By John-Paul Himka, published in April 2010 in Ab Imperio, Studies of New Imperial History and Nationalism in the Post-Soviet Space, posted on Academia.edu. What follows is the introduction to the four-article, 17-page compilation authored by John-Paul Himka, University of Edmonton. For the full document, go to the Academia.edu weblink above.
What follows below are four polemical texts that aim to repudiate the legacy of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and of its armed force, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). They were motivated by the, unfortunately largely successful, campaign of former president Viktor Yushchenko in Ukraine and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) in the North American diaspora to put the glorification of these radical right nationalists at the very center of the Ukrainian national identity project.
It is my conviction that building an identity around these organizations,with their heavy history of war crimes and ethnic cleansing, is misguided, and in the texts below I attempt to explain why.
The first two texts engaged with a colleague of mine at the University of Alberta, Zenon Kohut, director of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies and a prominent historian of Ukraine in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The debate had begun in a local newspaper, the Edmonton Journal , but could not be continued there. I felt that the need to protest was urgent, especially now that a leading figure in Ukrainian studies had leapt to the defense of OUN-UPA. I decided to write an open letter, which I circulated to colleagues in Ukrainian, East European, and Holocaust studies.This produced a reply from Kohut, and a final response from me. The texts circulated far and wide among scholars in the several fields on which they impinged. They also circulated in the Ukrainian community, and one angry Ukrainian donor to the University of Alberta wrote to my dean to express displeasure about my texts.
The debate over the legacy of OUN soon drew in many other participants. Their texts, as well as Kohut’s and my original texts, were assembled by Dominique Arel and circulated on his electronic Ukraine List. Tarik Cyril Amar, then of the Center for Urban History in Lviv, followed the debate and suggested that it be translated into Ukrainian. At his suggestion, I wrote to the editor of Ukraina Moderna, the historian Andrii Portnov, inquiring whether his journal would be interesting in publishing the texts in Ukrainian. Portnov wrote back: “Unfortunately, it seems that‘Ukrainian-based’ and Ukrainian-language historians are not really interested in the issue.” Nonetheless, Amar, Yaroslav Hrytsak, and Ihor Balynsky decided to put together a Ukrainian-language anthology of the debate over OUN and the leader of its most important faction, Stepan Bandera. Before that volume came out, Kyiv’s Krytyka had published Kohut’s and my texts in a different Ukrainian translation. A Russian translation has also appeared.
The third text is a response to an attack on my scholarship by Askold Lozynskyj, immediate past president of the World Congress of Ukrainians. The main thrust of his argument was that OUN had nothing to do with the persecution of the Jews during the Holocaust, but the Jews may have deserved what they received because of their role in communist crimes. Since I had received a fellowship at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Lozynskyj portrayed me as being in the pay of the Jews, charged with producing “demons” for them. The Ukrainian community did not seem bothered by the anti-Semitic tone of Lozynskyj’s article; indeed, it was widely circulated in various diaspora Ukrainian electronic lists after it appeared on February 16 in the ex-pat newspaper Kyiv Post. Later, Lozynskyj would publish another article in Kyiv Post arguing that newspapers in Canada that paid attention to my critiques were controlled by Jews. I used the occasion of the response to Lozynskyj to do two things: to present someof the evidence for OUN-UPA participation in the Holocaust and to suggest identity possibilities other than one deriving from the radical nationalist heritage. I sent my reply to Kyiv Post on February 16. It was eventually published there on September 20. (David Marples’s defense of my reputation was only published November 21.) In the meantime, Dominique Arel had circulated my text in his Ukraine List,  and Krytyka published it in Ukrainian translation. In the version published below, I corrected two inadvertent errors that had crept into the original text.
The final text appeared in Krytyka  in Ukrainian translation and has never been published in English previously. Here I replied to Portnov, who now himself had joined the debate over the heritage of Bandera and OUN  as well as to Volodymyr Kulyk.  After the appearance, Portnov wrote privately to me to say that I had misinterpreted his position. I will accept his view that I misread him. As in all these texts, however, I was less interested in particular opponents than in particular ideas.
1. On the most recent Remembrance Day in Canada (November 11, 2010), the UCC issued a statement containing this passage: “As Ukrainian Canadians we also remember and paytribute to the millions of men and women who perished fighting for the freedom of their ancestral Ukrainian homeland. The men and women of the Ukrainian Sich Ri?emen, the1st Ukrainian Division of the Ukrainian National Army, the Ukrainian Insurgent Armyand the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists.” The Ukrainian Sich Riflemen fought for an independent Ukraine after World War I, and the 1st Ukrainian Division was a Waffen-SS unit in World War II.
2 This was the Petro Jacyk Educational Foundation.
3 The Ukraine List (UKL). 2010. No. 441. February 16.
4 Strasti za Banderoiu: statti ta essei / Pid red. Ya. Gritsaka, T. S. Amar, I. Balyns’kogo.Kyiv, 2010. I have only seen the page proofs.
5 Krytyka. 2010. March-April. Pp. 10-12, also: http://krytyka.com/cms/front_content. php?idart=208.
6 Zhurnal rossiiskikh i vostochnoevropeiskikh istoricheskikh issledovanii. 2010. No.2-3. July-December. Pp. 128-133.
7 Askold S. Lozynskyj. Rewriting History: An Evidentiary Perspective // Kyiv Post. 2010. February 16 http://www.kyivpost.com/news/opinion/op_ed/detail/59650/ (accessed 7 October 2010).
8 Askold S. Lozynskyj. How Insensitive Bigots Continue to Play Ukrainians and Jews Against Each Other // Kyiv Post. 2010. November 8 http://www.kyivpost.com/news/opinion/op_ed/detail/89252/ (accessed December 2, 2010). See also Peter O’Neill. My Role in a Dark Conspiracy. Letter from Paris. Posted November 10, 2010, http://com- munities.canada.com/shareit/blogs/letterfromparis/default.aspx (accessed December 2, 2010).
9 Kyiv Post. 2010. September 20 http://www.kyivpost.com/news/opinion/op_ed/de -tail/83019/ (accessed December 2, 2010).
10 David R. Marples. Let’s Put Civility Back into Historical Debates // Kyiv Post. 2010. November 21 http://www.kyivpost.com/news/opinion/op_ed/detail/90781/ (accessed December 2, 2010).
11 The Ukraine List (UKL). 2010. No. 442. Item 4 (March 15, 2010).
12 Krytyka. 2010. July-August.
14 Andrii Portnov. Kontekstualizatsiia Stepana Bandery // Krytyka. 2010. March-April http://krytyka.com/cms/upload/Okremi_statti/2010/2010-03-04/14-2010_3-4.pdf (accessed December 2, 2010).
15 Volodymyr Kulyk. Neunyknyi Bandera // Krytyka. 2010. March-April http://krytyka.com/cms/upload/Okremi_statti/2010/2010-03-04/13-14-2010_3-4.pdf (accessed December 2, 2010).