The politics of belief – Ukraine

June 2, 2014

Rarely does this blog touch upon anything “Godly” – it is not a blog that debates theology and never will it.

However organised religion, big or small, is subjected to internal policy and politics, as well as influence from external policy and politics in some regions of the world.  And in this arena it is safe to say this blog wanders about all things Ukrainian, prodding and poking at issues.

Whether you believe in God or not, organised religion is a man made construct, lest it would not be organised.  With organisation comes a hierarchy, and with a hierarchy comes power and influence.  We all know how such things work.  Often the reach of organised religion is far greater than the political reach of leaders for it crosses national borders.

With that in mind, it is noticeable that Patriarch Krill, advocate of “The Russian World” since the early 1990’s has become far less front and centre in the Russian (and Ukrainian) media since the annexation of Crimea compared to his high visibility during Maidan and leading up to the Crimean annexation.

In fact he has become either media-shy or has been deliberately sidelined by the media since the events in eastern Ukraine began to grab the headlines.


It probably has much to do with the religious pyramid upon which he sits atop.

The Moscow Patriarch parishes number about 27,000.  Only 15,000 of those are in Russia – most of the rest are in Ukraine.

As it seems more and more unlikely that The Kremlin will annex The Donbas or Luhansk, and even less so any reconstituted “Novorossia” that would also include Kharkiv, Kherson, Odessa etc., in the near future, Patriarch Krill has to think carefully about maintaining the influence of the Moscow Patriarch – and the income from it – within Ukraine.

Unlike The Kremlin, if he fails to tread a far more sensitive path, the 7 million or so Ukrainian Patriarchy worshipers will rapidly grow in number, whilst the number of Moscow Patriarchy worshipers will radically shrink within the territory of Ukraine – and a lot of his religious empire sits on the Ukrainian side of the border.

Therefore Patriarch Krill’s cause is not in the least helped by incidents shown above wherein alleged Russian Cossacks attacked a Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Perevalnoie,  just outside Simferopol, damaging Orthodox relics, the cars of parishioners and assaulting those attending, together with religious leaders.

Whether Russian Cossacks consider the Ukrainian Orthodox Church nothing more than a schism of the Moscow Patriarch or not, is going to be somewhat irrelevant to the Orthodox masses in both Ukraine and Russia when Orthodox relics are trashed and Orthodox parishioners assaulted.  Without doubt such incidents will undermine Patriarch Krill and the Moscow Patriarchy on both sides of the border.

It seems therefore a far more conciliatory tone from the Moscow Patriarchy is required to retain its faithful on the Ukrainian side of the border, and pacify those on the Russian side who will be appalled by Orthodox artifacts being damaged – not to mention protecting the Moscow Patriarchy assets and its income, from Ukraine.

It is though, perhaps, a conciliatory tone that may need to be far in excess of that which The Kremlin would prefer to hear.  A diversion of Kremlin and Church interests at this juncture.

This would perhaps explain the apparent “second tiering” of Patriarch Krill in the Russian media since the Crimean annexation.  He is no longer zealous enough.  It will also explain and nuanced changes in rhetoric as to what actually constitutes “The Russian World” from an Orthodox perspective over the coming months.



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