Seagal was granted Serbian citizenship in a special decree signed by the country’s prime minister, Aleksandar Vucic, on 8 January. The decree followed several visits to Serbia in recent months, during which the 63-year-old martial artist met the prime minister and President Tomislav Nikolic, and suggested that he could open an aikido school in Belgrade. The government also invited Seagal to train Serbian police in aikido. The actor, a friend of Russian president Vladimir Putin, said in a recent interview that he has big plans in Serbia: “I can do a lot here . . . I really want to bring Hollywood to Serbia. I want to bring the whole film community here. I want to build great, sort of a Hollywood-film infrastructure here.”
Europe’s oldest Buddhist temple, which was consecrated in December 1929, was constructed in Belgrade by political refugees from Buddhist Kalmykia in southwestern European Russia. Two years later, the street on which the temple was built was renamed Buddhist Street, and in 1934, the temple was presented with a golden statue of the Buddha from Japan. The temple was heavily damaged during World War II, and later demolished. The modern-day Republic of Kalmykia, a Russian federal subject of less than 300,000 people, is the only European region in which Buddhism is practiced by the majority of the population. As Tibetan Buddhists, the Kalmyks regard His Holiness the Dalai Lama as their spiritual leader.
In February 1997, Kyabje Drubwang Pema Norbu Rinpoche (Penor Rinpoche), a lama from Palyul Monastery in eastern Tibet (one of the six mother monasteries of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism) and head of the Nyingma school from 1991 to 2001, announced that Seagal was a tulku, specifically an incarnation of Chungdrag Dorje, a 17th-century tertön (treasure revealer) of the Nyingma tradition.