Third Rome

What to make of Pat Buchanan’s musings on the possibility of Russia setting itself up as a bulwark against the decadence of the west? Maybe if I could read Russian I’d have some idea of whether any significant portion of the populace actually thinks in these terms. The idea has some pedigree in Russian literature:

“That is, in brief,” Father Païssy began again, laying stress on each word, “according to certain theories only too clearly formulated in the nineteenth century, the Church ought to be transformed into the State, as though this would be an advance from a lower to a higher form, so as to disappear into it, making way for science, for the spirit of the age, and civilization. And if the Church resists and is unwilling, some corner will be set apart for her in the State, and even that under control—and this will be so everywhere in all modern European countries. But Russian hopes and conceptions demand not that the Church should pass as from a lower into a higher type into the State, but, on the contrary, that the State should end by being worthy to become only the Church and nothing else. So be it! So be it!”

– Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

Ivan Karamazov, the author of the essay Father Païssy is reading, is being sarcastic or satirical; his own sympathies, made clear in the rest of the novel, are on the side of Europe. His interlocutors in the scene, mostly less so. But how much resonance does this view of Russia have today within Russia itself? Particularly in a nation that still lives with the consequences of the atheistic, socialist project Dosteovsky attributed to Europe? I don’t see it, but then I don’t read the language and don’t watch Russian TV.

Although, speaking as someone with a dark fondness for historical irony, the thought of the Kremlin as the vanguard of a new Christendom has a certain appeal, theologically, the idea is appalling.

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