Ukraine’s other conflict
Katherine Kelaidis reports on the battles of Orthodoxy and freedom taking place in Ukraine
Perched high on Mount Berestov, above the Pecherskyi District of Kyiv, the green roofs and golden domes of Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra (pictured) look like something from a high-budget fantasy film. Instead, it is a medieval monastic compound, arguably the most important religious site in Ukraine. Founded in the 11th century by Anthony of Kiev, a Rus monk who had spent his religious formation on Mount Athos, the centre of eastern monasticism since antiquity, Pechersk Lavra enjoys national and international protections: a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a national heritage site, and (since 2007) one of the ‘Seven Wonders of Ukraine.’ In recent months, it has been the site of a property dispute that is emblematic of the volatile and complex battle over religious and cultural identity being waged within Ukraine, a struggle that threatens the besieged country from within as much as any Russian tank does from without.
It is a battle that Olena Bodgan tried to stop before it began. Her efforts have cost the scholar and civil servant her post as Minister of Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience. The fact that Bodgan’s story, that of Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra and the larger religious conflict have been ignored or misunderstood in the western media suggests the religious dimensions to the conflict in Ukraine remain, a year and a half into its invasion by Russia, largely mysterious to western audiences…
Katherine Kelaidis is the Director of Research and Content at the National Hellenic Museum in Chicago and Associate Fellow of the Institute of Orthodox Christian Studies, Cambridge. Her book Holy Russia? Holy War? was published by SPCK in May
This is an extract from an article published in the June 2023 edition of Reform