Analytical report prepared as part of the Shukhevych Dossier project with the support of the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation.
Olesia Isaiuk, PhD
Center for Research on the Liberation Movement
National Memorial Museum Of The Victims Of Occupational Regimes “Prison at Loncky Street”
Kyiv National Taras Shevchenko University
The main study’s theme is the way through which a negative stereotype of Roman Shukhevych as supporter of anti-democratic views and collaborationist with the Nazis was formed and continues to be supported.
The author analyzes specific criticisms of Roman Shukhevych as a personality and commander of various military units and the mechanisms of formation based on ambiguous episodes of the biography of the Commander-in-Chief of the UPA. The study shows examples of the influence of myths and stereotypes formed by Soviet propaganda on the texts of modern Western researchers of the biography of Roman Shukhevych and the history of the Ukrainian liberation movement. The author also describes the history of the formation of a negative stereotype, not avoiding the role of the special services of the USSR and Russia in its formation and maintenance.
Introduction: the Essence of the Issue, Its Object and Methodology
At about the same time as there was a change in the vector of memory policy in Ukraine, a heated debate erupted around the objects and forms of the memorising itself. It shifted from the multi-vector nature of the memory policy, which actually envisaged the dominance of the post-Soviet narrative, towards a Ukrainian-centric one, assuming the central location of the narratives of the Holodomor-genocide and the liberation struggle and its armed stages during the period of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, the UPA and the nationalist underground, represented by the OUN(b). Over time, this discussion centered almost entirely around the Ukrainian liberation movement during World War II, i.e., the legacy of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army; it continues to this day both among the specialists in the history of the OUN, the UPA together with the related issues, and among the interested circles of the public.
All in all, after almost twenty years of debate, which is still ongoing, it can be concluded that, in the end, it all comes down to a few basic issues, which can be formulated in the following questions:
– whether it is possible to interpret the temporary cooperation of the Ukrainian liberation movement with Germany during World War II as the collaboration with the Nazis, or whether it is still a purely pragmatic and ultimately unsuccessful search for an ally out of those available;
– whether the ideology of the OUN and the OUN (b), as one of its parts after the split, should be considered fascist, and if so, to what extent;
– whether there are any grounds to accuse the Ukrainian liberation movement, or rather, that part of it represented by the OUN and the UPA, of complicity in the mass murders of Jews as part of the Holocaust.
It is important to emphasize that the issue under consideration is not just the participation of individual representatives of the underground in the collaboration and mass murders of Jews, it is about the institutional responsibility at the level of organizations, structures and commanders, which are considered to be the leaders of the underground and the UPA command.
The complexity of the problem is entwined in two circumstances, namely, all the three issues under consideration are the component of political legitimacy in the world after World War II, and that is why they have actively been used first by the USSR, and later by Russia, the latter continues to take advantage of it until now. Besides, it is not just about defamation for the latter, but simply for the delegitimization of the Ukrainian liberation movement as the state tradition subject representative, which consistently opposed Russian imperialism.
These same circumstances make the level of the issue importance exceptional for Ukraine. Hence, due to the considerations given in the previous paragraph, the key issue of the discussion about the OUN (b), Jews, the Holocaust and the participation or non-participation of Ukrainian nationalists in the Lviv pogrom in particular and the persecution and murders of the Jews in general concerns not the Jews. The issue price is much higher, since this is not even about the proper place of the OUN and the UPA in the national pantheon. It is about the moral legitimacy of the Ukrainian resistance during World War II and, in particular, the legitimacy of the restored Ukrainian state in the eyes of the Western world.
The ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war actualized all of the listed complications. Partly in opposition to the enemy propaganda and partly as the result of the systematic efforts of scientists and educators, a persistent tendency to associate themselves with the “banderites” and self-perception as the continuation of the UPA tradition has become widespread among the soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The same specificity of perception spread among the society. After all, associations with the struggle of the UPA are strengthened by the actions of the Russians in the occupied territories, who in some cases (the importation of Russian teachers or the forced settlement of Russians in homes left by the evacuated residents), practically reproduce the actions of the Soviet authorities in Western Ukraine in 1944–1953. Although, these same associations cause misunderstanding on behalf of Ukraine’s partners and allies in Western Europe and North America, as they are not familiarised with the details of the events and motivations of the parties in the context of the Ukrainian liberation movement. All the mentioned circumstances both add confusion to the case and make the need to close the discussion vitally needful.
This is partially confirmed by one of the most ardent critics of the OUN and the UPA and a staunch supporter of removing the OUN and the UPA from the national pantheon, John-Paul Himka, who stated: They were motivated by the, unfortunately largely successful, campaign of former president Viktor Yushchenko in Ukraine and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) in the North American diaspora to put the glorification of these radical right nationalists at the very center of the Ukrainian national identity project. In fact, it is directly about preventing the inclusion of the UPA in the national pantheon and not commemorating their contribution to the struggle for Ukrainian statehood and independence.
However, this is not the only issue which makes the topic of the discussion around the Ukrainian Insurgent Army being a purely scientific problem. In addition to the final crystallization of the issues of the discussion, in the context of the attitude to the OUN and the UPA, right now, we can say that there have actually been formed two circles, which should be described as the “Himka school” (by the name of the most active representative and in fact the founder) and those “paying tribute”. The main stream of the discussion between these circles was not only connected with the arguments regarding one or another answer to the questions formulated at the beginning of the report, but also related to priorities and attitude to the context. Those “paying tribute” prefer to first of all evaluate the contribution of the OUN and the UPA to the struggle for the independence of Ukraine, and in controversial questions they take into account first of all the context of the era in which they had to act. Unlike them the followers of John-Paul Himka believe that the priority for evaluating the activities should be, first of all, the modern ideas about tolerance, inclusivity, non-violence and other things that are extremely important for social order, although they often give the impression of the people who are not too inclined to take into account the specifics of the context of the events of World War II.
It is worth noting that the division between the supporters of this or that point of view is often covered, for example, with the generational division in Ukraine or with the party division in the diaspora. The already mentioned John-Paul Himka once inadvertently talked about the latter in the interview with “Ukraina Moderna” journal, lamenting the dominance of the OUN (b) and its ideological descendants in the diaspora. On the other hand, those “paying tribute” in independent Ukraine always rightly remind about the moral obligation to honor those who, in the literal sense of the word, gave their youth and life for the independence of their country, realizing that they were unlikely to live to independence.
Such coincidences, although quite unsystematic and strongly determined in relation to the country and individuals, suggest that it is rather about the continuation of a complicated complex of working through historical traumas, making sense of complex experiences, and making, in the long run, consensus assessments for the most vivid and – from time to time – controversial figures of the past. This is also about the settlement of relations between the supporters of different points of view on the key events and decisions at the bifurcation moments of Ukrainian history of the 20th century. Previously, usually neither time nor resources were paid due tribute to, this is for the first time in the last century and a half when the Ukrainian community can afford such a long, complex and expensive process of collective study of the past.
Consequently, the discussion around the OUN and the UPA is none the discussion about just a separate historical problem, it is as well, for example, on overcoming colonial trauma, a sign of which is the argumentation from the national interest on the behalf of some individuals and from European values on the behalf of others. In addition, it is about building relations with the outside world from the position of equality, it is about telling the world about oneself first-hand together with a number of other complicated though necessary issues.
Even in a narrow historical context, the themes raised in the discussion entail a number of other issues. For example, the other side of the question still remains unnoticed, namely, whether the passages in the OUN (b) documents, which can be interpreted as directed against Jews, as some of the personalities of our study interpret them, are inherently anti-Semitic in nature, that is, caused by hatred of Jews, as such, or is it the result of long coexistence in conditions of mutual competition within continental empires. One more view of the problem involves a deeper study of both the ways of exercising power and national politics in the Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires, in which Ukrainians and Jews lived side by side, and the relations between the two peoples in the colonial period.
Separately, it is worth mentioning and considering such a delicate factor as the circulation of rumors about the pro-Russian nature of at least a part of the representatives of the “hypercritical” circle. To put it simply, it is suggested to suspect this group of agent cooperation with the Russian special services. This version cannot be either proven or denied at this stage. However, it is necessary to outline those facts, sequences and coincidences that provoke its circulation.
The first fact in the line is the statement of the Symon Petliura’s murderer, that the murder of the chieftain was the revenge for the murder of the murderer’s relatives, who were allegedly killed on the grounds of anti-Semitism. This theme was developed during the trial against the murderer and eventually became a popular mainstream. Later, in the 1960s, the KGB made an attempt to repeat the “Schwartzbard case” by distributing a large number of provocative leaflets calling on Jews to deal with Yaroslav Stetsko, who was accused in the text of the leaflets of involvement in mass murders of Jews.
During the defamation campaign against Ukrainian emigration abroad, built around the “Nachtigall” in 1959–1960, the main emphasis was as well placed on the topic of the alleged abuse of Jews. The stereotype formed by this propaganda campaign lasted until the beginning of the 2010s, and in the 2000s it remained stable enough for an attempt to be actualized after Roman Shukhevych was posthumously awarded the title of the Hero of Ukraine. The definitive end of this story was the discovery in the archives of the Security Service of Ukraine of documents that unequivocally testified to the Soviet trace in the “Nachtigall” issue and the non-discovery in the archives of the Yad Vashem Institute of the documents about Roman Shukhevych’s participation in the pogroms, which were claimed by the Institute’s employee Tommy Lapid. In the case of the well-known story of the Ivan Demjanjuk trial the “Soviet track” was proved documentally. Such a sequence forces at least neither to reject the problem at the very beginning, nor to take the option of treating it blindfolded.
In all the described discussions and contexts, the personality of Roman Shukhevych is actually at the forefront of discussions simply due to the exceptional role he played in the history of anti-Soviet resistance and his place in the structure of the OUN and the UPA. In addition, having been the commander of “Nachtigall” and the 201st police battalion, into which the former legion was transferred, he was perfectly suited to build an argument about the collaboration of the liberation movement with the Nazis.
Accordingly, first of all, the subject of the analysis is the image of Roman Shukhevych in the works of the representatives of the “hypercritical” school of research on the liberation movement. Besides, the themes directly related to “Nachtigall” and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army are of particular interest, since the discussion of these topics is closely interwoven with the views of Roman Shukhevych, and the tactics and strategies of the liberation movement, which could not be adopted without his immediate participation and sanction, as well as his co-responsibility, as a commander for the actions of his subordinates. These themes include the topic of Roman Shukhevych’s co-responsibility for the Polish-Ukrainian conflict in Volyn, the presence in the ranks of the UPA of former policemen and fighters of the Halychyna Division and the issue of the presence of anti-Semitism in the ideology of the UPA. Recently, the topic of the alleged presence of systematic discriminatory practices against women in the UPA and the underground was added to this list.
The widely known topic of the probable participation of the members of the OUN (b) in the Lviv pogrom and the discussions about how much this participation was at the level of individuals, and how much it was centralized at the level of the leadership of at least local branches of the OUN (b), also indirectly concerns Roman Shukhevych. The fact is that at one time the first stage of the propaganda war against the Ukrainian community in the West became the topic of seemingly mass shootings and pogroms committed by the fighters of the “Nachtigall” battalion, commanded by Roman Shukhevych. Today, this version has been completely refuted, which is recognized even by such an ardent opponent of both the then OUN (b) and the diaspora nationalists, John-Paul Himka. Nevertheless, at the subconscious level, the theme of the events of the first days of July 1941 is still indirectly connected with the figure of Roman Shukhevych.
Therefore, the purpose of this research is to find out what exactly and on what grounds Roman Shukhevych is accused of both personally and indirectly; and whether it is due to his membership in the OUN (b), which formed the militia accused of participating in numerous Jewish pogroms, or because of his position as a commander the 201st security battalion or the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. To a large extent, it will be necessary to analyze rather the accusations against the OUN or the UPA, because, after all, few of them do without the topic of command orders, and Roman Shukhevych was the Commander-in-Chief of the UPA.
For this purpose, the work will analyze a number of researches of the followers of John-Paul Himka articles on the activities of Roman Shukhevych and his subordinate structures and units, written in the context of accusations of collaborationism and systematic anti-Semitic actions. However, in order to understand the context, the background of Roman Shukhevych’s activity in the OUN (b), the UPA and the history of accusations of collaboration and anti-Semitism by the Ukrainian liberation movement, including Roman Shukhevych, will be described in separate chapters.
The overview of the context: Roman Shukhevych, the OUN (b) and the UPA in 1939–1943 via documents, plans and facts
Before proceeding to the analysis of the essence of the methods of depicting Roman Shukhevych and the reasons for the approach of the Himka school described in the introduction, it is worth getting acquainted with the events and phenomena that were at the center of the discussions. These include: the episodes of agreements of the OUN (b) with Germany in 1940–1941, the elements of ideology of the OUN (b), especially in matters of external alliances and the attitude towards minorities of the future Ukrainian State, their plans for foreign and domestic policy, as well as the circumstances of the declaration of the Act of Restoration of the Ukrainian state on June 30, 1941, definitely, with a special emphasis on the role and place of Roman Shukhevych in them. The second block of the events that should be considered is the activity of Roman Shukhevych as the commander of the 201st battalion in Belarus. Finally, the third one is the activity of Roman Shukhevych in 1943–1944 as the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.
The topic of the Ukrainian-Polish confrontation was deliberately omitted in this study for several reasons: first of all, this discussion lasted before the discussion of the topic of the OUN, the UPA and collaboration and, most likely, will continue in the future; secondly, in relation to the Polish-Ukrainian context, the period of the OUN and the UPA was chronologically the last in the long series of mutual grievances and confrontations. Therefore, a separate emphasis on the Polish-Ukrainian confrontation would go far beyond the scope of the report.
From the point of view of the OUN (b), World War II, despite all its tragedy of the situation, hid within itself a potential opportunity to use the situation for the purpose of restoring Ukrainian statehood. Their calculation was based on the fact that in the event of a new major war, which was the Second World War, first of all, the international system that left Ukraine in a divided and oppressed position would collapse, and, secondly, it would sufficiently weaken the states part of which Ukraine was at those times, and thus their weakness could be used as a chance for Ukraine. In their activities and tactics, the “banderites” were guided by the experience of the previous stage of the liberation struggle, that is, the War of Independence of 1917–1921 and by the political calculation according to the principle “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.
Considering the number of accusations of ideological kinship with fascism and discriminatory plans against national minorities, it is worth taking into account by the latter the ideological and tactical documents that the OUN (b) formed at the end of 1940 – in May 1941. The same documents of the unified OUN are not taken into account in this text, since they were noted for their eclecticism, and the tactics and ideology of the OUN (b) as of 1941 had mostly undergone a significant evolution, compared to the situation in the unified OUN. In addition, in the context of accusations against the OUN (b) in general and its individual members in the context of specific events, it is worth focusing on the documents created by the OUN (b) after the split, both of a general ideological nature and the planning ones.
The first ideological document issued by the OUN (b) was the OUN Leadership Manifesto, issued in December 1940. In the introduction to this document, the main opponent – Moscow and Bolshevism – was clearly defined, and at the same time Ukraine’s place in the vanguard of the anti-communist struggle was postulated: “Demolishing the terrible prison of nations – the Moscow empire – we are creating a new just order and laying the foundations of a new political order in the world”. Although, taken that, an alliance, even situational, with all the countries and peoples whose independence became a victim of the communist empire was obvious, this was emphasized in the document at least three times. Consequently, the main goal of the struggle was declared “for the liberation of the Ukrainian people from all types of Moscow imperialism, and in particular against Bolshevism, which pushed national, political, religious, cultural, social and economic oppression to the extreme”. The next four chapters, in different words, essentially repeat the same idea, i.e., Ukrainians are at the edge of the struggle against Moscow and invite the representatives of other nations to join in this struggle. Provided we allow ourselves a kind of lyrical digression, it is difficult to overcome the feeling that these words sound extremely consonant with the current political situation.
Hereafter, the Manifesto provides a list of “what for” and “against what” the banderites are fighting. The list of “against what” covers primarily political and economic reasons, however, one of the items is worth being quoted here in full: “against robbing him/her (a person – O.I.) of all the joy of life”; in fact, it was actually for the first time in Ukrainian, and it is possible that not only in Ukrainian political practice, that the emotional and psychological trauma inflicted on its citizens by communist totalitarianism was expressed at the level of political declarations.
The answer to the question “what to fight for” was formulated clearly: “For human dignity and freedom, for the right to clearly state one’s beliefs, for freedom of all religions, for complete freedom of conscience”. Here it is important to note that the representatives of the “Himka group” consistently attribute all signs of democracy to 1943, completely ignoring the package of documents dated 1940–1941.
Taking into account the situation of Ukraine at that time and, in particular, the obvious imbalance of forces and capabilities of the OUN compared to its opponents, all the abovementioned sounded rather pretentious. Although, if we look at modern times, we have to admit that the younger generation of nationalists, without realizing it and without knowing it, determined the configuration and arrangement of forces in the eastern part of Europe, which still dominates all disagreements between countries, that is, Ukraine, Poland, Belarus and the Baltic states against Moscow.
The ideological foundations of the OUN were spelled out in more detail in the resolutions of the Second Great Assembly held in April 1941. The preamble contained an account of the history of the nationalist movement, which, according to the authors of the Resolution, was started by Mykola Mikhnovsky and continued by Yevhen Konovalets and his comrades. In the last third of the text, the OUN (b) clearly formulates the reason for its activity – “the immediate proximity of the final days of the war, which are decisive for the fate of Ukraine. ”. Simply put, the nationalists once again demonstrated that they perceive the war as a window of opportunity for Ukraine in the context of regaining independence. They considered their Assembly as the beginning of another stage in the struggle for Ukraine’s independence.
The Resolutions include programmatic, political, and military resolutions as well as educational and propaganda guidelines. Due to the topic of the suggested review, we will limit ourselves to the analysis of only that part of them, which directly relates to the political goals of the OUN (b), the relations with other nations and states, and propaganda.
Therefore, the main goal and basis of the worldview of the members of the OUN was the welfare of the Ukrainian nation: “The struggle for the strength and good of the Ukrainian nation is the basis of our worldview…”. The nationalists believed that the only way to ensure a free life and comprehensive development of Ukrainians was the acquisition of their own state, and the only way to obtain it was the “revolutionary struggle against the riders, that is, the occupiers.
The political resolutions contained two fundamental innovations. The first of them was a clearly formulated main opponent: “The USSR is the latest form of Moscow imperialism, which brings enslaved peoples and countries to national, cultural and economic stagnation and ruin. Only the self-reliance of the peoples of Europe and Asia enslaved by Moscow and free cooperation between them will lead to comprehensive development”.
In the issue of allies and opponents, everything was formulated simply, according to the right-wing principle “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, i.e., “The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists considers as allies of Ukraine all states, political groups and forces interested in the collapse of the USSR and in the creation of an independent Ukrainian Sovereign United state. The attitude of the OUN to the states and political movements is determined by their anti-Moscow orientation, and not by the greater or lesser political consonance with the Ukrainian national movement. ”. The nationalists demonstrated the wonders of political pragmatism: “When creating a single anti-Moscow front of struggle, the political expediency is above all, and not the worldview, ideological or programmatic differences”.
This is especially evident in the case of the Poles – after twenty years of fierce opposition and personal negative experience, the nationalists clearly postulate that they are not satisfied with the Poles’ efforts to restore control over Western Ukraine: “The OUN is fighting the action of those Polish groups that are fighting to restore the Polish occupation of Ukrainian lands”.
The next major document, titled “Political Instructions of the OUN Leadership on State-building Activities in War Conditions with the Aim of Creating the Ukrainian State” included both a vision and understanding of the current situation at that time, as well as substantive instructions that should be followed in the event of an outbreak of war, which happened about a month after they were created.
First of all, the OUN (b) confirms its vision of the war as a convenient moment for the overthrow of Moscow and Ukraine’s independence: “For us, a war between Moscow and other states is only an attractive situation for an armed coup against Moscow and the reconstruction of the Ukrainian state by the Ukrainian people’s own forces”. Moreover, they saw the role of both their own and of the entire Ukrainian nation as the participant in the events as much as possible: “Only their own armed struggle will assure the Ukrainian people of the role of creator of their own destiny, and it will give them the right to speak with other free peoples as a sovereign and as equal to equals…”. Taking into account how the rhetoric of the collective West changed in accordance with the success of the Ukrainian army in combat operations against Russia, it would be difficult not to admit that in some ways the nationalists were right.
Based on this philosophy, the OUN (b) planned an uprising against the USSR. The conduct of combat operations was planned in the form of a rebellion in the rear and open military actions against the Red Army, which were to be conducted by the combat units formed in emigration and, as it was assumed, the units of the Red Army, which would join the rebels. Moreover, the nationalists were not interested in the nationality of those who joined the struggle, on the contrary, regardless of this factor, everyone was promised all possible help, including the return to their homelands. Special emphasis was made on preventing anarchy.
During the uprising and in general during the war, the OUN (b) left to itself the organization of life in all spheres, in relation to what already existed, adopting the tactic “ in case it works – simply leave it as it is”. According to the “Instructions…”, the OUN was supposed to appoint its leaders to all administrative, economic, educational, social and other institutions, which were to be preserved inasmuchas possible in the existing form; the leaders, however, were to manage in accordance with the instructions of the specialists. Besides, the OUN planned to form an army and the necessary auxiliary and paramilitary organizations and arrange the rear of this army. Another area where the OUN planned to ensure its autonomy and dominance was youth education.
These plans for sure do not have much to do with democracy, but two things should be taken into account. First of all, it was a period of war, which, even in fully democratic states, is usually a period of restrictions on civil liberties, as the experience of Western countries during that period proved. In addition, in this case, the OUN consistently separated itself from the parties, formulating the goal of “creating the ideological, political and organizational strength of the order of fighters and fanatics”. Such a conclusion, again, is not connected with democracy, but it is worth remembering that precisely such views on oneself, others and Ukraine were a consequence of the defeat in the war for independence, the blame for which was laid, in particular, on the excess of inter-party discussions and lack of people ready to stand to the end. Dmytro Dontsov was not only the ideologist of integral nationalism, but also the exponent of the emotions of the defeat of the Ukrainian War of Independence of 1917–1921. Therefore, in this case, most likely, we are dealing not so much with a political position, but with the inertia of the psychological consequences of the loss of statehood in 1919–1921.
Summarizing the analysis of the founding documents of the OUN (b) of a strategic nature, it is worth highlighting several common features which are as follows:
– political pragmatism. It would not be an exaggeration to say that banderites were ready to cooperate with almost everyone who, at least, did not object to the idea of Ukraine’s independence. The only entity to which their tolerance in choosing partners did not extend was the USSR, considering it to be one more iteration of Russian imperialism. For example, the convergence of stylistics in the public characteristics of such different countries and political organizations as Nazi Germany in 1941 and the USA in the 1950s can serve as collateral evidence of the statement. The illustration of the former is, for instance, the ill-fated third point of the Act of the Restoration of the Ukrainian State with phrases like “close cooperation with Great Germany and creation of the new order in Europe”. An example of the latter is the characterization of the US government in the introduction to “June 30, 1941” by Yaroslav Stetsko: “such masters of state building as the United States and England”.
– children of their time. At least two characteristic features of the political and intellectual fashion of that time are noticeable in the strategic and ideological texts of the OUN (b). This is the attraction to various forms of “correct organization of the masses”, from which the regular theses about “education of the masses” take their roots, as well as the obvious inclination to militarism. Both these features are currently characterized as signs of a tendency to totalitarianism, but it should be remembered that in the case of the OUN (b) we are talking about individual manifestations of those features that at that time occurred in the vast majority of political forces, and – when it comes to for example, various forms of collectivism – that they were perfectly combined in the program documents of the OUN (b) with the protection of individual rights. This combination is more associated with social democracy than with classical collectivism. This situation in combination with the eclecticism of the social and economic part of the OUN (b) program makes it possible to assume that the real ratio of various features and methods of politics would actually depend on the specific situation.
– the impact of the experience of losing statehood. One of the important factors in the formation of the program and tactics was the experience of the previous stage of the struggle for statehood. It has already become too much of a truism to say that the aversion to democracy and mistrust of Western democratic states was a consequence of the fact that the leaders of Ukraine at the previous stage were precisely representatives of left and democratic parties, and Western democracies at least ignored Ukraine, and at most – like France – actively played on the side of the opponents of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, i.e. Russia and – at that time – Poland. The same experience affected their attitude towards the minorities, i.e., it was about the practice of a series of post-war plebiscites, as a result of which the disputed territory went to the country whose representatives of the titular nation gave more votes in the plebiscite. Moreover, such plebiscites repeatedly took place with violations and fraud on both sides, which also contributed to the formation of distrust in democratic procedures. After all, the experience of Ukraine’s military defeat contributed to the formation of the belief that military force weighs much more than the procedures. The influence of the experience of 1917–1921 on the formation of “undemocratic” features in the ideology and tactics of the OUN (b) was best analyzed by Yaroslav Hrytsak in the article “Fifteen Theses about the UPA”.
– the state as an absolute priority. The idea of the state as an absolute priority runs through almost all the documents of the OUN (b) and this gave grounds for accusing the OUN (b) of ideological commitment and affiliation to fascism. However, Ivan Lysiak-Rudnytsky argues that due to the stateless status of Ukrainians and the specifics of the economic and social evolution of the entire Eastern European region, it is more appropriate to speak not about fascism, but about a specific regional variation of the right-wing ideology. Oleksandr Zaytsev, in his proposal of the concept of “Ustashaism”, was most likely based on the views of Lysiak-Rudnytsky. Actually, it is quite logical to assume that after the painful experience of the loss of the newly acquired statehood and against the background of the radicalization of other independence movements in the region (Slovakia, Croatia) and not only (Ireland), it is more appropriate to speak less about fascism and more about a traumatic reaction to the loss of statehood, as evidenced by passages similar to the one given: “…so that after quarrels and disputes over land and the 8-hour workday lest we forget the most important thing, i.e., the defense against the enemy of the State”.
Summing up the results, which at the same time are a kind of the key to understanding all the following described approaches and actions of the OUN (b), it is worth separately considering the position in the plans of the OUN (b) for the period of the war and in the orders in the first days after its beginning of three topics: the places and roles of democratic practices and the degree of their tolerance by the OUN (b); the attitude towards Germans; and the attitude towards national minorities, primarily Poles and Jews. The choice of the issues is determined by the accusations that are most often leveled at the OUN (b) and, in the end, boil down to three main accusations, namely, undemocratic, collaboration with the Nazis, and intolerance of minorities. By way of introduction, it is worth noting that similar accusations can be made against many political forces, including those with quite respectable reputations in the eyes of both contemporaries and descendants. Three documents dated May 1941 will serve the materials for analysis: “Political Instructions of the OUN Leadership for the Grassroots Organizations in War Conditions”, “Military Instructions of the OUN Corps in the Event of the War for Ukrainian Statehood”, and “Safety Instructions for the OUN Leadership in the Event of War to Protect the State-building Processes”.
The discussion of the problem of democracy could be already ended up by the fact that all the mentioned documents refer, on the one hand, to the war period, and on the other – to the period of the initial development of the state. None of these options is equal to the situation of “ordinary” life, and both often require solutions that are by no means compatible with democratic values. Thus, when it comes to the democratic practices of the OUN (b) in the first weeks of the German-Soviet war, the fact of the extraordinary situation of the start of the war and the establishment of the state apparatus is a sufficient explanation.
It is also worth mentioning that in matters of administration, the nationalists showed pragmatism, suggesting to leave, where possible, the old forms of organization, only replacing them with their own people and creating new administrative bodies where necessary. However, as can be seen from the “Political Guidelines…”, the OUN (b) considered democratic procedures to be quite acceptable after the end of the transition period: “The establishment of long-term state power must be based on the organized manifestation of the will of the entire Ukrainian people in the form of a general, initiated by the OUN, election of the Head of the Ukrainian state after the liberation of most of the Ukrainian lands and the initial establishment of the state life”. At the same time, even during the war, the OUN (b) did not claim a total monopoly on the issue of state revival: “…the OUN will take a completely positive attitude and support with all its might towards every revolutionary initiative in the struggle and state building… aimed at the liberation and sovereignty of Ukraine…”. This opinion is repeated once again in paragraph 7 of the chapter “Relation of the OUN to the issue of state power” – although the OUN did not hide its intentions to take over all of Western Ukraine, it simultaneously proclaimed that “..if another independent center would rather rise in the Central and Eastern Ukrainian lands, which will successfully organize a liberation disruption and state structure…. then the OUN will recognize it as the central government of Ukraine and will be subordinate to it…”. It is worth noting that this scheme looks the closest to the model that was embodied in the relations between the UNR and the ZUNR twenty years earlier.
The OUN(b) planned a multi-party government for one simple reason, i.e., the nationalists realized that they were, at least, not the only political force popular among Ukrainians. The main principle of selection into government bodies had to be meritocratic: “The head of the Ukrainian State should be a man who has the authority and trust of the entire Ukrainian people, and freely chosen by the entire people”. However, such democracy was planned only until the moment when the whole of Ukraine was “completely covered by the nationalist movement”, though, considering that this concept was not explained in detail, and there is nothing more permanent than the temporary, it can be said with a clear conscience that democracy was much more threatened by the realities of war between two totalitarianisms than by the OUN (b).
The process of preparing for the proclamation of the Act on the Restoration of the Ukrainian State should be considered separately, since it stands out in the “undemocratic” package as there are accusations of “voluntarism” and “autonomy” of the OUN (b) in the process of preparing for the promulgation of the Act. Hence, in the process of preparation, the nationalists used the principle of constituencies, namely, when the mandate to declare statehood is issued by the unification of all political forces. It was obvious that independence looks much better when it is proclaimed by the representatives of all political trends, and not by a single political party. In addition, there was another, purely practical argument – the nationalists predicted that the German ally would not be delighted with another declared participant in the processes and wanted, by binding other Ukrainian political forces with an agreement, to make it more difficult for the Germans to play on internal Ukrainian political contradictions.
The formation of such a constituent was granted to Yaroslav Stetsko, together with Roman Ilnytskyi and Yevhen Vretsona, as well as Ivan Ravlyk, Yaroslav Starukh and Vasyl Okhrymovych. In the process of forming an effective constituent assembly, the nationalists faced a lot of mutual, both well-founded contradictions and just ambitions and old grudges. It once more turned out that the State Center of the UNR in exile and the Hetmans still do not tolerate each other, the Melnykites, of course, did not even want to hear about the leadership of the “banderites”, both the Melnyk residents and the State Center of the UNR claimed the leading roles in this general assembly. The Western Ukrainian parties faced a formal problem – as it turned out, in September 1939 they formally announced their self-dissolution.
Finally, after several months of negotiations and agreements, on June 22, 1941, a congress of representatives of Ukrainian political parties and circles gathered in Krakow and formed the Ukrainian National Committee. Only Melnykites were left behind. The committee was headed by General Vsevolod Petriv, his deputies were Viktor Andrievskyi and the secretaries became Stepan Shukhevych and Vasyl Mudryi. In total, the Committee counted 113 participants, representing almost all Ukrainian political forces. As for the problem of collaboration with Germany, it should be noted that from those documents that were not intended for publication, but for daily management, such as the Act of Restoration itself, a rather cynical attitude towards the German side can be clearly traced. The very fact of cooperation with Germany was dictated by the need to find an ally capable of opposing the USSR. Most of the states that could become such an ally were either already controlled by the USSR or they were too far away.
The theme of relations with the German side in general and the German army in Ukraine in particular appeared already in the “Instructions…”. Overall it was as follows: to welcome them as allies, but to look up to the local issues themselves, not to allow newcomers to power: “all affairs… are dealt with by the OUN and the local authorities on their own, although they are ready to enter into friendly relations with the allied forces for joint struggle with Moscow and for cooperation”. However, the nationalists also envisaged the option that the German side would not recognize the newly restored Ukrainian statehood. In this case, it should have been declared that it was impossible to transfer powers, since only the leadership of the OUN could release them from their duties. In the case of a clear threat of repression, it was ordered to give way, but purely legally only to suspend tenure, without formally transferring powers.
Alongside with the preparation of all these documents, on June 23, 1941, the leadership of the OUN (b) sent the government of the Third Reich a memorandum, that consisted of seven chapters. The first chapter formulated the grounds for writing the memorandum, the second was a short historical excursion into the past of Ukrainian and German relations, and the third chapter began very peculiarly: “Even if the German troops, upon entering Ukraine, will, of course, first be greeted there as liberators, then soon this attitude may change if Germany comes to Ukraine not with the aim of restoring the Ukrainian state and without appropriate slogans”. In the entire third chapter, the nationalists explained to the high-ranking addressee that Ukrainians have vast experience in fighting the enemy and a long tradition of existence in, as they would say now, the European space. The rest of the document is a collection of arguments in favor of Ukraine’s independence from the point of view of strategic, economic and political reasoning. In the last part, the Nazis are reminded directly that in case of the Ukrainians they are dealing with a nation-army that fought for most of its history, starting from the princely era and ending with the war for independence of 1917–1921. In fact, it was a disguised threat.
It is worth solely considering the history of the formation of the “Squads of Ukrainian Nationalists”, that is, the volunteer battalions “Nachtigall” and “Roland”. At the beginning of 1941, the negotiations with the command of the Wehrmacht about the creation of the Ukrainian legion within the German army began. As a result of these negotiations, an agreement was reached on the training of 700 Ukrainian volunteers by the German army. Though it was only an intermediate result. After the commander of the Wehrmacht’s Ground Forces (OKV) Walther von Brauchitsch took part in the negotiations, and Stepan Bandera also joined the Ukrainian side at the final stage, the meeting ended with the mutual agreement. On February 25, 1941, Walther von Brauchitsch gave official permission to implement the agreement with the nationalists.
According to this agreement, the German side undertook to teach military skills to 800 volunteers, from whom, after training, two volunteer battalions, “Nachtigall” and “Roland”, were to be formed. The task of both of these battalions under the collective name “Squads of Ukrainian Nationalists” was the struggle for the independent Ukraine. Consequently, the battalions were subordinated to the OUN Leadership and were not required to take an oath of loyalty to Germany and Hitler personally, as was traditionally the case for the rest of the units of the German army. The squads were to be used only on the Eastern Front against the army of the Soviet Union and under no circumstances could be transferred to the Western Front, where they would have to fight against the armies of the Western powers. Only Ukrainians were appointed commanders of both battalions, German officers retained the right of general supervision and the duties of officer-tuitors. The battalion was not subject to the practice of Nazi indoctrination, as was the case with the rest of the German army. “Nachtigall” and “Roland” had their own chaplains, every morning in the camp there was a ceremonial hanging of the Ukrainian national flag and a short prayer was said. The candidates for the battalion were selected by the OUN, specifically by Roman Shukhevych in cooperation with Mykola Lebed. However, Mykola Lebed gradually took over the entire matter of the applicants selection.
As it turned out in practice, the German side did not always strictly adhere to the reached agreements. First of all, under the pretext of training needs, commanding positions were almost entirely occupied by German officers. Ukrainians were titled only squad positions (an approximate analogue of the platoon foreman – O. I.). Roman Shukhevych was particularly dissatisfied with the fact that Ukrainians were perceived simply as new recruits and, accordingly, trained as new recruits, completely bypassing the training in military tactics and other disciplines necessary for the formation of the national army, as he wrote in a personal letter to Stepan Bandera. Finally, both of them decided not to send members of the OUN (b) to the “Legions” anymore.
The last matter under consideration that should be analyzed, regarding the context of the events around which the discussion unfolds, is the issue of the attitude of the OUN (b) to the Jews. The main documents, which clearly state the position of the OUN(b) in relation to the Jews, are the “Resolutions of the Second Great Assembly of the OUN in Krakow” and the “Instructions for the First Days of the Organization of State Life”.
The “Resolutions…” contain, so to speak, the “principle scheme” of the attitude of the OUN(b) to the Jews, which is worth quoting in full: “The Jews in the USSR are the most loyal support of the ruling Bolshevik regime and the vanguard of Moscow imperialism in Ukraine”. The Moscow-Bolshevik government uses the anti-Jewish sentiments of the Ukrainian masses to divert their attention from the real cause of the disaster and to direct them to the pogroms of the Jews in times of disruption. The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists defeats the Jews as a support of the Moscow-Bolshevik regime, while at the same time making the masses aware that Moscow is the main enemy”. From this passage, it is clear that banderites were fully aware of the presence of anti-Jewish sentiments among the population, not perceiving Jews as the threat to Ukraine. It should be emphasized that in the entire, rather extensive document, the word “race” appears only once and it refers entirely to Ukrainians, but there is nothing similar to Nazi terminology in the style of “racial purity” or “racial enmity” in any of the documents of the OUN(b).
At the same time, in relation to the Jews, as far as it can be judged from the documents, the OUN(b) used the same policy as in relation to the rest of the national communities, i.e., it interacted with them and built up the policy towards them dependent on the loyalty of the Jews to the future Ukrainian state. “Instructions for the First Days of the Organization…” contain a description of what was expected of the community disloyal to the Ukrainian State. First of all, it was about limiting access to leadership positions and narrowing educational opportunities, and those who would defend the regime should be physically exterminated. It may seem that banderites were exceptional chauvinists, if one does not know that the dark side of Galicia, since the days of Austria-Hungary, was a sharp international competition, which at the beginning of the 20th century turned into the armed confrontation, in particular, between Ukrainians and Poles. In this situation, the Jews were between a rock and a hard place, which was clearly manifested, in particular, during the Ukrainian-Polish war. The opportunities provided to the Jews by the Soviet government immediately turned them into one more, now fully-fledged competitor.
As for the more detailed instructions, the Jewish topic does not appear at all in the “Political Instructions…”, and in the “Military Instructions of the Leadership…” when the question comes to the behavior of representatives of different nationalities among the servicemen of the Red Army, Jews in general do not stand out as a separate category: “…for Ukrainians to accept the enslaved by Moscow friendly peoples at their will as well. It is better to create separate units from them. With the rest of the disarmed military forces, one should do as follows: the Moscow muzhva (infantry – O.I.) after disarmament, is to be handed over to the Germans as prisoners, apparently liquidate. Other nationalities should be let home. Politicians and well-known communists and Muscovites should be eliminated”. Besides, Jews are not mentioned in any context in the “Safety Instructions of the OUN Leadership in Case of War…”, although great attention is paid, for example, to the Poles.
In general, it is clearly visible that the Jews, in cases when fixed as an “enemy nation”, took the last place, yielding in this regard to the Soviet Union and the Poles, and it was as well consistently declared that the attitude towards the Jews depended solely on their loyalty to the Soviet Union.
In the first days after the Wehrmacht attacked the USSR, an uprising broke out in Western Ukraine, which the OUN(b) had been preparing underground for a long time. Initially, underground performances began in the north of the Lviv region . The next day after the invasion, on June 23, the fighting began in the Peremyshliany district, a few days later, the rebel groups began their activities in the Vynnyky district on the eastern outskirts of Lviv. On June 24, it broke out almost throughout the whole modern Lviv region (then Lviv and Drohobych regions – O.I.), including Lviv.
Meantime, German troops were advancing towards Lviv, followed by the members of the “departmental group” under the leadership of Yaroslav Stetsko, with the task of proclaiming the restoration of statehood. While all this was happening, mass executions of political prisoners began in the prisons of Lviv and other cities and towns of the region, due to which a total of 22 to 24 thousand political prisoners died.
In the morning of June 30, the “Nachtigall” and German troops entered Lviv. At lunchtime, Stetsko’s subordinates also emerged and met with the local underground in the square in front of the St. Yuriy Cathedral. The meeting was attended by Ivan Klymiv, the “Legend”, who at that time was the leader of the OUN in Lviv. Right there, Yaroslav Stetsko, Ivan Klymiv and Roman Shukhevych decided not to count on the fact that it would be possible to proclaim the restoration of Independence in Kyiv, but to proclaim it on the same day, in Lviv, while the Germans had only just appeared and had not launched their activities in full force.
During the day, the banderites established contacts with the leaders of the Ukrainian community of Lviv, secured their support in the matter of declaring the restoration of statehood, received the blessing of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, and began to shape the administration of the city.
In the evening of June 30, 1941, in the “Prosvita” building at the corner of Rynok Square and Ruska street, a meeting was held in which the representatives of all political camps and social movements of Western Ukraine took part. The meeting was also attended by the representatives of the German military authorities, namely, Ernst von Eikern and Hans Koch. It is still unclear whether they were invited beforehand or whether they came on their own. After a short welcome speech, Yaroslav Stetsko proclaimed the Act of Restoration of the Ukrainian State. According to the plan, Ukrainian statehood, proclaimed on January 22, 1918, which ceased to exist as a result of the Soviet occupation, was supposed to be restored at the meeting.
The document itself was short and contained only three paragraphs. The first paragraph dwelt upon the restoration of the Ukrainian state. The same paragraph contained a call to all Ukrainians to fight without laying down their arms until Ukrainian statehood spreads to all Ukrainian lands. The second paragraph was about the creation of local Ukrainian authorities subordinate to the central government, which was planned to be formed in Kyiv as the capital of Ukraine. The third paragraph reported that the newly restored state would closely cooperate with Germany, and the Ukrainian army, whose core was considered “Nachtigall”, would fight in alliance with the German army.
It is this last paragraph that causes the most controversy and serves as the reason for accusing the entire leadership of the OUN in general and Roman Shukhevych in particular of cooperation with the Nazi occupation government. To understand its emergence, one should bear in mind the conditions under which the Act was written. The Nazi Germany was objectively much stronger than the OUN, moreover, as of 1941, it was the strongest actor in the continental Europe. After the start of the aggression against the USSR and its successful development, the Nazis could not be wary of this enemy either. In the case of a direct and open confrontation with the Nazis, the OUN would not stand a chance. And since there was no clarity about how exactly the Nazis would perceive the proclamation of the Act on the Restoration of Statehood, they preferred to play it safe in case of a negative development of events. Reinsurance had to be constructed on the spot, thus the third paragraph appeared in the text of the Act of Restoration of the Ukrainian State, although initially it was not in the document brought from Krakow. After all, after the war, the banderites wrote no less loud praises to those Western countries with which they managed to agree on assistance to the Ukrainian liberation movement.
Meanwhile, Ivan Ravlyk began to form the Ukrainian militia. As can be seen from the documents, it was supposed to be not that much a police unit but the starting unit of the future Ukrainian army.
After the retreat of the Soviet troops and the arrival of the German troops, the new authorities allowed the locals to come to the prison yard to identify their relatives among the dead. The spectacle that unfolded before the eyes of Lviv residents in the prison yards was superimposed on the stereotype of the “Jewish commune”, to which were added the impressions of the relatively rapid advancement of the social ladder during the “first Soviets” of some Jews, as well as some older stereotypes. All this was cleverly heated up by the fact that it was the Jews who were forced to carry the bodies of the tortured out of prison: “…the Germans seemed as if to have broken loose. They seized Jews in houses and on the streets and sent them to work in prisons. Ukrainians and Poles from the newly created Ukrainian police helped them wholeheartedly in this. The work was completed within three, possibly four, days. More than a thousand Jews were collected every morning and distributed among three prisons. Several hundred were immediately assigned to work, forcing them to break cement floors and pull out the corpses. Other Jews were herded into a small prison yard or into a cell and immediately shot”. The fact that the sight of dozens of dead bodies in prison yards provoked the violence is also confirmed by the testimony of German servicemen given in Kai Struve‘s monograph.
The violence, which broke out in full force on July 1, consisted mainly of forcing the Jews to clean the streets, usually with their hands or their own clothes, and beatings. At the same time, Jews were driven to the prison yard to carry out the bodies of prisoners. It should be noted here that although Kai Struve and John-Paul Himka claim that it was the representatives of the Ukrainian militia who drove the Jews to the prison yard, mocking them on the way, it is worth considering the presence of evidence that a blue-yellow armband on the hand was more of a security sign, so it could potentially be worn not only by police officers. In particular, Ostap Tarnavskyi and Kost’ Pankivskyi, who do not belong to the OUN(b), give this kind of testimony.
It was the population of Lviv who took an active part in the events, mocking the Jews – apparently, both Ukrainians and Poles, although we will never know the exact ratio. The murders in prison yards were committed by German policemen and soldiers. The violence continued throughout the day on July 1, with separate outbreaks on July 2 and 3 as well.
As for the beliefs of Roman Shukhevych himself, there is, unfortunately, only one testimony – the words he said to the battalion, sending the soldiers off on a several-day vacation: “Do not allow any crimes or revenge against our enemies Poles or Jews, since it is not our business to deal hereby”. He himself was forced to separate himself from participation in any events, since his brother Yuriy was one of those shot in the prison on Lontsky and he was forced to take care of the funeral and organization of guardianship of his parents. Later, another high-ranking member of the OUN(b), Ivan Klymiv, the “Legend”, when he was approached with clarifications about the behavior of the members of the Organization in relation to the Jews in the new situation, stated: “I give instructions that no one member of the OUN dares to participate in the anti-Jewish campaign”. Of the entire array of documents relating to the issue of the “OUN and Jews”, there is only one episode that directly refers to the killing of Jews by members of the Organization – it is described in the memoirs by Viktor Kharkiv, indicating that under the impression of traces of Bolshevik terror, the fighters of the unit in “Nachtigall” shot all the Jews found in two villages in Vinnytsia region. It should be noted that in this case, the consequence that had already been traced in Lviv before is clearly visible – Jews were killed on the basis of emotional shock from the horror seen, and not consciously, because of the ethnic origin of the victims.
At the end of the first week of July, “Nachtigall” again took part in the combat actions, together with the rest of the German army, the battalion moved to the East. When the “Nachtigalites” were in the vicinity of Vinnytsia, they received a message about the non-recognition of the Act of Restoration of Statehood and the arrest of the Ukrainian State Government. The “Nachtigalites” protested, in response they were sent to Neugamer (now Nowa Kuznia in Poland) for the investigation of the situation. Finally, the battalion was sent to training.
After the training, the former battalion was attached to the 62nd Guard Regiment of the 201st Division of the Wehrmacht under the command of Lieutenant General Alfred Jacobi. On March 19, 1942, the former “Nachtigallites” were sent to Belarus – through Warsaw, Kielce, Grudzondz, Baranovichi to Minsk. The newly created unit was divided into four hundreds under the command of, respectively, Roman Shukhevych, Mykhailo Bryhider, Vasyl Sydor, and Volodymyr Pavlyk.
The newly formed regiment was supposed to guard the communication routes in the Mogilev-Vitebsk-Lepel triangle in north-eastern Belarus, in particular from the Soviet partisans. It was only on the way from Neuhammer that everyone learned about their destination. There was no choice as refusal would almost certainly result in the arrest of at least all of the officers, followed by anything from a lengthy investigation to execution. In such a situation, Roman Shukhevych was faced with the task of preserving the trained personnel for the future struggle and preventing the Germans from using the unit in the role of punitive agents, because the “guard” tasks with a high probability could mean such participation. Even without such predictions, Roman Shukhevych realized that fighting with partisans meant fighting with the civilians, which always comprised the basis for partisans. That kind of war required specially trained units, and “Nachtigall” was prepared for combat operations at the front. There was a grim prospect of large human losses and involuntary complicity in actions that could be classified as war crimes.
Roman Shukhevych was not naive, i.e., in the annual contracts signed by each Nachtigall soldier, it was specified that the German side had no right to use the unit for any actions directed against the civilian population. However, in situ, the local officials from the Wirtschaftskommando (a body of the occupation authorities responsible for economic affairs, in particular for the collection of the contingent) had to be reminded of this point more than once that the former “Nachtigallites” came here “not to rob, but to fight”.
Besides, Roman Shukhevych had one more, unofficial post. As the most authoritative of the “Nachtigall” OUN residents, he was responsible for organizing and coordinating actions in the interests of the OUN. Therefore, a dual power was finally formed in the unit: alongside the official power of the military command, there was a secret power of the OUN, which was based, in fact, on the personal authority of Roman Shukhevych. Due to this secret power, every order of the German command that grossly violated the agreements was inevitably met with organized resistance.
In January 1943, after the former “Nachtigallites” were actually sent to Lviv under arrest after refusing to continue police service, Roman Shukhevych, already in Lviv, escaped from the arrest. Aterwards, in February 1943, as the military referent of the OUN(b) Leadership, he joined the formation of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. This period of his life is of interest to the followers of John-Paul Himka for two reasons, namely, the fact of the participation of the former policemen in the UPA and the contacts with the occupation authorities.
At an early stage, i.e., in the spring and summer of 1943, the UPA – apparently with the sanction of Roman Shukhevych – actively involved the former employees of the auxiliary police. The promotion of OUN residents to the bodies of the occupation authorities presupposed that they could infiltrate into the police as well. Although the Germans were not aware about it since the OUN residents were going there under the secret order of the organization. The reason for this is simple – having people in the occupation forces meant ample opportunities for the intelligence as well as for completely legal acquisition of weapons. This method was used not only by the UPA, but by other European resistance movements too, i.e., Polish, French, Greek, and Serbian. That was in no case conscious collaborationism. For sure, one can object, saying that the policemen, regardless of their wishes and motives, had to carry out orders. However, it should be noted here that the main task of the national auxiliary police was to supervise the maintenance of order in the places of deployment. Should they have taken part in operations that can be qualified as punitive, then that was only as an auxiliary force.
Roman Shukhevych actively involved his former subordinates from “Nachtigall” in the formation of the UPA. At least two of them, namely,Vasyl Sydor and Yulian Kovalskyi, had previously carried out his assignments, for example, scouting the situation and examining places where it would be better to start the activities of the partisan army. The Nachtigall’s officers were arrested (some of them later fought in the Halychyna division and the Ukrainian National Army), but the rank-and-file fighters almost all escaped the arrest. In February–March, several hundred former residents of the “Nachtigall” battalions became the instructors and officers of the UPA.
Another issue arises considering the possible collaboration with the Germans. In fact, the entire year of 1943 was marked with the fierce struggle against the Nazis. However, after the Red Army appeared on the right bank of the Dnipro at the end of 1943, the Nazis turned into an enemy that was already surrendering, so it was more logical to concentrate forces against a stronger and, most importantly, existential enemy. The Germans, for their part, did not want to disperse their forces as well and most likely already understood that they would probably not be able to hold the region anyway, thus it was better to fight against a stronger enemy without worrying about the flanks.
. У березні 1944-го Шухевич відрядив на переговори до Львова о. Івана Гриньоха. На його кандидатурі наполіг Микола Лебедь, який наголошував, що контакти з німцями варто підтримувати, бо тепер, коли Німеччина у складній ситуації, є шанси домовитися про звільнення із тюрем націоналістів, припинення репресій і каральних акцій проти українського цивільного населення та отримати зброю і амуніцію. Переговори тривали майже до кінця року. Обидві сторони виявляли взаємну недовіру, тому єдиним реальним наслідком перемовин став проєкт угоди, складений на початку квітня 1944 року. Згідно з ним, німці мали відпустити з тюрем і концтаборів Степана Бандеру й інших політв’язнів, припинити каральні акції проти українців, не перешкоджати діяльності УПА, зокрема не перешкоджати молоді вступати до підпільної армії, а самій армії — у боротьбі із «совітами», а також зобов’язалися передати українцям чималу кількість зброї. Одночасно впродовж усього 1944 року тривали бої із німцями, один із найбільших, на горі Лопата, відбувся в липні 1944 року. Отож можна зробити висновок, що закиди в колабораціонізмі не мають під собою особливих підстав.
У цьому підрозділі ми коротко оглянемо історію того, як формувався стереотипний погляд на представників українського визвольного руху, зокрема й Романа Шухевича, як на майже неодмінно принципових ксенофобів та антисемітів. Уперше питання колаборації українського визвольного руху, зокрема Романа Шухевича, із нацистським Третім Рейхом, включно з участю у воєнних злочинах і діях, які можуть бути визнані участю в геноциді євреїв, підняте в 1959–1960 роках у вкрай специфічному контексті.
In January 1944, the Germans began to seek contacts directly with Roman Shukhevych. At the same time, the commander of the SS and the police of the Reich Commissariat of Ukraine, General Prützner, reached Vasyl Kuk and Luka Pavlyshyn, who were in the Zbarazh area. In March 1944, Roman Shukhevych sent there Rev. Ivan Hrynyokh to be a negotiator. Mykola Lebed insisted on his candidacy, and emphasized that contacts with the Germans should be maintained, and, due to the fact, that Germany was in a complicated situation, there were chances to agree on the release of nationalists from prison, end the repression and punitive actions against the Ukrainian civilian population, and receive weapons and ammunition.
The negotiations continued almost until the end of the year. Both sides showed mutual distrust, so the only real outcome of the negotiations was the draft agreement drawn up in early April 1944. According to it, the Germans should have released Stepan Bandera and other political prisoners from jail and concentration camps, stopped punitive actions against Ukrainians, not hindered the activities of the UPA, in particular, not prevented young people from joining the underground army, and the army itself in the fight against the “Soviets” and also undertook to hand over a considerable amount of weapons to the Ukrainians. Meantime, the battles with the Germans continued throughout 1944, one of the largest took place in July 1944 on Mount Lopata. Therefore, it can be concluded that the accusations to collaborationism do not have substantial grounds.
The Background of the Issue
In this chapter, we will briefly review the history of how the stereotypical view of representatives of the Ukrainian liberation movement, in particular, including Roman Shukhevych, was formed, highlighting them to be exceptional xenophobes and anti-Semites. The issue of the collaboration of the Ukrainian liberation movement, along with Roman Shukhevych, with the Nazi Third Reich, including participation in war crimes and actions that can be recognized as participation in the genocide of the Jews, was for the first time raised in 1959–1960 in a quite specific context.
It all started with the statement of Albert Norden, the professor at the University of Berlin and the member of the Central Committee of the Socialist United Party of Germany (an analogue of the CPSU in the GDR) on October 22, 1959, that the “Nakhtigalites” allegedly killed three thousand Poles and Jews in the first days of the Nazi occupation of Lviv. From there on, there was a wave of publications about the crimes of “Nachtigall” in Lviv, starting from “recollections of witnesses” to the full-fledged articles “based on documents”.
The researcher Andrii Bolyanovskyi notes that in Polish scientific studies until 1959, the “Nachtigall” did not appear in the context of Lviv events, in particular in connection with mass murders. It is worth adding that the archives of the Polish Institute of National Remembrance (Katowice branch) contain the investigative file of the murderer of the Bander brothers in Auschwitz, Józef Kral, dated 1951–1952, which contains a number of testimonies about the stay of Ukrainians in Auschwitz and their struggle against the nazis.
The apotheosis of the campaign was a press conference in Moscow on April 5, 1960 under the leadership of Academician Trokhym Lysenko, the notorious figure since the end of the 1940s, known as a fighter against genetics and a “girl-for-sale of imperialism”. At the beginning of the conference, the report of the Extraordinary State Commission for the Detection and Investigation of the Crimes of the German-Fascist Invaders was read; it stated that the lists of future victims were drawn up in the 2nd department of the Abwehr (although in fact it was the work of the SD), and there was information about the hanging of twelve people and the shooting of fifteen more on the Striletska Square.
The last two events did take place, but not in Lviv in June–July 1941. The first one happened in 1942, as retaliation for the murder of a German employee and the second in November of 1943.
Next, the pre-prepared witnesses were released on stage, in particular, the former member of the OUN Yaroslav Shpital and the former “Nakhtigallit” Hryhoriy Melnyk. It is of interest, that the leading speakers of the press conference emphasized the rehabilitation of both, thus, apparently, both were “delicately” reminded to remember whose hands they were in. And even after such preparation, the men were confused in their testimony, did not say anything specific, and out of several tens of thousands of defendants, they could name only three. Particularly symptomatic was the statement that three members of the “Nachtigall” battalion shot the former Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Bartel. In fact, the professor and the government official died on July 24 or 25, when the battalion had already left Lviv for two weeks.
All these and other discrepancies did not prevent the Soviet authorities from processing all this as the evidence and sending it, in particular, to the Association of Victims of Nazism and the Yad Vashem Institute. In July 1960, they were handed over to the Supreme Court of the GDR, which indicted the “Nakhtigallites” for the shooting of Polish scientists in Lviv and the murder of Jews in Lviv, Zolochiv, Sataniv, Yuzvyn, and Mykhalpol, the places where the battalion was held in July–August 1941. Despite the blurred testimony, which mainly relied on the arguments of the level of “this is to everyone’s knowledge” and “heard it from the neighbors”, the publicity gained strength and launched a long and high wave of accusations against “Nakhtigall”, which eventually spread to Roman Shukhevych as a battalion commander personally. Although he was the commander only for the members of the OUN(b) in the Nachtigall uniform, and the real powers, in particular, from a formal point of view, including the right to issue orders, were in the hands of the German battalion commander Hans Albrecht Herzner.
This was only the top of the iceberg. Until 2008, when with the opening of the KGB archives in Ukraine, the historian Volodymyr Vyatrovych restored the plot of this special information operation, the turbulent activities of the deputy head of the 2nd Department of the KGB of the USSR Fedor Shcherbak remained unknown to the general public. On October 2, 1959, he gave instructions to collect materials that would testify to the involvement of the “Nachtigall” and Oberlander in war crimes in Lviv. Volodymyr Shevchenko, the head of the KGB in the Lviv region, received the corresponding special order.
The intensified search for witnesses to the “crimes” of the “Nakhtigall” in Lviv, Ternopil and Khmelnytskyi regions did not yield results, so General Shcherbak ordered the identified “witnesses” to be “prepared for interrogation by the prosecutor’s office”. In October 1959, as many as fifteen people of that kind were gathered, most of them from outside Lviv. As the researchers rightly noted, the very fact that it took eighteen years to collect witnesses in the region where Nachtigall was located and operated directly, seemed suspicious. In addition, the indictments did not include the names of workers and officers of the Nazi police, SD, in particular the Einsatzgruppen, who were really involved in the mass murders in Lviv in the summer of 1941.
As of today, the story of the fabrication of “crimes” by the “Nakhtigall” has already been fully clarified by the researchers, and the fact that the battalion’s participation in crimes against the civilian population is only a propaganda mythology was also recognized by Professor John-Paul Himka, who is hard to be suspected of sympathies to the nationalists.
The next wave of accusations, this time of all Ukrainians, of collaboration with the Nazis, in particular, in mass murders of Jews, rose in the second half of the 1960s. Since 1966, the leaflets with emotional descriptions of Yaroslav Stetsko’s alleged participation in the murders of Jews and the calls to Jews to take revenge have been actively distributed through KGB channels. Apparently, as mentioned earlier, they counted on the fact that one of the Jews would respond to the call and kill Yaroslav Stetsko, who at that time headed the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Peoples, one of the largest organized structures in the world, which waged a systematic struggle against the USSR. Besides, the leaflets were sent to the editorial offices of the Jewish magazines in the USA, England, France, Israel and Germany.
In April 1974, a member of the US Congress from the state of New York, Elizabeth Holtzman, sharply criticized the US Immigration and Naturalization Service for allegedly allowing about 50 people who were complicit in Nazi war crimes to settle within the US borders. On the list of the accused by the congresswoman was Lev Futala “Lahidnyi”, the member of the UPA in Zakerzonnia and a participant in the Great Raid to the West in the summer-autumn of 1947. The accusation in this and other cases turned out to be completely groundless, although the congresswoman did not stop her determined activities and in 1977 she introduced a bill authored by 50 members of the House of Representatives, which demanded the forcible deportation of all foreigners accused of complicity in Nazi war crimes and their ban on entry to the United States.
Due to her efforts, in 1979 the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) was created under the US Department of Justice specifically to search for war criminals. This Office was given broad powers, including investigations, initiation of legal proceedings, negotiations with foreign governments, and requests for support from other US authorities. In the process of collecting documentary evidence of crimes, the materials were often obtained from behind the “iron curtain”.
The result of the Office’s activities was the investigation concerning 1,700 people who were suspected of involvement in Nazi crimes in Eastern Europe. Among them was Mykola Lebid’, at one time the leader of the anti-Nazi OUN(b) underground, who emigrated to the United States after the war. More than 300 have been prosecuted, at least 100 have had their US citizenship revoked and 70 deported, the last one in 2021. The Office of Special Investigations existed until 2010, when the Department of Human Rights and Special Prosecutions together with the Criminal Division of the Ministry of Justice were created on its basis. It is of interest that its last chairman, Eli Rosenbaum, offered his assisstance to Ukraine in bringing to justice the war criminals of Russia’s aggressive war against Ukraine.
The next stage of accusations, not just of the liberation movement, but of all Ukrainians in general, began with the beginning of the so-called Ivan Demjanjuk’s case. The story began in 1975, when Michael Hanusiak, at that time an implicit member of the Communist Party of the USA, the head of the pro-Soviet League of American Ukrainians and the editor of Ukrainian News (the official newspaper of the League), handed over to the US immigration service a list of Ukrainians who in the past were allegedly collaborators and involved in Nazi crimes. In total, the list consisted of seventy surnames, Demjanjuk being one of them. Hanusiak was not an ordinary activist, as he was awarded the Order of “Friendship of Peoples” and a separate article was dedicated to him in the “Ukrainian Soviet Encyclopedia”. He even wrote the whole book about the alleged “crimes of Ukrainian nationalists” titled “Lest We Forget”.
In 1981, the Department of Special Investigations of the US Department of Justice began investigating the Demjanjuk’s case. He was accused of being a sadistic guard of the Treblinka concentration camp during World War II, nicknamed “Ivan Hroznyi”(the Terrible – O.I.). The main evidence in the case was an SS ID document from the Travnyky training concentration camp, issued in the name of Ivan Demjanjuk, with the notes on subsequent transfers to other camps. In the same year Demjanjuk was stripped of his American citizenship.
Two years later, Israel demanded the extradition of the alleged Nazi criminal, and in 1986 the court did extradite Demjanjuk to Israel. The public trial, which even included school excursions, lasted fifteen months during 1987–1988. Demjanjuk spent a total of eight years in the Israeli prison.
Finally, it was possible to find a report in the Soviet archives that “Ivan Hroznyi” was not Demjanjuk, but another prisoner named Marchenko, and there was a photo of the “real” “Ivan Hroznyi”. Thus, under the pressure of irrefutable evidence, in 1993 the Supreme Court of Israel unanimously overturned the death sentence.
While the Demjanjuk trial was ongoing in the US, Saul Littman, the Canadian representative of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Canada, began calling on the Canadian government to create an institution similar to the Office in the US. Both Simon Wiesenthal and Littman stated that there were three thousand former war criminals among the residents of Canada, and over time the number increased to six thousand. Despite the statement, only 217 people were included in the ultimately presented list.
All in all, under the Littman’s pressure, the so-called Deschênes Commission was created in 1985, the official name being the Commission for the Investigation of War Crimes, which got its name from the surname of its chairman, Jules Deschênes. The commission analyzed archival materials, held hearings and interrogated witnesses in Canada and Western Europe, but did not get access to the testimonies and documents in the USSR and Eastern Bloc countries. In December 1986, it completed its investigation, submitted its report, and presented recommendations to the government for the prosecution of each of the suspects. According to the commission’s report, none of the members of the Waffen-SS Division “Galicia” was found guilty of war crimes during World War II.
In 2001, a new trial began against Ivan Demjanjuk. He was once more stripped of his citizenship and the decision was made to deport him to Ukraine. Eight years later, Germany agreed to take the prisoner. This time, Demjanjuk was accused of complicity in the extermination of about 30,000 prisoners in the Sobibor concentration camp, simply because of his service as the concentration camp guard. This time there was no resolution, as Demjanjuk died in German prison in 2012.
All this was unfolding under the condition of constant and systematic objective action of the following factors:
– the issue of anti-Semitism has always been politically sensitive, and as the result of the Holocaust and in general, the understanding of the events of the Second World War it actually became a component of political and social legitimation. To put it simply, a person or an environment, justly and reasonably accused of complicity in the Holocaust or systemic anti-Semitism, is deprived of the access to decent society, and suspicions of such things complicate social communication to a great extent;
– Russia actively used the effect described in the previous paragraph to defame and delegitimize national liberation movements;
– Russia in all its iterations has always sought not only the destruction of Ukrainian statehood, but also the defamation of the Ukrainian liberation movement in the eyes of the Western world, where Ukrainians could potentially find allies in the fight against Russia.
Furthermore, it should be understood that until recently there was an inertia of perception of Ukraine and the entire post-Soviet space as a kind of “Russia, but different” in the West and in general it would not be an exaggeration to say that Eastern Europe was perceived through Russian lenses. This has made it difficult for the Western researchers, journalists, and public activists to understand the processes both in Ukrainian history and in modern Ukraine.
Meanwhile, during Demjanjuk’s lifetime, the questionable details about the evidence in his case began to emerge. On April 14, 2011, the Associated Press Agency published the content of the US FBI report, according to which the KGB of the USSR “very likely forfeited” the Nazi identity card of Ivan Mykolayovych Demjanjuk. As it turned out, the suspicions about possible forgery arose as early as 1985, nevertheless, the FBI has not announced its hesitation for more than 25 years. With all the available facts, the experts of the German court recognized this ID as valid. Already after the end of the process, there was a very interesting reaction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, which, welcoming the Demjanjuk’s sentence, announced that it would provide “necessary assistance” to the German court throughout the process. In this way, this episode also took on considerable flavor of Russia’s intervention.
The following year, in 2013, Ukraine declassified the informational message from February 1981, which announced the start of the Demjanjuk case under the signature of General Vitalii Fedorchuk, the head of the KGB of the Ukrainian SSR. According to the document, “the documentary materials about their bloody crimes during World War II were collected by the KGB bodies of the republic and they were transferred to the American authorities, as well as to the mass media via the capabilities of the KGB of the USSR”. Obviously, the “Hanusyak’s lists” were meant here.
Moreover, in a similar information message of the head of the KGB of the Ukrainian SSR addressed to the head of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine Volodymyr Shcherbytsky dated October 18, 1985, among the listed measures aimed at defaming the OUN, the reprint of Michael Hanusyak’s book “Lest We Forget” is mentioned and it is directly indicated there, that the result of the efforts of the agency workers was the creation of the Office of Special Investigations with broad powers and “to create a public opinion in the USA that is beneficial to us”. According to the same document, a similar set of operations was repeated in 1980–1985 in Canada, resulting in the Deschênes commission.
Hence, considering all the given facts and cited documents and studies, it would be rather complicated not to state unequivocally that for at least thirty years immediately before the declaration of independence of Ukraine, the USSR constantly used the topic of Nazi crimes and collaboration in Eastern Europe to consistently and deliberately defame the Ukrainian diaspora and the Ukrainians in general in the eyes of the Western public opinion.
This resulted in the formation of a stereotype about the participants of the Ukrainian liberation movement as mainly collaborators and anti-Semites, which, of course, did not contribute to the positive start of Ukraine’s dialogue with the Western world on its own behalf, as well as it significantly damaged the relations with the Jewish community in the USA and Israel.
It is as well worth noting that this kind of inheritance with obvious or at least highly probable traces of Moscow’s provocative activity did not contribute to a calm consideration of purely scientific problems related to Ukrainian-Jewish relations in general at this stage and, obviously, became the reason for assumptions about cooperation of at least some, if not all supporters of a sharply critical view of the liberation movement with the Soviet and Russian special services.
Representing the Group
This chapter dwells upon the circle of persons who are considered to belong to the “Himka school” and who in this role consistently advance the narrative of principled immanent xenophobia and anti-Semitism of the Ukrainian liberation movement during World War II. Being the Commander-in-Chief of the UPA, Roman Shukhevych inevitably occupies an important position in this scheme – after all, it is he who is credited with issuing orders for mass killings on ethnic grounds.
This narrative first became widespread in the mid-2000s, as will be further demonstrated. At that time, significant changes took place in Ukraine compared to the previous period. In 2004, the protests against the falsification of the presidential elections grew into the Orange Revolution; consequently, pro-Ukrainian and pro-Western forces came to power in Ukraine for the first time. Together with other important changes in the field of national memory, the theme of the Holodomor was promoted to a central place in the national memory, the creation of the Holodomor Genocide Museum, and diplomatic work to promote the recognition of the Holodomor as genocide in the world started. The opening of the archives of the Security Service of Ukraine has begun, and the title of Hero of Ukraine (posthumously) was awarded to Roman Shukhevych and Stepan Bandera. All this caused numerous discussions in society and finally put the issue of national commemoration on the list of important points of political confrontation between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian political forces.
It is important to note that all this took place in an atmosphere of tough political confrontation between pro-European authorities and the representatives of pro-Russian forces. The first was represented by the supporters of Viktor Yushchenko, the second was institutionalized in the then Party of Regions. Soon, the issues of historical commemoration became the part of the political confrontation. However, the “wars of memory” around specific cases that symbolized a change in the historical paradigm at a non-specialist level still remained in the foreground. In particular, the cases of awarding the title of “Hero of Ukraine” to Roman Shukhevych and Stepan Bandera, the opening of the archives of the special services, and the general increase in public interest in the history of the liberation movement were at the epicenter of the heated debate. On both sides of the debate were a group of historians and public activists directly involved in the paradigm shift and researchers — not only in the field of history — who criticized this shift, appealing mainly to left-liberal values. Among them were, in particular, Tarik Cyril Amar and Ivan Kachanovskyi.
The discussion quickly spread abroad. Around the middle of the 2000s, the articles by John-Paul Himka began to appear. He is a Canadian historian of Ukrainian origin, a specialist in the history of the leftist movement in Ukraine, the history of Galicia in the second half of the 19th century, and the history of Ukrainian sacred art and his works are dedicated to the specifics of the collective memory of the circle of the Ukrainian diaspora. In his opinion, the memory of the Holocaust was shifted in the collective memory of the diaspora by the subject of the liberation movement, the OUN, and the UPA which became completely dominating. Actually, these few articles initially provoked a scandal in the diaspora environment and started a longlasting discussion on the border of science and politics on the issue of the collaboration of the liberation movement with the Nazis, which, by and large, continues to this day.
There are reasons to assert that this discussion is actually supported by the forces of several people who insist on the approach to the assessment of the liberation movement, in particular, the part of it that is represented by the OUN and the UPA, at the stage of the Second World War, as a phenomenon and its legacy from positions that can be called ultra-critical.
Notably, they insist that according to their character and ideology, the OUN and the UPA were fascist, anti-democratic, racist, anti-Semitic organizations that fought for Ukraine, albeit independent, but exclusively for Ukrainians, and their political goals (among which, in their opinion, was as well the “cleansing” of Ukraine from ethnic non-Ukrainians) were achieved through violence and mass terror.
It is worth to pinpoint the number of works on the topic described above relative to the total number of works, as well as the overview of the main specialization of the researcher, starting from the approximate beginning of the discussion, which started, let us recall, in 2005–2007 and has not subsided to this day.
The main reason for applying this approach is the fact that a huge number of researchers from Ukraine and abroad have addressed the topic of the Holocaust in Ukraine, in particular, in Western Ukraine, and the relationship between the Nazi occupation authorities and the Ukrainian liberation movement. It is quite obvious that these researchers represent different approaches and, ultimately, various level of sympathy for the objects of the research. Paradoxically, the surge of interest in this topic was provoked not least by the keen activity of the circle, mentioned in this report.
Therefore, the quantitative analysis based on open data services Academia.edu and Google Scholar makes it possible to assume that the most active in consistent promotion of the theses about the cooperation of the Ukrainian liberation movement with the Nazis and the participation of the Ukrainian liberation movement in the Holocaust and practices of mass extermination of national minorities for purely ideological reasons have been the four researchers, namely, John-Paul Himka, Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe, Jared McBride, and Per Anders Rudling.
The theme of the OUN, the UPA and the Holocaust is the main or one of the main for these scholars, which is clearly indicated by the statistics of the Academia.edu service: John-Paul Himka has 27 publications out of 82 presented on the service, related to the topic; Per Anders Rudling – 15 out of seventy in total, Rossolinski-Liebe owns 43 out of 49 (only articles and books are taken into account), and in the case of Jared McBride, in general, all the articles presented on the service are dedicated to the OUN and the UPA in the context of the Holocaust and collaboration with the Nazis.
Here it is necessary to briefly outline the professional and scientific biography of all four researchers, which is done below.
John-Paul Himka (born in 1949) is a Canadian historian of Ukrainian origin, a descendant of the interwar generation of emigrants. He researched the spread of national identity among the peasantry of Galicia in the second half of the 19th century, the history of Ukrainian socialism, and the history of icon painting. Himka’s social and ideological biography is no less diverse than his scientific interests: originally he planned to become a priest, he was deeply religious, in the 1960s he became interested in the left movement and in the 1970s and 1980s he was actually an orthodox Marxist, later, in the 1990s, he once more returned to religious beliefs. The theme of the Holocaust and the Ukrainian liberation movement, according to his own statement, got into the view of his interest in the late 1980s, when his Polish counterpart in the case of the illegal publication of works about the UPA by John Armstrong and Alexander Motyl noted that both authors did not mention the participation of the UPA in the Holocaust. Despite this, he began systematic publishing on these topics in the mid-2000s.
Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe (born in 1979) is a German historian of Polish origin. He graduated from the European University of Viadrina (2005), in 2012 he defended his PhD thesis titled “Stepan Bandera: the Life of a Ukrainian Fascist and His Commemoration (1909-2009)”, which he later published as a book. Later, until 2014, he worked for two years on the topic of Holocaust memory among the Ukrainian diaspora. He is known for his extreme rejection of Bandera and everything related to Ukrainian nationalism as well as a number of scandalous statements on this matter. In 2012, a number of Ukrainian academic institutions refused to accept his lecture.
Per Anders Rudling (born in 1974) is a Swedish-American historian, professor at Lund University. He gained his Doctoral degree in 2009 at the University of Alberta. Per Anders specializes in the history of Belarus. He has a Master degree in the Russian language, and a degree of the Doctor of Philosophy. Since 2000–2010, he has been interested, among other things, in the issue of the alleged participation of the 201st police battalion in war crimes during the confrontation with the Soviet partisans.
Jared McBride is an American historian and the research fellow at the Shoah Foundation. In 2006–2009, he delivered courses at the University of California, in particular, on the history of Russia, Western civilization, and the Holocaust. In 2014, he received his Doctoral degree, since 2015 Jared McBride has been teaching at Columbia University, his scientific interests are the Holocaust issues and the destruction of the multi-ethnic nature of Western Ukraine.
All other authors, in whose texts one can notice the signs of the described approach, either touch on the given topic indirectly, or turn to it from time to time, rather on the margins of their main topic, or focus on specific cases within the framework of their usual theme of research. In any case, the quantitative analysis does not make it possible to assert their special interest in this approach to the problem of the OUN and the UPA and, in general, a special engagement in the subject. Their involvement in the topic is expressed rather in public gestures, such as participation in a signature campaign against the adoption of “decommunization laws”, as in the case of Geoffrey Burds, Omer Bartov and a number of others, or refusing the award of the mayor of Lviv, as in the case of Tarik Syril Amar. The motivation in all the described cases can be extremely different, starting from the rejection of the right-wing ideologies in general to personal or family negative experiences related to Ukraine and the Ukrainian liberation movement.
However, furtheron, our analysis will focus on the highlighted four. To a greater or lesser extent, all these authors are characterized by the use of emotionally colored definitions and epithets in a negative way when it comes to Ukrainian nationalism and its activists and the influence and commitment to a fairly radical version of the concept of the participation of the OUN and UPA members in the Holocaust, which involves the belief in participation in the Holocaust (optionally – the systematic extermination of minorities representatives) on ideological grounds, since, in their opinion, the ideology of the OUN(b) was a mixture of xenophobic, racist and anti-Semitic ideas.
The given biographies make it possible to create an approximate collective portrait, although at the same time it should be noted that absolutely every characteristic will have at least one distinct exception.
The figure of John-Paul Himka requires a separate analysis. He stands out from all the mentioned, first of all, by his Ukrainian origin and relatively older age, which entails the generational specificity of the experience. Notably, John-Paul Himka’s long-term membership and involvement in the activities of the leftist circles in Canada and the USA forces, knowing the severity of ideological and inter-party confrontations in the diaspora in particular and throughout Ukrainian history in general, makes it possible at least not to immediately reject the possibility of political competition being the motivation. The relatively large number of articles by both representatives of the diaspora leftists, i.e., John-Paul Himka and Mark Tsarynnyk, on the topic of historical memory in the diaspora, which appears to be dominated by the OUN (Banderite), is too suggestive of such thoughts. Besides, in one of his interviews, Professor Himka was frank enough to openly complain about the “Bandera” domination in the diaspora.
The history of Professor Himka’s interest in the subject of the OUN, the UPA and the Jews, as explained by him in the introduction, as well raises questions. According to him, it all started with the transfer of the research texts by John Armstrong and Alexander Motyl to Janusz Radzejovsky, the member of the “Solidarity” movement, for publication in the “Solidarity” underground network. In response, Radzejovsky allegedly declared that the texts have no scientific value, since they do not contain the topic of the UPA’s involvement in the murders of Poles and Jews, especially the latter. After a dispute, where Himka took the position that the UPA was not involved in the Holocaust, the latter was persuaded to investigate the issue. The research lasted for about twenty years, and Himka shared the results just during the period of active implementation of President Yushchenko’s memorising policy, which included the opening of the KGB archives and the campaign to honor the memory of the Holodomor victims.
Two circumstances raise the concern here – first of all, the duration of research on the issue, during which nothing on the topic has been published. The second strange circumstance is the emerging of the topic just at the beginning of the implementation of the policy of memorising, while Professor Himka frankly writes, as already quoted in the introduction, that his motivation is the visit of President Viktor Yushchenko to the USA and the Yushchenko’s policy of memorising.
At the level of open biographies, at least three authors have clear connections either with Russia or with the left-wing movement during the “Cold War”. Considering Russia’s manner of using absolutely all possible and impossible channels to promote its own point of view and a certain convergence of the theses of the “Himka group” with the anti-Ukrainian propaganda of Russia, it would be imprudent to ignore this circumstance. Taking into account the same reasoning, some observers a priori believe that the main motivation of this group is stimulated by Russia. Therefore, the coincidences that provoke the circulation of such a version should be considered in more detail.
It has already been mentioned that Professor Himka was engaged in the activities of left circles in the USA for a long time. The other two authors from the distinguished four, namely, Per Anders Rudling and Jared McBride, specialized in Russian studies for a considerable period as well. The former has a Master degree in the Russian language and the experience of being in Russia on internships, the latter, as follows from the open sources, taught courses on the history of Russia and Russian culture for a long time.
In the case of the last of them, Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe, things are rather more complicated, since there were no direct connections with Russia in any form traced so far. The connections with the USSR are impossible here simply because of the age factor. The ties mediated through, for example, the fact of long-term work under the scientific guidance of John-Paul Himka are rather dubious. Firstly, because it is not clear whether John-Paul Himka himself had any during his left-wing activism, and, secondly, at the time of acquaintance with Rossolinsky-Liebe and the beginning of their cooperation, this period in the supervisor’s life had long been over.
However, no less important are the internal personal connections between the group members. Hence, the fact that Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe, being the Doctoral postgraduate student, wrote his thesis under the guidance of Professor Himka, was clearly acknowledged by the latter in one of his articles. As for Per Anders Rudling, it would be quite hard to assume that during several years of scientific work for the purpose of obtaining a Doctoral degree at the University of Alberta, he did not cross paths with one of the most famous employees of the University, especially since it was a specialist from the period that interested the Doctoral postgraduate student himself. Jared McBride is a bit of an exception in this group, but the internal connections between the remaining three allow us to consider Professor Himka to be the main promoter of the thesis and the coordinator of its coverage.
Before moving on to the next stage of the analysis, it should be noted about the two articles on the topic, which were published long before the start of the systemic discussion on the subject of the OUN, the UPA, and the Holocaust. The first such publication belongs to John-Paul Himka, namely, the work Krakivski visti and the Jews, 1943–1944, published in 1996. It discussed the anti-Semitic publications of the Ukrainian-language newspaper in Kraków, which was edited by the Ukrainian Publishing House in Kraków from 1940 to 1945 (since October 1944, the editorial office was based in Vienna). Three years later, in 1999, the article by Mark Tsarynnyk and Karl Berkhoff emerged, it was dedicated to the “Biography” of Yaroslav Stetsko. This article was, in fact, a publication of the document, titled “Biography” written by Yaroslav Stetsko himself after his arrest, and in this article the researchers tried to understand the author’s attitude to both the Nazis and the Jews. However, both articles remained the property of academic discourse and did not cause a wide discussion in the society.
The next important stage of the analysis is the number, subject and sequence of publications. Let us start with John-Paul Himka. In 2005, he published two articles, i.e., War Criminality: A Blanc Spot in the Collective Memory of the Ukrainian Diaspora and First Escape: Dealing with the Totalitarian Legacy. Both publications concerned how the events of World War II were preserved in the collective memory of the diaspora, and in both cases the author came to the conclusion that this collective memory revolves almost entirely around the heroes of the Ukrainian liberation movement, which, in his opinion, is incorrect, since the honored persons and structures are, he believes, connected with war crimes. Subsequently, new publications appeared almost every year as follows:
2006 – Central European Diaspora under the Shadow of World war II: Galician Ukrainians in Nothern America;
2007 — Making sense of suffering: Holocaust and Holodomor in Ukrainian Historical Culture;
2008 — Obstacles to the Integration of the Holocaust into Post-Communist Eastern Europe; Достовірність свідчення: реляція Рузі Вагнер про Львівський погром влітку 1941 р.; Be Wary of Faulty Nachtigal Lessons; Як ОУН ставилася до євреїв? Роздуми над книжкою Володимира В’ятровича (у співавторстві з Т. Курилом)
2009 — UPA and the Holocaust;
2010 — OUN and UPA: unwelcome elements of an identity project;
2011 — Collaboration and/or Resistance: OUN and UPA during the war; The OUN, Ukrainian Police and the Holocaust;
2012 — Ukrainian Memories of the Holocaust; Christianity and Radical Nationalism….; The Lviv Pogrom of 1941: the Germans, Ukrainian Nationalists and the Carnival Crowd;
2013 — Ethnicity and the Reporting of Mass Murder: Krakivski Visti, the NKVD Murders…;
2014 — Hunt for the Jews; The History Behind the regional conflict in Ukraine;
2015 — The Lontsky Street Memorial Museum: An Example of Post-Communist Negationism; Legislating Historical Truth.Ukrainian Laws of 9th, April, 2015;
2021 – What were they thinking? The Attitude of the OUN toward the Jews
2022 — OUN and Fascism. Definition and Blood
Professor Himka’s colleagues in specialization, i.e., Per Anders Rudling, Jared McBride and Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe showed their interest in the discourse somewhat later. Of the three mentioned, Per Anders Rudling shows special interest in the figure of Roman Shukhevych in the context of his stay in Belarus in 1941–1942. His list of publications on the topic “Ukrainians, the Holocaust and Collaboration” is as follows:
2006 — Theory and practice: Historical Representation of the wartime activities of the OUN-UPA;
2011 — OUN, UPA and the Holocaust; Multiculturalism, Memory and Ritualization…;Terror and local collaboration in occupied Belarus: the case of the Schutzmannschaft Battalion 118. Background.
2014 – OUN, UPA i Holokaust: Tworzenie mitów historycznych;
2015 – Schooling in Murder: Schutzbatallion 201 and Hauptmann Roman Szuchewycz;
2016 — The cult of Roman Szuchewycz in Ukraine;
2019 — Eugenics and racial antropology in the Ukrainian radical nationalist tradition Ukrainian variant published in 2020); ….Stalinist, Nazi and Nationalist atrocities in Ukrainian national memory;
2020 – Long-Distance Nationalis: Ukrainian Monuments and Historical Memory in Canada; Rehearsal for Volhynia: Batallion 201 and Roman Szuchewycz in occupied Belorussia.
The third of them, Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe, focused mainly on the figure of Stepan Bandera, however, one can also find his articles that relate to Roman Shukhevych and the issues directly connected with him. The list of these works is as follows:
2016 – Holocaust Amnesia: The Ukrainian Diaspora and the Genocide of the Jews
2017 — Ukraińska policja, nacjonalism i Zagłada Żydów; Ukraińska rewolucja narodowa 1941 r.: Teoria i praktyka ruchu faszystowskiego
2020 — Bandera, ukrainische Nationalismus und der transnationale Fascismus; Bandera, masowa przemóc i odpowiedzialność; Survivor Testimonies and the Coming to Terms with the Holokaust
2022 — Ukrainian Nationalists, the Jews during the Holocaust;
2023 — Bandera, Genocide and Justice.
Nevrtheless, in the case of the last one mentioned, namely, Jared McBride, all 10 of his publications presented in open sources relate to the subject of collaboration and the alleged “whitewashing” of the alleged collaborators of the OUN and UPA in modern Ukraine.
On reviewing the sequence of publications together and the evolution of the topic, it appears that at the first stage of the elaboration and development of the theme, the main emphasis was made on the topic of the historical memory of Ukrainians in the diaspora, and they were blamed for honoring the fighters for Ukrainian independence on the one hand, and on the other – for inattention to the themes of the Holocaust and its victims. This stage started around 2005 and went into decline in 2009. However, not to the end, since in the future, it happened from time to time that the article on a completely different topic ended with a not entirely clear final twist on the topic of the diaspora. In particular, this happened with Per Anders Rudling’s publications on the subject of the “Halychyna” Division and the 118th Battalion. Particularly noteworthy in this context is the analysis of the activities of the 118th Battalion, which contrasts two characters, namely, Vasyura, who was sentenced to death in the USSR, and Volodymyr Katruk, who lived to old age in exile. Taking into account the author’s postulation of the principled criminality of the Halychyna Division, one gets the impression of a seemingly fair USSR and the West, or rather Canada, which allows criminals to live out their lives on their territory.
The second stage began around 2009–2010, and its main and almost only element was the research into the factual side of the OUN and the UPA relations with the Jews on the one hand, and with the Nazi occupation authorities on the other. Actually, the texts of the early 2010s authored by John-Paul Himka, Per Anders Rudling and Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe formed a quasi-scientific basis for statements about the discriminatory, xenophobic, fascist and anti-Semitic character of the Ukrainian liberation movement. There are signs of attempts both to spread this reputation to all Ukrainian streams, and to eliminate the very possibility of a balanced approach to the case. Notably, this is indicated by the texts of John-Paul Himka regarding the Greek Catholic Church and the Holocaust and the mentions in the articles of all four authors of representatives of various circles, both in the diaspora and in Ukraine, as well taking into account those who are quite hostile towards the “Banderites”. On the other hand, one can find texts with sharp, including the transition to the personal level, criticism of supporters of a more balanced and by no means complimentary view of the OUN and the UPA, in particular, their ideological discourse.
In 2015–2016, this approach changed to harsh criticism of decommunization. Following that, from around 2017, the topic of publications again switched to general questions in the context of the theme. On the other hand, the accusations became more general, i.e., now the nationalists were generally accused of “discrimination” and “violence”.
Besides, judging from the titles and data of the publication, one gets the impression of similarity, and extreme closeness, of the topics of some of the articles of all the mentioned authors. A vivid example may be the title “The OUN, the UPA and the Holocaust”, it is found in John-Paul Himka’s article (the UPA and the Holocaust), Per Anders Rudling’s (the OUN, the UPA and the Holocaust) and, finally, Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe’s (Ukrainian Nationalists, the Jews during the Holocaust). There are also repetitions of one’s own texts, namely, for example, Per Anders Rudling in the article The Myth of Roman Shukhevych… completely repeats a passage from an earlier article Schooling of Murder…, which concerns the ratio of losses of security battalions and partisans. Of a striking similarity are the thematic structure of Per Anders Rudling’s articles Multiculturalism, Memory and Ritualisation: Ukrainian Nationalist Memorials in Canada, published in Nationalities Papersand the Grzegorz Rossolinski’s text about the memorialization of Stepan Bandera in Canada. It is worth noting that the wording, such as the above, a priori “ties” the OUN(b) and the UPA to the Holocaust, thus providing the reader with an unconscious assumptive negative attitude towards both organizations.
In the case of Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe, there are often numerous translations of the same publications, which is surprising against the background of the more authoritative colleagues on the subject. For example, there were translated articles titled “Holocaust Amnesia: The Ukrainian Diaspora and the Genocide of the Jews”, “Ukraińska Rewolucja Narodowa: teeoria i praktyka ruchu faszystowskiego”, “Celebrating fascism and war criminality in Edmonton”, etc. Subsequently, this researcher and the student of Prof. Himka received a huge audience in English, German and Polish. Taken alltogether, this creates the impression that the real goal of the efforts of all four researchers is to maximize the general impression, which is sharply negative towards the OUN and the UPA.
It should be noted that all of the abovementioned are far from being the only followers of the group that can be called the “Himka school”. Tarik Cyril Amar and Ivan Kachanovskyi belong to the sufficiently influential and notable ones. Both are notable for the features of their careers – the former, finally ended up working since 2020 for the propaganda channel Russia Today, whose involvement in the Russian propaganda pool has long been fully evident and evidenced by massive sanctions against this channel and its presenters after the beginning of the Russian invasion to Ukraine, and the latter published in 2014–2015 a number of articles in which he presented a version of the events on the Maidan on February 18–20, 2014, which suspiciously coincided with the version disseminated by the Russian propaganda machine. In this study, we did not dwell on them in depth, since none of them in their theses seriously touched on topics related to Roman Shukhevych personally.
It should also be noted that all four actively use the method of cross-referencing. Thus, in his text about the OUN and the UPA, as “unwanted elements of the identity project” John-Paul Himka refers first of all to other supporters of his views, such as Per Anders Rudling, Marko Tsarynnyk, Sofia Grachova and others. In the same text, he liberally refers to his own Doctoral student, Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe, and such critics of the OUN and the UPA as David Marples, Tarik Cyril Amar, and others.
Per Anders Rudling is not far behind – in the article The Cult of Roman Shukhevych… he repeatedly refers to John-Paul Himka, Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe, Jared McBride, Tarik Cyril Amar and others. The same pattern is repeated in the case of the text Multiculturalism, Memory and Ritualisation… – one can find references to almost the same set of like-minded people.
However, Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe surpassed all of them – in the conclusions to one of his articles, one can find an interesting contrast to the general, seemingly low level of the CIUS, which did not implement any program for the study of “Ukrainian collaborationism and fascism” and the “only righteous”, i.e., David Marples and Ivan-Pavlo Himka. In itself, such a passage is the evidence of completely non-academic manifestations of personal sympathies and connections.
Given that some of the texts were clearly timed to specific events in the internal public and political life of Ukraine, it makes sense to follow what coincided with the appearance of certain topics.
Therefore, the articles on the topic began to appear systematically in 2005 and as it has already been mentioned, the article about Yaroslav Stetsko, co-authored by Karel Berkhoff and Mark Tsarynnyk, did not go beyond scientific circles.
A year before that, the Orange Revolution took place in Ukraine. Viktor Yushchenko, the pro-Ukrainian and pro-European president, comes to power, and in order to establish contacts with Western governments, the relations with which have been hopelessly damaged by the authoritarianism of his predecessor, he needs the connections of the Ukrainian diaspora in the West. In addition, his second wife, Kateryna Chumachenko, comes from this environment and that was actively used by the pro-Russian forces in the political struggle. In internal policies, the period of his presidency was marked by the introduction of practices of memorialization and commemoration of the victims of the Holodomor-genocide at the state level, the opening of archives, and the commemoration of participants in the liberation struggle of the 1930s–1950s. In particular, in 2007–2008, the KGB archives began to be opened in Ukraine.
At this time, sharp, critical articles about the moral legacy of the OUN and the UPA began to appear, with frequent accusations of the Ukrainian diaspora in the USA and Canada of allegedly covering up the crimes of their ancestors. One should bear in mind that the Ukrainian diaspora was one of the reliable bridges to the Western offices, and one of the colonial practices is to block the possibility of the colonized to communicate with the world directly.
The turning point was when Roman Shukhevych was posthumously awarded the title of the Hero of Ukraine in 2007. This event provoked a wave of accusations against the awardee, which were largely based on the “black legend” about the alleged participation of “Nakhtigall” in violence against the Jews and collaboration with the Nazis. Due to the coincidence in time with the beginning of the opening of the archives, the issue very quickly moved into the field of finding evidence based on archival documents. After it was reported that there were no documents in the archives of the Security Services of Ukraine that would prove the participation of Shukhevych in particular and “Nakhtigall” as a whole in punitive operations, Yosyp Lapid, an employee of the Yad Vashem Institute, stated in December 2007 that he had documents at his disposal, which testify to the fact that Roman Shukhevych did take part in punitive operations. Following that, a delegation was sent to Israel in February–March 2008, which was supposed to search for the relevant documents and get acquainted with them. However, on arriving, it turned out that such documents do not exist, and Yosyp Lapid is not the employee of the archive.
Consequently, the discussion about Roman Shukhevych subsided, though this did not mean the end of the discussion of the topic of the Ukrainian liberation movement in the context of collaboration with the Nazis. After Viktor Yanukovych, a representative of pro-Russian forces, came to power in 2010, the topic of “incorrect” historical memory of the Ukrainian diaspora, as can be seen from the collected chronology, subsided. It was replaced by a wave of publications on the alleged participation of the OUN and the UPA in the Holocaust, starting around 2011, during which the topic finally gained its civil rights in the scientific discourse.
Meantime, the pro-Russian forces in power begin to use the “historical map” in the political game to its full potential. As part of this, the collection “The OUN and the UPA: the Research on the Creation of “Historical Myths” was published in 2012, which included, in particular, the texts of some of the persons of the current research, namely, Per Anders Rudling and Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe. At least Per Anders Rudling later claimed that the text was included in the collection without his consent. However, regardless of the course of events, the very fact of its appearance in the collection, which was undoubtedly published by pro-Russian groups with a definite political goal, clearly demonstrates both the convergence of the messages of the “Himka school” with part of the messages of Russian propaganda, and the fact that the latter undoubtedly uses the former.
In the due course, more events happen, namely, the Revolution of Dignity of 2013-2014, the expulsion of Viktor Yanukovych and the beginning of the war in the East of Ukraine, so far in the format of ATO, which Russia is trying to present as a regional conflict of identities, at the same time accusing the Ukrainian government of “fascism” and “Nazism”. In the area of national memory there is a turn to Ukrainian centrism again, which is eventually finalized in the legislative field with the adoption of a package of decommunization legislation. This event provokes a sharp reaction among the circles previously seen in the active development of the theme “the OUN, fascism and the Holocaust”, which is embodied, in particular, in the campaign to sign an open letter with a protest against these laws, initiated by the creators of this analysis. In this letter, a group of researchers appealed to the then President of Ukraine with a request not to sign the laws No. 2538-1 and No. 2558, adopted as the part of confirmation of the package of laws on decommunization. The authors of the letter and those who supported them (among whom, by the way, there were many outstanding in their fields scientists and researchers) were concerned about the norms of the law, which prohibited, under the threat of criminal liability, the denial of the legitimacy of the struggle of the OUN and the UPA for independent Ukraine and the denial of the criminal nature of the communist regime in Ukraine. Paradoxically, it turned out that the initiators of the letter were worried about eliminating the potential threat to two basic narratives of pro-Soviet forces not only in Ukraine, but also in the post-Soviet space in general, i.e., about the illegitimacy of the national resistance movement and about the criminality of the communist regime on a par with the Nazi one. The letter was accompanied by numerous publications about the package of decommunization laws, and the journal “Krytyka” even organized a discussion on this topic.
To sum up, the total amount of the accumulated facts makes it possible to assume that Russia, in its least, consistently used both democratic and academic values and procedures accepted throughout the world, as well as its ideological, worldview and party contradictions between individuals and the environments, the collective trauma of the Second World War and the Holocaust, in particular aiming to consistently keep Ukraine in its orbit.
Summing up, first of all, we will note some ways of presenting the opinion common to the entire research group. First of all, the main source cited when stating and illustrating the views are the testimonies and memories of witnesses and victims. Memories and testimonies in general are one of the least reliable sources when it comes to reproducing what happened for two main reasons, i.e., subjectivity and usually heightened emotionality.
When it comes to episodes of violence or traumatic episodes in general, memories become an even less reliable source, since one must take into account the specifics of the perception of reality under stress and possible distortions of the memory due to stress. In case the testimony or memories are recorded many years after the event under investigation, there is the factor of the instability of human memory as such. Much also depends on the questions asked and the personality of the interviewer. The combination of all these factors makes the use of memories as the main source a very unreliable research tactic, except in situations where the actual way of perceiving or remembering a phenomenon or event is being investigated, or when no other documented evidence remains.
However, the issues of the Ukrainian liberation movement in the context of collaboration with Nazism or relations with Jews do not belong to those where the researcher has only memories at their disposal. The OUN(b) itself left many documents that sufficiently illuminate its activities; in addition, its activities were reflected in the documents of its opponents, first and foremost, the Nazi and the communist regimes. Having such a background, to operate mainly with memories is strange in itself.
Actually, here it is worth noting the second characteristic feature of the presentation of their arguments by the “Himka group”, namely, ignoring the documentary base. In case it is taken into account, then the reader will certainly encounter the broken quotes or depreciation – one of the classic techniques is the assertion that the “democratic turn” of the OUN(b) in 1943 was a purely political tactical move aimed at winning the sympathy of the Western allies, ignoring numerous documents that testify to the opposite – that is, that the “democratic turn” was the finale of a long process that took the period of 1940-1943.
A continuation of ignoring the documentary base is the general criticism not only of scientific opponents, but of experts in general who offer a calmer consideration of the issue. Among those attacked at different times were individuals who are difficult to connect with the “Bandera” milieu, which is considered to be the main opponent of the “Himka group”, namely, Yaroslav Hrytsak and Oleksandr Zaitsev. Which is more, nothing else was criticized, but a calm and correct analysis of the issues and an equally correct denial of accusations of outright fascism and collaborationism.
It is worth noting that among the references in the texts of the “hypercritics” there are practically no references to the research of Kai Struve, who, in turn, is distinguished by an exceptionally wide inclusion and careful processing of sources from the period and whose monograph can definitely be considered one of the most accurate reconstructions of the events.
The criticism itself can be divided into two stages. At the first stage, the Ukrainian diaspora in the USA and Canada, especially its organized cells, became the main target of successive critical attacks. After the epicenter of changes, primarily intellectual and social, moved to Ukraine, which happened in the mid-2000s and finally became irreversible in 2014–2015, the individuals, institutions and events closely involved in the processes of change became the objects of attacks in Ukraine.
Provided we consider this question in the context of Russia’s alleged influence, since in the previous waves of attacks, starting with the “Oberlander case”, there were numerous signs of “deep operations” of the USSR special services, as Himka himself admits, then the probable cause of the attack is precisely the activities of the diaspora, which, until recently, remained almost unalternative chain of exit and communication of Ukraine with the “collective West”. In this case, it is also no coincidence that the beginning of another wave of attacks, which, in fact, has not subsided until now, coincided with the victory of the Orange Revolution. This event also meant Ukraine’s gradual return of being an actor in communication with the world, primarily the “collective West” and the clearing of the imperial “bridge” between Ukraine and, in particular, the USA. This development of events was completely opposite to Moscow’s goals to keep Ukraine in its sphere of influence.
Moreover, all this happens in an emphatically emotional way, with the active use of trigger terms, such as “fascist”, “racist”, “discriminatory” and others. Besides, the abuse of these characteristics makes it difficult for the reader to understand the details of the situation. In addition, the triggers themselves are aimed at the Western audience, which results in a manipulative effect.
After all, all the members of the group actively cite each other in their articles, which makes it seem as if there are more of them, and the group itself is more powerful and influential than it probably is.
It is more or less clear, that the way of explaining the events of 1941–1944, characteristic of the “Himka group”, carries in itself two basic ideas. The first of them is the idea that Ukrainians, in numerous variations, either fell under the influence or were violently dominated by the OUN(b) in Ukraine and its ideological followers in the diaspora, as a result of which all those terrible things attributed to the liberation movement. Such an idea is deeply colonial in nature, as it involves a vision of the “obedient and good” locals who suddenly, under someone’s evil influence, become aggressive and cruel towards yesterday’s seemingly same “others”, who, however, stand higher on the hierarchical ladder than the community, which unexpectedly “went rotten”.
Furthermore, the vast majority of active members of the group emphasize precisely the violent nature of what they incriminate the Ukrainian liberation movement. Taking into account the general context of the events, this makes us recall David Grossman’s statement that at one time the displacement and alienation of sexuality provoked a flow of social complexes and personal deviations, and now the alienation of violence threatens the same, but on a different basis.
The second of the mentioned ideas is the idea of the memory construction. First of all, the very idea that memory can be constructed is part of the idea of remaking human nature, and in this context, the objections of the OUN(b) to “totalitarianism” become very ambiguous. However, the representatives of the group do not stop there, since, judging by their texts, they consider the very idea of honoring the participants of the liberation movement to be deeply wrong; instead, they suggest to concentrate exclusively on the memory of the victims of genocides, in this case, the Holocaust.
Provided that these suggestions are to be considered from a more distant perspective, one will get the impression that Ukrainians, from the point of view of the “Himka group”, should become completely peaceful and, in fact, forget the history of their own struggle. Suchlike messages are strikingly reminiscent of the key Soviet and Russian narratives, to say nothing of the constant repetition of the claim about the “Nazi regime” that allegedly seized power in Ukraine, which Russian propagandists have been repeating since 2014, and the de facto ban on remembering one’s own history, which was practiced throughout the Soviet occupation of Ukraine. Naturally, such coincidences make the theses of the “Himka group” extremely convenient for use by Russian propaganda.
At the same time, it cannot be denied that both the topic of the attitude of the Ukrainian liberation movement towards Jews in particular and the topic of Ukrainian-Jewish relations in general still contain many complex questions, some of which we may never get unequivocal answers to. The search for answers is complicated and will be complicated by the sad fact that in both cases it touches upon the most painful parts of the history of both nations and forces to verify the developed ways of rationalizing national tragedies. It is also regrettable that the epicenter of public discussions and debates is not the research of specialists in the field of Henry Abramson, Johanan Petrovskyi-Stern, Kai Shtruve, Dieter Pohl, but the texts in which traces of manipulation and opposition between the communities are visible.
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