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Data Show Ukrainians Far Prefer Russian Over Nationalist Churches

 Video footage and attendance at churches demonstrate this. Pro-Kiev media say the opposite, citing polls

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 Ukrainian and Western media constantly publish statistical “evidence” about how Ukrainians are abandoning the Church loyal to Moscow in favor of the Church loyal to Kiev. They suggest that the Church loyal to Moscow functions as a dwindling, secretly pro-Russian, political actor that fewer and fewer Ukrainians are duped by.

But do these polls accurately represent which church has the most followers? Facts from everyday life in Ukraine suggest otherwise. It is quite possible that in politically repressed Ukraine, people are answering pollsters one way, and doing something completely different on Sunday mornings.

On June 28th, two festive processions were held in Kiev to celebrate the baptism of Russia in 988, which at that time was one country with what is now Ukraine. The one led by Onufry, head of the Church loyal to Moscow, mobilized 100,000 people. The one headed by Filaret, leader of the Church loyal to Kiev, mustered approximately 2,000 believers.

Another experiment, conducted in March, offers video footage of church attendance in the both churches. On the same day in 8 spread-out Ukrainian cities, churches loyal to Moscow had exponentially more people than churches loyal to Kiev.

Maybe, Ukrainians just remember that the Church loyal to Kiev was founded by Filaret Denisenko in 1992 after he failed to become head of the Moscow Church in 1990. Maybe, they are unnerved by the fact that Filaret has said that rebels who support Russia must “expiate guilt by torment and blood.”

Actually,  the difference between the rhetoric of the two Church leaders is quite striking.  On the day of the procession, Onufry called believers to pray to maintain the spirit and purity of the Christian faith. He called them to pray to “beautify their own land and the world, to live a life of love towards God and neighbor, to learn to have patience towards each other and that we always strive to live according to the holy laws that are written in the Holy Bible.”

Meanwhile,  Filaret asked his followers to remember that “we are not for the peace, that they speak of. We pray for Unified Ukraine. We speak of peace in a democratic independent government. They want peace in the Russian Empire. We stand for a just world...We need freedom, democracy, truth. They need slavery, this is what they are used to” 

Filaret shakes a fiery fist at the Church loyal to Moscow. Metropolitan Onufry raises a cross for spiritual renewal.

And though Ukrainians may show loyalty to the Church loyal to Kiev when filling out questionnaires, they continue going to the Church loyal to Moscow.

Heres video footage from the July 28th processions:

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