Academic journal article East European Quarterly

Orthodox Church Divisions in Newly Independent Ukraine, 1991-1995

Academic journal article East European Quarterly

Orthodox Church Divisions in Newly Independent Ukraine, 1991-1995

Article excerpt

The Orthodox Church has played a prominent role in Ukrainian life and culture since the Christianization of Kievan Rus in 988. Historical developments in the pre-Soviet centuries and the Soviet period illustrate the centrality of the Eastern Orthodox Church through the ages. The Church evolved into three competing religious jurisdictions during Ukraine's early years of independence, 1991-1995. The specifics of this division follow the intricacies of confessional identities, affiliations and national identities. On the one hand, this division is decried as subverting the possibility of establishing a Ukrainian national church. On the other hand, the divisions and the proliferation of other related and diverse religious affiliations illustrate the evolution of "religious denominationalism" within a civically pluralistic contemporary Ukraine. (1)

The early Kievan church established over a millennia ago ecclesiastical connections with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. The Kievan Metropolitanate attained greater administrative autonomy as a result of Constantinople's decline and eventual loss of political power to the Ottomans. The Metropolitanate flourished and witnessed the development of an early modem Ukrainian religious culture throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. (2) The Orthodox Church in Ukraine underwent an intellectual and cultural revival in the seventeenth century under the leadership of Metropolitan Petro Mohyla. Influenced by western church reforms and the maintenance of Greek liturgical traditions, Kiev became an important center of the Eastern Orthodox Church, even at times referred to as a "second Jerusalem." (3)

Ukrainian territories were annexed by the Russian Muscovite state in the latter half of the seventeenth through the eighteenth centuries. The Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate was reformed or some say "Ukrainized" in the eighteenth century. Ukrainian theologians, for example Feofan Prokopovych, significantly raised the intellectual and liturgical status of the Muscovite Church (reforms influenced by the Kievan Church began with the seventeenth century Nikonian reforms). (4) Ecclesiastical subordination to the Patriarch of Moscow in 1681 followed the territorial annexations. (5) The once autonomous Kievan Church eventually lost its jurisdictional freedom. The Russian Orthodox Church in the Russian-controlled nineteenth century Ukraine became a conduit for the russifying policies of the reactionary Tsarist state. The vast majority of bishops appointed to serve dioceses in Ukrainian-populated areas originated from the lands of Great Russia. Native Ukrainian bishops were sent to serve in dioceses outside Russian territories in Russia proper. (6) The clergy became servants of the Russian imperial state and its mandates. (7)

The revolutionary upheavals and battles of 1917-1921 left their mark on the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. Attempts to establish an Orthodox Church free of Russian domination were unsuccessful owing to the uncertain and unfavorable political situation and constant warfare. (8) Hostilities ceases in 1921 and activities were renewed toward the creation of an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church. A sobor, a conference of religious leaders, was held in Kiev October 14-30, 1921. The conference formally established church canons and resolutions of a newly organized Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC), (9) under the leadership of Metropolitan Lypinskyi. The conference declared illegitimate the seventeenth century jurisdictional takeover of the Kievan Metropolitanate by the Moscow Patriarchate. (10) The conference also decided that because "Christ and his apostles' sermons spoke in the people's native languages, the UAOC was to use the Ukrainian language in all service, replacing the archaic Old or Church Slavonic." (11)

Two Orthodox bishops could not be found in Ukraine to ordain new UAOC bishops. …

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