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From Heresy to Humor

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The Kiev Academy Spoofs the Uniate Church

The partitions of Poland brought some three million Ukrainian and Belarusian Uniates, or Greek-rite Catholics, into the Russian empire by 1795. In 1794 Catherine II launched a massive campaign to convert her new Uniate subjects to Russian Orthodoxy, which succeeded in cutting the number of Uniates in her empire in half within two years. Ukrainian Orthodox clergymen trained at the Kiev Academy were instrumental in this conversion effort, and their arguments against the Uniate Church represented standard pro-Orthodox propaganda used by the Russian church and state to degrade the Uniates and to justify the efforts to abolish this church within the Russian empire. This paper introduces a previously unstudied source that illuminates the work of the Kiev Academy in continuing to promote a pro-Orthodox and anti-Uniate stance within the lighter medium of school theater. At the close of the eighteenth century, a professor at the Kiev Academy composed a humorous play that poked fun at the Uniates and promoted the Orthodox faith. This virtually unknown manuscript provides keen insights into the stereotyping of and prejudices against the new Uniate subjects of the Russian empire, which reinforced troubled religious relations in Russia’s western borderlands throughout the following century.

Affiliations: 1: Indiana State University1,


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