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Uzbekistan’s new leader wants to launch an economic revolution




( – Eurasia has become a hot spot on the map because of China’s Silk Road initiative. The region’s most populated country, once closed to the world, is now looking to reboot itself following generations of Soviet-style governing, and maybe take advantage of the region’s new push forward.

As a starter, its central bank has made first moves to make its currency, the soum, fully convertible, something that even Bloomberg noted on Sept. 5. There are now vast economic reforms in the works in the ancient Central Asian nation of Uzbekistan. Following the death of long-term ruler, Islam Karimov, newly elected president Shavkat Mirziyoyev thinks he can be the Uzbek leader that opens more to the outside world, something it has failed to do even after the dismantling of the Soviet Union.

For the most part, Uzbekistan has been ruled just like the U.S.S.R. well into the 2000s. But Mirziyoyev gives Eurasia watchers hope that the region’s biggest military power will finally modernize its economy, and get along with other ‘Stans in the process.

“The Uzbeks have been self-imposed isolationists and now are about opening up to their neighbors,” says Svante Cornell, director of the Silk Road Program at the Central Asia-Caucusus Institute, with offices in both Washington and Sweden. “Karimov was also putting in place a strategy for fuller engagement with the outside world, but he had a lot of PR problems. Not so with Mirziyoyev. At least on the rhetorical level, I’m pleasantly surprised with how he has implemented foreign policy,” Cornell says from a cell phone while driving through Sweden.

Mirziyoyev was elected on Dec. 4, 2016, with 88.6% of the vote.

The wealth that accumulated inside this country of 31.2 million (third largest ex-Soviet state after Russia and Ukraine) in the 1990s and early 2000s has dwindled. That forces Mirziyoyev to change Uzbekistan’s economic policies and reform its legal system to attract foreign capital, much of it from Korea and China.

Just months after being elected, Mirziyoyev visited Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia and China. This month, he was in the Central Asian nation of Kyrgzstan. While relations with its neighbors have been cool to say the least, Mirziyoyev’s visits to the three nearby ‘Stans: Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgzstan are a strong signal. Uzbekistan is working on improving trade relations with Central Asia. If you can’t get along with your neighbors, the prospect for opening up to foreign investment is dim.

The importance of maintaining high economic growth and increasing competitiveness of the Uzbek economy “has become the top priority for the national leadership,” says Sodiq Safoyev, first deputy chairman of the country’s Senate and a former foreign minister and ambassador to the U.S. One aim is to build a constructive foreign policy. So for starters, Mirziyoyev signed a Joint Declaration of Strategic Partnership and Good Neighbor Practices with Kazakhstan’s president Nursultan Nazarbayev in March. During the visit, 13 documents related to cross-border taxation, security and trade were signed. At the time, some 500 Uzbek execs traveled to Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, bringing in trade and investment agreements reportedly worth $1 billion. Uzbekistan’s total 2016 GDP was around $67 billion.

Some compare Mirziyoyev to Deng Xiaoping. Deng’s role in Chinese history was the de-Maoization of the economy and launching reforms that made China an economic superpower.

“If you look back into history, Uzbekistan is impressive in Eurasia because while people from other areas of Central Asia were nomadic, there was actually a civilization in Uzbek cities like Tashkent,” says Jonathan E. Hillman a director from the Reconnecting Asia Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “They are part of the old Silk Road and will be part of China’s new Silk Road,” he says.

The other aim, of course, is creating the conditions to bring in more foreign capital. Over the years, they’ve managed to increase their rankings in The World Bank’s Doing Business report. (They’re number 87 out of 190 countries, which is better than Brazil at 123.) “We want to provide an environment that is attractive to foreign investors and so improving our investment climate is an important part of our development strategy now,” Safoyev says.

Like Russia post-U.S.S.R., Uzbekistan’s government is preparing for full currency convertibility by 2019. Like China during its own reform and rebuild movement, there are economic free trade zones popping up as an answer to rapid development.

“Limited convertibility of the currency has constrained private business development and foreign direct investment, too. It’s affected our competitiveness against other countries nearby,” says Safoyev. They are working with the International Monetary Fund to eliminate foreign exchange restrictions in order to move to a market-based exchange rate. “There is strong political will to get this done,” he says.

Mirziyoyev is not the sole decision maker on economic matters. Some people there are not as opened to changing the status quo. Moreover, this isn’t a culture that likes to experiment all that much. Uzbeks are cautious. Their external debt is less than 20% of GDP. They haven’t run a budget or account deficit in 10 years.

When one of their former Soviet neighbors, Kazakhstan, was growing like gangbusters thanks to leverage and oil, Uzbekistan kept still and underperformed in terms of GDP growth. But because the country was not leveraged up like Kazakhstan, when the downturn came in commodity prices and foreign trade, they weathered it well. Last year, their economy grew China-like: 7%. Kazakhstan grew Russia-like: 1%.

The European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is back after a hiatus under the Karimov administration. They are working with the government to improve transparency and align local statistics and methodologies of key economic indicators with international standards in order to get a credit rating. The next step would be issuing sovereign bonds like Kazakhstan does.

“The fact that EBRD is back is a positive sign,” says Hillman. “There is an opportunity for engagement now that Mirziyoyev is in charge.”

In May, the new government announced construction of a $2.2 billion oil refinery as part of its five year plan. Most of the oil comes from Russia and Kazakhstan. Uzbek reserves are largely under-explored, and international oil and gas companies are expanding their operations.

A $4 billion Uzbek-Korean joint venture to build the Ustyurt Gas Chemical Complex is the biggest energy investment so far, with capacity to produce 3.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas and 500 thousand tons of polyethylene and polypropylene a year. State owned enterprises and foreign companies like Hyundai and Haldor Topsoe of Denmark are working on projects to build out fossil fuel derivatives like gas-to-liquid (GTL), methanol-to-olefins (MTO) and methanol-to-gasoline.

In March, following meetings between General Electric VP Ronald James Pollett and the Mirziyoyev administration, the company said it would invest upwards of $388 million over the next two years on greenfield assembly lines for industrial equipment and home appliances.

“We know we need to improve our investment climate,” Safoyev says. “We are working with foreign consulting companies, investment banks and other international financial institutions to make this happen,” he says, without naming names.

Russia did the same in the 90s, hiring big U.S. consulting firms like The Boston Consulting Group, one of the first teams on the scene in post-Soviet Russia.

Like every frontier market, Uzbekistan has a massive informal economy. Mirziyoyev is making it formal, much in the way that Brazil did in the early 2000s, helping with its lackluster tax base, according to the World Bank. Small businesses in Uzbekistan make up 40% of the nation’s manufactured goods and 98% of its agribusiness is privately held, according to the government.

Foreigners from 27 countries will be allowed to visit Uzbekistan visa-free from 2021. Uzbekistan will also allow free travel of their citizens outside of the country, starting in 2019. Some Uzbeks do travel to Russia, China, Turkey, Western Europe, and the U.S., but still need the Soviet-style exit visas as opposed to just travel visas from the country they are visiting.

Safoyev rattles off a list of priorities that sound almost Trumpian:

• reduce regulatory burden for small to mid-sized business owners;

• reduce bureaucratic red tape for some inspection agencies;

• liberalize financial, taxation and customs systems (think China-style free trade zones);

• reform laws that protect private business from the government.

Privatizations are going to happen, but the Uzbeks are keeping control of companies and sectors deemed strategically important, like energy, existing gold mines and basic infrastructure like rail and air.

The city of Samarkand has been at the crossroads of world cultures for over two and a half millennia, and is one of the most important sites on the old Silk Road traversing Central Asia, according to UNESCO. China wants to make the Silk Road great again. Uzbekistan’s new leadership will try to take advantage of that, but needs major reforms to change its old Soviet-style system. Wheels are in motion. (Shutterstock)

“Even where the state plays a major role, we are open to private local and foreign investment,” Safoyev says. “If an investor is ready to invest in its own exploration operations and finds gold or copper or oil or whatever, then we are happy to let them set up their own production and sales operation.”

Their biggest commodity so far is cotton. It’s trying to upgrade its agribusiness sector. A new executive order paved the way for four pharmaceutical industrial zones so the country will not be so dependent on commodities.

On the political side, they’re talking the talk about fighting corruption, a perennial curse everywhere in the emerging markets, including those widely considered liberal and democratic. Brazil pops up again here.

Still, Uzbekistan’s reboot depends on the political awakening of a nation, particularly its elites. This will take a generation or two. It’s a young country. The median age there is 26.7 years old, younger than Russia by about 12 years and younger than Kazakhstan by four years.

For some, Mirziyoyev’s victory, and the obstacles he’d face from some older establishment figures were givens. The rest has been an upside surprise.

“Few could have expected him to so quickly revive Uzbekistan’s foreign relations with the rest of Central Asia and beyond and to do it so quickly raises hopes for political reforms,” says Zachary Witlin, an analyst for the Eurasia Group in Washington.

Moreover, Mirziyoyev’s leadership has opened the legacy of Soviet-style strongman Karimov to criticism for the first time. In opening the door to criticizing Karimov’s ways of governing (though “ruling” may be a better word choice), Uzbekistan’s new 60-year-old president is trying to create a base of support among the people in his confrontation with the vested interests resisting change.

A cabinet re-shuffle in January appears to have done much to consolidate the president’s position. Numerous visits to Uzbekistan’s regions are allowing the population a degree of interaction with the head of state that was unthinkable under Karimov. Acknowledgement of the economic hardship in rural areas have created some genuine popular support for Mirziyoyev and a degree of optimism in the public, the International Crisis Group in Brussels wrote in a report on Mirziyoyev’s first 100 days. For them, Mirziyoyev needs to cultivate the support of the country’s business class, including rich Uzbeks in Russia, who may have limited interest in change.

“If I was Uzbekistan’s president, I’d make changes in baby steps, and declare small victories,” says Hillman. “Like their direct flights from Tashkent into Dushanbe in the nearby Tajikistan, their neighbor. There never was a direct flight between these two, and it’s an important new connection. Symbolic stuff like that is very meaningful. The structural reforms…those will be tougher.”

So far, there has been no real signs of internal struggles and we are almost a year in.  “It’s a good sign,” says Cornell. “I see is no reason why Uzbekistan cannot help Eurasia integrate.”

It’s almost like starting from scratch. GDP per capita is around $2,100, four times lower than Kazakhstan’s, and about on par with India’s.

“I think what we are seeing really is a softening of the old regime,” says Vladislav Inozemtsev, a Russian economist and director of the Moscow-based think tank, the Center for Research on Post-Industrial Societies.

Safoyev, speaking from Tashkent, is fine with that. The Soviet system and all they’ve inherited from it may eventually crumble. “You have a centuries-old entrepreneurial tradition here,” he says of Uzbek’s historic go-it-alone attitude. “We are young and we are well-educated and with a young and dynamic economy, Uzbekistan will once again be a bright spot on the Silk Road.”

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Massacre in Crimea kills dozens, many in critical condition

According to preliminary information, the incident was caused by a gas explosion at a college facility in Kerch, Crimea.

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“We are clarifying the information at the moment. Preliminary figures are 50 injured and 10 dead. Eight ambulance crews are working at the site and air medical services are involved,” the press-service for the Crimean Ministry of Health stated.

Medics announced that at least 50 people were injured in the explosion in Kerch and 25 have already been taken to local hospital with moderate wounds, according to Sputnik.

Local news outlets reported that earlier in the day, students at the college heard a blast and windows of the building were shattered.

Putin Orders that Assistance Be Provided to Victims of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The president has instructed the Ministry of Health and the rescue services to take emergency measures to assist victims of this explosion, if necessary, to ensure the urgent transportation of seriously wounded patients to leading medical institutions of Russia, whether in Moscow or other cities,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said.

The president also expressed his condolences to all those affected by the tragic incident.

Manhunt Underway in Kerch as FSB Specialists Investigate Site of Explosion – National Anti-Terrorist Committee

The site of the blast that rocked a city college in Kerch is being examined by FSB bomb disposal experts and law enforcement agencies are searching for clues that might lead to the arrest of the perpetrators, the National Anti Terrorism Committee said in a statement.

“Acting on orders from the head of the NAC’s local headquarters, FSB, Interior Ministry, Russian Guards and Emergency Ministry units have arrived at the site. The territory around the college has been cordoned off and the people inside the building evacuated… Mine-disposal experts are working at the site and law enforcement specialists are investigating,” the statement said.

Terrorist Act Considered as Possible Cause of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The tragic news that comes from Kerch. Explosion. The president was informed … The data on those killed and the number of injured is constantly updated,” Peskov told reporters.

“[The version of a terrorist attack] is being considered,” he said.

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Russian Orthodox Church officially breaks ties with Constantinople

Biggest separation in almost 1,000 years as world’s largest Orthodox Church cuts communion with Constantinople over legitimizing schismatics.

Seraphim Hanisch



The schism between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate became official today, October 15, 2018, as the Russian Holy Synod reviewed the recent granting of communion to two schismatic groups in Ukraine, pursuant to Constantinople’s intent to grant autocephaly (full self-rule, or independence) to the agglomeration of these groups.

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RT reported that the Synod ruled that any further clerical relations with Constantinople are impossible, given the current conditions. Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev told journalists today about the breach in relations:

“A decision about the full break of relations with the Constantinople Patriarchate has been taken at a Synod meeting” that is currently been held in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, Hilarion said, as cited by TASS.

The move comes days after the Synod of the Constantinople Patriarchate decided to eventually grant the so-called autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, thus making the clerical organization, which earlier enjoyed a broad autonomy within the Moscow Patriarchate, fully independent.

The Moscow Patriarchate also said that it would not abide by any decisions taken by Constantinople and related to the status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. “All these decisions are unlawful and canonically void,” Hilarion said, adding that “the Russian Orthodox Church does not recognize these decisions and will not follow them.”

At the same time, the Russian Church expressed its hope that “a common sense will prevail” and Constantinople will change its decision. However, it still accused the Ecumenical Patriarch of initiating the “schism.”

The marks the most significant split in the Orthodox Church since the Great Schism of 1054, in which Rome excommunicated Constantinople, a breach between the Roman Catholics and Orthodox which has persisted ever since then, becoming hardened and embittered after the Roman Catholic armies sacked Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade in 1204.

Many other local Orthodox Churches expressed support for the Moscow Patriarchate’s position prior to today’s announcement, but the break in relations between these two churches does not have any known affect on local churches who hold communion with both Moscow and the Ecumenical Patriarchate at this time.

The website ran the entire statement of the Holy Synod regarding this situation. We offer a brief summary of statements here, taken from that source and, adding emphasis.

With deepest pain, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church received the message of the Patriarchate of Constantinople published on October 11, 2018 about the decisions adopted by the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople: on the confirmation of the intention to “grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church”; on the opening of the “stavropegion” of the Patriarch of Constantinople in Kiev; on the “restoration in the hierarchal or priestly rank” of the leaders of the Ukrainian schism and their followers and the “return of their faithful to Church communion”; and on the “cancellation of the action” of the conciliar charter of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1686 concerning the transfer of the Kiev Metropolia to the Moscow Patriarchate

The Synod of the Church of Constantinople made these decisions unilaterally, ignoring the calls of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the entirety of the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as the fraternal Local Orthodox Churches, and their primates and bishops for pan-Orthodox discussion of the issue.

Entering into communion with those who have departed into schism, let alone those who have been excommunicated from the Church, is tantamount to departing into schism and is severely condemned by the canons of the holy Church: “If any one of the bishops, presbyters, or deacons, or any of the clergy shall be found communicating with excommunicated persons, let him also be excommunicated, as one who brings confusion on the order of the Church” (Canon 2 of the Council of Antioch; Canon 10, 11 of the Holy Apostles).

The decision of the Patriarchate of Constantinople on the “restoration” of the canonical status and the reception into communion of the former Metropolitan Philaret Denisenko, excommunicated from the Church, ignores a number of successive decisions of the Bishops’ Councils of the Russian Orthodox Church, the legitimacy of which are beyond doubt.

By the decision of the Bishops’ Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Kharkov of May 27, 1992, Metropolitan Philaret (Denisenko) was removed from the Kiev Cathedra and was banned from the clergy for not fulfilling the oath made by him before the cross and the Gospel at the previous Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church.

By its ruling of June 11,1992, the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, confirmed the decision of the Kharkov Council and expelled Philaret Denisenko from his rank, depriving him of every degree of the priesthood on the following charges: “Cruel and arrogant attitude to the subordinate clergy, dictatorialness, and intimidation (Tit. 1:7-8; Canon 27 of the Holy Apostles); introducing temptation among the faithful by his behavior and personal life (Matthew 18:7; Canon 3 of the First Ecumenical Council, Canon 5 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council); oath-breaking (Canon 25 of the Holy Apostles); public slander and blasphemy against the Bishops’ Council (Canon 6 of the Second Ecumenical Council); the celebration of clerical functions, including ordinations, in a state of suspension (Canon 28 of the Holy Apostles); the perpetration of a schism in the Church (Canon 15 of the First-Second Council).” All ordinations performed by Philaret in a suspended state since May 27, 1992, and the punishments imposed by him, were declared invalid.

Despite repeated calls for repentance, after the deprivation of his hierarchal rank Philaret Denisenko continued his schismatic activity, including within the bounds of other Local Churches. By the ruling of the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church of 1997, he was given over to anathema.

The aforesaid decisions were recognized by all the Local Orthodox Churches, including the Church of Constantinople.

… Now, after more than two decades, the Patriarchate of Constantinople has changed its position for political reasons.

… St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain, in his Pedalion, which is an authoritative source of ecclesiastical-canonical law of the Church of Constantinople, interprets Canon 9 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, rejecting the false opinion on the right of Constantinople to consider appeals from other Churches: “The Primate of Constantinople does not have the right to act in the dioceses and provinces of other Patriarchs, and this rule did not give him the right to take appeals on any matter in the Ecumenical Church… “ Listing a whole range of arguments in favor of this interpretation, referring to the practice of the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils, St. Nikodemos concludes: “At present … the Primate of Constantinople is the first, the only, and the last judge over the metropolitans subordinate to him—but not over those who are subject to the rest of the Patriarchs. For, as we said, the last and universal judge of all the Patriarchs is the Ecumenical Council and no one else.” It follows from the above that the Synod of the Church of Constantinople does not have canonical rights to withdraw judicial decisions rendered by the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church.

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Patriarch Bartholomew lifts anathemas on schismatics in Ukraine (VIDEO)

Most of the Orthodox world is in strong opposition to this move by Patriarch Bartholomew, whose motivations seem not to be of Christ.

Seraphim Hanisch



The biggest news in the Eastern Orthodox world in recent times occurred on Thursday, October 11, 2018. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, lifted the anathemas against two schismatic Ukrainian Churches and their leaders, paving the way to the creation of a fully independent Ukrainian national Orthodox Church.

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This announcement was given in English and is shown here in video with the textual transcript following:

“Presided by His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Holy and Sacred Synod convened for its regular session from October 9 to 11, 2018 in order to examine and discuss items on its agenda. The Holy Synod discussed in particular and at length, the ecclesiastical mater of Ukraine in the presence of His Excellency Archbishop Daniel of Pamphilon and His Grace Bishp Ilarion of Edmonon, Patriarchal Exarchs to Ukraine, and following extensive deliberations decreed (emphasis added):

First, to renew the decision already made, that the Ecumenical Patriarchate proceed to the granting of autocephaly to the Church of Ukraine;

Second, to re-establish at this moment the stavropegion of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Kiev—one of its many starvorpegion in Ukraine that existed there always;

Third, to accept and review the petitions of appeal of Philaret Denisenko and Makary Maletich and their followers who found themselves in schism not for dogmatic reasons, in accordance with the canonical prerogatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople to receive such petitions by hierarchs and other clergy of all the autocephalous Churches. Thus, the above mentioned have been canonically reinstated to their hierarchical or priestly rank, and their faithful have been restored to communion with the Church;

Fourth, to revoke the legal binding of the Synodal letter of the year 1686, issued for the circumstances of that time, which granted the right through economia to the Patriarch of Moscow to ordain the Metropolitan of Kiev elected by the clergy-laity assembly of his eparchy, who would commemorate the Ecumenical Patriarch as the first hierarch at any celebration, proclaiming and affirming his canonical dependence to the Mother Church of Constantinople;

Fifth, to appeal to all sides involved that they avoid appropriation of churches, monasteries, and other properties as well as every other act of violence and retaliation so that he peace and love of Christ may prevail.”

There are a few things that must be said about what this declaration is not before we get to the matter of what the points of actually are. The point of reference is the strict letter of the text above itself.

  • This is not a granting of autocephaly (full independent self-rule status) like the fourteen universally canonical Orthodox jurisdictions in the world. However, it is a huge step towards this status.
  • As far as Constantinople is concerned, Filaret Denisenko, the leader and “Patriarch” of the “Kyiv Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church” and Makary, the “Metropolitan” of the “Ukrainian Orthodox Autocephalous Church”, and all their faithful are now restored to communion. The statement says that this applies to “The Church” which may be trying to state that these two men (and all the faithful that they lead), are now in communion with the entirety of canonical Orthodoxy, but more likely, this may be a carefully worded statement to say they now are in communion with Constantinople alone.
  • There is an official call for the cessation of the violence directed against the Moscow Patriarchate parishes and communities, who are the only canonically recognized Orthodox Church in Ukraine, and who are also the largest by far in that country. The Kyiv Patriarchate and Uniate (Roman oriented) Greek Catholics in Ukraine have gone on record for seizing MP church properties, often by force, with neo-Nazi sympathizers and other radical Ukrainian nationalists. So this official call to cease the violence is now a matter of public record.

However, the reaction has been far less civil than the clergy wished for.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko: “Expressing his view of the Moscow Patriarchate, Poroshenko added, “This is a great victory of the God-loving Ukrainian people over the Moscow demons, the victory of Good over Evil, the victory of Light over Darkness.”’

Perhaps this is the reason Metropolitan Onuphry of Ukraine (exarch under the Moscow Patriarchate) has been labeled an enemy of Ukraine and is now receiving death threats. Very civil.

Poroshenko’s statement is all the more bizarre, considering that it has been Ukrainian ultra-nationalists that have been violently attacking Moscow – related parishes in Ukraine. This has been corroborated by news sources eager to pin the blame on Russia, such as the U.K. Guardian.

The Union of Orthodox Journalists, based in Kiev and supportive of the Moscow Patriarchate, has been under intense cyber attack since October 11th, when the EP’s announcement was issued.

Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) Chancellor, Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil and Brovary: “What happened at the Synod in Istanbul yesterday shocked the entire Orthodox world. It seems the Patriarchate of Constantinople is consciously embarking on a path of schism in world Orthodoxy. Patriarch Bartholomew ignored the calls of the Local Churches to convene a meeting of the primates to work out a common and conciliar solution to the Ukrainian Church issue and unilaterally made very serious but erroneous decisions. I hope the Orthodox world will give this action an objective evaluation… Having received the schismatics into communion, Patriarch Bartholomew did not make them canonical, but has himself embarked on the path of schism. The schismatics remain schismatics. They did not receive any autocephaly or tomos. It seems they have lost even that independence, although non-canonical, that they had and which they always emphasized.”

Metropolitan Rostislav of the Czech Lands and Slovakia:“The Orthodox world recognizes the only canonical primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church—His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine. This fact was repeatedly mentioned and confirmed by the primate of the Great Church of Christ His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on behalf of all present at the Synaxis of the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches that was held in Chambésy (Switzerland) from January 21 to 27, 2016. Therefore, any attempt to legalize the Ukrainian schismatics by the state authorities should be strongly condemned by all the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches.

Patriarch Irinej of Serbia wrote two letters to the Ecumenical Patriarch, advocating that the provision of a new autocephaly is possible only with the consent of all local Orthodox Churches. According to (Translation by,

“In these letters, it was very clearly stated that the granting of autocephaly cannot be the prerogative the Patriarchate of Constantinople alone, that new autocephalies must be created only with the consent of all the Local Orthodox Churches, as the Holy Synod of Antioch also said in its recent statement.”

Pat. Irinej also warned the Patriarchate of Constantinople against making such major decisions unilaterally, because “it will not bring harmony and peace to the Ukrainian land, but, on the contrary, will cause new divisions and new schisms.”

The Holy Synod of Antioch, the oldest Orthodox Church, and actually the very first place where the disciples of Christ were even called “Christians” weighed in on the issue as well and they had several things to say:

“The fathers examined the general Orthodox situation. They stressed that the Church of Antioch expresses her deep worries about the attempts to change the boundaries of the Orthodox Churches through a new reading of history. She considers that resorting to a unilateral reading of history does not serve Orthodox unity. It rather contributes to the fueling of the dissensions and quarrels within the one Church. Thus, the Church of Antioch refuses the principle of establishing parallel jurisdictions within the canonical boundaries of the Patriarchates and the autocephalous Churches as a way to solve conflicts, or as a de facto situation in the Orthodox world.

To summarize, this move by Constantinople is not being warmly received by many, many people. Most of the local Churches are on record giving their reaction to this process. In brief, here is the list most of the Local Churches and a one or two word summary of their reactions.

Patriarchate of Georgia: Unilateral action is wrong; Constantinople and Moscow must cooperate and find a solution together.

Patriarchate of Jerusalem: recognizes Ukraine as a canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church alone, as do all other local Churches

Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa: The Church does not bow to politicians. Moscow-led church is the only canonical Church in Ukraine.

Archbishop of Cyprus: Decries the Ukrainian situation but offered to mediate a discussion between Moscow and Constantinople

Bulgarian Patriarchate: Interference of the State in Church affairs leads to serious and negative consequences for both.

Polish Orthodox Church: Metropolitan Sawa called for a council of Orthodox ruling hierarchs to discuss this situation.

Estonian Orthodox Church: Condemns Constantinople’s actions in Ukraine.

Greek Archdiocese of America: Supports Constantinople’s actions in Ukraine.

The Orthodox Church of Greece (Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus quoted): “Schismatics, as we know, are not the Church, and communion with them is forbidden by the Divine and holy canons and the Apostolic and Ecumenical Councils. Why then this persistence of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in recognizing schismatics as an autocephalous Church? To provoke schisms and divisions in the one universal and Apostolic Church of Christ?”

Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR): Ceased commemoration of Constantinople, ceased concelebration with Constantinople.

This issue has also rocked the secular geopolitical world.

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