What is Celestial Hundred, and what is its spiritual significance for Ukrainians?
“Celestial hundred” (“Небесна Сотня” in Ukrainian: another translation into English “heaven sotnya” or “sotnia” — sotnya was a basic military unit of hundred people in late medieval and early-modern Ukrainian army) is the name given to those who died in a bloody fight against criminal dictator Victor Yanukovych during Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity in winter of 2013-2014, especially at its peak of 18-20 February, when riot police used combat rifles against protesters and more than a hundred people got killed.
As predominantly Christian country, Ukraine has its long tradition of martyrs. The activists of HeavenSotnia are often viewed as celestial patrons who invisibly stay on Guard of Ukraine, it’s people and state somethere “on the other side” or “in another world”. They pray the Lord and Holy Virgin for us.
Before 2014 there has been many concerns that old Ukrainian cossack mythology and heroic epics of yore have exhausted themselves. The images of Ukrainian heroes, the cossacks, overused in bombast and boring bureaucratic speeches, state’s propaganda, and vulgarized by pop-culture have become almost dead, especially for younger generation.
What added to the deconstruction of heroic image of our cossack ancestors was the behavior of modern, often pro-Russian and imperialistic cossacks with their clownish look and criminal activity. Thus, a year ago, in the middle of 2013 in Ukraine there was a great vacuum and hunger for heroic epos, for new heroes and new heroic acts.
The struggle against Yanukovych regime at EuroMaidan changed everything. There appeared lots of new legends, myths, and heroes – the Sotnia being first of them.
From the point of view of religious studies, Celestial hundred is an unusual phenomenon. In Ukraine we have an old Orthodox Christian tradition of worshiping saints, praying to them, having one’s own saint and protector. Another tradition is folk epics about heroes – cossacks, brave robbers, freedom fighters. The notion of Celectial hundred is probably to become some mix – they were killed during protest against evil dictator, they cannot be considered fighters like professional soldiers, after all most of them haven’t caused much harm to police they were standing against, many had been just innocent victims.
On the other hand they are not seen like helpless victims, but the ones who stood against odds, willingly sacrificing their lives, thus bearing spiritual Truth — everyone knew about danger at Maidan, but still those people made there choice and this brings them up to Christ-like figures who had sacrificed themselves for the common cause. Another parallel are early and medieval Christian martyrs who had suffered for the higher Truth. Considering the psychological state of exhausted, scared, but still hoping people during last weeks of Maidan before the final battle of 18-20 February 2014 , and the “amount of religion in the air” (yes, Maidan pedalled religion to the level unseen during last two decades) no surprise that the heroes of Celestial Hundred often appeared in the dreams of the protesters in the first weeks after the massacre.
To commemorate their act National Bank of Ukraine has issued a special collectionist coin called “Celestial hundred on guard”, part of Kyiv’s Instytutska street has been renamed into Celestial Hundred Avenue. Many cities, towns, and villages have renamed streets and squares in honor of those martyrs who had sacrificed their lives.
More imagery inspired by Celestial Hundred’s heroic death:
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