POKUTNYKY [PENITENTS] (SLAVONIC CHURCH OF THE HOLY SPIRIT)
The Pokutnyky [‘Penitents’], or the Slavonic Church of the Holy Spirit, were a religious eschatological movement in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC). After the prohibition of the UGCC in the USSR (1946) and repression of the clergy, those monks and priests still at liberty went into the catacombs. In 1954 a group of adherents gathered around the underground Greek Catholic priest Father Mykhailo Soptys who proclaimed the Soviet regime to be the Antichrist. The group became known as Pokutnyky (from the word “pokuta” – repentance, penitence).
Since Soptys’ views differed in many things from the teaching of the Catholic Church, he left the UGCC and broke with the underground bishops and since that time the Pokutnyky have existed as an unregistered sect.
They believe that the ideological-mythological centre of the world is the village Srednye (“Middle”) near the Carpathian Mountains where the new Rome will rise up. From here there will be a rebirth and revitalization of the Catholic faith throughout the world. Their ideal is a theocratic monarchy, their flag – blue, yellow and white.
The community of Pokutnyky was fairly well-represented in Western Ukraine, especially in the area around the Carpathian Mountains. Since the penitents refused to serve in the army and to work for the state if that interfered with their prayers, they were often subjected to persecution (cf. Mariya ANTONIV, Semen SKALYCH). In contemporary Ukraine they have slightly moderated their attitude to the authorities (they agreed to accept passports and other documents that they had rejected under Soviet rule), however their community remains unregistered.