January 17, 2017

Russian Yoga Instructor Becomes Unlikely Spiritual Warrior As He Fights Counterterrorism Law (RFE / RL)

  • Tom Balmforth
    Yoga teacher Dmitry Ugay (center) appears in court in St. Petersburg on January 9.
    MOSCOW -- A Russian yoga teacher has been forced into the role of spiritual warrior in the face of charges he was missionizing in violation of a controversial new law.

    Computer programmer Dmitry Ugay was detained by police in St. Petersburg on October 22 while giving a talk at a festival about the philosophies behind yoga, a discipline for achieving physical and spiritual well-being.
    The 44-year-old faces a fine for allegedly conducting illegal missionary activity, an administrative offense under the new Yarovaya Law, a package of legal amendments intended to fight terrorism that is named after its author, lawmaker Irina Yarovaya.

    Signed by President Vladimir Putin in July, the amendments include restrictions on religious groups and missionary activity that could potentially put pressure on followers outside what the government considers "traditional" religions.

    The charges against Ugay are not criminal, but observers fear that a guilty verdict in the misdemeanor case against him would set a precedent for the harassment of even yoga instructors.

    Yoga has a strong following in Russia, underscored by Dmitry Medvedev's professed love for the practice. In 2007, during his first stint as prime minister, Medvedev was quoted as saying that "little by little, I'm mastering yoga." His advocacy of the practice gained him a group of supporters described as "Medvedev's Girls" who performed exercises on Red Square to promote yoga. [.  .  .]
    FULL TEXT: http://www.rferl.org/a/russia-yoga-instructor-counterterrorism-law-missionary-activity/28223919.html