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The 1921 Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church that was formed in 1921 could be seen as a grass-roots continuation of the push towards Ukrainianization and autonomy that began with the work of Lotots'kyi and others at the very end of the Ukrainian People's Republic.
No longer willing to wait for church leadership to deliver, rank-and-file clergy and laity from cities and villages throughout the country met for a Church Council in Kyiv in October 1921, even though there were no bishops present: all of the hierarchs in Ukraine were either opposed to the goals of the Council, or were afraid of repercussions from their still overwhelmingly Russian-dominated superiors.
The Council affirmed the three fundamental principles that would guide their movement: autocephaly (the administrative independence from any non-Ukrainian Church jurisdiction), conciliar administration (the administration of the Church through councils of laity, clergy, and bishops at the parish, eparchial, and national level), and Ukrainian identity (the use of Ukrainian language, song, customs, and rituals in Church life). The supreme authority in the Church was not the Metropolitan alone or a Council of Bishops, but the All-Ukrainian Orthodox Church Council ("Sobor"), which included rank-and-file clergy as well as laity.
The fact that there were no bishops posed a major problem for the Council. In Orthodox canon law, a bishop can only be ordained by two other bishops. If the Ukrainian Church was to have bishops, it would need to find some way around this. In the end, they performed an ordination ritual of "laying on of hands" by all of the present clergy and laity to ordain Vasyl' Lypkivs'kyi and Nestor Sharaivs'kyi, who then ordained more bishops in the standard way.
As detailed by the UAOC's Bishop of Vinnytsia Ioan Teodorovych in his 1922 book "Blahodatnist' ierarchii UAPTs" ("The Grace of the UAOC Hierarchy"), the justification for this choice was that it was a practice in the early history of the Church of Alexandria. Nonetheless, the legitimacy of the bishops of the 1921 UAOC was rejected by all canonical Orthodox Churches.
The Bolsheviks at first grudgingly tolerated the UAOC. This was in part because it was consistent with the official Ukrainianization policies under Lenin, but also perhaps because they hoped that it would be a destabilizing force that might undermine organized religious activity. Any such hopes were soon dashed: the UAOC quickly became a major force in Ukrainian religious life, with over 30 bishops shepherding more than one thousand parishes.
Combining, as it did, both religion and a non-Russian national identity, the UAOC came under immediate attack from the Stalin regime. Repressions began in the mid-1920s, and attacks would become more and more brutal during the coming decade, resulting in the arrest, exile, and/or killing of nearly all of its bishops and many clergy by 1930, and culminating in the "disappearance" of Metropolitan Vasyl' himself in 1937.
One UAOC bishop, however, did survive, but only because he was no longer in the Soviet Union.
In 1924, the All-Ukrainian Orthodox Church Council had sent Archbishop Ioan (Teodorovych) to serve as the spiritual leader of the nascent Ukrainian Orthodox Churches in North America. His presence would have an immeasurable impact on the development of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in both the United States and Canada. Although Ukrainians had already begun organizing Orthodox parishes in the late 1910s under non-Ukrainian bishops, having a leader who spoke their language and knew their culture provided a major boost to their efforts.
media/Varlaam antimension I-2 for header.jpg
(1685 to 1905)
With the tsar's accession of much of Ukraine came increasing control of its ecclesiastical hierarchy. As Moscow's political influence grew stronger through conquest and expansion while Constantinople's continued to wane under the Ottomans, Ecumenical Patriarch Dionysius, via a Synodal Letter, and in exchange for compensation from Moscow, accorded to the Patriarchate of Moscow the responsibility of electing and consecrating the Metropolitan of Kyiv, provided, however, that the Metropolitan of Kyiv would continue to first mention the Ecumenical Patriarch during the commemorations at the Divine Liturgy, before commemorating the Patriarch of Moscow.
It was not long, however, before this arrangement was abandoned by Moscow, and it solidified its control over the Metropolia of Kyiv. After the death of his co-tsar Ivan in 1696, Peter I commenced an ambitious program of expansion and development, including a reworking of the Orthodox Church's administration. He effectively eliminated the position of Patriarch, replacing it with a body known as the Most Holy Synod. Over the next few decades, he succeeded in subordinating the Orthodox Church — including the Metropolia of Kyiv — into a bureaucratic department of the Russian Empire.
The Metropolitan of Kyiv would go from leading a full Metropolia containing multiple eparchies, to being simply the bishop of the Kyiv eparchy (while still keeping the honorary title of "Metropolitan"). Over the coming years, his title would even be occasionally demoted to "Archbishop".
Ukrainians were not passive in the face of these encroachments on their ecclesiastical and political life. During the Great Northern War (1700-1721), many Ukrainians, including Het'man Ivan Mazepa, sided with the forces of King Charles XII of Sweden, hoping for renewed autonomy in a strengthened Hetmanate allied with the Swedish Empire. These hopes were dashed when the Swedes and their Ukrainian allies suffered a crushing defeat at the Battle of Poltava in 1709. In a further example of the intersection of politics and religion in this era, Mazepa, who had been renowned as a builder and restorer of Orthodox churches and was major patron of iconography, was placed under an anathema by the Russian Church after 1709, one which remains in place to this day.
By the end of the 18th century, the position of Het'man had been abolished. In the 1800s, Ukraine became a de facto colony of Moscow, and even the publication of Ukrainian language books was forbidden. Efforts to make Kyivan Orthodox practice conform to the customs of the Church of Moscow were only partially successful, since leaders of the Russian Church were commenting on what they considered to be the peculiarities of religious customs in Ukraine even as late as the 1870s.
Perhaps paradoxically, Ukrainian church leaders had an outsized influence on the Russian Church, both before and after the loss of Kyiv's autonomy. The liturgical reforms carried out under Patriarch Nikon in the 1650s and '60s were largely the work of Ukrainian monk-scholars trained at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. The implementation of these reforms led to a schism with the "Old Believers", and it fell to Ukrainian-born bishops, such as the Archbishop of Rostov, Dymytrii Tuptalo (1651-1709), to defend those reforms. Tuptalo, who was also a poet and composer of non-liturgical devotional songs in the Baroque style, is now venerated as St. Dymytrii of Rostov in both the Ukrainian and Russian Churches, along with St. Ioasaph of Belgorod (1705-1754) and St. John of Tobolsk (1651-1715). Leading composers of sacred music in the Empire during this era, such as Dmytro Bortniansky (1751-1825), were also of Ukrainian origin.
Antimension of Filaret (Amfiteatrov) and Paladii (Vidybida-Rudenko), 1849/1944
Engraving on silk (19 in × 23 in)
UHEC Patriarch Mstyslav Museum permanent collection
This antimension was issued by Metropolitan of Kyiv Filaret to the parish of the Holy Transfiguration in the town of Polychyntsi in 1849. However, this object is perhaps even more significant for what is written on the reverse:
The text is in Ukrainian (with some Church Slavonicisms) and reads: "This antimension, sanctified by the insertion of relics of Holy Great Martyr Barbara at the Metropolitan [Cathederal] of the Holy Myrrh-bearer Maria Magdalena in Warsaw, 25/12 June, 1944 by the member of the Holy Council of Bishops Archbishop Palladii. This antimension is the Holy Table for the church of the Holy Protection in the city of Utica, New York. [signed] The humble Palladii, Archbishop"
Palladii Vidybida was ordained within the Orthodox Church of Poland in 1941, and he played a key role in the 1942 Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church by supporting the renewal of the All-Ukrainian Orthodox Church Council. Obviously, this inscription was written by Palladii when he was already in the United States and the parish in Utica was presumably in his eparchy.
The two inscriptions written more than an century apart attest to this object's remarkable journey from Ukraine, via Poland and Germany, to the United States.
Text transcription (front)Сей Антімінсъ, сіесть Трапеꙁа с[вя]щенная, на приношеніе беꙁкровныя ж[е]ртвы въ Б[о]жественнѣй Літургіи, ѡс[вя]тися бл[а]годатію прес[вя]тагѡ и животворящагѡ Д[у]ха: сегѡ ради имѣетъ власть с[вя]щеннодѣствовати во храмѣ Преображенія Господня въ селѣ Поличинцахъ — неподвижно.
При Державѣ Бл[а]гочестивѣйшагѡ Самодержавиѣйшагѡ Великагѡ Г[осу]д[а]ря Нашегѡ ІМПЕРАТОРА НІКОЛАЯ ПАѴЛОВИЧА всея Рѡссіи: Бл[а]гословеніемъ С[вя]тѣйшагѡ Правительствующагѡ Сѵнода, с[вя]щеннодѣйствованъ Тогѡже С[вя]тѣйшагѡ Сѵнода Членом, Преѡс[вя]щеннымъ ФІЛАРЕТОМЪ, Митрополітомъ Кіевскимъ и Галицкимъ, и С[вя]щенно-Архімантритомъ Кіево-Печерскія Лаѵры, и Кавалеромъ. Лѣта міроꙁданія 7357, ѿ Р[о]ж[дес]тва же Хр[ис]това 1849 года, Індікта 8, Мѣсяца Ноемвріа въ [...] день.
Text translation (front)This antimension is a holy Table for the bringing of the bloodless sacrifice in the Divine Liturgy, sanctified by the grace of the Most Holy and Life-creating Spirit for the sake of having power to celebrate in the temple of the Transfiguration of the Lord in the village of Polychyntsi — permanent[?].
During the reign of our Most Pious, Most Sovereign and Great Ruler EMPEROR NIKOLAI PAVLOVICH of all Russia, with the blessing of the Most Holy Governing Synod, celebrated by the member of the selfsame Most Holy Synod, the most reverend FILARET, Metropolitan of Kiev and Galich, and Hiero-Archimandrite of the Kiev-Pechers'k Lavra, and Knight. In the year 7357 from the creation of the world and the year 1849 from the Nativity of Christ, the 8th indiction, in the month of November on the day [...].
View this antimension in its historical context
Prologue: Before 1633
Kyiv and Constantinople have been connected spiritually from the start. As early as the mid-9th century the people of Kyivan Rus', the medieval principality settled by East Slavs but generally ruled by Vikings, had a significant relationship with Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire. In 858-860 a group of the Rus', then still pagans, sailed across the Black Sea to attack Constantinople, but ultimately were driven back.
Although Patriarch Photius of Constantinople reported sending a missionary bishop to the Rus' in the aftermath of this attack, the mass conversion of Rus' to Christianity would not come until 987-988, when Grand Prince Volodymyr of Kyiv agreed to be baptized and decreed that his lands should convert to Christianity. The Baptism of Rus' marked the founding of the Church province known as the Metropolia of Kyiv. Eparchies were created and bishops appointed to them as the jurisdiction grew in size and in territory.
Throughout the period of Kyivan Rus', bishops continued to be appointed from Constantinople to administer spiritual matters in its territory. As the Great Schism developed from the mid-11th through the 13th centuries, the Church of Kyiv remained under the formal jurisdiction of Constantinople, though with considerable local autonomy. In 1240, however, Kyiv fell to the Mongols, and a period of chaos ensued.
By the mid-14th century the last surviving remnant of an independent Rus', the Kingdom of Rus', had come under the rule of an expanding Poland, and eventually the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Latin Rite Catholic dioceses were created, political privileges were denied to the Ruthenian gentry and clergy, and efforts were made to convert the populace from Orthodoxy to Catholicism.
It was against this backdrop that the inheritors of the Kyiv Metropolia diverged into three streams. The ecclesiastical provinces to the northeast, in Muscovy (today's Russia), declared jurisdictional independence and established their own Patriarch of Moscow in 1448, which was ultimately recognized by Constantinople in 1589. Within today's Ukraine, however, opinion was split between those who felt that a revival of the Orthodox Church in union with Constantinople was paramount, while others sought accommodation with the Catholic Poles and the creation of an Eastern Rite Catholic Church. It was this third group, known at that time as the "Uniates," that was dominant at the dawn of the 16th century. Metropolitan Michael Rahoza of Kyiv and other hierarchs of the Church of Rus' agreed to a union with Rome, known as the "Union of Brest", in 1595–1596. This became what later would be called the Greek Catholic Church — a church under the authority of the Pope, Catholic in doctrine, but observing the liturgical practices and customs of the Eastern Rite, including married clergy. For several decades thereafter, Greek Catholics were in the ascendancy, and St. Sophia Cathedral became the seat of a Greek Catholic Metropolia of Kyiv.
There remained many in Ukraine who did not agree to the Church's acceptance of Catholic doctrine. These included the "brotherhoods", groups of lay well-to-do townspeople who sought to cultivate academic and theological learning. Among their leaders was the magnate Kostiantyn Ostrozhs'kyi, who founded an academy and who had previously supported the publication of the first printed Slavonic Bible in 1581 (one of which is in the permanent collection of the UHEC). This ultimately led to an "illegal" re-establishment of an Orthodox episcopal hierarchy in 1620.
The Polish king Władysław IV, responding to a variety of political pressures, legalized the Orthodox Church in 1632 by signing the "Measures for the Accommodation of Citizens of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania of the Ruthenian Nation and the Greek Faith", and in 1633 Petro Mohyla became the first Orthodox Metropolitan of Kyiv to be recognized by the Polish Crown.
Learn moreThe history (and historiography) of this time period is extremely complex and well beyond the scope of this exhibition. For a scholarly but still quite readable account of the formation of Russian and Ruthenian/Ukrainian national identities, in which religion and ecclesiastical structures played a major role, we recommend the book "The Origins of the Slavic Nations: Premodern Identities in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus" by the Harvard historian Serhii Plokhy.
The 1942 Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church
After the frenzy of border redrawing that followed World War I, many Orthodox Ukrainians and Belarusians suddenly found themselves living in the Second Polish Republic. Since they were no longer in the same state as Moscow, a number of Orthodox bishops in Poland petitioned the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople for autocephaly. Despite the strenuous objections of the Russian Orthodox Church, this was granted in 1924, on the basis that it was the continuation of the Kyiv Metropolia.
No longer tied to the Moscow Patriarchate, Orthodox church leaders of what is today northwestern Ukraine and western Belarus could now exercise local jurisdictional control. The Volyn' and Polissia regions soon became a hotbed of Ukrainianization, including the use of vernacular Ukrainian as a liturgical language.
With the outbreak of yet another war, the hierarchs took advantage of the grudging toleration of the occupying Nazi forces to make a second attempt at Ukrainian autocephaly. Two new Ukrainian bishops — Nikanor (Abramovych) and Ihor (Huba) — were ordained in Pinsk in February 1942, and this time there was absolutely no question about the validity of their ordinations. The subsequent Council of Bishops then decided to send Archbishop Polikarp (Sikorsky) to be the autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Metropolitan of Kyiv and to assign the other bishops to Ukrainian eparchies.
Once in Ukraine, the new hierarchs wasted no time in ordaining additional bishops, including Mstyslav (Skrypnyk), and additional priests to assign to parishes.
Knowing that their lives would be in peril if they fell into Soviet hands, nearly the entire church hierarchy along with many priests fled west ahead of the advancing Red Army. Amazingly, they were able to bring with them all of the necessary vestments, vessels, and other ritual objects, including antimensia, needed to minister to the thousands of Ukrainians also fleeing the atrocities of the Stalin regime.
Many of the priests and bishops would end up in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and as far away as Australia. They would maintain the dream of an independent Orthodox jurisdiction in Ukraine, and Metropolitan Mstyslav of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA would go on to have a major role in the rebirth that would come decades later.