The Orthodox Church in Poland
The Orthodox Church in the Commonwealth has many hundred-year-old histories. Its beginnings date back to the period of formation of the state of Poland. The subjection of the Vislanes tribe’s territories by Great Moravia resulted in the Christianisation of Little Poland as early as the end of 9th century. So the Methodian rite had been widespread in the Polish territories long before the adoption of Christianity by Mieshko I in 966. It is assumed that as early as in the 10th century bishoprics of this rite were founded in Cracow and Vislica. The Orthodox Church became a continuation of the Metodian tradition in Poland. It took over the liturgy in the Church-Slavonic language - comprehensible at that time, rites and values of the Eastern Christianity, disseminated among the Slavs by the saints Cyril and Methodius.
During the reign of Mieshko I, the Chervinskie Castle-towns constituted part of his state. Only in 981 Prince of Kiev Volodymyr occupied Peremysl and the territories on the Bug and San rivers. Baptism of Rus in 988 generated the Christianisation of that area by the Eastern Church. It is supposed that the bishopric in Volodymyr in Volhynia came into existence at the turn of the 10th century and at the beginning of the next century it started its missionary activity. The incorporation of the Chervinskie Castle-towns by Boleslav the Brave in 1018 initiated constant presence of the Orthodox Church within the borders of the State of Poland. In the 11th century the eastern regions of Poland stayed under the jurisdiction of bishops of Volodymyr and of Turau-Pinsk. During Poland’s disintegration into duchies in the12th-13th centuries, development of the Orthodox institutions took place. This process was enhanced by the missionary activity of newly-founded bishoprics in: Smolensk (1136), Halich (between 1147 and 1155), Bielgorod (end of 10th cent.), Novgorod (before 1050), Chernihov (end of 10th cent.), Pereiaslav (beg. of 11th cent), Polotsk (beg. of 11th cent.), Volodymyr (end of 10th cent.), Rostov-Suzdal (after 1073), Turau (1088), Yurievsk-Kaniev (after 1036), Tmutarakan (mid 11th cent) . These bishoprics belonged to the Metropolia of Kiev.
Princes of Halich-Volhynia made a particular contribution to the development of the Orthodox Church in the eastern territories of Poland. In consequence of the transfer of the seat of the metropolian of Kiev from Kiev to Vlodimir on the Klazma, Duke of Halich George I, in 1303, received permission from the patriarchate of Constantinople (to which the Orthodox Church in the Rhutenian territories was jurisdically subjected) to establish a separeate metropolia. The metropolia of Halich embraced the bishoprics of Volodymyr, Peremysl, Lutsk, Turau and Kholm. At the same time, as a result of efforts made by dukes of Lithuania, the Lithuanian metropolia was called into being with the seat in Novahradak. The establishment of the new Orthodox Church structure was connected with the plans of the subjugation of Rhutenian territories by Lithuania, and with leading to a break of ties with the metropolia of Kiev, being under the influence of dukes of Moscow. Due to their activities, both the metropolias - the Lithuanian one and that of Halich - were dissolved in 1330.Their reestablishment took place under the rules of Olgerd in Lithuania in 1350. In 1371, the metropolia of Halich was incorporated into the Lithuanian one. The dissolution of the metropolia of Halich by the dukes of Lithuania was connected with the annexation of Rus of Halich to the Crown in 1366. Casimir the Great’s death (1370) cancelled the plans of the establishment of the independent Orthodox Church structure within the State of Poland.
The Union of Krevo (1386) made the Orthodox Church in the Crown and in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania find itself under the common jurisdiction of the Lithuanian metropolitans (nominally of Kiev-Halich). At the beginning of the 15th century, the division of the Orthodox Church in the Ruthenian territories finally ended. The structure being monolithic until then was divided into the Lithuanian and Vlodimir-Suzdal parts. The dividing line between the two metropolias ran along the state borders between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Duchy of Moscow. In 1415 Greory Tsamblak was elected metropolitan of Lithuania (of Kiev-Halich) and Fotsius - metropolitan of Moscow. In 1458, metropolitans of Moscow officially renounced their title to the metropolia of Kiev.
From 1458 to the Union of Brest (1596), the Orthodox Church in the Ruthenian territories of the Polish-Lithuanian State had its separate structure (the metropolia of Kiev-Halich), hierarchically subordinated to the patriarchate of Constantinople. Until the mid - 16th century, the dependence on Constantinople was limited to a formal confirmation and blessing of a new metropolitan by the patriarch. Only before the Union of Brest, the patriarchate made efforts aiming at tighter subordination of the Ruthenian church in Poland to itself. Loose dependence of the Orthodox Church on the patriarchate was not accompanied by the increase in importance of the Ruthenian hierarchy as at the same time the church was subordinated to the superior authority of the king or grand duke, who took over some juridical powers from a patriarch, particularly those concerning the appointment of metropolitans and bishops. As regulated by the canon law, the synod of bishops elected a metropolitan, who was later confirmed by the patriarch. From 1480, by the king’s order, it became customary for the synod of bishops to elect metropolitans with the participation of laymen. Kings and lay magnates not always conformed themselves to canon requirements, tradition or the needs of the Orthodox Church.
In the 16th century, the metropolitan possessed an official title of the archbishop metropolitan of Kiev, Halich and of all Rus. He did not usually reside in Kiev but in the northern part of his diocese, in Novahradak or in Vilnyus. The metropolitan’s jurisdiction embraced ten dioceses, seven out of which lay within the borders of the Grand Duchy of Kiev, Polotsk-Vitsebsk, Smolensk-Sievier, Chernihov-Bransk, Turau-Pinsk, Lutsk-Ostrogsk and Volodymyr), and the other three in the Ruthenian territories of the Crown (of Kholm-Belz, Peremysl-Sambor and Halich). Two or three word names of the bishoprics resulted from the preservation of historical names of the dioceses, from the indication of an ordinary’s place of residence or transfer of jurisdiction together with the title to a new place. The area of the metropolia of Kiev was within the borders of the state. After the annexation of the districts of Sievier-Chernihov and of Smolensk by Moscow at the beginning of the 16th century, the metropolia of Kiev lost the bishoprics of Kiev and Chernihov. In 1539, the bishopric of the Greek Church in Halich was renamed the bishopric of Lviv. By the end of 16th century, there had been 8 Orthodox dioceses within the borders of the Polish Commonwealth. In the territories of the Crown, they were divided into „namiestnics”, and in the Grand Duchy - into a protopope’s districts. A protopope’s and „namestnic’s” districts shaped up under the influence of the state administrative divisions, structure of property and the development of the network of parishes. A parish was a basic unit of the Orthodox administration. The density of parish distribution resulted from the level of the economic growth of the region, the number of the faithful. It was influenced by the division of property and by the state of the religious awareness of the Rhutenians. The greatest number of parishes was found in the capitals of dioceses and a protopope’s districts (Pinsk - 13, Vilnyus - 12, Volodymyr - 11, Lviv, Brest, Kamianets and Ovruch - 8 each, Halich and Polotsk - 7 each, Lutsk, Kolomyia, Kovel, Hrodno - 6 each, Kholm, Belsk, Kletsk - 5 each) . However, the areas with one or two parishes prevailed. The development of a parish network was hindered due to the progress of the Reformation and Catholicism, and, which was connected with it, due to the process of the renunciation of the Orthodox faith by the Rhutenian nobility.
The Council of Brest, in 1596, divided the Eastern Church into Orthodox and Uniats. By the decree of King Sigismund III Vasa (1587 - 1632) the Uniats were given all the rights and privileges which had formerly belonged to the Orthodox Church. The Orthodox faith, to which the vast majority of the clergy and laity remained loyal, was no longer recognised by the government. Between 1596 - 1632 Orthodox Christians sought to regain the rights and properties which had belonged to their Church. They, together with the aid of Protestant Christians, forced the parliament to assemble in 1607 and 1609 to confirm the rights of their church within the Commonwealth. After this, a bitter feud over monasteries, churches and property began. Despite extensive efforts, it was not until 1620 that the hierarchy of the Orthodox Church was reactivated, and Yov (Boretsky), the ighumen of the Monastery of St. Michael, became Metropolitan of Kiev. This fact, however, was not recognised by the government . The king supported the expansion of the Uniate Church and this was even strengthened following the killing of the Uniat Archbishop of Vitsebsk, Josaphat Kuntsevich. Officially, the Orthodox Church and its hierarchy were not recognised until 1632, during the election of King Vladyslav IV (1633 - 1648). Peter Mohyla, the archimandrite of the Cave Lavra of Kiev, became Metropolitan of Kiev. The last apportionment of the Orthodox and Uniat jurisdictions occurred in 1635. The Orthodox Church received bishoprics in: Kiev, Lviv, Lutsk, Peremysl, Mstsislav and Chernihov. The Uniats received bishoprics in: Kiev, Polotsk, Peremysl, Kholm, Volodymyr, Pinsk and Smolensk (until 1656). Orthodox Christianity dominated in central and south-eastern Rhutenian territories belonging to the Polish Crown while Uniats dominated in the south-western Rhutenian territories, and the Principality of Lithuania. During the reign of King Vladyslav IV, new concepts of Uniatism were proposed, among them, the creating of a Russian patriarchate under the jurisdiction of the papacy .
The reign of King John Casimir (1648-1668) led to important changes for both the Orthodox and the Uniats. At the time of the Uprising of Bohdan Khmelenytsky, the Agreement of Zboriv (1649) was negotiated between the Cossacks and the Polish Commonwealth, according to which the Union of Brest was to be nullified in the Polish Crown and in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and was to give the Orthodox Metropolitan a seat in the senate. Thanks to the diplomacy of the Apostolic Nuncio, Ioannes de Torres (1645-1652), and the Catholic bishops, the Agreement of Zboriv was ratified, but without the article nullifying the Union of Brest. The Agreement of Zboriv was renewed in successive agreements with the Cossacks, but the agreement upon matters regarding religion was never put into effect.
An important change for both the Orthodox and the Uniats occurred following the Agreement of Pereiaslav (1654), with the Cossacks, as a result of which Left-Bank Ukraine came under the jurisdiction of Russia. The annexation of the Cossack lands under the jurisdiction of the Tsars of Russia meant war with the Polish Commonwealth. Between 1654-1658, Moscow’s military forces occupied the territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and a substantial portion of the Russian territories belonging to the Polish Crown. The Patriarchate of Moscow attempted to include the Metropolia of Kiev under its jurisdiction as well as the other bishoprics located in the territories which had been won by Moscow’s military forces.
In the course of the war, the Polish-Moscovite negotiations, held at Nemiezy (1656), elected Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich (1645-1676) to be King of Poland, and reaffirmed the rights and privileges of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches, as well as calling for a common synod of both churches to ratify a treaty of inter-faith relations . Poland faced defeat in its war with Sweden, and projects for the partitioning of Poland were being drawn up and thus it was prepared to accept Russia’s conditions.
Following Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky’s death (1657), the new Cossack commander Ivan Vyhovsky decided to renew allegiance to the Polish Commonwealth and to break with the Agreement of Pereiaslav. The result of this decision was the conclusion of the Agreement of Hadziach, which established the Great Principality of Rhutenia as a third entity alongside the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Crown-lands, within the Commonwealth. The agreement nullified the Union of Brest within the territory of the Principality of Rhutenia, and all property which was held by the Uniats was returned to the Orthodox Church. Orthodox bishops were given seats in the senate.
Following the conclusion of the Agreement of Hadziach, there began a battle for its ratification in the Polish Sejm. The proposal to liquidate the Union of Brest in Ruthenia was accepted by some of the Latin bishops and Polish noblemen who owned land which was now controlled by the Cossacks. The papacy, the Papal Nuncio Peter Vidoni (1652-1660), and the Uniats were opposed to the ratification of the Agreement of Hadziach, and were successful in having the articles nullifying the Union of Brest removed from the ratified version of the Agreement of Hadziach (1659). Simultaneously, Orthodox Christians were confronted by a new project of Uniatism, involving the recognition of papal authority without having to recognise Catholic theology . The project soon proved to be unacceptable to both sides. In September 1659, George Khmelnytsky became the new Hetman of the Cossacks. He broke with the Agreement of Hadziach and reaffirmed his allegiance to Russia, under the new Agreement of Pereiaslav .
Alliance with Russia did not last long. Under the terms of the Agreement of Tsudnovsk (1660), George Khmelnytsky pledged allegiance to the King of Poland. The Agreement of Tsudnovsk did not deal with the issues of religion. The partition of the Ukraine was determined by the Polish-Moscovite War. The Left-Bank, under Hetman Ivan Brzukhovetsky, came under the jurisdiction of Moscow. The Right-Bank, under the new Hetman, Paul Tetera, was allied with the Commonwealth. The political partitions led to the partitioning of the ecclesiastical jurisdictions. In contradiction to canon law, the Patriarch of Moscow appointed Bishop Methodius Filimonovich administrator of the Metropolia of Kiev. In the territory belonging to the Commonwealth, in the mid-sixties, two individuals were simultaneously elected Metropolitan of Kiev (Anthony Vynnycky and Joseph Nelubovich Tukalsky). The Uniats also had problems enthroning a metropolitan. The Papacy had significant reservations regarding Gabriel Kolendo, and thus refrained from appointing him metropolitan until 1665. Furthermore, The Catholic clergy accused the Uniats of maintaining Orthodox beliefs and cultivating Orthodox traditions.
In 1650, three quarters of the churches of the eastern rite were still Orthodox. Orthodoxy was dominant in the north-eastern regions of the metropolia, in the bishoprics of: Lviv, Lutsk, Peremysl, Pinsk, Chernihov, Smolensk and Mstsislav. The Uniats were dominant in the Lithuanian parts of the metropolia, in the bishoprics of: Kholm and Volodymyr-Brest. The last years of the reign of King John Casimir witnessed the increasing influence of Uniatism in those regions where Orthodoxy had been dominant . This was caused by the internal division of the Orthodox Church, increased respect for Uniatism in conjunction with the canonisation of Josaphat Kuntsevich, as well as an increased influence of the Papacy at the Polish Court. An example of this was the appointment of Orthodox bishops who had secretly converted to Catholicism. Other reasons for the increasing influence of Uniatism were the conversion of the majority of the Orthodox nobility, and the Cossacks’ loss of influence due to the internal division.
King John Casimir’s abdication resulted in the strengthening of the counter-reformation and Uniatism. This was followed by the enforcement of anti-Orthodox legislation. The Sejm enforced the Constitution of 1676, in which Orthodox Christians were forbidden contact with the Patriarchate of Constantinople. From 1699 official city positions could be occupied only by Catholics and Uniats . As a result, by the end of the seventeenth century, the bishops of Peremysl, Lviv and Lutsk (1702) converted to Uniatism, taking with them the majority of the parishes of their bishoprics. Only one bishopric was left in the Commonwealth: the Byelorussian bishopric of Mohylev. An important change, having far-reaching effects on the future of Orthodox Christianity in Poland, was the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s relinquishing its jurisdiction over the Metropolia of Kiev in favour of the new Patriarchate of Moscow. On the basis of the Treaty of the 3rd May 1686, which was signed in Moscow between Poland and Russia, the Metropolia of Kiev, being located within the territory belonging to the Tsar, received the right of jurisdiction over all Orthodox parishes located in Polish territory . As a result of this fact, the ensuing fate of the Orthodox Church and of the Uniats, proved to be dependent on external factors, and in particular, the growing power of the Russian Empire.
After the conversion of the mentioned bishops, only one bishopric was left for the Orthodox Church in the Polish Commonwealth - the Byelorussian one with the seat in Mohylev. Parishes within the former diocese of Polotsk were submitted to its authority whereas the others underwent the jurisdiction of the metropolitan of Kiev, residing abroad. He was helped by his coadjutor bishop of Pereiaslav. That state of things lasted up to the first partition of Poland. Catherine II dissolved the bishopric of Byelorussia and it was only in 1785 that she appointed in its place the deputy metropolitan of the metropolia of Kiev as the Greek Church bishop of Pereiaslav-Boryspolsk. The archimandrite of Slutsk Victor Sadkovsky embraced that post. After his arrest in 1789, Sejm the Great in session decided to call into being an Orthodox structure independent of Moscow. Held in Pinsk in 1791, synod of ecclesiastical and lay representatives of the Orthodox communities created supreme authority of the Church in the Commonwealth - the Highest Consistory of the Greek-Oriental Rite in the Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania. As passed on the basis of the Pinsk resolutions, the Sejm constitution of 21st May 1792 restored hierarchical supremacy of the patriarchate of Constantinople over the Orthodox Church in Poland. Superior authority of the Church was to be wielded by the state synod consisting of the metropolitan and three bishops. The metropolitan and the bishops of the Greek Church were to be elected by the synod and confirmed by the government. The metropolitan was to be assisted by a subsidiary organ - general consistory, and the bishops - by diocese congregations . The Polish-Russian war and the second partition of Poland made it impossible to introduce this project. After the third partition, the Orthodox community found itself under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The partitions of Poland that took place between 1793 and 1795 caused total failure of the concept of the independent Orthodox structure formation in the territory of the former Polish Republic. Orthodox parishes existing within its borders were subordinated to the obedience of Russian bishops. Russian authorities imposed synodal-consistorial system upon the Orthodox Church and thus supressed its legal and administrative separateness. The Orthodox Church in Polish territories lost its conciliar character and identity. At the end of XVIII century and at the beginning of XIX century eleven monastic establishements were closed down and after attachement of Bialystok Region to Russia in 1807 – three subsequent ones. Russian bishops were abolishing old monasteries and simultaneously organizing the new ones. In 1825 in areas belonging to the Kingdom of Poland the Committee for Religious Creeds and Public Education was appointed. Its task was to take care of Orthodox people, who were not numerous in this region. The other parishes remaining within the borders of the former Grand Dutchy of Lithuania were subordinated to the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Mensk and exposed to the process of entire unification with the Russian Orthodox Church.
In the twenties of the nineteenth century the process of converting the Uniat parishes to Orthodoxy was initiated. Between 1818 and 1836 Uniat bishops were carrying out reforms which eliminated the differences between the Orthodox and Unite rite. The organizational structure was reconstructed, The Orthodox liturgical books were introduced, and the interior decorations of the Unite and Orthodox churches were made alike. On 25 March 1839 during the oecumenical council in Polock the Uniats were incorporated into the Russian Orthodox Church. The main initiator of uniting the Uniats with the Orthodox Church in Byelorussia and Lithuania was raised to a dignity of the archbishop – Józef Siemashko.
The situation looked different in the Austrian sector of partitioned Poland where huge development of the Greek Catholic faith could have been observed. The similar religious situation could also have been noticed in territories of the Polish Kingdom where till 1830 the Union had been predominant. Latinization of the Uniat rite was especially powerful there as the provisions of Zamoysky Synod from 1720 were all brought into practice in the territories of the Kingdom. It was only when in 1872 Tsar Alexis II established the Special Committee for the Matters of the Khelm Diocese, whose member was also an administrator of the Chelm Bishopric – Priest Marceli Popiel, that the influences on Uniats’ convertion to the Orthodox Church were exerted increasingly. Popiel, following the order of the Committee, published ‘Circular’ (‘Okólnik’) directed to the Uniat clergy in which he ordered to celebrate a service according to the rules of the Eastern Church and to break entirely with the changes enforced by the Synod in Zamość. ‘Circular’ clearing liturgy from Latin denizen came into force with the support of civil authorities. Bringing ‘Circular’ into practice meant the beginning of annexation of the Uniats to the Orthodox Church. The final annexation of the Uniats from the Khelm Diocese to the Orthodoxy took place on 11 May 1875 by the ruling of the Russian Orthodox Church Synod. The faithful from the area of the Chelm Bishopric were incorporated into the Varsovian-Khelm Diocese.
Between 1863 and 1915 there was a network of Orthodox parishes which were finally shaped within the framework of the Russian Orthodox Church. Some changes in religious relationships were initiated by the tolerant ukase of Tsar Nicholas II, which dated back 1905. Some of the former Uniats, mainly coming from the Dioceses in Siedlce and Lublin, left the Orthodoxy then and joined the Roman Catholic Church. The next disorganization of the Orthodox community took place during the I World War. A predominant part of the congregation of the Orthodox Church occupying eastern areas of Polish territories was evacuated to remote regions of Russia. The parish life on the land which had been abandoned by the Orthodox community between 1915 and 1918 died completely. Only two bishops stayed in mentioned areas: Vilnyus’s – Tichon and Krzemienic’s – Dionyzii. The first became the Moscow patriarch and the other one the Warsaw metropolitan.
During the 2nd Polish Republic the Orthodox Church was not supported by an ascendency of the authority yet but was identified with the invader’s religion. As a result of an action of reclaim the Orthodox Church lost over 400 temples. The socio-political changes in Soviet Russia weakened the position of the patriarchate which gave the Orthodox Church autonomy and charge over the local oecumenical council of bishops with an exarch who had the authority of a metropolitan. In 1921 the title of an exarch was granted to a Mensk-Turau bishop – Georg. Between 1918 and 1923 the Orthodox Church existing within borders of the Polish Republic had over 4 million faithful and was divided into seven dioceses. On one hand Polish authorities were aiming at establishing the Orthodox Church structure which was supposed to be independent of Moscow and on the other hand they were limiting the number of Orthodox parishes.
The first Warsaw metropolitan was Bishop Georg, and then after his tragic death Archbishop Dionyzii. The metropolitan continued making efforts to establish church autocephalia. The metropolitan together with the state authorities obtained permission to establish autocephalia from Constantinopole’s patriarchate on 13 November 1924. Autocephalia of the Orthodox Church in Poland was acknowledged in the period between two World Wars by all patriarchates and autonomous churches except for the Russian one. The most difficult period that the Polish Autocephalian Church of the 2nd Polish Republic experienced was the year 1938 when by decision of administrative authorities over 300 sacral buildings in Khelmshchyzna and Podlachia were pulled down. The juridical settlement of the Orthodox Church was finally regulated on 18 November 1938 by the president’s decree ‘About the Country’s Attitude Towards the Polish Autocephalian Orthodox Church’.
The Second World War led to new changes in position and organization of the Orthodox Church in Polish territories. During the period of German occupation there were three dioceses existing in the borders of German-occupied Poland: Varsovian diocese, Chelm’s diocese and Cracovian one. Polish territories which existed in the Soviet Union between 1939 and 1941 became a part of the Mensk Diocese. Eastern provinces incorporated into BSSR and USSR after 17 September 1939 became the places of restrictions imposed on possibilities of religious ministrations but this time forced by Soviet administration. Further changes in religious life happened during German occupation. Fascist authorities aiming at liquidation of communist ideology allowed reviving a lot of new parishes in the framework of the Byelorussian or Ukrainian Orthodox Church. As a result, since 1941 there had been the Orthodox Church structures created with support of German occupation authorities but not accepted by other Orthodox Churches.
Since the end of the Second World War the control over the Orthodox Church within new Polish borders had been taken by the Temporary Supervising College of the Polish Orthodox Church with Bishop Tymoteush (Shretter) in charge. The Orthodox Church obtained complete autocephalia in Poland on the basis of the decree of the Saint Synod of the Moscow’s Patriarchate that took place on 22 June 1948. The first superior of the Polish Autocephalian Orthodox Church had been Archbishop Tymoteush and since 1951 Metropolitan Makary. In 1952 four dioceses were created: Warsaw-Belsk, Bialystok-Gdańsk, Łódź-Poznań and Breslau-Shchetsin. In 1983 the Peremysl-Novy Sąch Diocese was revived and later in 1989 the Lublin-Khelm one. Nowadays the Polish Autocephalian Orthodox Church consists of six dioceses including 250 parishes, 410 Orthodox temples, 8 bishops, 280 clergy and 600 000 worshippers. Since 1998 the dignity of the superior of the Orthodox Church in Poland has been performed by Metropolitan Sawa (Hrycuniak).
Having discussed the history of the Orthodox Church in Polish territories in XIX and XX century it must be noticed that complete sovereignty of the Church has always been connected with the independence of the Polish State. Neither nominal nor factual control of the Constantinopole Patriarchate over the Orthodox Church in Poland affected the country’s sovereignty. Supremacy of the Russian Orthodox Church over the Orthodox community in former Polish territories was associted with Russian interference in Polish home affairs or the loss of independence. The autocephalia’s status, which had been worked out during Sejm the Great and came into being in the 2nd Polish Republic and in the post-war period, confirmed the unity of both the State’s and the Orthodox Church’s fate.
The Orthodoxy was a permanent factor of our country’s religious structure and in some parts of Poland appeared to be even a dominant religion. Eastern Christian tradition became rooted in all life forms of Byelorussian and Ukrainian inhabitants living in the territories of our country. In their nation’s history the Orthodoxy made their basic religion, fundamental piece of their awareness shaping home culture and identity. Other churches’ and religions’ further influence on these nations was of the secondary importance. It’s worth emphasizing that in the latest history of the Polish State the Orthodox Church managed to create independent existence which finds expression in its commonly accepted autocephalia. After many centuries of the State’s and the Churche’s common fortunes, nowadays, the Orthodoxy is not treated as a foreign religion but as our own one. Multireligious tradition of the former Polish Republic had unquestionable impact on such treatment of the second, as far as the number of worshippers is concerned, church in Poland.