Ukraine is Europe

EPA-EFE/STEPAN FRANKO

Ukrainians pray on a square near St. Sophia Cathedral in the capital Kyiv on October 14, 2018. Ukrainians gathered to participate in a massive prayer for the granting of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church. The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople has granted autocephaly, or indepedence, to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church after a decision made at a meeting of the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on October 11, 2018.

A landmark decision by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople to recognise the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is a reaffirmation of Ukraine’s rightful place as a member of the European family


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The granting of a Tomos to Ukraine’s Orthodox believers is the establishment of a new modern narrative in Ukraine’s history and a challenge to how the country is to be perceived by their fellow Europeans.

The implementation of the Tomos, the right to independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to govern itself free from the institutional interference of Muscovy, is an act of independence and emancipation from the Russky Mir, or “Russian World”.

Though the process towards the establishment of an independent Orthodox Church is not a recent development, the seizing of the opportunity to reassert its sense of national independence by the country’s religious and political leadership will be the most sustained accomplishment in post-Maidan Ukraine.

Though it is naïve to interpret the Maidan event solely as a political revolution, the Maidan must be considered as a societal “existential rebellion” that not only was a specific stand against corruption, but against the worldview, values and practices that were still entrenched from the times of the Soviet Union and promulgated by Putin’s Russia.

Without the Maidan, it is doubtful that a Tomos would have been granted.

Nonetheless, that said, perhaps the most important result of the Maidan, coupled with Russia’s act of war against Ukraine, was the opportunity for Ukraine to reassert its spirit of national independence.

Though the granting of the Tomos is a theological “correction” that was centuries old in its pronouncement, it has immediate effects in the modern context of Ukraine’s daily life, for it solidifies both a historical process and narrative of national, ethnic and cultural uniqueness and identity.

Contrary to many interpretations, the granting of the Tomos is not a schism. Neither is it a divorce between two equal partners, but rather it is a just eviction of a non-canonical institutional squatter who arrogantly assumed an imperial entitlement to which he had no right or just cause.

This said the implementation of the Tomos in Ukraine must be understood as an act of “De-Russification” within Ukraine’s institutional life.

The Tomos process will be an institutional extrication of Ukraine from the long accepted propagandist and misleading historical narrative propagated by an imperialistic Russia.

As such, it will be an act and continual process of exorcism of the authoritarian effects of Russian imperialistic tendencies on Ukraine’s religious life, its culture, its values, and its governing and societal practices.

It will be an illustration of the articulation of Ukraine’s national identity through its religious expression and the basis of an authentic national narrative that is based on an unimpeachable fact: Ukraine is not Russia, and Ukrainians are not Russians.

Not to accept this fact, is to continue to naively believe in the perverted notion and propagated travesty of “brotherhood” propagated by Putin’s Russia. “Brothers”, either defined in a religious sense, or in terms of history, culture or societal context, do not annex the others’ country or deliberately transgress internationally recognised borders. They do not cause the deaths of more than 10, 500 people, be they soldiers or civilians, and they do not cause the displacement of 1.5 million people.

What does this mean in practice? The practical result of the implementation of the Tomos is the peaceful eviction of an aggressive foreign and institutional entity, the Orthodox Church-Moscow patriarchy , which evidence proves, at least over the last four years, that it has worked towards the weakening of an independent and sovereign Ukrainian state and towards the continued division of society based on religion, culture and ethnicity.

The granting of the Tomos can become a form of remedy to a lingering schizophrenic identity that still stubbornly plagues, not only Ukraine’s religious psyche but its political and cultural thinking as well.

What the Tomos process has exposed is the falsity and bellicosity of Russian imperialistic mythmaking and propaganda. But perhaps most intriguingly, it has illustrated that resolve, the pursuit of the truth of historical accuracy, and courage in the face of Russian threats and intimidation can effectively counter Russian aggression in its many iterations.  The granting of the Tomos is a reassertion of a new reality in Ukraine based on truth and justice that could be an example of how to deal with the ever-present threat from Russia.

Now, could the process of pursuing and obtaining the Tomos at this moment in Ukraine’s history be categorized as a cynical political manoeuvre by Ukraine’s president? Absolutely. But so what?

This process resulted in a historic decision that recognised, both internally, and in Europe, the desire and the established movement of Ukraine’s societal narrative towards Europe, primarily, and perhaps even ironically, through a religious avenue with the historical awareness of the political and geopolitical ramifications.

Nevertheless, the repudiation of the concept of the “Russian world” by the religious and political leadership of Ukraine must be interpreted as an institutional victory, within what many consider the failed morass of the fight against oligarchic corruption and the effectual implementation of fundamental systematic political and legal reforms.

The potential contained within the implementation of the Tomos is the promised reassertion of Ukraine’s modern national narrative into its authentic European context that will reconnect its society to the European religious, philosophical and political value tendencies that had been, heretofore, interrupted and usurped in modern history by Muscovy, in its incarnation as the Soviet Union and then by Putin’s authoritarian, imperialistic inspired rule.

The granting of the Tomos reaffirms Ukraine’s authentic history – Ukraine is the gate of Europe because Ukraine is Europe.

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