Tag Archives: Russian Diaspora

The Three Temptations of the Russian Church Diaspora


The emigration of Russian Orthodox, for political or for economic reasons, has brought temptations, not of theology, but of psychology. All these temptations are sectarian in nature because they result from a separation from the Centre. Therefore, all these temptations test spiritual maturity. Although these temptations, three in number, tend to come in generational order, this is not always the case. They can come in any order, or even all together, and a generation in this context may not represent 25 years, but just a few years or on the other hand very many years. Moreover, whether the temptations come from the left side or from the right side, they still lead to the same negative spiritual consequences if they are not resisted, which they can of course be.

Temptation One

The first temptation, found particularly among the first generation of emigration, is to retreat into a self-created ghetto and narrow nationalism, for example never learning the local language and entirely rejecting the local culture. This is a self-defence reflex, a reaction to an indifferent or even hostile environment. Unable or unwilling to adapt, there is no ability or desire to understand the foreign culture, let alone to accept the best of it, let alone to shine the light of Orthodoxy before it in a way that makes it accessible to it.

However, in a ghetto, it is all too easy to lose the big picture, to lose all sense of catholicity. Narrow nationalism, inward-looking provincialism and self-destructive parochialism may take over from the right side. However, the left side can lead to the creation of communities which sideline themselves into personality cults and the stagnant and obscure meanders of personal agendas and complexes, equally far from the mainstream. This introversion is equally self-destructive. The result from either side is the same, for ghettos always die out.

Temptation Two

The second temptation, found particularly among the second generation of emigration, is to conform to Non-Orthodox life, for example submitting to local politics or values, whether of left or right. This is a result of the instinct for survival. Out of an inferiority complex, and also as a reaction to the closed communities of the parental first generation, the second generation may, artificially, become ‘more local than the local’. This can even mean a readiness to enter into treacherous combat against their own parents’ country of origin.

An example from the right side is Russian emigres who during the Cold War joined Western Secret services, MI6 or the CIA, and then from Sovietophobia fell into Russophobia, naively swallowing the Western democracy and freedom myth. An example from the left side is that of emigres who protestantise Orthodoxy when they live in a Protestant culture, like the USA or the UK, and Catholicise (Uniatise) Orthodoxy when they live in a Catholic culture, like France or Italy.

Temptation Three

The third temptation, found particularly among the third generation of emigration, is self-justification, for example falling into a superiority complex with regard to the country of origin of the grandparents. This is a result of isolationism and ignorance of the present conditions in the country of origin and a conformist dependence on the country of residence. Out of pride, often linked to worldly success and self-satisfaction in the country adopted, comes an illusion of complacent superiority and self-righteousness.

The pride of self-justification leads to phariseeism of both the left and the right sides. On the left side, we find the aloofness of those who put themselves above both the local culture and the culture of origin and who stand in judgment above them both; know-it-alls, who have ‘nothing to learn’, wanting to teach all and despising all. On the right side, we find the pride of those who see themselves as pure, ‘we have done nothing wrong’, ‘we do not have anything to repent for’, ‘we will not pollute ourselves by mixing with others’.


The spiritual results of all three temptations are always negative and restricting. Pride always leads to self-justification, the illusion that there is nothing to repent for. And when there is nothing to repent for, there is nothing to hope for, hence negativity and restriction, whether the pride comes from the left side or the right side. It is possible to avoid all three layers of spiritual impurity – to fall into temptation is not inevitable. They can all be resisted and indeed often have been. All three temptations and the spiritual impurity that causes them can be overcome by showing patience and waiting for the Mother-Church to become free and then returning to it. Fortunately, the majority of the Russian Church Diaspora witnesses to this, overcoming these temptations through spiritual maturity and balance.