Why did Soviet Leader Khrushchev Pardon Thousands of Ukrainian Banderites in the 1950s?

The Soviet Union fought against the followers of a convicted terrorist and Nazi German collaborator Stepan Bandera in western Ukraine—first during World War II and then as an insurgency. As a result, many were tried and incarcerated in Kazakhstan, the Arctic Circle, and the Urals. Yet in 1955, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev pardoned and released Banderites in the tens of thousands. Why did this mass-scale amnesty happen, and what long-term consequences did it have?

This question is especially perplexing considering who Stepan Bandera was—a fascist leader of the terrorist OUN, Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (faction B named after Bandera), established in 1929. During World War II, the organization collaborated with Nazi Germany since the area was under their occupation as Reichskommissariat Ukraine from mid-1941 to late 1944. 

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Stories from Oles Buzina: Unheroic “bandera”

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.

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Stories from Oles Buzina: SS Galicia Division against Ukraine

Foreword to the Translation

With the onset of the Ukrainian crisis, I realized that I often looked forward to the work of certain journalists, who were both eloquent and informative. Oles Buzina was one of them. In addition to reading his columns, I, like millions of other Russians, watched his frequent appearances on political talk shows. I often found myself in disagreement, but had to admit that his points were well-argued and factually justified—a true sign of a charismatic erudite.

Thus, the news of his brazen murder on April 16 of this year, in broad daylight and outside his home, was particularly distressing. Later, I found out that Oles—a well-known author and historian, in addition to his journalistic career—had been receiving threats for quite some time. Yet he consistently turned down offers to relocate to Russia. Like a true patriot of a country in peril, he continued to love Ukraine. But Ukraine—today’s Ukraine—did not return that sentiment.

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