24 January 2010

Stepan Bandera becomes a Hero of Ukraine

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, who contested the presidential elections held on 7 January 2010, obtained only 5.45 per cent of the vote and, thus, set a new world record for the lowest vote for an incumbent in a presidential election.

On 22 January 2010, during the ceremonies marking Ukrainian Unity Day, Yushchenko conferred the rank of a Ukrainian Hero to Stepan Bandera, the leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN, Bandera’s branch). President said that the high rank had been conferred to Bandera for “defending national ideas and battling for an independent Ukrainian state”.

Stepan Bandera (1909–1959) was one of the most notorious Ukrainian fascists, terrorists and Nazi collaborators, who was responsible for deaths of hundreds (if not thousands) of Poles, Russians, Jews and Ukrainians. He played a key role in the terrorist activities against the authorities of Poland and other countries (see more info on the OUN's attempt at assassinating Franklin Roosevelt). In 1934 Polish authorities even sentenced him to death for terrorism but eventually the sentence was reduced to life imprisonment: Bandera was freed in 1939 by the German troops after they had occupied Poland.

Bandera has been one of the few Ukrainian Nationalists mentioned in the proceedings of the Nuremberg Trial of German Major War Criminals. On 25 December 1945, former Colonel of the German Army Erwin Stolze testified

“In carrying out the above-mentioned instructions of Keitel [General Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel] and Jodl [General Colonel Alfred Jodl], I contacted Ukrainian Nationalists who were in the German Intelligence Service and other members of the Nationalist Fascist groups, whom I enlisted in to carry out the tasks as set out above [subversive activities in the territory of the USSR]. In particular, instructions were given by me personally to the leaders of the Ukrainian Nationalists, the German Agents Myelnik (code name ‘Consul I’) and Bandara [Stepan Bandera] to organise, immediately upon Germany’s attack on the Soviet Union, and to provoke demonstrations in the Ukraine, in order to disrupt the immediate rear of the Soviet Armies”.

On 30 June 1941, after Nazi Germany had levied war on the USSR, Bandera was proclaimed a leader of independent Ukraine. Article 3 of the Act of Ukraine’s Independence read as follows –

“The newly formed Ukrainian state will work closely with the National-Socialist Greater Germany, under the leadership of its leader Adolf Hitler which is forming a new order in Europe and the world and is helping the Ukrainian People to free itself from Muscovite occupation.
The Ukrainian National Revolutionary Army which has been formed on the Ukrainian lands, will continue to fight with the Allied German Army against Muscovite occupation for a sovereign and united State and a new order in the whole world.
Long live the Ukrainian Sovereign United Ukraine! Long live the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists! Long live the leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Ukrainian people – Stepan Bandera”.

Of course, Bandera’s priority was an independent Ukraine, and that was where Bandera’s and Nazis’ plans differed. Where they did not differ, however, was both German and Ukrainian fascists’ vision of the “new world order”.

Yushchenko is right in one thing: Bandera did “battle for an independent Ukrainian state”. But what Ukraine would it have been? Article 1 of Constitution of Ukraine, the principles of which Yushchenko swore to defend after the victorious “Orange revolution”, unequivocally states that “Ukraine is a sovereign and independent, democratic, social, law-based state”. What does Bandera’s vision of Ukraine have to do with the democratic, social and law-based Ukraine? Absolutely nothing, I believe, and the majority of Ukrainian citizens think likewise. Does President of a democratic state have a right to legitimise Bandera’s fascist Ukraine on the only ground that it would have been an independent Ukraine? No, they do not. Small wonder that Yushchenko decided to make Bandera a Hero of Ukraine after he had ignominiously lost the presidential elections: he had nothing to lose.

But we do have something very important to lose. With Bandera being a Hero of (democratic!) Ukraine, we are losing confidence that extreme nationalism and fascism of different strains have been driven out to the margins of genuine democratic politics. Can we expect response to this outrageous act of Yushchenko's from two major presidential candidates, Viktor Yanukovych and Yuliya Tymoshenko? I think we should expect because they must clearly state their positions, before the second round of the presidential elections to be held on 07 February. At the moment we have responses from Yanukovych's (Party of Regions) and Tymoshenko's (BYuT) parties, but the presidential candidates must express their opinions themselves.


  1. Honoring heroes
    March 04 at 22:39 The continent that spawned Hitler has no business telling Ukraine who should and shouldn't be its heroes.

    Ukraine is short of heroes. Many have been murdered, while others have had their memories blackened in other peoples’ histories. This is what is now happening with World War II-era freedom fighter Stepan Bandera, who led a difficult struggle during a violent period to sow the seeds of his nation’s present, yet painfully fragile independence.

    Bandera symbolized the plight of millions of Ukrainians who suffered under various foreign occupiers for most of their history. For this, Bandera – killed in 1959 by a KGB agent while living in exile – received Ukraine’s highest honor, the Hero of Ukraine, posthumously awarded during Victor Yushchenko’s last days as president.

    Bandera headed the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and backed its military wing, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), which fought against Poles, Soviets and Nazis, who in turn fought against each other. But now the Poles, the Kremlin and more recently the European Union are together in condemning these insurgents as Nazi collaborators. The European Parliament voted on Feb. 25 to ask Kyiv to rescind the award.

    Sadly, many Ukrainians have also succumbed to the historical condemnation of others. The history of World War II is complex, particularly in the region of modern-day western Ukraine. It was bloody on all sides, and few who led the charge into battle came out with clean hands. However, the post-war Nuremburg trials never condemned Bandera’s movement for war crimes. Bandera's supporters briefly fought alongside Nazi soldiers to oust the Soviets from western Ukraine, where Russian czars had never ruled. In this, the UPA was little different to similar partisan movements in the Baltic countries. In contrast, the Soviets under Josef Stalin were aggressors on par with the Third Reich, with whom Stalin forged the secretive and sinister Molotov-Ribbentrop alliance in 1939 to carve up Eastern Europe.

    Stalin’s regime also watched passively as the Third Reich attempted to wipe out European Jews. Now Kremlin leaders honor Stalin. There is no clear evidence of mass murder of Jews or Nazi collaboration by Bandera's movement. There is clear evidence that his movement was aimed at attaining Ukrainian independence, much like Jews fought for an independent Israeli state.

    When Bandera’s movement declared national independence, the Nazis imprisoned him. But his army fought against all enemies of his homeland with vigor. How much of a Nazi collaborator was Bandera, if he and close associates spent much of the war in a Nazi prison, and if close relatives died in Nazi camps?

    Now, when his nation seeks to honor him, the campaign to tarnish him and thus Ukrainian sovereignty is being renewed. He wasn’t a Nazi, a Bolshevik or a Pole. He was a Ukrainian who deserves to be judged by the nation he served.


  2. A Terrorist as "Hero of Ukraine"
    By Ivan Katchanovski

    ADL Calls On New Ukrainian President To Withdraw 'Hero' Title Bestowed By Predecessor On Nazi Collaborators

    A Fascist Hero in Democratic Kiev
    Timothy Snyder

    Who Was Stepan Bandera?
    By Norman J.W. Goda

  3. It is laughable to suggest that because the Ukraine is short on heroes, Bandera, a blatant murderer, should be one. Why do Ukrainians insist on justifying being on the very wrong side of history with lame excuses that it was a confusing era. They had a choice, they chose to murder their historical neighbours, the Jews and the Poles, and ally themselves with history's most disgraceful figure, Hitler. Now, the Ukraine has bulldozed the Lviv Jewish Quarter, without a trace, without a fitting monument to the thousands murdered there by Banderas fascist nationals. This will further serve to allow Ukrainians to rewrite history and hide their forever dishonourable choices. Heroes indeed.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.