Tkachenko dismissed: what can the Orthodox expect?
The authorities dismissed the Minister of Culture Oleksandr Tkachenko, who was the main acting force of repression against the UOC. What should the Orthodox expect now?
On 20 July 2023, the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy in his evening video message proposed to the Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal to consider replacing the Minister of Culture Oleksandr Tkachenko. That is, he suggested (read – ordered) dismissing him. Recall that recently Denys Shmyhal, commenting on the petition to dismiss Tkachenko, which gained the required number of votes, said that he "sees no grounds" for changing the head of the Ministry of Culture. And now these "grounds" seem to have appeared.
On the night of 21 July, Tkachenko announced his resignation. Moreover, in the morning there were reports that a criminal case was opened against Tkachenko for embezzlement of budget funds. But in this case, we are not so much interested in the motives for Tkachenko's dismissal and his future fate, as in what the Church should expect from his successor.
What do TV series have to do with it?
The reason for Tkachenko's sudden disfavour is disagreements over the issue of state funding for culture during the war. Zelenskyy stated that "during such a war, the maximum state resources should go to defence, and every project that can be implemented through extrabudgetary resources should be funded using precisely those extrabudgetary resources. This applies to various sectors, including the cultural industry. Museums, cultural centres, symbols, TV series – all of this is important, but now there are other priorities."
Reportedly, due to this reason, the President "asked the Prime Minister to consider replacing Ukraine's Minister of Culture and Information Policy Tkachenko."
Earlier in Ukraine, there was a scandal because the Ministry of Culture initiated the allocation of 400 million hryvnias for the creation of films and TV series during the war. Among them, 33 million were allocated for the TV series "PGT Ingulets," which is supposed to be about the Ukrainian businessman, Oleksandr Povorozniuk. We remember how the series about an ordinary rural teacher who became the President of the country ended. The Office of the President also remembers it. And they're reacting accordingly.
It is precisely for this reason that MP Yaroslav Zhelezniak, giving a hint about Tkachenko's dismissal, wrote: "Well, it looks like they will change the Minister of Culture... including for the TV series."
From Zhelezniak's post, it becomes clear that the main reason is not just about TV series (they are "including" as part of the reason), but rather other actions or mistakes made by Tkachenko. What exactly are these reasons?
To relieve tension?
It is known that the Ministry of Culture was the main executor of the lawlessness going on in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. It was Tkachenko's Department that was behind the cancellation of the Lavra lease agreement, his commission (with the help of the police) sealed the monastery buildings, and Tkachenko initiated the expulsion of the brethren from the monastery.
Therefore, back in March 2023, the Lavra abbot, Metropolitan Pavel, said that the President couldn’t stop the Minister of Culture "possessed by madness, malice, and hatred". "So, he is doing everything with your permission. Woe to you. Fear!", the bishop said at the time.
In other words, Tkachenko was fulfilling the "duties" assigned to him from above to "solve the Lavra issue". Therefore, it would seem, why dismiss him?
First of all, not "why", but "for what". The fact is that the majority of Orthodox believers see the head of the Ministry of Culture as one of the most prominent persecutors of the Church. They perceive him as an exceptionally negative figure, which adds toxicity to the perception of the Ukrainian government in general. Besides, there is currently too much religious tension in society. Removing Tkachenko from his post should, firstly, partially relieve this tension, secondly, allow the authorities to show their "open-mindedness", and thirdly, give Zelenskyy a trump card, albeit a small one, in the eyes of those who believe that "it is not the king who is to blame but his entourage".
To suppress an international scandal?
But the main reason, as it seems to us, is not in this, but in the fact that Tkachenko could not "solve the Lavra issue" quickly, smoothly and without scandals, including abroad.
For instance, just this week, a scathing article, in which journalist Michael Dougherty accused the Ukrainian government of "religious persecution and legal suppression of an integral, separate, long-standing religious community" was published in the leading American conservative publication “National Review”, often referred to as the "voice of the right in the USA".
Even earlier, another famous American journalist, Tucker Carlson, in a conversation with former Vice President of the United States Mike Pence, pointed out that " the Zelensky government has arrested priests for having views that they disagree with, which is not respecting religious liberty but rather an attack on it." It should be noted that both Dougherty and Carlson expressed dissatisfaction not only with the persecution of the UOC but also with the fact that, according to them, America finances these persecutions by providing funds to the Ukrainian government. In the context of reduced financing for Ukraine to conduct military actions against Russia, any such talks (especially at this level) are absolutely unwanted by the President's Office. Therefore, the international scandal is the second reason, as it seems to us.
To suppress a domestic scandal?
The situation with the Lavra hits not only the international image of the Ukrainian authorities but also the domestic one. As mentioned earlier, the ordinary faithful view Zelensky through the prism of Tkachenko. And the Minister of Culture not only delayed the process of expelling the monks from the Lavra for almost six months but also could not avoid disgrace.
We remember how at the beginning of the confrontation over the Lavra, the leader of the Ukrainian radicals Yevhen Karas gave instructions to his associates, in which it was clearly stated that their task was to maximally highlight the "inadequacy" and "aggressiveness" of UOC believers.
It was for this purpose that numerous provocations were organised, which eventually led to exactly the opposite result – it is the persecutors of the Church who now appear as "inadequate". The "activists" who come to work under the Lavra look not only like outright marginalised people. Through their actions, they have managed to identify the Ukrainian authorities with the Soviet god-fighters. And this is seen not only in Ukraine but also abroad.
Moreover, the "activists" defending the "rights of the Ministry of Culture" are perceived by society not only as godless but also as open Satanists. Here we can also recall the diabolical "performance" with the "funeral" of Patriarch Kirill by the magician Veliar, who serves black masses in his spare time. The organiser of the rallies, a Kyiv council deputy from the Eurosolidarity party, turned out to be a criminal, who ran over a woman at a crosswalk in a drugged driving accident. Another activist, "Grandpa Zhenia", records videos with a Nazi salute. And recently, a video of one of the "Lavra activists" hugging and kissing a man in the Kyiv metro went viral on the Net.
Instead of turning the ordinary public against the Lavra monks, Tkachenko managed to do the opposite – he made everyone understand that the monastery was being fought against by atheists, Satanists, and people with dubious morals. Moreover, he was spending the budget's money (the Reserve allocated over 4 million hryvnias for the "protection" of the Lavra) while doing so.
What will happen after Tkachenko?
We think that nothing good for the Church. The course of destroying the UOC will continue under the new head of the Ministry of Culture. Who will be appointed to this position? Most likely, they will appoint a person who is more "decisive" than Tkachenko and more radical towards the UOC. The authorities need an executor who will not hesitate to "get his hands dirty" and will not be associated with Zelensky in any way. Tkachenko is clearly not suitable here, because for many years he was the director of the "1+1" TV channel, which broadcast films with the future President of Ukraine and shows with his participation. Therefore, it is logical to choose someone who will complete what has been started and can later be blamed for everything.
From this perspective, Orthodox believers cannot view the news of Tkachenko's dismissal as positive. It is definitely not the "news" that Zelensky announced, speaking about the "independence of Ukrainians in the spiritual field". Rather, on the contrary, by removing Tkachenko, it seems that a clear signal has been sent to the Church that things will get worse.
How much worse? We'll see. But 100% as much as God allows.