I’ve often said that Moscow’s propaganda feeds off of deficiencies in the Western media. Were it not for a small kernel of truth, Russia’s foreign language propaganda would appear as ridiculous as its domestic incarnation, and thus it would be utterly worthless. And what do you know, turns out I happened across a great example of just such a deficiency.
AFP was reporting on a recent parade in Ukraine in honor of nationalist leader Stepan Bandera. Yes, that actually happens. No photoshop. Before taking a look at some of the highlights, I do want to say that I was happy to learn that Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko did not endorse or attend this event. That said, let’s get on with it.
Thousands of Ukrainian nationalists held a torchlight procession across Kiev on Thursday in honour of a 1940s anti-Soviet insurgent branded by Moscow as a Nazi collaborator whom Europe must reject.
Actually Bandera is branded by the historical record as a Nazi collaborator, not just by Moscow. Bandera apologists, which occasionally include non-nationalists, often like to point out his temporary incarceration by the Germans in response to the declaration of an independent Ukrainian state. All this means, however, is that he was stupid and trusting.
Some wore World War II-era army uniforms while others draped themselves in the red and black nationalist flags and chanted “Ukraine belongs to Ukrainians” and “Bandera will return and restore order”.
Hmmm…I wonder which World War II-era uniforms they were wearing. I’m guessing something of a grey-green hue.
“The Kremlin is afraid of Bandera because he symbolises the very idea of a completely independent Ukraine,” Lidia Ushiy said while holding up a portrait of the far-right icon at the head of the march.
Nonsense. The Kremlin cultivates and propagates reactionary ideas which are more or less identical to those of Bandera and modern Ukrainian nationalists. Plus it loves Bandera and the Ukrainian nationalists because by alienating certain segments of Ukraine’s population, it makes them into willing collaborators for Moscow. What would Russia have been able to do in the Crimea or Donbass had the nationalist aspect of Maidan been rejected in favor of a multiethnic, multilingual, but ultimately united and independent Ukraine? Insisting on uniformity excludes people and weakens a country.
Bandera is a mythical but immensely divisive figure in Ukraine whom some compare to Cuba’s Che Guevara.
I suppose you could compare him to Che Guevara, you know, if you’re stupid.
Bandera was the ideological patron of resistance fighters who fought alongside invading German forces during World War II.
Right here the author admits that these fighters collaborated with the Germans, but earlier they made it seem like this is just Moscow’s idea.
The Ukrainian famine of the 1930s that was created by Soviet collective farming had turned many against Moscow and in favour of any foreign presence that could help fend off Kremlin rule.
Sorry but this just isn’t true, and even some of the Ukrainian nationalists of that era admitted this. For one thing, the area in which Bandera’s movement was most popular was not part of Ukraine when that famine occurred. The vast majority of Ukrainians supported the Soviet government, a fact born out just by comparing numbers of collaborators with numbers of Ukrainians in the Red Army, pro-Soviet partisans, people killed by the UPA or Axis forces, etc. Everybody tends to remember the famine, and specifically that famine, while totally forgetting that the Soviet government brought a lot of other things like universal healthcare, literacy, industrialization, etc. Does my pointing that out shock or horrify you? Well I hope you’re not American or British in that case.
The reason why I cannot stand Bandera apologia is that its proponents present this man as a hero when he was in reality nothing but a shitbag who brought nothing positive to Ukraine. There are some people who want to impose an ideological orthodoxy on all Ukrainians and people of Ukrainian descent. Just as American conservatives insist that you must buy into their delusional version of events so as to be considered a “real American,” a “real Ukrainian” must adhere to one narrow version of history where the USSR was an “illegal occupation” and Bandera was a hero. You can choose any political values you like, so long as they are right of center to extreme right. There’s this sense of entitlement where these people, once a tiny minority, appropriate the right to define what Ukrainian means and what politics the country should have. I also get pissed when I see that the same kind of nationalist rhetoric and rehabilitation of reactionary figures is generally condemned when it happens in Russia, but it’s tolerated or whitewashed when it happens in Ukraine or some Baltic country.
Ukraine’s independence doesn’t rest on Stepan Bandera. Bandera was nothing more than one of two bald guys who have tormented Ukraine, the other being Vladimir Putin, of course. If Russia wishes to remain in a past that never actually existed, they will suffer the consequences of this. In fact in many ways they already are. If Ukraine doesn’t want to share this fate, Bandera should be chucked in the dustbin of history. His ideas and movement were put to the test, and the majority of Ukrainians rejected him. When the USSR had so severely degenerated ideologically, socially, and economically to a point where it no longer held any more benefit for Ukrainians, they rejected that. There’s only one faction besides the Ukrainian nationalists who wish to make Ukrainian synonymous with Bandera supporter, and that is the Kremlin.