Monday, April 30, 2018

A Unified Ukrainian Orthodox Church Would Be the Largest Orthodox Church in the World

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 30 – New statistics from the Russian Federation and Ukraine show that there are more Orthodox parishes in Ukraine than there are in Russia, despite the fact that the population of the latter is 3.5 times that of the former. And the unification of all Orthodox groups in Ukraine would make the Ukrainian Orthodox Church the largest in the world.

            Ruslan Khalikov of the Ukrainian Institute for Global Development and Adaptation Strategies assembles the latest data about religious affiliations in the two Slavic countries. Despite their limitations, they make for fascinating reading (

            In Russia, the number of parishes in the Russian Orthodox Church continued to grow in 2017, from 16,497 at the start of the year to 16,931 at the end.  They represent more than half of the total 28,370 religious communities officially registered in that country now, Khalikov continues.

            Muslim parishes also continued to increase in number in the Russian Federation during last year, up 146 to a new total of 5490, a figure that many Muslim leaders say does not reflect the actual number.  Some religious groups in Russia declined significantly: the 397 Jehovah’s Witness congregations have been officially disbanded after the church was declared extremist.

            Russian statistics do not include a line for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. It hasn’t been counted by Russian officials since the annexation of Crimea, Khalikov says. Its parishes are now counted as Moscow Patriarchal churches. Some indication of their number is that there are no 754 new Orthodox parishes in Russian-occupied Crimea and the Donbass.

            That figure is almost twice the total number of new Russian Orthodox Churches being reported in the Russian Federation.

            In Ukraine the number of Orthodox parishes also increased within the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate by 20and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate by 53. The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, however, declined by 28 parishes in 2017.

            Despite that, if these three churches were unified into a single Ukrainian autocephalous church, there would be 18,682 Orthodox parishes, almost 2,000 more than the total within the Russian Federation.  That would make the Ukrainian Orthodox Church the largest such church in the world.

            Even if a decision is taken by Constantinople to form a Ukrainian autocephalous Orthodox church, it will take many years for these churches to come together.  But the number along, Khalikov says, help to explain why Moscow and especially the Moscow Patriarchate are so opposed to any change in the status of churches in Ukraine.   

‘Russia is Escaping from the State’s Control and the State is Panicking,’ Kordonsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 30 – In the course of a wide-ranging interview published in Kazan’s Business-Gazeta today, Moscow sociologist Simon Kordonsky says that Russia is in “an interesting situation: there is the state and there is the country.” The country is generating many things on its own, but the state views them as a threat.

            To counter these developments, he says, “the state creates simulacra of those processes in order to organize them and gradually draw them into itself. A new state reality arises, which pretends to be a natural process” but is really a fraud. “The country is coming out from under the state’s control, and the state is panicking” (

            Vladimir Putin isn’t mediating between the state and the country, Kordonsky says. He makes decisions, and a primary basis of his support is that people fear if he suddenly decides to leave the scene no one will be in a position to determine the flow of resources and everything will collapse.

“Putin does not express the interests of the bureaucrats,” he continues, “because [Russia] doesn’t have any. They exist in a democratic society where business is separate from power. With us the situation is different: the economy is completely intertwined with the state, and therefore we do not have a bureaucracy.”

The foreign threat that Putin uses to mobilize people is completely invented, Kordonsky says. “In fact, no one considers us an enemy. Count the frequency of references to Russia in the Western press. For weeks at a time, no one remembers us at all … In fact, we aren’t needed by anyone” – and that is something Putin and his regime can’t tolerate.

Speaking about the future of the non-Russian republics, Kordonsky suggests they are doomed. “The national-territorial structures inherited by us from the USSR do not fit into the current administrative-territorial structure which has already been formed” in the Russian Federation.

“Consequently,” he says, “it is necessary to destroy the national-territorial structure and bring the structure of the country into a single unity. I think that the final resource of this process will be the formation of cultural autonomies and the separation of the national from the economic and administrative-political.”

This process, Kordonsky argues, “is needed for the preservation of the state. I don’t know in what other country one could find such a national-territorial system. It seems to be Russia’s is unique given that it has an eight-level hierarchy. This is too much for a country. In the United States, there are only five levels.”

As for the “ethno-stratas of Tatars and Bashkirs,” a phenomenon that is also part of the Soviet heritage, they state can’t tolerate their continued independence of action.  “They were created in the framework of Leninist-Stalinist nationality policy, and now they are beginning to live their own lives, pretending to a role of self-standing political nations.”

The process of destroying the non-Russian republics may lead to “revolts,” Kordonsky says. “Revolts after all are natural in the absence of a political structure for the resolution of different interests. But they are situational and local, and the state has learned how to struggle with them.” If things get bad, Moscow will employ all the force at its command.

“Ethno-stratas will be preserved as cultural autonomies but not as political units,” he argues. Those who think otherwise are being extremely unrealistic.

            Kordonsky makes a large number of other intriguing comments. Among the most interesting are:

·         “Our futurologists specialize in anti-utopias because they get more money for coming up with things that scare people.”

·         In Russia, “classes in the former sense do not exist.  There are only strata and proto-strata” within which there are various levels of consumption. 

·         “Classes are divided according to the level of consumption, but strata by the level of their importance for the state. This is a difference in principle. Strata are needed for the neutralization of threats: If there is a foreign threat, a professional strong army appears. If there is a domestic one, the Russian Guard appears.”

·         “These proto-strata are only very slowly taking shape as strata because this is a process which takes a generation.”

·         “The rebirth of the church is a material form of repentance;” it doesn’t reflect a religious revival because “the majority of ordinary parishioners do not have this feeling.”

Civic Nationalism in Russia Would Be a Kind of Ethnic Russian Nationalism, Ikhlov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 30 – For several years, Russian scholars and officials have been debating whether the country should move to a common civic national identity or retain its multiple ethnic identities, often ignoring the fact that in Russia, a civic national identity would be profoundly Russian and thus create serious problems in the non-Russian republics, Yevgeny Ikhlov says.

            Civic nationalism, the Moscow commentator says, can have one of two forms: it can be based on “the doctrine of the egoism of a polyethnic political nation” like the United States where no one ethnic group dominates, or it can be one where “one ethno-historical component dominates” such as in France (

            In the latter, Ikhlov says, “the remaining ethnoses of the political nations are considered as allies” but it is clear to all who defines the nation in fact however much anyone talks about its pan-ethnic civic culture.  A Russia that adopted a civic nation model would be far more likely to take that form than the other – but moves in that direction could have other more dire outcomes.

            Thus, in the case of a declared civic national identity, “the confrontation at the ‘mosaic’ level (communities, confessions, regions, and social strata) of the traditional social system do not disappear: they are transformed into inter-ethnic [confrontations] without in any way losing their sharpness and severity.”

            Or what may prove even worse, they may become “class (socio-political) and inter-civilizational. Thus, in the final analysis, Stalin killed more Soviet peasants than Hitler killed Jews,” Ikhlov continues.

            As far as ethnic nationalism is concerned, the Moscow commentator says, “our generation still recalls the Leninist truism about the distinction between the nationalism of an oppressed nation in the process of being liberated and the nationalism of a great power state.”

            The former, he points out, is considered “historically progressive;” but it can turn out to be just as cynical and harsh as the other kind. “When bourgeois nationalism triumphs in Russia, this division will immediately occur along the line of non-ethnic or ethnic Russian,” Ikhlov argues.

            Consequently, he says, “despite the clear cosmopolitanism of the present-day democratic movement, the utopia of the Yeltsin revolution, ‘the United States of Great Russia,’ is doomed to remain only in the text of the Constitution.” As soon as people try to implement it, the dominant ethnos – the Russians – will dictate their terms.

            Despite this prospect, Ikhlov says, many in the democratic movement believe that uniting with Russian nationalism of one kind or another will only strengthen their position.  But that is problematic not only on foreign policy issues but also in terms of what is almost certain to happen in the non-Russian republics within the Russian Federation.

            There, “nationalism where Russians are the dominant factor will require ethno-political unification.” No Russian nationalism, ethnic or civic, will give up on that, Ikhlov says; and as a result, it will generate a reaction among the non-Russians. And Russian liberals will seek to counter this in ways that will make the situation still worse.

            According to Ikhlov, “Russian democratic nationalists will try to give ‘real’ federalism and real local self-administration which will immediately increase territorial social differentiation” and hostility.  And that in turn will lead to an outburst of ethnic nationalism among the non-Russians “who will demand independence.”

            But there is an even greater danger involved in Russian liberals playing with nationalism even of the civic kind: “Nationalism is always ‘against someone else.’ If democratic nationalism throws off anti-Westernism, anti-Semitism, and anti-Ukrainianism of the current nationalism … then its sharp [anger] will be directed at Muslims. And immigrants first of all.”

            “The experience of2013 showed that Russian liberals having satisfied themselves that the new nationalists had broken with their black hundreds tradition proved quite tolerant to anti-Islamism which they ignorantly treated as ‘a conflict of civilizations’ in the spirit of Huntington and were ready to close their eyes to.”