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Religion and Church

The history of religion in Ukraine is traced back many a century. Ancient people worshipped forces of elements and ancestors' ghosts. Gods like Ya-rylo, Dazhboh and Perun personified the might of heavens, on earth people were surrounded by evil spirits. But all people were protected by Mother Goddess Berehynia.

With the development of the state system there emerged the need in a different religion. Beginning in 988, prompted by political considerations, Grand Prince Volodymyr resolutely imposed Christianity in Kyiv Rus. In the 11th c. Christianity became the dominant religion, although pagan beliefs persisted in the provinces for some time. In Kyiv, Volodymyr built the church of the Tithe, St. Basil's Church, the Church of our Savior in Berestove. The glorious St. Sophia's Cathedral (1037) is rich in mosaic and fresco decorations and icons which were revered by the faithful. With time icons appeared in people's homes and were treated as the most cherished family procession.
Churches were not only places of prayer but also venues of public, business and educational activities.

Alongside parish churches appeared monasteries and convents. The first was the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra Monastery of the Caves (second half of the 11th c.)
In the 12th c. church life and traditions were clearly formed. It was also then that the first differences with Rome were defined, primarily because the Holy See insisted that the divine services be celebrated in Latin. However, the Greek Orthodox East was closer to the religious spirit of the Ukrainian people, the more so that Constantinople didn't mind Church Slavonic, which was easily understood by the common folk.
Meanwhile, Moscow was gaining strength along with Novgorod and Vladimir.

In the 14th c. the territory of the Kyiv See was split between Lithuania, Poland and Moscovy. In 1458 there appeared two sees that of Kyiv and the Moscow See. The Galician diocese existed separately.

A Church Council called in 1596 in Brest meant to unite the Orthodox and the Catholic Church. Despite strong protests from the Orthodox side, the Church Union of Brest was endorsed. However, instead of a union between two Churches, there appeared a triple alliance: the Catholic, the Orthodox and the Uniate Church.

In the 18th c. the Kyiv Diocese underwent considerable changes. Gradually, the Ukrainian Church lost its beneficial influence on the country's cultural life. Still, there was the Theological Academy in Kyiv, and 10 seminaries. There were attempts to deliver sermons in Ukrainian and to translate gospels into Ukrainian. P. Kulish translated the Bible in 1870. In 1908 the Holy Synod published the Ukrainian Gospels. The exponents of total Ukrainization founded a separate Autocephalous Orthodox Church (1919).

Kharkiv National University   Religion Life Today