Religion in Ukraine
Religion in Ukraine is diverse, with a majority of the population adhering to Christianity. A 2018 survey conducted by the Razumkov Centre found that 71.7% of the population declared themselves believers. About 67.3% of the population declared adherence to one or another strand of Orthodox Christianity (28.7% of the Kiev Patriarchate, 23.4% state simply 'Orthodox' with no declaration as to which Patriarchate they belong to, 12.8% of the Moscow Patriarchate, 0.3% Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, and 1.9% other types of Orthodoxy), 7.7% 'Christian' with no declared denominational affiliation, 9.4% Ukrainian Byzantine Rite Catholics, 2.2% Protestants and 0.8% Latin Rite Catholics. Judaism was the religion of the 0.4%; while Buddhism, Paganism (Rodnovery), and Hinduism were each the religions of 0.1% of the population. A further 11.0% declared themselves non-religious or unaffiliated. According to the surveys conducted by Razumkov in the 2000s and early 2010s, such proportions have remained relatively constant throughout the last decade, while the proportion of believers overall has decreased from 76% in 2014 to 70% in 2016 and 72% in 2018. (p. 22).
As of 2018, Christianity was particularly strong in westernmost Ukrainian regions, where most Greek Catholics lived. In central, southern and eastern regions, Christians constitute a smaller proportion of the total population, particularly low in the easternmost region of Donbass. Another religion that is present in Ukraine besides Christianity is Rodnovery (Slavic native faith), which comprises Ukrainian- and Russian-language communities (some Rodnover organizations call the religion Православ'я Pravoslavya, "Orthodoxy", thus functioning in homonymy with Christian Orthodox churches). Hinduism has been spread after the collapse of the Soviet Union by Indian and International Society for Krishna Consciousness' missionaries and is particularly present in the Donbass region. Crimean Tatars professing Islam represent a significant part of the population in Crimea, which prior 2014 was a subject of Ukraine, but has been since that year occupied by Russia. As of 2016, without Crimea, where Muslims formed 15% of the population in 2013, only Donbass maintains a larger community of Muslims compared to other Ukrainian regions (6%).
Since before the outbreak of the War in Donbass in 2014, but even more violently so from that year onwards, there has been unrest between pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian religious groups in the country.
In pre-historic times and in the early Middle Ages, the territories of present-day Ukraine supported different tribes practising their traditional pagan religions (though note for example the Tengrism of Old Great Bulgaria in the Ukrainian lands in the 7th century CE). Byzantine-rite Christianity first became prominent about the turn of the first millennium. Later traditions and legends relate that in the first century CE the Apostle Andrew himself had visited the site where the city of Kiev would later arise.
In the 10th century the emerging state of Kievan Rus' came increasingly under the cultural influence of the Byzantine Empire. The first recorded Rus' convert to Eastern Orthodoxy, the Princess Saint Olga, visited Constantinople in 945 or 957. In the 980s, according to tradition, Olga's grandson, Knyaz (Prince) Vladimir had his people baptised in the Dnieper River. This began a long history of the dominance of Eastern Orthodoxy in Ruthenia, a religious ascendancy that would later influence both Ukraine and Russia. Domination of Little Russia by Great Russia (from 1721) eventually led to the decline of Uniate Catholicism (officially founded in 1596) in the Ukrainian lands under Tsarist control.
Judaism has existed in the Ukrainian lands for approximately 2000 years: Jewish traders appeared in Greek colonies. After the 7th century Judaism influenced the neighbouring Khazar Khaganate. From the 13th century Ashkenazi Jewish presence in Ukraine increased significantly. In the 18th century a new teaching of Judaism originated and became established in the Ukrainian lands - Hasidism.
The Golden Horde (which adopted Islam in 1313) and the Sunni Ottoman Empire (which conquered the Ukrainian littoral in the 1470s) brought Islam to their subject territories in present-day Ukraine. Crimean Tatars accepted Islam as the state religion (1313–1502) of the Golden Horde, and later ruled as vassals of the Ottoman Empire (until the late 18th century).
During the period of Soviet rule (c. 1917–1991) the governing Soviet authorities officially promoted atheism and taught it in schools, while promoting various levels of persecution of religious believers and of their organizations. Only a small fraction of people remained official church-goers in that period, and the number of non-believers increased.
The 20th century saw schisms within Eastern Orthodoxy in Ukrainian territory.
As of 2018, according to a survey held by the Razumkov Center, 71.7% of the total respondents declared to be believers, while 11.5% were uncertain whether they believed or not, 5.3% were uninterested in beliefs, 4.7% were unbelievers, 3.0% were atheists, and a further 3.7% found it difficult to answer the question. A 2018 survey conducted by the Razumkov Centre found that 71.7% of the population declared themselves believers. About 67.3% of the population declared adherence to one or another strand of Orthodox Christianity (28.7% of the Kiev Patriarchate, 23.4% just Orthodox, 12.8% of the Moscow Patriarchate, 0.3% Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, and 1.9% other types of Orthodoxy), 7.7% just Christians, 9.4% Greek Rite Catholics, 2.2% Protestants and 0.8% Latin Rite Catholics. Judaism was the religion of the 0.4%; while Buddhism, Paganism and Hinduism were each the religions of 0.1% of the population. A further 11.0% declared themselves non-religious or unaffiliated.
Among those Ukrainians who declared to believe in Orthodoxy, 42.6% declared to be members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kievan Patriarchate, while 19.0% declared to be members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscovian Patriarchate. A further 0.5% were members of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. Among the remaining Orthodox Ukrainians, 34.7% declared to be "just Orthodox", without affiliation to any patriarchate, while a further 2.8% declared that they "did not know" which patriarchate or Orthodox church they belonged to.
It is important to note that the Orthodox Church of the Kyevan Patriarchate is considered schismatic and doctrinally errant and ethnophyletic by the Orthodox Church of the Moscovian Patriarchate (officially called the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is the Ukrainian branch of the Russian Orthodox Church) and is not recognised as part of the broader Eastern Orthodox Church.
Beliefs and religions
Religions by year
Religions by region
Religions by oblast
|Oblast||Region||Orthodox||Greek Catholic||Latin Catholic||Protestant||Christian
|Not religious||Difficult to answer
Types of Orthodoxy
As of 2018, 87.4% of the population of Ukraine declared to believe in Christianity.
According to the same survey, 67.3% of the total population adhered to Orthodox Christianity. Orthodoxy is stronger in central (76.7%) and southern Ukraine (71.0%), while it comprises about two thirds of the total population in eastern Ukraine (63.2%), and a particularly low proportion of the population in western Ukraine (57.0%) and the Donbass (50.6%).
From 1992 to 2018, there have been three Orthodox churches active in the independent Ukraine following the dissolution of the USSR: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP), the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) (UOC-MP). The UAOC and the UOC-KP were not recognized by other Orthodox churches and were considered 'schismatic'.
On 11 October 2018, the excommunications of the UAOC and the UOC-KP were lifted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Ecumenical Patriarchate also announced it would grant autocephaly to the Orthodox faithfuls in Ukraine. However, the Ecumenical Patriarchate recognized neither the UAOC nor the UOC-KP as legitimate and their leaders were not recognized as primates of their respective churches. The Ecumenical Patriarchate declared that it recognized the sacraments performed by the UOC-KP and the UAOC as valid.
On 15 December 2018, members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, and parts of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), voted during an unification council through their representatives (bishops) to unite into the Orthodox Church of Ukraine on the basis of complete canonical independence. They elected their primate, Epiphanius, and adopted a charter for the Orthodox Church of Ukraine during the same unification council. On 5 January 2019, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Metropolitan Epiphanius celebrated a Divine Liturgy in St. George's Cathedral in Istanbul; the tomos granting autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine the was signed thereafter, also in St. George's Cathedral.
Orthodox Church of Ukraine
The Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) is recently formed national Orthodox Church from Unification council in December 2018, After mergers from Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate, Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and parts of Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate). The title of its primate is "His Beatitude (name), Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine". The church uses Ukrainian language as its liturgical language.
Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate)
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) is a constituent part of the Russian Orthodox Church (the Moscow Patriarchate). In the week following the creation of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) on 15 December 2018 several parishes announced they would leave the UOC (UOC-MP) and join the new church. The UOC-MP, like the rest of the Russian Orthodox Church, uses predominantly the Church Slavonic language in liturgy.
Other Orthodox Christian jurisdictions
There are also communities belonging to the Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church and other Old Believers, to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, to the Ruthenian Orthodox Church, to various branches of the True Orthodox Church-Catacombism (including the Ruthenian True Orthodox Church, the Ukrainian True Orthodox Church and the Church of the Goths), to the Romanian Orthodox Church (Metropolis of Bessarabia), to the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church Canonical, and to a variety of other minor Christian Orthodox churches.
Adherents of Oriental Orthodox Christianity in Ukraine are mainly ethnic Armenians. Historical ties between peoples of Ukraine and Armenia have resulted in significant presence of Armenian diaspora in Ukraine throughout history and up to the modern times. Most of ethnic Armenians in Ukraine are adherents of the Armenian Apostolic Church, one of main churches of the Oriental Orthodoxy, distinctive from Eastern Orthodoxy in terms of particular miaphysite christology. In spite of those theological differences, relations between Armenian Apostolic Church and various Eastern Orthodox Churches in Ukraine are friendly. There is an Armenian eparchy (diocese) in Ukraine, centered in Armenian Cathedral of Lviv, and also there are many Armenian churches and other monuments on the territory of Ukraine.
Byzantine Rite Catholicism is the religion of 9.4% of the population of Ukraine as of 2016. This church is largely concentrated in western Ukraine, where it gathers a significant proportion of the population (39.7%). Latin Rite Catholicism, instead, is the religion of 0.8% of the population of Ukraine, mostly in western (1.3%) and central (1.2%) regions. Catholicism is largely absent in eastern Ukraine and non-existent in Donbass.
Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church traditionally constituted the second largest group of believers after the Christian Orthodox churches. The Union of Brest formed the Church in 1596 to unify Orthodox and Catholic believers. Outlawed by the Soviet Union in 1946 and legalized in 1987, the church was for forty-three years the single largest banned religious community in the world. Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk is the present head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The church uses Ukrainian as its liturgical language.
The Church of the Latin Rite is traditionally associated with historical pockets of citizens of Polish ancestry who lived mainly in the central and western regions. It uses the Polish, Latin, Ukrainian and Russian as liturgical languages.
Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church
Main concentrations of the Ruthenian Catholic Church are in Trans-Carpathia near the Hungarian border. This community has multiple ties in Hungary, Slovakia and the United States.
Other Catholic groups
The Armenian Catholic Church has a very small presence. As of 2016 there is only one officially registered church belonging to Armenian Catholics.
As of 2016, Protestants make up 2.2% of the population of Ukraine, with a strong concentration in western Ukraine (5.3%). In the country there are communities of Evangelicalism, Baptists, Charismatic Christianity, as well as Methodists, Mennonites, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and others. There is also a Sub-Carpathian Reformed Church with about 140,000 members, which is one of the earliest Protestant communities in the country. The Embassy of God of Sunday Adelaja maintains a significant presence throughout the country, as do other neopentecostal groups.
As of 2016, there are 2,973 Evangelical churches, 2,853 churches of the Baptists, 1,082 Seventh-day Adventist churches, 128 Calvinist churches, 79 Lutheran churches, 1,337 churches of Charismatic Christianity, and 1,347 other organizations belonging to the Protestant spectrum (including 928 Jehovah's Witnesses' halls and 44 Mormon congregations). In total, as of 2016 there are 9,799 registered Protestant groups in Ukraine.
As of 2016, there are 29 registered communities belonging to the Church of the East.
Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to have 265,985 adherents, as reported in the movement's 2013 Yearbook. In 2010 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) dedicated its Kyiv Ukraine Temple, and in 2012 claimed a membership more than 11,000 in 57 congregations in Ukraine.
As of 2016, Islam was the religion of 1.1% of the population of Ukraine. Muslims are mostly concentrated in Donbass, where they make up 6.0% of the population. In the same year, there are 229 registered Islamic organizations. In Crimea, which in 2014 was annexed by Russia, Crimean Tatar Muslims make up to 15% of the population. A major part of the south steppes of modern Ukraine at a certain period of time were inhabited by Turkic peoples, most of whom were Muslims since the fall of the Khazar Khanate.
The Crimean Tatars are the only indigenous Muslim ethnic group in the country. The Nogays, another Muslim group who lived in the steppes of southern Ukraine, emigrated to Turkey in the 18th-19th century. In addition, there are Muslim communities in all major Ukrainian cities representing Soviet-era migrants from Muslim backgrounds. There are approximately 150 mosques in Ukraine. Many Muslim mosques use the Crimean Tatar language, Arabic, Azeri, the Tatar language and Russian.
There are no single administrative centre, instead there are five of them: Spiritual Administration of Crimea Muslims (DUMK) - Crimean Tatars; Spiritual Administration of Ukraine Muslims (DUMU) - people of Caucasus, Crimean and Volga Tatars, Pakistani, Afghans, Arabs, Russians, Ukrainians; Spiritual Centre of Ukraine Muslims (DCUM) - Volga Tatars; Kiev muftiat - Kazan and Volga Tatars; UMMA - Arabs, Uzbeks, Russians, Ukrainians.
The size of the Jewish population of Ukraine has varied over time. Jews are primarily an ethnicity, closely linked with the religion of Judaism. Jews in Ukraine are estimated to be between 100 and 300 thousands. However, ethnic Jews may be irreligious or practise other religions than Judaism. It is estimated than only 35-40% of the Jewish population of Ukraine is religious. Most observant Jews are believers of Orthodox Judaism, but there are as well communities of Chabad-Lubavitch and Reform Judaism, Conservative Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism.
Judaic congregations use Russian, Hebrew, Yiddish and Ukrainian languages. As of 2018, 0.4% of the population of Ukraine was found to be constituted by Jews believing in Judaism. There are, in the same year, 271 officially registered Jewish religious communities.
Hinduism is a minority faith in Ukraine. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness managed to propagate the Hindu faith through their missionary activities. As of 2018, Hindu believers constituted 0.1% of the population of Ukraine, with a slightly higher proportion in Western Ukraine (0.2%). In 2016, there were 85 Hindu, Hindu-inspired and other Eastern religions-inspired organizations in the country, among which 42 are Krishna Consciousness congregations.
Paganism and native faith
The Slavic native faith (Rodnovery, Ukrainian: Рідновірство Ridnovirstvo, Рідновір'я Ridnovirya or Рiдна Вiра Ridna Vira; otherwise called Православ'я Pravoslavya—"Orthodoxy") is represented in Ukraine by numerous organizations. As of 2016 there are 138 registered communities divided between the Church of the Native Ukrainian National Faith (Рідна Українська Національна Віра, RUNVira)—72 churches, the Ancestral Fire of Native Orthodoxy (Родового Вогнища Рідної Православної Віри)—21 churches, the Church of the Ukrainian Gentiles (Церкви Українських Язичників)—7 churches, the Federation of Ukrainian Rodnovers (Об'єднання Рідновірів України)—6 churches, and other organizations—32 churches. The Federation of Ukrainian Rodnovers was founded in 1998 by Halyna Lozko and has chapters in Kiev, Kharkiv, Odessa, Boryspil, Chernihiv, Mykolaiv, Lviv and Yuzhnoukrainsk. There are many other unregistered groups and federations, for instance the Ancestral Fire of the Slavic Native Faith (Родове Вогнище Слов'янської Рідної Віри), the Wrath of God Native Orthodox Faith, the North Caucasian Scythian Regional Fire, the Order of the Knights of the Solar God and the Rodoliubye Russian Rodnover Community.
Lev Sylenko founded the Church of the Native Ukrainian National Faith (RUNVira) in 1966 in Chicago, United States, and only opened their first temple in the mother country of Ukraine after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. The current headquarters of RUNVira is in Spring Glen, New York, United States. The doctrine of the Church of the Native Ukrainian National Faith, "Sylenkoism" or "Dazhbogism", is monist and centered around the god Dazhbog.
As of 2018, there were 0.1% Pagan believers in Ukraine, with a higher percentage in Central Ukraine. Sociologists estimated between 1,000 and 95,000 Rodnovers (0.2%) in Ukraine in the early 2000s. Since 1999, the Book of Veles, which is a central philosophical text for many Rodnover churches, is taught in Ukrainian school curricula.
Rodnovery has taken a significant role in the War in Donbass. The Azov Battalion, fighting for Kiev, is mainly composed of Ukrainian Rodnovers. It has been reported that it has been collaborating with the Kievan Patriarchate and taking over its churches. On the other side of the spectrum, Russian Rodnovers who fight for Moscow have organized into battalions such as the Svarog Battalion (of the Vostok Brigade), the Svarozhich Battalion (Slavic Unification and Revival Battalion), and the Rusich Company. Donbass has been documented as being a stronghold of Rodnovery; there are Russian Rodnover organizations which are reorganizing local villages and society according to traditional Indo-European trifunctionalism (according to which males are born to play one out of three roles in society, whether priests, warriors or farmers).
Cultus Deorum Romanorum
The group of worshipers of gods according to the Roman way Sarmatia (Roman name for modern-day Ukraine) is building a Temple of Jupiter Perennus or Jupiter Perunnus (Perun) in the city of Poltava. The site was attacked and desecrated by Christians in 2011, but construction works continue to the present.
As of 2016, there were 241 officially registered churches belonging to various new religious movements (including the aforementioned Hindu-inspired ones, 11 congregations of the Bahá'í Faith, six congregations of the Church of the Last Testament—Vissarionism, and others), 58 registered Buddhist groups, and various registered churches for minority ethnicities—including two Chinese Taoist churches, one Korean Methodist church, four Jewish Karaite churches, eight churches for Christian Jews and 35 churches of Messianic Judaism.
Ecumenism: All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations
In December 1996, the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations was formed with the objective of uniting around 90-95% of religious communities of Ukraine. Since the end of 2003, the Council of Representatives of the Christian Churches of Ukraine exists in parallel to the council to promote the principles of Christianity in Ukraine and religious freedom. Affiliation with either or both of the assemblies is voluntary.
In 2007, the council accounted for representatives of 19 organizations, while in 2013, only 18. The Council of Christian Churches accounted for representatives from 9 churches.
Ukraine's laws guarantee the right of religious freedom, and provide a legal framework for the registration of religious groups. Some religious groups have reported difficulties in legally acquiring property (including property previously confiscated by the government of the Soviet Union) due to discriminatory treatment by local government bodies.
There are ongoing disputes of jurisdiction between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate, which split as a consequence of the Russian military intervention. Far-right Ukrainian nationalist groups such as Freedom have assaulted members of the Moscow Patriarchate and otherwise harassed them.
In territories not controlled by the government of Ukraine, Jehovah's Witnesses have faced persecution by Russian and separatist authorities. Russian media has also frequently denounced Jehovah's Witnesses and the Kiev Patriarchate as being "pro-fascist".
- Protestant, including evangelical churches (ie: Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Lutheran, Evangelical Christians, Evangelical Baptists, Christians of Evangelical Pentecostal and similar, Full Gospel Church and other charismatic communities, and Mormons).
- West: Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv, Rivne, Ternopil, Volyn and Zakarpattia Oblasts.
- Center: Cherkasy, Chernihiv, Khmelnytsky, Kirovohrad, Poltava, Sumy, Vinnytsia, Zhytomyr, and Kiev Oblasts, and the self-governing city of Kiev.
- South: Kherson, Mykolaiv, and Odessa Oblasts.
- East: Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, and Zaporizhia Oblasts.
- Donbass: Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts (excluding the occupied areas).
- Region as defined in other surveys by the Razumkov Center.
- Prior to the merged into the [National] Ukrainian Orthodox Church
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When Constantinople [...] became the Christian capital of the [Roman] Empire - the New Rome - it was natural that the traditions of its see should be re-examined, especially when the pretensions of Old Rome to absolute primacy became more insistent, and its apostolic foundation also made credible. Legends about the missionary journeys of St Andrew, the brother of St Peter and in fact the first apostle to be chosen by Our Lord, were amenable to such an interpretation. [...] Moreover, Andrew's mission-field was stated to be 'Scythia', a vague geographical term in Greek usage which embraces all the northern coasts of the Black Sea from the Danube to the Don. Missionary journeys by St Andrew in the Caucasus also appear in Georgian and Armenian legends. It may be a fact that Andrew visited the Crimea (Khersonnesos), sailing (as was normal) from Sinope. On this basis Russian piety later claimed that he had then sailed up the Dnepr to Kiev and predicted its future glory as a Christian metropolis. Further elaborations of the legend go beyond the credible but this much could be believed by many in Russia. [...] The spread of the legend via its Greek sources [...] probably belongs to the second half of the eleventh century.
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Survey conducted from 25 to 30 March 2016 in all regions of Ukraine except Crimea and the occupied territories of Donetsk and Lugansk regions. Polled 2,018 respondents aged 18 years and over. The error margin does not exceed 2.3%.
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