It’s High Time for a Polish-Russian Alliance Against Ukrainian Nazism – Popov


July 7, 2017 – Fort Russ – 

By Eduard Popov – translated by Jafe Arnold – 

Eduard Popov, born in 1973 in Konstantinovka, Donetsk region, is a Rostov State University graduate with a PhD in history and philosophy. In 2008, he founded the Center for Ukrainian Studies of the Southern Federal University of Russia in Rostov-on-Don. From 2009-2013, he was the founding head of the Black Sea-Caspian Center of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, an analytical institute of the Presidential Administration of Russia. In June 2014, Popov headed the establishment of the Representative Office of the Donetsk People’s Republic in Rostov-on-Don. He has actively participated in humanitarian aid efforts in Donbass and has been a guest contributor to various Donbass media, such as the Lugansk-based Cossack Media Group. Popov has been Fort Russ’ guest analyst since June, 2016.


As many might have noticed, this past week has been marked by a political and diplomatic duel between Poland and Ukraine. The spouts which fueled this conflict were the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affair’s proclamation that Banderism is inadmissible in the EU and the Ukrainian side’s reaction. Although squabbles between Poland and Ukraine have been at times rather harsh on their own, the conflict has in one way or another come to involve other countries, such as Russia, Belorussia (on whose territory Ukrainian Nazi collaborators left a bloody footprint comparable to that of the Volyn Massacre), and Israel. And this is not even a complete list of the countries that have in one way or another suffered at the hands of Banderism. Thus, this bilateral conflict is with ease transforming into a multilateral one. 

Allow me to express my opinion on how the essence and prospects of this conflict’s development can be seen from Russia. On July 4th, I explained this in an interview with Sputnik Radio, the main theses of which I’ll repeat here.

First of all, I did not agree with the previous expert who asserted that the accentuated criminal character of the ideological and terrorist practice of OUN-UPA in Poland was caused by the Polish government at the time’s policies. The expert went on to allege that Polish society today is rather indifferent towards historical conflicts between Poles and Ukrainians. On the contrary, I argued that the consistent work of Polish social movements such as organizations of Kresy (Poland’s former Eastern Borderlands) descendants and the activism of such leaders as Mateusz Piskorski and the anti-fascist party Zmiana, etc., despite long years of futility, nevertheless at last yielded fruit in the summer of 2016 when the Polish Sejm and Senate recognized the Volyn Massacre as genocide. Without pressure from society, the Polish authorities would not have taken such a step. 

Secondly, it cannot be ignored that the ruling Law and Justice Party’s policies have skillfully used the anti-Banderite and anti-Ukrainian sentiments that are deeply embedded in Polish society. In this case, official Warsaw considers criticizing the policy of heroizing Banderism to be a political tool. Indeed, Poland’s Ukrainian policy looks like none other than the carrot and stick method. The carrot is (at least on the level of declarations) supporting Ukraine’s ambitions to join NATO and the EU. The stick is criticizing the Ukrainian government’s domestic policies forging a cult around OUN-UPA criminals. The Polish foreign ministry’s proclamation that Ukraine cannot join the EU as long as it upholds Bandera is part and parcel of this policy framework. Ukraine’s European ambitions and the related issue of glorifying Bandera and Shukhevych are being cleverly manipulated by official Warsaw to put pressure on Kiev. What concessions does Poland demand from its junior ally and partner? Perhaps it wants the issue of restitution for the Kresy resolved. 

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Thirdly, despite its criticism of Kiev’s glorifying of OUN-UPA, the Polish government’s policy on the Ukrainian question has not fundamentally changed. The criticism of Banderism voiced by Polish authorities is – unlike the criticism voiced in Polish society – only pragmatic in nature and serves political goals, the most important of which is shaping a model of Polish-Ukrainian relations in which the Ukrainian side feels itself to be guilty. As a point of comparison, official Warsaw managed to impose a similar model of relations on Russian President Yeltsin’s collaborationist regime in the 1990’s.The Polish government wants to repeat this success with Ukraine. Looking ahead, however, this policy looks doomed to failure.

Fourthly, in order to effectively combat the glorification of Nazism and its Ukrainian variety of Banderism, an “internationalization” of such work is a priori needed. Allow me to provide evidence for such from my own experience. In September 2009, I took the initiative of holding an international scholarly and public conference on the Volyn Massacre with assistance from scholars and public figures from Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Belorussia, and Israel. With this conference, I wanted to achieve a scholarly and socio-political “mainstreaming” of this taboo topic concerning the genocide of the Polish population of Volhynia. Unfortunately, this effort was not received with understanding in the professional sphere in which I was involved at the time. But the idea of the conference as an international event, I believe, is relevant today. 

In my opinion, if Poland were to continue to fight against Banderism alone and avoid any cooperation with Russia, Belorussia, and Israel, then its policy will look insincere and politically biased. Let us recall that it is none other than Russia that is the most consistent critic of the cult of Banderism. On the legislative level, Russia has even banned OUN-UPA and other Ukrainian Nazi collaborationist organizations as criminal. A Warsaw-Moscow alliance including other countries who suffered at the hands of OUN-UPA on this issue would not only look natural, but is simply necessary. 

Finally, for my fifth and final thesis, I posited that official Warsaw’s Ukraine policy is a typical manifestation of double standards. At both the state and social levels, Russia is dearly sympathetic towards Poles as victims of genocide during the Volyn Massacre. Russia has both informally and officially condemned acts of vandalism against monuments to the victims of the Volyn Massacre in Ukraine. But Russia is simultaneously perplexed and indignant over Polish authorities’ decision on June 22nd, 2017 to demolish monuments to the Soviet soldiers who died liberating Poland from Hitler’s Germany. Were 600,000 Soviet soldiers killed while liberating Poland in the Second World War only to receive this kind of “appreciation” from the Polish government? This is yet another argument in favor of the opinion that the Polish government (not necessarily Polish society) is two-faced in its claims to “historical memory.” While condemning the suppression of historical memory in Ukraine, Warsaw is waging its own very same war at home. 

In fact, the Ukrainian authorities are merely copying the actions of their bigger Polish brother. It is no coincidence that even the name of Ukraine’s notorious Institute of National Remembrance, the main ideological center in Ukraine responsible for glorifying Banderism, is a copy of the very same Polish Institute of National Remembrance.

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I am rather skeptical towards the possibility of Polish-Russian cooperation in fighting the glorification of Banderism, simply because the Polish government won’t opt for such for strategic reasons. By virtue of viewing Ukraine as a loyal ally in the fight against “imperialist Moscow”, Warsaw is ready to extinguish the flame of popular hate towards the Banderite “heroes” until a more convenient time.

But I am just as skeptical towards the future of Polish-Ukrainian relations. Poland and Ukraine as states (not peoples!) are historical and political enemies and opposites that are only circumstantially united by hatred for Russia. However, it is worth recalling that the OUN originally arose in 1929 as none other than an anti-Polish organization of Ukrainian fascists. When the historical pendulum swings in the other direction – for example, following Ukraine’s next defeat on the battlefield in Donbass – then the anti-Polish vector of Ukrainian nationalism and Ukrainian Nazism will once again be decisive. 

At such a point, not a shred of the conditional alliance of the past will remain. This is yet another argument in favor of the view that there is no alternative to a Polish-Russian alliance to fight the glorification of Ukrainian Nazi collaborationism and its contemporary incarnation. 

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