In the contentious matter of autocephaly for the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, Western supporters and detractors alike have questioned the involvement of the Ukrainian government in the process, especially vis-à-vis the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Underlying these apprehensions is the widespread ignorance—sometimes wilful, sometimes innocent—of two facts: first, the distinct history, language, culture, and ecclesiastical governance of the Ukrainian people; and second, the endless history of Russian imperial violence against Ukraine in the Tsarist, Soviet, and post-Soviet eras—a history in which the Russian Church has played and continues to play a complicit role. The struggle for Ukrainian independence from the nation’s Russian overlords dates back centuries.
While the following editorial does not touch on ecclesiastical affairs, it begins to provide for Orthodoxy in Dialogue’s readers something of the political context within which to understand the pressing pastoral need for the Ukrainian Church’s canonical independence from the Moscow Patriarchate.
Five years ago, thousands of Ukrainians launched the EuroMaidan Revolution, which later led to the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych.
There were two main motives behind it.
First, it was a revolution in support of Ukraine’s national identity in its struggle with Russian imperialism, since Yanukovych was seen as a puppet of Moscow.
Second, it was an uprising in favor of the European values, the main one being a corruption-free state, and integration into the free world.
The first purpose has been largely achieved. Ukraine has pulled out of the Kremlin’s orbit.
However, the European values of the rule of law, human rights and separation of powers have not triumphed in Ukraine.
Despite visa-free travel and the association agreement with Europe, Ukraine still has no rule of law, no independent courts and no clean government. Human rights are still being routinely violated by the authorities, and corruption is the worst in Europe.
For many, European integration has become a cargo cult, an empty shell. While banging on about European values, top officials are spurning them and preserving post-Soviet lawlessness, corruption and disregard for human rights.
Unfortunately, the national identity agenda introduced by the EuroMaidan and further fueled by Russia’s war against Ukraine is used by the authorities as a fig leaf and a façade to distract attention from the country’s failure to reform itself.
But even Ukraine’s national liberation is threatened.
By failing to create a genuine European state, Ukraine preserves weak and dysfunctional state institutions and exposes itself to the risk of further Russian aggression. Moreover, the values of the nation’s corrupt elite have more in common with the Kremlin than with Europe, and it can easily succumb to Russian influence again.
Ukraine can only resist the Kremlin if it becomes a wealthy and strong nation with free citizens equal under law and clean and incorruptible state institutions. This has yet to be achieved.
This article appeared on November 23, 2018 as Not Europe Yet at the Kyiv Post. Republished in collaboration with the Kyiv Post editors.
Photo Credit: Kyiv Post.
See also the extensive Ukraine section in our Archives by Author.
The Kyiv Post is Ukraine’s English-language newspaper and proud winner of the 2014 Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism. Its first print edition came out on October 18, 1995. It went online in 2002. Its global audience has grown steadily since then, peaking at more than 65 million pageviews in 2014.