Germany delivers Tsar Peter I’s Manifesto on Ukrainian Church to Kyiv

Tsar Peter I's Manifesto of 1708 on the Ukrainian Church. Photo: Deutsche Welle  

History, Ukraine

Translated by: Christine Chraibi

A unique historical document recently arrived from Germany at Boryspil Airport, Kyiv – Tsar Peter I’s Manifesto on the Ukrainian Church issued in 1708. It recounts the appointment of Ioasaf (Joseph) Krokovsky to the position of Metropolitan of Kyiv and underlines the fact that the Ukrainian Church shall no longer be subordinated to Constantinople. This document actually denies the Russian fake story that the Ukrainian Church voluntarily joined the Moscow Patriarchate.

Culture Minister Yevhen Nyshchuk (left) takes delivery of Peter I’s Manifesto at Boryspil Airport, Kyiv

The document is invaluable, both culturally and historically. The Minister of Culture of Ukraine Yevhen Nyshchuk explained that the official return of this historical document was the result of many years of hard work by the Intergovernmental Commission on the return of cultural property displaced during the Second World War.

He noted that the handwritten document, which measures 80 cm by 58 cm and is dated 1708, had disappeared during the Second World War. In the late 1950s, it re-appeared in the library of the Institute of East European History and Area Studies at the University of Tübingen in the Baden-Württemberg Federal District, and was left there. It has never been properly examined, although it contains important information for Ukraine.

Why is the document important for Ukraine?

Historian Natalia Sinkevych, who discovered the document in the German archives, says it was taken from Kyiv during the Second World War. She adds that it contains important information that will help Ukrainian researchers and scholars clarify the detailed circumstances on how and why the Kyiv Metropolitanate was forced to join Moscow.

Historian Natalia Sinkevych examines the original of Peter I’s Manifesto of 1708 on the Ukrainian Church

At the beginning of the 19th century, Russian historian Yevhen Bolkhovitinov published a text of the 1708 Manifesto. After examining the original Manifesto, Natalia Sinkevych discovered that that Bolkhhovitinov’s text was incomplete. The Russian historian had omitted the most interesting point: Tsar Peter I’s command issued to the Metropolitan of Kyiv that the Ukrainian Church must not return to Constantinople.

In fact, this document proves that Moscow did not trust the Kyiv clergy. According to Sinkevych, the fact that the text of this historical documents had been censored by Tsar Peter I testifies to Russia’s desire to eliminate any mention of the fact that the Kyivan Metropolitanate had previously been subordinated to Constantinople.

In fact, Ioasaf Krokovsky was the last metropolitan to be independently elected by the Kyiv clergy. All the following Kyiv metropolitans were simply appointed in Moscow, and never elected.

The Manifesto has been stored in the National Historical and Cultural Complex Sofiya Kyivska. Culture Minister Yevhen Nyshchuk promised that it would soon be on display and open to the general public.

Translated by: Christine Chraibi

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