Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Ukraine Conflict and the Post-War History of Eastern Europe

With all of the attention focused on Ukraine and its resistance to renewed Russian imperialism, Mirror of Justice readers will be among the first to place this latest event into the context of history.  Indeed, even before the Iron Curtain had fallen across the rest of Eastern Europe after World War II, Ukraine had already been the site of unimaginable suffering under Russian (Soviet) rule.  One of the greatest atrocities in history was Stalin’s deliberate imposition of famine in the 1930s to force collectivism in agriculture, with the greatest loss of life suffered in Ukraine – estimated at about 3.3 million people.

The fearful resonance of recent events in Ukraine throughout Eastern Europe is not surprising, as memories linger of the devastation delivered by Soviet Russia to the economies, civil institutions, culture, and faith of formerly independent nations in the region.  We often forget today that pre-war Eastern Europe was by and large a prosperous region with economic infrastructure, national productivity, and cultural strengths that rivaled or exceeded that of Western Europe.  Four decades of Soviet Russian oppression -- and the deleterious political ideology of communism and the failed economic policy of collectivism -- drained that economic strength and corroded the cultural, social, and religious fabric of a multitude of peoples.

For those wishing to further immerse themselves into the twentieth century historical background that remains indispensable for understanding the current conflict in Ukraine and surrouding nations, I highly recommend the book, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956, by Pulitzer Prize winning historian and Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum.

Of particular interest to Mirror of Justice readers, in a passage that runs in the hardcover edition from pages 256-274, Applebaum addresses the role of the Catholic Church in Eastern Europe and the inevitable clash between the Church and State that followed the invasion of the Red Army from Russia.  Communists “instinctively hated and feared church leaders,” not only because of their ideological atheism but because they appreciated that “[r]eligious leaders were a source of alternative moral and spiritual authority,” as well as independent financial resources and connections to the rest of the world.


Sisk, Greg | Permalink