Vladimir Kornilov: Kiev’s New Anti-Church Law Turns Out To Be Anti-Ukrainian

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard



The law obliging the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church to be renamed into the “Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine” is actually underestimated even by its authors.

Indeed a historical act was adopted in Ukraine. If, of course, by using the word “historical” we mean any laws and resolutions that are unprecedented in history (however ridiculous and unnatural they may be). Let’s be honest, it’s very difficult to find similar cases in the centuries-old history of religion, despite the fact that in it there are the most incredible events.

There were repeated cases when some churches were banned, some were created contrary to the will of believers, on more than one occasion a state has created a church (as Ukraine just has), very often the head of state was at the same time the head of the church (like in Britain now), and in certain cases the head of the church was the head of state (like in the Vatican now). I.e., all of this has already happened. But it’s difficult to remember a time – if such a thing even happened – when the parliament and the president of some state decides on behalf of some church, contrary to its will, how it should be called.

Even Henry VIII, who was eager to marry to spite the Holy See, did not think about doing this. But, seemingly, what a good idea it would be: create for himself the Anglican church and just after to order to rename the Catholic one, for example, into the “trade union of the friends of the Pope”. It’s like saying: “dear British Catholics, nobody bans your church, but for the sake of simplification of the choice between the churches we will call things by their proper names”. One might think that such an approach would prevent the centuries of religious unrest that followed and the serial massacre of Catholics and Protestants.

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But after all, it is exactly like this that Poroshenko interprets the purpose of the anti-church law that was signed by him. Notice that the law, even according to the lawyers of the Verkhovna Rada, directly contradicts the 35th article of the Constitution of Ukraine guaranteeing freedom of worship and non-interference of the state in the affairs of the church.

It is clear that this law will be challenged in the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, as the opposition promises. However, this court long ago turned into a fake body, completely controlled by the authorities, therefore it is senseless to put hopes on this. The article demanding to change the name of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [Moscow Patriarchate – ed] will be for certain repealed only after the change of regime, and not before. And before this the lawlessness will continue to persist.

It is also clear that this church will not obey the demands of the “illegal law”. It is demanded to enshrine in its new name its belonging to Russia, because allegedly its leading center is situated in the “aggressor state”. But the 1st article of the Charter of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church states: “The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is independent, and it is independent in its management and apparatus”.

In several paragraphs of this document there is a mention of a spiritual and organisational bond with the Rus Orthodox Church, and with the “Rus” one, but not with the “Russian” one. This is a very important nuance. The matter is that in the Ukrainian language both of these words are designated equally: “Russian”. However, in the Charter of Ukrainian Orthodox Church it is emphasised that it is connected with the canonical orthodox world “through the Rus orthodox church”. I.e., the ROC in this document is designated not as a church of the state of Russia, but as a church that united Rus – Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. But of course, no Ukrainian official or militant who will come to tear off plaques from the temples of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [Moscow Patriarchate – ed], will dig into such details. It’s not for this purpose that this law was adopted.

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By the way, in Ukraine there is one more church that falls under precisely this law: the Old Belief one. The Ukrainian archbishopric is a structural subdivision of the Russian orthodox Old Belief church, which is also stated in its Charter. That’s why the Ukrainian authorities will demand a certain forceful renaming of it too.

Will both churches go along with such a step? Meanwhile the lawyers representing the interests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [Moscow Patriarchate – ed] say that they are not going to re-register and rename anything, emphasising: “The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is the church of the Ukrainian people founded by the Sobor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and registered according to the Ukrainian legislation, and its center is in Kiev”.

But it is possible not to doubt: in four months (it is precisely this much time that the Rada and Poroshenko allocated for renaming), the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [Moscow Patriarchate – ed] will be demanded to make the changes in the judicial and even in the forceful way. The law adopted now notes that if the church will not make an amendment to its charter “voluntarily and with a smile”, then the provisions in the part where the name of the religious organisation is designated will automatically lose force. And the largest church of Ukraine will simply remain … without a name. Just imagine, the Unnamed Orthodox Church. Respectively, any documents signed on this day about the rent of temples and their transfer to the canonical church will be subject to cancellation and re-registration (the latter is equivalent to cancellation).

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The Ukrainian legislators who zealously rushed to fight against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church did not even pay attention to one another paradox that was created by them. After they will definitely ban signs bearing the name “Ukrainian Orthodox Church”, the only regions where there will be temples with the name “Ukrainian” (orthodox church) will be the DPR, LPR, and Crimea, which are still the canonical territory of Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Yes, despite war and the change of borders between Russia and Ukraine, in Russia it came into nobody’s mind to violate the established canons and traditions, to change the subordination of dioceses, to deprive the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of its territory and temples, or to force it to be renamed. Moreover, the church remained the only public institute that still connects the regions of Donbass split by the front line. Now it will turn out that in Donetsk the sign “Ukrainian Orthodox Church” will hang on a cathedral, whereas in Mariupol the Ukrainian militants will furiously rip the plaques off the temples subordinated to the Donetsk bishop bearing the word “Ukrainian”. Here you have the obvious answer to the question of whether the post-Maidan Kiev regime is pro-Ukrainian or anti-Ukrainian.

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