Written by Vladimir Moss



     The struggle for power on the streets of Kiev is more than a struggle for the soul of the Ukraine, over whether it should belong to the sphere of influence of the European Union or Russia. It is a debate over what Europe really is, not for the Ukrainians only, but generally for all Europeans. And the paradox is: neither side in the debate is truly European; both are conspiring to suppress the re-emergence of the real Europe, the only Europe that can provide peace, prosperity and salvation for the whole continent.


     After the fall of the Roman empire, and especially after the Muslim conquest of most of the Middle East in the seventh century, Europe became synonymous with Christian statehood. “Europe” stood for Christianity – which at that time, in both East and West, was only Orthodox Christianity - against Islam in particular and Asiatic non-Christianity and anti-Christianity in general. The front-line in this struggle was occupied by Byzantium, the major power both in Eastern Europe and in Asia Minor until its fall to the Seljuk Turks after the battle of Manzikert in 1071. But from the tenth century an increasing burden was undertaken by Kievan Rus’. After the baptism of Rus’ in 988 by St. Vladimir, the Great Princes of Kiev were formally speaking junior brothers of the Emperor in Constantinople. De facto, however, Rus’ was fully independent of Constantinople; and by the time of St. Vladimir’s death in 1015 her dominion stretched over most of the great plain that stretches from the Carpathians in the south and west to the Urals in the north and east, thus making her territorially the greatest state in Europe. Moreover, in the twelfth century, which is usually taken as the beginning of Western Europe’s rise to world domination, Kiev far excelled the most important city in the West, Paris, in both population, wealth and cultural richness.


     It should be remembered that in this early medieval period, before the Church schism between Rome and Constantinople had become deeply rooted, Europe was a real unity. There was still much intercourse between the Greek East and the Latin West; dynastic marriages between princes and princesses of the two halves of Europe were frequent; and over the whole of Northern Europe, from England through Scandinavia to Novgorod and Kiev, a single race of Viking stock and similar language and culture held sway.  We see this kinship in, for example, the lives of St. Olaf of Norway, who once sought refuge at the court of St. Vladimir and was canonized by the English Church, and of St. Anna of Novgorod, a Swedish princess baptized by an English bishop who became a Russian saint.


     In the thirteenth century the breach between East and West opened up by the schism of Old Rome from the unity of the Orthodox Church was deepened by several events. The first was the conquest and rape of Constantinople by the western crusaders in 1204. The second was the Fourth Lateran Council under Pope Innocent III, which entrenched and formalized the heresies of the Catholic West. And the third was the conquest by the Mongols of the whole of Kievan Rus’ except Novgorod. A recovery of Orthodoxy was launched by St. Alexander Nevsky in the north, by St. Savva of Serbia in the south and by the Greek Nicaean emperors in the East – but the unity of Europe was not restored…


     Let us now fast-forward eight hundred years to September 12, 1815. It was the namesday of the greatest ruler in Europe, Tsar Alexander I, the true heir of the Great Princes of Kiev – like them of mixed Slavic and Western blood, and like them of the Orthodox Christian faith. On this day, on seven altars on the Plaine de Vertus, eighty miles east of Paris, the Orthodox liturgy was being celebrated in the presence of the Russian army and all the leading political and military leaders of Europe. Neither before nor since in the modern history of Europe has there been such a universal witness, by all the leaders of the Great Powers, to the true King of kings and Lord of lords. And if this was just a diplomatic concession to the conqueror of Napoleon on the part of the non-Orthodox powers, it was much more than that for Alexander. His Orthodox spirit, so puzzling to the other leaders of Europe, was manifested in a letter he wrote that same evening: “This day has been the most beautiful in all my life. My heart was filled with love for my enemies. In tears at the foot of the Cross, I prayed with fervour that France might be saved…”[1]


     Fast forward another one hundred years, to 1915, and we come to the Russian re-conquest of Galicia, the westernmost outpost of Kievan Rus’, now restored to Rus’ by the “gatherer of the Russian lands” and “Tsar of all the Russias”, Great, Little and White. Of course, it is precisely the Russianness of Galicia that is one of the main points at issue on the streets of Kiev and other Ukrainian cities today. After many centuries under the dominion of the Catholic Poles and Austrians, most Galicians and Western Ukrainians in general feel closer to the Catholic West than to Russian Orthodoxy. Not surprisingly, this feeling is supported by the Ukrainian Uniate Church, which is in communion with Rome, and by the westward-looking Kievan Patriarchate, which is recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. These cultural and ecclesiastical links with the West, together with the terrible experiences suffered by the Ukrainians at the hands of Soviet Russia, make the desire of many Ukrainians to join the European Union quite natural.


     Ukrainian nationalism also contributes to this desire. Understandably, the Russian Orthodox greatly regret the rupture of that spiritual and cultural unity of all the Russias that still existed in 1915 as it existed in 1015, 1215 and 1815. But the fact remains that today, in 2013, that unity has become much weaker. And it is no use pointing to ties of blood, language and culture between two races if one of those races feels itself to be so different from the other that it does not want to remain in one state with the other. It is no use insisting that the Ukrainians are in fact a variety of Russians and therefore should belong to the Russian sphere of influence if they simply do not feel themselves to be Russians.


     For, as the Dutch historian G.J. Renier wrote: “Nationality exists in the minds of men… its only conceivable habitat… Outside men’s minds there can be no nationality, because nationality is a manner of looking at oneself not an entity an sich. Common sense is able to detect it, and the only human discipline that can describe and analyse it is psychology… This awareness, this sense of nationality, this national sentiment, is more than a characteristic of a nation. It is nationhood itself.”[2]


     Having said that, there is no question that the Ukraine’s attraction to the West is fraught with grave spiritual dangers. Not only is the European Union a highly corrupt organization with strong tendencies towards totalitarianism, a banking sector in crisis, high unemployment and the real possibility of the withdrawal of its southern members Greece, Italy and Spain, from the Union. It is also ruled by a human rights ideology that is legalizing all kinds of doctrinal and moral abominations, from “respect” for Islam to assisted suicide to the aggressive introduction of “gay pride”.


     It is above all the issue of “gay pride” that has been used by Russia’s politicians and churchmen in attempting to dissuade the Ukrainian Europhiles. And there is no question that it is a powerful argument, not only for the Ukrainian Orthodox, but also for the Catholics and Uniates, who have traditionally been among the most conservative believers on the continent. Perhaps the Ukrainian believers think that the Pope will protect them from having to make compromises with their consciences in this sphere. But if they think this, they are mistaken. The papacy failed to get even a single mention of the word “God” into the European constitution, and it has so far failed to wrench any concessions from the gay rights lobby that rules Europe. In fact, the signs are the new Pope Francis is “going soft” on this issue himself. The only significant opposition to the gays in Europe has come from the Muslims…


     Of course, the sudden support of “traditional values” on the part of KGB Colonel Putin and Patriarch Cyril of Moscow is blatantly opportunist and hypocritical. There is a powerful “gay lobby” in the Moscow Patriarchate, where homosexuality is known as “the sin of Metropolitan Nicodemus” of Leningrad, the famous KGB general who was the patron of the present patriarch. Ex-KGB Colonel, now Subdeacon Konstantine Preobrazhensky writes that for the last 70 years the KGB has been actively promoting homosexuals to the episcopate. “Even Patriarch Sergius is said to have been one of them. The homosexual bishops were in constant fear of being unmasked, and it made them easily managed by the KGB.” In 1999, after persistent complaints by his clergy, the homosexual Bishop Nicon of Yekaterinburg was forced to retire to the Pskov Caves monastery. However, within three years he was back in Moscow as dean of one of the richest parishes, saved by the patriarchate’s gay lobby.[3] Just recently it has been announced that the patriarchate is sending a commission to investigate homosexuality in the Kazan Theological Academy[4], although whether this announcement is simply an attempt to warn the offenders to cover their traces before the investigators arrive, is open to question.


     In their “righteous” indignation against immoral liberalism, some anti-liberals overstep the mark in the other direction by advocating violence. Thus the Moscow Priest Alexander Shumsky writes: “Russia is not Europe. If the liberals are not suppressed, Russia will unfailingly perish. But if rational violence is consistently applied to the liberals, then there is a chance Russia will be saved. But here we must not display weakness, as happened in pre-revolutionary Russia. If we let the moment pass, the cowardly pack of jackals will be even more dangerous. We do not have the right to allow the gay swine to torment Russia in a liberal zoo!"[5]


     Europeans in general, and the Ukrainians in particular, find themselves between two fires: the fire of liberal West European human-rightism, and the fire of Illiberal East European neo-Sovietism. Since fire cannot be driven out by fire, there is no salvation in the triumph of either side. Only the water of the Holy Spirit, which is to be found in the True – that is, truly Orthodox - Church of Christ, can quench the flame of evil passion on both sides. But a resurgence of the True Church looks highly unlikely as long as these two anti-Christian regimes straddle the continent. Therefore the only hope for the Ukraine, as for the rest of Europe, must be: a plague on both these houses, a burning out of both fires so as to allow the green shoots of a genuinely different, third way to grow on the blackened landscape of post-Christian Europe…


     Such an outcome is not as impossible as it may sound. Liberal commentators have speculated that the pressure of liberal Europe on neo-Soviet Russia via Kiev will result in the collapse of Putin’s regime sooner or later, creating a liberal sea from the Atlantic to the Urals. Other commentators have speculated, however, that Russia will never liberalize peacefully, and that the Ukraine is too big even for greedy Europe to swallow - even if Putin allowed it. There has already been much talk of a “two-tier” or “multi-speed” European Union to accommodate the enormous tensions created by the very different economies of its northern and southern regions. Then there are the tensions created by the mass immigration of people from the poorer countries of Eastern Europe, especially Romania and Bulgaria, into Western Europe. If the Ukraine, one of the largest and poorest countries of Europe, is encouraged to enter the Union (together, perhaps, with Serbia and Albania), then the Union itself may well collapse under its own weight… In any case, and whatever the outcome of the present conflict on Euromaidan, the centre of gravity in Europe is bound to move further to the East – that is, closer to where it was in the time of St. Vladimir.


     And this presents a great opportunity, an opportunity for “the mother of Russian cities” to become again what it was in the time of St. Vladimir: the centre of a truly Orthodox civilization and a lighthouse for the whole of Europe. What matters is that when the time of resurrection comes there will be no quarrelling over national labels, but only agreement over spiritual realities, and in particular the reality that salvation resides only in a return to Holy Rus’, the Rus’ of St. Vladimir and St. Alexander Nevsky, Tsar Alexander I and Tsar Nicholas II, the Rus’ of which St. John of Kronstadt prophesied: “I foresee the restoration of a powerful Russia, still stronger and mightier than before. On the bones of these martyrs, remember, as on a strong foundation, will the new Russia we built - according to the old model; strong in her faith in Christ God and in the Holy Trinity! And there will be, in accordance with the covenant of the holy Prince Vladimir, a single Church! Russian people have ceased to understand what Rus’ is: it is the footstool of the Lord’s Throne! The Russian person must understand this and thank God that he is Russian”.[6]


December 7/20, 2013.

[1] Alan Palmer, Alexander I, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1974, p. 333.

[2] Renier, in Norman Davies, Europe, London: Pimlico, 1997, p. 381.

[3] Preobrazhensky, “Ecumenism and Intelligence”.

[4] “Goluboj – tsvet neba?”, Christ Civilization,

[5] Shumsky, “От «контрольной прогулки» до контрольного выстрела”, Russkaia Narodnaia Linia, May 19, 2012.

[6] St. John of Kronstadt, in Fomin, S. & Fomina, T. Rossia pered Vtorym Prishestviem, Sergiev Posad, 1998, third edition, volume II, p. 331.

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