The Destiny of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church at the Beginning of the 21st Century
Yuriy CHORNOMORETS, orthodox analyst, candidate of philosophy
For public use
The UOC*) and the 2004 Presidential Elections in Ukraine
- Origin of the Orthodox Church and its objectives in society
- Controversy between the nature of the Church and the interests and activities of the modern clerical oligarchy.
- “Golden” million votes of the UOC
- Open participation of the UOC in the 2004 election campaign and its reasons
- Inertial scenario of support of Viktor Yanukovych after 21 November
- Support of Viktor Yanukovych by Orthodox extremists
- Forecast of further events
- Possible consequences for the UOC in case improbable scenarios become real
- Real consequences for the UOC in case of the victory of Viktor Yushchenko
- Possible measures to prevent negative consequences
“A mistake is not a disaster
if it is honestly admitted and a visible lesson
is learned from it.”
1. Origin of the Orthodox Church and its objectives in society
The doctrine of the Orthodox Church is determined by Holy Scripture, Holy Tradition and the conciliar resolutions of the Orthodox Church. Holy Scripture, Holy Tradition and conciliar documents (“Fundamentals of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church,” chapters 1 and 2) of the Orthodox Church clearly teach that:
1. The Church is the Body of Christ, a divine and human organism which has both a divine and an earthly origin.
2. The Church has a universal, super-national character as God calls all peoples to salvation and all human beings of all nationalities, languages, cultural or civilizational specificities.
3. The objectives of the Church in regard to the person are preaching salvation and acting for “the transformation and clarification [of the world] on the principles of love commanded by God.”
4. The Church recognizes the right of peoples to “national originality, national self-expression,” creation and development of “a national Christian culture.”
5. The Church calls believers to Christian patriotism which is manifested “in regard to a nation as an ethnic community” and a nation “as a community of citizens of the state.”
6. The Church rejects degrading of any ethnic or civic nation.
7. The Church does not identify itself with a particular ethnicity or community of peoples. The Church cannot admit part of the nation as “proprietary” and another part as “alien.”
8. Patriarchates as bodies of church unity do not have a national character. However, they are territorial associations as they are called to equally serve Orthodox Christians of any ethnicity on their territory.
9. The Church does not substitute for the government. However, it cooperates with the government in the social sphere.
10. The Church does not participate in political struggles directly, does not create Orthodox political parties, does not campaign for political parties and candidates, “does not issue a special blessing for the political activity of the laity.”
11. “The Church impeccably preaches Christ’s truth and teaches people moral commandments coming from the God” and is called to condemn and blame actions and orders of the government that may lead to serious sins.
12. The Church allows different political beliefs of believers and may not persecute believers for their political beliefs.
2. Controversy between the nature of the Church and the interests and activities of the modern clerical oligarchy
Regretfully, the objectives of Christ’s Church, as set by Holy Scripture, Tradition and conciliar documents, are ignored by the Moscow Patriarchate because of the coalescence of church leadership with the bureaucratic and financial-industrial oligarchy of the Russian Federation. Leaders of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church turn into an organic component of government office and oligarchic groups. This process took place at the level of both leaders of the MP and UOC and bishops in provinces. Namely, this process caused the following important consequences:
1. In the Church, a division took place into oligarchs (bishops, governors of eparchies and other “confidants” including even special “clerical businessmen and public activists”) and people represented by various strata of society. From the perspective of sociology, church “oligarchs” always defend the interests of large-scale capital, while the people are mainly represented by the “middle” and “lower” classes.
2. The church oligarchy made itself secure by overseeing the church public and society much more efficiently than the Soviet oligarchy, as no clerical court is in place, land councils are never assembled, bishops are never penalized (only one was dismissed for honorary retirement for too open offenses). All sprouts of clerical “civil society” are systemically and intentionally destroyed.
3. The Church has turned into a bureau of canonical ritual services for a fee and a junior partner of the secular oligarchy both in the sphere of business -- bishops and other officials of the Church often own companies which are often rather sound, for example, some church oligarchs of Ukraine take part in trading crude oil, weapons, and own supermarkets-- and in the field of public administration.
4. The dividing line between church leadership and the people is drawn by the church oligarchy. The latter lost its reputation with a majority of believers a long time ago (the habit of driving luxury cars was a special detraction). The preserved ideological influence of the church oligarchy is temporary and is based on the application of “church propaganda techniques” rather than moral authority. Therefore, loss of confidence of church people in all statements of the church oligarchy is possible in future. A gap between the interests of the church oligarchy and the people is clear in Ukraine, where nobody expects that the MP will ever operate as the Church. However, from the analytical perspective, one has to be sure that the activities of the MP do not correspond to Holy Scripture, Holy Tradition and conciliar documents.
If one applies the above-mentioned principles of the ideal church to the situation of Ukraine at the beginning of the 21st century, the Moscow Patriarchate in general shall:
1. Be the Church of not only the Russian people or eastern Slavic community but rather the Church of all ethnicities represented among its believers.
2. Recognize the right of the Ukrainian people to “national originality, national self-expression,”creation and development of the “Ukrainian national Christian culture.”
3. Call believers of the UOC to Christian patriotism which is manifested in regard to the Ukrainian nation as an ethnic community of Ukrainians and the Ukrainian nation as a community of citizens of Ukraine.
4. Never degrade, even indirectly, Ukrainians as an ethnos or as a civic nation, and may not reject part of the Ukrainian people by ethnic, religious, cultural, “civilizational,” historical and political features. Therefore, it is intolerable to discuss “the separatism of Halychyna”, “Ukrainian nationalism,” “the alien civilization of western Ukraine.”
5. The Moscow Patriarchate may not be the Church of just Russians or those who favor Russians. The Moscow Patriarchate should be the Church of Ukrainians as well as Russians. Is this observed now? Clearly not, and this is an obvious contradiction to the direct task of the Moscow Patriarchate. The Moscow Patriarchate more and more is becoming the Russian Patriarchate and the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church mixes with the top bureaucracy and oligarchy of the Russian Federation. Regretfully, the interests of the Ukrainian ethnos and citizens of Ukraine are observed by the Moscow Patriarchate only from the perspective of the Russian people, state, and oligarchy. The Moscow Patriarchate looses its territorial super-national character and becomes an organization of the Russian people or the “Russian Orthodox Civilization.”
6. The Moscow Patriarchate shall defend the rights of believers of all nationalities. In reality, the MP only defends the rights of Russians and Russian-speaking people and blesses politicians of Russophile direction only whether they are Communists or representatives of the corrupt oligarchy.
Actually, the MP by no means manifests its multinational character and thus pushes the UOC to the “reservation” of the “Russian-speaking Church.” All the universalism of the MP is a support of “big Russian space.” Whatever geopolitical arguments there are for or against assisting the Church in preserving and strengthening such “space,” it is clear that such activity contravenes the nature of Christ’s Orthodox Church.
Other violations of the above-mentioned principles are just outrageous, as it is clear that the oligarchy of the UOC and the MP systemically fails to condemn glaring violations of God’s commandments and moral norms of human community life. Church oligarch clans do their best to help financial-political oligarchic groups of Ukraine in election campaigning and are lenient towards the application of techniques of psychological warfare against the Ukrainian population. The church oligarchy of the UOC persecutes clerics and laity of the UOC who maintain an active civil position if this position does not match the interests of the oligarchy or Moscow Patriarchate in general. Considerations about the hostility of the European Union towards the Orthodox religion disseminated in Orthodox researches contradict the above-mentioned principles of the Orthodox attitude towards such social phenomena, and are not true: the EU includes or will include in the coming years such countries as Greece, Bulgaria, and Romania, with the population representing bright examples of “mono-confessional Orthodox communities,” i.e. actual “Orthodox nations.” For example, Greece has been part of the EU since 1982 and preserves the religion of this people: 96% of citizens of Greece are still Orthodox. The leadership of the EU does not consider this organization as a union of “Catholic and Protestant nations,” however, it welcomes Orthodox peoples of Europe among its members.
3. “Golden” million votes of the UOC
The participation of the UOC in election campaigns in Ukraine is systematic. During the 1994 presidential election, the UOC supported Leonid Kuchma as the pro-Russian candidate in contrast with “nationalist” Leonid Kravchuk. In 1999, the UOC supported Leonid Kuchma as the pro-government candidate (here, the extremist Union of Orthodox Brotherhoods worked for Petro Symonenko). In both cases, there was no open mass campaigning recorded.
During the 1998 parliamentary elections, the UOC provided support to the Party of the Renaissance of the Regions of Ukraine (now the Party of the Regions of Viktor Yanukovych). One of the closest assistants of the leader of the UOC, Bishop Pavlo (Lebed) even joined the top five of the list of candidates and appeared in TV advertisement from which one remembers assurances that he was “blessed” for participation in elections. At the same time, the participation of Bishop Pavlo did not improve the party’s rating. This demonstrated the real potential of influence of the UOC on voters without the involvement of political mobilization techniques: the Party of the Renaissance of the Regions of Ukraine did not pass to Parliament.
During the 2002 parliamentary elections, the approach to the election campaign was more professional. Indirect promotion support was provided to the Communist Party of Ukraine, the pro-government block “For a United Ukraine,” and to a lesser extent to the Socialist Party and the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (United).
In general, the influence of the UOC in election campaigns was not high because of specificities of the psychology of voters: less than 70% of the population of Ukraine, according to themselves, are believers, i.e. 33 million. Out of this figure, one should deduct 3 million children and adolescents below the age of 18 who do not have the right to vote. At the same time, out of 30 million voters, only 4%, while choosing a candidate, are guided by the opinion of their religious organization. Another 3% take into account the opinion of their church. Therefore, propaganda through the religious organizations of Ukraine could influence the choice of 1,200,000 to 2,100,000 voters. However, among believers of Ukraine, only 70% affiliate themselves with the Orthodox tradition. This means that the influence of clerics of Orthodox churches on the political choice of the population covers 850,000 to 1,500,000 voters. Also, many voters guided by the opinion of their church or taking it into account belong to churches other than the UOC. About one-third of them belong to the UOC–Kyivan Patriarchate and Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. Therefore, the election influence of the UOC may not cover more than 1 million voters. They still have to be mobilized so that they believe in the need to come and vote in elections in the “proper way.” For instance, in 1998 no special mobilization campaign took place. The Party of the Renaissance of the Regions of Ukraine did not pass into the Parliament.
We may arrive at the same figure of electoral influence based on the number of those believers of the UOC who actively practice the religious way of life and attend church regularly. Also, there is no more than one million such believers (on average, about 100 persons per parish, of which the UOC has 10,000). From the pool of “actively practicing believers” there is always one-third of those who critically view the political opinion of the clergy. However, the remaining two-thirds are able to convince about the same number of voters. So, by this method of assessment of electoral influence of the Church, we come to the same conclusion: the real “share” of the UOC is about one million votes. During the 2004 elections, under conditions of an information war, techniques with blessings, leaflets, sermons, activity of church organizations due to active “promotion” of the myth of the “Orthodox candidate,” it was possible to actually mobilize the entire “Moscow Orthodox” million. However, “church propaganda” did not go beyond this million, contrary to what was expected by pro-government and Moscow-based political technologists. However, one million votes out of the 12 million received by Yanukovych in the second tour (figure without falsifications) is quite a significant resource.
4. Open participation of the UOC in the 2004 election campaign and its reasons
Before the first round of elections, there was a moderate mobilization scenario developed, according to some data, by the special department (which used to be an independent analytical entity) of part-time advisors of the head of the Administration of the President of Ukraine, V. Medvedchuk – “Kiev Center for Political Research and Conflictology” of M. Pogrebinskiy. A moderate scenario of the mobilization of Orthodox believers envisaged a set of activities including the most important ones:
1. Open propaganda against Viktor Yushchenko through the Union of Orthodox Brotherhoods of Ukraine, Single Fatherland, State and other civic organizations.
2. Hidden use of myths previously inculcated to the Orthodox masses (“The West is a departure from Christianity” and “Yushchenko supports the West”; “Russia is not an oligarchy and bureaucracy but rather a holy Rus, and church unity with it is salutary,” and Yanukovych is “for unity with Russia”, etc.).
3. PR in church media of all kinds of official activities connected to the name of Viktor Yanukovych – granting lavra [large monastery] status to the Holy Hill Monastery (with lobbying of the Donetsk community), visiting Mt. Athos and Jerusalem, etc. (Here, circulation and quality of printing of Orthodox printed media was improved with support of the “State” association”, etc.).
4. A separate activity was the meeting of V. Yanukovych with Patriarch Alexis of Moscow, messages from the Patriarchate with greetings, etc.
5. A 40-day all-Ukrainian religious procession was performed with mass distribution of calendars with portraits of V. Yanukovych with Metropolitan Volodmyr (official circulation – 6000, but there is data of distribution of one million copies), etc.
6. Long before voting in the first tour, an address of the Synod of the UOC was issued which listed many slogans of V. Yanukovych (peace and stability; vote for the one who proved his advantage by doing, etc.). To have no doubts, on pages of church printed media, near the address, materials about the activity of V. Yanukovych on restoring and building temples were published, etc.
As a result of intensive (but primitive) manipulations of mass consciousness “Orthodox” people became one of the societal strata who seemed to be “for Yanukovych” along with pensioners, scientists, etc. Yanukovych happened to be “a caring son of all pensioners” and “father of all kids,” “academician and professor,” “economist and lawyer,” as well as “Orthodox integrator of Rus.” (Discussion of the “Orthodox” affiliation of Yanukovych of the same magnitude as PR of his title of “professor” did not take place, as some believers of the UOC are used to accepting myths imposed on them uncritically.)
After the defeat of Yanukovych in the first round, the Administration of the President of Ukraine, according to some data, took a decision about an aggressive mobilization scenario for the UOC. Only one element of the plan of work of the secular mass media actually went into it (“Topic for Antichrist”). The most important elements of this plan were the following:
1. Open propaganda by hierarchs and priests for Viktor Yanukovych.
2. Distribution of leaflets praising V. Yanukovych and condemning Yushchenko.
3. Capture of churches of the UOC by special squads consisting of specially selected people and dressed like proponents of V. Yushchenko. The last paragraph of the plan, according to some data, was not fulfilled because of other information causes found to discredit activities of the opposition in mass media, namely – provocation near the Central Election Commission, sham seizure of the church in Sarny, and the “stealing of the metropolitan’s blessing” already presented V. Yushchenko as an aggressive politician dangerous for the UOC. In addition, presenting mobsters as believers from dissident organizations was difficult and artificially created paid-for “extremist organizations,” according to some data, refused to do such seizures.
Initiators of the acceptance and fulfillment by the UOC of activities of the aggressive mobilization scenario were:
- The secretary of the Kyiv metropolitanate, Archpriest Vitalii Kosovskyi;
- Metropolitan Ilarion of Donetsk;
- Metropolitan Ahafanhel of Odesa;
- the superior of the Kyivan Monastery of the Caves, Archbishop Pavlo.
The reasons for activity of the above-mentioned persons were:
- close links with oligarchic groups;
- position of the Moscow Patriarchate which was pushed to decisive actions by both its own corporate interests of this clerical structure and pressure on the part of the Administration of the President of Russia; we also would like to note that the Moscow Patriarchate was guided by doubtful and biased “research” of Kirill Frolov, confidant of Metropolitan Kirill (Gundyaev), the chairman of the Higher Church Council and the entire “Ukrainian Department” of the HCC, which inadequately reflected real prospects;
- close links with the special security services of some neighboring countries;
- hopes for a career under Yanukovych or fears of being laid off under Yushchenko;
- for one-half of this group, an important factor of their choice was their own outlook and cultural level;
- the above-mentioned persons were warned by the government and economic partners from the Donetsk group about closure of their business in case of evasion from activities of the “mobilization scenario.”
Other bishops and priests took part in activities within their official duty because the UOC is a system of closed type where the failure to fulfill an order (“blessing”) of authorities is penalized in a cruel way.
According to trustworthy data, an additional argument for a number of hierarchs and priests was blackmail on the part of officers of special services of some neighboring country which have a file for every prominent bishop and many older priests as agents of the KGB (partially forged on purpose, partially authentic).
A key element of aggressive scenario was the symbolic event of the TV speech of Metropolitan Volodymyr where the latter stated that he has blessed V. Yanukovych only, and Mr. Yanukovych is the true Orthodox Christian, etc. This symbolic event was reinforced by special “key words” of V. Yanukovych at TV debates about being “blessed.” So, the ordinary PR activity (used during the campaign of Putin in 2000) turned into PR myth – an event which cannot remain unnoticed or unremembered. In connection with this event, which substantially undermined the reputation of the UOC in the eyes of the majority of population, one has to note:
- the tough and active character of the TV presentation was caused by the artificial cutting of the filmed interview of Metropolitan Volodymyr;
- this interview was initiated by: the Administration of the President of Ukraine, the headquarters of V. Yanukovych and the Moscow Patriarchate;
- after this, Metropolitan Volodymyr did not participate in any active PR campaigns;
- analysts believe that the interview was given under pressure of the secretary of the metropolitanate, Archpriest Vitalii Kosovskyi, Metropolitan Ilarion of Donetsk and other interested persons. They were informed that Viktor Yanukovych will be the winner of elections, regardless of the will of the Ukrainian people, and for this reason were not afraid of any responsibility.
5. Inertial scenario of support of Viktor Yanukovych after 21 November
On 21 November, repeated voting to elect the president of Ukraine was performed with massive infringements of legislation and human rights. Many political forces have acknowledged the massive falsifications of 21 November. The opposition has declared that falsifications in favor of the pro-government candidate took place throughout the country with especially massive fraud in the east of Ukraine. The authorities have declared that there were falsifications in the west as well – in favor of the opposition. Therefore, the fact of falsifications was not denied even by proponents of Viktor Yanukovych (and personally by him). The latter have just supported the viewpoint that the violations did not affect the “outcome” of the elections in general.
Naturally, in regard to the largest church of Ukraine, there were some expectations from the public of whether the UOC will congratulate V. Yanukovych with victory, or make a statement condemning massive falsifications. No congratulations were made by Metropolitan Volodymyr, as they were postponed until the inauguration of Viktor Yanukovych. After the declaration on 24 November of the victor of Viktor Yanukovych, the inauguration was planned on 25-26 November. Its organization was stopped by activities of the Supreme Court, Parliament and the opposition.
On 25 November, Metropolitan Volodymyr made a statement, on 30 November the Synod of the UOC called for civil peace. Both of these statements were kept to the spirit of “peace and stability” associated with the campaign slogan of Viktor Yanukovych. Condemnation of mass falsifications was not stated in these speeches, either. Actually, the UOC took the position of silence on the main issue of the current historical moment. The UOC either does not condemn falsifications and other infringements of divine and human truth during the second round, or does not admit the fact of falsifications and all other violations. However, everyone else has admitted that falsifications took place and only discussed the degree of their influence on the results of elections.
The silent failure to condemn falsifications and other violations of divine and human truth served as another symbolic event (after the “blessing” and its confirmation in the TV interview of Metropolitan Volodymyr) which substantially undermined the public reputation of the UOC, as it was perceived as a new evasion from the existing task of the Church in regard to society: to testify to the truth.
Condemnation of falsifications and other violations of divine and human truth on the part of individual clerics and laity of the UOC combined with approval of any actions of the government on the part of other clerics, laity and church organizations.
If clerics and laity who protested falsifications and other violations of divine and human truth supported messages of the religious authorities of the UOC with calls to peace, still, pro-government organizations, namely, the Union of Orthodox Brotherhoods and Single Fatherland (together with a number of high-level clergy: we would like to specially note Ahafanhel of Odesa and Ilarion of Donetsk) requested the government begin a civil war rather than peace (for instance, the statement of 30 November), supported slogans of separatism, offended in all possible ways the Supreme Court, Parliament, the opposition and protesters. The silent failure to condemn violations of divine and human truth on the part of top clergy of the UOC continued even after the decision of the Supreme Court, which legally confirmed that such crimes that are crying out to God actually took place.
Reasons for refusing to condemn the falsifications are:
1. Neglect of public opinion. There is a prejudice among the episcopacy that “secular” public opinion never influences active believers’ perception of the Church; many bishops mainly focus on working with government entities and oligarchic circles of Ukraine and Russia. At the same time, missionary activity and formation of a positive image of the Church in the society is perceived by many bishops as a suspicious practice which is strange to the spirit of Orthodoxy.
2. Top clergy of the UOC, according to some data, implemented a “coverage” plan. To relieve top clergy from direct responsibility for campaigning between the first and the second rounds, it was decided to assign the guilt to civic church organizations, namely the Union of Orthodox Brotherhoods, which was done through a relevant resolution about a failure to fulfill orders by the UOC, which allegedly abused the confidence of the UOC. The plan of coverage, according to some data, also included information about peace aimed at “pacifying” protesters against falsifications. Statements of peace have slightly changed their concept compared to the ones previously prepared by the Administration of the President. Regretfully, active participants of this operation were also clerics of the UOC who previously protested against falsifications of elections (Father Peter Zuyev, etc.).
3. Position of the Moscow Patriarchate. It is clear that approval on the part of the Moscow Patriarchate of a statement of the UOC blaming falsifications of elections would never be accepted, anyway.
4. The majority of the episcopate of the UOC is not afraid of Yushchenko’s coming to power and sanctions on the part of the new government. They believe that a conformist episcopate will be needed by any government, and “there will not be any persecution” under Yushchenko as a democratic leader. Only Metropolitan Ahafanhel of Odesa, Metropolitan Hilarion of Donetsk, Archbishop Pavlo of Vyshhorod, and Bishop Ippolyt of Tulchin are concerned about their future as they do not see a place for themselves in a democratic non-oligarchic society and have serious conflicts with representatives of the new political elite. At the same time, the majority of the episcopate of the UOC are afraid of sanctions on the part of the Donetsk elite. Donetsk Metropolitan Ilarion and his circle do not hide plans of seizing power in the UOC and management of it with totalitarian methods with the purpose of maximizing profits. The moral image of Metropolitan Ilarion and his circle serves as additional argument for fears.
Development of the situation before 26 December takes place by the inertial scenario
1. Further campaigning among believers of the UOC through leaflets or statements of the central clerical authority is pointless. All members of the UOC who believe in Viktor Yanukovych will vote even without such promotion, and supporters of Viktor Yushchenko are mainly critical about the participation of the Church in the election campaign and do not trust political statements of the episcopate. At the same time, such campaigning would only cause further discrediting of both Viktor Yanukovych and the UOC.
2. One can state that in parishes of the UOC there is continued campaigning for Viktor Yanukovych and against Viktor Yushchenko. Campaigning is performed by priests and laity mainly in the form of conversations. Laity and clerics who support Viktor Yushchenko continue to experience pressure in various forms of psychological influence.
3. The Administration of the UOC released another document of “coverage.” It officially bans campaigning in churches but allows it outside religious services. Instructions to campaign for Yanukovych were issued in oral and written form and nobody cancelled them. However, official documents of the UOC may be trusted by those who are willing to do that. Reasons to terminate campaigning for Viktor Yanukovych were not issued to priests, however, reasons for such campaigning were brought to the minds of all priests and laity. Archpriests give instructions to criticize the EU, the West, etc., during sermons without mentioning names of candidates for presidency.
Also, Metropolitan Volodymyr keeps silent as he is afraid of a schism in the UOC, as one part of the episcopacy is in favor of supporting the new government (mainly for the reason of always being pro-government), and another small group of bishops, which is closer to the leader of the the Church (Metropolitan Ahafanhel, Archbishop Pavlo, Metropolitan Ilarion) insists on an anti-Yushchenko policy, including support of separatist projects in the east of Ukraine. Metropolitan Volodymyr is also afraid of pressure, blackmail on the part of political elites, and unwise actions on the part of the Moscow Patriarchate (and the Russian Federation in general).
The inertial scenario of development, evasion from taking any radical measures now seems for Metropolitan Volodymyr to be the only possible compromise solution. We have to note that Christian criteria for decision making by the leader of the Church are again substituted with political criteria: we do not do what we have to as Christians, but rather what we can do as politicians. Christianity is the science of doing the impossible, unlike politics which is the art of doing what is possible.
Therefore, there is a very small probability of replacement of the inertial scenario with an active one in all three variants:
- active for Yanukovych;
- active for Yushchenko;
- active for return of the Church and the society to the norms of Christian morals.
It is necessary to note that time for transition to any of the active scenarios was mainly lost. The transfer should have been made during the revolutionary events. Today the UOC looks like a “traitor” in the public opinion from three viewpoints:
- it failed to activity support Yanukovych in the counter-revolution;
- it failed to support the revolution;
- it did not defend the norms of Christian morals during the entire campaign.
Condemnation of the top clergy of the UOC on the part of the political elite and public opinion is not taking an active form only because the position of the UOC has been so much devalued that it is not interesting for the public opinion, so politicians stop fighting for it.
6. Support of Viktor Yanukovych by Orthodox extremists
According to some data, the Administration of the President of Ukraine and MetropolitanKirill Gundyaev have made a decision about the active use of the propagandistic and organizational resources of the Union of Orthodox Brotherhoods and the Single Fatherland organization. The Administration of the President of Ukraine was perplexed by the fascist views of members of these organizations. However, after a long discussion, it was decided to “mobilize” these resources as well. An active part in the organization of the election work of these organizations was taken by the head of the Union of Orthodox Brotherhoods, Valentyn Lukyanyk , appointed by the Security Service of Ukraine, and a member of the office of Metropolitan Kirill Gundyaev – Kirill Frolov.
The Union of Orthodox Brotherhoods and Single Fatherland:
- are hostile towards the Ukrainian state, language and nation;
- deny all democratic values and human rights and freedoms;
- fight against the “world order” embodied by the United States and the EU that prepare for the arrival of the Antichrist;
- preach the need to establish the “new order” by revival of the Orthodox Russian Empire;
- aspire to turn the Russian Orthodox Church into a totalitarian organization with the impeccable authority of controlled bishops and “elders” and announcement of other bishops and priests to be “heretics” (“Kochetkovets”, etc.);
- spread among their members chauvinism and xenophobia (massacres are prevented only because leaders direct the energy of the members in a different channel);
- call for repressions against members of the blocs Our Ukraine, “Ukrainian Nationalists”, liberal-minded priests, V. Lytvyn, L. Kuchma and all traitors.
PR activities of Orthodox fascist organizations (“religious processions” with portraits of V. Yanukovych, etc.) did not result in the expected “mobilization” effect. However, they substantially decreased the overall reputation of the UOC. The Union of Orthodox Brotherhoods has only helped constructively to spread leaflets. The main mobilization effect was reached by the efforts of parish priests. The use of the Union of Orthodox Brotherhoods discredits organs which took part in the use of these Orthodox fascists in the election campaign.
7. Forecast of further events
1. It will not be possible to hamper the elections (many bishops expect such an option). Yushchenko will win with the result of 55%-60% of votes. Yanukovych will have a substantial advantage only in the Donetsk, Luhansk, and Odesa regions and in Crimea. It was possible to avoid a division of the country.
2. Top clergy of the UOC recognize Yushchenko and try to agree to make peace with him soon after his victory, rather than before it.
3. The public and intra-church reputation of the top clergy of the UOC will not be restored. 4. All arguments of the UOC about the need for unity with Moscow, canonicity, etc. will lose any weight in public opinion.
8. Possible consequences for the UOC in case improbable scenarios become real
The biggest damage to the public reputation of the UOC could be brought by the victory of Viktor Yanukovych. Now it is hardly probable (Yushchenko’s rating is growing up to 60%, Yanukovych’s rating is dropping down to 35%). The rule of an oligarchic regime would lead to full rejection of the government by the population of Ukraine, and complete alienation from the top clergy of the UOC who have blessed it.
Major damage to the UOC is caused by the support of a number of hierarchs of the UOC for separatist slogans. In the case (unlikely) of the division of Ukraine, two divisions are possible:
- South-east: in this case, the Ukrainian exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church (of course, a slogan of closer cooperation with Russia would be implemented) will cover 3000 parishes.
- Eastern region – in this case, the Ukrainian exarchate of the ROC will cover 2000 parishes.
9. Real consequences for the UOC in case of the victory of Viktor Yushchenko
In case of the most probable variant of development, i.e. in the case of the preservation of the territorial integrity of Ukraine and the victory of Viktor Yushchenko, the following long-term consequences are possible:
1. Due to the position of the church oligarchy, the UOC has opposed itself to the population of 17 regions of Ukraine who voted in the second round for V. Yushchenko, while 68% of communities of the UOC are located in these regions. During the repeat vote of 26 December, the number of regions that voted for Yushchenko will grow to 19 or 20 and the marginal position of the UOC will become even more obvious. Opposition to the public opinion of the majority of regions of Ukraine means the UOC is deprived of the status of the national Church.
2. The mobilization charges of belief in a “bad” Yushchenko will dissolve during half a year of rule of the new government. Then, after seeing the human face of the new government, parishioners will ask themselves a question: “Why we were assured that Yushchenko is nearly an Antichrist?” The reputation of the top clergy will decline in the eyes of regular moderate faithful (70% of the precious million). Moreover, the authority of the top clergy of the UOC outside the million faithful will tend to zero.
3. One can envisage a small out flow of believers to other religions organizations of Ukraine or into atheism. The main number of believers who favor Viktor Yushchenko will look for service from liberal or neutral priests inside the UOC itself.
4. The political lobby of the UOC will be minimized as the majority of traditional supporters of the UOC in the political elite will obviously grow cool to protection of the case of “canonical Orthodoxy.” (Everyone is unhappy with the UOC, only Communists will remain its allies until the end, however, the latter may sell their neutrality.)
5. The campaign mobilization of believers of the UOC will have a long-term consequence of crystallization of a not numerous but very active “rightist conservative” wing among believers of the UOC (5%-10% of the precious million). This wing, because of achievements in the fight against Viktor Yushchenko, will feel itself “truly Orthodox.” By pushing the ROC and the UOC for anti-civilizational and anti-cultural programs (“under the pretext of anti-globalism”) they may finally push Orthodoxy to the margin of modern society. No missionary activity is possible from such a position. Without missionary activity, the UOC may insensibly turn into an eschatological sect of Orthodox ceremony. Even now one may see that, for a large number of active parishioners, eschatological phobias are the main incentives to church life. However, such attitudes inevitably lead to the negation of the authority of top clergy. This is the cause of numerous schisms and disintegration of structures of eschatological sectarians.
6. The anti-Ukrainian position of top clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate and the politicization of the UOC may lead to an increase of proponents of the idea of the creation of an independent UOC within the Patriarchate of Constantinople, or an autonomous UOC recognized by global Orthodoxy (except for the MP) among clerics of the UOC. With such a development, the aggressive response of believers who stay with the UOC (MP) and the crisis of relations between the Moscow Patriarchate and Constantinople may lead to actual or even legal transformation of parishes of the UOC into an exarchate of the Moscow Patriarchate. At the same time, if no global politicization of the UOC would happen during elections, such a catastrophic scenario would never be possible. On the part of top clergy of the UOC, a transition from a pro-government and Moscow position to pro-government and Ukrainian is possible. In this connection, the above-mentioned events would move more softly.
7. If, by the time of the election of the next Moscow patriarch the UOC has not become part of the ROC (analysts have deep doubts of that), the episcopate of the UOC will probably not vote for Metropolitan Kirill (Gundyaev), chair of the High Religious Council of the ROC because the latter is directly responsible for the escalation of the conflict of the UOC with Viktor Yushchenko. Failure of the “Ukrainian policy” of the MP decreases support of Metropolitan Kirill among the episcopate of the Russian Federation as well.
10. Possible measures to prevent negative consequences
Today it is hardly realistic to revive the public and moral reputation of the UOC and MP, however, it is worthwhile to point out some activities that may slightly improve the position of the UOC.
1. It is necessary to consciously implement the doctrine “The UOC is a Church for the entire Ukrainian society, a Church of national concord,” “The MP is a multinational Church.” Moving out of the pattern designed by propaganda at these elections (“The UOC is the Church of proponents of unity with Russia”) will be very difficult. For that, symbolic events are necessary. It is very difficult, however, to organize them. (The speech of blessing took place at the moment of extraordinary societal tension, and therefore it has imprinted itself into public consciousness so strongly. Before the repetition of the second round, there will be a lesser but still strong tension, and one may perform some PR events).
2. The universal character of the Church has to be consciously demonstrated in overcoming all manifestations of Russian nationalism and in aversion to manifestations of Ukrainian nationalism. The UOC may hardly dare to do that as top clergy are afraid to lose their rightist conservative supporters (in spite of losing these supporters in the future, anyway).
3. Active propaganda to prohibit campaigning in churches is needed.
4. It is necessary to overcome the inertia of persecution of believers who support Viktor Yushchenko.
5. Negotiations with Viktor Yushchenko.
The tendency of turning the UOC into the Church of supporters of unity with Russia and opponents of independence for Ukraine is ruinous for the UOC as a national Church. Overcoming the tendency of movement towards the regionalization and marginalization of the Church requires decisive actions from top clergy of the UOC. It is necessary to think of regaining the public reputation of the Church rather than of saving business and positions.
The Church is preserved by its public reputation or by support on the part of government. In 2004, the UOC lost both. It only remains to pray. However, God may also “issue a no-confidence note” to modern Sadducees and Pharisees. The factor of God’s interference should not be underestimated: from the Old Testament we may see how God punished secular and religious leaders for unjust actions. The Lord Jesus Christ clearly warned “governors” of the Church:
“So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 24: 44-51).
P.S. All the above is the personal viewpoint of the author. Rumors disseminated on the Internet (by Kirill Frolov, Dmitriy Poznanskiy and other activists of the above-mentioned church organizations) about the work of the author in any political headquarters are fruits of their sick fantasies (personally to Frolov: nobody was going to offer a concordat to you; do not set up personal letters for ‘document developed in the office of the chairman of the headquarters of Yushchenko,’ as you may be seriously exposed: what if I send Zuyev lists of bishops arrested this night by the Union of Orthodox Sisterhoods. )
*) What the author of this report calls the “Ukrainian Orthodox Church” is generally called the “Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate” in RISU articles. Though this church does officially call itself the “Ukrainian Orthodox Church,” RISU uses the name “Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate” to more easily distinguish it from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyivan Patriarchate. (Editor’s note)