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Buddhist Monastery in Ural Mountains Faces Demolition

Photographer Amos Chapple takes you inside this endangered spiritual space.

In a piece for RFE/RL, Amos Chapple, a traveling photographer from New Zealand, tells the story of an isolated Buddhist monastery in the Ural Mountains. Founded in 1995 by Mikhail Sannikov, a veteran of the Soviet-Afghan War, the Shad Tchup Ling monastery – “a place of practice and realization” – has grown from a wooden shack into a complex with a Buddha statue and all the necessary conveniences. Its doors are open for people looking for a spiritual path different from the one offered by the Russian Orthodox Church – those ready to live by a simple set of rules and to respect their neighbor.

After leaving the army, Sannikov, who had been wounded in several encounters, was traumatized and felt a need to find purpose. He studied Buddhism in Russia's Buryatia region for six years, and Sannikov, now Lama Dokshit, decided to bring the tradition to central Russia. There he was met by yet another conflict – Mount Kachkanar, on which the monastery sits, is a source of metal ore and the land is claimed by a multinational mining company Evraz. After years of legal proceedings, the monastery complex was deemed illegal and scheduled for demolition.

The date is set for March 1, 2017.