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Heroes and Villains

David R. Marples

Chapter 8. Assessments

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  • 1 A book has now been published to accompany this pamphlet. See Stanislav Kul’chyts’kyi, et al, OUN (...)

1This concluding chapter will be divided into three parts. The first will examine perhaps the most definitive treatment of OUN ideology to date, by historian H. V. Kas’yanov; the second will look at the main findings of the 2004 Government Commission Report on OUN-UPA; and the final section will offer some conclusions on the issues raised in this book—the question of constructing national history in Ukraine, with a focus on the twentieth century and the Stalin years in particular.1 There is as yet no prevailing narrative, as we have noted from recent school textbooks, but with the passing of time the analyses have become increasingly sophisticated. The two major assessments described below perhaps define the end of a period of inquiry and debate, though the issues discussed are far from dormant. Kas’yanov’s article also formed the basis for his contribution to the Government Commission Report. However, since it appeared first in Ukrains’kyi istorychnyi zhurnal, it has been discussed separately. It is to some extent a follow-up to an article he wrote six years earlier in the same journal. The assessments have been placed in the conclusion to the book because they offer the perspectives of Ukraine’s leading historians. They do not indicate that these views are widely accepted across Ukraine and doubtless there are significant and radical regional variations and opinions. That is not really the point. The historians’ perspectives will likely be transferred to school textbooks over time and form the views of new generations of Ukrainian citizens, and as such they are valuable and influential over the long term.

Kas’yanov on OUN Ideology

  • 2 H. V. Kas’yanov, “Ideolohiya OUN: istoryko-retrospektyvnyi analiz,” Ukrains’kyi istorychnyizhurnal(...)

2Kas’yanov’s study notes that OUN ideology was far from monolithic even in its early days. He comments that the term used most often to refer to its 1930s version in Western literature is “integral nationalism,” and he cites Armstrong’s account of the ideological stances that are familiar to most readers: the belief in the nation as the highest value; and the conception that individuals are united in a single, organic entity through their biological characteristics or common historical development. Armstrong also provided other features such as the presence of a charismatic leader and a cult of action, thus war or violence is seen as evidence of the vitality of the nation. Western political scientist Alexander J. Motyl is also cited and outlines other typical features of OUN ideology, including anti-intellectualism, determinism, antiparliamentarianism, militarism, and federalism. However, Kas’yanov writes, the Ukrainian variant existed alongside a linked but separate variant of totalitarian nationalism associated with Dmytro Dontsov, which he sees as nihilistic and lacking constructive elements. On the other hand, the OUN’s integral nationalism, albeit extremist, contained a clear political program and a consistent worldview. Nevertheless, in the 1920s, Dontsov’s book Natsionalizm had an enormous impact on Ukrainian youth living in Polish Ukraine, and these same people went on to form the basis of the “Krayova OUN.” Gradually the OUN moved away from Dontsovian nationalism, and in August 1943, Dontsov’s comments concerning the political guidelines of the OUN at the Third Extraordinary Grand Assembly (August 1943) were pointedly ignored. In the late 1940s, Dontsov strongly criticized the revised OUN stance, and following his emigration to North America (he took up residence in Montreal) after the war, he retained some influence among the ZCh OUN. Integral nationalism was thus ultimately abandoned. However, writes Kas’yanov, there was a certain self-deception to this change since the ideological evolution of the OUNB in the 1960s and 1970s tended to follow the revolutionary orthodoxy of the 1930s linked with Dontsov.2

  • 3 Ibid., pp. 35-36.

3Moving back in time to the formation of the OUN, Kas’yanov cites the various influences behind the movement (the defeat of the Ukrainian Revolution of 1917-21, the political climate in the countries in which the OUN operated, and European intellectual movements of the period). Its first major theoretical periodical was the Prague-based Rozbudova natsii and the emergence of a group of intellectual theorists. Not all ideological issues had been resolved by the time of the OUN’s creation at the Vienna Congress of January-February 1929 chaired by D. Andriievs’kyi. There were sharp debates in particular between Krayova OUN members and emigrant activists. Krayova OUN members identified closely with the political views of M. Mikhnovs’kyi and Dontsov. However, both sides adhered to the view of the nation as the highest form of social organization, with the state as the ultimate form of the nation’s development, a postulate that remained unchallenged until the early 1990s. The OUN anticipated a three-stage process of construction of a Ukrainian state. Stage one was the phase of “national liberation” when a national dictatorship would be established. Stage two was to be a transitional period in which the head of state prepares the highest legislative bodies with the participation of all organized social groups. Stage three would see stabilization and the creation of a representative body that would appoint the state leader—the highest executive power. Kas’yanov perceives this structure as rather vague and generalized, and several ideologists expressed regret at the lack of definitiveness in the conception. The OUN came to maturity in the 1930s at a time when totalitarian regimes were thriving in Europe and pressure on Ukrainian society was rising both in Poland and the Soviet Union. As a result the OUN ideology became much more radical. Under these circumstances, Dontsov’s writings only exacerbated the emotional atmosphere— Kas’yanov does not see them as offering much that was constructive. Dontsovian nationalism lowered the level of political culture of this militant element among the Ukrainian people.3

  • 4 Ibid., pp. 38-39.

4The split in the OUN is seen as tactically rather than ideologically motivated. It also reflected a generation gap and the personal animosities between the two leaders. Both declared as their main goal the creation of a sovereign, united Ukrainian state. However, the Bandera program involved the revolt of not only Ukrainians but other peoples of the Moscow empire. It also espoused an anti-Moscow and anti-Semitic platform, as Jews were seen as the main foundation of the “Moscow Bolshevik regime.” In the OUN-B program, in theory, the leader’s power would be counterbalanced by collegial bodies, i.e., the Provid (Leadership) and the Velyka Rada (Grand Council). In practice, a personality and leadership cult developed around the figure of Bandera. By the late 1930s, writes Kas’yanov, the general ideological image of the OUN had been formed: radical Ukrainian nationalism manifesting features typical of totalitarianism, anti-democracy, and anti-Communism in a revolutionary movement founded on the principles of action, militant idealism, and voluntarism, and on the priority of national values over pan-human ones. It was a combination of political elitism and social egalitarianism, in Kas’yanov’s view, but with special emphasis on the peasantry as the backbone of the Ukrainian nation. Did the platform have anything in common with Italian Fascism and German National Socialism? Kas’yanov observes that in the late 1920s and early 1930s, the OUN ideologists built up analogies and associations with Italian Fascism quite deliberately, and borrowed components of Italian Fascism’s political and socio-economic programs, particularly Corporatism. One of the principal differences, however, was that the Ukrainians lacked their own national state. Still the OUN used some symbols of Italian Fascism, and incorporated within its structure an organization that was originally called the Union of Ukrainian Fascists. The OUN cooperated overtly both with Italian Fascists and the German Abwehr, as well as with the German occupation authorities in the early 1940s. Mirchuk, among others, noted that Ukrainian nationalists were sympathetic toward Fascism as an anti-Communist and as a new political and economic movement, but added that Ukrainian nationalism, which dated back thousands of years, had a much longer tradition than Fascism.4

5Kas’yanov looks briefly at other writers with an OUN background. At least two—Zinovii Knysh and V. Marhanets—perceive Ukrainian nationalism as a product of domestic development rather than outside forces. Roman Ilnytzkyj maintains that some of the most significant components of Fascism and National Socialism were always alien to the OUN (a corporate state, racism, and anti-Semitism), but the movements possessed a similar organizational structure. The statements lead Kas’yanov to editorialize that:

Remarkably, all these OUN writers, regardless of their faction affiliations, rejected expressly the ideological similarity to Fascism and Nazism to the extent of denying generally known facts, in particular that elements of racism and anti-Semitism, as well as corporatism, were typical of the OUN ideological constructs, especially in the first half of the 1930s.

  • 5 Ibid., pp. 39-41.

6Such self-deceptive perspectives are contrasted with the writings of Motyl and Ivan Lysiak-Rudnytsky, who respectively noted common features with Italian Fascism and with the agrarian and other parties of economically backward East European countries (Croatia, Romania, Slovakia, and Poland). Rudnytsky is also cited for his comment that Ukrainian nationalism was a genetically inde-pendent phenomenon, but clearly influenced by foreign models in the course of its development. Realistically, Kas’yanov concludes that the OUN could hardly have avoided the dominant trends of Italian Fascism and German National Socialism, but one should not equate these movements with the Ukrainian variant. Even the Soviet Union engaged in productive cooperation in economic, military, and political spheres during the 1930s, but the regimes of Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini are not linked because of this factor. Similarly even antithetical ideologies borrow from each other. Hence the OUN ideology cannot be termed Fascist or National Socialist, in Kas’yanov’s view. He ends with a rather angry swipe at those who persist in the habitual and unproductive practice of using ideological clichés, which are now outdated, in current academic and political debates.5 The targets are not made explicit, but clearly Kas’yanov rejects the stereotyped view concerning Ukrainian nationalists.


  • 6 Henadii Sakharov, “Natsionalizm?—Natsionalizm!” 17 August 2006; [http://maidan.].

7Kas’yanov’s rejection seems a reasonable point to make, particularly given the passive role of Ukrainian nationalists prior to the formation of a sovereign state, a time when they were obligated to throw in their lot with the catalysts for change in Europe. Both the Americans and British covertly supported the nationalist insurgency after the war and opened their doors to many of the leaders of this movement so clearly the Western Powers were not unduly perturbed by their past links with the Germans. Yet perhaps the reason for the persistent denigration and labeling of Ukrainian nationalists has been the rather narrow perspectives and conception of the future—and, after 1991, the established—Ukrainian state. In the efforts to reconstruct a national history, there is a marked tendency to idealize Ukrainian nationalism of the 1930s and 1940s and to render adherents ipso facto freedom fighters. One problem is surely the failure to delve deeper into Ukrainian history to find the roots of modern nationalism. As one author has pointed out, many people equate the concept of Ukrainian nationalism exclusively with Bandera, the OUN and UPA, and with Western Ukraine. Yet the birth of this movement long predated Dontsov and can be linked to the periods of rule of the Russian tsars Peter I and Catherine II. Some would go back much further to the period of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and medieval Polish state.6 Thus these earlier influences on Ukraine—and we have already witnessed examples in school textbooks—are ritually negated in a conception of development and state-building that is largely (but not solely) confined to the defining events of the twentieth century. The OUN, or more accurately the OUN-B, remains important because of its prominent role outside of Ukraine. Though its political influence in Ukraine is small, and its impact on elections and government minimal, its perceptions of the past, which are largely unchanging, still continue to exert their effect in historical narratives, writings, and in school textbooks. That is why many Eastern Ukrainians have maintained that the Bandera or Western Ukrainian version of history predominates in Ukraine today. Thus the root of the problem lies less in whether 1930s nationalism was Fascist or National Socialist, and more in the lack of historical debate on topics that clearly still need discussion, including those that have been featured in these pages.

The Government Commission Report of 2004

8From the early years of independence, a commission comprising several Ukrainian historians was tasked with perusing the activities of OUN-UPA. In February 1993, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet approved a resolution “On the investigation of OUN-UPA activities,” and in June 1994, the Ministry of Justice convoked a council of experts to examine the problem. However, the historians were unable to start work because of a lack of funding. In September 1996, Parliament endorsed a decision to establish a temporary commission that would facilitate the inquiry into OUN-UPA, but it ran into the problem of ideological disagreements among its members. Finally in May 1997, the then president Leonid D. Kuchma ruled that a Government Commission should be created and its working group formed at the Institute of History, Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. It consisted of twenty scholars, many of whom were well-known as leading historians in Ukraine: S. Kul’chyts’kyi, Yu. Shapoval, A. Kentii, H. Kas’yanov, I. Il’yushyn, and others. It produced a document entitled “Report of the Working Group of the Government Commission for Examining OUN-UPA Activities: Key theses on the OUN-UPA Problem (A Historical Conclusion).” We will examine this document in detail since it reflects the current thinking of Ukraine’s most distinguished historians on the issue of the OUN and UPA, and is based on archival materials, as well as the recent publications of some of its members.

  • 7 For a brief overview, see Bohdan Chervak, “Ostatochnu krapku ne postavyv nevblahannyi chas,” Maida (...)
  • 8 National Academy of Sciences, Institute of History of Ukraine, “Problema OUN-UPA: Zvit robochoi hr (...)

9The key theses (Historical Conclusions) are divided into fourteen sections, thirteen of which we will outline briefly before offering an assessment.7 Section 1, “The subject of research,” points out that the OUN and UPA were distinct entities that performed different functions, and their titles should not be linked by a hyphen. The problem of OUN-UPA can only be examined as individual entities. Several underground and insurgent structures were established that fought for Ukraine’s independence: the Ukrainian Military Organization (UVO) in 1920 (which joined the OUN in 1929); the OUN that operated in Western Ukraine and among the Diaspora since 1929 (splitting into two independent factions under Bandera and Mel’nyk); the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, from 1943 to 1949; and the Brotherhoods of Ukrainian Nationalists—more commonly known under the names of the Nachtigal special detachment and the Roland organization. Section 2, “Confrontation between Ukrainian nationalists and the Soviet authorities, 1939-1941,” makes the important point that Ukrainian historiography often overestimates the scale of the deportations of the population from Western Ukraine by the USSR in 1940-41. Some reference books provide a figure of more than one million people deported. But the actual figure, based on data from Russian archives, did not exceed 192,000, and these people were mainly Polish officials and Jewish refugees. The nationalists were unable in this period to confront the Soviet authorities by provoking a national uprising. That is why, the document states, after the German attack on the USSR, the OUN took the side of the Wehrmacht and engaged in active subversion operations and intelligence in the rear of the Red Army.8

10Section 3 is concerned with the “situational alliance between Ukrainian nationalists and Hitler’s Germany.” It notes that relations between both wings of the OUN and the Germans remained virtually problem-free between September 1939 and June 1941. Having no access to Hitler, the nationalists did not know the Germans’ plans for Ukraine. After 22 June 1941, acting out of enthusiasm, but without coordinating their actions with German officials, the nationalists seized power in 187 out of 200 districts of Western Ukraine and 26 districts of Right-Bank Ukraine. They set up regional administrations in Ternopil’, L’viv, Rivne, Drohobych, Stanyslaviv, and Luts’k. By disarming Red Army units, OUN combatants acquired significant supplies of weapons, ammunition, and equipment. German field commanders were content to synchronize their operations with OUN actions, but German officials at a higher level remained mistrustful. Section 4 deals more specifically with the armed Nachtigal and Roland detachments. It points out that cooperation between UVO/OUN and the German Abwehr dated back to the period of the Weimar Republic. After Hitler came to power, the “anti-Versailles spirit” of German policy was strengthened. Initially a subversion detachment called the Bergsbauernhilfe was formed in mid-September 1939 under the leadership of Roman Sushko. However, German plans for Western Ukraine were abandoned after the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact. The Germans agreed to train only several hundred Ukrainian troops which, the nationalists hoped, would eventually form the nucleus of a Ukrainian army allied to the Wehrmacht. Called Roland and Nachtigal in the code names used by the Abwehr, the units are referred to in Ukrainian documents as Druzhyny Ukrains’kykh Natsionalistiv (Brotherhoods of Ukrainian Nationalists). They had the tasks of securing the movement of German forces in Ukraine, disarming Red Army units defeated by the Wehrmacht, and organizing convoy trains carrying POWs and ammunition.

11By June 1941, Nachtigal was fully staffed with men wearing the Wehrmacht field uniform and included in the special regiment, Brandenburg 800, commanded by Roman Shukhevych with its German contact person designated as Oberleutnant Oberlaender. It entered L’viv on 30 June and occupied all the strategic locations. Yaroslav Stets’ko, deputy chief of the OUN Provid, declared the national independence of Ukraine on L’viv Radio that same night and on the following morning. Members of Nachtigal were then granted a week’s leave and German police forces took over the main points of the city. After the arrests of Bandera, Stets’ko, and other OUN-B leaders, Shukhevych informed the Wehrmacht Supreme Command that the battalion would no longer be subordinated to the German army. It was then disbanded. Together with the Roland battalion, which had remained in Romania, it was united into a single detachment by October. Troops were asked to sign one-year contracts to serve in the guard police and transferred to Belarus to guard bridges over the Berezyna and Dvina rivers. After the expiration of the year, the battalion was dissolved and its troops arrested, though Shukhevych escaped into the underground. Concerning the issue of Nachtigal involvement in the massacre of the Polish and Jewish intelligentsia in L’viv on 3-4 July, the working group points out that such accusations have never been proved, citing the acquittal of Oberlaender on the same charges at the Nuremberg Trials. An investigation in Hamburg in 1966, conducted at the request of Poland with reference to the deaths of Polish citizens, established that the SS was responsible for these atrocities.

12Section 5 examines Hitler’s plans for Ukraine, noting initially that of the two wings of the OUN, the OUN-B acted more confidently as it was operating on Ukrainian land. Before the German attack, the OUN-M addressed the issue of the formation of a Ukrainian state that would extend well beyond the ethnic boundaries of Ukraine, and which anticipated the immigration of Ukrainians in Siberia and the Far East into the new state. OUN-B perceived its relationship to Nazi Germany as one of an ally. It warned Hitler that the German troops would be greeted as liberators in Ukraine, but that attitude would not last unless a Ukrainian state was created. The OUN-B tried to convince the Germans that the creation of an independent Ukraine was in accord with Germany’s own interests. Bandera insisted that Ukraine could not be treated in the same way as the puppet states of Slovakia and Croatia because of its size and population. The authors make two qualifying points in their assessment of the German-OUN relationship. First, the leaders of the Third Reich did not consider the Ukrainian nationalists a politically significant force and did not wish to engage in interaction. Second, “we do not know” whether Ukrainian nationalist leaders were sincere when they tried to convince Hitler that they were committed to the New Order in Europe. It is true that the nationalists were willing to collaborate and accept financial and materiel support from the Abwehr. But the Germans offered collaboration only in the form of service, i.e., on an individual basis. The Ukrainians were not found to have been involved in the criminal actions of the German secret services that were revealed at the Nuremberg Trials.

13The question of culpability, in the view of the Working Group, must be examined within the context of time. They comment that before September 1939, the Third Reich had not committed the crimes that any civilized human being shudders to think about. They also point out—and its relevance is not immediately obvious—that the accusers should be reminded that it was the Soviet leadership that had signed an agreement on friendship and borders with Germany. The OUN, without doubt, wished to cooperate with Germany, the authors state, and on the German side, Alfred Rosenberg in particular regarded Ukraine as a very important ally. The OUN leaders appear to have known about German plans to divide the Soviet Union, but they did not know that after his initial military triumphs Hitler had decided to introduce his plans for the creation of a Greater Germany that would include Ukrainian territory. These embraced Himmler’s grotesque 30-year plan that envisaged the deportation or extermination of almost the entire Polish population, 75 % of Belarusians, and 65 % of Galician Ukrainians, some 30-45 million people in total. The Working Group comments that Mel’nyk and Bandera were operating in a situation in which war was a fact of life, but they did not realize that in this way they were subordinating the revival of national statehood to the defeat of the Soviet Union by Germany. The main issues are first, in order to strengthen opposition to the USSR by establishing an alliance with the Germans, the nationalists ended up in the anti-Alliance camp; and second, that they sought friendship with a state that had secret plans to colonize their land, but that they had no prior knowledge of the intended borders of Greater Germany.

14Section 6 examines the “Akt” of 30 June 1941, which was clearly an attempt at a fait accompli on the part of the nationalists. Possibly they perceived this state as subordinate or allied to the Third Reich but, say the authors in another instance of strained logic, they were not collaborators since that notion refers to cooperation between a dominant and subordinate ally. After 22 June 1941, Berlin did not recognize such allies. The authors cite the full wording of the Akt: “The restored Ukrainian state will be engaged in close cooperation with the National-Socialist Greater Germany which, under Fuehrer Adolf Hitler’s leadership, is establishing a new order in Europe and the world, and helping the Ukrainian People to break free from Moscow’s occupation.” The damning phrase was omitted in postwar émigré literature and made the main focus in Soviet accounts. The Germans reacted “in a relaxed manner” at first, but when Bandera refused to retract the Akt and continued to insist on OUN’s equal role in negotiations the German attitude changed. Thus the Reichskommisariat Ukraine was established on 20 August 1941, and on 15 September, the security service of the new state sent a report to Berlin, warning that the OUN-B posed a danger to German interests. OUN leaders found themselves in prison, and later in the Sachsenhausen camp, near Berlin. On 25 November, almost five months after Stet’sko’s proclamation, German special services disseminated an order that all activists of the Bandera movement should be arrested immediately and executed following a detailed interrogation. Did the nationalists then adopt an anti-German stance? The issue is the subject of Section 7, which concludes that the strategic line of the OUN was a wait-and-see approach: Germany was a foreign occupier but an armed struggle against it was seen as premature. Until the end of 1942, the nationalists believed that the Soviet Union would be defeated in the war, and they did not plan to begin their armed struggle until Germany had exhausted itself as a military power.

15The resistance movement appeared in the winter of 1941-42, and according to German reports it consisted of the two wings of the OUN, as well as detachments led by Taras Borovets’ (Bul’ba), linked politically to the 1918 Ukrainian government. Among members of the OUN-M, only the faction of O. Olzhych can be considered participants in the resistance, because Andrii Mel’nyk and his associates retained their pro-German stance. Following the resolutions of its Second Conference in 1942, the OUN-B began preparations to deploy its own armed forces in Galicia, Volhynia, and Polissya. In the spring and summer of that year, its actions against the Germans were passive ones, though some rank-and-file units engaged in occasional responses to brutal German actions against the local population. Turning to the formation of UPA—the subject of Section 8—the Working Group exposes the fallacy of dating it from October 1942 as in émigré literature, since that date could only refer to the UPA-Polis’ka Sich unit led by Bul’ba-Borovets’. While it is true that armed units of the UPA began to emerge in Polissya and Volhynia in the autumn of 1942, they had as yet no clear direction. So why was the date 14 October 1942 selected as the founding date of UPA? The Working Group explains that the date 19 November 1942 saw the Red Army’s counteroffensive at Stalingrad. By demonstrating that they began to oppose the German occupiers before knowing that Germany would lose the war, and the Allies attain a victory, the nationalists would improve their standing in the eyes of the West. In reality, the UPA undertook no active operations in 1942 since such actions would, indirectly, only assist the cause of the Bolshevik armies.

16Section 9 of the Report turns attention to “UPA’s anti-Nazi armed operations.” It begins with the 3rd OUN Conference held in the L’viv region, which made a final decision to launch an armed uprising. Yet the choice of the key target remains a matter of dispute. At that time, the nationalists perceived three main enemies: the Germans, the Soviet Partisans, and the émigré Polish government structures. Opinions at the conference reportedly differed as to how the UPA should assess its priorities. The local Western Ukrainian OUN leader, M. Stepanyak, favored a large-scale uprising against the Germans and the formation of a national government that could conduct negotiations with the Western allies. The OUN leader in the south-western region D. Klyachkivs’kyi and the OUN military leader Shukhevych, on the other hand, thought the uprising should be directed against the Red Partisans and Poles rather than the already struggling Germans.

17By mid-March 1943, Ukrainian police left their barracks on the orders of the OUN-B and headed into the forests with arms and ammunition. By 13 May, Klyachkivs’kyi became the Chief Commander of the UPA and its strength reached 30,000 by 1944. At the 3rd Extraordinary OUN Grand Assembly in Ternopil’ region in 1943, chaired by Shukhevych, the slogan adopted was “Let us struggle against the imperialism of Moscow and Berlin.” Nevertheless, Stepanyak’s suggestion to turn on the Germans was rejected, because the Soviet Union was recognized as the principal enemy. The commander of a Partisan force is cited as reporting that “The nationalists do not engage in subversion. They fight Germans only in those areas in which the Germans terrorize the Ukrainian population and when Germans attack them [the nationalists].” The authors state that in the winter of 1943-44 the OUN and UPA leaders were trying to avoid clashes with the Germans because the front line of the war was now approaching. Several unfruitful efforts were made to negotiate with the German side from March to July 1944 in Ternopil’ and L’viv. In July 1944, a Constitutional Assembly of the Ukrainian Supreme Liberation Council (UHVR) took place, with K. Osmak appointed chairman of the presidium and Shukhevych head of the General Secretariat. The UPA was formally subordinated to the UHVR. An order of 22 August 1944 commanded the UPA group West-Carpathians to close the anti-German front. It stated that the Germans were no longer occupying Ukraine and therefore could not be considered a major foe, and recommended that the UPA avoid clashes with Germans or Hungarians. The historians conclude Section 9 by noting that UPA’s anti-German actions in 1943 through to mid-1944 did not have strategic importance in the context of the Soviet-German war. Rather they were limited to restricting the occupation regime’s authority in the territory of Volhynia and Polissya, the main UPA strongholds.

  • 9 There is an evident error here: the majority of former Division combatants took up initial residen (...)

18Section 10 deals succinctly and negatively with the issue of the SS Division Halychyna which, they say, did not have a direct link to the OUN or UPA, even though individual insurgents may have served in the Division. They re-count the formation of the Division on the initiative of German governor Waechter, and then they apply some scathing criticism: the émigré intelligentsia was forced to accept the formation of the SS Division because of its dependence on the German administration. They tried to justify their actions by declaring that the military formation would serve “the Ukrainian cause.” Some propagandists even went so far as to interpret the SS acronym as “Sichove striletstvo” (Sich Sharpshooters). Yet in the authors’ view, the Division was a typical collaborationist formation and had a very negative impact on the Ukrainian cause. The OUN Provid commented at the end of 1943 that the formation of the Division would reflect badly on their efforts to establish themselves as a sovereign political factor, particularly in international eyes. Stalin had wanted its members deported by the Western allies at the end of the war, but the Allies declined on the grounds that its members were, formally, Polish citizens. On the other hand, while the formation of the Division was a serious error, there have been no indications that it was involved in war crimes. Its activities were checked thoroughly and its members were then allowed to reside in the United States.9 The Division, the Report assures, had nothing in common with the elite SS units that comprised fanatical devotees of Nazi doctrine and were stained with crimes. Rather it resembled other SS divisions in Nazi-occupied territories. There were even two Russian SS divisions, but, it is noted, that fact “is known to hardly anyone.”

19On the Ukrainian-Polish confrontation (Section 11), the working group notes that both the Ukrainian and Polish intelligentsia collaborated with the German occupiers, while the latter were actively involved in inciting ethnic hostilities in the region. Under conditions of extreme ethnic tension, ordinary Poles and Ukrainians tended to lay the blame for their misfortunes on the rival ethnic group, rather than on the occuping regime that usually appointed members of the groups to serve as officials. After the formation of UPA, the police—hitherto mainly Ukrainian—were made up of Poles. The OUN used this situation as a pretext to ascribe all responsibility to Poles for the confrontation and ordered those serving in the local administration and police to leave their posts. Social factors that fuelled the conflict were no less explosive than ethnic or religious ones. The memory of Polish rule in the interwar period also rankled among Ukrainians. The Volhynia events have been obscured, the report notes, because the Ukrainian-Polish confrontation was never mentioned in Polish or Soviet historiography prior to the late 1980s. However, the working group notes in particular the responsibility of the socalled Volhynia OUN led by Dmytro Klyachkivs’kyi, as well as the entire insurgent movement, for a massacre that saw not only Polish officials, but Polish women and children ruthlessly butchered. Diaspora scholars generally agree that the Volhynia tragedy constitutes a “dark stain” on the history of the OUN-B and UPA, which cannot be justified or explained. Further, the authors assert, one cannot blame Klyachkivs’kyi alone without laying culpability on the entire insurgent movement. The only way to avoid responsibility was to maintain a silence. Thus Klyachkivs’kyi’s name did not even appear in the biographies contained in Entsyklopediya ukrainoznavstva. In other regions, however, it was the Ukrainians who suffered the worst losses in the conflict.

20Section 12 outlines the confrontation during wartime between Ukrainian nationalists and the Soviet authorities and begins with the issue of whether the UPA can be considered a Second World War combatant given that it fought the Axis powers and the Soviet Union at the same time. If the point of reference is the Soviet Union, which bore the brunt of the fighting against the Germans, then the answer is clearly no. The UPA are not participants for those who regard the conflict as the Great Patriotic War. The OUN’s and UPA’s hostile attitude toward the Soviet Union prevented them from taking an active role in the conflict against the German occupiers. Khrushchev, in turn, informed Soviet Partisans that the nationalists were Nazi agents (in some cases including people who had been fooled by bourgeois nationalist propaganda) and regarded UPA insurgents as traitors who deserved particularly harsh punishment. This malevolence was reflected in the mass deportations from the region that began as early as 1945. As the front line moved westward, the UPA and OUN developed more active contacts with the Wehrmacht, and as before arms, and ammunition were exchanged for intelligence data. By this time the Germans were prepared to provide the UPA with arms in unlimited quantities and even without payment. Luftwaffe planes delivered military equipment and arms through established air routes. Data listed in the Report on deaths, captures, arrests, and surrender of insurgents in 1944-45 comply with those cited elsewhere in this monograph. The insurgents survived the Soviet onslaught and entered a period of post-war confrontation with the Soviet authorities—the subject of Section 13.

21Section 13 deals with probably the most critical issue in terms of healing deep rifts in Ukrainian society. The war was over and the Soviet authorities tried to impose their rule on a recalcitrant region, particularly on occasions such as the elections to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR in 1946. The UPA called on the population to boycott the elections and threatened those who participated in them. Moscow in turn mounted an operation called the “great blockade.” Over 3,500 regular army units, NKVD troops, and punitive battalion soldiers were deployed in the western regions between January and April 1946. They blocked off the insurgents’ access to villages during the winter months but failed to eradicate them. The UPA divided into smaller groups and began to use ambushes as the main form of attack. The authorities frequently offered amnesty to those who gave themselves up. On 28 May 1946, the Report states, Ukrainian Minister of the Interior T. Strokach declared that a decisive defeat had been inflicted on the insurgents. However, he was obliged to add that a few fanatics continued the struggle. Why did they fight under such conditions? The Report cited a comment from the wife of Shukhevych. She told the insurgent commander that he had no transport and that he and his troops would be discovered and shot. He responded: “You know how much I love you. But I love Ukraine even more…” The Soviet offensive was renewed during the period of elections to the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR in 1947. In the countryside troops surrounded the polling stations and the Interior Ministry units killed some prominent UPA leaders. Yet even according to Soviet sources, OUN cells and the UPA carried out 272 armed actions between January and March 1947. Therefore the CC CPU issued a resolution on 5 April “On intensifying the struggle against the remaining gangs of Ukrainian-German nationalists in the western regions of the Ukrainian SSR.” Military and security service operations increased and over 77,000 people—”gang supporters”—were deported to remote regions of the USSR in 1947. By 1948, Khrushchev reassigned priorities and ordered the MGB to complete the task of eliminating the UPA. Intelligence played a key role and the priority assignment was to infiltrate the underground organizations.

22In this period, the UPA exhausted its resources. Soviet operations, deportations, and collectivization of farms all took their toll on the insurgency, the Report notes. The penetration of the UPA by Soviet agents created an atmosphere of suspicion and not infrequently the UPA sections dissolved themselves. On 3 September 1949, Shukhevych issued an order concerning the termination of the military activities of the insurgents and headquarters, and their transformation into OUN-B underground structures. By 1949, the special groups of the MGB were disbanded. The authors suspect that the reason was they had committed criminal actions and had become well-known to the local population. In late 1949, the notorious P. Sudoplatov was sent on a sixmonth mission to L’viv with a special operational unit assigned to locate Shukhevych. On 5 March 1950, the UPA leader was trapped in the village of Bilohoshcha, near L’viv, and killed. Other key leaders of the movement were eliminated in 1951-52 (R. Kravchuk, I. Lytvynchuk, and P. Fedun [Petro Poltava]). On 23 May 1954, Vasyl Kuk, head of the UHVR General Secretariat, leader of the OUN Provid in Ukraine, and UPA Chief Commander, was captured. After 1954, only isolated actions were conducted by the insurgent movement, which had been practically destroyed. The Report cites a resolution of the CC CPSU of 26 May 1953 “On the political and economic situation in the western regions of Ukraine,” which summed up the results of the struggle between 1944 and 1952. I have divided these for convenience and comprehension into several tables below.

23Table 1: State “Repressions” in Western Ukraine, 1944-1952

24Number of arrested: 134,000

25Number of killed: 153,000

26Number of deported: 203,000

27Table 2: KGB Figures (1957) on Underground Casualties, 1944-1956

28Total casualties: 155,108

29In Eastern Ukraine: 1,746

30Voluntary surrenders: 76,753

31Arrests for “nationalist activities”: 103,866

32Including convictions: 87,756

  • 10 The figures are from a report to the Presidium of the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet by the KGB archival (...)

33Table 3: Soviet Casualties, 1944-1953.10

34Total casualties: 30,676

35NKGB-MGB: 687

36Militia: 1,864

37Servicemen of internal forces, border guards, and army: 3,199

38Punitive battalions: 2,590

39Members of Supreme Soviet: 2

40Heads of oblast executive committees: 1

41Heads of city executive committees: 8

42Heads of rayon executive committees: 32

43Heads of village councils: 1,454

44Other Soviet officials: 1,235

45Party secretaries (oblast, city, and rayon): 207

46Members of collective farms: 15,355

47Workers: 676

48Representatives of intelligentsia: 1,931

49Children, elderly people, and housewives: 860

Comment: the GCWGR and OUN-UPA

  • 11 John A. Armstrong, Ukrainian Nationalism (Littleton, Colorado: Ukrainian Academic Press, 1980).
  • 12 Andrew Wilson, Ukrainian Nationalism in the 1990s: a Minority Faith (Cambridge: Cambridge Universi (...)
  • 13 Amir Weiner, Making Sense of War: The Second World War and the Fate of the Bolshevik Revolution (P (...)

50The Government Commission Working Group’s Report represents a bold attempt to come to terms with the complex issues surrounding OUN-UPA. Almost every major event has been subjected to debate and diverse interpretations, particularly given that there is almost no middle ground on most issues, and the undermining of the old Soviet version has signified that the version espoused by the OUN in the Diaspora has come to the forefront. Western works on the topic are either very dated—such as the classic monograph of John A. Armstrong.11—or else they have focused on issues that do not make OUN-UPA the main focus. These include the bold attempt by Andrew Wilson to demonstrate the limited appeal of narrow ethno-nationalism in contemporary Ukraine12 and Amir Weiner’s study of the wartime experience and legacy in the region of Vynnytsya.13 Such works are ever more necessary to provide a guideline to events that remain so politicized that they are rarely approached dispassionately. But to what extent does the Report cover the main issues? Can it be considered a definitive account? How is it likely to be received in the various parts of Ukraine with their preconceived notions about the OUN and UPA that are largely seen in black-and-white dimensions?

51In the first place, the authors of the Report have made every effort to include all relevant information. They do not idealize any of the insurgent or opposition formations, and they cite figures from Soviet archives as part of their source base. In their conclusions, they have tended to exonerate the OUN-B and UPA, and to chastise the OUN-M for its unquestioning allegiance to the Germans, even after the uncompromising nature of Hitler’s plans for Ukraine had become apparent. The SS Division Halychyna does not emerge from the survey with much credit and is in fact cited as a collaborating unit, despite the fact that it did not commit war crimes. One key issue surfaces immediately, namely the intentions of the OUN-B and the UPA at various times to work with the German authorities for matters of expediency and in the long-term interests of Ukraine. As Kas’yanov has demonstrated, the OUN-B’s ideas were similar in many respects to those of interwar regimes in Central Europe and can be designated loosely as Fascist. In the account by Kas’yanov, and as stated in several other sources, there was also a notable element of anti-Semitism among the OUN leadership. The Report is notably silent on examples of anti-Jewish sentiment that may have manifested themselves in L’viv in the last days of June and early July 1941. The Report also uses ambiguous language when it observes that the UPA should be exempted from responsibility as a collaborator precisely because the Nazis would not tolerate the insurgents in the capacity of a ‘warring party’ on the Nazi-occupied territories (as part of the Nazi strategy not to tolerate non-German armed formations on the occupied territories, according to the report). Willingness to collaborate should be regarded as an important factor in its own right. Oddly, though the authors stress the need for a broader examination of the war years so that the OUN and UPA actions can be seen in perspective, they tend to examine UPA’s struggle purely in a Ukrainian context. Very little is said about the mass collectivization campaign that began in 1948 other than that it cut off UPA’s food supply from the villages. It was applied simultaneously (albeit without success in the case of Poland and Hungary) to Eastern Europe and was part of a general Soviet campaign to control this entire region. Also, little is written about the Cold War context and US and British aid to the insurgents. When an insurgent movement has outside assistance, it becomes much more dangerous in the eyes of the occupying power, particularly one as sensitive and neurotic as Stalin’s Soviet Union.

52Ultimately, the Report does not offer a very clear opinion on the question of recognizing UPA combatants for their participation in the Second World War, and as insurgents struggling for an independent Ukraine. There is a certain sympathy and understanding of UPA’s motives and activities, particularly on the issue of Volhynia, where one can say that the section differs significantly from Western interpretations, such as those offered by Snyder or Berkhoff. In fairness, the main author of this section (Il’yushyn) does not condone the ultimatum given to the Polish population by Klyachkivs’kyi and implies that the entire insurgent movement must take responsibility for the massacres of 1943. Other authors, particular those in the West who have written for the Ukrainian media, have tended to offer even more one-dimensional narratives. Serbyn, for example, correctly denounces the continuation of the Soviet myths of the Great Patriotic War but he does not offer concomitant critiques of the insurgent movement. One cannot have it both ways. To their credit, the historians working on the Report have tried to see the events from all angles. They do not try to whitewash the crimes of the insurgents, but try instead to explain how these events occurred. As this was a micro-war, fought within a larger conflict, there is a tendency to attribute blame to the larger powers—to some extent such attribution is justified. However, there is also an element of putting into practice long-crystallized views of a future Ukraine that had developed in the interwar period. In this respect, perhaps the integral nationalism and fanaticism of the late 1920s and 1930s were more influential than the example of the 1918 Ukrainian National Republic.


  • 14 Yurii Shapoval’, “Ukrains’ka druha svitova,” Dzerkalo tyzhnya, No. 15 (23 April-6 May 2005); [http (...)
  • 15 The interview with Yushchenko appeared in Ukrains’ka pravda, 12 May 2005, [http://ww2. (...)

53In the summer of 2005, the Ukrainian Minister of Justice, Roman Zvarych, requested that central executive bodies in Ukraine peruse materials advanced by the government commission, put together to examine the activities of the OUN and UPA. The ministry intended to submit a draft proposal to the Cabinet of Ministers that recommended the recognition of the OUN and UPA by the Ukrainian state. Commenting on the work of this commission, in the spring of 2005, Shapoval states that the working group did not want to whitewash or blacken anyone. People seem to comprehend that the OUN and the UPA were struggling for an independent Ukraine rather than against it. However, he adds, the authorities during Kuchma’s time did not say this out loud, and neither to date had the Orange leadership. It was time therefore for the government, and first and foremost the president to make his own comments on the topic.14 On 12 May 2005, immediately following the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe, the president obliged in a live interview that was broadcast on ICTV, New Channel, STB, and Channel 5. As a precursor to this interview, Yushchenko had taken the unusual step of inviting UPA veterans to attend the events in Kyiv for the anniversary. Now he advocated reconciliation between former adversaries in the UPA and the Red Army soldiers, noting that Ukrainians had already forgiven the Germans, the occupiers of their land during wartime, as well as the Poles for the events of Operation Vistula. Why cannot Ukrainians forgive themselves, he wondered? He noted that on the individual level, many combatants had shaken hands and made their peace with each other, for which their offspring would be grateful. Once again, this humanitarian attitude did not extend to veterans of the SS Division Halychyna, as was evident from a response of the president to a question from Donets’k, and he refused to deal with the issue of compensation for UPA veterans and victims of repression, which clearly irked some of the wartime participants.15

54As a final note on the issue of rehabilitating the OUN and UPA, one can turn to the pages of the Kyiv Post, which published a memorable editorial in October 2005. There was an outburst of violence in the streets of Kyiv between the UPA and Red Army veterans, during a protest by the former to demand that it be granted the same benefits that the latter continue to receive. Having discussed the polarized viewpoints, the (unnamed) author writes:

The horror is that both sides are right, and both sides are wrong. There are no easy answers in this corner of the European nightmare of the twentieth century. This is the sort of situation that any morally salient person can only approach with humility, and a recognition that the ambiguity cannot be expunged. That’s why it is a tragedy. The controversy also cuts to the root of the question of independent Ukraine’s identity. Is today’s Ukraine the descendent of Soviet Ukraine? In that case, honoring the UPA would be inappropriate. Or is it the child of the Ukrainian nationalists, the western guerrilla fighters? Who can say?

55The editorial doubts whether providing funds for UPA veterans would resolve the problem, though it feels that the president could provide some sort of compensation that is not directly comparable to that given to the veterans of the Red Army. It ends with the following statement:

  • 16 Editorial, Kyiv Post, 19 October 2005.

There’s no reconciling the Red Army and the UPA—the “Stalinists” and the “Fascists.” The best that can be done is not to try, but to paper over the dispute for the sake of social harmony until all these old men are gone taking with them into the grave their terrible history.16

56Will the problem disappear once the veterans are gone? With the OUN and several other nationalist organizations operating now in Ukraine, it seems unlikely. Indeed the traditions, the memories, stories, songs, and memorabilia of the OUN and UPA have been transferred from one generation to another as though they constitute the only outlook and the only past of Ukrainians from all walks of life. In North America the nationalist organizations continue to be the most influential despite the disparate views, arguments, and disputes that have always existed between different factions. The Famine of 1932- 33—known among these organizations today as the Famine-Holodomor or “Genocidal Famine”—is an issue that is directly related. How could Ukrainians be loyal to a state that tried to eliminate them in the millions? It is an unanswerable question.


1 A book has now been published to accompany this pamphlet. See Stanislav Kul’chyts’kyi, et al, OUN i UPA: istorychni narysy (Kyiv: Naukova dumka, 2005).

2 H. V. Kas’yanov, “Ideolohiya OUN: istoryko-retrospektyvnyi analiz,” Ukrains’kyi istorychnyizhurnal, No. 2 (February 2004): 30-32.

3 Ibid., pp. 35-36.

4 Ibid., pp. 38-39.

5 Ibid., pp. 39-41.

6 Henadii Sakharov, “Natsionalizm?—Natsionalizm!” 17 August 2006; [http://maidan.].

7 For a brief overview, see Bohdan Chervak, “Ostatochnu krapku ne postavyv nevblahannyi chas,” Maidan, 10 June 2005. Part 14, written by H. Kas’yanov, is an abbreviated version of the article discussed above: “Ideolohiya OUN: Istoryko-retrospekytvni analiz,” Ukrains’kyi istorychnyi zhurnal, No. 2 (2004): 68-82.

8 National Academy of Sciences, Institute of History of Ukraine, “Problema OUN-UPA: Zvit robochoi hrupy istorykiv pry Uryadovii komisii z vyvchennya diyal’nosti OUN i UPA. Osnovi tezy z problemy OUN-UPA (istorychnyi vysnovok),” Kyiv, 2004: [], and ff.

9 There is an evident error here: the majority of former Division combatants took up initial residence in the United Kingdom.

10 The figures are from a report to the Presidium of the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet by the KGB archival and registration department with the Council of Ministers, Ukrainian SSR, April 1973.

11 John A. Armstrong, Ukrainian Nationalism (Littleton, Colorado: Ukrainian Academic Press, 1980).

12 Andrew Wilson, Ukrainian Nationalism in the 1990s: a Minority Faith (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

13 Amir Weiner, Making Sense of War: The Second World War and the Fate of the Bolshevik Revolution (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001).

14 Yurii Shapoval’, “Ukrains’ka druha svitova,” Dzerkalo tyzhnya, No. 15 (23 April-6 May 2005); []

15 The interview with Yushchenko appeared in Ukrains’ka pravda, 12 May 2005, [http://ww2.].

16 Editorial, Kyiv Post, 19 October 2005.

© Central European University Press, 2007

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