We are in the midst of a few anniversaries of note in the Greek world. Last year, of course, was the bicentennial of the war for independence. This year, it’s the centennial of the July 1922 founding of AHEPA, in Atlanta, and far more ignominiously, the conclusion of the Greco-Turkish War in September 1922. These events, especially the war, still affect the Greeks today, and the Greek Orthodox with them, but they are also directly relevant to the frightful issues raised by the Russian invasion of Ukraine—questions of nationalism, irredentism, and religion.
The connection has not gone unnoticed. After the publication of the “The Declaration on the ‘Russian World’ Teaching” on Public Orthodoxy, Fr. John Whiteford argued that, within Greek Orthodoxy, “One hears a very similar concept to ‘The Russian World’ fairly frequently, only it is called ‘Hellenism’.” Fr. Whiteford was not alone in drawing this connection. In a friendly critique of the Declaration published in Public Orthodoxy’s own pages, Andrey Shishkov described the Russian World as less a theological heresy than “an ordinary national doctrine, which is very similar, for example, to the Hellenistic Μεγάλη Ιδέα”—the ideological basis for the Greek incursion into Turkey after WWI and the dreams, in Shishkov’s words, of “restoring a Christian Byzantine Empire.” These are important points to consider. In the wake of just criticisms of the subordination of Russian Orthodoxy to the aims of the Kremlin and the Russian world, we must ask: what is the relation of Hellenism to Orthodoxy? Can there be one? If so, how?Continue reading