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The Orthodox Revival in Russia-Fr Seraphim Rose

The Orthodox Revival in Russia-Fr Seraphim Rose

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The beginning of religious awakening in Russia is invariably accompanied by a loss of trust and faith in Communism—Communism not first of all as a political and economic system, but as a faith. This is natural, because the first article of Communist faith is atheism, the "state religion" of the USSR, which makes sense only as a substitute for faith in God. Belief in God naturally is bound up with disbelief in atheism and Communism, and that is why the religious awakening in Russia today is not merely something personal, but takes on the character of a national movement.
The beginning of religious awakening in Russia is invariably accompanied by a loss of trust and faith in Communism—Communism not first of all as a political and economic system, but as a faith. This is natural, because the first article of Communist faith is atheism, the "state religion" of the USSR, which makes sense only as a substitute for faith in God. Belief in God naturally is bound up with disbelief in atheism and Communism, and that is why the religious awakening in Russia today is not merely something personal, but takes on the character of a national movement.

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Published by: Καταρα του Χαμ on Oct 29, 2011
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04/30/2013

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The Orthodox Revival in Russia
 AS AN INSPIRATION FOR
 
 AMERICAN ORTHODOXY 
 
by Fr. Seraphim Rose
 
 A talk given on September 1, 1980, at the University
 
of California, Santa Cruz, during the West Coast 
 
Conference held in preparation for the thousandth
 
anniversary of the baptism of Russia.
 N CHOOSING such a topic, my intention is not in the least "nationalistic" or "cultural." What ishappening in Russia today is of interest to us in America not specifically as something "Russian," but assomething that concerns the human soul, no matter what kind of blood or cultural background a manmight have. And we in America and the free world in general have much to learn from what is happeningto the human soul in Russia today. This is true both because the situation of the human soul in Russia andthe West is really quite similar in basic respects, because the same historical process is occurring there ashere; and because there are also basic differences in our situation, and an awareness of these differencescan help to strengthen us
 — 
and specifically, to strengthen us in Christian faith.I will speak first of the similarities.THE COLLAPSE OF IDEOLOGYFirst of all, we are seeing in Russia the collapse of a generally-believed ideology that underlies societyand keeps it going. The beginning of religious awakening in Russia is invariably accompanied by a lossof trust and faith in Communism
 — 
Communism not first of all as a political and economic system, but asa
 faith.
This is natural, because the first article of Communist faith is
atheism,
the "state religion" of theUSSR, which makes sense only as a substitute for faith in God. Belief in God naturally is bound up withdisbelief in atheism and Communism, and that is why the religious awakening in Russia today is notmerely something
 personal,
but takes on the character of a
national
movement.In the West, our situation is really not so different from this as it might seem at first sight. In the Westwe are also seeing the collapse of the generally-believed ideology of progress, democracy, and so-called"enlightenment"
 — 
a secular religion which until the mid-20th century was accepted without question byalmost everyone in America and Western Europe. The "Beat" and "Hippie" movements of the '50's and'60's were only the beginning of an attitude of disillusionment that is now widespread in Westernsociety
 — 
so much so that a spokesman like Solzhenitsyn can freely tell the West that we have lost the willto fight Communism, not having deep enough faith in our own system.I
 
 THE DEAD-END OF CIVILIZATIONTogether with the loss of confidence in a generally-accepted ideology, both in Russia and the Westthere is a sense that civilization has come to a dead-end. In Russia there is the feeling that Communism isfinished as a power that can inspire any but a small group of merciless fanatics, that it remains in powersolely by naked force
 — 
the army and secret police. In the West, the failure of will which Solzhenitsynhas rightly diagnosed is a direct result of the feeling that the West no longer has an ideology worth dyingfor.THE SEARCH FOR FAITHAnd finally, the collapse of a generally-accepted ideology and the sense of dead-end that this brings hasled, both in Russia and the West, to a search for a way out in the form of religious belief. This is themotive power behind the "religious revival" in Russia, and also in the West. There is undoubtedly moreinterest in religion, more conversions (both to Christianity and to non-Christian religions) both in Russiaand the free world than at any time in centuries. Of these conversions, probably the majority in Russiaare to Orthodoxy; a much smaller but growing percentage in the West is to the same Orthodoxy. It is thismovement of religious revival that I would now like to direct out attention to
 — 
looking first to Russia,and then to how the experience of Russia affects us in the West.A TYPICAL CONVERSIONLet us look first in detail at one man's conversion in Russia. We who are converts to Orthodoxy in theWest can compare and contrast our own experience of coming to the faith with this typical conversionexperience in Soviet Russia; and those of you who were "born Orthodox" can learn the more to treasureyou faith when you see through what torments a man often comes to find it. This is the experience of Yury Mashkov,
1
 an emigrant from Russia just three years ago, who was invited to speak at the RussianOrthodox Labor-Day conference in New Jersey in 1978, just three months after he arrived in America. Iwill quote part of his talk at this gathering and make comments on it as I go along.He begins by saying that when he was invited to give a talk, "I was disturbed. It seemed to me that Ihad nothing to tell you. The first half of my life I was a student, and the second half I spent in prisons andthe political concentration camps of the Gulag. Indeed, what can I say to people who are more educatedthan I, more erudite, and even better informed about events in the Soviet Union?"Here there is already a striking contrast with the experience of us Western converts to Orthodoxy, andof most young Russians in the West as well. Usually (if we are very interested in our faith) we have readmany books on Orthodoxy and have a broad theoretical knowledge of it; and we have had a securechildhood and no experience of repression or prison. But here is a man who is going to speak,unwillingly, not out of books and a secure past, but simply out of his own experience of 
suffering.
Herealready we can learn something.He goes on: "Therefore I decided not to write down my talk, but to say whatever God would place inmy soul. And then, as we were hurrying away from Bridgeport, Connecticut, in a splendid automobile
 
along the astonishing freeway in the midst of a luxuriant nature, I understood that all my spirituallytormenting life in the Communist 'paradise,' my path from atheism and Marxism to Orthodox faith andRussian nationalism, is the only valuable information that can be of interest to you. My life is of interestonly inasmuch as it is a drop in the ocean of the Russian religious and national rebirth."Here again we in the West can sense a great difference from our own experience. Some of these pointsmay seem like small details, but they are very revealing of our spiritual state. We in the West havelearned to take for granted splendid automobiles, freeways, beautiful nature
 — 
we would not evencomment on these things. But such things, which represent the ease of life in our America, are unheard of in the Soviet Union. Recently I spoke with a recent emigrant from the USSR, and she spoke of one formof dishonesty and crime in Russia today which is almost incomprehensible to us in the free world: when apoet can speak beautifully about flower in a field and be silent about the fact that this field was a place forthe torture and murder of innocent people. The whole of Russia is covered with such places today. Atone such place, the former concentration camp of Solovki, the tourists are warned to "stay on the paths"
 — 
because some have wandered off of them and unexpectedly found human bones sticking out of theearth
 — 
remnants of the thousands who perished there. When this is the experience of your country, youcannot feel at ease with beautiful cars and freeways and nature; there is a pain in your soul that is seekingfor something deeper."I was born (he continues) in the bloody year of 1937 in the village of Klishev, thirty miles fromMoscow (on the side of Ryazan). My father, a blacksmith by profession, died in the war, and I do notremember him; my mother, who worked at various jobs, was, I think, indifferent to religion. Mygrandmother, it is true, was religious, but she had no authority in my eyes because she was totallyilliterate. Of course I was baptized as a child, but in my school years I took off my cross and until the ageof 25 was a convinced atheist. After finishing the seven-year (primary) school, I had the good fortune toenter the Moscow Higher School of Art and Industry (the former Stroganov School), and I studied therefive years out of the seven.
Thus, outwardly my life had begun very successfully
In time, I shouldhave received the diploma of an artist and would be able to work anywhere I wanted."This is a typical Soviet life
 — 
but how sobering when compared to our sheltered life in America! Bornin the "bloody" years, not of war with an outside enemy, but of Stalin's purges and liquidations, he lost hisfather in the war, grew up in an atmosphere of atheism (although with reminders of the Orthodox past,especially his Baptism), and had a good future in store in the highly competitive Soviet school system.All this is a far different experience from that of the youth of our Western world. But then somethinghappened to him."But the boring Soviet life and spiritual dissatisfaction gave me no peace, and somewhere at the end of 1955, in my 19th year, there occurred an event, outwardly unnoticeable, which however overturned mylife and (finally) brought me here. This event occurred in my soul and consisted of the fact that I
understood 
in what kind of society I was living. Despite all the naked Soviet propaganda, I
understood 
 that I was living under a regime of absolute rightlessness and absolute cruelty. Very many students cameto the same conclusion at this time, and in time there appeared those who thought as I did, and we allconsidered it our duty to tell the people of our discovery and to somehow act against the triumph of evil."Here, of course, there is something akin to the idealistic youth of the West, and the awakening of anawareness of truth and higher values which is universally experienced at this age
 — 
with the importantexception that the background of this experience in Russia is a difficult life, suffering, and terror, while inthe West it is usually a full stomach, an easy life, and plenty of spare time. In the free West, this youthfulexperience has led to the numerous demonstrations in the past decades for various causes, some of them

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