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The Dialectics of Russian History (2008)

December 5, 2008

By Matt Johnson

1. The thesis of Russian history, that which informs the rest, is her medieval heritage. From Ruirik to the Time of Troubles, Russia, though suffering, developed an integral unity, that of the Orthodox faith, the iconic monarchy and the independent communal form of landholding. With many fits and starts, this is the sort of Russia the Mongols froze in the 13th century.

This is the classic medieval European pattern: the free homestead (communal or otherwise), a monarchy who reigned, but dealt solely with defense, and an independent monastic church that set the tone for Christian worship. All of these institutions are fairly well known to any student of Russia, and their overlap is substantial. Nevertheless, Russia, in the Middle Ages was a Christian anarchist collective, based on tradition rather than law, ritual rather than a constitution. Medieval Ireland shares with Kievan-Rus many of the same institutions and biases. Collective independence and a pronounced communalism, itself bound together by ritual, was the norm, and functioned as the basic “constitution” of the era. Bureaucracy was unknown, and open coercion was a penalty known only to the upper classes. In Russia, as elsewhere, progress was considered inversely proportional to the elimination of communal liberty and the erection of bureaucracy.

The Mongols firstly, then the Time of Troubles, secondly, destroyed this organic unity. In addition, the battle between the Non-Possessors and the Josephites, as well as the example of Novgorod, existed as potential and actual fissures in the organic nature of medieval life. The Mongols imposed on Russia something akin to the Normans in England and later, Ireland. What had at one time been ritualistic and traditional, became increasingly bureaucratic and stratified. However slowly this movement developed, it is easily discernable in Russian life and became the very life blood of the anti-statist criticism of the Slavophiles.

Novgorod remains as the central westernized institution of Old Russia. She was an oligarchy, controlled by the higher levels of the merchant guilds. In terms of control, Novgorod was the most “absolutist” entity in medieval Russia. All aspects of urban life were controlled by the guilds, leaving the working class population without representation, and they cheered Ivan III’s conquest of the city. Far from being a “model of democracy” as countless Russia-commentators have said, Novgorod was a money-based absolutist republic, introducing to Russia elements of the occult through the Judiazers and the Kabalah, long active within the corrupt urban milieu of the Hanseatic League. Her constitution can best be described as an authoritarian oligarchic regime, and remains the cause celebre of Russia historians today.

The Mongols forced the princes of Moscow to become the realm’s major tax collectors. In fact, they were building a solid basis for rebellion, but it instructed Russia in the art of Machiavellian centralization, only to reach its apogee in Catherine II and her true successors, the Leninists. The state as somehow “molding” the citizens of an already developed ethnic unity became the basic social theory of monarchy as it moved from its iconic, medieval phase, into its modern, absolutist phase under Peter I. As militaries grew in power and expanse, they grew in expense, and as such, serfdom began to show itself in outline. Serfdom developed from two things: the suffering of the Time of Troubles, as well as the reaction of the service nobility to the greater expenses incurred by increasing westernization. Boris Gudenov faced a Russia without resources and without a future unless some method of tying peasants to the land was found. But what had become a temporary solution to a national emergency became Russia’s own peculiar institution, an institution that prohibited the state from ever reaching out to the peasantry, and eventually alienated them completely.

Nevertheless, Old Russia was prosperous and basically literate. Her ritual was the defining element in her life, and entered every aspect of Russian liveliness. It is not a stretch to call the Old Ritual the very “constitution” of Old Russia. Authority ruled rather than open power and law was based on the universally known and understood customary codes of the realm, the Russian version of the Brehon laws in Ireland.

At the same time, the main ideological battle of the medieval world developed, the basic argument over monastic landholding. This battle concerned not merely the monasteries, but the nature of the Christian life and its relation to worldly power. Such a debate was to break out under Tsar Alexis within the Zealots of Piety, between the Old Rite and the Nikonian movement. Russia historians regularly underestimate the impact this debate had on the subsequent fate of Old Russia.

The rejection of monastic landholding was a Christian anarchist vision of social life. A Russia based on agrarian tradition, the small parish and monastery based on ritual rather than law or “rule.” It was Old Russia, uninterested in global domination, but as being the New Israel, or, what amounts to the same thing, the Third Rome, ideas to be explicitly rejected by “reforming centralizers” later on. The Ukrainian idea of Sobornopravan’ was the central thought of the non-possessors: the idea of an elective parish/monastic system, decentralized and based on the ancient tradition of the church, guarded and manifested in the hierarchy, who, themselves, were to, like the Tsar, function as living icons rather than as rulers; examples based on prayer and struggle rather than synodal functionaries and political officers.

The resultant victory of the Josephites, as well as the Time of Troubles, were soon to rip Russia apart. The Josephites were not impious people, and many saints developed from that system. But its affects were corrosive. Monasteries began to be seen as repositories of state power, helping to build a global empire based on wealth and power rather than the life of Israel, based on tradition and ritual. Rites and traditions became something external from practice, something “codified” and part pf a “rule,” hence isolating it from society, making it a “power” to use against people, rather than an authority that derives from being a part of the construction of sanctity. The Josephites became the “educators” of Russia, and was the first step into bringing Russia into modernity. The church was now a unit, an entity in itself, rather than being an independent organism, a way of life rather than a cold set of monastic customaries. Nikon, as well as Peter I, would have been impossible without the Josephites.

Similarly with the Time of Troubles. Old Russia was forcibly buried with endless war, political instability and its resultant regime of serfdom. Old Russia was literally burned to the ground by invading Poles, brigands, Swedes and an oligarchic regime under Shuskii that sought to make Novgorod, rather than Moscow, the ideological center of the realm. The dislocation was severe: Starvation, empty land, chaos and disease created the Romanov dynasty, who was elected by a large council of the land to bring Russia out of chaos. And despite the manifest holiness of Patriarch PHILARET, and the Tsars Michael and Alexis, Russia was never to be the same, and the antithesis of Old Russia was slowly erected. What was built after the time of Troubles was an absolute monarchy based on western models, rather than the iconic model of medieval Ireland, Montenegro and Ukraine. The tsar became an Emperor under Peter, and began to openly coerce is increasingly alienated population. Its result was the Old Faith movement, Razin, Bulavin, Pugachev and Lenin.

2. The Antithesis of Old Russia will come in the form of the service state, based on the ideology of “Enlightened Absolutism.” High taxes for the purposes of reconstruction, increasing encroachments on Cossack autonomy, Russian penetration into Central Asia, and the emergence of the Old Ritualists led to the creation of a state increasingly divorced from the people, and increasingly able to extend its tentacles into all aspects of Russian life. Again, this process, begun by Alexis, will reach its apogee under Catherine.

It needs to be mentioned that this is the moral fault of no one. Enlightenment as brought upon Russia by force of arms and from the chaos of the Troubles. The massive military state and the “official church” were creation of the Enlightenment, not of the medieval world, who knew of no such institution. While the medievalist and Old Ritualist sees an independent church, one that animates the entire social edifice, the modern sees, like Pobedonostyev, an “official church” whose primary purpose is to legitimize a system of state that is no longer organically connected to the land. This was what motivated Razin, the Cossacks and the Old Rite. They demanded nothing more than a return to medieval social forms. They did not reject modern arms, but did reject the more draconian discipline in European armies and its immense expense. They did not decry progress (however defined) but they refused to see it outside of the moral order, the order of Old Russia. Progress did not protect Russia from Napoleon, and certainly not against Germany in World War I. But it did bankrupt the lower nobility and enslave the peasants. Russian history shows that the peasant commune protected peasants from pauperization, while the popular militia protected her from external enemies.

It remains the case that the most absolutist state of all is democratic and parliamentary. Only in modernity has it been the case that the state has it in its power to shape all of life. Medieval regimes werre based on the autonomous commune and independent corporation, the technology of domination had yet to develop in such a way so as to enslave these institutions. That was left to absolutist governments, whether royal or parliamentary. Old Russia was based on autonomous communities, rural, urban or ecclesiastical. The prince and his retinue itself also constituted an autonomous community, as it rarely had the power to control the mass of the population. When that began to change, Russia became an Empire.

The transition to empire was a disaster for Old Russia. The trauma of the Troubles and the defection of the Old Rite made it possible to create a New Russia based on western European absolutist models. While under Alexis is went in fits (it certainly did not suit his temper, but it did suit the times), under Peter I, it became systematic. Under Catherine II, it became institutionalized. In this era, Russia went from a royal government, based on medieval ideas of autonomous communities, to a European monarchy, based on some version of Hobbesianism. The commune was gradually removed from juridical independence (as Ivan IV had enshrined it), and its old police functions were replaced by the service nobility, who were given full legal control over the peasants, though it remains unclear to what extent any residual communal organization functioned. The upper reaches of this nobility became the Petrograd elite, who were to fetishize service promotion and the state itself, leading to a radical secularization of social relations and the first formal acceptance of class divisions.

In this era, the church became a department of state. Parishes lost their right to elect clergy. Monasteries were closed on a large scale, while those remaining were placed under state supervision. Catherine II closed a full third of monastic establishments, with only token opposition from the overawed synod. The clergy became a terrified, cowed, impoverished and increasingly alienated estate. The bulk of the peasantry were either of the Old Rite, or were highly sympathetic to it. The Old Faith became a weapon against Enlightened Absolutism and the assault on communal liberties. Independent estimates of the era place the Old Faith, by the 1840s, at over 20 million people, overwhelmingly peasants and merchants (though official statistics put their strength at only several million). While the Official Church did produce saints and was capable of producing holiness, these increasingly became the exception, rather than the rule. Aristocratic homes became European, and the Orthodox tradition became perfunctory. By the middle of the 19th century, most of the oligarchy abandoned Orthodoxy, or at least, treated it as a cultural relic, something to be attached to emotionally as the faith of their grandparents, but their social life revolved around British or French social ideas. Atheism in the intellectual class was the result, with the Slavophiles developing as an apologia for the Old Faith and for Old Russia, to be called obscurantists, curiously by both secularists as well as the official church. The Slavophiles, to a man, rejected the artificial monarchy of Nicholas I and its clumsy attempt to enlist church authority to buttress its claims. Under Nicholas I, the Old Faith was persecuted with increasing vigor, while the synod itself became merely a spokesmen for Imperial policies.

3. The synthesis was the 19th century, the attempt, unpolished and half-hearted, to synthesize Petrinism and Orthodoxy. And while this movement, typified by Nicholas I, Alexander III and Nicholas II, produced some fruit, such as Optina and Sarov, it was a failure, and the state toppled under the pressure of World War I. The Imperial monarchy remained as the last bastion of an earlier era against parliamentary absolutism represented by the revolutionaries of 1848, but as it had no organic links with the people, it was a paper tiger, to slowly decay and crumble, suffering the same fate as Austria- Hungary. Nicholas I was not a bad man, nor was Alexander or his ill-fated son. On the contrary, they were good men, with the best of intentions. Nevertheless, they were saddled with a system inherited from Peter and Catherine II which was isolated from the peasants, destroyed Cossack autonomy, and attacked any deviation from the positions of Nikon and the gradual westernization of Orthodoxy.

By 1800, Russia was confused and disoriented. The Old Faith was permanently removed from the country, leaving the church to its less committed brethren. Saints of the era, such as St. Seraphim of Sarov, were more or less sympathetic to Old Russia (St. Seraphim prayed with the lestovka, for example). St. Tikhon of Zadonsk regularly used the Old Books in his services, and many others, such as St. Theophan, ended up in reclusion. Elder Zosima was hounded by the official church authorities, as was St. Seraphim, while the institution of eldershipv at Optina itself came under attack in synodal quarters. Only officially sanctioned forms of worship were permitted, and deviation from the New Ritual and the New Architecture were frowned upon. Russian church music changed from the Old Faith to the Baroque, architecture fell into a pseudo-classicism, and the tradition of the church was Latinized. All seminary education was performed in Latin, and iconography became almost purely Florentine. Without the Athonie injection of St. Paisius Velichkovsky, who completely revivified monastic life in Russia, the Russian church would have become a purely Latinized, western sect.

In 1800 Russia was laboring under a serfdom that had destroyed the old commune, and, though not as evil as the Leftists would like to make it, slowly but surely enslaved the Russian peasantry. Royal decrees against the buying and selling of peasants were routinely ignored, and families were regularly broken up in slave auctions, though again, officially illegal. Instead of looking to the peasantry, the state looked to the service class. Instead of attempting to make peace with the Old Rite, they were hounded and regularly assaulted. To their credit, the ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchy have publically repented of these sins, pronouncing, apologetically, the Old Faith completely Orthodox. Nevertheless, it did not stop the dissolution of Russia, which was driven by the institutional rejection of its lifeblood, the ancient faith and sense of being the New Rome.

Hence, though it is painful to utter, the Bolshevik revolution, with all its bloodshed and persecution of the faith, was a necessary cleansing of the Russian landscape. St. John of Shanghai said something similar:

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.

In other words, it is the Orthodox church itself that is at fault in 1917. They refused to speak out against the slaughter of World War I. They never put forth a plan for land reform, and never reached out to the peasants. They were an isolated sect who ruled at the whim of Rasputin. Despite manifestly holy men such as St. Tikhon and St. Joseph the New Martyr, the church suffered under the Bolsheviks as a lumbering, sleeping giant. A new Babylonian captivity emerged.

*******

1. Yet, the captivity bore fruit. Rather than a complacent position of worldly power, the church found herself in her natural state: a tiny persecuted minority, scattered over the face of the globe, misunderstood, fractious and disoriented. The ROCOR brought the Orthodox faith to the world, producing for us Archbishop +AVERKY, Blessed Seraphim Rose and St. John Maximovitch himself. From this comes the beginning of a new dialectic, one that exists here and now. If Old Russia is the thesis of the first motion, then the USSR is the thesis of the next. From this thesis comes its antithesis, or the rebuilding of church authority after 1990. Regardless of the irregularity of the present Moscow Patriarchy and its involvement in ecumenical relations, it is reintroducing Orthodoxy to a generation who knows its faith only second hand. And yet, with this is danger.

The danger should be clear: complacency. There is no reason for the modern Russian church to be a part of the state system, or to desire worldly power and authority. Bureaucracy and institutions are almost inherently opposed to the spirit-based religion of the Orthodox truth. A synod, to repeat, exists only to protect the tradition, or even better, it exists to manifest this tradition, a tradition being lived by the people. It is a part of the church, not above it. It can only make decisions based on the life of the faithful, clergy and monastics, rather than developing its own ideas on church life. It is common misconception that an Orthodxo synod, or even more vulgar, the patriarchy, functions as a papacy, making decisions on doctrine and practive, and using the state to enforce these rules. In reality, this is a corrupt and fallen understanding of church authority. Khomiakov wrote on this subject:

THE SPIRIT OF GOD, who lives in the Church, ruling her and making her wise, manifests Himself within her in divers manners; in Scripture, in Tradition, and in Works; for the. Church, which does the works of God, is the same Church, which preserves tradition and which has written the Scriptures. Neither individuals, nor a multitude of individuals within the Church, preserve tradition or write the Scriptures; but the Spirit of God, which lives in the whole body of the Church. Therefore it is neither right nor possible to Look for the grounds of tradition in the Scripture, nor for the proof of Scripture in tradition, nor for the warrant of Scripture or tradition in works. To a man living outside the Church neither her scripture nor her tradition nor her works are comprehensible. But to the man who lives within the Church and is united to the spirit of the Church, their unity is manifest by the grace which lives within her.

And further,

Wherefore it must be understood that Creeds and prayers and works are nothing of themselves, but are only an external manifestation of the inward spirit. Whereupon it also follows that neither he who prays nor he who does works nor he who confesses the Creed of the Church is pleasing to God, but only he who acts, confesses, and prays according to the spirit of Christ living within him. All men have not the same faith or the same hope or the same love; for a man may love the flesh, fix his hope on the world, and confess his belief in a lie; he may also love and hope and believe not fully, but only in part; and the Church calls his faith, faith, and his hope, hope, and his love, love; for he calls them so, and she will not dispute with him concerning words; but what she herself calls faith, hope, and love are the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and she knows that they are true and perfect.

And even more powerfully, he writes,

Oppressed and persecuted by enemies without, at times agitated and lacerated within by the evil passions of her children, she has been and ever will be preserved without wavering or change wherever the Sacraments and spiritual holiness are preserved. Never is she either disfigured or in need of reformation. She lives not under a law of bondage, but under a law of liberty. She neither acknowledges any authority over her, except her own, nor any tribunal, but the tribunal of faith (for reason does not comprehend her), and she expresses her love, her faith, and her hope in her prayers and rites, suggested to her by the Spirit of truth and by the grace of Christ. Wherefore her rites themselves, even if they are not unchangeable (for they are composed by the spirit of liberty and may be changed according to the judgment of the Church) can never, in any case, contain any, even the smallest, admixture of error or false doctrine. And the rites (of the Church) while they are unchanged are of obligation to the members of the Church; for in their observance is the joy of holy unity.

The church functions not through external authority, but by the organism of its life. The Nikonian church forgot this, and, adding the victory of the Josephites and the creation of absolutism, created a church that was typified by its external synodal organization which was often opposed to the inner life.

2. The union of the ROCOR/MP has positive elements, but it also has negative ones. Institutions quickly become self-serving, with its own “private jokes and vices,” as Fr. Seraphim dryly noted. Once

it becomes part of the world, it will have to pay its price, which is conformity, aristocracy, bureaucratization and a certain separation from the faithful. Already the ROCOR is pretending it did not create the Greek Old Calendar movement under Metropolitan St. PHILARET. It is already being attacked by feminists for not having enough female representation in its synodal system. It has turned a blind eye to the irregularity of many of the MP’s bishops and the long standing support of the Old Regime, as evidenced by the opened KGB archives. The Romanian church is facing the same struggles. It remains the case that Alexei has publically asked forgiveness of his pro-Soviet role, and that forgiveness should be given, not used as an excuse to “run one’s own show.” Nevertheless, the intentions of the MP should remains suspect, particularly as regards ecumenism and becoming an “establishment” church. Archbishop Ilarion of Smelyansk (ROAC) has issued the following statement, one that should be taken seriously,

On at least three different occasions, the Moscow Patriarchate has committed transgressions, any one of which would be enough to cause it to fall away from the Church completely. It was only in 1961, after their triple fall into schism, that the MP adopted their heretical (ecumenical) confession of faith.

The MP’s first schism came in 1927, when Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky) usurped the authority of the Sobor of Bishops, delineated a ‘new course’ for the Church in relation to the godless authorities, and subjected the Bishops who refused to embark upon this course to unlawful repercussions. Metropolitan Sergius started to exercise the full scope of power as Locum Tenens of the Patriarchal Throne, although the legitimate Locum Tenens, Metropolitan Peter (Polyansky) was still alive, and even tried to talk some sense into Metropolitan Sergius through his letters from exile. The major part of the episcopacy of the Russian Church recognized Metropolitan Sergius’ actions as uncanonical, as also his usurpation of church authority, and broke canonical communion with him. The MP’s second schism came in 1936, when, after the NKVD’s false report of the death of Metropolitan Peter, Metropolitan Sergius unlawfully declared himself Locum Tenens of the Patriarchal Throne, and took over the Diocese of the Patriarch. Together with this, in an article in the ‘Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate’ for 1931, Metropolitan Sergius officially announced that the powers of Deputy automatically cease with the death of the person he is filling in for, which was quite correct.

The MP’s third schism came in 1943, when three bishops who had been sent for by Joseph Stalin, together with several other like-minded bishops, elected Metropolitan Sergius as ‘patriarch.’ This meeting of 19 bishops, which they announced as as a ‘Sobor of Bishops,’ had received no authority of any kind to elect anyone patriarch, not only because at this meeting only an insignificant part of the hierarchy of the Russian Church was represented, but because, according to Determinations of the Local Council of 1917-1918, the election of a Patriarch was the exclusive prerogative of the Local Council. The canonical episcopacy of the Russian Church, represented by its two ‘branches,’ – the catacomb Church and the Church in exile – refused to recognize Sergius as ‘patriarch,’ and thereby confirmed the utter fall of the MP, headed by him, into schism.

From schism the MP moved to heresy after it entered into the World Council of Churches (WCC) in 1961, which meant its participation in ecumenism. Upon entering the WCC, the MP delegation signed the ecumenical organization’s confessional ‘basis,’ thereby admitting on behalf of the entire MP that they have the same confession of faith as the WCC. Many of the documents of the MP dating from the 1960’s contain an open confession of the heresy of ecumenism. By these actions, the MP has given all Orthodox Christians sufficient reason for separating themselves from it as a heretical association, in accordance with rule 15 of the First/Second Council.

As to whether or not the heresy of ecumenism continues to be part of the official creed of the MP, it is enough to note that not only has the MP never repented of this heresy, but it has refused to withdraw from the WCC. At each of the last four Sobors of Bishops of the MP (1994, 1997, 2000, 2004), the hierarchy passed heretical decisions confirming the participation of the MP in the ecumenical movement and expressing the totally free voice of the hierarchy of the MP. This means that any attempt to claim that the MP’s participation in the heresy of ecumenism is forced upon them by the godless authorities is unsubstantiated.

Now these issues do not invalidate the holiness of many MP faithful. It does compromise the church as the manifestation of the Spirit on earth, however. Large churches create barriers between the faithful and the clergy, it produces a facade of worldly power, despite the personality of the hierarchs themselves. But if the Nikonian absolutism is the second antithesis, then the “age of Alexei II” is the new antithesis. What, then, is the new synthesis?

3. It can only be the reintroduction of some of the key ideas of Old Russia. It will, so to speak, be the final movement in the Russian dialectic. Holy Russia, not the Holy Synod, needs to be reborn. Parishes and monasteries should be kept as small as possible (though multiplied in number), so as to preserve the atmosphere of the family, headed by the priest, the “patriarch of the family” offering up the sacrifice as a unit, rather than as an institution. The extended family should be promoted as a restoration of the old patriarchal understanding of both church life and the economy. Not as a relation of institutional power, but of familial and ritual authority. Such institutions should run their own lives, educational institutions, parishes and sketes, rendering the state irrelevant except for national defense. A restored monarchy should rule as the Kievan Grand Princes, as icons of faithfulness and tradition rather than as bureaucratic institutions. Its army should be a popular militia along the lines of the Cossack host and the militia of Minin which drove out the Poles. The extended family unit, known in Slavonic as the zadruga, should be armed, and capable of being called to national service in times of emergency, and such familial institutions themselves should become organized into pan-Russian and Orthodox federations on the anarchist and Proudhonian model.

In order to rebuild the Russian family, the countryside and the full, lived tradition of communal life, nothing less can be expected. The Putin government has been positive in that it has partially neutralized the oligarchy and its organized crime sister organizations, but it should be seen only as a temporary phenomenon, as a means of cleansing so theat the family and church can begin to resurrect Holy Russia and the Old Faith, to being defending itself through the communal and zemstva model, themselves being represented in a national federation of Russian Orthodox communities. There is no reason why the same cannot be done in an independent Ukraine, Moldova and Serbia, each living its own life according to the wishes of the federation, but completely autonomous otherwise. The worship of empire is the worship of worldly power, the lower world of cause and effect, the world of the fallen Adam. An “official church,” as opposed to the national church, the church as a national expression of a universal truth, quickly degenerates into a political tool, a set of offices to be coveted and won, rather than the ascetic struggle to be waged. That 19th century synthesis has been passed, and its results were disastrous: revolution, secularization and denationalization.

Anything else will plunge Russia back into its old errors: of the blind following of western capitalist, technophiliac, statist and bureaucratic models. The very models that created the Old Faith rebellion, Pugachev and the alienated intelligentsia. Without self governing communities on the example of the Sobornopravnist’ ideal, alienation and bureaucratization can be the only result, with ritual becoming a perfunctory exercise rather than truly intimate experience.

State power, as well as the domination of the episcopal synod is a fetish, a compromise with the world and its demands. The True Faith operates locally, though families, the zadruga and commune and skete, the non-bureaucratic elements of the Orthodox tradition on the exemplar of the Hesychasterion and hermitage. It is as a decentralized federation of local communities that the faith has historically been at its strongest, and at its weakest when it is fetishised as an appendage to state or economic power. Sobornost’ and Sobornopravanist’ is the manifestation of Old Russia, Kievan Rus, of the Old Faith and the Ukrainian Cossack tradition. The free community bound by ritual and devotion to the agrarian life of the Old Faith is the sole method by which Holy Russian can be reborn, and that the Old Faith can return and the world can at least have one island of sanity.

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