What will happen to Lavra? Lessons from history

11 March 15:56
The Ukrainian authorities are using Bolshevik methods against the Church. Photo: the USSR The Ukrainian authorities are using Bolshevik methods against the Church. Photo: the USSR

The government has declared that the UOC should "vacate" the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. This already happened in the 1920s and 1960s in the Soviet era. What awaits it now?

The government has declared that the UOC should "vacate" the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. This already happened in the 1920s and 1960s in the Soviet era. What awaits it now?

On March 10, 2023, the Ministry of Culture published a document stating that the UOC monks must leave the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra by March 29, 2023. Everything has been leading up to this but it still seemed unbelievable.

Metropolitan Clement, commenting on this document, said that there are no legal grounds to vacate the Lavra. Therefore, it is possible that the monks of the monastery will be expelled without these legal grounds, using the usual scheme – by force.

Soon after, German religious scholar Nikolai Mitrokhin noted that in the last hundred years, the UOC has been expelled from the Lavra twice – in the late 1920s and then under Khrushchev in 1961.

"Each time the Lavra was returned to the Church, it turned out that some of those who were expelled last time are still alive – and they returned there unlike those who expelled the monks using power and force," Mitrokhin wrote.

So, what awaits the Lavra if in less than a month the authorities obliged the monastery to leave this holy place? To answer this question, let us turn to history. Especially as our opponents do not know it.

The Lavra after the revolution

After the 1917 revolution, the first martyr and confessor killed by the godless was Metropolitan Vladimir (Bogoyavlensky) of Kyiv and Galicia, who was shot on January 25 (Julian calendar), 1918, near the walls of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra.

After 1919, the monastic community continued to exist as an artel. From the beginning of 1924, the Lavra was under the direct supervision of Patriarch Tikhon.

But the authorities didn't like it much (Patriarch Tikhon was subjected to disgrace), so at the so-called All-Ukrainian Pre-Council meeting (Renovationist) held in Kharkiv from November 11 to 15, 1924, based on the report of the Kyiv Renovationist Metropolitan Innocent (Pustynsky), there was adopted a resolution on the need to transfer the Lavra to the jurisdiction of the All-Ukrainian Holy Synod (Renovationist), which happened on December 15, 1924.

That is, the schismatics of the time demanded that the Lavra be transferred to them, which the authorities, who had placed their bets precisely on them, immediately carried out (literally within one month).

On September 29, 1926, the All-Ukrainian Central Executive Committee and the Council of People's Commissars of the Ukrainian SSR adopted a resolution "Recognizing the former Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra as a historical and cultural state reserve and transforming it into an All-Ukrainian museum town."

The gradual displacement of the monastic community by the museum was completed by the beginning of 1930 with the full liquidation of the monastery. Part of the brethren was taken away and shot, and the rest were imprisoned or exiled. The Lavra was plundered.

What will happen now?

We can assume that the Lavra will soon become a museum as well. Why? Several factors will play a role here:

The faithful people will not go to the schismatics in the Lavra for worship. Just like they hardly go to St. Michael’s, Vydubitsky, and Theodosius monasteries now. And if the authorities manage to force some monks to stay in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, they will not be able to make people go to Dumenko's church for worship. Just as they cannot do it even with free buses from the regions, sandwiches, and hourly pay. Those who advocate the transfer of the Lavra to the OCU have nothing to do with the Church and will not go to the temples, just as they do not go now.

The OCU, which is currently experiencing a serious personnel shortage, simply has no one to populate the Lavra with. Therefore, most likely, the new "owners" of the monastery will try to persuade the brethren to stay. It is quite possible that some of them will be promised the "episcopal" rank (especially since the further ban on the UOC is planned, which means that new "bishops" will be very much needed).

If the Lavra becomes empty, the OCU will have to look for funds to pay the huge bills of the Lavra. Probably, some of the monastery premises will simply be closed, some will be rented out, and some will be transferred to the state. What will happen to these premises? They will fall into disrepair. And then the "broken window effect" will work: if you do not replace the broken glass immediately, the entire building may gradually be destroyed. Therefore, if some of the Lavra premises are turned into warehouses/museums/cafes, the entire Lavra will gradually become a museum. The only way out is to find funds to maintain the monastery. There are several options.

1. The main sponsor of the OCU, Matsola, refuses to finance St. Michael’s and directs his funds to the Lavra. But do you understand the difference in scales? The finance for Dumenko's support at the Golden-domed and the money for maintaining the Lavra is not the same thing.

2. To look for funds for the monastery on their own. We know how exactly the OCU looks for money to support shrines. For example, in the Vydubitsky Monastery, which was confiscated in the 90s, they offer to do yoga. In Theodosius’s (right opposite the Lavra), they simply rent out rooms like in a hotel. It is possible that they will turn the Lavra itself into a hotel and tourist complex with spa and massage salons, yoga classes and fitness centres.

3. To transfer the Lavra to the state balance sheet. Actually, it already belongs to the state. Since the Bolsheviks nationalized church property, nothing has changed in this regard. The state will have to look for funds to maintain the Lavra. But it is unlikely that the state will take care of it better than the Church did.

Church and power: Lessons from history

There is a fourth factor indicating that representatives of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) should not celebrate too early and that the Lavra monastery is unlikely to stay with them. This factor is the illusion of support for the OCU from the authorities.

It should be remembered that the period when Bolsheviks pushed for the interests of the modernizers was very short – only about 9 years. As soon as the Soviet government realized that it could build its state without the "popes," they immediately changed their policy towards the schismatics. Yesterday's accomplices of the Soviet regime were shot, sent to prison, and forced to renounce the sacred orders. Of course, not in such quantities, but still. The criterion by which a person was identified as an enemy was the mere fact of him wearing a cassock. Thus, all those who had any connection with religion were targeted by the godless.

And if we understand that today's authorities are the same yesterday's communists, it is not difficult to understand that for them the words "Church," "priest," and "Orthodoxy" are offensive words. There is plenty of evidence. Remember the episode from the "Quarter 95" show? Therefore, very soon they will start fighting against Orthodoxy as a phenomenon, not from a "political expediency" standpoint. However, in the end, they will still lose. Because the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth and its persecutors disappear from the historical arena in disgrace.

However, as Mitrokhin rightly said, "those who thought that the Church could be 'closed and locked,' robbed, turned into a museum, and written off in the newspaper as a decision of the people, have not learnt anything from history. Especially if they do not know it."

If you notice an error, select the required text and press Ctrl+Enter or Submit an error to report it to the editors.
Read also