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It isn't immediately obvious to me why the Ruthenians clung so stubbornly to Orthodoxy. Constantinople had ceased to be a substantial political force since 1205, when it had fallen to the Catholics in the Fourth Crusade. It had recovered its independence since, but in a very weakened state. The fourteenth century saw the debate in Constantinople over 'hesychasm' (the monastic way of silence) which was to give Orthodoxy a distinct intellectual character that stands it in good stead at the present time. The hesychast movement was to have great influence in the Balkan lands and in the emerging Muscovite Russia but, so far as I can see had little influence among the Ruthenians, whose political and intellectual interests, even as we shall see among the Orthodox, lay westwards, to Poland and beyond, rather than Southwards towards the Balkans or Eastward towards Muscovy. As a result of this westward orientation, the Ruthenians lost their nobility, who became increasingly polonised. And yet, as Pospielovsky says (p.85): 'Even at the end of the seventeenth century, after all the coercion to push the Orthodox into Roman Catholicism ... the entire Lithuanian territory had only 700 Roman Catholic, as against 5,000 Orthodox churches.'

Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453 but prior to that, at the Council of Florence-Ferrara, the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Moscow-based Metropolitan of Kiev, had submitted to Rome. Even though Constantinople soon repudiated the union with Rome, Moscow separated from it. As a result the Patriarch of Constantinople, in 1469, established a new Metropolitanate of Kiev, albeit now based in the Lithuanian capital, Vil'na (modern Vilnius). This marked a further separation of what we might call Ruthenian Orthodoxy from Russian Orthodoxy. But Orthodoxy in the area was kept alive not by the hierarchy - always suspected of a romanising tendency - and certainly not by the nobility, but more by the peasantry and by 'brotherhoods' made up of craftsmen, merchants, lower clergy and monastics. Despite periodical destruction by different political forces the Kiev Caves monastery continued as an important symbol of Orthodox integrity. A very interesting style of icon-painting developed, specially in Lviv. The 'Pechersk icon' - showing the founders of the Kiev Caves monastery, SS Anthony and St Theodosius, under the protection of the Mother of God, is one of the most popular Ukrainian folk icons. (7)

(7) See eg Lludmilla Milyaeva: The Ukrainian Icon, Bournemouth, Parkstone and St Petersburg, Aurora, 1996 and Lidia Lykhach and Mykola Kornienko: Ukrainian folk icons from the land of Shevchenko, Kyiv, Rodovid, 2000. I have some examples of the folk icons on my website at A favourite theme in Ruthenian churches is the Last Judgment and John-Paul Himka has written on this: John Paul Himka: Last Judgment iconography in the Carpathians, University of Toronto Press, 2018.

Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, late sixteenth century, National Museum of Lviv, from a church in Lviv. Milyaeiva: Ukrainian Icon, no 139.
The distinctiveness I see in Ukrainian icons, rightly or wrongly, in relation to 'Byzantine' or Russian iconography is a greater interest in the individual characteristics of the people represented.

The fourteenth century, the period of the incorporation of the Ruthenians into Poland, was also the period of large scale influx of Jews into Poland, following the Great Plague in Germany and the massacres of Jews that accompanied it. We are moving into the territory of the first article in my Russian-Jewish series - A Polish Prologue - and the crude pattern I outlined then of Orthodox peasantry, Catholic nobility, Jewish merchant, shopkeeper, tavernkeeper, artisan, landlord's agent. (8)

(8) Church and State, No.132, April-June, 2018,

The position of the Orthodox worsened considerably in 1569, with the 'Union of Lubln' which turned the relation between Poland and Lithuania from a confederal to a federal union. The Orthodox aristocracy lost the right to sit in the senate, the Rada, which had a right of veto over the decisions of the King - extended in the seventeenth century to every individual senate member. In 1564, the Polish King, Sigismund Augustus II, invited the Jesuits to Poland, where they established a network of schools and colleges offering free education, with no obligation to convert to Rome. This was hugely attractive both to the Protestant element that had developed in Poland and to the more ambitious Orthodox elements, and of course it brought their children into a strong Catholic sphere of influence. The pull towards Rome, already strong among the Ruthenian aristocracy and higher clergy, produced in 1596, the 'Union of Brest' - the formation of the 'Uniate' church, which recognised the headship of the Pope and that it was the Catholic Church that possessed the fulness of the Truth, but retained elements of the Eastern rite deemed to be compatible with Catholic dogma. They were still, however, regarded as very much second class Catholics and their nobility were not given the same veto powers as their peers in the Rada. Pospielovsky comments (p.88): 'This was the reason most Lithuanian aristocrats converted to Western Rite Roman Catholicism in the course of the seventeenth century, and particularly those who had joined the Unia - as a result the Unia became known in Poland as the peasants' religion.'