The Ukrainian National Church, Religious Diplomacy and the Conflict in Donbas

Lucian N Leustean, Vsevolod Samokhvalov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The article analyses political mobilisation towards the establishment of an independent
Ukrainian national church. Ukraine had three Orthodox churches, the largest of which is under
the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate, while the others lacked ecclesiastical legitimacy.
On 11 October 2018, in a dramatic decision with geopolitical consequences, the Kyiv
Patriarchate received ecclesiastical recognition from the Istanbul-based Ecumenical
Patriarchate. Drawing on 16 interviews with key clergy, academics and policy practitioners
working on church-state relations in Kyiv, a literature review, and online data from Bulgarian,
Greek, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian and Ukrainian sources, the article argues that the
conflict in Donbas has been a key factor in the national and international mobilisation towards
autocephaly. This article demonstrates that in Eastern Orthodoxy, churches perform state-like
functions in three areas, namely establishing diplomatic channels of communication;
mobilising the faithful at national and international levels; and advancing human security
discourses on violence, survival and tolerance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-224
JournalJournal of Orthodox Christian Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

Copyright: 2019 Johns Hopkins University Press.

Funding: British Academy.


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