Ukranian Religious Faiths: Christianity

Figure 1.--Both Russian Tsars and Soviet dictators attemptd to absorb the Ukranian Uniate Church into the Russian Orthodox Church. The Soviets upped the ante with its atheism campaign. After World War II the Ukranian Uniate Church ceased to exist officially in the Soviet Union (1946). The remaining bushops and priests disappered intio the Gulag. Few survived. One that did was Archbishop Josyf Slipyj. He was arrested immediately on the arrival of the Soviet Army in Lvov (1945) and sentenced to 8 years' imprisonment. He served his term in various Siberian and Far Eastern camps and was condemned to indefinite exile in Siberia when his sentence was up. Persecution continued even after Destalinization. The prelate was retried and resentenced in 1957 and again in 1962. He spent a ttotal of 18 years in Sioviet prison camps. Josyf Cardinal Slipyj, the Major Archbishop of the Ukrainians who spent 18 years in Soviet prison. The Vatican obtained his release from the Soviets (1963). He was brought to Rome and elevting to cardinal. The Cardinal was the last survivor of five leading churchmen imprisoned by Communist Governments under Stalin's persecution of the Roman Catholic Church in the aftermath of World War II. The others were Cardinals Stefan Wyszynski of Poland, Joz sef Mindszenty of Hungary, Josef Beran of Czechoslovakia, and Aloysius Stepinac of Yugoslavia. The stridently anti-Communist Cardinal Slipyj was disturbed by restruictions placed on him as part of a preceived deal with the Soviets for his freedom. The Ukranian Uniate Church while supressed in the Soviet Union continued to function among Ukranian emigre ciommunities. Here the cardinal is greeted by children in their colorful Ukraian national dress at Turnhouse Auirport in Edinburgh (1970).

The first Christian bishop was sent to Novgorod from Constantinople by Patriarch Photius or Patriarch Ignatios (about 866–67). Prince Vladimir the Great of Kiev accepted conversion to Orthodox Christianity (988 AD). He made the Rus a Christian state. This brought the Rus under the influence of the Byzantine Empire and Orthodox Christianity. Vladimir ordered mass baptisms converting the Rus to Orthodox Christianity. Shortkly after the cionversion of the Rus, the Great Schism occured, formally duividing the Eastern (Byzantine) Orthodox and Western (Latin) Cathoklic branches of Christendom, referred to as the Great Schism (1054). Orthodox Christians converted scripture and the liturgy into Slavonic. This helped make he religion more accessible to the people. Today At the time, the population was largely iliterate. Thus most of the early converts had only the most basic understanding of Chritianity. Amd as often ocuured, elements of their pagan culture became incorporated in Ukranian Orthodox practice. This is most clearly seen in the Easter celebrations still commonly practised. Over the millenium that followed conversion, imense changes swept over the Ukraine. Ukrainians have, howver, through it all remained Orthodox Christias. There was, however, a split in the Church. Gradually political power shifted north from Kiev to Novogiorad and Moscow. Byzantine Greek monks Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius (from Greek Macedonia), translated parts of the Bible into Old Church Slavonic. This was a major step in Christianization of the Slavs and Slavicized peoples of Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Ukraine, and Southern Russia. The Mongols conquered the Rus (1230s) This was a major factor in Kiev losing its political, cultural, and economical leadership. Metropolitan Maximus moved to Vladimir (1299). His successor, Metropolitan Peter moved the residence to Moscow (1325). With the Union of Lublin and the formation of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth Ukraine fell under Polish control becoming part of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland (1569). Many new cities and villages were founded. Links between different Ukrainian regions, such as Galicia and Volyn were significantkly extended. New schools spread Western ideas being generated by the Renaissance. Polish peasants migrated in numbers and quickly became mixed with the Ukranian Rus. Most of Ukrainian nobles became polonised and converted to Catholicism. This was essentially the beginning of the development of a Ukranian national identity. Unlike the nobility the Ukranian (Ruthenian) speaking peasants remained faithful to the Orthodox Church. Efforts to force the peasantry into serfdom gave rise to the cossacks who would play a role in struggle between the Ottomans, Tsars, and Polish Comminmwealth to control Ukraine. The Ukranian Church split with four out of nine bishops of the Ukranian Uniate Orthodox Church (Vilnius) gathered in synod in the city of Brest and signed what is now known as the Union of Brest (1585). They declared support for union with Rome and recioguined the authority of the pope. In return, the pope eventually agreed to permit Orthidox liturgy. The Tsarist regime began to gain control of Ukraine with the Treaty of Andrusovo (1667). By the time of the Polish Patutions (1772-95), Ukraine was fully under Trasrist control. Tsarist authorities were hostile to the Uniate Church and strove to force union with the Russian Orthiodiox Church. Here there were both religious and political issues as the Uniate Church was seen as a force for Ukranian nationalism. After the Revolution, the Bolsheviks promoted both an atheism campaign and forced union with the Russian Orthodox Church. This would be intensified by Stalin. Church property was confiscated and piests and bishops arrested by he NKVD and condemned to the Gulag. Few survived. One that did was Archbishop Slipyj (figure 1). The Church was forcibly absorbed by Russian Orthodoc=x Church (1946). It survived in the minds of the faifthful in the Western Ukraine and was reorganized with the collapse of the Soviet Union.


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Created: 4:39 AM 8/16/2018
Last updated: 4:39 AM 8/16/2018