Will the “Immovable wall” Collapse Upon Ukraine?

28.12.2010, 09:42
Will the “Immovable wall” Collapse Upon Ukraine? - фото 1
Expert opinion of Professor O. Sagan regarding a possible change of the status of the Sophia of Kyiv.

Sahan.jpgOn 22 December, the Humanitarian Council attached to the President of Ukraine passed a decision to transfer the Cathedral of Sophia of Kyiv (beg. of the 11th century) to the reserve “Kyiv Cave Monastery.” The council did not support the proposal.

That scant information, which “leaked” into the media, clearly defines the level of danger threatening the Ukrainian society: loss of another national shrine (territory of the Monastery of Sophia) and turning it into a closed clerical center, which will dispose of it at its discretion and will protect it according to its understanding and possibilities. That is exactly what we can see today in the Kyiv Cave Monastery, where even the hospital which is one hundred years old and was built at the expense of benefactors, “hinders” the monks and the museums were called “useless rubbish” to be thrown out to the street…

Inclusion of the question of the change of the status of the cathedral of Sophia, which would actually turn it into the cathedral of UOC-MP, in the agenda of the Humanitarian Council indicates that such a transfer is planned in the nearest future (on the next day after the session of the Humanitarian Council, the Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was held, which set up the Committee “On celebration of the 1000th anniversary of the Sophia Cathedral” with a symbolic simultaneousness). The discussion of the problem by an advisory body of the President of Ukraine is just a kind of an indicator of acceptance/non-acceptance of the idea at the level of representatives of the humanitarian sphere loyal to the authorities. However, the first “rolling” was unsuccessful even in this regard. And this gives a little hope that the activity of wide circles of public in discussing/counteracting of these plans can force the officials to change their intentions.

For I think that it is clear to everyone that after the transfer of all the buildings of the monastery to the Church, the reserve “Kyiv Cave Monastery” will become just a shield allowing to receive budget funds for the maintenance of the monastery. After the eviction of all the non-Church structures from the monastery and transfer of the central structures of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to the newly-built cathedral complex near the underground station Lybidska, there will be no obstacle for the Moscow Patriarchate to proclaim the stauropegion (withdrawal from UOC and direct subordination to the patriarch) of the monastery. And that will mean (in the event of the transfer of the monastery to the reserve) the transfer of the Cathedral of Sophia to the “jurisdiction” of the Patriarch of Moscow…

The question of the status of the Cathedral of Sophia and reserve already has old history and several interesting open or hidden aspects:

For the first time, they began to talk in the independent Ukraine about the change of the status of the Cathedral of Sophia and its transfer to UOC-MP right after the first victory of L. Kuchma at the presidential election. The role of UOC-MP in the victory of the pro-Russian candidate (so he positioned himself during the election) was invaluable. Therefore, in addition to the whole Kyivan Cave Monastery, the clergymen asked also for Sophia. However the newly elected president had enough wisdom (and clever advisors) not only to preserve the monastery museums but also to defend the Sophia with the “national” status from further encroachments: “The state historic and architectural reserve “Sophia Museum” (city of Kyiv), to be hereafter called National Reserve “Sophia of Kyiv” (Decree 587/94 of 11 October, 1994).

For the second time, they began to talk about a possible transfer of the Sophia to the use of some Church when V. Yushchenko became the President of Ukraine. On the wave of the national-patriotic enthusiasm and ventilation of the idea of the necessity to institute in Ukraine the local Orthodox Church, several Churches at once expressed their wish to conduct services there from time to time (even alternating ones). However, even then, the workers of the museum and “adequate advisors” managed to persuade the leadership of the state not to turn the museum of the international level into one of the hundreds of Ukraine’s monastery. In order not to provoke inter-church tension, even the “small” or “warm Sophia” (dining room near the main cathedral) was not passed to anyone for Divine Services. The “Status Quo” of the cathedral and reserve was actually preserved. Everything was reduced to conduction in the Cathedral of Sophia of “prayers for Ukraine” with the participation of the members of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations and some other governmental events.

The present authorities are not willing to consider the experience of their predecessors. Last summer, we already had a lively discussion about the Reserve of the Sophia. The “feats” of our “mayor” with regard to development of the neighbourhoods around the reserve nearly led to exclusion of the monument from the list of YUNESCO. Against the background of that scandal, the request of UOC to allow daily prayers in the Sophia as it “first of all is a prayer house.” was left unnoticed. But at that time, the social situation was politicized by the coming visit of Patriarch Kirill and therefore, the authorities decided not to make it even more tense. Even more so as Patriarch Filaret also sent a similar letter with a similar request. One should not forget that UGCC also claims services in Sophia as the church belonged to that Church for a long period of time…

However, the authorities have not forgotten about the request of UOC as to the Sophia but just postponed it till a more convenient time

Preservation of monuments of the international level (Sophia has the largest compositions of frescos (3000 square meters) and mosaics 260 square meters) of the 11th century preserved in good condition)  requires considerable expenses which can hardly be borne by any particular Church, even the largest churches, one of which UOC-MP positions itself to be. For example, the state regularly allocates funds (tens of millions of UAH) for repair works and maintenance of the monuments of the Kyiv Cave Monastery. However, can one say that everything that once was passed to the Church is preserved and in good condition?  There are also irreversible losses: Yizhakevych’s frescos, the lower gate, certain rebuilt buildings, relics of some saints, etc. And now, when the situation regarding the underground waters and collapses in the caves has deteriorated, the budget expenses will grow.  

Let us not forget that UOC-MP conducts an enormous construction of its central cathedral and lacks funds for its realization. At least that is how the lobbyists of the Church explain their initiatives to annul the VAT for the contractors of the construction, allocate for that only 11 million from the budget of Kyiv, etc.

Do many people know that the main mosaic of the Church, the Mother of God-Oranta has come off on the wall for several centimeters? The daily resonance caused by the choir singing can deprive us of this masterpiece forever! Today, the reserve clearly regulates the number of the participants of the choir even at governmental celebratory events and the rare services there. Who will exercise such control, take similar prevention measures and be responsible for the condition of the “Immovable wall” which has protected Kyiv and Ukraine for a thousand years now?

According to an example of preservation by Orthodox fathers of a similar monument of the 12th century, St. Cyril’s Church, which was once passed to the community of UOC, one can say that this mosaic icon will not remain “immovable” for long… –During the time of independence of Ukraine, over 150 wooden churches, monuments of architecture were burnt, thousands of icons were stolen including those which were once passed by the state to churches and communities. Strong responsibility is envisaged for that. But do we know many cases of imprisonment of priests or bishops for such sacrilege of the shrines.  

The expenses of maintenance of the reserve will increase each year also because, let us not forget, it is located in the center of a large city. And that means aggressive urban environment, primarily, the air, the pressure of the neighbouring multi-storey buildings on the soil and rising of ground waters undermining the foundations, vibrations, etc.  

Can the Cathedral of Sophia be separated from the complex of the reserve? Yes. But a person can be deprived of their heart as well. Will they live after that?

Information: до The National Reserve “Sophia of Kyiv” includes approximately sixty architectural-historical which are united in five museums: The Cathedral of the Holy Sophia (11th c.) and architectural ensemble of monastery buildings (18th c.) in its yard, Golden Gates (11th c.); St. Cyril’s Church (12th c.), St. Andrew’s Church (18th c.), the ensemble of monuments “Sudak Fortress” (6th-15th cc). cc.


The change of the current status of the Sophia of Kyiv, the separation from the National Reserve “Sophia of Kyiv” and its transfer to the Reserve “Kyiv Cave Monastery” is a hidden transfer of the cathedral to UOC-MP.  

The activity of the National Reserve “Sophia of Kyiv” is regulated by several laws and by-laws and international obligations. By actually destroying the reserve, Ukraine will lose at the international level much more than it will gain from the “pleasant gift for the church’s anniversary” to one of the Churches.

No Church in Ukraine is prepared to maintain monuments of the international level either from the technical or material viewpoints or as far as the level of “museum culture” of the potential overseers is concerned. There is the world’s practice of preservation by the state of monuments like the Sophia of Kyiv. And many Churches put up with the fact that individual churches or monastery complexes are not passed to them: they have become a national heritage, a component of the national mentality…

The transfer of such monuments to Churches will mean that the Ukrainian tax payers actually have to pay for the maintenance of a religious building of one of the Churches. In other words, it is about non-intended use of budget funds in the conditions of the separation of the Church from the state.    

The efforts of UOC-MP to use the political conjuncture and re-subordinate the cathedral will inevitably cause an increase of inter-Church and political tension in the society, make more complicated the state-confessional relations which are not brilliant as it is.