About Sister Vassa
Russian Orthodox Christianity, the national religion of Russia, is very poorly understood by most foreigners. It is rarely mentioned in western media coverage of Russia except with negative connotation – i.e. church corruption, past KGB collusion, or (heaven forbid!) non-separation of church and state.
Western corporate media, with the exception of basically, Fox News, are rampantly Christophobic. Liberal icon Christopher Hitchens’ famous quote about the Russian church is typical: ”an absolute warren of backwardness and evil and superstition”.
Watching Sister Vassa, we see exactly what he was so worried about.
Yet understanding the church is key to understanding Russia, for many, many reasons: historical, the strong contemporary turn to Christianity by many Russians, the close cooperation of church and state (Russians profoundly disagree that this is bad thing, as many in the West believe.)
Which brings us to Sister Vassa.
A 40 year old American nun in the Russian Church who teaches Liturgy at the University of Vienna in Austria, she grew up the daughter of a White Immigration Russian priest in the Tsarist ROCOR denomination (Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia) in Nyack NY, outside New York City. (full bio)
Unusually for a woman, she is a commission member of the Inter-Council Presence of the Russian Orthodox Church. In addition to native English and Russian, she speaks fluent German, ancient Greek and Latin and is an expert in liturgy, theology, and church history.
She attended Bryn Mawr college in Pennsylvania, USA and Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, Germany, from which she has a Masters in Theology and a doctorate in Byzantine liturgy. She is a top global expert in liturgy.
In November 2013 she started putting weekly 10 minute podcasts on Youtube explaining various aspects of Russian Christianity.
They are a runaway success, and have racked up 400,000 views so far, a rather large number considering the small number of orthodox believers in English speaking countries – and a testament to the fact that their number are growing rapidly. In Ireland they quadrupled to 45,000 people between 2002 – 2011.
The videos use humor even a little slapstick, and have found a devoted following.
Want to understand Russia? – learn a little about its religion. The mainstream media haven’t the foggiest idea of what it is about, and in fact harbor a strong aversion to it.
Here is her Youtube trailer: