The Summer Reading List: An Introduction to Ukrainian

Given the trash about Ukraine spewed out by Russian propaganda trolls and regurgitated by stupid or ideologically dumb Americans, this year’s annual report summer reading list will focus on serious books that explain the context, including the religious dimension, of a conflict that will shape the future of Europe — and ours.

Lost Kingdom: The Quest for Empire and the Creation of the Russian Nation, by Serhii Plokhy, follows the imperialist chromosomes of the Russian national genome for hundreds of years. Plokhy understands the crucial role that a distorted history of East Slavic Christianity – vigorously promoted by the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church – plays in the “Russian world” ideology that underpins Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine. . The Harvard researcher’s 2015 book, The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraineis also useful for unpacking an unusually complicated story.

My first Ukrainian tutor was the late Bohdan R. Bociurkiw, the first historian of the underground Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine during the Stalin era. Bociurkiw’s study, The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the Soviet State, 1939-1950, uses documents from formerly classified Soviet archives to trace the brutal communist persecution of Ukrainian Greek Catholics and the acquiescence to this persecution by Russian Orthodox leaders who were in fact agents of Soviet state power. It is almost miraculous that today’s vibrant Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church survived the campaign of disintegration described by Bociurkiw. However, he not only survived, he prevailed – a compelling and inspiring example of God’s hand at work through resilience born of faith.

Imperial Russian and Russian Orthodox antipathies towards Ukraine and Ukrainian Greek Catholics are largely based on the Union of Brest of 1596, which restored full communion between the Bishop of Rome and certain ecclesiastical jurisdictions in Eastern Europe. ‘East. My friend Borys Gudziak, the priest-scholar-educator who is now the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Archparch of Philadelphia, wrote the definitive study of this consequential event: Crisis and reform: the metropolis of Kyiv, the patriarchate of Constantinople and the genesis of the union of Brest. Over dinner one evening, I had the pleasure of presenting an autographed copy of the book to John Paul II, and I am convinced that this voracious reader absorbed Father Gudziak’s analysis before the papal pilgrimage to Ukraine. in 2001, which helped heal many of the wounds that Poles and Ukrainians had inflicted on themselves. Crisis and reformis not, however, reserved for popes and scholarly historians; it is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand an important root of what is happening in Eastern Christianity today.

Since the beginning of the Russian war against Ukraine on February 24, the world has been deeply impressed by the courageous leadership of the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Svyatoslav Shevchuk. Major Archbishop Shevchuk’s unshakable Christian faith, pastoral sense and mature patriotism reflect the qualities evident in many of his predecessors. One of them – the model of the “pope of the steppes” in Fisherman’s shoes (the novel, please, not the third-rate film) – was sketched by historian Jaroslav Pelikan in Confessor between East and West: Portrait of Ukrainian Cardinal Josyf Slipyj. After surviving 18 years in various Gulag camps, Slipyj was expelled from the USSR and exiled to Rome. There he nurtured the beginnings of the Ukrainian Catholic University that his former student, Borys Gudziak, would begin building within a decade of the cardinal’s death in 1984.

Cardinal Slipyj’s predecessor, Metropolitan Andrei Sheptyts’kyi, led the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine for more than 40 years and played a key role in the development of Ukrainian cultural and national consciousness in the midst of two world wars. , Stalin’s Ukrainian terrorist famine (the Holodomor) and the relentless Soviet efforts to break the spirit of Ukrainians. Morality and Reality: The Life and Times of Andrei Sheptyts’kyiedited by Paul Robert Magocsi, explores the many facets of the life of one of the most outstanding figures of 20th century Catholicism: a man of great culture, theological originality and ecumenical sensitivity who lived the social doctrine of Catholic Church during some of the darkest of modern times, chillingly described by Timothy Snyder in Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin. In doing so, the Venerable Andrei Sheptyts’kyi, Metropolitan Archbishop of L’viv and Halych, laid the foundations on which Ukrainian Greek Catholicism has been built since coming out of hiding in 1989: a vibrant and publicly engaged Church that has helped shape the Maidan Dignity Revolution in 2013-2014, and which now supports the Ukrainian people in their determination to build a humane society in contrast to Putin’s imperial kleptocracy and murderous ways.

I doubt Mr. Tucker Carlson reads any of these books. But he should.

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George Weigel is an independent columnist whose weekly column is syndicated by the Archdiocese of Denver. The opinions and viewpoints expressed by Mr. Weigel therein are his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the Archdiocese of Denver or the bishops of Denver.

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