The long history of Buddhism on the soil of the Russian Federation has had a somewhat ambiguous nature. Ever since this religion, peculiar to the peoples of Southeast Asia, first appeared in Russia in the beginning of VII century on Kalmyk tribal lands (after their recent accession to the Russian Empire), Buddhism quickly spread among the peoples of Buryatia and other indigenous tribes of Central Siberia and Transbaikalia.
Having this in mind, a decree of the Great Empress Elizabeth acknowledged in 1741 Buddhism as one of the official religions of the Russian Empire, and a little later, in 1764, Catherine II established an official position of Pandit Hambo Lama, who became the head of Buddhists in Eastern Siberia and Transbaikalia.
In more recent times, closer to the beginning of the twentieth century, along wth the accession of other nations to the Russian Empire, such as Tuva, Buryatia and Kalmykia, the number of Buddhists increased at a large scale.
In particular, as of today, the official number of ethnic minority people with Buddhist background in Russia is more than 1 million. Moreover, in recent years Buddhism began to expand to the European part of Russia, especially to cities such as Moscow, St. Petersburg and Samara, where the bulk of the followers constitute those of Slavic origin.
The construction of Buddhist places of worship, called datsans, continues rapidly with more than ten in today’s Russia and still counting. The most recent facilities include such a Buddhist temple as Chitinsky datsan (Chita datsan). After almost ten years of construction, the Chitinsky datsan was solemnly opened on August 15, 2010, in the presence of not only the head of Russian Buddhists XXIV Pandit Hambo Lama, but representatives of the government of the region as well.