Religion in Ukraine
Religion takes a special place in Ukrainians’ lives. Ukraine was the first East-Slavonic country on whose territory Christianity was preached. A Great majority of people believe in God and respect church traditions.
Baptism of Rus'
Traditionally, the missionary siblings Cyril and Methodius are credited with bringing the eastern form of Christianity to the Slavs in the 860s. However, while the population of Kyiv was Christian in the mid tenth century, the ruling parties continued to follow pagan customs. With the ascension of Vladimir as the ruling prince, Vladimir tried to lead a pagan reaction against Christianization. This uprising failed and by the mid 980s Vladimir realized the need to adopt a different religion. In 987, Vladimir sent his trusted followers to explore the religions of the neighboring lands. Upon their return, the envoys reported their impressions of the other religions, while expressing their fascination of the festive ritual in the cathedral Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.
At the same time, Emperor Basil II in Constantinople reached out to Vladimir asking for his support in suppressing a revolt of some of his generals. In response, Vladimir sent troops to help Basil stop the revolt. As part of their earlier agreement, Vladimir was baptized with the Christian name Basil, and further enriched his baptism by a marriage to Basil II’s sister, Anna Porphyrogenita.
Having accepted Christianity, Vladimir then called the people of Kiev to be baptized in the Dnieper River, also known as the iconic event of the Baptism of Rus'. In the following days the ceremony was observed throughout the realm of Vladimir, Grand Prince of Kiev and Novgorod.
By the act of baptizing his subjects, Vladimir indicated the acceptance of Orthodox Christianity as the nation’s religion. Furthermore, it was this event that the lands of the Rus and the Slavic East entered into the greater Christian world as part of the Hellenic Christian heritage. This event, the baptism of the Slavic people, as per the words of Fr. John Meyendorff “signified thier integration into the Byzantine Roman empire itself."
Among the 45 million people living in Ukraine, 70% call themselves religious. Orthodox Christianity is the most popular religion on the territory of Ukraine, with almost 76% believers adhering to this confession. Christianity in Ukraine is manifested through the five main churches: Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate, Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and Ukrainian Roman Catholic Church.
Catholicism in Ukraine comes second after Christianity as per the amount of believers. Most of the Catholics pertain to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
Several religious people in Ukraine belong to Protestant confessions: this group is represented by Baptists, Lutherans, Adventists and others. It is worth being noted that the influence of Protestant Churches involved in missionary work has been rising recently.
The majority of the churches in Ukraine are owned by Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate. These churches are distinguished for their astonishing structure, adornment and splendor.
Although Christianity is the state religion of Ukraine, there are also Judaic and Islamic communities in the country. The Ukrainian Judaic religious community is the third-largest in Europe and the fifth worldwide. As per statistical analysis, there are approximately 400 thousand Jews in Ukraine, concentrated commonly in large cities such as Kyiv, Dnipro, Odessa and Kharkiv. Each year, Judaists gather at the holy tomb of Reb Nachman in Uman, Ukraine. The Ukrainian Muslim communities amount to 0.6-0.9 percent. A great percentage of Ukrainian Muslims are Crimean Tatars. While, there were roughly one million Muslims in Ukraine, after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, a great majority of them stayed on that territory.
Furthermore, there are several religious groups in Ukraine which practice Buddhism, Hinduism and Paganism, however, they are uncommon for Eastern Europe. There are also Ukrainians who believe in God but do not belong to any official religion.
Ukraine’s religion can be discribed as multifaceted. Nonetheless, followers of all religions, even those who are involved in serious conflicts abroad, coexist peacefully in Ukraine. This can be explained by the amiable and open-minded character of the Ukrainian people.