Russia is radically changing on the inside — liberal Western sympathizing Russians are either reassessing their views, or keeping quiet, or leaving the country.
Meanwhile, traditional Christians from all over the globe are leaving their home countries and flocking to Russia — the new leader of the free world.
A clairvoyant holy elder of Russia — Fr. Boris Khramtsov — made prophecies about people moving to Rostov, and it becoming a spiritual and economic center of the nation.
Who is moving to Russia, and why? Hear from them in this video. Full transcript below.
Crypto coaches, influencers, and fashion consultants . . . Celebrity bloggers and top VIPs . . . and others who seem to take no part in the Russian language, or even in Russian life . . . the liberal intelligentsia are leaving us . . . The historic divorce that has been brewing for many years has finally happened. It was only a matter of time before this motley husk would scatter across the corners of the free West.
Meanwhile in Russia, the future has already begun. This new era offers freedom from sacrificing ourselves to the cult of the West, and it is a great turning point.
Charles: There is a distinct moment in history where people take sides, and the wheat is separated from the chaff. I think there will be a large number of people coming to Russia from the West now, because the differences have become so extreme, and it is very clear who stands for what.
American journalist Charles Bausman has been working in Russia for 25 years. He became one of the main characters in an amazing story that now can be said to symbolize the new Russia.
Charles: I was attending the Church of the Annunciation in Moscow near the Dynamo subway station where the rector was Fr. Dmitry Smirnov. One autumn day in 2016, he called me and said, "Jacob" (he always called me by my baptismal name of Jacob), "We have an American priest who wants to come to Russia. He speaks English and we need help translating. Maybe you can talk to him and find out what he needs. Maybe we can help somehow." That fall I met Fr. Joseph, after which he made his decision. Then in January 2017, he moved to Russia with his family of ten.
Fr. Joseph Gleason / Fr. Dmitry Smirnov
Fr. Joseph Gleason is an Orthodox priest from America. He was only 38 years old when he decided to bring his wife and eight children to Russia, leaving the United States forever. They left everything familiar — their friends, their native language, and their well-established way of life. They fled to a country which, in the American media, never receives a kind word.
Having come to spend the rest of their lives, they settled in a village not far from Rostov the Great. Compared with other pearls of Russia's Golden Ring, Rostov is poorer, quieter, and more modest, but this did not bother the American priest. They quickly sold their property in America, and brought their children here to Russia. They didn't choose a neighborhood with comfortable cottages. Instead, they came to an ordinary Russian village.
We are now in the village where Fr. Joseph Gleason, an Orthodox American priest, lives with his family. In this old home with traditional Russian window decorations, a story began — a great pilgrimage of foreigners moving to Russia, settling out in the country around Rostov.
Julie: Jeremy feeds the chickens, I feed the cow, and my other brothers and sisters help out.
Who cleans, and who cooks?
Julie: My sisters and I do most of that.
And what do the boys do?
Julie: They take out the trash . . .
Julie: Well, they also work in the garden and with the cow.
Is it fun and interesting for you?
Julie: Yes, it's fun.
Julie: We really like it! This is a peaceful life.
A home out in the country, a big garden, a Belarus tractor, and a big friendly family team . . .
What's your name?
And how old are you?
Kenneth: Five. And soon I'll be six!
To survive in such modest conditions, with children, a barn, and our harsh winters, not every Russian would be capable of this, yet this priest from Texas lives according to the best traditions of Russian peasants. Father Joseph wanted to meet with us nearby at the Borisoglebsky Monastery, built in 1363.
Fr. Joseph: We are standing here in Borisoglebsky monastery, in a part of Russia where there has been no war for over 400 years.
Father Joseph is confident that only now, after moving to Russia, he and his family are safe.
Fr. Joseph: My wife and I have eight children from 5 to 19 years old. We moved here five years ago. Even then, I was upset — I didn’t like it that America goes around the world, building hundreds of military bases in other countries, overthrowing many foreign governments and trying to dictate terms. I also didn't like how the LGBT community grew, endangering traditional values and Christian families. I told my wife that if it didn't get worse there, it might be tolerable. But if it got worse, we would need to leave America, so our kids could raise our future grandchildren in a better place.
Fr. Joseph began talking on the Internet about his new life in Russia. After a short time, families from other countries began following his example.
Fr. Joseph: Russia is not heaven on earth. I am familiar with the problems here. I have been living here for five years. I tell people, "I'm not promising you heaven. I'm just promising you a normal life." Come to Russia, and you can just live a normal life. You can be a Christian family. You can raise your children, and not have to see a parade of homosexuals on your street. You don't have to see some transgender freak reading books to children in your local library.
How many people have you already helped move to Russia. Have you counted?
Fr. Joseph: Oh my. There are ten people in our family. I haven't counted everyone else. There's a family of six. There's a family of three. In a couple weeks there's a family of five arriving. I don't know exactly. I'd say there are more than 20 or 30 people who have moved already. Just last night, I was talking to a family from Italy. They are interested in coming here. There is another Italian who spent time in America and Japan, and now he wants to come here and start a big farm. There are families who have come from America, from both Texas and Illinois. There is a family that already arrived from Denmark, and another family that is coming from London, England.
The family from Denmark is a wonderful young couple with a newborn baby. Mira and Daniel are the same age. They were highschool classmates, and now they are both 21. Eight months ago they had a wonderful boy, but with sadness and pain, they remember all they had to go through before he was born.
Daniel & Mira Hartvigsen
Mira: In Denmark, the social services department organizes groups for expectant mothers, so they can get to know each other. They tried to put me in a group with drug addicts and mentally unstable mothers, simply because I am a Christian.
How did they find out that you are Christians? Did you sign something?
Mira: They found out because we have icons and crosses at home. They came for a visit.
Why did they come to your house?
Daniel: It's normal in Denmark. By law, they can come to your house as many times as they see fit, and if they think that you are not the right sort of person to have a child, they will just come and take the child away.
Geraldo & Karen Silva
Geraldo: The scenario that Brazil is following is insane, in regard to morality and social life. I used to teach small children. It's painful to talk about it, but when the church was pushed out of mainstream society, we noticed a sharp drop in morals, even among children. We were very worried about how we could start a new family. We did not feel optimistic about raising children there. We had no hope for the future.
This is Geraldo. His baptismal name is Ambrose. When he was in Brazil, he came across the "Russian Faith" website where Fr. Joseph talks about life in Russia. I thought I would ask them a couple questions:
I heard that Father Joseph came to see you in Brazil.
Geraldo: Yes, it was very unexpected. I was only hoping to receive instruction, but he said, "You know what? I'm going to come visit you." And he did! He blessed me to get to know the Faith. We decided to visit a Russian Orthodox church in Brazil, named in honor of St. Sergius of Radonezh. It is surprising that I ended up living in Rostov, the same town where he was born. This was the work of God. We didn't plan it. It just happened.
Together with his wife Mary, in a church not far from Rostov, they were baptized and married on the same day.
Aaron & Danielle Christodoulou
Aaron: I'm Aaron.
The cameraman's name is Vova. Do you speak Russian?
Aaron: Just a little.
A little. — Where is your home?
Aaron: Well, we sleep over in here. There is usually a summer school here, but right now there isn't, so we are living here.
Do you have a kitchen here?
Aaron: We have this. [[points at a small hot plate]]
We have a saying in Russia about "Spartan conditions", when you go through challenges that strenghen your faith...
Aaron: ...and character! Yes, that's true. — Ok, now let me introduce you to my wife.
Aaron is an ethnic Greek, born in America. His wife Danielle is American. They fled from their native country because they felt they had no choice.
Danielle: Everything is happening so fast in America. At first there were suggestions that it is necessary to "accept LGBT people as they are". But suddenly it has become a "must", if you want to keep your job. All of a sudden, the government is trying to pit whites against blacks. Not only that — people are starting to hate each other. Sometimes riots start right out in the street.
Aaron: It's a lot of pressure. There's pressure from the homosexual community, and there's racial hatred. Some black people started this "BLM" idea, and they hate white people. So, think about it, what happens when I bring another white child into that environment?
Danielle: Some people have their children taken away, because they don't want their children to grow up in such an environment. The corruption is now in history books, in schools, and on television shows meant for young children. Now I understand why my husband said that in such a situation it would be very difficult to raise a Christian child. You would have to protect him from everyone outside the house.
Chaos. The imposition of new norms. The complete destruction of traditional life. They desire to have a family, home, children, and to have their own roots. These are not just horror stories about Western reality. This is the new reality. People from all over the world are fleeing from this, seeking refuge in Russia.
Mira Hartvigsen: We see ourselves as refugees politically, culturally, and also because of the war.
We meet the heroes of our film in the midst of a special operation in Ukraine, a time when it is impossible not to talk about politics, especially with foreigners who consciously chose to come to Russia.
It’s quite bold to come to Russia during the winter. Why did you choose this time of year?
Daniel Hartvigsen: It was just urgent. We had to get out of there. We were both worried that the West would start something in Ukraine with Russia, because they had already started throwing accusations, and we wanted to be in Russia before anything started.
I'm just surprised that you were able to analyze the situation while still in Denmark.
Mira: I think that we are just used to expecting the worst from the West.
Daniel: We took this very seriously, because we know that they do not like the independence that Russia is building. The culture, the economy, the revival of Orthodoxy — they do not like it, because it is getting rid of the chains that the West is trying to put around all countries.
They knew for sure, because at home they saw the West repeatedly fighting against everything Russian. Now propaganda around the world is arranged so that everything containing the word "Russia" is considered bad, and they try to attack everything connected with Russia
Fr. Joseph Gleason: To be honest, I wouldn't feel safe in America, even though I lived there myself for thirty-eight years. I love Russia, and I have published many articles pointing out the good things in Russia, and the reasons I came here to live. Because I have spoken well of Russia, I wouldn't feel safe in America, even if I were just going for a visit. There are too many people who just do not think. All they know is what they hear from media propaganda. So if they see someone associated with Russia, that person will not be safe.
Aaron Christodoulou: Though there are multiple Orthodox countries, many have associated too closely with America. So after another ten years, it will be as bad there as it is in America. There are other countries where you can't be sure which direction they'll go, so you can't build a solid foundation there. There is only one country that stands apart. Russia is big enough and strong enough to say, "America, your jurisdiction ends here."
People who love Russia so sincerely with all their hearts are united, not only by their desire to escape the "new normal" in the West, but also by the Orthodox Christian faith, drawing them together from all over the world, into historic Russian villages.
As dean over all the parishes in the region of Rostov the Great, as a rector over five of those parishes, and as a father of eight children, Archpriest Roman Krupnov was the first in Rostov who met Father Joseph.
Fr. Roman Krupnov
Fr. Roman: I was surprised by the depth of his determination, because he pays no attention to any difficulties. That's how strong his faith is. He decided to come here, and at first there were a lot of problems. His illness coincided with the time he moved here. But everything worked out with God's help. Fr. Joseph considers it a blessing from God, that the illness passed without any permanent consequences.
Charles Bausman: Almost immediately after he arrived from America, less than three months had passed, and he was diagnosed with cancer. And Fr. Roman and I were absolutely shocked. We understood that he had no family in this location. He didn't know yet how to do things here. He didn't know how to find a good doctor or hospital, or how to explain his symptoms in Russian, and so on. So we found a good hospital for him in Moscow, helped him get admitted there, and visited him there. And he had to stay there a long time. He kept going there through the summer. And this whole situation was unbelievable, because he had this huge family in Rostov who couldn't do anything on their own, because they didn't speak Russian. So, thank God that he fully recovered! They never hesitated, and they never doubted, never thinking that they had made a mistake.
Arriving in poor, almost forgotten Rostov, the healing of a priest from a serious illness, his gift of gathering devoted new Russian settlers from different parts of the globe, is this not God's will? But it turns out this miracle was predicted . . .
Fr. Boris Khramtsov
Fr. Roman: My spiritual father, Igumen Boris Khramtsov, was talking about Rostov the Great and its surroundings. He said that something grand will happen, and that everything here will be restored. Not only will all the churches and monasteries be restored — even village life will be restored.
A wonderful moment awaits in this ancient cathedral where we are recording this interview. In 2021, the state allocated 50 million rubles for the restoration of frescoes in this church, though the funds have not yet been released.
Father Roman is one of the spiritual children of the famous wonderworker, Fr. Boris Khramtsov. Father Boris restored churches, revived parishes and parish councils, and organized courses, schools, and shelters. In all of these things, he was absolutely tireless. An elder from the Trinity-Sergius Lavra has called Igumen Boris an "angel on earth".
Fr. Roman: All of us — his spiritual children, those reading books about him, those visiting his grave — know that he was clairvoyant. He told me how many children I would have, even by name! Not nine months ahead of time, but a full year ahead of time, he would give me an icon, and a year later our child would be born on that saint's feast day, so we would name him in honor of that saint. Fr. Boris just spoke, and it would happen.
How many children do you have?
Fr. Roman: Eight.
Fr. Roman: You see that foreigners are coming here now, too. So many Russians are perplexed at how this can be happening in such a "wilderness" (by Russian standards). Rostov is a regional center, with a population of only about 36,000 people. Nevertheless, foreigners are coming here. Once again, this highlights the words of Fr. Boris, that something is going to happen here.
Have you heard that families from other countries have been moving here?
Man on the street in Rostov: Yes.
What did you hear them say?
Man on the street in Rostov: That Russia is better.
Rostov taxi driver: An American lives here, in a nearby village.
Rostov taxi driver: I've been there a couple times.
Rostov cashier: Americans they are the same kind of people as we are, right? You are for peace on earth. I am for peace on earth. To me, it is as if all people are one.
Woman on the street in Rostov: Yes, I think we will come to a common understanding.
Man on the street in Rostov: It's good that they're coming here. I hope more come, and help make everything nice again. That would be wonderful!
Fr. Joseph Gleason: If you think about the 1950s, America was supposed to be the "land of the free and the home of the brave", where we can do what we want and there is freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Russia was supposed to be a terrible place where everything is closed. But now, Russia and America have switched places. Today, Russia is the leader of the free world. Russia is the place where you go to get freedom, if you value freedom. That's why people are leaving America, leaving Denmark, leaving England, and many other places.
These foreign pioneers, learning to live the Russian village life are on an important mission, and it has turned out to be a rare opportunity to live a good, simple, honest life, surrounded by family and like-minded people. Who would have thought that such simple things would become so valuable?
Rostov the Great