Bishop Basil Rodzianko, 84, the retired bishop of the Orthodox Church in America who for more than 30 years made regular religious radio broadcasts from England and the United States to his native Russia and the Soviet Union, died of cardiac arrest Sept. 17 at his home in Washington.
Bishop Basil came to the United States from England in 1978 as bishop of Washington and of the Orthodox Church in America, which is an independent daughter church of the Russian Orthodox Church. He was the first bishop to be consecrated at St. Nicholas Cathedral. He later took on additional duties as bishop of San Francisco and the West, and he moved to San Francisco.
In 1984, he retired and returned to Washington, but he continued religious radio broadcasts to the Soviet Union via Voice of America and Radio Vatican. Since 1991, Bishop Basil had made direct broadcasts on Russian national television during regular visits to Moscow.
The grandson of Michael Rodzianko, who was president of the Russian Duma in the last years of the czarist regime, Bishop Basil was born on a family estate at Ekaterinoslav in what now is Ukraine. He fled Russia with his family in the early years of the Bolshevik revolution. They settled in Yugoslavia, where Bishop Basil, who was christened Vladimir, received a degree in theology from the University of Belgrade in 1937. Later, he did graduate study in theology at the University of London in connection with the Church of England.
Early in World War II, he returned to Yugoslavia, where in April of 1941 he was ordained a priest in the Serbian Orthodox Church. As he was performing one of his first liturgies, Nazi troops were invading Yugoslavia, and in the early period of the Nazi occupation he witnessed a massacre of Yugoslav civilians by Nazi soldiers on the banks of the Danube River.
For most of the war, he was a parish priest in a country village, where he also gave religious instruction to children and did volunteer work with the Red Cross. But in 1949, as he was leading a celebration of the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul, he was arrested on charges of "illegal religious propaganda" by communist authorities who then ruled Yugoslavia.
He was sentenced to eight years at hard labor. But from his theology studies in London, he had friends in the Church of England who persuaded the archbishop of Cantebury to intercede on his behalf. After two years, he was released from his sentence. On the advice of the Serbian Orthodox bishop, he left Yugoslavia and moved to London.
There he got a job with the BBC broadcasting news programs to the Soviet Union. From this assignment developed a series of weekly religious programs. Initially, Bishop Basil reported on religious news events, such as the visit of evangelist Billy Graham to London. Later, he began doing religious talks and then live broadcasts of religious festivals from the Orthodox Cathedral in London, which were said to have reached an audience of millions in the Soviet Union.
When Nobel Prize-winning author Alexander Solzhenitsyn left the Soviet Union in 1974 after having been charged with treason against the state, he complimented Bishop Basil on his broadcasts.
In 1978, after the death of his wife, Maria, Bishop Basil took monastic vows. It was then that he received the name of Basil and was invited to come to the United States as bishop of the Orthodox Church in America.
At six feet tall, with white hair, a white beard and sparkling brown eyes, he was said to have looked like the stereotypical Orthodox bishop. He had a warm personality and an easy demeanor that made conversation easy with people from all walks of life.
In retirement he was author of a book on cosmology and theology in Russia, exploring what he believed to be the links between science and religion, and he continued to work in the fields of religious education and pastoral care in the United States and Russia.
Survivors include two sons, Vladimir and Peter Rodzianko of England; a grandson; and two great-grandsons.