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Almost three decades ago, in November 1992, on the initiative of the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the UOC MP, for the first time in the post-Soviet space, representatives of the “historical” churches and religions of the Crimean Peninsula united in the inter-confessional council of Crimea “Peace – God’s Gift” (further in the text – MDB). Its founders were representatives of “traditional” confessions for Crimea – that is, those whose activities in Crimea at the time of the creation of the MDB exceeded 100 years or more: the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the UOC MP, the Spiritual Administration of the Muslims of Crimea, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Jewish religious community, the Roman Catholic Church, German Evangelical Lutheran Church, Evangelical Christian Baptists, Seventh-day Adventist Church; in the future, the spiritual administration of the religious communities of the Karaites joined the MDB.
Until now, the co-chairs of the MDB are Metropolitan Lazar (Shvets) of the Simferopol and Crimean UOC MP (recently de facto ROC) and Emirali Ablayev, the head of the “spiritual administration of Muslims of the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol”, the secretary is the secretary of the Simferopol and Crimean diocese of the UOC MP, the abbot of the Peter and Paul Cathedral Archpriest Oleksandr Yakushechkin of the UOC MP in Simferopol. According to the available data, the MDB includes the following members: the abbot of the Church of St. Hakob, Fr. Nerses Hananyan, Bishop of the Union of Evangelical Christian-Baptist Churches of Crimea Veniamin Yukhymets, Head of the Crimean Mission of Seventh-day Adventists Eduard Simyniuk, “Chief Rabbi of Simferopol” Yehezkel Lazar, “Head of the Jewish Religious Community of Simferopol” Arkady Tsyrulnikov, “Head of the Local Religious Organization “Community of Orthodox Judaism “Ner-Tomid” Anatoly Gendin, delegate of the pastoral district of the Roman Catholic Church in Crimea and Sevastopol, Bishop Jacek Pyl (in his absence – the rector of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish in Simferopol, Fr. Danyil Myslentsev), “pastoral vicar of the Lutheran Church of Russia in of Crimea” Rustem Nafikov and Gahan of the religious community of the Karaites of Yevpatoria David Tiriyaki.
Christianity appeared in Crimea at the beginning of our era. Despite this, the “historicity” and traditionality on the peninsula during its recent history were denied to the communities of at least three confessions – the UOC KP, the UAPC (both became part of the OCU at the end of 2018) and the UGCC. Like, on the basis that their parishes in Crimea arose in the late 1980s and early 1990s. However, the same can be said about the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the UOC MP, which began its existence in this de facto status in that the time when the Ukrainian Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church was reformatted into the so-called Ukrainian Orthodox Church – in unity with the Moscow Patriarchate.
The “historical tradition” of the Russian Orthodox Church in Crimea begins with its annexation by the Russian Empire in the 1780s: at the same time, the Goth and Kafka Metropolies, whose roots date back to the III century and which were subordinate to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, were liquidated on the peninsula, as the Orthodox hierarchy of the Genoese settlements in Crimea in the XII-XV centuries, as well as today’s OCU.
In addition, it should be mentioned that in the middle of the XV – at the beginning of the XVI century. the local diocese of Chersonesos was governed by a metropolitan who was in union with the Apostolic capital, and in the 15th century due to decline, it entered Gotska. In addition to the Orthodox Fula eparchy, united in 1156 with the Sugde eparchy, there was a union eparchy at the same time. In the second half of the XV century. in Kafa (modern Feodosia), which nominally belonged to the Diocese of Sugde, several bishops of the Eastern Rite ordained by the Pope were appointed for the Orthodox Greeks.
An unexplored page and stories closer to our days are interesting. On September 17, 1939, when the western lands of Ukraine were annexed to the Ukrainian SSR under the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, head of the UGCC, appointed exarchs on the territory of the USSR and asked the Holy See to approve these appointments, receiving confirmation from the Congregation of the Eastern Church only on December 22, 1941. In particular, Bishop Joseph the Blind was appointed exarch of “Greater Ukraine”; the territory of his responsibility also included the Caucasus and the Crimea.
Nevertheless, the UOC KP, UAOC and UGCC in Crimea were considered “non-traditional”, and the right to speak on behalf of Christians in the region was actually monopolized by the dominant branches of the UOC MP, which on the ground were the leaders of the imperial policy of the Russian Federation in the spirit of preaching the idea of a “three-holy Russia” in in the format of a “union state” of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, denying the latter not only any subjectivity, but also the very right to exist, and at the same time using the support of the state and regional authorities (!) – while in front of the representatives of the Ukrainian churches the doors were practically closed everywhere.
It is worth noting that for modern Russia, under the occupation of Crimea, the “traditionality” of a particular religion is determined by its attitude to the authorities and consists in the factor of state security; any organization that does not serve to strengthen the vertical of power, does not demonstrate loyalty and urges “not to hope in the princes of the earth, who have no salvation”, will bear the label of “non-traditional”, or in general “sect”. At the end of 2014, Archbishop Kliment of the Simferopol and Crimean UOC KP, commenting on the intentions of certain representatives of the “authorities” of the occupied Crimea to decide which denominations are traditional and which are not, assured that neither religious nor legal terminology operates with the concepts of the (un)traditionality of the church , denomination or religion. “They say that the Kyiv Patriarchate is unconventional. If as an administrative unit, then this once again confirms that the current Crimean “authority” violates all the laws of the Constitution [of the Russian Federation], the order of the same [President of the Russian Federation Volodymyr] Putin. They simply do not need the Kyiv Patriarchate as a center of everything Ukrainian – that is why it is unconventional from the point of view of politics. Question: if dioceses of the UOC-KP can be registered in Moscow and Belgorod, why can’t they be registered in Crimea? If we are told that we are non-traditional from the point of view of spirituality, what does this mean – that Orthodoxy in Russia is non-traditional? Then it will logically follow that if the UOC-KP is non-traditional in Russia, then the Moscow Patriarchate itself is non-traditional,” – said the ruling bishop of the Crimean Diocese of the UOC-KP at the time.
The first meeting of the “traditional” council of the MDB took place within the walls of the Verkhovna Rada of the ARC with the participation of representatives of local self-government bodies, which confirmed the need and importance of creating a permanent structure that would unite representatives of “traditional for Crimea” confessions in a sincere desire for cooperation. Since then, the MDB has been fighting off “unjust” accusations of working in favor of local authorities. In the declaration on the foundation of the MDB, it was stated that Crimea “with its unique history, in which the blossoms of numerous peoples and cultures have been intertwined for thousands of years, has proven the possibility of peaceful coexistence of different religions and ethnic groups”; the main goal of the organization was declared to be “optimization of international relations and prevention of any violent methods of solving problems arising on an international basis.” “By promoting the spiritual culture of peoples and protecting their sanctuaries, we strive to deepen trust between people,” – the document stated. Among other things, work is underway to return religious buildings and property that belonged to them to the denominations that are part of the MDB.
The provisions on the MDB do not envisage consideration of issues of a theological nature, but the search for ways of mutual understanding, so that “nobody and nothing prevents Crimeans from living in peace and harmony.” The members of the MDB saw their task as the revival of the spirituality of society, possible only on the basis of “traditional” religious values, taking into account the religious and national characteristics of the peoples of Crimea and on the basis of openness to cooperation with all organizations in order to achieve peace and harmony. As we have seen before, in practice it turned out that all are equal, but there are more equal.
The provision on the MDB states that it is a representative inter-confessional consultative body that operates on a public basis. Among the goals of the MDB is participation in the development of proposals for draft legislative and other normative acts on relations between the state and religious organizations. MDB positions itself as independent from any political parties, movements, other public formations and their central governing bodies – and at the same time, to ensure the fulfillment of its tasks, it is a member of central and local state bodies, as well as the governing bodies of public and religious organizations with relevant offers It is also noted that representatives of religious centers that are not part of the MDB and relevant state bodies or public organizations may be invited to the meetings of the MDB with the right of an advisory vote.
During the Revolution of Dignity, on January 28, 2014, the MDB adopted a statement in connection with the events in Ukraine, which expressed concern and deep sympathy for the socio-political situation in the country. “The confrontation in the capital and in a number of regional centers has intensified in recent days. Clashes took place between demonstrators and law enforcement agencies, as a result of which hundreds of people on both sides were injured, for the first time in the years of Ukraine’s independence, street confrontations resulted in human casualties. The fact that the airspace of a number of TV channels is filled with “summaries” of the course of storming operations to capture state and public buildings, the information programs are overloaded with cruelty and aggression, instead of promoting such values that have been formed in society for thousands of years, is alarming. justice, respectful attitude to the individual, peacefulness. In fact, the country was on the verge of division and civil war. We fundamentally condemn the forceful actions that lead to the escalation of the conflict, and call on the authorities and civil activists for a more effective and constructive negotiation process in order to overcome the socio-political crisis. We firmly believe that the time for the consolidation of the entire society has not yet been lost. With this in mind, we would like to express our immense gratitude to all Crimeans for the fact that, regardless of their religious, ethnic affiliation and social status, they managed to maintain peace and stability in our blessed land in this difficult situation, and we express our hope that and in the future, no various provocations will be able to disrupt stability in Crimea. We call for a resolute rejection of separatism or the division of our homeland into parts. We are sure that common sense will prevail with God’s help in the socio-political conflict, which is getting old, and we call on all believing citizens of our Cathedral Ukraine to pray for the unity, harmony and dignified future of our people,” – said the statement signed by Metropolitan Lazar . his deputy Ihor Neikov, senior pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Crimea Dmytro Popravkin (after the Russian occupation of Crimea he left the peninsula, served in Mykolaiv and Odesa), pastor of the Crimean district of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church Markus Göring (no further information about him), rabbi communities of progressive Judaism in Simferopol and Ukraine, Mykhailo Kapustin (after the Russian occupation of Crimea, he left for Slov Achchyna), head of the community of progressive Judaism Anatoly Gendin, assistant bishop of the Odesa-Simferopol RCC Jacek Pyl.
During the month, on February 28, 2014, when Russian special forces seized government buildings, military and infrastructure facilities in Crimea, the Ministry of Internal Affairs received an appeal regarding the situation on the peninsula, expressing alarm and concern in connection with the “growing tension in our common Crimean home “, which was “overwhelmed by a protest wave.” The appeal was approved by all the persons mentioned above, except Fr. Ieremia Makiyan and Mykhailo Kapustin. “We condemn the confrontation and enmity between residents of different regions of Ukraine and Crimea, representatives of different national minorities and religions, and call on the authorities to refrain from any steps that could be interpreted as aimed at dividing us along religious, linguistic, national, regional or other lines. a sign In the conditions of a difficult test, we must prevent various attempts to divide our society, preserve the territorial integrity of our state. We are sure that the events of the beginning of 2014 will forever become a sad history of Ukraine. And we need to make every effort to prevent the repetition of such a tragedy in the future,” – the text said.
The day before, on February 27, 2014, the day of the beginning of the acute phase of the occupation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, Archbishop of Simferopol and Crimean UOC Klyment and co-coordinator of the Euromaidan-Crimea movement Andriy Shchekun signed a statement on behalf of representatives of the Ukrainian community of the peninsula, which spoke about the concerns of members of Ukrainian NGOs of Crimea and the clergy of the Crimean Diocese of the UOC KP about the situation on the peninsula. “Today, more than ever, we feel the danger of peace and tranquility in Ukraine from the separatist forces in Crimea. There are direct threats to Ukrainians living in autonomy, to those who supported Euromaidan, regardless of nationality. Residents of Crimea are in a panic because armed gangs are walking the streets, and the actions of some deputies of the autonomy are provoking a civil war,” – the document said. The signatories noted that “irresponsible politicians” put Crimea on the brink of an international conflict and provoked an armed conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. According to public and spiritual figures, “only the concerted steps of the state authorities of Ukraine and the world community can prevent the actions of the instigators of violent civil confrontation and bloody armed interstate confrontation.” The authors of the appeal called on the authorities and the world to prevent war and bloodshed in Crimea, to protect all citizens of Ukraine on the peninsula and to immediately take measures to guarantee the peace, tranquility and security of Crimeans. The appeal also contained a request to the guarantor states of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and security to take measures to prevent foreign interference in Ukraine’s internal affairs in accordance with the Budapest Memorandum. UN, OSCE, EU and Council of Europe, as well as to influence the position of the Russian Federation regarding the inadmissibility of provoking separatism in the regions of Ukraine. In addition, all sober-minded Crimeans were urged not to succumb to the provocations of anti-state forces. Earlier, on February 25, during a briefing at the Headquarters of the National Resistance in Simferopol, Archbishop Kliment announced an address on the social situation in Ukraine and the aggravation of the political confrontation and called on the Crimean authorities to hold a round table for the sake of reconciliation on the peninsula, noting that the statements coming from the walls of the ARC VR saturated with the language of enmity, sowing hatred and discord. He also noted that in case of refusal to hold a dialogue, all responsibility for destructive actions will be placed on the leadership of the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.
On March 14, 2014, on the eve of the illegal “referendum on the status of Crimea” organized by the occupiers, Metropolitan Lazar of the Simferopol and Crimean UOC MP met with the Mufti of Moscow, the Central Region and Chuvashia Albir Krganov and the head of the Spiritual Administration of the Muslims of St. Petersburg and the North-Western Region of Russia Ravil Pancheev. Krganov spoke about his interaction with the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church in the field of interreligious dialogue. In turn, Metropolitan Lazar spoke about specific examples of interaction with the Muslim clergy of Crimea – in particular, about the joint signing with Emirali Ablaev of the call for the revival of the UOC MP Cathedral in honor of Alexander Nevsky in Simferopol, as well as about the work of the MDB “The result of the meeting was a call for peace, consent and non-acceptance of discrimination based on religion or nationality,” the press release stated. It was in those days that Muslim “emissaries” from the Russian Federation, mainly from the Republic of Tatarstan, arrived in the occupied Crimea to convince their co-religionists – the Crimean Tatars – how well they would live “in their new homeland”.
On September 4, 2014, an open appeal to the world public was adopted in Simferopol during the regular meeting of the MDB, the signatories of which cynically called on the UN General Assembly, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and other international organizations, embassies, leaders of countries and the entire world community to stop the “fratricidal war in the south and east of Ukraine” – despite the fact that the Russian Federation then tormented only the east of Ukraine, creating its “quasi-republics” on it, and the Russian occupation of the southern regions of Ukraine was less than eight years away . The authors of the appeal called on the people of Ukraine to “reconcile with each other” and “cleanse their hearts of all malice and aggression” – although this call would be more appropriate to address not the victim, but the aggressor. The signatories also called on everyone to pray more for the “establishment of peace in our fraternal Ukraine.” The appeal was signed by: Metropolitan Lazar, David El, Khachatur Gevorkyan, Veniamin Yukhymets, Dmytro Popravkin, Anatoly Gendin, head of the community of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Simferopol Elsa Gerko, rector of the parish of the RCC in the name of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Simferopol, Fr. Petro Rosokhatskyi, secretary of the MDB and the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the UOC MP Oleksandr Yakushechkin.
At the beginning of February 2015, the MDB took part in a joint meeting with representatives of the Commission of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation on the Harmonization of International and Interreligious Relations with the participation of representatives of the “Public Chamber of the Republic of Crimea” and the Interreligious Council of Russia. In the greeting of Metropolitan Lazar to the participants of the meeting, which was read out by the Secretary of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Oleksandr Yakushechkin, one interesting line was heard – thanks to the “Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Crimea” Serhiy Aksyonov for approving a preferential wholesale price for gas and electricity for all religious organizations of Crimea – of course, for those , which underwent “re-registration” according to the legislation of the occupying state. In addition, Fr. Khachatur Gevorkyan thanked the same character for the promptly taken measures to transfer the historical property of the church in Yevpatoria to the religious community of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Soon, on February 17, Metropolitan Lazar in the administration of the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the UOC MP met with the “Mufti of the Muslims of Crimea” Emirali Ablaev: the main subject of the conversation was the decision to bring to the next meeting of the MDB a petition to create a joint expert council or community under the Crimean ” authorities” in order to streamline the process of “registration” of religious organizations and prevent the activities of totalitarian sects and “pseudo-religious political organizations”. On July 11, 2015, Metropolitan Lazar and Mufti Emirali Ablayev received the “state award of the Republic of Crimea” – the “medal “For Victorious Labor”” from the “head of Crimea” Serhii Aksyonov. Within a month, both signed a statement directed against the “Befooz” project, which replaced the legendary “KaZantip” festival and which was declared war by the scandalous “prosecutor of the Republic of Crimea” Natalya Poklonska. In October 2015, during the “blackout” – the termination of the supply of electricity to the occupied Crimea by the efforts of the initiators of the “civil blockade” of the peninsula – in the Crimean “council of ministers”, the “head of Crimea” Serhii Aksyonov held a meeting with members of the MDB, which was attended by Metropolitan Lazar, Emirali Ablaev, David Tiriyaki, Oleksandr Yakushechkin, Fr. Khachatur (Karen Gevorkyan), Veniamin Yukhimets, Eduard Simynyuk, Elsa Herko, Anatolii Gendin and RCC priest Fr. Igor Popov; the adopted appeal contained a call to the residents of the occupied Crimea to “preserve and demonstrate to the whole world our unity, which confirms the choice of the Crimeans made in the referendum in the spring of 2014.”
In October 2015, during his illegal visit to Crimea, the president of the occupying state, Vladimir Putin, held an informal meeting with representatives of national and public associations of the occupied peninsula, during which Metropolitan Lazar congratulated him on behalf of the MDB and thanked him for his “invaluable help” in the matter completion of construction of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Simferopol.
On March 22, 2017, in the “Administration of the President of the Russian Federation” in Simferopol, under the chairmanship of the Deputy Plenipotentiary Representative of the President of the Russian Federation in the Southern Federal District, Anatoly Safronov, with the participation of representatives of the Administration of the President of the Russian Federation, the Council under the President of the Russian Federation on International Relations, “state authorities of the Republic of Crimea”, scientists, public and religious organizations. a seminar-meeting “On the state of inter-ethnic and inter-confessional relations in the Republic of Crimea and measures to harmonize them” was held. With the blessing of Metropolitan Lazar, MDB Secretary Oleksandr Yakushechkin took part in this event, who boasted that at the end of 2016, on the initiative of the MDB, the “State Council of the Republic of Crimea” made changes to its “law” on non-profit organizations in the part of lifting the ban on recognizing religious organizations as socially oriented , and thanked the “Chairman of the Republic of Crimea” and the “Deputy Corps of the State Council of the Republic of Crimea” for this. Among other things, Yakushechkin noted that the MDB managed to return more than 100 former religious buildings, the absolute majority of which belonged “exclusively to religious organizations that are part of the MDB”; on the basis of this, the secretary of the MDB concluded that it was the members of this organization that “for the past decade have shaped and continue to shape the religious map of Crimea”, and proposed to “develop at the state level” a program to provide assistance to “traditional for Crimea” religious organizations in illegal restoration and repair religious buildings, which are monuments of history and culture. Yakushechkin also added that the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the UOC MP is trying to orient the Crimean youth in such a way that the “spiritual history of our homeland” becomes their property.
On October 31, 2017, during a “working meeting” with Metropolitan Lazar in the administration of the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the UOC MP, Ruslan Balbek, “the deputy of the State Duma of the Russian Federation from the Republic of Crimea” conveyed to him the thanks of the Committee on Nationalities of the State Duma of the Russian Federation for “a significant contribution to the preservation and strengthening of international peace and harmony on the peninsula”. On March 28, 2019, the head of the department of external church relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeev) of Volokolamsk, who was recently sent “in exile” to Hungary due to a failure in the “Ukrainian direction”, thanked Metropolitan Lazar for the letter with data on interreligious cooperation in occupied Crimea and for “contribution to the preservation of peace and international harmony on the peninsula.”
Despite the position “for all good against all bad”, during the period of the Russian occupation of Crimea, the MGB performs the role of “department of conscience”, which serves the interests of the authorities of the occupying state and its regional puppets. Despite the seemingly diverse composition, which actually plays the role of “massovka”, the MGB has two “leading players”, well-known to the inhabitants of Crimea since ancient times and capable of surviving under any government and situation. However, it would be very interesting to hear and see their position after the deoccupation of Crimea.
Implemented within the project “Information Platform” Voice of Crimea. Culture “- about Crimea honestly, qualitatively, actually” with the support of the Media Development Fund of the US Embassy in Ukraine. The views of the authors do not necessarily reflect the official position of the US government.