Ukrainian ‘Banderite’ nationalism: an inhumane ideology which has no place in XXI? 




Historical reality: the very term ‘nationalism’ is immediately associated with ‘national exclusivity’ or ‘hatred.’ However, this occurrence is more complex and frequently turns out to be simple ‘patriotism.’ 

One can argue about ‘patriotism,’ however in the 21st century, contemporary nations, societies and countries need certain principles of ‘communal living.’ One of them is the protection of their own community in threatening circumstances. Ukrainian nationalism, in all of its forms, was concerned with just that. Our opinion of it, from ‘fascism’ to ‘patriotism,’ will most likely depend not on scientific theories but moral evaluations given to the actions of certain people under certain conditions. And which values in the current epoch ‘Ukrainian nationalism’ stands for. Not only in the mid-20th century, but in 2013-2014 as well. ‘Ukrainian nationalism’ has become a demon and anti-hero in the entire space of Russian propaganda. However, this will not prevent its continued existence.

Nationalism as an independent ideology is severely limited and demands a stronger ideological component: be it liberalism, conservatism, socialism, communism or fascism. This is why nationalism in its pure form is characteristic of national-liberation movements, which aim to unite a nation, regardless of the political and worldview positions of its representatives. It is reminiscent to various sporting team, which are competing for the same cup or medal in one championship.

The main problem of the typology of Ukrainian nationalism for those who research it lies in the fact that it was mostly a form whose ideological content was varied, eclectic and changed under the influence of external conditions. OUN found it most important to create a Ukrainian state, meanwhile the socioeconomic aspects were secondary. This is evidence to the fact that the interests of an ethnic community made the issue of ‘ideology’ secondary: the most important ones were the liberation of ‘one’s own community,’ ‘one’s own nation,’ whether it lived ‘under the Poles’ or ‘under the Soviets.’ Only after the OUN members came face-to-face with Soviet reality in 1941 did they comprehend the importance of the socioeconomic component of their program.

In the complex realities of inter-war Europe, Ukrainian integral nationalism belonged to the type of ‘third way’ ideologies, which rejected both liberal capitalism and marxist socialism. However, the 1943 Emergency Assembly order includes the liberal motto, “Liberty to the nation, liberty to the individual!”, and the program points are an embodiment of social-democratic demands. It seems as though he was simply void of stable ideology.

Such a seemingly unexpected turn may look artificial or coincidental, but it is completely unsurprising. It points to the artificiality of strict ideological evaluations from the perspective of contemporaneity. ‘Ukrainian nationalism’ every time followed the fashion of its epoch. First and foremost it was the political practice of protecting its people, and only then was it a ‘fashionable ideology.’ Therefore it has been ‘fascist’ as much as it was ‘liberal democracy.’ In its roots it was very liberal and democratic. It was ‘spoilt’ by the cruel 20th century.

In the beginning of the 20th century, in Ukrainian political though nationalism was presented in various movements: the liberal (M. Hrushevsky), social-democratic (which found its continuation in O. Shumsky and N. Skrypnik’s national communism), conservative (V. Lipinsky) and independent (M. Mikhnovsky). However, it was the liberal-democratic tradition that was and remains constantly dominant. It may seem strange, but the Ukrainian movement as one that rejects a foreign state has always been in opposition to the government. This determines one part of the political range: opposition, which is ‘for liberty against the government.’ In its fight, this opposition is based on the ideology that leads to liberation in the given ideological era. The Ukrainians started with liberalism in the 19th century, and are now grounding themselves in the liberalism of the 21st century.

If we are to return to scientific views, the attempts to interpret Ukrainian nationalism as racism do not withstand criticism. Ukrainian integral nationalism never preached exclusivity or the dominance of the Ukrainian nation over others based on racial principles.

Wikipedia defines chauvinism as follows: ‘an ideology whose essence lies in peaching national dominance with the goal to justify the right to discriminate and subdue other nations.’

Ukrainians never subdued anyones, and were subdued themselves, i.e. the object of discrimination.

More advanced propagandists attempt to label the OUN as chauvinists in going further and using a broad definition of chauvinism from the Encyclopedia Britannica: “Immeasurable and irrational patriotism… any variety of ultranationalism… connected with excessive adherence or faithfulness to one’s national group or Motherland.”

And here we bear witness to an absolute lack of desire to see the difference between nationalism of a state or a non-state nation.

The readiness of the representatives of any nation/state to give up their lives fighting for the freedom of their Motherland is a normal collective defense reaction and cannot fall under the definition of ‘excessive and irrational patriotism,’ as such behavior is rational and reasonable. Possibly, not ‘rational’ and not ‘grounded.’ But such convictions lie in the basis of contemporary world order. And in this light the replacement of ‘international political systems’ is only a decoration in light of the senses which contemporary live societies carry within themselves. They protect themselves the way they can given the concrete historical circumstances, but if they protect themselves – they exist. They will find ideological grounding for themselves. And they don’t care whether the scientists will condemn this 70 years later.

Translated by: Mariya Shcherbinina
Source: Likbez

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  • Luc Saburac

    Ethnocentric nationalism is fine as long as you stay in one place all your life. Today people are mobile, they acquire a new passport and swear allegiance to where ever they move to. To many, change is good. To stay is to stagnate and fail. Most Eastern European countries are in that category. To many, forget about the old world and start anew. Change your passport, change your name, and get new friends.

  • xyz

    I agree that nationalism does not equal hatred. The problem is, that UPA was not nationalist.
    It was entirely fascist organisation. Bandera wanted ethincally pure Ukraine, that’s why he ordered the mass murders of Poles in Galicia an Volhynia.

    • Stephanie Dowbusz

      You are wrong, UPA was not a completely fascist organization. Their goal was to create an independent Ukrainian nation and they fought everyone that was an enemy to the state including nazis, soviets, and poles as well. Poles who by the way were exterminating ethnic Ukrainians who were living in Poland, part of UPA’s role was to protect these Ukrainian communities from the murderous Poles.

      • taras

        Murderous Poles lol.. so tell me who were Poles killing in Volhynia murdering? They protected Ukrainians by killing innocents in a completely different region? Please be logical and stop defending murderers on either side. The UPA was sick and Ukrainians who are not ashamed of its actions are heartless.

  • sandy miller

    Why is the UPA any different from the Polish army?…Ukraine has always been multi-ethnic while Poland has been mostly homogeneous. Didn’t the Poles kill Ukrainians as well? I believe it was a fight over territory. Additionally, Like russia the Poles oppressed and tried to deport and kill Ukrainians who were a majority in that area and those were ancient parts of Ukraine. They both did a great deal of damage to each other. Their was blood on everyone’s hands. Please prove that Bandera or the UPA were a true fascist organization.

    • taras

      Poland homogenous? Poland was the most multi-ethnic country in Europe from the 16th century to not long ago.. never heard of Jews, Roma, Tatars, Armenians, Balts, Germans, and non-Polish Slavs inhabiting Poland?

      Also those lands are not historically Ukrainian as Ukraine is a new concept.. the lands belonged to the ancient Slavs and then the Kievian Rus which is not Ukraine.

      How can you defend nationalism that hurt fellow Slavic brothers? The difference between Poles and Ukrainians is that most Ukrainians glorify Bandera while Poles condemn the actions of Poland’s past.