Despite official harassment, OCU’s only church in Russia holds on

The only church of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in Russia is located in Noginsk, about 20 miles east of Moscow, in a makeshift facility after the parishioners were thrown out of their original church building by OMON police on orders of the mayor of Moscow at the time, Yuri Luzhkov. (Photo: 24tv.ua)

The only church of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in Russia is located in Noginsk, about 20 miles east of Moscow, in a makeshift facility after the parishioners and the priest were thrown out of their original church building by OMON police on orders of the mayor of Moscow at the time, Yuri Luzhkov. (Photo: 24tv.ua) 

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Moves by the Russian occupation forces in Crimea to close down or transfer of all Ukrainian Orthodox Churches to the control of the Moscow Patriarchate have attracted considerable attention and even provoked suggestions that Kyiv should respond by doing something similar to Moscow-controlled Orthodox churches in Ukraine.

The largest ethnic group apart from Russians by federal subject (according to 2010 population census). Darker shade indicates that in federal subject Russians aren't the largest ethnic group. Percentages were calculated excluding population of subordinated autonomous okrugs (Nenets AO for Arkhangelsk oblast, Khanty-Mansi AO and Yamalo-Nenets AO for Tyumen oblast). Legend: yellow - Ukrainians, lawn green - Tatars, green - Kazakhs, orange - Armenians, blue - Buryats, gray-blue - Germans, pink - Koreans, grey - titular nation of the federal subject (i.e. Karels, Komis, Nenets, Adyghe, Karachays, Kabardays, Ossetians, Ingushs, Chechens, Avars, Kalmyks, Mordvins, Chuvashs, Maris, Udmurts, Bashkirs, Altays, Khakas, Tuvans, Sakha or Chukchis). Image: Wikipedia

Ukrainians (counting in millions) are the largest ethnic minority in many of Russia’s federal subjects, but there is only one Ukrainian Orthodox church in the entire country. That single church has been an object of repressions by Russian authorities.

That makes the case of the only Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) church in existence in the Russian Federation especially intriguing and even instructive. That church, located in Noginsk, a city of 100,000 some 34 kilometers east of the Moscow ring road, has had a complicated history.

Father Andrian, the head of the only church of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in Russia. The priest and the parishioners have been harassed by Russian authorities since the community decided to transfer their church's subordination to the Kyiv Patriarchate. (Photo: 24tv.ua)

Father Andrian, the head of the only church of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in Russia. The priest and the parishioners have been harassed by Russian authorities since the community decided to transfer their church’s subordination to the Kyiv Patriarchate. (Photo: 24tv.ua)

In 1993, Ukraine’s TV24 reports, Father Andrian was affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (ROC MP). When his religious superiors wanted to push him out, he, who was born in Ukraine, and his church’s parishioners decided to transfer their subordination to the Kyiv Patriarchate. Russian officials were not pleased, and they sent OMON officers to throw him and the parishioners into the street.

The original building built by Father Andrian and his parishioners, from which Russian government threw them out into the street when they decided to transfer their subordination to the Kyiv Patriarchate. It used to be a ruined chemical factory, which the parish transformed into a beautiful cathedral with a college and a musical school. (Photo: 24tv.ua)

The original building built by Father Andrian and his parishioners, from which Russian government threw them out into the street when they decided to transfer their subordination to the Kyiv Patriarchate. It used to be a ruined chemical factory, which the parish transformed into a beautiful cathedral with a college and a musical school. (Photo: 24tv.ua)

But Father Andrian and a small group of followers found a smaller place to continue to hold services in Noginsk, an arrangement that he and they assumed was sufficiently low profile to allow them to practice their religion in peace. Until 2016, it was; but then a district court ordered that their church be torn down so as “not to disturb the local population.”

The interior of the only church of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in Russia is located in Noginsk, about 20 miles east of Moscow, in a makeshift facility after the parishioners and the priest were thrown out of their original church building in the street by OMON police on orders of the mayor of Moscow at the time, Yuri Luzhkov. (Photo: 24tv.ua)

The interior of the only church of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in Russia is located in Noginsk, about 20 miles east of Moscow, in a makeshift facility after the parishioners and the priest were thrown out of their original church building in the street by OMON police on orders of the mayor of Moscow at the time, Yuri Luzhkov. (Photo: 24tv.ua)

“Every day we have waited for the arrival” of machines which will destroy “our church,” Andrian says. But so far, nothing has happened. In his view, “our church is not touched for the simple reason that in Ukraine, Russia has 12,000 churches, cathedrals, monasteries and three lavras … Therefore, they don’t touch some church in Noginsk in order not to lose a lot in Ukraine.”

“If it weren’t for the references to Patriarch Epiphany [the head of the OCU – Ed.] in the services” of the Noginsk church, the Ukrainian television channel reports, “even parishioners would not know that here [in the middle of Russia] is an Orthodox Church of Ukraine.”

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Edited by: A. N.

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