Recently I was saddened to see a link to an NPR story with a simply idiotic title- Hero Or Villain? Historical Ukrainian Figure Symbolizes Today’s Feud. That might not seem so idiotic until you realize the figure they are talking about is none other than Stepan Bandera. Of course if you had clicked on that link and noticed the famous photo of the Bandera memorial march from Euromaidan you’d already know that. That’s the funny thing about Maidan and its supporters; they swear up and down that their movement had nothing to do with nationalism, but when you catch them promoting nationalism it’s totally fine because “Bandera was just a patriot who fought for Ukraine.”
Ed, the author of a remarkably funny and insightful blog called Gin and Tacos, has often criticized the American media two-sided approach to many issues which really aren’t debatable. In the media’s eyes, the opinion of a scientist and a former disc jockey turned pundit are presented as evenly matched in a debate on climate change. A mother with her own blog is considered qualified to give a dissenting opinion about vaccines, all for the sake of “balance.” For me I’d say what is problematic is how “balance” is often granted on issues which aren’t debatable, while the concept is thrown out the window altogether when there really is a debate. If the run-up to the Iraq invasion is used as an example, we can see how little the media was concerned about balance and opposing points of view on that matter.
I propose to solve NPR’s little quandary as to whether Bandera was a hero or villain, since they can’t seem to decide in this matter of a man who founded an indisputably fascist organization which was responsible for bloody pogroms as well as the virtual total destruction of 100,000 Polish civilians in Volyn, among other acts of terrorism stretching into the early 50’s. Are you listening, you pack of fuzzy sweater-wearing, stereotypical, “respectable” liberals? The answer is:
Stepan Bandera was a villain.
I don’t give a shit whether “many Ukrainians see him as a hero.” Putin still gets taken to task for saying that the collapse of the USSR was a tragedy, a statement which is indisputably true, and yet in Eastern Europe and only in Eastern Europe, a fascist and outright Nazi collaborator merits a “debate.” Okay, perhaps not everywhere in Europe. I’ve yet to see the Ante Pavelic or Josef Tiso debate, but in light of this story I should ask why not? Hell, why not have a debate about Hitler? To many people on the Stormfront he was a hero who defended his country from Communism, right? It’s the post-modernist era! Every opinion is equally valid!
As is typical for this sort of article, the age old statement “history is written by the victors” is trotted out. Funny they don’t apply that statement to the whole war, in defense of Nazi Germany and other fascist states. There certainly are people who do; they’re called Holocaust deniers. Victors’ history is something we should keep in mind, particularly when reading contemporary accounts, but it’s not an automatic reset button you can press to turn your collaborator into a hero.
Once again I reiterate and go further. Stepan Bandera was not a Ukrainian hero, he did not “fight for Ukraine,” he contributed nothing to Ukraine or Ukrainian culture but bloodshed and division, and he helped opened the door to the most destructive calamity Ukraine has ever faced, i.e. the Nazi invasion. The Nazis destroyed not only the Ukrainian people, but all the things they worked so hard to build. I don’t care if the Nazis got upset with him and put him under arrest for a period of time. That only means that he was as stupid as he was evil. Mark my words the Ukraine will never be able advance into the 21st century until it finally manages to sever Ukrainian pride and identity from this defunct, backward nationalist movement from the 20’s and 30’s. In the words of Oliver Cromwell- “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately… Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”
If the reader wishes to do more research into these questions, I highly recommend reading these two papers, found here and here. In the mean time, I’ll be looking forward NPR’s latest debate: “Lead paint: Dangerous or Delicious?”