In Memoriam: Nikita Struve (16 February 1931 – 7 May 2016)

On Bright Saturday, we received the sad news from Paris: Nikita Alexeevich Struve, editor of YMCA-Press and Le Messager orthodoxe, scholar of Osip Mandelstam, and many, many other things, has fallen asleep in the Lord.

It is almost impossible to comprehend Nikita Struve’s significance for twentieth-  and twenty-first-century Orthodoxy. He was more than a representative of the great era of the Russian religious renaissance: he was, in more ways than one, a man of great stature, whose life encompassed a plethora of historical experiences and episodes. The grandson of the famous Russian philosopher Peter Struve and a member of the illustrious circle of French-Russian Orthodox intelligentsia, he dedicated his life and his work to the Orthodox Church as an editor, writer, publisher, defender of the persecuted, and witness to the great legacy of the Paris School. His publishing house, YMCA-Press, was like a source of oxygen to the deprived Soviet intelligentsia, publishing and distributing authors banned in the USSR. He was the first publisher of Solzhenitsyn’s GULAG Archipelago in the West, as well as the writer’s great and unwaveringly loyal supporter. But Solzhenitsyn’s was only one in the treasury of names of Russian authors “inconvenient” for the Soviet regime and whom Struve published for decades, preserving the great legacy of Russian culture in the dark years of Communism for future generations.

Le Messager orthodoxe, published in Russian and French, set a standard for Orthodox publications, both in the quality of its materials as well as in the great stature of its authors. For Nikita Struve, the journal was a project of complete commitment and dedication, to which he gave all of himself until his last days.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Struve directed a significant portion of his incomparable energy to building up the institutions of Orthodox thought in Russia. He founded the publishing house “Russkiy Put' (The Russian Path),” which published, among other things, volumes of Alexander Schmemann’s writings as well as those of other authors of Western Orthodoxy. He also sat on the board of the St. Philaret Orthodox Institute, and continually lectured, spoke, and participated in various projects either in or connected to Russia.

A long-time member of the Council of the Archdiocese of the Russian Parishes in Europe (Exarchate of the Ecumenical Patriarchate), and a faithful student of the vision of the Moscow Council of 1917/18, Nikita Struve always supported the independence of Orthodox jurisdictions in the West and expressed grave concerns over the close connections between the newly-“liberated” Moscow Patriarchate and the power structure of the Russian state. True to his beliefs, he continued tirelessly to promote the vision of a free, unencumbered, and non-servile Church that would be served and reinforced by the intellectual might and liturgical dedication of all of its members.

When one reflects upon the great figures of Russian Orthodoxy in the West – among whom Nikita Struve could aptly be named “the last of the giants” – it becomes apparent that what nurtured them and their great work was not only their surpassing love for the Church and for their culture, but also a complete lack of mercenary interests; indeed, they were true unmercenaries. These fathers of the Paris School, as well as their students and successors, forged a community and an idea of Orthodoxy in its Russian manifestation that was motivated by and appealed to the most admirably self-emptying elements of this tradition. What a contrast with the contemporary arena of the “business of Orthodoxy” that we see all around! What a great legacy to recognize, honor, and build upon!

We pray Memory Eternal for this great man who has now been translated to life eternal with Christ our Lord.