Termination of the lease agreement for the Upper and Lower Lavra: Is There Room for UOC MP in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra? – English versionDenis Brylov
On December 1, 2022, in his traditional evening address to Ukrainians, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated that the meeting of the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) held that day had discussed "numerous facts of ties of certain religious circles in Ukraine to the aggressor state." As further events have shown, "certain religious circles" implied Ukraine's largest (as of February 24, 2022, the outbreak of the full-scale Russian invasion) religious organizationi, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), often also called the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP) due to its canonical and organizational ties to the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC).
This meeting of the National Security Council instructed the executive authorities (in particular, the State Service for Ethnic Affairs and Freedom of Conscience, DESS) to verify the legal grounds and compliance with the use conditions by religious organizations of the property located on the territory of the National Kyiv-Pechersk Historical and Cultural Reserve (Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, also known as the Kyiv Monastery of the Caves).
Additionally, Presidential Decree No. 820/2022, «On Decision of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine of December 1, 2022, "On Certain Aspects of the Activities of Religious Organizations in Ukraine and Application of Personal Special Economic and Other Restrictive Measures (Sanctions)"» and Cabinet of Ministers Resolution No. 1416 of December 23, 2022, established an Interagency Working Group. Its goal was to prepare proposals and recommendations on organizing certain tasks related to the activities of religious organizations in Ukraine.
Once again, the vague wording of "religious organizations" implied the UOC-MP, which at that time almost solely used most of the buildings on the territory of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. The UOC-MP shared some of them with the state museum-reserve while blocking access for other religious organizations. Since the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra is an Orthodox monastery complex, other Orthodox denominations of Ukraine were the main claimants for access to the temples of the Lavra. Primarily, it goes about the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC KP) until 2019 and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), which has largely been the legal successor of the UOC KP since 2019After the unification council in 2018, the newly formed Orthodox Church of Ukraine included the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, and … Continue reading.
Sometimes the desire of activists of other Orthodox denominations to access the Lavra against the resistance of the UOC MP to violent confrontation (in 1992) or non-violent protests against the presence of a church closely tied to Moscow in the Lavra (in 2000, 2014). In March 2018, representatives of radical youth held an impromptu "prayer service" in the Dormition Cathedral of Lavra, calling for the "liberation of Ukrainian shrines from the Moscow occupiers"Bratstvo" Korchynskoho pryishly u Kyievo-Pechersku lavru i anonsuvaly zakhoplennia sviatyni [Korchinskyy's "Brotherhood" came to the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra and claimed the seizure of the shrine]. … Continue reading".
Ultimately, in 2023, the state terminated the UOC MP monopoly on Lavra was terminated by the state. It was more than just terminated: The UOC MP will most likely lose even the right to use the Lavra temples on equal terms with other denominations. At least, according to the statements of some UOC MP representatives, all requests to the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy to hold services in the churches of the Upper Lavra have remained unanswered, and representatives of the UOC-MP are being evicted (with the involvement of the police) from the Lower Lavra.
The Holy Dormition Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990, is an Orthodox monastery complex located on an area of about 26 hectares in the center of the capital of Ukraine. It was founded in 1051 during the reign of Prince Yaroslav the Wise, and from 1052 to 1688, was a stauropegion (i.e., under the direct administration) of the Patriarch of Constantinople, receiving the status of a lavraLavra is the term for some of the largest male Orthodox monasteries of special historical and spiritual significance. in 1688.
In 1926, the Soviet authorities of the Ukrainian SSR turned the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra into an "All-Ukrainian museum town", making it a state historical and cultural reserve. By 1930 the monastery was liquidated entirely, and the monks inhabiting it were either sent into exile or executed. From that moment on, the former monastery was finally transformed into a state museum reserve. The partial return of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra to the Orthodox community started in the late years of the Soviet Union. In 1988, to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the baptism of Rus by Prince Volodymyr the Great, the Council of Ministers of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic decided to transfer the Far Caves territory to the Pechersk Monastic Community of the Ukrainian Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC)The Ukrainian exarchate of the ROC existed until October 1990, when the Council of Bishops of the ROC abolished it and created the self-governing Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC-MP) with broad … Continue reading.
On June 11, 2013, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine decided to transfer 75Other version says 79 objects. objects and facilities of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra to the UOC MP's Holy Dormition cathedral for free use. As the then Minister of Culture Leonid Novokhatko commented, all the reserve objects remained in state ownership, while the religious community fully bore the property's costs. In addition, the legislation provided the possibility of returning the property to the state should the religious community maintain it inappropriatelyKabmin otdal 75 obyektov Kyevo-Pecherskoi lavry Moskovskomu patryarkhatu UPTs. – The Cabinet of Ministers has transferred 75 objects of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra to the Moscow Patriarchate of the … Continue reading.
The Lavra is conventionally divided into two parts — the so-called "lower" and "upper." On the territory of the Upper Lavra, there are the Dormition Cathedral and the Refectory Church, as well as museums. The Lower Lavra consists of the so-called Near and Far Caves, where relics of Eastern Orthodox saints are kept. On its territory is the UOC MP male monastery (about 200 monks lived there at the time of the lease termination), the Kyiv Theological Academy and Seminary, and the administration of the UOC MP.
On January 1, 2023, the lease agreement for the Dormition Cathedral and the Refectory Church (in the Upper Lavra) expired, and the agreement was not renewed. The reaction of the UOC MP was relatively restrained as it left the Upper Lavra churches without any excesses. The calm reaction of the UOC-MP was also facilitated by the fact that since the fall of 2022, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) launched scrupulous investigations of the ties of certain clergy members of the UOC MP to Russia. In particular, in February 2023, an SBU representative announced that since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, more than 350 church facilities and 850 people had undergone in-depth inspections by the Security Service.
These inspections resulted in nearly 60 criminal proceedings against UOC MP clergypersons, and seven convictions have been handed down by the courtRomanenko S. Tserkovnikam UPTs MP sudy uzhe vynesli 7 obvinytelnykh prigovorov – SBU [The courts have already handed down 7 guilty verdicts to UOC MP churchmen – SBU]. Ukrainska pravda, February … Continue reading. As the pressure from the authorities grew and a part of the society accused the UOC MP of being "pro-Russian', the UOC MP leadership apparently decided not to escalate the tension. However, it didn't help the UOC MP to prevent the loss of the Lower Lavra, where the men's monastery and spiritual academy were located.
In early March 2023, the management of the National Reserve "Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra" notified the UOC MP that it terminated the agreement on the free use of religious buildings and other state property by the religious organization from March 29, and the UOC MP had to vacate all the premises it occupied. At the same time, the reserve management referred to the conclusions of the Interdepartmental Working Group, which found that the UOC MP monastery violated the terms of the Agreement on the Use of State Property, and a letter from the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of UkraineRoschina E. Zapovednik “Kyevo-Pecherskaya lavra” razryvaet dogovor s monastyrem UPTs-MP [Kiev-Pechersk Lavra Reserve Breaks Contract with UOC-MP Monastery]. Ukrainska pravda, March 10, 2023. … Continue reading.
Nevertheless, on March 30, the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy commission could not enter Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra's premises, and the UOC MP refused to leave its territory. The Ministry of Culture reacted by turning to the police, pointing at the obstruction of the commission's work. In July, the National Reserve started sealing the buildings of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, and the UOC-MP deemed such actions illegal and filed lawsuits against the National Reserve.
On August 9, the Commercial Court of Kyiv dismissed the monastery's claims and recognized the termination of the contract concluded between the monastery of the UOC MP and the National Reserve "Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra" as lawful. The court obliged the Holy Dormition Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra (Male Monastery) of the UOC MP to remove obstacles in using property to the National Reserve "Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra" by returning it.
On August 10, the Commercial Court of Kyiv satisfied the lawsuit of the State Museum-Reserve "Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra" against the UOC MP, prohibiting it from interfering with the use of the monastery's property, which gave legal grounds to evict the monks from the monastery. And already on August 11, by order of the National Reserve "Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra" access for all visitors to the territory of the Lower Lavra (where the male monastery of Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra is located) was temporarily stopped, except for clergymen and monksZ 11 serpnia dostup na terytoriiu Pecherskoho monastyria tymchasovo zakryto dlia vidviduvachiv [Since August 11, access to the territory of the Pechersk Monastery has been temporarily closed to … Continue reading.
The main reason was to stop the UOC MP supporters, who wanted to block the eviction of UOC MP monks, from entering the territory of the Lavra and to prevent the possibility of clashes between supporters and opponents of the UOC MP. This goal wasn't entirely achieved as about 30-40 UOC MP parishioners barricaded themselves in several rooms. As the press secretary of the National Reserve "Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra" Olesya Kramarenko stated, these people "demand nothing, sing songs, pray and do not want to leave the premises, locking the doors from the inside," interfering with the work of the commission of the Ministry of Culture and blocking the entrance of the commission to the Lavra premisesKravtsov V. Zabarykaduvalysia y ne khochut lyshaty budivliu: viriany UPTs MP dosi ne vyishly z Lavry [Barricaded and refusing to leave the building: UOC-MP parishioners have not yet left the Lavra]. … Continue reading.
An open question is whether the UOC-MP can stay in the Lavra in one way or another. However, we can assume the expectations of the Ukrainian authorities, as the Minister of Culture and the acting head of the Reserve share certain messages indicating the conditions that the UOC MP must fulfill in order to return (at least partially) to the Lavra. In particular, on August 12, amid the confrontation between the UOC MP supporters and the police, the director of the Reserve stated that "after the final court decisions, the monks must either prove that they have no ties with the aggressor country, work out a new format of relations with the state and apply to prolong the use of the Lavra premises based on a new transparent agreement — or vacate these premisesU Nyzhnii lavri pid kontrol zapovidnyka povernuly 11 sporud [In the Lower Lavra, 11 buildings were returned to the control of the Reserve]. Ukrinform. August 12, 2023. … Continue reading".
The situation with the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra is part of a larger process. The expulsion of the UOC MP from the Lavra is just one of the ways to force the UOC MP to explicitly break with the ROC. It may culminate with the adoption of the law on the ban of religious organizations whose governing center is in an aggressor country, which is currently being discussed in the Ukrainian parliament. At the same time, regular calls by the head of the DESS, Viktor Yelenskyy, for a "complete and unconditional break" of the UOC MP with the ROC include a demand to officially notify the local Orthodox Churches about the UOC's withdrawal from the ROCPovidomlennya schodo zustrichi DESS ta predstavnykiv UPTS MP [Report on the meeting of the DESS and representatives of the UOC-MP]. State Service of Ukraine for Ethnic Policy and Freedom of … Continue reading
For the UOC MP, which claims to have severed administrative ties with the Russian Orthodox Church but remains canonically bound to it, this essentially means going into schism. Meanwhile, there is already an autocephalous (although not yet recognized by most local churches) church in Ukraine – the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which received in 2019 a tomos on autocephaly from Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople. Therefore, breaking the canonical connection with the Russian Orthodox Church and becoming an independent autocephalous church is impossible for the UOC MP. There are several possible ways out of this situation, each involving many challenges.
One of the options is the takeover of the UOC MP structures by the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, and it looks like the option favored a part of society, certain representatives of the authorities, and the OCU itself. But at the same time, there are some concerns. The first is OCU clergy fearing the influx of UOC MP priests because the OCU is not able to provide priests even for those communities that have transferred from the UOC MP to the OCU since the latter received its autocephaly (it goes about a little more than 1000 parishes). The OCU does not even have enough monks to populate the Kyiv-Pechersk monastery.
The OCU clergy expected the promise not to expel the monks of the UOC MP monastery in Lavra should they convert to the OUC to work. Yet, it didn't. Only one monk out of about 200 convertedArchimandrite of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra converted from the UOC to the OCU. Radio Liberty. March 29, 2023. … Continue reading. Another serious obstacle is the unwillingness of most of the UOC MP priests, even those pro-Ukrainian and anti-Russian, to convert to the OCU, to which they have many personal and canonical claims.
Another option is more wholesome for the Ukrainian church community in the long term. Still, for this reason, it is not particularly desirable for the part of society that wants quick changes, as well as for the OCU lobbyists in the government structures, who want the UOC MP to be banned. This option suggests the unification of the OCU and UOC MP structures with a rather long transition period; if the situation develops positively, the receipt of new tomos for the united church should follow. Yet, there are also obstacles here, starting with the complex personal relations between Metropolitan Onufry (Berezovsky) and Patriarch Bartholomew I, the reluctance of the UOC MP leadership to revise the status quo, the opposition of the pro-Russian wing within the UOC MP and the ROC itself. And this is not to mention that the unification of the two Ukrainian churches and the possible issuance of new tomos poses many problems of a canonical nature, affecting global Orthodoxy.
At the same time, it would be challenging to find the strength and will to wait indefinitely for the churches to find common ground in a society struggling to survive in a fight with a ruthless enemy. Against the backdrop of a protracted war, people need symbolic victories. And one such "victory" (probably a Pyrrhic one) could be the expulsion of the UOC MP from the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, perceived as a national Ukrainian shrine by many Ukrainians.
|After the unification council in 2018, the newly formed Orthodox Church of Ukraine included the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, and individual priests from the UOC-MP. In 2019, the OCU received a tomos from the head of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, Patriarch Bartholomew I.
|"Bratstvo" Korchynskoho pryishly u Kyievo-Pechersku lavru i anonsuvaly zakhoplennia sviatyni [Korchinskyy's "Brotherhood" came to the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra and claimed the seizure of the shrine]. UNIAN. 8 March 2018. https://religions.unian.ua/orthodoxy/10034912-bratstvo-korchinskogo-priyshli-u-kiyevo-pechersku-lavru-i-anonsuvali-zahoplennya-svyatini-video.html
|Lavra is the term for some of the largest male Orthodox monasteries of special historical and spiritual significance.
|The Ukrainian exarchate of the ROC existed until October 1990, when the Council of Bishops of the ROC abolished it and created the self-governing Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC-MP) with broad autonomy rights.
|Other version says 79 objects.
|Kabmin otdal 75 obyektov Kyevo-Pecherskoi lavry Moskovskomu patryarkhatu UPTs. – The Cabinet of Ministers has transferred 75 objects of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra to the Moscow Patriarchate of the UOC. Livyy Bereh. July 11, 2013. https://lb.ua/society/2013/07/11/212114_kabmin_otdal_75_obektov.html
|Romanenko S. Tserkovnikam UPTs MP sudy uzhe vynesli 7 obvinytelnykh prigovorov – SBU [The courts have already handed down 7 guilty verdicts to UOC MP churchmen – SBU]. Ukrainska pravda, February 23, 2023. https://www.pravda.com.ua/rus/news/2023/02/23/7390653/
|Roschina E. Zapovednik “Kyevo-Pecherskaya lavra” razryvaet dogovor s monastyrem UPTs-MP [Kiev-Pechersk Lavra Reserve Breaks Contract with UOC-MP Monastery]. Ukrainska pravda, March 10, 2023. https://www.pravda.com.ua/rus/news/2023/03/10/7392897/
|Z 11 serpnia dostup na terytoriiu Pecherskoho monastyria tymchasovo zakryto dlia vidviduvachiv [Since August 11, access to the territory of the Pechersk Monastery has been temporarily closed to visitors]. Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, August 10, 2023. https://lavra.ua/uk/z-11-serpnya-dostup-na-teritoriyu-pecherskogo-monastirya-timchasovo-zakrito-dlya-vidviduvachiv/
|Kravtsov V. Zabarykaduvalysia y ne khochut lyshaty budivliu: viriany UPTs MP dosi ne vyishly z Lavry [Barricaded and refusing to leave the building: UOC-MP parishioners have not yet left the Lavra]. Kanal 24. August 14, 2023. https://24tv.ua/kiyevo-pecherskoyi-lavri-dosi-ne-viyshli-lyudi-voni-zabarigaduvalisya_n2372313
|U Nyzhnii lavri pid kontrol zapovidnyka povernuly 11 sporud [In the Lower Lavra, 11 buildings were returned to the control of the Reserve]. Ukrinform. August 12, 2023. https://www.ukrinform.ua/rubric-society/3747616-u-niznij-lavri-pid-kontrol-zapovidnika-povernuli-11-sporud.html
|Povidomlennya schodo zustrichi DESS ta predstavnykiv UPTS MP [Report on the meeting of the DESS and representatives of the UOC-MP]. State Service of Ukraine for Ethnic Policy and Freedom of Conscience. June 26, 2023. https://dess.gov.ua/povidomlennia-shchodo-zustrichi-dess-ta-predstavnykiv-upts-mp
|Archimandrite of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra converted from the UOC to the OCU. Radio Liberty. March 29, 2023. https://www.svoboda.org/a/arhimandrit-kievo-pecherskoy-lavry-pereshyol-iz-upts-v-ptsu/32340863.html
Denis Brylov, "Termination of the lease agreement for the Upper and Lower Lavra: Is There Room for UOC MP in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra? – English version". Bulletin de l'Observatoire international du religieux N°45 [en ligne], septembre 2023. https://obsreligion.cnrs.fr/bulletin/termination-of-the-lease-agreement-for-the-upper-and-lower-lavra-is-there-room-for-uoc-mp-in-the-kyiv-pechersk-lavra-english-version/
Denis Brylov, European Center for Strategic Analytics and Senior Researcher of the A. Krymskiy Institute of Oriental Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine