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Kyiv Ukraine. Photograph by flickr user !ivia used under a Creative Commons By Attribution license
With Visions of a Rebuilding a Holy Rus - Putin’s Russia Attacks Ukraine
March 04, 2022
In the face of invading Russian forces, a young democratic nation’s resistance has galvanized world attention and support. We take a closer look at the religious context behind the conflict
Oxana Shevel. Photograph courtesy Tufts Univercity
Ukrainian National Identity Was Forged by Putin March 04, 2022
As Russian President Vladamir Putin ordered Russian troops to the border with Ukraine, he sought to reframe the way the world sees Ukraine. Instead of separate and unique, Putin engaged in what Dr.Oxana Shevnel describes as retroactive nationalism.  Putin’s speech on February 21st before the invasion began betrayed his ambitions – his references to a common Christian lineage tracing back to 1,000 years – underscored his empire-building ambitions. To Shevnel his quest will not stop with Ukraine. An expert in the geopolitical struggles of Eurasia’s post-Soviet countries she has closely followed the complicated forces influencing the political developments in Ukraine.  In this opening segment, she shares how the country has seen several presidents try and fail to develop a national identity bridging divides that have existed for many years.  That is until now.  She credits Mr. Putin for accelerating a sense of Ukrainian national identity and aspirations to join the West.  Pointing out that not long ago the country was split on whether it sought to look East to Russia or West to the European Union. However, things changed in 2014.  The time she marks as the beginning of the Ukrainian Russian war and she describes how the soft power of the Orthodox Church in Moscow aligned itself with Putin’s war ambitions.   Shevnel describes the religious politics and dynamics in the predominantly Orthodox nation that is fighting to survive as heavy bombardment and Russian and Belarus forces breach the country from the North, West, and East.

Dr. Oxana Shevel, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Comparative Politics at Tufts University, Boston. She is an expert in post-Communist region surrounding Russia, and issues such as nation- and state-building, the politics of citizenship and migration, memory and religious politics, and challenges to democratization in the post-Soviet region. She is the author of Migration, Refugee Policy, and State Building in Postcommunist Europe (Cambridge University Press, 2011). Dr. Shevel is also President of the American Association for Ukrainian Studies.
Pastor Benjamin Morrison. Photograph courtesy Calvary Chapel Svitlovodsk
"I feel called to stay and minister — here in the bomb shelter." March 04, 2022
Instead of leaving Ukraine for the United States when the conflict erupted, Pastor Benjamin Morrison explained this is home and his calling is to minister and support those in need.  He along with his wife and two teenage children are offering humanitarian aid and support to Ukrainians from the East fleeing West.  Nestled in a small port town of 45,000, Morrison is raising funds from American churches for Ukrainians in need.  For two decades he has developed a network of Protestant clergy across the region, now they are turning to each other for comfort and using their voices to raise awareness about the Russian aggression and the need for support.

Pastor Benjamin Morrison. Pastor of Calvary Chapel Svitlovodsk in Oleksandriia Raion, Kirovohrad Oblast, Ukraine.

Sunday service at Calvary Chapel Svitlovodsk, Photo courtesy Calvary Chapel Svitlovodsk

Sunday services at Calvary Chapel Svitlovodsk
Svitlovodsk, Ukraine

Ukrainian Catholic National Shrine of the Holy Family. Washington, DC. Photograph courtesy UCNS.
"The Sanctuary Was Full" March 04, 2022
On Sunday, February 27th, 2022 Ukrainian Catholic Churches around the world held prayers for Ukraine in concert with faith communities around the world.  On that day, when Father Hitchens opened the church doors he was overwhelmed to see the community solidarity.  Beyond regular parishioners, the church has become a source of support and organizer raising to urge for greater political support and resources to assist Ukrainians.  In this conversation, Hitchens describes how the Ukrainian Catholic Church offers the rites and rituals familiar to those from an Orthodox tradition while remaining in communion with the Roman Catholic church.

Fr. Robert Hitchens. Pastor of Ukrainian Catholic National Shrine of the Holy Family in Washington, D.C.

Sunday services at Ukrainian Catholic National Shrine of the Holy Family

A Sunday services at Ukrainian Catholic
National Shrine of the Holy Family
Courtesy UCNS

Peter Smith, Associated Press
Religion in Ukraine - 101 March 04, 2022
Peter Smith, a religion reporter with the Associated Press Gives us the introductory level lesson on religion in Ukraine. He explains the difference between the Orthodox Chruch of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and the Ukrainian Catholic church — their history, where the fealty of each lies, and how they figure into the current conflict.

You can also read his piece at Religion News Service.

Further Reading : 

The New York Times
has an article on the ambitions of the Russian Orthodox Church to reunite with the independent Ukrainian Orthodox church.

In this Youtube video from euronews you can hear Vladimir Putin explain the mythology that leads him to believe that the independent and sovereign nation of Ukraine is destined to be part of Russia and the Holy Rus.

Pastor Benjamin Morrison wrote this article for The Gospel Coalition about life in Ukraine under Russian bombardment.

In a future episode, we will be exploring the racialized treatment of displaced Persons of Color fleeing the Russian aggression - by officials on Ukraine's border with its EU neighbors to the west.

This survey by Pew Research explores how the split between the Ukrainian and the Russian churches shows the political importance of Orthodox Christianity.

Diana Butler Bass explains the importance of Kyiv to Russian Orthodoxy over at Religion News Service.

The liturgical music in this week's episode was recorded at St. Micheal The Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church in Baltimore Maryland — at a prayer service, earlier this week, for the Ukrainian people.

All additional music by Blue Dot Sessions.

Remixes and sound design by Dissimilation Heavy Industries.