The first generation of émigrés were those born in c 1900 and who became adult at the time of the Revolution and Civil War. They left Russia together with others older than themselves, of the previous generation. This is the generation of St John of Shanghai and Metropolitan Philaret, preceded by the generation before them of Metrs Antony and Anastasy. The second generation are those of my parents’ age group, born in c. 1925. This is the generation of Metr Laurus. The third generation is my own generation born in c. 1950, that of Metr Hilarion.
The fourth generation is that of my children, born in c. 1975, and the fifth generation is that of my grandchildren born in c. 2000. Now that the old, first, generation of ROCOR, adult before the Revolution, has gone and the second generation, born in c. 1925 is dying out, there are those who wonder about the future identity of ROCOR. The next Metropolitan may well, after all, belong to the fourth generation, born in c. 1975. What are and will be the characteristics of the fourth and fifth generations that now live amid globalisation and Facebook?
First of all, these generations are often the fruit of mixed marriages. Their knowledge of Russian is not and will not be very good, in general, although there are already and in the future will be more opportunities for many of them to live or study in free Russia. However, they often communicate with friends in and from Russia in English, or at best, in a mixture of Russian and another language. However, the loss of fluency in Russian, which already affected the second generation, is not necessarily an impoverishment.
These generations are enriched by a balanced attitude towards their heritage and also their now native countries, the USA, Canada, France, Brazil, Australia, Venezuela, Germany, England or whichever it may be. Moreover, these fourth and fifth generations do not suffer from the political distortions of the Cold War period which so affected their forebears. These generations may be less Russian linguistically, but they may be more faithful as Russian Orthodox spiritually. This may yet prove to make them the best generation of missionaries that the Church has known.
This possibility will depend on their faithfulness to the Tradition and a consciousness of their identity. These generations must know that they are the descendants of those who keep the faith despite everything, by the grace of her Who Shows the Way, the Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God, the Protectress of the Emigration. Multinational, multilingual and able to serve and express themselves in local languages, these generations will prove themselves not by their Russianness, but above all by their faithfulness to what is greater than themselves, the Tradition.
The Tradition is that collection of shared values, which often go without saying, because we know them instinctively to be true. The flexibility and breadth of these generations is their strength. Their temptation is the egoism of the modern, consumerist ‘I’ culture, that of the ‘Me’ generation. As long as these generations are conscious of their heritage, conscious that their destiny is to pass on the Tradition received, what is greater than themselves, without veering off into the tangents of selfishness, then all will be well.