By Paul Goble
The transfer of Metropolitan Tikhon from Pskov to Crimea reflects not only Patriarch Kirill’s desire to get Putin’s favorite hierarch farther from the center of power but also an effort by the Moscow Patriarchate to take control of all of Orthodoxy in Ukrainian areas under Russian occupation.
This process has been ongoing since 2014, but it has been slowed by the Moscow Patriarchate’s unwillingness to redraw canonical borders lest that strategy backfire on itself. But it has accelerated in recent weeks because the Kremlin even more than the Moscow Patriarchate wants to control the situation on the ground in advance of any negotiations.
As RFE/RL’s Nikolay Berg reports, neither secular nor religious Moscow has been entirely happy with the churchman Tikhon replaces. Metropolitan Lazar who had been in that position since 1992 and described himself as part of the UOC MP (svoboda.org/a/anneksiya-tserkovnyh-territoriy-ukrainy-pravoslavie-v-okkupatsii/32655151.html).
But the UOC at least formally has dropped its formal affiliation with the Moscow Patriarchate and thus is no longer what it was. And the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada is moving toward banning it because of the UOC’s continuing links with the Russian state. That Ukrainian move may have been the trigger for getting rid of Lazar and imposing Tikhon in his place.
At the same time, the journalist notes, Moscow is moving to take control of church property throughout Crimea and to use the Orthodox church there as a major propaganda channel against Ukraine. Tikhon is a specialist in such propaganda, a sharp contrast to Lazar who was more passively involved.
And as this is going on, the ROC MP, likely at the insistence of the Kremlin, is accelerating its efforts to gain control of congregations and bishoprics in other Russian-occupied portions of Ukraine, an effort that will certainly have the unintended effect of leading ever more Ukrainian politicians, officials and ordinary believers to accept a ban of what’s left of the UOC.