CESNUR - center for studies on new religions


organized by CESNUR, Center for Religious Studies and Research at Vilnius University, and New Religions Research and Information Center
Vilnius, Lithuania, April 9-12 2003  

Church, Society and Religious Minorities in Ukraine

by Oleksandr Mayster, Rivne State University of Water Management&Natural Resourses Usage, Department of Philosophy
A paper presented at the CESNUR 2003 Conference, Vilnius, Lithuania. Preliminary version. Do not reproduce or quote without the consent of the author.


In Ukraine the Constitution laid down such fundamental principles of state-Church relations as the separation of the Church from the state and the priority of human rights. The principle of separation of the Church from the state provides for their mutual non-interference into each other’s competence: the state does not interfere in the issues of religious teaching, cult, and internal structure of the Church, including human resources management; the Church does not interfere in the activity of state bodies, including with regard to ensuring the freedom of conscience for the people.

The priority of human rights with respect to the freedom of conscience envisages the supremacy of human rights, particularly the freedom of conscience, over the rights of the Church (as an institution) to perform activities provided by its Statute. There are three basic principles of interaction between the Church and the state originating from this. First, no Church can claim special status, and the state must abide by the principle of equality of Churches. Second, the state must allow religious organisations to exercise their mystical functions by resolving legal, property and other problems falling under its competence. Third, the state must interfere in the event of violation of human rights in the religious practice of the Church (for protecting against destructive psychological influence, non-admission of confessional enmity or confrontation between believers and non-believers).

For ensuring human rights to the freedom of conscience, the state has to co-operate with the Church in the field of religious education (state recognition of religious education, as professional, and creation of conditions for religious education).

Given the constitutional principle of separation of the Church from the state, co-operation of the state and the Church in the field of charity and moral and ethical education is possible only on the basis of good will, abidance by the law, and public support.

The period of building of Church-state relations in Ukraine is practically over. Institutes have been established that co-ordinate the relations between the Church and the state: on the part of the state - the State Committee of Ukraine for Religious Affairs; on the part of the Church - the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches, which is an independent consulting and advisory body entitled to approve recommendatory decisions.

The relations between the Church and the state are assuming features of equal dialogue. Testimony to this is the practice of meetings between the Churches’ representatives and senior leadership of the country, as well as positive feedback on certain proposals of the Church by the state authorities.

The most active religious minorities in Ukraine are Judaic and Muslim.Muslim institutions in Ukraine developed rapidly in 1993-1996. This was caused, first and foremost, by the repatriation of Crimean Tartars. The dynamics of institutional network growth is rather high and stable. The number of muezzins and imams is increasing at a faster pace, compared to the number of communities.

Judaism is represented by several institutional structures and trends. The most numerous are The Association of Judaic Religious Organisations in Ukraine, The All-Ukrainian Congress of Judaic Communities, The Hasid Association Khabad Liubavych of Judaic Religious Communities and Organisations of Ukraine.



1.Confessional Dimension

1.1 Judaism

1.2 Islam

2.Regional Dimension

2.1 The Western region

2.2 The Southern region

2.3 The North

2.4 The Center

2.5 The East

3.Religiosity of Ukraine’s Population







The confessional and religious situation in Ukraine is different from that in most post-socialist countries of Central-Eastern Europe. Ukraine has no dominant Church, with which society or its majority could associate itself. Such a situation was conditioned by the historic division of Ukraine's territory between states with different cultural traditions. So, the confessional and religious situation in Ukraine is determined by factors the majority of which have originated in the country's cultural-historic specificity and the conditions of the transitional period of Ukraine's society.
1. More attention is paid to tradition, which is a consequence of the ruination of the previously established system of values and the search for a new basis for personal and public identification. The turning to tradition was one of the sources for the inter-Orthodox split, and the opposition between Orthodoxy and Greek Catholicism, which was conditioned by the differences in the cultural and historic development of various Ukrainian lands. When applied to the regional historic and cultural specificity (to a large extent connected with the ethnic self-identification of the population in the regions), the religious factor bears a strong potential for conflict, which can seriously affect social stability.

2. The politicising of Church and religious problems, inter-Church and Church-state relations. Ukraine's society is in the process of a socio-economic and political quest. Opinion polls show the existence of different (and even opposing) public orientations, trends and positions with respect to the further development of the Ukrainian state and society. There is no unity as to the future shape of the Ukrainian nation - ethnic or political, and therefore, the Ukrainian state - the state of the titular nation, or of civil society. There is no clear idea of Ukraine's socio-economic prospects and geopolitical priorities. In this situation, the Church, or, rather, Ukraine's Churches, are viewed by different social groups from purely political positions. Political assessments are made of the Churches' past and of their relations. Therefore, historic prejudice and stereotypes are turning into factors of political reality, defining different political and geopolitical orientations for different social groups in Ukraine. Affiliation with a certain Church turns into a factor and indicator of a person's political identification and of the Church community itself.
3. The deterioration of the living standards of the majority of Ukraine's citizens, the loss of social perspective. This factor brings about socio-psychological changes: psychological instability, sensitivity, a need for outside support, and an inclination to absorb other people's views. This state of society, which can be called stressful, on the one hand, leads to the loss of trust in traditional social institutes, including traditional Churches; on the other hand, it is conducive to the spread of mysticism and various eschatological teachings, which put the person beyond the framework of social life.
4. The increase in the level of society's religiosity does not correspond to the degree of public involvement in Church activity, particularly regarding the traditional Churches. Sociological surveys of the last decade show that the number of believers has risen significantly, compared to the past. The Church has permanently taken the lead position in ratings of public trust in social institutions. At the same time, the indicator of public trust in Church is much lower than the indicator of public religiosity: according to opinion polls conducted in Ukraine, 57.8% of Ukraine's citizens called themselves believers, but only 33.7% indicated their full trust in the Church.
The institutional religious network experienced its quickest growth rate in 1988-1990. In this period, the number of Churches and religious organisations increased by 41.7%. From early 1990s, this growth has slackened and become more stable, and now is some 5-8% per year. In particular, on the totals of 1999, the number of religious organisations, as compared to previous year, increased by 7.8% .The distribution of Church and religious organisations by confessions shows that Orthodoxy occupies first place in Ukraine. It has 12,396 organisations (52.7% of all religious organisations). Today there is no single Orthodox Church in Ukraine. Three large Churches exist: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP), and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC), alongside eight smaller groupings that confess particular versions of Orthodox teaching† confess particular versions of Orthodox teaching.

1. Confessional Dimension

Nowadays there are religious organisations representing 90 confessions, denominations and trends active in Ukraine. Most communities belong to traditional (historic) Ukrainian confessions, i.e., denominations that have existed in the country for generations, whose religious practices are well-known and which have become elements of the national culture. Such confessions and trends encompass, first of all, Orthodoxy and Greek Catholicism, as well as Roman Catholicism and such denominations within Protestantism as Baptists, Evangelicals (Pentecostals), Adventists and some others. The term “traditional confession” may also be applied to such confessions as Judaism, Islam, and the Hungarian Reformed Church, all of which have deep roots in Ukraine.
At the same time, over the last decade, previously unknown, non-traditional confessions and trends have appeared in Ukraine, some of them historically rooted in other countries (for instance, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), the Swedish and Anglican Churches), and others commonly identified as neo-religions (or New Religious Movements -NRM). NRM - religious groups established recently, whose worship practices are either unknown to believers, or so different from traditional ones that they cause alarm and sometimes active public opposition to their further expansion.

In 1992-1993, 23 new religions appeared inUkraine.
Orthodoxy continues to occupy the pole position in the confessional and religious life of the country. At present, Orthodoxy has no united or single organisation and is represented by three Churches, not counting small groupings. Such a situation emerged in the early 1990s as a result of the renewal of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Ukraine (1990) and the establishment of a new Orthodox institution - the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate (1992). These processes were accompanied with the integration of new structures of hierarchs and communities of the former Ukrainian Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, which before 1989 actually presented the only Orthodox structure in Ukraine. In 1990, the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church granted the Ukrainian Exarchate the right to “self-government”, and the latter was renamed into the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC).
As of January 1, 2000, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) had (8),490 communities, which accounted for 70.2% of all Orthodox communities in Ukraine8; 36 eparchial administrations, 113 monasteries with 3,396 monks and nuns, 15 theological educational establishments with 3,657 students; 55 periodicals; and maintained 2,393 Sunday schools. Pastoral service employed 7,122 priests. The UOC hierarch is Metropolitan Volodymyr (Sabodan), elected to this post by the UOC Bishops’ Council in Kharkiv in May, 1992, a member of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church. The UOC has no cathedral Church; the Metropolitan cathedra is situated in the Refectory Church of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra; the Lavra also hosts the Metropolitan’s residence. The UOC is the legal successor to the Ukrainian Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). In October, 1990, the Moscow Patriarchate granted it the rights of an “independent and self-governed Church”. The UOC retains its authority and influence primarily thanks to its recognition by the Orthodox Entirety, as the only canonical Orthodox Church in Ukraine. This position is shared by the majority of other Churches. Furthermore, out of the three Orthodox Churches, only the UOC is represented in the World Council of Churches (WCC), through the Russian Orthodox Church.

Although in the West of Ukraine, the UOC lost a significant number of communities, it retains a positive dynamics of institutional network development. The total number of its communities, as of the beginning of 2000, has risen more than 1.5 times, compared to 1992 (by 55.1%, or 3,017 communities); of monasteries - more than three-fold (from 33 to 113); of educational establishments - from seven to 15; of Sunday schools - from 1,248 to 2,393. (Diagr. “The development of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church institutional network”).
There is a tendency toward stabilising the uneven presence of the UOC in the country’s regions, particularly, in the reduction of its share in the West, first of all - in the Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk and Ternopil regions. First, this is demonstrated by the fact that the UOC owns only 20% of the houses of worship presently being built in the West of the country, while the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church - 33% of those. Second, out of 55 religious periodicals published in the region, only nine belong to the UOC, and none - in the Ivano-Frankivsk and Ternopil regions. Third, only 23.6% of Sunday schools in the region are maintained by the UOC, in the Ivano-Frankivsk region - none, in the Lviv region - five out of 533, in the Ternopil region - 25 out of 655(15).
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP). At the beginning of 2000, the institutional network of the UOC-KP had 2,491 communities, or 20.6% of all Orthodox communities in Ukraine; 17 monasteries with 87 monks and nuns; 15 theological schools with 1,649 students; 704 Sunday schools; 16 periodicals. The number of priests made up 1,978 persons.
The UOC-KP is headed by Patriarch of Kyiv and the Whole of Rus’-Ukraine Filaret (Denysenko), elected by the National Assembly of UOC-KP in October, 1995. The Cathedral Church of the UOC-KP is St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral (Kyiv). The Patriarchal residence is also situated in Kyiv.
The UOC-KP was established by the National Assembly in June, 1992. It declared its autocephalous status, which however was not recognised by any of the Orthodox Churches that constitute the Orthodox Entirety.
At the moment of its establishment, the UOC-KP looked like a regional Church. As of January 1, 1993, 87.3% of its communities were concentrated in the West of the country, only 9.2% (161 communities) were active in the East. During 1993-1999, the situation somewhat changed: at present, 56.5% of all UOC-KP communities are situated in the West. At the same time, the portion of UOC-KP communities has been increasing in the other regions of the country .
Communities of the UOC-KP have 1,852 religious buildings, 862 (47.2%) of them - in ownership, 963 (52.8%) - in use; as of January 1, 2000, communities of the UOC-KP held no services by turns. The most temples were transferred to the UOC-KP in ownership in the Lviv (174 out of 224) and Rivne (144 out of 201) regions, the least - in the Cherkasy, Dnipropetrovsk regions, and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea (one temple each). In 1993-1999, 258 (14.1% of all presently active) temples were built, 217 are now under construction.


Different non-Christian confessions are also represented in Ukraine. The most widespread among these are Judaism and Islam.

1.1 Judaism


In Ukraine, Judaism is represented by several institutional structures and trends. The most numerous are The Association of Judaic Religious Organisations in Ukraine, The All-Ukrainian Congress of Judaic Communities, The Hasid Association Khabad Liubavych of Judaic Religious Communities and Organisations of Ukraine.

(The Association of Judaic Religious Organisations in Ukraine: 64 communities, one centre and one mission (in Kyiv), one educational establishment (20 students), 26 rabbis , 20 Sunday schools, five periodicals. 10 communities are active in the Transcarpathian region, eight - in the Chernivtsi, six each - in the Poltava, Sumy and Cherkasy regions, five - in the Vinnytsia, three each - in the Khmelnytskyi region and in Kyiv, two each - in the Crimea, Zaporizhia, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kyiv, Kirovohrad, Lviv and Chernihiv regions, one each - in the Zhytomyr, Odesa and Ternopil regions. The Association is headed by the Rabbi of Kyiv and Whole Ukraine Yakiv Dov Blaikh .
It includes four rabbis, one Sunday school, one periodical. Three communities are active in the Cherkasy region, two each - in the Luhansk region and in Kyiv.
The Hasid Association Khabad Liubavych of Judaic Religious Communities and Organisations of Ukraine: 40 communities, one centre (in the Dnipropetrovsk regions), six administrations, 35 rabbis (18 of them - foreigners), one educational establishment (eight students), 24 Sunday schools, 10 periodicals. 10 communities are active in the Donetsk region, seven - in the Kherson, five each - in the Zhytomyr and Kharkiv regions, four - in the Mykolayiv, three - in the Odesa, two each - in the Dnipropetrovsk and Rivne regions, one each - in the Crimea and the Vinnytsia regions. There are also small communities of different reform trends in Judaism.)
The institutional network of Judaic synagogues is characterised by a steady growth. In 1992-1999, the number of communities increased more than three-fold, of rabbis - five-fold. Such a situation was conditioned by the need to provide rabbis for communities that had no such at the end of 1980s. Since training of rabbis in the country takes much time, at present, almost half of rabbis are foreign nationals. As of January 1, 2000, educational establishments founded by Judaic synagogues had 28 students .
Communities of Judaic synagogues exist in all of Ukraine’s regions, but in none of them do they make up a significant share of the overall structure of religious communities .

( Judeo-Christian communities: 12 communities, 12 rabbis, four Sunday schools. Six communities are active in Kyiv, two - in the Kharkiv region, one each - in the Zaporizhia, Kirovohrad, Luhansk, and Odesa regions.
Religious communities of Progressive Judaism: 15 communities, one centre (in Kyiv), seven rabbis, seven Sunday schools. Seven communities are active in the Crimea, two - in the Kirovohrad region, one each - in the Vinnytsia, Volyn, Zhytomyr, Mykolayiv, Ternopil regions and in Kyiv.
Communities of Messian Judaism: five communities (one each - in the Crimea, Zhytomyr, Odesa, Rivne and Kherson regions), one centre (in the Rivne region), three rabbis, one Sunday school. )


1.2 Islam


Muslim institutions in Ukraine developed rapidly in 1993-1996. This was caused, first and foremost, by the repatriation of Crimean Tartars. The dynamics of institutional network growth is rather high and stable. The number of muezzins and imams is increasing at a faster pace, compared to the number of communities. From 1994, the priesthood is trained in Ukraine The confession has no single institutional structure, with three independent centres: in Kyiv (The Spiritual Administration of Ukraine’s Muslims, headed by Sheikh Tamim Ahmed Mohammed Mutah), Donetsk (The Independent Spiritual Administration of Ukraine’s Muslims, headed by Rashid Bragin), and Simferopol (The Spiritual Administration of Muslims of the Crimea, headed by Mufti Emir Ali Efendi). In February, 1998, these centres agreed to co-ordinate their activities.
Despite the substantial overall presence in Ukraine (1.5% of all religious communities in the country), the confession has a clearly regional character: 78.3% of communities are concentrated in the Crimea, and in 10 out of 25 Ukraine’s regions, not a single community has been registered.
Foreign, and particularly Turkish Islamic structures are interested in the situation with Islam in Ukraine. The Simferopol Madrasah is under the Turkish influence: its curriculum is based on the programmes of Turkish lyceums that train imams, lectures are delivered by professors invited from Turkey, and the graduates normally continue their education in Turkey. Istanbul’s Mufti Salahutdin Kaya took part in the Donetsk Islamic University opening ceremony.


2.Regional Dimension


The analysis of indicators of religious organisations’ spread in Ukraine’s regions demonstrates: (1) clear regional differences in the saturation with religious institutions; (2) a shift of the Church and religious life to the west of the country; (3) the actual absence of mono-confessional zones (regions, areas) in Ukraine; (4) the presence of evidently dominant confessions in some regions, and at the same time (5) the absence of a confession (Church), holding dominant position in all of Ukraine’s regions.
Although in 1992-1999, a trend was observed toward closing the gap between regions in the number of communities, a clear regional difference persists . The largest number of communities (9,758, or 42.9%) are active in the West of the country, where only 19.7% of Ukraine’s population lives. Almost one fifth of all religious communities (18.2%, or 4,141 communities) are concentrated in the Central region of the country, 14.8% (3,372 communities) - in the North, 13.1% (2,964 communities) - in the East, 11% (2,483 communities) - in the South.
Regional differences in the number of religious communities per 10,000 people are also evident. This indicator is the highest in the country’s West: 10.1 communities per 10,000 people (the highest figure - 13.1 - in the Ternopil region, the lowest - 8.1 - in the Ivano-Frankivsk region). In the centre, this indicator makes up 5.4 (the highest - 8.7 - in the Khmelnytskyi region, the lowest - 3.2 - in the Kirovohrad region). In the North, this index is equal to 4.2 (the highest - 6.4 - in the Zhytomyr region, the lowest - 1.7 - in Kyiv); in the South, it makes up 3.0

(the highest - 4.0 - in the Crimea; the lowest - 1.5 - in Sevastopol); in the East - 1.9 (the highest - 2.6 - in the Zaporizhya region, the lowest - 1.5 - in the Dnipropetrovsk and Kharkiv regions).


2.1 The Western region


It is not confessionally homogenous. Despite 96.9% of all UGCC communities are concentrated there, only in the Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk regions this confession dominates, at least numerically: Greek Catholic communities make up 55.1% of the entire number of religious communities. In the Ternopil region, Greek Catholic communities make up almost half (48.6%).
In the Volyn, Transcarpathian and Rivne regions, the UOC retains the lead position, with 47.3% (475 communities), 36.5% (511) and 44.8% (494 communities), respectively. Protestant communities are the second largest denomination in those regions, with 28.3% (284), 35.5% (496), and 30.2% (333 communities), respectively. In the Chernivtsi region, Protestant communities are in a relative majority, with 42%; second place belongs to the UOC, with 39.8% (378 communities).

The dynamics of changes in the confessional network of the West shows a steady tendency toward decreasing the share of Orthodox communities: in 1992-1999, it fell from 51.5% to 35.4%. The share of Greek Catholic communities also decreases: from 33% in 1992, to 32.8% at the beginning of 2000. At the same time, the share of Protestant communities is on the rise: from 16.4% to 20.2%, respectively. The share of Roman Catholic communities has been stable since 1996, at 3.7%.

2.2 The Southern region


Here, the UOC is in the lead position. It controls 46% of all religious communities within the area (1,144). It is followed by Protestant communities - 27.2% (676 units). Islam occupies the third place: 86% (290 communities) of Ukraine’s Muslim communities are concentrated in the region. They make up 11.7% of all communities in the area, and one-third (34%) - in the Crimea.
Representation of the UOC-KP in the area is limited: 5.8% (144 communities); the UAOC has 0.9% (22 communities). In general, the share of Orthodox communities in the region makes up 52.8% (1,310 entitites).

2.3 The North


Almost half of all religious communities belong to the UOC - 49.8% (1,679 communities). Protestant communities occupy the second place: 26.7% (899 communities).
The presence of UOC-KP in the region is also noticeable: its communities make 13.6% (458) of the total number. In general, the share of Orthodox communities in the area equals to 64.3% (2,167 entities).

2.4 The Center


The share of the UOC communities makes up 54.7% (2,265). Protestantism is the second largest confession, with 26.4% (1,092 communities of different trends). Here, RCC communities are active, making up 5.6% (232 entities).
In general, the Orthodox share in the area makes up 65.8% (2,724 communities).

The East

45.8% (1,357 communities) within the entire religious network belong to the UOC. All in all, the Orthodoxy, with its 1,539 communities, makes up 51.2% of communities within the area. 39.2% (1,162 communities) are Protestant, representing different trends.
The above data lead us to the following conclusions.
Regional differences in the spread of different confessions and trends, that manifested so acutely in late ‘80s - early ‘90s, are not about to vanish.

In Ukraine, there is no Church prevailing in all of the country’s regions. Each of the Churches is of a regional character, their spheres of influence remain limited. The UOC is the closest to the status of the national Church, if judged by the degree and evenness of its presence, but it does not have a dominant position in the Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk and Ternopil regions.
Over the recent years, in some of the country’s regions, Protestant communities make up the majority or a weighty share of religious organisations (more than 40% of the entire religious infrastructure) - in the Donetsk region, in Kyiv, in the Zaporizhya, Kirovohrad, and Chernivtsi regions).
The country’s coverage by neo-religious organisations essentially differs from the established confessional configuration, which is clearly shifted westwards.


3. Religiosity of Ukraine’s Population


The intensification of the church and religious life at the turn of the ‘80s-‘90s had resulted in a considerable, as compared to the Soviet times, rise in the level of the Ukrainian society’s religiosity. In the ‘70s, concrete case studies fixed the Ukrainian population’s religiosity within 15-20% level, while 55-60% of respondents identify themselves as believers from early ‘90s. Taking into consideration the fact, that respective monitoring results remain stable during the last decade, it is possible to state that religiosity level of the population is stable and corresponds to the European indicators.
According to the results of the poll carried out in Ukraine in August, 2000, 57.8% of respondents identified themselves as believers; 22.5% considered themselves to be in-between belief and unbelief; 11.9% of those inquired identify themselves as non-believers, 3.2% - as staunch atheists.
The confessional belonging was given by 77.3% of believer respondents: 66% of those questioned called themselves Catholics; 7.6% - Greek Catholics; 0.5% - Roman Catholics; 2% were of different Protestant orientations; 0.7% belongs to Islam; 0.3% - to Judaism; 0.1% - to Paganism, and 6.9% of respondents called themselves “Simply Christians”.
It is notable, that while indicating a rather high declared level of religiosity, respondents showed a considerably lower level of trust in the Church - only 33.1% of those questioned fully trusts in it, only 48% - among believers.
Religious activity of believers is not very high: the religious services, gatherings and sermons are attended by 69.4%, and only 39.1% go to church not less than once a month, almost half of believers (49.6%) attend the services only during religious holidays. Only 17.6% of those questioned (24% of believers) consider it obligatory for a believer to attend religious services and to have a deep knowledge of the religious teaching principles (i.e. to be involved in church ceremonies). Instead, almost one third of respondents (27.9%) are sure, that a believer may avoid attending services, participating in ceremonies and knowing the principles of religious teaching (21% of believers).
The majority of respondents do not consider it obligatory to determine confessional belonging of their religious faith, motivating that a person may simply be a believer without belonging to any particular religion: 64.4% of respondents agreed with this, as well as 58.1% of believers.

Only a little more than half of believers (53.2%) need Church to communicate with God, 12.7% testified that a “tete-a-tete” conversation with God is enough for them. Just 7.7% of believers think that faith gives them “a feeling of community in religion and spiritual family,” i.e. in Church as such.
Thus, there are grounds to conclude that there exists a rather large gap between people’s religiosity and their actual participation in Church activities. This gap is an explanation why the majority of those believing they are Christians (55%) do not consider themselves to be members of any Orthodox denomination, 7.7% do not know what jurisdiction they belong to, and inter-confessional conflicts worry only 2% of respondents.
On the whole, religiosity of Ukraine’s society is far from being high. Either conscientiously, or otherwise, people consider faith to be rather a personal, not public, affair, and even not a Church affair.
A comparatively high level of religiosity demonstrated today by the Ukrainian population is not generally and sufficiently connected with the recognition of religion as a fundamental vital value, the waymark in life and daily behaviour. The indices of believers’ confessional affiliation and the general level of trust in the Church do not correspond to the manifested level of religiosity.
Hence, the Church factor is yet on the periphery of social activity and by itself is unable to make a noticeable influence on the population’s social behaviour. It means, that, in particular, the Church factor alone cannot cause social disturbances. Inter-confessional confrontation is manifested by a small part of active parishioners (not more than 3-5% of believers according to expert estimates).




The analysis of the confessional and religious situation in Ukraine makes it possible to draw the following conclusions:

The confessional and religious situation in Ukraine is different from the one that formed in the majority of Central-East European post-socialist countries: in Ukraine, there is no dominant Church, that society or the majority of the population associates itself with. Each of the Churches has, to a smaller or larger extent, a regional character, and has a limited sphere of influence. The UOC is the closest to the nation-wide status, given its spread and the presence in the regions, but even this Church does not have a dominant position in the Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk and Ternopil regions.
In Ukraine, a network of Churches and religious institutions has been formed, that is sufficient for satisfying the religious needs of believers: 52 denominations are represented, 23,543 religious organisations of 90 confessions and trends are active in the country. Religious organisations possess 16,637 religious buildings. Conditions exist for reproducing the religious network: Churches have enough priests, and close to 16 thousand students are trained at 121 theological educational establishments. The expansion of the religious network has stabilised, which fact bears witness to the completion of its extensive development. The 1988-1990 period of activity, when the number of religious organisations increased by 41.7%, was followed by a moderate growth at a rate of 5-8% annually. The further growth of the religious network is conditional on the Church’s ability to employ new forms of evangelisation, missionary work, and higher qualification of priests. The dominant role of Orthodoxy, inherent in Ukraine, persists. This religion encompasses 52.7% of all religious organisations. 70.2% of all Orthodox communities belong to the UOC, 20.6% - to the UOC-KP, 8.2% - to the UAOC. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has the second largest number of religious organisations - 14.3%. More than a quarter of all religious organisations (26.3%) belongs to different Protestant trends.
Compared to the traditional Churches, Protestant and neo-religious organisations are expanding more rapidly. In some of Ukraine’s regions, Protestant communities either outnumber other communities (in the Donetsk region and in Kyiv), or are coming close to the level of dominant confessions (the Zaporizhia, Kirovohrad and Chernivtsi regions). The activity of Protestant organisations is first of all characterised by their clear determination to engage in active missionary work. In Ukraine, neo-religious formations are spreading rapidly. The country is within the field of influence of foreign neo-religious missions and centres. The new teachings are broadly represented in Ukraine’s information space: the volume of neo-religious broadcasting in 1999 rose against the previous year by 50%. The aggressive character of missionary activities of these new-born trends, their non-recognition of such notions as canonical territory or proselytising are often causing negative attitude on the part of traditional Churches. The spread of new religious trends in Ukraine is also an indicator of traditional Churches’ crisis.
Practically all confessions in Ukraine are regionally structured. The centre of religious life is clearly shifted to the Western regions: with only 19.8% of Ukraine’s population, this area houses close to 43% of all religious communities. Characteristic of the new religious trends is their attempting to evenly cover the entire Ukraine’s territory.
Over the eight years that passed after the establishment of the three Orthodox Churches, the regional nature of their presence in Ukraine has remained virtually unchanged: the “poly-confessional” character of Orthodoxy remains a factor conducive to Ukraine’s regionalisation.
The intensification of the Church and religious life at the turn of the ‘80s - ‘90s had resulted in a considerable, as compared to the Soviet times, rise in the level of the Ukrainian society’s religiosity. In recent years, the level of religiosity has been rather stable (55-60%), and generally corresponds to the European indicators. However, respondents showed a considerably lower level of trust in the Church - only 33.1% of the polled fully trust it, and less than half (48%) of believers do so. The generally high level of religiosity indicated by Ukraine’s population is not backed by the perception of religion as a fundamental life value that determines everyday behaviour. Hence, the church factor is yet on the periphery of social activity and by itself is unable to make a noticeable influence on the population’s social behaviour.
Religiosity of modern Ukraine’s society is far from being active: people consider faith to be rather a personal, not public, affair, and even not a Church affair. The majority of citizens do not consider necessary even confessional determination of faith: 64.4% of all polled agreed that a person can be a believer without affiliation with a concrete religion. More than half of believers (58.1%) shared this position. The appearance of this trend can be explained by the Church’s involvement into the party and political struggle, and by the Church’s inadequate attention to the most urgent social problems, which results in the absence of a true dialogue between the Church and society. On the one hand, no significant activity on the part of the Church is observed in such spheres as human rights protection against authorities’ abuse; the Church is very cautious regarding the socio-economic reform, accompanied with infringement of social rights of citizens. On the other hand, some socially significant initiatives of the Church are debatable, and find no unanimous support in society. For instance, public opinion is split on the issue of mandatory study of the Law of God at public schools: 41.3% of respondents spoke out in support of this initiative, 22% flatly rejected the proposal, another 31.1% of the polled believe that such a course may be taught as optional. The Church’s initiative regarding the introduction of the institute of chaplains in the Armed Forces was met in a similar way: the number of adherents and opponents of this idea is virtually the same - 51.3% against 48.7% of the polled. Inter-Church relations in Ukraine are characterised by noticeable confrontation. Contradictions exist between traditional Churches and new religious movements, between traditional Churches of different confessions, and between Churches of the same confession. Tension is not always displayed on the global level of Churches’ confrontation, as institutions. Sometimes it is manifested in the form of local disputes between communities, eparchies, etc. On the other hand, global confrontation does not always reach the level of lower Church structures. Contradictions between Churches of different confessions are caused by a complex set of dogmatic, canonical and property factors, but their main reason is the combination of the confessional-religious factor with ethnic and political factors. Two problems come to the front in relations between Churches: their attitude to Ukraine’s statehood and the perception of its national character.The property issue is also fraught with conflicts, given the lack of religious buildings that can be used by religious organisations. Their intense construction in the recent years has significantly mitigated the problem. At present, confrontation is mainly centred around a limited number of religious building of national patrimony. Such disputes usually have political colouring.

Orthodox schism remains the source for contradictions. Existence of three Churches within one denomination in Ukraine is an abnormal phenomenon. Still it only reflects some Ukraine’s historic, social and cultural realities. In the context of the idea of the “National Church”, the problem of inter-Church relations is shifted from the domain of confessional and religious issues and loyalty to the Ukrainian state into the political sphere, which makes the inter-Church dialogue aimed at solving ecclesiastic problems impossible. The idea of unification of the Orthodox Churches into a Single Independent Orthodox Church has not been practically implemented yet. Counterparts have entirely different views regarding the fundamentals and terms of unification, prospects for canonical gaining the autocephalous status, and the Church that would grant this status for the would-be united Church. Public opinion on the issue of creating a Single Independent Orthodox Church in Ukraine remains undecided: this idea was supported by 39.9% of respondents, not supported by 42.8%. Only 14.4% of those polled consider the unification of the Churches to be the authorities’ duty, 63.1% is sure that the authorities should not interfere in the relations between the Orthodox Churches, 32.3% of those are sure that such interference excessively politicises the problem and has nothing common with grieve over religion, faith, Church. Under these circumstances unification of the Orthodox Churches is almost impossible. The unification of Orthodoxy is possible only on the basis of civil (but not ethnic) solidarity. Otherwise, any attempts at uniting the Orthodox Churches could lead to the aggravation of inter-Orthodox relations and new splits. There are reasons to believe that the Orthodox split will not be overcome in the near future. Given the rapid spread of the new religious trends, their determination to expand missionary activity and coverage of the entire territory of Ukraine, it can be predicted that the conflict between the traditional and new Churches will not fade away. Under the pressure of the traditional Churches and the public, the state will have to take measures prescribing the degree and the nature of new religious practices’ influence on the health and social behaviour of Ukraine’s citizens. Society’s demands to the Church are gradually shifted from the purely ecclesiastic domain to the social sphere: today, society needs not only pastoral care, but also social service of the Church. More than half (51.7%) of all citizens believe that religious organisations are inadequately engaged into social activities; close to 40% of respondents are sure that the Church does not play a significant role in society. Therefore, the prospects of further development of the Church to a large extent depend on its social activity and involvement in the solution of problems that worry Ukrainians the most, at the present time.
The intense expansion of the church and religious network is accompanied with the Church’s penetration into all spheres of public life that were previously closed for it. Today, the Church’s social activity covers two main spheres: charity and education. Education is understood as religious education. It takes place primarily in the youth environment: among youth movements, at school and in the Army.
Virtually all Ukraine’s religious organisations established their structures (missions) for performing charitable projects. The main forms of charitable activity include: organisation of children’s rest and treatment; assistance to the poor; establishment and maintenance of orphanages, homes for the aged, kindergartens for orphans, social rehabilitation centres; charitable activity in the places of detention; humanitarian assistance to victims of natural disasters and to refugees. If the scales of charitable activity are compared, more active are organisations that belong to powerful international structures or whose religious centres are located beyond Ukraine’s borders.
The Church could use its authority for insuring more active involvement of laymen (and non-believers) in assisting the state social service, or creating its own social protection network on voluntary basis, to care about lonely and elderly people, and homeless children. It is evident that the Church can do a lot to this end.
The Church pays significant attention to working with the youth. Next to all religious organisations have special structures that care about children, teenagers and youths. The Orthodox Churches that call themselves “national” are determined to educate young people in the spirit of patriotism and nation-building. In relations with the youth, the Church is actively using mass media. Close to 30% of religious periodicals target the child and youth audience. The effectiveness of the Church’s activity aimed at recruiting young people through different structures centred around the Church is rather low. This makes the Church to seek to spread its influence over the network of public educational establishments.
The problems of relations between the Church and school are mainly centred around religious education of children and youths. At the same time, the social problems of education remain out of focus of the Church. The public opinion regarding the study of religion at public educational establishments remains ambiguous and controversial. There is an evident trend toward politicising Ukraine’s religious environment. Churches attract political and public structures with different views of the independent Ukraine. The split centred around two issues: the national character of the state and its geopolitical priorities. Churches are engaged in supporting candidates at parliamentary and presidential elections. Despite rather close ties of Churches with certain political forces and the authorities, the Church’s influence on politics and political orientations of the public remains limited.

In general, the Churches’ confrontation involving the use of political levers does not cause serious political storms, for the overall influence of the Churches on political views of the population remains low. Inter-confessional confrontation is manifested by a small part of active parishioners (not more than 3-5% of believers, according to expert estimates). Confessional affiliation often turns into a factor of political self-identification of citizens. When applied to the regional historic and cultural differences, and contradicting political interests, the religious factor is fraught with conflicts, which can seriously affect the stability of Ukraine’s society.
Ukraine’s effective legislation on the freedom of conscience is generally democratic and corresponds to the norms of international law. At the same time, the practice of inter-Church relations and the people’s exercise of their right to the freedom of conscience under conditions of the spreading of new religious trends shows that the effective legislation does not entirely take into account the present-day realities of the confessional and religious life, inter-Church disputes, and the effects of some destructive religious neo-formations. The main shortcomings of the effective legislation could be considered the following ones:

non-recognition of the Churches possessing hierarchic structures as independent subjects of legal relations. This contradicts the internal regulations of hierarchic Churches, complicates administration of the communities by superior Church bodies and causes inter-confessional tension. Meanwhile, in case of a Church’s recognition as an integral and independent subject of legal relations, the supreme body of the Church administration would assume all responsibility for the activity of sub-units within its structure. This would allow to avoid the state’s interference in the internal organisational affairs of Churches;

the state’s interference into the issue of rotating use of religious buildings;

the issues of the Church property restitution remain legislatively unresolved.

The period of establishing the Church-state relations in Ukraine is actually over. Institutes that co-ordinate the Church-state relations have been created: on the part of the state, this is the State Committee of Ukraine for Religious Affairs; on the part of the Church - the All-Ukrainian Church Council. The relations between the state and the Church are gaining the features of an equal dialogue, but at the same time, the practice of confessional and religious life bears witness to some negative sides in the Church-state relations:

restitution of religious buildings and property to the Church is being delayed. In some instances, instructions of the President of Ukraine regarding the return of temples used for other than designed purposes remain unaccomplished;

the issue of recognition of theological education by the state remains unresolved. This impedes the professional employment of theologians at public institutions and, subsequently, limits the possibilities of personnel training for religious organisations;

the unimpeded (and unbiased) observance of the effective legislation that governs the activities of the Church and regional authorities has not been ensured. Some local authorities are not unbiased, and support certain confessions to the detriment of others.


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