The Native Ukrainian National Faith

The Native Ukrainian National Faith (Ukrainian: Рі́дна Украї́нська Націона́льна Ві́ра, Rídna Ukrayíns’ka Natsionál’na Víra; widely known by the acronym РУНВі́ра, RUNVira) or Sylenkoism is a branch of the Slavic Native Faith (Rodnovery) specifically linked to Ukraine that was founded in the 1960s by Lev Sylenko (born 1921) among the Ukrainian diaspora in North America. The doctrine of this tradition, and of the organisations which develop within it, revolves around a sacred writing composed by Sylenko himself, the Maha Vira (“Mighty Faith”).[1]

The Sylenkoite movement is distinctively monotheistic, and this, together with its early emphasis on the charismatic figure of the founder, has led other Ukrainian Rodnover movements and organisations to define it as not authentically “Rodnover”. Members of Sylenkoite churches, however, consider themselves Rodnovers in all respects. Ivakhiv (2005) defines it as a “reformed” Slavic Native Faith.[2] It may be more accurately defined as pantheistic or panentheistic, since, in the Maha Vira, Dazhbog (“Giving God”, the name that Sylenkoites use to refer to the supreme God) himself proclaims through his prophet: “I am the Giving God, I am in all things and all things are in me”.[3]

According to the definition given by Sylenko himself, his doctrine is that of a solar “absolute monotheism”.[4] Sylenko proclaimed himself a prophet, bringing to the Slavs a new understanding of God that, according to him, corresponds to their own and original understanding of God. By his own words: “God’s grace came upon me, and following the will of God I have proclaimed a new understanding of God”. According to believers, he acquired this knowledge through “breath of his ancestors” being united with them “by divine holiness”.[5]

The movement is split between at least four churches which administer more than one hundred congregations spread throughout Ukraine. These four churches are: the “Association of Sons and Daughters of the Native Ukrainian National Faith” (OSID RUNVira), the “Association of Sons and Daughters of Ukraine of the Native Ukrainian National Faith” (OSIDU RUNVira), Volodymyr Chornyi’s network, and the “Union of Native Ukrainian Faith” (SRUV).[6]