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Ukraine One Year After Euromaidan: Struggling but Hopeful

John Burger - published on 11/21/14 - updated on 06/07/17

That would include soldiers coming back from the war in the East.

And in spite of that rebellion, Euromaidan had an important unifying effect on the nation, believes Volodymyr Turchynovskyy, a professor at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv and director of the International Institute for Ethics and Contemporary Issues.

“It was such a powerful expression of solidarity and values and respect for human dignity that it empowered almost all of us in the country in the sense that we feel, ‘Yeah, there is some sense of community spirit among the people. Since we made this kind of achievement we are ready to face future challenges,’” said Turchynovskyy.

He explained that finding a common “language of values” was important in bringing together Ukrainians from the predominantly Catholic West with those from the predominantly Orthodox Eastern part of the country, between those whose primary language is Ukrainian and those whose mother tongue is Russian, between more affluent business people and those who are struggling, as well as among people from ethnic minorities such as Georgians, Armenians and Poles.

“All of them were at Maidan, standing for human dignity, defending freedom—both individual freedom and freedom of the country,” he said. “And the sense of this, I think it was absolutely crucial, because all these differences were put into a perspective. It’s almost something you can feel these days, like the language thing.”

The values embraced by the movement—such as justice, solidarity, honesty, freedom—what Turchynovskyy calls "European values"—translated into votes for particular candidates in Ukraine’s new government. "Almost 85% voted for candidates who were explicitly sending this kind of message," he said. 

In addition, the Revolution of Dignity opened many people up to the spiritual life, Turchynovskyy added. In Ukraine, which only 23 years ago threw off Soviet communism, with its attendant banishment of religion to the extreme recesses of private life, many people ”were never really exposed, never had a chance to experience religious life,” he said. The Churches were involved in Euromaidan, and priests, seminarians and religious were present at the demonstrations. This presence proved valuable, especially when things got violent or the atmosphere became tense. Maidan was a “dramatic moment” in the lives of Ukrainians, and protestors’ “commitment to real values and human dignity and solidarity and justice kind of exposed them to a religious dimension.

But there have been challenges in the religious sphere as well. Some 25 parishes in Ukraine have broken ties with the “official” Orthodox Church in Ukraine because it is affiliated with the Patriarchate of Moscow, and teamed up with one of the two other Ukraiinian Orthodox Churches, which are considered “non-canonical,” or not sanctioned by the greater Orthodox communion.

The Moscow Patriarchate in Russia has supported Putin “very openly,” said Babinskij, who also works for the Institute of Religion and Society. People in the 25 breakaway parishes "do not want to identify themselves with the Moscow Patriarchate,” he said. “We have a war between Russia and Ukraine—not a classical war, because Russia always says there are no Russian troops in Ukraine, but everybody understands there is a war. So people in these parishes decided that their connection with the Moscow Patriarchate is a bad thing. How can they pray for [Russian Orthodox Patriarch] Kirill when the president of Russia decided to begin a war with Ukraine? Some priests in these parishes didn’t want to pray for Ukrainian soldiers who were killed. So people were angry.”

Euromaidan raised hopes for the Churches and "opportunities for the Churches to reconcile,” said Father Cyril Hovorun, a priest of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, who serves as research director at the Institute of Theological Studies at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. “If they received an impulse from the Maidan to work together in overcoming areas like corruption, injustice and so forth, this would be a great opportunity for them to get closer to each other.”

But he hasn’t seen that happening yet. “The rhetoric of hostility unfortunately continues, and it has become even stronger than it was before the Maidan. Some of [the Churches] get even more isolated, primarily the Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. Some unfriendly steps continue.”

A dramatic example of that took place in Rome in October, when Russian Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev, invited by the Vatican to speak at the Synod on the Family as a representative of Patriarch Kirill, launched into a diatribe against the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, in the presence of its patriarch, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk. Metropolitan Hilarion went from saying a few words about family issues to condemning the “Uniates” of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church—a pejorative termthat has been largely “banned” from ecumenical dialogue but which refers to Ukrainians who reunited with Rome in the 16th Century.

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Synod on the FamilyUkraine
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