Bandera Buttrage – The Aftermath

Don’t let this post’s title confuse you- I haven’t begun a career in writing slash fiction about Ukrainian nationalist leaders. This is about the reaction to my previous post about the glorification of historical fascist organizations in Ukraine. In general I was pleasantly surprised with the results. The sincere responses were not Kremlin-cheerleaders, rather it seems to me they are fellow Ukraine supporters who are similarly concerned about the country’s ability to forge an identity against Moscow’s latest onslaught. Naturally there were the usual suspects, the perpetual victims who resort to false equivalencies and whataboutery just as deftly as their Putin-apologist opponents, but they were far fewer in number than I would have expected.

Bandera + gay shape-shifting sea slug slash fiction. This is NOT your mother's Ukrainian nationalist erotica! Unless your mother is somehow Oleh Tyahnybok or something, in which case you probably have more pressing issues at the moment.  Available on Amazon for your Kindle for only $2.99! Buy today!

Bandera + gay shape-shifting sea slug slash fiction. This is NOT your mother’s Ukrainian nationalist erotica, unless your mother is somehow Oleh Tyahnybok or something, in which case you probably have more pressing issues at the moment. Available on Amazon for your Kindle for only $2.99! Buy today!

Occasionally some people who aren’t necessarily hostile ask whether it is necessary to discuss Bandera, the OUN, or UPA at all outside of history departments and reenactment groups. One reader said, quite properly in fact, that Bandera was a very marginal figure in Ukrainian history and he and his movement did nothing significantly positive for the people of Ukraine. Indeed. Ukrainian history can’t accurately be taught without mentioning figures and movements like these, but beyond a lesson about how not everyone who claims to be a patriot is morally good and in the interests of rudimentary Holocaust education I don’t really see any reason why Bandera and his movement should have any special place in Ukrainian history at all. His injection into modern, independent Ukraine is largely a feat of the diaspora and not homegrown.

Consider for the moment the Croats. Croatia, much like Ukraine, does not have a long history of independence. Prior to 1991, the last time there was an independent Croatian state was in 1941-45. Hell, it was even called The Independent State of Croatia (Croatian: NDH), just in case you weren’t sure that it was independent, a state, or Croatian (Pssst! It was really an Italo-German puppet state for the most part). That state, of course, was run by the fascist Croatian Revolutionary Movement, better known as the Ustashe, a party which, incidentally, worked closely with the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists in the interwar period.

Things get a little awkward when the last incarnation of your country’s independence was a fascist state. How do you support your nation’s new independence and be patriotic if there is that connotation with the past? Indeed, early on in 90’s Croatia’s history, rehabilitation of the NDH was a common theme and right-wing nationalism was rampant. Ustashe atrocities during the war could be dismissed as Communist fabrications or exaggerations. There was whataboutery too- “What about Bleiburg?”

Eastern Europe, and Croatia is no exception here, is relatively-speaking a hotbed of backward right-wing ideology. But Croatia, like some other countries, has managed to do something that Ukraine apparently cannot, even though it should be harder for Croatia in theory. That is to say Croatia managed to sever its post-Yugoslavia independence from the phony independence it had in 1941-45, and more specifically, in law at least, it rejected the legacy of the Ustashe. Ustashe symbols and slogans are banned. It would be naive to think that one can’t easily find Ustashe sympathizers in modern-day Croatia; I saw plenty of Ustashe graffiti in Zagreb in 2006. But I believe that with subsequent generations the legacy of the Independent State of Croatia and the Ustashe will eventually be seen as a dark chapter in the nation’s history, one which shouldn’t eternally weigh on the modern Croatian nation and the Croatian people anymore than Germany and its people should be reduced to the Holocaust and Second World War.

For Ukraine, this kind of struggle for history shouldn’t exist. There was not, nor has there ever been, a fascist independent Ukrainian state, at least outside of Russian state-TV, of course. The overwhelming majority of Ukrainians not only didn’t support the OUN or the Axis invaders, but they played a crucial role in the victory of the Soviet Union and by extension, the victory of the allies. There is no reason why any Ukrainian should ever feel that a condemnation of those Ukrainian movements is an attack on Ukrainian independence or Ukrainians as a people. In fact one should feel insulted that such a marginal group that committed atrocities in the name of a nation and people they clearly didn’t represent should ever be associated with Ukrainians as a whole. This is would be, in terms of popular support, even more ridiculous that equating all Germans with Nazis or all Italians with the fascists.

And yet. in Ukraine the “patriots” won’t let it go. Red and black OUN flags are sold in souvenir shops; I even saw a small metal bust of Stepan Bandera for sale. And no, it’s not ironic like the souvenir Dmytro Yarosh business cards. It’s nowhere near as widespread as Kremlin propaganda would have you think, but it’s still there, and it’s not hard to find. Then of course there is the new law which enshrines the OUN and UPA as “fighters for independence” and protects them from criticism. So long as this continues and so long as it is mainstream, I’m going to keep talking about it. I’m going to talk about it for the same reason I talk about the problem of Russian nationalism.

TEST YOUR OBSCURE WWII MIGHT: Can you spot the Nazi collaborator in this painting I found in Kyiv's railway station? No, it's not Stepan Bandera, so don't look for him. And no, it's not God. He just sat by and did nothing as the German war machine ravaged Europe and systematically murdered millions of his children for nearly six years.

TEST YOUR OBSCURE WWII MIGHT (Click for full size): Can you spot the Nazi collaborator in this painting I found in Kyiv’s railway station? No, it’s not Stepan Bandera, so don’t look for him. And no, it’s not God. He just sat by and did nothing as the German war machine ravaged Europe and systematically murdered millions of his children for nearly six years.

For you see, when I first saw the far right presence on Maidan, my reaction wasn’t “Hey those bastards are anti-Russian!” No, it was more like, “Oh look, more backward right wing thugs, just like in Russia.” Oh they’ll swear up and down that they’re nothing like the Russians, but in reality we’re talking about Celtic vs. Rangers, Yankees vs. Red Sox, Dallas Cowboys vs. America. They support different teams but they’re all just die-hard fans at the end of the day.

So for all you Ukrainians or Ukraine supporters out there who wonder why I’m still talking about the OUN, Bandera, etc. let me say this- I don’t like doing this. I don’t like having to recount basic historical facts again and again while being accused of being “brainwashed by Russian propaganda” and hearing whataboutery and red herrings about the Soviet Union. I especially don’t like doing this when Ukrainian citizens are dying, in large part thanks to lies involving these marginal figures in Ukrainian history. I realize that Russian propaganda doesn’t need much to go on to slander other countries, but imagine just for a second that Maidan had gone a little differently, without the Bandera memorial march, the OUN flags, and all that. Can you honestly say Russia wouldn’t have had to work a little harder to paint the whole movement as fascist and far-right? Can you honestly say they wouldn’t have looked ten times more ridiculous and turned themselves into laughing stock from the very start?

No, fellow Ukraine supporters and Ukrainian brothers and sisters, I don’t want to write about this at all. I shouldn’t have to. But it’s there, occupying a place it doesn’t deserve in Ukrainian society and Ukrainian history. And there’s always some jackass basically screaming: No! We must associate our entire nation with this small, otherwise obscure movement that never garnered the support of anything but a small fraction of our population in a small geographical area!” Please, listen to the super catchy Disney song and just let it go.

Bet you didn’t see that coming, did you?

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14 thoughts on “Bandera Buttrage – The Aftermath

    1. RK

      Actually I don’t think he is – as said you can still go to Kyiv and hear more Russian spoken than Ukrainian

      Reply
  1. Paul Canning (@pauloCanning)

    Isn’t there another argument about this law? That it is a distraction, a deliberate distraction, from the need to fight corruption and the continued entrenchment of the oligarch class?

    I understood that the law was dreamt up specifically to distract from the lack of progress on corruption or was it actual corruption allegations.

    Have not seen any comment from either US Ambassador or EU on the law. This seems to be of a pattern, because they are letting the Ukrainians get away with it on basic LGBT rights as well. Maybe we could all be useful and press our governments to complain.

    Reply
    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Yes, there was something like that. It concerned Yatsenyuk in this case. Also one of its biggest advocates, if not its main sponsor, is Yuri Shukhevych, son of Nazi collaborator Roman. That’s a little bit like the son of Jure Francetic introducing a bill in the Croatian parliament to ban criticism of the Ustashe as “independence fighters.”

      It’s also interesting to note how supporters of this law act like we should shut up just because Ukraine’s at war, but look what happens when there’s a bill that would actually, literally support the war effort- https://theukrainetoday.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/a-dedication-to-reform/

      Reply
      1. gbd_crwx

        Couldn’t this be one of the goals of the “tourist invasion” . The new government collapses because of the conflict directly or indirectly because to much effort is spent on fighting in the east instead of fighting corruption and/or laws like this are passed “for the war effort” to make people wonder if it was all worth it.

  2. Heywood12

    “Can you spot the Nazi collaborator in this painting I found in Kyiv’s railway station?”
    The clean-shaven guy in blue overalls on the far right, standing next to the man wearing a Vishivanka and brown jacket?

    Reply
      1. Heywood12

        Fedir Fedorenko (Федір Федоренко) aka Fyodor Fedorenko (Фёдор Демьянович Федоренко), was part of Operation Reinhard as a Trawniki man, worked at Treblinka as a guard 1942-43. Escaped to America in 1949, worked at a brass factory, gained citizenship in 1970. Was arrested, tried, found not guity in late 1970s; after Supreme Court overturned verdict, was first Nazi war criminal deported to USSR in 1984. After Soviet trial, was found guilty and shot in 1987.

  3. Paul

    There is a problem with immigration in Western Europe right now, and it is being ignored. Hot national issues such as displacement-level immigration will be adopted by the Kremlin if Europe fails at addressing the matter.

    To be against Bandera, of course, is not necessarily to be anti-Ukrainian. Yet, there is a correlation, especially if the Bandera opponent is too ideological, and a Westerner.

    The problem as I see it, is that if you start pathologizing the national identity by claiming that its defense, including the defense of the DEMOGRAPHIC integrity of Ukraine, is hateful/xenophobic — the government (or your discourse) may lose support among the population. Why that instead of claiming that the existence of the Ukranian/Slavic people is “hateful” and that to be “loving” you must accept the ethnic displacement, replacement and eventual demise (i.e. genocide) of the population, don’t you support the demographic integrity of your country? Isn’t it easier than claiming your co-nationals are hateful for opposing their ethnic dispossession? Why should an Ukrainian man defend his country if you want its population dispossessed by mass immigration, as is happening in Western Europe? Why is that an Ukrainian soldier should die in a war, supposedly to defend his country, if the national revolution of dignity will bring about the demise of his people?

    You must be careful not to alienate the Ukrainian population, because Western Europe is under a massive tide of non-white immigration from Africa and the Middle East and the people are not content.

    By claiming that the racial rights activists, namely those who support the demographic integrity and the continued existence of their people, are xenophobic, you alienate the majority of Ukrainians who don’t want this kind of discourse in their country.

    Territorial integrity may come and go, but once a people are gone, they are gone forever. So you, if you write to an Ukrainian public (probably not), or Ukrainian journalists, must take into account that you may start losing support if the revolution becomes anti-Ukrainian.

    A charter of racial rights, promoting the demographic integrity of Ukraine, must be passed into law, instead of calling those Ukrainians who want their posteriority to exist “hateful”, “bigoted” or “xenophobic”.

    Imagine if a high-ranking official from the US defected to Russia and blasted the demographic war against White America, the shitstorm would reverberate throughout the US political establishment, because immigration is also a hot issue in the US, and yes, IT IS because of race, regardless of what the opponents of amnesty say.

    Reply
    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      What do you know, we have a live right-winger here. Lovely.

      Where to begin with this bullshit? First of all, it’s been shown dozens of times that right-wing parties and organizations routinely overestimate the numbers of immigrants in Western Europe, often to ridiculous heights.

      Here are a few examples: https://euobserver.com/news/126309
      http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2014/oct/29/todays-key-fact-you-are-probably-wrong-about-almost-everything

      Of course I’m sure that you’ll be relieved to learn that your fears about immigration were drastically overstated, and now you can get back to worrying about actual problems, right?

      Of course not.

      One would think that looking at the present conflict, you’d be smart enough to figure out what the problem with your reasoning here is. In Ukraine you now have a bloody conflict between two peoples who are extremely similar, and in some cases are identical(because ethnic Russians and Russian speakers support Kyiv while there are Ukrainians who support Russia or the separatists).

      A more ignorant person, such as yourself, looks at this and says “These are white people fighting each other.” What you fail to realize is that there is no “white,” or “European” culture. It is a patchwork of diverse cultures which are blended not only with each other, but also outside groups as well. It has always been this way and it’s not going to change.

      Again, since folks like you have trouble grasping this reality- you complain about “non-white” immigration to Western Europe- what about the “white” immigration? Europeans have often complained about Eastern Europeans just as much as they do about non-European immigrants and often for the same reasons. If England gets flooded with Poles or Ukrainians and people start complaining about their culture and saying they steal jobs(this has been said about Poles and other Europeans), are you going to say, “Hey it’s fine because they’re WHITE!”

      What you don’t realize is that in the absence of “non-white” immigrants to scapegoat, the ire always turns towards “whites” or other classes. In the US it was Irish and other European Catholics. In the late 19th century, critics of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 attacked it by pointing out that it let in all sorts of “riff-raff” from Europe while excluding people who were seen as industrious and disciplined: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_Exclusion_Act#/media/File:The_only_one_barred_out_cph.3b48680.jpg

      As for Ukraine, Ukraine is, and always has been, an ethnically diverse country. You speak about the “demographic integrity” of Ukraine? Okay, please explain what that should be? Do you realize that for decades the very identity of “Ukrainian” has been incredibly flexible up to the present day? Who has to leave? Russians? Ukrainians that aren’t “Ukrainian” enough, based on an arbitrary definition? Should Western Ukrainians break off? Do the Crimean Tatars get deported for a FOURTH time?

      And if you’re so upset about African or Middle Eastern people moving to your country, lobby your government to stop FUCKING UP their countries by promoting neoliberal economic policies, aid that hurts more than it helps, propping up corrupt dictators, and destabilizing regions for the sake of geopolitical games.

      Reply
      1. Paul Canning (@pauloCanning)

        We just had an election in which sentiment was whipped up successfully in England against the Scots!

        ‘England is full’ is the cry and is about Eastern Europeans, not so much brown people. We went through the racism on immigration in previous decades and, I think I can claim this, it has largely become verboten in UK society. The main anti-immigration party performs back flips to demonstrate it is not racist. Actual fascists are a totally marginal tiny group.

        Immigration has been shown to be a net economic positive for the UK but there is some pressure on low wages and in some areas on services. But how fear is largely whipped up can be shown by where the support for anti-immigration parties is highest: in those places with the least immigrants.

  4. UkrainianGod

    He was one of Ukraine’s most important historical figures, and for good reasons:

    He made West Ukraine forever safe. It’s because of the actions of the heroes of the OUN and the UPA that Ukraine doesn’t have to deal with Poland annexing Lviv and the formation of a fake, secessionist puppet state known as the Novogalicia Republic or some other equally stupid shit.

    On top of that, it was ONLY after Bandera’s groups’ actions that Poland gave ANY sort of shit about Ukraine or Ukrainians.

    However, Poland itself cannot let the fact that Ukraine got its land back again go, and exploit the current Ukraine-Russia war in an effort to occupy Ukrainian land once again.

    That is why the OUN, the UPA, Stepan Bandera, Roman Shukevych, etc, are still praised today, and why Ukraine has so many symbols of them and changes dedicated to them: To put Poland in their place, and remind them that they will NEVER touch Ukraine ever again.

    As usual, you’re still too much of an ignorant, Moskal idiot to be able to see these basic, simple facts.

    Reply
    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Seems you’re confusing Bandera and the UPA for the Soviet Union and the Red Army (which the vast majority of Ukrainians supported and fought for during the war) , which is the real reason why the West is united with Ukraine today.

      Oh by the way, if you’d bothered to actually read anything here, you’d know that I’m a Ukrainian American, not Russian at all. I also know YOU’RE American as well, because I looked up your IP. So don’t lecture me on Ukrainian history when you can’t even get the most basic facts straight.

      Whine more and you’ll get banned. Respond to this and you’ll get banned.

      Reply

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