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Autonomy under threat
Petro Mohyla's successors Sylvester Kosov (or Kosiv, c.1600–1657, Metropolitan 1647–1657) and Dionisii Balaban (Metropolitan 1657–1663) attempted to maintain the stature of the Kyiv Metropolia in a rapidly changing geopolitical landscape.
Kosov was born into the Ruthenian nobility of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the town of Zhyrovitsy in what is today western Belarus. He became Mohyla's student and colleague, and was a co-founder of the Kyiv-Mohyla Collegium, of which he was prefect from 1631.
Kosov's tenure as Metropolitan of Kyiv coincided almost exactly with Khmel'nyts'kyi Rebellion, which began in 1648 as a Cossack uprising within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth led by Hetman Bohdan Khmel'nyts'kyi allied with the Crimean Tatar Khanate. It led to the creation of an independent Cossack Hetmanate in Ukraine. It also resulted in the expulsion or killing of almost all Polish nobles, officials, and Roman Catholic clergy in the lands of present-day Ukraine, as well as widespread massacres of Ukraine's Jewish population.
But perhaps the most pivotal event of this period for Ukraine's modern political history as well as the history of the Kyiv Metropopolia was the Pereiaslav Council of 1654. Since it was in the geopolitical interest of the Crimean Tatars to maintain a state of conflict with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, they withdrew their support at several key moments, preventing Khmel'nyts'kyi from achieving a decisive victory. Looking for alternative military support, he made diplomatic overtures to both the Ottoman Empire as well as to Moscovy. The latter agreed to provide assistance in exchange for the Cossack's allegiance to tsar Alexei I.
In the negotiations that led to the "Pereiaslav Agreement" (or the "Pereiaslav disagreement", as Serhii Plokhy has aptly referred to it), neither party fully comprehended what the other thought that it was agreeing to. Rather than being the "reunification of Ukraine with Russia" portrayed in standard Russian and Soviet history writing, the two sides had very different ideas of the relationship between the two polities: Khmel'nyts'kyi thought he was agreeing to a protectorate, while the tsar assumed he was simply gaining new subjects. The cultural and linguistic gulf between the two sides was so deep that they needed interpreters even for basic communication.
The end product, however, seemed to grant many of the Cossak's demands, including the preservation of the Kyiv Metropolia within the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. However, realpolitik soon took over and set in motion a major reconfiguration of power in Central and Eastern Europe. The resulting Russo-Polish War (1654–1667) led to the Truce of Andrusovo, which formally placed the territory east of the Dnipro River under the control of the tsar. Eventually, this would lead to increasing restrictions on the Hetmanate and the incorporation of Ukraine into the Russian Empire under de facto colonial status, and would even contribute to the demise of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth itself.
Both Kosov and Balaban strongly resisted attempts to subordinate their Metropolia to Moscow and continued to show loyalty to king John Casimir, as can be seen on their antimensia (above).
Balaban was a strong supporter of the 1658 Treaty of Hadiach, a last-ditch effort to maintain the Hetmanate within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Proposed by Hetman Ivan Vyhovs'kyi and written by Yurii Nemyrych (a Western-educated Nontrinitarian Protestant who converted to Orthodoxy) with the assistance of Balaban, the treaty would have, among other things, created a co-equal Grand Duchy of Ruthenia, given the Orthodox Metropolitan of Kyiv and other Orthodox bishops seats in the Commonwealth Senate, and granted the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy the status of a university alongside the Jagiellonian University of Cracow. The treaty was approved in an extremely watered-down form, and it only succeeded in inflaming rank-and-file Cossacks against the nobility and made them even more agreeable to closer ties with Russia.
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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.
The logbook of an extremely busy bishop
Logbook of Bishop Nikanor (Abramovych)
Ukrainian History and Education Center Archives, Metropolitan Nikanor Papers
The new bishops of the 1942 Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church wasted absolutely no time, knowing that the Nazis could ban their activities at any moment. This notebook by Nikanor Abramovych (who would later become Metropolitan of the exiled UAOC in Europe) clearly demonstrates that breakneck pace.
The inside cover is labeled "Book of resolutions of Bishop of Chyhyryn Nikanor" and "Book from Ukraine; Bishop's responsibilities". The entries on the first page are all from one day (March 14, 1942), and most report on decisions regarding the ordination of new priests.
But that's not all.
Entries for March 14 continue onto the next page, for a total of eight clergy ordination approvals or assignments all in one single day!
He continued to use this notebook into the post-War period, and it has episcopal decisions and other matters from his leadership of the UAOC in Exile.
Nikanor's original episcopal seat in the city of Chyhyryn also has an interesting connection to the history of the Kyiv Metropolia in the 17th century: not only was Chyhyryn intimately connected to the Hetmanate, it was also where the Kyiv Metropolia was relocated after Moscovy took control of Kyiv in 1658.