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Patriarch Kirill's game over Ukraine. OSW Commentary No. 144, 14.08.2014

Jarzynska, Katarzyna (2014) Patriarch Kirill's game over Ukraine. OSW Commentary No. 144, 14.08.2014. [Policy Paper]

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    The protests on Kyiv’s Maidan which commenced in November 2013, followed by the conflict in Ukraine’s eastern regions, have redefined the political and social relations between Russia and Ukraine, and have added complexity to the dependences between the Orthodox Churches operating in the two countries. The Kremlin’s policy has put the Russian Orthodox Church–Moscow Patriarchate (ROC) in an awkward position. The ROC is Russia’s largest religious organisation, which also exercises symbolic sovereignty over Ukraine’s most numerous Orthodox community, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church–Moscow Patriarchate (UOC–MP), which since 13 August has had a new leader, Metropolitan Onufry. The head of the ROC, the Patriarch of Moscow and All-Russia, Kirill, has been facing a dilemma as to how he should respond to the Russian government’s aggressive policy towards Ukraine. His firm support of the Kremlin’s moves in Ukraine, may lose the Russian Church its social influence in this country. This might also catalyse a process within which Ukraine’s largest Orthodox Church would gradually become independent of Moscow. On the other hand, if he condemns the Kremlin’s policy, this would adversely affect the co-operation between ‘the altar and the throne’ which has been rapidly developing over the past few years in Russia, and which has offered multiple benefits to the Russian Church. As a result, Patriarch Kirill has distanced the ROC from the recent developments in Ukraine and has adopted a neutral stance. However, Kirill’s choice has aggravated the negative perception of the ROC among the Orthodox community in Ukraine. Given its close relations with the Kremlin, the ROC is increasingly viewed there as an instrument of political struggle and an exponent of the Russian government’s interests. The ROC’s stance has cast the UOC–MP, which has links with the Russian Church, in an unfavourable light, and has fostered its efforts to become more independent from the Moscow Patriarchate. Regardless of how the situation evolves, the recent developments in Ukraine have made it clear that the interests of the Russian Church and the Kremlin, which have coincided for years, now come into conflict, mainly due to the disagreement over the methods used. Despite this, the Russian Church is not withdrawing from the cooperation of ‘the altar and the throne’, and submits itself to the Kremlin’s decisions.

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    Item Type: Policy Paper
    Subjects for non-EU documents: Countries > Ukraine
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Series: Series > Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW) > OSW Commentary
    Depositing User: Phil Wilkin
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 06 Dec 2014 17:09
    Number of Pages: 10
    Last Modified: 06 Dec 2014 17:09

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