On his Telegram channel, Vladimir Legoida, head of the Russian Orthodox Church’s synodal department for public and media relations, commented on the so-called congress of communities of the “seized” ROC in Ukraine’s churches, held in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra late February. In addition to the usual narratives of “persecution” and “infringement of the rights of canonical Church believers,” the ROC mouthpiece voiced one peculiar statement that’s worth dwelling upon.
According to Legoida, “being part of the Russian Church is a free choice of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, its episcopate, and millions of believers in Ukraine.” This free choice is conditioned by “the historical memory of our common Dnipro baptismal font, common history and cultural heritage, and our common spiritual roots, all of which is being preserved despite major opposition on the part of forces we’re aware of.”
Once again we see outright lies and manipulation, so this must be properly dissected.
First of all, such ideas have already been voiced by Legoida’s colleague, Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeev). Both then and now, we emphasize that the statement is nothing but a blatant lie. In 1991, the Local Council of the ROC in Ukraine unanimously decided to appeal to the ROC Council, asking for autocephaly, but for obvious reasons the issue was never considered. However, it is worth reminding Legoida and Alfeev that the Council of Bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate had as early as 1992 vowed to look into the issue, but that appeal has never seen a response.
Given the current situation and church developments of 2018, one could agree with the statement of Russian church talking heads, as the behavior of Russian hierarchs in Ukraine throughout the unification process has clearly shown that they seek to remain part of the Russian Church. Moreover, they confirmed their will at their meeting in the Lavra in 2018. However, such decision by the episcopate is not in line with the will of their ordinary clergy, believers, and the Ukrainian people in general, who for almost a century fought for their Independent Church.
Secondly, given the position voiced, which, as we have already said, is confirmed by the will of the episcopate, it becomes unclear why representatives of the so-called “UOC” do not wish to certify this “free choice” in their name, instead opposing the law on renaming their religious organization? After all, this law, which is so fiercely loathed by the Russian Church, on the contrary, only contributes to the expression of the will of the “episcopate and millions of believers” of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine.
The very renaming to “Russian Church in Ukraine” will best express the so-called “historical and spiritual connection.” After all, the name “UOC”, or “Ukrainian Orthodox Church”, has nothing to do at all with the “historic Dnipro font” Legoida mentioned. To be precise, it first emerged at the beginning of the past century, but it didn’t last long back then. It was only legalized in 1991, and until then its representatives had been referred to as the Ukrainian Exarchate of the Russian Church. Therefore, it would be a logical step for Russian hierarchs, in order to establish “true” historical justice, to abandon the name “UOC” voluntarily. Then no one will have any doubts left about their “free choice” and historical connection.
As for the rest, it should be noted that it’s not about paying dues to historical justice, as Legoida and all his allies try to put it, but rather sticking to the Russian historical falsification that Moscow had once made up and has been imposing on others for centuries.
Russia has long been rewriting history, brazenly stealing bits of it and illegally appropriating the history of the glorious Kyiv Rus. That’s despite Russia had once been located in the territories of modern-day Ukraine, while the area hosting Moscow was merely an impassable swamp back in the day. There is a lot of credible and indisputable evidence of historical plagiarism, to put it mildly, on the part of Russians, and anyone interested can easily run a research through open sources to learn more.
All sorts of statements about the historical heritage of modern Russia and the former glorious Rus are just rulers’ fantasies, which in modern language would be called fake news. Such fakes include claims of the succession of the ROC and the Church of Rus, that is, the Kyiv Metropolis, or a claim that the ROC is the Mother Church. The Church of Moscow cannot a priori be one for Ukraine, because the Kyiv Metropolis had been founded long before the Moscow Metropolis was. Moreover, the Moscow Metropolis itself once illegally split from Kyiv, before going even further – withdrawing from the Patriarchate of Constantinople altogether, that is, as ROC clerics like to refer to things like that, they committed a “schism”. By the way, its hierarchs have remained in such status for over a century.
It is worth pointing out another historical fake and emphasizing that the name of the ROC itself does not correspond to “historical justice.” After all, the word “Russian” appeared in the name of the Moscow Patriarchate during Stalin’s rule, and moreover, it was not approved by any church document. This is becoming very relevant now in connection with the widespread citation to the ROC of the name of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, namely the Holy Church of Ukraine, as stated in the Tomos. As for the position of the Russian clergy, they should also be called as indicated in their Tomos, but there is no such thing.
If you look at history, you can see that in its early days the ROC was called the Moscow Metropolis, and when this Metropolis in 1589 received the status of the Patriarchate, the church was renamed to the Moscow Patriarchate. Although this isn’t mentioned in the letter of Patriarch Jeremiah of Constantinople and the decision of the Eastern Patriarchs, such a reference corresponded to the then-existing tradition of Church naming. Later, during the reign of Pyotr I and the buildup of the Russian Empire, the church received in its name the word “Russian” rather than “Rus”. Moreover, after the restoration of the patriarchate in 1917, the elected Primate, Tikhon Belavin, received the title of Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, not “all of Rus.”
These reflections may become a separate topic for a major scientific research, but even such a superficial historical brief exposes all the centuries-old lies spun by Moscow clergy. There is really no so-called “historical and spiritual connection”, but rather a centuries-old manipulation or just a historical fake, to which some hierarchs in Ukraine are willing to remain faithful. But this is their choice, after all, and the Government in no way hinders the right to making such choices. On the contrary, the government offers legislation as a helping hand. That is why the authorities offer to highlight this choice in the church’s name, and for its part it guarantees to protect this choice, therefore, any of the claimed “persecution or oppression” is off the table.
As soon as it comes to renaming though, the Moscow Patriarchate start throwing fits in resistance and scream “oppression and restriction of rights”.
This situation indicates that besides the ROCinU’s bipolar moves in the church-canonical area, they may also suffer from personality split.