When I started this blog, it was primarily to give interested readers a more realistic view of politics and life in Russia while filtering out the bullshit and distortions so commonly peddled in the media. I never thought I’d have to expand the scope of this blog to Ukrainian politics and history as well. That being said, there are a few things I would like to clarify about my own background in these affairs, as well as leave the reader with some excellent sources for learning more on their own.
Lately the issue of Ukrainian fascism, whether used sarcastically by Maidan apologists, or seriously by Team Russia fans, has garnered more attention than it ever has in the past. Nowadays I see a lot of people throwing around names like Praviy Sektor, Svoboda, Stepan Bandera, UPA(Ukrainian Insurgent Army), and so on. Obviously many of these people had never heard these names prior to the Euromaidan and the crisis in Ukraine. Let me make something entirely clear, having accepted the fact that I’m probably going to be writing about Ukraine for some time. For the record, I did not learn about the UPA, Bandera, or Ukrainian nationalism after Maidan appeared in the news.
As someone who has studied Eastern European history on my own for many years, I first learned about the otherwise obscure history of Ukrainian nationalism and Bandera in roughly mid-2002. I had known about Ukrainian Nazi collaboration going back to maybe 1996-97, when I was still a teenager, but this was rather rudimentary knowledge. I have read, and still possess, quite a bit of OUN(Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists) propaganda, both historical and contemporary. I have had the unpleasant experience of dealing with Ukrainian nationalists via e-mail, including at least one which was identified with the now defunct(as far as I know) nationalist organization UNA-UNSO. My first time in Kyiv was early 2007, and from that time onward I routinely saw UPA themed souvenirs on sale in Maidan Nezhaleznosti and a few other locations. I am and have been for quite some time intimately familiar with their myths, ideology, and tactics, to the point where the only time I am ever shocked by some new twist and turn in their propaganda it is only because I sometimes underestimate how delusional these people can be regarding Ukrainian history and the Ukrainian identity.
One thing I learned long ago is that Ukrainian nationalists have benefited largely from obscurity, which over the decades allowed their emigre writers and ideologues the ability to write their own history of Ukraine in the West. This also includes writing the history of the UPA, for the USSR seemed to prefer erasing them from history rather than exposing them. Worse still, nationalists have always been able to play the “victims of Communism” card any time someone questioned them about atrocities or collaboration, which was supposed to give them an air of credibility because those crimes were supposedly nothing but Soviet propaganda. After the collapse of the USSR, the nationalists pretty much dominated the field on this topic.
In recent times, this domination of the history of Ukraine and Ukrainian nationalism has led to bizarre distortions of history, entirely rewritten by Ukrainian nationalists and their partisans in various countries such as the US and Canada. In these fairy tales, the OUN and UPA were really fighting to establish a liberal democracy, perhaps even found the European Union! Did you know the OUN wasn’t anti-Semitic? Why it actually protected Jews! The Ukrainian people are also extremely Western and European, unlike those dirty, uncivilized Muscovites, which which they have absolutely nothing in common. Why they are so Western, that they’d fall off the edge of the Earth were it to be flat! And don’t think that a Ukrainian nationalist wouldn’t declare the world to be flat if this could somehow denigrate Moscow. In recent years, the UPA apologists in Ukraine have taken to claiming that well-documented atrocities committed by the UPA were in fact carried out by special NKVD teams disguised as UPA fighters. In essence, they don’t deny the crimes or atrocities, but rather break Occam’s Razor and present a conspiracy theory without a shred of credible evidence. Keep that in mind when you hear contemporary Maidan apologists blaming their problems on “provocateurs.”
Getting back to the point, this kind of nonsense wouldn’t be so dangerous if it weren’t for the Cold War silence(and government collusion) on the history of the OUN and other wartime fascist movements. Unfortunately today emigre communities in the US and Canada can foist their bullshit fairy tales on an unwitting public and if anyone questions them they can scream about Communism, Stalin, Russia, Putin, etc. Essentially, Ukrainian nationalism has long since been rebranded, but there are actually two brands- one which they actually believe in, and one which they present as a facade to ignorant Americans, Canadians, and Europeans.
Now I know some people at this point will start waving their arms and squealing, “But in Russia there are also people who preach all kinds of nationalist nonsense and try to re-write history!” Yes, you are quite right. But that doesn’t justify people doing this in Ukraine. Bullshit fairy tales, back stab legends, revanchism or irrendentism, and racism are not healthy to a society, period. Ukraine’s nationalists today are nothing but the progeny of a movement which has brought Ukraine nothing but misery and ruin since 1917. It is time for the Ukrainian people to stop following these con men. Russia will eventually learn the same lesson, but it’s going to take a longer time now because the incompetence and idiotic actions of Maidan handed Russia’s imperialist fantasizers a golden opportunity to puff up their egos. Good job, nationalists! Ever notice how every single fucking time you people get any influence, bad things happen to Ukraine? Deep breath. Deep breath. Happy things. Think happy things. Okay I’m good.
Before this rant goes nuclear, I want to leave the reader with some sources which will help understand the nationalists’ campaigns to whitewash their history, as well as general UPA and OUN history. The sources have been compiled on the Jewish Holocaust remembrance site Defending History, which is dedicated to preventing the co-option of genocide by right wing movements in Eastern Europe. I would like to point out that some of the authors of these works were not only for Euromaidan, but in some cases actually signed a statement in favor of it. So don’t be fooled by slick PR. Do your homework.