Voices from Russia

Saturday, 5 July 2008

St Nicholas Church: Orthodox Holy Place or Uniate Advance Post?

In the old historical part of Kiev, in Podole, where popular tourist routes intersect, at the head of Pokrovskoi Street, it is possible to see a church built in the characteristic 17th century Moscow style of architecture, which, surprising many visitors to the city, is a non-Orthodox establishment. In the store that is attached to the church it is possible to buy a guidebook released by the Svichado publishing house of Lvov that gives some information on the history of this Kiev landmark. However, this is a publication aimed at tourists; so, it is unable to give a complete idea of the complicated history of this Orthodox holy place, which, for some 15 years now, has been taken over by a group of Ukrainian Uniates.

According to local legend, in Old Russian times there was a church dedicated to St Nicholas on the spot where the church of St Nicholas the Good arose in the late 16th century. In the period of Polish rule, the Catholics exerted much pressure on the parish to join Uniatism. The parish of St Nicholas the Good, without counting the cost, remained staunchly Orthodox. It is significant to note that the peak of the parish complex that grew around the church was reached in the glory days of the Russian Empire, and, in 1807, a new stone structure was erected. At the time of the Revolution in 1917, besides the main church, there was a church dedicated to the Great Martyr St Barbara, a belfry, and a hostel for pilgrims that came to Kiev from all over the Russian Empire. In addition, there were other buildings for clergy residences and other utility purposes.

From the historical description found in St Nicholas the Good Church with Belfry in the City of Kiev: Description of the Complex, we learn that the benefactors of the church were the leaders of the Little Russian Cossacks, the petty bourgeoisie, merchants, and bureaucrats of the Russian Empire. For example, in the 1850s, the Governor of Kiev guberniya, Ivan Funduklei, gave 300 roubles for the repair of the church buildings. We should make special mention of the fact that amongst the benefactors of the church of St Nicholas the Good was Tsar Aleksandr I. He gave the parish title to land in the very centre of Kiev and two additional plots for building residences for the parochial clergy. The reason that this church was known all over Russia was its wonderworking icon of St Nicholas, which was a copy of the original in the Novosilsky Monastery in the diocese of Tula. Specifically, it is this venerated icon that gave the church its unusual name of St Nicholas the Good.

Today, the only structures of the imperial-era complex that survive are the three-storey belfry and the church of St Barbara, which was taken over in 1992 by Uniates led by Fr Valery Shkarubsky. No wonder that the Lvov publishers of the guidebook dedicated to the church of St Nicholas the Good did not report these or other interesting facts of its history, for these days, when Russia and the Ukraine have been forced apart, they acquire a special importance. For example, the authors call attention to the fact that in 1799 the Governor wished to tear down the decrepit church building then extant and move the faithful into adjoining parishes. In the guidebook, this is given the usual sensationalist slant by nationalist writers, according to which, the pre-Revolutionary Russian authorities were nothing but dictators and oppressors of the people, whereas they actually took many efforts for the betterment of the city of Kiev and its inhabitants. Without even touching on the problems raised by a group of Uniates taking over Orthodox church buildings erected during the time of the Russian Empire, the authors of the guidebook write in such a way as to mislead uninformed readers into thinking that the buildings of the complex were always in the hands of the Uniates!

Of course, it is needless to say that the present situation, caused by a decision of the Kiev authorities in 1992 to hand over the belfry and the church to the Uniates, seems unnatural and false to most Orthodox believers in Kiev. I think that the Uniates themselves understand the groundlessness of this decision, as one can see in such publications such as the article of Viktor Zaslavsky, “Blessed are the Peacemakers, or, the Heroes of Pokrovskaya Street” posted on the website of the Lvov Uniate University. In this publication, which includes a reference to the “small church of St Nicholas the Good”, sketches a sympathetic picture of the joint existence of Orthodox and Catholics in medieval Kiev, who, in the opinion of the author, united in both “a common cause and the general misfortune”. This is in defiance of the historical evidence.

Most of the preserved church structure is taken over by a commercial operation, the store of the Svichado publishing house. According to information published in the book The Unia in the Ukraine in the 20th Century written by Fr Aleksei Dobosh, Svichado is the largest Uniate publishing house in the Ukraine, which puts out, per year, some 60,000 different religious publications. The books shown in the shop windows are diverse in their subjects and cover a wide variety of topics from the retention and development of the Ukrainian language to family relations and sexual ethics. The Uniate parish that functions in the belfry chapel is widely-known because of its proselytism and propaganda, which its rector, Fr Valery Shkarubsky, carries out both in the Ukraine and abroad. He is well-known on the internet; he combines his pastoral duties with social and political activity in nationalistic circles.

He started his activity in Kiev in 1988, at first, holding services in various apartments, and later, in the offices of such offensive organisations such as Rukh and Prosvita. In the last years of the USSR, Valery Shkarubsky supported the close connection of those in the Western Ukraine with relations who had gone to the eastern regions to seek employment. He supported the illegal nationalistic organisation Spilka in Kharkov. By the way, the members of this movement can be “proud” of the fact that they were amongst the first to use in public marches the red-and-black banner of the OUN and UPA. In short, the activity of Valery Shkarubsky serves as evident proof of the fact that the Uniates, as seen by the actions of their most active members, lend support and aid to pro-Western and anti-Russian political forces.

It is significant that when he went to Moscow, he gave lectures entitled “The Ukrainian Church and the Special Features of its Confession” and “The Union of Brest and Pyotr Mogila” in one of the hatching-beds of the ideology of Ukrainian nationalism, the Ukrainian Historical Club of Moscow. At present, one of the priority items for the work of Valery Shkarubsky, a man that his supporters call a “great missionary”, is proselytising amongst the “Ukrainian diaspora” in Russia to get them to join the Uniate movement and organise parishes. Besides being the rector of the community in Kiev, Valery Shkarubsky also heads a Uniate parish in Moscow, which although it has been in existence for two decades, it does not have permanent accommodations. We should note that one can find out detailed information about other Uniate communities in Russia in the Ukrainian diaspora media, but, in this case, they do not even give out who its patron saint is.

Thus, the take-over of an ancient Orthodox church by the Uniates gave an organisational base for Uniate and Ukrainian nationalist propaganda both in the Ukraine and in Russia. It is obvious that the patriotic Orthodox community must oppose Uniatism and Catholic proselytism, it must insist upon historical justice and insist that this holy place be returned to its rightful owner, the canonical Ukrainian Autonomous Orthodox Church of the MP.

1 July 2008

Andrei Shirokov

Orthodox Brotherhood of St Aleksandr Nevsky in Kiev

Official website of the Ukrainian Autonomous Orthodox Church (MP)

Quoted in Interfax-Religion


Editor’s Note:

Many Orthodox are unaware of the vicious war waged against Orthodoxy by “Ukrainian” (actually, Galician) Uniates. These people are the fanatic soldiers of Rome; they even put the old Jesuits to shame. Do not forget that their hero Slipyj was a chaplain to the Galician SS. The Orthodox population in the western regions of the Ukraine has been subjected to outright persecution at the hands of these poseurs. Do not forget to pray for them. Likewise, the Orthodox population of Carpatho-Russia, led by the courageous priest Fr Dmitri Sidor, have suffered at the hands of these people.

The Orthodox in these regions, from bishops down to the smallest child, are standing up for the faith, and you must pray for them daily. Never forget that the strongest supporters of church unity are found precisely here, at the point of struggle. Do not let them down by showing wishy-washy behaviour in front of Catholics.

That is why you must reject ecumenism… no, not to break all contact with others… that would be wrong. Rather, one should gently reprove all Roman Catholics who think that union is around the corner because of the treacherous activities of Black Bart and his EP minions. We should not break contact, but, we should make it clear that collaboration with people of good will in projects for the common good is not the same as the sharing of the chalice. We should also make it clear that they must oppose those such as the Uniates who are oppressing others in the name of the Pope of Rome.

I fear that most Catholics would reject us if we made it clear that we are not going to accept the Pope under any circumstance. However, we must not be the ones to break contact. Let them do it… it shall be upon their souls, not ours.


Point of Action:

As a small bit for you to do, never use the spelling “Kyiv”, it is incorrect. Always use “Kiev”, for that is the correct usage. Do not encourage the Uniates in even the smallest ways. Also, in correct English usage, it is always “the Ukraine”, never “Ukraine”. In these little ways, you can help our Orthodox brothers by distracting the Uniate diaspora abroad. Do not give aid and comfort to those who are persecuting our brothers and sisters. You owe them that much.

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