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Orthodox Russia or Soviet Russia?

The Soviet Union has fallen and with it the power of the Soviet Communist Party. This is not news, and yet sometimes we have the impression that it is, both inside and outside present-day Russia. This is probably because Russia is still in the midst of a long and complex transitory period, a period of confusion. Old Soviet reflexes have survived among many. Inside the Russian Federation, many Communists, turned into oligarchs and corrupt Mafia profiteers/privateers, still behave like the Communist tyrants of old. What attitude should we, Russian Orthodox outside Russia, have towards this ambiguous situation?

Three Views of Russia

During the Soviet period, Russian Orthodox outside Russia fell into three categories.

Firstly, there was by far the largest group outside Russia, who were always enemies of Soviet Russia, but never of Orthodox Russia. Often more discerning patriots, many belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR).

Secondly, there was a middle group who detached themselves from Russia and were critical of Russia in herself, whatever the regime. Many of them had ancestors, who had helped foment the Revolution in the hope that some Western-style 'democratic' government could take power. They failed to understand that they had in fact paved the way for Communism, there being no middle way between Orthodox monarchy and Soviet genocide. Abroad, they sometimes worked for Western intelligence agencies. Many, though by no means all, of these belonged either to the Paris Jurisdiction under the Patriarchate of Constantinople or else the Metropolia in North America, now known as the Orthodox Church in America (OCA).

Thirdly, there was the smallest group, patriots, sometimes blindly obedient. Although outside Russia, they remained within the Moscow Patriarchate, even though this meant denying the persecution of the Church by the Soviet regime and refusing to recognize the New Martyrs and Confessors, until their canonization had been recognized in Moscow.

What is the destiny of these three groups in the present situation? We would hope that now that the Soviet regime has mostly been cleared away, we can begin to see who supports Russia and Orthodoxy and who, in fact, supports neither Russia nor Orthodoxy.

Supporters of Orthodox Russia

As Orthodox, we never supported the Soviet Union because it was an enemy of Orthodox Russia. However, Russia herself cannot be our enemy to the extent that she is Orthodox. True, with regard to the contemporary situation in Russia, the restoration of Orthodoxy is still ongoing, still very far from complete. As many as 80% of the population may be baptized, but the vast majority of these are still unchurched, a still greater majority than that before the Revolution. Nevertheless, as holders of the ideal of Holy Russia, we Russian Orthodox outside Russia, whatever our nationality, cannot fail to give friendship and support to those who are striving to renew the Orthodox Tradition inside Russia, all the more so in the difficult conditions that exist there today.

Enemies of Orthodox Russia

Those who maintain that they are Russian Orthodox, but are not friends of the restoration of Orthodox Russia, should think again, whatever their jurisdiction. It seems that some who were opposed to Soviet Russia were also in some way opposed to Orthodox Russia. Perhaps they never were patriots of Orthodoxy and so now they shut their doors to Russian Orthodox. Behind the mask of opposition to Soviet Russia, consciously or unconsciously, they actually began to harbour, and still harbour, anti-Russian and anti-Orthodox sentiment.

Friends of Orthodox Russia

It is our suggestion that outside Russia all Russian Orthodox, and those sympathetic to their cause, should group together in societies to support Russia: Friends of Orthodox Russia (FOR). Through their free association, Orthodox Russia would receive modest, but perhaps not insignificant, support from outside the Orthodox Motherland. In this way unity could be cultivated outside Russia and links, especially through pilgrimages, established.

This could help influence the restoration of Orthodoxy, both inside and outside the new Russia, which is still taking shape today, fifteen years after the official fall of Communism. In today's ambiguous situation, any influence towards the restoration of Orthodox Russia, however modest, must be helpful. Not only helpful for Russia, but helpful too for the salvation of our own unrighteous souls. May the Lord have mercy on us all.


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