From George Weigel’s recent article: The Exhaust Fumes of Stalinism in the National Review:
The religious dimension of the EuroMaidan protests in Ukraine these past two months has gone largely unremarked. Yet in Kiev and elsewhere, the day’s activities at these oases of civil society are punctuated with prayers offered by clergymen of a variety of Christian communities: Orthodox, Greek Catholic, Protestant… Ukrainian Christians have discovered a common cause: the moral and cultural renewal of Ukraine.
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) is the largest of the Eastern Catholic Churches. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the UGCC became one of the cultural safe-deposit boxes of an emerging Ukrainian national consciousness, to which the extraordinarily accomplished head of the UGCC from 1901 to 1944, Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, made singular cultural contributions. Ukrainian national self-awareness, though, was a grave threat to the consolidation of Soviet power. One response to that threat, and the most grotesque effort to crush the national spirit of Ukraine, was the Holodomor of 1932–33, what Robert Conquest aptly styled the “Ukrainian terror famine:” a Moscow-induced genocide in which as many as 7.5 million people were deliberately starved to death.
After World War II, Stalin decided to deal with the threat he perceived in the Greek Catholic Church of Ukraine by liquidating it an infamous sobor (Church council), held in Lviv in western Ukraine in 1946 and managed by the secret police of the NKVD…Bishops, priests, nuns, and lay UGCC leaders who refused to accept this farce were sent to the Gulag camps, where many died as martyrs (later to be beatified by John Paul II).
Rising from beneath the rubble of the crumbling Soviet state in the last years of the Gorbachev period, the UGCC has built a vibrant life in independent Ukraine. Its former head, Cardinal Lubomir Husar, was for years the most respected public figure in the country, and helped support the creation of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, the only Catholic institution of higher learning in the former Soviet space and a major center of national cultural reconstruction.
This entire episode, however, is a powerful reminder of the deeper level of the struggle that is underway in Ukraine. The EuroMaidan protests have emphasized the imperative of rebuilding the moral and cultural life of Ukrainian society, so that elementary decencies are observed in public life as a matter of habit, not as concessions from the state. The crude attempt by the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture to threaten the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in a way that inevitably evoked memories of the Church’s liquidation in 1946 was a sharp reminder of the fundamental problem the EuroMaidans face in Ukraine: the exhaust fumes of Stalinism, and their corrosive effects on state policy, civic culture, and politics."
Well said by Weigel. I think people in the West need to understand that as much as one complains, and rightfully so, about the West, many countries which were forced once into the Soviet Empire of old, exist now as “virtual mafia states” where the rule of law is virtually non-existent, no matter how much a country’s leader shows extreme religiosity at church functions and “talks the talk”. Peoples’ elementary rights are trampled upon, corruption proliferates all spheres of life (even into the education, police, and medical systems), “legal nihilism” (in Dmitry Medvedev’s words about another country) destroys society, and rulers play around with elections to become rulers for life. This is true of Ukraine and of other countries which are to comprise some future Eurasian Union launched from the Kremlin. Morality becomes corrupted in such societies and fear and apathy rule. It was quite heartening to see each day in Kyiv on the EuroMaidan begin off with a prayer service led off by Ukrainian Orthodox or Catholic priests and Ukraine’s youth joining in. They know their nation is in deep moral and economic trouble under Yanukovych and their futures are at stake. They have no wish to grow old or raise kids in such an amoral state, a state where a regime threatens the country’s Catholic Church.