The split in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (January 1998 - January 1999) [UKR31120.E]

A 7 January 1998 RFE/RL Newsline article states:

Ukraine currently has three Orthodox hierarchies(the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarchate, and the smaller Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, which is divided into two subgroups. The three frequently fight among themselves over property, doctrine, and ecclesiastical subordination.

The second issue in 1998 of Frontier, which is published by the Keston Institute [in London], a charity researching religious communities in the former USSR and Eastern Europe, states:

The Orthodox Church [in Ukraine] considers itself to be the defender of authentic national identity, a typical form of religious nationalism that equates national identity with adherence to a particular faith. However, it has been divided into two rival communities for five years: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, which is canonically a branch of the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate. The latter emerged as a result of efforts by the Ukrainian political elite to reduce the influence of the Moscow Patriarchate over Orthodox Ukrainians. Thus, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate reflects the efforts of the Ukrainian political elite, which considers the autocephaly of the Kiev Patriarchate as a mandatory attribute of national sovereignty. Many Ukrainian state officials share the belief of right-wing nationalist leaders in the old stereotype that Ukraine is an Orthodox nation, despite the country's actual mosaic religious diversity.

Another contender for national hegemony in Ukraine is the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. This church came about as a result of Lenin's encouragement of indigenous churches, but Stalin preferred the Russian church and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church was dissolved in 1946. It was legalised only in the late 1980s during Gorbachev's reforms. However, in 1995 the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, which is in charge of state regulation of church documentation, supported a decree by the Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate according to which every church institution which has been or is going to be registered under the name of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church legally becomes a part of the Kiev Patriarchate. As a result the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church currently functions without legal status.

On 21 July 1997 leaders of fifteen Christian groups signed a peace treaty in Kiev aimed at ending the sometimes violent conflict over property and souls in Ukraine. The Kiev-based Ukrainian Orthodox churches and the Greek Catholics want a single Ukrainian church, and this was the first step towards peace and agreement among the Ukrainian confessions. However, mutual mistrust and the likelihood of disputes over who would head that church would threaten any effort to unite Ukrainian Christians (8, 9).

A 15 April 1998 Vechirniy Kyyiv article states:

March was marked by at least two events that evidenced that the process of unification of Ukrainian Orthodoxy has progressed not only from ideas to action, but more importantly, to a documentary phase. First, two patriarchs Dymytriy of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church [UAPTs] and Filaret of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church; Kiev Patriarchate [UPTs KP] signed a Memorandum on the unification of the UAPTs and UPTs KP into a single particular [sui juris] Orthodox Church with a patriarchal system of administration. Secondly, the State Committee of Ukraine for Matters Pertaining to Religions [Derzhkiomrelihiy] registered the statute of a new religious organization: the Christian Missionary Society "Foundation for the Spiritual Unity of Ukraine," which, in addition to that of the Sate Committee for Matters Pertaining to Religions, also bears the seals and signatures of Patriarchs Dymytriy and Filaret.

According to the Memorandum, the unification is to take place at an All-Ukrainian Particular Orthodox Sobor [ecclesiastical council; before such a sobor is held, throughout 1998 the UAPTs and the UPTs KP will each hold their own particular councils, at which the matter of unification will be discussed....

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [Moscow Patriarchate] has agreed to send its representative, Bishop Sofroniy of Cherkasy, to take part in the "interdenominational" working group. Together with Archbishop Danyyil, the rector of the Theological Academy and Seminary (Ukrainian Orthodox Church; Kiev Patriarchate), and Bishop Ihor Isichenko (Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church), the three will begin drafting a working document that will become the basis for concrete actions in the unification process. Clearly, this is a process that may go on for years, but the most important thing is the desire to begin a dialogue.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Frontier [London]. 1998. No. 2. Vladimir Kiselyov. "An Assessment of the Religious Situation in Ukraine."

RFE/RL Newsline. 7 January 1998. "Ukrainian President Appeals For Church Unity." [Internet] [Accessed 25 Jan. 1999]

Vechirniy Kyyiv [Kiev, in Ukrainian]. 15 April 1998. "Ukraine: Religious Rapprochement Possible." (FBIS-SOV-98-127 7 May 1998/WNC)