Podcast 20141104: Ukrainian Orthodoxy from the Inside

Two Ukrainian Orthodox priests share their thoughts on history and current events

After a bit of satire on Putin’s war against Ukraine, Fr. Anthony has a long discussion with Fr. Paul Koroluk, a priest of the UOC-KP (the largest, though canonically-unrecognized, Orthodox Church in Ukraine).  We share a vision of Ukraine and Ukrainian Orthodoxy that we hope will allow for a more sympathetic (or at least objective) understanding of Ukraine, Ukrainian Orthodoxy, and Ukrainian aspirations.


Articles, blogs, and books mentioned:


Fr. Paul Koroluk, pastor of the St. Jude Mission in Tokyo, Japan.  He is a priest of the UOC-KP.  The UOC-KP is led by Patriarch Filaret of Kyiv; he and the UOC-KP have been active from their inception in working for both the political and ecclesiastical independence and sovereignty of Ukraine.  Some Orthodox commentators are quick to dismiss Patriarch Filaret and the UOC-KP because of their difficult history and the fact that they are not in communion with world-wide Orthodoxy.  Regardless of your opinion on that, the fact remains that the UOC-KP is a huge player in Ukrainian Orthodoxy and Ukrainian politics. With 15 million members (source: UOC-KP), it is anywhere from the second to the fourth largest Eastern Orthodox Church in the entire world (the most conservative ordering would have Russia, UOC-MP, Romania, UOC-KP).

Ukrainian Sociological Service (2011)
Religious Affiliation of Ukrainians (As percentage of total population)

  • UOC-KP 31.1
  • Non-religious 23.1
  • UOC-MP 25.9
  • UGCC 8.5
  • UAOC 1.7
  • Roman Catholic 1.1
  • Protestants 1.0
  • Muslim. 0.2
  • Jewish (Less than 0.1)
  • No Answer 6.2

 The Razumkov Centre (2006)

  • 39.8% indicated the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate
  • 29.4% for the Moscow Patriarchate

CIA World Factbook (2006)

  • Ukrainian Orthodox – Kyiv Patriarchate 50.4%
  • Ukrainian Orthodox – Moscow Patriarchate 26.1%
  • Ukrainian Greek Catholic 8%
  • Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox 7.2%
  • Roman Catholic 2.2%
  • Protestant 2.2%
  • Jewish 0.6%,
  • other 3.2% 

Fr. Paul does not speak for the UOC-KP any more than I speak for the UOC-USA.  We are friends who both love Christ, love Holy Orthodoxy, love Ukraine,  and follow events in Ukraine closely.  This podcast discussion is the fruit of this friendship, this love, and our connection to the events in Ukraine. 

 Before we begin our discussion with Fr. Paul, let me set the stage by providing some historical context.  The version of Ukrainian Church history taught in the West is based on an imperial Russian framing of it.  It sees the Russian Empire and the Russian Orthodox Church as the natural culmination of Kyivan Rus’ and its baptism by Saint Volodymyr.  The Ukrainian view of this history is different.  Let’s discuss its basic course, looking briefly on a few of its seminal events:  Source – A Short Historical Outline of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada (UOCC) on the Occasion of the 90th Anniversary of the Church (1918 – 2008) by Prof. Roman Yereniuk.

Start of our discussion/interview!!!

And that brings us to the modern history of Ukraine.  And to help me flesh out that history and bring us up to the Maidan and its aftermath, I’d now like to bring on Fr. Paul. 

Oppression of Ukraine under Communism.

  • Holodomor 
    • But the Holodomor not an isolated event – there is a long history of the oppression of Ukraine by Moscow.  It got worse under the Bolsheviks and Communists, but it has a long history.
    • Language policies and Shevchenko, resettlements, destruction of Ukrainian Cossacks (one of the great symbols of Ukrainian vol’ya!)
    • Other mid-war things
      • A major area of Western Ukraine found itself politically under Poland after World War I and here the Ukrainian Orthodox Church with other minority Orthodox churches founded the Orthodox Church in Poland. In 1924 after the decision of an Episcopal Sobor and in consultation with the Patriarchate of Constantinople, a Patriarchal Tomos was published, granting the Church of Poland autocephaly. Here, especially in Volyn’, Polissia and Halychyna, the Ukrainian Orthodox tradition was strongly invigorated between the two world wars.
    • WWII and the Bloodlands. 
      • Millions killed.  No one comes out well in this
      • Propaganda war (Ukrainian nationalist = fascist), Provocation
      • SS Galicia?
    • Post-WWII to end of Soviet Union
      • DP’s
      • Communist infiltration and manipulation of Orthodox Church in the Soviet Union.  Continues the perversion of the symphonic ideal that was started by the Tsar Peter “the Great”.
      • Glasnost:   Third incarnation of the Autocephalist Church.  Return of the UGCC.  UOC granted a sort of “autonomy” in January of 1990.  Metropolitan Filaret selected to lead the UOC-MP. 
    • Collapse of Soviet Union; Ukrainian Independence (1991)
      • Mp. Filaret began pushing for autocephaly, leading to a UOC council decision to request it.  The UAOC continued to grow, especially in west.  [Mp. Mstyslav was ordained as its Patriarch.] Disinformation campaign against Mp. Filaret (I don’t think anyone in high positions like his were totally clean, but this is straight from the Soviet playbook).  He was deposed by a rump council of the UOC-MP, then defrocked by the Russian Church.  He, together with a large group of UOAC bishops and clergy, formed the UOC-KP.  A huge player from the very start!
      • Political, economic, and security situation in Ukraine.  Orange Revolution.  Persecution of journalists.  Corruption.
    • Present (2013-now).  The context of the Maidan.  What was the hope?  What happened?
      • Maidan.  The role of Ukrainian Orthodoxy.
      • Collapse of the Maidan – in bloodshed.  What happened?  Propoganda.  Disinformation.  Provokation.
      • Temporary government.  Fascist?  Anti-Russian-speaking Ukrainians?
      • Crimea
      • The war in the East (and south)
      • Parliamentary elections.
      • Separatist elections
    • What next?
      • What is the state of Ukrainian Orthodoxy now?  Hope for healing?
      • Last comments.  Thanks.


  1. Father,
    First: kudos for mocking Tsar Peter’s moniker. We all should roll our eyes (or snarl) every time he’s called The Great. His actions are still bearing poisoned fruit in the Russian Church’s position and meddling in this mess.

    But as for the politics, what Russia is doing is fairly clear. Why they are doing it is much less so. You fairly unequivocally (and without complication) characterized the motive as imperial ambition. As I hinted, with regard to the ROC that’s a fair bet, but with regards to Putin I find that narrative very unconvincing. You’ve read Mearsheimer’s piece in Foreign Affairs, I assume? His telling of the story and recommendations make more sense of the situation, by far, than anything else I’ve read.