A.V.Popov Articles Jordanville Moscow Patriarchate Rusak, Vladimir

Vladimir S. Rusak, Historian of the Russian Orthodox Church: Life and Legacy

A tribute to the Russian dissident and Jordanville faculty member written by his godson.

To Vladimir Rusak

Each day fate breaks me,
Strikes me, deceives me, crucifies me;
Bending my knees, I cry:
O Lord, why do You do this to me?

Surely I have given a full accounting
Of all my sins with You?
My life is at its end, and I am left with nothing.
For what, O Lord, could I be at fault?

All my dreams have melted away, like smoke.
I have been humbled, O Lord; You know
That I was easily wounded.
Do You purposefully choose such ones to torture?

Having always lived amidst troubles
As in prison, don’t throw your weight around, don’t complain,
I merely ask You, Who were crucified on the Cross,
O Lord, answer me, please.

I pray, without arguing or swearing,
O Lord, why do You do this to me? [1] Leonid Frolov.

0n April 20, 2019, Vladimir S. Rusak, a historian, long-time author, and friend of the Macarius Readings, passed away in Baranovichi, aged 70. The present article is an attempt to give an idea of the persona of Vladimir Rusak through the prism of documents from his personal archive, to shed light on the main milestones of his life, and to present his scholarly works on the history of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Vladimir Stepanovich Rusak was born into an Orthodox family on June 17, 1949, in Zornaia (Zviozdnaia) Village, Novomyshskii Rural Soviet, Baranovichi District, Brest Region. His parents, Stepan Ignat’evich Rusak (1906–1972) and Vera Stepanovna Rusak (1906–1982), were Orthodox Christians with a deep faith. They sought to pass on their faith and their attitude towards life and people to their children. Vladimir Rusak’s older brother, Archpriest Piotr Stepanovich Rusak (1938–1978), was widely known in Belarus’ as a priest and preacher of Orthodoxy. Vladimir Rusak’s older sister, Maria Stepanovna Rusak, also dedicated her entire life to the Orthodox Church. Her daughter Elena Iurut’, Vladimir Rusak’s cousin, worked as a choir director and was the first woman in Russia to graduate from Lenigrad Theological Academy. [2]Rusak, M. S. “Vospominaniia sestry Vladimira Stepanovicha Rusaka o brate” [“Recollections of Vladimir Rusak’s Sister about Her Brother”], in: Pravoslavnaia Rus’ [Orthodox Russia], No. … Continue reading

From 1967–1970, Vladimir Rusak studied at the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics of Minsk State Pedagogical Institute. In 1970, he decided to dedicate his life to the Church and dropped out of the Institute. His brother Archpriest Piotr Rusak helped him to prepare for the entrance examinations for the Theological Seminary. Vladimir Rusak passed the exams with flying colours and was immediately admitted to the seminary as a second-year student.

In 1973, he graduated first in his class from the Theological Seminary. He was recommended and admitted to Moscow Theological Academy in Zagorsk. While studying at the Academy, he began to work in the Moscow Patriarchate Press.[3]Rusak, V. “Uchebnyi god zavershen: v Moskovskikh dukhovnykh shkolakh” [“End of the Academic Year in the Moscow Theological Schools”], in: Zhurnal Moskovskoi Patriarkhii [Journal of the Moscow … Continue reading

From 1970–1980, he worked at the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate as an intern, analyst, editor, and from 1977 onward as an academic editor. In 1976, Vladimir Rusak was ordained as a deacon. In 1977, he graduated from Moscow Theological Academy with a Candidate’s degree in theology. His thesis topic was “Early Christian Apocrypha and Their Christological Content”. In parallel to his work as an editor of the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, he wrote a book on the history of Bolshevik oppression of the Orthodox Church. From 1980–1981, he served as a deacon in Ivanisovo Village, Noginsk District, Moscow Region. In 1982, he was transferred to Vitebsk, as he himself had requested in a petition to Metropolitan Philaret (Vakhromeev) of Belarus.
In 1983, he was stripped of his registration by the Plenipotentiary Representative of the Council for Religious Affairs of the Council of Ministers of the USSR for giving a sermon about martyrs for the faith in the Soviet Union, leading to his being forced out of the place of his ministry and sent to Zhirovichi Monastery. Later, he served for a brief time in a church in David-Gorodok.[4]“Presledovanie diakona Vladimira Rusaka” [“Persecution of Deacon Vladimir Rusak”], in: Pravoslavnaia Rus‘ 20/1986, p. 5

In 1983, Vladimir Rusak wrote an open letter to the delegates of the 6th General Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Vancouver about the oppressed state of the Russian Orthodox Church in the USSR. The letter was not read aloud at the assembly due to protests by the Soviet delegation, but people found out about it after the Archbishop of Canterbury made a statement at a press conference.

Rusak subsequently returned to his place of permanent residence in Moscow. He worked as a guard at Moskvoretsky Vegetable Storehouse, and later in Building Management Center No. 13 for Kiev District, Moscow.

On April 23, 1986, he was arrested by KGB agents for his (then-unpublished) book Svidetel’stvo obvineniia [Witness for the Prosecution], which had been making the rounds in samizdat (self-publishing). This is how he described the day of his arrest: “It’s not light out at all. Early in the morning, I go out onto the sleepy streets of the Arbat and head down into my “office”, a semi-subterranean space set apart as a break-room for me. I take my “tools” – a broom, dustpan, and bucket – and begin my workday.

On that memorable morning – April 23, 1986 – everything began as it always did. Just after five, as usual, I went out with my tools and began to sweep starting from the extension (to be more precise: the part before the beginning of) Gogol Boulevard. One has to be extra careful here: several hours later, our leaders come riding through here on their “partymobiles” on their way to the Kremlin via the Troitskii Gates. “I’ll sweep up,” I thought. I tidied up about 10 meters of street. I didn’t notice a new (by now long since old) Volga pulling up behind me and a very self-confident man of average height (perhaps a bit shorter than average) in a long light-gray raincoat getting out of it, followed by two others. I only saw and became aware of them when the one wearing the raincoat asked in a flat, calm voice:

“Vladimir Stepanovich?”

“Yes,” I answered.

“Rusak?”

“Yes,” I said again.

“Let’s go…”

On September 10, 1986, Vladimir Rusak was condemned by Moscow City Court pursuant to Article 70 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR (“Anti-Soviet Agitation and Propaganda”) and sentenced to 7 years in high-security camps (the maximum allowable penalty at the time according to this law). He served time in the camps near Perm. Remembering his years in prison, Vladimir Rusak said: “The horrors there were particularly frightful for me, because I have never had particular physical strength or endurance. I have never been especially righteous, but the Lord helps sinners, too, so… It happened to me like so: honestly, I did not have any hope of coming out alive. By any human standards, I ought to have died there after a time. But there was a prayer, a very short phrase, that I would repeat to myself: ‘If this is the Lord’s work, help me, if not, destroy it as soon as you can so that I do not have to endure all of this.’ And so I walked around saying this prayer, and situations came to pass where I thought it was over, that all my strength was gone, that I would drop dead right there. 19 straight days in solitary confinement. There was only room enough to stand. No sleeping or eating. A mug of gruel and a piece of bread once a day. You couldn’t sleep, it was dreadfully cold, you didn’t have any of your things, only your undergarments. The bed was fastened to the wall, with metal strips wrapped around it, the other end of which protruded outdoors. Just imagine – you couldn’t even get near it! All you could dream of was to get close to the lamp and warm your hands. I would lose consciousness and fall over, bleeding, and then regain consciousness due to the cold, and fall down again. I thought that I would die, but somehow, I survived. Prayer helped, and obviously my book turned out to be God’s work, because several years later, people began to publish things that are incomparably deeper and more complete in comparison with my own writings. So the Lord helped me to survive.[5]“Svidetel’stvo i svidetel’” [“A Testimony and A Witness”], in: Stupeni [Steps] 1/6. Zhirovichi, Belarus: 2002. p. 1. From 1987–1988, Vladimir Rusak’s fate was actively covered by the Orthodox journal Pravoslavnaia Rus’, which published several articles with in-detail coverage of his work on the book, his conviction and imprisonment in the Perm camps, as well as the struggle by human-rights organizations to have him freed.[6] “Novyi stradalets za vernost’ istine” [“A New Sufferer for Faithfulness to the Truth”], in: Pravoslavnaia Rus’ 1/1987, pp. 6–7.

As a result of a petition by the US Congress and an array of international organizations, his sentence was reduced. A resolution by the Supreme Court of the RSFSR on September 6, 1988, cut the sentence down to 2½ years, without exile. On October 22, 1988, Vladimir Rusak was released, and he was rehabilitated in 1993.[7]Antich, O. “Diakon Vladimir Rusak osbobodzden” [“Deacon Vladimir Rusak Released”], in: Pravoslavnaia Rus’ 22 (1379)/1988, p. 9.

In 1987, his book Svidetel’stvo obvineniia was published in Russian in the USA. It is interesting that Vladimir Rusak saw his work, his role, and his responsibility as those of a dispassionate historian of the Church. He wrote: “The author of this work considers that he, too, has something to say. These are, moreover, not some words of his own or new ideas, but he hopes that the information given here will be new for the reader to some extent. New, because nowadays people are trying to forget a lot of things about the history of our country and even to erase traces of what was before. New, because a lot of isolated facts that on their own do not have any significance and are able to “speak” with a loud, living voice only against the backdrop of other facts, will be gathered and brought together here for the first time into a more or less structured system. And lastly, new, because certain aspects of modern life in the area of church-state relations are entirely hidden from most people.

What will be discussed here is the life of the Russian Orthodox Church under the Soviet order. Sometimes it will prove necessary to talk about the names of living people, even though this is not proper to history (or not so much that it is not proper to history, but rather history does not “like” the names of living people – as Levitin said in the words of Karamzin, the founding father of Russian historiography), and despite the fact that certain people who have found their way into this “history” will not be pleased by it.

This will not be a history in the deep philosophical sense, one that reveals and traces the inscrutable ways of Providence, the realization of providential goals in life, the links among different aspects of society as viewed in retrospect, etc. This is work for the future and it is up to those people who are called to make sense of history: philosopher-historians (and theologians). A philosophy of history does not spring up on fresh historical soil. It takes time. The present work is much more prosaic, and to a large extent it is an anthology and a mosaic of historical facts about the modern period of the history of our Church.

Russian Church History is by no means a new topic. А whole host of works has been written on it, from tiny notes and articles in anemic journals to monumental, multi-volume pieces of research both of a general nature and on specific issues (in Russia and, especially, in the West). Yet the whole secret of this moment in history is that the true situation of the Church in the Soviet Union is largely concealed not only from outside observers, but also from ordinary believers. One can only guess about it or feel certain about it, but it is very hard to demonstrate convincingly.

…It is time for the Church to speak the truth about itself. The Russian Church has an obligation to do so. This truth about the Church ought to have been told from the very beginning. As early as 1917, there was a great spiritual man who said, “It is time.” [8]Delegates from Petrograd, headed by Prof. F. N. Ornatskii, told the Local Council that they saw the Optina Elder Aleksei and he said, “It’s time to start speaking the truth openly so that … Continue reading But the Church has remained silent. The Church authorities remain silent. They remain stubbornly silent and say what they are forced to say rather than what they think. Those who speak out are thus individual enthusiasts who are authorized to do so by their (sound) conscience. Can we ordinary believers and ordinary ministers speak and write about this truth? This is not a rhetorical question. In the Soviet press, one often encounters the rebuke that specialist works on the history of the church and religion are often authored by people “at a remove from religious life.” To say that church history is studied by people not associated with the church is to an extent fair.

But what, then, is an ordinary believer or ordinary minister to do who has not turned his back to the Church? He indisputably has a moral prerogative. Yet here one need only expect to be rebuked by the church hierarchy, not the secular authorities. This is, indeed, how it almost always is, since, by setting out on the way of righteousness that is so frightful for the Soviet regime, you immediately earn the condemnation of the church authorities, who have “not only normal, but even cordial relations” with the secular authorities, as Metropolitan Iuvenalii of Krutitsa remarked at the funeral of Metropolitan Nikodim (Rotov). Nevertheless, truth will out. The truth does not allow violence to be done on itself. Since those who are obliged to write about it by virtue of their position or rank, and who are responsible for the fate of the Church, do not, it is ordinary people in the church who are forced to do so.

The author of this work is a rank-and-file minister of the Church. It does not behoove us to take a modest view of the Church’s gifts to us, as Khomiakov once said. The Church brings man into possession of the Spirit. False self-restraint is nothing more than weak self-awareness and a weak sense of self on the part of the Church. Saint John Chrysostom calls upon even ordinary believers not to rely on the clergy for everything, but to show care themselves for the Church as a body common to all. It is our deep hope that the Holy Spirit will not take His grace from us or allow us to stray from what we decided upon at the beginning in this work: “The truth, only the truth, and nothing but the truth.”

Characterizing Vladimir Rusak’s ethos and his academic and journalistic works, Lev Regel’son wrote that “Protodeacon Vladimir Rusak is a rare example of an Orthodox Christian in our time who walks the talk. Bowing before the resoluteness and the struggle of millions of martyrs for faith in Christ in our current terrible time, he himself set out on this same path, for, as he said in a sermon of his, ‘Christ expects a pure heart of us. Yet how can it be pure if love for Christ and goodwill toward His enemies and persecutors find a place in it simultaneously? A pure person can only have one face, not two.”

Vladimir Rusak’s close friend Leonid Frolov wrote, in my view, very accurately about Vladimir Rusak in an article published in the sixth volume of the proceedings of the Macarius Readings:
Boys play war games, dream of being sailors or pilots or astronauts. Often, they do not grow up to be any of these things. As a boy, Vladimir did not play at war. He did not intend to become a sailor or a pilot. Yet he did dream of the Cosmos – the eternal, divine Cosmos. From his early childhood, he knew that he would devote himself to serving God. Somehow, as a boy, he did not fit into the reality of the surrounding world.

He grew up not understanding worldly life at all. That is how he grew up to be: completely maladjusted to worldly life, and not understanding or accepting of it. He gets downright lost walking the streets and fumbles around interminably in front of the turnstiles in the metro because he does not know how to get through. He does not know his own cell phone number. Going to the store to get food is sheer torture for him. I am convinced that he has only a vague idea about money. As soon as he gets it, he tried to dispose of it at once and wipes his hands clean with an enormous handkerchief afterwards.

It is a mystery how he has survived in the world. How he survived in prison, over long marches, and in the camps is utterly impossible to understand. There is one explanation: the will of God is in all things”.[9]Frolov, L. G. “Chuzhoi sredi svoikh: o tserkvi i ee istorike” [“A Stranger Amid His Own: On the Church and Her Historian”], in: Babin, V. G., ed. Makar’evskie chteniia: materiialy … Continue reading

T.N. Zemlianskikh, the editor-in-chief of Soiuznoe Veche, the gazette of the Parliamentary Assembly of Russia and Belarus, described an encounter with Vladimir Rusak as follows: “During a conversation with Vladimir in the editors’ office, it unexpectedly occurred to us that he is best characterized by two words: “ascetic” and “witness”. He has eyes that are somehow not of this world and a worn-out appearance, that of a man who has wearied himself through spiritual labours… Vladimir Rusak’s life, appearance, manner of speaking and thinking are atypical. One might think that he, as someone who was not accepted by church officialdom, does not fit into secular life, either. But perhaps it is we who do not fit into the world order established by God, while Vladimir lives by nothing less than the same: “If ye love Me, keep My commandments … He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me”. And he accepts the most grievous purifying trials that are sent to him by God”.[10]Zemlianskikh, T., & Iu. Stroev. “Svidetel’. V gostiakh u «SV»” [“The Witness. A Guest at ‘Soiuznoe Veche’”], in: Soiuznoe Veche. Gazeta parlamentskogo sobraniia Belarusi i … Continue reading

In April 1989, Vladimir Rusak relocated permanently to the USA. He and his wife Galina settled together in a small house near Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, which was provided by Seminary Dean Evgenii Klar. In 1991, Zaria publishing house in Canada published Vladimir Rusak’s book Pir Satany. Russkaia Pravoslavnaia Tserkov’ v “Leninskii” period [Feast of Satan: the Russian Orthodox Church in the “Lenin” Era]. This work was on a relatively brief period in the history of the Orthodox Church: the first seven years of the Soviet regime under the government of Vladimir Il’ich Lenin. The focus of Vladimir Rusak’s attention in it is the relationship between the Russian Orthodox Church and the State, and he gives an analysis of the new regime’s oppressive policies targeting hierarchs, priests, and laypeople. There are individual chapters on Soviet “justice” and the “judicial system”, the exposure of saints’ relics, the dissolution of the monasteries, atheist education, and so on. In the book, Rusak wrote: “Having overcome the autocracy, the revolutionary authorities set on the Church with all the might of their demonic power, while against the backdrop of former, moderate church life, a bright bouquet of Christianity, the host of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, shone out.”[11]Popov, Andrei. “Russkoe tserkovnoe rubezh’e” [“The Russian Church Diaspora”], in: Men’kovskii, V. I., ed. Sovremennaia rossiiskaia istoriografiia, Part 2. Minsk: National … Continue reading From 1989–1996, Vladimir Rusak taught Russian Church History and Canon Law at Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville. Based on his lectures, he wrote a textbook Istoriia Rossiiskoi tserkvi so vremeni osnovaniia do nashikh dnei [History of the Russian Church from its Founding to the Present Day], which was published in 1993.

The foreword to the book was written by Bishop Hilarion of Manhattan, the future First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and by Archpriests Victor Potapov and Dimitrii Konstantinov. The book encompasses the entire period from the foundation of the Russian Orthodox Church in 988, its rise, and its tragic downfall brought about by communist state atheism, through its current revival and the problems in post-Communist Russia.[12]Konstantinov, D. V., Archpriest. “O sergianstve i Russkoi Pravoslavnoi Tserkvi: vzgliad iz Ameriki” [“On Sergianism and the Russian Orthodox Church: A View from America”], in: Babin, V., ed. … Continue reading

Rusak wrote modestly about his own book: “This manual on the history of the Russian Orthodox Church is a re-working of lectures given at Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville (New York State, USA) from 1989–1993.” Of course, Vladimir Rusak’s work is not a mere manual, but a full lecture course on Russian Church History throughout the millennium of its existence – a complicated, difficult millennium of successes and failures, but one of spiritual growth. It is a publication unparalleled both in Russia and abroad, the first-ever textbook on the millennial history of the Russian Orthodox Church.

In 1996, Vladimir Rusak returned to Moscow. He worked in S. A. Filatov’s Narodny dom and at the Anglo-American School at the US Embassy in Moscow (1997-1999).

An important chapter in Rusak’s life is tied to the Institute for History and Archives of the Russian State University of the Humanities. In 1995, through the initiative of Professor E. V. Starostin and with the blessing of Patriarch Alexis II, the Department of the History and Organization of Archives launched a major in Russian Orthodox Ecclesiastical Archival Studies. Patriarch Alexis wrote: “We welcome your intention to launch a major in Russian Orthodox Ecclesiastical Archival Studies. It is a necessary and useful undertaking. It makes us glad that the list of disciplines on offer to students includes subjects that were previously considered to be the preserve of theological schools alone. We suppose that it would be expedient here to make use of theological schools’ prior experience in these fields, while taking into account the particularities of your institute. It is beyond doubt that the upcoming generation, like all of us, should diligently study its own history. It is in this that we see an important guarantee of our being headed in the right direction going forward into the future. May God’s help be with you on your way!”[13]Popov, A. V. “Istoriko-arkhivnyi institut i traditsii izucheniia istorii i arkhivov Russkoi Pravoslavnoi Tserkvi: magisterskaia programma «Istoriia Russkoi Pravoslavnoi Tserkvi»” [“The … Continue reading

E.V. Starostin invited many famous secular and ecclesiastical scholars to give lectures and hold seminars on specialized church disciplines: M.V. Bibikov, A.I. Komissarenko, S.M. Kashtanov, V.A. Murav’ev, V.S. Rusak, A.I. Shmain-Velikanova, S.O. Smidt, and others. As Starostin recalled: “It cannot be said the major was fully understood by the university leadership. Difficulties were far from scarce, but we were able to overcome them thanks to the efforts of like-minded supporters. Some teachers (such as Prof. [sic! —trans.] V.S. Rusak) selflessly refused payment offered for their teaching. During work placements in monastery administrative offices, students were provided with all possible assistance, including material assistance, above and beyond what was prescribed as part of the work placement.” It was none other than Vladimir Rusak who came to be the driver and engine of the new major, and it was on him that the bulk of the teaching load of the lecture courses in Church History fell.[14]Starostin, E.V. “Issledovanie arkhivnogo naslediia Russkoi Pravoslavnoi Tserkvi v Istoriko-arkhivnom institute” [“”], 2000-letiiu Rozhdestva Khristova posviashchaetsia. Spetsial’nyi … Continue reading

In 1998, in connection with V. S. Rusak’s departure for the USA, his godson, carrying out his request, handed a portion of the documents and books from his personal archive over to the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF). The documents constitute Fonds 10061, “Rusak, Vladimir Stepanovich, public figure, church historian, 1949—”. Series 1 of Fonds 10061, which includes 357 items from 1932, 1963, and 1967–2002, was examined and verified at a meeting of the Expert Control Commission of the Russian State Archive. Series 1 of Fonds 10061 comprises the following sections: biographical documents on Rusak; authorial materials: books, articles, speeches and talks, diaries, correspondence; documents on Rusak; documents from Rusak’s family members; documents collected by Rusak on topics of interest: activities of the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia, the Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia, and Russian history; photographs, drawings. His books are kept in the Archive’s Academic Library.

The biographical materials comprise documents from Rusak’s service in the Moscow Patriarchate (correspondence, instructions, work contracts, job reviews), concerning Rusak’s entry to the USA (petitions, correspondence, forms), and recording the efforts of various organizations to have Rusak released from prison and resettled in the USA; documents on his work as a teacher at Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville; documents about his involvement in public life, etc.

Among Rusak’s authorial materials, we find manuscripts of the books Svidetel’stvo obvineniia, Na bol’shoi stsene [On the Grand Stage], Zapiski podletsa [Notes of a Low-life], Pir satany, and others; and drafts of an open letter to the delegates and attendees of a conference on strengthening trust, security and disarmament in Europe (1984).

Also deposited in the fonds are correspondence with various people, materials on Rusak’s official and public work (documents on the creation of a Rusak Publishing House, timetables of classes in Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, documents on his involvement in the Association of Former Soviet Political Prisoners in the USA, etc.). The fonds contains documents that were confiscated by the KGB upon Rusak’s arrest in 1986 and later returned to him.

From 2000–2008, Rusak again lived in the United States. He was an editor of parish newspapers: Pravoslavnaiia gazeta (New York, 2004), Pravoslavnoe slovo (San Diego, 2005–2006). He was an active participant, both in person and remotely, in the Macarius Readings in Gorno-Altaisk. Between 2008 and 2014, he came back to Russia several times, but he could not find his place in modern Russia. He spent the last years of his life in the USA.

In 2007, Rusak suffered a huge personal tragedy: the death of his son Piotr, aged not yet 18. His funeral was conducted by Vladyka Laurus. Though himself very ill, he summoned the strength to see Piotr Rusak on his way. Piotr Rusak was buried in the monastery cemetery in Jordanville.

Vladimir Rusak’s last large work, published not long before his death, is a four-volume history of the Russian Orthodox Church in the 20th century. This foundational work reveals many previously unknown chapters from the history of the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia and abroad, and makes many previously unknown sources available to scholars. It should be noted that this book is the result of decades of work on this topic by Rusak. It is a huge and quite possibly defining contribution to the study of Church history.[15]Stepanov (Rusak), Vladimir. Zarubezhnaia Tserkov, XX vek, Vol 1, 633 pp.; Vol. 2, 661 pp.; Moskovskii Patriarkhat, XX vek. Vol. 1, 648 pp.; Vol. 2, 654 pp. Jordanville, NY, Karlsbad, CA, Moscow, … Continue reading

In his final years, Vladimir Rusak read Chinese literature and poetry, finding much in it that was harmonious with his worldview. From his unpublished diaries: “And what is it that am I reading? It turns out that the question about the injustice that permeates our life was posed intelligent people hundreds and thousands of years ago! See these thoughts of a wise man from China set out in rhyme. They might as well be about my situation. [Rusak’s source appears to be a Russian translation of an unknown Chinese work. — trans.]

Heaven endowed me with a talent,
But sorrowful is my lot.
I thought myself to be the foremost hero,
But in life I prospered not.

I am fifty, and know not prosperity;
My way is overgrown with grass,
Others have long since grown rich
And are perfectly content.

Yet in their souls they have nothing.
Yet money is no trifle:
The rich have straddled the clouds,
While the poor man rifles in the dirt.

All is blurred, and one cannot grasp
Who is a fool and who is wise.
I would like for my life’s way to be
Level and straight at last…

***

The worthy man whiles away
His years in uncertainty,
While the villain always obtains
Honor and plenty for himself.

It has long been known that
Loss, riches, and prosperity
Are predetermined
Ahead of time for all.

If only one could ask
Those who have counted out their life in advance
Why destiny does not
Bestow just rewards?

That is, there is nothing new under the sun, so complaining about injustice is useless and therefore also stupid. It makes more sense to find an explanation for this fact of life”.

The 20th century [clearly, what is meant here is the “long” 20th century, — trans.] was tragic for the fate of the Russian Orthodox Church and Orthodox people: persecution, a succession of schisms. Yet it was also a time of spiritual joy: the reunion of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, as well as with the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe, which had previously been part of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Through this, the schism within the Russian Orthodox Church was mended and canonical communion restored within the Local Orthodox Church of Russia. Any previously released decrees that had stood in the way of full canonical communion were deemed invalid or null and void.[16]Popov, A. V. “Iz istorii Russkoi Pravoslavnoi Tserkvi na Dal’nem Vostoke (Kitae, Koree i Iaponii)” [“From the History of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Far East (China, Korea, and … Continue reading

We consider it necessary to state that Vladimir Rusak was consistently and uncompromisingly in favor of mending the long-standing schism in the Russian Orthodox Church and restoring canonical communion within the Local Orthodox Church of Russia. As early as 1993, he wrote in a letter to a Council of Bishops of the Church Abroad at Lesna Monastery in France: “In conclusion, I should like to ask but one more question: “Are you not afraid of departing this world while being separated from the Mother Church?” For there is every indication that these times, as Metropolitan Vitalii has rightly noted, are very near.

Let us not pose as John the Baptist. We are all sinners and we are all in need of repentance.

Your witness would be many times as effective if you were in the Moscow Patriarchate than as things are now”.[17]Popov, A. V. Rossiiskoe pravoslavnoe zarubezh’e: Istoriia i istochniki. S prilozheniem sistematicheskoi bibliografii. Moscow: IPVA, 2005, 619 pp.

It is hard to write about a very close person – my godfather – a person who was outstanding and many-faceted, and who lived a very hard life. In order to understand Vladimir Stepanovich Rusak’s soul, personality, and life journey, let us turn directly to the words in which he summed up his life: It makes sense to look over one’s shoulder. To ask at least two of those so-called “eternal” or “cursed” questions: “What has this world given me, this world into which I was thrust like a grain into soil without being asked?”, and: “What have I given it from the moment I wound up here among other creatures like myself?”

I cannot complain about my life. It has given me many of the things that it bestows upon its favorites. Good, honest parents, whom I remember fondly and gratefully. One of the things I got from them, along with my sanguine nature, was an acute sense of self-worth and independence from tired old stereotypes. My father probably wouldn’t have known what this last word meant, but he lived according to these very principles. Against a backdrop of universal obsessive praise of the Soviet regime, he never went to any gatherings and never put his hands together to give an ovation to the next “general” . He never joined any organizations, even a collective farm, despite the fact that under the conditions of “universal collectivization”, to do so was not only difficult, but indeed dangerous.

Life has given me relatively decent health, which I must admit I treated with complete disdain, yet which meant that I did not have to make use of the services of doctors for many years. It has given me the ability to enjoy the sights and sounds of the world around me. It has implanted in me an astonishing gift for communicating with people, receptivity to the thoughts of others if expressed in a way I can understand, and the ability to share my thoughts with other people.

It has revealed to me the boundless sea of human thought captured in countless amazing books.

It has given me knowledge about myself, my purpose, and about how to conduct oneself this life in the way intended by our Creator.

It has given me the opportunity to enjoy many of the good things in the natural world over the course of 50 years. This makes me feel especially grateful in light of the short lives lived by many great and worthy people.

It has given me the chance to find out about and experience the most disparate of feelings: joy and grief, excitement and despondency, contentment, anger, calm, desperation, hope…

Lastly, it has given me the heavenly gift of love and joy, happiness and the agony of loving and being loved.

It has given me all that I need to be entirely grateful for all of these things.

In the context of all these good things that life has bestowed upon me, I could title these notes “Life’s End”, in a spirit of gratitude.

I am grateful to God and my parents. For life itself. I am especially grateful for the fact that my Guardian Angel prevented me from ever needing to suppress the freedom of other peoples and for the fact that I have not intentionally grieved other people or defiled my soul by holding inglorious offices or with contemptible worldly awards. I have not betrayed anyone.

My gratefulness to God did not remain confined in my soul and my heart, but found an outlet through completely normal channels in my life. In the midst of the total mendacity, grovelling, fear, and treachery of Soviet life, I did not cast before swine the pearls of truth, freedom, and dignity that the Lord bestows upon every man at the moment of his creation.

I am thankful to God for the gifts listed here and those left out of this list. These gifts are natural gifts, the gifts of our Maker and Creator. And I am not obliged to any secretary-general, or president, or chair of a city council, or mayor for them. But then we come to the relationship between the individual and society. And here the feeling of deep and sincere gratitude dissolved into a mixture of disillusionment and offence.

What do I have to call my own, then?

I am sitting at the table in my own house in which I was born and grew up. It was my first home and a house I could call my own for the first 17 years of my life. Now it is just my first home. I have something to eat this evening and for several days after, but not because I went to the shop and bought the groceries I need. The only reason I do is thanks to my sister, who out of her derisively meager pension of 20 dollars a month (for nearly 40 years of working continuously in the same place) somehow manages to feed not only herself, but me, as well…”

This translation has been made possible by a grant from the American Russian Aid Association – Otrada, Inc

References

References
1 Leonid Frolov.
2 Rusak, M. S. “Vospominaniia sestry Vladimira Stepanovicha Rusaka o brate” [“Recollections of Vladimir Rusak’s Sister about Her Brother”], in: Pravoslavnaia Rus’ [Orthodox Russia], No. 14/1988 (1371), pp. 12–13.
3 Rusak, V. “Uchebnyi god zavershen: v Moskovskikh dukhovnykh shkolakh” [“End of the Academic Year in the Moscow Theological Schools”], in: Zhurnal Moskovskoi Patriarkhii [Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate] 7/1973, pp. 14–15.
4 “Presledovanie diakona Vladimira Rusaka” [“Persecution of Deacon Vladimir Rusak”], in: Pravoslavnaia Rus‘ 20/1986, p. 5
5 “Svidetel’stvo i svidetel’” [“A Testimony and A Witness”], in: Stupeni [Steps] 1/6. Zhirovichi, Belarus: 2002. p. 1.
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7 Antich, O. “Diakon Vladimir Rusak osbobodzden” [“Deacon Vladimir Rusak Released”], in: Pravoslavnaia Rus’ 22 (1379)/1988, p. 9.
8 Delegates from Petrograd, headed by Prof. F. N. Ornatskii, told the Local Council that they saw the Optina Elder Aleksei and he said, “It’s time to start speaking the truth openly so that the people know everything and stand up for the faith and the Church.” Tsekovnyie vedomosti [Church Messanger], no. 8 (1918): 201. And two years later “It’s time for the Orthodox Church to speak. And to speak in a living language that would find a way to the native conscience. Of course, the Orthodox clergy should go not through circulars, not epistles, but ardent sermons in towns and villages. It is not time for clergy to act.” Vechernee slovo [Eveninig Speeches] no. 231 (1920). Cit. by B Kandidov Tserkov’ i grazhdanskaia voina na iuge [Church and Civil War in the South] (Moscow,  1931), 148.
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17 Popov, A. V. Rossiiskoe pravoslavnoe zarubezh’e: Istoriia i istochniki. S prilozheniem sistematicheskoi bibliografii. Moscow: IPVA, 2005, 619 pp.

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