RECOGNIZING EURASIAN RHETORIC:
THE TREATY OF BREST’ AS RHETORICAL ARTIFACT
(USA, Pennsylvania State University)
Signed in 1596, the Treaty of Brest’ created the Uniate Catholic Church, casting the peoples of Ukraine into a new subject position. Examining the Treaty of Brest’ as a constitutive rhetorical artifact casts the creators and immediate benefactors of the treaty as competent political agents, a finding that directly challenges historiographical characterizations. The examination also shows that subject positions inhabited by Uniate Catholics in Ukraine today are consistent with the historical subject positions created by the Treaty. Both outcomes demonstrate a need on the part of rhetorical scholars to investigate Eurasian rhetorics in a more thorough fashion than has been the case over the last decade.
The Soviet Union was ratified out of existence in 1991, almost two decades ago, and a dozen independent states appeared in its wake. Marilyn Young and Michael Launer (Young & Launer, 2019) pounced on the opportunity to examine the tumultuous events that led to such an historic moment, publishing a study of the characterizations of the Chernobyl meltdown in the Soviet media. Combined with their earlier study of the rhetoric surrounding the downing of Korean Air Lines flight 007 (1988), Young and Launer’s new study seemed to herald a new focus in rhetorical studies, recognition of the rhetorics employed throughout the Eurasian plains. Yet a simple survey of the rhetorical literature produced since 1991 displays a general reluctance on the part of the discipline to pursue studies of Eurasian rhetorics. Indeed, in the nearly twenty years since then, studies of Eurasian rhetorics have floundered.
Although a handful of studies are better than none, it is still important that we recognize that Russia does not and cannot exist in a rhetorical vacuum. Whether the discipline’s failure to account for Eurasian rhetoric can be attributed to a lack of training in the languages of the region, a lack of knowledge that many Eurasian resources are available online in English translation, or a hypotactic rhetorical bias2 that positions Eurasian rhetorics as inferior is uncertain. What is certain is that, by not pursuing this area with more forcefulness and resolve, we are missing a golden opportunity to explore the rhetorical constructions that underlie such concepts as identity, ideology, nationalism, culture, and public affairs as these very concepts are negotiated and contested in the post-Soviet republics.
This paper seeks to begin correcting the deficiency by analyzing a non-Russian Eurasian rhetorical artifact that continues to affect life in Ukraine today and indirectly accounts for much of the acrimony between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. Specifically, this essay will examine the Treaty of Brest’ as a constitutive rhetorical artifact. What such an analysis hopes to demonstrate is that the rhetorical maneuvering employed by Rusins (i.e., the ancestors of today’s Ukrainians)3 in the seventeenth century resulted in the creation of a significant discursive identity, a finding that directly challenges traditional historiographical views of the Ukrainian people. After providing a brief theoretical foundation for the analysis and a sketch of the importance of the Treaty of Brest’ in contemporary Ukraine, the essay will offer a brief historical context for the treaty negotiations, examine the treaty’s sections to lay bare the rhetorical maneuvering underlying the treaty’s provisions, and then disclose some of the immediate social and cultural consequences of the treaty’s ratification.
As Michael McGee argued, in society, people are not conditioned to behave and to act in certain ways, but are conditioned “to a vocabulary of concepts that function as guides, warrants, reasons, or excuses for behavior and belief” (McGee, 2018: 6). This vocabulary ushers us into a social orientation within a “space of representations” wherein the concrete expectations about behavior contained in the shared discourse constructs, maintains, and reconstructs ideological values (Burgin, 2019: 39). The power of such a space is an active one engaged in both creation (e.g., the opening of a new dialogue) and destruction (e.g., the closing of individual monologues through the fostering of identification) and is constructed not at one, but at a number of social points (Laclau, 2016: 115). As the new meanings engendered by such spaces open further spaces, they are also “threaded into social practices and woven into relations of power” (Gregory, 1994: 188). What is at stake, then, in any such constitutive rhetoric is a geography of power, wherein ideology is reinforced and challenged through spatial arrangements (Spain, 1992: 222).
In his study of the Peuple Québécois
, Maurice Charland notes that constitutive rhetorics are ideological “not merely because they provide individuals with narratives to inhabit as subjects and motives to experience, but because they insert ‘narrativized’ subjects-as-agents into the world” (Charland, 2018: 223). Jolanta Drzewiecka made a similar observation regarding the Polish diaspora, observing that social formations “are articulated through relations of dominance and subordination, which emerge through constant struggles between positions within the social field” (Drzewiecka, 2002: 3). And, in her study of the Macintosh “1984” advertisement, Sarah Stein (Stein, 2002) exposed the tension between the ad’s promise of deliverance and its submissiveness to a market-driven hegemony, showing how viewers are not simply part of the meaning-making process, but are themselves shaped as subjects within a particular rhetorical environment.
Constitutive rhetoric is at its base a public address, a literal calling on relationships. By highlighting and dismissing different aspects of the social world, it provides a people with a means to enact and embody their own collective reasonings so they can “identify a reality as their own and claim it as part and parcel of their [lives]” (Chupungco, 1982: 73). In studying such a rhetoric, then, it is important to begin where Ortega concluded, that the analysis “must begin by establishing the repertory of...convictions” held, embodied, constituted, and inscribed by that people both now and in the past (Ortega, 1962: 166). To that end, this essay will examine the Treaty of Brest’ in its present embodiment via the Uniate Catholic Church of Ukraine, then proceed to analyze the historical contexts and motives that led to the treaty’s creation.
The Treaty of Brest’ as Contemporary Influence
Signed in 1596 by the Vatican and by representatives of the Rusin Orthodox Church, the Treaty of Brest’ signaled the creation of what is known today as the Uniate Catholic Church of Ukraine. Uniate Catholicism continued to grow and develop throughout Galicia as the area shifted from Polish control in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to Austrian control in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Church began to grow in stature in central Ukraine, a fact that prompted Josef Stalin to force it underground gradually and progressively in the period after the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) was established. So, when Galicia came under Soviet control in the wake of World War II, incorporated as western Ukraine, Stalin drove the Uniates underground to prevent a resurgence of interest in the faith in Ukraine’s capital city, Kyiv.
In June 1988, however, amidst millennial celebrations of the Russian conversion to Christianity, Mikhail Gorbachev attempted to enhance the new relationship between religion and Soviet society by formally lifting the ban on Church involvement in charitable activities and by allowing Sunday schools, religious lectures, and catechism classes to run openly (Ramet, 1998: 235; Chaplin, 1995: 97). As part of the provisions surrounding the lifting of the ban, each faith was required to register itself. Seeing the potential threat to its own hegemony should a revived Uniate Catholic Church be allowed to register, Orthodox hierarchs and Soviet Ukrainian authorities began registering literally hundreds of new Orthodox congregations in western Ukraine. These eleventh-hour registrations provided Orthodoxy with a decidedly dominant edge numerically and politically (Anderson, 1994: 188).
The practice continued until, on September 17, 1988, Uniates in L’viv staged a mass rally of over 150,000 participants. Village parishes converted from Orthodoxy to Uniate Catholicism almost literally overnight. And in October, the Orthodox Transfiguration Church in L’viv led the way for larger Orthodox communities to convert to Uniate Catholicism. Combined with pressures from the Vatican in the weeks before an historic meeting between the Pope and Gorbachev, such acts prompted Gorbachev to give in and to announce at the end of November 1988 that the Uniate Church would be allowed to register formally in Ukraine. By the time the Church was officially registered on December 1, it had 300 parishes, with 650 applying for registration at Kyiv and 200 formerly Orthodox priests converting to the faith (Ramet, 1998: 253; Anderson, 1994: 168).
In 1990, almost 1600 congregations and just over 1300 churches were registered to the Uniate Church, while 370 Orthodox priests in western Ukraine officially declared their new affiliation with the Uniates, raising the total number of Uniate clergy to 767. Six months later, in January 1991, the Uniates registered over 2000 churches and 854 clergy (Bociurkiw, 1995: 139). By August 1, 1992, the Uniates had registered over 5600 parishes, or 2.9 million adherents (Bociurkiw, 1995: 147). In 1998, according to nationwide polls, there were 4.5 million Uniate Catholics in Ukraine (“Newsbriefs,” 14 June 1998).4 Just five years later, in 2003, that number has grown to 5.5 million, with another 70,000 adherents falling under the direction of a special exarchate in the Odessa-Krym region in southern Ukraine (“Exarchate,” 29 July 2003).
The sheer growth in adherents resulted in greater political and resource power in Ukraine throughout the late 1990’s. The Church of St. Nicholas, a Uniate church that had been used as a park rotunda in Soviet times, was restored in Kyiv through the use of municipal funds (“Kyiv bishop,” 28 June 1998). At the same time, the Uniate Church also began construction of a larger church dedicated to St. Vasylii to accommodate the overflow of faithful from the smaller existing churches of St. Mykolai and Askold’s Tomb. Following what some Orthodox have called an “unconventional design,” but a design that remains typical to Uniate Catholicism, the church is being made possible by the outlay of some US$600,000 in funds by the Kyiv municipal government (Woronowicz, 15 November 1998).
The second half of 1999 saw even more impressive gains for the Uniates. In July, the L’viv Theological Academy, which had its former accreditation rights re-conferred by Rome in November 1998 to offer the bachelor of theology, graduated its first class of baccalaureates – 30 in all–since the Stalinist repressions at the end of World War II. It also marked the first time that a woman had ever been granted a degree in theology in the country’s history (Labunka, 20 February 2000). Such a momentous event prompted the Academy’s vice-rector to visit various Uniate communities throughout Ukraine to attend to their communal needs. In September, the vice-rector visited Kyiv, paying compliments to the congregations (typically about 500 to 600 people) who braved the elements outside the two churches to attend Sunday services (“Vice rector,” 5 September 1999). But perhaps the Uniates’ greatest achievement came in November 1999, when, after a run-off election, President Kuchma was returned to office to serve yet another term in the country’s third nation-wide presidential elections since independence. Receiving 56.25% of the popular vote to the Communist Party candidate Peter Symonenko’s 37.8%, Kuchma received the overwhelming majority of his support from the western and central regions of the country, areas where the Uniate Catholic Church is dominant, with over 91.5% of the voters there supporting his candidacy (Woronowicz, 21 November 1999; Marples, 14 November 1999).
The Treaty of Brest’ as a constitutional document, then, has a direct impact on the life of Ukrainians today insofar as its creation, the Uniate Catholic Church, has achieved a position as resource gatekeeper over the numerically dominant Ukrainian Orthodox Church in a number of strategic areas. And in a country where economic and civic resources are relatively scarce, a group’s ability to direct the flow of such resources figures prominently in considerations of civic life. Therefore, the rhetorical significance of the Treaty of Brest’ and its provisions merits further consideration.
An Historical-Cultural Background of the Rusins
The Rusins who signed the Treaty of Brest’ were the descendents of the peoples of Kievan Rus’, which had been decimated in the twelfth century by the invasion of the Mongols. As Muslims, and hence “peoples of the Book,” the Mongols respected the Rusins’ right to continue practicing their own version of Byzantine Orthodoxy, a faith that, like Islam, was based in part on the writings of the Old Testament. Thus, the religious realm became one of the few places where the Rusins could exercise some of their own cultural traditions. Over the next few centuries, the original Rusin lands passed from the Mongols to the Lithuanians and then to the Poles in the days of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. By the late fourteenth century, the old boyars of medieval Rus’ were beginning to “convert” into Poles, both in their conversions to Roman Catholicism and their consequent securing of political and social status as part of the Polish nobility.
By the mid-sixteenth century, only the petty gentry were still practicing Orthodoxy (Sysyn, 1997: 55). As such, Polish law excluded them from city councils, courts, and some guilds on religious grounds. The Orthodox found themselves confined to the status of journeymen or non-guild artisans, neither of which yielded much by way of political power, much less daily sustenance (Sysyn, 1997: 63). To complicate matters, the voloka
land reforms of 1557 raised taxes on lands held by the peasants and petty gentry to sustain the landlords and their servitors (Sysyn, 1997: 56). But because the large numbers of servitors, agents, leaseholders, tax farmers, and clergy who depended on the local magnate’s benevolence could not be sure their contracts with the manorial lord would last any length of time, they were certain to exact the maximum allowable under the new reforms (Sysyn, 1997: 65). So, faced with diminishing economic status and ability, many of the Rusin rank-and-file were forced into enserfment on the Polish manorial estates.
By the late sixteenth century, the petty gentry who had been forced into enserfment no longer saw their lords as benefactors, but as oppressors who questioned their rights to land and social status. The Rusin peasantry, meanwhile, saw towns as places that monopolized artisanry and commercial activities that they once engaged in. Further, the fact that the Rusins were prevented from moving upward in social status because of their religion did not seem to affect the groups of Jews and Armenians living in Poland at the same time. Both groups, in fact, were allowed to deal directly with the city magistrates and to exist under their own laws and privileges (Sysyn, 1997: 60). Frustrated in their attempts to disengage the Polish system, the Rusins sought instead “to recreate the rules of the game and...to exploit both the rules and the loopholes [of the game] in [an] attempt to impose their own type of play” (Frick, 1997: 151).
Turning to the Jesuits for assistance in pleading their case, the Metropolitan of Kyiv and Halych and all Rus’, the Bishop of Volodymyr and Brest', the Bishop of Lutsk and Ostrih, and the Bishop of Pinsk and Turov negotiated a treaty with Rome whereby they would enter into a union with the Roman Catholic Church. In exchange for religious, cultural, economic, and political guarantees that would, in effect, free them from the oppression exerted on them by the Polish landlords, the Orthodox leaders vowed to recognize the primacy of the Pope’s authority on most ecclesiastical matters. Agreed to in Brest' in 1596, the treaty officially established a formal union between Orthodoxy and Catholicism in the former lands of Rus’.
The Treaty’s Provisions5
The treaty itself is very well constructed from a formal perspective. For the first nine sections, the Rusin leaders balance every two or three requests for retaining Orthodox practices or beliefs with an important doctrinal concession. For the remaining sections, which seek only concessions or guarantees, they present the more contentious hierarchical propositions first, then descend in degree to a political or economic request in every third or fourth section thereafter.
One of the agendas the treaty set forth was the retention by the Uniate Church of many Orthodox practices that the Rusin clergy had followed since the days of the conversion. Sections nine, twenty-two, twenty-three, and twenty-four provide for the retention of the Orthodox customs allowing priests to marry, bells to be rung on Good Friday, visitation of the sick to be performed publicly, and processions to be held on holy days, respectively. Another agenda likewise sought to prevent the Roman Church from imposing new requirements on ritual obligations. Sections seven and eight reveal the Uniates’ desire not to be compelled either to mark Corpus Christi with processions or to conduct the blessing of fire or to use wooden clappers during Holy Week, while section two seeks to retain the observations of Orthros, Vespers, and the other night services. In a similar vein, the treaty also betrays an agenda to preserve certain doctrinal distinctions. Section one, for instance, retains a distinction that contributed to the Roman and Byzantine split a millennium earlier, the belief that “the Holy Spirit proceeds, not from two sources and not by a double procession, but from one origin, from the Father through the Son.” Likewise, section four seeks to preserve the distancing of the faithful from the mystery of Baptism by allowing the Rus’ to perform this sacrament according to their own customs.
To gain these “points,” the Uniates made some important concessions. In section five, for example, they accepted the existence of purgatory, which they had objected to under Orthodoxy because of its omission in both the Old and New Testament scriptures. In section six, they likewise accepted the Gregorian calendar with the noteworthy exception of adding the observance of the Theophany
, the Baptism of Christ and the first revelation of the Trinity, on January sixth. But it is in section three that the Uniates made an especially important concession in submitting to the Roman Church’s teachings about the distinctions between accidents and substances in the Eucharist. Unlike the Orthodox Church, which sees the Eucharist as a symbolic
representation of Christ’s Body and Blood, the Roman Church teaches that Christ is really
present in the Eucharist and that what was once bread and wine has been transubstantiated. Hence, while the host and the wine may retain the look and chemical (i.e., accidental) composition they had before the Mass, they are really (i.e., substantively) transformed into Christ’s Body and Blood. While this idea may seem an exercise in theological hair-splitting to some, what it does is substantively change the outlook of the Rus’ on the Mystery of the Eucharist. Whereas, under Orthodoxy, they believed that human beings will only come to understand Mysteries after their ascension into heaven on the Last Day, the new creed designated the exact time when God came down to earth in the form of the Eucharist (Billington, 1970: 167).
In addition to such considerations, the treaty unmistakably undertakes some important cultural, economic, and political agendas. As section thirteen blatantly states, “We have to do this [to seek this unity] for definite, serious reasons for harmony in the Christian republic [Poland] to avoid further confusion and discord.” Section two, accordingly, seeks guarantees that the Uniate Church may perform its services in its own language, namely Ruthenian. Sections ten and eleven provide for the free election of Rusin people, to the exclusion of all others, to the administrative posts of the Uniate Church without interference from secular or Roman authorities. Sections twelve and twenty seek representation for the Uniates in the Polish Senate and the tribunal of Roman clergy in Poland, respectively. Sections seventeen and eighteen seek the return of Rusin ecclesiastical property and guarantees against future interference in such property from “the wardens and state treasurer.” Section twenty-one seeks for the Uniate clergy “the same liberties and privileges which were granted by King Ladislaus [to the Roman clergy],” namely exemption from taxation and from the authority of Polish civil courts. Section twenty-seven provides for the establishment of “schools and seminaries in the Greek and Church-Slavonic languages” and free printing presses, subject only to the authority of the Uniate Metropolitan. And sections fourteen, nineteen, twenty-six, twenty-eight, and twenty-nine seek to establish the same hierarchical order as exists in the Roman Church for the Uniates, complete with the power to excommunicate those who do not recognize the hierarchical authority or who abuse their “offices” in the service of “lords and magnates.”
Lastly, the treaty advances other pragmatic concerns under the veneer of a logic of unification. Section fifteen, for example, seeks to eliminate any distinction between the Uniate and Roman faiths by prohibiting people from “converting” to Roman Catholicism from Uniate Catholicism. Section sixteen seeks to secure better economic and social conditions for the Rus’ by permitting marriages between “the Roman faithful and the Rus’ faithful.” Section twenty-five seeks to retain Rusin property by prohibiting the “conversion” of Rus’ churches and monasteries into Roman ones. Section thirty seeks to prevent Roman clergy from allowing Polish landlords to abuse Rusin people by demanding that any excommunication in one church be upheld in the other. And to prevent themselves from being excommunicated by other Orthodox clergy, and so made to be suspect in their own parishioners’ eyes, sections thirty-one and thirty-two seek to prevent any clergy with “jurisdictions and excommunications” from Greece or “the Eastern Church” from being allowed to enter Poland.
Looking back over the thirty-two main sections of the treaty, we find reason to accept Steven Velychenko’s appraisal of the Rusin peoples, that they “were much more closely tied to the Eastern European political system than has hitherto been thought, and...seem to have been rather successful at the sophisticated and dangerous game of diplomatic intrigue” (Velychenko, 1985: 285). By virtue of the Church’s establishment, we know that the Uniate Church’s proposals for preserving Eastern customs and the Rusin language were accepted. We also know that the acknowledgment of the supremacy of the Pope and portions of the Latin creed were accepted by the Rusin Orthodox clergy by virtue of the fact that most of the Orthodox hierarchy in Poland swore allegiance to the Pope between 1596 and 1597 (Billington, 1970: 107). But with the treaty’s ratifications, the Rusins gained several other important advantages over both the Polish Catholics and the Muscovite Orthodox.
Consequences of the Treaty’s Ratification
Although the Treaty of Brest' would later be interpreted by Muscovite clerics as an assault on Orthodox territory by the Catholic Church, the immediate aftermath of the treaty was quite tranquil. By embracing the Latin world, the Uniates were able to participate in the main language of philosophic and scientific discourse in the West (Billington, 1970: 166). Just as was Roman custom, the Ruthenian churches and monasteries promoted education, opening schools and printing houses (Cymbalisty, 1994: 34). They developed their own oratorical homiletic, following the pattern of exordium, narrative, and conclusion, and centering mainly on such Mysteries as the virgin birth and the dual nature of Christ as both God and man (Biletsky, 1952: 260). They developed a three-part style of singing called the part∂sno∂ p∂ne∂ (part choral song), known for its rich melodies (Cymbalisty, 1994: 38). And they developed their own canon law.
Although some of their treaty demands remained unfulfilled, such as Uniate representation in the Polish Senate and Roman Tribunal, that the Rusins’ general situation improved is clear. In 1623, for example, the murder of the Uniate bishop of Polatsk (modern Polotsk), Iosafat Kuntsevych, by the burghers of Vitebsk unleashed an official state reaction in the form of a persecution of Orthodoxy throughout Poland (Sysyn, 1980: 828). The net result of the persecution was the mass influx of the more influential Orthodox priests into the Uniate Church, not the least of whom was Peter Mogila. The son of a Moldavian hospodar
and a relative of several powerful families in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Mogila brought to the Church the wealth, respectability, and connections of a grand signeur
(Sysyn, 1980: 829). Although he remained opposed to granting Rome any authority, he was profoundly influenced by Jesuit theology and later, as Archimandrite of the Caves Monastery in Kyiv, used elements of that theology to construct a Bible of Instruction
, a Confession
, and a Catechism
used by the Uniate faith (Billington, 1970: 127-128).
Such notoriety eventually attracted the attention of the new Muscovite Patriarch Nikon. Until Nikon assumed the position of Patriarch, the Muscovites saw education as a threat to their authority. In fact, any deviation in the Orthodox rites was generally regarded as heresy (Cymbalisty, 1994: 34). Clerics used no homiletics, but instead relied upon appointed readings (Smirnov, 1914: 135). They relied upon the old Byzantine style of Komonej, a long, harsh, drawn form of chant that encouraged the disengagement of the listener (Cymbalisty, 1994: 39). And the Muscovites used both religious customs and iconography “to validate, in a politically and religiously charged space, the myth of Muscovite authority anointed by God and ready to lead Orthodox Christianity to redemption in the face of an Apocalypse that might come at any time” (Flier, 1997: 75).
Nikon, however, was a pragmatist. Seeing the superior education opportunities of the Uniates, especially in their knowledge of Latin, Greek, and Church-Slavonic, he enlisted some of them to help him in correcting some of the Muscovite Church books. Since education was discouraged, even among the administrative arms of the Orthodox Church in Muscovy, the scribes who copied the old manuscripts created many serious errors. For example, Mary was referred to in several instances as the mother of God the Father, and God was referred to as One in Four Persons (Cymbalisty, 1994: 43). The Uniates unhesitatingly offered their services. For despite the “official” histories, the Muscovites never demonstrated dismay at having foreign leaders influencing those parts of Rus’ that lay west of the Dnieper. Nor did they ever advance any theories about great Slavic unity to influence the Rusin leaders of the period. As such, the tsar'
was, for the Rusins, just another king, from whom they would expect “a guarantee of their corporate estate rights” and the Patriarch was just another patron (Velychenko, 1985: 286).
Over a decade of patronage allowed the Uniates to become very influential in ecclesiastical affairs. In fact, so influential were the Uniates that the Muscovites soon began to use religious books published on Uniate presses. By mid-century, for instance, almost 48% of the library of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy consisted of Uniate books (Cymbalisty, 1994: 48). At the same time, many Muscovite publishers simply copied entire works or sections of Uniate works, replacing such words as “Metropolitan” and “Uniate” with “Patriarch” and “Orthodox.” For example, a chapter on matrimony from Peter Mogila’s Large Ritual
(1646) was reprinted in the Muscovite Rule Book
(1649) and the Muscovite books of canon law published in 1639 were simply copies of a Kievan book of canon law printed in 1624 (Cymbalisty, 1994: 45-48).56
The notoriety that the Uniates earned in the aftermath of the Treaty of Brest’ would eventually trouble them as Muscovite clerics gradually came to see prestige as a zero-sum game. But the treaty conferred to an oppressed minority advantages in education, language, political influence, and rhetorical skill. It also served as a crucial catalyst in developing a strong national sentiment among the Rusins.
The Treaty of Brest’ as a constitutive rhetorical artifact has had, and continues to have, a profound impact on the life of the Ukrainian people. Four hundred years ago, the treaty ended much of the oppression that had dogged the Rusins and elevated them in status in Polish society. Even more, it exposed them to the dominant languages of scholarship and discourse in the West. That exposure, when combined with their existing expertise in both Byzantine canon law and early Slavonic, made them pre-eminent scholars of the modern period. Today, the descendants of the original Rusin clergy in central and western Ukraine have retraced their own historical beginnings. Emerging from decades of oppression, the Uniate Catholic Church became an important center of nationalist power. Using its position, it continued to attract adherents until eventually it became a major player on the socio-political stage in Ukraine, controlling political, economic, and social resources throughout the lands that it historically has occupied.
In both cases, however, the Uniates paid a price. In the sixteenth century, the Uniate Church became an extension of the Roman Catholic Church, an institution from which their theological predecessors had sought refuge because of doctrinal differences. They also fell victim to petty political in-fighting among the Muscovite clerics in whose service they were employed and as a result were vilified and cast into subservient subject positions in Russian discourse. Today, it would appear that the Uniate Church has positioned itself as a minority controlling the resources of the state. It remains to be seen to what extent they exercise that control benevolently and how long they can maintain control. Still, it seems that the Uniate Church has only succeeded in retaining the imbalance of control in state resources that it once faced, rather than distributing that control in a more egalitarian fashion.
Beyond the understandings of Ukrainian life granted to us through a constitutive rhetorical lens, the understanding we now have of the Uniates as a complex historical people directly challenges the historiographical view of the peoples inhabiting the lands of Ukraine before they were officially incorporated into the Soviet Union. Typically, historiographers lend Ukrainians a “minority” status before the twentieth century (Smith, 1986: 117). Ivan Rudnyts’kij, for example, has characterized Ukraine as a non-historical nation. That is, assuming non-historicity to indicate a “rupture in historical continuity through the loss of the traditional representative [i.e., noble] class,” he has argued that Ukraine lacked “modern national consciousness,” having had a Russified upper class until the eve of the 1917 Revolution (Rudnyts’kij, 1963: 200-201). Twenty years after he made this pronouncement, Rudnyts’kij revisited the question of Ukraine, arguing that Ukraine specifically lacked an element of self-consciousness before the rise of the Soviets and describing them as “an inarticulate popular mass, with little if any national consciousness and with a culture of predominantly folk character” (Rudnyts’kij, 1981: 361-363). He concluded that, as an “amorphous ethnic mass,” it was impossible for Ukrainians to articulate any form of “community of consciousness and will” outside of some rudimentary sharing of ethnic and linguistic ties (Rudnyts’kij, 1981: 367). Others have agreed with the verdict, denying Ukrainians the existence of its own intelligentsia (Pritsak & Reshetar, 1963) and even denying them the existence of literary ability and rhetorical skill (Chyzhevs’kij, 1978). And there the discussion has remained, cementing Ukrainians into a position in which they are denied historical significance until the Russian-Soviet intelligentsia provided them with a way to think “Ukrainian.”
Given the status that the Treaty of Brest’ lent to the Rusins in both Western and Eastern society, such a position no longer seems tenable. Further, given the subject positions that Uniates inhabited in the seventeenth century, the questions that historiographers have raised about Ukrainians’ rhetorical skill, ethnic-national commitment, and intelligentsia now assume a different bent. Indeed, when viewed against the rhetorical context of the Treaty of Brest’, such questions appear based more on differing nationalist agendas than on historical events. Finally, given the places from which today’s Uniate Catholic Church draws its support – namely, the western and central regions – those who might even seek to deny a link between the Uniate Church of today and that of Austrian Galicia would find themselves on shaky ground as well.
This paper has attempted to address the deficiency in rhetorical literature in the area of Eurasian rhetorics. Examining the Treaty of Brest’ as a constitutive rhetorical artifact, we have seen how the rhetorical maneuvering employed by Rusins in the seventeenth century resulted in the creation of a significant discursive identity. We have also seen how this finding directly challenges traditional historiographical views of the Ukrainian people and encourages us to see them as peoples inhabiting complex historical-rhetorical identities.
Like the Uniate Catholics, literally hundreds of groups throughout the former Soviet Union have important rhetorical achievements to study and appreciate, in both the past and the present. By not engaging these different rhetorics, we have missed many opportunities to expand upon and explore our present conceptions of identity, ideology, culture, nationalism, and public affairs. Indeed, as this study has illustrated, we can not depend on studies of teaching practices within the Russian Federation alone to address peoples’ achievements. Nor will those achievements be fully explored by historians and political scientists. Given the foray into Eurasian rhetoric that this essay produced, it seems prudent to issue a new call to members of the discipline to pursue Eurasian rhetorics, including those of the non-Russian Eurasian peoples, with more forcefulness and resolve. For in doing so, we will not only gain in our short-term understandings of the world around us, but the scholarship that we produce may have tremendous long-term impact.
1The transliteration of the soft sign in Cyrillic is an apostrophe. Therefore, throughout this essay, the Cyrillic has been transliterated as Brest’ following that convention.
2For a more thorough discussion of the hypotactic bias in rhetorical studies, see work by Mari Lee Mifsud, especially “Paratactic Rhetoric: Historical Wanderings and Wonderings” (paper presented at the biannual meeting of the Penn State Conference on Rhetoric and Composition, State College, Pa., July 2003).
3The descendents of the peoples of Kievan Rus’ who settled in the lands of Galicia were collectively referred to as Rusins to demarcate them from the Russians. After the Treaty of Brest’ was signed, they were referred to as Ruthenians by the Roman Catholic Church. Russian historiographers, meanwhile, generally refer to them as proto-Ukrainians or otherwise lump them in collectively with the Poles or Russians, depending on the era under study. This essay will use the collective term Rusins to refer to the descendents of Kievan Rus’ who settled in the lands of Galicia and who were involved in the creation of the Treaty of Brest’. Thereafter, it will refer to them as Uniates.
4This represents about 8% of the total population of 52 million people in Ukraine in 1998. By comparison, the number of non-affiliated Christians stood at 42% and Orthodox Christians at about 50%, with other denominations accounting for less than 1% of the population.
5Treaty of Brest. (2000/1596). Online. Modern History Sourcebook
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