Religion and Nation in Modern Ukraine

By Krawchuk, Andrii | The Catholic Historical Review, July 2004 | Go to article overview

Religion and Nation in Modern Ukraine


Krawchuk, Andrii, The Catholic Historical Review


Religion and Nation in Modern Ukraine. By Sherhii Plokhy and Frank E. Sysyn. (Edmonton and Toronto: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press. 2003. Pp. xvi, 216.)

This is a collection of eleven papers on religious-national trends in twentiethcentury Ukraine, where thirteen thousand Orthodox parishes outnumber those in Russia and where political independence in 1991 brought the question of ecclesiastical independence from Moscow to the fore.

In a seminal study, Sysyn identifies seven constitutive elements of early modern (sixteenth-seventeenth-century) Christian culture in Ukraine: western influence, lay activism, a national ecclesiology, adaptation to political powers, religious influence on culture, Catholic and Orthodox churches sharing one religious and national culture, and the elevation of religious culture to international significance.

Five articles treat the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC). Sysyn reviews the central tenets of the UAOC's ideology: church-state separation (state neutrality and religious toleration), autocephaly (self-rule, independent of Moscow), conciliar governance (as opposed to state and episcopal paternalism), Ukrainianization (the shift from Church Slavonic to Ukrainian in liturgy, and from Russian to Ukrainian in sermons), and the Christianization of life (a dedication to spiritual renewal as a response to social needs). The article is rich in historical illustrations, from the sixteenth century through to the twentieth.

Sysyn's 1983 study of the Ukrainian Orthodox question in the USSR provides a chronological link between ecclesiastical processes in the wake of World War I, and those that followed the demise of the Soviet Union. Four articles treat the UAOC in its most recent emergence, on the eve of Ukraine's independence. Sysyn has two contributions on the UAOC in the pivotal years 1989-1992: he studies its third incarnation in 1989 (after 1917 and 1942) and its tensions with the Moscow Patriarchate's jurisdictions in Ukraine; then he examines the Russian Orthodox Sobor's (April, 1992) rejection of Ukrainian Orthodox Autocephaly.

Plokhy picks up from Sysyn at 1992: he first studies Metropolitan Filaret Denysenko-a Ukrainophobe, who after the proclamation of Ukrainian independence (August, 1991) changed his colors and pressed Moscow for autocephaly in I Jkraine. After Moscow removed him from office, he pursued his goals outside of its orbit. Plokhy then examines the developments toward Ukrainian Orthodox autocephaly in the following three years, situating it within the context of deeprooted ecclesiastical competition between Kyiv and Moscow. …

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