Ukraine has lost almost 500 churches and religious sites since the start of the Russian invasion

By Josh Niland

Feb 25, '23

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Image courtesy International Diplomacy and Economy via Twitter

"As a result of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, at least 494 religious buildings, theological institutions, and sacred places were wholly destroyed, damaged, or looted by the Russian military.

The Ukrainian Institute for Religious Freedom presented this updated data on the impact of the war on Ukrainian religious communities on January 31 and February 1 during the Summit on International Religious Freedom (IRF Summit 2023) held in Washington, D.C.
Institute for Religious Freedom (IRF) "

The Institute for Religious Freedom reported Russia’s tactic of using churches for military bases and hiding spots. Clergy members have also been targeted as part of the longer-term goal of destroying the Ukrainian language and culture. (The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which accounts for 48% of the survey, famously broke away from Moscow in a May 2022 declaration.)

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Graphic courtesy Institute for Religious Freedom (source)

Non-Christian sites afflicted include the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial (which includes a synagogue designed by Manuel Herz) and several mosques. The destruction of holy buildings and other cultural property nevertheless pales in comparison to the waste of life on both sides of the conflict. The latest estimates from the UN human rights office have at least 8,006 civilian deaths in the country over the past twelve months, with the actual death toll of non-combatants likely much higher.


The Ukraine and its culture and language have found themselves in Vladimir Putin’s crosshairs. In the Russian president’s words, the Ukrainian state was an artificial, fake country, while the Ukrainian language was a sham. According to the Kremlin, neither of these were worth preserving.

While the Nazis and their minions might not have fully succeeded in destroying the Jews as a people, they did manage to destroy and erase the Yiddish language and culture.

On April 3rd, the Putin's Kremlin published its 25-year plan for subjugating the Ukrainians. The current war’s goal is to make Ukraine an indistinct part of Russia’s run-down colonial peripheries, and to erase the very name “Ukraine” from the map and people’s consciousness. The basic facts of the cultural genocide awaiting the Ukrainians were set out in the open for the whole world to see.

This reminds me of the Nazi approach to the "East", Generalplan Ost or the Gesamtplan Ost (GPO). The different versions of these plans envisaged a comprehensive restructuring of social, political, ethnic, and economic life in occupied Bohemia and Moravia (Czechoslovakia), Poland, the Baltic States, and regions of the Soviet Union west of the Ural Mountains according to the guidance Nazi racial-political principles. The GPO was in effect a utopian, ideologically oriented plan for the creation of a German land-based empire in the east.

In July 2021, Putin published a long treatise arguing that Ukraine ‘is not and has never been an independent state’, that Ukraine is an ‘inalienable part of Russia’ that lacks a distinct ethnic identity, culture, religion, and language, that Ukraine has ‘always prospered when part of Russia’ and suffered when not, and that Ukraine’s independence has always been inspired and sponsored by ‘enemies of Russia’.

Putin resembles Hitler and his plans for the Ukraine resemble General Plan Ost, while, ironically, calling Ukrainians "Nazis".
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