The pluralistic and divided religious situation in Ukraine has led its various churches to stand with the people protesting the government’s current crisis.
Ukraine’s dilemma over whether to choose Russia or the European Union as its main economic partner has shaken the country, leading to massive protests in the streets. In a blog for American Interest magazine (Dec. 11), political scientist Walter Russell Mead writes that in the Ukraine, “Catholics, Uniates and Orthodox often disagree, and there is a history of bad feeling. But with the country shaken to its foundations . . . the churches all seem to be standing with the protesters and against the government. As the Orthodox church is the strongest in the Russian-speaking east, this could be significant.”
In Russia, the Putin government has increasingly seen the Orthodox church as instrumental in helping it maintain its grip on civic life as well as supporting its blend of nationalism, Russia exceptionalism and anti-Western populism. In contrast, the Ukrainian church “doesn’t appear to be longing for a closer relationship with Moscow. This drastically undercuts the potential strength of pro-Russian forces in the east and substantially enhances the chances that, in the end, Ukraine will look west,” Mead writes.
In the blog of the American Conservative magazine (Dec. 11), Daniel Larison cautions that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Mead refers to (known as the Kyivan Patriarchate) is in schism from the Moscow Patriarchate and therefore is no indicator of the strength of “pro-Russian forces.” He concludes that to the “extent that religious divisions line up with political ones, there is reason to assume that the Kyivan Patriarchate’s support for the protests would make those in communion in Moscow even less likely to sympathize with the protesters.”
(American Interest, http://blogs.the-american-interest.com; American Conservative, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/).