Voices from Russia

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Orthodox Believers Remember their Departed Relatives

On Trinity Parents’ Saturday, which anticipates the holiday of Pentecost (Trinity), the Russian church prays for the repose of the souls of all departed Orthodox Christians. After the liturgy is served, all parishes shall celebrate general pannikhidas for all the departed. According to the Scriptures, on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended to earth for the sanctification and eternal salvation of all people. Therefore, the Church calls all of us to send up supplications so that the blessings of the Holy Spirit would erase the sins of all the departed. Trinity Saturday could be called the last day of the Old Testament Church before the revelation in full measure of the reign of Christ on the day of Pentecost.

14 June 2008



14 June 2008. Cookie the Bookie… What the Figures Tell Us

Filed under: internet,Orthodox life,religious — 01varvara @ 00.00

I was hoping to be able to give you weekly updates on all sites, as far as uniques are concerned. Well, the only site that I get weekly updates on is my own, as it is the only “quantified” site of the lot. Therefore, as I only get monthly updates on other sites, this shall be a monthly feature, and shall have a complete statistical breakdown. The figures are from Quanticast. (see http://www.quanticast.com for details).

A great deal of what follows is raw statistical data. This is the raw material one needs to make a reasoned judgement on the state of the Church. There are five official (GOA, OCA, ROCOR, AOCANA, and ACROD) and three personal sites in this study.

The personal websites in this study are Orthodox Christians for Accountability (“Stokoe”), Orthodox England (“Phillips”), and Voices from Russia (“Drezhlo”). The last two sites present an ordinary Orthodox point of view whilst the first is decidedly modernist and dodgy. I had to drop Frederica from the survey as Quanticast no longer has figures for this site. One wonders…

We shall present the data, and let us see where it takes us! The truth shall set you free.

A)      Gross monthly uniques

Official Sites:

1. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese (GOA): 56,004 (100) (71)

2. Orthodox Church in America (OCA): 19,386 (35) (72)

3. Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese in North America (AOCANA): 12,481 (22) (79)

4. Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR): 4,991 (9) (67)

5. American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese (ACROD): 2,107 (4) (40)

The first figure in brackets is this month’s index, whilst the second bracket contains an index as compared to last month. The above figures must be adjusted to account for “addicts” (daily visitors) and “regulars” (more than once a month, but, not daily). There appears to be a slippage across the board, but, as it affects all sites, it may be a normal seasonal variation.

Personal Sites:

1. Orthodox England (Phillips): 8,635 (100) (163)

2. Voices from Russia (Drezhlo): 6,950 (80) (113)

3. Orthodox Christians for Accountability (Stokoe): 5,288 (61) (79)

Stokoe’s site shows the same slippage as the “official sites”, whereas Fr Andrew and I have posted noticeable increases. All punters take notice…

B)      Adjusted monthly uniques

Official Sites:

1. GOA: 50,484 (100) (84)

2. OCA: 15,175 (30) (73)

3. AOCANA: 9,111 [18] [68]

4. ROCOR: 3,336 (7) (56)

5. ACROD: 1,897 (4) (40)

No surprises here, for the ranking and proportions of the gross figures are virtually the same as the adjusted ones. The number of addicts is divided by three, and the number of regulars is divided by two, per the Quanticast site, to give a better view of actual individuals accessing the various addresses. All sites show slippage from May, no doubt, people are using their heads and going off on holiday to the lake… bully for them!

Personal Sites:

1. Phillips: 8,160 (100) (159)

2. Drezhlo: 6,221 (76) (112)

3. Stokoe: 3,120 [38] [68]

As an aside, there is an internet group known as the Orthodox Forum run (essentially) by a single individual, Harry Coin. It claims to be the most authoritative non-official source on the web. Well, it only has 1,558 registered members this month (an increase of 81 members over last month, giving an index of 105), so, it is only a small group of theological radicals (they advocate such things as a married episcopate and support the Osbourne schismatics), and the core of the group is only about 50 true-believer liberal radicals. If it was to have an index number as per the above list, it would be 19, and it would rank dead last. That is, it has only 19 percent of the readership of Fr Andrew’s site. Be wary of this group, they are not as important as they claim. Thankfully, their bark is FAR greater than their size. They are “all hat and no cattle” as they say in Texas.

C)      Gender ratios in percentages

a)     Male readership as a percentage of the total

Official Sites:

1. ROCOR: 43 percent (88, Internet average; 100, this study sample) (100)

2. OCA: 42 percent [85, 98] (105)

3. GOA: 41 percent (84, 95) (103)

4. AOCANA: 36 percent (73, 84) (106)

5. ACORD: 20 percent [41, 47] (125)

None of the official websites does a good job of attracting male readership, if we define “good” as being within 10 points of the average. If we define “fair” as being within 20 points of the average, the top three score that. The AOCANA needs to do major revamping and the ACROD figures are abysmal.

Personal Sites:

1. Drezhlo: 55 percent (109, 100) (100)

2. Phillips: 49 percent (100, 89) (104)

3. Stokoe: 46 percent [93, 84] (107)

Note well that all personal sites are doing better at attracting a male readership than the “official” ones. Interesting. I should note that I do not try to attract a masculine audience, and some of my most vocal and loyal readers are women. Go figure!

b)     Female readership as a percentage of the total

Official Sites:

1. ACROD: 80 percent (156, 100) (95)

2. AOCANA: 66 percent (126, 80) (97)

3. GOA: 59 percent (115, 74) [98]

4. OCA: 58 percent (114, 73) (97)

5. ROCOR: 57 percent (111, 72) (100)

All the official sites do an excellent job of attracting female readership. Now, they should concentrate on getting the fellows, as well. However, there appears to be a correlation between modernism and a larger female following. That is more marked in the personal site listings below.

Personal Sites:

1. Stokoe: 54 percent (106, 100) (95)

2. Phillips: 51 percent (100, 94) (96)

3. Drezhlo: 45 percent (90, 83) (100)

All of us are doing a “good” job at attracting a female audience.

D)      Educational Levels of the readership in percentages

a)     Non-college graduates

Official Sites:

1. ROCOR: 27 percent (61, 100) (96)

2. GOA: 24 percent (55, 89) (92)

3. ACROD: 23 percent (53, 85) (96)

4. OCA: 20 percent (45, 74) (105)

5. AOCANA: 16 percent (36, 59) (100)

45 percent of the general population falls into this category, so, one cannot conclude that Orthodox are better educated than the average, as corroborating evidence from objective sources is lacking. It is true that the official sites are doing a poor job of reaching this cohort, whilst one also notices that the gap widens with the increasing level of modernism.

Personal Sites:

1. Drezhlo: 37 percent (81, 100) (103)

2. Phillips: 15 percent (34, 41) (100)

3. Stokoe: 6 percent (13, 16) (120)

My site is the only site of the three to be in the “fair” category, that is, an index of 80-89. The others miss the mark for this social category, with the Stokoe site being abysmal in this regard. Of course, the snotty and shirty tone of so many posters on the Stokoe site puts many people’s teeth on edge, and many see them as overeducated dweebs who wish to lead all others about by the nose.

b)     College graduates

Official Sites:

1. ACROD: 62 percent (149, 100) [98]

2. GOA: 46 percent (111, 74) (102)

3. AOCANA: 44 percent (107, 71) (102)

4. OCA: 38 percent (92, 61) (97)

5. ROCOR: 27 percent (66, 44) (100)

Slots 2 to 4 are doing a “good” job of reaching the college-educated, whilst the very high figure for ACROD reflects its relative lack of new immigrants and the movement of many of its people from the working-class to the lower reaches of the middle-class. The lower figure for ROCOR may reflect the larger number of immigrants in its ranks, combined with a strong working-class distaste for the pseudo-intellectual antics of SVS and its minions.

Personal Sites:

1. Phillips: 49 percent (118, 100) (91)

2. Drezhlo: 43 percent [104, 88] (102)

3. Stokoe: 32 percent (78, 65) (100)

Batiushka Andrew does a sparkling job at attracting the college crowd. I do a “good” effort, whilst Mr Stokoe is poor, yet again. He can’t seem to connect with ordinary folk at all.

c)     Post-graduate degree holders

Official Sites:

1. ROCOR: 45 percent (315, 100) (102)

2. OCA: 42 percent (289, 93) (100)

3. AOCANA: 40 percent (276, 89) (100)

4. GOA: 30 percent (204, 67)

5. ACROD: 15 percent (104, 33) (115)

caveat, if you please. These figures are skewed by the number of clergy accessing these sites, and these fellows all have a post-graduate education.

The big three are within 10 percent of each other, making their efforts equally effective at reaching the highly-educated. The ROCOR has always had the highest level of education in the American Orthodox diaspora, and the above figure confirms it. The GOA is still doing an excellent job, being at slightly over 200 percent of the Internet average. The coal-mine origins of ACROD are evident in the above figures, it is not a criticism, rather, it is an observation (in fact, it is within the normal statistical variance for the norm, a good sign). Their parents did not have the means to allow them to continue studies past the baccalaureate level. It may mean that this group is the most solidly-grounded of the lot, being less apt to be moved by intellectual notions and conceits, a very good thing, indeed.

Personal Sites:

1. Stokoe: 62 percent (431, 100) [98]

2. Phillips: 36 percent [249, 58] (116)

3. Drezhlo: 20 percent (143, 32) (91)

The note concerning clergy applies here as well.

All of us are above the internet average, but, there can be too much of a good thing. Mr Stokoe’s site is so disproportionately skewed to this social cohort (which is only some 14.1 percent of the internet population) that it brings into question its objectivity and balance. It appears to be a site favoured by the Orthodox equivalent of the “chattering classes” and the clerisy. That is why so much material in it is so disconnected with reality. Caveat auditor.

E)      Racial composition of the audience in percentages

a)     Caucasian

Official sites:

1. ACROD: 95 percent (117, 100) (99)

2. ROCOR: 93 percent [115, 98] (100)

3. OCA: 90 percent (110, 95) (101)

4. AOCANA: 85 percent (104, 89) (100)

5. GOA: 84 percent (102, 85) (102)

No surprises here. Everyone knows that the Orthodox demographic is disproportionately white.

Personal Sites:

1. Stokoe: 99 percent (122, 100)

2. Drezhlo: 86 percent (102, 86) (104)

3. Phillips: 61 percent (75, 62) (102)

Mr Stokoe is only reaching a lily-white audience, whereas I am doing a “good job”, and Batiushka Andrew’s figure is interesting. Where are the other hits coming from? Well, we shall see.

b)     Black

Official Sites:

1. GOA: 9 percent (122, 100) (90)

2. OCA: 3 percent (46, 33) (75)

3. AOCANA: 3 percent (45, 33) (100)

4. ACROD: 3 percent (45, 33) (150)

5. ROCOR: * (8, 7) (100)

*: less than 1 percent

The GOA figure is interesting, is it Ethiopians? One wonders. All in all, the official sites do a poor job of reaching blacks, except for the Greeks.

Personal Sites:

1. Drezhlo: 5 percent (72, 100) (83)

2. Phillips: 2 percent [27, 38] (100)

3. Stokoe: 1 percent (16, 22) (100)

If you want to put some “soul” into your life, log onto my site. Please, pass the sweet potato pie (Grandma Goodbee’s is reputedly some of the best, according to my friend Arnold). The other sites are not attracting blacks, with the Stokoe site doing a typically abysmal job.

c)     Asian

Official Sites:

1. AOCANA: 6 percent (147, 100) (100)

2. GOA: 1 percent (43, 29) (50)

3. OCA: 1 percent (43, 29) (100)

4. ACROD: * (13, 9) (100)

5. ROCOR: * (8, 5) (100)

The Antiochians are doing a very good job of reaching American Asians. Everyone else needs to go to summer school to relearn the basics.

Personal Sites:

1. Phillips: 4 percent (99, 25)

2. Drezhlo: 4 percent (98, 100)

3. Stokoe: * (9, 9)

If you want to find the Lucky Red Dragon, log onto my site or Fr Andrew’s. He shows an improvement over last month (he’s been eating his dim sun for lunch, that must be it). Tail-end Charlie Stokoe needs help (stop eating that tinned Chung-King glop, Mark).

d)     Hispanic

Official Sites:

1. GOA: 3 percent (56, 100) (100)

2. AOCANA: 3 percent (54, 96) (100)

3. OCA: 3 percent (47, 84) (100)

2. ACROD: 2 percent (33, 59) (100)

3. ROCOR: 1 percent (22, 39) (100)

No one is doing a particularly good job of reaching the Spanish-speaking.

Personal Sites:

1. Phillips: 11 percent (163, 100) (92)

2. Drezhlo: 3 percent (57, 35) (60)

3. Stokoe: * (9, 6) (100)

Head on over to Batiushka Andrew’s for the Cinco de Mayo bash (He’s the one handing out the cold Bohemia brewskies from Mexico). I am not doing a “fair” job, I slipped. I should get out those Carlos Gardel CDs and brush up on my tango technique. Mr Stokoe, no soup for you!

e)     Other (American Indian, Pacific Islander, Alaska Native)

Official Sites:

1. ROCOR: 6 percent (420, 100) (100)

2. AOCANA: 3 percent (257, 61) (100)

3. OCA: 3 percent [243, 58] (100)

3. GOA: 2 percent (206, 49) (100)

4. ACROD: * (47, 11) (100)

“Other” in our terms usually means an Alaska native. All of the sites apparently seem to be doing well (with the exception of ACROD, which, to be honest, is not seeking out this particular demographic segment). However, the fact that the ROCOR is the champ in this category puts the lie to all the Chicken Littles on the Stokoe website (although, in fairness, Mr Stokoe himself has not made such a silly assertion) who claim that the Alaska natives are going Protestant. They are certainly looking about… but, I do daresay that they are looking further EAST than Canterbury or Wittenberg.

Personal Sites:

1. Phillips: 21 percent (1533, 100)

2. Drezhlo: 2 percent (146, 10)

3. Stokoe: * (24, 2) (100)

Batiushka Andrew, you had best watch out for the Tlingit, Yupik, and Aleut elders tooling down the High Street in their 4X4 ATVs. They are going to kidnap you and make you the honoured guest of an impromptu potlatch (You’d best brush up on your native dances. Moses the Tlingit shall be glad to help you). Since the base figure for Fr Andrew is higher this month, the above figure is actually a raw increase over last month. Go figure! We are all doing a good job of reaching the natives except for Mr Stokoe. Mark, unfortunately, the natives have abandoned your site.

F)      Income Profile of the audience in percentages

a)     Under 30,000 USD per year

Official Sites:

1. ACROD: 57 percent (366, 100) [98]

2. ROCOR: 28 percent [175, 48] (97)

3. AOCANA: 21 percent [139, 38] (96)

4. GOA: 18 percent (119, 33) (100)

5. OCA:  17 percent (114, 31) (100)

The higher this figure is, the higher the number of old age pensioners and/or students in the sample. The OCA is less “grey” than some left-wing commentators have stated. Interesting.

Personal Sites:

1. Drezhlo: 17 percent (110, 100) (100)

2. Stokoe: 14 percent (92, 84) (93)

3. Phillips: 5 percent (34, 31) (125)

Mr Stokoe and I are in the normal range, and Batiushka Andrew does not seem to connect with this group at all, but, he is doing better than last month.

b)     30,000-60,000 USD per year

Official Sites:

1. ROCOR: 50 percent (154, 100) (104)

2. OCA: 47 percent (144, 94) (100)

3. AOCANA: 38 percent (118, 77) (100)

4. GOA: 35 percent (109, 71) (100)

5. ACROD: 16 percent (50, 32) (107)

There is a healthy amount of the middle class in all the groups except for the ACROD, which may indicate a larger pensioner cohort.

Personal Sites:

1. Stokoe: 80 percent (245, 100) (100)

2. Phillips: 48 percent (146, 60) (114)

3. Drezhlo: 34 percent (110, 45) (106)

All of us are doing well in this cohort. I am spot-on average, whereas most of the others are over-represented in this category, especially Mr Stokoe. This is important as this group (and the lower rungs of the next) is the most conventional and hide-bound in its behaviour. It is also infected thoroughly with positivism (although the next cohort, the upper-middles, provides most of the “therapists” and other assorted voodoo-merchants of positivism and can be considered more infested with it).

c)     60,000-100,000 USD per year

Official Sites:

1. AOCANA: 33 percent (106, 100) (100)

2. GOA: 32 percent (103, 97) (97)

3. OCA: 28 percent (88, 83) (100)

4. ACROD: 24 percent (79, 75) (100)

5. ROCOR: 19 percent [61, 58] (100)

This group combined with preceding one makes up two-thirds of the faithful, except for the ACROD, where it is less than half (skewed by a larger pensioner cohort).

Personal Sites:

1. Phillips: 36 percent (115, 100) [88]

3. Drezhlo: 30 percent (95, 83) (100)

4. Stokoe: 4 percent (13, 11) (133)

Batiushka has quite a following in this bracket, whilst I am doing a “good” job. Mark Stokoe gets the cardboard box. His performance is wretched.

d)     Over 100,000 USD per year

Official Sites:

1. GOA: 14 percent (66, 100) (100)

2. OCA: 8 percent (37, 56) (100)

3. AOCANA: 7 percent (33, 50) (100)

4. ROCOR: 3 percent (18, 27) (75)

5. ACROD: 2 percent (10, 15) (100)

None of the above groups has an average number of people in this cohort. The urban legends concerning “rich Greeks” are just that, and most of the wealth of the Greeks is not in liquid assets, but, rather in fixed assets (such as business fixtures and real estate) that are not easily convertible into ready cash. However, the GOA does have a larger percentage of such folks than any other Orthodox group.

Personal Sites:

1. Drezhlo: 19 percent (91, 100) (95)

2. Phillips: 11 percent (54, 59) (85)

3. Stokoe: 2 percent (11, 12) (100)

I do a “good” job of reaching this group, Fr Andrew is “fair”, and Mr Stokoe does a miserable job. The people in the lower and upper income brackets do not trust him… hmm… one wonders. I hasten to add to that Mr Stokoe is most probably quite a decent fellow. Unfortunately, he has hitched himself to a corpse, which is sad.

G)      Age Profile of the audience in percentages

a)     18 to 34 years-old

Official Sites:

1. OCA: 28 percent (96, 100)

2. ROCOR: 24 percent (86, 90)

3. GOA: 23 percent (78, 81)

4. AOCANA: 19 percent [65, 68]

5. ACROD: 15 percent (55, 57)

Quanticast has changed its age categories as compared with last month, so, no comparison is possible for this section. Sorry. Therefore, nothing worthwhile can be said until we have another month’s worth of data in the new categories.

Personal Sites:

1. Stokoe: 32 percent (110, 100)

2. Drezhlo: 26 percent (88, 80)

3. Phillips: 14 percent (52, 47)

b)     35 to 49 years-old

Official Sites:

1. OCA: 31 percent (115, 100)

2. GOA: 30 percent (109, 95)

3. AOCANA: 22 percent (80, 70)

4. ROCOR: 21 percent [78, 68]

5. ACROD: 14 percent [55, 48]

Personal Sites:

1. Stokoe: 42 percent (155, 100)

2. Phillips: 38 percent (140, 90)

3. Drezhlo: 35 percent (128, 83)

c)     50+ years-old

Official Sites:

1. ACROD: 61 percent (256, 100)

2. GOA: 33 percent (136, 53)

3. OCA: 30 percent (128, 74)

4. ROCOR: 28 percent (115, 65)

5. AOCANA: 26 percent (108, 100)

Personal Sites:

1. Drezhlo: 36 percent (153, 100)

2. Stokoe: 24 percent (106, 69)

3. Phillips: 25 percent (105, 69)

H)     Percentage of the audience with children 6-17 years-old in the household

Official Sites:

1. AOCANA: 35 percent (107, 100) (100)

2. GOA: 30 percent (92, 83) (103)

3. OCA: 24 percent (74, 69) (100)

4. ROCOR: 23 percent (70, 63) (105)

5. ACROD: 14 percent (44, 41) (93)

The ACROD figures are troubling. It may not be keeping births at replacement level. The AOCANA is healthy; the other three have work to do.

Personal Sites:

1. Drezhlo: 27 percent (83, 100) (96)

2. Phillips: 26 percent [81, 98] (100)

3. Stokoe: 2 percent (6, 7) (100)

OUCH! Mr Stokoe stumbles badly here. He cannot connect with parents at all. Fr Andrew and I are doing a “good” job.

I am not giving raw figures except for one instance. That is in the case of racial composition in the “Other” category. This can give a picture of who is reading what in the volatile Alaska Church crisis. That is a RATHER valuable piece of information, nicht wahr?

I)      Other (American Indian, Pacific Islander, Alaska Native) in raw figures

Official Sites:

1. GOA: 1,010 (100) (84)

2. OCA: 455 (45) (63)

3. ROCOR: 300 (30) (75)

4. AOCANA: 273 (27) (54)

5. ACROD: 9 (1) (25)

Not all of the above are Alaska natives, but, it is a good guess that most of them are. It is noteworthy that the OCA, which has jurisdiction over virtually all parishes in that state, does not do better. The natives appear to be looking at all the options. Antioch, in the end, shall not be an option, because of its modernism, positivism, and its thorough infestation with Protestantism. The Greeks shall fail too, because of their well-known corruption, greater than that of the moribund OCA. Note well the ROCOR figures. The ROCOR has no parish in the state at present. It is also the only jurisdiction of the top four to be on the traditional church calendar. Also, its inner church life is the closest to that found in Alaska. Shall the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Alaska go ROCOR? If I were to bet…

Personal Sites:

1. Phillips: 1,714 (100) (134)

2. Drezhlo: 125 (7) (104)

3. Stokoe: 8 (0.5) (89)

Imagine yourself in the old Garden at the fights… (In that special sing-song voice of the ring announcer): “Da winnah, and still champeen, by an unchallenged knock-out, in the white, blue, and red trunks, FATHER ANDREW, from Felixstowe England”. (Batiushka Andrew raises both gloved hands in “da winnah” gesture)

Batiushka Andrew not only rolls over all of us, he also decks all the official websites handily. As far as the natives are concerned, he is GODZILLA. This Godzilla is not stomping on Tokyo; he is flattening Syosset and Englewood Cliffs into the bargain as well. Father Andrew! You’d best check the hedges. Moses the Tlingit and his associates may be waiting to make you the next honorary chief of their tribe.

Mark Stokoe is abysmal. The native have abandoned his site. I must say that my native Alaskan readers are the ones I cherish the most. My heart goes out to you, and you are always in my prayers.

J)      Conclusions to be drawn from the raw data

Official Sites:

1.     Greek Orthodox Archdiocese

Firstly, the Greeks are not as affluent as most believe. They do have a higher proportion of such people than any other Orthodox group, but, it is lower than the national average. Also, as I pointed out earlier, much of this wealth is tied up in fixed assets, and the liquidity level is low. In fact, in all other income brackets, the GOA is somewhat above average, so, the urban legends of Greek wealth are false. It appears to have fairly normal age, education, and racial curves. This is a solid and substantial body, marred only by corruption in its highest reaches and the notional policies of the EP (which mainly do not affect local parish life).

2.     Orthodox Church in America

This body is so troubled that it may no longer be in existence next year. Its educational and racial curves appear to be in the normal range. In income, it can be typified as a middle-class body, for the largest cohort is in the 30-60K USD range. In terms of the highest income bracket, its proportion here is about 50 percent of the GOA figure.

This group is the Orthodox body most in thrall to positivism and all of its works because of its social composition. It has a touching faith in psychologists that is greater than its faith in Christ and Church tradition.

3.     Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

Some think this body to be “the Great White Hope” of Orthodoxy in America. Nothing could be further from the truth. Statistically, it is an average body. The racial and educational curves are normal, and 71 percent of the sample falls in the 30-100K income range.

This group has more “convert” parishes than most, which is troubling. Most of the convert priests were ordained without sufficient time in Orthodoxy (ten years would be best, and five years is a bare minimum), therefore, this body is infested with Protestantism, modernism, and positivism.

It is indistinguishable from a conservative Evangelical Protestant body except for its Orthodox ritual. This is the least “Orthodox” of the bodies studied, and it becomes less so with each year. It is a heterogeneous construct held together only by the political skills and ambitions of Philip Saliba. This combination may not survive his demise. It has the most effective propaganda machine in American Orthodoxy. Most converts are fooled regarding this body, but, most “ethnics” are not.

4.     Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

This is a body that has rebuilt itself over the last 15 years, and the statistics reflect this. If it had not been for the influx of New Russians after the fall of the USSR, this group would have imploded in the 2000s. It reached its nadir in the years of the Ustinovshchyna, and was revitalised by the election of Laurus Škurla as its First Hierarch.

The ROCOR has the highest percentage of post-graduate degree holders in its ranks, probably due to two factors. The émigré cohort was drawn from the middle classes and above, and the current group of New Russians tends to be professionals. In income, the ROCOR tends to be concentrated in the brackets up to 60K per year. This is a combination of old age pensioners amongst the DP cohort and New Russians being at relatively low rungs of their professions due to their short time in this country.

The ROCOR has the highest proportion of Alaskan natives amongst the readers of its website, which may indicate the future home of the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Alaska.

With its reconciliation with Moscow last year, this is the healthiest church body in the US at present. It has overcome most of its internal problems and it may receive most of the healthy elements of the OCA after that body implodes. To my mind, there shall only be three major Orthodox bodies left after the demise of the OCA (of course, the smaller bodies shall still exist). The GOA shall represent “Greek Orthodoxy” and the ROCOR shall be the standard-bearer of “Russian Orthodoxy”, both legitimate traditions in the Church. Both shall get on well with one another. The AOCANA is on course for departure from the Church tradition. It is already thoroughly Protestantised, and the chances of it doing something dodgy such as ordaining a married bishop are high. It shall ensconce American phyletism as its driving ethos, and its resemblance to ordinary Orthodoxy shall be slight. Any body claiming to be Orthodox that has a layman as its Chancellor is well on its way out of the church.

5.     American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese

I have a special place in my heart for these people. They are a solid, well-grounded, and good-sense lot with no pretensions. Bishop Nicholas does not put on airs, and he has no grandiose illusions à la Herman Swaiko or Philip Saliba. I believe that this group shall survive its coming demographic problems. They shall simply close unthrifty parishes, and that shall be that.

It is the “whitest” of all the official groups, and it has a high level of education, with over two-thirds of its people with college degrees. The relative paucity in the younger cohorts indicates that this group may be only 50 to 60 percent of its present size in a generation. However, this group is noted for its pragmatism, and it shall not become a crisis. They shall simply close dead parishes, and that shall be the end of it. Shall they join a larger “Russian Orthodox Church in the Americas”? Only time shall show us, and if they do, it shall be for solid and good-sense reasons. Again, this is one of my favourite groups of people. I wish them well.

Personal Sites:

1. Orthodox England, Fr Andrew Phillips

Here is the pick of the litter. It is interesting to note the depth of this audience, which is almost as large as that of the dodgy AOCANA. For a personal website, this is an achievement. The theology is solid and clear, and there is no trace of modernism. I would recommend this site to anyone. Read it now!

Fr Andrew has a diverse following, with an especially heavy cohort coming from Alaska natives. His readers tend to be college-educated or above. In income, his readers tend to 30-100K bracket, but, he does better in the 100K+ category than all official sites except for the GOA, and better than all personal sites except for mine.  Fr Andrew is reaching the people that the official sites and the Stokoe site wish to reach, but, often, do not. The premier Orthodox commentator on the web, I say.

2.      Voices from Russia, Barbara-Marie Drezhlo

I am loath to state much concerning my own site, except to say that my intent is to provide a well-rounded view of Russia: its culture, its religion, its sport, and its society. I appear to be succeeding.

In education level, I do a “good” job of reaching those with college, an excellent job of reaching those with grad school, and I hold my own with the non-college educated. In income, I appeal equally to all brackets, and score the highest of all personal sites in the study in reaching the 100K+ cohort.

3.      Frederica, Frederica Matthewes-Greene

There are no longer figures available for this site. One wonders… Ms Greene considers herself an authoritative spokesman for Orthodoxy. Instead, she is a living example of all that is wrong with the AOCANA. She was fastened upon by Philip Saliba because she works for NPR (National Public Radio), and shares all of its reliably secularist liberal opinions. In one of her books, she states that one of her mentors in the faith was a Uniate. A UNIATE. That is, someone outside the Church and foreign to it. She is the typical ignorant Anglo-Saxon convert spouting off on Orthodoxy before learning the ABCs of the Faith.

If I were to call her anything, it is a barely-converted Anglican with only vestigial traces of Orthodoxy. I should note that Professor Vigen Guroian, the noted Armenian theologian and scholar, has issued a similar condemnation of Ms Greene. Her site and books are not recommended, as they are nothing but evangelical Anglicanism with a few Orthodox terms tossed into the pot.

4.      Orthodox Christians for Accountability, Mark Stokoe

Mr Stokoe is a former Syosset insider, which is the main Achilles heel of his site. He refuses to see anything other than a continuation of the present status quo, and many of his contributors are autocephalist true-believers. To give two examples, one could name Fr Vladimir Berzonsky and Fr Theodore Bobosh. They are contemptuous of any view other than one worshipful of Alexander Schmemann and his fancies, and both are dupes who refuse to see the fact that the “autocephaly” of the so-called OCA was a temporary dodge of the MP in its struggle to survive in communist times. This unreality has driven many away from this site.

A full 63 percent have graduate degrees. In short, it is a much skewed sample. In fact, his is the “whitest” of all the sites in the study, and his Alaska Native readership is only 10 individuals, not even 1 percent!

Why is Mr Stokoe doing such a poor job? Firstly, it is obvious to many that his website and the actions around it were a “palace coup” gone badly. After some 35 months, the crisis has only deepened, and the recent 6-million USD suit against the OCA in Maryland may signal the beginning of the end. One of the things that came out is that an OCA priest talked openly of what he heard in confession and counselling to smear a laywoman, and he was not disciplined by Syosset when it became known. Mr Stokoe did not condemn this action when he posted about it. That, I think, is the main fault in his site, and it is the reason why many do not trust him. As Fr Vsevolod Chaplin said recently, “truth is truth, and sin is sin”. Indeed. Mr Stokoe should emblazon this on his heart.


Firstly, let us all let out a long sigh of relief! Studies such as this are useful and valuable, but… OOO-WEE! They take such time, don’t they?

This gives an accurate picture, to the best extent that the data available can, of a good part of Orthodoxy. Let’s stop lying to one another and let’s walk honestly in the light. God shall bless us for it.

That’s the tote-board for the month. Get your bets in before the flag is up.

Vara Drezhlo

Saturday 14 June 2008

Behold, the Most Pure Cometh!

In pre-revolutionary Yekaterinburg, it was very crowded every 9 July as a motley crowd of locals and pilgrims from all over the province flooded into the town. They all came with the same purpose in mind, to honour and venerate their beloved Tikhvin icon of the Mother of God, and all were filled with the same spiritual joy during the feastday dedicated to the icon. Nobles and merchants, petty bourgeois and peasants, everyone hurried to the convent where the icon was kept. There was a solemn and reverent religious procession, a bustling fair, the touching singing of the sisterhood chorus, the generous hospitality of the convent, souvenirs and hand-made gifts by the nuns, all of this and more awaited those who went to the “Tikhvin Days” at the convent…

Today, the sisters of our convent return to our city its beloved icon, and they revive the holiday in its honour.

The Ancient Icon

According to legend, the wonder-working Tikhvin icon of the Mother of God appeared in Russia in 1338. The first time it was seen, it stood bathed in unearthly light above the waters of Lake Ladoga. Then, it appeared in different places until it finally stopped in Tikhvin, where a special church was built to house it. In 1577, an edict of Tsar Ivan Grozny decreed that the icon was to be housed at the Tikhvin Monastery. At various times, copies were made of the wonder-working Tikhvin icon of the Mother of God, and these, in turn, became as venerated as the original. One of these copies was brought to Yekaterinburg on 9 July 1811.

The Celestial Abbess: The Protectress of the City

Church of the Assumption in Yekiaterinburg, where the Tikhvin icon of the Mother of God was brought in 1811

In the morning on 9 July 1811, the bells rang out the holiday from all the belfries in the city. The harmonies of the bronze heralds proclaimed the joyous news: “Behold, the Most Pure cometh!” The crowds streamed from all the churches accompanied by the singing of the bells. The multi-faceted crowd sparkled with the festal vestments of the priests and minor clergy, icons, bright clothing and kerchiefs… everything merged into one united and colourful flow. The banners floated over the heads of the crowd and the praises of the Queen of Heaven sounded continually. The joyous crowd moved together, merging into a deep and moving river of humanity. It was a religious procession of the whole people, acting as one. Yekaterinburg thus greeted its new sacred object, the Tikhvin icon of the Mother of God, a precise copy of the ancient wonder-working image. The innumerable believers rejoiced and a glowing spiritual joy overfilled the soul of Abbess Taisia, superior of the Novo-Tikhvin convent, who had the sacred image brought to Yekaterinburg.

She distinctly remembered the day more than five years ago when, as the simple laywoman Tatiana Kostromina, she left her humble home to go to the bustle of the imperial capital of St Petersburg to ask about the conversion of this small skete into a regular convent. She prayed fervently, and she implored the Queen of Heaven to help her achieve this goal! Without any money, without any recommendations, she left for the northern capital, where no one knew her and she knew no one, to bow in supplication before the Holy Synod. From whence did this modest and illiterate daughter of a master workman in a Ural factory get the determination, despite the seeming impossibility of her quest, to turn to the mighty of this world, to insist, to plead, yes, to convince…? The mother abbess, in recalling all of this, could not assign the source of her determination to anything other than the beneficent aid of the Queen of Heaven, to whom she herself and all her sisterhood prayed incessantly with great zeal. They shed their fervent tears precisely before the Tikhvin icon in the small cemetery chapel.

The Most Holy Mother of God did not leave them barren and bereft; she did not leave them without Her aid. Soon after she arrived in St Petersburg, Tatiana found patrons to help her with this God-pleasing endeavour. Then, she met with Prince Golitsyn, who was the Oberprokurator of the Holy Synod, Admiral Fyodor Ushakov, who is now glorified as one of the saints, and other well-known people of that time. Prince Golitsyn was a childhood friend of Tsar Aleksandr I, and he convinced His Majesty that the intentions of the suppliant from the Urals were pure and merited support, and that led to a favourable outcome of the whole affair. Need I mention that the tsar himself was devoted to the Tikhvin icon? According to the terms of imperial decree, the new convent was to be called the Novo-Tikhvin convent.

Here it was, the daughter of the master workman, Tatiana Kostromina, now Abbess Taisia, entered Yekaterinburg precisely on the feastday of the Tikhvin icon of the Mother of God. She returned to the sisterhood after long years of separation with the precious sacred image, the Tikhvin icon of the Mother of God, a precise copy of the wonder-working icon, which had been made to her order.

A Hospitable Abode

A photo taken near the turn of the 20th century in the sewing workshop of the convent. The sisterhood was renowned for the high quality of their workmanship.

From that time forward, on the day that the Tikhvin icon arrived in Yekaterinburg, 9 July, was a special holiday in the town, it was a unique day in the city’s life. Preparations for it began long before the date. The sisterhood made convent souvenirs, painted icons, wove patterned carpets, and sewed and embroidered tablecloths, curtains and other household items for sale at the Tikhvin Icon Fair on 9 July. The items made by the sisters were famous for their high quality of workmanship, so, both townspeople and pilgrims eagerly sought to buy them.

Two weeks before the beginning of the holiday, the superior of the convent erected spacious tents in the cloister courtyard for the lodging of poor pilgrims. The most zealous amongst them came to the convent ten days before the festivities began. The nuns gave free food and lodging to anyone who came. The reserves of food, pastries, and sweets required for this were simply stupendous. All of the visitors were enraptured by the aroma coming from the sisterhood’s bakery; no one could resist the fancy bread that the sisters made themselves. The religious procession with the Tikhvin icon was an impressive spectacle, in front, some 50 priests and minor clerics, followed by the sisterhood of the convent (before the revolution it was some 1,000 strong!), and several thousand laity, both local and pilgrims came behind. The procession wended it s way around the convent, which was, truth to tell, a small monastic town.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the convent was actually a small monastic town

Every year, everybody, the locals and pilgrims alike, expected something new and different at the festival. For example, in 1913, an unusual fountain was unveiled. It was a refined metal cross, from which cold drinking water flowed. A newspaper at the time wrote, “Hundreds of hands are stretched out to this ‘miracle’, in order get a drink or to wash their faces”. Near the “cross”, encircled by flowers, was the Tikhvin icon, and unceasing laudations and prayers were said before it.

Return of the Sacred Image

Years passed… the faith atrophied in the hearts of Orthodox Christians and love shrank away… a revolutionary maelstrom engulfed Russia… the angelic peals of the bells were no longer heard, the banners were trampled into the dirt, and no one in the city sang praises to the Lord and His Most Pure Mother. The Novo-Tikhvin Convent was padlocked and the sisters were banished, and the sacred image… the Tikhvin icon, so long a fixture of the city… disappeared without a trace…

…2008, Yekaterinburg in Russia. The terrible persecution and war against Christ and His Church are now only entries in dusty history books. The golden crosses atop our churches rival the sun with their dazzling beauty and the revival of Orthodox Russia is rung out by the many-voiced bells of the city. Our convent came alive, yet again. We yearned for the return of our most revered sacred object.

“For a long time, we wished to have in our convent the same icon as was here in pre-revolutionary days, and, now, in 2008, we finally decided to do it. The sisters themselves painted a precise copy of the ancient Tikhvin icon”, related Nun Devora, the supervisor of the iconography atelier of the convent. Several months ago, some of the sisters drove to Tikhvin, were they studied the special features of the old image, how the old icon was painted, its size and other necessary details, and only after this did they begin the project. They ground the pigments, they prepared the paints, dissolving the elements not only with solvents, but, with their prayers. Reverential fear changed into quiet happiness. Having been in the proximity of the original sacred image, with the consciousness of taking part in a great endeavour, it sometimes caused them to pause in trepidation, but, their zealous faith in the constant aid of their Patroness gave them strength. Well… the face of the Most Pure Mother is complete, here is the Christ Child clinging in trust to His Most Gentle Mother… the gilding, the symbol of the brightness of Paradise of God covers the surface of the board. Some more time, and all the work shall be done…

Archbishop Vikenty of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye (1953- ), one of the greatest and most-respected archpastors in the contemporary Russian church

In July, Archbishop Vikenty of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye shall bless the finished Tikhvin icon in the course of the liturgy in a special visit to Tikhvin. On 8 July 2008, almost two centuries ago to the day of the arrival of the original image, the icon shall be delivered to Yekaterinburg on the feastday of the wonder-working Tikhvin icon of the Mother of God. Once again, the bronze heralds shall peal out to the Orthodox faithful the same wondrous news: “Behold, the Most Pure cometh!” Again, the clergy and thousands of believers shall march in procession in order to carry the long-awaited sacred image down the streets of the city to the gates of the resurrected Novo-Tikhvin convent. Everything shall be just as it was in the olden days. The icon shall be encircled with living flowers in an open-air shrine decorated with more flowers, and laudations and prayers shall be said before it yet again. Yes, the fair shall return, and the sisters shall show their traditional hospitality to all guests.

After the festival, the icon shall be placed in the Church of All Saints, as this is the only church restored so far in the convent complex. In 2010, for the 200th anniversary of the convent, the icon shall be transferred to the newly-restored Cathedral of St Aleksandr Nevsky.

Through the prayers of the Mother of God, the beloved icon of Yekaterinburg returns home… yes, the locals bow before Her yet again, laying their hopes in prayer before their gracious Patroness.

Most Holy Mother of God, help us!

22 May 2008

Novo-Tikhvin Convent, Yekaterinburg RF


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