How a schismatic population, a misguided yearning for nationhood, and manipulation by Great Powers led to a modern day revival of Nazism in its most odious forms.
Prior to the current conflict, the “Nazi problem” in Ukraine was recognised and well documented by global mainstream media ranging from The New York Times and NBC News to Reuters and The Nation. Even the conservative Atlantic Council, NATO’s think tank, knew there was a problem in 2018.
Geography as Destiny
In order to understand Ukrainian Nationalism as well as Ukrainian Nazism, it is important to know Ukrainian geography.
Firstly, we must realise what “The Ukraine” is. When I was younger, we always referred to the country we now call Ukraine as “The Ukraine.” that is because the word “Ukraine” comes from the Slavic word “Ukraina” — which means “borderlands” (the word is the same in both Russian and Polish). So it was never really its own country. Both the Russians and the Poles called it “the borderlands”.
In other words, the place now called Ukraine was always regarded as a sort of generalised geographic area, an outlying territory that formed the buffer between Russia and other states.
Indeed, much of what we now call Ukraine was “owned” by Poland, Austria and Hungary (in the West) and by Russia (in the East). It truly was a “borderland” that separated Russia from Western Europe.
The problem was that the people living in the Western part of Ukraine, centred around the main city of Lviv, felt themselves to be more western European. They were Catholics, and they were often under the rule of Western powers like the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Kingdom of Poland. The Eastern Ukrainians were ethnically Russian, believing in the Russian Orthodox Church, and always felt a great affinity to the Russian Empire. In fact, Russians always referred to The Ukraine was “Mala Rus” — which means literally “Little Russia”.
The primary cultural and geographic entity in Western Ukraine is a region known as Galicia.
As you can see in the map above, the city of Lviv was also known by its German name, Lemberg. In fact, Lemberg was the official capital of Austrian Galicia from 1772 until 1919 and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
During WWI, the Austrian Catholic Galicians in Lemberg were recruited by the Austro Hungarian Empire to persecute ethnic Russians in the Ukrainian territory. In fact, the very first “concentration camp” ever built in Europe was erected by the Austrians at Talerhof and was used to imprison ethnic Orthodox Russians rounded up by the Catholic Galicians who had been conscripted by the Austrians to do this “ethnic cleansing”.
“The Austro-Hungarian authorities imprisoned leaders of the Russophile movement … and those who recognized the Russian language as the literary standard form of their own Slavic language varieties and had sympathy for the Russian Empire. Thus, the captives were forced to abandon their identity as Russians, or sympathies for Russia, and identify as Ukrainian. Captives who identified themselves as Ukrainians were freed from the camp.”
The “Germanisation” of the Western Ukrainians is something that Russia has long recognised. The Russians fighting in Ukraine know whom they are battling.
The Origins of Ukrainian Nationalism
As described above, the region of Galicia is ethnically diverse. Following the end of WWI and the collapse of the Austrian Empire, Ukrainian Nationalists planned to turn Galicia into a Ukrainian state. But the overall Galician population was 47% Polish, 42% Ukrainian and 11% Jewish. However, in Eastern Galicia, Ukrainians comprised 62% of the population, along with 25% Poles and 12% Jews. The rest of Ukraine became a Soviet republic within the USSR with 26 Million Ukrainians (or Russians) living there.
The origins of Nazism in Ukraine stem from the same origins of Ukrainian Nationalism. Both movements now center on one man, Stepan Bandera.
Bandera was a right wing radical born in Austrian Galicia, in Lemberg, in 1909. His father was a Catholic priest. He joined the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists OUN at an early age (20) and quickly became known as a violent radical who took charge of the OUN in 1931.
Bandera eventually fomented a split in the OUN. The “old guard” of the OUN, who favoured the fascism of Mussolini, became the OUM-N, while Bandera’s faction, that followed Hiter’s Nazi philosophy, became OUN-B.
The OUN-B under Bandera
Under the militant leadership of Stepan Bandera in World War II, the ultra-nationalists organised the Ukrainian Waffen SS Galician, Nichtengall Battalion, and Roland Battalion that collaborated with the Nazis and were responsible for the genocide of over 500,000 people.
Following the war, however, Ukrainian Nazis were the only group to escape trial at Nuremberg for crimes against humanity. Moreover, neither the Banderites, the Ukrainian Waffen SS, nor any other Ukrainian collaborators have ever apologised for their participation in genocide.
In the landmark work on the subject , Genocide Committed by Ukrainian Nationalists on the Polish Population During World War II, Ryszard Szawlowski characterizes it this way:
“…the Germans have long admitted to their crimes, and have apologized for them publicly …. [The] president of the Federal Republic of Germany, Roman Herzog, [said] in his speech in Warsaw on August 1, 1994 … ‘I bow before the fighters of the Warsaw Uprising, and before all the Polish war victims. I beg forgiveness for what the Germans did.’ Russian president Boris Yeltsin, when he kissed monsignor Zdzislaw Peszkowski on the hand, whispered the words ‘I apologize’ ….
“Ukrainian genocide committed against the Poles during World War II surpassed German and Soviet genocide …. [It] was marked by the utmost ruthlessness and barbarity, and … up until the present day, it has been denied or, at best, presented with reminders that all is “relative’ or other such evasions.”
Why Nazism “lives on” in Ukraine
FACT: There are unrepentant Nazis in Ukraine who see their history as an unbroken and unified chain of Nazi ideology, rooted in the firm belief that Russians must be wiped out.
Russia started raising the alarm about Nazis in Ukraine years ago. Russia fought against Nazis in WWII when they first formed the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. They knew that the Western Ukrainians (from Galicia) collaborated with the Nazis.
The Russians also knew that these Nazis felt it was their historical and sacred duty to kill Russians and other “subhuman” Slavs.
When the Soviets marched into the Ukraine, the Banderite nationalists fled abroad — and in most cases, to Canada. Even today, there are monuments and statues to Stepan Bandera and the UPA all over Canada, and Canada’s Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland, has been criticised for her connections to the Neo-Nazi Bandera organisations in Canada.
Such Nazi activists, aka Banderites, in the Ukrainian Ultra Nationalist movement are now in control of the government in Ukraine. This has happened with the close cooperation and help of the USA, who allied with the far right elements in Ukrainian society to overthrow the democratically elected but “neutral” government in Kiev in 2014.
This should come as no surprise, however. Those familiar with how the U.S. operates in its “regime change” operations will remember that The U.S. allied itself with the Mujahideen and Osama Bin Laden in the 1980’s to overthrow the Russian backed government in Afghanistan. Observers will also note that the USA allied with Al Qaeda and ISIS to try to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria. While that attempt was ultimately unsuccessful, the USA was successful in employing Nazi thugs and militia groups to provide the muscle that fuelled the Maidan Coup in 2014.
Once the elected government was gone, and President Yanukovych had fled the country, the U.S. State Department installed a pro-Western, pro-US, pro-NATO, pro-EU government that was hand picked by the US State Department.
The famous call between Nuland and US Ambassador to Ukraine Jeffrey Pyatt has Nuland dictating who would be in the new government. The photo below shows the persons involved:
Center top: Vitali Klitschko, former boxer whose UDAR party allied with the Svoboda Nazis to oppose Victor Yanukovych.
Center bottom: Victoria Nuland, who famously handed out food to the Maidan protesters wanting to overthrow the elected government of Ukraine
Right: Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the interim Prime Minister that Nuland put in office, was a Pro-Nazi revisionist, racist and ardent Russian hater who promised his government would “cleanse sub-humans” from Eastern Ukraine. They even published his Nazi plan for ethnic cleansing on the Ukrainian US Embassy web site (the text has since been redacted to substitute “inhumans” for “subhumans”, but the point is unmistakable).
So — there you have it. Victoria Nuland, a fanatical Neocon who was also a top aide to the warmonger Dick Cheney, worked with Nazis, ultranationalists and far-right political figures to overthrow the duly elected government of Victor Yanukovych because Yanukovych had rejected the idea of joining NATO and was leading his government along a course of neutrality regarding Russia.
The West’s whitewashing of Ukro-Nazis
In recent months there has been a concerted effort to rehabilitate Ukrainian Nazi groups. In fact, the Azov Battalion in 2022 was honoured in the US Congress, where they were celebrated and met individually with up to 50 Senators and Representatives.
BUT — in 2018, the Democrats in Congress passed an Amendment to the Defense Authorisation Bill that prohibited the sale of U.S. weapons and supplies to something called the “Azov Battalion.” The reason given was that they were a Neo Nazi militia and guilty of all sorts of atrocities.
Here is the actual wording from the Bill:
None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to provide arms, training, or other assistance to the Azov Battalion.
From the official Congressional record, here is Rep. John Conyers, who introduced the Amendment, who said this:
This amendment that I propose this evening limits arms, training, and other assistance to the neo-Nazi Ukrainian militia, the Azov Battalion.
Foreign Policy magazine has characterized the 1,000-man Azov Battalion as “openly neo-Nazi’’ and “fascist.’’ Numerous other news organizations, including The New York Times, The Guardian, and the Associated Press have corroborated the dominance of White supremacist and anti-Semitic views within the group; yet Ukraine’s Interior Minister recently announced the Azov Battalion will be among the units to receive training and arms from Western allies, including the United States.
Azov’s founder, Andriy Biletsky, organized the neo-Nazi group the Social-National Assembly in 2008. Azov men use neo-Nazi symbolism on their banner.
So — — what changed?
The answer is simple: in order to achieve its geopolitical goals, the USA is once again siding with the most despicable, criminal groups. Just as with ISIS and Al Qaeda in Syria.
And the US is pressuring others to join them in “celebrating” the Azov Battalion. Indeed, even the USA’s Anti Defamation League, America’s largest Jewish rights organisation, has now declared that the Azovs are “no longer far right”.
Israel itself has even come around to loving the Azovs. Whereas Israeli press had decried the Nazi problem in Ukraine for yours but in December 2022 the Jewish state welcomed a delegation from the Azov Battalion, who declared, in an insane act of bravado, “Mariupol is our Masada”.
We should not accept this whitewashing. The Nazi leopards in Ukraine will not change their spots. I suppose we will have to wait until all the horror stories about Nazi atrocities come out about the Ukraine conflict before people accept the truth.
In the meantime, do not ever forget this “Mission Statement” from Andriy Biletsky, Founder and Leader of the Azov Battalion, speaking in 2010, who became a member of the Ukrainian Parliament in 2018:
“Our Mission is to Lead the White Races of the World in a Final Crusade…Against Semite-led Untermenschen [subhumans]” …
If the Azovs have a new Mission Statement, I have not seen it. I think the above pretty well describes how they see themselves – and what they foresee for Ukraine.
EuroYankee is a dual citizen, US-EU. He travels around Europe, writing on politics, culture and such. He pays his US taxes so he gets to weigh in on what is happening in the States.