Bandera and collaborators

Is Ukrainian nationalism of the Banderites an inhumane ideology that has no place in the 21st century?

Myths and Stereotypes Historical Reality

Ukrainian nationalism of the Banderites: an inhumane ideology has no place in the 21st century!

The term “nationalism” alone immediately conjures up the notion of “national exclusivity” or “hatred.” However, this phenomenon is more complex and very often simply exemplifies banal patriotism.

Patriotism can also be a contentious subject of discussion, but even in the 21st century people, societies and countries feel the need for certain principles espousing the convergence of individuals and organized association in the form of patriotism. One such principle includes safeguarding one’s community under potentially dangerous circumstances. In all of its incarnations, Ukrainian nationalism was concerned first and foremost with this principle. And our assessment of Ukrainian nationalism—beginning with “fascism” and ending with “patriotism”—will more than likely be dependent not on academic theory, but rather on a moral assessment of the actions of specific individuals in certain situations. Moreover, this assessment will also depend on what type of values “Ukrainian nationalism” espouses as of late—and not only with respect to the mid-20th century, but even in 2013 and 2014. “Ukrainian nationalism” today has become a demonic villain and anti-hero throughout the entire spectrum of Russian propaganda. But this fact will likely not hinder its further existence.

Nationalism as an independent ideology is extremely limited and requires a more potent ideological component: be it liberalism, conservatism, socialism, communism or fascism. For this reason, nationalism in its purest form is intrinsic to the national liberation movement, which is called upon to unite the country, irregardless of the political and social outlooks of its representatives. This is analogous to a sporting event where various teams compete for the same trophy or medal in the same championship tournament.

The biggest problem of Ukrainian nationalism’s classification that researchers must contend with lies in the fact that it was largely a configuration whose ideological essence was mixed, eclectic and constantly changing under different circumstances. For the OUN, the establishment of a Ukrainian state was key, while socio-economic aspects were secondary. This suggests that the interests of an ethnic group relegated the question of “ideology” to a secondary position: the main objective was to liberate one’s own community, one’s own nation, irrespective of it being under Polish or Soviet rule. It was only after members of the OUN encountered the reality of Soviet occupation in 1941 did they realize the importance of the socio-economic aspect of the organization’s platform.

In the convoluted reality of interwar Europe, Ukrainian integral nationalism became associated with that type of ideology known as the “third path” that rejected both liberal capitalism and Marxist socialism. However, already in the resolutions of the OUN’s Third Extraordinary Grand Assembly in 1943, one could see the liberal slogan “Freedom to the Nation, Freedom to the People!,” as the platform’s contents included the fulfilled demands of the Social Democrats. In fact, it seems as if the assembly lacked a stable ideology. See: “Banderites were Nazis?”.

Such an apparently unexpected reversal may seem contrived or coincidental, but it is by no means odd. It reflects the artificial nature of rigid ideological opinions and appraisals so evident in today’s point of view. “Ukrainian nationalism” always followed the political trends of its era. In the first place, it served as a political instrument for the defense of its people, and only subsequently as a “fashionable ideology.” For this reason, Ukrainian nationalism would come to be labeled “fascist” in nature for the same amount of time as it would be also considered a “liberal democracy.” Nevertheless, in its origins it was very liberal and democratic, but the brutal 20th century succeeded to taint this trend.

At the beginning of the 20th century, nationalism in Ukrainian political thought consisted of the following interpretations: the liberal view (M. Hrushevsky), the socio-democratic view (which found its extension in the National-Communism of O. Shumsky and M. Skrypnyk), the conservative view (V. Lypynsky) and the independent view (M. Mikhnovsky). However, the liberal-democratic tradition was and remains the dominant constant. It may seem odd, but the Ukrainian movement, which by its nature rejects foreign rule, was continuously in opposition to the governing authority of the land. And this defines one aspect of the political spectrum, namely the opposition that calls for “freedom against the ruling power.” In its struggle, this opposition leans toward that ideology, which leads to freedom in a given ideological era. Ukrainians initiated their movement based on 19th century liberalism, and today they rely on the liberalism of the 21st century.

If we refer back to academic opinion, then attempts to interpret Ukrainian nationalism as racist simply do not withstand criticism. Ukrainian integral nationalism never promoted exclusivity or the superiority of the Ukrainian nation based on racial principles.

Wikipedia provides the following definition of chauvinism: an ideology, the essence of which lies in the promotion of national superiority with the intent of substantiating the right to discriminate and subjugate other peoples.

Ukrainians have not oppressed other nations but were themselves the object of discrimination as an oppressed nation.

But recidivist propagandists will rely on a more extreme definition of chauvinism in their attempt to label the OUN as chauvinistic. The Encyclopedia Britannica’s explanation comes to mind: “Excessive and unreasonable patriotism…any kind of ultranationalism…used to connote an undue partiality or attachment to a national group or place to which one belongs.”

Here again the propagandists narrative suffers from a complete reluctance to recognize the difference between the nationalism of a nation in a full-fledged state and the nationalism of a stateless nation.

The readiness of the representatives of any nation/state to sacrifice their life in the struggle for the freedom of their native country is a normal collective defensive reaction and cannot fall under the definition of “excessive and unreasonable patriotism,” inasmuch as such behavior is rational and justified. Or perhaps it is not all “rational” or “justified.” But similar convictions lie at the core of the contemporary world order. And on this basis, the alteration of “international political systems” is only window dressing at the base of these rationales that are nurtured by successful contemporary societies. They protect themselves in the best way possible under specific historical circumstances, but if they do defend themselves—then indeed, they will continue to exist. Consequently, they will develop an ideological argumentation on their own terms and it will be of little concern to them if scholars will judge this critically in 70 years’ time.

Straight patriotism must be supported by credible sources and facts that can be used for their understanding and for "ideological debate".
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