Voices from Russia

Sunday, 14 February 2010

The Forgiving Power of Russians

Believers making a reverence during the reading of the Prayer of St Ephrem the Syrian in a Russian parish church during the Lent preceding Easter.

Editor’s Foreword:

There is nothing particularly special in the following, save for one thing… it illustrates the oneness of mind that all Orthodox Russian people share, no matter where they live, their age, or their material conditions. There is an identifiable “Orthodoxy” about us… it’s something you don’t buy in a store, you don’t read it in a book, it’s a little bit more, it’s easy to overlook. It’s called humility… and you don’t get it by quoting the Fathers and the Canons from suspect sources… it takes some LIVING.




On 9 May, Russia marks the victory over Nazi Germany and the end of World War II with a military parade on Moscow’s Red Square and celebration events all over the country. Victory Day is one of the biggest national holidays and Russians commemorate the 27(!) million victims the Soviet Union suffered in the deadliest conflict in history. Interestingly, most of the Western world is normally not aware of these numbers, simply because Russians make no fuss about it. The history is the history.

The point I want to make here is that despite the horrible sufferings and the truly huge number of victims, presently Russia and Germany are probably the best friends on the international scene. Apart from the friendship between Helmuth Kohl and Boris Yeltsin, Gerhard Schröder and Vladimir Putin, the trade turnover figures achieved between Russia and Germany last year were 33 billion dollars, according to Russian estimates. Are there many examples of other countries that had been in such a deadly fight before getting close friends? Unfortunately, this is a rare example in the human history if we look at the war map of today… In an international friendship survey in 2000, over 60 percent of Russians spoke of their “friendly” attitude to Germans, although almost every family lost beloved members in the war. Many of the war generation (like my grandmother) are still alive. How could they forget so fast?

The mystery of this fast revival of friendship between Russia and Germany may lay in the FORGIVING POWER of Russians. You can also see this rare nationwide quality in the daily behaviour of the people (see more in my post about Russian Women here).

One possible explanation may be our tradition of Forgiveness Sunday. It’s an original Russian celebration, combining both Christian and pagan traditions. It takes place before the beginning of Lent, some time before Easter. On this day people ask each other to forgive them their voluntary or accidental offences and they forgive each other with the words, “God forgives!” Isn’t that beautiful?

I believe that this tradition worked out in the collective consciousness of the Russian people a pattern of forgiveness. Western propaganda, however, has done a great job working on the image of “evil Russians”… thus, such precious fact of a nationwide forgiveness are almost unknown to the world. Unfortunately, after 10 years of my living abroad I have NEVER seen any positive TV /newspaper report on Russia, only negative or neutral ones. No wonder, the folks believe in evil nature of Russians  But we are not evil! Russian people have good forgiving hearts and a good will.

In my family, this Russian-German relationship worked out in a truly amazing way. The German language is my favourite, I live in Austria (German-speaking), and I have many Germans as friends. My auntie is a Professor of German, and my sister is married to a German. That means my grandma who had to fight against Nazis as a young girl has a German grand-son-in-law.

Every time I see the conflict between nations (like Arab-Israel, Africa, etc.) I ask myself… IS IT TOO DIFFICULT TO FORGIVE? Thanks be to God, I was born Russian.

9 May 2008


Today is Forgiveness Sunday. This special day is my favourite in the Christian tradition. Having an atheistic background, I have been always deeply touched by the candid Orthodox Christian celebration of “Forgiveness Sunday”.

The last Sunday before Great Lent is the day when Orthodox Christians remember the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise. “Forgiveness Sunday” received this name from the pious custom at Vespers of asking each other’s forgiveness for their sins and offences. People do so since in the upcoming fast they will approach the sacrament of Penance and ask the Lord to forgive their sins, which forgiveness will be granted us only if we forgive each other. “If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6.14, 15)”

Since the 90s, when religion slowly started its revival amongst the peoples of Russia, the tradition of Forgiveness Sunday came back. According to it, you can ask forgiveness of every person you meet this day, but especially people whom you might have really done some harm, or just your relatives and friends (we never know if by chance we could have hurt anyone!)… Normally one person greets another and says, “Please, forgive me”, in response  he/she says “God forgives! I forgive too”, then, they can hug each other heartily… Isn’t that beautiful?

As we all know, forgiveness is the core message of Christianity and it is a powerful tool to free our blocked-up heads from a mess of thoughts. Forgiveness is necessary! I already posted some time ago about the forgiving power of Russians {see the above section: editor}. I am sure it has a lot to do with this beautiful rite that we have practised as a people for over a millennium.

Remembering this wonderful tradition today let me humbly ask each of you, my dearest readers…



13 February 2010


1000 Petals…



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