A step in the right…er..correct direction

It’s rare one finds good news coming out of Ukraine these days. Minsk II is a sick joke, corruption is still rampant, and the transfer bus from Boryspil no doubt still sucks. But lo! It appears that some folks in Ukraine, among them former presidents and other important public figures, have taken a bold step towards bringing the country into the 21st century.

A proposal has been put forth from the Ukrainian side to create a joint day of remembrance for the victims of the “Volyn tragedy.” To be sure, the word “tragedy” is a bit euphemistic. “Genocide” would be more appropriate to describe what the OUN-UPA committed starting in 1943 against the largely defenseless Polish population. But seeing as how the consistent tactic of the Bandera cult going all the way back to 1945 has been to outright deny any war crimes or atrocities of the OUN and UPA, this a major step forward.

There are a few key things to note about the proposal. Firstly, it may not be met with open arms by many Poles, especially considering the rise of the right-wing Law and Justice Party, which has hitherto demonstrated a propensity for whitewashing history. The “patriotic” Polish narrative of WWII generally portrays Poland as a wholly innocent and blameless victim of virtually all sides. More radical renditions posit Poland as a “savior” of Europe. As it pertains to Ukrainians, Polish nationalist have tended to deny the persecution of Ukrainians and other minorities during the interwar era of the Second Republic, as well as the murder of around 20,000 Ukrainians in areas outside of UPA control by forces such as the AK (Polish Home Army).

The second point to note is who is absent on this list of figures who support the proposal. We don’t see Volodymyr Viatrovych, for example, in spite of his being head of the Institute of National Memory. Perhaps that’s because rather than preserve and study national memory, Viatrovych seems to have spent his entire career whitewashing and distorting the legacy of Bandera and the OUN. A large part of that has involved transforming the ethnic cleansing of Poles in Volyn into a two-sided “war.”

This is a small step, but an important one, and while I’m cautious I must admit these days I’ll take any good news I can get. One last thing about this proposal that everyone should keep in mind is that while it is good that Ukraine collectively examines this event in a critical and proper way, this is not a question of Ukraine’s collective guilt. The overwhelming majority of Ukrainians did not support the OUN or UPA. A considerable number of those Ukrainians who did joint the insurgent army did so under duress. Another large portion joined, again sometimes under duress, long after these crimes had been committed. It bears keeping in mind that historically there have been two factions who have resolutely insisted on associating Ukrainians and Ukrainian culture with Bandera and his radical right-wing movement. The first is naturally the descendants of the Ukrainian right-wing nationalist movement, and those they have duped with their fairy tales about a heroic revolutionary struggle against the Nazis and Soviets. The other side is the Kremlin and its minions.

 

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25 thoughts on “A step in the right…er..correct direction

  1. JC Cohen

    Great piece Jim! And maybe a good sign of facing reality, although you’re right that Viatrovych doesn’t seem to be involved. Of course, he’s got a legitimate excuse, he was hanging out with some Banderite types in Chicago: https://mobile.twitter.com/molodyko/status/739511256466391040

    Per Anders Rudling told me these guys are commemorating the June 30 1941 Stetsko declaration of Ukrainian Statehood. Oddly enough, they are supposedly UPA, which of course had not been formed yet in 1941. But this is a glorification of Stetsko and the pro-Nazi state the OUN declared, which of course was accompanied by mass anti-Jewish violence and pogroms, especially in Lviv. It’s a bit like the Blues Brothers, the Illinois Nazis and now the Chicago Banderites, except the latter are real!

    I’m just stunned that so many people people just seem a-ok with Viatrovych heading up the National Archives, it’s crazy. I can’t figure out why so few of us write on this whole OUN/Bandera cult sweeping Ukraine. Even Euromaidan activists have a total blind spot on this stuff.

    Oh, and you’re point about Polish violence against Ukrainians is also spot on. Not that it excuses what the UPA did, but it’s a reminder that both sides have some atoning to do.

    Josh

    >

    Reply
    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      The “statehood declaration” is such a joke because…

      1. They have heavily edited the declaration to take out the bits about being loyal to Hitler and wanting to create a world order in Europe with Nazi Germany. Their declaration was patterned after the Slovak and Ustase declarations, so basically had the Germans obliged, Ukraine would have been a Nazi puppet state.

      2. Are they actually trying to make us believe that the OUN, had the Germans relented and recognized the declaration, would have created some kind of liberal democratic state? This is laughable.

      3. It’s kind of hard to create a state when the majority of Ukrainians are against you. The OUN had some popularity in Western Ukraine but virtually none outside of the region.

      4. While we both know that the OUN didn’t mount any significant resistance against the Germans, the UPA was founded, taken over really, by the OUN-B in 1942. There’s no evidence of OUN-B resistance after the arrests which came after the declaration. All they did was try to kill OUN-M members and other nationalists.

      Reply
  2. Balki

    The transfer bus from Boryspil runs far more regularly than, say, transfers from any London airport to Central London or the RER-B from CDG to Paris, is more comfortable and less crowded, goes directly to the steps of the major train station in Kyiv, and costs a pittance. Maybe, just maybe, you don’t know as much about Ukraine as you seem to think you do.

    I’ve yet to meet anybody who denies the Volyn atrocities, much less, save for an extreme minority of ultra rightists, claims they were justified. However, while certainly not justifying them a lot of Ukrainians do support seeing them in the context of their times – both as horrible and unjusitifiable violent acts in an era full of them and as overzealous pushback by a relatively small group who felt themselves responsible for the existential survival of a people who, let’s face it, had been badly put down upon and who had faced generations of repression and, in the east, murder (the parallels to Ireland here are numerous). Furthermore, while “even one is too many”, there is compelling evidence that the numbers for the Volyn massacres have been inflated somewhat postwar – kremlinist sources regularly repeat numbers of 100 – 250k even though lower of these is at the extreme top of scholarly estimates and all of which are far far below the even most conervative estimates of Ukrainians subject to genocide in the 1930s.

    Lest we forget that it was only 1924 that Grabski had forcibly turned people who had previously self identified as “Ukrainians” into “Ruthenians”, so talking about Ukrainian nationalists’ actions to reverse this as somehow inappropriate are strained at best.

    wikipedia here is helpful at providing a background to the volyn massacres:

    “After his sponsor Pilsudski’s death in 1935, Józewski’s Ukrainian programme was cancelled. The anti-Ukrainian Polish elements in the Polish military took control over policies in Volhynia. Józewski was criticized for allowing Ukrainians to buy land from Poles, Orthodox churches were demolished or converted to Catholic use during the “revindication” campaign, and by 1938 Józewski himself lost his post.[45][50] Under his successor, all state support for Ukrainian institutions was eliminated, and it was recommended that Polish officials cease using the words “Ukraine” or “Ukrainian.” [51] The Polish army Generals believed that filling all state offices in Volhynia with ethnic Poles would ensure fast mobilization and prevent sabotage in case of a Russian attack on Poland.[52] Ukrainians were systematically denied the opportunity to obtain government jobs.[53] Local elected ethnic Ukrainian officials were relieved of their posts.[54] Although the majority of the local population was Ukrainian, virtually all government official positions were assigned to Poles. Land reform designed to favour the Poles[55] brought further alienation of the Ukrainian population.[7]

    Military colonists were settled in Volhynia to defend border against Soviet intervention.[52] Despite the ethnic Ukrainian lands being overpopulated and Ukrainian farmers being in need of land, the Polish government’s land reforms gave land from large Polish estates not to local villagers but to Polish colonists.[53] This number was estimated at 300,000 in both Galicia and Volhynia by Ukrainian sources and less than 100,000 by Polish sources (see osadnik)[56]

    Plans were made for a new round of colonization of Volhynia by Polish military veterans and Polish civilians and hundreds of new Roman Catholic churches were planned for the new colonists and for converts from Orthodoxy.[51]

    The ultimate result of Polish policies in Volhynia was that a sense of Ukrainian patriotism was created; however this patriotism was not tied to the Polish state.[45] As a result of the anti-Ukrainian Polish policies, both Ukrainian nationalists and Communists found fertile ground for their ideas among the Volhynian Ukrainian population.[51]”

    Furthermore (and you don’t do more than handwave at this strawman), I don’t know who this mythical creature is that taught that Bandera’s immediate goals were a liberal multiculural democracy. His immediate goal was clearly the creation of a a Ukrainian state ruled and populated by Ukrainians for the same reasons given by Zionists of needing protection and opportunity that had been denied Jews under foreign yokes. The difference, of course, which was that Israel was created by western educated liberals on the beach laid largely bare by the receding tide of the British emprie while a free Ukraine was attempted to be formed between multiple totalitarian murdering powers – in an environment that spoke only to strength. The Ukrainians were under no illusions and were deeply divided on issues of cozying up to one power or another (if any) – as the multiple schisms and considerable correspondence attests to. They were under no illusions of the nature of the terrible options,including “do nothing”, that were before them.

    And if some of them ultimately did decide to take weapons from Germany, as the Irish under Valera had a generation earlier, is it really a surprise that “playing along” meant that using words and phrases that played to the vanities of their sponsor, again, much like the Proclamation of the Irish republic spoke of Ireland’s “gallant allies in Europe?” You do know who that was referring to, right?

    Ultimately, the proof that clearly the goal of Ukrainian nationalists in western Ukraine was to establish a Ukrainian state and NOT something ideological comes from the Nazis, who we see time after time after time recognizing this tendency in the Ukrainians – by refusing to arm them at times, by jailing their leaders (including Bandera, who the Germans released from Sachsenhausen only when times were desperate and the Germans felt they could use him as part of an overall holding action / retreat). The Ukrainians clearly were between the kremlinists and the nazis.

    I can go on and on, but what’s the point? Clearly, your article is some attempt to be “evenhanded” by mixing in your very apt firsthand observations on today’s Russia with some handwavy bullshit attacking mostly nonexistent strawmen when it comes to Ukraine’s history. For the IRA there was a time for strength and violence in order to have a leg to stand on when the time to talk came later and to allow the Irish to get off their knees in the first place. Had the irish massacred the English civilians of dublin like the OUN did in Volyn we’d justifiably roundly condemn them and consider that an extremely dark spot in the history of their national struggle. But it would not be the defining characteristic of that struggle, which I think nearly all people see now as having been legitimate…. even if…

    – the american ‘democrat’ de valera actually comported himself at times more like an autocrat to where even Yeats called him a demagogue.
    – the violence employed was a at times misdirected and clearly tactical excesses happened.
    – the majority of the irish people did not support the ira and were broadly accomodationist or just suffered
    – they had to make noises friendly to their arms suppliers, including in their declaration of statehood.

    again, there are almost surprisingly perfect parallels to ukraine here.

    Reply
    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Oh look, a dumptruck full of bad arguments to destroy! Let’s start with the easy one.

      “The transfer bus from Boryspil runs far more regularly than, say, transfers from any London airport to Central London or the RER-B from CDG to Paris, is more comfortable and less crowded, goes directly to the steps of the major train station in Kyiv, and costs a pittance. Maybe, just maybe, you don’t know as much about Ukraine as you seem to think you do.”

      Actually it’s more about not knowing London or Paris. I’ve been to London one time, for three days, whereas I’ve been to Ukraine seven times.

      But hey, you caught me. This is a Polish-Russian active measures attack on Kyiv’s glorious bus transfer system. Everything is part of the global, decades long conspiracy to keep Ukraine down.

      “I’ve yet to meet anybody who denies the Volyn atrocities, much less, save for an extreme minority of ultra rightists, claims they were justified. However, while certainly not justifying them a lot of Ukrainians do support seeing them in the context of their times – both as horrible and unjusitifiable violent acts in an era full of them and as overzealous pushback by a relatively small group who felt themselves responsible for the existential survival of a people who, let’s face it, had been badly put down upon and who had faced generations of repression and, in the east, murder (the parallels to Ireland here are numerous). Furthermore, while “even one is too many”, there is compelling evidence that the numbers for the Volyn massacres have been inflated somewhat postwar – kremlinist sources regularly repeat numbers of 100 – 250k”

      Well let’s see, folks like Viatrovych try to minimize the killings and turn them from genocide into a “war.” Furthermore, you cite “Kremlinist” sources, apparently forgetting that more reliable sources put the deaths between 40,000-100,000. So that’s really irrelevant.

      Second, you talk about historical circumstances and context. I’m completely fine with that, as I am with the Poles and their historical narratives. One thing though- it needs to apply ALL the time, including in regards to the Soviet Union, and not only when it’s useful for mitigating history’s judgment on a particular faction.

      As for what you bring up about Polish persecution of Ukrainians I am well aware of this and thus there is no need to address it at this time. Moving on…

      ” I don’t know who this mythical creature is that taught that Bandera’s immediate goals were a liberal multiculural democracy. His immediate goal was clearly the creation of a a Ukrainian state ruled and populated by Ukrainians for the same reasons given by Zionists of needing protection and opportunity that had been denied Jews under foreign yokes. The difference, of course, which was that Israel was created by western educated liberals on the beach laid largely bare by the receding tide of the British emprie while a free Ukraine was attempted to be formed between multiple totalitarian murdering powers – in an environment that spoke only to strength.”

      Well apparently a lot of people in modern Ukraine have been taught that modern democracy and the values of OUN and Bandera are somehow compatible. Now as for your claim that his immediate goal was clearly the creation of a Ukrainian state, this is extremely dishonest. In Bandera’s time and place there were other Ukrainian political factions including democratic ones. Bandera’s group had a fascist-like ideology, absorbed some of the smaller fascist groups like the League of Ukrainian Fascists (who actually invented the Slava Ukraini -Slava Heroiam salute), and committed acts of violence against members of other Ukrainian political factions including those which were pro-democracy. This practice of killing political rivals, including other nationalists, continued up until Bandera’s death in Munich.

      You make comparisons to the Irish but these are ridiculously poor. If you study the history of the 20th century struggle you’ll see that the Irish struggle was democratic, even socialist, from the start. Read the Democratic Programme of the First Dail, for example. De Velara would later make a number of controversial actions regarding Nazi Germany, but Ireland did not give the kind of material, concrete aid the OUN provided for the Nazis.

      “Ultimately, the proof that clearly the goal of Ukrainian nationalists in western Ukraine was to establish a Ukrainian state and NOT something ideological comes from the Nazis, who we see time after time after time recognizing this tendency in the Ukrainians – by refusing to arm them at times, by jailing their leaders (including Bandera, who the Germans released from Sachsenhausen only when times were desperate and the Germans felt they could use him as part of an overall holding action / retreat). The Ukrainians clearly were between the kremlinists and the nazis.”

      Nonsense, the declaration praised Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany and can’t be compared to a controversial statement by De Valera, who by the way received weapons from the German Empire, and not the Nazi State. What is more, the OUN organized militias, police, and military units which would either take part in pogroms or incite others to do so. That they sometimes came into clashes with the Germans is irrelevant. There were always rivalries and different interests within the Axis forces. In any case, supposing a Ukrainian state could have actually been created (assuming the Germans blessed it), this would have most likely led to an Axis victory in WWII. How would that work out for the rest of the world? And as for that Ukrainian state? After having defeated the Soviet Union Hitler could have easily abolished the Ukrainian state and set about exterminating the Ukrainians to make way for German living space.

      So please stop comparing Ireland to Ukraine. Sure, if the IRA had massacred thousands of English civilians you’d have a point, but they didn’t, not like the OUN murdered Jews, Poles, and a lot of Ukrainians including people who supported them. And you know if Ireland did have such a figure in their past, I’m not so sure they would look at him the same way they look at DeValera.

      “I can go on and on, but what’s the point? Clearly, your article is some attempt to be “evenhanded” by mixing in your very apt firsthand observations on today’s Russia with some handwavy bullshit attacking mostly nonexistent strawmen when it comes to Ukraine’s history. ”

      Yes, you’ve busted the whole charade! Evenhanded, critical thinking applied to all sides is just part of a conspiracy against Ukraine, perpetrated by Polish nationalists and Russian imperialists- best friends forever.

      You speak about nonexistent strawmen- well I read the ravings of Viatrovych and his ilk. I visit Ukraine frequently. A lot of people want to pretend this isn’t a big deal and it’s all just Russian propaganda, but my problem is that I go to Kyiv and I see OUN and Bandera shit for sale all over the place, and sometimes 14th Waffen SS division stuff being openly sold or worn. Prior to 2015 (when I went back), that kind of shit was very low-key, sold by a few guys with tables on Maidan. Now it’s far more popular. If it were more like pre-2015 I’d dismiss it as nothing but a fringe phenomenon.

      I’m getting sick of these people who ask “Why all this talk about Bandera? It’s really not a big deal!” Then when there’s talk of a street or bridge being named after Bandera or Shukhevych and if you criticize it, folks like you show up with your apologetics and accusations against anyone who dares question the Dear Leader.

      Reply
      1. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Oops! Nearly forgot:

        “– the american ‘democrat’ de valera actually comported himself at times more like an autocrat to where even Yeats called him a demagogue.”

        At times, key word. Bandera believed in the Fuhrerprincip and was anti-democratic till his dying day. Opponents faced violence if not death.

        “– the violence employed was a at times misdirected and clearly tactical excesses happened.”

        Yes, the ethnic cleansing of Volyn, the pogroms in Lviv and the extermination of Jews who’d escaped the ghettos in 1943-1944, and the killing of twice as many Ukrainian civilians than NKVD or Soviet armed forces can be written off as “tactical excesses.”

        The King David Hotel bombing was a “tactical excess.”

        “– the majority of the irish people did not support the ira and were broadly accomodationist or just suffered”

        The would depend on your definition of support. Even if we agreed on that, I doubt the ratio would be so stark as in Ukraine, where it was something like 100,000 vs. the rest of the 40 million.

        On that note, Bandera and his compatriots often referenced that they’d be willing to kill millions of Ukrainians in order to have a state as they saw fit (a one-party, one leader state). Should such a person have monuments in Ukraine?

        “– they had to make noises friendly to their arms suppliers, including in their declaration of statehood.”

        I don’t remember Ireland actively supporting the German cause in WWI, nor did they do so in WWII. The OUN had affinity for the Nazi Germany state for the same reason the Ustase party did.

        My question is where does this end? Are we going to rehabilitate the Ustase next? There are some Croats who want to. What about the Hlinka Guard? The Arrow Cross? The Rexists? Hell, let’s just rehabilitate Nazi Germany itself, since racism seems pretty popular there at the moment! Let’s take a page from Putin’s propaganda machine and just let every country rewrite world history as it sees fit.

      2. Mr. Hack

        ‘Now as for your claim that his immediate goal was clearly the creation of a Ukrainian state, this is extremely dishonest. In Bandera’s time and place there were other Ukrainian political factions including democratic ones. Bandera’s group had a fascist-like ideology, absorbed some of the smaller fascist groups like the League of Ukrainian Fascists (who actually invented the Slava Ukraini -Slava Heroiam salute), and committed acts of violence against members of other Ukrainian political factions including those which were pro-democracy. This practice of killing political rivals, including other nationalists, continued up until Bandera’s death in Munich.’

        The elimination of rival Ukrainian parties who held differing political views from the OUN(B) does not in any sense mitigate against the desire of this faction to create an independent Ukrainian state. In their minds, the OUN(B) felt that the surest way to reach their goal of Ukrainian statehood was to create strength through unity and a one party orthodoxy. Your suggestion that this movement was aware of Hitler’s desire to create a new Germany on Ukrainian ethnic territory (liebenstraum) cuts against any semblance of logical thinking. It’s easy today to disparage this movements quasi-fascistic ideology, but I’ll have to agee with Balki’s assertions:

        ‘ His immediate goal was clearly the creation of a a Ukrainian state ruled and populated by Ukrainians for the same reasons given by Zionists of needing protection and opportunity that had been denied Jews under foreign yokes. The difference, of course, which was that Israel was created by western educated liberals on the beach laid largely bare by the receding tide of the British emprie while a free Ukraine was attempted to be formed between multiple totalitarian murdering powers – in an environment that spoke only to strength…

        The fact of this movement’s failure to reach its goals and its unfortunate preoccuption with the elimination of rival Ukrainian factions cannot be construed as signs of its watered down attempts to create a Ukrainian state (undoubtedly a fascistic one, not democratic).

      3. Jim Kovpak Post author

        “The elimination of rival Ukrainian parties who held differing political views from the OUN(B) does not in any sense mitigate against the desire of this faction to create an independent Ukrainian state.”

        Irrelevant. Intents don’t matter near as much as results. One could say the same thing about the Soviet Union and the Ukrainians who built the Ukrainian SSR- They wanted to build a modern, democratic, egalitarian society.

        Once again, special pleading.

        “Hitler’s desire to create a new Germany on Ukrainian ethnic territory (liebenstraum) cuts against any semblance of logical thinking. ”

        They certainly could have been aware, if they’d bother to see beyond their extremely narrow worldview and did due diligence.

        “It’s easy today to disparage this movements quasi-fascistic ideology, but I’ll have to agee with Balki’s assertions:”

        Yes it is easy. It is not merely a matter of ideology, but material support for the Germans and their Holocaust.

        If we’re not going to criticize the OUN for this, please explain if we’re going to change history for the sake of the Ustase, Iron Guard, etc. Hell, why not Nazi Germany? Maybe there are German neo-Nazis who condemn and regret the Holocaust (most of them deny it anyway), and rather prefer to celebrate the idea of a healthy German society? Who are we to tell them otherwise? Ditto with the Russians and their magical religious Stalin.

        “The fact of this movement’s failure to reach its goals and its unfortunate preoccuption with the elimination of rival Ukrainian factions cannot be construed as signs of its watered down attempts to create a Ukrainian state (undoubtedly a fascistic one, not democratic).”

        “while a free Ukraine was attempted to be formed between multiple totalitarian murdering powers – in an environment that spoke only to strength…”

        Again, this suggests that the OUN somehow owned the concept of Ukraine. Sure, they said they wanted an independent Ukraine, but they did a really shitty job. Stuck between two totalitarian powers? Tough shit. For nearly all their existence they happily sided with one of those totalitarian powers, negating the idea that they were somehow against both.

        Since unity tends to help when fighting for self-determination, I have to disagree. But again, results matter more than stated intentions.

    2. Mr. Hack

      Any reason that you’ve eliminated the ‘Reply’ feature two both of my posts here? I hope that it’s just an oversight?…

      Reply
      1. Mr. Hack

        I meant:

        Any reason that you’ve eliminated the ‘Reply’ feature in both of your replies to my posts here? I hope that it’s just an oversight?…

      2. Jim Kovpak Post author

        I haven’t “eliminated” anything. I’m not like Viatrovych. Try reloading the page or post it as a new comment since I get notifications for everything.

  3. Balki

    Sigh.

    “But hey, you caught me. This is a Polish-Russian active measures attack on Kyiv’s glorious bus transfer system. ”

    WTF are you on about? Nobody said or implied this. How droll of you to create and then attack yet another strawman. I simply pointed out that Borispyl’s airport transfers – even the basic bus ones – are actually pretty darn convenient for those of us who travel often enough to draw comparisons and it seemed to suggest that you weren’t as familiar with Ukraine as you thought you might be if you were going to start there. I mean it’s as if you started an article with “Boy those sidewalks in Singapore are dirty …. and now let me chime in on Singapore history and politics.”

    “Well let’s see, folks like Viatrovych try to minimize the killings and turn them from genocide into a “war.” Furthermore, you cite “Kremlinist” sources, apparently forgetting that more reliable sources put the deaths between 40,000-100,000.”

    So let me get this straight. First you oversimplify Viatrovych’s views to build up the strawman, then you assign the characteristics of that strawman to much of Ukraine, and then from there you take historically plausible numbers (40-100k) and then falsely ascribe them to the kremlin, which routinely multiplies these by several times that. I think the slowest of slow claps is in order for you.

    “Well apparently a lot of people in modern Ukraine have been taught that modern democracy and the values of OUN and Bandera are somehow compatible.”

    Ah, more phantasmic “a lot of people” strawmen pulled with both hands out of your backside. Actually, the long and short of what is taught in the actual Ukraine, not the Ukraine of your imagination, is that Bandera was a nationalist leader, which he was. The details beyond that are rarely delved into (because they’re messy and unflattering, to say the very very least), but when they are they are usually to the extent that a nascent Ukraine was caught between giants and that various actors made various compromises with various devils but all with the overarching goal of a free and independent Ukraine. Which is true–and the sum takeaway that most supporters go with. I mean, you have to remember – in 1941 Ukrainians didn’t have the luxury of sitting under a gazebo in their togas to debate Aristotelian ethics and choosing the way forward for their city state. They faced many really bad people, had no resources, and had were getting murdered and oppressed on every point of the compass. All of their possible choices were bad, including “let’s be democrats and somehow hope to make an impact between Nazi germany and the Soviet union.” Their “democratic” state without support from anybody would have stood like a sand castle against a tsunami.

    What is particularly indicative of your lack of background is your harping on Bandera’s “integral nationalism.” The reality is that the ideology of the future ukrainian state really didn’t play a major role in the activities of OUN-B or anybody there to nearly the extent that you and certainly not to the extent that subsequent kremlinist propaganda suggests. In what little time they actually could devote to nation modeling or ideology, the Ukrainian nationalists broadly copied the examples they knew and understood and which were not the provably murderous communism/stalinism (which at the time the decision was made clearly looked to be the worst of the bunch to anybody in westen ukraine). This meant Germany and Poland, both of which were autocratic dictatorships based around strong state concepts. But ultimately – the OUN guys didn’t take a strong ideological position – their “ideology” as it were can be likened to a much weaker form of communism in Vietnam – the Vietnamese independence movement was about Vietnamese independence from colonial rule – it was never really about Communism, despite the trappings. Ditto Ukraine. At best you saw a kind of a weak parroting of existing models of their materially supporting states on an enemy-of-my-enemy basis. The main theme for both the vietnamese and the ukrainians was freedom from what they saw to be imperial tyranny. Evidence of this? Spend some time looking at Nazi propaganda in Ukraine. See how much the germans thought that in order to convince ukrainians to do anything they had to appeal to their own ukrainianness – not to ideology. Spend some time looking at the history of bandera himself – how did they convince him to join them? by appealing to his desire to build a ukrinian state. why did he agree to further fight after he had been imprisoned by the nazis and his brothers and father murdered by the nazis? by being convinced that he could carve out a state where the nazi tide retreated. And so the vietnamese today honor uncle ho just as the ukrainians honor bandera – not for his ideology and not for the atrocities (remember Hue) committed in his name – but for his leadership in the cause of self determination.

    “Yes, you’ve busted the whole charade! Evenhanded, critical thinking applied to all sides is just part of a conspiracy against Ukraine, perpetrated by Polish nationalists and Russian imperialists- best friends forever. ”

    Oh look, more abject bullshit attributing some conspiratorial nonsense that i never said, thought, or implied. Let’s not let actual facts get in the way of more “many people” statements from you or comedies such as pretending that 40 million Ukrainians were pro-soviet or whatever it was exactly that line was supposed to suggest.

    And finally, and for this you deserve a swift kick in the testicles, in your reply to me you’ve gone to lengths to pretend that I tried to minimize what happened in Volyn. That’s beyond disgraceful. That’s “Crucified Children of Slavyansk” low. I used terms like “atrocity”, “masssacre”, etc etc to describe the crimes of Volyn and I have no problem with condemning it as a genocide as well.

    You may have misssed, however, that in recent years Western Ukrainians have actually been moving forward on the historical truth and reconciliation front – museums and exhibitions on the Lviv ghetto have opened just in recent years and plaques and statuettes to murders and atrocities are beginning to pop up here and there (there’s a long way to go, and Ukraine has many, many issues when it comes to dealing with its past honestly, but it’s a start.). Meanwhile, in Russia.. they continue to deny or minimize the (numerically multiply more murderous) holodomor and sites like Perm-36 is in danger of closing. For you to pretend that I minimized Volyn shows your lack of honestly on this matter and your last paragraph of your second reply is well and truly through the lookng glass. You build up strawmen, lose any sense of nuance of perspective, and then drunkenly ride your own slipperly slope into full Godwin. Disgraceful and dishonest.

    Reply
  4. Jim Kovpak Post author

    “Nobody said or implied this. How droll of you to create and then attack yet another strawman. I simply pointed out that Borispyl’s airport transfers – even the basic bus ones – are actually pretty darn convenient for those of us who travel often enough to draw comparisons and it seemed to suggest that you weren’t as familiar with Ukraine as you thought you might be if you were going to start there. I mean it’s as if you started an article with “Boy those sidewalks in Singapore are dirty …. and now let me chime in on Singapore history and politics.”

    First of all, it’s a joke. Second, this might surprise you but I’ve been studying topics like this since 2002, and as I’ve pointed out I have a great deal of experience in Ukraine and am in regular communication with several scholars on issues like these.

    “So let me get this straight. First you oversimplify Viatrovych’s views to build up the strawman, then you assign the characteristics of that strawman to much of Ukraine, and then from there you take historically plausible numbers (40-100k) and then falsely ascribe them to the kremlin, which routinely multiplies these by several times that. I think the slowest of slow claps is in order for you.”

    Wow, you couldn’t have got that more wrong. I’m going to note that English isn’t your first language. As for Viatrovych’s views, I know only what he puts out there, and what various international scholars who have dealt with him have either published or told me about him. One interesting thing is that there is a very consistent story with each one.

    You were the one who brought up Kremlin figures, not me. Why did you bring that up in the first place if you were aware of the more realistic figures?

    And lastly, I never assigned this to much of Ukraine- Viatrovych and co. are just a very loud minority and that gives them some influence in the sphere of history, education, etc. It’s especially helpful when the rest of the country is more worried about corruption and that pesky invasion.

    “Ah, more phantasmic “a lot of people” strawmen pulled with both hands out of your backside. Actually, the long and short of what is taught in the actual Ukraine, not the Ukraine of your imagination, is that Bandera was a nationalist leader, which he was. The details beyond that are rarely delved into (because they’re messy and unflattering, to say the very very least), but when they are they are usually to the extent that a nascent Ukraine was caught between giants and that various actors made various compromises with various devils but all with the overarching goal of a free and independent Ukraine.”

    I can only speak about what I have read in the academic literature and what I see and experience. You say the details are messy and unflattering, great. Teach them then. Why cover them up? In my business I can’t help but notice how much of the foreign media is happy to zero in on examples of Russian textbooks or media glossing over key atrocities or crimes of the Soviet government. We rarely see the same reaction when it comes to the whitewashing of Bandera in Ukraine, and whoever attempts to do so (like reader Cohen up there), is typically labeled a Kremlin propagandist or worse.

    As for that general narrative, it is bullshit. Bandera did not desire what could be called a “free Ukraine” This is based on his actions and ideology. The idea that he would compromise with different “devils” is rather lame as well, seeing as how in that case he could have compromised with the USSR to undermine Poland, for example. Instead of sending men to join the German Ordnungspolizei or 14th Waffen SS to get weapons, the UPA could have just as easily had people join the Red Army. Yet they didn’t. They routinely collaborated with fascist parties prior to the war, during it, and to some extent after it (for example the Franco regime).

    “Which is true–and the sum takeaway that most supporters go with. I mean, you have to remember – in 1941 Ukrainians didn’t have the luxury of sitting under a gazebo in their togas to debate Aristotelian ethics and choosing the way forward for their city state. They faced many really bad people, had no resources, and had were getting murdered and oppressed on every point of the compass. All of their possible choices were bad, including “let’s be democrats and somehow hope to make an impact between Nazi germany and the Soviet union.” Their “democratic” state without support from anybody would have stood like a sand castle against a tsunami.”

    Well I’d love to buy that except one thing- the vast majority of Ukrainians sided with the Soviet state, yet folks like to call this an illegal occupation and its symbols are banned. Last October I was in Kyiv and they had this exhibition on WWII on Khreschatyk. The OUN-UPA part is presented more or less uncritically, while the Ukrainian Soviet partisans are criticized. The crowning achievement is the tally of Ukrainians who fought on all sides, and the UPA is represented by a Ukrainian flag, on the ALLIED side of the war.

    “What is particularly indicative of your lack of background is your harping on Bandera’s “integral nationalism.”

    “Integral nationalism” was just some people’s term for it, which some might argue was a euphemism. See my background in this is far more extensive than you realize.

    “The reality is that the ideology of the future ukrainian state really didn’t play a major role in the activities of OUN-B or anybody there to nearly the extent that you and certainly not to the extent that subsequent kremlinist propaganda suggests.”

    So it was just accidental that they aided in pogroms against Jews, and Poles, who happened to be portrayed as enemies of the Ukrainian state in some OUN propaganda.

    “In what little time they actually could devote to nation modeling or ideology, the Ukrainian nationalists broadly copied the examples they knew and understood and which were not the provably murderous communism/stalinism (which at the time the decision was made clearly looked to be the worst of the bunch to anybody in westen ukraine). This meant Germany and Poland, both of which were autocratic dictatorships based around strong state concepts. But ultimately – the OUN guys didn’t take a strong ideological position – their “ideology” as it were can be likened to a much weaker form of communism in Vietnam – the Vietnamese independence movement was about Vietnamese independence from colonial rule – it was never really about Communism, despite the trappings. Ditto Ukraine. At best you saw a kind of a weak parroting of existing models of their materially supporting states on an enemy-of-my-enemy basis.”

    First, there were other Ukrainians who didn’t adopt the authoritarian right-leaning ideology. Bandera and the OUN wanted them dead. Second, I’m well aware of the historical context of the era. Nobody is singling out Ukraine and saying that this was the only country besides Germany and Italy to have a fascist movement. There was only one democratic state in central Europe in the era and that was Czechoslovakia.

    If anything, Ukrainians can probably claim far less support (as a whole) for their fascist movement than a lot of other nationalities in Eastern Europe. Why not go with this?

    “The main theme for both the vietnamese and the ukrainians was freedom from what they saw to be imperial tyranny. Evidence of this? Spend some time looking at Nazi propaganda in Ukraine. See how much the germans thought that in order to convince ukrainians to do anything they had to appeal to their own ukrainianness – not to ideology”

    Take a look at Nazi propaganda toward everyone else, it worked the same way. Your argument would be fine if it were applied to say, Subhas Chandra Bose.

    .” Spend some time looking at the history of bandera himself – how did they convince him to join them? by appealing to his desire to build a ukrinian state. why did he agree to further fight after he had been imprisoned by the nazis and his brothers and father murdered by the nazis? by being convinced that he could carve out a state where the nazi tide retreated.”

    The Nazis appealed to a lot of their allies’ geopolitical goals- what’s your point? I might also point out that his two brothers were not “murdered by the Nazis.” Stories vary but the most likely one is that they ran into some Polish prisoners who recognized them in Auschwitz. Polish prisoners did not live under the same regime as Jewish and Roma prisoners. Also Bandera’s father was executed by the Soviets. Who lacks background again?

    “And so the vietnamese today honor uncle ho just as the ukrainians honor bandera – not for his ideology and not for the atrocities (remember Hue) committed in his name – but for his leadership in the cause of self determination.”

    I’ll ignore yet another inaccurate comparison to question this idea that Bandera was totally dedicated to the cause of self-determination. He had ample opportunity to know what the Nazis really planned for Ukraine. It was there in black and white in a lot of Nazi propaganda including Mein Kampf.

    But let us go with the idea that he was tricked. Why not go over into anti-Nazi resistance ASAP? Throughout the entire war the UPA under OUN-B leadership never fought any engagement of significance against the Axis forces. Even from Zellenbau Bandera was tying to get his men to patch up relations with the Germans. Was this because they saw the Red Army as too overwhelming? Great- then explain why they kept fighting on the German side when the Red Army was coming back in 1943-44.

    ” Let’s not let actual facts get in the way of more “many people” statements from you or comedies such as pretending that 40 million Ukrainians were pro-soviet or whatever it was exactly that line was supposed to suggest.”

    What I suggested is that the overwhelming majority of Ukrainians stuck with the Soviet system, either passively or actively. Granted, fear played a large role, especially in Western Ukraine, but then again it also was a motivating factor for many to join the UPA.

    “And finally, and for this you deserve a swift kick in the testicles, in your reply to me you’ve gone to lengths to pretend that I tried to minimize what happened in Volyn. That’s beyond disgraceful. That’s “Crucified Children of Slavyansk” low. I used terms like “atrocity”, “masssacre”, etc etc to describe the crimes of Volyn and I have no problem with condemning it as a genocide as well.”

    Well there’s an inaccurate comparison to top all the previous ones. As for the rest, if you have no problem condemning it than great- you’re on the right side. Did you not notice this whole post is about a success against radical right-wing types, one which was suggested by Ukrainians from the get-go?

    “You may have misssed, however, that in recent years Western Ukrainians have actually been moving forward on the historical truth and reconciliation front – museums and exhibitions on the Lviv ghetto have opened just in recent years and plaques and statuettes to murders and atrocities are beginning to pop up here and there (there’s a long way to go, and Ukraine has many, many issues when it comes to dealing with its past honestly, but it’s a start.). Meanwhile, in Russia.. they continue to deny or minimize the (numerically multiply more murderous) holodomor and sites like Perm-36 is in danger of closing. For you to pretend that I minimized Volyn shows your lack of honestly on this matter and your last paragraph of your second reply is well and truly through the lookng glass. You build up strawmen, lose any sense of nuance of perspective, and then drunkenly ride your own slipperly slope into full Godwin. Disgraceful and dishonest.”

    Clearly I have missed that, and I’m glad to hear it. But as for the rest, you did come in here with what seemed like a half-hearted defense of Viatrovych and Bandera. I don’t know you, I don’t know about any writing you’ve done elsewhere. I can only judge based on what I see here. For one thing you’ve made a lot of inaccurate comparisons, particularly on the Irish issue. And as for those Russian attempts to whitewash history, I’m often less concerned with those if only because they receive far more attention than what goes on in countries like Poland or Ukraine. Part of that is no doubt due to Russia’s size and the fact that they’ve been acting really loud lately. But on the other hand there are times when the constant Russian cries of “double standards” ring true, under the busted clock rule.

    And as for Godwin’s Law- we’re discussing the topic of Nazi collaboration. They’re going to come up.

    If you are seriously for truth and reconciliation in Ukraine then people like you and I should be working together, not arguing.

    Reply
    1. Mr. Hack

      Your’s and Balki’s comments provide for an enligtening dialogue. I’m sorry to see tha Balki seems to have bowed out in such an abrupt and silly manner. You both seem very well versed in the topic a hand, and you both make some good points. My only observation seems to involve a bit of your own hypocricyJim when you state:

      ‘You say the details are messy and unflattering, great. Teach them then. Why cover them up? In my business I can’t help but notice how much of the foreign media is happy to zero in on examples of Russian textbooks or media glossing over key atrocities or crimes of the Soviet government. We rarely see the same reaction when it comes to the whitewashing of Bandera in Ukraine,’

      Yet in a previous comment you state:

      ‘As for what you bring up about Polish persecution of Ukrainians I am well aware of this and thus there is no need to address it at this time. Moving on…

      Are you yourself not giving into some ‘glossing over of key atrocities or crimes’ and perhaps practicing a litle bit of whitewashing yourself here by ommiting some important background information tha is quite relevant to the topic at hand? If now is not the right time, then when is?

      Reply
      1. Jim Kovpak Post author

        That wasn’t the purpose of my comment. Since I am aware of the Second Republic’s persecution of Ukrainians I felt no need to dispute anything he posted related to that.

        Now if someone said that examples of Poland’s persecution of minorities pre-war should be highlighted more in say, English-language popular history, I’d be all for it. Unfortunately Poland has long enjoyed this reputation as the lily-white innocent victim of WWII. All Anglophones know it was attacked, but they know nothing about its government, its foreign policy- they don’t even know that it occupied parts of Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine, and for a short time part of what was Czechoslovakia at the time.

        I suspect this myth of poor, brave little Poland survives in the popular history due to the British. The British narrative pushed by some authors is that the UK was the truly heroic ally. Stalin was just another Hitler, the US just wanted to sell stuff, but Britain, GLORIOUS, SELFLESS Britain, went to war for the sake of Poland…Once the Germans forced them to.

        Unfortunately the whitewashing of Polish WWII history has been given a boost thanks to the new conservative government there. So while it looks like Ukraine is clearly moving forward, it’s Poland that’s in danger.

  5. Balki

    “Wow, you couldn’t have got that more wrong. I’m going to note that English isn’t your first language”

    I got this far before realizing just how far up your own asshole you are.

    *plonk*

    Reply
  6. Pingback: 6/10 Weekly Roundup | The Elicitor

  7. Reactor

    Before I start, a brief correction:

    “He had ample opportunity to know what the Nazis really planned for Ukraine. It was there in black and white in a lot of Nazi propaganda including Mein Kampf.”

    Go find a PDF of Mein Kampf and ctrl + f for Ukraine. It isn’t even mentioned there. Apart from that, it wasn’t translated into Ukrainian or Russian until long after the war. Also, there was never ANY public propaganda, not even in Germany, about real or supposed plans for Eastern Europe. All that exists in that regard is some correspondence between (rather low-ranking) Third Reich officials. I’m a bit nit-picking here, but being interested in that period of the 20th century, I have read a great deal of German documents from that era and it really grinds my gears if someone just repeats tired clichés without doing proper research first.

    Next, find me an instance after 1942 where any meaningful cooperation between the German forces and Ukrainian forces affiliated with the OUN-B took place. Temporary tactical agreements against a common enemy, as e.g. occassional cooperation between German forces and AK or NSZ units against Soviet partisans, don’t count. As a matter of fact, the OUN-B chiefly saw the Germans as a means to obtain training and weapons in the early stages of the German-Soviet war and nothing else. Reports by German officials in Ukraine complaining about anti-German rhetoric and behaviour among their supposed Ukrainian allies can be found as early as August 1941. By early 1943, pretty much all OUN-B personnel in German service had defected to the UPA (they were subsequently replaced by Poles, at least in Volhynia; in fact, the Germans ’employing Poles in their destructive actions’ was one of the tropes of OUN-B propaganda back in the days). It’s possible that individual OUN-B sympathizers entered German service after that, but I see no evidence that it was a general policy of the OUN-B.

    There were of course plenty of Ukrainians in German service who had nothing to do with the OUN-B – people affiliated with the OUN-M, former members of the UNDO (a Ukrainian party in prewar Poland) and other non-OUN-B nationalists, Soviet POWs, former Ukrainian personnel of the Polish army (Pavlo Shandruk for instance; I highly recommend reading his memoir ‘Arms of Valor’ to anyone interested in WW2 Ukraine) and others who had different reasons of their own to throw their lot in with the Germans. The OUN-B actively discouraged its members from joining any of the Ukrainian formations in the Wehrmacht or the Waffen-SS. So whatever charges one might level against the OUN-B, the ‘Nazi collaboration’-narrative belongs into the realm of fiction for the most part.

    I’m of course not trying to whitewash any atrocities committed by OUN-B forces. In fact, their conduct was a lot worse than that of the Ukrainian formations fighting on the German side. The same can be said about the conduct of the Polish AK/NSZ forces in Volhynia and Galicia when compared with the Polish Schuma battalions. So any tales about ‘good patriots’ vs. ‘evil collaborators’, popular on both sides, disintegrate quickly here. Accordingly, a sound discourse on the Volhynia massacres would first of all require all parties involved to stop using buzzwords such as ‘fascist’, ‘nazi’, ‘collaborationist’ etc., as they serve no purpose other than preemptively denigrating those on the opposite side of the discussion, Russia Today-style.

    As regards Viatrovich, he is absolutely correct when he insists that the Volhynia massacres were a two-sided affair. He is also absolutely wrong calling it a war, as the Polish and Ukrainian gangs were mostly going after each other’s unarmed population instead of facing each other’s armed counterparts. The events can be labelled as genocide, but they can’t be called a genocide of Poles without being called a genocide of Ukrainians at the same time, and vice-versa. Simply siding with one nation’s narrative and forcing it onto the other, without any concern for the other’s ordeals, is no basis for reconciliation.

    Furthermore, abstract things such as organizations, ideologies and symbols can never be made responsible for whatever is committed in their name. The only ones responsible are the people committing the deeds in question. An organization is solely defined by what it means to the people referring to it. If the legacy of the OUN-B, however burdened it may be, symbolizes the struggle for a free, just Ukraine for Ukrainians today and if it motivates them to give live and death to build a brighter future for their country and its people, then why judge them for referring to it? As Balki mentioned, no one cherishes the carnage committed in the name of the OUN-B. They are seen as freedom fighters, and if it inspires those referring to its legacy to become actual freedom fighters, it’s all to the good.

    Last but not least, this debate shouldn’t be there in the first place. A problem in Poland, Ukraine, Russia and Eastern Europe in general is that these countries, as a general rule, turn themselves into hostages of history. There’s nothing wrong with a healthy interest in history per se, as long as one intends to actually learn from it. In these countries, however, the tendency is to obsess about past glories, real or imagined, in order to distract from a bleak present (I apply the word ‘glory’ very broadly here to include ‘suffering’ as well, as the latter is invoked often, usually to underline the own ‘righteousness’). While I appreciate the spirit behind Poland and Ukraine trying to find an understanding in regards to this dark chapter, I also think it won’t lead to any significant results under present circumstances. Before digging into the past once more, Poland and Ukraine must find an understanding on how to shape the future first. Then the past won’t weigh them down any longer.

    Reply
    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      First of all let me say that I agree with a lot of your comment, especially the conclusion. I would say that this extends to Russia as well as Poland and Ukraine.

      Now onto the Mein Kampf thing, I am of course referring to this passage:

      “And so we National Socialists consciously draw a line beneath the foreign policy tendency of our pre-War period. We take up where we broke off six hundred years ago. We stop the endless German movement to the south and west, and turn our gaze toward the land in the east. At long last we break of the colonial and commercial policy of the pre-War period and shift to the soil policy of the future.

      If we speak of soil in Europe today, we can primarily have in mind only Russia and her vassal border states.”

      “Vassal border states” obviously includes Ukraine. I would suspect that with the pre-war collaboration between the OUN and German intelligence, someone would have been able to read German and might have looked into this.

      I will concede, however, that I had not considered the question of how commonly this theme was discussed in public in Nazi Germany, and I don’t doubt for a moment that those Germans working with the OUN would have deliberately concealed their views about Lebensraum since they valued their own goals above those of the nationalists.

      On the Polish-Ukrainian violence I don’t really have any dispute so I’ll skip that.

      Onto that matter of collaboration. I see several problems with this argument.

      -Why start in 1942? I point this out because lately (and in the past), people love pointing out the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, and particularly the invasion of Poland, as Soviet-German collaboration and proof that these are two identical “totalitarian” ideologies. Well sure, the two states literally collaborated (albeit for different reasons), but then Nazi Germany attacked the USSR and the USSR fought back until the former was destroyed. If we resort to OUN apologist logic, whereby all pre-war OUN collaboration doesn’t count because the Nazis arrested Stetsko, Bandera, et al (they leave out their killing of fellow nationalists), then how can one keep harping on Molotov-Ribbentrop? Before M-R, the Soviets were funding and supporting anti-fascists against fascists. After M-R (which they knew was only a temporary, tactical measure), they ended up destroying Nazi Germany with the help of the Allies. By contrast the UPA resumed collaboration with the Germans.

      -Starting in 1942 ignores the actions of the OUN in organizing militias and police which took part in the genocide of Jews in Galicia. True, these forces deserted en masse, but this also meant that many of them were able to escape justice. It’s also worth noting that in 1943 the UPA also participated in the mass killing of Jews (largely those who had escaped to the forests), and they did this without German prodding or orders.

      -Another problematic thing with the arbitrary choice of 1942 (and again, they resumed collaboration in 1943) is that the current myth today is that they were “freedom fighters” against the USSR and Nazi Germany. Unfortunately, there’s no evidence of any significant actions against the Germans. As you admit, they made tactical alliances during that period. It’s also worth noting that from jail Bandera was sending orders to repair relations with the Germans, which would also go far in explaining the lack of any significant anti-German action.

      Compare the actions of the UPA to those of the Russian SS Druzhina brigade, for example. It was an effective anti-partisan unit, but the leader Gil-Rodionov defected with a large part of his unit to the partisans. He was later decorated by the Soviet Union before dying in a German encirclement. That’s changing sides and fighting the Nazis. Not what the UPA did.

      -On the matter of Ukrainian Wehrmacht and SS units, people don’t limit collaboration based on service in the armed forces of Germany. Chetniks collaborated, Polish civilians collaborated.

      The other issue I have with this assertion is that in my experience, the apologetics start with the UPA, and then come the defenses of the 14th Waffen SS division and pretty much every reactionary Ukrainian force there ever was. A good example of this can be found in Logusz’s The Galicia Division, which I read back in 2002. A lot of whitewashing there.

      I don’t think at all that this is a Ukrainian trait. You see the same thing with Russia. First they’e like: “Hey let’s celebrate our victory over fascism! Also how about that space exploration in the USSR? That was good too!” But then it gradually turns into “Everything that Russia ever did was totally justified and you’re a gay Nazi if you disagree.”

      Okay let me get to the main point of disagreement, which is what you said about ideologies and symbols. I’m terribly sorry, but this is a really, really bad idea. First of all, you talk about what people do being the main thing. Alright, but what motivates those actions? Did Nazi Germany just happen to have a lot of genocidal anti-Semites? No, these people came under the influence of Nazi propaganda that motivated those actions. In a similar way, those Ukrainians who participated in ethnic cleansing and the pogroms in 1941 were largely responding to OUN agitation and propaganda, which propagated such concepts as “Judeo-Bolshevism” and the need to cleanse Ukraine of other ethnic groups. I’m reminded of one survivor’s testimony, when he said that his captors told him that they were going to get “revenge” on him. He said that he remembered thinking “Revenge for what?”

      Second, to see how bad this argument is, you need only to apply it to other historical movements. I’ll avoid Godwin’s Law and use the example of the Confederacy, for example. Lots of people in America try to separate the CSA and secession from slavery, but in the end you simply can’t. Slavery wasn’t only the motivation for secession, it was a driving motivation of a lot of the South’s actions long before Lincoln was elected. Of course many pro-Confederate people in the US are actually racist, and yet they can blend in with the others with arguments about “states’ rights” and celebrating Southern heritage.

      Or let us take another example- Communism. Suppose someone in Ukraine says that they have no desire to restore the Soviet Union, that they support Ukrainian territorial integrity based on the borders of the Ukrainian SSR in 1991, that they recognize the suffering caused by actions of the Soviet government in Ukraine but while condemning those they celebrate the positive aspects of Soviet Ukraine, from the literary advances thanks to Ukrainianization to the scientific and industrial achievements of Ukrainians within the Soviet Union (whose accomplishments took place far beyond the borders of the Ukrainian SSR). They also note that while the USSR fell far short of its stated values of equality, secularism, etc., these goals in themselves are ultimately positive. They also reject all of Russia’s pretenses towards Ukraine and they also reject the KPU (which cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called a Communist party) and its affiliates.

      Oh wait- “Communist symbols” are banned. So much for viewing symbols differently.

      I’m willing to give many red-and-black flag-waving Ukrainians a lot of leeway simply because I have empathy for people who grew up inundated with primitive Soviet propaganda, people who were labeled “Banderites” simply for speaking their own language, and who never had the kind of history education that people outside the Soviet bloc had (although in recent times I’m wondering how effective our American Holocaust education was). I know that many people who hold up these portraits or flags don’t really know their history, and I’ve experienced this in person from time to time. I also empathize with them when they’ve had to endure the same propaganda yet again, as a result of the war.

      But here’s my problem with all this. Sure, maybe these people, assuming they know the history of OUN-UPA atrocities, aren’t celebrating that (but then there are many who deny them). You say that they are celebrating them as “freedom fighters” for Ukraine. But that’s just it- they weren’t. They didn’t fight the Nazis and they barely even fought the Soviets really. They killed more of their fellow Western Ukrainian civilians, largely peasants, than Soviet personnel. In short, what these unassuming people are celebrating- ISN’T REAL. This is no different from Russians fantasizing about how wonderful it must have been to live in the Russian Empire or nostalgic fantasies about the wonderful life under Brezhnev.

      What this “New Cold War” (AKA The Cold War that’s going to be really short and pathetic) has taught us is that there is a serious problem with “unreality” in the world. Whereas in the past people would attempt to convince others that they had some kind of objective truth on their side, now nobody seems to care. Believe what you want to believe. Attack those who criticize this. This is how you get things like ISIS, Trump, Putin’s regime and its foreign followers, and of course the Ukrainian far right, a living, breathing PR disaster that is holding Ukraine back from victory when the country is struggling to survive.

      Lastly I’ll say that Ukraine has had many other incarnations of nationalism and other figures who shaped the Ukrainian identity and fought in one way or another to save its language, traditions, etc. What right has the OUN to monopolize the independence struggle? And should independence enjoy such a cult-like significance in a modern, globalized world?

      But once again, I totally agree with your conclusion.

      Reply
  8. Asehpe

    “What this “New Cold War” (AKA The Cold War that’s going to be really short and pathetic) has taught us is that there is a serious problem with “unreality” in the world. Whereas in the past people would attempt to convince others that they had some kind of objective truth on their side, now nobody seems to care. Believe what you want to believe. Attack those who criticize this. This is how you get things like ISIS, Trump, Putin’s regime and its foreign followers, and of course the Ukrainian far right, a living, breathing PR disaster that is holding Ukraine back from victory when the country is struggling to survive.”

    That’s quite an interesting idea. Can I quote you on that for a little paper I am writing on where our civilization seems to be headed? (Nothing fancy, just for the school I work at, but you are articulating here several things I was grappling with, and quite nicely).

    Reply
  9. Mr. Hack

    I trust that you’re not ‘eliminating’ the ‘Reply’ feature, however, I’m now at work on a different computer and still this feature is not showing on some of your comments, even your last one to me?…..

    Reply

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