Claims That Many Ukrainians ‘Will Never Attend A Moscow Patriarchate Church’ – OpEd


Many in Moscow are reacting hysterically to Constantinople’s moves to grant autocephaly to the Kyiv Patriarchate, but instead of getting angry and making all kinds of threats, Pavel Tikhomirov says, Russians should be soberly assessing the situation and recognizing what they can and cannot hope to do.

The reality is, the assistant to the editor of the Russkaya narodnaya liniya portal says, is that “a large part of the Ukrainians will never go to a Moscow Patriarchate church. This I bad and offensive to all of us who believe in the reality of the realization of the ideals of the Russian world, but this is the case” (

“For a political Ukrainian – and the number of such people is constantly growing – the Russian world is simply ‘neo-Sovietism’ masked by new names,” Tikhomirov says. Many Ukrainians aren’t committed to Western liberalism or market ideas, but the social state they want would be one very different from that which existed in Soviet times.

According to the commentator, “we Russian patriots feel shy about speaking on this subject. We somehow conflate the Russian world with the USSR and now we are receiving the fruits of this conflation. Everything here is completely logical.” The Moscow Patriarchate had a change to escape from this, but it didn’t take it.

“A quarter of a century ago,” Tikhomirov says, “Russian Orthodoxy could have been viewed as the bearer of the idea of pre-revolutionary Russia. This didn’t please everyone, but this was an alternative both for Ukrainian nationalists and communists. But now Russian Orthodoxy is viewed entirely differently.”

For many Ukrainians now, his contacts among the Orthodox in Ukraine say, “the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is a purely ‘KGB’ structure.” Tikhomirov says that they should recognize that Kyiv has used church structures too, but regardless of that fact, “now the situation has changed” in Ukraine against the ROC MP.

“And so, very many of our straying ex-brothers will never come to our churches,” the commentator continues. It is impossible to heal the split – [at least] with our forces.”

In this situation, Tikhomirov says, the Universal Patriarchate has begun to create a structure “in which various Ukrainians splits will join … a kind of analogue to the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church which will exist in parallel to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.”

(For an introduction to the complex history of Orthodox churches in Estonia in the 20th and 21st century, see the article at and the sources cited therein.)

Moscow could have sent its own exarchs to Ukraine and won over many Ukrainians but certainly not the majority. But the Russian church and government weren’t willing to get only part of a loaf; they wanted it all, Tikhomirov says. And now they are left with a situation in which they will not get much at all.

In Ukraine, “the train has already left” the station; and Moscow has been left behind.

In response, Russians should consider the situation in a sober fashion. On the one hand, Russian Orthodox can only be glad that some Ukrainian faithful will go to church and gain access to the mysteries, even if it is not a Russian church and even if the Russian church has misplayed the situation.

And on the other, Tikhomirov concludes, “the time has come for our brothers from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate to draw conclusions and make a choice.” They also should approach this with sobriety rather than in an emotional and alarmist way.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

2 thoughts on “Claims That Many Ukrainians ‘Will Never Attend A Moscow Patriarchate Church’ – OpEd

  • September 10, 2018 at 2:26 am

    Once again this article misses one of the important points: the self-proclaimed “Kiev Patriarchate” is a schismatic group headed by a defrocked bishop, i.e. it has no ecclesiastical legitimacy within the Orthodox Church. Regardless of ones view of the Moscow Patriarchate, the question remains – can the Ecumenical Patriarchate grant autocephaly to a schismatic group headed by a defrocked “bishop” in a territory not under its authority. The answer is no. The EP’s neo-papist pretensions should be a concern to all God fearing Orthodox.

  • September 10, 2018 at 4:43 pm

    It seems to me that the lines are already drawn. Very few of those who are now with the Moscow Patriarchate in the Ukraine will begin attending services anywhere else. This means that there will be, at best, two so-called canonical bodies in the Ukraine, one existing merely “to not be Russian”. A sizeable number of Ukrainians will stay with the Moscow Patriarchate, showing up the divisions that exist in that benighted nation.


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