The Western Front of the Eastern Church: Uniate and Orthodox Conflict in Eighteenth-Century Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia

Article excerpt

Late Modern European The Western Front of the Eastern Church: Uniate and Orthodox Conflict in Eighteenth-Century Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. By Barbara Skinner. (DeKaIb: Northern Illinois University Press. 2009. Pp. xvi, 295. $42.00. ISBN 978-0-875-80407-1.)

In 1596 a segment of the Orthodox Church in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth recognized the supreme authority of the pope and accepted some Roman Catholic doctrines but retained Orthodox liturgical practices and structures. This act marked a split within the Ruthenian (Ukrainian and Belarusian) community that has remained to this day. In this book, Barbara Skinner traces the conflict between Uniates (those who were in union with Rome) and Orthodox in the eighteenth century. Although this was a struggle within the Ruthenian community, the conflict presented by Skinner was shaped and its outcome determined largely by major powers- the PolishLithuanian Commonwealth and Russia. Thus Skinner traces a story of Uniate predominance under Poland followed by the virtual elimination of the Uniates after the partition of Poland in imperial Russia. She does not cover the fate of the Uniates who, as a result of the partitions, were incorporated into Austria, where the Uniate Church was able to flourish.

Skinner's major contribution is that of placing this story within confessionalization theory, previously applied to Western Europe. She demonstrates how the two contending churches reinforced group unity and identity by insisting on their own doctrinal, liturgical, textual, sacramental, and pastoral practices. This study gives an excellent account of the confessionalization of the Uniates, showing how Uniate practices, which differentiated them from both Roman Catholics and Orthodox, were codified and implemented. …