Thoughts from inside the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia

During the Cold War it is no secret that ROCOR suffered from conditioning by the anti-Soviet culture of the Western Cold War and the narrow mentality of being a small minority. These are now largely things of the past and ROCOR has been able to return to its older and broader culture from before the Revolution.

True, those who were adults before the Russian Revolution and then went into exile fleeing Bolshevik persecution have long since departed this world. However, we remember them and their words. Thus, the memory of the Tsar’s Imperial Russia is in many ways more alive with us than inside Russia. ROCOR has never suffered from conditioning by Soviet culture, such as Bolshevik nationalism and imperialism.

An example is ROCOR attitudes to the controversy around the suggested change of the name Volgograd back to Stalingrad. Naturally, the historic battle will always be called Stalingrad. It is this in history textbooks and in place names throughout the Western world. Thus, in Paris there is a famous Place de Stalingrad and even in provincial Colchester in England there is a ‘Stalin Road’. However, these in reality commemorate the great victory of the Allied peoples of the former Russian Empire over Nazism, not of the then Soviet leader, who was also a mass murderer.

What would we prefer then, Stalingrad or Volgograd? Naturally, it is not for us to choose, that is for the people who live there today. However, if it depended on us, Volgograd would be the clear peference but we would surely much rather choose the historic and pre-Revolutionary name of the city, Tsaritsyn, which recalls a tributary river of the Volga.

Another example of our thoughts concerns the recent praiseworthy decision of the Bishops’ Council in Moscow to add China and Japan to the list of canonical territories of the Russian Orthodox Church. Given that Russian Orthodox missionaries and local Orthodox, and no missionaries from other Local Orthodox Churches, have been present in both countries for over 150 years, this decision is perfectly natural. It is in fact a welcome return to the pre-Revolutionary situation.

We hope that that list may yet be extended to other territories and lands of the world where Russian Orthodox missionaries worked or would surely have worked, had it not been for the interruptions of the Revolution and its dread consequences. Alaska, which territory is for the moment in the hands of the OCA, Thailand and Laos, where Russian Orthodox missionary work is already in progress, and perhaps in the future, Mongolia and Tibet (the latter at present in any case under Chinese administration), North Korea, Iran and India, are countries that come to mind. In this ROCOR sees continuity with the pre-Revolutionary past and the internationalism of the Russian Empire, as it existed then.

Some may say that this missionary work is being carried out by the Church inside Russia. What of ROCOR? As regards China and other lands like Tibet, North Korea and Iran, ROCOR simply has no access for political reasons. But what of other countries?

Here it must be said that we are much hampered by our lack of funds. We have no oligarchs and no Gazprom to subsidise us. Church-building and salaries for clergy, in South, Central and North America, in Australasia and Asia (Indonesia and Pakistan), in Western Europe and Palestine are all much delayed and complicated by lack of funds. One solution, that already put forward by the late Metropolitan Vitaly, is the sale of the Synodal building in New York. Worth between $100 and $200 million, its sale would solve a host of problems, including the necessary work at the Jordanville Monastery. Of course, this is a matter for the Synod of Bishops to decide. May God’s Will be done.