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Rise and fall of Galicia. The princes of Halych and Volhynia, whose dominions bordered Roman Catholic Hungary and Poland to the west and north, forged a united state from the remnants of Kievan Rus’, eventually absorbing Kiev, too. For more than a century, Halych-Volhynia (more commonly known today as Galicia) rivaled the Kievan state at its height in size and wealth, even as its leaders paid homage to their Mongol overlords.

One such prince, Daniel (died 1264), opened Galicia to Armenian, Baltic, German, Hungarian, Jewish and Lithuanian merchants, who formed self-contained communities throughout the realm. He strengthened alliances with neighboring Catholic powers and even enlisted the aid of the papacy in his quest to strengthen his anti-Mongol coalition. Though the churches of Constantinople and Rome had been out of communion for nearly two centuries, Rusyns remained in communion with both.

In 1253, Galician Grand Prince Daniel was crowned king by a representative of the pope, though the Rusyn Church remained under the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church of Constantinople. Three years later, King Daniel founded the city of Lviv, naming it for his son and successor, Lev, who in 1272 made Lviv his capital. In recognition of Galicia’s ascendancy, the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople in 1303 erected a metropolitan archiepiscopal see in Lviv, filling the void created by Maxim’s departure of Kiev for Vladimir four years earlier. Galicia’s dominance also proved short-lived. By the middle of the 14th century, the Lithuanians carved it up, taking Kiev as booty in 1321. Though long past its prime, the allure of Kiev remained. This “mother of all Rusyn cities” continued as the spiritual center of Rusyn Christianity. By the 15th century, the metropolitan archbishop of Halych left Lviv for Kiev, where he assumed a new title, “Metropolitan of Kiev, Halych and all Rus’.”

Catholics and Orthodox. The unification of the Lithuanian and Polish states in the late 14th century, and the subsequent adoption of Roman Catholicism as the state church of this united commonwealth, did not adversely impact the spiritual lives of Rusyns until the definitive break between the Rusyn and Roman churches in 1439. That year, Metropolitan Isidore of Kiev, Moscow and all the Rus’, the Rusyn representative at the Council of Florence, endorsed the council’s decree restoring full communion between the Catholic and Orthodox churches. An ally of the Byzantine Emperor John VIII, who had championed the council to win Catholic support for his dying empire, Isidore returned to Moscow and was subsequently imprisoned for his “apostasy of Orthodoxy.”

In 1453, the year Constantinople fell to the Ottomans, Rusyn bishops of the Orthodox Church separated formally into two distinct metropolia (which remained in full communion), Moscow and Kiev, nuclei of the modern Russian and Ukrainian churches.

As Catholic Poland expanded, its nobility bound Orthodox Rusyn peasants to the land. Many fled to the southeast, finding refuge in the hinterlands, or “Ukraine.” These Cossacks formed autonomous communities of nomadic horsemen, often defying Polish law, and eventually became staunch supporters of Moscow and its tsar.

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