Brief report of an interview with the secretary of the US National Spiritual Assembly on whether and why the Soviet government had appropriated the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar in Ashkhabad.
Source: File 860.404/435, State Department Records: Russia, National Archives, Washington, DC.
Seizure of the Ishqabad Temple:
Horace Holley Interview with State Department Officials
Department of State
Memorandum of Conversation
|DATE: June 6, 1939
||Seizure of the Ishqabad Temple: Horace Holley Interview with State Department Officials, 1939
||Mr. Horace Holley, Secretary of the National Committee of the Bahai Movement, 119 Waverly Place, New York City
Mr. Holley stated that it had come to the attention of the National Committee of the Bahai Movement that the Soviet authorities in Central Asia had refused to renew the lease for a Bahai Temple in Ishkabad, U.S.S.R.* (I have been unable to locate Ishkabad, but assume that it is in the proximity of the Soviet Iranian frontier.) This Temple was built about forty years ago, at which time many thousands of Persians of Russian nationality and other persons were included in the movement. In recent years, however, because of exile to Siberia and expulsion to Iran, the Bahai adherents had diminished to eighty or ninety. The Soviet authorities had also seized the records of the Temple and had taken many other steps to destroy the movement. Mr. Holley stated that one of the tenets of the movement is strict non-interference in political matters and that, therefore, he was at a loss to understand why the Soviet authorities were depriving the members of their Temple.
Mr. Holley stated that, first of all, he would like to confirm, if possible, the report regarding the Temple which had come to him from Palestine. I stated that as far as I knew the Department had no definite information regarding the matter, but that, judging from measures taken by the Soviet authorities in recent years, such as the expulsion of the Persians, Afghans, and Turks from Central Asia, and the anti-religious campaigns which were still being carried on, I would not be surprised if his information was correct. Mr. Holley asked me whether it would be possible for the Embassy in Moscow to confirm the report. I stated that it was almost impossible to obtain any information regarding conditions in Soviet Central Asia, except what was published in the Soviet press, and that I thought little would be gained by asking the Embassy for information.
Mr. Holley then stated that in 1932 the Soviet authorities had at first refused to renew the lease for the Temple, that the National Committee had appealed in writing direct to the Soviet Government, and that shortly thereafter the lease had been renewed. He said he did not know whether the appeal had any effect, as the Soviet Government had never acknowledged it. Mr. Holley stated that he would like to see the Soviet Ambassador regarding the matter, and asked me whether I thought such a course was advisable. I stated that although I, personally, did not believe that the Ambassador would be of much help, there is no reason why he should not see him. I suggested that he telephone to make an appointment.
* Encyclopedia Iranica notes: The temple was converted to an art gallery in 1938 and was severely damaged in an earthquake ten years later. In 1963, it was demolished by the authorities and replaced by a public park. (iranicaonline.org/articles/bahaism-vi)