Professor Alexander Kornilov (Nizhny Novgorod)

Ideals of the Russian Diaspora
Towards the 80th Anniversary of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

The Russian diaspora gave universal Orthodoxy a whole galaxy of profound, strictly-Orthodox theologians and ecclesiastical writers. Among them are Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco and Metropolitans Anthony, Anastassy and Philaret of blessed memory, along with Archbishops Simon of Peking, Theophan of Poltava, Averkii of Syracuse and Holy Trinity, Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky, Archimandrite Konstantin (Zaitsev), Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose) and Protopriest Lev Lebedev and many others.

This article does not pretend to be a fundamental examination of the theology of church authors of the Russian diaspora. Still, in connection with the glorious 80th anniversary of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, marked in the year 2001, one wishes to outline the world-view of the Russian diaspora according to the works of some figures of the Russian Church Abroad.

Most recently, the Russian reader gained access to the works of one of the ideologues of the Russian diaspora, Archimandrite Konstantin (Zaitsev). The books of his pre-monastic period, now republished in Russia, first came out under the name of Priest Kyrill Zaitsev.

The creative blossoming of Fr. Konstantin, who survived the revolution, the civil war, refuge in China, the life of a transient after World War II, came in the 1950's and 1960's. During these years, Archimandrite Konstantin worked fruitfully as a teacher in Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, NY, and showed himself to be a talented writer, Orthodox publicist, editor of Pravoslavnaya Rus’ (Orthodox Russia), Pravoslavniy Put’ (Orthodox Way) and Orthodox Life. It was there, in the pages of the church periodicals, that Fr. Konstantin developed his own understanding of the historical Russia, an understanding in concord with Church tradition. In fact, the term “historical Russia” is most often seen in the works of Archimandrite Konstantin.
The point of departure of the reasonings of Fr. Konstantin was the thesis of approaching apostasy. The modern world, which considers itself normal and natural, is perceived by the Christian as de-Christianized humanity. “The Christian era has ended: apostasy has arrived!” exclaims Fr. Konstantin in one of his articles. “The difference between the new evil and the old is that before, mankind partook of evil in the most varied ways. At the present time [1960's-1970's–AAK] good is defaced, relativistic, it has lost its absolute value. Along with the true faith, alongside Orthodoxy, a new, general religion is arising, offering a general, very amorphous language for those who have differing faiths. Mankind’s attention is concentrated on immediate spiritual experiences and intellectual musings, while preparation and care for the life hereafter is distanced, it falls away and disappears. Finally, it turns out that we do not serve God, but we use God, as far as our reason permits, for the fulfillment of goals we set for ourselves within the framework of our temporal life. This is the mindset of apostasy. That his how Christ is replaced.”0Another side of apostasy (deviation) is expressed at the end of history. This, of course, is not the end of history of which F. Fukuyama wrote. “History has ended,” averred Fr. Konstantin, “for he who restrained evil has departed from us, the Russian Tsar Nicholas II is no more. The temporal world has divided, has split in two–not into communism and the free world, not bi-polarity, it is not the Cold War that determines the fate of mankind. Then what does? On one side, evil in the forms manifested in the 20th century, and on the other, the seen and unseen, mystical Orthodox Church with Absolute Love, Christ.” In the opinion of Archimandrite Konstantin, “mankind as a whole cannot, and does not desire to, understand the eschatological essence of events–and continues to live normally: life goes on, moving into some kind of eternity, hopefully expanding! In other words, contemporary mankind, as a whole, lives a lie!”0 He who restrains evil from this world, that is, the Russian Tsar, was a mystical point where Divine Providence came into contact with historical reality. The lie is contained in the premise that mankind does not live for the sake of Christ, but for the sake of its own egotism, concealing this lifestyle by belonging to a Christian confession. Contemporary life is characterized by a lukewarm attitude towards God, by individual efforts towards salvation outside the Church. “The historical world is doomed,” concluded the editor of Pravoslavnaya Rus’. “It is finished. A new world is being formed. This is in fact the striving towards the Antichrist!” “At the same time, fatalism is foreign to Orthodox consciousness,” said Fr. Konstantin, confirming the tradition of the Holy Fathers.0 What must Orthodox Christians do to find a worthy, salvific response to general apostasy?In search of an answer, Fr. Konstantin turned to the glorious past of Russia and of the Russian Orthodox Church. Fr. Konstantin averred that salvation is possible insofar as mankind is capable of repentantly returning to Christ. This salvation will come from a renascent Russia. Through rebirth, historical Russia will show itself to the world.* 

Revealing the meaning of historical Russia, the editor of the journal wrote that one cannot imagine a renewed Russia as arising from something novel, this was a pipe dream. “One can only speak of the restoration of a historical Russia within its blessed Orthodox Russian-ness, adorned in the image of an Orthodox Kingdom. Russia, in the process of disposing of its historical consciousness, tossed off its past–its blessed historical past, which bore the mark of the higher, Divinely Providential care for the world, for mankind as a whole: Russia was led by a Tsar, clothed not only as the anointed of God, but he was His intended appointee, the image of the restraining one, that is, the Tsar who in his person witnesses the existence of God’s protection of mankind, fulfilling its sacred obligation.”0Consequently, Archimandrite Konstantin saw at the center of historical Russia the restoration of the Orthodox monarchy, not as a common institution of legitimate power, but as a Divine instrument, restraining mankind from the lordship of evil. The path to the restoration of the Orthodox Monarchy lies within the phenomenon of Orthodox Russian-ness. Fr. Konstantin understood by this term “the striving towards the True God, hidden in one’s heart, genuine worship of the True God,” which would lead towards the rebirth in Russia of faith with unexpected force. If Orthodox rebirth gripped the Russian people in the USSR of the time, thought Fr. Konstantin, then the Russian Orthodox Monarchy would come to life once more, which would be able to fulfill the function of the one who restrains.0It is apparent that Fr. Konstantin bound the restoration of the Orthodox monarchy with personal repentance, with personal salvation, with personal faith. Apostasy is defeated first of all in the heart of a Christian.In connection with the attempt to achieve the state of historical Russia, Archimandrite Konstantin fairly clearly designated the mission of the Russian diaspora, the main task of the Russian Orthodox emigration. This duty is to preserve the Church and live in the light of the truth of Christ, to pray for Orthodox rebirth in the homeland. “We, the children of historical Russia scattered throughout the world,” wrote Fr. Konstantin, “we are an organic commonality of a sort. Within it we are hermetically sealed off from the world around us. In this isolation is contained, albeit in its early form, the task of Russian-ness. Preserving faith in Christ within our boundaries, we do not only save our own souls. We preserve ourselves for those paths that the Lord deems fit for the salvation of Russia. Moreover, we open the opportunity for the whole world that apostasized from Christ to see the true faith with its own eyes.”0Archbishop Seraphim (Sobolev) also wrote of historical Russia. He was consecrated into the episcopacy during the height of the civil war, in 1919, becoming the vicar of Archbishop Theophan (Bystrov), a monk with a lofty spirituality, a former spiritual father to the Royal Family. Finding himself in Bulgaria, Vladyka Seraphim was appointed by the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad as heading the Russian Orthodox parishes in that country. It is in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia that he wrote Russian Ideology.*
Ruminating on the historical path of Russia and of the Russian people, Archbishop Seraphim showed that the Orthodox faith embraced the life of the Russian person in every way. In this faith, in its absorption into daily life is the gist of Russian ideology.* The term “ideology,” apparently, was used by Vladyka not in the sense of a political paradigm, but in the sense of the battle of the Russian people for self-consciousness, of national and religious survival in conditions of reigning atheism in Russia and the noticeable apostasy of the rest of the world.Vladyka Seraphim viewed the rebirth of Russia from the point of view of the restoration of the crumbled forms of government and social life. The main rebirth must be the absolute monarchy, which was “in close unity with the Russian Orthodox Church, witnessing this unity with its protection of Orthodoxy from all her enemies–atheists, heretics, schismatics and sectarians.” By restoring the monarchy, the Russian people will conduct an act of earnest and profound repentance in the grievous sin committed in 1917 and the subsequent years in its violation of the oath given at the Zemskii Sobor [Council of the Land] of 1613. In the words of Vladyka Seraphim, “the striving towards the restoration of the Orthodox Monarchy exactly corresponds to the true ideology of Russia, which is nothing other than the Orthodox faith and the life of Russia established thereupon in all its spheres, beginning with the personal and ending with that of the state, for which reason the Russian state must be headed by an absolute monarchial power.”0 In the event of such an Orthodox rebirth, Russia will once again bring testimony to the world of the salvific significance of the Orthodox faith, once again will declare the good news of its Savior, Jesus Christ. 

The eminent servant of the Church of Christ, the holy ascetic of the Russian diaspora, Archbishop John (Maximovich) of Shanghai and San Francisco, left a whole series of works, in which he attempted to draw a parallel between the future rebirth of Russia and the Russian past.

Without a doubt, St. John did not strive to idealize historical Russia. In every single representative of a nation, evil continues to battle good. Still, the moving force of the Russian people was always Orthodoxy. Both family and social life were infused with the spirit of the Gospel; world-views were developed under the influence of church rules and traditions; civil legislation accorded with the laws of the Church. Most importantly–life’s ideal for the Russian person was expressed as reaching for holiness, as seeking out God’s truth, as the acquisition of the Holy Spirit. The rulers of Rus’, the grand dukes and tsars, recognized their great duty before the Lord and saw themselves as servants of God. That is why the Russian tsars were tsars “not by the will of the people,” but through “God’s Mercy.”* 

“The search for truth,” wrote St. John in his article, “Russia,” “is the main thread throughout the life of the Russian people. But not only those who were departing from the world or from society gave thought to heaven, to the Kingdom of Heaven, but all believing Russians understood the meaning of life. Everyone who truly built Russia as a state, living in the world and fulfilling their obligations also recognized as most important to be faithful to the Divine Kingdom and Divine Truth. In Russia there were princes, generals, rulers, people of all classes and professions, but their fundamental understanding and goal and meaning of life were the same: the acquisition of the Kingdom of Heaven, to be joined with it.”0 Turning to the examination of the question of the future rebirth of Russia, St. John, first of all, recalled the heavy sin of regicide, the murder of the Royal Family. “Such crimes,” said Archbishop John, “do not remain unpunished. They cry out to Heaven and invoke God’s wrath upon the earth.” Vladyka compared the murder of Emperor Nicholas II with those of Princes Boris and Gleb, Andrei Bogolubskii, Michael of Tver, Tsarevich Dimitry of Uglich and Moscow. The Church’s glorification and the people’s veneration of the murdered princes always led to the cleansing of the nation and the Orthodox people. The greatest sin of killing Emperor Nicholas II “must be corrected with the fervent veneration of him and the glorification of his struggle. Then the Tsar-Martyr will gain boldness before God, and his prayers will save the Russian land from her sorrows.”0In the people’s repentance and the purification of souls, St. John saw the renewal of Russia, the return of Holy Rus’. The words of St. John resound with fervent belief and optimism: “Russia will arise as she stood before. She will arise when her faith burns anew. She will emerge when her people rise spiritually, when once again they hold dear to their hearts the clear, firm faith in the truth of the words of the Savior, ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His Truth and all else will come to you.’ Russia will arise, when she again loves Orthodox saints and witnesses to the truth.”*

To what does St. John connect his hopes for civil rebirth of a renewed Russia? The saint insists upon the renascence of the spirit of life, the joy of life in Christ. Only by being illuminated by this spirit of eternal life can Russia speak of the truth of Orthodoxy to the rest of mankind, from which “the spirit of life departed, and it trembles as from an earthquake.” The spirit, and not the word, is important. St. John spoke clearly of the monarchy: “Russia awaits the Christ-loving warrior, the Christ-loving Tsars and leaders, who would lead the Russian people not towards earthly glory, but for the truth of the Russian path.0Historical Russia lives on as before, she did not remain behind, in the past. This is not only an ideal, a dream to return what has gone. This is an appeal to the holy strugglers of Rus’, to the thousands of New Martyrs of Russia, who stood on the path of defending their insulted faith. This is a living, prayerful, liturgical bond of our people with the Rus’ in Heaven, with the Church Triumphant.Historical Russia lives in the hearts of the Russian diaspora of today. In June 2001, Pravoslavnaya Rus’ published an editorial “Loyalty to Historical Russia.” This article convinces us that until now, the ecclesiastical diapora lives in close connection with the spirit of pre-revolutionary Russia, which is, in the words of Archimandrite Konstantin (Zaitsev), “the foothold of Orthodoxy, and therefore of all Christianity, all of creation.*

A.A. Kornilov, Professor of History
Nizhny Novgorod, 2001Pravoslavnaya Rus

1. Archimandrite Konstantin, “Confession of Apostasy,” Pravoslavnaya Rus’ [hereinafter PR], 1/14 September 1972, No. 17, pp. 1-2.
2. Archimandrite Konstantin, “Our Chosenness,” PR, 1/14 September 1972, No. 17, p. 1. Also, “Has Apostasy Arrived or Not?” PR, 1/14 September, 1970, pp. 1-3. Also, “Is There Yet Salvation for the World?” PR, 1/14 May 1970, No. 9, pp. 1-3.
3. Archimandrite Konstantin, “The Nine Hundredth Issue of Pravoslavnaya Rus’,” PR, 1/14 October 1968, No. 19, pp. 4-5.
4. Archimandrite Konstantin, Is There Still Salvation for the World? p. 3.
5. Archimandrite Konstantin, “Wherein Lies Salvation?” PR, 1/14 July 1971, No. 13, p. 2.
6. Archimandrite Konstantin, “Confession of Apostasy,” pp. 2-3.
7. “From the Written Works of Archimandrite Konstantin,” PR, 1/14 December 1975, No. 23, p. 7.
8. Archbishop Seraphim (Sobolev), Russian Ideology, On the Author, St. Petersburg, 1992, p. 102.
9. Ibid., p. 3.
10. Ibid., p. 97.
11. “The Words of Our Father John, Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco the Miracle-worker,” compendium of sermons, teachings, epistles, instructions and ukases, edited by Protopriest Peter Perekrestov, towards the glorification of St. John (San Francisco, 1994), pp. 209-210.
12. Ibid., pp. 214-215.
13. Archbishop John, “The Sin of Regicide,” ibid., pp. 230-231.
14. Archbishop John, “Russia,” ibid., p. 217.
15. Ibid, pp. 218-219.
16. “Loyalty to Historical Russia,” PR, No. 12, 2001, p. 1.

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