Reformation. A religious, political, and social movement that had as its precursor Jan Hus and the Hussites in late 15th-century Bohemia. It is usually considered to have originated with Martin Luther and with the spread of Protestantism in Germany and other countries in northern, central, and eastern Europe in the 16th century. The Reformation was directed against the Catholic church's dogma, feudal structure, and economic and political domination. Its adherents introduced the use of the national vernaculars not only in the Protestant churches but also in many European literatures, thereby strengthening national consciousness and national cultural development. The Reformation cut across social, national, and state boundaries and frequently caused bitter religious conflicts and wars.
Reformational ideas were introduced into Ukraine by students returning from their studies in Bohemia and Germany and by Hussite and German colonists in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. By the 16th century the ideas had become popular among many noble families (eg, Radziwiłł, Sapieha, and Nemyrych) in the Commonwealth. After the 1569 Union of Lublin reformational congregations were established in Ukraine (63 in Rus’ voivodeship and Belz voivodeship, 27 in Volhynia, 6 in Podilia, and 7 in the Kyiv region and Bratslav region). Although the Reformation did not affect all of Ukrainian territory or society, it helped to mobilize the Orthodox nobility, burghers, Cossacks, and clergy against the Catholic offensive, particularly after the 1596 Church Union of Berestia, and to imbue their Ruthenian (ie, Ukrainian-Belarusian) Orthodox faith with elements of a nascent national consciousness. The leader of the Orthodox opposition to the church union, Prince Kostiantyn Vasyl Ostrozky, favored rapprochement with the Protestants, and joint Orthodox-Protestant conferences were held in 1595, 1596, and, in Vilnius, 1599. In 1632 Archimandrite Petro Mohyla and Hetman K. Radziwiłł of Lithuania organized an Orthodox-Protestant coalition against the Catholic-Uniate majority in the Polish Sejm, thereby helping to bring about the restoration of the legal status of the Orthodox church in the Commonwealth.
The Reformation had a marked influence on Ukrainian religious-cultural life. Czech Protestant translations of the Bible were already being used in Ukraine in the 15th century, and in the late 16th century, Ruthenian translations of the Holy Scriptures based primarily on Protestant texts (eg, V. Nehalevsky's translation of part of the New Testament [1581; see Nehalevsky Gospel] and V. Tsiapinsky's translation of the Gospel) were published and used privately and during liturgies. Use of the vernacular became widespread in homiletics and religious polemical literature. Thus, under the influence of the Reformation a bookish Ruthenian language gained currency in writing, alongside the traditional Church Slavonic and the Polish favored by the social elite. Even Catholic publications began appearing in Ruthenian (eg, a catechism published in 1585), and bilingual editions of works (Polish-Ruthenian) were published.
A number of reformational schools were founded in Ukraine, including Calvinist ones in Panivtsi, in Podilia, and Ostroh and Berestechko, in Volhynia, and Socinian schools in Kyselyn, Hoshcha, Cherniakhiv, and Liubar, in Volhynia. Their quality of education often surpassed that of the Catholic schools, and they attracted many Ukrainian and Belarusian students.
The Reformation reinforced the Ukrainian church's tradition of conciliar rule, as is particularly evident in the work of the 16th- and 17th-century church brotherhoods. The brethren read from the Scriptures at meetings and at home, monitored each other's conduct, supervised church affairs, and controlled the actions of priests and bishops, to the point of declaring some of them ‘enemies of truth’ (eg, in the 1588 statute of the Lviv Dormition Brotherhood). Consequently the Orthodox bishops protested against the extent of lay involvement and control in church affairs. The reformational tendencies in the Orthodox congregations prompted many bishops to accept the union with the Roman church.
The Reformation influenced the growth of national consciousness in Ukraine and political mobilization among Cossacks. In the first half of the 17th century they became the vanguard in Ukrainian society; they presented increasingly greater opposition to Polish rule in Ukraine and openly supported the Orthodox church in its struggle against the Catholic onslaught. In their search for allies against Poland the Cossacks repeatedly turned to Protestant states, such as Sweden, Transylvania, and Brandenburg.
The influence and successes of the Reformation did not endure in Ukraine, however. Its link to Protestantism placed it between two warring camps, Catholic Poland and Orthodox Ukraine, both of which grew increasingly antagonistic not only to each other but also to reformational currents. The Polish Catholic church (largely the Jesuits) waged a successful Counter-Reformation against Protestantism, and the Orthodox church became hostile to Protestants in general and to the Antitrinitarian and other radical Protestant currents popular among the nobility of Right-Bank Ukraine in particular. Consequently the Reformation was deprived of a social base, and the Ukrainian uprising of the mid-17th century under Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky (see Cossack-Polish War) opened the way for the penetration of other cultural and political currents (eg, the baroque). Most of the reformational communities in Ukraine ceased to exist around that time.
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[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]
Encyclopedia of Ukraine