©2005 RFE/RL, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

With the kind permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, InfoUkes Inc. has been given rights to electronically re-print these articles on our web site. Visit the RFE/RL Ukrainian Service page for more information. Also visit the RFE/RL home page for news stories on other Eastern European and FSU countries.

Return to Main RFE News Page
InfoUkes Home Page

ukraine-related news stories from RFE

END NOTE: UKRAINE'S GREEK CATHOLICS MOVE HEADQUARTERS TO CAPITAL xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

TWO ACTIVISTS OF GEORGIAN YOUTH GROUP DETAINED IN MINSK. Two members of Georgia's Kmara, a youth movement that played a crucial role in the overthrow of the Georgian government in 2003, were detained in Minsk on 24 August, Belapan reported. Giorgi Kandelaki and Luka Tsuladze were arrested along with a Belarusian opposition activist, Uladzimir Kabets, and taken to a police station. The Kmara activists reportedly arrived in Minsk from Kyiv last week to support members of a youth association called The Third Path who could be charged with defaming the president in connection with satirical Internet cartoons (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 2005). JM

DEUTSCHE WELLE TO START BROADCASTING TO BELARUS AS OF NOVEMBER. The European Commission said in a statement on 24 August that Germany's international broadcaster Deutsche Welle will start broadcasting to Belarus via shortwave and the Internet on 1 November, RFE/RL's Brussels correspondent reported. The 15-minute Deutsche Welle broadcasts in Russian will run from Monday to Friday and provide news reports from a network of correspondents inside Belarus on political, social, and economic matters. A website will also be created to display the texts of the broadcasts with audio files for download. The European Commission provided Deutsche Welle with an annual grant of 138,000 euros ($169,000) to make the broadcasts. "The programs, which are 15 minutes a day, will be broadcast in Russian. We are open to the possibility of broadcasting in Belarusian as well. But, Russian is an official language of Belarus and there are...most Belarusians will understand broadcasts in that language," commission spokeswoman Antonia Mochan told RFE/RL. The idea to launch Deutsche Welle broadcasts to Belarus in Russian has sparked a wave of protests among Belarusian intellectual circles (see "RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova Report," 24 August 2005). JM

NEIGHBORS TO CREATE COORDINATION BODY ON BELARUS. Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka held telephone conversations with the prime ministers of Lithuania, Latvia, and Ukraine on 24 August to coordinate activities by states neighboring on Belarus in view of actions taken by Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime, PAP reported. "The prime ministers agreed to set up a joint working team with the aim of prompt exchange of information and coordination of activities," the Polish government said in a press release the same day. The prime ministers also voiced their support for the idea of preparing an independent radio program in Belarusian. Earlier this month Belka designated 950,000 zlotys ($290,000) to create an independent Belarusian-language radio (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 2005). JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT STRESSES EUROPEAN CHOICE... President Viktor Yushchenko made a speech to some 10,000 people gathered on Kyiv's Independence Square on 24 August to mark the country's 14th anniversary of independence, Ukrainian and international agencies reported. According to Yushchenko, following the Orange Revolution Ukraine is perceived as a regional leader by "many" of its neighbors. "We not only see our future in a unified Europe," Yushchenko said. "Ukraine's success is able to open new horizons for our entire continent. I believe that very soon without Ukraine it will be impossible to imagine Europe's new face, or its frontiers, or its role in today's world." JM

...PRAISES NEW GOVERNMENT'S ACHIEVEMENTS... President Yushchenko told the crowd on Independence Square in Kyiv on 24 August that the new Ukrainian government installed in the wake of the Orange Revolution has already achieved first tangible successes, Interfax-Ukraine reported. According to Yushchenko, under the new government media freedom has become a reality in Ukraine. He also emphasized that the government is guided by social justice in its socioeconomic policies. "For the first time [our] pensioners have received a minimum pension that is equal to subsistence minimum," Yushchenko said. "For the first time mothers with newborn babies have received a worthy assistance from the state." Yushchenko also asserted that under his presidency Ukrainian businessmen have for the first time showed a willingness to leave the shadow-economy sector and "to pay taxes honestly." JM

...AND SEEKS HIGHER PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION HURDLE. President Yushchenko also said in his Independence Day speech that the efficiency of a future parliament is one of the guarantees that Ukraine will not return to the past, Interfax-Ukraine reported. "I hope that today's Verkhovna Rada has enough patriotism to raise the voting threshold. We will then get a real representative branch of authority, not a club of political-party owners." A law on parliamentary elections adopted in March lowered the voting threshold to qualify for parliamentary representation from 4 percent to 3 percent. The law stipulates that parliamentary elections to the 450-seat legislature are to be held under a fully proportional, party-list system. JM

SLAIN JOURNALIST AWARDED WITH UKRAINE'S HIGHEST HONOR. President Yushchenko has posthumously bestowed the Hero of Ukraine title upon Internet journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, who was murdered in 2000, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 24 August. "I have signed a decree conferring the title of the Hero of Ukraine upon Gongadze," Yushchenko said at a 24 August ceremony of presenting state awards. "He gave his young life for our freedom and independence." Earlier this month the Prosecutor-General's Office said that it has concluded its investigation into the killing of Gongadze (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 2005). JM


Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, head of the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine, celebrated Mass for some 3,000 believers outside a cathedral under construction in Kyiv on 21 August, thus marking the move of his church's headquarters from Lviv to Kyiv. The move was approved by the late Pope John Paul II and confirmed by his successor, Benedict XVI. Simultaneously with the transfer of the headquarters, Cardinal Husar changed his official title from Major Archbishop of Lviv to Major Archbishop of Kyiv and Halychyna (Galicia).

The celebration took place among noisy protests by several hundred Orthodox believers and representatives of ultraleftist political groups, for whom the move represented an intolerable incursion of Catholicism into what is seen as canonical territory of Orthodoxy. Arguably, the transfer of the see of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church eastward adds more fuel to a simmering conflict between Catholic and Orthodox believers in Ukraine in particular, as well as the Russian Orthodox Church and the Vatican in general.

"Thanks to monks and missionaries, Christianity made its way from here -- in Kyiv -- throughout the Slav world," Cardinal Husar said in his homily, according to Reuters. "Kyiv earned fame as the cradle of Christianity in the Slav east. But we allowed the church that was established in this holy place to be divided. And we ask ourselves: Is there a way to restore that initial unity to bring confrontation to an end?"

Husar's words were drowned out from time to time by shouting from the protest rally, which was separated from the Greek Catholic flock by a police cordon. Demonstrators reportedly chanted antipresidential slogans, called Greek Catholics "traitors," and voiced support for the unification of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. Against the worst expectations, the protest did not turn violent.

Ukraine's religious cleavages run not only between the Greek Catholics and the Orthodox, but also between the Orthodox themselves, who make up a majority of believers in the country. The Orthodox community in Ukraine is divided between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. Only the first, largest organization -- which is the administrative branch of the Russian Orthodox Church -- objects to the move of the Greek Catholic Church headquarters to the country's capital. As, incidentally, does the Moscow Patriarchate, which accuses the Vatican of expansionism and proselytism with regard to Orthodoxy.

Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II slammed the transfer of the seat of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church from Lviv to Kyiv as an "unfriendly step" that will add further tension to relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Vatican. "This move cannot be justified either from a historical point of view or by church rules and canons. The Kievan chair from the very first years of its existence was an ecclesiastical capital of the Russian Orthodox Church, first as the metropolitan center and later as the major chair among the Ukrainian dioceses," the Moscow Patriarchate website quoted him as saying.

The protracted Greek Catholic-Orthodox controversy in Ukraine takes its origin in 15th- and 16th-century church history, which can hardly be commended as a period of Christian love and peace. In 1439 some Orthodox hierarchs, urged on by the Byzantine emperor in Constantinople, signed the so-called Union of Florence, whereby they accepted the primacy of the pope and settled some theological questions in Rome's favor, in exchange for anticipated assistance to Constantinople's struggle against the Ottoman Turks. However, Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1453, and the Union of Florence was subsequently rejected and condemned by an Orthodox Church synod.

The Vatican made a more successful attempt at putting a part of Orthodoxy under its control in 1596, when some Orthodox bishops in the then Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania -- two states united by a political union -- signed the so-called Union of Brest (now a city in Belarus), whereby they accepted Roman Catholic dogmas and the supremacy of the pope but retained the Eastern rite and their own calendar of saints. The Greek Catholic Church (called also the Uniate Church), which was created in Brest, embraced a majority of former Orthodox believers in the 17th-century Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, although the switch to a new faith led to numerous acts of violence and bloodshed on ethnically Belarusian and Ukrainian lands.

The expanding Russian Empire partitioned the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 18th century jointly with Prussia and Austro-Hungary. Incidentally, one of the Russian diplomatic excuses for dismembering 18th-century Poland was intolerance of Roman Catholics toward their Orthodox brethren. Greek Catholic bishops were evicted from Kyiv by Empress Catherine II by the end of the 18th century, and the Union of Brest was formally liquidated in the Russian Empire by Emperor Nicholas I in 1839.

However, the Greek Catholic Church survived in Galicia (western Ukraine), a part of the Kingdom of Poland annexed by Austro-Hungary. The church also survived through the Polish rule over Galicia in 1918-39 and was banned by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin after western Ukraine became part of the Soviet Union. In 1945, the Soviet authorities arrested all Greek Catholic Church hierarchs, and in 1946 a Greek Catholic synod orchestrated by Stalin decided to merge the Uniates with the Russian Orthodox Church. The Vatican declared that synod to be noncanonical and its decisions illegal. The Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine, which went underground during the Soviet era, reemerged in 1989, after then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev officially recognized its existence.

While many Ukrainians look at the current move of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church headquarters from Lviv to Kyiv with either sympathy or indifference, some religious activists of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate doubtless perceive the move as an emblematic setback for Orthodoxy in its struggle to ward off the expansion of Catholicism. "The Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate will consider this [move] as a great symbolic failure," Ukrainian political analyst Viktor Nebozhenko commented. "And some political forces will of course use Lubomyr Husar's move to Kyiv as a pretext for exacerbating interdenominational relations in Ukraine."

Regrettably, Nebozhenko may be right. The protest nearby the unfinished Resurrection of Christ Greek Catholic Cathedral in Kyiv on 21 August was attended by representatives of extreme leftist and pro-Russian forces, including the Progressive Socialist Party of Natalya Vitrenko and the radical Brotherhood association led by Dmytro Korchynskyy. These forces, which failed to win parliamentary representation in 2002, will in all probability use the religious factor -- the dissatisfaction of a significant part of Orthodox Ukrainians with the Greek Catholic move -- as an extra argument in their campaign for the 2006 parliamentary elections.