Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute

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Orthodox Liturgies in Ukraine and Russia at War
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Please join the Harriman Institute for a Russian History Workshop with Nadieszda Kizenko. Moderated by Catherine Evtuhov.

At first glance, Orthodox Christianity seems to be one of the more conservative liturgical traditions in Europe. The rapid changes in Ukrainian and Russian liturgies since 2022, however, belie that ostensible conservatism.  This presentation will identify what kinds of changes have been introduced in Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox Churches, analyzing how the different liturgies show different notions and different experiences of history, identity, memory, victimhood, and sacrifice. The ritual and textual innovations (and their limits) also raise the broader question of what happens to liturgy when a nation undergoes trauma, or when an ecclesial tradition is closely linked to a political order, and that political order changes course. Does liturgical change necessarily follow—or do the faithful want liturgy to serve as a respite? Nadieszda Kizenko, Professor of History at SUNY Albany and 2023-24 Fellow at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music will share the results of her latest research on Ukrainian and Russia service books, prayer books, online prayer ‘chat groups,’ and church ceremonies.

Read Kizenko’s chapter, on which this presentation will be based, here. See this series published on law and religion. Also see this service composed in Ukraine in 2023 in modern Church Slavonic to ‘all saints glorified in the Ukrainian land.’ This text underscores 1)  that  ‘Old’ Church Slavonic is not a catch-all term for Church Slavonic in general (which is how it was used in the Soviet period), and 2)  that Church Slavonic is not something archaic fallen into desuetude. Church Slavonic is a living liturgical language used to compose new liturgical texts, in Russia and Ukraine alike. This service is the lengthiest and most detailed example of the liturgical responses of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to the war, besides its translations into vernacular Ukrainian.

Nadieszda Kizenko researches and teaches Russian and East European history, with a focus on religion and culture. Her books include the prize-winning A Prodigal Saint: Father John of Kronstadt and the Russian People (Penn State, 2000; Sviatoi Nashego Vremeni (NLO, 2006), Good for the Souls: A History of Confession in the Russian Empire (Oxford, 2021), and Orthodoxy in Two Manifestations? The Conflict in Ukraine as Expression of a Fault Line in World Orthodoxy (Peter Lang, 2022), co-edited with Thomas Bremer and Alfons Brüning. She has now begun a new project exploring the intersection of women, devotional practice, and writing.