Left: monument to fascist and Nazi collaborator that stands in Lviv, Ukraine. Right: a statue
of V.I. Lenin in Kharkov, Ukraine is brought down, September 28, 2014. (RIAN)
On May 15, a bill honouring organizations that collaborated with the Nazis in World War Two, including carrying out massacres of Jewish and Polish people, was signed into law by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, having been passed April 9 by Ukraine’s parliament, the Supreme Rada. The law specifically honours the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). Also signed into law that day was another bill outlawing communist and Nazi symbols, that targets communism by equating it with Nazism.
According to Ukrainian website zik.ua, the law honouring the Nazi collaborators states in part, “The state acknowledges that the fighters for Ukraine’s independence played an important role in reinstating the country’s statehood declared on Aug. 24, 1991.
“In compliance with the law, the government will provide social guarantees and bestow honors on OUN-UPA fighters.
“Public denunciation of the role of OUN-UPA in restoring the independence of Ukraine is illegal.”
Ukrainian President Poroshenko pays tribute to veterans of the fascist UPA, Kiev, May 8, 2015.
The extreme right nationalists and neo-Nazis currently in power in Kiev portray the OUN, founded in 1929, as a “revolutionary” or “partisan” organization that sought to “liberate” Ukraine from Soviet rule. Josh Cohen, writing for Reuters, points out, “Many OUN leaders were trained in Nazi Germany, and the group’s philosophy was influenced by Nazi racial theorists such as Alfred Rosenberg. OUN literature, for example, declared the need to ‘combat Jews as supporters of the Muscovite-Bolshevik regime… Death to the Muscovite-Jewish commune! Beat the commune, save Ukraine!'”
“Starting with a pogrom in Lviv shortly after the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union,” Cohen writes, “OUN militias — with the support of the Nazis — embarked on a killing spree in Western Ukraine that claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Jews. After the Nazis dissolved these militias, many of their members joined the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police in German service, where they received weapons-training and became one of the most important instruments of the Holocaust in Belarus and Western Ukraine.
“By 1943 the OUN had seized control of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), a Ukrainian nationalist paramilitary group, and declared itself opposed to both the retreating Germans and the oncoming Soviets. Although no longer in Nazi service, the UPA nevertheless continued to target and kill Jews, herding them into labor camps for execution. The UPA also engaged in the mass ethnic cleansing of Poles during this time, killing nearly 100,000 people.”
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko Signs Four Laws
Four new laws that Ukrainian President Poroshenko has signed criminalize public denial of Nazi atrocities and put the Nazis and the Soviets on par as a manoevre to get those who collaborated with the Nazis portrayed as freedom fighters while permitting the falsification of history as concerns the role the Soviets played in liberating Europe by outlawing Soviet-era symbols, except for certain educational and scientific purposes. As the Poroshenko regime integrates neo-Nazi battalions into the regular armed fores, the new legislation also allegedly prohibits Nazi symbolism, opens up the secret service archives from the Soviet era and forbids the denial of Ukrainian nationalists’ fight for “independence” during World War II. It blames the Soviets for stigmatizing the so-called nationalists who collaborated with the Nazis.
Soviet emblems will be removed from buildings, and streets and even cities bearing the names of Soviet-era figures will be changed, a process that will cost some 5 billion hryvnas ($240 million) during the next six months, according to Oleksandr Klymenko, Ukraine’s former minister of Revenue and Duties, who criticized the move.
According to news reports, individuals found guilty of violating the ban on Communist and Nazi symbols will face up to five years behind bars. Organizations, including media outlets, can be shut down or face criminal charges that carry up to 10 years in prison.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) representative for media freedom, Dunja Mijatovic, warned in a statement that the new legislation, which she said was formulated in “broadly and vaguely defined language,” could “easily lead to suppression of political, provocative and critical speech, especially in the media.” For their part, Russian analysts point out that the issue of de-communization had not been high on the Ukrainian political agenda before the outbreak of the current political and international crisis in 2014.
Ukraine’s conflict with Russia over the latter’s reincorporation of Crimea into its territory last March and its alleged support for pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine has precipitated a process that took place much earlier in some other former Soviet republics.
Billboard from March 2014 referendum in Crimea opposes fascism and demands that the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and
Right Sector be banned.
“In recent decades, Ukrainian authorities, for the most part, had been on board with Russia and its shared history with Ukraine,” Alexei Makarkin, deputy director at the Moscow-based Center for Political Technologies think tank said. “But now that Ukraine has essentially lost Crimea and a chunk of the east, it is easier to begin. [De-communization] unites those who blame Russia for the crisis. It would have been more difficult to support prior to these major changes in the country’s political landscape.”
Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky wrote a letter to Gennady Zyuganov, the longtime head of the country’s Communist Party, in which he pledged to protect Communist-era monuments. Zyuganov had appealed to the minister in an open letter over the destruction of Lenin monuments in Ukraine, which he said demonstrated confusion between anti-Soviet sentiment and Russophobia. Medinsky’s letter, Izvestia reports, reads:
“Our position is that evidence of the Soviet era should be preserved to remind us of the power of the human spirit, the military heroism and labor of our predecessors.
“This is the only way we can achieve the historical and cultural continuity necessary for the future of Russia. Lenin statues are certainly a part of our historical identity and the Culture Ministry will do everything in its power to preserve them.”
There are still some 6,000 statues of Lenin throughout Russia, according to Izvestia.
Efforts to eradicate or glorify historical periods for political purposes are merely an attempt to compensate for leaders’ inabilities to address pressing social and economic issues, said Viktor Mironenko, head of the Ukrainian Studies Center at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ European Institute.
“The Ukraine crisis has led both Russian and Ukrainian authorities to foster a simplified form of nationalism in which there is very little room for nuance,” he said.
The de-communization of other post-Soviet states, including the Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — has been more abrupt than that of Ukraine. All three states have banned the public demonstration of Soviet symbols, though they continue to be proudly displayed on public holidays and at memorial events. These countries also took pains to eliminate and bar from their governments and security services those who had been a part of governance in the former Soviet socialist republics.
Alexander Bruter, a scholar at the Institute for Humanities and Political Studies in Moscow, claims that the Baltic states’ decisive rejection of their Soviet past helped the countries be recognized in the West and eventually facilitated their accession to the European Union in 2004.
According to news reports, a law was submitted to Latvia’s parliament last week that would outlaw the public display of St. George’s ribbon — the victory banner which symbolizes the defeat of fascism in Europe. The forces promoting the revanchism of the Nazi forces are promoting the views that the St. George ribbon should be banned because it is allegedly synonymous with Russian territorial expansion.
(Sputnik International, Reuters, zik.ua)