Northern Illinois University Press

The Western Front of the Eastern Church

Uniate and Orthodox Conflict in Eighteenth-century Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia

Barbara Skinner

“This impressive volume provides valuable empirical research on the competition of the Uniate and Orthodox churches. It offers a rich new perspective on such critical issues as confessionalization, religious identity, and politics in East Europe and Russia. It is an essential monograph for scholars in the field.”—Gregory Freeze, Brandeis University

“Skinner has written a fascinating book on the history of relations between the Orthodox East and the Catholic West.... She leaves no stone unturned in her attempt to reconstruct, document, and understand the complex relationship between secular authority, religion, and culture on one of Europe’s most contested cultural frontiers.”—Serhii Plokhy, Harvard University, author of The Origins of the Slavic Nations: Premodern Identities in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus

"In this deeply researched and well-written study, Barbara Skinner wades into the choppy waters of religious conflict in the Polish-Russian borderlands and emerges with a fascinating and even-handed analysis of a very complex story." — Heather J. Coleman, Journal of Ukrainian Studies

Lithuanian Commonwealth in the late 18th century and the incorporation into the Rus-sian Empire of the majority of Ruthenians— ethnic Ukrainians and Belarusians—form the backdrop for confessional history critical to modern Ukraine, Belarusian, and Russian identities. In a region long shaped by religious and cultural tensions between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, the creation in 1596 of the Uniate church, which retained the Eastern rite but accepted Catholic doctrine, cut a new religious fault line through Ruthenian communities that set the stage for religious and political conflict.

Drawing on archival sources from Russia, Poland, and Ukraine, The Western Front of the Eastern Church addresses the shifting identity and fate of Ruthenians on both sides of the Orthodox/Uniate divide during the politically charged era of the partitions of Poland. Skinner investigates diverging components of these faith communities in the 18th century, the changing political landscape as the Russian Empire expanded its borders, and the religious tensions and violence that occurred as a result. She reveals cultural influences that shaped Ukrainian and Belarusian identities and sheds light on aspects of Russian imperial identity and mythology as it laid claim to its western borderlands.

The confessional focus critiques the nationalist perspective that has dominated the presentation of Ukrainian and Belarusian history, and Skinner’s treatment brings the region into the broader discussion of confessional development in Europe as a whole. The narrative culminates in the Uniate conversions under Catherine II, providing new insight into the limits of religious toleration in Catherinian Russia. This book is essential reading for Russian and East European historians and those interested in the history of relations between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, as well as those studying the tensions between Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus today.

(2009) 311 pp., 5 illus.
ISBN 978-0-87580-407-1
cloth $42.00

Barbara Skinner received her Ph.D. from Georgetown University and is an assistant professor at Indiana State University’s Department of History. She has worked widely in the former Soviet Union and Poland as an interpreter and scholar.

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-407-1
The Western Front of the Eastern Church $42.00