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Ukraine May Get Two Christmases as National Identity Debate Begins

Proposal could divide country amid battle for influence between Russian and Ukrainian branches of Orthodox church

There are several points to be made about the article below (commentary by Enrico Braun):

  • Putsch leader Oleksandr Turchynov is a member of Ukraine's tiny protestant minority. He was a baptist minister before entering politics. He therefore does not represent the overwhelming majority of Ukrainians, who are members of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine
  • The 'Ukrainian branch' of the Orthodox Church, which is not really explained here, may refer to the so-called 'Kyiv Patriarchate' - a schismatic church based on Ukrainian chauvinism not faith, supported by the government of Ukraine, and not recognized as legitimate by any other orthodox church in the world
  • 'Greek Catholics' are Orthodox in form and appearance, concentrated in western Ukraine, who were forced to adhere to the Roman papacy during centuries of Polish rule. Roman Catholics of the western variety are a very small minority
  • This is yet another example of an attempt to annihilate the true culture and history of Ukrainians, who are with Russians and Belarusians, common descendants of orthodox Rus, replacing it with a pastiche of western imitation and subservience 

This article originally appeared at The Guardian

Ukraine, which marks Christmas on 7 January in accordance with Orthodox Christian tradition, has begun a national debate about whether it should also celebrate on 25 December, a step that would bring it into line with western Europe.

The debate, reflecting the country’s re-examination of national identity under the impact of the falling-out with Russia, could sharply divide opinion and comes amid a heightened battle for influence between the Russian and Ukrainian branches of the Orthodox church.

After Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region last year and pro-Kremlin separatists launched a rebellion in the east of the country, some Ukrainians began to re-examine their historically close cultural ties to Russia.

Activists in favour of making 25 December, an ordinary working day in Ukraine, an official holiday have launched two petitions that have appeared on the presidential website.

If they garner enough support, the president, Petro Poroshenko, will have to consider the matter, though the Ukrainian parliament would have the final word.

Oleksandr Turchynov, the secretary of Ukraine’s security council, has backed the idea, saying he favours a transition period during which Ukrainians could celebrate Christmas on both 25 December and 7 January.

The Russian Orthodox church dominates Ukraine’s central, eastern and southern regions, while Catholics and Greek Catholics are concentrated in the west of the country.

“We, Christians of different confessions of Ukraine, without abandoning their own traditions and wanting to celebrate Christmas with the whole Christian world, ask for a holiday to be established in Ukraine on 25 December in honour of Christmas,” one of the petitioners said.

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