The Confrontation, Intimidation and New Divisions? A Controversial Path to the Creation of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Ukraine

Sergei A. Mudrov

Abstract


This article analyses the establishment of the autocephalous Orthodox Church in Ukraine. It explains the main steps that were taken in Ukraine towards obtaining autocephaly for the Orthodox Church, namely for two non-canonical groups — ‘Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church’ and ‘Ukrainian Orthodox Church — Kiev Patriarchate’, which formally merged in December 2018. A special attention is devoted to the analysis of the events in 2018, starting from the April 2018 request of the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, addressed to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos. I argue that the move towards autocephaly was dictated primarily by politico-ideological reasons and was accompanied by the rise of confrontation and a lack of cooperation. The majority of Orthodox, belonging to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), opposed this process, which made them the subject of intimidation campaigns. It appears that in Ukraine there is an ongoing process of constructing a “radical other”, and much effort is being devoted to making the Ukrainian Orthodox Church this “radical other”, since the actions of this Church have been often interpreted in the most negative ways. Overall, the move towards autocephaly, instead of uniting Ukrainians, has brought about new dividing lines in Ukraine and has contributed to the split in global Orthodoxy.


Keywords


Orthodox Church, identity, religion, Ukraine, autocephaly, Ecumenical Patriarchate, Moscow Patriarchate

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