The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (Ukraiinska Aftokefalna Pravoslavna Tserkva) was formed on Ukrainian territory after the 1917 Revolution; the Moscow Patriarchate had dominated the Orthodox Church in Ukraine for centuries previously. With the rebirth of the Ukrainian state, efforts were made to set up an independent Church as well. The All-Ukrainian Church Council set up an independent organizational structure for the Church, and in May 1920 the AUCC declared autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church. In 1921 Vasyl Lypkivsky was consecrated as the Church’s first metropolitan.

In the following years, the Church experienced rapid growth; at its height the Church had more than 6 million followers. The Church played a fundamental role in the national and cultural revival experienced in Ukraine during the Revolution and the 1920s. The Church played an important role in raising national consciousness; it was also committed to the social reforms of the Ukrainian National Republic governments.

The UAOC adopted several tenets that separated it from the Russian Orthodox Church. Perhaps the most important was the separation of church and state, which had not existed in tsarist times. Furthermore, the UAOC stressed the need for decentralization and democratization of Church life, and the inclusion of the laity in the decision making process. The UAOC also replaced Church Slavonic with the vernacular Ukrainian in its services.

Because the UAOC supported Ukrainian independence and cultural and political revival, it was seen as a major threat to Soviet rule in Ukraine. Soviet authorities sought to reincorporate the UAOC into the Russian Orthodox Church, over which the Soviet government had established control by the late 1920s. The first repressions of the Church began in 1926, when Lypkivsky was arrested; after a brief respite, the Church saw massive repression return in 1929 with the adoption of collectivization. In January 1930 the Church was officially abolished; most of its clergy and hierarchy were either executed or sent to labor camps where many perished.

While the UAOC was virtually eliminated in Soviet Ukraine, it survived in Ukrainian territories under Polish occupation. When Germany invaded the USSR in 1941 and the Wehrmacht swept through Ukraine, the UAOC was reestablished on former Soviet Ukrainian territories; by 1942 there were some 500 parishes in the former Soviet Ukraine. By mid-1944 all of Ukraine had been re-occupied by the Red Army; UAOC clergy and many faithful fled west and by 1947 the Church had 71 parishes in Western Europe, and was established in all places to where Ukrainians emigrated after the War. During the perestroika years the UAOC was reestablished in Ukraine. By 1991 the Church had over 900 parishes in Ukraine.