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  • The "Ukrainian National Revolution" of 1941Discourse and Practice of a Fascist Movement
  • Grzegorz Rossoliński-Liebe (bio)

In July, August, and September 1941, in the aftermath of the German attack on the Soviet Union, hundreds of letters were addressed to the leader (providnyk) of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), Stepan Bandera; to the German Führer, Adolf Hitler; and to the head of the Ukrainian government proclaimed by the OUN-B shortly after the beginning of the German–Soviet war, Iaroslav Stets´ko.1 The letters expressed feelings of respect for Hitler, love for Bandera, and gratitude to Stets´ko; affixed to them were several thousand signatures of mainly, but not only, western Ukrainian supporters of the OUN-B state.

The collection of these letters en masse was the OUN-B's last attempt to rescue the "Ukrainian National Revolution."2 The OUN-B had initiated [End Page 83] this program of action with the outbreak of the German–Soviet war on 22 June 1941 and had been preparing, with Nazi acquiescence, in the General Government in 1940–41, as well as in western Ukraine as an underground movement. The two main goals of the revolution were, first, to proclaim and establish a Ukrainian state and, second, to clear the territory of this state of Jews, Poles, Soviets, and other enemies, according to the slogan "Ukraine for Ukrainians." The "Ukrainian National Revolution" thus appears to be the main missing link between the proclamation of the Ukrainian state by Iaroslav Stets´ko in L´viv on 30 June 1941 and the involvement of the OUN-B in pogroms against Jews, either in collaboration with the Nazis or of its own accord.3

In 1940–41, according to its doctrine, the OUN had two main types of enemies. The first were the "occupiers," that is, citizens of the states in which the majority of Ukrainians had lived during the past two decades. In particular, these were Poles and Soviets. The second group of enemies were the Jews, the largest stateless minority in Ukraine, who, according to the stereotype of "Judeo-Bolshevism," were often associated with the Soviets. The OUN-B was eager to massacre and remove both of these groups from Ukraine. During the "Ukrainian National Revolution," the pogroms against Jews were larger, better organized, and much more noticeable than were acts of violence against the Poles, primarily because the anti-Jewish pogroms were approved and supported by the Nazis, who did not have much interest in supporting or organizing similar measures against the Polish population at this time. The OUN-B conducted the main campaign of violence against the Poles later, in Volhynia in 1943 and in Galicia in 1944, when between 70,000 and 100,000 Polish civilians were murdered. Sections of the Ukrainian population were then subjected to violence in the brutal conflict between the OUN-UPA and the Soviets in western Ukraine between 1944 and 1951.4 [End Page 84]

This article has three interrelated aims. The first is to explore the "Ukrainian National Revolution" as a plan prepared by the OUN-B in 1940–41 and implemented in the summer of 1941. Second, this article analyzes the letters of the "Ukrainian people" to Bandera, Hitler, and Stets´ko, which are among the most important sources available for obtaining information on the conduct and social context of this purported revolution.5 Finally, I argue that from its founding in 1929, the OUN combined elements of fascism with radical nationalism and revolutionary ideas. Particularly in 1940 and 1941, at the time when the OUN-B was preparing for the "Ukrainian National Revolution," fascist elements came to the fore. The goal of this organization was to establish a Ukrainian state in a "New Europe" under the aegis of the National Socialists.

World War I and Ukrainian Fascism

The aftermath of World War I left the Ukrainian people without a state and in an even more precarious position than the malcontent, anti-Versailles fascist states. This was the main reason behind the founding in 1929 of the OUN, which—together with its military arm formed in early 1943, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA)—went on to become the most...