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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Spot the fascists

Compare and contrast biblioclasts

Anti-Ukrainian book burning in Crimea (

Two seemingly unrelated events took place in Crimea and Lviv in the last couple of days. Both saw crowds gather to do something with books other than read them. What else can be done to books besides reading? It’s called biblioclasm and it’s the bane of all bibliophiles.

The historical record on book destruction dates back to the Warring States period of Chinese history in the third century BC. But nearly every civilization and religion has been guilty of trashing tomes throughout history. And the practice continues to this day despite the warning issued way back in 1821 by German playwright Heinrich Heine: “Where they burn books, they will burn people.”

The Nazis are perhaps most famous for their burnings of works by “degenerate” authors. They reportedly compiled a list of 18,000 books deemed unfit on ideological grounds and were consequently set aflame in the 1930s and 1940s.

The Nazi approach of dealing with despicable texts was recreated by the Progressive Socialist Party (PSPU) in Crimea last week. The party, which claims to be anti-fascist, nevertheless resorted to very fascist tactics. Which is ironic given the history of this party’s collaboration with the FSB of Vladimir Putin’s Russia that celebrates victory in The Great Patriotic War every year.

On March 14, activists from the PSPU and the Proryv youth movement (name means 'Breakthrough!') gathered in Simferopol to barbecue Ukrainian history books written since the country declared independence from the Soviet Union nineteen years ago. Marching through the Crimean capital, they carried banners that read “Give our native Russian language state status” and “Yanukovych – Don’t sell out our goal: Union with Russia.” The photos show some of the demonstrators extending their right hands upwards and to the right – just like the Nazis used to. The history texts were brought in by wheelbarrow and burned with the statue of Lenin looking on in approval...

Simferopol, March 14, 2010 (

Simferopol, March 14, 2010 (

A smaller crowd gathered in Lviv on March 15 to protest last week’s appointment of Dmytro Tabachnyk to the post of Minister of Education and Sciences of Ukraine. Tabachnyk, has in the past referred to people from Lviv and Halychyna as not real Ukrainians, is a hatemonger who, in his public speeches, books and newspapers articles, consistently pits one half of Ukraine against the other (east versus west – just like the FSB textbooks say). And despite his claims Tabachnyk spreads hate beyond election campaigns. Whoever appointed Tabachnyk knew full well that the reaction would be negative and was purposefully adding to fuel to the fire.

The fire in Lviv that was supposed to consume the books was never lit. The anti-Tabachnik activists gathered books that were voluntarily brought by city residents and instead said they will be recycled. So the books (only 13 were collected - Lenin, Karl Marx, Communist Party of the Soviet Union documents, Russian language text books and the History of the Great Patriotic War) were taken to the local recycling point and handed in for cash. Organizers (MNK Youth Nationalist Congress) did not say how many trees were saved by their protest that was arguably more Green Party than Nazi Party...

Lviv, March 15, 2010 (

Lviv, March 15, 2010 (

The million hryvnia question remains: Who is adding fuel to the fire and fanning the flames? The answer is probably the same to the question: Who want to see the Ukrainian state fail and split into multiple parts? It lies in a place where a new kind of fascism is in vogue. A place run by the same guy who said:

“You don't understand, George, that Ukraine is not even a state. What is Ukraine? Part of its territories is Eastern Europe, but the greater part is a gift from us.”


Crimea book burning:

Lviv book recycling:

Read more about the guy who talked to George:,8599,1900838,00.html#ixzz0iKoWZ5Cm

Friday, March 12, 2010

Deal for Yanukovych: Bandera for Mezhyhiria

Letter to a President*

To: Viktor Yanukovych
President of Ukraine
Kyiv, Ukraina

Highly esteemed Viktor Fyodorovych!

I am writing you in the matter of the posthumous Hero of Ukraine title I accepted on behalf of my grandfather from the hands of your predecessor Victor Yushchenko.

I heard that it’s causing you some problems in Moscow and that Gazprom may raise gas prices if you don’t rescind the state award by Stalin’s Victory Day party on May 9.

I also heard a Polish politician from Platforma Obywatelska is threatening that Ukraine will not become a member of the EU if you do not take back the award. (I am not sure the slanderous Pawel Zalewski, an author of resolution P7-TA(2010)0035, checked with the other Members of European Parliament before opening his mouth).

I was thinking and thinking, when the answer appeared on the Ukrainian Internet. I read how Barak Obama decided to donate his Nobel Peace Prize money to charities. “What a great idea,” I thought.

I got to thinking some more on how to help out Ukraine and correct another one of the “wrongs” your predecessor committed. And how you and me both can help out Ukraine which is like one big charity case.

Here’s the deal: I will give back the Hero of Ukraine award if you give back the Mezhyhyria property ** you got from Yushchenko (pictured above). I think that the gifts we received from Yushchenko are worth about the same. If I give back the Bandera award, Ukraine will have cheaper natural gas prices from Russia and a free trade agreement with the EU worth tens of millions of Euros. Your mansion and property are also worth tens of millions of Euros.

Together, we will fill the coffers of the state budget and help pay back wages owed to doctors and teachers and maybe some pensions.

What d’you say? Let me know the time and place for the exchange (strelka) and I will be there. I’ll be the guy wearing a gold star on my lapel.

S. A. Bandera
Grandson of Hero of Ukraine

* This letter was written in ironic jest during a momentary sense of heightened self-importance. The point is to show the absurdity of the Bandera debate: almost everybody from Moscow to Warsaw to Edmonton has an opinion on Bandera (who was killed more than 50 years ago) yet no one seems to care about the real issues that plague Ukraine today. Yanukovych’s residence in Mezhyhiria is but one example of the widespread corruption and abuse of political power that makes life miserable for millions while benefiting the few. Stepan Bandera is just a distraction by those who want Ukrainians to be like mushrooms: fed shit and kept in the dark.

** Mezhyhyria is fit for a king, never mind president: Yanukovych's personal residence since 2005 outside of Kyiv: The 140 hectare lot includes lawn bowling, gymnasium, tennis courts, pool, fountains, manmade lake complete with waterfalls, helicopter pad, boat dock on the Dnipro River, wine cellar, green house and servants’ quarters on land whose property value is close to $300 mln. Yanukovych claims it was a gift.

Old-new SBU: Yanukovych to shut KGB archives in Ukraine

I’m glad I got into archives:
Stepan Bandera had no illusions about Nazis

Media & Metallurgy Baron Valery Khoroshkovsky... now SBU Chief (wikimedia)

President Victor Yanukovych seems to be repeating a major mistake Yushchenko initially made when he came into office, namely doling out government posts as return political favours instead of appointing the best people for the job. Judging from the list of ministers approved by the Rada on Thursday, Yanukovych said “thank you” to the Communists, his own Party of the Regions and the Lytvyn Bloc for their support during a tight election race he won by just over 880,000 votes. (The communists may have given Yanukovych the edge in the second round. In the first round of elections, commie leader Petro Symonenko attracted more than 870,000 votes).

Various groups and centres of power are represented and the new cabinet’s staying power will depend on Yanukovych’s abilities to keep the various players' appetites satisfied or in check, especially where business interests overlap. The new cabinet, led by 62-year-old Nikolai Azarov, was supported by an unconvincing 240 member majority in parliament. Yanukovych wields the spectre of dismissing the Rada to keep the newly-formed majority together. Yanukovych is also far more authoritarian in his leadership style than Yushchenko ever was and Yanukovych does not have an “ally” of Tymoshenko’s calibre to tend to. But internal contradictions and competition do exist and the challenge for this government to stay in power will be keeping everybody happy from capitalist Akhmetov to communist Symonenko. That means more back room dealings and (up to) two more years of the worst parliament the country has ever seen.

The people Yanukovych has brought to the nation’s helm are throwbacks to the Kuchma days. They will try to reverse many of the democratic advances made in the last five years. This is especially true when it comes to dealing with the dark pages of Ukraine’s Soviet past.

One of Yushchenko’s most progressive moves was the declassification of all Soviet secret police archives up until 1991. The State Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) opened up the archives, put a young team of researchers in charge and made the materials accessible to the general public. People could now find out the truth about what happened to their relatives or pay researchers to find that out.

But now Yanukovych has made Valery Khoroshkovsky – a billionaire with an opaque past and even murkier business interests in Russia and Ukraine – in charge of the SBU. It’s like making Ted Turner or Donald Trump the head of the CIA: he may look nice on TV, but he’s not in his league. That means that other people will be pulling his strings and those others are old KGB pros. Kremlinologists rejoice!

Yanukovych promptly got rid of the young team working on declassified Soviet archives. And newly-appointed SBU chief Khoroshkovsky announced a review of declassification policies. “The special service’s main concern is the protection of its secrets,” Khoroshkovsky was quoted by UNIAN on March 11. In this statement Khoroshkovsky betrays his bias: as far as he’s concerned, it might as well be the KGB he’s heading. He cannot make a distinction between the pre-1991 Soviet era and Independent Ukraine. This is the problem with “komsomol” members of the country’s ruling elite: it’s all one big game for them. They don’t care what the country’s called, what colour flag is flown, language spoken – as long as they are in power and making money.

I am glad to have had the opportunity to work with declassified Soviet archives within the past five years. I have learned much about the fate of my family, whose name has been demonized by the Kremlin, communists and their fellow-travelling academics in the West. In the process, I gained some valuable insights into what Stepan Bandera was thinking before war broke out between Nazi Germany and the USSR.

In his relatively balanced piece in the Moscow Times on Bandera, Alex Motyl wrote that the Nazis actually did Bandera a favour by imprisoning him “in Sachsenhausen and inadvertently saving him and his supporters from a collaborationist and possibly fascist fate.” (‘Difficult task defining Bandera’s historic role,’ March 11.)

I am not sure what Motyl’s sources are for this assertion, but my work in the KGB archives revealed quite a different picture: Bandera had no illusions about what Nazi rule meant for Ukraine or what the Nazi thought about Ukrainians.

I found the following bit of incidental information in the transcripts of the interrogation of Fr. Andriy Bandera – Stepan Bandera’s father. He was arrested in Western Ukraine in May 1941 and executed in Kyiv on July 10, 1941. He was shot by a firing squad as the Soviets prepared to flee Kyiv ahead of the Nazi advance just because he was the father of an anti-Soviet leader.

During one of his tortuous interrogations (I say tortuous because the transcripts indicate the interrogations lasted for hours but only a few questions were asked) Fr. Bandera was asked about the purpose of Stepan Bandera’s trips to Rome. Stepan had been in Rome on two occasions in 1939 and 1940 and passed along a cross for his father-priest through a courier. Stepan’s younger brother Oleksa lived in Rome where he completed a Ph.D. in Political Economy and married an Italian girl named Maria. (He was later killed in Auschwitz). But what the Soviet interrogator really wanted to know was the political purpose of Bandera’s trips to Rome.

Under extreme duress, Fr. Andriy Bandera told his interrogator that Stepan went to Rome for talks with the “Sicilian government” to negotiate a safe haven for Ukrainian soldiers in the event of defeat, because “the Germans could not be counted on” in the war against the USSR. The interrogator tried to break Fr. Andriy Bandera and he did reveal more information about Stepan and his seven children – five of whom were members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN).

By 1941, Bandera and the other OUN leaders had ample proof of the Nazis attitude towards Ukraine and Ukrainians. How could they harbour any illusions after reading Hitler’s Mein Kampf, where Ukrainians lands are designated as the “living space” (lebensraum) for all the beautiful, blonde and blue-eyed Aryans with the local Slavs serving as slaves.

In 1939, OUN’s leaders saw firsthand what the Nazis thought of Ukrainian independence, when independence was proclaimed in the city of Khust on the Ides of March by Transcarpathian Ukraine (Zakarpattya). Fr. Avhustyn Voloshyn was elected president by parliament. The Nazis ignored the proclamation and helped Miklos Horty and his Hungarian fascist forces crush that independence in three days’ time in the Battle of Krasne Pole. There, Ukrainians were the fact first in Eastern Europe to do battle with fascist forces. Thus, OUN had very real proof of what Hitler and the Nazis thought about Ukraine and Ukrainians.

The Kremlin, communists and Yanukovych accuse Yushchenko of falsifying history. But the sad reality is that an accurate account of Ukraine’s 20th century history remains largely unwritten. Yanukovych’s first steps in dealing with that history are an embrace of the lies and Soviet consent manufactured in Moscow over the course of decades. Stepan Bandera was secretly assassinated on orders from Moscow and has been a victim of character assassination ever since. And he is but one of thousands whose true stories will be fully told. Well, maybe not while Yanukovych is president...

Friday, March 5, 2010

Bandera Bashing Déjà vu

From the vaults

We were down this road 25 years ago. Then it was the Canada’s Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals presided over by Justice Jules Deshcenes. Then it was the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Canada-based Nazi hunter Sol Littman who decided that “Ukrainians, by reason of their large numbers and historic hatred of Poles and Jews, proved themselves particularly pernicious [Nazi] collaborationists.” It was in this context that he proceeded to drag the Bandera family name through the mud.

I remembered Littman from when my father Andriy was still alive. It was the last Rizdvo he would be with us. The CBC sent a camera crew over to our house to film the way our family celebrated Ukrainian Christmas Eve on January 6, rich in traditions, song and a twelve course of soul food. The “reporter” accompanying the cameraman was Littman, who was pursued his own agenda that evening, ruining my father’s mood and Christmas for our family.

Seven months later, my father was no more, dead at the age of 38. Heart attack, they said. But it was the attacks from the likes of Littman that ultimately killed dad...

So with my father out of the way, Littman thought he could get away with calling Stepan Bandera a Nazi collaborator. He was wrong. When he did, my mother, then a 33 year old widow with three kids and a sick sister-in-law to look after, rose to the occasion. I got the day off school and went to Ottawa to stand by her side in Supreme Court of Canada building.

It was during this time that our family was contacted by a lawyer for Holocaust-denier Ernst Zundel who thought he would find common ground with our cause. Boy, was he mistaken and promptly dispatched, for Ukrainian nationalist literature is full of incontrovertible truth about the fate of Jewish prisoners (among others) at the hands of the Nazis.

In Ottawa, we had the support of Alex Epstein, a prominent Jewish Canadian lawyer, who helped prepare the submission my mother would read on May 1, 1985. Here’s that text :

My name is Marika Bandera, and I am appearing on behalf of my family: my son Stepan, who is here with me today, and my two young daughters. My husband, Andriy (who was the son of Stepan Bandera, the Ukrainian nationalist leader in Ukraine's struggle against both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia) died July 19th of last year.

It is my duty, as the surviving widow and mother of three children born in Canada, to defend the honour and integrity of the Bandera name, a name that was unscrupulously maligned by Mr. Sol Littman during your Commission hearing held in Toronto, Wednesday, April 24th, 1985.

Thank you, Mr. Justice Deschenes, for allowing us to present our family's submission.

On page 247 of the transcript of last Wednesday's proceedings, it is stated by you, Mr. Commissioner, that:
"no names of individuals should
be mentioned during our public
hearings by whoever appears
before this Commission."
Further in the transcript, on page 366, Mr. Sol Littman proceeds to mention our name:

"Bandera readily joined the expectation
that Hitler would create a totalitarian
Ukraine under their leadership, free of Poles and Jews."

This statement is blatant misinformation and historically incorrect. Stepan Bandera, as a matter of fact, was a Ukrainian nationalist leader who was brave enough to challenge Hitler's demands, and refused to collaborate.

I wish to present to the Commission a German document which states that:


(Doc. 014-USSR, November 25, 1941 published at Nuremberg, Germany, 1949)

Subsequently, members of the Ukrainian nationalist movement were arrested, detained and tortured in Nazi concentration camps. Bandera was sent to the infamous Sachsenhausen camp, 30 km. from Berlin. His 2 brothers, Oleksa and Vasyl were taken to Auschwitz where they were tortured and eventually died a slow death, encased in cement which was allowed to dry around their bodies. Stepan's father, who was a priest, was captured by the Soviets in September, 1939, and sent to Siberia to die.*

At this time, I would like to submit the name of Mr. Wasyl Bezkhlibnyk of Toronto who was an in-mate with Bandera in Sachsenhausen during the period of his incarceration by the Nazis.

Also, I include eye-witness reports of prisoners who saw the Bandera brothers in Auschwitz. Their notarized affidavits will be presented in due course.The Bandera name became a symbol of steadfastness among the Ukrainian population and of the nationalist will not to compromise with the oppressor. I submit copies of German secret documents which very clearly state the intentions of the Nazis to annihi­late the Bandera resistance movement:

"We were able to seize the illegal journal of the
Bandera group, "Banner of Youth" from 1.6.1941, which appeals to Ukrainian youth not to believe the Germans, but be ready to co-operate with the Bandera movement
in its fight for an independent Ukraine."

(Doc. R58/698, Berlin, 28.VIII.1942)

"After last September's actions against the illegal
Bandera group, apart from the leader Stepan Bandera,
almost all important members of the organization were seized, and activities of the Bandera group on Reich territory
became almost non-existent. Within the last few months, however, the leaderless Bandera sympathizers have begun to organize themselves again."

(Doc. T175/146, Berlin, 20.XI.1942)

Stepan Bandera was the spiritual leader of the Ukrainians in their struggle against both the Nazis and the Bolsheviks. The nationalist aspirations of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, of which Bandera was the leader, and the Insurgent Army, were not motivated by anti-semitism, but by the goal for an independent Ukraine.

Stepan Bandera, nationalist leader, husband, father of three children, was assassinated October 15, 1959. I am submitting a document which was prepared for the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate (March 26, 1965) in which it is clearly stated that Bohdan Stashynsky was awarded the Order of the Red Banner by the KGB chief, Shelepin, for the assassination of Stepan Bandera.

Stepan Bandera had one son to carry on the proud family name. That son was my husband who also left a son whom we named after his grandfather. My son, Stepan, is proud of his family heritage and commitment to the Ukrainian cause, and his name and his rights as a Canadian must be protected by the judicial system. The Canadian judicial system must not be abused and allow itself to become a public forum for maligning innocent people and people who cannot defend themselves.

Therefore, with all due respect to this Inquiry, I suggest that the Commission give very serious consideration to:
a. the credibility of the public statements made during your Inquiry, and

b. the backgrounds of witnesses who come before you.
In order for your Commission to provide the necessary expertise to make informed decisions, ell information offered must be critically examined and sources substantiated.

In conclusion, in the memory of my late husband and his father, and for the future of my children, I beseech the Commission not to allow hate-mongers and bigots to abuse your just Intentions, end to protect Innocent individuals and communities who are entitled to respect and protection of their rights.

I cannot underline too strongly the anguish and pain that the Bandera family has suffered because they would not submit to the Nazis and Soviets, paying with their lives, and I consider it a grave Injustice that their name has been allowed to be maligned and slandered publicly during this Inquiry.

* After the Soviet Union fell, documents showed that Fr. Andriy Bandera was executed in Kyiv by the Soviets on July 10, 1941. Oleksa’s Auschwitz tattoo number was 51020, Vasyl Bandera’s tattoo number 49271.