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The fifteenth century opened on a ruined state of Rus′-Ukraine. There was nothing left of the old authority of the state. Its independence and its wealth were gone and its people had only to remain quiet and to follow as mute observers the changing pattern of history, for the fifteenth century saw the beginnings of modern Europe; it saw the discovery of America, the enormous expansion of Poland and the independence of Moscow from the Tatar yoke. Mediaeval Europe was passing into the modern era and Rus′-Ukraine, gone from the map, could only look on without comprehension.
Everything seemed against the unfortunate people, for the two great events of the period worked to the disadvantage of the enslaved Ukrainians.
First came the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453. The collapse of the Byzantine Empire had been gradual. Step by step the Turks had pushed nearer to the great capital. They had conquered one province after another, until only the city itself was left upon the Golden Horn in a splendid isolation. It was in vain that the Emperors had appealed to the West for military assistance to ward off the final doom. They secured no answer. At the Council of Florence in 1439, they had made their submission to the Pope but even this brought them no practical benefit, for the age of the Crusades had passed. No one of the secular rulers who were busy carving out states for themselves was willing to hear the appeal of Rome to divert even a small part of their energies and resources to the p46 saving of what had been the great centre of Christianity.
Almost simultaneously with this, Ivan III of Moscow threw off the yoke of the Golden Horde and Moscow became a free state for the first time in two centuries. By his marriage with a member of the Paleolog dynasty of Constantinople, Ivan secured a shadowy claim to the double headed eagles of Byzantium. He and his followers became enthused with the idea that they were the lineal descendants of the Empire and that Moscow was now the Christian capital of the world, the Third Rome, entitled to recover its ancestral heritage and to shine forth in new glory. It was a proud ambition for the isolated state which had been orientalized by submission to the Mongols and Tatars and had sunk in all cultural matters far below its original source.
In the meanwhile Poland, with its alliance with Lithuania, was rising to new heights. Proud of its western traditions, the reborn state wanted to know nothing of the culture of those peoples who had entered into it. It valued its contacts with Italy and the West. It sought to wipe out every trace of its connections with the east and the nobles and peasants of Rus′-Ukraine, with their Orthodox faith, seemed to them a reflection on the western character of Poland.
Rus′-Ukraine was abandoned by all of its friends at the very moment when the Spanish traders and merchants were seeking a road to the riches of the Orient, when the new spirit and the teachers from the ruined Constantinople were leavening the whole of Europe, when in England the Wars of the Roses were wiping out the old feudal nobility and when everywhere new currents of life and of thought were changing the old system of society. None of these new and healthy currents could exercise any appreciable influence upon the unfortunate state which five centuries earlier had been the cultural offshoot of the great Byzantine Empire.
The fall of Constantinople deprived the people of p47 Ukraine of their cultural and religious support. The patriarchs were so occupied with the heavy problems of personal survival that they had little or no time to think of the far distant Ukraine. There were few or no scholars to send there to carry on schools and to defend the faith. The people were left to themselves to supply their own cultural needs as best they could, for Moscow, even though it was the self-styled defender of Orthodoxy and the Third Rome, was not interested in any cultural development outside of its own restricted sphere and could listen gravely to a argument that it was a sin to write or think or add any knowledge to the world after the Seventh Oecumenical Council.
This left Ukraine at the mercy of Poland and Lithuania. Galling as it was to be under the control of Lithuania, which had formerly ranked so low in comparison with Kiev, there were still compensations. Part of Lithuania was pagan but many of the lords were Orthodox, and Church Slavonic, especially in its White Ruthenian form, was really the language of the government records. No matter what was to come, it was possible, especially for the nobles and the educated, to be sure of a hearing and of their position in the ruling circles.
It was far different in Poland. From its very beginning Poland had adopted the Roman Catholic faith and felt itself definitely part of the West. As such it had inherited the contempt for Orthodoxy that had been widely spread since the Fourth Crusade. Its kings and rulers were constantly seeking to eliminate from their body politic and their ruling class all those people who would not conform, and there was a steady pressure on the leading families and the leading ecclesiastics to enter the Roman Catholic Church.
In 1386, Yagello of Lithuania married Queen Jadwiga of Poland and was baptized in the Roman Catholic Church. Almost at once the spirit of Lithuanian rule began to change as men trained in the Roman Catholic faith came to high p48 positions in the state. The result was shown in the lessening of Orthodox influence. As the decades passed, the influence of Poland grew and finally the Ukrainian provinces of Lithuania were definitely brought under Poland and the central Polish system.
This brought with it an increase of Polish and Latin schools. Many of the leading nobles adapted themselves to the new regime, and since religion was the chief distinguishing criterion, most of them definitely became Roman Catholic, and commenced to speak Polish, to live in the Polish way and to adopt the manners of their social equals in Poland. All this could not fail to react badly upon the Ukrainian population, which was still devoutly Orthodox but which was rapidly being stripped of its nobility and its educated class.
Thus the sixteenth century bade fair to see the definite extinction of Ukrainian hopes and aspirations and even existence. The Ukrainian population was rapidly being reduced to an inchoate mass of illiterate peasants and townspeople without an intelligentsia and even without any educated clergy. Yet these expectations were not fulfilled. In the same century there came a revival, at first small in scope and often deficient in method, but yet vitally important to the preservation of the national and cultural identity.
This revival concerned itself with education. There spread through the Ukrainian lands a desire to create schools for the people to counter-balance the Polish schools. Since there was already pressure for a union of the Churches, which had won the support of several of the leading bishops, the new schools adopted a severely Orthodox point of view. Their leaders were convinced that a knowledge of the new learning could not fail to weaken the position of the Church. They did not realize that much of the new learning was itself the result of the contact between the scholars who had fled to the West after the fall of Constantinople and p49 the traditional wisdom of the West. The education became purely religious with very little regard for secular subjects. At the same time, insofar as it was possible, the leaders sought to spread a knowledge of the older forms of the Church Slavonic and gave little heed to the attempts that were being made to adapt this language to the living speech of the people.
Such a reform was naturally successful in reviving the national consciousness of the Ukrainians but it could not check the tendency of many of the more progressive and prominent families to send their children to the more fashionable Polish schools and thus the leakage of part of the educated class continued with little abatement. Its success would have been far greater, had the Patriarch of Constantinople been able to send a considerable number of scholars to assist in the organization of the new Greek-Slavonic schools, but unfortunately there was not the available personnel.
A few outstanding men appeared for a short time. Thus Cyril Loukaris, who was later to be the celebrated Patriarch of Constantinople, taught at Ostrih and Wilno for a few years and he was perhaps the most prominent of the teachers to arrive. Yet even his short stay shows the desperate straits to which Constantinople was reduced at the time, when it seemed as if Greek learning itself might vanish as had the old splendor of Kievan culture.
It is only fair, however, to say that the Polish schools were themselves none too efficient. The ideas of Protestantism had spread widely throughout Poland during this period and at one time a considerable proportion of the great magnates were at least sympathetic to it. The movement was checked by the work of the Order of the Jesuits and especially by its greatest member, Peter Skarga, probably the keenest mind of the day in Poland. He worked vigorously as a propagandist for the unity of the Churches p50 and also as a founder and administrator of the various schools. The curriculum in these, while broader than the average Greek schools, was still not satisfactory from the European standpoint of the day. They were heavily laden with a late form of scholasticism and this in turn exerted a certain influence upon the Orthodox schools which had to prepare their students to live in the Polish atmosphere.
The first of the great Ukrainian schools was that of Ostrih. Here Prince Konstantin Ostrozky, one of the richest nobles who still adhered to the Orthodox faith, set up a school. He invited Greeks to serve on its staff. He bought a printing press. Through his friendship with Prince Andrey Kurbsky, who fled from Moscow, he was fully acquainted with the work that had been done at Novgorod a half century earlier by Archbishop Gennady at the time of the heresy of the Judaizers. Prince Ostrozky's powerful position enabled him to secure a copy of the Bible prepared by Gennady, parts of which had been translated from the Latin Vulgate. This Bible was again revised at Ostrih and was published in 1580 as the Ostrih Bible, the first Bible published in any East Slavonic land. The school flourished for about twenty years until the death of Konstantin. His sons accepted the Roman Catholic faith and very soon lost all interest in the work that their father had undertaken, with bad results to the school.
At Lviv, the work was under the Lviv Staropegian Brotherhood. This was the most important of the various brotherhoods that had been established years before in the various Ukrainian towns. These were in the nature of the mediaeval guilds but they were also largely concerned with the care of the poor and orphans. Membership in them was restricted to the Orthodox and they represented the more substantial portions of the merchant classes of the various cities. With the increasing realization of the need for education and for the defence of the Orthodox Faith, p51 these brotherhoods voluntarily gave up part of their philanthropic and social activities and devoted themselves to the newer and more pressing needs.
Their school was established in 1586, a few years later than that in Ostrih, but it was really on a firmer foundation because it could not be so severely affected by the defection of a single patron. It maintained high rank in Greek and Church Slavonic. At the various exercises the pupils were able to write and present Greek speeches and continue their studies or to remain there as monks. Yet it was forced also to include a knowledge of Latin and the various writings of the school show that it had come under the influence of the Polish panegyric style of the day.
The third centre of the national revival was Kiev, which had shrunken sadly in importance under the many sacks which it had undergone. The Monastery of the Caves was reorganized to undertake serious educational work and the brotherhood of the city also opened its own school. These were later combined into the Kiev Academy of Peter Mohyla, a talented Moldavian who became the Metropolitan of Kiev in 1632 after having been for five years Archimandrite of the Monastery of the Caves. The Kiev Academy, which was later able to found branches in various other cities, became the outstanding institution in theº Ukraine and the entire Eastern Slav area. The catechism prepared by Mohyla was accepted by a council held under the Patriarch of Constantinople in 1643 as the standard for all the Slav-speaking Orthodox and this proved a great triumph for Ukrainian and Kievan scholarship, since it gave the Academy a standing far outside the area from which it drew its students.
The beneficent results of this system of education would have been far greater, had events not made Ukraine the battleground for the renewal of the struggle between Rome p52 and Constantinople. Although the Greek Church, after the fall of Constantinople, had repudiated the Union of Florence and the various negotiations between the Papacy and the Byzantine Empire, the results were left in Europe. Many of the Greeks who had signed the Union remained in high position in Rome and they left behind them their ideas, their hopes and aspirations.
It was easy to see why advocates of such a policy could hope for success among the Ukrainians in Poland. Over a period of years many of the leading nobles had been Polonized, but they still retained all their former rights in making Church appointments, rights little more extensive than those possessed by the Roman Catholic nobles. Why should they not exercise these rights and place Roman Catholic sympathizers in responsible positions? Similarly the King of Poland assumed the various rights of the older Orthodox princes who had been expelled from their lands at the period of conquest.
In the minds of the thinkers of the sixteenth century, such actions were not only moral and consistent but necessary. It suited the religious and political leaders of the century and it was powerfully reinforced by the efforts of the Jesuits. More and more the Kings and the magnates put pressure upon the Orthodox bishops. They even went so far in the early part of the century as to require heavy payments from the Orthodox before they would consent to the appointment of a new Orthodox bishop even for Lviv.
At the same time every change in the constitution of Poland tended to increase the power of the lords and to decrease those of the peasants and the townspeople. The peasants saw themselves forced to harder and harder conditions of living, until they became practically serfs, living on the land of their masters and liable for more and more unpaid labor. The townspeople gradually lost most of their p53 privileges. They were forbidden to buy land, if they were Ukrainians, outside of certain Ukrainian quarters, and the flourishing trade that had been built up fell to almost nothing. The Polish townspeople were little better off and the general history of the towns during the century was one of uninterrupted decay. Yet for the Poles religion was not impaired, since their clergy were influential in the state. For the Ukrainians, with the loss of their aristocracy, the diminution of their privileges left them without any defenders.
What was needed was a reorganization of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church but this was difficult. Many of the higher ecclesiastics, bishops and heads of monasteries, were hardly willing to give up their own practical independence. At the same time the brotherhoods, who were the best organized and most intelligently conscious members of the Orthodox Church, sought for ways to make their influence felt, and as their school system grew, so did their claims and their potentialities.
To add to the confusion, just at this moment there began to appear in Ukraine various of the Eastern patriarchs. These men, zealously trying to uphold their ancient privileges, were travelling not so much for the sake of supervising the various sees that were nominally under their control as for collecting alms and funds to help the Church in the Ottoman Empire. Yet they could not resist the temptation to act as the former Patriarchs who were something more than beggars and who had at their disposal abundant resources.
Moscow was usually their goal. It was far easier to receive enormous funds there than from the poor peasants of Ukraine. It was not without significance that in 1589 the Patriarch Jeremias on one of these visits was induced by copious gifts for his suffering flock to consecrate a Patriarch for Moscow and to grant to the Church of Moscow the p54 right to choose and consecrate its own Patriarch thereafter. It was the culmination of the dream of Moscow to become the Third Rome.
That same Jeremias, while in Ukraine, and conscious of the sufferings and disorder of the Orthodox Church, carelessly approved an agreement that had been made a few years earlier between the Patriarch Joachim of Antioch and the brotherhood of Lviv. This agreement had conferred upon the brotherhood the right of supervision of the clergy and of reporting delinquent priests to the bishop who was to be himself liable to condemnation, if he refused to remedy the abuse complained of. It was a more than foolish proposal, for it meant a complete reversal of the traditional Orthodox method of church administration and intensified the friction between the higher classes who were usually of the gentry and the townsmen and the peasants who ranked lower in the social scale of the day.
Sooner or later it was certain to promote a clash in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church which could be of profit to no one except its foes. Further attempts by the Patriarch to extend his control over the Ukrainian Church were equally resented by both clergy and laity. The fact was that with the state of irritation and frustration that existed in the land almost any action that was designed to tighten up the administration, as had been done by the Jesuits in the Roman Catholic Church, would have aroused anger and increased the confusion. The higher clergy were jealous of the brotherhoods and despised them as plebeian. The brotherhoods were suspicious of the bishops and regarded them as false to their duties.
It is very possible that there was lurking in all this elements of Protestant propaganda from Bohemia. It is certain that the Jesuits were not in the slightest degree averse to fanning hostility among the Orthodox and that the King and the Polish magnates were willing to do anything to p55 break up the solid front that had existed among the Orthodox.
At all events a fight soon broke out between Gedeon Balaban, the Bishop of Lviv, and the brotherhood. As a result of this, Balaban conferred with the other bishops and a decision was made to place themselves under the Pope. The clergy and the nobles who took part in these discussions realized the danger to the nation from the policy of the Poles and the growing power of Moscow and hoped for at least moral support from the Papacy and the West. Negotiations went on rapidly in secret, for the bishops knew that a large part of their congregations would decline to follow them. In 1595, two of them, Terletsky and Poty, went to Rome and formally signed an agreement with the Pope, promising submission.
The next year, 1596, the King of Poland called a public council of the Orthodox Church at Brest to confirm the Union. The result was hardly to his liking, for two of the bishops, Balaban who had initiated the movement and Kopistinsky, Bishop of Peremyshl, declined to ratify it. Despite the efforts of the Polish government, the Patriarchal Vicar Nicephorus appeared at the gathering with other Byzantine officials. More important than that, the remaining Orthodox lords, including Prince Ostrozky, came in protest and there were representatives of the brotherhoods and the lesser Orthodox gentry and townsmen.
Thus the lines of battle were clearly drawn between the King, the Polish magnates, the Roman Catholic clergy and the bishops who had agreed to the Union and all other classes of the population. What had been intended as a peace meeting, as the formal ratification of something that had been decided upon, ended with ill concealed discord. The Orthodox refused to enter the cathedral because the bishop of the diocese had signed the Act of Union. The Uniats and the Roman Catholics declined to attend the Orthodox meeting p56 presided over by the Patriarchal Vicar. A few days were spent in meaningless invitations to the opposing party and finally there were duly formed two councils, one of the Uniats and Roman Catholics, the other of the Orthodox. Each of these duly anathematized and deposed the bishops of the other faction and appealed to the King to carry out their wishes as representatives of the real desires of the Church and people.
It was abundantly evident that in this controversy the actual power lay in the hands of the King and the Uniats. King Sigismund, of the Catholic branch of the Vasa line of Sweden, had no intention of giving any rights to the Orthodox and his followers controlled the organs of the state. The Orthodox could do little but argue, write and talk and that seemed little enough. With the control of the state on their side, the Uniats felt that they could overlook the many polemical pamphlets that were hurled against them, especially by Ivan Vyshensky, the most celebrated of the defenders of Orthodoxy. Vyshensky was a monk who had studied at Mount Athos. He was a conservative in the educational disputes and felt that the modern schools were not severely Orthodox enough, not enough critical of the modern Western learning; but when it came to the dispute over the Union, he stood firmly with the brotherhoods. His pamphlets, written with bitter invective against the Uniats, had a telling effect.
The King and his lords paid no attention. They were sure of an ultimate victory and set about acting accordingly. They commenced to dispossess by force those of the bishops and priests who refused to accept the Union and on the death of the Metropolitan of Kiev, Rohoza, in 1590, they appointed as the new Metropolitan Poty, who was the violent advocate of the Union. Poty kept urging the King and the government to further acts of aggression p57 against the Orthodox and his arguments fell upon willing ears.
Yet it was a long distance between talk and realization. The Orthodox fought zealously in defence of their rights, as they considered them, although it was evident that they were fighting a losing battle. The number of influential lords on their side and in the Polish senate was steadily decreasing as more and more of them became Polonized and joined the Roman Catholic Church. Even a promise of the King in 1597, forced by the foreign situation, that he would appoint only Orthodox to the Orthodox sees and parishes remained a dead letter, for the King did not feel himself bound by any promise to the heretics or the dissidents, as they were now called in Polish official language.
The reaction varied in the different provinces. In Lviv and Peremyshl where there were still Orthodox bishops, even though the influence of Polish landlords was strong, there was some relief. In those dioceses where the Catholic landlords joined with the Uniat bishops the situation was worse. In some others, as Kiev, where there still remained a considerable number of Orthodox landlords, there was a still different situation and in Kiev particularly, Prince Vasil Konstantin Ostrozky as governor of the province openly disobeyed the orders of the king.
Yet all this was temporary. Time was clearly playing on the side of the Catholics and the Uniats. Sooner or later it was certain that there would come a moment when the Orthodox opposition would become negligible, when the Orthodox lords would cease to have the power to defend their coreligionists in the Polish government or on their estates, when the brotherhoods could be broken up or suppressed or won over. Steps were already taken in Wilno to expel the Orthodox from the Churches despite the pleas of the vast majority of the population.
p58 There was only one factor that might interfere. It had already appeared as a dark shadow when the King endeavored to seize the Monastery of the Caves at Kiev. That was the appearance of an armed band of Nalyvaykans, as they were called, within the walls of the monastery, who were ready to fight for the Orthodox Church. It was a grim portent and a warning, for these men were a branch of the Kozaks of the Dnyeper valley and the Kozaks were destined to bear in the future the burden of the struggle for Ukrainian freedom.
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