The words below were sent to us anonymously. The author is in northern Ukraine and therefore writing at risk to their own security.
The author contacted us after reading an article we published on attitudes to the Ukraine war.
As our anonymous contact expressed views that aren’t given coverage, and could be said to be suppressed, in Britain, I responded with some questions, and the article below is their answer to one of these questions.
The author is an eyewitness, a historian by education and a keen observer of legislative and political trends in Ukrainian society.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine last February, the prominent role of the far-right in Ukrainian politics has been carefully avoided in the British media’s coverage of the war.
Stepan Bandera, referred to throughout the article, was a Ukrainian Nazi collaborator responsible for atrocities committed against Jews, Poles and Russians during the second world war.
Recently, leaked documents from the Pentagon revealed that the UK provides the majority of NATO states’ Special Operations Forces in Ukraine. This is in addition to the UK training Ukrainian troops; the donation of 14 British tanks to fire depleted uranium darts; hundreds of British citizens joining Ukraine’s foreign legion; and the UK’s intelligence-gathering surveillance on behalf of Volodymyr Zelenskky government, among other significant British contributions to Ukraine’s war effort.
The leaks also revealed that the claim consistently made by leaders of NATO states, that Russia is struggling to defeat Ukraine, is false.
English is not the author’s first language and I made some minor edits for fluency, but otherwise the text is as they sent it, and the links are the ones they included. Where there are two links, the first is the one provided by the author, and the second is one I added if the first did not work.
Tom Charles @tomhcharles
Answers to questions about Ukrainian fascism
First of all, it should be said that English is not my native language. In this regard, there may be translation inaccuracies and incorrect wording. Please take this into account when reading this document.
In addition, you raised questions that require evidence.
I am a historian by education, so I know the method of proof.
In this regard, as a specialist, I must immediately warn that it will take considerable time (weeks, months) and resources to provide systematic and comprehensive evidence on your questions.
Therefore, in this relatively short answer, I will refer to a few, but the most significant or characteristic evidence that reflects the system.
Moreover, what I am talking about, one way or another, I see with my own eyes through the media directly from the Ukrainian authorities, I personally see in the legislative acts of my country (Ukraine), I see with my own eyes on the streets of my hometown and my country, I perceive in personal communication with their friends and so on.
I also use the analytics of trusted anti-fascist authors, whose words I passed through my own internal and very strict critical apparatus and aroused confidence.
QUESTION: How are Stepan Bandera and the Azov battalion glorified today in Ukraine?
About Stepan Bandera.
One of the first, most noticeable for the whole society, attempts to glorify S. Bandera was made back in 2010 by the third President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko.
By his decree No. 46/2010 of January 20, 2010, he awarded S. Bandera the title of Hero of Ukraine (posthumously).
Link to the decree on the official website here or here.
It should be noted that later, in 2011, the Ukrainian court cancelled the above decree of the President of Ukraine. However, it was cancelled for a formal reason, since, according to current Ukrainian laws, it is only the citizens of the state of Ukraine that was created after 1991 that can be awarded the title of ‘Hero of Ukraine’. And Bandera was not formally a citizen of present-day Ukraine. On the very fact of the glorification of Bandera, the presidential decree was not appealed.
The above decree of the President of Ukraine caused a public outcry and was actively covered in the media.
Link to news for example, here.
Thus, the glorification of Bandera began.
However, one should take into account the time when this first major attempt to officially glorify S. Bandera took place – 2010. This is the period in Ukraine when the fascist ideology has not yet finally won in Ukraine and the entire repressive state mechanism had not been activated against those who do not agree with the glorification of Bandera and reasonably consider him a fascist. Such a turning point occurred after the so-called Euromaidan (Revolution of Dignity) in 2014, after which the glorification of Bandera acquired a new, comprehensive scale.
So, after 2014, the total glorification of Stepan Bandera was as follows:
• Bandera began to be glorified by the highest bodies of state power in Ukraine, as well as
• Streets were named after Bandera;
• Popular cultural figures began to glorify Bandera;
• They began to establish awards named after Bandera;
• Bandera began to be glorified in the media by journalists, public figures, and
• Bandera began to be glorified at rallies and in other ways.
As a result, S. Bandera began to gain popularity among the masses. In support of the above theses, I can refer to the following evidence:
As mentioned above, Stepan Bandera cannot be officially awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine for purely formal reasons. However, this does not prevent him from being glorified in the public consciousness by all other available means.
Let’s start with the highest state authorities of Ukraine, as well as their representatives.
In 2018, the highest legislative body of Ukraine, the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) of Ukraine, adopted the Decree of December 18, 2018 “On honoring anniversaries and anniversaries in 2019”. Among the memorable dates was the 110th anniversary of the birth of Stepan Bandera.
Link to the official website with the specified resolution here.
It should be noted that this resolution was adopted in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine by a collective majority of 450 deputies. That is, this decision is not the desire of one person, but is a conscious policy of a large group of people who have power in Ukraine.
Moreover, this resolution, as indicated above, was adopted at the time when Petro Poroshenko was the fifth President of Ukraine (2014-2019). At the moment, Petro Poroshenko is the head of the European Solidarity party and a people’s deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, that is, a representative of the highest state authority in Ukraine.
During a visit to Ukrainian volunteers on January 2, 2023 in the city of Kherson, Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, together with volunteers, sang the famous and popular song of Ukrainian nationalists, “Our Father Bandera”.
Note. The text of this song has the following line: “Our father is Bandera, Ukraine is mother, we will fight for Ukraine.” Thus, the song elevates Bandera to the scale of Ukraine itself, in fact identifying them, which praises and glorifies Bandera. To date, this song is famous and iconic in Ukrainian society.
Link to the site with this news, where there is a video of the performance of the song by the fifth President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko: here or here.
Next, let’s talk about naming streets after Stepan Bandera.
So, for example, one of the central streets in the capital of Ukraine – the city of Kyiv, is named after S. Bandera, namely “Prospect S. Bandera”.
Link to the name of this street in Wikipedia
Also, the name of this street is reflected in Google maps.
In Ukraine, mostly in western Ukraine, many streets are named after Bandera. This can be checked on Google maps.
Popularization of Stepan Bandera by cultural figures.
There is a famous singer in Ukraine, Verka Serduchka, a fictional drag character played by actor Andrey Danilko.
Verka Serduchka is extremely popular in Ukraine, Russia and other countries and in 2007 at Eurovision, Serduchka took second place.
And this very popular singer also sang the above-mentioned song of Ukrainian nationalists, “Our Father Bandera”.
Here is a link to the performance of the song on YouTube
I think it is not necessary to explain that the performance of such a song by a star of such a level could only happen at the direction of the Ukrainian authorities in the framework of the nationwide policy of glorifying Bandera.
And I pay attention to how enthusiastically the audience meets the song.
Prize named after Stepan Bandera
In Ukraine, in 2012, the Lviv Regional Council (local authority) established the “Award named after the Hero of Ukraine Stepan Bandera”.
Link to information about the award on Wikipedia or on Lviv council’s website.
The glorification of Stepan Bandera in the media by journalists, public figures, opinion leaders
In Ukraine, there is a very famous and popular journalist and opinion leader, Dmitry Gordon.
Dmitry Gordon has always taken a position that was clearly and unequivocally against Stepan Bandera without any reservations, since Bandera is an executioner and a murderer.
However, even Dmitry Gordon, under the pressure of the political situation, changed his position. Now he says that if someone in western Ukraine wants to, let them glorify Bandera; and in eastern Ukraine, if they don’t want to, let them not do it.
Note: historically, it was western Ukraine that sympathized with S. Bandera, and the east of Ukraine was his opponent.
Here is a link to a YouTube video where Dmitry Gordon talks about this.
I specifically cited these words of this particular public figure as an example, which is quite important in the context of the topic we are discussing. This example vividly shows the breakdown of the psychology of the citizens of Ukraine. Let me explain. Until 2010, the general and open glorification of Stepan Bandera was generally impossible. At the same time, the specified public figure Dmitry Gordon, as mentioned above, took a sharply negative position in relation to Bandera without any reservations or assumptions. However, after 2010, as I already said, Bandera was openly imposed on the entire Ukrainian society, at the state level, as an ideal.
The above words of Dmitry Gordon are a reflection of this change in attitude towards Bandera. Now he speaks as a fait accompli that for at least half of Ukrainian society Bandera is a hero and such people have the right to openly honor him. Moreover, Dmitry Gordon himself changed his position towards Bandera from a sharply negative one to a position that allows him to be glorified by those for whom he is a hero.
And in this case, regarding the words of Dmitry Gordon, also make a reservation. Dmitry Gordon is clearly disingenuous when he talks about the freedom of choice in whether to glorify S. Bandera or not. Dmitry Gordon is a hostage to his publicity and his former attitude towards S. Bandera. Therefore, even under the influence of the new political situation, which glorifies Bandera, he cannot sharply change his position to the exact opposite and come out completely in defence of S. Bandera. That is why he voiced such a half-hearted position.
Moreover, such a crafty position is nothing but an Overton Window for those who used to condemn Bandera. Such a half-hearted position is intended to remove the taboo from the personality of Bandera. And in the future, under the influence of the methods described in this document, these people will be forced to accept that Bandera is a hero. The classic Overton Window in action. Therefore, in fact, there is no freedom of opinion in relation to Stepan Bandera in our country. The denial of Bandera’s ideal is literally life-threatening.
The glorification of S. Bandera at rallies and in other ways
On January 1st 2019 in the capital of Ukraine – the city of Kyiv – the birthday of Stepan Bandera was celebrated with a torchlight procession.
Link to video of the torchlight procession on YouTube.
In this video, posters with images of S. Bandera are clearly visible, the participants in the procession give comments that S. Bandera is a hero for them.
Also, the name of Stepan Bandera was given to the home-made weapon “Bandera Smoothie” (a bottle with incendiary mixture). The name of this weapon is a play on words. During World War II, Soviet soldiers used a homemade weapon (a bottle with incendiary mixture) against Nazi tanks, which was called the Molotov Cocktail. Now the same home-made weapon that Ukrainian propaganda proposed to use against Russians (descendants of Soviet citizens) began to be called “Bandera Smoothie”.
Here is a link to a site where it is proposed to make this homemade weapon with this name. Also in Ukraine, car stickers with the inscription “Bandera Smoothie” are sold. Here is a link to a site selling these stickers.
In addition, the name of Stepan Bandera was given to a military vehicle – “Banderomobil”.
Note. “Banderomobil” is the unofficial name of the car brand, this is folk art, but quite characteristic. The name is written in large letters on the side of the car and is a play on words, namely the addition of the words “Bandera” and “automobile”.
Link to a car site with a photo of such a car here, or here
It is also necessary to pay attention to the fact that the same fifth President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, is driving the above-mentioned “Banderomobil”. That is, he created a PR campaign with “Banderomobil” and he himself participates in it.
We move on.
Even in my professional environment, colleagues have ceased to be shy, and some of them have begun to publicly, openly congratulate each other on S. Bandera’s birthday. The author of this document personally witnessed such congratulations.
Also, the author of this document personally witnessed how on the facade of a house on the central avenue of one of the large industrial cities in the south-east of Ukraine, around 2018, a portrait of R. Shukhevych was painted (a close associate of S. Bandera, a war criminal, a participant in the “Volyn Massacre” in 1943).
Summary – the rise of Bandera in modern Ukraine
Summing up, it should be said that there are many such examples. However, I think that in the context of this short essay, these examples are weighty, characteristic and sufficient.
As stated above, the actions of the authorities (plus a clearly aggressive attitude towards those who deny the glorification of Stepan Bandera) brought results and Bandera began to gain popularity in society.
I also consider it my duty to note that the glorification of Stepan Bandera absolutely clearly coincided with the development of anti-Russian rhetoric and the incitement of causeless, unjustified hatred towards Russians and everything Russian in our country.
The author of this document has personally witnessed the incitement of such hatred in the media by politicians, journalists, public figures and so on.
As a result, personal acquaintances of the author of this document after 2014 dramatically changed their minds and began to openly speak aggressively against Russians. Moreover, these people cannot explain an adequate reason for hatred.
It is also noteworthy that many of these aggressive people are themselves Russian-speaking and have ties to Russia: some have relatives in Russia, some from Russia receive a pension, and some even teach Russian literature.
However, even they became unreasonably aggressive towards the Russians.
As a conclusion: I personally believe that the incitement of unreasonable hatred towards everything Russian is inextricably linked with the glorification of S. Bandera; glorification of S. Bandera initially pursued the goal of inciting unreasonable hatred of everything Russian.
About the Azov Battalion
Note: the Azov battalion at different times had different numbers and composition, so it can also be called a separate special forces detachment “Azov” or the regiment “Azov”.
Arguments and evidence regarding the glorification and popularization of the Azov Regiment and its militants in society are generally similar to those given regarding the glorification of Stepan Bandera.
Such evidence includes, in particular, the following:
• The official status of the Azov Regiment in the Ukrainian state;
• Rewarding the militants of the Azov Regiment with state awards;
• Popularisation of the Azov Regiment in society with the help of social advertising, celebrities, and so on.
The official status of the Azov Regiment
The Azov Battalion was created in May 2014 (after the coup d’état) as a power unit within the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine.
Further, the Azov Battalion was reorganized and expanded as part of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine.
Link to the Wikipedia article, which indicates the creation and development of the Azov Battalion here.
Thus, the Azov Regiment initially had a legal and official status as a power unit of the state of Ukraine.
This alone already confirms the fact that the fascist military unit “Azov” is officially recognized and approved by the state of Ukraine.
Rewarding the militants of the Azov Regiment with state awards
In August 2022, Senior Lieutenant Vitaly Gritsaenko, Deputy Commander of the Azov
Special Forces Detachment, was posthumously awarded. This is stated on the official website of the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky. Link to the official website of the President of Ukraine with information about the award here.
Popularization of the Azov Regiment in society with the help of approving articles in the media, social advertising, celebrities, and so on
For example, I give a link to an article about one of the fighters of the Azov Regiment here:
Also, the author of this document personally in his town saw on the central avenue a lot of billboards with social advertising of the Azov Regiment (and with the image of their logo in the form of Wolfsangel) and calls to become a militant of this regiment.
In addition, the Azov Regiment is popularized and glorified by pop culture figures.
So, in Ukraine there is a famous singer, Tina Karol. She met with the fighters of the Azov Regiment, about which there is an approving article on the apostrophe.ua media resource.
Link to the article here.
Summing up, I will say that, as in the case of the glorification of Stepan Bandera, the glorification of the militants of the Azov Regiment and the creation of a positive image by them is systemic and national in nature, for which there is a lot of evidence, some of which was given above.