"The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!" was a 1966 Hollywood spoof of Cold War attitudes. It portrays a Soviet submarine crew stranded on the coast of Maine. The Soviet sailors end up winning over the local townspeople, who even help the sub to escape before U.S. Air Force planes arrive to sink it. The movie made light of the differences between Russians and Americans by suggesting that they had much more in common than they realized.
As improbable as that story seemed back in 1966, an even more momentous encounter is currently taking place in Europe. Thanks to the expansion of the European Union, millions of Orthodox Christians now have a seat at the table of European decision-making bodies. The admission of Romania and Bulgaria will quadruple the number of Orthodox Christians in the EU, from 10 million to more than 40 million, but this is just the tip of a very large iceberg. Should the EU continue to expand eastward, it could someday encompass as many as 200 million Orthodox believers, transforming Orthodox Christianity from a quaint minority into the largest denomination in Europe, with the Russian Orthodox Church as its pre-eminent political voice. This will be true regardless of whether Russia itself joins the EU, since more than half of its parishes are located outside Russia. For the first time since before the fall of Constantinople, Orthodox polities are part of the decision-making structures of Europe, yet little thought has been given to the impact this is likely to have on the political complexion of Europe.
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