Freemasonry

Freemasonry (Вільномулярство; Vilnomuliarstvo; from the English mason and French franc-maçonnerie). A cosmopolitan religious-moral movement that recognizes the ‘Great Builder of the Universe’ as the creator of the world order and views itself as the builder of his temple. In their writings the Masons advocate moral improvement and the union of all humans regardless of religious and national affiliation according to the principles of brotherhood, equality, mutual aid, and fidelity. The origins of the movement can be traced back to the medieval masons' guilds, from which the Freemasons adopted their name and the organizational form of the lodge. In 1717, the accepted founding date of Freemasonry, several lodges in England were consolidated to form the grand lodge. Eventually the movement spread from England, Scotland, and Ireland to other countries in Europe, America, and Asia.

In the Masonic movement there exist various tendencies, which differ in beliefs about its origin, goals, tasks, and in the rituals. With time the movement began to digress from its Christian principles and the doctrine of the church and to assume an anticlerical and antichurch political position. This prompted the popes to take a clear stand against the Freemasons and to forbid Catholics to participate in the movement (encyclicals of Clement XII and later popes up to Pius XII). The Orthodox church also condemns Freemasonry as an antichurch organization. In some countries the Freemasons took an active part in revolutionary movements, for example, in the Decembrist movement, the Polish uprisings (see Polish Insurrection of 1830–1 and Polish Insurrection of 1863–4), and the February Revolution of 1917 in Russia. At the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century Masonic lodges in some countries and particularly in Russia propagated free thought and gave rise to opposition movements against the existing order. Freemasonry was banned in the USSR by the totalitarian Soviet regime.

The history of Freemasonry in Ukraine has not been fully researched. The movement entered Ukraine directly from Western Europe and through Poland, where the first lodges date back to 1738, and Russia, where the first lodge was organized in 1731. The first Masonic lodge on Ukrainian territory was founded by Polish noblemen in 1742 in Vyshnivets, Volhynia. In 1758 the Lodge of the Three Goddesses already existed in Lviv. Freemasonry began to spread from Russia through Left-Bank Ukraine and Slobidska Ukraine in the 1740s. Masonic influence in Left-Bank Ukraine increased from the reign of Hetman Kyrylo Rozumovsky, who was a member of the Three Brothers Lodge in Warsaw and probably had connections with Masonic circles in France and Russia. The hetman's brother, Count Oleksii Rozumovsky, and his sons—particularly the oldest, Count O. Rozumovsky, the Russian minister of education—were also Freemasons. The sons of Cossack officers (see Cossack starshyna), many of whom studied at European universities from the 1740s on, returned home with Masonic ideas. Representatives of Ukrainian officer-noble families such as the Kapnist, Kochubei, Kuliabka, Lomykovsky, Lukashevych, Martos, Poletyka, Rodzianko, Skoropadsky, Sulyma, Tarnovsky, Tomara, Tumansky, and Khanenko families were Freemasons in the second half of the 18th and at the beginning of the 19th century.

The participation of Ukrainians in the Russian Masonic movement (Semen Hamaliia, F. Dubiansky, Mykhailo Antonovsky, Mykhailo Kovalinsky, V. Tomara, Kh. Chebotarov, Antin Prokopovych-Antonsky, and others) facilitated the spread of Freemasonry in Ukraine. A significant contribution to the movement was made by the numerous foreigners from the West and Russia who were brought into Ukraine to serve in various government institutions and the armed forces or to provide professional services, such as medical, architectural, technical, and commercial services. The participation of professional men in the Masonic movement expanded its social base in Ukraine at the turn of the 18th century. The main Masonic center in Ukraine in the last quarter of the 18th century was Kyiv. The Lodge of Immortality, which was directly subject to the Great Orient Lodge of Poland, was founded there in 1784; it was followed by the Lodge of Three Columns ten years later. At the end of the 18th century Masonic lodges existed in Zhytomyr, Kharkiv, Odesa, Kremenchuk, Nemyriv, Dubno, and in Galicia in such cities as Lviv, Sambir, and Zalishchyky. Most of the members were Russians or Poles.

As a result of Russia's annexation of Right-Bank Ukraine after the partitions of Poland and the government's more liberal attitude to Freemasonry, the number of Masonic lodges in Ukraine increased at the beginning of the 19th century. Two lodges arose in Odesa, which had a multinational membership and direct ties with the West: the Pontus Euxinus Lodge in 1803 and the Lodge of the Three Kingdoms of Nature. In 1818 the Lodge of Osiris to the Fiery Star was formed in Kamianets-Podilskyi. One of the main lodges in Ukraine was the United Slavs Lodge in Kyiv, which was founded in March 1818 and consisted mostly of Russians and Poles but also a few Ukrainians, including Vasyl Lukashevych. Its activities influenced the development of ideas about a Slavic federation in Ukraine. A second important lodge, known as the Love of Truth Lodge, was formed in Poltava in April 1818. Its orator was Ivan Kotliarevsky, and its membership included, among others, Semen Kochubei, Vasyl Kapnist, Volodymyr Tarnovsky, Lukashevych, and D. Oleksiiv. Both the Kyiv and Poltava lodges were connected with the Decembrist movement. Their purpose was to involve the ‘Little Russian nobility’ in political activity and to prepare members for the Union of Welfare. The first territorial Masonic organization in Ukraine was the Volhynian Provincial Lodge, which united the Polish lodges in Right-Bank Ukraine.

The activities of the Masonic lodges in Ukraine promoted to some extent the development of a Ukrainian national-political movement and encouraged opposition to the government. For these reasons the Russian authorities suppressed them. In March 1819 the lodge in Poltava was dissolved. In 1822 the Masonic movement was prohibited throughout the Russian Empire by an imperial decree. In spite of this decree and later prohibitions, Masonic lodges continued to function in a conspiratorial manner and their members took part in the Decembrist movement and in later secret political organizations.

While all Masonic lodges in Russia ceased their activities in obedience to the tsar's decree, some lodges in Ukraine continued to act clandestinely. These were the only secret organizations whose existence the tsarist police did not even suspect. Mykola Kostomarov was not a Mason, but Ukrainian Masons inspired and supported the Cyril and Methodius Brotherhood and selected from its membership reliable candidates for their secret lodges. One of the noted leaders of this conspiratorial Ukrainian Masonic movement in the 19th century was Oleksander Konysky. Among the military, Lieutenant Colonel Andrii Krasovsky belonged to the Freemasons. In 1862 he refused to suppress peasant uprisings in the Zhytomyr region and was sentenced to death for insubordination.

During the 19th century Masonic lodges existed in Kyiv, Zhytomyr, Kamianets-Podilskyi, Odesa, and Poltava. In 1900 five lodges from these cities formed the Grand Lodge of Ukraine. Later two more lodges were organized: the Shevchenko Lodge in Kharkiv in 1901 and the Brotherhood Lodge in Chernihiv in 1904. Notable Ukrainian political and cultural figures of the turn of the century belonged to these lodges.

In 1917 the Lodge of Young Ukraine was formed in Kyiv, and in April 1919 the Grand Lodge of Ukraine was re-established. Its grand master was Symon Petliura, and it encompassed the Lodge of Saint Andreas Praevocatus as well as other lodges. The regalia and part of the archive of the grand lodge are preserved in Paris. As a result of political events this lodge did not become very active and did not win the recognition of other grand lodges around the world. Pavlo Skoropadsky and S. Morkotun belonged to the Kyiv Lodge of Martinists, known as Narcissus. This lodge did not recognize the Grand Lodge of Ukraine.

With the Soviet occupation of Ukraine, Freemasonry fell under a strict ban. Soviet historians either belittled or ignored the role of the Masonic movement in Ukraine.

Masonic lodges continued to exist and act conspiratorially on Ukrainian territories ruled by Austria and later Poland. In the first half of the 19th century Denys Zubrytsky and B. Didytsky belonged to the movement. In 1919–23 the Ukrainian lodge Unity was active in Lviv.

Outside Ukraine one of the first prominent Ukrainians to be connected with the Freemasons was Hryhor Orlyk, in France. Ukrainian émigrés in Switzerland formed a Ukrainian grand lodge back in 1902. In the United States there are no Ukrainian Masonic lodges, only Masonic clubs. One of them is the Ukrainian Masonic Club in New York, which represents Ukrainians who are members of various American lodges.

After the Second World War S. Tataroula (d 1971) proposed that a Ukrainian lodge be formed in France. In 1966 the Vox Ucrainae Lodge was consecrated in Paris by the grand master of the Grande Loge Nationale Française. This lodge maintains ties with world Masonry and pursues the task of reviving Ukrainian Masonic traditions.

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Bohdan Kravtsiv, Oleksander Ohloblyn

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]




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