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"An amazing book..."

Russian area specialist praises book

Harold M. Leich, the Library of Congress

Russian Area Specialist
European Division
The Library of Congress
Washington, DC USA


Harold Liech
Harold Liech
The revival of religion in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 – and especially of Russian Orthodoxy, traditionally the major faith in Russia, is an amazing story–literally, a miracle. The book reviewed here documents this miracle at the practical level. The miracle is, however, largely unknown and unnoticed in the West. The church was severely persecuted throughout the long Soviet period, from 1917 until Mikhail Gorbachev instituted the policies of “openness” (glasnost’) in the mid-1980s. At times in the 1930s, 1940s, even the early 1960s it seemed that the church would cease to exist entirely because of state repression.

The Soviet regime collapsed, however, and the Orthodox Church has revived to an extent unimaginable just two decades ago. The ancient Sretensky Monastery in Moscow, founded in the 14th century, has been at the forefront of the revival of Orthodoxy in modern Russia. The monastery operates its own publishing operation and website, both designed to make available detailed information about the Church and its teachings. It has become a powerhouse on the contemporary Russian religious scene.

The abbot of the monastery, Archimandrite Tikhon, has recently written an amazing book, Everyday Saints, now fortunately available in an excellent English translation by Julian Henry Lowenfeld (the original Russian edition has already been through several printings comprising millions of copies sold). In sixty short chapters, Fr. Tikhon introduces the reader to a selection of ordinary, mostly contemporary, Orthodox believers – clergy and lay people, young and old, male and female – and tells their stories with talent, sympathy, humor, and honesty. These are not officially canonized “saints” in the ordinary sense of the word, but rather holy women and men living their lives with faith and holiness. The people portrayed represent an amazing mix of humanity and show the diversity of people drawn together by the Orthodox faith.

The book has many illustrations – drawings and photographs of the “saints” whose stories are told. Fr. Tikhon’s style is eminently readable and accessible to the general reader, and the translation into English is excellent. I hope that this book circulates widely in the English-speaking world, it is a great contribution to the literature on contemporary Orthodoxy and should go far in increasing awareness of and knowledge about the Orthodox Church in the West. The book witnesses at the practical, everyday level to the “miracle” of the revival of Russia as a Christian country.

Harold M. Leich, the Library of Congress

Russian Area Specialist
European Division
The Library of Congress
Washington, DC USA


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