"It is important to realize that what is happening, not on the sacramental level, but on the social-religious level, heavily depends on what is happening in the country overall, especially in the political sphere."
— In your opinion, which events in 2009 had the biggest influence on the religious environment in Ukraine?
— We cannot know which objective events were the most influential, because for that we need to know the future. Maybe this year a prominent religious activist was born who will change the history of Ukraine.
But from that which we know for a fact, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill had the greatest impact on the religious environment in Ukraine. I believe that this Russian World document is more dangerous than is realized today. The Ukrainian elite did not treat his Russian World doctrine seriously, thinking that the utopianism and fallibility of this project is evident to everyone. But this doctrine has an evident influence. The political thought of the doctrine is as follows: “Ukraine made a colossal contribution to the empire; in fact, Ukrainians were among the creators of the empire, although not everything was successful. Now Ukrainians tried to live on their own and tried to independently take part in world affairs. But the ‘Ukrainian project’ ended up unsuccessful and no one in the West wants to see Ukraine succeed. Together Russia and Ukraine can compete with the West.” And inside Ukraine is a demand for this kind of idea.
The patriarch with the Russian World doctrine appeals to the Russian cause, to the Ukrainian-Russians. Ukrainian nationalism of the 1990s was not an enemy of Russians who live in Ukraine, did not single them out from the society. But, on the other hand, the Ukrainian-Russians did not isolate themselves as they do now. In the 1990s organizations of Ukrainian-Russians remained in the margins. Now Russians of Ukraine are becoming independent and apparent. Ukrainian politicians, and the Party of Regions, are already afraid realizing what genie they let out of the bottle with the theme of the Russian factor in Ukraine. And that is why in Crimea they are giving the initiative to other organizations – the Russian Community of Crimea. And the patriarch is not afraid of anything. He, on the contrary, wants to disturb the situation in Ukraine. He is consciously appealing to the Russians in Ukraine.
We do not know how large the influence the Russian World doctrine of Patriarch Kirill has on Ukraine, but we see that this doctrine is directed for that sort of influence. This factor can very seriously destabilize the situation in Ukraine.
We don’t know what are his “home plans,” how seriously he places “holiness” over “kingdom.” But the fact that he is introducing his doctrine of the “Rus’ world” is not a an innocent affair. It is more serious than what ensues from discussion on the Internet and in the mass media.
Thus, for Ukraine Patriarch Kirill and his doctrine of the “Rus’ world” is the main thing that happened in 2009.
— If we already recognized that the doctrine of Patriarch Kirill is the most significant event of 2009, then it leads to the next important question. Did the Ukrainian state, the Ukrainian church, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Churches reveal themselves to be ready to the new face of the Moscow Patriarchate?
— Clearly Ukraine today is an easy gain. Even a few years ago, the patriarch and his doctrine would not have been so dangerous. But now is chaos. Now all the attention of the politicians is chained only to the conflict of the elite. There is no consolidation, and there are many traitors. The state does not even formulate what way it can respond to the Russian World doctrine.
Well, the churches astonished. The churches even grew numb before the patriarch. The churches showed not that they were not ready, but paralyzed.
— Is there hope that in 2010, after the presidential elections, that the Ukrainian state and the Ukrainian churches will begin to search for an alternative doctrine?
— I think that after the elections little will change, regardless of who will be president. To respond to the doctrine of Patriarch Kirill, there would need to be in Ukraine a state projection. Thus, a projection in culture, in politics. An overall state projection, which will be in Ukraine in 2015, 2020, 2025... Though there do exist corresponding institutes of strategic research they have no interest in state projection. And there is no societal demand for this projection. And it is very difficult to image how this projection could be realized in today’s conditions of chaos. Thus, among the best development of events in 2010 should be the recreation of political leadership. To recreate the leadership with the state apparatus, there needs to be a creation of a project of economical development, a project of preserving the state.
It is important to realize that what is happening, not on the sacramental level, but on the social-religious level, heavily depends on what is happening in the country overall, especially in the political sphere. For example, the realization about the idea about a single national Orthodox church depends on that what is happening overall in the country. And if in the country deacons travel around and say: “endure another three years, everything will be fine, only trifles are left; don’t betray Rus’, we will soon close this affair,” then not about what one church can there be any talk.
— Clearly it would have been interesting to see the emergence of alternative conceptions, which could compete for influence with the conception of the Russian World. Can we expect the development of interesting conceptions from the side of the Ukrainian churches?
— Ukrainian churches have not been able to complete work on the Kyivan idea and intrigue the masses with it. Or at least to make this idea such that it could be used to ingrigue the people. But this is not a hopeless cause. There is one important circumstance: in Ukraine it is well realized that for the salvation of a Christian neither a concept of the Russian World, nor a Kyiv idea is necessary. But, if the church steps up to meet the society, then it will start to socially theologize. The church is not indifferent to how the society will be to the last days of this world. Thus, the church wants to reform the whole society, and then the church thinks with what to appeal to the people. And the social ideas of the church cannot replace some political conception, which is spiced up with some church jargon. Social theology cannot be replaced with political texts, which are masked with quotes from the Scripture or the patriarch.
Positive changes are noticeable in the official documents of the UAOC and other Ukrainian churches. But the emergence of prominent social theologians is necessary.
And one can expect the emergence of new, prominent theologians in Russia. But Russia is making efforts so that these theologians appear. They have managerial decisions regarding the preparation of cadres, regarding the academic work on the “Orthodox Encyclopedia.” In Ukraine it is vital to think of how to prepare a foundation for the emergence of our own prominent theologians. This is possible. For example, today the Ukrainian religious studies field is in no way behind that of the Russian field. Rather the other way around. Thus, it is necessary to work.
Interesting social studies could appear in Ukrainian non-Orthodox churches. Earlier, Ukrainian Protestants believed that the Scripture was enough, and everything else was unnecessary philosophy. But today there are Protestants in Ukraine who feel that it is necessary to think about the place of the church in the society, about what its position should be regarding impetuous social changes.
The UGCC could create for Ukraine an interesting Christian social conception, which would be contemporary and alternative to the idea of the Russian World. The UGCC does a lot so that it is not perceived as the Galician Church. It tries to justify its own existence not only through references to tradition, but also by emphasizing its own irreplaceability for Ukraine as the universal Christian church.
Thus, the concern about the formation of alternative conceptions is not hopeless; in 2010 we will see something interesting from the side of the churches of Ukraine. The social conception is necessary and needed in and of itself; the churches should form understandable for the modern, cultured person how it stands on globalization, on crises, on future prospects.
The authors of the conception of the Russian World are simply afraid of the globalized world, how the world is ruled by America. But one cannot think that globalization is the same as Americanization, that globalization is usually a negative phenomenon. Globalization began long ago, still from the emergence of the printing press. Then humans circumnavigated the globe. Newspapers appeared. Modern political nations arose with the help of the newspaper. Globalization began long ago and has never stopped. And thus the project of the Russian World is such that in inadequately teaches about globalizations, leads to delusion. And it is obvious that maybe we have to wait for the appearance of more realistic Christian social conceptions from the churches of Ukraine.
— Did something unexpected happen in 2009?
— One thing surprised me in 2009. Beginning in 1992 through the course of many years, all social polls in Ukraine showed that there were more people who were affiliated with the Kyivan Patriarchate than the Moscow Patriarchate. The explanation is well known. The preference is explained by the fact that people who are not practicing Christians and who associate themselves with the Kyivan Patriarchate (and not with the Moscow Patriarchate) are describing their identity. When people were questioned with the name UOC-MP with the letters MP taken away, then most of the people said they belong to the UOC, and not to the UOC-KP. The fact that this is a question of identity, and not of real denominational belonging, is evident from this example. In 1995 in Simferopol in a poll one third of those questioned chose the response that they belonged to the ROC, though the ROC doesn’t exist in the city.
This year one of the polls showed that there are more who affiliate themselves with the Moscow Patriarchate, though by only a small margin. And another poll showed a small preference of the MP over the Kyivan Patriarchate. These results need to be verified, thinking about the factors which could have caused this change. Herewith, the first poll was taken in 2008, before the election of Patriarch Kirill, and the results were presented in March 2009.
Will this tendency by confirmed in the future? And if it is confirmed, then what will these results tell us? Does this mean that the faithful became more conscious of their own church belonging? Obviously, there have always been more people who belong to the MP than the KP. Or is this tied in with the growth of the influence of the Russian cause on Ukraine? We spoke today about the increase in the growth of the Russian influence. The majority of those questioned began to associate themselves with the MP, because they identify themselves with the pro-Moscow frame of mind. This assumption has to be verified with the help of new research.
We don’t have annual polls which would be held with the same method, with which the dynamics of development of religiosity in Ukraine could be studied.
In Russia there is such research that is carried out by the Finnish Academy of Science, which is interested in the development of religiosity in Russia. We have diverse forms of research, and we cannot compare 1993 and 2003, 1999 and 2009. We can only work with results from various works of research, and this already makes the explanation of processes which occur in the religious sphere of Ukraine more hypothetical
— Do you feel that the negotiations which took place in 2009 between the Orthodox Churches of Ukraine have no prospects?
— I feel that even in the case where there is no hope for unification, there need to be negotiations. Thus, this is the case where the process is no less important than the result. If people are going to talk and look into each others eyes, then there can be some understanding. But already a whole generation has been brought up where some know that “it is the sinners who end up in hell,” while others know that “this is a fifth column and thus there can be no talk.”
So, if to try to make out future negotiations: what will be the first step, the second, and of course, on the third step it seems they will bump into a wall. But it is very possible that this wall will crumble. What are the preconditions of this? I take into consideration that the majority of the Ukrainian community is for a single national church. In every case, those who want such a church are more than those who don’t want it or are indifferent to the idea. This is unambiguously shown in polls. And the people who want a single national church are representatives of each church. There was an incident when in the Kosiv region people gathered and announced that they are already the one church, recognizing one another and thus they are similar. There is a social need in such a church. And it is very hard to explain to the faithful of the UAOC and the Kyivan Patriarchate why they still aren’t in one church. And one can talk as much as he wants about canonicity, but Ukrainians will absolutely not understand and will ask: “Why do the Albanians have their church, and we don’t?” And if one tells Ukrainians about unity, which is higher than particularism, then the following question will arise: “Why do they speak Russian and not Esperanto in the unified church?” Evidently, those who criticize Ukrainian nationalism practically come forward from the position of Russian nationalism. And this is noticeable, very noticeable. And that is why there will eventually be one national church in Ukraine.
The one thing that can become a hindrance: if there will be no Ukraine, there will be no single church. If Ukraine will be, then a Ukrainian national church will emerge.
— What was the greatest intellectual event of 2009?
— This event was the definite farewell to the theory of secularization. This year was the 80th anniversary of the birth of Peter L. Berger, who was one of the theorists of secularization and formed in his book The Sacred Canopy its operative designation as a process, where religion leaves the public sphere. Serious researchers never said that religion will disappear. But theorists of secularization said that with the modernization of the society religion leaves politics and culture, and consolidates in human souls. And for the occasion of Berger’s anniversary, many articles and even books were published, in which practically all researchers certified that the theory of secularization turned out to be false.
The death of the theory of secularization means that religion in sociology does not have a paradigm theory. In the 19th and 20th centuries the theory of secularization explained what was occurring with religion overall. Interestingly enough, in 1968 Berger wrote: “At the beginning of the 21st century religious figures were probably found only in small sects, who will nestle to one another in resistance to secular culture.” And in 1996 he wrote: “The modern world, with a few exceptions, is the just as fervently religious as it always was, and in some places, more religious than ever.” The theory of secularization exaggerated the religiosity of the society in the past. We all certainly believe that our ancestors were much more pious than us. At the same time, if to look at old documents, then it will be revealed that religion was always roughly the same. For example, in 1800 in the United States of America less people attended church than in 1900. And that is because the church fulfilled important social functions. Now religious figures complain that few people attend church, but they wrote the same in reports to the Synod before the revolution. Religiosity does not change significantly, its form changes, and not in all countries.
— In traditional societies religion was a social institution, which secured unity. Is religion capable to fulfill this function today in the society?
— Religion, and even the church, is capable of being a factor which unities people. This possibility applies to Ukraine, and even to the West. The church in the West found itself for the first time in the role of being simply the church. Earlier, it was very intensely engaged in social service, and now is a community where the basic needs of people are fulfilled. Earlier the church tried to be a place for people to socialize, but now there are a lot of other alternatives. Earlier the church was an instrument of identity, but now there are other ways to find and assert one’s identity. And the processes of “de-churchification” in the West are tied in with the fact that the church did not understand that it was now just the church, and nothing else. It still tries to be the social institution and cultural club.
People do not attend church, but engage in spiritual practices like meditation. Western Europeans have a need for spirituality, but neither the Catholic nor Protestant Churches know what to do with these people. They called the people to a vertical bond – a bond with God, but since they have become accustomed to developing horizontal bonds, they now do not know what to do with them. But they exist and in the USA where the church fulfills many functions. And there is Malta, where the population demonstrates steadfast religious behavior. In Ireland, in Cyprus, in Poland there is steadfast religious behavior. Thus, everything is possible, and we will later have to explain why these changes in religiosity occurred in Ukraine.
It is important to understand the main point: today the church is in competition with many social and cultural institutions to be a factor of unity. In order to continue uniting people, churches must propose ideas which would be “fit to compete” with cultural ideas and which would be interesting for the society.
Kyiv, December 30, 2009
Photo from the web site of the weekly "Focus"