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(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.
For people following the news from Ukraine in 2019, the recognition of the autocephaly of the newly reorganized Orthodox Church of Ukraine by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople may have seemed like a radical innovation or a historical rupture. Or they may have simply been baffled by all of the fuss.
In fact, the events of 2019 were not so much a rupture as a historical re-connection. Rather than a radical innovation, it was the culmination of over a century of determined effort.
This exhibition tells the story of the long path from the extraordinary flowering of the Kyivan Church under Petro Mohyla, who became Metropolitan of Kyiv in 1633, through the de facto incorporation of the Kyiv Metropolia into the Moscow Patriarchate, and finally to the struggles for the renewal of local control during the 20th and 21st centuries.
The tense relationship between Kyiv and Moscow has certainly been in the headlines in recent years. However, this is nothing new: the two capitals have had a fraught relationship for centuries. This exhibition by the Ukrainian History and Education Center explores how that relationship played out in the sphere of religion, specifically with respect to the Ukrainian Orthodox Metropolia of Kyiv, and how those events related to the surrounding cultural and geopolitical forces.
When we began plans for this exhibition, we were expecting to have a typical installation of museum and archival objects with explanatory text in a gallery, along with a supplemental online component for those folks in our constituency who live too far away from New Jersey to visit us in person.
Then came COVID-19...
Given that even the possibility of an in-person opening in May 2021 was uncertain, we decided to stand our planned design process on its head: we began developing this online exhibition first, and then went on to create a physical installation of objects based on that.
The in-person exhibition opened in May 2021 and will remain up through June 2022.
We thank the New Jersey Council for the Humanities for a generous grant that made this exhibition possible, as well as all of our exhibition sponsors.
Michael Andrec (Project director, UHEC)
Nicholas Denysenko (Contributing scholar, Valparaiso University)
Zenon Wasyliw (Contributing scholar, Ithaca College)
Justin Houser (Design and text creation assistance)
Natalia Honcharenko (Director, UHEC)
Oksana Pasakas (Collections management and physical exhibition installation, UHEC)
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Exarch of the Apostolic Throne
For much of the period from the Christianization of the Kyivan Rus’ in 988 until the 17th century, the Orthodox jurisdictional authority in the lands that now make up Ukraine was under local control, though it remained within the ecclesiastical territory of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
As such, the Metropolitan of Kyiv was not only the "Metropolitan of Kyiv, Halych, and all Rus'", but in the 17th century also bore the title "Exarch of the Holy Apostolic Throne of Constantinople".
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