This work chronicles the development of the Russian community as it struggles to become a viable partner in Australia’s multicultural society. Russian presence in Australia dates back to 1807 when the first Russian Antarctic explorers arrived in Australian waters. The community grew quickly in the 20th century after the Russian Revolution and it was then that the Russian Orthodox Church was established in Australia. The author also comments on the situation of the present day community.
The Russian Orthodox community is a relatively small and little known group in Australian society; however, the history of the Russian presence in Australia goes back to 1807.
The book broadly chronicles the development of the Russian community as it struggles to become a viable partner in Australia’s multicultural society. Many previously unpublished documents have been researched and hitherto closed archives in Russia have been accessed. To facilitate this research the author travelled to Russia, the United States and a number of European centers to study the archives of pre-Soviet Russian communities. Furthermore, the archives and publications of the Australian and New Zealand Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church have been used extensively.
The work notes the development of Australian-Russian relations as contacts with Imperial Russian naval and scientific ships visiting the colonies increased during the 1800s, and traces this relationship into the twentieth century. With the appearance of a Russian community in the nineteenth century, attempts were made to establish the Russian Orthodox Church on Australian soil. However, this was not accomplished until the arrival of a number of groups of Russian refugees after the Revolution of 1917 and the Civil War (1918-1922). As a consequence of Australia’s “Populate or Perish” policy following the Second World War, the numbers of Russian and other Orthodox Slavic displaced persons arriving in the country grew to such an extent that the Russian Church was able to establish a diocese in Australia, and later in New Zealand. The book then divides the history of the Russian Orthodox presence into chapters dealing with the administrative epochs of each of the ruling bishops. This has proven to be a suitable matrix for study as each period has its own distinct personalities and issues.
The successes, tribulations and challenges of the Church in Australia are chronicled up to the end of the twentieth century. A final chapter deals with the issue of the Church’s prospects in Australia and its relevance to future generations of Russian Orthodox people.
Michael Protopopov is currently senior lecturer in theology at the Melbourne Institute of Orthodox Christian Studies and Dean of the southern states of the Australian Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. He is the author of a four-volume history on the bishops of the Russian Church in Australia, written in Russian.