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  • Kirchengeschichte der Ukraine im 20. Jahrhundert: Von der Epochenwende des ersten Weltkrieges bis zu den Anfängen in einem unabhängigen ukrainischen Staat
  • John-Paul Himka
Kirchengeschichte der Ukraine im 20. Jahrhundert: Von der Epochenwende des ersten Weltkrieges bis zu den Anfängen in einem unabhängigen ukrainischen Staat. By Friedrich Heyer. (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. 2003. Pp. 556.)

The first edition of this work came out in 1953 under a different title: Die Orthodoxe Kirche in der Ukraine von 1917 bis 1945. What appeared there has not been radically reworked for the second edition, which carries the story to the end of the twentieth century. The last event mentioned in the book is Pope John Paul II's visit to Ukraine in June, 2001.

The author, now emeritus professor of religious studies and ecumenicism at the University of Heidelberg, developed his first close acquaintance with Ukrainian church affairs as a soldier in the German army during World War II. Professor Heyer was 95 years of age when this new book appeared. He has worked in many areas besides East European church history; he wrote a church history of the Holy Land and has also been interested in Ethiopia.

The book opens with an excellent survey of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine on the eve of the revolution. Heyer then traces the revolution's impact: the formation of renovationist and Ukrainian autocephalous churches in addition to the patriarchal church, the persecution of the churches almost to extinction in the 1930's, and the formation of a Polish autocephalous church in those territories left outside the Soviet Union after the treaty of Riga. A long chapter covers the emergence of the autonomous and autocephalous churches under German occupation and Stalin's restoration of the patriarchal church during the war. The remainder of the Soviet period was mostly characterized by uniformity. There was only one Orthodox church in Ukraine, and in the aftermath of World War II the Greek Catholic Church, which had existed in the Western regions (Galicia and Transcarpathia), was suppressed. With perestroika and the independence of Ukraine (1991), four competing churches came to dominate Ukrainian religious life: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Moscow), the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv patriarchate), and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church, another national church with a base in Western Ukraine. Heyer is a well informed and gracious guide through the confessional complexities of twentieth-century Ukraine. In his penultimate chapter Heyer surveys the other religious communities existing in Ukraine at present, and he concludes with a chapter examining ecumenical issues. [End Page 562]

Although Heyer has his enthusiasms and dislikes, he has an outsider's objectivity. He writes frankly about things that various factions would suppress and generally sees both sides of an issue.

A number of minor problems do mar the publication. There are many typographical errors, some repetition of the same passages in different parts of the book, an incomplete glossary of abbreviations, errors in Ukrainian history particularly of earlier epochs, and lacunae in the bibliography. The account of the Greek Catholic Church completely omits the interwar period.

World War II was a time of great moral testing for the churches, and I wish Heyer had been more forthcoming on this. He mentions the rescue of Jews by the Greek Catholic metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky and the Armenian Catholic capitular vicar, but he does not say how the Orthodox acquitted themselves. The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) was renewed during the war, partly owing to German protection. I know, but not from Heyer, that the Germans used anti-Semitic statements of the UAOC bishop of Vinnytsia in an international press campaign, but I would like to know how typical this was. In 1943-44 the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) murdered tens of thousands of Polish civilians in Volhynia. Heyer does not mention the murder of the Poles, but he does say that UPA headquarters were in the UAOC monastery at Derman and that UPA killed about twenty leading churchmen of the autonomous jurisdiction with which the UAOC was in rivalry. I would have liked to learn of the stance of the UAOC...


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