The recently ended anti-government demonstrations against the government of President Yanukovych in Ukraine points out the existence of a major religious and cultural fault line that runs through Eastern Europe. Europe is divided by religion into three cultural zones: a Catholic zone in southern Europe and Ireland, a Protestant zone in northern and Western Europe, and an Orthodox zone in Eastern Europe. The differences between Orthodox Christians on one hand and both Catholic and Protestant Christians on the other are much greater than those between Catholics and Protestants. This is primarily due to two causes. First, the split between the Orthodox and the Catholics predates that between Catholics and Protestants by nearly five centuries: the former occurred in 1054 and the latter in 1517. Second, democracy has been present in Western and Central Europe much longer than it has in Eastern Europe, so Christian denomination no longer serves as quite the marker for political differences in Western and Central Europe that it does in Eastern Europe.
Ukraine is divided both on religious and national grounds. Western Ukraine is predominantly composed of ethnic Ukrainians who are Catholics; eastern Ukraine is predominantly composed of ethnic Ukrainians who are Orthodox and ethnic Russians. Although it is true that pockets of all three groups exist in both areas. Thus, the majority Catholics in the West are culturally oriented towards their fellow Catholics in Poland and Hungary. Both of these countries are today successful democracies and their populations were on the front lines fighting for freedom during the Cold War. In the East the Orthodox are oriented towards Russia. I want to emphasis that these differences are not due to theological differences between Orthodox Christianity and Catholicism but rather due to cultural orientations. The border between Orthodoxy and Catholicism/Protestantism runs horizontally through Eastern Europe and then vertically through the former Yugoslavia and Ukraine. Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and Croatia are all mainly Catholic or mixed Catholic and Protestant. Bosnia, and Macedonia feature a three-way religious split among Catholics, Orthodox, and Muslims. Albania and Kosovo are predominantly Muslim but have Catholic minorities and even a small Orthodox Serb minority in the case of Kosovo. Greece, Serbia, Romania, Moldova, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Belarus and Russia are Orthodox. Ukraine is divided between Catholics and Orthodox.