On Russophilia and Russophobia

Q: Sometimes you give the impression of being more Russophile than Orthodox. How do you reconcile that in any case when you are yourself English?

A: Having long been the first victim of Russian racism – from 1974 on! – I think you have the wrong impression. I am Orthodoxophile. Now, any Orthodoxophile has to be Russophile, though only inasmuch as Russians are Orthodox. And 75% of the Orthodox world is with the Russian Orthodox Church and substantial parts of the rest are pro-Russian. How can it be otherwise, if you are really concerned about the Church? All Orthodox have to be not only Russophile, but also Romanophile, Grecophile, Serbophile, Bulgarophile, Georgophile – that is to say, inasmuch as these peoples are Orthodox.

I think those who accuse me of being Russophile (Belgians and now Americans have accused me of that), in the sense of being pro-Russian whatever Russians do, are blinded by their own nationalism. This makes them misunderstand the words ‘Russian Orthodox’ in some narrow ethnic and racist sense. Ukrainians and Belarussians are ‘Russian Orthodox’. So are thousands of Latvians, Estonians and Lithuanians, people from the Altai, Buriats and Yakuts. 5 million Romanian-speaking Moldovans are Russian Orthodox. Tens of thousands of Japanese are ‘Russian Orthodox’, basically so are over a million Czechs, Slovaks and Poles. And there are Chinese who are ‘Russian Orthodox’. There are Germans, French and even English people who are ‘Russian Orthodox’. The present Patriarch is Mordvinian with Tartar origins, the previous one was an émigré from Estonia. But they are Orthodox.

Why this narrow racism, the misunderstanding that the words ‘Russian Orthodox’ have some racist meaning? ‘Russian Orthodox’ used in this way simply means those who follow Traditional Orthodoxy, keeping the Orthodox calendar, and not the modernised sort of Orthodoxy that was concocted and introduced under Western pressure in Constantinople in the 1920s, spread by people of the same ilk to Greece and Romania and the Middle East and then to Bulgaria, and is now sponsored by the EU and the US State. In the sense that I have always used the term ‘Russian Orthodox’, this means that Mt Athos and Jerusalem and Serbia and Georgia are also ‘Russian Orthodox’. I think that such a misunderstanding can only come from a politically-inspired Russophobia and local nationalism.

If you read any of what I have written about the Western and especially English saints in the last 30 years, much of which has now been translated into Russian, you will ask yourself, how can such an accusation stand? I am also Anglophile, Francophile, Portuguesophile, Germanophile, Americanophile – again inasmuch as these peoples are Orthodox, as were and are their saints. If you love the saints, then you must love the peoples whom the saints have sanctified. If God loved His Creation (‘Behold, it is good’), then how can we not love the Creation? Any sort of phobia, whether Russophobia or Americanophobia, is wrong. The only sort of phobia, or fear, that is right, is fear of the devil, the source of all evil (versione italiana). That is why we speak of the fear of God, that is to say, the fear of losing God’s love because of the devil.

Fr Andrew (Phillips)


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