«So that He Could Persuade Ukrainian Clergymen to Join the Moscow Patriarchate”


Among the archival documents of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine, a number of cases are devoted to how Soviet special services were actively engaged in the destruction of Ukrainian Orthodoxy not only on the territory of the USSR, but also abroad. Characteristic in this regard are the measures of the MGB/KGB against the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) and its clergymen, who were prominent representatives of the national liberation movement.

After the Second World War, the MGB of the Ukrainian SSR, along with cases concerning Ukrainian émigrés in a number of countries, political parties, organizations, movements and their figures, opened intelligence-surveillance cases on church organizations – the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and others. Here is an excerpt from one of the resolutions on opening the case: «UAOC abroad, supporting Ukrainian nationalists of all directions, is actively working against the USSR for the creation of the so-called «independent Ukraine”. In order to concentrate materials on the anti-Soviet activities of the UAOC and more purposeful work against its centers, it was decided: to start an intelligence-surveillance case entitled «UAOC Abroad”.

At the same time, communist authorities supported the Russian Orthodox Church, the decision to lift the ban on whose activities was made in September 1943. According to the Kremlin's plan, it was to be Orthodox Church under its full control, which would perform the task of blocking the opposition Orthodox movement and be an instrument of counteracting the revival of national churches.

On September 22, 1943, the People's Commissar of State Security of the USSR Vsevolod Merkulov signed a document addressed to the People's Commissars of the Soviet Republics, which stated that the government allowed the Russian Orthodox Church to raise questions about opening of churches and using parish property, to open theological courses, engage in crafts like making candles, and publish its own magazine.

The People's Commissar ordered subordinates not to interfere with the clergy’s complying with government-ordered decisions, «at the same time to provide undisturbed agent supervision over the activities of bishops and the rest of the clergy of the Orthodox Church, stopping their possible attempts to exceed the rights granted to them or to use those rights for anti-Soviet purposes”.

In the collection of educational-training materials «Ukrainian Liberation Movement in the Struggle Against the NKVD-KGB”, published by the OUN Foreign Units in 1958, the section on the KGB’s use of church and religion describes the activities of the Moscow church in those years. The text says that the Bolsheviks, having finally realized that they could not destroy the church and religion in the souls of the people, decided to make them an instrument of their policy, including abroad.

«Under the Moscow Patriarchate”, the documents point out, «a foreign department was created, the so-called «Government of the Moscow Patriarchy”... The same foreign «Government of the Moscow Patriarchy” began to organize abroad so-called «exarchates”, full of their trusted people and agitators for the return of emigrants to their Motherland...

Obviously, in addition to the agents’ role in the KGB action for the return to the Motherland, the Moscow Patriarchate also has other, equally important tasks. First of all, it wants to destroy the national Churches of enslaved peoples independent of Moscow and subordinate them, like all other parts of the life of non-Russian peoples, to one center in Moscow.

In particular, Moscow is alarmed by the flourishing of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, which, by standing in the service of God and Ukraine, is seriously threatening Moscow's monopolistic encroachment in the Orthodox world. We should reckon with the fact that the action of the KGB on the church section will be further deepened, in particular against the UAOC and Ukrainian clergymen abroad”.

According to archival documents, the state security first of all began to search for agents who could inform about what was happening in the UAOC and characterize the church itself. And this was done by infiltrating agents into the close circle of clergymen. For example, agent «Honchar” in a message dated June 12, 1952, stated:

«UAOC has been conducting propaganda in exile, both spiritual and political, not only against cooperation with the Russian people, but also against Russia in general – be it Soviet or bourgeois Russia. UAOC in the Soviet Union turned into a source of counter-revolution, some of its leaders are outside the Ukrainian SSR, others abandoned their activities, and fanatics, such as Lypynskyi, were isolated” (BSA of the SZR of Ukraine. – F. 1. – Case 10343. – P. 133).

Agent «Khmelnytskyi” in a message dated April 10, 1952 reported:

«In regard to the proposal of the MGB to establish contacts with some persons who emigrated to the western zone of Germany and to America, I have the honor to report the following:

Among the persons who are in the West, I am well aware of some bishops and clergymen who were either in the Diocese of Chełm or worked in the then Poland in Volyn. Among them there are those who, in my opinion, may be of interest to the MGB, such as persons who were close to Ukrainian foreign circles. But there are those who have always been far from all kinds of politics and only thanks to circumstances found themselves in the West.

In the first group of persons, I personally know Bishop Platon Artemyuk, Archpriest Shumovskyi, Archpriest Vasyl Varvarov, Metropolitan Ilarion-Ohiyenko, Bishop Mstyslav-Skrypnyk, Archpriest Hryhoriy Matyuk” (BSA of the SZR of Ukraine. – F. 1. – Case 10343. – P. 126).

In these and other messages, along with information about the creation of the UAOC and all sorts of transformations in its environment, there is a lot of information about church leaders. And this is exactly what the MGB wanted to know most of all. Therefore, it is reported that operational cases have been opened against senior church leaders. Here's one of such reports:

«The First Department of the Directorate of the MGB of the Ukrainian SSR is cultivating the head of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church – «UAOC” in the USA, Metropolitan Ioan (Ivan) Teodorovych, formerly a Petlyurist... We ask for your instructions to identify Teodorovych at his place of birth and collect biographical information and characteristics on him and his relatives” (BSA of the SZR of Ukraine. – F. 1. – Case 10343. – P. 211).

There is a case file entitled «Svyatosha” («Religionist” – Transl.) on Ivan Ohienko (Metropolitan Ilarion), a political, public and church figure, church historian, former Minister of Education and Minister of Cults (Confessions) in several governments of the Ukrainian People's Republic. As noted in the last paper of the case, in 1944 he emigrated to Austria, from there to Switzerland, then «at the invitation of Ukrainian believers from Canada (already as Metropolitan) he left for that country and settled in the city of Winnipeg... After some time, Ohienko was elected head of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Canada at one of the church congresses” (BSA of the SZR of Ukraine. – F. 1. – Case 10202.– Vol. 1. – P. 49).

The MGB conducted a case against Stepan Skrypnyk (Metropolitan Mstyslav). Agent «Ivanov” in a report dated May 17, 1949 entitled «On the Activities of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC)” describes him as follows:

«... Among the bishopric of the UAOC, only he is distinguished in his mind, in his ability to act «diplomatically”, and in his character... Mstyslav is a bright personality.

During the war, before fleeing to the West, he was bishop of Pereyaslav. After the war, as a member of the Synod, he was the leader living in a displaced persons camp near Frankfurt... From Paris he moved to Winnipeg (Canada), where he headed the Canadian UAOC...

After Metropolitan Athenagoras was elected to the throne of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Mstyslav managed to enlist his support, as a result of which he found himself at the head of the UAOC not only in Canada, but also in the United States, where there are more than 200 parishes”(BSA of the SZR of Ukraine. – F. 1. – Case. 4161. – P. 409–410).

In fact, Mstyslav in different years was the First Hierarch of the UAOC in the USA and the diaspora, Metropolitan of the UOC in Canada and the USA, on October 30, 1989 he was proclaimed Patriarch of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Ukraine and abroad, on June 6, 1990 - Holy Patriarch of Kyiv and all Ukraine.

The MGB (later – the KGB) carefully monitored the life and activities of Mstyslav and in every possible way used for its own purposes differences and contradictions in his and some other church leaders’ views on the church structure.  Thus, Chief of the 1st Directorate of the KGB under the Council of Ministers of the Ukrainian SSR, Serhiy Savchenko’s report dated April 21, 1964, refers to the creation of conditions for a split in Ukrainian churches and the discrediting of the Archbishop of the UOC-USA Mstyslav-Skrypnyk.

It is pointed out that in the Ukrainian newspaper «Our Motherland”, which was published in the USA, there was an article «Bishops’ Conspiracy”. In it, the author allegedly, on behalf of the UOC faithful, called for the removal of Mstyslav from the post of head of the consistory of the UOC-USA and his condemnation by the episcopal court for allegedly, contrary to the decision of all Metropolitans of the Orthodox Church, visiting the Ecumenical Council in Rome.

«We consider it possible”, the document says, «to use this circumstance to incite hostility between the UOC and the UGCC and nationalist organizations favorable to them (OUN Foreign Units and the UPR), and to finally compromise Skrypnyk, as one of the leaders of the UOC-USA.

To this end, in our opinion, it is advisable to manufacture on behalf of the Uniate elite and distribute abroad a letter with attacks on the policy of the UOC, in which to justify the actions of Skrypnyk and exalt the Catholic Church.

In the future, depending on the results achieved, it will be possible to resolve the issue of spreading other similar documents on behalf of the UGCC or the UOC” (BSA of the SZR of Ukraine. – F. 1. – Case 11835. – Vol. 2. – P. 336–337).

In 1969, the KGB again tried to compromise Mstyslav-Skrypnyk. The paper dated January 26, 1970 on this subject states:

«Skrypnyk, the former head of the UOC Consistory in the USA, in 1969, without the consent of his church, left for Germany, where he was elected Metropolitan of the UAOC in Europe. In this regard, he was expelled from the UOC in the United States and condemned by some foreign newspapers...

To implement this plan, we consider it necessary to send a letter from Munich to the Metropolitan of the UGCC in the USA, in which, on behalf of Catholic believers, to report on Skrypnyk's statements that allegedly came to them and which vilify the UGCC in the USA and the Vatican” (BSA of the SZR of Ukraine. – F. 1. – Case 11835. – Vol. 4. – P. 179–180).

In reality, as mentioned in other archival documents, all this was invented by the KGB in order to bring hostility into the church environment, in particular, between the UAOC and the UGCC.

For such work, the KGB needed qualified personnel who would be familiar with this issue. The search and training of such persons is repeatedly mentioned in declassified documents. Thus, the letter from Kyiv to the First Main Directorate of the KGB under the USSR Council of Ministers, dated April 21, 1965, refers to the possibility of using the Moscow Patriarchate in work abroad. With reference to the information that «there is an opportunity to create conditions for sending agents to individual countries along the line of the ROC”, it is pointed out: «Please inform us what opportunities are now available for sending to capitalist countries where there are Ukrainian emigrants, agents from among clergymen and what mandatory requirements these agents must meet (knowledge of foreign languages, education, rank, etc”. (BSA of the SZR of Ukraine. – F. 1. – Case 11835. – Vol. 3. – P. 43–44).

The response from Moscow read that it was possible to send agents from among Ukrainian clergyman along the lines of the Moscow Patriarchate to a number of capitalist countries, including two or three to Canada, two or three to Argentina, and one or two to West Berlin. «In addition, – it was said, – to the USA an agent (in the rank of a priest or deacon) with a good command of English can be sent to the post of Secretary of the Exarch (after 2-3 years)” (BSA of the SZR of Ukraine. – F. 1. – Case 11835. – Vol. 3. – P. 62).

In another document, the report of the Directorate of the KGB of the Ukrainian SSR in Odesa region, this is already stated in more detail. It is reported that among the former autocephalists, there is the KGB’s agent «Ivanov”, who in 1942 was ordained a clergyman and is preparing to be brought to Canada along the lines of the Moscow Patriarchate. At this, it is noted that he could work there to persuade Ukrainian clergymen to join the Moscow Patriarchate and to make a split in the autocephalous bishopric in Canada.

So, the declassified documents confirm how the KGB interfered in the affairs of the Ukrainian church in the diaspora, trying to discredit it and distort it from the inside, and for this purpose used the structures of the Russian Orthodox Church as one of the means of influence.