The nearly three-hundred-year rule of Moscowy in Ukraine was largely determined by the dominance of imperial ideology in the minds of Ukrainians. And the popularization of this ideology is the result of the long and persistent work of the Moscow Patriarchate in our country: and as further it went, as weaker the resistance of the population to the king autocracy and the system of slavery, became.
This story deserves to be studied, and the truth, as always, is in the details.
Probably all modern Ukrainians (also those who have religious tolerance) know, that the Orthodox Church in Ukraine in the period from 1686 to 2019 was subordinated by the Moscow Patriarchate. Without touching on theological topics, in the realities of administrative management, it meant that the top of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was appointed by orders from Moscow. The rulers of the Russian Empire (and later the USSR) used the full power of this effective system.
A vivid example of the careful execution of commands from the “Moscow center” is the anathema (act of excommunication from church) for Hetman Ivan Mazepa, imposed on him in 1708 by the Head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, commanded by autocrat Peter I, in violation of the main church canons. In order to understand the effectiveness of existing religious structure of the Russian Empire, good to know, that the anathema is still ( after three hundred years) steadfastly carried out by the Moscow Orthodox Church (MOC). Every year, on June 27, in the churches belonging to the MOC, during the service, the priests read the “Service of thanksgiving … for the great victory over the King of Swabia, Karl XII…”, in which Mazepa is cursed and called the second Judas. Everyone can get acquainted with the modern position regarding Mazepa, a faithful servant of the imperial power – the Moscow Church, now here: https://pravoslavie.ru/5185.html
Therefore, the submission of the Kyiv metropolitan throne to Moscow in 1686 should be considered as the logical next stage of the subjugation of the Ukrainian people – in the sphere of religious and ideological life. It had to consolidate finely the subjugation in the political sphere, initiated by the Pereyaslav agreements about the “reunification of Great Russia and Little Russia” in 1654.
But he was preceded by a long path of political treachery and corruption – at the end of which the higher Orthodox clergy in Ukraine became open representatives and emissaries of the Moscow tsar.
Let’s look at it step by step.
The middle of the 15th century reality faced by the peoples of Eastern Europe, Greek Christians traditionaly, was the lack of a single powerful political and religious center. After the Turks successively conquered Byzantium with its capital Constantinople, the Levant and Egypt, all the Patriarchs of the Orthodox Church were at the disposal of the Ottomans: Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria. The Turkish Muslim sultans were insisted on the acceptance of Islam by the conquered population and limited the presence of the Orthodox clergy. So, even in the lands not yet conquered by the Turks, the influence of the patriarchs steadily decreased.
Taking into account the fact that the Ottomans continued their gradual military conquest of the Balkans and Eastern Europe, the Orthodox started to be attracted to other centers of political and religious power – first of all, the Vatican, counting on them, planed to create buffer zones of permanent religious-military confrontation on the border with the Islamic world .
So, at that time there was a grandiose struggle between the Ottoman Empire, the Vatican and Moscow for control over the Orthodox peoples in Eastern Europe, where just in the middle newly created Cossack country Ukraine was ended up.
The Roman Curia, a kind of government of the Catholic Church (as a supranational administrative entity subordinate to the Roman Pope), tried for a long time to include the Slavic peoples of the Eastern Christian rite into the circle of the Catholic community. The Roman popes, watching the relentless falling of Byzantium, just before it was captured by the Turks, held the Florentine Union in 1439 and announced the unification of the Orthodox and Catholic churches – under the command of Vatican. But then this attempt turned out to be unsuccessful because of the opposition of both the higher Orthodox clergy and the local aristocracy. The Reformation has posed the greatest threat to the financial and administrative control of the Roman popes over the Christian community in Europe and diverted the attention of the Roman curia from events at the east.
At the beginning of the XV century Moscowy, rich by accumulated lands and treasures, began already to try to unite all Orthodox Christians under its scepter. The marriage of Grand Duke Ivan III of Moscow with Sophia Paleologus, the niece of the last Byzantine emperor, the canonical ruler of all the Orthodox, was directed towards. The Vatican, which literally kept her under special supervision, gave Sophia to a Moscow prince by agreement, convinced of futility of the proclaimed Florentine Union – with the goal of uniting Greek and Roman Christianity in the future.
From this time Moscowy, with the help of Orthodox theologians, begins to take over the definition of “Rus” and the right to rule over the entire Christian flock of the Eastern rite. This was based on the following, to a certain extent logical, construction: just as the capital of the Greeks, Constantinople, and all 4 patriarchs of the ancient Greek churches came under the rule of the Muslim-Ottomans by God’s will, then instead of the Greeks, the other peoples should come out for the leading roles in the circle of Orthodox Christians. Among the entire Orthodox flock at that time, the most numerous and unconquered for the Turks were the Russians – the population of the Russian principalities, the remnants of Kievska Rus. In the struggle for supremacy between them – and first of all with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Moscowy persistently identifies itself first with Russia, and then with Great Russia.
This primacy was largely based on the assertion of the succession: the Grand Dukes of Moscow from Volodymyr Svyatoslavovich, the baptizer of Kyivska Rus, and the head of the Moscow Church – from the Metropolitan of Kyivska Rus, who was originally the spiritual head of all Orthodox Russians and was appointed to this position by the Patriarch of Constantinople. It should be noted that the residence of the Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Russia, after the Mongol attack on Kyiv,first was in Volodymyr Zalisky, and then in Moscow. With the assistance of the Moscow princes, from the beginning of the 15th century, the main spiritual leader of the Russian people (his traditional title was “Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Russia”) was in Moscow.
Taking advantage of the announcement of the Union of Florence, the rulers of the Kremlin removed it from the subordination of the Patriarch of Constantinople (officially not recognizing the union) and recreated their pocket “metropolitans of all Russia”.
In 1461, the Rostov bishop Theodosius was appointed to this position by direct order of the Grand Duke of Moscow – even without any agreement with the Patriarch of Constantinople. The title of the protégé of Moscow since those times sounded like “Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia” – but this innovation was not even accepted in all principalities that formally recognized the supremacy of Moscow.
In response to these tendencies of Moscow separatism, the Patriarchs of Constantinople continued to appoint metropolitans of Kyiv – as before, also with the addition of “all Russia”. They began to successively appoint as the highest spiritual bishop of all Russian those representatives who were nominated by the great princes of Lithuania – the main opponents of Moscow at that stage. The title of these proteges of Constantinople looked like “Metropolitan of Kyiv, Galicia and All Russia”, they were mostly under the rulers of Lithuania in their capital Vilno, and under their command were all Orthodox church structures on the lands of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Poland. Regarding this church administration, the name “Kyiv Metropolis” was restored.
With the constant support of the Grand Dukes of Moscow, who from the middle of the 16th century began to demand to call themselves tsars (i.e. emperors), the Moscow metropolitans continued their course for complete independence from Constantinople. Moscow’s troops and money did their job – practically all former Russian principalities (which were not part of Poland and Lithuania) accepted the metropolitan from Moscow as the head of the Orthodox.
The next development of events was connected with the great war in Livonia, which was started by Moscow Tsar Ivan the Terrible in 1558 for access to the Baltic Sea. In 10 years, to oppose him, Poland and Lithuania united into a “state of two nations” – the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which now included Kyiv, Bryansk, Smolensk, Polotsk, Turivsk, Lutsk, Volodymyr-Volynsk, Beresteysk, Peremysk, Halytsk and Kholm Orthodox dioceses, which were part of the Kyiv Metropolitanate.
The main thing was: if in Lithuania the Orthodox made up the majority of the population, then in the united country they already became a minority, because in Poland Catholics were dominant. And the Polish kings (who at the time were also the Grand Dukes of Lithuania) were under the strong influence of Vatican, which did not abandon plans to subjugate Christians of the Eastern Rite to the power of the Roman Pope. Under such circumstances, a whole set of measures were implemented in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth – according to which all non-Catholics were encouraged (and sometimes forced) to convert to Catholicism, in that moment the Orthodox nobility and church hierarchy were under pressure economically and legally by the polity.
During this period, the Orthodox Kyiv Metropolitanate fell into disrepair – because the support of the authorities practically disappeared, also incomes decreased significantly: lands and profitable enterprises were confiscated from churches. A significant number of wealthy Orthodox nobility then converted to Catholicism – which deprived the clergy of traditional donations.
The attention of Constantinople Patriarchs gradually shifted more and more to Moscow, and the loss of money sourse, which was traditionally sent from the Kyiv Metropolitanate to Constantinople, finally set the benchmarks for the following. After all, the rulers of the Kremlin, carefully following these events in Rich Pospolita, did not skimp on expensive gifts and large sums of money, which were sent to the Patriarch of Constantinople,which renamed to Istambul after the Turks conquest.
In the 1550-1580, during the terrible, bloody reign of Ivan IV the Terrible in Muscovy, the Kremlin’s ties with the Patriarchs of Constantinople became even closer – despite in this time, two Moscow metropolitans were executed by its orders. With the help of the Kantakouzen family of Greek merchants, the Muscovites greatly strengthened their influence in Istanbul, due to the constant supply in large quantities of various types of fur from Siberia, which were sold in Turkey. It is appropriate to note that the money from the sale of fur was used to bribe the Patriarch of Constantinople and Turkish dignitaries. It should be noted that in the past artificial fabrics and materials did not exist – so there was no substitute and alternative to high-quality fur.
In some ways, a certain parallel can be drawn with the present – Muscovites use the power of cold at the past and now: money from the sale of gas for heating homes in Europe, Moscow now persistently uses to bribe the politicians and influential people.
By that moment the funds received from the sale of fur were invested in the official recognition by the Patriarch of Constantinople, Joseph II, of the royal title of Ivan the Terrible – before his official title was “Grand Duke of Moscow”.
At the diplomatic level, this established him as the heir of the emperors of the former Byzantium – creating the legitimacy of the Kremlin’s power over all Orthodox. And this was a significant addition to the family ties that were established as a result of matrimonial marriages – Ivan the Terrible was the grandson of Sophia Paleologus, the niece of the last Byzantine emperor. In 1561, the Kantakuzenes handed the Patriarch of Constantinople about 2,100 rubles in gold (more than 8 kg of gold),which he had to distribute among the participants of the Eastern Orthodox Church, which was to approve the royal title of Ivan the Terrible. But corruption inevitably gives rise to deception and other crimes: Joseph II did not convene a church council and limited himself to drawing up a council charter that blessed the Moscow despot for kingship. The signatures of the participants of the cathedral were forged on it, and most importantly, the patriarch kept all the money for himself. This soon became apparent and Joseph II was stripped of the patriarchate and exiled to Mount Athos.
From this forged document of 1562 – about the church council which did not exist! the designation of the Moscow autocrats as Orthodox tsars were established and their subsequent persistence in obtaining power over the entire flock of Eastern Rite Christians.
Author: Vladislav Yakymenko