Why the cult of Stepan Bandera should be buried

Boris Oglavenko, Dmitro Mrychnyk
January 1, 2023

It is necessary to bury this miserable cult of totalitarian leadership, imposed on us by enemy propaganda, because it contains neither benefit nor truth. Its existence only creates misunderstandings and exposes us as ignorant fools, who, unfortunately, in their overwhelming majority do not study and do not know the real facts, events, processes, theoretical discussions in the Ukrainian liberation environment and movement of the interwar, war and post-war period (1920s-1950s). They repeat propaganda clichés and spells of the enemy with the hope that they will work.

“No party can have a monopoly on the Ukrainian people”.

Taras Bulba-Borovets

“Bandera wanted to return to totalitarianism, which was bad for the Ukrainian people. So those who want to build a monument to Bandera want to return to totalitarianism? Monuments to Bandera, who did not know what was going on here? And what about those who fought here, what about them?”

Yevhen Stakhiv

"Mr. Bandera does not see new truths. At a time when TAM is independent of any one political party and the UGVR and the UPA and the SB, when even the OUN has a different ideological face and the stamp "Bandera" is kept only by historical misunderstanding - at that time HERE Mr. Bandera from the pedestal of the "leadership" dictates "binding" ideological formulas, gives orders to commanders of military units, decides on mandates that he did not give and in the foreign press humiliates the UPA, reduced to the role of his private army."

Ivan Maistrenko

"We are standing at our grave, there is no point in going to the West. I will not walk even 10 kilometers, my stomach will hurt. It's better to die honestly here, but not to see the scandals of these gentlemen (referring to sharp disagreements in nationalist organizations abroad. - Author). Better go away, friend Orlan, you yourself are from the "blacks" and will defend the "blacks". And I am considered a Marxist in the West, we condemn capitalism. But try to invite them to read Marx's "Capital" - they will immediately call me a Bolshevik agent."

Vasyl Kuk

Traditionally in Ukraine, the attitude to the historical figure Stepan Bandera has two poles: either he is a hero and outstanding leader, or even the only existing leader of the entire Ukrainian liberation movement, or he is a fascist and collaborator. There is no recognized alternative. Once President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was asked: how do you feel about Bandera? He could have said that the attitude towards historical figures should be based on historical facts and should not necessarily be emotionally colored. This would be a decent answer for a man who at least does not want to divide his compatriots. However, the President was apparently more concerned about his own ratings, which are held up by the absence of a position as such. Therefore, he mumbled something about different people having different attitudes - and the expression on his face at that moment was more like that of a person who expects to be executed for the wrong answer. And this is indicative.

In fact, the cult of "leader Bandera", which had limited popularity in the years before the Russian-Ukrainian war, and became widespread at the beginning of the war, has a rather strange nature. Today, people who, in the era of the Internet, and the corresponding accessibility of sources and archival materials, do not even know the known facts, but can call themselves "Bandera followers".

For example, it is a fact that the original and full name of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army is the UPA "Polissya Sich", that it was created not on October 14, 1942, but in the summer of 1941 by Ataman Taras Borovets, who worked closely and was ideologically guided by the Government of the Ukrainian People's Republic in exile before the outbreak of World War II. Bandera followers today can't answer at least how the OUN(b), OUN(sd), OUN(r) differ from the OUN(m), not to mention the OUN(z), the "two-timers" from the OUN(z), the "Mitringa group", Vasyl Cook's NVRO or the UGVR and the Leadership of the OUN in Ukraine, and why this difference is of great historical importance.

Or, consider which state was single-handedly "restored" by the "Bandera-Lebedya group" by its solely organizational act of June 30, 1941, given the existence of the State Center of the UPR (government in exile), or the monarchical environment of the Union of Hetman-statesmen from among the supporters of the puppet "Hetman" Pavlo Skoropadskyi and his "Ukrainian State", and even stating "The restored Ukrainian State will closely cooperate with the National Socialist Greater Germany, which, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, is creating a new order in Europe and the world and helping the Ukrainian people to liberate themselves from Moscow's occupation. The Ukrainian National Revolutionary Army, that will be formed on the Ukrainian land, will continue to fight together with the Allied German Army against the Moscow occupation for the Sovereign Ukrainian State and a new order in the whole world", - they forgot: "How Transcarpathia fought".

And that some 2 years ago, in 1939: "Forty thousand people were fighting, shedding innocent blood for green Verkhovyna, for Carpathian Ukraine" - for the Ukrainian Republic, which was marched by troops of the "allies": The Kingdom of Hungary, the Second Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Third Reich, and which in bloody battles was opposed, among other things, by the membership of the then united OUN.

Usually, the blinded and rather caricatured adoration of Bandera is rather ironic and is not intended to restore the traditions and evolutionary development of Ukrainian nationalism of the 1930-1950s. It is rather a loan from punk culture, where it was customary to agree with all the stereotypes of the conservative public. That is, such "Banderism" is, in fact, a raised middle finger to Russian propaganda, which generally depicts Ukrainians as Nazi collaborators and policemen, and simultaneously partisans of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. Of course, the assignment of this imposed label does not always mean a commitment to integral nationalism and mystical "Donbas" conspiracy, just as someone belonging to the punk scene does not mean they desire chaos and heroin addiction.

Today the cult of Bandera has completely turned into a humorous caricature. Serious adoration of this character is rather rare and marginal. Nevertheless, this humorousness, in the face of Russian Ukrainophobia and aggressive efforts, regularly raises many questions from people outside the Ukrainian context. Why a Bandera Avenue in Kyiv? Why cultivation of the ideology of the "Bandera-Lebedya group", close to Nazism, through the personal admiration of the "leader" for the messianic elitist virus of Dontsov's creations, who was never a member of either the UVO or the OUN, and was in conflict with Konovalets? Konovalets, by the way, warned against orientation towards the Nazis at the Berlin Conference of the OUN on June 3-6 1933, supported by leading members and theorists from among the participants of the Ukrainian Revolution of 1917-1920, including Dmytro Andrievsky, a publicist and foreign policy advisor to the OUN in the 1930s, as well as Volodymyr Martynets and Mykola Sciborsky, publicists, political theorists and editors of a number of UWO and OUN publications.

Having received a translation of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" in late 1933 - early 1934, Konovalets wrote in a letter to Onatsky: "As you probably know, our rank-and-file membership in the WUZ (Western Ukrainian Lands) was unusually enthusiastic about Hitlerism's coming to power and pinned great hopes on it, despite the fact that I personally, knowing the relationship, several times drew the attention of the Regional Executive to try to paralyze the calf-like enthusiasm for Hitlerism among our rank-and-file membership in the WUZ."

Of course, none of these questions has an unambiguously affirmative answer, given the heterogeneous environment of all political parties, organizations and movements, unless they turn into totalitarian structures or self-devouring sects. We simply became victims of propaganda aimed against us.

In fact, the very cult of Bandera would not have been possible without the efforts of the anti-liberation agitation of the USSR, in which all the evils of the Ukrainian liberation movement in general, and the nationalist movement in particular, were concentrated in one single person: Bandera is to blame for everything, everything is because of Bandera, whoever is against the USSR regime is a "Banderaite". In the Russian great-power anti-Ukrainian propaganda in the USSR, this mythical Bandera and "Banderism" simply replaced the previous primitive and generalized name of the terrible dream of every Russian chauvinist and imperialist, regardless of the political spectrum - self-awareness and sovereignty of Ukrainians. Also called and equally mythologized as "Petliurism", and earlier as "Mazepynism".

Even Andriy Melnyk, Stepan Bandera's rival in the battle for leadership of the OUN after Konovalets's murder, would have been better suited to the role of a hellish demon and nightmare, because he had volunteered to fight against the Russian Empire since 1914, while Bandera was a five year old child, picking his nose, fighting nettles with a stick and herding geese.

Nowadays, few people remember that orthodox Banderites from the "Bandera-Swan group" almost from the first months of the war between Hitler and Stalin began a fratricidal war for the chimera of totalitarian domination of the "only" and "infallible" "leader", the first victims of which were Melnyk's people. Against this background, the ideology of the already completely virtual Right Sector, which contains references to Bandera and fetishization of the trident with a sword, which after the split in the OUN on February 10, 1940 remained the emblem of the OUN (m), looks especially amusing.

In other words, we generally pay so much attention to Bandera only because he was demonized and continues to be demonized by the Kremlin propaganda.

What was the real Bandera like, to become a symbol of Ukrainianness, albeit as a joke, a little more than half a century after his death? He was not a theorist prone to self-education and reflection, because he never understood anything about the essence and practices of any totalitarianism, remaining impreisoned and in isolation after the adventure with the above-mentioned "Act of Restoration of the Ukrainian State", albeit in improved conditions, first in the Berlin police prison on Prinzregenten Street, and from January 1942 in "Zellenbau", where the most important political prisoners of the 3rd Reich of various nationalities were held, including Ukrainians Andriy Melnyk, Taras Bulba-Borovets, Yaroslav Stetsko, and Oleh Olzhych (poet, archaeologist, Melnyk's deputy and the head of the OUN (m) after the latter's imprisonment, tortured by the Gestapo there on June 10, 1944.)

Bandera did not understand anything when his brothers Vasyl and Oleksandr were tortured by Polish Volksdeutsche guards at the end of July 1942 in the Nazi Auschwitz concentration camp, his brother Bohdan was shot in 1944, (according to various versions either by the Gestapo, the NKVD or the SMERSH in the territories of modern Kherson or Mykolaiv regions), his wife's brother Lev Oparivsky was shot by the Gestapo in 1942 in Lviv (according to another version, in Zhovkva), his father Andriy was shot by the NKVD on July 10, 1941 in Kyiv, and his sisters Volodymyr, Marta-Maria and Oksana were arrested by the NKVD at different times and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment in the "correctional labor" camps of the Gulag.

Bandera did not conduct an audit and displayed no progress in his political views after what he had experienced: what is the "doublethink" with the "double program" of the OUN Central Committee with formal "recognition" of the resolutions and programs of the pivotal Third Extraordinary Great Assembly of the OUN(b) in 1943, which approved an uncompromising break with the vestiges of the far-right political past and uncompromising left-democratic progress - for the masses of "black" Ukrainian people and "enemies" from the Regional OUN (in Ukraine), UGVR and UPA, on the one hand; and the "good old" crypto-fascist integral nationalism of the Donets type - for the "privy" and "sworn" of the "Order", on the other. Lets not forget the trips to Spain during the fascist dictatorship of Francisco Franco in the 1950s.

And this is at a time when Vasyl Kuk on May 9, 1945 in Uman issued leaflets on behalf of the UPA Commander-in-Chief Roman Shukhevych and on behalf of the OUN. The leaflets congratulated all the inhabitants of Ukraine on the victory over fascism and stressed that "along with Hitler's imperialism, we must defeat communist imperialism."

"Moreover, we addressed the soldiers of the Red Army - we reminded them that they fought against the Nazis shoulder to shoulder and urged them to turn their weapons against the oppressors from the Bolshevik nomenclature."

Yaroslav Starukh survived the political concentration camp Bereza Kartuzka in interwar Poland, as well as Gestapo torture in the infamous Lontskoho Prison from December 1942 to September 1943 until his release by the OUN Security Service. In 1946, a year before his death in the battle in Zakerzonia, in his work "Opposition (ghoul) to fascism" he described the following principles of "black, bronze and red" fascism:

"Fascism exists wherever there is dictatorship, totalitarian system, blackmail over the rights of the unit, state centralism, police terror, concentration camps, where there is a mono-party system and government propaganda, where there is governmental violent extermination and glorification of the ruling dictator, where militarism and invasive imperialism reign, where there is no personal or national freedom, where there is no freedom of conscience, thought, speech, press and associations or parties, where there are no genuine free elections and parliamentary power, where there is no humanity, humanism, but where hatred, terror and robbery reign."

Bandera was neither a talented publicist nor a passionate orator, as Ivan Maistrenko ironically writes in his polemical article:

"In essence, he no longer has any political power, no real significance, except for the ever-shrinking circle of his supporters in exile. The once fervent fanatics are leaving his organization with a bang. Nothing will change this state, and the use of the word "God" in different cases, 4 times in 37 lines of newspaper column will not help here."

Bandera was also neither a brave field commander nor a hero of guerrilla warfare, underground struggle or resistance of political prisoners in the Gulag camps. Bandera was not been Ukraine after January 1940. All his achievements are more about the leader's complex of his own "elitism", selfish careerism, and readiness to go over the heads of other people in the struggle for power and personal total affirmation, not shying away from any dirty methods:  intrigues, manipulations, lies, appropriation of other people's names and merits, or even political murders of "wrong Ukrainians".

The history of the Ukrainian liberation insurgency knows many worthy of heroization personalities: Taras Bulba-Borovets, Ivan Mitringa, Vasyl Kuk, Mykhailo Soroka, Kyrylo Osmak, Ivan Bahriany, Yuriy Horlis-Horsky, Ivan Masterno, Danylo Shumuk, Petro Fedun-Poltava, Osyp Dyakiv-Hornovy, Yosyp Pozichanyuk, Yakiv Busel, Yaroslav Starukh, Neil Hasevich, Myroslav Symchych, Kateryna Zarytska, Halyna Savytska-Holoyad, Halyna Didyk, Kalyna Lukan, Hanna Popovych, Jews Varm Shaya Davidovich, Leiba Dobrovsky, Samuel Neuman, Abraham Stertser, Kazakh Omar Aloiot, Belgian Albert Hasenbroeks. These and many others, known and unknown. could teach us something in the XXI century. Unlike Bandera, who is definitely cannot.

It is necessary to bury this miserable cult of totalitarian leadership, imposed on us by enemy propaganda, because it contains neither benefit nor truth - its existence only creates misunderstandings and exposes us as ignorant fools, who, unfortunately, in their overwhelming majority do not study and do not know the real facts, events, processes, theoretical discussions in the Ukrainian liberation environment and movement of the interwar, war and post-war period (1920s-1950s). They repeat propaganda clichés and spells of the enemy with the hope that they will work.

Translated from Ukrainian using Deepl and proofread by AN