The pitfalls of not doing your homework

One of the houses in the destroyed Ukrainian town of Debaltseve, attacked and occupied by the Russian regular troops and mercenaries already after the signing of the Minsk-2 Accords by Russia (Image: vlada.io)

One of the houses in the destroyed Ukrainian town of Debaltseve, attacked and occupied by the Russian regular troops and mercenaries already after the signing of the Minsk-2 Accords by Russia (Image: vlada.io) 

2015/06/03 • Op-ed

Article by: Askold S. Lozynskyj

Investigative and analytical journalists who take on historical issues venture into delicate territory and often leave open the possibility of historical inaccuracy, thus weakening their conclusions. As the saying goes, the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Linda Kinstler in “Politico” recently presented a primer on the pitfalls of not doing your homework.

Ms. Kinstler smeared many individuals. Most were deserving. Certainly, few if any were to volunteer to clear the reputations of criminals such as Putin and Yanukovych, notorious historical tyrants such as Czarina Catherine, Stalin or living oligarchs such as Medvedchuk and Akhmetov, many of whom are to blame or who can defend themselves. However, deceased heroes revered by the great majority of the people they fought for, deserve advocates and have millions of them within the Ukrainian nation. I include myself within those millions.

If Bohdan Khmelnytsky led a “bandit army,” as Ms. Kinstler states,  then so did General George Washington who led the Continental Army. I would assume that Ms. Kinstler did not much consider the use of the term. Slurs against groups in general are not helpful in making a historical point, gratuitous slurs even less so. For Khmelnytsky, the Pereyaslav Agreement was a temporary military alliance necessitated by the war against the Poles. The Russians had other plans. Sure it was a mistake in hindsight. It would have been more productive had Ms. Kinstler used Pereyaslav as an example to show that Russian disregard for international agreements dates back to at least the 17th century. That would partly explain Russia’s lack of respect and adherence to Helsinki of 1975, Budapest of 1994, the Ukraine-Russia Friendship of 1997 and so many other accords, agreements and treaties to which Russia was a signatory.

On the subject of Stepan Bandera, Ms. Kinstler was even less informed. The word “terrorism” is a popular attention getter,  particularly after 9/11, but most widely is misunderstood. Highjacking planes and flying them into buildings occupied by innocent civilians is terrorism. Using drones on foreign soil which often–but not intentionally–results in the killing of innocent civilians as well as the intended target is a form of foreign warfare with collateral damage. Killing those Polish regime representatives, responsible for the occupation of your homeland on your own land, was a liberation struggle.  Furthermore, if Bandera had any ideas about collaborating with the Nazis he did not do a very good job or give the option much time. The Nazis invaded Ukraine on June 22, 1941. By the following day Bandera delivered to the Nazis a memorandum, in which he severely warned Hitler that only an independent Ukraine suited Ukrainians and that if this was not in Hitler’s plans then Germany would find Ukrainians to be its worst enemy.  In fact the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) was formed not as Ms. Kinstler states “to help create an ethnically pure Ukraine, free of Jews, Poles, Russians and other minorities,” but to fight the Germans first. Besides Ukrainians, the UPA included many Jews and some Russians. Bandera himself was interred in a German concentration camp. Two of his brothers were interred in Auschwitz where they were murdered by Polish guards.

Prime minister Yatsenyuk and former prime minister and political prisoner Yulia Tymoshenko can defend themselves. But the attacks against the anti-Communist and anti-Nazi laws recently signed by Ukraine’s President Poroshenko should be refuted. Ukraine certainly has a right to condemn the past, which was more often than not the result of foreign occupation.  Furthermore, Ukraine certainly has not only the right but the duty to rehabilitate and honor its veterans, those who fought for its independence. At the time of signing the four laws, President Poroshenko, sensitive to concerns,  assured everyone including the international community that he would submit a democratic draft law regarding consequences for violations of the subject legislation, which would eliminate any conflicts or infringements upon the rights and freedoms enjoyed by individuals and citizens, particularly in the areas of scientific study and discourse, as well as international relations and dialogue.

There are plenty to blame for Ukraine’s current ruin. However, Khmelnytsky, Bandera, Tymoshenko and Yatsenyuk certainly do not belong on that list. If Ms. Kinstler were sincere in her concern for Ukraine’s problems she would stop trying to blame the victims and go after the perpetrators. However, do so with due diligence, serious research, study and analysis. Without that process, you are not really helping Ukraine.

Askold S. Lozynskyj is an attorney at law based in New York and a former president of the Ukrainian World Congress.

 

 

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  • optionrider

    “Two of his brothers were interred in Auschwitz where they were murdered by Polish guards.”
    Any hard evidence supporting this author’s claims? From what it’s known from the Nuremberg Trial documents it was the November 24, 1941 Nazi SD police order to “(…) arrest all the Bandera movement activists and after a thorough investigation secretly execute them as as looters”.

  • Murf

    Journalists not being historians are often guilty of regurgitating the current popular opinion with out regards to the facts.
    Plus they are often fond of the “revisionist” mentality that an admired figure was actually a reprehensible character.
    So a homicidal paranoiac Stalin becomes a hero.
    Pressures of deadlines and editors I guess.

  • Peter K

    Sadly, complete ignorance of Ukrainian history has never stopped anyone from pontificating on Ukrainian history. Mr. Lozynskyj’s article is a necessary and appreciated rebuttal to Ms. Kintsler’s, but unfortunately it is not enough to stop the unending torrent of ignorance that batters our history.

  • Turtler

    Euromaidan Press, PLEASE STICK TO CURRENT EVENTS.

    When you try to do analysis of history out of your element, you start screwing up. Badly.

    Mr. Lozynskyj, you probably shouldn’t be trying to try scoring points about someone else failing to do your homework when IF ANYTHING YOU FAIL THAT EVEN WORSE>

    Let me be frank here. I am a loyal supporter of Ukrainian independence and democracy, and an opponent of Putin and Muscovite tyranny. Some of you have probably seen me writing on such. I am also an amateur historian and wargamer.

    By and large, I do admire Khmelnytsky and (to a Significantly lesser degree) Bandera. I am not an unconditional apologist for them, the Cossacks, or OUN, but by and large I respect that underdogs do not have luxuries and they were fighting a battle against enemies that wanted to erase Ukraine and the Ukrainian people from the pages of history.

    But that being said: LET’S DO A LITTLE REALITY CHECK, SHALL WE?

    “If Bohdan Khmelnytsky led a “bandit army,” as Ms. Kinstler states, then
    so did General George Washington who led the Continental Army.”

    No, it wasn’t.

    Washington’s Continentals were many things- including unruly and often poorly disciplined- but they didn’t have a reputation as bandits. To the extent they needed to gather things, they usually tried to pay for them (often with absolutely worthless Continental money) or if that failed by requisitioning it. Not stealing it out from under them.

    And they certainly didn’t make their regular living off of raiding and stealing before the war came.

    In contrast, to be a Cossack was to be a warrior who spent a sizable amount of his time doing what we would probably say was half guerrilla warfare and half brigandage. Which is really, really unsurprising if you know the enemy they were originally formed to fight (The Mongols and Tartars) did basically the same thing, only they did it with genocidal intent (since the main thing they stole were Eastern Slavs for the slave market). A “Harvesting of the Steppe” that devastated Slavic Eastern Europe and probably counts as one of the longest lived, most devastating (per capita if nothing else), and least understood genocides in history.

    These were the people that those living in the area of what is now Ukraine had to fight against. And so they chose to fight fire with fire. Brutally so. They operated like the Tartars did, traveling and fighting on horseback, living in the saddle, and fighting to protect their homes and erase the enemy’s.

    They pillaged the Crimea as often as they could, went on the Black Sea and launched raids as far flung as Anatolia, Moscow, and Hungary, and made themselves a royal headache for both their Ottoman and Persian enemies and the Muscovite and Polish-Lithuanian leaders who were their nominal overlords. And when war broke out with the latter (as per “Old Khmel”, this time being triggered by a Polish lord’s thieving and murder against him) they practiced the same exact thing against Poles, Lithuanians, Catholics, and any Jew they suspected was aligned with them.

    But don’t believe me alone. Oh no. Believe *Them.* The Cossacks and Khmel you so lionize. It’s not like they didn’t write about it and vice versa.

    Heck, take a look at this classic epic of Ukrainian literate (and Muscovite propaganda), Taras Bulba. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1197/1197-h/1197-h.htm

    Again,this isn’t very surprising if you know anything worth a damn about the period. Because this kind of behavior reaaally wasn’t out of the norm. Wallenstein’s mercenaries and other Habsburg Landscneckts devastated Central Europe in the Thirty Years’ War. The Poles had their own Lisowczycy (who were such an ungodly terror the Commonwealth kept them off Polish and Lithuanian territory as much as possible in the hopes they’d die off). And the Turks- as I mentioned before-were perhaps the most devastating of all in the frequency and destruction of their raids.

    It was an age of soldier-brigands, some of whom fought for plunder, some of whom fought for power, some of whom fought for God, and some of whom fought for the survival of their nation and freedoms. And Khmel’s troops largely fell into that last one.

    This should be fairly uncontroversial. And it shouldn’t be as big of an issue if you just accept that the time was like that.

    So why aren’t you?

    “Slurs against groups in general are not helpful in making a historical point, gratuitous slurs even less so.”

    Except it’s not a gratuitous slur. As almost anybody who isn’t grinding an axe can admit.

    “For Khmelnytsky, the Pereyaslav Agreement
    was a temporary military alliance necessitated by the war against the
    Poles. The Russians had other plans. Sure it was a mistake in hindsight.
    It would have been more productive had Ms. Kinstler used Pereyaslav as an example to show that Russian disregard for international agreements dates back to at least the 17th century. That would partly explain Russia’s lack of respect and adherence to Helsinki of 1975, Budapest of 1994, the Ukraine-Russia Friendship of 1997 and so many other accords, agreements and treaties to which Russia was a signatory.”

    Translation:

    BLah Blah Blah.

    No, seriously.

    You don’t have an actual point to contest the inclusion of Pereyaslav as one of the things that devastated Ukraine. So now you’re trying to argue on technicalities and rely on insinuations that aren’t actually in the original article

    The thing is that the actual, original article doesn’t have that. It simply says this.

    “After fighting sprang up again in 1651, he asked Tsar Alexis to absorb and protect Ukraine as an autonomous region of Russia. The union was finalized in 1654, when the Cossack army signed the Pereyaslav Agreement, ceding Ukraine to Russia. “The polarized interpretations of what
    transpired in Pereyaslav later formed the basis for equally polarized
    conceptions of the nature of the Ukrainian-Russian relationship,” Roman
    Solchanyk writes. The agreement spurred the Polish-Russian war, which left Kiev fully under Moscow’s control”

    Pretty much all of this Except for the “absorb” part (and maybe the “autonomous region of Russia”) are uncontroversial and true. it doesn’t matter what intentions or circumstances Khmel went into that treaty with, because the article doesn’t mention them. It’s just that they happened. And in the end it helped sign Ukraine over to an even greater threat than the Commonwealth, since it was the legalistic wedge the Muscovite Tsar needed to enter into Ukraine and subjugate it. And Khmel himself UNDERSTOOD he was running that risk.

    The actual negotiations for the treaty were fraught with problems and he almost walked out of it all together until the Tsar’s envoys made threats. And then he spent the rest of his life trying to cultivate Sweden as an ally to counterbalance Muscovite influence granted by this and chewed the Tsar out in letters when he saw the agreement being violated.

    Why?

    Because he understood that for all the necessities signing Preyaslav had- and for all the crucial role it- and the Deluge- had in defeating the Commonwealth- IT WAS ALSO A BIG POT OF TROUBLE. Unfortunately, he died and his designated successor wasn’t strong enough to keep the Hetmanate united and avoid the Kremlin’s imperial designs (again, enabled by Peryaslav).

    It was objectively speaking, a major problem.

    “On the subject of Stepan Bandera, Ms. Kinstler was even less informed.
    The word “terrorism” is a popular attention getter, particularly after
    9/11, but most widely is misunderstood. ”

    Obviously, not as little informed as you.

    Much of what Bandera did- especially in the pre-war years- was Terrorism. That was what many commentators- including moderate Ukrainian nationalists- called it, and it was what *Bandera Himself Called It.* In several of the documents about the OUN and to a lesser extent UPA, they even USE THE FLIPPING UKRAINIAN LANGUAGE TERM FOR IT.

    Ie “тероризм” or in Latin text renderings “teroryzm”.(Also notable because it’s some fo the first Ukrainian language invocations of it. Certainly the first great glut of it).

    If you did not know this Mr. Lozynskyj, WHY IN GOD’S GREEN EARTH are you trying to lecture anybody about it?

    “Killing those Polish regime representatives, responsible for the
    occupation of your homeland on your own land, was a liberation
    struggle.”

    Except for the fact that “liberation struggle” involved killing many civilians, noncombatants, and those who were not involved in the (very, very real and very, very brutal) Polish military government’s rule over Galicia and other ethnic Ukrainian areas. It was also why almost every other Ukrainian autonomist movement- from the soft line to the hard line- condemned Bandera’s attacks as stifling the chance of autonomy or even diplomatically achieved independence. Those political parties in occupied Poland are probably the first indication of modern Ukrainian parties in a non-emergency parliament. so it’s worth noting.

    I am not here to defend the interwar Polish government or its’ racism and authoritarianism. But even to those living under its’ heel Bandera was a violent pariah. It was only after the fall of the Second Polish Republic and the occupation by the Nazis and Soviets that he became the great defense against annihilation.

    “Furthermore, if Bandera had any ideas about collaborating with the Nazis
    he did not do a very good job or give the option much time.”

    BULL. POCKEY.

    Both Bandera and Melnyk (the head of the other splinter faction of the OUN) were in contact with German military intelligence- the Abwehr- for years by the time of Barbarossa. In the weeks and months before the invasion, their cooperation intensified. Including the Nazis paying him millions in today’s money to fund operations against Stalin’s minions and the two sides even discussing the formation of ethnic Ukrainian volunteer units in the Heer and Waffen SS.

    The fact is that they had convenient enemies. Since Bandera both admired the Nazis before their betrayal and was mostly focused on fighting Polish and Soviet occupations before mid 1941, he was a natural choice as a “strange bedfellow”. Albeit one who neither trusted the Reich nor was trusted by it. But it was the deep level of cooperation between the two that made the Nazi betrayal so devastating, and able to roll up Bandera and much of his established networks in the span of a few short weeks.

    “By the following day Bandera delivered to the Nazis a memorandum, in
    which he severely warned Hitler that only an independent Ukraine suited
    Ukrainians and that if this was not in Hitler’s plans then Germany would
    find Ukrainians to be its worst enemy.”

    Indeed. Which is ultimately what the average Putinbot and those who paint Bandera as a one dimensional villain forget. That Bandera fought the Nazis.

    Bandera was ultimately fighting against two of the worst regimes to ever exist in human history for an independent Ukraine, where Ukrainians would have a choice other than a quick genocidal death or a painfully slow forced assimilation at gunpoint. He was by far the best side of the forces fighting for control of Ukraine (which says something) at the time. And was the main line of defense for literally millions.

    This is something that Putin views as the real crime, not Bandera’s philosophical affiliation with Fascism nor his prejudices nor the fact that the UPA and OUN often acted with extreme ruthlessness.

    “In fact the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) was formed not as Ms.
    Kinstler states “to help create an ethnically pure Ukraine, free of
    Jews, Poles, Russians and other minorities,” but to fight the Germans
    first.”

    This is outright hogwash. Especially the last bit.

    Again, Bandera viewed the Russians as the bigger threat compared to the Nazi Germans. He even pitched the draft idea of the UPA to the Nazis in early 1941 as an irregular force that could help the Germans wrest control of Ukraine from the Red Army. And the formation of the nascent Ukrainian state’s armed militias and organs of government in the wake of the invasion were the ultimate root of the UPA.

    Again, almost all of which was initially directed against the SOVIET UNION, with the Nazis-as-threat being contingency planning. That does not mean that Bandera hung idly by and let the Nazis murder his countrymen, and he did rapidly convert their focus to fighting the Nazis. But the fact remains that this a drastic measure made to adopt to a threat from the Reich Bandera neither wanted nor really expected.

    Why you feel the need to claim what absolutely was not so is beyond me.

    As for his own racial theories, you can see them aplenty in Bandera’s writings. He did want an independent and pure Ukraine. He grew steadily more tolerant of its’ minorities as time (and practicality) demanded, but only to the extent that they did not pose a threat to the nation’s Ukrainian identity (like so many others had).

    “Besides Ukrainians, the UPA included many Jews and some Russians.”

    Indeed. Though this was largely out of pragmatism than out of actual desire.

    “Bandera himself was interred in a German concentration camp.”

    I just love how you’ve glossed this over. Yes, Bandera was put in German concentraiton camps (more than one actually).

    But I note you don’t ask HOW that happened.

    The answer is simple. Bandera was working too closely with the Germans for his own good. He was planning to betray them when their agenda became obvious, but the SD and other Nazi intelligence organizations struck first and carted him off while he was still in German territory.

    But the problem is this would undermine this entire sorry edifice.

    “Two of his brothers were interred in Auschwitz where they were murdered by Polish guards.”

    I’ll ape optionrider’s stance. It is doubtful as heck, especially given how the Nazis distrusted Poles.

    Beyond that I agree with the condemnation of listing Yats and Tym.

    But still.

    “If Ms. Kinstler were sincere in her concern for Ukraine’s problems she
    would stop trying to blame the victims and go after the perpetrators.
    However, do so with due diligence, serious research, study and analysis.
    Without that process, you are not really helping Ukraine.”

    I could say the same to you, Mr. Lozynskyj. In order to succeed in the present you must first know the past, and take it without any sweet sugar or bitter salt. That is something you are not doing.

    • Peter K

      Turtler, I generally agree with you but not this time, at least not about the Cossacks.

      You mischaracterize cossacks as warriors operating “like the Tartars did, traveling and fighting on horseback, living in the saddle, and fighting to protect their homes and erase the enemy’s”. (Nogay) Tatars were nomadic pastoralists. Ukrainian cossacks, by the 17th century – even the Zaporizhtsi – were sedentary farmers. The Zaporizhian raids on Crimea and Anatolia were frequent and destructive, but they came nowhere near in either intent or result to “erasing the enemy’s” homes. More than that, the other two major groups of Ukrainian cossacks – Registered and Town cossacks – took part in those raids only on an ad-hoc individual basis, not as whole units within the Zaporizhian host, in large part because they were not part of the Zaporizhian host. Town and Registered Cossacks had their own regiments and were auxilliary forces created to defend the southern border of Poland-Lithuania. They were rarely under the authority of any koshovyi otaman. Sahaidachnyi and Khmelnytsky are perhaps the only two leaders in the 17th century who managed to unite all Ukrainian cossacks under one banner.

      Thus Khmelnytsky’s army was hardly a “bandit army”. It included brigands yes, and it engaged in brigandage, but it also included town militias and professional soldiers. The worst atrocities committed against Jews, Catholics, and Uniates was part of simultaneous peasant revolt in 1649 led by Maksym Kryvonis and Danylo Nechai. The peasants had much reason to hate the Catholic nobility who imposed serfdom on them and the Jews who they percieved as estate managers for the nobility. Nevertheless I don’t think its fair to accuse the peasant-rebels of trying to “erase the enemy’s” homes. Their actions, however cruel, were motivated by revenge and desire for less exploitative leaders. They did not intend to “ethnically cleanse” Ukraine, though Khmelnytsky’s administration did wish to see the removal of the Catholic church from the Kyiv, Bratslav, and Chernihiv provinces. But regardless of the intent the Jews suffered disproportionately (up to 50% of the Jewish population in those provinces were murdered).

      As to Pereiaslav, Kintsler writes that “Cossack army signed the Pereyaslav Agreement, ceding Ukraine to Russia”. THIS IS NOT THE CASE, which is what Lozynskyj is trying to point out. The Pereiaslav agreement was not a cession of Ukraine to Russia! The Pereiaslav Agreement was just that – an agreement – between the Khmelnytsky’s administration and the Tsar’s to bring Muscovy into war against Poland as an ally and “protector” of the Cossacks. Nevertheless, the Tsar had certain defined obligations to the Cossacks under this agreement, and the Cossacks had certain defined rights and priveleges. The contractual nature of the Agreement provided Mazepa with a defensible cause for rebellion when Peter “the Great” violated it for the umpteenth time. But Peter’s predecessors had already violated the Pereiaslav Agreement and forced a “revised” version which they also violated. You may think these are only “technicalities” but they are important to understanding WHAT Khmelnytsky actually agreed to with the Tsar – which was, put simply NOT A CESSION of Ukraine to Russia.

  • MichalRedel

    The article is a piece of blatant propaganda.

    1. Bohdan Khmelnytsky’s army CAN be called “bandit army”, since it was doing plundering.

    Also, it was mass murdering people basing on their nationality or religion – Poles, Jews and Roman Catholics in general. To this day the Jews basically remember Khmelnytsky as the most murderous anti-semite before Hitler.

    Due to the above, comparing Khmelnytsky to Washington is really wrong. Did Washington’s troops also mass murder civilians basing on their nationality or religion?

    2. As for UPA, it was created exactly in order to “to help create an ethnically pure Ukraine, free of Jews, Poles, Russians and other minorities,” – the autor of the article either has no idea what he’s speaking about, or he’s lying.

    Generally speaking, one can see a lot of propaganda whitewashing OUN and UPA done by Ukrainians, trying to make what was indeed a patriotic, but also a fascist, hate mongering movement look more civilised and “nice” than it really was.

    3. ” Two of his brothers were interred in Auschwitz where they were murdered by Polish guards.” – there were no Polish guards at Auschwitz.

    There is a version in circulation (true or not), that Bandera’s brothers were killed by Polish INMATES at Auschwitz, but surely not Polish guards, because there weren’t any.

    Is the author the article horrible at doing his homework, or is he conducting deliberate propaganda?