip and getting ready for another one, a friend of mine invited me over to join an event at the Moscow ISKCON temple. A lecture by a man named Prithu Prabhu was scheduled, and in fact the whole event was in his honor, but I didn’t really know who he was.
Prithu Prabhu at ICKSON Temple in Moscow

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The Sound of Lonely Dombura

On a cold December day she was sitting on a little plastic chair on the sidewalk of one of the main streets of Almaty. She was silent. Seeing her one would think she was in deep meditation. And I believe she was. I was walking down the street when I heard the sounds of her dombura, a long-necked lute popular in Central Asian nations. As if bewitched by the melody, I followed the sound until I saw her. An old Kazakh lady with eyes sad, busking. I sat in front of her. Dombura was turning the sorrow of her heart into a melody. She noticed me and turned her eyes away.

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Native Americans of Russia

In early 70’s German movies with Gojko Mitić about Native Americans became so popular among Soviet youth that very soon in Soviet Russia, Belarus and Ukraine the subculture of Indeanists took birth.. They would call each other by their Indian names, Bears, Eagles and Bulls, and would associate themselves with Native American tribes, of which the most popular ones were Apaches, Cheyennes and Sioux.. You may find it funny and childish.. I do sometimes, especially when I look at their Slavic faces.. But for them it wasn’t just a game that all of us once played in childhood, acting Chingachgooks and Deerslayers.. In 1980, near Leningrad (St. Petersburg) they organized the first Pow-Wow where about 50 people gathered together to share and express their love for Native Americans..
 

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Mamikon: The Story of a Lonely Soul

It was getting dark when I got off the truck near the little Siberian town called Tulun. Having no wish to walk through the town, I decided to stay near the petrol station hoping to get a ride in a short time. The weather was quite windy and with -30°C it was almost impossible to stand on the road. I had no hot tea in the thermos, I had no food. And I was just jumping and dancing, trying to warm myself when a man who seemed to be a security guard came to me. His face was very Armenian, and I thought that it’s nice to meet an Armenian guy here in this far land.
He smiled and asked, “How many kilometers?”
His accent confirmed my guess. He was an Armenian.
“I’m now coming from Irkutsk, but I’m from Moscow, hitchhiking back home,” I replied and realised that my answer had nothing to do with the question.
“From Moscow? But it’s very cold outside.” He looked surprised.
“I got used to it.” Humans can get used to everything. Cold weather comparing to wars and killings is just nothing. My thoughts were far ahead of me. The stranger took a long look at me. I noticed deep sadness in his big black eyes.
“I see… Would you like a cup of hot tea?”

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