Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia · Ukraine

Russia Loses the War of the Churches (62)

Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.

</end editorial>

Pres Poroshenko signs into law legislation on the renaming of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine. He also issues a blunt warning to all ultra-nationalist groups not to evict Russian Orthodox Church clerics from the church real estate they currently occupy. Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine reminds everybody of how it denounced the very invasion it so actively assisted.

Espresso TV on the ‘Moscow as the Third Rome’  propaganda trope and its distant origins 500 years ago.

Russian Orthodox Church in Muscovy declares its intent to expand its footprint outside Russia, and form a relationship with the Vatican – after blaming the Catholics for the Ukrainians seeking their own church. But the rot has already set in – in Russia the All-Cossack Social Center announces its very own Cossack Orthodox Apostolic Church and calls for a tomos of autocephaly from Constantinople.

Ukraine’s President Signs Law Forcing Russia-Affiliated Church To Change Name

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has signed a law requiring the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) to change its name to one that reveals its affiliation with the Mos…

Ukraine’s leader orders Orthodox Church to change its name – ABC News

Get breaking national and world news, broadcast video coverage, and exclusive interviews. Find the top news online at ABC news.

Poroshenko signs law on renaming UOC-MP – news about economy

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has signed a law to rename the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP). According to the president, the amendments to the law adhere to the principle of freedom of religion and equality of all denominations. The president signed the law of Ukraine on making amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations” regarding the name of religious organizations/associations that are incorporated in/are part of a religious organization/association whose head office/administration is located outside Ukraine, in a state that is recognized by law as carrying out military aggression against Ukraine and/or temporarily occupying part of the territory of Ukraine, the presidential press service said in a statement on December 22. “People have the constitutional right to a free choice of religion. The amendments to the law will create better conditions for implementing such a right for those who will decide which Orthodox jurisdiction to belong to… Be it either the newly created autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine or the church that has insists in keeping its relations with and dependence on ROC,” the head of state said, signing the law. “It is easier to make a choice when all things are called by their names, when there is enough information to make this choice voluntary. The implementation of the law will give the citizens full information,” he added. According to the president, the amendments to the law adhere to the principle of freedom of religion and equality of all denominations. There will be no restriction on the constitutional rights of citizens, he said. As UNIAN reported earlier, the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, on Thursday passed a bill to rename the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. If a religious organization subject to this legislation fails to change its official name and does not apply for re-registration within four months after the law takes effect, its statute becomes void.

Poroshenko signs law obliging Ukrainian Church of Moscow Patriarchate to indicate its links with Russia –

President Petro Poroshenko signed a law obliging the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate to indicate links with the Russian Orthodox Church in its name. This is reported by the press service of the president. The message stated that the president signed the Law of Ukraine “On Amendments to the Law “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations “regarding the name of religious organizations (associations) that are part of a religious organization (association), a governing center of which is outside of Ukraine, in a country that is legally recognized as one that carried out military aggression against Ukraine and / or temporarily occupied part of the territory of Ukraine.” By signing the law, the head of state noted that the new norms create better conditions for the realization of the rights of people who will decide which Orthodox jurisdiction they belong to. “The choice is easier to do when all things are called by their names, when there is enough information to voluntarily make it. The implementation of the law will give citizens the complete information,” Poroshenko said.

Poroshenko warns members of radical organizations against seizing UOC MP churches

President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine has warned members of radical organizations in Ukraine against any attempts to seize churches belonging to the former Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP). “I would like to warn certain radicals who will be going tomorrow to snatch churches [of the UOC MP]: you cannot do that. You will be snatching the churches not from Moscow but from [parochial] communities who will come to defend them. And you need to work with the communities to persuade them and explain to them that after the establishment of the canonical Ukrainian Church there is no need to wander somewhere, come to us,” Poroshenko said at a meeting with professors, lecturers, and students of local universities and colleges in Ternopil on December 18. He said such attempts will play directly into Russia’s hands “because the Kremlin wants us to start a religious war or, at least, shed blood during our unification process.” The president said the process of unification of the churches is a long one but it cannot be reversed. Poroshenko said a great number of priests and laymen have already refused following orders by the Kremlin and are ready to join the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

Former UOC-MP calls Russia aggressor state, still sees no grounds for change of its name | UNIAN

Head of the Information and Education Department of the former Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), Archbishop Klyment says the legal department of the Kyiv Metropolis of the former UOC-MP is analyzing the bill passed by Ukraine’s parliament on renaming the church; he claims they do not have a governing center in the aggressor state. “We still don’t see any reasons that would force us to rush and change something in our statutory documents today. The statute, which is registered, and operates in Ukraine, says that the UOC is a self-governing church. We don’t have a center not only in the aggressor state, but also in no other foreign country,” he told RFE/RL’s Ukrainian bureau on December 22. According to the Archbishop, the former UOC-MP has a clear position on the issues of Donbas and Crimea. “Have you not heard the statements by the UOC that it doesn’t recognize the annexation of Crimea, condemns everything that happens in Donbas, and even called on the head of the Russian state to stop this aggression? The UOC has repeatedly stated that it fully supports all the initiatives of the Ukrainian state including definitions related to what is happening in the east of Ukraine,” he said.

Will Tomos save Poroshenko’s ratings – news about politics

Election of Metropolitan of Pereyaslav and Bila Tserkva Epifaniy (Dumenko) to the post of head of the unified Orthodox Church of Ukraine – Metropolitan of Kyiv and all Ukraine, as well as the future of receiving Tomos on autocephaly – all of this will have a minimal effect on political ratings of Petro Poroshenko. Election of Metropolitan of Pereyaslav and Bila Tserkva Epifaniy (Dumenko) to the post of head of the unified Orthodox Church of Ukraine – Metropolitan of Kyiv and all Ukraine, as well as the future of receiving Tomos on autocephaly – all of this will have a minimal effect on political ratings of Petro Poroshenko. The church issue is a card that has already been played. The very receipt of the tomos by Metropolitan Epiphanius, scheduled for January 6, 2019, might be the last “Christmas Joker” Poroshenko could use. But that will be it. And in general, this will, to a greater extent, result in some media noise for a while, rather than the growth of the president’s ratings. I’ll explain why. The experience of my trips across Ukraine allows me to judge that Ukrainians don’t care too much about church matters – people, especially in villages, mostly don’t understand the tomos thing and its significance. Instead, people are much more concerned about economic and social issues. Of course, for the state to get a local church and to receive the tomos is a fateful event that restores historical justice. Although here, everything was not quite as hoped: it was supposed to be a patriarchate, but in the end, all Ukraine got was the metropolis. Thus, from a political point of view, Patriarch Bartholomew has now not only become “the first among equal”, he has gained control over the largest Orthodox community on the planet and due to this became a “heavyweight” in the Orthodox world. Personally, for Poroshenko, this is more about a political loss, because his protégé, the Metropolitan of Vinnytsia and Bar, Simeon, lost the competition for the throne in the new church. Also, the president failed to mobilize the hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate – as is known, only two representatives of the UOC-MP – Simeon and Drabynko – attended the Unification Council. So Poroshenko failed to outrun Filaret in this struggle. And eventually the Ukrainian church is now headed by Epifaniy – Filaret’s “right hand”. Therefore, politically, in the end, we rather see the defeat of the head of state. After all, he probably sought to have the newly formed church under his control, but did not work out. Consequently, the “church card” has already been played, because building a campaign around the tomos and the church will not succeed. Besides, according to polls, the move did not gain much electoral support. People who are eager to vote are worried about more practical issues: gas prices, pensions, medical care, high prices, etc. The ideology and the tomos in particular are things that voters can cheer only when their fridge is full and when they’re fed. Although I totally assume that in 10-20 years we will look at this event differently and re-think its significance. But for now, the main thing for the Ukrainians is the economy. Will other presidential candidates exploit the church issue? It’s unlikely. In general, there’s no need to touch upon the issue and spin it in the media. Now it is better to leave the case at the discretion of church hierarchs: let them negotiate and form new bodies. Meanwhile, politicians should not interfere in the religious sphere. Although in fact we see that the issue is being actively politicized not only by Poroshenko, but also by the pro-Russian opposition forces. Boyko, Novinsky, Vilkul and others are actively spinning propaganda aimed at creating a schism in society around religion. So, in order to avoid deepening the split, it is necessary to leave the matter to the church hierarchs. That’s it. We’ll get the tomos, and it’s good. Then the authorities need to implement reforms, fight corruption, and seek out resources that can improve the financial situation of citizens. Of course, many in Ukraine would very much like the church to become an annex of the state, promote a certain ideology and political values, and contribute to the cementing the authorities’ power, as in Russia. But this will not happen in Ukraine, because it is not Russia, where there has been a long tradition of autocracy. We don’t have Anglican Church and neither do we have a monarch who is the head of the church. Everything is different in Ukraine. And although Ukrainians are deeply religious people, they distinguish between politics and religion. In addition, it is unlikely that the new Metropolitan Epifaniy will actively promote the agenda of political authorities. There have already been statements on Poroshenko’s contribution to this matter – which is really important and great, since Poroshenko had been negotiating with both Erdogan and Bartholomew. But there should be a limit, to what point one can do PR and when it’s better to stop, step aside and do other things. It seems to me that Poroshenko hasn’t yet made this step aside. Will Poroshenko now go for other populist issues like language in order to raise his own ratings? So far, the church is the only ideological issue on which he tries to build his campaign. Unfortunately, he was unable to achieve certain economic and market transformations, progress in reforms. Political technologists on Bankova say that this is not a sphere of Poroshenko’s authority. Formally, they are right, but in reality Poroshenko controls everything: the government, the security structures, all the authorities, regulators, and state monopolies. He himself has chosen this path of concentration of power, so he is de facto responsible for everything.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Ukrainian Autocephaly Destroys Ideological Foundation of Russian Empire, Espresso Says

Paul Goble Staunton, December 20 – Many are saying Ukraine’s receipt of autocephaly from the Universal Patriarch is for Russia an act equivalent to the demise of the Soviet Union; but in fact, the editors of Ukraine’s Espresso TV say, it is even more than that: it represents the destruction of the idea of Moscow as the third Rome on which the Russian empire has rested for centuries. “The strengthening of Constantinople” – the “second” Rome – and the departure of Ukraine from under the Russian Orthodox Church destroys one of the main ideologemes, on which the Russian Empire has rested, the thesis about ‘Moscow as the Third Rome’” ( According to the station, “the theory of ‘Moscow as the Third Rome’ became the foundation of messianic ideas about the role and significance of Russia. It was first formulated in two letters in 1523-1524 by Filofey, an elder of Pskov’s Eleazor Monastery,” although there have been suggestions that it was first circulated several decades earlier. The elder “put the Muscovite prince on par with the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, identifying the latter as the ancestor of the prince.” Such ideas became possible after the Ottoman Empire seized Constantinople, the Second Rome, in 1453. As a result, Byzantium ceased to exist as a state and “as a center of world Orthodoxy.” Moscow thus presented itself as its successor civil and religious. In 1589, the idea of Moscow as the Third Rome became official policy and the basis for its imperial pretensions as unique and part of an apostolic succession. “Byzantium had fallen; Moscow took its place.” As Filofey wrote, “Moscow is the Third Rome; a fourth there shall not be!” The Third Rome doctrine was especially popular during the reign of Alexander III and was popularized by historian Vladimir Soloyev, who saw it as an indication that Moscow would unite East and West in itself and thus create “the so-called world unity.” As such, it led to the formation of “’the Russian idea.’” Now, with Ukraine having achieved autocephaly, the notion of Moscow as the Third Rome has been shown to be hollow. That is not something that many Russians can easily accept; and it is why Russia will continue to fight the rights of Ukraine and why the tomos is ultimately more significant than the Beloveshchaya accords of 1991.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Moscow Patriarchate Hopes to Expand Internationally, Achieve Concordat with Russian State

Paul Goble Staunton, December 22 – Having suffered a serious loss of power and influence because of Ukrainian autocephaly, the Russian Orthodox Church says it plans to expand its brand of Christianity beyond the borders of the Russian Federation, hopes for a concordat with the Russian state to help make that possible, and seeks new ties with the Vatican. Speaking to a meeting of Orthodox hierarchs at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Patriarch Kirill acknowledged that 2018 had been “an extremely complex” one for the entire Orthodox Church, “especially for Orthodox believers of Ukraine.” But instead of changing course, he promised to double down on three of his longstanding policies. First, he indicated that the Moscow Patriarchate will work to expand its brand of Orthodoxy not only beyond the Russian ethnic group in Russia but also internationally, beyond the borders of the Russian Federation ( and Second, Kirill said he would seek a concordat with the Russian state, an agreement which would define more specifically their relations and allow the church to work more closely with the civil authorities both at home and abroad. The Roman Catholic Church currently has such agreements with 60 countries; the ROC MP needs one. And third, the Moscow Patriarch indicated that the actions of the Universal Patriarchate in granting autocephaly to Ukraine’s Orthodox mean that Moscow must rethink its approach to Christian unity and recognize that the Vatican can be an important ally in promoting such unity around the world. Patriarch Kirill has promoted these ideas before and been criticized for them by those in the Russian church who want it to be a national church and to avoid ecumenism of any kind. Among the most prominent of these critics is Metropolitan Tikhon, Vladimir Putin’s favorite among the church hierarchs and an odds-on favorite to succeed Kirill. The current patriarch apparently has decided that in the face of defeat, his best strategy is to double down on his existing policies rather than make any change. While that may reflect the thinking of his hierarchy, most of which Kirill himself installed, it may also reflect his weakened position beyond the Moscow Patriarchate itself. Three other developments this week may also play a role in the future of the ROC MP. First, the release of KGB files in Latvia confirms what many have long known: senior hierarchs of the Orthodox Church served as KGB agents in Soviet times, something that may make the church more attractive to the Kremlin but less to others ( Second, Metropolitan Tikhon of Novosibirsk, a Kirill appointee, declared that “the spiritual space” of Russians was the proper focus of the professional activities of the FSB, the Russian successor of the KGB, hardly a popular position among Christians in Russia or elsewhere who believe the church not the police should play that role ( And third, the reaction of the UOC MP to a Ukrainian law requiring it to rename itself shows that other Orthodox leaders may want a more flexible approach. The Russian church in Ukraine instead of retaining its former positions suddenly declared that it views Russia as the aggressor in the Donbass and Crimea as occupied territory ( That is unlikely to do anything to slow the shift in believers, parishes and bishops from that church to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine which is slated to receive the tomos of autocephaly on January 6. Indeed, it may speed that process by suggesting to the faithful that they won’t be making a major change by shifting from Moscow’s church to a Ukrainian one. More important, however, it shows that Orthodox in many places don’t want to follow Kirill’s approach, viewing it as one from which they will only lose what they still retain. And that more than anything else could lead to a parade of autocephalies across what Putin and Kirill still refer to as “the Russian world.”

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Russia’s Cossacks Form Their Own Autocephalous Church, One in Which They Won’t Be ‘Slaves of God’

Paul Goble Staunton, December 19 – In what may become one of the most significant echoes of Ukrainian autocephaly in Russia, the All-Cossack Social Center in Russia has formed its own Cossack Orthodox Apostolic Church, seeks the tomos of autocephaly from Constantinople and declares that its members will not be “slaves of God” as members of the ROC MP are. Cossacks have never been anyone’s “slaves,” the organizers say; and they point to the existence of a separate and distinct Cossack church since the 18th century when Russian rulers “completely destroyed the sovereignty of this special people,” Artur Priymak of NG-Religii says ( The Cossack church, the journalist continues, view Ivan Mazepa as a hero, want to canonize Bohdan Khmelnitsky, and insist on the rehabilitation of Grigory Semenov, Gerasim Vdovenko, Petr and Semen Krasnov, Andrey Shkuro, Gelmut von Pannwitz and “many other Cossack heroes killed by the Bolsheviks.” The Cossack church expects to receive autocephaly “on the model of Ukraine via Constantinople Patriarch Bartholemew. “The main population of Ukraine consists of ethnic Cossacks,” the leaders of this church movement say. “The Cossack church will not interfere in Ukrainian affairs,” they add. They say that the Cossacks of the Russian Federation are now ready “to conclude an alliance with any political force which calls for the recognition of the rights of the Cossack people,” a nation which some estimate to include as many as five million in all. That makes the Cossacks the third largest nation in Russia, after the ethnic Russians and the Tatars. The Cossack church does not yet have its own building but plans to erect one in Podolsk “not far from the private Museum of the Anti-Bolshevik Resistance,” which is largely devoted to the efforts of the Cossacks to defeat Stalin during World War II. “The first Cossack liturgy is planned for the evening of January 6, on the eve of Christmas 2019,” Priymak says. For many in Russia and the West, this may seem an ethnographic curiosity, amusing but not terribly important. However, it is anything but. This is almost certainly the most likely and powerful way that the independence of the Ukrainian Church will undermine the unity of the ROC MP within the Russian Federation.

In post-Soviet lands, theology and politics are hard to disentangle – Religion, Ukraine and Russia

IN MOST Western democracies, including those like Denmark and England which for historical reasons have a state church, the fortunes of this or that form of faith are mainly treated as a matter for the religion’s own adherents.