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Prior to the partitions of Poland which began in 1772 the people who were to become 'Ukrainians' mainly held in common their refusal to exchange the Eastern rite in Church Slavonic for the Western, Latin rite that the Polish/Lithuanian government wished to impose on them. They were divided between the Orthodox and the 'Uniates' - those who, keeping the Eastern rite together with a married clergy, nonetheless were willing to accept the authority of the Pope and the distinctive doctrines of the Catholic Church. The Orthodox Metropolitan of Kiev, however, had, in 1679, placed himself under the Patriarchate of Moscow, a decision ratified by Constantinople in 1686, so that even the west bank Orthodox, still under Polish rule, were, ecclesiastically, subject first to the Patriarch of Moscow then to the 'Holy Synod' established by Peter I. Pospielovsky, whom I used as a main source of my previous article, gives the impression that the Orthodox were in a strong position since they were guaranteed protection by Peter the Great after he had saved the Polish Commonwealth, submerged by a Swedish invasion, at the Battle of Poltava. (1) But according to the account of Barbara Skinner, Associate Professor of History, Indiana State University: 

'by 1710, continued conversions of other Orthodox bishops in the Commonwealth to the Uniate faith left only one Orthodox hierarch, the Bishop of Mohylew [Mogilev] in Belarus, in the entire Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth ... Becoming in 1685 subordinate to the Russian patriarch (rather than to Constantinople), the Kievan Metropolitan's attention was now focused eastward, on Kiev's new role as the Orthodox cultural and educational center in the Muscovite state, not to the impoverished parishes across the Polish border. The Orthodox population there had no sense of belonging to a diocese at all, and their religious life was in shambles. Most commonly, vagrant priests and monks ordained in Moldavia came into the right-bank parishes. They were poorly educated and barely capable of administering parishes.' (2)

(1) Dimitry Pospielovsky: The Orthodox Church in the History of Russia, Crestwood NY, St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1998, p.101.

(2) Barbara Skinner: 'Borderlands of Faith: Reconsidering the origins of a Ukrainian tragedy', Slavic Review, Vol.64, No.1 (Spring 2005), pp.97-8

Pospielovsky, himself Orthodox and very hostile to the Uniates, argues that the situation of the Uniates, lacking Russian protection, was even worse than that of the Orthodox and that it was further worsened by its reorganisation in the Synod of Zamosc, which approved the essentially hostile policy of the Polish government, thus provoking a massive turn towards Orthodoxy.  Skinner, however (and I'm inclined to believe her) argues the opposite:

'Meanwhile, the Uniate Church in the Commonwealth began a process of self-strengthening, particularly following its Council of Zamosc in 1720 that prescribed more regulated parish and diocesan administration and better training for priests reminiscent of the Catholic Church's Council of Trent ... In the face of ineffective Orthodox Church organization in the eastern palatinates at this time, Polish landlords resettling the area for the most part installed Uniate priests brought from adjacent Uniate dioceses and built Uniate churches, resulting in the gradual conversion of the peasantry in right-bank Ukraine to the Uniate faith. In just a few decades, then, the Uniate Church made dramatic progress in expanding its jurisdiction eastward until the eastern border of the Uniate faith essentially coincided with the new Dnepr River border between the Commonwealth and the Russian Empire. Official church registers reveal that the number of Uniate parishes in right-bank Ukraine increased from about 150 in 1730 to nearly 1900 by 1764, while at the same time the number of Orthodox parishes shrank to several dozen.'

Pospielovsky has it that 'By 1795, over 2,000 Orthodox Parishes of the Right-Bank [West bank - PB] Ukraine had returned to Orthodoxy.' He presents this as a continuous process prompted by the Latinising policies of the Polish government and the Synod of Zamosc. But he neglects to mention the Koliivshchyna rebellion which broke out in 1768. According to Skinner it took the form of a large scale Orthodox massacre of the Uniates, as well as of Poles, Catholics and Jews, resulting eventually in the partitions, which greatly facilitated the conversion of Uniates to Orthodoxy in the territories taken by Russia.

In Galicia, by contrast, once it came under Austrian rule in the partition of 1772, the situation of the Uniates was greatly improved. Though in a stronger position than the Orthodox under Polish rule, they were still regarded as very much second class Catholics without the same political rights as Roman Catholics (in this context the terms 'Roman' Catholic refers to those using the Latin rite). But once under Austrian rule, according to the Canadian-Ukrainian historian, John-Paul Himka: 'Perhaps in no process of nation-building did the institution of the church play as great a role as in that of the Ukrainians of Austrian Galicia.' (3)

(3) John-Paul Himka: 'The Greek Catholic Church and nation-building in Galicia, 1772-1918', Harvard Ukrainian Studies, Vol.8, No.3/4 (December 1984), p.427.

He continues (pp.428-430):

'In June 1774 [the Austrian Empress - PB] Maria Theresa announced her intention "to do away with everything that might make the Uniate people believe they are regarded as worse than the Roman Catholics." In the next month she decreed that henceforth the term Uniate was to be banished from private as well as public usage and replaced by the term Greek Catholic. Joseph II [Maria Theresa's son and successor - PB] curbed the Basilian order (4) by claiming as the imperial prerogative the right to appoint bishops from either the black or white clergy and by subordinating the Basilian monks to the Greek Catholic hierarchy. He also took measures to improve the economic status of the parish clergy. Crucial educational institutions were established by the Habsburgs: the seminary for Greek Catholics attached to St. Barbara's Church in Vienna (the so-called Barbareum), founded in 1774 and replaced by a general seminary in Lviv in 1783, and the imperial seminary residence (Convict) for Greek Catholics, founded in Vienna in 1803. The culmination of the Austrian reforms was the reestablishment, in 1808, of the Galician metropolitan see  ... 

(4) The Synod of Zamosc had put all Uniate monasteries under the control of the Basilian order which had been formed in the sixteenth century on the model of the Jesuits, as a Counter-Reformation initiative to combat Orthodoxy and facilitate the polonisation of the Ruthenians. The 'black' clergy is the monastic, therefore celibate, clergy. The 'white' clergy could be married. The requirement that Bishops should come from the ranks of the unmarried clergy was a point the Uniates had in common with the Orthodox.

'The Habsburgs, especially Joseph II, saw the role of the clergy as promoters of secular enlightenment; that conception struck deep roots in the newly reborn (and grateful) Greek Catholic church. The enlightened monarchs had not only established the institutions that revitalized the Greek Catholic Church, but had implanted an ideal code of behavior in Greek Catholic clergymen that admitted no contradiction, or even strong distinction, between the propagation of the faith and of secular knowledge, between the nurture of good Christians and of good citizens.'

The immediate effect in the early nineteenth century was the emergence of an educated clergy able to mix in high (meaning at the time, Polish) society and therefore that much further removed from the normally illiterate and uneducated Ruthenian peasantry, but by mid-century, the clergy had begun to engage in a work of popular education. Himka again (p.431): 'Characteristic of the mentality of Greek Catholic episcopal enlighteners was a regulation [the Uniate Metropolitan - PB] Levyts'kyi issued for his seminarians in 1831: it made attendance at agronomy classes compulsory, because pastors would be expected to introduce their parishioners to better farming techniques.' 

The Greek Catholic Church, rather than using the vernacular spoken by the Ruthenian peasantry, had developed a language of its own - 'a curious hotchpotch known as yasychie, a compound of Church Slavonic and Ukrainian with some admixture of Polish and Russian.' (5)

(5) Peter Brock: 'Ivan Vahylevych (1811-1866) and the Ukrainian national identity', Canadian Slavonic Papers, Vol.14, No.2, 'UKRAINE' (Summer 1972), p.155. I regret the use of the word 'Ukrainian' in discussing Galician at this time. According to Himka it wasn't until the end of the nineteenth century that Galicians began to describe themselves as Ukrainian. He admits that when he himself uses the term to talk about this period he is being anachronistic: 'At least until the turn of the century, the Eastern-rite, Ukrainian-speaking inhabitants of Austria-Hungary referred to themselves as "Ruthenians" (rusyny) and to their conationals across the Russian border as "Ukrainians" (ukraintsi). As of 1900, nationally conscious Ukrainians in Galicia shunned this distinction and began referring to themselves, too, as "Ukrainians." The formulation of the goal of national statehood contributed to the terminological reorientation. For the purposes of this article I have retained the original terminology only in quotations from sources; otherwise I make use of a commonly accepted anachronism and call the "Ruthenians" "Ukrainians."' - 'Young Radicals and Independent Statehood: The Idea of a Ukrainian Nation-State, 1890- 1895', Slavic Review, Vol.41, No.2 (Summer, 1982), p.221, fn. 

The 1830s, though, saw the emergence of the 'Ruthenian triad', making the first effort in Galicia to develop a sense of the distinctiveness of Ruthenian culture not based on religion and using the native language:

'Their programme was exclusively cultural. It called for recognition of the cultural unity of all the Ukrainian lands and of the folk language as the basis of a new national literature, and it asserted the separate identity of this language and literature within the Slavonic family. It stressed the historical link between the present and the glorious past as exemplified in Kievan Rus' and the Cossacks, and it pointed to the peasantry as the most valuable element in the contemporary national community.'  (Brock: Vahylevych, p.156).

It was all on a very small scale, though, and though the 'triad' - Markiian Shashkevych, Iakiv Holovats'kyi, and Ivan Vahylevych - were all trainee priests based in Lviv, their efforts were strongly discouraged by the church authorities, more for linguistic than cultural or political reasons. The church stood by its own language, based on Church Slavonic and remote from the vernacular spoken by the peasantry, as an appropriate vehicle for a Ruthenian literary culture. Nor were the triad at the time particularly political-minded. Indeed they never showed an interest in national separation: 

'Shashkevych was to die unexpectedly early in the next decade, while Holovats'kyi and Vahylevych set out on divergent paths, which would lead in Holovats'kyi's case to the exchange of Ukrainian identity for Russian nationality and in Vahylevych's case to close identification with the cause of Polish political nationalism.' (Brock: Vahylevych, p.158)