Ukraine - Religions



Ukraine was Christianized by St. Volodymyr in 988. Under Soviet rule, churches and religion were subject to suppression and political manipulation, a situation that ended with the declaration of independence in 1991. Based on a 2001 survey by the SOCIS research center, over 40% of the population claim to be atheists. Of those that are religiously active, most (about 90%) are members of the Orthodox Church, which is divided into three denominations: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kiev Patriarchate), and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. There have been considerable disputes between members of these groups. In 1997 leaders of major religious denominations and churches signed a memorandum on the nonviolent resolution of religious conflicts drafted by the government. Nevertheless, problems remain. In April 1999 one dispute did turn violent in the city of Mariupol between followers of the Moscow Patriarchate and supporters of the Kiev Patriarchate; otherwise, the disputes have remained peaceful.

About 10% of the religiously active population are members of the Ukranian Greek Catholic Church. Roman Catholics claim about one million members and are largely concentrated in the formerly Austro-Hungarian and Polish western territories. The country's Jewish population numbers between 250,000 and 325,000 people (thought some Jewish leaders claim the number is closer to 500,000). Nonnative Christian denominations, including Baptists, Pentecostals, Jehovah's Witnesses, and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, represent another 2% of the country's populace. The head of the Spiritual Directorate of the Muslims of Ukraine estimates that there are as many as two million members of the nation's Muslim community. Islam is practiced mainly by the Tatar population of the autonomous republic of the Crimea.

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