wo planes arrived in the U.S. from the Soviet Union in the spring of 1991, carrying a large group of scholarly intelligentsia, including 150 deputies from the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. The participants on that journey, officially invited as tourists, all knew full well that they would be attending a cultural program, but above all, they would be involved in very serious work of the greatest social importance. This was accentuated in particular by the presence in the delegation of staff of the president of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev.
I was fortunate to be a member of the delegation and could see how joyfully and at the same time seriously they met with the organizer of the excursion, Mr. Sun Myung Moon himself. We knew that he had a favorable attitude toward our country, that he always supported us in his speeches, that he deeply respected the new leadership of the country, and that he even strived to offer material assistance. In fact, it was he himself who sponsored our trip to America.
Another thing, we already knew that the idea of unification he has been promoting implies at the same time a unification of national sovereignties, political parties and religious faiths. But what was particularly noteworthy was that we were actually able to realize very concrete and timely accomplishments during the course of this tour. That was a time of acute crisis, just a few months prior to the attempted overthrow of our government, which, if successful, would have incurred a drastic change in our political climate, virtually doing away with all the democratic progress that had been taking place in our nation, and a return to the worst form of relations among the governments of the autonomous republics of our country.
The breakup took place anyway, as is well known, but it did not take such a drastic form as might have been the case if the conspirators had had their way. At that time, all of the public figures had not yet foreseen the catastrophic possibilities that loomed before us, but the people who invited us to the U.S. had already anticipated the consequences of a reactionary coup d’état. Mr. Moon understood this perfectly, and in his speeches in many cities throughout America and especially those addressed to our delegations, he called upon us to strive if at all possible to prevent the disintegration of the USSR.
It was a strategically well-thought-out move to organize a meeting on this theme inviting deputies from all the republics with the purpose of providing a forum to warn of the impending collapse. In consequence, a number of us even became convinced that the preservation of our Union was foremost in the agenda of Mr. Moon. Then a little while later we observed his meeting with the North Korean head of state, Kim Il Sung, on which occasion he offered his efforts and services for the reunification of the two Koreas, including needed financial assistance to bring about such an event.
Recently there has been criticism of the Moon organizations on television and in the newspapers, focusing attention on purported deficiencies in the educational programs organized by them for the public school system, specifically in regard to the textbooks on moral issues. However, when we ourselves, dozens of educational methodologists and university professors, studied the course books, we were amazed at their humanitarian and entirely relevant approach and contents, and we wrote our own reviews. Our schools definitely need textbooks like this!
Over the last fifteen years, we have convened a number of congresses and conferences devoted to the issue of religious diversity in Russia. I took part in the publication of the book by Mary Fisher, Living Religions, for which I wrote a chapter on Russian spirituality. For a number of years I have been giving lectures at Moscow State University on "Dialogue of Religions and Cultures," and I would venture to state that I have some foundation to wish for our Orthodox educators to have abundant energy in their defense of moral values. Our national culture and spiritual traditions do not essentially contradict the moral imperatives that Mr. Moon poses before humankind. Among other things, he states that the basic problems of historical development cannot be explained just by external, outward factors, but also by the fact of the imperfection of human nature, in which regards it must be categorically acknowledged that to change the world for the better, first and foremost we must change ourselves.
The esthetic thinkers of our times attribute our moral imperfection to the fact that we do not engage deeply enough in the process of "self-creation," but rather that our predominant attention is on bringing about outward, historical change. Here is a little poem "Changes," by V. Kornilov that expresses this rather poignantly:
We thought the whole matter was structure,
So we set out to change the whole system,
And became in the process thrice poorer
And wickeder than we had been before.
We thought that it was all about means,
But when we actually got to the ends,
In addition we got a package of lies,
Swindling and bestiality.
We traded our tools for bars of soap
And our property for legal rights,
But what we needed was just
To change our own selves first of all.
Russia is a country with a rich spiritual heritage. This does not mean that we should dismiss other cultures, the spiritual experiences of other nations, nor figures of worldwide import such as Dr. Moon.