BRAMA, December 21, 2011, 9:00 AM ET|
Ukrainian World Praise for Major Archbishop Shevchuk
By Bishop Paul Peter Jesep
The Kyiv Post often gets it right. Its reporting and coverage have been exceptional regarding Ukraine's fledgling democracy and cultural reawakening. Its editorials have clearly kept hope alive for a democratic, sovereign Ukraine. In its 2011 year end top ten list of notables it rightly selected Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
The newspaper highlighted the Major Archbishop's response to Patriarch Kirill's call for "Russiky Mir" or Russian World. He called for Ukrainians to build a "Ukrainian World" as opposed to Kirill's Russian World. The significance of the Major Archbishop's comment cannot be overstated. It is a call to cultural and linguistic arms.
Russiky Mir is the philosophy and the formal name of an organization that the Moscow Patriarchate supports. Former KGB officer and Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin established the Russiky Mir Foundation in June 2007. It promotes history, language, and cultural heritage throughout the world from a distinctly Russian perspective. In doing so it identifies the individual contributions of ethnic groups once part of the Imperial and Soviet empires as Russian.
According to the Foundation's website, "Russia's vibrant, multicultural society has made many artistic, musical, literary, and scientific contributions to global culture … Russian language is at the heart of Russian culture and society."
This self-aggrandizement unwittingly underscores that there is no Russia, no Russianness, and no Russian soul without the subordinated multiculturalism of the past. Of all the cultures that have contributed to Russia, Kyiv-Rus and present day Ukraine remains its fundamental spiritual, emotional, and psychological core.
Few in the West have noticed and those that have don't fully understand Russia's anxiety about the re-examination of widely held and long accepted views of its culture, history, and spirituality.
According to Hegumen Filipp Ryabykh, Deputy Chairman of the Russian Orthodox Moscow-Patriarchate's Department of External Church Relations, "Ukraine was always considered the cradle of Russian civilization, and Moscow and St. Petersburg were considered the successors of Kiev [sic]."
It is disingenuous when Fr. Ryabykh says that "Russia, even when it was building an empire, never considered Ukraine to be an object of colonization." Empress Catherine enslaved the Ukrainian peasantry with serfdom in 1776.
He also said during an interview that "Russian culture can let various peoples communicate with each other, but it is not being imposed as something compulsory and exclusive." Jews were harassed, persecuted, and dehumanized throughout much of Russian history. The Ukrainian language was banned in schools in both the Imperial and Soviet periods. Speaking or promoting the language could get a person imprisoned.
A nation's soul is defined by its writers, thinkers, composers, and other great artists. It is the creative spirit from within a nation that gives it a unique soul. Hence, Major Archbishop Shevchuk's call for a "Ukrainian World" was not just a patriotic call to arms. More important it is a reminder that a great nation is not measured by its army or economy. Its culture, language, and distinct history is its soul. Ukrainian World!
Bishop Jesep is an author, New York lawyer, and designated United States spokesperson for His Beatitude Metropolitan Myfodii of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Kyiv and All Rus-Ukraine, Ukraine's third largest Orthodox Church. The views expressed here are personal and in no way reflect the official positions of the UAOC. He may be reached at VladykaPaulPeter (a) aol.com.
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