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Reviewed by:
  • Religion and Nation in Modern Ukraine
  • Andrii Krawchuk
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 twentieth-century 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. [End Page 563]

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 WarI, 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 Ukraine. 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 deep-rooted ecclesiastical competition between Kyiv and Moscow.

Elsewhere, Plokhy treats another institution—the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC). He looks at the place of international factors, particularly Vatican diplomacy, that may have played a role in the 1946 Soviet liquidation of the UGCC, and considers the struggle for a Ukrainian Catholic patriarchate in independent Ukraine. In a separate study, Plokhy argues that the establishment of the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of Canada affected Orthodoxy in the larger picture. Responding to the new church, the Russian mission in North America displayed sharp internal divergences on the nationality question. And the subsequent establishment of an autocephalous church in Ukraine may be viewed as a result of similar processes and aspirations. The book concludes with a final article by Plokhy on religious policy in Ukraine from 1991 to 1999. Subsumed under the priorities of nationbuilding and political consolidation, religious policy in this period is compared with similar processes in 1917-1920 and the Soviet period.

The book's stylistic unity makes it very readable, though four articles by Plokhy are translated from Ukrainian by Myroslav Yurkevich, Andrij Wynnyckyj, and Mary Ann Szporluk. There is a useful introduction by the authors and an index. The publication dates of the contributions (Sysyn: 1983 and 1991-1993; Plokhy: 1992-1999) suggest a passing of the baton between the two authors at around 1992 or 1993. [End Page 564]

This collection is a valuable resource on church-state relations in Soviet and independent Ukraine. Well crafted, these essays will be appreciated for their analytical content, their commitment to the larger international context, and their lucidity. The book fulfills the co-authors' goal of furthering western understanding of the history and current status of Eastern Christianity in Ukraine. It provides a sound basis for further elucidations of the status of Orthodoxy, and for assessing...


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