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The Spiritual Condition of Russians in the Diaspora

A consequence of the downfall of the Russian Empire was the rise of Russians Abroad. More than a million Russians had to leave their homeland and were scattered across the face of the globe. Living in new conditions, among other peoples, many of the Russians in the course of these years have managed to almost forget their homeland, their language and their customs and to merge with the peoples, in whose midst they reside. The overwhelming majority however, not only preserved their nationality, but even live with the hope of returning to the fatherland on the fall of the present government. At the present time Russians live in all corners of the world. There is not one corner on earth where there are no Russians in greater or smaller quantity. The important question is "What is the spiritual outlook of the Russians abroad?"

Significant portions of the Russians, who have gone abroad, belong to the intelligentsia which in the last days before the revolution, lived according to the ideals of the West. Although they were children of the Orthodox Church, confessing themselves to be Orthodox, the people of that class had in their world outlook strayed far from Orthodoxy. The main sin of these people was that their beliefs and way of life were not founded on the teachings of the Orthodox faith. They try to reconcile the rules and teachings of the Church with their western habits and desires. For this reason, on one hand they had very little interest in the essence of Orthodox teaching, often even considering the Church's dogmatic teachings completely inessential, but on the other hand, they fulfilled the requirements and duties of the Orthodox Church only in so far as this did not interfere with their more European than Russian way of life. This gave rise to their disdain for the feasts, to their going church for only a short time and then only to satisfy a more aesthetic than religious feeling and to a thorough misunderstanding of religion as the main foundation of man's spiritual life. Many, of course, were inwardly otherwise disposed, but they lacked the strength of spirit and the ability to display this in their way of life.

In the social sphere, this class also lived by the ideas of the West, without giving any room to the Church's influence. They strove to rebuild the Russian way of life according to western models, especially in the field of government. This is why in the last days, a particularly bitter struggle was waged with the government administration with the result that liberal reforms and democratic structuring of Russia became a new faith. Not to confess this new idea meant that you were backward. Seized with a thirst for power and utilizing the struggle with the monarchy, due to widespread slander against the Royal Family, the intelligentsia brought imperial Russia to its downfall, making way for a communist government. Then, unable to reconcile to the thought of losing the power that they had waited for so long, they declared war on the communists. In the beginning, it was mainly out of their resistance to ceding power. The struggle against the Soviets involved large sections of the populace; especially drawing in the youth in a fervent uprising to reconstruct a "united indivisible Russia" which was the goal of their lives. There were many feats of valor displayed by the Christ-loved Russian army, but the Russian nation proved itself unprepared for liberation, and the communists turned out to be the victors.

The intelligentsia was partly annihilated and partly fled abroad to save itself. Meanwhile, once the communists showed their true colors, besides the intelligentsia, other large sections of the population left Russia, partly to save their lives and partly because ideologically they did not want to serve the communists. Finding themselves abroad, the Russian people experienced great spiritual shocks. A significant crisis occurred in the souls of the majority that was marked by a mass return of the intelligentsia to the Church. They filled many churches abroad. The intelligentsia took an interest in questions of spiritual life and began to take an active part in church affairs. A multitude of circles and societies were formed. Having religious enlightenment as their self-imposed task, their members studied the Holy Scriptures, the works of the Holy Fathers, general spiritual life and theological questions and many of them became clergy.

However, all these gratifying manifestations also had a negative aspect. Far from all of those who returned to the faith adopted Orthodox teaching in its entirety. The proud mind could not be reconciled to the fact that, until then, it had stood on a false path. Many began to attempt to reconcile Christian teaching with their previous views and ideas. This resulted in the appearance of a series of new religious philosophical trends, some completely alien to Church teaching. Among them Sophianism was especially wide spread. It was based on the recognition of man's worth and expressed the psychology of the intelligentsia.

Sophianism, as a teaching, is known to a comparatively small group of people and very few openly espoused it. None the less, a significant part of the immigrant intelligentsia was spiritually related to it because the psychology of Sophianism is based on reverence for man, not as the humble servant of God, but rather as a little god himself, without the need for being blindly obedient to the Lord God. The feeling of keen pride connected with faith in the possibility of man living by his own wisdom was quite characteristic of many people cultured by today's standards, who place their own deductions higher than everything.

These people do not wish to be obedient to the church’s teaching on all things, since their attitude is one of condescension. Because of this, the Church Abroad was rocked by a series of schisms that have harmed it ‘till now and even attracted a part of the Hierarchy. This consciousness of a feeling of a personal worthiness is manifested also in social affairs where each person who has advanced a little among the ranks, or thinks he has, puts his own opinion higher than everyone's and tries to be a leader. As a result Russian society is split into innumerable parties and groups irreconcilably at odds with each other, trying to put their own program forward, which is sometimes a completely worked out system and sometimes simply an appeal to follow after this or that personality.

With the hope of saving and resurrecting Russia by the realization of their programs, these social activists almost always lose sight of the fact that besides the acts of man in historical events, there moves the hand of God. The Russian people as a whole have committed great sins which are the reasons for the present misfortunes, namely oath breaking (disloyalty to the government) and regicide (allowing the Czar to be murdered). Social and military leaders renounced their obedience and loyalty to the czar, who did not want internal bloodshed, even before his abdication forced it from them. The people openly and noisily greeted this deed, without any loud protest anywhere. This renunciation of obedience was a breach of the oath taken to the Emperor and his lawful heirs. On the heads of those who committed this crime fell the curses of our forefathers, of the Zemsky Sobor of 1613, who imposed a curse on those who disobeyed their resolutions. The ones guilty of the sin of regicide are not only those who physically performed the deed, but the whole people who rejoiced when the Czar was overthrown and allowed his degradation, arrest and exile, leaving him defenseless in the hands of criminals, which itself foreordained the end.

Thus, the calamity that befell Russia is the direct result of terrible sins and her rebirth is possible only when she has been cleansed from them. However, until now there has been no real repentance, the crimes that were committed have clearly not been condemned, but many active participants in the revolution continue to assert that at one time, it was impossible to act otherwise.

By not expressing a direct condemnation of the February revolution, of the uprising against the Anointed One of God, the Russian people continue to participate in the sin, especially when they defend the fruits of the revolution. For in the words of the Apostle Paul, they are especially sinful, who know, that they who commit such things are worthy of death and not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them (Romans 1:32). While punishing the Russian people, the Lord, at the same time, is pointing the way to salvation by making them teachers of Orthodoxy throughout the world. The Russian Diaspora has acquainted the four corners of the earth with Orthodoxy, for a significant part of the Russian immigration unconsciously preaches Orthodoxy. Everywhere, wherever Russians live, they build little refugee churches or even majestic cathedrals or simply serve in premises adopted for this purpose.

The majority of Russian refugees are not aware of the religious tendencies of their intelligentsia and they are nourished on those spiritual reserves that they accumulated in the homeland. Large masses of refugees attend divine services; some of them actively participate in them, helping with the singing and reading on kliros and serving in the altar. Besides churches, church organizations have been established which take upon themselves the responsibility of maintaining the churches, also performing charitable work.

If you look at the faithful who pack the churches on feast days, you can think that in fact the Russian people have turned to the Church and are repenting their deeds. However, if you compare the numbers who go to church, with the number of Russians who live in a given place, then it turns out that about 1 /10 of the Russian population regularly goes to church. Approximately the same number attends divine services on great feasts, and the rest very rarely go to church. Others pray at home from time to time or have completely left the Church. The latter sometimes is a conscious choice under the influence of sectarian or other anti-religious influences, but in the majority of cases it is simply because people do not live in a spiritual manner; they grow hard, their souls become rough and sometimes they become real nihilists.

The great majority of Russians have a hard life full of heavy spiritual feelings and material deprivations. Despite the hospitable attitude towards us in some countries, especially in our fraternal Yugoslavia whose government and people do everything possible to show their love for Russia and to ease the grief of the Russian exiles, still Russians everywhere feel the bitterness of being deprived of their homeland. Their whole environment reminds them that they are strangers and must adapt to customs that are often foreign to them, feeding on the crumbs that fall from the table of their hosts. Even in those countries where there is a benevolent attitude towards us, it is natural that preference should first be given to the country's citizens. In the current difficult circumstances of most countries, often Russians cannot find work. Those who are comparatively well provided for, nevertheless are constantly made to feel their lack of rights in the absence of organizations, which could protect them from injustices. Although a comparatively insignificant number have been completely absorbed into local society, those who are, consequently, become totally alienated from their own people and country.

In such a difficult situation in all respects, the Russian people abroad have shown a remarkably high degree of patience endurance and self-sacrifice. It is as if they have forgotten about their formerly wonderful (for many) conditions of life, their service to their homeland and the countries allied to them during the Great War, their education and everything else that might make them aim for a comfortable life. In their exile, they have taken up every kind of work and occupation to guarantee for them some existence abroad. Former nobles and generals have become simple workers, artisans and petty merchants, not disdaining any type of work and remembering that no work is degrading, provided it is not associated with immorality. In this respect, the Russian intelligentsia has manifested an ability, to preserve their life's energy, overcome everything in the way of its realization and development as well as, possessing lofty spiritual qualities, with capabilities to be humbled and patient. The school of refugee life has morally regenerated and elevated many people. One has to give honor and credit to those who bear their refugee cross doing unaccustomed work which is difficult, living in conditions which they had not known or imagined, but remaining firm in soul they preserve nobility of spirit and ardent love for their homeland. Without a murmur they repent over their former sins and endure their lesson. Truly, many of them, men as well as women are now more glorious in their dishonor than when they had glory. The spiritual wealth which they have now obtained is better than the material wealth which they left in the homeland, and their souls, like gold which has been purified by fire, have been cleansed in the fire of suffering and burn like glowing lamps.

However, with sorrow I have to note, that suffering did not have the same affect on everyone. Many proved to be neither gold nor precious metal, but reed and straw that have perished in the fire. Many were not cleansed and whitened by suffering, did not endure the test, and became worse than they had been before. Many were embittered and do not understand that, being punished by God, we must be consoled, remembering that there are no children that have not undergone punishment. God in punishing us, is looking at us as sons and daughters who must be corrected by punishment. Forgetting about their previous sins, such people compound their sins instead of repenting, asserting that there is no use being righteous, that God does not even look at man's affairs since He has turned His face away from them or even that "there is no God." Considering in their imaginary righteousness that they are suffering innocently, these people have more pride of heart than the boastful Pharisee, but often in their sins surpass the publican. In their bitterness against God, they are in no way inferior to the persecutors of the faith in our homeland and by their way of thinking have become closely connected with them.

For this reason, some of their fervent opponents have become, here in exile, their friends. They have become their open and secret slaves and try to lure their other brothers into the net. Others, in general, see no ultimate purpose of existence and consciously give themselves up to vices, or, finding no joy in anything, end their lives by suicide. Then, there are others who have not lost faith in God or awareness of their sinfulness; but their will is completely broken and they have become like reeds shaken in the wind. Externally they resemble the former group we just spoke about, though internally they are different in that they recognize the foulness of their behavior. They cannot find the strength to fight their weaknesses and sink further and further, incapable of doing anything, becoming the slaves of intoxicating drink or giving themselves up to drugs. It is truly pitiful to see how formerly worthy and respectable people have sunk to the level of beasts. Now, they direct the whole meaning of their existence towards satisfying their weaknesses, their only occupation being to search for the means of fulfilling this goal. Once incapable of earning a living, they look greedily for a hand out, and having received something they immediately set off to indulge their passions. The faith that seems to be hidden in their souls, if combined with self-condemnation, gives us the hope that not all of them are lost for eternity.

Although there are others who appear better outwardly, but are far from being better inwardly. They keep the outward rules of pious behavior, but their consciences are dull. Sometimes they occupy a well-paid position at work and enjoy good standing in the society where they have relocated. With the loss of their homeland, they have lost the law of inner moral life. Penetrated through and through with self-love they will do the worst things to anyone who opposes their success. They are deaf to the suffering of their compatriots and act as if they have no connection with them. They are not ashamed to slander or scheme against others (especially defenseless exiles) in order to lead them astray.

There are some that strive to deny that they have a homeland in order to gain favor in the eyes of the local community. As a rule, these spiritually wasted people have no inner law that controls them and are, therefore, capable of any crime, as long as it is to their advantage and they are assured of not being caught. We are ashamed to say that in almost all the countries of the Diaspora people with Russian names commit many crimes. This is why people have less trust in us and our name is ruined among the nations. The breakdown of morality is especially noticeable among families. At one time, no one would have believed what is going on now.

Marriage as something sacred has ceased to exist and has turned into an everyday transaction. Many notable couples happily and inseparably married for many years have dissolved their marriage and entered into a new one. Some have done this because of passions, others for gain. Every imaginable reason is found to dissolve a marriage, some even lying under oath to gain their end.

There is no permanency in marriage among the young or old. It has become quite common to hear of a divorce only a few months after a marriage. The slightest argument or disagreement is the basis for a divorce. This occurs because the consciousness that marriage is holy has been lost. Church authorities have fallen into wide compromises in relation to the present generation and thus have made it easier to obtain a divorce. The extent of this unbridled leniency knows no limits, even avoiding the present rules. After a marriage is dissolved, another is quickly formed and sometimes a third.

Not able to satisfy all the demands of their lust by marriage in the Church, some ignore all Church and moral laws and do not bother to trouble themselves by asking the Church for a blessing. In countries where the civil law does not demand a church wedding, we very often see people living together without the blessing of the Church, or obtaining a divorce without the consent of the Church, even if the marriage was performed in the Church. One easily forgets that there is no less a sin because an official, 'proper' name is given to something sinful and that a bond, not sanctified by the Church, is nonetheless, fornication or adultery. Many openly live together without the slightest concern about hiding their open dissipation. Some are joined together out of passion, others for the advantage gained from the marriage and without the slightest shame appear everywhere in society together with their "live in" and dare to introduce them as their spouse. It is especially pathetic that people have begun to look at such occurrences with indifference, not expressing any negative opinions about them. Thus, the number of such cases increases, since there is nothing holding them back. According to Church rules people who fall into this category should be refused Communion for seven years or more; according to civil laws they should be restricted in their civil rights. Not long ago, this behavior was despised by society, now has become commonplace among people who attend church regularly. They also desire to take part in Church functions, but in such cases, it is forbidden by Church rules. What can we say of those who are even less influenced by the Church! How low has the morality fallen among our countrymen? On one hand, coming to church out of habit and the other hand, turning into the dwelling place of lower passions. They have given in to a life-style worse than the animals. They disgrace the name of Russian and bring down the wrath of God on the present generation.

The future generation of children and young people will grow up learning immoral ways from their elders. Besides this, the present generation sins before the future one, by paying so little attention to the upbringing of their children. Earlier, in Russia, raising children played a great role in life family, with parental influence an important part of life. Now, without this influence, children can be raised well only if they are given special attention by their parents, who are frequently too preoccupied with their jobs. The entire community abroad is in the same state. Although, Russian schools have been founded, they do not always live up to their purpose and the majority of Russian children study without any Orthodox training or learning the Russian language. They grow up as strangers to Russia, never knowing her true wealth. In some places, Sunday schools or other types of Russian school have sprouted up in order to give the children the knowledge which they cannot receive in native schools. We must admit sorrowfully that the parents show little interest in sending their children to these schools. Rich as well as poor parents are guilty of this.

In past years, despite the difficult conditions for Russians, many have been able to acquire a comfortable existence. There are also some among us who were able to bring considerable sums out of Russia or had foreign capital and maintain it to this day. Although there are many among them who generously help their compatriots and generally support Russian affairs, most of them are only occupied with their personal business. They relate coldly to the plight of their compatriots and look upon them with disdain. They are occupied amusing themselves with their wealth and free time. Frequently, they amaze the native population by their carefree attitude. They find it hard to believe that among them, there are Russians people in need. The rich are annoyed when other Russians turn to them for help. Truly, if there was a greater national self-awareness and understanding of the debt to one's homeland, then great things might be accomplished abroad. For now, we only have a small part of what we could be possible. In fact many of our benevolent and educational institutions are maintained more through the gifts of local people, rather than Russians. Because of this, the majority of our institutions are not cared for, even though there are enough who could Russians to help. The people are satisfied in using similar native institutions pouring their money into them. It is a disgrace that the majority of wealthy Russians frequently raise their children in native schools. These schools can do nothing for the children’s' Orthodox outlook and appreciation of their homeland, even in the best of circumstances. The wealthy put no money aside for Russian schools, which could make up for the lack of national consciousness.

As many parents are completely indifferent towards the future views of their children, whether poor or affluent, they send their children to educational institutions, which have a spirit completely antagonistic to Orthodoxy. Various colleges which have some sort of religious education as part of their program, though not Orthodox, education are filled with Russian children, sent by rich parents who are interested only in the external side of education, or by poor parents who are gratified by the idea of free education. Therefore, their children’s upbringing is at the whims of the institution.

It is difficult to say which children are more unfortunate, the above or the outcast children of the Diaspora. The outcasts, having never known their father, cast away by their mothers, wander about the big cities begging for food and finally resort to theft. In the end, they become professional criminals and fall ever lower morally. Many of them end up in prison or are executed. These will not have to answer to God in the manner, as those who have been educated in splendid colleges and became the worst enemies of Orthodox Russia. One can foresee how the future Diaspora workers against Orthodox Russia will come and will strive either to turn her Roman Catholic or to spread sectarianism within her boundaries. These are the people who remain outside of Orthodoxy and Russia, and will secretly work against her. A significant part of those who are educated in native schools will apostatize and betray Orthodox Russia, though certainly not all. Not only will they be guilty, but their parents even more so, as they did not guard them from such a path and did not instill in their souls a firm devotion to Orthodoxy.

Striving to free their children from the cares of this life and therefore choosing schools which seem to them will give the children more security in the future, the parents pay no attention to the souls of their children and thus are guilty for their future falling away from Orthodoxy and the betrayal of their homeland. Such parents are greater criminals before Russia than their children are. The children are won over to a new religion often at an unconscious age and then educated in a spirit hostile to Orthodoxy. Similar criminal types are those who leave the Orthodox Faith for another in order to assure themselves of a more comfortable lifestyle and a more lucrative job. Their sin is like the sin of Judas, their betrayal of the Faith for a better job or position is counted as the "thirty pieces of silver." Let not some of them affirm that their betrayal of Orthodoxy was due to the fact that they discovered Orthodoxy not to be the true faith and that they are serving Russia by confessing their new faith. Russia was founded and glorified by Orthodoxy and only Orthodoxy will save Russia. Those who betray Russia should be treated like the traitors during the hard times in 1612. They should not be permitted to reconstruct Russia or allowed back into her borders...Has not the Diaspora become the source of a new infection, which will return to the homeland?

Along with the facts presented, the moral state of the people in the Diaspora would be hopeless if we did not observe, a great spirit and sacrifice. Despite the difficult conditions in which the exiles live, they find the means to build and embellish churches, support priests [though poorly], and partially support the needy. Though their hearts are hardened and they offer nothing towards the general good, they manage to set aside a considerable amount for the upkeep of these projects. There are still those among us who joyfully make offerings to the church out of their hard earned labors, others out of their scarcity, what they can; this is counted as the "widows mite." Offerings are not only in terms of money but also in the tireless labors for the good of the Church and one's neighbor. Many bear such labors for various church and philanthropic organizations with zeal and dedication, or work independently. Burdened by labors connected with making a living, they give up their free time, rest, energy and strength for these good deeds. Men bring to these labors their common sense and women their innate love.

The concerns of Russians abroad embrace not only Russian needs in the Diaspora but there are courageous fighters for the homeland preparing for its liberation. Some of these fighters even risk reentering Russia's frontiers, braving certain death. Love for the homeland has led many through severe trials which history will record as heroism.

Much zeal and fortitude has been shown in the struggle for Church rights. It is heartening to see how some of the youth are dedicated to the Church and the homeland that they have never seen, but love wholeheartedly.

Such examples, together with the insuppressible voice of the conscience, give us the hope that those ten righteous men for whose sake the Lord was willing to spare Sodom and Gomorra, still exist and will show the righteous way to the Russian Diaspora.

Russians abroad have been given the light of Orthodoxy to shine throughout the world so that other nations, seeing their good works, might glorify our Father in heaven and seek salvation. By not fulfilling this task and even degrading Orthodoxy by our lives, the Diaspora has two options: turn to the path of repentance, beseech God’s forgiveness, renew ourselves spiritually, make ourselves capable of giving rebirth to our suffering homeland. Or finally be cut off by God, remain in exile, persecuted by everyone, until we disappear from the face of the earth.

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