Religion in the Process of Nation-Building in Ukraine: Case Study on the UGCC and Military Chaplaincy




Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, military chaplaincy, Ukrainian army, Ukraine: nation-building process, Ukraine: collective memory


Priests of various faiths have tried to accompany Ukrainian soldiers as military chaplains since the very beginning of the fighting in eastern Ukraine. Finally, the Ukrainian parliament regularized the status of the military chaplaincy adopting a relevant law. Analyzing the process of shaping the chaplaincy allows us to better understand the place of religious communities and religion itself in the social life of post-Soviet Ukraine. It also allows for an examination of the nation-building process from a different and very interesting perspective. The article consists of three parts. The first one briefly presents the process of institutionalizing the military service of priests in Ukraine. In the next part, the significance of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church’s (UGCC) special activity in the field of military chaplaincy is demonstrated. The third part attempts to explain the reasons why the UGCC, despite a number of objective limitations, plays the leading role in the sphere of chaplaincy in Ukraine.


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Author Biographies

Michał Wawrzonek, Jesuit University in Cracow, Krakow, Poland

Professor in Jesuit University in Cracow, graduated in the Ukrainian philology (1997) and political science (2000) from the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. PhD form the same university in 2003 on the basis of dissertation on Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky ecumenical activity in Ukraine and Russia (published in Rome in 2006 in Ukrainian). Habilitation conferred in 2016 for the thesis Religion and Politics in Ukraine: The Orthodox and Greek Catholic Churches as Elements of Ukraine’s Political System (published in 2014 by Cambridge Scholars Publishing). Coauthor of the book Orthodoxy Versus Post-Communism? Belarus, Serbia, Ukraine and the Russkiy Mir (with Nelly Bekus and Mirella Korzeniewska-Wiszniewska) published in 2016. Author of several articles in East European Politics, Societies and Cultures, Journal of Ukrainian Studies, Схід/Захід, Український Історичний Журнал, Baltic Worlds, Politeja.

Tomasz Szyszlak, University of Wrocław, Wrocław, Poland

PhD in political science (2009). He works at the Department of Eastern Studies at the Institute International of Studies (University of Wrocław). He studied ethnology and international relations at University of Wrocław. Author of several dozen scientific works, including the monograph Lwowskie sacrum, kijowskie profanum. Grekokatolicyzm w ukraińskiej przestrzeni publicznej od pierestrojki do pomarańczowej rewolucji (Warsaw 2012). Editor-in-Chief of journal Wschodnioznawstwo (ISSN 2082-7695), as well as a member of the editorial board of the magazine Культурологічний вісник published in Zaporizhia (ISSN 2413-2284). Guest lecturer at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, at universities in the Czech Republic, on Lithuania, Germany, Russia and Ukraine, as well as at the Faculty of Theology of the University in Opole as part of postgraduate studies “Peaceful Conflict Resolution. Ecumenical paths of Polish-Ukrainian reconciliation.”


Scientific books

Clark E.A., Vovk D. (eds), Religion During the Russian-Ukrainian Conflict, London–New York 2020, DOI:

Fylypovych L., Horkusha O., Majdan ĭ Tserkva [Maidan and Church], Kyiv 2014.

Hale H., Orttung R. (eds), Beyond the Euromaidan: Comparative Perspectives on Advancing Reforms in Ukraine, Stanford 2016. DOI:

Kruk O., Kovcheh ottsia Kovcha [Ark of Father Kovch], Kyiv 2017.

Kuzio T., Russian Nationalism and the Russian-Ukrainian War: Autocracy-Orthodoxy-Nationality, London–New York 2022, DOI:

Pikulicka-Wilczewska A., Sakwa R. (eds), Ukraine and Russia: People, Politics, Propaganda and Perspectives, Bristol 2015.

Szyszlak T., Lwowskie sacrum, kijowskie profanum. Grekokatolicyzm w ukraińskiej przestrzeni publicznej od pierestrojki do pomarańczowej rewolucji, Warszawa 2012,

Zabzaliuk D., Dushpastyrs’ka sluzhba ukraїns’kykh viĭs’kovykh formatsiĭ pershoї polovyny ХХ st [Pastoral service of Ukrainian military formations of the first half of the 20th century], Lviv 2012.

Zaitsev A., Behen O., Stefaniv V., Natsionalism i religiia: Hreko-Katolyts’ka Tserkva ta ukraїns’kyi ruch u Halychyni (1920-1930-ti roky) [Nationalism and Religion: The Greek Catholic Church and the Ukrainian Nationalist Movement in Galicia (1920s-1930s)], Lviv 2011.

Scientific articles and chapters of the books

Grosby S., “Nationality and Religion”, Nations and Nationalism, vol. 24, no. 2 (2018), DOI:

Kulyk V., “Identity in Transformation: Russian-Speakers in Post-Soviet Ukraine”, Europe-Asia Studies, vol. 71, no. 1 (2019), DOI:

Kulyk V., “National Identity in Ukraine: Impact of Euromaidan and War”, Europe-Asia Studies, vol. 68, no. 4 (2016), DOI:

Kuzio T., “Nationalism in Ukraine: Towards a New Theoretical and Comparative Framework”, Journal of Political Ideologies, vol. 7, no. 2 (2002), DOI:

Moroz V., “Stavlennia do natsionalizmu u suchasniĭ UHKTs: teoriia i praktyka utverdzhennia ekleziolohichnoї svidomosti” [Attitude towards Nationalism in the Modern UGCC: Theory and Practice of Establishing Ecclesiological Consciousness], Filosofs’ka Dumka Sententiae (2013), special issue no. 4.

Motyka G., “Dywizja SS «Galizien» («Halyczyna»)”, Pamięć i Sprawiedliwość, vol. 1, no. 1 (2002).

Oliinyk A., Kuzio T., “The Euromaidan Revolution, Reforms and Decommunisation in Ukraine”, Europe-Asia Studies, vol. 73, no. 5 (2021), DOI:

Onuch O., Hale H., “Capturing Ethnicity: The Case of Ukraine”, Post-Soviet Affairs, vol. 34, no. 2-3 (2018), DOI:

Pop-Eleches G., Robertson G., “Identity and Political Preferences in Ukraine – Before and After the Euromaidan”, Post-Soviet Affairs, vol. 34, no. 2-3 (2018), DOI:

Romanik A., “Fenomen viĭs’kovoho kapelanstva v zoni boiovykh diĭ na skhodi Ukraїny (za materialamy fondovoї kolektsiї NMIU)” [The Phenomenon of Military Chaplaincy in the Combat Zone in Eastern Ukraine (Based on the Materials of the NMIU Stock Collection)], Naukovyĭ visnyk Natsional’noho muzeiu istoriї Ukraїny, no. 2 (2017), at

Wawrzonek M., “Andrey Sheptytsky’s «Christian Patriotism» in Light of Ukrainian Nationalism”, in W. Glass (ed.), Beyond Imagined Uniqueness: Nationalisms in Contemporary Perspectives, Newcastle upon Tyne 2010.

Yurash A., “Orthodox-Greek Catholic Relations in Galicia and Their Influence on the Religious Situation in Ukraine”, Religion, State and Society, vol. 33, no. 3 (2005), DOI:




How to Cite

Wawrzonek, Michał, and Tomasz Szyszlak. 2023. “Religion in the Process of Nation-Building in Ukraine: Case Study on the UGCC and Military Chaplaincy”. Politeja 20 (2(83):89-117.