Much like his caustic historic text on SS Galicia, Ukrainian author Oles Buzina was not very fond of Stepan Bandera—another one of official Kiev’s current ‘heroes’. This following prophetic text, written in 2011, also demonstrates why Buzina became a political dissident in his own home and possible reasons for his assassination in the spring of 2015.
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STORIES FROM OLES BUZINA: UNHEROIC “BANDERA” (2011)
(“Stories from Oles Buzina” was a regular column for Segodnya newspaper, covering historic subjects. In the Russian language, “story” and “history” (istoriia) are the same word, which plays an important role in this context.)
Demoted! On January 12th, 2011, the website of the president of Ukraine reported that Stepan Bandera lost his official title of Hero.
Translated by Nina Kouprianova
The views of the original author do not necessarily reflect those of the translator.
It is not by accident that I wrote the word “bandera” in the feminine and in lower-case letters, despite the fact that this article will discuss that very same Bandera, who was a man and whose proper name, according to grammar, naturally began with a title-case letter.
But Bandera is not a man. He is dust. And also a symbol and a flag. A symbol and a flag that are rather dark—the color of blood and death. It is not by accident that the banner of the organization that he led was also black-and-red—these were not cheerful colors. Even the family name of the current participant of various judicial scandals is telling. Translated from the Moldovan language (the ancestors of this Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (Bandera faction)—OUN(b)—“guide” seem to come specifically from Moldova, not being, as they say nowadays, “ethnic Ukrainian”), “bandera” is a “flag,” specifically, a “banner.” “Bandera” means the same thing in other romance languages, as it does in Moldovan.Those of the older generation will likely remember a Spanish Communist song called “Bandera Roja“—”Red Flag” popular in the 1930s. Even in the days of our childhood at the turn of the Brezhnev era, the chorus of this song was still present in our school textbooks, from where it got stuck in my mind. There are other Spanish-language songs with the same short memorable line. For instance, “La Bandera de mi Patria“—”The Banner of My Homeland,” which is about the flag that “we hold in our hands.” What they hold over there is their business. The question is: the overwhelming majority of Ukrainian citizens (the author of this article belongs to this number, too, without being ashamed of unoriginality) does not wish to see their own flag in Bandera and finds nothing heroic in it. Naturally, at one point these people interpreted the decree by President Yushchenko about awarding the title of the Hero of Ukraine to the head of OUN as an antisocial act, a brazen move in the spirit of some Roman Caligula and—I’m not afraid to phrase it this way—as a public insult of our nation’s dignity.
I am certain that in this case, I am indeed expressing the opinion of the majority—that is, of those with human, rather than Banderite party morals, manifested in the infamous “ten commandments” of the Ukrainian nationalist. Their seventh point reads, “Carry out the worst evil if the good deed demands it.”
Citizens of Ukraine that were offended by Yushchenko’s decree did not consider it “heroic” to perpetrate acts of terrorism, murders of political opponents, and crimes against humanity, even if the “anti-hero” committing and inspiring them justified his actions with those same “good deeds.”In any case, this infamous decree by Victor Andreevich represented a rare example of not only immorality, but also legal nihilism. Thus, it is not surprising that the previous administration’s “fabrication” of a new hero not only led to outrage, but also lawsuits demanding its annulment.
The other day, one of them led to the fact that Bandera was officially “de-heroicized.” On January 12 of this year (2011—Ed.), the website of the president of Ukraine shared the following information by the media service of Victor Yanukovych: “A court decision repealed the decree On Awarding S. Bandera the Title of the Hero of Ukraine. The Donetsk Regional Administrative Court satisfied the lawsuit against the President of Ukraine V. Yushchenko filed by citizen Vladimir E. Olentsevich on April 2, 2010—third party: Stepan Bandera—invalidating and repealing Ukraine’s Presidential Decree of January 20, 2010 #46 On Awarding S. Bandera the Title of the Hero of Ukraine.” The decree has been repealed.“The decision by the Donetsk Administrative Court of Appeals from June 23, 2010 leaves the decision of Donetsk Regional Administrative Court from April 2, 2010 without any changes. The decision is final. The decree has been repealed.”
Having read this message, I acknowledged that my prediction voiced a year ago on Maksim Shevchenko’s (Russian journalist—Ed.) television show Judge for Yourselves (Sudite sami) on ORT channel, covering Ukrainian elections, turned out to be accurate. At that point, I stated that Victor Yanukovych will not fulfill his election promise and revoke Yushchenko’s decree personally, but will do so through the court system. Even though later, Victor Yanukovych once again assured everyone at a press conference in Moscow that he will revoke Yushchenko’s decree by Victory Day, I was the one, who turned out to be right, not he. Sometimes, it seems that when it comes to certain questions, I know Victor Fedorovich better than Victor Fedorovich knows himself. At least when it comes to those pertaining to ideology.In public, Mr. Yanukovych really wants to say things to please HIS Ukrainian voters or foreign friends. But in practice, he tries to be guided by what is cleverly called “political necessity.” Unlike Yushchenko, the current president prefers not to put out all fires by himself (remember how Yushchenko rushed into a forest fire with a shovel?). Instead, he prefers to delegate things to specially trained associates. Herein lies the fundamental difference between the old and new Ukrainian government. Therefore, despite all of Yanukovych’s faults, he has a team, whereas Yushchenko only had free atamans (Cossack leaders—Ed.), who called themselves “beloved friends” and “warlords of the Maidan.” Like all warlords, they interpreted team work in the style of Swan, Crayfish, and Pike (i.e., pulling in different directions, per Ivan Krylov’s fables—Ed.) that led one particular passenger riding in this kind of carriage from Bankovaia street (a central street in Kiev with Ukrainian government offices—Ed.) to the village of Velikie Bezradichi—permanently.
I understand those critics of Yanukovych, who say that election promises must be fulfilled. Actions speak louder than words. But a president isn’t just some guy. And the law of the street does not apply to him. According to such rules, he could become the most important man in a village, but not an effective political manager that the head of state must be.
Imagine that Yanukovych revoked Yushchenko’s decree without waiting for the court decision. Victor Fedorovich is not a hereditary monarch or a dictator. Sooner or later, he would be replaced by another president. We cannot exclude the possibility that this man could be an improved hybrid of Victor Yushchenko, say, someone like Oleh Tyahnybok, but even more “radical.” Neither can we exclude the possibility that “banderomania” will turn out to be the secret hobby of this hypothetical activist, which he has been successfully hiding from the public and his doctors until the right time. After all, Yushchenko’s forehead at the Maidan did not have a tattoo stating that he likes Stepan Bandera, a terrorist, totalitarian apologist, and the mastermind behind the ethnic cleansing of Poles and the massacre within OUN itself.And now this fifth president goes ahead and revokes Yanukovych’s decree about revoking Yushchenko’s decree. Bandera is a “hero” once again. And the sixth president will have to start all over. Amusing? But that’s how it would have been. Or close to it.
Yanukovych acted somewhat differently. On the surface, this is not effective. But, it is effective. As we know, in addition to executive and legislative powers, Ukraine, as a democratic state, also has an independent court system. Let us not discuss whether it is actually “independent.” Its decisions are mandatory even for the other two branches of government, including the head of state. It was because of the decision of the Constitutional Court about the third round of elections that very same Victor Yushchenko ended up in the president’s chair back in the day. This is a strong power. Let us not underestimate it.I hope that no one would debate the fact that that same Vladimir Olentsevich—a modest Donetsk lawyer—had zero chances to revoke the decree heroicizing Bandera under President Yushchenko. In 2007, he had a similar lawsuit linked to awarding that same title to the former officer in Hitler’s army, Roman Shukhevych. He is still in court! However, I suspect that after 2010, he has greater hopes for being successful.
Yanukovych can at least be credited with not standing in the way of Olentsevich, even though he had no fewer opportunities to do so than Yushchenko. Yet he did not use them. Is that too little? Perhaps. But even this is already good. Let us be realistic. No government makes concessions for its people unless the people demand it.
One could feel obvious pressure from the people in the “Bandera case.” In fact, Yanukovych only became president thanks to the support of those, who simply could not view Bandera as a “hero.” This occurred despite a certain kind of lackey propaganda campaign unleashed by the “Orange lobby” (in reference to the West-backed, Yushchenko-led “Orange revolution”—Ed.) on one of the main television channels, when this bloody maniac from OUN was being sold as the most significant “great Ukrainian.” Because of this pressure from below, there was progress at the very top, ultimately leading to the message regarding the revocation of Yushchenko’s decree on the president’s website.
But this is only a relative happy end. The statement on the president’s website ends with the following: “A series of appeals were filed in the Supreme Court against this appellate court decision.” The court decision is now final. However, it can be appealed and returned for reconsideration or even revoked. Speaking judicially, it still needs to “settle.” In practice, today Stepan Bandera does not possess the state title of being a “Hero of Ukraine.” But the Supreme Court may arrive at a different decision.
Now let me explain why I believe that Bandera has no right to be called a hero. As the head of the OUN regional underground executive committee in West Ukraine, Stepan—at the time, a student at the Lvov Polytechnic University—began his activities as a “leader” by organizing the murder of Babii, the director of a Ukrainian school in Lvov. The latter spoke against terror as a method of political struggle at the educational institution that he headed. He also called upon his students to avoid succumbing into propaganda of those who subscribe to such methods. But Bandera counted primarily on hot-headed and inexperienced youth. Thus, on his orders, the director of this school was assassinated on July 25, 1934 by a militant, Mikhail Tsar.
The murdered teacher was a former centurion in the Galician Army. When Bandera was still just an evil boy, who strangled cats for the sake of rearing cruelty toward the enemy, Ivan Babii fought for the independence and unity of Ukraine during the “liberation struggle” of 1918-1920. Yet he fought as a soldier, not a criminal. At the time of his death, he was 41 years old. Stepan Bandera’s path into Ukrainian history began by shedding his Ukrainian blood. This alone should be sufficient in depriving him of the Hero of Ukraine title.
There are surprising links between what we worship and our own lives. Of course, certain peoples manage to worship two mutually exclusive forces. For instance, Haitians attend church during the day, but at night participate in the bloody voodoo cult. Do not be surprised that this island constantly “befalls” if not a certain monster like Duvalier, then earthquakes, and cholera coupled with peacekeeping contingent. One cannot simultaneously burn incense in the name of God and Satan. For instance, you cannot call yourself a good Christian and attend a rally with a portrait of Bandera. This will lead to nothing good. Let me add that the Greek Catholic Church openly denounced the murder of Babii at the hands of Banderites in that same year 1934 through the words of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky. Only the murderers did not hear them.In 1940, Bandera and Shukhevych, having grown strong through acts of terror, unleash a real civil war within the ranks of OUN—over the party funds—fighting the older generation such as Colonel Melnyk. The result: a few thousand dead and the schism within the organization into two irreconcilable camps. Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yushchenko, both Bandera worshipers, should not be surprised that their Maidan tandem also fell apart. Things cannot happen otherwise with Bandera worshippers. For, I repeat, the code, by which Bandera was brought up and lived, says: “Carry out the worst evil if the good deed demands it.”
The nationalist’s “ten commandments” contain the same number of points as those of Christ. Indeed, it was a Satanic parody thereof. And the seventh point allows for the possibility of ANY kind of crime. After all, the term “good deed” can be interpreted in any manner, whereas the fact that it allows one to commit the “worst evil” only has one clear meaning!
No normal person would justify the crimes of Stalin’s punitive organs. For instance, in 1940, NKVD shot 14,595 Polish POW officers in Katyn, Kalinin, and Kharkov. This is definitively a CRIME. For one cannot shoot POWs—neither Polish, nor Russian, nor German, nor Ukrainian. None. Any admirer of Bandera that discusses the Katyn tragedy with you likes to gloat about “moskal (a derogatory term for “Russian”—Ed.) evil,” even though the head of the USSR at that time was Stalin, a Georgian, and his countryman, Lavrentiy Beria, led the NKVD.Then why don’t these same “Bandera admirers” have any problem with the Volyn massacre of 1943, when approximately 80,000 Poles were destroyed upon the orders of Banderite OUN? These were not even officers, but primarily women, children, and the elderly. Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) squads surrounded Polish villages. Next came the kind of slaughter that one would see in African tribal warfare.
But Bandera admirers object: he was in a German prison at that time! But was it not Bandera’s associates that murdered these Poles? Did he ever even verbally denounce what was done in the woods of Volyn at that time? Then what are we arguing about?It is perfectly logical that the “guide’s” own life came to an end at the hands of a young man, Bohdan Stashynsky, who came from a family with fine Banderite traditions. It was he, who started out as an OUN sympathizer and ended up being an agent of Soviet intelligence, destroying Bandera in Munich in 1959 from a spray gun that shot poison.
However, this did not reduce the toxicity of the Banderite “doctrine” itself. Those, who now brandish the “guide” as if he were a banner, should be aware that their idol is no better than Hitler. Only the scale of his crimes is somewhat smaller: he did not have the chance to gain power and turn Galicia into the Carpathian version of the Third Reich with a single Fuehrer. He is one in the series of small-scale European leaders from the period of totalitarianism. From the zoological classification of the National Socialist “creatures.” Not even on the scale of Ukraine, but only that of Galicia.Making him into a symbol for all Ukraine will never work out. He is a stranger to it. He had never even visited the true “Great Ukraine.” In the best case scenario, he looked at it from across the border over the river Zbruch. It is not surprising that even today, after the message of “de-heroization” on the president’s website, the “passions surrounding Bandera” demanding to overthrow the “occupied government” only began to boil in the three Western regions of the country.
Any politician, who tries to impose Bandera as Ukraine’s hero, will not only destroy his personal career (the fate of Yushchenko, Tymoshenko, and the other “heroes of the Maidan” serve as convincing proof), but will also destroy the country. Ukraine is not Galicia. And Galicia—despite the separatist slogans we keep hearing from there—is still only a part of Ukraine. It is not Ukraine that has to adapt to the narrow regional Galician political mythology, but Galicia—to the far more humane Great Ukrainian traditions.The truth is that Bandera has become a symbol and a flag of the kind of nationalism with an inhuman face that has even taken his followers to a dead end. This nationalism attempted to reconcile the irreconcilable: faith in God and Satanism, the struggle for “freedom” and serving Hitler’s intelligence, great “ideals” and even murders of one’s own from around the corner. Someone will say, “But he loved Ukraine!” Yes, he did. Like a rapist loves his victim without any interest in reciprocal feelings.
Bandera already cannot be a Hero of Ukraine for one reason alone: he murdered Ukrainians.
4 thoughts on “Stories from Oles Buzina: Unheroic “bandera””
I’m not sure where this article’s identification of Bandera as “Satan” is coming from. Bandera is simply not interesting enough, not enough of a true metapolitical figure, for anyone outside of Ukraine to either admire or consider satanic. Even identifying him with “Fascism” is wrong. Unlike Mussolini, Bandera was no great political thinker. Unlike another Eastern European nationalist leader, Codreanu, Bandera was a petty xenophobe who based his ideology on just that. Bandera hated Poles, even though Poland had been in many ways the cradle of his Westernized view of the Ukrainian identity. Even his anti-Semitism was just an extension of his chauvinism, and not based on any serious metapolitical linking of Jewish influence and the ills of modernity. It is not without reason that his memory was mostly ignored outside the borders of Ukraine until this crisis broke out.
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