East-West Church  Ministry Report
Vol. 10, No. 1, Winter 2002, Covering the Former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe

Churches in Ukraine Today: At Odds with Each Other; At Odds with the State

Anatoly Kolodny

Problems Resolved
In the new, independent Ukrainian state, a number of previous problems in religious life have been resolved.

Problems Persisting
At the same time it seems that no country in the world has a religious life characterized by such complexity and conflict or such uncertainty as exists today in Ukraine.  The following problems are evident.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarchy claims the role of state religion in Ukraine, while in the western part of the country Greek Catholicism takes a similar position, thanks to the support of local political forces. In both cases, however, one cannot agree with such an assertion.  Both are simply claiming as reality that which they desire.

At the present time, state authority in Ukraine is in search of social, political, and spiritual unity for the country.  Under such conditions all eyes are fixed on the church and religion that, until recently, was viewed as a single and legitimate institution that had been in opposition to the former ruling Communist Party and Communist ideology.  The post-totalitarian elite sees religion as an instrument of political and ethnic mobilization, a means for carrying these tasks that, properly speaking, are beyond the religious sphere.

Federal and Local Religion Policy At Odds
Existing legislation concerning freedom of conscience is often subjected to criticism by various political forces, and laws that violate the freedom of beliefs are sometimes accepted at the regional level.  Local representatives of the State Committee for Religious Affairs lack an attitude of equality towards various confessions.  Often they place limitations on the activities of new religious bodies, despite the fact that these newer bodies find their followers among the most active layers of society-the young people and the intelligentsia.  The law does not prevent local legislation that may favor one confession.  This is already taking place in Galicia where Greek-Catholicism enjoys privileges given by local authorities.

Anatoly M. Kolodny, Ph.D., is chief of the Religious Studies Department of the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences, a professor at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and National University, general director of the Ukraine Center for Religious Information and Freedom, and president of the Ukrainian Association of Religious Scholars, Kyiv, Ukraine.

Edited excerpt reprinted with permission from Anatoly M. Kolodny, Lyudmyla O. Filipovych, and Howard L. Biddulph, Religion and the Churches in Modern Ukraine.  A Collection of Scientific Reports (Kyiv: Svit znan', 2001).  Copies may be purchased for $10 plus mailing costs. Contact Dr. Lyudmyla O. Filipovych:  filip@alfacom.net.

Anatoly Kolodny, "Churches in Ukraine Today: At Odds with Each Other; At Odds with the State," East-West Church & Ministry Report 10 (Winter 2002), 5-6.

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© 2002 East-West Church and Ministry Report
ISSN 1069-5664

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