“The symbol of Putin’s victory was to be the liturgy at St. Sophia in Kiev”
The conflict over the church in Ukraine is fertile ground for Russian propagandists; by speculating about faith, they arouse aggressive moods among viewers. But church affairs are important not only for residents of the Russian Federation, but also for the authorities.
“The Church Ruled From Moscow Is Dangerous For Ukraine”
From the point of view of national security, the conflict between Ukraine and the Moscow Patriarchate during the Russo-Ukrainian war must be resolved unequivocally in favor of Ukraine, not Russia. Any form of prolonged political, and by no means religious, conflict around the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra is in favor of Putin’s Russia. How can it be: one country, Russia, which attacked Ukraine, controls the church of another country, victims of aggression – Ukraine?
After the Kiev sanctuaries, the Pechersk Lavra and St. Sophia, the next step is to “zero” and depoliticize the Pochaev Lavra. The Moscow Patriarchate – without the consent of its Ukrainian parishioners – can be used (and probably is used) as a “fifth column” in the Kremlin’s fight against Ukraine. Therefore, the Ukrainian state is simply obliged – but by legal methods! – To decisively and significantly limit the activities of the Moscow Patriarchate, the aggressor’s accomplice, throughout the country. For the most part, the parishioners of this church, the Moscow Patriarchate, of course, are not to blame for anything – but they have a really large selection of Ukrainian denominations. The church itself, controlled from Moscow, is very dangerous for Ukraine during the war, because it is clearly used against national interests.
No less important, and perhaps even more important than the missiles and rockets of the Russian occupation army, are the sermons of the pro-Moscow priests of the Moscow Patriarchate during the aggression.
“The Russian Orthodox Church May Try to Organize a Provocation”
I know how Vladimir Putin saw “the end of the war”.
The invader needs a symbolic culmination, a victorious apotheosis. From Putin’s point of view, the culmination had to contain two important elements:
– less important: the parade of Russian troops on Khreshchatyk as a symbol of military domination;
– more important: solemn liturgy in the church of St. Zofia Kijowska, andspecifically in Sofia, not the Lavra, as a symbol of great power dominance.
Sofia is almost the only object that has no analogues in Russia in terms of status. At the same time, it is both a sacred source and a symbol of power. There is no great power either in Old Ladoga or in Novgorod, although Sophia is there and there. Greatness comes from Kiev, which Vladimir Putin considers the “mother of Russian cities”.
He would like to say something like: “Here is my personal Oranta. Here is the family of the legendary prince of Kiev in the fresco. And from him a straight line comes back to me. The thousand-year history rests directly on me, I am its crown.
To a large extent, a suicide rally to Kiev was organized for this purpose. We needed physical control over the temple, over the city. A change of government alone was not enough.
But it didn’t work, thank God!
In 2014, after the seizure of Crimea, Moscow made an attempt to shift the sacral emphasis. Propaganda attention – in films, “historical” studies, educational programs – was decided to move to Chersonesos: they say that Vladimir was baptized here, here is the main source of Rus, and Kiev is only a minor consequence. But the attempt failed, the idea turned out to be dead. Kiev’s key role in building a great power in the Russian sense has surprisingly not passed away.
The Russian military received its “parade” on Khreshchatyk in August 2022, when it held a parade in honor of Independence Day – with bats and burnt Russian military equipment. All the world’s media wrote about him – but in the Russian Federation he was silent. This is an indicator of how painful the Kremlin was at that point. The conversation regarding the first part of the apotheosis can be rethought at this point.
Now the attention is focused on the second part. And there are interesting nuances.
The latter part was to be provided by the ROC in Ukraine (ROCvU). Millions of Ukrainian citizens are still loyal to her – a passionless but still large part of the population. ROCvU it has strongholds not only in the east but also in the west of Ukraine – also because people who fled the war moved there.
The influence of the ROCvU is gradually decreasing: this denomination in its mass (there are exceptions) is not with the fighting part of its people, it is not with its army. People see it.
And Patriarch Kirill also adds absurdity. On the one hand, he emphasizes that the ROCvU is independent of Moscow. On the other hand, he demands that the Ukrainian authorities leave the ROC the possibility of existing in the old way, i.e. agitating people in favor of Moscow. Schizophrenic split!
The outflow of a significant part of the faithful from the ROC will most likely take place not towards other churches, but towards Protestant denominations. It is not only a matter of disillusionment with Orthodoxy, since in principle one can support war in it, but also that Protestants highly effective programs of social support and interaction with civil society. WithNow for people, especially for refugees, support is especially important – there are 8 million internally displaced people in Ukraine!
Following the parishioners of the ROCvU, the outflow of sponsors will also begin: Protestants have clear rules of providing help, it is easier to get along with them.
The Kremlin urgently needs to think of something to keep the remaining influence for the ROCvU, so as not to let its flock out of ideological taunts. The following steps would be logical:
- portray the Russian Orthodox Church as a martyr’s church to stabilize loyal supporters and mobilize those who hesitate – and continue to undermine Ukraine from the inside; although it is not working well, the Ukrainian authorities are behaving correctly and in accordance with the law;
- arrange a provocation, e.g. on Easter, in one of the three Ukrainian laurels;
- change leadership ROCvU.
The last point requires comment. The current primate of the ROCvU, among othersIts undoubted spiritual leader is Metropolitan Onufry, but it does not show the zeal the Kremlin needs. It seems that the internal struggle among the hierarchs of the ROCvU should intensify – but the overthrow of the primate, on whom the Church’s reputation is largely based, may lead to its rapid marginalization.
It would seem logical that the clergy of the ROC – among those who want to stay with their flock and condemn Russian aggression – join the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which has autocephaly but has its own reputation problems.
In any case, there is no longer a place for a Moscow church in Ukraine.