Nationalism. In the Ukrainian political consciousness of the late 19th century nationalism was usually equated broadly with national consciousness and patriotism. Over time it developed a significantly narrower meaning. Prior to the First World War and during the Ukrainian struggle for independence (1917–20) it was equated with an independentist mind-set. Then, in the 1920s, an ideological current emerged that adopted the name ‘nationalism’ and developed a political and literary movement around the concept. Since that time the idea of Ukrainian nationalism has centered around readily identifiable groups or parties.
Nationalism is defined differently in different political systems. In the USSR it was commonly labeled ‘bourgeois nationalism,’ a term used indiscriminately to smear national groups opposed to Russian centralism. Continuous repressions by the communist regime in its struggle against ‘nationalism’ actually inspired varying degrees of popularity for the concept, albeit without specific ideological, social, or constitutional-political content. In the earliest years of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic national communism emerged in part as an attempt at securing a degree of independence for Ukraine from Moscow's rule (within the parameters of a Soviet political system). In Anglo-American terminology nationalism is a very broad concept. It includes national consciousness, the principle of national sovereignty, and the principle of national self-determination or liberation. By and large English-language literature on Ukraine considers nationalism to be the province not only of the fervent few, but of all patriots regardless of party affiliation. The term, however, generally used to differentiate a specific ideology of nationalism that pertains to a political movement from the wider understanding of patriotism or independentism is ‘integral nationalism.’
Genesis and early development. Mykola Mikhnovsky is commonly referred to as the father of Ukrainian nationalism, although that designation is not entirely accurate. Mikhnovsky was one of the cofounders of modern Ukrainian independentist thought, but the historical and legal underpinnings of his ideology (such as a project for the restoration of the ‘Pereiaslav Constitution’) were foreign to the tenor of later integral nationalism, which cared little for constitutional or legal argumentation. The same is true for such prerevolutionary proponents of independentism as Yuliian Bachynsky, Ivan Franko, Viacheslav Lypynsky, and Lonhyn Tsehelsky (and even Dmytro Dontsov in his early writings).
Integral nationalism emerged only later in reaction to the events of the Ukrainian struggle for independence (1917–20). It first appeared in the 1920s as the spiritual ferment of a young generation protesting the collapse of Ukrainian statehood and searching for direction in the postwar world. The first attempts at establishing nationalist organizations came out of student circles in Galicia and the emigration—the Group of Ukrainian National Youth (Prague), the League of Ukrainian Nationalists (Poděbrady), and the Union of Ukrainian Nationalist Youth (Lviv). The Ukrainian Party of National Work, led by Dmytro Dontsov, Dmytro Paliiv, and Volodymyr Kuzmovych, and its organ Zahrava (1923–4) had nationalist leanings. It was the publicist Dontsov who finally crystallized Ukrainian nationalist ideology, particularly with his widely influential work Natsionalizm (Nationalism, 1926). Other major ideologists of the movement, whose works commonly appeared in the Prague-based Rozbudova natsiï, included Dmytro Andriievsky, Volodymyr Martynets, Mykola Stsiborsky, and Yuliian Vassyian.
The Ukrainian Military Organization (UVO) was established in 1920 by a group of former officers of the Sich Riflemen (Yaroslav Chyzh, Yevhen Konovalets, Vasyl Kuchabsky, Mykhailo Matchak, Andrii Melnyk, Roman Sushko, Yevhen Zyblikevych, and others) and Ukrainian Galician Army (Yuliian Holovinsky, Osyp Navrotsky, Mykola Saievych, Omelian Senyk, and others). In 1929 the UVO joined ranks with the rising generation of young nationalists to create the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) under the leadership of Konovalets. From that time the OUN served as the vanguard of the nationalist movement, which now had a broader base and included a large number of supporters.
Ideology. Integral nationalists professed themselves to be the harbingers of an ‘idealistic’ worldview, which they understood not only as the antithesis to the materialist philosophy of Marxism-Leninism but also as a remedy for the positivism of leading figures of Ukrainian democratic thought (including Volodymyr Antonovych, Mykhailo Drahomanov, Ivan Franko, and Mykhailo Hrushevsky). In their search for causes of the failure of the Ukrainian struggle for independence (1917–20) nationalists became convinced that the masses had sought an independent state but had been frustrated and disillusioned by weak governmental leadership. Criticism of individual failings grew into a systematic rejection of the democratic and socialist principles that had been the hallmark of the Ukrainian national movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The humanist traditions of the prerevolutionary Ukrainian leadership were characterized as naive and lacking in national conviction. Nationalists believed that their era demanded new forms of revolutionary action that could match the ruthlessness and determination shown by Ukraine's enemies.
The nationalists insisted on the primacy of will over reason, action over thought, and practice over theory. Their doctrine of nationalism was infused with aspects of the irrational, voluntaristic, and vitalistic theories popularized in Western Europe by such philosophers as Henri Bergson, Friedrich Nietzsche, Gustave Le Bon, Georges Sorel, and Oswald Spengler. In the place of objective scientific discovery the nationalists propagated myths and favored an ideologically ‘correct’ image of the Ukrainian past. They promoted a cult of the struggle and reverence for national martyrs with the building of ceremonial grave mounds and commemoration of anniversaries, such as that of the Battle of Kruty.
The nationalist worldview also embraced a form of ethical idealism that spurned individual happiness (in the eudaemonic sense) and celebrated the heroic virtues of courage, fidelity, and self-sacrifice. That idealism was in keeping with a pragmatic relativism in regard to traditional moral values, which were subject to the demands of political expediency—as, for example, in the end's justifying the means. Some publicists even openly advocated Machiavellianism. The nationalists sought to develop a new type of Ukrainian—a ‘strong man’ of ‘unbending’ character, fanatically devoted to the ideals of the movement and ready to sacrifice self and others for the cause.
The nationalists regarded the nation as the ultimate ideal. One of the resolutions of the 1929 Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists stated: ‘The Ukrainian nation is the starting point for all activity and the end goal of every undertaking by a Ukrainian nationalist; the nation is the highest form of human society.’ Integral nationalism rejected political values that did not relate to the national interest. In contrast to the majority of those involved in creating the first modern Ukrainian state, who viewed national independence in the context of universal notions of liberty and justice, integral nationalists considered international relations as a ‘struggle for existence’ that was decided purely by force. They believed that a continual succession of sabotage and terrorist actions would prevent foreign powers from entrenching their control over Ukrainian lands and keep the masses in a constant state of revolutionary fervor. Such individual revolutionary deeds would eventually blossom into full-blown national revolution that would culminate in the rebirth of a Ukrainian state. They were vehemently opposed to the existing political order in Ukrainian lands under the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Within the interwar Polish state they rejected any attempts at furthering the Ukrainian cause through so-called organic or evolutionary methods of political action and had a poor opinion of attempts at ‘realpolitik.’ Those efforts were judged as ‘opportunism’ or ‘minimalism,’ and were countered with statements of the need for ‘principalism.’
Ukrainian integral nationalism resembled a totalitarian movement. The all-encompassing character of the movement was reflected in the complete and unqualified submission of its followers to nationalist ideology and organizational discipline. The movement did not restrict itself to political affairs, but sought to control cultural matters also, particularly in regard to literature, which was considered an important means of shaping society's worldview. The nationalist milieu produced a literary school known as the Visnykivtsi (around Dmytro Dontsov's journal Vistnyk) that included such writers as Bohdan Kravtsiv, Yevhen Malaniuk, Leonid Mosendz, Oleh Olzhych, Ulas Samchuk, Olena Teliha, and Yurii Lypa. Nationalists rejected the concept of independent esthetic criteria and opposed ‘art for art's sake’ with calls for an engaged literature. Nationalists also sought to extend their influence over the Ukrainian institutions and organizations outside the USSR—in effect, to bring all community activity under the control of their movement. They were ill disposed to other political parties, camps, and centers, and their occasional co-operation or agreements with them were commonly tactical in nature.
Nationalist doctrine devoted little attention to socioeconomic problems, but certain tendencies were evident. Its hostility to socialism was clear and unequivocal. Moreover the nationalists did not differentiate between the totalitarian communist and democratic variants of socialism: they presented Ukrainian socialist democratic parties (such as the Galician radicals) as demi-Communists. They rejected liberal capitalism but were markedly supportive of the co-operative movement (as reflected in Mykola Stsiborsky's Natsiokratiia [Natiocracy]). Some nationalist publicists propagated the doctrine of so-called national solidarism, the exact formulation of which remained rather vague.
Political program. The political order of the future Ukrainian state was to consist of a one-party system and would be based on a principle of supreme leadership (vozhdyzm). There would be only one political organization (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists), which would consist of a supraclass of ‘better people.’ The state structure would be formed from a hierarchy of leaders under the supreme leader (vozhd), who would function both as leader of the movement and head of state. Propaganda and educational materials for young cadres would consistently underline the role and authority of the leader. Yevhen Konovalets and then Andrii Melnyk and Stepan Bandera were accorded a kind of charismatic aura. A type of populist ‘demophilia,’ marked by the idea of ‘the will of the masses’ as the ultimate authority, also entered nationalist thinking.
The nationalists mastered successful methods of mass organization and inspired large numbers of people to action through emotional appeals. They gained influence in various segments of society, including the poorer peasantry and young tradespeople (notably in Lviv). The movement's leading cadres in Galicia in the 1930s consisted largely of students.
The motivating factor of Ukrainian nationalism was the pathos of the Ukrainian liberation struggle. Its main success lay in its ability to arouse dynamism in postrevolutionary Ukrainian society and to secure the continuation of the independence struggle after the failure to maintain statehood. The closest relatives of Ukrainian nationalism were not German Nazism and Italian fascism, which were the product of industrialized and urbanized societies, but similar ideologies of parties among agrarian peoples in less-developed countries of Eastern Europe, including the Ustaše (Ustashi) of Croatia, the Romanian Iron Guards, the Slovak L'udaks (supporters of A. Hlinka's Slovak People's party), and the Polish National Radical camp. Ukrainian nationalism was a uniquely generated phenomenon, although its development was decisively influenced by foreign models. The Ukrainian movement also adopted certain symbolic paraphernalia (such as forms of greeting). Racist theory, in particular anti-Semitism, was not an intrinsic part of Ukrainian integral nationalism, although in the 1930s some publicists touched on anti-Semitic themes, and others began to examine the issue of the ‘Ukrainian race.’
The origins and development of Ukrainian nationalism were particularly influenced by the dire political circumstances of the Ukrainian people in the 1920s and 1930s. Stalinist policies in the USSR threatened the very physical existence of the Ukrainian people, and under Polish domination the Ukrainian population was shut out from positions of authority and subject to arbitrary rule. That situation was compounded by the poor economic conditions prevalent in Western Ukraine—general economic stagnation, rural overpopulation, and high unemployment among the intelligentsia. The conditions undermined faith in legal efforts to produce change, radicalized the general population, and gave credence to extremist tendencies. The obvious crisis that beset many European parliamentary democracies at that time also undermined the prestige of democracy among the Ukrainian citizenry. Ukrainians obviously could not support the post-Versailles status quo, and they sympathized with revisionist tendencies. In spite of their credo to rely on their ‘own strengths,’ Ukrainian nationalists looked to Germany for support in their cause; certain circles in the Reich, in turn, encouraged those expectations and calculations.
1929–39. From the founding of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists to the outbreak of the Second World War nationalism grew to become the most dynamic political force in the Ukrainian world outside the Soviet Union. It managed to transcend regional boundaries and extend its influence among Ukrainians in Poland, Romania, and Czechoslovakia, among the political émigrés in Western Europe, and even among those in North America. It nevertheless remained centered in Galicia and, despite repeated efforts, did not manage to spread into Soviet Ukraine.
Nationalist doctrine stressed the need to wage a revolutionary struggle against all occupiers of Ukrainian lands, but until 1939 OUN-directed sabotage and terrorism was focused exclusively against Poland. Anti-Russian action largely took the form of combating Sovietophilism (regarded by nationalists as a new form of Russophilism) and assassinating Soviet diplomats.
The nationalist dynamic proved so strong that other currents in Ukrainian political life were willingly or unwillingly influenced by it. The effect was most strongly felt among supporters of the former Hetman government, who, despite the warnings of Viacheslav Lypynsky, increasingly began to change their conception of the Hetman from one of a constitutional monarch to one of a dictator. Some members of the Government-in-exile of the Ukrainian National Republic also began to lean in that direction. Nationalism even attracted some supporters from the ranks of the Ukrainian National Democratic Alliance. Nationalist ideology was not actively opposed by the Greek Catholic church. Some younger priests were even active members of the movement; a group of ‘Christian nationalists’ (Konstantyn Chekhovych, Vasyl Hlibovytsky, and others) emerged from their ranks.
All the same, nationalism did not go unchallenged. In the 1930s Dmytro Paliiv established a party known as the Front of National Unity that espoused ‘creative nationalism’ (formulated by Mykola Shlemkevych) and hoped to compete ideologically with the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. Others who opposed integral nationalism on ideological grounds included Galician radicals and social democrats (Karlo Kobersky and Volodymyr Starosolsky), some national-democrats (Stepan Baran, Milena Rudnytska), some Catholic activists (Osyp Nazaruk), and supporters of the democratic traditions of the Ukrainian National Republic in Prague (Isaak Mazepa, Panas Fedenko). Moreover the revolutionary nature of integral nationalism made it, by definition, inimical to the Ukrainian National Democratic Alliance (the mainstream Galician Ukrainian political party) as a whole and brought it into conflict with the Ukrainian Catholic authorities, notably Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky.
Neither the criticisms of other Ukrainians nor the repressions of the Polish authorities could stem the growth of nationalism. Nevertheless the movement itself had begun to show signs of internal crisis by the 1930s. The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, simultaneously an underground army and a political movement (even an unofficial party), was hard-pressed to reconcile the imperative of strict organizational discipline and secrecy demanded by its revolutionary posture with the need to generate mass appeal as a political movement: mass participation rendered the organization vulnerable to penetration by informers and provocateurs. Many nationalists also found it difficult to discriminate between the tactics and methods used to combat the ‘occupational regime’ and the way in which they dealt with their Ukrainian political opponents. The moral and political capital amassed in the struggle against an external enemy became the basis of efforts to establish their hegemony over Ukrainian civic life. Internal political motivations, conscious and unconscious, came to influence OUN strategies. A new social type now emerged in Western Ukraine, the ‘professional revolutionaries,’ who were usually motivated by the noblest ideals but commonly exhausted themselves and their potential contributions after several years of feverish activity.
The irrational underpinnings of integral nationalism confounded sober critical analysis and rendered perspective and appropriate decision-making, as well as the rectification of mistakes, very difficult. In the 1920s, nationalist groups were often centers of discussion and spiritual quest; by the 1930s the intellectual level of the nationalist environment had declined sharply. Young dilettante publicists self-confidently began tackling so-called global problems. Their writings were characterized by pathos, inflated rhetoric, and a penchant for poetic clichés drawn from the works of national bards or the articles of Dmytro Dontsov. The aim of that kind of writing was to create an emotive atmosphere. Thus, while serving to strengthen the collective resolve of Ukrainians outside the Ukrainian SSR, nationalism lowered the level of Ukrainian political culture.
The Second World War. The war was the period of nationalism's greatest heights and most fundamental organizational and ideological crisis. With the Soviet occupation of Galicia and Volhynia in 1939 and the expansion of Nazi control over most of the European continent, the activity of other political parties and groupings in Western Ukraine ground to a complete halt. Only the nationalists continued to function. In Soviet-controlled territories they maintained their underground network, and under Germany they benefited (until 1941) from a semilegal status, even in Poland and Czechoslovakia. Three major developments influenced the subsequent development of Ukrainian nationalism: a schism in the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, the German occupation of Ukraine in 1941–4, and direct contact with eastern Ukraine and the Soviet system.
In 1940 the OUN broke into two hostile factions, the Banderites and the Melnykites. The conflict was the result of differences in personality and tactical preference. In many respects it was caused by a lack of understanding between émigré nationalist circles, who considered Andrii Melnyk to be the successor of Yevhen Konovalets, and the more extremist elements on Ukrainian territory (headed by Stepan Bandera), who, motivated by their achievements in the armed struggle and by their personal suffering, sought the leadership of the organization. After their split into two factions in 1940, each continued to use the OUN name and claimed adherence to the same ideology. The schism not only weakened the capability of the nationalist movement to deal with external problems but also resulted in a bloody internecine struggle that compromised fundamentally nationalism's moral prestige.
The colonial policies of Nazi Germany's occupational authorities in Ukraine did not coincide with the foreign policy adopted by the nationalist movement. German unwillingness to enter into partnership with the Ukrainians, however, freed nationalists from roles comparable to those played by the Croatian Ustaše or the Slovak L'udaks.
The Soviet annexation of Western Ukraine in the fall of 1939 meant a shift for the nationalists from an anti-Polish to an anti-Soviet orientation. It also opened the way to central and eastern Ukraine for the nationalist movement, which previously had been restricted to Galicia and Volhynia. The movement displayed extraordinary initiative and great daring in its dealings with a hitherto unknown Soviet reality, and the patriotism and self-sacrifice of its representatives attracted sympathy and trust as well as a desire by nationally conscious Ukrainians in those regions to participate in the cause. The movement's weakness in socioeconomic issues, however, and its streak of totalitarianism proved to be major stumbling blocks to greater popularity among a population whose experiences under the Soviet regime had given it a revulsion to any form of dictatorship.
Wartime proved to be the supreme test of the nationalist movement. Despite the movement's internal difficulties it was the strongest Ukrainian political force of the day, and it managed to lead a resistance movement against both a Hitlerite Germany and a Stalinist Soviet Union. In 1942–3 the resistance took concrete form in the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, a body that kept alive Ukrainian aspirations to statehood in even the most adverse circumstances.
The forerunner of revisionist currents in OUN ideology was Ivan Mitrynga, who had sought to make the nationalist movement deal with Soviet realities and turn its ideology more to the left. The process of ideological revisionism affected the various branches of the movement in different ways. Members of OUN expeditionary groups that worked with the underground in central Ukraine were the most susceptible. The resolutions of the Third Great Congress of the OUN, held in 1943 by the OUN (Bandera faction), and the platform of the Ukrainian Supreme Liberation Council of 1944 contained significant changes in ideology. Some of the fundamental revisions were the abandonment of compulsory idealism, and the toleration of pluralism both in the liberation movement and in the future Ukrainian state; the rejection of racism and ethnic exclusivity, and the recognition of the legal equality of all citizens of Ukraine regardless of ethnic background; and the adoption of a detailed socioeconomic program, which favored a mix of nationalized, co-operative, and private sectors. When it came to the question of the future political order, however, the changes offered were vague and inconclusive.
Postwar developments. The anticommunist underground in the Ukrainian SSR fought on until the early 1950s. Sources available in the West indicate that by that time the Ukrainian resistance movement, although tied to the earlier Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, had completely purged itself of the characteristics of integral nationalism and had adopted democratic independentism. The writings of such publicists as Petro Poltava and Osyp Hornovy in the late 1940s and early 1950s clearly illustrate such an evolution.
Emigré nationalism was still represented by the factions of the OUN, but there were now three of them. In the late 1940s a splinter group broke off from the Bandera faction because of the faction's apparent reversion to the old tenets of integral nationalism. The new group consisted of members of the Ukrainian Supreme Liberation Council and other OUN revisionists. The group, which actually stepped outside the bounds of traditionally nationalist organizations, was initially led by Lev Rebet and was known as the OUN (Abroad).
The OUN (Melnyk faction) kept the OUN name after the war. By means of its work with other émigré parties in the Ukrainian National Council it proved that it had abandoned the old tenets of party exclusivity. The faction, right-wing and conservative but largely moderate in orientation, included most of the intellectuals of the nationalist movement. The traditional mentality and ideology of integral nationalism were best preserved in the emigration by the OUN (Bandera faction).
Before the changes in Ukraine in 1991, as a political movement and an ideology Ukrainian nationalism could be active only in the emigration. Even in its splintered form it remained an explosive and vibrant force. It had great ideological difficulties, however, because of its confrontation with Western democracy, its inability to deal fully with the question of the political beliefs of Ukrainians in Ukraine, and its lack of contact with political processes there. Nevertheless it left an indelible mark on Ukrainian history, both as a sign of the people's life and as a revolutionary force in the struggle for self-determination.
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[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]
Encyclopedia of Ukraine