Between Church and State: Conflict, contention, and coping through the politicisation of religion in rural Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) communities
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Since the formation and granting of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) in 2018-19, the country’s historically larger Orthodox denomination, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), has come under significant pressure. Unlike the OCU, the UOC-MP is part of the Russian Orthodox Church structure and for this reason is deemed a threat by many political elites. As a result, many parishes are forced to make a choice between ‘switching’ from the UOC-MP to the OCU, or face scrutiny at remaining with an ‘unpatriotic’ church. This thesis examines how rural church communities in Rivne oblast, in north-western Ukraine, reacted to the activation of religious boundaries at a national level. Three cases were examined to understand how these villagers cope, adapt, and react in the short term to structural changes in religious organisation. In turn, this research raises potential reasons as to why this process was affected by conflict between local actors in some communities, and why in other cases, conflict was avoided. While each village is unique due to specific local factors, this research provides an insight into the scenarios of reaction by UOC-MP communities to the activation social boundaries along religious lines.