Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 85

The recent assault against Ukrainian Orthodox Church Patriarch Filaret in the eastern Donetsk region serves as a reminder that Ukraine remains a society divided along ethnic, cultural and religious lines. Filaret, who arrived in the industrial city of Mariupol to bless the ground for a cathedral, was reportedly attacked on April 30 by extremists who smashed Filaret’s car, beat him and injured his secretary, who was hospitalized in grave condition. Dozens of people were hurt in the event, according to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kyiv Patriarchy. Police intervention, reportedly, was both untimely and reluctant (Ukrainian television, April 30).

After Ukraine gained its independence, Filaret headed the schism of the Ukrainian Church from the Russian Orthodox Church of Patriarch Alexy II, and has served as its patriarch since 1995. Many Orthodox parishes, especially in those regions in the East and South where Russian culture historically dominates, remain loyal to Alexy II. Members of those parishes viewed Filaret’s April visit to the Donetsk region with suspicion, fearing expansion of the Kyiv Patriarchy to their region. Filaret–who, ironically, is a native of the region–had reportedly been warned by Donetsk clergy not to visit there. It is significant that Filaret was assaulted by extremists in Mariupol, a city where Ukrainians represented only a tiny minority until the middle of last century, and the only large Ukrainian city where ethnic Russians were still a majority in 1989 (according to the last Soviet census).–OV