Thanks to Russia, Ukrainians Swell Ranks of Kyiv Patriarchate

Through a series of agreements, as well as official favoritism by former President Viktor Yanukovych’s government, the vast majority of communities remained loyal to Moscow. There are 12,515 Moscow parishes, compared to Kyiv’s 4,877 parishes. The number of churchgoers tells a different story, however; approximately fifteen million Ukrainians identify with the Kyiv Patriarchate, while only ten million remain loyal to the Moscow one.

And the numbers of defections are growing. Archpriest Heorhiy Kovalenko, a spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate, explained in 2014 that there had been transfers of individual parishes to the Kyiv Patriarchate since the mid-90s, but no mass transfers. But in that year alone, thirty parishes switched allegiances, according to the Kyiv Patriarchate. In terms of individuals, the numbers are even greater: according to the Democratic Initiatives Foundation, a Kyiv-based pollster, 31 percent of Ukrainians identified with the Kyiv Patriarchate in 2011, and 26 percent with the Moscow Patriarchate. By the end of 2015, however, the number loyal to Kyiv had jumped to 44 percent, while 21 percent remained members of the Moscow Patriarchate.