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The Politics of World War II in Contemporary Ukraine


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This study examines the role of political factors in attitudes toward World War II in contemporary Ukraine. The research question is which factors determine public views of the principal warring sides and their leaders in Ukraine. The analysis of the 2012 Kyiv International Institute of Sociology survey shows that regional values, political party preferences, ethnicity, language, and age have significant effects on views of the Red Army and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) during the war and attitudes toward the wartime activities of Joseph Stalin and Roman Shukhevych. Public perceptions of the German Army and Adolf Hitler in Ukraine do not vary much across regions, political parties, and ethnic, language, age, and sex groups.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Journal of Slavic Military Studies, 27:210–233, 2014
Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 1351-8046 print/1556-3006 online
DOI: 10.1080/13518046.2013.844493
The Politics of World War II in Contemporary
University of Ottawa
This study examines the role of political factors in attitudes toward
World War II in contemporary Ukraine. The research question
is which factors determine public views of the principal warring
sides and their leaders in Ukraine. The analysis of the 2012 Kyiv
International Institute of Sociology survey shows that regional val-
ues, political party preferences, ethnicity, language, and age have
significant effects on views of the Red Army and the Ukrainian
Insurgent Army (UPA) during the war and attitudes toward the
wartime activities of Joseph Stalin and Roman Shukhevych. Public
perceptions of the German Army and Adolf Hitler in Ukraine do not
vary much across regions, political parties, and ethnic, language,
age, and sex groups.
World War II was the most violent conflict in all of human history and
specifically in the history of Ukraine. Approximately seven million residents
An earlier version of this article was presented at the 18th Annual World Convention of
the Association for the Study of Nationalities, Columbia University, New York, April 18–20,
2013. I am grateful to Jared McBride for his comments and suggestions concerning this study.
However, responsibility for any mistakes remains my own.
Ivan Katchanovski is a part-time Professor at the School of Political Studies and the
Conflict Studies and Human Rights Program at the University of Ottawa. Recent publica-
tions include Historical Dictionary of Ukraine, 2d ed. (with Zenon E. Kohut, Bohdan Y.
Nebesio, and Myrosvlav Yurkevich), (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2013); ‘Politics of US
Television Coverage of Post-Communist Countries’ (with Alicen Morley) Problems of Post-
Communism, 59(1) (2012); and ‘Puzzles of EU and NATO Accession of Post-Communist
Countries,’ Perspectives on European Politics and Society, 12(3) (2011).
Address correspondence to Ivan Katchanovski, School of Political Studies & Conflict
Studies and Human Rights Program, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON K1N 6N5, Canada.
World War II in Contemporary Ukraine 211
of Ukraine perished during the war from 1939 to 1945.1Many Ukrainians
served in different formations, such as the Red (Soviet) Army, the Wehrmacht
(German Army), the Polish Army, and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA).
In independent Ukraine, particularly since the ‘Orange Revolution’ of 2004,
World War II has become a major political battleground. There are significant
divisions concerning policies, views, definitions, and commemoration of this
conflict in contemporary Ukraine.2
This article is one of the first academic studies examining national atti-
tudes toward World War II in post-Soviet Ukraine. This study analyzes the
role of political factors in the perceptions of this conflict in contemporary
Ukraine. The research question under examination is which factors affect
public attitudes toward the principal warring parties active in Ukraine during
World War II and the wartime activity of the leaders of the Soviet Union,
Nazi Germany, and the UPA.
The first hypothesis is that regional factors, such as distinct regional
political values or cultures, are major determinants of public attitudes in
Ukraine concerning World War II. Political values or culture refers to the
shared fundamental norms and orientations of people. These values, norms,
and orientations are transferred from one generation to another by means of
political socialization via family, religion, educational institutions, the mass
media, and other agents of socialization. Political values change gradually
over long periods of time, in contrast to political attitudes, which are much
more volatile.3
Different political values or cultures emerged in regions of Ukraine
as a result of distinct regional historical experiences before World War II
and, to a lesser extent, during the war. These values were transferred from
one generation to another, and they became major determinants of electoral
behavior and foreign policy attitudes in Ukraine after it became independent
in 1991. Nationalist political values evolved in Western Ukrainian regions,
which experienced Polish, Czechoslovak, and Romanian rule between World
War I and World War II and came under Soviet rule as result of World
War II. In addition, Galicia, Bukovyna, and Transcarpathia were ruled by
the Austro-Hungarian Empire before World War I. In contrast, pro-Soviet
and pro-Russian political values developed in other Ukrainian regions that
experienced long periods of Russian and Soviet rule. However, there are
1Jacques Vallin, France Mesle, Serguei Adamets, and Serhii Pyrozhkov, ‘A New Estimate of Ukrainian
Population Losses during the Crises of the 1930s and 1940s,’ Population Studies 56 (2002), pp. 249–264.
2Ivan Katchanovski, ‘The Politics of Soviet and Nazi Genocides in Orange Ukraine,’ Europe-Asia
Studies 62 (2010) pp.973–97; David R. Marples, Heroes and Villains: Creating National History in
Contemporary Ukrain, (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2007); Oxana Shevel, ‘The Politics
of Memory in a Divided Society: A Comparison of Post-Franco Spain and Post-Soviet Ukraine,’ Slavic
Review 70 (2011) pp. 137–164.
3See, for example, Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba, The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and
Democracy in Five Nations (Boston: Little, Brown, 1965).
212 I. Katchanovski
also significant value differences within these groups of regions, specifi-
cally within Western Ukraine among Galicia, Volhynia, Transcarpathia, and
Similarly, there were significant regional differences in historical experi-
ences during World War II in Ukraine, specifically among regions of Western
Ukraine, such as Galicia, Volhynia, Bukovyna, and Transcarpathia, and in
the East and the South. Personal experiences of the war are likely to be
transmitted by people who lived during that period to their children and
grandchildren through family socialization. The regional differences during
the war involved variations in the occupation regimes of Nazi Germany and
its Romanian and Hungarian allies and differing levels of activity of the Red
Army, Soviet partisans, and the UPA. Galicia and Volhynia were incorpo-
rated into Soviet Ukraine as a result of a military takeover by the Red Army
in 1939 under provisions of the secret Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between
the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. In 1940, Bukovyna came under Soviet
control in a similar way. The German occupation of most Western regions
lasted from the start of the German invasion in the summer of 1941 until
1944, and this occupation was longer compared to the occupation of the
geographically Eastern regions.5
At least 5 million of the residents of Ukraine served in the Red Army,
including its top echelon, during World War II.6Western Ukrainians were,
on average, drafted into or volunteered for the Soviet military later than res-
idents of most other Ukrainian regions, because the Soviet forces in Western
Ukraine were either defeated or retreated soon after the German attack
in 1941 without being able to implement a large-scale mobilization there.
Similarly, Soviet partisans, whose maximum number in Ukraine reached
about 50,000 people in the end of 1943, were less active and numerous
in Western Ukraine, especially Galicia, Transcarpathia, and Bukovyna, than
in the Center and to a lesser extent in the East and the South.7The majority
of Soviet partisans who were active in Volhynia and Galicia were sent there
as part of raiding units from Central Ukraine.
In contrast, the UPA was active primarily in Western Ukraine. It was
created by the Stepan Bandera faction of the Organization of Ukrainian
Nationalists (OUN-B) in Volhynia in the spring of 1943, and later, it extended
its operations to Galicia and Bukovyna and neighboring regions in the
4Sarah Birch, Elections and Democratization in Ukraine (New York: St. Martin Press, 2000); Ivan
Katchanovski, Cleft Countries: Regional Political Divisions and Cultures in Post-Soviet Ukraine and
Moldova (Stuttgart: Ibidem Verlag, 2006).
5See Karel C. Berkhoff, Harvest of Despair: Life and Death in Ukraine under Nazi Rule (Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press, 2004).
6Ivan Mukovsky and Oleksandr Lysenko, Zvytiaha i zhertovnist’: Ukraintsi na frontakh druhoi
svitovoi viiny (Kyiv: Knyha pamiati Ukrainy, 1997) pp. 401.
7Anatolii Kentii and Volodymyr Lozytskii, Viina bez poshchady i myloserdia (Kyiv: Geneza,
2005) p. 179.
World War II in Contemporary Ukraine 213
Center. An estimate, based on information reported by the UPA comman-
ders concerning the strength of their units, puts the maximal membership of
the UPA in the beginning of 1944 at about 20,000–23,000 with the majority
being from Galicia.8This estimate includes members of its Security Service,
which also acted as the security service of the OUN-B.
Similarly, the SS ‘Galicia’ Division was formed in 1943 under German
command from Ukrainians of this region. Galician Ukrainians formed the
backbone of such smaller German military formations as the Nachtigall
Battalion and the Roland Battalion. These two battalions were disbanded
soon after they entered Ukraine, along with other advancing German
forces in 1941. Many of their members continued their service in the 201st
Schutzmannschaft Battalion until the end of 1942 and then joined the UPA
in 1943. In contrast, residents of the Central, Eastern, and Southern Ukraine,
were much more likely to serve under German command in the Vlasov Army
and other smaller collaborationist formations that were recruited, primarily,
from Soviet POWs. At least a significant proportion of them joined these
formations to escape POW camps in which majority of the prisoners per-
ished as a result of the Nazis’ genocidal policies. In contrast, the SS ‘Galicia’
Division, the Nachtigall Battalion, and the Roland Battalion were recruited
from volunteers.
The second research hypothesis is that political party preferences in con-
temporary Ukraine are a significant determinant of attitudes toward World
War II. Parties of different political orientations express varying approaches
toward key issues of Ukrainian history, including this war. Supporters
of nationalist parties, such as Svoboda and Our Ukraine, are likely to
embrace different views concerning the war, compared to supporters of
pro-Communist or pro-Russian parties, such as the Communist Party and
the Party of Regions. For example, Viktor Yushchenko, President of Ukraine
from 2005 to 2010 and a leader of the Our Ukraine Bloc, which included his
party and other nationalist parties, promoted as a centerpiece of his policy
commemoration of the UPA as fighters for the Ukrainian independence and
national heroes. For instance, Yushchenko awarded the Hero of Ukraine title
to Roman Shukhevych, the supreme commander of the UPA. He and his bloc
advocated reconciliation between veterans of the Soviet Army and the UPA.
Svoboda, a radical nationalist party, which won regional elections in
Galicia in 2010 and won 10.5 percent of the national vote in the 2012 parlia-
mentary elections, promoted similar policies, not only concerning the UPA
but also concerning the SS ‘Galicia’ Division and the Nachtigall Battalion.
This party, which was originally called the Social-National Party, combined
8It is calculated from documents seized from Dmytro Klyachkivsky, the UPA-North commander con-
cerning the strength of the UPA-North and the UPA-South, and testimony of Oleksandr Lutsky concerning
the strength of the UPA-West, which was under his command. See Litopys UPA,vol.14(Kyiv:Litopys
UPA, 2010) 71–79; Litopys UPA, vol. 9 (Kyiv: Litopys UPA, 2007) 341.
214 I. Katchanovski
radical nationalism with elements of neo-Nazi ideology. Svoboda called for
removal of war monuments to Soviet soldiers, and it blocked, with help of
violence, public celebrations of Victory Day in Lviv since 2011.
The Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc (BYuT), which was a key member of the
Orange coalitions and presented itself as a democratic pro-Western party,
advanced a populist ideology and did not emphasize its stance on such
historical memory issues as World War II. However, after the loss in the
2010 presidential elections, Tymoshenko’s Fatherland party and its leaders,
including Yulia Tymoshenko, started also to adopt a nationalist rhetoric, and
they publicly used a greeting that was used by the OUN-B and the UPA
during the war.9The greeting ‘Slava Ukraini’ (Glory to Ukraine) and a fascist-
style hand salute were modeled by the OUN on a basis of similar greetings
and salutes by other fascist and semi-fascist parties in Germany (the National
Socialist German Workers Party led by Adolf Hitler), Italy (the National Fascist
Party led by Benito Mussolini), and Croatia (Ustasha led by Ante Pavelic).10
The Fatherland Party, which was led by Arseni Yatseniuk after Tymoshenko’s
imprisonment, formed an electoral alliance with Svoboda.
In contrast, the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU) not only opposed
the commemoration of the UPA and supported exclusive commemoration on
the state level of the Red Army and Soviet partisans, but it also advocated
official use of the Red Flag as the Soviet victory flag over Nazi Germany.
In addition, Communist Party organizations promoted commemoration of
Joseph Stalin. For example, a monument to Stalin was erected on the grounds
of the regional committee of the CPU in Zaporizhzhia.
Victor Yanukovych and the government led by his Party of Regions
abandoned official commemoration of the UPA on the national level after
he became President of Ukraine in 2010. However, the Yanukovych policy
has allowed a great deal of local autonomy to pursue differing policies of
historical memory. For instance, a court in the Donetsk Region in Eastern
Ukraine in 2010 ruled that Yushchenko’s presidential decree awarding the
Hero of Ukraine title to Shukhevych was illegal because he was not a citizen
of Ukraine and was not eligible for such an award. In contrast, Shukhevych
and other UPA and OUN leaders continue to be commemorated on the local
level in Western Ukraine, especially Galicia and Volhynia.
The third hypothesis is that ethnicity and language significantly affect
attitudes in Ukraine toward World War II. Ukrainian nationalists, both during
the war and in independent Ukraine, have presented the UPA, the SS ‘Galicia’
9Personal observations.
10 The OUN officially adopted these greeting and salute during their second congress in Rome in
the end of August 1939, while the OUN-B reconfirmed their official use in a slightly modified form
during their congress in German-occupied Krakow in April 1941. Fond 13, Sprava 376, Vol. 4, HAD SBU;
Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe, ‘The “Ukrainian National Revolution” of 1941: Discourse and Practice of a
Fascist Movement.’ Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 12 (2011) pp. 83–114.
World War II in Contemporary Ukraine 215
Division, the Nachtigall Battalion, and the Roland Battalion as Ukrainian for-
mations that fought for the independence of Ukraine, even though they acted
under German command. Ethnic Ukrainians and Ukrainian speakers consti-
tuted the absolute majority of members of these German military formations
and the UPA.
For example, ethnic Ukrainians comprised 98percent of the UPA mem-
bers in the UPA district ‘Bohun’ in the beginning of 1944. There were also
1 percent Russians, 1 percent other minorities, and no Jews.11 In contrast,
the proportion of Ukrainians and Ukrainian speakers in the Red Army and
among the Soviet partisans in Ukraine was smaller, and they included a
significant proportion of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers. For example,
57 percent of Soviets partisans in Ukraine were ethnic Ukrainians, 25 percent
Russians, 8 percent Belarusians, 4 percent Poles, and 2 percent Jews.12
The fourth hypothesis is that age in an important factor in World War
II attitudes in Ukraine. Members of the younger generation, who have been
socialized in the educational system and mass media of independent Ukraine,
are likely to differ significantly in their views concerning the war, compared
to older generations, who were socialized during the Soviet period.
This article starts by examining previous studies and major controversies
concerning World War II in Ukraine. This section provides an essential back-
ground for analyzing results of a survey concerning contemporary attitudes
towards major forces active in Ukraine during the war and their main leaders.
This study analyses data from a national survey that was commissioned
by the author and that was conducted in Ukraine by the Kyiv International
Institute of Sociology (KIIS) in February 2012. The 2012 face-to-face KIIS
survey of 1,031 respondents was based on a representative national sample
of adult residents of Ukraine. It included a question concerning support for
major formations active in Ukraine during World War II: the Soviet Army,
the German Army, the UPA, and Soviet partisans. Other formations in which
Ukrainians served during the war, such as the Polish Army, Hungarian Army,
and the Vlasov Army, because their involvement in the war in Ukraine, were
much more limited in time and scope.
Another set of questions measured attitudes toward the wartime activi-
ties of Stalin (the leader of the Soviet Union and the Soviet Communist Party
and the supreme commander of the Soviet military forces), Shukhevych (the
11 Ivan Patryliak, ‘Evedentsiini kartky” UPA iak statystychne dzherelo.’ In Ukrainskyi vyzvolnyi rukh
6(Lviv: Center for the Studies of the Liberation Movement, 2006) pp. 110–147.
12 A. Gogun, Stalinskie komandos. Ukrainskie partizanskie formirovania, 1941–1944, 2nd edition.
(Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2012) p. 329.
216 I. Katchanovski
supreme commander of the UPA, a leader of the OUN-B, and a deputy
commander of the Nachtigall Battalion and the 201st Schutzmannschaft
Battalion), and Hitler (the leader of Germany and the Nazi Party and
the supreme commander of the German military forces). The survey also
included questions about political preferences, namely the intention to vote
for political parties, and socio-demographic questions, such as ethnicity,
language, age, sex, education, place of residence, and region of residence.
Previous studies of World War II in Ukraine have been primarily conducted
by historians. These studies have shown that Ukraine was one of the princi-
pal battlefields of the war.13 Large numbers of Ukrainians were fighting for
different parties during World War II, primarily for the Soviet Union, and
to a much lesser extent Nazi Germany, Poland, and the UPA. Researchers
have also examined debates among historians concerning World War II in
Ukraine, particularly the activity of the UPA and the OUN during the war
and their coverage in the mass media and school textbooks.14
The number of academic studies that have analyzed attitudes con-
cerning World War II in contemporary Ukraine is limited. A few previous
survey-based academic studies have mostly examined public opinion con-
cerning Nazi genocidal policies in Ukraine and concerning Stalin and Stepan
Bandera.15 Non-academic polls, generally, have presented overall attitudes
toward specific aspects of World War II, such as views of Victory Day or per-
ceptions of such leaders or commanders as Stalin, Hitler, and Shukhevych,
without explicitly analyzing which factors are main determinants of these
attitudes.16 Some polls indicated that a significant proportion of Western
Ukrainians regarded residents of the geographic East and South as Stalinists,
while significant percentages of people in the East and South perceived
residents of Western Ukraine as fascists.17
The Soviet Ukrainian and nationalist Ukrainian historical memory poli-
cies and public discourses concerning the place and the role of Ukrainians
13 See, for instance, Berkhoff; Norman Davies, No Simple Victory: World War II in Europe, 1939–1945
(New York: Penguin, 2006); Mukovsky and Lysenko; Subtelny.
14 David Marples, ‘Anti-Soviet Partisans and Ukrainian Memory,’ East European Politics & Societies 24
(2010) pp. 26–43; Marples, Heroes; Rodgers.
15 Katchanovski, Politics; Serhi Makeev ‘Sotsialno-kulturna spetsyfika rehioniv Ukrainy,’ In
Rehionalna Ukraina (Kyiv: Heoprynt, 2003).
16 See, for example, 65 let velikoi pobedy. Vtoraia mirovaia voina glazami ukraintsev (Kyiv: Research
& Branding Group, 2010).
17 See Oleksandr Feldman, ‘Rehional’na tolerantnist: l’vivski podii daly rezul’tat?’ Ukrainska pravda,
19 July 2011.
World War II in Contemporary Ukraine 217
during World War II differed in many key aspects, and they were politi-
cized to various degrees. In the Soviet Union, academic studies and historical
memory policies emphasized the leadership role of the Communist Party of
the Soviet Union during the war, which was called the Great Patriotic War
of 1941–1945. They portrayed mass popular resistance to the Nazi rule by
Soviet partisans and the communist underground, the multi-ethnic charac-
ter of the Soviet military, and the Red Army as the liberator of Ukraine.
However, the size of the Soviet partisan movement and the communist
underground in Ukraine was inflated during the Soviet times, as was the size
of German military losses from their activities. Ukrainians were presented as
making important contributions in all of these aspects, but the leading role
of Russians was underlined. The Soviet perspective presented the incorpo-
ration of Western Ukraine in 1939 into the Soviet Union as a unification that
was supported by Ukrainians. The OUN was portrayed as an organization of
“bourgeois nationalists” that did not have the support of the working class
and peasants and that collaborated with Nazi Germany during the war. Soviet
studies claimed that the UPA was created with German help.18
A cult of Stalin as a great Soviet and Communist Party leader and mil-
itary commander who won the war was instituted after the end of World
War II. The Stalin cult was replaced by a de-Stalinization campaign initiated
by Nikita Khrushchev in 1956. The de-Stalinization policy was reversed to a
limited extent during the Leonid Brezhnev era, but Mikhail Gorbachev pur-
sued a new de-Stalinization campaign. In independent Ukraine, especially
after the ‘Orange Revolution,’ Stalin was mainly presented as responsible for
the artificial famine in the beginning of the 1930s that killed approximately
3 million people in Soviet Ukraine.19
The Soviet academic and public discourse concerning the war was heav-
ily politicized and censored, and some historical facts and data were falsified
to reflect the party line and official ideology. The Soviet studies and mem-
ory policies omitted or minimized military defeats, mass desertions, and the
mass surrender of millions of Soviet soldiers and commanders in the first part
of the Soviet-German war, in particular in Ukraine, for instance, during the
Kyiv operation in 1941. Soviet studies and public discourse did not acknowl-
edge the existence of the Soviet-Nazi pact, which enabled the Soviet Union
to incorporate most of Western Ukraine. War crimes were covered up that
had been committed on the orders of the Soviet leadership, in particular by
Stalin and by the Soviet secret police during World War II in Ukraine, such as
the mass murder of prisoners in Western Ukrainian cities and towns follow-
ing the German invasion in June 1941 and the mass killing of Polish POW
18 See, for example, Volodymyr Zamlynsky, Tavrovani prezysrtstvom narodu (Kyiv: Politvydav
Ukrainy, 1974).
19 Vallin, Mesle, Adamets, and Pyrozhkov.
218 I. Katchanovski
officers and policemen in the Kharkiv Region of Eastern Ukraine during the
Katyn operation in 1940.
After the break-up of the Soviet Union, the Communist Party of Ukraine
and other pro-communist or pro-Soviet organizations and scholars to various
degrees continued to present key aspects of the Soviet perspective on World
War II. They often repeat Soviet claims about a leading role of the Nachtigall
battalion commanded by Shukhevych in the mass killings during a pogrom
in Lviv in the beginning of July 1941 about creation of the UPA by the
German military intelligence (Abwehr).20 However, this perspective, which
was imposed by the Soviet state on the entire society, lost its Soviet-era status
as the official and dominant doctrine in academic research, the national
education system, and the mass media after Ukraine became independent in
Ukrainian nationalist viewpoints on World War II became dominant in
the Ukrainian diaspora in the West, specifically in the United States, the UK,
and Canada, after the war. A large number of leaders and members of the
OUN-B, the OUN-M, the UPA, and other nationalist organizations that col-
laborated to various degrees with Nazi Germany got refuge in the Western
countries. The same applies to a large number of commanders and service-
men of military and police formations, such as the SS “Galicia” Division, the
31 SMdS battalion, the Nachtigall Battalion, and the 201st Schutzmannschaft
Battalion, that were formed with involvement of the OUN-M and the OUN-B
for service under German command during the war. Their veterans pro-
moted their ideological perspective on the war, while denying or ignoring
the involvement of these organizations and formations in mass murder.21
Many key elements of this perspective were adopted and promoted
by President Yushchenko and nationalist parties in Ukraine. The nationalist
historical memory perspective presents the UPA, the SS ‘Galicia’ Division and
other military formations organized by the OUN-B and the OUN-M in the
German Army as fighters for Ukrainian independence. The UPA is portrayed
as a Ukrainian military force that was created in Volhynia in October 1942,
enjoyed popular support, and was active not only in Western Ukraine but
also in many Central, Southern, and Eastern regions of Ukraine. The UPA is
presented not only as anti-Soviet but also as an anti-Nazi military force that
liberated significant parts of Western Ukraine from German control during
20 See A. Voitsekhovsky, Zh. Dygas, and H. Tkachenko, Bez prava na reabilitatsiyu, 2nd edition.
(Kyiv: Kyiv Historical Society, 2006). However, there is evidence that individual members of the battalion
participated in the Lviv pogrom, and that the Nachtigall Battalion carried out mass executions of Jews near
Vinnytsia in summer of 1941 (See John-Paul Himka, ‘The Lviv Pogrom of 1941: The Germans, Ukrainian
Nationalists, and the Carnival Crowd,’ Canadian Slavonic Papers/Revue canadienne des slavistes LIII
(2011) pp. 209–243.
21 See Mykola Lebed, UPA, 2nd edition (New York: Suchasnist, 1987); Mykhailo Karkots-Vovk, Vid
Voronizha do Ukrains’koho legionu samooborony, 22nd edition (Rivne: Kaligraf, 2002).
World War II in Contemporary Ukraine 219
the war and which included many Jews and representatives of other nations
in its ranks.22
The UPA’s strength and popularity, the extent of the participation of
Jews and other minorities, and the magnitude of its anti-Nazi activity are
significantly inflated, while its involvement in the mass murder of Poles dur-
ing its ethnic cleansing campaign in Volhynia is minimized or justified as a
retaliation for discriminatory policies of the Polish government before the
war. Similarly, collaboration of the OUN-B and the UPA with Nazi Germany
and the involvement of the OUN-B and militia organized by the OUN-B in
anti-Jewish pogroms and Nazi-led mass executions of Jews, Poles, and those
deemed as Soviet and Communist activists in Lviv and many other locations,
primarily in Western Ukraine, is often denied or deliberately ignored.23 The
same concerns the involvement of the police formations, which formed the
basis of the UPA in 1943, in Nazi-led genocide of Jews, Ukrainians, Poles,
Russians, and Belarusians.24
The OUN and its two factions after the split collaborated with the
German security and intelligence agencies and the German military in cre-
ation of military and police formations, intelligence-gathering, and sabotage
and diversions prior and during the invasions and occupation of Poland
and Soviet Ukraine from the 1930s until the end of the summer or fall of
1941. This organizational collaboration was suspended by the German side
which did not accept plans of the OUN-B and the OUN-M to create a quasi-
independent Ukrainian satellite state allied with Nazi Germany. Since the
end of 1943, the UPA and the OUN-B leaders conducted secret negotiations
that resulted in tactical collaboration of the UPA and the Bandera faction
of the OUN with Abwehr, I-C, and the Wehrmacht, and the Hungarian mil-
itary, against the Red Army and partisans. It involved, in particular, secret
agreements by the UPA not to attack the Axis forces, collect and supply of
intelligence by the UPA, training of radio-operators, and supply of weapons
to the UPA.25
There is also evidence of the OUN collaboration with Nazi Germany
against the United States in the beginning of World War II. For example,
archival documents show that the U.S. Secret Service, the FBI, the State
Department, a special intelligence unit created by U.S. President Franklin
22 See, for instance, Volodymyr Kosyk, Ukraina i Nimechchyna u Druhii svitovii viini. (Lviv: Naukove
tovarystvo im. T. Shevchenka u Lvovi, 1993); Ukrains’ka povstans’ka armiia: Istoriia neskorenykh.(Lviv:
Center for the Studies of the Liberation Movement, 2008).
23 Ibid.
24 Himka; Per A. Rudling, ‘The OUN, the UPA and the Holocaust: A Study in the Manufacturing
of Historical Myths,’ The Carl Beck Papers in Russian and East European Studies 2107 (Pittsburgh, PA:
University Center for Russian and East European Studies, 2011).
25 Litopys Ukrains’koi Povstans’koi Armii. Vol. 27 (Toronto: Litopys UPA, 1997) pp. 180–236; Fond
13, Sprava 372, Vol. 001, 034, 035, 057, HDA SBU, Kyiv; OUN 241–243, 317, 426–427; Ukrainskie nat-
sionalisticheskie organizatsii v gody Vtoroi mirovoi voiny. Dokumenty. Vol. 1, 2. (Moscow: ROSSPEN,
220 I. Katchanovski
Delano Roosevelt, and other agencies investigated in 1940–1942 an involve-
ment of OUN and specifically, OUN-B, members, leaders, and sympathizers
in a Nazi-led plot to assassinate President Roosevelt. They indicate that
Christian Zinsser, an agent of German security services who worked under
cover of a German press attaché in Buenos Aires in Argentina, recruited in
1940 Hryhori Matseiko with a mission to kill President Roosevelt. Matseiko
was a leading OUN terrorist who assassinated the minister of internal affairs
of Poland on the order of Stepan Bandera in 1934. The American, British,
and Soviet intelligence services reported involvement of the OUN, in partic-
ular, Matseiko, in assisting role in the assassination of the King of Yugoslavia
and the Foreign Minister in France in 1934.26
The policemen and other ex-Nazi collaborators constituted the majority
of the UPA members at least until the beginning of 1944, and a significant
proportion afterwards.27 The analysis of biographies of 69 top UPA comman-
ders shows that at least 72 percent of them collaborated with Nazi Germany
and its allies. They served in the Schutzmannschaft Battalion 201, and other
police and quasi-police formations (49 percent), intelligence, military, and
security schools in Germany and Nazi-occupied Poland (29percent), in the
Nachtigall and Roland Battalions and Bergbauern-Hilfe (the Sushko Legion)
(16percent), local and regional administration (16 percent), the SS Galicia
Division (1 percent).28 In addition, at least 28 percent of the top UPA com-
manders, including Roman Shukhevych, Dmytro Kliachkivsky, and Vasyl
Kuk, collaborated with the German intelligence and security agencies, pri-
marily, the Abwehr, and to a lesser extent, the I-C and SiPo and SD in the
beginning or in the end of the war.29 For example, there is evidence that
Shukhevych, in addition to serving in summer 1941 as a deputy commander
of the Nachtigall Battalion that was organized by Abwehr, attended a SiPo
and SD (Gestapo) School in Zakopane soon after the German occupation
of Poland and oversaw intelligence gathering by the OUN-B in Ukraine on
Gestapo requests shortly before the German invasion of the Soviet Union.30
The UPA was engaged in anti-German activity primarily since its creation
by the OUN-B in Volhynia in spring 1943 and until the end of 1943. However,
this activity did not involve large-scale attacks against the Wehrmacht and
military formations of German allies, such as Hungary and Romania. The
26 Henry Field Papers, Box 52, Folder ‘1964,’ Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York;
Department of State Confidential Decimal File, Case 800.20211/Matzejko. National Archives, College Park,
Maryland; Pavel Sudoplatov, Spetsoperatsii. Lubianka i Kreml 1930–1950 gody (Moscow: OLMA-Press,
1998/2003) p. 26.
27 Ivan Katchanovski, ‘OUN(b) ta natsystski masovi vbyvstva litom 1941 roku na istorychnii Volyni.’
Ukraina moderna 20 (2012).
28 Calculated from Petro Sodol, Ukrainska povstancha armiia, 1943–49. Vol. 1. (New York: Proloh,
1994) with use of other sources, such as archival documents, historical publications, and memoirs.
29 See, for instance, Litopys Ukrains’koi 180–236; OUN 241–243, 317, 426–427; Ukrainskie.
30 Berkhoff, pp. 289, 298; Vladyslav Nakonechny, Volyn - Kryvave pole viiny. (Ternopil: Pidruchnyky
i posibnyky, 2006) 53.
World War II in Contemporary Ukraine 221
analysis of German, Polish, OUN-UPA and Soviet sources concerning spe-
cific UPA clashes indicates that the overall losses inflicted by the UPA on
the Axis forces were minimal, and that these losses, most likely, totaled sev-
eral hundred men killed, primarily, members of police formations, including
formations created from Poles and Soviet POWs.31
Three percent of the top UPA commanders were killed by German
forces, their Axis allies, or local Ukrainian and Polish auxiliary police. Most
of them were killed in a single ambush on May 13, 1943, or while cross-
ing the German-Soviet frontline in 1944. In comparison, 55 percent of the
top UPA commanders, including Shukhevych, died fighting security and mil-
itary forces of the Soviet Union, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and East
The nationalist perspective ignores or denies involvement of the SS
‘Galicia’ Division in the mass murder. For example, Galician regiments,
before majority of their members formally joined the SS ‘Galicia’ Division
and minority joined the UPA in 1944, massacred close to 1,000 Poles in Huta
Peniatska with assistance of an UPA unit, and they participated in other mas-
sacres of Polish civilians.33 The 31 SMdS battalion, or the Ukrainian Legion
of Self-Defense, which was organized by local leaders of the Melnyk faction
of the OUN (OUN-M) and SiPo and SD in Volhynia in the end of 1943 on the
basis of OUN-M units, created to a large extent from the local police, had a
similar record before it was mostly incorporated into the SS ‘Galicia’ Division
in March 1945.34 Significant numbers of its commanders and members were
incorporated into the UPA before they enlisted in the 31 SMdS battalion or
joined the UPA while serving in this formation. The 31st battalion units and
detachments, which comprised most or significant parts of its servicemen, are
implicated by different sources in numerous mass killings, often conducted
under a pretext of anti-partisan actions. They included mass executions and
other similar massacres of Ukrainians and Jews in Pidhaitsi and Ustyluh and
Poles in Edwardopole, Korchunky, Ameryka, Smoligow, Laskow, Chlaniow,
and Wladyslawin, and participation in the suppression of the Warsaw upris-
ing in 1944.35 For example, analysis of eyewitness testimonies, interviews
31 The German losses inflicted by the UPA are greatly inflated in many previous studies that put
the number of Germans casualties in thousands or tens of thousands (See, for instance, Oleksandr
Denyshchuk, Borot’ba UPA proty nimets’kych okupantiv, Vols. 1 and 2.(Rivne: PPDM, 2008). However,
these estimates lack reliability and validity, because they rely on OUN and UPA sources that are not
corroborated by other sources, such as German documents, and give implausible ratios of German vs.
UPA losses that differ by an order of magnitude, and reverse ratios of killed to wounded.
32 Calculated from Sodol with use of other sources.
33 Per Anders Rudling, “‘They Defended Ukraine”: The 14. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS
(Galizische Nr. 1) Revisited,’ Journal of Slavic Military Studies 25 (2012) pp. 329–368.
34 Oleh Klymenko and Serhii Tkachov. Ukraintsi v politsii v Reikhskomisariati 1941–44 rr. (Pivdenna
Voly n) (Kharkiv: Ranok, 2012) pp. 193–201, 236–259.
35 See Klymenko and Tkachov; Sol Littman, Pure Soldiers or Sinister Legion: The Ukrainian 14th
Waffen-SS Division (Montreal: Black Rose, 2003) pp. 53–58; Marcin Majewski, ‘Przyczynek do wojennych
dziejów Ukrainskiego Legionu Samoobrony (1943–1945),’ Pamiec i Spraawiedliwosc 2 (2005) pp. 295–327;
222 I. Katchanovski
with local residents, archival documents, and the fact of an urgent rede-
ployment of this unit from the Kremenets area to the village of Pidhaitsi
near Lutsk a day before a massacre there, indicates its likely involvement in
killing of 20 Ukrainian residents of Pidhaitsi, half of whom were children, on
December 3, 1943. The same sources indicate that its units executed close to
200 Lutsk prisoners and Jews in Pidhaitsi in January 1944.
The nationalist narrative has downplayed the participation of Ukrainians
in the Red Army, compared to the German military and police formations,
such as the SS Galicia Division, and in Soviet partisans, compared to the
UPA. It emphasizes lack of military effectiveness of the Soviet Army and par-
tisans, their earlier collaboration with Nazi Germany, and their responsibility
for provoking Nazi mass executions of Ukrainians, for example, in Kortelisy.
However, the data cited in this article indicate that more Ukrainian served in
the Soviet military and partisans formations for a much longer period of the
war compared to those in the German formations and the UPA. Similarly,
anti-Nazi activity and casualties inflicted on the German Army, its allies,
and local police were much more significant compared to the UPA. For
example, an estimate based on incomplete German reports of its losses and
self-reported losses sustained by the partisan units indicates that the Soviet
partisans in Ukraine killed about 15,000–25,000 Axis soldiers, policemen, and
local collaborators, while, as noted, the losses inflicted by the UPA consti-
tuted about several hundred.36 In contrast to the UPA, former policemen and
other Nazi-collaborators comprised a small minority of among Soviet parti-
sans in Ukraine (7 percent) and, especially, their commanders. However, the
partisan units were subordinated to the NKVD, and a significant proportion
of partisan commanders in Ukraine previously served in the NKVD.37
The nationalist perspective has presented the Red Army and partisans
as lacking popular support during the war in Ukraine, in contrast to the UPA.
It characterized Ukrainian soldiers as mobilized into the Soviet Army by force
and fighting under the threat of executions by the NKVD. Mass surrender or
capture by German forces of Red Army soldiers in Ukraine in 1941 and
1942 has been treated as evidence of their anti-Soviet outlook.38 The nation-
alist perspective emphasizes Soviet war crimes, such as mass executions of
prisoners in Western Ukraine in 1941. It portrays Stalin and Hitler as allies
who started World War II in 1939 by attacking Poland, which resulted in the
forced incorporation of Western Ukraine by the Soviet Union. In contrast, the
SMdS-Batl. 31, Targowisko, den 12.10.1944. I am grateful to Dr. Stephen Ankier for supplying a copy of
the last document.
36 Estimated from data cited in Gogun.
37 See Gogun, pp. 329–333.
38 See, for instance, V. Hrynevych, ‘Suspil’no-politychni nastroi naselennia Ukrainy v roky Druhoi
svitovoi viiny: istoriohrafichni notatky.’ In Problemy istorii Ukrainy: fakty, sudzhennia, poshuky,16(Kyiv:
Institute of History of Ukraine, 2007) pp. 405–434.
World War II in Contemporary Ukraine 223
Nazi-led mass murder of Jews, Ukrainians, Russians, Poles, and its genocidal
nature have been often downplayed or ignored.
Like their Soviet counterparts, nationalist politicians and historians
have often employed falsified historical sources or selectively use sources.
Examples of such falsifications include October 14, 1942, as the date of the
UPA’s creation, the killing of German General Lutze by an UPA unit, an order
by Zhukov to expel Ukrainians to Siberia in the end of the war, the German
invasion of the Soviet Union as a preventive war to stop a Soviet attack, and
misrepresentation of mostly Jewish victims of Nazi-led executions, whose
remains were uncovered in 2011–2012 in Volodymyr-Volynskyi as Polish vic-
tims of Soviet executions.39 Many indications of collaboration of the OUN
and the UPA with Nazi Germany have been either omitted in the pub-
lished versions of the documents, or such documents remain unpublished
or unreported.
Western academic studies on Ukraine and Ukrainians during World War
II have presented a more diverse perspective. However, with some excep-
tions, these studies did not offer a comprehensive analysis of Ukraine during
the war, the German occupation, and Nazi-led mass murder in Ukraine,
but dealt with Ukraine as part of the analysis of German-Soviet war, the
Holocaust, and collaboration.40 Many of them, especially during the Cold
War, offered a distorted view of certain important aspects of this conflict in
Ukraine. For example, they often explicitly or implicitly equated Ukrainians
with the OUN and the UPA and the SS ‘Galicia’ Division, Nazi collaborators
or ‘bystanders.’ Many studies have presented public greetings of the advanc-
ing German Army in 1941 as evidence of the pro-German and anti-Soviet
attitudes of Ukrainians, even though their representativeness to the entire
population of Ukraine cannot be established with great certainty. They have
argued that these attitudes changed only as a result of the Nazi occupation
Many Western studies have emphasized the collaboration of Ukrainians
with Nazi Germany, especially in the Holocaust. The often characterized the
local militia and police as ‘Ukrainian’ even though these formations were in
many cases organized and de facto controlled by the OUN-B and the OUN-M.
Similarly, perpetrators of anti-Jewish pogroms in Western Ukraine in the
beginning of the German occupation were often described as ‘Ukrainians,’
even though many of these pogroms, such as in Lviv, were spearheaded
by militia organized by the OUN-B. Nazi-led executions, which coincided
with or followed these pogroms, for instance in Lviv, Ternopil, Kremianets,
Zolochiv, and Zboriv, and which were carried out with assistance of the
39 See Katchanovski, OUN(b). Similarly, a medieval mass burial near the Pschenychnyky in the Ivano-
Frankivsk Region was misrepresented by the media and local politicians as a NKVD execution site dating
to the beginning of World War II.
40 Berkhoff.
224 I. Katchanovski
OUN-organized militia or by the militia itself on German orders, were often
described as pogroms or parts of the pogroms.41
In contrast, the much more numerous participation of Ukrainians in the
war against Nazi Germany and the crucial contribution of Ukrainians to the
defeat of Nazi Germany have been ignored or minimized, even though the
overall number of Ukrainians who fought during the war in the Soviet Army
and partisans, exceeded the number of their counterparts who served in the
German military and police formations. The Soviet Union and Red Army
soldiers and commanders, including Ukrainians, have often been referred
to as ‘Russia’ and ‘Russians,’ even in many academic studies published in
the West after the break-up of the Soviet Union. The Western portrayals of
Stalin have often treated him as a Russian and have minimized or ignored
his communist ideology and his Georgian origin.42
The majority of Western studies, especially during the Cold War, have
overlooked the genocidal nature of the war and of Nazi occupational polices
under Hitler’s leadership with regard to Ukrainians, Russians, Belarusians,
and Poles. The mass murder of several million Ukrainian civilians and POWs
as a result of the Nazis’ genocidal polices, which involved mass executions
and mass death as result of artificial starvation and the creation of other unliv-
able conditions by means of burning entire villages or infectious diseases,
has often been ignored or attributed to the war or to both Nazi and Soviet
policies.43 Until the appearance of relatively recent studies, the Wehrmacht
was generally presented as having no direct role in the mass murder of Jews
and Ukrainian and Russian civilians and POWs.44
In contrast, war crimes committed by the Red Army, including the rapes
of a large number of women during its occupation of Germany at the end
of the war, have received much greater publicity in many Western countries.
However, estimates indicating that the rapes involved a very large propor-
tion of Soviet soldiers and German women are unreliable and involve large
margins of error because they are derived from the interpolation of data from
two hospitals in Berlin to the entire Germany. The studies of the mass rape in
41 See Himka; Lower Wendy, ‘Pogroms, Mob Violence and Genocide in Western Ukraine,
Summer 1941: Varied Histories, Explanations and Comparisons.’ Journal of Genocide Research 13
(2011) pp. 217–246.
42 See Chris Bellamy, Absolute War: Soviet Russia in the Second World War (New York: Knopf, 2007);
Richard Overy, Russia’s War (New York: Penguin 1998).
43 For example, Snyder acknowledges genocidal Nazi plans towards the people of the Soviet Union,
including Ukrainians. But he argues that these plans were not implemented and dismisses demographic
estimates of the Soviet civilian losses during the war as not reliable, while accepting similar demographic
estimates of Ukrainian losses during the Soviet famine in 1933 and the Polish victims of the UPA (Timothy
Snyder, Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin. (New York: Basic Books, 2010).
44 Hannes Heer and Klaus Naumann (eds.), War of Extermination: The German Military in World
War II, 1941–1944 (New York: Berghahn Books, 2000); Ronald Smelser and Edward J. Davies, II, The
Myth of the Eastern Front: The Nazi-Soviet War in American Popular Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2008).
World War II in Contemporary Ukraine 225
Germany by Red Army soldiers have typically ignored that Ukrainians in the
final stages of the war on the Eastern front, including in occupied Germany,
comprised a significant proportion and, in some armies, a majority of Soviet
The Western perspective has typically presented the Soviet Union as
becoming an ally of Nazi Germany as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop
pact and as jointly occupying and dividing Poland in 1939. However, the
Soviet alliance with Nazi Germany was mostly tactical and opportunistic,
in contrast to German strategic and ideological allies, such as Italy, Japan,
Hungary, Romania, and other Axis powers. The Soviet-German cooperation
was mainly confined in the beginning of the war to the division of the
control over a number of East Central European states, such as Poland, and
the takeover by the Soviet Union of Western Ukraine, Western Belarus, the
Baltic States, and Bessarabia.
In Western countries, the role of the Eastern Front, and specifically of
Ukraine, as the main battlefield of World War II has often been diminished in
favor of the Western front and the war of the Western allies with Japan. The
main contribution of the Red Army to the defeat of Nazi Germany has been
minimized in favor of the US and British contributions and the Lend- Lease
assistance provided by the United States to the Soviet Union. For example,
German military losses on the Eastern Front constituted more than three-
quarters of its total military losses during the war.46 However, a 1994 Gallup
poll showed that only 9 percent of Britons, 11 percent of Americans, 21 per-
cent of Germans, and 25 percent of French respondents believed that the
Soviet Union contributed most to the defeat of Nazi Germany.47
The 2012 KIIS Survey shows that the absolute majority of the residents of
Ukraine, given a choice of the various forces active in Ukraine during World
War II, support most the Soviet Army (75 percent). In addition, 4 percent
favor the Soviet partisans. The UPA is a choice of 8percent of the respon-
dents. In contrast, only 1 percent support the German Army most. The
relative majorities (41 percent each) of adult Ukrainians have negative views
of both Stalin and Shukhevych during the war. However, a much greater
percentage (32 percent) hold very positive or mostly positive views of the
wartime activities of Stalin compared to Shukhevych (14 percent). The abso-
lute majority (91 percent) of the respondents regard Hitler’s actions during
45 See Antony Beevor, The Fall of Berlin 1945 (New York: Viking, 2002).
46 Norman Davies, Europe: A History (New York: HarperCollins, 1996) p. 1013.
47 Gallup Poll, June 2, 1994, The Roper Center for Public Opinion Research.
226 I. Katchanovski
TABLE 1 Attitudes Towards Activity of Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, and Roman Shukhevych
During World War II, 2012 KIIS Survey, Percent
Joseph Stalin Roman Shukhevych Adolf Hitler
Very positive 9 7 0
Mostly positive 23 7 1
Neutral 18 13 3
Mostly negative 19 11 6
Very negative 22 30 85
Don’t know the person 1 21 1
Don’t know/not sure 8 12 3
Total, percent 100 100 100
N 1030 1031 1031
the war negatively, while only 1 percent express a positive opinion of the
leader of Nazi Germany (see Table 1).
Regional differences in contemporary attitudes in Ukraine toward the
Red Army and the UPA during World War II and the wartime activities of
Stalin and Shukhevych outweigh all other factors, including political party
preference, ethnicity, language, and age. Galicia has the lowest level of sup-
port for the Soviet Army (23 percent) and the highest level of support for
the UPA (45 percent). Surprisingly, the relative or absolute majorities of peo-
ple in other regions of historically Western Ukraine (Volhynia, Bukovyna,
and Transcarpathia), given a choice, express their preference for the Soviet
Army. The UPA is favored by 24 percent of the respondents in Volhynia,
even though the UPA was first established in this region by the OUN-B in
the spring of 1943. Kyiv City and other regions in the geographic Center,
South, and the East express stronger backing for the Soviet Army (81–89 per-
cent) and a lower level of the support for the UPA (1–4 percent), compared
to the Western regions.
Regional differences in support for Soviet partisans are much smaller.
It is noteworthy that it is lowest (0 percent) in regions where they did not
operate, such as Bukovyna, Transcarpathia, and Kyiv City. In contrast, dif-
ferences in preferences for the Soviet partisans between other regions of
Western Ukraine (5 percent in Galicia and 4 percent in Volhynia) and the
South and the East (8 percent and 6 percent, respectively) are within statisti-
cal margin of error. The regional variation in backing for the German Army
is not significant. The Wehrmacht is supported by 0 percent–1 percent of the
respondents in all regions. (Table 2).
The 2012 KIIS Survey shows that the activities of Stalin during World
War II are much less popular in Galicia (9 percent), Kyiv City (16 per-
cent), and Volhynia (17 percent) than in the geographic East (40 percent)
and the South (47 percent). Conversely, the Soviet leader is viewed much
more negatively in Galicia (74 percent), Volhynia (66 percent), and Kyiv
City (55 percent) than in the East (30 percent) and the South (32 percent).
World War II in Contemporary Ukraine 227
TABLE 2 Regional Attitudes Towards Major Forces and Leaders During World War II,
2012 KIIS Survey, Percent
Galicia Volhynia Bukovyna Transcarpathia
City Center South East
Soviet Army 23 31 74 70 89 81 81 89
Soviet partisans 5 4 0 0 0 3 8 6
UPA 45 24 11 9 2 4 1 2
German Army 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1
None 11 16 16 17 5 5 4 1
Don’t know/not
16 24 0 4 4 7 7 3
Total, percent 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
Joseph Stalin
Positive 9 17 29 33 16 27 47 40
Neutral 8 15 33 33 14 20 12 21
Negative 74 66 38 21 55 41 32 30
Don’t know the
10 0 13 4102
Don’t know/not
9 2 0 0 11 11 10 7
Total, percent 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
Adolf Hitler
Positive 1 4 0 4 0 0 1 1
Neutral 1 2 19 0 4 5 1 4
Negative 90 89 81 96 93 90 92 92
Don’t know the
20 0 0 4122
Don’t know/not
74 0 0 0352
Total, percent 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
Positive 70 26 5 13 15 10 1 3
Neutral 8 19 57 35 31 15 8 9
Negative 6 21 19 4 26 36 59 57
Don’t know the
9 15 14 39 7 25 23 23
Don’t know/not
819 5 9 2214109
Total, percent 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
N 106 47 21 23 55 292 145 342
The attitudes toward Shukhevych have the opposite regional patterns. He
is favored by the absolute majority of the respondents in Galicia (70 per-
cent), compared to a small minority in the South and the East (1 percent
and 3 percent, respectively). The wartime activities of the UPA leader are
supported by minorities of people in all other regions. His support ranges
from 5 percent in Bukovyna to 26 percent in Volhynia. However, nega-
tive views of Shukhevych in the Western Ukrainian regions are much less
common compared to the rest of Ukraine. The wartime record of Hitler is
viewed negatively by the overwhelming majorities of residents of all regions,
228 I. Katchanovski
including Bukovyna (81 percent), Volhynia (89 percent), Galicia (90 percent),
the Center (90 percent), Kyiv City (93 percent), the South (92 percent), the
East (92 percent), and Transcarpathia (96 percent). (See Table 2).
As expected, there are significant differences in attitudes toward major
World War II belligerents in Ukraine among the supporters of different polit-
ical parties (Table 3). Potential Svoboda voters are much more likely to side
with the UPA (42 percent), compared to the Communist Party and Party
of Regions backers (0 percent and 1 percent, respectively). It is striking,
however, that half (50 percent) of likely Svoboda voters and majorities of
likely voters for UDAR,led by Vitali Klitschko (Klychko) (63 percent), Front
zmin, led by Arseni Yatseniuk (64 percent), and the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc
(BYuT) (71 percent) prefer the Red Army over the UPA during the war. Two-
thirds (68 percent) of supporters of other nationalist and ex-Orange parties,
including Our Ukraine, led by ex-President Yushchenko, and two parties that
emerged from Rukh, favor the Soviet Army.
However, the number of the respondents who declared their inten-
tion to vote for these parties is too small to examine the views of
followers of each of these parties separately. The Red Army has the
highest support among potential voters for the Party of Regions (90 per-
cent), the Communist Party (89 percent), and other ex-communist parties
(94 percent).48 Conversely, the UPA is preferred choice of 1 percent of the
Party of Regions voters, 0 percent of the Communist voters, and 6 percent of
other ex-Communist parties. The preference for Soviet partisans among back-
ers of major political parties differs much less compared to the UPA support
(Table 3).
Similarly, Shukhevych is backed by the majority of potential Svoboda
voters (57 percent). His support among other nationalist and ex-Orange par-
ties (23–28 percent) is much higher than among Party of Regions (5 percent)
and Communist Party (2 percent) voters, but his activities during World War
II are embraced by only a minority of the followers of the BYuT (23 percent)
and of other major parties of this part of the political spectrum. Conversely,
Stalin’s wartime activities have much greater support among the respon-
dents who intend to vote for the Communist Party (72 percent), the Party of
Regions (42 percent), and Strong Ukraine (45 percent), compared to back-
ers of Svoboda (18 percent), BYuT (20 percent), Front zmin (23 percent),
UDAR (26 percent), and other nationalist and ex-Orange factions (21 percent)
(Table 3).
There are no significant variations in the levels of support for the
Wehrmacht and Hitler among the backers of different political parties.
Between 0 and 2 percent of potential voters of all major political parties
favored the German Army and Hitler. In both cases, this includes supporters
48 The Progressive Socialist Party and the Socialist Party.
TABLE 3 Attitudes Towards Major Forces and Leaders During World War II by Political Party Preference, 2012 KIIS Survey, Percent
zmin UDAR BYuT
Party of
Soviet Army 50 68 64 63 71 90 70 89 94 84
Soviet partisans 4 7 4 12 5 3 15 8 0 0
UPA 42 16 14 5 13 1 15 0 6 7
German Army 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 2 0 0
None 0 7 9 10 6 3 0 0 0 10
Don’t know/not sure 4 3 10 10 5 3 0 2 0 0
Total, percent 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
Joseph Stalin
Positive 18 21 23 26 20 42 45 72 41 12
Neutral 11 27 172421 16 17 5 12 46
Negative 68 52 543653 34 29 18 47 39
Don’t know/not sure 4 0 6 14 6 0 0 5 0 3
Total, percent 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
Adolf Hitler
Positive 0 0 1 0 0 2 0 0 0 0
Neutral 7 3 0 0 5 4 2 5 0 15
Negative 93 94 989591 91 95 92 94 76
Don’t know/not sure 0 3 1 5 3 4 2 3 6 9
Total, percent 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
Roman Shukhevych
Positive 57 28 34 17 23 5 5 2 6 9
Neutral 11 28 192615 8 17 5 12 24
Negative 11 28 261931 58 54 65 65 42
Don’t know/not sure 22 15 21 38 32 30 25 28 18 24
Total, percent 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
N 28 32 80 42 137 160 41 63 17 33
230 I. Katchanovski
TABLE 4 Attitudes Towards Major Forces and Leaders During World War II by Ethnicity,
2012 KIIS Survey, Percent
Ukrainians Russians Other
Soviet Army 71 91 73
Soviet partisans 5 4 4
UPA 10 1 6
German Army 1 0 0
None 6 0 10
Don’t know/not sure 8 3 7
Total, percent 100 100 100
Joseph Stalin
Positive 28 46 40
Neutral 19 16 19
Negative 43 32 36
Don’t know/not sure 11 6 4
Total, percent 100 100 100
Adolf Hitler
Positive 1 2 6
Neutral 4 3 4
Negative 91 93 90
Don’t know/not sure 5 2 0
Total, percent 100 100 100
Roman Shukhevych
Positive 16 5 6
Neutral 15 8 15
Negative 35 60 50
Don’t know/not sure 34 27 29
Total, percent 100 100 100
N 791 216 24
of Svoboda, who are much more likely to favor not only the Red Army
over the German Army (50 percent vs. 0 percent), but also Stalin over Hitler
(18 percent vs. 0 percent) (see Table 3).
The analysis of the 2012 KIIS Survey data shows significant differences
in war-related attitudes by ethnicity, language, and age. However, their mag-
nitude is much smaller than the magnitude of the regional and political
party differences. For example, 71 percent of ethnic Ukrainians, compared
to 91 percent of ethnic Russians, support most the Red Army during World
War II in Ukraine. Conversely, 10 percent of ethnic Ukrainians and 1 per-
cent of Russians side with the UPA (see Table 4). Similarly, 17 percent of
Ukrainian speakers, compared to 1 percent of Russian speakers, express
preference for the UPA during the war. The Soviet Army is favored most by
89 percent of Russian speakers and 60 percent of Ukrainian-speakers. The
differences in preferences for Soviet partisans among major ethnic and lan-
guage groups of the respondents are not significant. For example, 5 percent
of ethnic Ukrainians, 4 percent ethnic Russians, and 4 percent other ethnic
minorities favor most the activity of the partisans during World War II in
World War II in Contemporary Ukraine 231
A greater percentage of ethnic Russians (46 percent) and other eth-
nic minorities (40 percent), compared to their ethnic Ukrainian counterparts
(28 percent), hold very positive or mostly positive views of Stalin’s activities
during the war. Sixteen percent of ethnic Ukrainians, compared to 5 per-
cent of ethnic Russians and 6 percent of other minorities express favorable
opinions concerning the wartime record of Shukhevych. Similarly, Ukrainian-
speakers are less likely than their Russian-speaking counterparts to hold
positive views of Stalin (22 percent and 40 percent, respectively), but more
likely to regard favorably activity of the UPA supreme commander dur-
ing World War II in spite of his service as a deputy commander of the
Nachtigall Battalion and the 201st Schutzmannschaft Battalion (25 percent
and 3 percent, respectively).
The Soviet Army has less support among the youngest generation of
respondents, but it remains the primary choice among all age groups. The
absolute majorities of the respondents, ranging from 63 percent of the
18–29 years old to 85 percent of the respondents 70 years old and older,
favor most the Red Army during the war. The preference for Soviet partisans
differs slightly by age. Six percent of the youngest generation, compared to
0 percent of the oldest respondents support them most. The 18- to 29 year-
olds express slightly greater support for the UPA (14 percent) compared to
the older generations (6–8 percent). The youngest group of respondents is
much less favorably disposed toward the actions of Stalin than the oldest gen-
eration (20 percent and 46 percent, respectively). The youngest age group
has slightly more positive views of Shukhevych (20 percent) compared to
older generations (10–13 percent). The 18–29 years old are disposed much
less negatively towards him compared to the other age groups.
Views of the German Army and of Hitler’s activities do not differ sig-
nificantly among all major ethnic, linguistic, and age groups (see Tables 4
and 5). The overwhelmingly negative attitudes towards the German Army
and Hitler prevail among all these groups of the respondents. For example,
91 percent of ethnic Ukrainians, 93 percent of ethnic Russians, and 90 per-
cent of other ethnic minorities express a negative opinion of Hitler’s wartime
The analysis of the 2012 KIIS Survey provides representative data concerning
contemporary attitudes in Ukraine toward the principal sides in World War
II on its territory and toward the wartime activities of the Soviet, German,
and UPA leadership. It shows that a number of political factors affect these
attitudes. Regional political cultures have the most sizable effects. The Soviet
Army has much less public support and the UPA has much more support in
Galicia, and to a lesser extent Volhynia, Bukovyna and Transcarpathia, than
232 I. Katchanovski
TABLE 5 Attitudes Towards Major Forces and Political Leaders During World War II by Age,
2012 KIIS Survey, Percent
18–29 30–39 40–49 50–59 60–69 70 and older
Soviet Army 63 71 81 79 81 85
Sovietpartisans 67354 0
UPA 146666 8
GermanArmy 11100 0
None 75533 5
Don’t know/not sure 10 11 4 6 5 3
Total, percent 100 100 100 100 100 100
Joseph Stalin
Positive 20 26 34 29 43 46
Neutral 26 19 19 17 11 12
Negative 42 43 37 46 40 36
Dontknowtheperson21200 1
Don’t know/not sure 10 11 8 8 7 5
Total, percent 100 100 100 100 100 100
Adolf Hitler
Positive 2 1201 0
Neutral 54421 3
Negative 85 91 92 95 94 92
Dontknowtheperson23011 2
Don’t know/notsure 52223 3
Total, percent 100 100 100 100 100 100
Roman Shukhevych
Positive 19 10 13 12 10 13
Neutral 18 16 15 11 11 5
Negative 26 42 39 49 48 52
Don’t know the person 24 20 23 18 17 21
Don’t know/not sure 13 13 11 10 14 9
Total, percent 100 100 100 100 100 100
N 229 180 198 143 150 130
in the East, the South, Kyiv City, and the Center. There are similar significant
regional differences concerning the views of the wartime activities of Joseph
Stalin and Roman Shukhevych. However, in addition to the relatively oppo-
site views concerning these leaders expressed in Galicia, concerning the case
of Stalin, and concerning Volhynia versus the South and the East, there are
also significant differences among historical regions of Western Ukraine. The
survey data challenge common perceptions of all of Western Ukraine as a
bastion of pro-UPA views.
This study shows that political party preferences affect public attitudes
in Ukraine toward World War II. Potential voters for Svoboda and the
Communist Party express opposite views of the Red Army, the UPA, and
Shukhevych. With the exceptions of perceptions of Stalin, the opinions of
Party of Regions voters are close to those of Communist Party voters on
these questions. While nationalist and ex-Orange party voters significantly
differ from Communist Party voters, majorities of backers of all major parties
World War II in Contemporary Ukraine 233
and even roughly half of potential Svoboda voters, given a choice, express
the greatest support for the Red Army. This surprising finding indicates that
voters do not necessarily share positions concerning World War II and specif-
ically the UPA that are expressed by the parties for whom they intend to cast
their ballots.
The study finds significant differences between Ukrainians and Russians,
Ukrainian speakers and Russian speakers, and the youngest generation com-
pared to the oldest generation in their views of the Soviet Army, the UPA, and
Stalin and Shukhevych. However, the magnitude of the differences is much
smaller than in the case of regions. This study implies that regional divisions
concerning World War II are likely to persist in the future because they are
rooted to a large extent in distinct regional political values and because the
younger generation, socialized in independent Ukraine, does not hold rad-
ically different views compared to the older generations, socialized in the
Soviet Union.
Attitudes toward the German Army and Adolf Hitler are the exceptions.
Overwhelmingly negative views in Ukraine of the Wehrmacht and of Hitler’s
activities during World War II are shared by the residents of all regions,
supporters of all major parties, the main ethnic and linguistic groups, and all
generations in contemporary Ukraine.
... Viatrovych lacked peer-reviewed publications but used his position in this government agency in charge of historical memory policy to propagate such policies concerning the Volhynia massacre and the OUN and the UPA by means of issuing directives and propaganda materials to government officials, education institutions, and the mass media in Ukraine. (See Katchanovski, 2014a;McBride, 2016a;Rudling, 2012a). In contrast, the government Institute of National Remembrance in Poland advanced the policy that branded the Volhynia massacre as a genocide perpetrated by the OUN-B and the UPA. ...
... The far right successors of the OUN and the UPA and related radical nationalist and neo-Nazi organizations and their armed formations attained a significant role in the Ukrainian politics and ability to overthrow the Ukrainian government because of their use of violence and threat of violence. 4 (See Katchanovski, 2016Katchanovski, , 2020 Katchanovski, 2014aKatchanovski, , 2015. ...
... The OUN-B greeting, which was adopted during its congress in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1941 after the OUN split, was a modified form of the greeting that was adopted by the OUN during its second congress in fascist Italy in August 1939. The official OUN greeting used "Glory to the Leader!" instead of "Glory to the Heroes!" as a response to "Glory to Ukraine!" (See Katchanovski, 2014a;Sprava 376;Rossolinski-Liebe, 2011). ...
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This paper analyzes the mass murder of Poles in Volhynia in Western Ukraine during World War II. The mass murder of Poles by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and the Bandera faction of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists during the Nazi occupation of Volhynia in 1943 became an important political issue in Poland and Ukraine. Previous studies by Polish, Ukrainian, and Western researchers and Ukrainian and Polish governments policies offered different and often divergent theories and narratives of this case of political violence. A research question is whether this was a Ukrainian-Polish war, ethnic cleansing or genocide. This study analyzes a variety of archival documents, historical studies, and eyewitness accounts. It concludes that the mass murder of the Polish minority in Volhynia by the OUN-B, the UPA, and their security service (SB) represented not a Ukrainian-Polish war or genocide of Poles but that it was a part of ethnic cleansing.
... They have become the ones among other central issues in Ukrainian politics since the "Orange Revolution" and the "Euromaidan." (Katchanovski, 2014;Marples, 2007Marples, , 2010Marples, , 2015Narvselius, 2012;Shevel, 2011). This is one of the first academic studies of the determinants of public attitudes toward the OUN, the UPA, and Stepan Bandera. ...
... For instance, Yushchenko claimed that half a million Ukrainians fought in the UPA in 1943 (Serwetnyk, 2010). However, the analysis of UPA documents indicates that the maximal membership of the UPA reached about 20e23 thousands in 1944 and most of them were Ukrainians from Galicia (Katchanovski, 2014). Although some of its smaller units and commanders fought until the mid-1950s, the UPA was largely decimated by 1948 by the Soviet security forces, which also arrested and exiled large numbers of Western Ukrainians because they were wrongly accused of being members of the OUN and the UPA or because their family members were in these organizations. ...
... Historical studies show that many representatives of the OUN and a significant proportion of the UPA members were involved in the Nazi genocide. The Nazi genocidal policy was responsible for the deaths of about 7 million people, including 1.5 million Jews, who perished in Ukraine during World War II (Brandon and Lower, 2008;Katchanovski, 2010Katchanovski, , 2014Vallin et al., 2002). In Volhynia, Jews accounted for more than 200,000 out of the estimated 400,000e500,000 victims among the local population and Soviet POWs (Hrytsiuk, 2001). ...
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This study analyzes controversies and public attitudes concerning the Bandera faction of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN-B), the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and Stepan Bandera in Ukraine. The research question is: Which factors affect attitudes toward the OUN-B, the UPA and Bandera in contemporary Ukraine? This article employs comparative and regression analyses of surveys commissioned by the author and conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) in 2009 and 2013 to determine the effects of regional and other factors on attitudes toward these organizations and the OUN-B leader. The study shows that regional factors and perceptions of these organizations' involvement in mass murder were the strongest predictors of the views concerning the OUN-B, the UPA and Bandera. Their public support is strongest in Galicia and weakest in the East and the South, in particular, in Donbas and Crimea, two major conflict areas since the “Euromaidan.”
... Furthermore, to mobilize millions of Ukrainians against both Nazi Germany and domestic nationalist movements, Stalin employed coercive authoritarian tactics to include forced conscription into the Red Army and mass violence, incarceration, and forced deportation against civilians in Ukraine suspected of collaboration with German or independent nationalist forces (Bell 2018;Rozenas et al. 2017;Zhukov 2007). Though many Ukrainians died in World War II fighting for the Soviet Union, others also fought as against it (Katchanovski 2014;Marples 2006Marples , 2010. However, Stalin's brutality during WWII was largely whitewashed by Soviet propaganda where he was mythologized as the hero/liberator of Ukraine from Nazi occupation (Khapaeva 2009;Snyder 2011). 2 Only after the collapse of the Soviet Union did the hero/liberator narrative begin to face significant public scrutiny and contestation in Ukraine (Katchanovski 2014;Tumarkin 1994). ...
... Though many Ukrainians died in World War II fighting for the Soviet Union, others also fought as against it (Katchanovski 2014;Marples 2006Marples , 2010. However, Stalin's brutality during WWII was largely whitewashed by Soviet propaganda where he was mythologized as the hero/liberator of Ukraine from Nazi occupation (Khapaeva 2009;Snyder 2011). 2 Only after the collapse of the Soviet Union did the hero/liberator narrative begin to face significant public scrutiny and contestation in Ukraine (Katchanovski 2014;Tumarkin 1994). Stalin remains especially divisive across Russian and Ukrainian identity cleavages, where ethnic Russians in Ukraine have more favorable views of Stalin than ethnic Ukrainians (Kuzio 2017). ...
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Our research considers the relationship between historical memory and political evaluations of the past and present. We first examine how historical reflection on the Soviet Union under Stalin is influenced by memories of familial suffering during World War II and victimization under the widespread Soviet gulag prison system. Based on a 2019 representative survey of Ukraine, we show that respondents who recall family members being injured or killed fighting during World War II and those who recount families being imprisoned in Soviet gulags have increased positive and negative appraisals of the Soviet Union under Stalin respectively. However, we also find that favorable opinions of Stalin are strongly predicted by approval of Vladimir Putin, who has actively promoted rehabilitation of Stalin’s legacy to bolster personalist rule at home and justify revisionist agendas abroad, including in Ukraine. Our results underscore interactions between the present and past in shaping historical memory such that what appears as enduring legacies of the past could also be a function of present political circumstances.
... Katchanovski, 2014). In 2014, moreover, all of the various themes covered in the present paper collection e whether they regard the 1920se1950s, or the post-Soviet period e have, in connection with Russia's annexation of Crimea and covert intervention in the Donets Basin, also entered Russian as well as Western mass media reports, European intellectual discourse, East-West political dialogue, and even international diplomacy (Shekhovtsov and Umland, 2014;Risch, 2015).The contributions to this special issue do not directly tackle Russia's peculiar "war" of information, interpretation and allegation around Ukrainian nationalism that started in 2014, if not before (Fedor, 2015). ...
... In post-Soviet Ukraine, there is a staggeringly escapist debate about the issue of how the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, especially Stepan Bandera's faction in the late 1930s and early 1940s, should be assessed and categorized (Marples, 2006;Amar et al., 2007;Himka, 2011a;Hrytsak et al., 2013;Katchanovski, 2014). The fascist label for the early OUN(B) continuous to be, in spite of more and more affirmative research results, rejected by many Ukrainian hobby historians in-and outside Ukraine. ...
Full-text available
The international study of fascism has, over the last 25 years, experienced considerable consolidation. Inspired by influential theoretical publications of Roger D. Griffin and others, a new sub-discipline, " comparative fascist studies, " has emerged that proceeds from a largely common conceptualization of fascism. It explicitly includes and particularly promotes the cross-cultural, as well as inter-epochal investigation into ultra-nationalisms outside Central and Western Europe after the year 1945. The concepts, approaches and hypotheses of this new sub-discipline are well-suited to be applied to the study of inter-war and post-Soviet right-wing radicalism in Eastern Europe. However, before comprehensive classification and informative comparison becomes possible, the putative fascist phenomena of Eastern Europe need more thorough descriptive analysis, field research, and empirical investigation by researchers, in the region.
... New genocide memorials have been erected in both western and eastern parts of Ukraine and memory work on the Roma genocide is supported in Ukraine by most of the parliamentary parties (Kotljarchuk 2016c). The previous studies show significant regional and political differences concerning memory narratives of World War II in contemporary Ukraine (Jilge 2006(Jilge , 2007Katchanovsky 2014, Plokhy 2017. The Nazi genocide of Roma is an exception here, due to the absence of essential regional and political differences in the ongoing process of commemoration. ...
Full-text available
Thousands of Roma were killed in Ukraine by the Nazis and auxiliary police on the spot. There are more than 50,000 Roma in today’s Ukraine, represented by second and third generation decendants of the genocide survivors. The discussion on Roma identity cannot be isolated from the memory of the genocide, which makes the struggle over the past a reflexive landmark that mobilizes the Roma movement. About twenty Roma genocide memorials have been erected in Ukraine during last decade, and in 2016 the national memorial of the Roma genocide was opened in Babi Yar. However, scholars do not have a clear picture of memory narratives and memory practices of the Roma genocide in Ukraine. A comprehensive analysis of the contemporary situation is not possible without an examination of the history and memory of the Roma genocide before 1991.
... Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych are extremely controversial figures in independent Ukraine. They are seen as heroes by ardent Ukrainian nationalists, in particular in western Ukraine, and Nazi collaborators by ardent Russian nationalists (seeMarples, 2006;Katchanovski, 2014). 14 This discourse is promoted by the Russian state, which seeks to promote the rights of Russians abroad as part of the compatriot policy, and is found more generally byFournier (2002) among Russian groups in Ukraine. ...
Full-text available
Social Science Quarterly, 96: 830–859. doi:10.1111/ssqu.12193 Objective: This article investigates what kin identification means from a bottom-up perspective in two kin majority cases: Moldova and Crimea. Methods: The article is based on ~50 fieldwork interviews conducted in both Moldova and Crimea with everyday social actors (2012-2013). Results: Ethnic homogeneity for kin majorities is more fractured that previously considered. Respondents identified more in terms of assemblages of ethnic, cultural, political, linguistic, territorial identities than in mutually exclusive census categories. Conclusions: To understand fully the relations between kin majorities, their kin-state and home state and the impact of growing kin engagement policies, like dual citizenship, it is necessary to analyses the complexities of the lived experience of kin identification for members of kin majorities and how this relates to kin-state identification and affiliation. Understanding these complexities helps to have a more nuanced understanding of the role of ethnicity in post-Communist societies, in terms of kin-state and intra-state relations.
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The issue of the political rehabilitation and glorification of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) became one of the central political issues in Ukraine after the Orange Revolution and the Euromaidan. It provoked major political and historical controversies and debates in Ukraine and other countries. Presidents Yushchenko and Poroshenko, their parties, far right organizations, and many Ukrainian historians attempted to recast the OUN-B and the UPA as parts of a popular national liberation movement that fought against Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union and to present the OUN-B and UPA leaders as national heroes. They denied, minimized or justified the involvement of the OUN-B and the UPA leaders and members in the mass murder of Jews, Poles, Russians, and Ukrainians. The analyses of biographic publications, historical studies, and archival documents show that the majority of the OUN-B and UPA leaders and very large proportions of their members collaborated with Nazi Germany, mainly in the beginning of the Second World War. Nearly half of the top and middle-ranked leaders of these organizations and at least until the end of 1943 the majority of UPA members served in various police formations. They assisted the German occupation authorities in implementing genocidal policies towards the Jews, Ukrainians, Russians, and Poles by helping to carry out mass shootings and create conditions intended for the physical annihilation of the entire Jewish population and large numbers of Ukrainians, Russians, and Poles, specifically in Volhynia. The fact that many police commanders and large numbers of policemen in various locations and formations followed orders from the OUN-B by deserting en masse from their service, in particular in Volhynia in the spring of 1943, and forming the basis of the UPA shows that these commanders and police members were de facto controlled by the OUN-B.
Conference Paper
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This paper analyzes the role of far right in the Ukrainian politics during the “Euromaidan” and the war in Donbas. The issue of the involvement of Ukrainian far right organizations in the “Euromaidan” and the war in Donbas have been politicized and polarized. Russian and separatist politicians and the media often presented the “Euromaidan” as a “fascist coup” and the Maidan government as a “fascist junta.” In contrast, the governments and the mainstream media in Western countries tended to present the role of the far right in the “Euromaidan” and in post-Maidan Ukraine, specifically in the conflict in Donbas, as marginal. Previous academic studies generally reached similar conclusions. They focused on numerical strength and electoral support for the far right parties and ignored other aspects of influence of the radical nationalist and neo-Nazi parties, specifically their role in the political violence, such as the Maidan and Odesa massacres and the war in Donbas. However, the number of academic studies of the contemporary far right in Ukraine is generally limited. The research question is as follows: What is the role of the far right in the Ukrainian politics during and after the “Euromaidan”? This study analyzes the involvement of specific Ukrainian radical nationalist and neo-Nazi organizations in the “Euromaidan,” the Odesa massacre, and the war in Donbas, their performance in the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2014 and the 2015 local elections in Ukraine. The analysis focuses on major Ukrainian far right organizations, such as Svoboda (Freedom), the Right Sector, the Social-National Assembly, the White Hammer, the UNA-UNSO, Bratstvo, and C14, and paramilitary formations or special police and National Guard units organized and controlled to various extent by them, such as the Azov regiment, Dnipro, Donbas, Aidar, Sich, and St. Mary’s battalions, and the Volunteer Ukrainian Corps. It uses various sources of data, such as online recordings of live broadcasts and videos of the Maidan and Odesa massacres and the war in Donbas, official database of court decisions in Ukraine concerning investigations of the involvement of the far right in major cases of political violence, video recordings of the Maidan massacre trial, information posted on websites and social media groups of far right organizations, and media reports in Ukrainian, Russian, and English languages. The study shows that the far right organizations had significant but minority representation among the Maidan leadership and protesters, the post-Maidan governments, and in the presidential, parliamentary, and local elections. However, the analysis also shows that the far right organizations and football ultras played a key role during violent attacks, such as attempts to storm the presidential administration on December 1, 2013 and the parliament of Ukraine in January and on February 18, 2014. There is also various evidence of the Right Sector involvement in a violent attack of the Berkut police during its highly publicized dispersal of protesters on November 30, 2013. The Right Sector and Svoboda and smaller organizations had a crucial role in the violent overthrow of the Viktor Yanukovych government, in particular, in the Maidan massacre of the protesters and the police on February 18-20, 2014. The study demonstrates that the Right Sector, the Social-National Assembly/ Patriot of Ukraine, and groups of football ultras were involved in the Odesa massacre on May 2, 2014. This paper also shows that the far right organizations and their volunteer battalions and paramilitary units had a significant role in the civil war in Donbas but a comparably minor role in fighting with several regular Russian military units during direct military interventions by Russia in August 2014 and February 2015. Major implications of this study for the Ukrainian politics and the conflict between the West and Russia over Ukraine are discussed in the conclusion. This paper implies that the far right has significant but not dominant role in the Ukrainian politics during and after the “Euromaidan.” But far right organizations and their armed units had a key role in major cases of political violence during and after the “Euromaidan,” and they attained ability to overthrow by force the government of the one of the largest European countries.
This essay contextualises the recent controversy about the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR), which opened in September 2014 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, by documenting the background shadowing the campaigns spearheaded by the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress against CMHR advisory board plans to install a permanent gallery devoted to the Holocaust. Their history demonstrates how these ultranationalist lobbies have glorified the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, its militant wing (UPA), and the Waffen-SS Galizien while rationalising or occluding their roles in Second World War period massacres of Jewish and Polish civilians.
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