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International Resources for Latter-day Saints

Reaching the Nations


By David Stewart and Matt Martinich

Return to Table of Contents


Area: 603,550 square km.  Located in Eastern Europe on the shore of the Black Sea, Ukraine is the second largest country by geographic size in Europe and borders Russia, Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, and Belarus.  Two major rivers – the Dnieper and the Dniester – flow through central and western Ukraine, respectively.  The Crimean Peninsula constitutes the southernmost region which protrudes into the Black Sea.  Fertile plains and plateaus account for most the terrain although some mountains are found in the west (the Carpathians) and on the Crimean Peninsula.  Temperate climate characterized by hot summers and cold winters occurs in most areas with some Mediterranean climatic conditions experienced along the Black Sea.  Environmental issues include shortages of potable water, pollution, deforestation, and radiation contamination resulting from the 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster.  Ukraine is divided into 24 provinces, one autonomous republic, and two municipalities. 


Population: 45,415,596 (July 2010)       

Annual Growth Rate: -0.619% (2010)    

Fertility Rate: 1.27 children born per woman (2010)   

Life Expectancy: 62.56 male, 74.74 female (2010)                             



Ukrainian: 77.8%

Russian: 17.3%

Belarusian: 0.6%

Moldovan: 0.5%

Crimean Tatar: 0.5%

Bulgarian: 0.4%

Hungarian: 0.3%

Romanian: 0.3%

Polish: 0.3%

Jewish: 0.2%

Other: 1.8%


Ukrainians are concentrated in central and western areas whereas Russians are primarily found in the east and along Black Sea coastal areas.  Ukrainian and Russian population in many areas are heavily intermixed. Other ethnic groups typically reside near the border with the nations in which their respective ethnic group is primarily found.  Ukraine will likely continue to experience population decline for the next several decades due to decreasing birth and life expectancy rates. 


Languages: Ukrainian (67%), Russian (24%), other (9%).  Ukrainian is the official language.   Languages with over one million speakers include Ukrainian (30.4 million), Russian (10.9 million) and Polish (1.1 million).  Languages with over 100,000 speakers include Eastern Yiddish, Rusyn, Belarusian, Romanian, Crimean Tatar, Bulgarian, Hungarian, and Armenian. 


Ukrainian is an Eastern Slavic language with heavy Polish influence as well as its own unique constructs. Some 80% of Ukrainians are estimated to be bilingual in both Ukrainian and Russian.  Ukrainian is the official language, although Russian continues to be widely spoken, especially in the east and south, and there have been proposals to make Russian a second official language as most Russian-speakers are not fluent in Ukrainian.  Almost all Ukrainians can speak Russian, whereas few Russians can speak or understand Ukrainian.  Both Ukrainian and Russian are spoken in Kyiv.


Literacy: 99.4% (2001)



Ukraine was the center of the first eastern Slavic state, Kyivan Rus, which was the largest state in Europe during the 10th and 11th centuries. Weakened by internecine quarrels and Mongol invasions, much of Kyivan Rus was incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and eventually into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth; the eastern and southern portions of Ukraine were ruled by the Golden Horde. The cultural and religious legacy of Kyivan Rus laid the foundation for subsequent Ukrainian ethnic identity. A new Ukrainian state, the Cossack Hetmanate, was established during the mid-17th century after an uprising against the Poles. Despite continuous Muscovite pressure, the Hetmanate remained autonomous for well over 100 years. During the latter part of the 18th century, most Ukrainian ethnographic territory was absorbed by the Russian Empire; the western provinces bordering Galicia were annexed by Austria-Hungary during the partitions of Poland. Following the collapse of czarist Russia in 1917, western Ukraine achieved short-lived independence (1917-20) before being annexed into the Soviet Union.  During Soviet collectivization, Ukraine endured two forced famines (1921-22 and 1932-33) during which over 8 million died. Another 7 to 8 million Ukrainians died during World War II at the hands of German and Soviet forces.


Independence from the Soviet Union occurred in 1991.  Democracy and prosperity remained elusive as the legacy of state control and endemic corruption stalled efforts at economic reform, privatization, and civil liberties. A peaceful mass protest known as the Orange Revolution in the closing months of 2004 led to the overturn of election results criticized for irregularities by international observers. Viktor Yanukovich was elected president in a February 2010 run-off election that observers assessed as meeting international standards.



Ukraine possesses a unique culture which has endured for over a thousand of years separate from Russian culture.  Russian and Soviet rule attempted to eliminate the indigenous cultural influences during the many years of occupation – particularly in the east and south – as evidenced by the spread of the Russian language in these regions.  Contemporary cultural and political divides largely reflect differences between the Russian-dominated East and the Polish and Austro-Hungarian legacy of the more independent West.


Ukrainian culture, architecture, music, and art have been influenced by its eastern and western neighbors.  Gender roles tend to be traditional, although almost all women have worked since the Soviet era; grandparents play a greater role in raising children than in the West.  Ukrainian customs are heavily influenced by Eastern Orthodox Christianity.


Orthodox Christianity remains a strong influence on native culture as does the legacy of communism from much of the 20th century.  Common foods include beef, pork, fish, chicken, and mushrooms.  Pysanky – decorated Ukrainian eggs – are well-known for their designs and exquisite colors.  Ukraine also boasts a rich legacy of literature, music, and dance. [1]  The alcohol consumption rate is lower than much of Europe whereas cigarette consumption and divorce rates are very high.  Abortion is common and is often used as a form of birth control.



GDP per capita: $6,400 (2009) [13.8% of US]

Human Development Index: 0.788

Corruption Index: 2.2

Ukraine’s large population, fertile soil, and developed infrastructure made it one of the most productive and economically viable former Soviet republics.  Ukraine produced four times as much output as the next most productive republic at the time of independence, but output dropped by 40% in the 1990s due to efforts to reform the economy and industry which previously served specialized needs for the Soviet Union.  The economy remains highly sensitive and vulnerable to energy supplies and depends highly on Russia to meet these needs.  Limited economic growth has occurred since independence due to political turmoil, corruption, and the challenges resulting from economic reform. 


In 2009, Ukraine suffered a severe recession as GDP fell by 14%.  Services employ 66% of the work force and produce 59% of the GDP whereas industry employs 19% of the workforce and produces 31% of the GDP.  Major industries include coal, electric power, metals, and machinery.  The agricultural sector remains one of the strongest in Europe and employs 15% of the workforce and accounts for 10% of the GDP.  Primary agricultural products include grain, sugar beets, and sunflower seeds.  Although official unemployment rates are low, underemployment and unreported unemployment are major problems.  Primary trade partners include Russia, China, Turkey, and Germany. 


Ukraine's dependence on Russia for energy supplies and the lack of significant structural reform have made the economy vulnerable to external shocks. Ukraine depends on imports to meet about three-fourths of its annual oil and natural gas requirements and 100% of its nuclear fuel needs. After a two-week dispute that saw gas supplies cutoff to Europe, Ukraine agreed to ten-year gas supply and transit contracts with Russia in January 2009 that brought gas prices to world levels.


Corruption in Ukraine and Russia is perceived as the most widespread in Europe.  Corruption, which in some cases intersects with the operations of Ukrainian and international organized crime, has reached a level that leads many Ukrainian and Western observers to describe it as a direct threat to the country’s democratic development and economic prosperity.[2] Although the Orange Revolution in 2004 brought increased awareness and initiative to fight corruption, administrative corruption remains a major deterrent to foreign investment and economic development.  Most tax and customs privileges were eliminated in a March 2005 budget law, bringing more economic activity out of Ukraine's large shadow economy, but more improvements are needed, including fighting corruption, developing capital markets, and improving the legislative framework.  A small number of elite cartels control most the large businesses and industries.  The general public typically tolerates corruption and downplays its significance.  Government lacks transparency and a system of checks and balances to fight and prevent corruption.[3]  Money laundering has been a problem which has seen some improvement.  Illegal drugs are frequently trafficked through Ukraine for distribution worldwide.  


Christians: 96.2%

Jews: 0.6%

Other: 3.2%



Denominations  Members  Congregations

Ukrainian Orthodox  34,742,931

Ukrainian Greek Catholic  3,633,248

Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox  3,269,923

Catholic  999,143

Jehovah’s Witnesses  147,607  1,595

Seventh-Day Adventists  61,636  913

Latter-Day Saints  10,722  62



Ukraine was Christianized by Prince Volodymyr in 988. Under Soviet rule, churches and religion were subject to suppression and political manipulation; since 1991 churches have experienced greater independence. A 2001 survey by the SOCIS research center reported that over 40% of the population claim to be atheists.  A 2007 survey conducted by the Razumkov Center found that 40% of respondents identified as believers without belonging to a particular denomination whereas 37% identified with a particular religious denomination.  25% of respondents who identified with a particular denomination attended religious services at least once per month.[4] 


Three Ukrainian Orthodox Churches operate in the country.  The Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriachate (UOC-MP) is the largest Orthodox Christian denomination and has a significant presence in all but a few regions in the west.  The Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriachate (UOC-KP) is the second largest Orthodox group with members primarily concentrated in western and central Ukraine.  Approximately 70% of the adherents of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) – the smallest Orthodox denomination – live in western Ukraine.   The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) is the largest non-Orthodox denomination and nearly all its followers reside in western Ukraine, forming the majority in three western provinces as a legacy of historical Polish and Austro-Hungarian administration. 


Estimates for the number of Muslims vary from 500,000 to two million; most of whom are Crimean Tatars.  Roman Catholics tend to be Polish Ukrainians in central and western regions.  30% of the religious communities nationwide are Protestant[5], but Protestants account for only 2.2% of the population.  The estimated number of ethnic Jewish Ukrainians varies between 100,000 and 370,000.


Religious Freedom

Persecution Index:

The constitution protects religious freedom which is upheld by the government.  Most Orthodox and Greek Catholic holidays are national holidays.  Religious groups are required to register with the government in order to participate in banking, property transactions, and to publish literature.  Non-citizen religious works may proselyte and practice other religious activities under invitation of their respective religious organization and the government.  Foreign religious workers can only stay for 90 days on a religious worker visa and then must depart the country to extend their visa. Some disputes have occurred over land between religious organizations.  In recent years, there have been some reports of societal pressures against Jews and Muslims.  Minority religious groups report unequal treatment by local officials, and sometimes experience difficulty registering congregations or constructing church buildings in new areas.  Several positive developments increasing religious freedom have occurred recently, such as registered religious groups gaining the right to permanently use state-owned and communally-owned land in 2009.[6]  


Largest Cities

Urban: 68%

Kiev, Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovs'k, Donets'k, Odesa, Zaporizhzhya, L'viv, Kryvyy Rih, Mykolayiv, Mariupol', Luhans'k, Khmel'nyts'kyy, Sevastopol', Makiyivka, Simferopol', Vinnytsya, Kherson, Poltava, Chernihiv, Cherkasy, Sumy, Zhytomyr, Horlivka, Rivne, Kirovohrad, Dniprodzerzhyns'k, Chernivtsi, Ternopil', Kremenchuk, Luts'k, Ivano-Frankivs'k, Bila Tserkva, Kramators'k, Melitopol', Kerch, Nikopol', Syeverodonets'k, Slov”yans'k, Berdyans'k, Uzhhorod, Alchevs'k, Pavlohrad, Lisichansk, Yevpatoriya, Yenakiyeve, Oleksandriya, Kam”yanets'-Podil's'kyy.

Cities listed in bold have no nearby LDS congregation


29 of the 47 cities with over 100,000 inhabitants have congregations.  41% of the national population lives in the 47 largest cities. 


LDS History

The Austria Vienna East Mission first administered Ukraine and organized the first official congregation in Kyiv in June 1991 with about 40 members.[7]  Missionary work began in October 1990.  Elder Boyd K. Packer dedicated Ukraine for missionary work in September 1991 with 40 members, missionaries, and investigators present at the dedication held nearby a monument of Prince Vladimir who introduced Christianity to Ukraine in 988 AD.[8]  The Austria Vienna East Mission was relocated to Kiev and renamed the Ukraine Kiev Mission in February 1992.  At the time the mission served all of Ukraine.[9]  In 1993, a second mission was organized in Donetsk and seminary and institute began for the first time. 


During the 1990s, missionary work encountered some frustrations with local governments preventing missionaries from proselytizing in additional cities.  Dnepropetrovsk opened to missionary work in late 1993 and missionaries were banned from the city between 1994 and 1997; when missionaries were readmitted, tracting was not allowed, and missionaries worked primarily through member referrals, experiencing slow growth.


In 2000, the Europe East Area began administering Ukraine.  A third mission was to be organized in Odessa in 2000, [10] but was never created.  In 2007, the Church announced the organization of a mission in Dnepropetrovsk,[11]  and construction began on the Kyiv Ukraine Temple – the first to be built in the former Soviet Union.[12]  The Kyiv Ukraine Temple was completed in August 2010.


Membership Growth

LDS Membership: 10,722 (2009)

Converts rapidly joined the Church shortly after the arrival of missionaries in 1990.  The first missionaries to enter Ukraine arrived in Kyiv on 7 October 1990.The Kiev Branch was organized on 9 June 1991. By the end of the month there were 44 members in the branch. 14


Membership totaled 1,700 in 1993, 3,100 in 1995, and 6,369 in 1999.[13]  95 converts were baptized in June 1992 in the Ukraine Kiev Mission.  During 1999, the Ukraine Kiev Mission averaged 70 convert baptisms a month.  Growth rates fluctuated during the 1990s, with some years having as few as 5-25 convert baptisms a month per mission. 


By year-end 2002, there were 8,627 members, 2,700 of which lived in Kyiv.[14]  Around this time period, Donetsk had around 750 members.  In 2004, the Kyiv area had about 550 young single adults – 60 of which were returned missionaries and 30 were currently serving missions.[15] 


As recently as 1999, the Ukraine Kyiv mission was baptizing at least fifty people per month, or one baptism per companionship per month.  By the late 2000s, Ukrainian missions were only baptizing as many converts in a year as they had previously baptized in a month in the early 1990s.  The Ukraine Kyiv mission, which is tied for second place for growth in the Europe East Area with the Russia Rostov Mission and behind only the Armenia Yerevan Mission, reported 106 baptisms in 2006, 84 in 2007, and 76 in 2008.


Membership growth slowed substantially in the 2000s as members numbered 9,499 in 2004, 10,214 in 2006, and 10,557 in 2008.  The annual membership growth rate dropped from over seven percent in 2001 and 2002 to between one and two percent since 2007.     


Congregational Growth

Wards: 8  Branches: 54

Congregations multiplied prolifically in the mid-1990s from five to over 50 between 1994 and 1998.  By year-end 2000, there were 58 branches functioning in Ukraine.  In 2001 branches functioned in Kyiv (13), Bila Tserkva, Bogatoye, Brovary, Cherkassy, Chernihiv, Chernivtsi, Dnepropetrovsk (4), Donetsk (6), Gorlovka (2), Illichivsk, Ivano-Frankivs'k, Kharkiv (7), Lugansk, L’viv, Makiyivka (2), Mariupol, Mikolaiv, Odessa (3), Poltava, Rivne, Simferopol', Sumy, Vinnytsya, Yevpatoriya, and Zaporizhzhya.


Three districts were organized in Kyiv and were later consolidated into one district in the early 2000s in preparation to create the Kyiv Ukraine Stake.  At one time the districts administered to 15 branches in Kyiv until the number of branches were cut in half as branches were consolidated to increase the number of active members needed to turn the congregations into wards.  Additional districts were organized in Donetsk (1995), Kharkov (1996), Odessa (1997), and Dnepropetrovsk (1999).  Two districts once functioned for the eastern half of Donetsk (Makeyevka Ukraine District) and in Crimea (Sevastopol Ukraine District) and were both discontinued in the early to mid 2000s. 


The first and only stake – the Kyiv Ukraine Stake – was organized in May 2004 with seven wards and one branch.[16]  The number of congregations declined from 59 in 2001 to 53 in 2003 due to unit consolidations in Kyiv.  One city – Uzhorod – had its sole branch discontinued.  New congregations were organized in the latter half of the 2000s as the number of congregations increased to 57 in 2006 and 64 in 2009.  Many new congregations were organized in cities with recently established mission outreach centers such as Boryspil, Khmel'nyts'kyy, Kremenchuk, Sevastopol', and Zhytomyr.  Groups for members meeting in some cities operated in 2010 such as in Pavlohrad.  During the first half of 2010, two branches were discontinued in Donetsk and Odessa.


Activity and Retention

Nationwide or regional meetings have been well attended.  500 attended the dedication of the first meetinghouse in Donetsk in 1998.[17]  In 2002, a three-day young single adult conference had 330 in attendance.[18]  Approximately 3,200 members throughout Ukraine went to significant sacrifices in travel and expenses to attend a special meeting with President Hinckley in September 2002.[19]  At this time there were over 1,000 temple recommend holders.[20]  In 2004, 1,100 attended the creation of the first stake in Kyiv.[21]


Most branches appear to have an average of 40 to 50 active members.  Around 40 attended sacrament meeting in Chernivtsi in 2009.  Ivano-Frankivs'k had approximately 30 active members in mid-2009.  In late 2009, the Odessa Cheriomushki Branch had about 50 attending sacrament meeting, the Sykhivs'ka Branch and the L'viv branch in L’viv had about 30 active members each, the Simferopol' Branch had 30-40 attending weekly, and Zaporizhzhya had 40 active members including 10-12 priesthood holders. 


30 of the 70 total members in the Dnipropetrovsk Livoberezhna Branch were active in late 2009.  One of the branches in central Dnipropetrovs'k had 50 attending church weekly in 2010.  Yevpatoriya had about 10 active members out of 40 total members in mid-2010.  Recently opened cities – such as Kremenchuk and Zhytomyr – appeared to have less than 20 active members in 2010.  Around 70 of the 300 members on the records attended the Vynohradars'kyi Ward in the Kyiv Ukraine Stake in early 2010.  Most wards in the Kyiv Ukraine Stake appear to have between 70 and 150 attending weekly.  In L'viv, the number attending church in 2009 was not significantly different than in 1999, only three years after members entered the city. Members in many other cities report similar findings of only minimal growth in church attendance during the 2000s notwithstanding considerable increases in nominal membership.


The average number of members per congregation increased from 125 in 2000 to 168 in 2009.  In 2007, President Dale E. Anderson of the Ukraine Donetsk Mission described converts as faithful and well retained in his mission.[22]  However, the decline in congregations in the Donetsk region indicates little growth in active membership.  In most areas slowing growth has not brought higher convert retention, and only about a third of Ukrainian converts are retained.  Even the low present rates of nominal membership increase have significantly outstripped growth in church attendance.  The exodus of many young people to the West for education, work, or marriage has also limited local congregational growth.


During the 2008-2009 school year, 613 were enrolled in seminary or institute.  Active membership is estimated at between 30% and 35% of total membership, or between 3,200 and 3,700.


Language Materials

Languages with LDS Scripture: Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, Hungarian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Armenian. 


All LDS scriptures are available in Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, Romanian, Bulgarian, and Armenian (East).  Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, and Hungarian translations of many family history, missionary, Primary, young men, Priesthood, Relief Society, Sunday School, unit, and temple materials are available whereas fewer translations of these materials in Romanian, Bulgarian, and Armenian (East) are available.  The Liahona has 12 issues a year in Russian and Ukrainian, six in Hungarian, and four in Polish, Romanian, Bulgarian, and Armenian (East).  Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, Hungarian, and Bulgarian have several audio/visual materials and CES student manuals translated.  The Church has translated few materials into Belarusian which include the Articles of Faith, The Prophet Joseph Smith’s Testimony, Gospel Principles Simplified, the sacrament prayers, a video on the First Vision and Restoration, and a couple family history forms.  The Prophet Joseph Smith’s Testimony, Book of Mormon selections, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price are translated in the western dialect of Armenian, which is commonly spoken outside of Armenia.



The first church-built meetinghouse was dedicated in Donetsk in 1998.[23]  The first two meetinghouses completed by the Church in the Ukraine Kiev Mission were dedicated in 2001 and were renovated buildings to serve as meetinghouses.[24]  Some congregations meet in church-built meetinghouses but most meet in renovated buildings or rented spaces.


Humanitarian and Development Work

At least 52 humanitarian project sponsored by the Church had occurred by 2010.  A large number of Church donations were medical equipment.[25]  In February 1992, the Church donated 10,000 pounds of food and children’s clothing to the needy in Kyiv, approximately half of whom where Church members.[26]  In 1995, the Church donated six tons of urgently needed medical equipment to the Kiev Institute of Cardiovascular Surgery.[27]  Church members have organized humanitarian relief groups caring for orphanages in recent years.[28]  The Church has also provided vision treatment to the needy.[29]


Opportunities, Challenges and Prospects


Religious Freedom

In the past, missionaries experienced harassment in some cities and were forced to serve elsewhere.  Recently there appears to be greater local government tolerance towards the Church and its missionary efforts, although challenges in some areas continue.  The Church experienced challenges with the visa renewal process recently for foreign missionaries reentering the country with border guards refusing reentry.[30]  Missionaries typically travel to Bulgaria during the visa renewal process, which is time consuming and costly. 


Cultural Issues

High rates of divorce and tobacco use create a challenging climate for missionaries to work in as many suffer from the negative effects of these practices.  Converts who were unsuccessful in ending their substance abuse addictions prior to baptism rarely become active members.  Those who participated in an abortion are required to be interviewed by a member of the mission presidency before baptism. 


The LDS Church has struggled to develop approaches oriented toward adherents of Orthodox denominations, as missionary work has historically been tailored to fit the needs of Western Christians.  Increasing secularism and disinterest in religion from decades of communism have reduced Ukrainian’s receptivity to the gospel message.  Furthermore, many previously receptive Ukrainians were reached by Protestant denominations in the 1990s and shepherded into other churches. 


Ukraine exhibits a complex religious demography, particularly in western Ukraine where LDS missionary efforts have had little exposure to the several different forms of Christianity practiced.  The patchwork of Orthodox, Greek Catholic, and Roman Catholic Christians in an area with mission outreach generally limited to one city per province results in current mission efforts falling vastly short of their potential.  Crimean Tatars also possess  unique culture and religious background which have remained almost totally unreached by mission outreach to date. 


National Outreach

Missionary efforts continue to be concentrated in the largest cities with more than one congregation.  Nearly half of the missionaries in the Ukraine Kiev Mission in 2010 were serving in the city of Kyiv, although Kyiv is home only 5% of the national population.  Cities with mission outreach centers account for 34% of the national population.  Seven percent of the population resides in unreached cities with over 100,000 inhabitants.  Only two of these cities are in Western Ukraine (Ternopil' and Uzhhorod) whereas the remainder are primarily surrounding Dnepropetrovsk and to the north of Donetsk. 


Very few cities with less than 100,000 inhabitants have received mission outreach.  The few cities which have an outreach center have come primarily as the result of the efforts of local members.  Congregations such as the Bahate Branch on the Crimean Peninsula offer exciting possibilities in expanding missionary work and increasing the vision of local members and leaders as the town of Bahate has fewer than 20,000 inhabitants and is a considerable distance away from other large cities with mission outreach centers.  There are over 260 unreached cities between 10,000 and 100,000 inhabitants accounting for 16.5% of the national population.  As many large cities remained unreached by mission outreach, cities with smaller populations are a lesser priority.. 


One of the primary purposes of creating the Ukraine Dnepropetrovsk Mission was to open additional cities for missionary work increase the number of mission outreach centers.[31]  Since the organization of the new mission in 2007, only a handful of new cities have had missionaries consistently or periodically assigned.  Additional cities will likely receive mission outreach centers in the Dnepropetrovsk and Donetsk missions once members become more self-sufficient in Church administration tasks and responsibilities.  Challenges coordinating efforts between missionaries, Church leaders, members, and investigators in cities without congregations has slowed the pace additional cities have opened to the Church.[32]  Limited resources and missionary manpower have reduced the number of potentially reached cities. 


The Church maintains an Internet site for Ukraine at  The site explains Church doctrines and history in Ukrainian and provides opportunity to contact the Church and find meeting locations.  


Member Activity and Convert Retention

Over the past decade, convert retention rates have remained mediocre due to limited pre-baptismal preparation and inconsistent practices regarding the development of regular church attendance and other gospel habits before baptism.  Some initiatives have resulted in transient improvements in prebaptismal teaching and the qualification of prospective converts, but such policies have not been sustained.    Activity rates differ by city and can also be affected by relationships between members.  Kyiv appears one of the cities which have experienced some of the lowest convert retention rates, as three districts were merged into one to create the first stake due to inadequate numbers of active members to create three separate stakes over time.  Donetsk has also likely experienced some of the lowest retention rates as several congregations have been consolidated or dissolved over the past decade.  


Ethnic Issues and Integration

Primary ethnic integration issues are between Ukrainians and Russians, especially in provinces with large populations of both groups.  Congregations with the majority of active members consisting of Ukrainians can be a challenge to the fellowshiping of Russian speakers, and vice-versa.  Separate congregations exist where there are enough Russian and Ukrainian-speaking members to staff them.  However, most congregations are well-integrated and relationships are generally favorable between Ukrainian and Russian-speaking members.


Crimean Tatars and other ethnic minority groups have seen little if any mission outreach from Latter-day Saints.  These groups will likely face greater challenges than Russians or Ukrainians assimilating into established congregations, especially if they have no members from their ethnic group in their respective congregations.   


Language Issues

Full-time missionaries learned and taught the gospel in Russian until 1996 when missionaries began learning Ukrainian in the Missionary Training Center.  By the late 1990s, about 35% of the missionaries were Ukrainian-speaking. 


In cities with a single congregation, both Russian and Ukrainian are often spoken in a single meeting.  During a visit to L'viv, sometimes considered the cultural capital of Ukrainian-speaking Ukraine, in 1999, five Ukrainian-language testimonies and two Russian-language testimonies were heard in sacrament meeting, and students in institute class often switched back and forth between Ukrainian and Russian over the course of the lesson.  Ukrainian dialects vary regionally, and Russian words are sometimes borrowed to produce hybridized versions.  As most Ukrainian-speakers are bilingual, these practices tend to generate more difficulties for missionaries, who are trained only in a single language, than for local people.


Most ethnic minority groups have many Church materials translated into their languages.  Eastern Yiddish, Rusyn, and Crimean Tatar have the most speakers without any Church materials translated.  Speakers of these languages together account for fewer than five percent of the total population and appear unlikely to have Church materials translated for the foreseeable future as few if any members speak these languages. 


Missionary Service

In 1992, 35 missionaries served throughout Ukraine.[33]  In 2004, a conference for returned Ukrainian missionaries had over 40 in attendance.[34]  Between 80 and  100 missionaries served in the Ukraine Kiev Mission in 2009 and 2010.  In 2010 between 200 and 250 missionaries  served in Ukraine.


Ukraine remains highly dependent on foreign missionaries to staff its three missions.  The number of Ukrainian missionaries serving appears less than 50.  In the past, the Church has relied on recent converts to fill the need for native Ukrainian missionaries.  However, recent declines in membership growth and low LDS birth rates  will likely limit the number of Ukrainian missionaries.  The current visa difficulties faced by non-Ukrainian missionaries highlight the need for a self-sustaining native missionary force, yet little progress toward this goal occurred in the decade of the 2000s.  Challenges with registration of foreign missionaries , the expense involved in taking missionaries out of the country and re-entering every ninety days, and the low productivity of current missionary efforts, are all likely factors contributing to the stagnation or even decline



Ukraine has developed the strongest local church leadership of all nations of the former Soviet Union.  Vladimir Siwachok became the first Ukrainian-born mission president and presided over the Russia Rostov na Donu Mission in 1994.[35]  In 1996, Aleksandr N. Manzhos  began serving as mission president of the Ukraine Donetsk Mission, becoming the first Ukrainian to serve as a mission president in Ukraine.[36]  In 2008, Sergiy N. Mikulin from Kharkov was called as an Area Seventy[37] and Gennady Nikolaevich Podvodov from Donetsk began his tenure over the Russia St. Petersburg Mission.[38]


Sociologist Tania Rands Lyon observed that in Ukraine, "intelligentsia are relatively well represented among early converts to Mormonism. Especially in Kiev there are scientists, lawyers, university professors, business executives, engineers, two prominent surgeons and other health professionals, musicians and artists, a ballet master and a dramatist, several journalists and a prominent anchorwoman for Ukrainian television, linguists, teachers, and museum docents."[39]


The original stake presidency of the Kyiv Ukraine Stake had no Church employees, indicating that the Church has been successful at developing sufficient leadership without relying on church employees.[40]  Several recently established branches have native members serving as branch presidents whereas nearly all older branches have native branch presidents.  However, foreign missionaries continue to fill roles in some local congregations.  In 2009, a North American senior mission was serving as the branch president in Chernivtsi over a decade after missionaries entered the city.



Ukraine has developed moderate to high rates of temple attendance and recommend holders, resulting in the construction of the first temple in Eastern Europe in Kyiv.  The Church announced the Kyiv Ukraine Temple in 1998, although construction began only in 2007.  The delay was attributed primarily to finding a spot of land as large as the Church had requested.  The temple was originally planned to serve members throughout Eastern Europe, including the Baltic States.[41]  In April 2010, a total of 13 European nations and 31,000 members were projected to utilize the temple.[42]  Prior to the completion of the Kyiv Ukraine Temple in 2010, the country and much of the Europe East Area traveled to the Freiburg Germany Temple.  Members faithfully attended the temple by traveling 30 hours each way by bus prior to the completion of the temple in Kyiv.  Temple trips were organized on a monthly basis.[43]


Comparative Growth

Evidenced by the creation of the first stake and construction of the first temple in the former Soviet Union and a Church membership close to twice the combined Church memberships of the former Soviet republics, Ukraine has arguably seen the greatest success in missionary work for the LDS Church in Eastern Europe.  Early receptivity which became self-sustaining likely contributed to the Church’s decision to announce a temple for Kyiv in 1998.  The percentage of members enrolled in seminary or institute (5.8%) is comparable to most of Eastern Europe whereas activity rates appear average to higher than other nations in the region.  Neighboring Russia has twice as many members and congregations as Ukraine, but a national population three times as large as Ukraine.  The percentage of the population with access to a mission outreach center is similar to access rates in most  of Eastern Europe. 


Recently arrived non-traditional Christian denominations have experienced strong growth in Ukraine, particularly in the 1990s.  In the late 2000s, Seventh-day Adventists had six times as many members and Jehovah’s Witnesses had 14 times as many members as the LDS Church.  Both Adventists and Witnesses maintained more than 10 times as many congregations than the LDS Church in the late 2000s and have developed much more widespread outreach as well as stronger local self-sufficiency.  Evangelical denominations appear to have experienced the greatest growth.  Many missionary-minded denominations have experienced significant slowdowns in membership growth during the 2000s. 


Future Prospects

Ukraine would seem to be in many ways a fertile field for missionary work.  Western Ukraine is pluralistic and very tolerant of religions; many people are deeply religious; alcohol and tobacco use, although prevalent, are less ubiquitous than in Russia; people are generally open and approachable; and there is very little anti-Mormon activity. Nonetheless, contemporary LDS growth rates in Ukraine have fallen significantly below rates in stagnant Western European missions in the mid-1990s.[44] Contemporary missions are now baptizing only as many people in a year as were baptized in a month through much of the 1990s. Low convert retention and member activity, and heavy dependence on the North American church for funds and missionary manpower remain major challenges.  Dramatic changes in the current dynamics appear unlikely in the medium term.


The creation of a third mission in Dnepropetrovsk in 2007 and a steady stream of new cities opening to missionary work create a favorable atmosphere for expanding national outreach, although growth has stagnated in many older congregations.  Missionaries will most likely be assigned to the most populous unreached cities or cities with multiple active Church members nearby established outreach centers, such as the peripheries of the largest cities with the most congregations like Kyiv.  The Church continues to rely on full-time missionaries to open new cities for missionary work, yet the number of missionaries serving in Ukraine has stabilized or even declined slightly in recent years, limiting the needed manpower to start new congregations in unreached cities.


Elder Andersen of the Twelve stated in 2009 that “the temple will be a blessing to Ukraine” and that “people will join the Church here by the hundreds and thousands.”[45]  Much remains to be done to accomplish this ambitious mandate.  Missionaries and mission presidents indicate that additional stakes will likely be organized in Ukraine one day.  Potential locations for future stakes include Kyiv, Donetsk, Kharkiv, and Odessa.  Additional districts may be organized in the coming years to administer the large number of mission branches throughout the country.  Future districts may be organized in western Ukraine and in Crimea.  The completion of the new Kyiv Ukraine Temple in 2010 has generated great enthusiasm among members, although it remains to be seen whether long-term growth and member activity will improve as a result.


[1]  "Ukraine,", . Accessed 4 August 2010.

[2] Neutze, Jan, and Adrian Karatnycky.  "Corruption, Democracy, and Investment in Ukraine." Atlantic Council of the United States. October 2007 policy paper.,%20Democracy,%20and%20Investment%20in%20Ukraine.pdf . Accessed 4 August 2010.

[3]  “Corruption Assessment: Ukraine,” USAID, 10 February 2006.

[4]  “Ukraine,” International Religious Freedom Report 2009, 26 October 2009.

[5]  “Ukraine,” International Religious Freedom Report 2009, 26 October 2009.

[6]  “Ukraine,” International Religious Freedom Report 2009, 26 October 2009.

[7]  “Ukraine,” Country Profiles, retrieved 10 June 2010.

[8]  “Two republics in USSR are dedicated,” LDS Church News, 28 September 1991.

[9]  “3 new missions established in Russia, Ukraine,” LDS Church News, 15 February 1992.

[10] Rogers, Thomas F., "Mormonism's First Decade in the Former USSR: Patterns of Growth and Retention," Presentation at Mormon History Association Meeting, Copenhagen, Denmark, June 2000.

[11]  “New missions bring total to 347 New Missions,” LDS Church News, 10 February 2007.

[12]  “Ground broken for first Eastern Europe temple,” LDS Church News, 7 July 2007.

[13]  Stahle, Shaun D.  “Kiev members revere historic moment,” LDS Church News, 5 June 2004.

[14]  Stahle, Shaun D.  “Ukrainian faith,” LDS Church News, 2 November 2002.

[15]  “Of a noble birthright,” LDS Church News, 4 September 2004.

[16]  “New stake presidents,” LDS Church News, 12 June 2004.

[17]  “First meetinghouse in Ukraine dedicated,” LDS Church News, 25 July 1998.

[18]  “Taking root in Ukraine,” LDS Church News, 10 August 2002.

[19]  “Ukraine’s pioneer membership given counsel to be strong,” LDS Church News, 21 September 2002.

[20]  Stahle, Shaun D.  “Ukrainian faith,” LDS Church News, 2 November 2002.

[21]  Stahle, Shaun D.  “Kiev members revere historic moment,” LDS Church News, 5 June 2004.

[22]  “New missions bring total to 347 New Missions,” LDS Church News, 10 February 2007.

[23]  “First meetinghouse in Ukraine dedicated,” LDS Church News, 25 July 1998.

[24]  “Two meetinghouses dedicated in Kiev,” LDS Church News, 6 October 2001.

[25]  “Projects – Ukraine,” Humanitarian Activities Worldwide, retrieved 14 June 2010.,13501,4607-1-2008-26,00.html

[26]  “Humanitarian relief in Europe,” LDS Church News, 28 February 1992.

[27]  “From around the world,” LDS Church News, 25 March 1995.

[28]  “’Pajama parties’,” LDS Church News, 24 February 2007.

[29]  “Vision Treatment,” Humanitarian Services, retrieved 14 June 2010.,7098,6214-1-3214-1,00.html

[30]  “Ukraine,” International Religious Freedom Report 2009, 26 October 2009.

[31]  “New missions bring total to 347 New Missions,” LDS Church News, 10 February 2007.

[32]  Gardner, Marvin K.  “‘One of a City, and Two of a Family’: The Beginnings of the Church in Chernigov, Ukraine,” Liahona, Apr 1999, 37

[33]  Stahle, Shaun D.  “Kiev members revere historic moment,” LDS Church News, 5 June 2004.

[34]  “First Ukraine conference,” LDS Church News, 11 September 2004.

[35]  “New mission presidents,” LDS Church News, 16 April 1994.

[36]  “New mission presidents,” LDS Church News, 18 May 1996.

[37]  “38 Area Seventies called,” LDS Church News, 12 April 2008.

[38]  “New mission presidents,” LDS Church News, 7 June 2008.

[39] Rands, Tania, "Mormonism in a Post-Soviet Society: Notes from Ukraine," Dialogue 30/1 (Spring 1997): 83.

[40]  “New stake presidents,” LDS Church News, 12 June 2004.

[41]  “A temple in Ukraine,” LDS Church News, 8 August 1998.

[42]  “Kyiv Ukraine temple open house and dedication dates are announced,” LDS Church News, 21 April 2010.

[43]  Stahle, Shaun D.  “Ukrainian faith,” LDS Church News, 2 November 2002.

[44] Van Beek, Walter E.A.  "Ethnization and Accommodation: Dutch Mormons in Twenty-First Century Europe," Dialogue 29/1 (Spring 1996): 129.

[45] "Church Leaders Visit Growing Church Membership in Eastern Europe," newsroom, 3 July 2009. . Accessed 4 August 2010.