What’s wrong with this picture?

I hope everyone enjoys the new look this week. Yesterday I was hauling ass down Khreshatik to get to my apartment, and wouldn’t you know- someone put a large WWII exhibit in my way. That’s a surefire way to slow me down. Here are a couple photos I shot with my phone. All text was in Ukrainian only, so I didn’t have time to read all of it.

Soviet partisans including commander Sydir Kovpak.

Soviet partisans including commander Sydir Kovpak.


Hmmm…Something is wrong with this picture. Where to start? The top part is a tally of how many Ukrainians fought for each side in WWII, Allies and Axis. Right off the bat I have a problem with using the flag raising on Mt. Suribachi as a symbol for the Allied Victory. For one, victory over Japan would come months later, after bloody battle of Okinawa, the atomic bombs, and the Soviet Manchurian campaign. Second, just as Ukraine’s government appropriated the poppy, a British symbol of remembrance for the First World War, here too they are appropriating one of America’s symbols, most likely because someone was afraid of the massive explosion of buttrage that would occur if they put a silhouette of the Red Army soldier raising the flag over the Reichstag, you know, the Red Army soldier who happened to be from Kyiv

We can't use a photo of a Ukrainian raising a flag over the Reichstag to represent Ukraine's contribution to victory in WWII!

We can’t use a photo of a Ukrainian raising a flag over the Reichstag to represent Ukraine’s contribution to victory in WWII!

It gets worse though. I’m going to skip the bizarre use of the Vietnamese flag to represent the Red Army here, because there’s something more egregious under it. There we see the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), represented by the Ukrainian state flag, at 100,000. That figure pretty much counts everybody who was ever in the UPA throughout its existence; generally at their most active periods they had somewhere between 20,000-40,000 people.

Let’s ignore the numbers though, the most important thing is how it puts the UPA on the allied side when in fact it never was. Claims that the UPA fought the Germans as much as the Soviets, who were on the allied side like it or not, are simply not substantiated by historical evidence. What is more, the UPA assisted the German war effort in a multitude of ways at different times, and many of its personnel including commanders like Roman Shukhevych previously served in German uniform. For the sake of historical accuracy the UPA should have been represented by their red and black flag and at least put in some third column instead of that of the allied coalition to which they never belonged.

As I said before I only snapped a few photos and didn’t have time to read much of the exhibit, but my overall impression was actually somewhat positive. It acknowledged collaboration and allied contributions, and many of the titles of the boards were phrased as questions, inviting debate. One board about the UPA had Stepan Bandera’s photo next to that of Andriy Melnyk, which I found amusing since they were bitter rivals and Bandera’s men were trying to kill the latter’s followers. That, incidentally, is the real reason Bandera wound up in a concentration camp.

I intend to go back and investigate more. It looked fairly balance but I fear it may suffer from this phenomenon I’ve seen in post-Maidan Ukraine, whereby it’s open season on the Red Army, for which the overwhelming majority of Ukrainians fought, while the OUN, UPA, and even Ukrainian Wehrmacht formations are taboo when it comes to criticism. Lately the mainstream view seems to be that Ukraine gets to claim credit for Soviet accomplishments during the war, while any and all atrocities or negative aspects of the Soviet liberation and everything thereafter are attributed to the dreaded “Moskali.” But the UPA? Oh no they fought for Ukraine! They said they did! No matter that they probably killed more ordinary Ukrainian peasants than Red Army or Wehrmacht soldiers. Forget the campaign of genocide against Poles, forget the pogroms some of their membership took part in or organized, and forget the fact that many of these men assisted the invasion of an army that planned to exterminate, sterilize, or enslave all of Ukraine and resettle it with “Aryan supermen.” The UPA is beyond reproach with some people.

I have one last thing to say for those folks who scream, “They were Ukrainian patriots! They fought for Ukrainian independence!” Fine, let’s go with that. The OUN and UPA claimed they were fighting for an independent Ukraine. You know what? They fucking sucked at it. Here’s some helpful advice that will help you out in real life- your intentions or what you say, in the long run, do not matter. All that matters is what people do, what other people can see or at least experience. Perhaps it’s time some of you start look more at the actual activities of the OUN and UPA, and their results, instead of babbling on about what they supposedly wanted to do, because that’s worth absolutely dick.


20 thoughts on “What’s wrong with this picture?

  1. gbd_crwx

    Funny that you should mention what’s wrong in the Picture. The Picture from the Reichdag, wasn’t that one retouched because the Soldier were wearing two watches? (or was it even staged?)

    On the subject of patriotism, is that necessary a good thing? I’m falling for Goodwin’s law here but the Germans in said war were also considered patriots.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      The picture was partially retouched, and it was staged, but the funny thing is that the “official story” was that the flag was raised by Kantaria and Yegorov, who are not in that photo at all.

      Ironically the silhouette showing the Suribachi flag raising is also the second, staged flag raising, not the first flag raising.

      Totally agree about patriotism. “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

      1. Jim Kovpak Post author

        I haven’t got the Finnish side, but I know how they try to say they didn’t participate in the Leningrad blockade (debatable). That being said, Finland did successfully sue for peace, and then fought against Germany, becoming a successful neutral country leveraging its friendly relations to the USSR.

        While modern Bandera-cultists always point out how he was imprisoned by the Germans(ignoring that this was for trying to kill other “GLORIOUS INDEPENDENCE FIGHTERS”), they’d rather you not remember that the UPA was legalized by the Germans(and continued collaboration with them) in 1943, with Bandera being freed in 1944.

        I find this really funny because the same people love using Molotov-Ribbentrop to equate Nazi Germany and the USSR, but why is it Operation Barbarossa doesn’t get the same treatment as Bandera’s arrest by the Germans?

        Then again, when you deal with nationalists and right-wingers of any country, you’re not dealing with rational people. You’re dealing with the type who screams “TREASON!” yet is fine with lobbing a bomb that kills his own nation’s soldiers.

      2. gbd_crwx

        I Think the finnish situation is a bit more complicated than that, but on the plus sideit is possibleto have debates about it,without breaking the law

  2. A.I.Schmelzer

    I actually found a sane Ukrainian Nationalist who claimed, iirc not exactly unbased, that the original UPA was more “Melnik” and not as head in pants genocidal, got very violently couped by Banderas goons with German backing, and then Bandera was set free by the Germans because he thus proved his loyalty to Hitler by murdering the everloving shit out of “properly Nationalistic but not Nazi Ukrainians in Melniks faction”.

    From what I remember, the Nazis originally didnt like Bandera because he was a Ultraviolent loose cannon, but eventually switched over to him anyway because letting loose Ultraviolent loose cannons is a good way to fuck up Ukraine, and they would fuck up Ukraine as much as possible before Stalin would reconquer it.

    The question is: Is there are sourcable rundown on which Nationalist faction, Melnik or Bandera, was prefered by the Germans at various time points?

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      I believe the UPA under Taras Bulba Borovets was more independent, but definitely anti-Bandera, a fact which led to him almost being assassinated by Bandera’s men. They managed to kill his wife though.

      As for the German attitude toward Melnyk, it was more favorable at first because the OUN-M condemned Stetsko’s declaration of independence.

      1. EP

        I don’t know much about the history of Ukraine, but the whole Bandera vs Melnyk saga basically makes the case against the present-day ultra-nationalists. His idea of politics amounted to rabble rousing, uncircumspect terrorism and thinking a consistent and pragmatic international policy was “ZRADA!!!”. That Bandera’s power base consisted largely of radicalized hicks from eastern Poland didn’t help matters.

        On the other hand, Melnyk’s supporters were rather naive in their dealings with the Nazis and ended up being replaced by ethnic Russians (whom the Nazis found much more obedient, unambitious and predictable).

  3. gbd_crwx

    Considering generalplan OST, wouldn’t any collaboration with Nazi germany meant the Death of Ukraine and it’s original inhabitants anyway?

    1. A.I.Schmelzer

      Didnt stop the UPA, they hoped to become a Slovakia like puppet state under Nazi role, and perhaps ace some “Martial people analogon” which would allow them to cruelly repress Russians as Germanys loyal proxies.

      What I find somewhat curious is the lack of ambition apperant in that. What self-respecting powermonger prefers to be head honcho of a puppet state (and this already were long odds) over being potentially supreme overlord of the Superpower Soviet Union? Caesar old saying “I would rather be first in a Gallic village then second in rome” doenst apply because Ukrainian could and did become “first” in Moscow (more so then Russians actually).

      That may also be why basically noone in Russia does not have disdain for the UPA. Normal people disdain them because they were a bunch of murderous freaks, maximum cynicism elite people disdain them because they were incompetent, unambitious, and were overall doing the whole mass murder business wrong. Said “elites” may or may not consider themselfs to be proper professional in that particular business.

      Oh, another great line from that Ukrainian sane nationalist:

      “There are exactly 2 good things Bandera did for Ukraine. First, getting himself imprisoned by the Nazis, second, getting himself assasinated by the NKVD.”

  4. Josh

    You’re one of the view people – including myself and few others – beating the drum on this UPA/OUN/Bandera glorification. It’s really kind of disgusting the way Ukrainian nationalists are trying associate all of Ukraine with the UPA/OUN, when in fact I don’t think the majority of Ukrainians feel this way. For this bit of nonsense we can thank people like Viatrovych and his ilk as well as certain elements in the Ukrainian diaspora

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      And I’m going to keep on beating it. The funny thing is that the Russians who scream about Bandera really have no right to do so- the OUN and UPA didn’t really do much to Russians, per se, especially since their influence fell far short of Russian territory. It is Ukrainians, in Ukraine, in the diaspora, and even distantly-related folks like me who should be up in arms about this. Sadly there are a lot of people here(in Ukraine now) that don’t see this as a priority or see it as Russian propaganda. But if Ukraine took a resolute stand against this, they would deny Russia one of its best propaganda weapons overnight.

      1. Josh

        You nailed it Jim. The OUN/UPA mostly killed their fellow Ukrainians, not Red Army soldiers. Ukraine suffered horribly during the war, and millions fought with distinction on the side of the Red Army Its like a true gift to Putin this stuff, the gift that keeps on giving.

        I truly hope Ukraine becomes a modern European state, I really do. I’ve become friendly via
        e-mail/Twitter with a few of the young reformers from the civil society organizations. Just great people – I wish there were more folks like that in their 20s and 30s in the US. These kids are NOT fighting for some crazy OUN/UPA ideology, and for nationalists to undermine these kids in world opinion with their Bandera crap is in my view a BETRAYAL.

      2. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Hey brother, I nail it like I nail Russian kids to billboards yo!

        Seriously, keep up your work talking to those young people. That’s where the battlefield is. Either we educate them, or Viatrovych will.

  5. yenisei23

    Some authors state that for political reasons the subjects of the photograph were changed and the actual man to hoist the flag was Alyosha Kovalyov,[A 4][11][12] a Ukrainian, who was told by the NKVD to keep quiet about it.

    Sometimes having one of the most popular name-surname combos in Russia/Ukraine/to some extent Belarus does pay off. Gotta do something about that ё/yo though.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Yes, the ё thing is basically Hitler. Long time readers will note that I used to spell Dmitry Kiselyov’s surname as Kiselev, which is technically acceptable. The problem is that if you spell it in a way that isn’t the most common, people who don’t have as much Russian experience might not recognize it, or they have the skill but thing you’re wrong. Same thing happens with g/v, as in Sovietskogo Soyuza vs. Sovietskovo Soyuza. Go with the first one, and someone might say: “A HA! That’s actually a v sound!” Go with the v, and they’ll say you don’t know how it’s really spelled.


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