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Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
...Surely some revelation is at hand;

William Butler Yeats, 'The Second Coming'

Following the fall of Soviet Communism two years earlier, in 1993 Samuel Huntingdon, a Harvard Professor, wrote a controversial but influential article called ‘The Clash of Civilizations’. In it the American academic identified eight world civilizations competing for power. However, he considered that most of these civilizations were being swallowed up by Western civilization. Indeed, he considered that the only real system which could challenge the triumphant West was Islamic civilization. In this at least the Professor has since been proved partly true. Indeed, some have concluded that only when the challenge of Islam has been met, can there be formed a ‘unipolar’ system controlled by a one-world government.

One of the civilizations that the Professor mentioned as being swallowed up by Western civilization was that of the bloc of Orthodox Christian countries, spreading from eastern Poland to the shores of Alaska and from the Arctic to Mt Sinai. When Huntingdon’s article was written, it appeared that this Orthodox civilization had already largely been destroyed by atheistic Communism. Consequently, it then seemed most likely that the vestiges of Orthodox civilization there would soon be fully absorbed into the all-triumphant and all-pervasive Western ‘civilization’ of consumerism and decadence.

Few noticed the significance of what the Professor was saying in speaking of the end of Orthodox civilization. He signified the disappearance of the only Christian civilization on earth, for, from an Orthodox viewpoint, Western humanist civilization is a sub-variety and deformation of Christianity. With its invention of murderous ideologies, industrial warfare with its killing machines, concentration camps and the Atom Bomb, Western civilization is not Christian. As the American General Omar Bradley said some sixty years ago: ‘We have grasped the mystery of the atom, but rejected the sermon on the mount’. However, the situations of both Western civilization and Orthodox civilization are somewhat different today from those described by Samuel Huntingdon fourteen years ago.

On the one hand, even those who were still then deluded can now see that Western civilization does indeed only retain Christianity as a vestige from the past. That civilization is not only Non-Christian, but through the dechristianizing ideology of humanist political correctness, it is more and more openly anti-Christian. Its residual Christian sentiment has little influence on the rest of the world. Indeed, African nations are now sending missionaries to try and wake up Darkest Europe from its profound spiritual sleep and faithless indifference.

On the other hand, we can already see signs that Orthodox civilization, at least that major part of it which until recently was so harshly persecuted by atheist Communism, is now re-emerging from beneath the rubble of Soviet atheism. Thus, some 85% of the population of the former Soviet Union are now baptized and atheism is now the religion of a tiny minority. On paper Russia is the third most populous Christian country in the world, after the USA and Brazil. Even though only a small proportion of the 85% baptized is actually churched and there remain huge hangovers from post-Communist society, the Christian direction of that society is clear.

For since the fall of Communism, the Russian Federation has been through the drunken stupour and anarchy of the Yeltsin years, when post-Soviet Russia tried capitalism and democracy and began to find that it did not fit. Its hangovers included Soviet superstitions, satanism and social problems such as crime, drink, family breakdown and abortion. Since then, the Federation has been through the Putin years, when a stronger personality has been in power in the Kremlin. This more authoritarian and centralized regime has better suited the Russian character and a vast multinational country, which spreads over nearly one seventh of the world, from the Baltic to the Pacific. This government has been more successful, though immense hangovers from Soviet Communism still remain, including crippling alcoholism, divorce, gambling (yes, the numbers on a roulette wheel added together do make 666), corruption, sects and the still falling birth-rate.

In Russia, Western-invented Communism was a disastrous failure, responsible for the butchering of some 70 million people. But Western-invented Capitalism is also discredited among many, with its mafia-like parasites, many of whom have left Russia, taking their ill-gotten gains abroad. Thus, neither of these ideologies has brought peace and happiness to Russia and, we believe, nor will modifications of them, whether socio-democratic or socio-conservative. It seems as if a time is coming when there is only one way for Russia to look. This is towards the only spiritual and moral high ground left after the flood of Soviet atheism and Western materialism - towards the roots of Russian history – the Russian Orthodox Church and Faith.

The Russian Orthodox Church is indeed now emerging as a Christian bulwark against all these Soviet and post-Soviet deformations, including humanist political correctness. Apart from the dying opposition of nostalgic provincial Stalinist pensioners, virtually the only ideological opposition to the restoration of Orthodoxy in Russia has come from a few westernizers, like the modernist Priest George Kochetkov. However, few take his brand of watered-down, westernized Orthodoxy seriously. Many agree that the West, with its continued and seemingly unhaltable moral decline, is hardly a model to be followed for Russia.

In other words, for some twenty years Russia has been going through a period of repentance. Although this period is still far from over, if it does continue, Orthodox values will more and more enter into Russian political, economic and social life. Politically, this may have great significance. For Russian Orthodoxy has never freely sided with either Communism or Capitalism. Indeed, it has been persecuted by both ideologies in different ways. Those who have held the Orthodox middle ground, following the golden mean, the royal way, suffering attacks from left and right, have been much isolated. With the failure of both Communism and Capitalism in Russia and the faithfulness and refusal to compromise of Orthodoxy, Orthodox are now coming out of their isolation. For if both Communism and Capitalism have failed, what system can work in Russia, if not Orthodoxy?
Though refusing to side with either Communism or Capitalism, Russian Orthodoxy did side with Christian Monarchy. In fact, once free from the Soviet yoke, it canonized the martyred Romanov Imperial Family, slaughtered by the Bolsheviks in 1918. As repentance for this act deepens in Russia, more and more voices there are calling for the rebirth of an imperial structure, for the restoration of Christian Monarchy, a system beyond the mere politicking of the left and right. To the organizational and practical life of the State they wish to bring the sanctification of the Divine, which has been so obviously absent from the last ninety years of bloodied human political schemings. These Orthodox voices echo several decades-old prophecies that the Romanov dynasty will one day be restored by the appearance of a lost member of the Romanovs, possibly ‘from the East’, that is, from Siberia.

The possibility that one day the Monarchy will be restored there, promises much. However, it is only a future possibility. For the moment, repentance for our sins must continue apace. Only when a majority of Russians are churched and earnestly desire the rebirth of the Orthodox Monarchy inside Russia, can this come to be. And that moment is still far away. Nevertheless, if, in God’s good time, it does come to be, then there will be great changes in the rest of the Orthodox world.

On the one hand, any future Orthodox Monarchy in Russia would have to avoid the temptation of interfering in the internal political affairs of other Orthodox peoples. Nationalist susceptibilities linked with the past, for example, in Georgia, the Ukraine and Greece, send out a clear warning on this matter. On the other hand, those who have been put by God outside Russia would be able to look for help and support to the only Orthodox Monarchy in the world. We would be ambassadors and representatives of a restored Orthodox Tsardom, a renewed Imperial Russia, just as previously we have been and are ambassadors and representatives of the rejected and martyred Orthodox Tsardom of the past.

Then, in truth, we will be able to talk of the re-emergence of an Orthodox bloc, of the rebirth of a unique Christian civilization in the world, a rival to the humanist West and its futile consumerism and moral decadence. If this does not take place, then the slide into a pointless despiritualization and therefore despair will continue, with ominous consequences for the whole planet.

Priest Andrew Phillips

19 February/4 March 2007
Sunday of St Gregory Palamas

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