I’ve heard that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarch is the biggest church in Ukraine.


In the early nineties, when Ukraine first gained its independence from the Soviet Union, this was true. Over time, as Russia has become more and more aggressive to Ukraine, fewer and fewer Ukrainians are identifying as parishioners of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church that reports to Moscow. 

As of July of 2022, only 4% of Ukrainians polled identified as parishoners of the UOC-Moscow Patriarch. Ukraine’s east was the most pro-Russian part of the country prior to the war, but in the July survey only 6% of Ukrainians in the east claimed the UOC-Moscow Patriarch. 

In June of 2021, 8 months prior to the invasion, the percentage of Ukrainians identifying with the UOC-Moscow Patriarch was more than four times that with 18%. Russian aggression drives away parishioners. 

Conversely, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine that reports to the Kyiv Patriarch is growing. Polling shows that between 2020 and 2022, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine grew by 20 percentage points to 54%. 

Frequently, supporters of Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church will say that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarch is the biggest church in Ukraine based on the number of parishes. But churches are made up of people, not parishes. A parish is the lowest administrative division of the church structure. This may mean that the UOC-Moscow Patriarch has more priests or more church buildings, but not necessarily more parishioners. 

If nobody attends services, the number of parishes doesn’t count for much. As noted above, only 4% of Ukrainians polled identify themselves as parishioners of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church that reports to Moscow. The large number of parishes is a remnant of a time decades ago when the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarch was indeed the biggest church in Ukraine.

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