August 18, 2016 –
By Eduard Popov for Fort Russ
Translated by J. Arnoldski
According to announcements from the official website of the Institute of National Remembrance of Ukraine, the “Viriy” international expedition and educational camp will be held from September 8th-19th. The expedition will depart from Lvov to the “ethnic Ukrainian lands that now belong to the Republic of Poland,” the organization’s website says.
A few words about the INR and its leader: The institute was established following the Orange Revolution in 2005 according to the model of the Polish Institute of National Remembrance. The main issue which the institute dealt with at the initial stage of its founding was searching for evidence to prove the “Holodomor” against Ukrainians in Stalin’s Soviet Union. In Poland, the Ukrainian institute’s director, the Lvov-native Vladimir Vytrovich, is considered a neo-Banderite historian. But this definition is only partly true. The upcoming action, as well as the INR’s activities as a whole, have nothing to do with historical science. History is used only as material for political purposes. It is no accident that the creation of the INR was actively participated in by the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, a political party based on the Banderite Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. Vyatrovich himself was a prominent employee of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU).
Experts familiar with the history of Ukrainian neo-Nazism (which is wrongly graced with the name “nationalism”) know that its different varieties adhere to the mechanistic concept of the “united Ukrainian state,” which means the unification of ethnic Ukrainian lands within the boundaries of a Ukrainian nation-state. The “from the San to the Don” line in the Ukrainian anthem speaks to this “unified Ukraine’s” territorial claims, as the San is a river on Polish territory. Ukrainian neo-Nazi programs claim the territory of several provinces in Poland but, in fairness, Ukrainian neo-Nazism has territorial claims against all of contemporary Ukraine’s neighbors.
What concrete goals is the INR pursuing with its expedition? The above-cited communique speaks of the restoration of the spiritual and material memory of ethnic Ukrainian lands. That the action is designed for youth is especially emphasized. What’s more, Rusyns and Lemkos are counted among “ethnic Ukrainians” now living on the territory of Poland who allegedly want to return to “united Ukraine.” During the Second World War, Lemkos considered themselves Russians, albeit a separate group among the Russian people. They not only did not recognize themselves as Ukrainians, but moreover suffered cruel oppression at the hands of Ukrainian nationalists. Many Lemkos and Boykos were the first to be sent to the Talerhof and Terezin death camps during the First World War upon being denounced by Ukrainian nationalists. A number of Rusyns in Poland, especially the intelligentsia, were killed in Nazi concentration camps thanks to denunciations by Banderites and other Ukrainian collaborationists. After the war, hundreds of thousands of Rusyns were then forcible resettled in Ukraine or in nearby Polish provinces for having allegedly cooperated with Banderites. The author of these lines contributed to the organization of an international conference in Rostov-on-Don in December of 2008 dedicated to the tragic topic of the genocide of Rusyns.
Thus, the INR’s action is not only historically and ethnographically incorrect – it is blasphemous from a moral point of view. According to the same logic, the residents of Donbass being shelled by Ukraine should be called Ukrainians.
Since the emergence of independent Ukraine, Ukrainian neo-Nazis have taken increasing interest in “ethnic Ukrainian lands” in Poland. Announcements, moreover, have been telling. Following the Senate and Sejm of Poland’s decision to recognize the Volyn Massacre as an act of genocide against Poles, the organization of new anti-Polish actions by Ukraine only become a matter of time. Immediately following the Polish Sejm’s resolution, Kiev announced that Ukraine would not leave this hostile action unanswered. The INR’s expedition can mean only one thing: neo-Banderite Ukraine is striking back in the war over history with Poland. Any commitment to scientific objectivity or search for understating with the Polish side should not be expected from the INR’s activities and such expeditions. The INR and SBU are well aware that this expedition will only further irritate Polish public opinion. Is this the purpose of this action? Or is this an emotional, knee-jerk reaction to Poland’s offense? It is probable that the neo-Banderites of the INR want to show Poles through this action that Ukraine is capable of fighting back in this war over history. They want Poles to know that it’d be better to not rake up the past, and quietly bury the history of the Volyn Massacre.
I would posit that these expectations are futile. I would also say that Ukraine has prepared a Plan B in the case that Poles continue to resist. This plan centers on the active expansion of Ukrainian neo-Nazi ideas and organizations into Poland. The “national reunion” expedition of Ukrainian youth to Poland, to “ethnic Ukrainian lands,” is none other than the start of this plan. The million Ukrainian migrant workers, numerous Ukrainian students, and overall Ukrainian diaspora in Poland are not nearly as numerous as they are active as a fertile environment for the implementation of these expansionist plans.
P.S. On August 31st, 2014, at a forum on Novorossiya in Yalta, Crimea, I posed a question to Mateusz Piskorski as to what he thinks about Right Sector’s foray onto the territory of Polish provinces bordering Ukraine. Zmiana’s party leader replied that the local Polish population is fighting against Banderite propaganda. The Polish patriot Piskorski is now in prison. One of the most consistent fighters against Ukrainian neo-Nazism in Poland was forced out of the fight.
Eduard Popov, born in 1973 in Konstantinovka, Donetsk region, is a Rostov State University graduate with a PhD in history and philosophy. In 2008, he founded the Center for Ukrainian Studies of the Southern Federal University of Russia in Rostov-on-Don. From 2009-2013, he was the founding head of the Black Sea-Caspian Center of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, an analytical institute of the Presidential Administration of Russia. In June 2014, Popov headed the establishment of the Representative Office of the Donetsk People’s Republic in Rostov-on-Don. He has actively participated in humanitarian aid efforts in Donbass and has been a guest contributor to various Donbass media, such as the Lugansk-based Cossack Media Group.