Military Review

The UPA was like the army of Makhno - a peasant and often very cruel: interview of the historian Jaroslav Gritsak

In an interview with IA REGNUM, the director of the Institute historical researches of Lviv University, guest professor of the Central European University in Budapest, senator and head of the Department of History of Ukraine at the Ukrainian Catholic University Yaroslav Gritsak tells the story of the creation of the OUN-UPA, about the development of these structures, and also analyzes the most controversial and resonant moments of history with their participation.

REGNUM: What are the pros and cons of the revitalization of controversial historical issues in Ukraine during the presidency of Viktor Yushchenko?

Plus, I see that discussions on history have intensified, in particular, regarding those phenomena, events and persons who are not so much silent about, but kept in the background under President Leonid Kuchma. Kuchma’s historical policy was to not wake a sleeping dog, not to touch sensitive issues that carry the threat of a split in Ukraine. Yushchenko addressed precisely these issues. In the first place - to the famine 1932-1933's. And here Yushchenko’s policy unexpectedly turned out to be successful for many. As the polls show, during Yushchenko’s rule, there was a consensus in Ukrainian society that: a) the famine was artificial and b) it was genocide. It is important to note that this consensus encompassed even the Russian-speaking South and East of Ukraine.

But on this list of successes Yushchenko exhausted. Ukrainian society was not ready to discuss the past - and this applies equally to politicians and "ordinary" Ukrainians. This is especially true of the 1930-1940-s events. Nothing splits Ukraine as much as the memory of the Second World War, and specifically in this memory - UPA, OUN and Bandera. This reflects certain historical realities, because Ukraine at that time was divided. She was like this before the war, and remained divided during the war. In this regard, the various regions of Ukraine had a very different experience of the Soviet and German authorities - and it is difficult to reduce it to a common denominator. This is the fundamental difference between Ukraine and Russia. If we want to understand the historical experience of Ukraine in the Second World War, it is better to compare it not with the Russian 1941-1945, but with the 1917-20. Relatively speaking, during the Second World War Ukraine had its own civil war, in Russia there was no such war. Therefore, as far as the memory of the war unites Russia, it splits the Ukraine as much.

Perhaps the Ukrainians would have managed to reach some minimal consensus on these issues if these discussions were limited only to Ukraine. But the Ukrainian lands were and to a certain extent remain in the center of a geopolitical conflict, which inevitably influences discussions about the past. In addition, we must not forget that the war put an end to the old poly-ethnic Ukraine. Those Poles and Jews who survived and left - voluntarily or forcibly - outside the borders of the Ukrainian lands, took with them their memory of the war in Ukraine. Therefore, discussions about the Ukrainian past inevitably affect not only Russia - but also Poland, Israel, and others. Let's say the most interesting and truly informative discussion about Bandera took place in North America, which not many people know about. Therefore, discussions about Ukraine are always more than Ukraine - in connection with the Ukrainians, it is much harder to reach a national compromise.

REGNUM: Let's talk briefly about the history of the creation and development of the OUN-UPA ...

Firstly, it should be noted that there was not one OUN, there were several OUN. The first was, relatively speaking, the old OUN — the OUN of Yevgeny Konovalets. After his assassination, the old OUN split into two warring parts in 1940: the OUN of Stepan Bandera and the OUN of Andrei Melnik. Part of the OUN-Bandera during the war experienced a strong evolution. After emigrating abroad, she entered into a conflict there with Bandera and, having broken away, formed another organization - OUN- "dvijkari". Therefore, when we talk about the OUN, we must remember that even among the nationalists, there is a kind of civil war for this name and this tradition ...

Another problem is that when they say OUN-UPA, they assume that it is OUN and UPA - this is the same organization. But this is a false premise. OUN and UPA correlate, conditionally speaking, as the Communist Party and the Red Army. OUN Bandera played a very large role in the creation of the UPA, but the UPA was not identical to the Bandera OUN. In the UPA there were a lot of people who were outside it, there were even those who did not share its ideological goals. There are memories of Daniel Shumka about staying in the UPA: this man was a communist, a member of the KPZU. I know at least two veterans of the movement who personally knew Bandera and who hate him and protest every time they are called Bandera. In addition, part of the Red Army soldiers, who after the retreat of the Soviet troops, hid in the forests or in the villages, or escaped from captivity, came to the UPA at some point. There were especially many Georgians and Uzbeks among them ... In general, the UPA in some respects resembled Noah's Ark: there was "every creature on a pair."

The identification of the UPA with "Bandera" originates from the time of the war. By the way, the first to start doing this was not the Soviet, but the German government. After the war, "Banderovites" began to call all Western Ukrainians - not only in Siberian camps or in Poland, but even in Eastern Ukraine. In each case, when talking about "Bandera", we must bear in mind that this term is often used and used in vain.

At the moment, the Bandera OUN - let's call it OUN-b - is trying to monopolize the memory of the UPA, to say that the UPA was a "pure" OUN-b. Interestingly, the Kremlin and the Party of Regions of Viktor Yanukovich are now standing in these positions. They put an equal sign between the OUN-b and UPA. This is far from the only case when Ukrainian nationalists agree with the Kremlin - although, of course, for completely different reasons. In general, the UPA is a very complex phenomenon and a very diverse phenomenon; it cannot be reduced to just one ideological or political camp. But historical memory does not tolerate complexity. It requires very simple forms - either-or. That is the problem. How can a historian enter into this discussion when very straightforward, simple answers are required of him?

REGNUM: Let's return to the question of the emergence of the UPA in more detail ...

If you want to understand how the UPA came about, let us turn our attention to Eastern Ukraine in 1919. It was a "war of all against all" - when not two, but several armies at once simultaneously fight for control of one territory. In addition to the whites, reds and Petlyura, a fourth force arose here - the greens, the independent Makhno. She controlled a large territory in the steppes. If we ignore ideological differences for a moment, the UPA is about the same as the Makhno army: peasant, often very cruel, but with the support of the local population. Therefore, it is very difficult to defeat. But during the revolution and civil war, when they fought with sabers and horses, the steppe could well be the basis for such an army. In World War II they fought already by airplanes and tanks. The only place in Ukraine where a large partisan army could hide was the West Ukrainian forests, swamps and the Carpathians. Until 1939 it was the territory of the Polish state. Therefore, there, especially in Volyn, there was an underground Polish Army of Craiova (AK). In 1943, Kovpak (commander of the Soviet partisan formation in Ukraine - REGNUM) comes here. That is, during the German occupation, the situation of the "war of all against all" again repeated here.

There is a widespread view that the UPA was created by the Bandera OUN. It is not, or at least not quite. It sounds strange, but true: Bandera was personally against the creation of the UPA. He had a different concept of national struggle. Bandera believed that this should be a massive national revolution. Or, as they said, the "people's breakdown", when the people - millions - rebel against the invader, expels him from their territory. Bandera, like his entire generation, was inspired by the example of 1918-1919, when massive peasant armies existed in Ukraine, which drove out the Germans in 1918, then the Bolsheviks, then the whites. In Bandera’s imagination, this was to be repeated during World War II: the Ukrainian population, waiting for the mutual exhaustion of Stalin and Hitler, would rise and expel them from their territory. This, of course, was utopia. But no revolution can do without utopias - and the OUN was created as a revolutionary force. According to Bandera, the creation of the UPA distracted from the main goal. Therefore, he spoke of this idea dismissively as if it was partisan or “sikorschyna” (from Sikorski, the head of the Polish emigration government in London, on whose behalf the AK acted in Volyn).

As a result, the UPA arose not from OUN-B orders, but “from below”. Why? Because the “war of all against all” is taking place in Volyn, and it is especially inflated with the arrival of Kovpak here. Kovpak enters one or another village, makes sabotage, the Germans respond with punitive action. For this, they often use the Ukrainian police, among whom there are many members of the OUN-b. As a result, a situation arises where Ukrainian nationalists must take part in punitive actions against the local Ukrainian population. Ukrainian police are deserting into the woods, the Germans take the Poles to the place of Ukrainians. Given the severity of Polish-Ukrainian relations, it is easy to imagine how this leads to an escalation of the conflict. The local Ukrainian population considers itself completely unprotected. And then from the lower ranks of the OUN-b, irritated voices are heard: "Where is our leadership? Why is it doing nothing?" Without waiting for an answer, they begin to form military units. UPA arises largely spontaneously, it is only then that the Bandera leadership begins to take control of this process. In particular, it does what is called "unification": by uniting various detachments in the Volyn forests - and often does this by force and terror, eliminating its ideological opponents.

Here I have to complicate my already complicated story. The fact is that when the Bandera began their action, a different UPA was already operating in Volyn. It originated in 1941 year under the leadership of Taras Bulba-Borovets. He acted on behalf of the Ukrainian emigration government in Warsaw and considered himself and his army a continuation of the Petliura movement. Some of his officers were Melnikov. Bandera "borrowed" from Bulba-Borovets not only his rank and file, but also the name - exterminating the dissenters. For example, there is still a discussion about what happened to the wife of Bulba-Borovets: he himself argued that Bandera liquidated her, and they flatly deny it. Bandera tactics are approximately the same as the Bolshevik tactics: when they see the process evolving, they try to lead it, and when they lead it, they cut off the “extra” arms, legs, or even the head, in order to drive the process into the right frames. The Bandera argument is simple: it was necessary to avoid disunity, "atamanism" - because of what, in their opinion, the Ukrainian revolution lost in 1917-20.

It should be added that during the creation of the UPA in Volyn there is a massacre of local Poles. I believe that this coincidence is not accidental: the OUN specifically provoked this massacre and used it as a mobilization factor. It was very easy to draw peasants into this massacre at that time under the pretext of, for example, solving land issues - the western Ukrainian village suffered from land hunger, and the interwar Polish government gave the best land to the local Poles ... The idea of ​​exterminating the Poles fell, if I may say so, on favorable soil: as historians argue, it was not the Ukrainian nationalists who first expressed it, but the local Western Ukrainian communists back in the 1930s. Then, if you once dirtied your hands with blood, you no longer have where to go, you will go into the army and continue to kill. From the peasant you become a soldier. To a large extent, you can look at the Volyn massacre as a great bloody mobilization action to create the UPA.

In general, the early period of the history of the UPA is not a subject of great pride, to put it mildly. The heroic period of the UPA begins with 1944 year - after the Germans left and the arrival of Soviet power, when the UPA becomes a symbol of the struggle against communism. In fact, only this period is remembered in the historical Ukrainian memory - 1944 for a year and beyond. The fact that it was in 1943 in Volyn, it is almost not remembered. To understand the heroic period, it is also important that at the end of the war, the OUN-B itself undergoes evolution. She understands that, under the slogans that exist, she will not go far, because the Soviet troops are coming, the Soviet ideology. In addition, they have their own negative experience of going east, in the Donbass, in Dnepropetrovsk: the slogan "Ukraine for Ukrainians" was alien to the local population. Then the OUN begins to change its slogans and talk about the struggle for the liberation of all nations, includes social slogans about the eight-hour working day, the abolition of collective farms, etc.

REGNUM: So it can be said that the OUN definitely had a certain moment when it switched from socialist slogans to social ones?

Yes, something very close to this was happening ... This is the policy of every extreme party that wants to dominate. She not only uses terror, but also appropriates other people's slogans if they turn out to be popular. The Bolsheviks, for example, adopted the slogans on the division of the land and the federation. Something similar happens with OUN-b. Then an interesting moment takes place here: at this time Stepan Bandera, who is a symbol of this movement, leaves the German concentration camp. The irony of the situation is that Bandera, having left the concentration camp, knows almost nothing about the movement that bears his name. I know this from the memoirs of Evgeny Stakhov, who himself was one of the supporters of Bandera, in the 1941 year he went to the east of Ukraine, turned out to be in Donetsk. His brother was sitting together with Bandera in a concentration camp. Stakhov says that when they came out together, Bandera and his brother asked him what the UPA is, where and how it operates. The relation, relatively speaking, between the OUN that operated in Ukraine and the leadership that turned out to be abroad, is about the same as between Plekhanov and Lenin. The young ones created the organization, went ahead, and the old ones (relatively speaking, Plekhanov - Bandera) fell behind, and in emigration they live with old ideas.

And here comes a new conflict, because the UPA is too far gone to be with Bandera. When the people who created and led the UPA find themselves in the West, they try to create an alliance with Bandera. But there it quickly reaches a big split, because, according to Bandera, the OUN-B betrayed the old slogans and became such, relatively speaking, national social democracy. Subsequently, this group of people, as I said, creates its own, third OUN, cooperates with the CIA, etc. - but that's another story.

REGNUM: Another high-profile moment in Ukrainian history is the relationship between the OUN and the Jews. What is known about this?

I don’t know much about it, because for now there is very little good research on this topic. To avoid misinterpretation, I will say right away: the OUN was anti-Semitic. But my thesis is this: its anti-Semitism was rather pogrom, and not programmatic. I don’t know a single theorist from this wing who would write some big anti-Semitic work, which would tell in detail about what to hate and destroy Jews. For example, we have such works in the Polish tradition that express frank program anti-Semitism. I insist on the importance of the “programmatic” criterion if we speak of anti-Semitism as one of the “isms”, that is, the ideological direction.

The peculiarity of Ukrainian political thought is that, with the exception of Mikhail Drahomanov and Vyacheslav Lipinsky, there were no “systemic” ideologues in it — that is, ideologists who would think and write systemically. There is always someone who wrote something - but there is no way that you can put him on a par with the "Thoughts of the Modern Pole" Dmovsky, or "Mein Kampf" of Hitler. There are certain anti-Semitic texts of Dmitry Dontsov 1930-s - but for some reason the most vivid ones he prints them not in Western Ukraine, but in America, besides under a pseudonym. Just before the war, anti-Semitic texts of another ideologue, Sciborsky, appear. However, a few years before he wrote something completely different. It seems that the appearance of these anti-Semitic texts pursues a pragmatic goal: to send a signal to Hitler and the Nazis: we are just like you, and therefore we can be trusted and need to cooperate with us.

Ukrainian nationalism, rather, was so pragmatic and applied, and in a bad way. Ideologically, this movement was rather weak, because it was made by young people of 20-30 years, who had no education, who generally had no time for ideology. Many of those that survived admit that even Dontsov was too complicated for them to understand. They became nationalists "by the nature of things," and not because they had read something before. Therefore, their anti-Semitism was more pogrom than software.

There is a big controversy about the position of Bandera or Stetska. There are excerpts from the publications of the diary of Stetska, where he writes that he supports Hitler’s policy regarding the extermination of the Jews. It is likely that it was. But, again, there is a big controversy about how authentic this diary is. Immediately after the proclamation of the "Ukrainian statehood" (statehood) 30 June 1941, pogroms began in Lviv. But “after” does not necessarily mean “because”. Now there is no doubt that the Ukrainian police took part in these pogroms, in which there were many nationalists from the OUN-b. But whether they did it by order of the OUN-B or on their own initiative is unknown.

We have to take into account that the main wave of pogroms in the summer of 1941 swept through those territories that were in 1939-1940. were annexed by the USSR - in the Baltic countries, parts of Polish territory and in Western Ukraine. Some well-known historians — say, such famous as Mark Mazover — believe that the escalation of pogrom anti-Semitism is a direct consequence of a very brief but very violent experience of Sovietization. My father, who was only 1941 years old in 10 and then lived in a small Western Ukrainian village, recalled that as soon as the news came from Lviv about the proclamation of an independent Ukraine, the older country boys were preparing to go to the nearest town to "beat the Jews." It is unlikely that these guys read Dontsov or other ideologues. It is possible that, as in many similar situations, the OUN-B wanted to lead the process, which already “went.”

One thing is clear: the OUN did not like the Jews, but did not consider them to be their main enemy - this niche was occupied by the Poles, Russians, and then the Germans. Jewry in the imagination of nationalist leaders was a "secondary enemy." They said all the time in their decisions and at meetings that it was impossible to let themselves be distracted by anti-Semitism, because the main enemy is not Jews, but Moscow, etc. ... It is clear, however, and more: if indeed by some miracle in 1941 the Ukrainian state was established according to the OUN-b scheme, then there would be no Jews there (neither would there be Poles) or they would be very hard there. Historians who are engaged in the history of the Holocaust in Western Ukraine, came to the conclusion that the behavior of local Ukrainians could not affect the "final solution" of the Jewish question. Local Jews would be exterminated either with or without the help of Ukrainians. However, the Ukrainian leadership could at least express its sympathy. During the mass extermination of Jews, the OUN-B did not issue a single warning that would strictly prohibit members of the organization from taking part in these actions. A similar document appeared in the environment of the UPA during its "democratization", i.e. only after the end of the action. And this, as the Poles say, was "mustard after dinner."

It is also known that when the Jews, especially Volyn, massively fled into the woods, the UPA destroyed them. John Paul Khimka is now writing about this, and he is writing on the basis of memories. But in the memoirs, the term "Bandera" often sounds, which, as I have already said, was applied too widely in relation to all Ukrainians. In a word, I would like to see the documents - in particular, the reports of the UPA. The second "but": some Jews who fled from the ghetto, still found refuge in the UPA. There are memories on this subject, called specific names. Mostly they worked as doctors. Every army needs medical support. For various reasons, the number of doctors before the war among Western Ukrainians was small; obviously, they could not count on the Polish UPA doctors. It is said that at the end of the war these Jewish doctors were shot. There are, however, memories that say that these doctors retained loyalty to the end and, if necessary, took weapon in hand. This question, like all that concerns the topic "UPA and the Jews," is acute and little studied. There is an inversely proportional relationship: the more intense the discussion, the less they know what they are discussing.

Summing up, I want to say the following: it seems to me, however, that with the resignation of Viktor Yushchenko’s presidency, the heated debate is over. Now we must expect the appearance of normal works, which would be discussed about these moments in a normal way. In the meantime, most of what you can read and hear about the OUN and UPA — including what I am talking about now — is nothing more than a hypothesis. Worse or better they are reasoned, but still it is a hypothesis. That is why new qualitative research is so important and desirable.
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