Making Sense of the Role of Religion in Russia's Invasion of Ukraine

A bombed out building in Ukraine and Christian religious icons.

Event Details




Online: Zoom

In-Person at WWU:
Academic West, Room 204



Brought to you by:

Additional support has been provided by the Institute for Global Engagement, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Fairhaven College, History Department, Political Science Department, Ray Wolpow Institute, The Foundation for WWU & Alumni

15th Annual Distinguished Speaker of the Department of Global Humanities and Religions


The war in Ukraine is now over two years old, and the human toll is staggering: over 14.6 million Ukrainians are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. Russia's list of grievances used to justify its brutal invasion include an accusation that Ukraine has persecuted the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. How does religion figure into the war?

Nicholas Denysenko of Valparaiso University explains how a simmering conflict among Orthodox Christians in Ukraine contributed to Putin's decision to bomb and invade Ukraine. In this public lecture, Denysenko will introduce the historical events that created divisions among Orthodox believers in Ukraine and Russia, will explain how religious leaders use hate speech to promote discrimination and violence in Ukraine, and will address the controversial claim that the Ukrainian government is persecuting the Russian Orthodox Church and its believers in Ukraine.

This presentation will not be recorded.


Nicholas Denysenko is a light-skinned male with short cropped hair and a bear. He smiles and wears a rain parka.

Nicholas Denysenko, Speaker

Nicholas Denysenko is Emil and Elfriede Jochum University Professor and Chair and Professor of Theology at Valparaiso University in Indiana. He is the author of numerous articles and books on liturgy and religion in Ukraine, including The Church's Unholy War: Russia's Invasion of Ukraine and Orthodoxy (Cascade Books, 2023). 

Accommodations and Other Details

Contact Maureen Christman if you have questions or need disability accommodations by calling (360) 650-3030 or emailing

Advance notice for disability accommodations and special needs is greatly appreciated. Please indicate your special needs on the registration form.

There will be auto-captions available for the Zoom webinar.

Limited paid parking is available in the C lots at the south end of campus and in lots 6V and 7G at the north end of campus. Western provides comprehensive parking details—including lot locations, applicable fees, and campus map. Please note that if you park at the north end of campus it's a long walk to the south end of campus and Academic West.