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  • Does Ukraine Have a Church History?
  • Liliya Berezhnaya (bio)
Iaroslav Isaievych , Voluntary Brotherhood: Confraternities of Laymen in Early Modern Ukraine. xxxii + 324 pp., illus. Edmonton: Canadian Institute for Ukrainian Studies (CIUS) Press, 2006. ISBN 1894865022. $49.95.
Margarita Anatol´evna Korzo , Ukrainskaia i belorusskaia katekhiticheskaia traditsiia kontsa XVI–XVIII vv.: Stanovlenie, evoliutsiia i problemy zaimstvovaniia [The Ukrainian and Belorussian Catechetical Tradition from the End of the 16th through the 18th Centuries: Establishment, Evolution, and Problems of Borrowing]. 671 pp., illus. Moscow: Kanon +, 2007. ISBN 5883731902.
"Ukrainian Church History: In Tribute to Bohdan R. Bociurkiw." Harvard Ukrainian Studies 26, 1–4 (20023). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, 2007. ISSN 0363-5770. $35.

A few years after Ukraine's attainment of independence, the reputed American historian Mark von Hagen published his famously provocative article "Does Ukraine Have a History?" As the title implied, von Hagen doubted the existence of critical approaches in contemporary Ukrainian historiography and lamented the replacement of the old Marxist bias with a new patriotic (nationalistic) one.1 He also noted significant institutional discontinuities in Ukrainian history—above all, with respect to the state—and remarked that as a result of such "deficient state traditions in the modern period, Ukrainians have turned to the cultural sphere to locate a distinctive Ukrainian identity." As one might expect, this article met with waves of criticism both in Ukraine and elsewhere.2 In the meantime, von Hagen reconsidered his position on the current situation in Ukrainian historical [End Page 897] writing, and in 2006 he approvingly noted that borderland studies "have found a natural home in Ukrainian history." He also identified new research priorities concerning cities (including those under Magdeburg Law) and institutions, such as the Cossacks and the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic (Uniate) Church, both "clearly shaped by Ukraine's borderlands legacy." Von Hagen views the implication of Ukrainian church history in a larger framework of borderland studies as a decidedly positive development, since it highlights "how central the fact of Ukraine as a multinational and multiregional idea" has been to its history. In this reading Ukraine is conceptualized as a territory whose history has been pulled "between two or more empires or states"—Poland, Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Germany—and entangled in their geopolitical struggles.3

In 2003, a rather different opinion regarding Ukrainian history—church history in particular—was presented by Vasyl´ Ulianovs´kyi, who insisted upon rewriting the history of churches in Ukraine from the point of view of a Christian—apparently an Orthodox Christian—idea. Ulianovs´kyi suggests that historians of the Ukrainian Church should concentrate on the religiosity of the Orthodox population as a way of uncovering "temporal paths to the idea of Truth," and should "look at the history of Ukraine through the prism of Orthodoxy."4 For Ulianovs´kyi, the crucial historical problem is the relationship between popular religiosity and institutional history, which should be addressed on the basis of new sources from provincial archives. Another "empty field" that Ulianovs´kyi identifies is the Ukrainian Orthodox theological tradition, which remains an area of "biased studies of foreign research." It is clear that, in contrast to von Hagen, Ulianovs´kyi believes that the study of Ukrainian church history should be concerned with the uniqueness of Ukrainian Orthodoxy, and in particular with its relation to the state.5

Do these different opinions on Ukrainian church history represent merely a juxtaposition of "local Ukrainian" and "foreign" historiographical traditions? Or are we seeing a more fundamental split between a comparative approach and one that insists on the fundamental uniqueness of each historical phenomenon? Perhaps both questions deserve negative answers, since modern Ukrainian church history seems to be no more polarized between "local" and "diaspora" fronts than [End Page 898] any comparable example. Mutual contacts between specialists in church studies within Ukraine and those abroad in the form of recent conferences and translated publications are a good sign of the improvement in the situation.

At the same time, the themes that presently attract most scholarly attention concern the old topic of the uniqueness of the Ukrainian church(es) in East European history. Therefore, the main accent rests, as it did ten years ago, either on the periods of independent...

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