NYTimes on Ukraine ‘ghost’: Great minds like a think?

Cause-and-effect is difficult to prove sometimes, but it is curious how things follow in a sequence of events. The recent round of protests in the Ukraine, particularly in the capital city of Kiev, have upended the country (not to mention a statue of Vladimir Lenin).

A point of curiosity around these parts: Did this Dec. 3 GetReligion post about the dearth of examination of faith-related elements of the protests move one of the world’s top newspapers to cover that point?

While the protests, which began in November, have captured the attention of the world’s media, analysis of the religious dimensions of the protest had not been much of a priority in the secular press, a point ably made by GetReligionista George Conger.

Now that’s changed: The New York Times ran a substantial piece on Dec. 4, one day after the GetReligion item, telling readers a good deal of what they’d need to know about this interesting, historically deep, backstory:

KIEV, Ukraine – After riot police officers stormed Independence Square here early Saturday, spraying tear gas, throwing stun grenades and swinging truncheons, dozens of young protesters ran, terrified, scattering up the streets. It was after 4:30 a.m., the air cold, the sky black. As they got their bearings, the half-lit bell tower of St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery beckoned.

Inside, the fleeing demonstrators found more than warmth and safety. They had arrived in a bastion of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyivan Patriarchate, where they were welcomed not only on a humanitarian basis but because the church, driven by its own historical tensions with Moscow, is actively supporting their uprising. It strongly favors European integration to enable Ukraine to break free from Russia’s grip, and has joined the calls to oust the Ukrainian government.

From the conversion of Princess Olga, the regent of Kievan Rus, in the 10th century to the Russian Revolution in 1917, the Orthodox Church has generally flourished by acting in close concert with political powers. Its efforts to confront the authorities have tended to go badly, as when Philip II, the metropolitan of Moscow, protested political massacres in 1568 by refusing to bless Ivan the Terrible. He was jailed, chained around the neck and strangled.

But in recent days, the Kyivan Patriarchate, which controls St. Michael’s, has emerged as a powerful ally of the thousands of protesters demanding the resignation of President Viktor F. Yanukovich and the revival of the far-reaching political and trade accords with the European Union that he has refused to sign. Some priests have even led prayer sessions in Independence Square, which protesters have occupied.

After discussing and clearly identifying the major religious players in the Ukraine, and noting that the Kyivan Patriarchate is not as influential as the Ukrainian Orthodox Church — Moscow Patriarchate, the Times clearly shows the impact of the Kyivan Patriarchate’s moves on the people:

“I don’t know who made the decision to go to St. Michael’s, but it was the right thing, in part because it rested on the whole concept of sanctuary,” said a Western diplomat observing the events here, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in accordance with diplomatic protocol. “The monks closed the gates, and that was the thing that gave them the time to reconstitute.”

Yulia Onyschenko, 19, a student at Kiev Polytechnic Institute who was among those fleeing the violence, said church officials had protected the demonstrators as the police gave chase. “They closed all the gates, and there are a lot of gates,” Ms. Onyschenko said. “We’re very grateful.”

Church officials gave the protesters tea and blankets, and many slept on carpets on the floor of the main cathedral as a monk chanted prayers through the night. Participants have described it as an almost mystical experience, recalling events about 800 years ago when people sought refuge from invading Tatars and Mongols in the original monastery, long since destroyed.

“It’s very symbolic,” said Yuri Ignatenko, 27, an actor from Zhytomyr, about 85 miles west of Kiev. He has spent several nights in the church, and his eyes glistened as he recalled the nightlong prayer. Referring to the Ukrainian riot police, Mr. Ignatenko said, “The Berkut were like the Mongols who chased the people to the monastery.”

The Times report didn’t say how the paper came to this subject, although some of the criticism of a Nov. 30 story — which got key details about the history of St. Michael’s Monastery wrong (resulting in a correction at the end of the piece) — might’ve motivated the reporter to dig deeper. Then again, few newspaper reports openly disclose the motivation for any given instance of coverage.

Whether it was that criticism or the GR post discussing the missing “ghosts” in the Kiev coverage, it’s good to see the media looking at this potent element in the protest story. This article appears to be balanced and sensitive to the nuances of Ukrainian orthodoxy, although how things will end up in the Ukraine is still uncertain.

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About Mark Kellner

Mark Kellner has been interested in religion since his pre-teen years, and has written about religious news actively since 1983. His work regularly appears in Adventist World and Adventist Review magazines, where he is news editor, and in The Washington Times, where he has contributed since 1991, most recently writing about trends in religion. He and his wife reside in the Maryland suburbs, midway between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

  • Fr. Richard

    Thanks for bringing this news, and these details, and your commentary to this site, which I enjoy daily.

  • Johannes Oesch

    Here is a report about the local Lutheran Church right at the current theater in Kiev:
    http://www.idea.de/detail/frei-kirchen/detail/ukraine-evangelische-kirche-im-zentrum-der-proteste-26625.html

    • helen

      Here’s the Babelfish version:

      Evangelical Church in the Centre of the protests

      Evangelical Church in the Centre of the protests

      The St. Catherine Church in Kiev. Photo: garik 11

      Kiev (idea) – coming in the Ukraine the political situation to a head. On the night of December 11, did security forces using batons against the protesters on independence square in the capital Kiev and destroyed barricades and tents. The St. Catherine Church of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine is located in the immediate vicinity. You committed to a peaceful solution of the conflict and provides a prayer room and demonstrators as police officers. Catalyst for the mass protests ongoing for 18 days was that the Government under President Viktor Janukowitsch an association agreement with the European Union (EU) at the last minute in favour of Russia burst. The opposition see quotation box world champion Vitali Klitschko request the resignation of the Government, the release of detained protesters and the punishment of brutal security forces. Supporters of the fatherland party also demand the release of detained former Prime Minister Julia Tymoshenko.

      Drinks and food for demonstrators and policemen

      As communicated by the Katharina Church, now more than half a million people on the wintry cold streets of Kiev are located. You are a non-violence, human dignity, transparency and the approximation of Ukraine to Europe. They called also “the abdication all those corrupt government officials, who knew not to help, as their own citizens to do violence”. Christians are obliged the commandment of charity and are up for peace and non-violence. The Parish Council, as well as young adults of the community around youth Deacon Igor Schemigon demonstrators and police gave hot drinks, food and power for cell phone batteries. As far as possible will offered medical assistance. Exhausted people could rest in the heated Church and pray. The Church of the special police vehicles, although it was surrounded, but were so far everyone has been leaked. With the word of Jesus “; blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God”, parish priest Ralf Haska closes his call is connected also with a request for donations.

      Churches call for peace prayers

      The Council of the Evangelical Protestant churches in the Ukraine calls to prayer for peace. In an open letter, it means to condemn the brutal use of force against peaceful demonstrators as well as provocations by pages of the opposition, which focused on violent clashes. The letter from the seventh day Adventist Church, the Gospel Christians-Baptists, Lutherans, Pentacostal, and further free municipal associations is signed. The German Evangelical Lutheran Church consists of 30 communities with some 3,000 members. About 75 percent of the Orthodox Church are of the 45.6 million Ukrainians. With just 131,000 members, the Baptists are the largest Protestant community.

      This article:

      DruckenArtikel empfehlenFehler report

      • Johannes Oesch

        Thank you to helen for the babelfish …


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