The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (Ukrainian: Організація українських націоналістів, romanized: Orhanizatsiya ukrayins'kykh natsionalistiv, abbreviated OUN) was a Ukrainian ultranationalist political organization established in 1929 in Vienna. It was an important and the biggest far-right Ukrainian organization operating in Kresy region (Eastern Galicia) of the Second Polish Republic. OUN emerged as a union between the Ukrainian Military Organization, smaller radical right-wing groups, and right-wing Ukrainian nationalists and intellectuals represented by Dmytro Dontsov, Yevhen Konovalets, Mykola Stsiborskyi, and other figures.[nb 1]
Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists
Організація українських націоналістів
Emblem of OUN-M
Emblem of OUN-B
|Leader||Yevhen Konovalets (first) Bohdan Chervak (current)|
|Paramilitary Wing||Ukrainian Insurgent Army|
|Colors||Red and black|
|Anthem||March of Ukrainian Nationalists|
Flag of OUN-M
Flag of OUN-B
The ideology of the OUN has been described as similar to Italian Fascism. The OUN sought to infiltrate legal political parties, universities and other political structures and institutions.[nb 2] The OUN's strategies to achieve Ukrainian independence included violence and terrorism against perceived foreign and domestic enemies, particularly Poland, Czechoslovakia, the Kingdom of Romania, and the Soviet Union.
In 1940, the OUN split into two parts. The older, more moderate members supported Andriy Atanasovych Melnyk and the OUN-M, while the younger and more radical members supported Stepan Bandera's OUN-B. After the start of the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941 (Operation Barbarossa), the OUN-B in the person of Yaroslav Stetsko declared an independent Ukrainian state on 30 June 1941 in occupied Lviv, while the region was under the control of Nazi Germany, pledging to work closely with Germany, which was presented as freeing Ukrainians from Russian oppression. In response, the Nazi authorities suppressed the OUN leadership. In October 1942 the OUN-B established the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). In 1943–1944, in an effort to pre-empt Polish efforts to re-establish Poland's pre-war borders, UPA combat units carried out large-scale ethnic cleansing against Polish people. Historians estimate that 50-100,000 Polish civilians were massacred in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia.
After World War II, the UPA fought against Soviet and Polish government forces. During Operation Vistula in 1947, the Polish government deported 140,000 Ukrainian civilians in Poland to remove the support base for the UPA. In the struggle Soviet forces killed, arrested, or deported over 500,000 Ukrainian civilians. Many of those targeted by the Soviets included UPA members, their families, and their supporters.[nb 3] During and after the Cold War, Western intelligence agencies, including the CIA, covertly supported the OUN.
A number of contemporary far-right Ukrainian political organizations claim to be inheritors of the OUN's political traditions, including Svoboda, Right Sector, the Ukrainian National Assembly – Ukrainian National Self Defence, and the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists.[nb 4] The role of the OUN remains contested in historiography, as these later political inheritors developed literature denying the organization's fascist political heritage and collaboration with Nazi Germany, while also celebrating the SS Division Galicia.[nb 5]
In 1919, with the end of the Polish–Ukrainian War, the Second Polish Republic took over most of the territory claimed by the West Ukrainian National Republic (the rest was absorbed by the Soviet Union). One year later, exiled Ukrainian officers set up the Ukrainian Military Organization (Ukrainian – Українська Військова Організація: Ukrayins'ka Viys'kova Orhanizatsiya, the UVO), an underground military organization composed of Ukrainian veterans with the goals of continuing the armed struggle against Poland, of destabilizing the political situation, and of preparing disarmed veterans for an anti-Polish uprising. The UVO was strictly a military organization with a military command structure. Originally the UVO operated under the authority of the exiled government of the Western Ukrainian People's Republic, but in 1925 following a power struggle all the supporters of the Western Ukrainian People's Republic's exiled president Yevhen Petrushevych were expelled.
Yevhen Konovalets, the former commander of the elite Sich Riflemen unit of the Ukrainian military, led the UVO. West Ukrainian political parties secretly funded the organization. Although it engaged in acts of sabotage and attempted to assassinate the Poland's Chief of State Józef Piłsudski in 1921, it functioned more as a militant protective organization rather than as a terrorist organization. When in 1923 the Allies recognized Polish rule over western Ukraine, many members left the organization. The Ukrainian legal parties turned against the UVO's militant actions, preferring to work within the Polish political system. As a result, the UVO turned to Germany and Lithuania for political and financial support. It established contact with militant anti-Polish student organizations, such as the Group of Ukrainian National Youth, the League of Ukrainian Nationalists, and the Union of Ukrainian Nationalist Youth. After preliminary meetings in Berlin in 1927 and Prague in 1928, at the founding congress in Vienna in 1929 the veterans of the UVO and the student militants met and united to form the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. Although the members consisted mostly of Galician youths, Yevhen Konovalets served as its first leader and its leadership council, the Provid, comprised mostly veterans and was based abroad.
At the time of its founding, the OUN was originally a fringe movement in western Ukraine, where the political scene was dominated by the mainstream and moderate Ukrainian National Democratic Alliance (UNDO). This party promoted constitutional democracy and sought to achieve independence through peaceful means. UNDO was supported by the Ukrainian clergy, intelligentsia, and the traditional establishment and published the main western Ukrainian newspaper, Dilo .
In contrast, the OUN accepted violence as a political tool against foreign and domestic enemies of their cause. Most of its activity was directed against Polish politicians and government representatives. Under the command of the Western Ukrainian Territorial Executive (established in February 1929), the OUN carried out hundreds of acts of sabotage in Galicia and Volhynia, including a campaign of arson against Polish landowners (which helped provoke the 1930 Pacification), boycotts of state schools and Polish tobacco and liquor monopolies, dozens of expropriation attacks on government institutions to obtain funds for its activities, and assassinations. From 1921 to 1939 UVO and OUN carried out 63 known assassinations: 36 Ukrainians (among them one communist), 25 Poles, 1 Russian and 1 Jew. This number is likely an underestimate because there were likely unrecorded killings in rural regions. Some of the OUN's victims included Tadeusz Hołówko, a Polish promoter of Ukrainian/Polish compromise, Emilian Czechowski, Lwow's Polish police commissioner, Alexei Mailov, a Soviet consular official killed in retaliation for the Holodomor, and most notably Bronisław Pieracki, the Polish interior minister. The OUN also killed moderate Ukrainian figures such as the respected teacher (and former officer of the Ukrainian Galician Army of the West Ukrainian People's Republic) Ivan Babij. Most of these killings were organized locally and occurred without the authorization or knowledge of the OUN's emigre leaders abroad. In 1930 OUN members assaulted the head of the Shevchenko Scientific Society Kyryl Studynsky in his office. Such acts were condemned by the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky, who was particularly critical of the OUN's leadership in exile who inspired acts of youthful violence, writing that they were "using our children to kill their parents" and that "whoever demoralizes our youth is a criminal and an enemy of the people."
As Polish persecution of Ukrainians during the interwar period increased, many Ukrainians (particularly the youth, many of whom felt they had no future) lost faith in traditional legal approaches, in their elders, and in the western democracies who were seen as turning their backs on Ukraine. This period of disillusionment coincided with the increase in support for the OUN. By the beginning of the Second World War, the OUN was estimated to have 20,000 active members and many times that number of sympathizers. Many bright students, such as the talented young poets Bohdan KravtsivOlena Teliha (executed by the Nazis at Babi Yar) were attracted to the OUN's revolutionary message.and
As a means to gain independence from Polish and Soviet oppression, before World War II the OUN accepted material and moral support from Nazi Germany. The Germans, needing Ukrainian assistance against the Soviet Union, were expected by the OUN to further the goal of Ukrainian independence. Although some elements of the German military were inclined to do so, they were ultimately overruled by Adolf Hitler and his political organization, whose racial prejudice against the Ukrainians and desires for economic exploitation of Ukraine precluded cooperation. The interwar Lithuanian government had particularly close ties with the OUN.
Tensions between young radical Galician students and the older military veteran leadership based abroad existed within the OUN from the beginning. The older generation had the experience of growing up in a stable society and of having fought for Ukraine in regular armies; the younger generation perceived Polish repression and an underground struggle. The leadership abroad, or Provid, thought of itself as an unapproachable elite. Most of the Provid, such as general Mykola Kapustiansky, referred to themselves using their military titles acquired during the war, which the youthful members could never attain. The older faction was also more politically moderate and adhered to an officer's code of honor and standards of military discipline that prevented them from fully following the belief that any means could be used to achieve the goal. In contrast, the younger faction was more impulsive, violent, and ruthless. The older leaders living in exile admired aspects of Benito Mussolini's fascism but condemned Nazism while the younger more radical members based within Ukraine admired fascist ideas and methods as practiced by the Nazis.
Despite these differences, the OUN's leader Yevhen Konovalets, thanks to his considerable political skill and reputation, was able to command enough respect to maintain unity between both groups within the organization. This was shattered when Konovalets was assassinated by a Soviet agent, Pavel Sudoplatov, in Rotterdam in May 1938. Andriy Melnyk, a 48-year-old former colonel in the army of the Ukrainian People's Republic and one of the founders of the Ukrainian Military Organization was chosen to lead the OUN despite not having been involved in political or terrorist activities throughout the 1930s. Melnyk was more friendly to the Church than were any of his associates (the OUN was generally anti-clerical), and had even become the chairman of a Ukrainian Catholic youth organization that was regarded as anti-Nationalist by many OUN members. His choice was seen as an attempt by the leadership to repair ties with the Church and to become more pragmatic and moderate. However, this direction was opposite to the trend within western Ukraine itself.
The Galician youths formed the majority of the membership. Due to their presence in western Ukraine rather than in exile abroad, they faced the danger of arrest and imprisonment. Yet, they were shut out of the leadership. After failing to come to an agreement with their elder leaders in the Provid, in August 1940 they held their own leadership conference, choosing Stepan Bandera, who as an iron-willed, extremist conspirator was in many ways the opposite of the cautious, moderate and dignified Melnyk. On the eve of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the OUN was thus divided into two competing and hostile factions: the "legitimate" OUN-M headed by Andrii Melnyk and the OUN-B (or OUN-R for "revolutionary") headed by Stepan Bandera. Each group had its strengths. The OUN-M retained the loyalty of some youths in Galicia as well as a majority of the youths in the regions of Bukovyna and Trancarpathia, whose political leader monsignor Avgustyn Voloshyn praised Melnyk as a Christian of European culture, in contrast to many nationalists who placed the nation above God. The OUN-M's leadership was more experienced and had some limited contacts in Eastern Ukraine; it also maintained contact with German intelligence and the Germany army. The OUN-B, on the other hand, enjoyed the support of the majority of the nationalistic Galician youth, who formed the backbone of the underground Ukrainian nationalist movement. It had a strong network of devoted followers and was powerfully aided by Mykola Lebed, who began to organize the feared Sluzhba Bezpeky or SB, a secret police force modelled on the Cheka with a reputation for ruthlessness.
Within the Bandera group but somewhat apart from its political leaders such as Stepan Bandera or Mykola Lebed were a number of young Galicians who were less concerned with ideology and whose interests were primarily pragmatic and military. The most prominent among them was Roman Shukhevych. This group was not yet very significant, although their importance would increase rapidly later, during the period of OUN war-time activity.
After the invasion of Poland in September 1939, both factions of the OUN collaborated with the Germans and used the opportunity of the invasion to send their activists into Soviet-controlled territory. OUN-B leader Stepan Bandera held meetings with the heads of Germany's intelligence, regarding the formation of Ukrainian staffed forces. On 25 February 1941, the head of Abwehr Wilhelm Franz Canaris sanctioned the creation of the "Ukrainian Legion" under German command. The formation was planned to have 800 persons. OUN-B expected that it would become the core of the future Ukrainian army. In the spring of 1941, the Legion was organized as two units; one unit became known as Nachtigall Battalion, while the other became the Roland Battalion.
In response to the declaration, OUN-B leaders and associates were arrested and imprisoned by the Gestapo (ca.1500 persons). Many OUN-B members were killed outright or perished in jails and concentration camps (both of Bandera's brothers were eventually murdered at Auschwitz). On 18 September 1941 Bandera and Stetsko were sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp in "Zellenbau Bunker". Bandera was imprisoned along with some of the most important prisoners of the Third Reich, such as the ex-prime minister of France Léon Blum and ex-chancellor of Austria, Kurt Schuschnigg. The prisoners of Zellenbau received help from the Red Cross unlike common concentration camp prisoners and were able to send and receive parcels from their relatives. Bandera also received help from the OUN-B including financial assistance. The Germans permitted the Ukrainian nationalists to leave the bunker for an important meeting with OUN representatives in Fridental Castle which was 200 meters from Sachsenhausen., where they were kept until September 1944.
As a result of the German crackdown on the OUN-B, the faction controlled by Melnyk enjoyed an advantage over its rival and was able to occupy many positions in the civil administration of former Soviet Ukraine during the first months of German occupation. The first city which it administered was Zhitomir, the first major city across the old Soviet-Polish border. Here, the OUN-M helped stimulate the development of Prosvita societies, the appearance of local artists on Ukrainian-language broadcasts, the opening of two new secondary schools and a pedagogical institute, and the establishment of a school administration. Many locals were recruited into the OUN-M. The OUN-M also organized police forces, recruited from Soviet prisoners of war. Two senior members of its leadership, or Provid, even came to Zhitomir. At the end of August 1941, however, they were both gunned down, allegedly by the OUN-B which had justified the assassination in their literature and had issued a secret directive (referred to by Andriy Melnyk as a "death sentence") not to allow OUN-M leaders to reach Ukrainian SSR's capital Kiev (now Kyiv, Ukraine). In retaliation, the German authorities, often tipped off by OUN-M members, began mass arrests and executions of OUN-B members, to a large extent eliminating it in much of central and eastern Ukraine.
As the Wehrmacht moved East, the OUN-M established control of Kiev's civil administration; that city's mayor from October 1941 until January 1942, Volodymyr Bahaziy, belonged to the OUN-M and used his position to funnel money into it and to help the OUN-M take control over Kiev's police. The OUN-M also initiated the creation of the Ukrainian National Council in Kiev, which was to become the basis for a future Ukrainian government. At this time, the OUN-M also came to control Kiev's largest newspaper and was able to attract many supporters from the central and eastern Ukrainian intelligentsia. Alarmed by the OUN-M's growing strength in central and eastern Ukraine, the German Nazi authorities swiftly and brutally cracked down on it, arresting and executing many of its members in early 1942, including Volodymyr Bahaziy, and the writer Olena Teliha who had organized and led the League of Ukrainian Writers in Kiev. Although during this time elements within the Wehrmacht tried in vain to protect OUN-M members, the organization was largely wiped out within central and eastern Ukraine.
As the OUN-M was being wiped out in the regions of central and western Ukraine that had been east of the old Polish-Soviet border, in Volhynia the OUN-B, with easy access from its base in Galicia, began to establish and consolidate its control over the nationalist movement and much of the countryside. Unwilling and unable to openly resist the Germans in early 1942, it methodically set about creating a clandestine organization, engaging in propaganda work, and building weapons stockpiles. A major aspect of its programme was the infiltration of the local police; the OUN-B was able to establish control over the police academy in Rivne. By doing so the OUN-B hoped to eventually overwhelm the German occupation authorities ("If there were fifty policemen to five Germans, who would hold power then?"). In their role within the police, Bandera's forces were involved in the extermination of Jewish civilians and the clearing of Jewish ghettos, actions that contributed to the OUN-B's weapon stockpiles. In addition, blackmailing Jews served as a source of added finances. During the time that the OUN-B in Volhynia was avoiding conflict with the German authorities and working with them, resistance to the Germans was limited to Soviet partisans on the extreme northern edge of the region, to small bands of OUN-M fighters, and to a group of guerillas knowns as the UPA or the Polessian Sich, unaffiliated with the OUN-B and led by Taras Bulba-Borovets of the exiled Ukrainian People's Republic.
By late 1942, the status quo for the OUN-B was proving to be increasingly difficult. The German authorities were becoming increasingly repressive towards the Ukrainian population, and the Ukrainian police were reluctant to take part in such actions. Furthermore, Soviet partisan activity threatened to become the major outlet for anti-German resistance among western Ukrainians. By March 1943, the OUN-B leadership issued secret instructions ordering their members who had joined the German police in 1941–1942, numbering between 4,000 and 5,000 trained and armed soldiers, to desert with their weapons and to join the units of the OUN-B in Volyn. Borovets attempted to unite his UPA, the smaller OUN-M and other nationalist bands, and the OUN-B underground into an all-party front. The OUN-M agreed while the OUN-B refused, in part due to the insistence of the OUN-B that their leaders be in control of the organization.
After negotiations failed, the OUN commander Dmytro Klyachkivsky coopted the name of Borovets' organization, UPA, and decided to accomplish by force what could not be accomplished through negotiation: the unification of Ukrainian nationalist forces under OUN-B control. On 6 July, the large OUN-M group was surrounded and surrendered, and soon afterward most of the independent groups disappeared; they were either destroyed by the Communist partisans or the OUN-B or joined the latter. On 18 August 1943, Taras Bulba-Borovets and his headquarters were surrounded in a surprise attack by an OUN-B force consisting of several battalions. Some of his forces, including his wife, were captured, while five of his officers were killed. Borovets escaped but refused to submit, in a letter accusing the OUN-B of among other things: banditry; of wanting to establish a one-party state; and of fighting not for the people but in order to rule the people. In retaliation, his wife was murdered after two weeks of torture at the hands of the OUN-B's SB. In October 1943 Bulba-Borovets largely disbanded his depleted force in order to end further bloodshed. In their struggle for dominance in Volhynia, the Banderists would kill tens of thousands of Ukrainians for links to Bulba-Borovets or Melnyk.
By the fall of 1943 the OUN-B forces had established their control over substantial portions of rural areas in Volhynia and southwestern Polesia. While the Germans controlled the large towns and major roads, such a large area east of Rivne had come under the control of the OUN-B that it was able to set about creating a "state" system with military training schools, hospitals and a school system, involving tens of thousands of personnel. Its combat organization, the UPA, which came under the command of Roman Shukhevich in August 1943, would fight only limited skirmishes and defensive actions against the Germans. The USSR was considered the primary enemy, and the fight against the Soviets continued until the mid-1950s. It would also play a major role in the massacres of Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia from western Ukraine.
After the war, the OUN in eastern and southern Ukraine continued to struggle against the Soviets; 1958 marked the last year when an OUN member was arrested in Donetsk. Both branches of the OUN continued to be quite influential within the Ukrainian diaspora. The OUN-B was formed in 1943 by an organization called the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations (headed by Yaroslav Stetsko). The Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations it created and headed would include at various times emigre organizations from almost every eastern European country with the exception of Poland: Croatia, the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, anti-communist emigre Cossacks, Hungary, Georgia, Bohemia-Moravia (today the Czech Republic), and Slovakia. In the 1970s, the ABN was joined by anti-communist Vietnamese and Cuban organizations. The Lithuanian partisans had particularly close ties with the OUN.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, both OUN factions resumed activities within Ukraine. The Melnyk faction threw its support behind the Ukrainian Republican Party at the time that it was headed by Levko Lukyanenko. The OUN-B reorganized itself within Ukraine as the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists (KUN) (registered as a political party in January 1993). Its conspirational leaders within the diaspora did not want to openly enter Ukrainian politics and attempted to imbue this party with a democratic, moderate facade. However, within Ukraine, the project attracted more primitive nationalists who took the party to the right. Until her death in 2003, KUN was headed by Slava Stetsko, widow of Yaroslav Stetsko, who also simultaneously headed the OUN and the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations.
On 9 March 2010 the OUN rejected Yulia Tymoshenko's calls to unite "all of the national patriotic forces" led Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko against President Viktor Yanukovych. OUN did demand that Yanukovych should reject the idea of cancelling the Hero of Ukraine status given to Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych, Yanukovych should continue the practice of recognizing fighters for Ukraine's independence, which was launched by (his predecessor) Viktor Yushchenko, and posthumously award the Hero of Ukraine titles to Symon Petliura and Yevhen Konovalets.
On 19 November 2018 Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and fellow Ukrainian nationalist political organizations Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, Right Sector and C14 endorsed Ruslan Koshulynskyi's candidacy in the 2019 Ukrainian presidential election. In the election Koshulynskyi received 1.6% of the votes.
In late May to early June 2022, during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine two companies of OUN were reported by Medium blogger Tom Cooper to have been fighting the Russian forces in the Izium area.[self-published source?]
The OUN was led by a Vozhd or Supreme Leader. Originally the Vozhd was Yevhen Konovalets ; after his assassination he was succeeded by Andriy Melnyk resulting in a split where the Galician youths followed their own Vozhd, Stepan Bandera. Underneath the Vozhd were the Provid, or directorate. At the start of the second world war the OUN's leadership consisted of the Vozhd, Andrii Melnyk, and eight members of the Provid. The Provid members were: Generals Kurmanovych and Kapustiansky (both generals from the times of Ukraine's revolution in 1918–1920); Yaroslav Baranovsky, a law student; Dmytro Andriievsky, a politically moderate former diplomat of the revolutionary government from eastern Ukraine; Richard Yary, a former officer of the Austrian and Galician militaries who served as a liaison with the German intelligence services, the Abwehr; colonel Roman Sushko, another former Austrian and Galician officer; Mykola Stsyborsky, the son of a tsarist military officer from Zhytomir, who served as the OUN's official theorist; and Omelian Senyk, a party organizer and veteran of the Austrian and Galician armies who by the 1940s was considered too moderate and too conservative by the youngest generation of Galician youths. Yary would be the only member of the original Provid to join Bandera after the OUN split.
The OUN was formed from a number of radical nationalist and extreme right-wing organizations including the Union of Ukrainian Fascists. Initially, it was led by war veterans who failed to establish a Ukrainian state in 1917–1920. The ideology of the organization was heavily influenced by the philosophy of Nietzsche, German National Socialism and Italian Fascism; combining extreme nationalism with terrorism, corporatism, and antisemitism, as well as anti-democratic.
According to its initial declaration, the primary goal of OUN was to establish an independent and ethnically pure Ukrainian state. This goal was to be achieved by a national revolution, that would drive out all foreign element and set up an authoritarian state led by a strong man. The OUN's leadership felt that past attempts at securing independence failed due to democratic values in society, poor party discipline and a conciliatory attitude towards Ukraine's traditional enemies. Its ideology rejected the socialist ideas supported by Petliura, and the compromises of Galicia's traditional elite. Instead, the OUN, particularly its younger members, adopted the ideology of Dmytro Dontsov, an émigré from Eastern Ukraine.
The Ukrainian nationalism of the 19th and early 20th centuries had been largely liberal or socialist, combining Ukrainian national consciousness with patriotism and humanist values. In contrast, the nationalists who emerged in Galicia following the First World War, much as in the rest of Europe, adopted the form of nationalism known as Integral nationalism. According to this ideology, the nation was held to be of the highest absolute value, more important than social class, regions, the individual, religion, etc. To this end, OUN members were urged to "force their way into all areas of national life" such as institutions, societies, villages and families. Politics was seen as a Darwinian struggle between nations for survival, rendering conflict unavoidable and justifying any means that would lead to the victory of one's nation over that of others. In this context willpower was seen as more important than reason, and warfare was glorified as an expression of national vitality.
Integral nationalism became a powerful force in much of Europe during the 1920s and 1930s. The OUN's conceptualization of this idea was particular in several ways. Because Ukraine was stateless and surrounded by more powerful neighbors, the emphasis on force and warfare was to be expressed in acts of terrorism rather than open warfare, and illegality was glorified. Because Ukrainians did not have a state to glorify or serve, the emphasis was placed on a "pure" national language and culture rather than a State. There was a strain of fantastic romanticism, in which the unsophisticated Ukrainian rejection of reason was more spontaneous and genuine than the cynical rejection of reason by German or Italian integral nationalists.
The OUN viewed the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church as a rival and condemned Catholic leaders as police informers or potential informers; the Church rejected integral nationalism as incompatible with Christian ethics. The conflict between the OUN and the Church eased in the late 1930s.
Dmytro Dontsov claimed that the 20th century would witness the "twilight of the gods to whom the nineteenth century prayed" and that a new man must be created, with the "fire of fanatical commitment" and the "iron force of enthusiasm", and that the only way forward was through "the organization of a new violence." This new doctrine was the chynnyi natsionalizm – the "nationalism of the deed". To dramatize and spread such views, OUN literature mythologized the cult of struggle, sacrifice, and emphasized national heroes.
The OUN, particularly Bandera, held a romantic view of the Ukrainian peasantry, glorified the peasants as carriers of Ukrainian culture and linked them with the deeds and exploits of the Ukrainian Cossacks from previous centuries. The OUN believed that a goal of professional revolutionaries was, through revolutionary acts, to awaken the masses. In this aspect the OUN had much in common with 19th-century Russian Narodniks.
The OUN shared the fascist attributes of antiliberalism, anticonservatism, and anticommunism, an armed party, totalitarianism, anti-Semitism, Führerprinzip, and an adoption of fascist greetings. Its leaders eagerly emphasized to Hitler and Ribbentrop that they shared the Nazi Weltanschauung and a commitment to a fascist New Europe.
The political scientist Ivan Katchanovski describes it as "a semi-totalitarian organization which combined elements of extreme nationalism and fascism".
According to political scientist Ivan Gomza, the “morphological structure” of the OUN's ideology in the 1930s and early 1940s could be defined as fascist because it had the following principles:
(1) Rebirth of the national community
(2) The search for some new form of political and economic organization, which transcends liberal democracy and collectivistic communism
(3) The use of threats and violence during its political struggle.
OUN writers rejected both Soviet communism and liberal democracy and wished to instill a single-party state, living in the unrealized glory of battles past and an economic system that aimed to avoid class conflict. Gomza argues that violence was also an "extensive, widespread and frequent" occurrence and was central in the group's ideology and policy; the group took advantage of wartime chaos to eliminate Polish, Muscovite and Jewish activist groups. However, Gomza argues that after 1943 some “peripheral concepts” came to substitute the fascist core, which led to a splinter within the OUN and subsequent democratization of the one on its factions.
Marples has described how some writers in the OUN tradition, as well as some later Ukrainian writers, have been "self-deceptive" in emphasizing the absence of racism from OUN ideology, downplaying its connection to western European fascism, and suggesting that the Ukrainian brand of nationalism was a product of domestic development.
Many Ukrainian historians, such as Peter Potichnyj, have argued that from 1941 and especially after the war, the OUN developed in a pro-democratic and anti-Nazi direction. After the Second World War, OUN émigrés and UPA members began to produce documents that emphasised this shift and downplayed the controversial aspects of the organization. For example, they published anti-Nazi texts by OUN activists. In some documents they removed statements related to fascism or the Holocaust, or they reprinted the April 1941 resolution in Cracow of the Second Great Congress of OUN, omitting that the organization adopted the official salute which consisted in the fascist salute while shouting "Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the Heroes!".
In 1943 the OUN developed a new political program that focused on a "new order of a free individual. A man's free will should animate social life." The group also accepted the following:
"(1) the OUN renounced the principles of economic centralism and adopted the idea of a market economy (Zakordonni chastyny Orhanizatsiyi Ukrayinskykh Natsionalistiv, 1955, 261; Iarlan, 1986, 159)
(2) it rejected the aggressive rhetoric concerning national minorities and claimed “we must abandon the chauvinism and assimilation politics towards the minorities and create optimum conditions for national and cultural tolerance” (Stepanov 1946, 113e114)
(3) the idea of a unique labor union was rejected (Resolutions of the 3rd Extraordinary Great Council of the OUN, 1943, 231)
(4) the OUN adopted central political ideals of liberal democracy, proclaiming to “stand for real democracy, liberty of speech, freedom of assembly, and liberty of conscience, but against all kinds of dictatorship and totalitarianism” (Poltava, 1950, 18).″
Though the groups realized allegiance to these edits, and whether the group could in fact remove itself from the label of fascism is debated among historians, the result of these changes led to a split, which divided the faction into two groups, the fascists, and the liberals. The infighting of these groups was limited to diasporic communities in the US, Canada, and Germany. notably, the liberal faction became more powerful due to support from the United States Government which funded multiple thinktanks including the Prolog Research and Publishing Company.
The nation was to be unified under a single party led by a hierarchy of proven fighters. At the top was to be a Supreme Leader or Vozhd. In some respects the OUN's creed was similar to that of other eastern European, radical right-wing agrarian movements, such as Romania's Legion of the Archangel Michael (more commonly known as the Iron Guard), Croatia's Ustashe, Hungary's Arrow Cross Party, and similar groups in Slovakia and Poland. There were, however, significant differences within the OUN regarding its relationship to fascism. The more moderate leaders living in exile admired some facets of Benito Mussolini's fascism but condemned Nazism while the younger more radical members based within Ukraine admired the fascist ideas and methods as practiced by the Nazis. The faction-based abroad supported rapprochement with the Ukrainian Catholic Church while the younger radicals were anti-clerical and felt that not considering the Nation to be the Absolute was a sign of weakness.
The two factions of the OUN each had their own understanding of the nature of the leader. The Melnyk faction considered the leader to be the director of the Provid and in its writings emphasized a military subordination to the hierarchical superiors of the Provid. It was more autocratic than totalitarian. The Bandera faction, in contrast, emphasized complete submission to the will of the supreme leader.
At a party congress in August 1943, the OUN-B rejected much of its fascistic ideology in favor of a social democratic model, while maintaining its hierarchical structure. This change could be attributed in part to the influence of the leadership of Roman Shukhevych, the new leader of UPA, who was more focused on military matters rather than on ideology and was more receptive to different ideological themes than were the fanatical OUN-B political leaders, and was interested in gaining and maintaining the support of deserters or others from Eastern Ukraine. During this party congress, the OUN-B backed off its commitment to private ownership of land, increased worker participation in the management of industry, equality for women, free health services and pensions for the elderly, and free education. Some points in the program referred to the rights of national minorities and guaranteed freedom of speech, religion, and the press and rejected the official status of any doctrine. Nevertheless, the authoritarian elements were not discarded completely and were reflected in the continued insistence on the "heroic spirit" and "social solidarity, friendship and discipline."
In exile, the OUN's ideology was focused on opposition to communism.
The OUN intended to create a Ukrainian state with widely understood Ukrainian territories, but inhabited by Ukrainian people narrowly understood, according to Timothy Snyder. Its first congress in 1929 resolved that "Only the complete removal of all occupiers from Ukrainian lands will allow for the general development of the Ukrainian Nation within its own state." OUN's "Ten Commandments" stated: "Aspire to expand the strength, riches, and size of the Ukrainian State even by means of enslaving foreigners" or "Thou shalt struggle for the glory, greatness, power, and space of the Ukrainian state by enslaving the strangers". This formulation was modified by OUN's theoreticians in the 1950s and shortened to "Thou shalt struggle for the glory, greatness, power, and space of the Ukrainian state".
Antisemitism was a common attribute of agrarian radical right-wing Eastern European organizations, such as the Croatian Ustashe, the Yugoslav Zbor and the Romanian Iron Guard. The OUN's ideology, on the other hand, did not emphasize antisemitism and racism despite the presence of some antisemitic writing. Indeed, three of its leaders, General Mykola Kapustiansky, Rico Yary (himself of Hungarian-Jewish descent), and Mykola Stsyborsky (the OUN's chief theorist), were married to Jewish women and Jews belonged to the OUN's underground movement.
The OUN in the early 1930s considered Ukraine's primary enemies to be Poles and Russians, with Jews playing a secondary role or not considered an enemy. An article published in 1930 by OUN leader Mykola Stsyborsky denounced the anti-Jewish pogroms of 1918, stating that most of its victims were innocent rather than Bolsheviks. Stsyborsky wrote that Jewish rights should be respected, that the OUN ought to convince Jews that their organization was no threat to them and that Ukrainians ought to maintain close contacts with Jews nationally and internationally. Three years later, an article in the OUN journal Rozbudova Natsii ("Development of the Nation"), despite its focus on Jews' alleged exploitation of Ukrainian peasants, also stated that Jews, as well as Ukrainians, were victims of Soviet policies.
By the late 1930s, the OUN's attitude towards Jews grew more negative. Jews were described in OUN publications as parasites who ought to be segregated from Ukrainians. For example, an article titled "The Jewish Problem in Ukraine" published in 1938 called for Jews' complete cultural, economic and political isolation from Ukrainians, rejecting forced assimilation of Jews but allowing that they ought to enjoy the same rights as Ukrainians. Despite the increasingly negative portrayal of Jews, for all of its glorification of violence Ukrainian nationalist literature generally showed little interest in Nazi-like antisemitism during the 1930s. Evhen Onatsky, writing in the OUN's official journal in 1934, condemned German National Socialism as imperialist, racist and anti-Christian.
German documents from the early 1940s give the impression that extreme Ukrainian nationalists were indifferent to the plight of the Jews; they were willing to either kill them or help them, whichever was more appropriate, for their political goals. The OUN-B's ambivalent wartime attitude towards the Jews was highlighted during the Second General Congress of OUN-B (April 1941, Kraków)in which the OUN-B condemned anti-Jewish pogroms. and specifically warned against the pogromist mindset as useful only to Muscovite propaganda. At that conference the OUN-B declared "The Jews in the USSR constitute the most faithful support of the ruling Bolshevik regime and the vanguard of Muscovite imperialism in Ukraine. The Muscovite-Bolshevik government exploits the anti-Jewish sentiments of the Ukrainian masses to divert their attention from the true cause of their misfortune and to channel them in a time of frustration into pogroms on Jews. The OUN combats the Jews as the prop of the Muscovite-Bolshevik regime and simultaneously it renders the masses conscious of the fact that the principal foe is Moscow."
On the other hand, the OUN was willing to support Nazi antisemitic policies if doing so would help their cause. The OUN sought German recognition for an independent Ukrainian state. Despite its declared condemnation of pogroms in April 1941, when German official Reinhard Heydrich requested "self-cleansing actions" in June of that year the OUN organized militias who killed several thousand Jews in western Ukraine soon afterward that year. During the German invasion of the USSR, Yaroslav Stetsko stated in a report to Bandera: “We are raising a militia that will assist in the extermination of Jews... I am of the opinion that the Jews should be annihilated by applying the German methods of extermination in Ukraine." The Ukrainian People's Militia under the OUN's command led pogroms that resulted in the massacre of 6,000 Jews in Lviv soon after that city's fall to German forces. OUN members spread propaganda urging people to engage in pogroms. A slogan put forth by the Bandera group and recorded in the 16 July 1941 Einsatzgruppen report stated: "Long live Ukraine without Jews, Poles and Germans; Poles behind the river San, Germans to Berlin, and Jews to the gallows". In instructions to its members concerning how the OUN should behave during the war, it declared that "in times of chaos... one can allow oneself to liquidate Polish, Russian and Jewish figures, particularly the servants of Bolshevik-Muscovite imperialism" and further, when speaking of Russians, Poles, and Jews, to "destroy in struggle, particularly those opposing the regime, by means of: deporting them to their own lands, eradicating their intelligentsia, which is not to be admitted to any governmental positions, and overall preventing any creation of this intelligentsia (e.g. access to education etc)... Jews are to be isolated, removed from governmental positions in order to prevent sabotage... Those who are deemed necessary may only work under strict supervision and removed from their positions for slightest misconduct... Jewish assimilation is not possible." Ivan Klymiv, the OUN-B leader in Volhynia, wrote a directive in August 1941 calling for the OUN-B to "wipe out Poles, Jews, professors, officers, leaders, and all established enemy elements of Ukraine and Germany." OUN members who infiltrated the German police were involved in clearing ghettos and helping the Germans to implement the Final Solution. Although most Jews were actually killed by Germans, the OUN police working for them played a crucial supporting role in the liquidation of 200,000 Jews in Volyn in the beginning of the war OUN bands also killed Jews who had fled into the forests from the Germans. One of the UPA leaders reportedly compared the OUN's massacres of Poles to the Final Solution: "When it comes to the Polish question, this is not a military but a minority question. We will solve it as Hitler solved the Jewish question." The OUN did help some Jews to escape in isolated cases. According to a report to the Chief of the Security Police in Berlin, dated 30 March 1942, "...it has been clearly established that the Bandera movement provided forged passports not only for its own members, but also for Jews."
Once the OUN was at war with Germany, anti-Jewish instances lessened, but never stopped. According to documents released from the Security Service of Ukraine, the OUN not only never gave up its antisemitic ideology and always associated Jews with communists. Among the documents released was this, giving clear evidence of continued antisemitism.
"National minorities are divided into a / friendly to us ... b / hostile to us Muscovites, Poles, Jews ... a / They have the same rights as Ukrainians, we allow them to return to their homeland. b / Extermination in the struggle, in particular those that will fight the regime; extermination mainly of the intelligentsia, which is not free to admit to any government, and in general make it impossible to produce the intelligentsia, that is, access to schools, etc. Eg the so-called to assimilate Polish peasants, realizing to them that they are Ukrainians, only of the Latin rite ... To destroy leaders, to isolate Jews, to move from governments to avoid sabotage, especially Muscovites and Poles. If there was an irresistible need to leave a Jew in the household apparatus, put our policeman over his head and eliminate him for the slightest offense. Only Ukrainians can be leaders of individual spheres of life, not foreigners - enemies. Our government must be terrible for its opponents. Terror for foreign enemies and traitors. /Арх.спр. № 376, v.6, ark.294-302 /.— Reference of the Security Service of Ukraine № 113 "On the activities of the OUN-UPA" dated 30.07.1993
The organization's symbols were established in 1932 and were published in a magazine 'Building a Nation' (Ukrainian: Розбудова Нації, Rozbudova Natsii). The author of the OUN emblem with a stylized trident was Robert Lisovskyi. The organization's anthem "We were born in a great hour" (Ukrainian: Зродились ми великої години) was finalized in 1934 and also was published in the same magazine. Its lyrics were written by Oles Babiy, and it music by composer Omelian Nyzhankivsky.
For a long time OUN did not officially have its own flag. However, during the Hungarian campaign against the Republic of Carpathian Ukraine in 1939, Carpathian Sich, a militarized wing of OUN, adopted its flag from the OUN's emblem – a golden nationalistic trident on a blue background. The flag was finalized and officially adopted by the organization only in 1964 at the 5th Assembly of Ukrainian Nationalists.
When the organisation split in 1941, OUN-r refused to adopt the nationalistic trident as a symbol and came up with its own heraldry. Lisovskyi created the organizational emblem for OUN-r as well. The central element of the new emblem was a stylized cross within a triangle. According to Bohdan Hoshovsky, the color combination of red and black was based on a concept of the OUN ideologue and veteran of the Ukrainian Galician Army Yulian Varanasi.
The red and black colors, common in Ukrainian embroidery, represent blood and Ukraine's black soil. Natalia Khanenko-Friesen, director of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (and scholar of Ukrainian folklore) explained the red is traditionally synonymous with "life" rather than with violence. “Blood as life, as blossom, and not as blood lost in battles."
In late March 2019 former OUN combatants (and other living former members of irregular Ukrainian nationalist armed groups that were active during World War II and the first decade after the war) were officially granted the status of veterans. This meant that for the first time they could receive veteran benefits, including free public transport, subsidized medical services, annual monetary aid, and public utilities discounts (and will enjoy the same social benefits as former Ukrainian soldiers Red Army of the Soviet Union).
There had been several previous attempts to provide former Ukrainian nationalist fighters with official veteran status, especially during the 2005–2009 administration President Viktor Yushchenko, but all failed.
Dr Georges Digas przekazał zebranym interesujące informacje na temat pracy aparatu sprawiedliwości w ZSRR, który zajmował się OUN-UPA po 1944 roku. Według danych oficjalnych, pod wpływem OUN pozostawało podczas wojny ok. 300 tys. Ukraińców, z czego w walkach z NKWD i Armią Czerwoną (do 1950 r.) zginęło 120 tys., 60 tys. uciekło na Zachód, a ok. 80 tys. wywieziono na Syberię.
Founded in 1929, the OUN was the largest and most important Ukrainian far-right organization. Explicitly totalitarian, the movement embraced the Führerprinzip, a cult of political violence, racism, and an aggressive anti Semitism. It sought the establishment of Ukrainian statehood at any price..
Most writers concur that the UVO was one of the principal foundation stones for the creation of OUN, which—Kost’ Bondarenko maintains—“was a classical, radical rightist terrorist organization,” ideologically close to Fascism of the Italian type, which was believed to be the “avant-garde European ideology” of that time
During the Cold War, US, West German, and British intelligence utilized various OUN wings in ideological warfare and covert actions against the Soviet Union (Breitman and Goda, 2010: 73– 98; Breitman, Goda, Naftali and Wolfe, 2005). Funded by the CIA, which sponsored Lebed's immigration to the United States and protected him from prosecution for war crimes, OUN(z) activists formed the core of the Proloh Research and Publishing Association, a pro-nationalist semi academic publisher.
In 1990, one of the best known nationalist parties—the Ukrainian National Assembly (UNA), headed by Dmytro Korchyns'kyi—was established in Lviv ... . In Ukraine itself, the UNA-UNSD became a media phenomenon, not least thanks to its deliberate provocation aimed at left-wing and pro-Russian forces and its frequent clashes with the police. But the UNA had little political success ... . The second best-known ultraright party to emerge at the beginning of the 1990s was the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists (CUN)—a direct heir of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (Bandera) (OUN-B), which Stepan Bandera headed in 1940 after a split in the original OUN. The continuity between the OUN-B and the CUN was ensured by the return from abroad of Iaroslava Stets'ko, a former member of the OUN-B and the widow of Iaroslav Stets'ko, one of the leaders of the OUN-B and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army
While Yushchenko's successor Viktor Yanukovych has revoked the hero status of Bandera and Shukhevych and largely put an end to the state cult of the ultra-nationalists, in Western Ukraine, apologetics for the Waffen-SS Galizien is entering the mainstream. On April 28, 2011, the 68th anniversary of the establishment of Waffen-SS Galizien, neo-fascist 'autonomous nationalists,' together with the far-right Svoboda Party, which dominates the L'viv city government organized a march through the city. Led by Svoboda ideologue Iurii Mykhal'chyshyn of the L'viv city council, the nearly 700 participants (2,000 according to the organizers), carrying banners with neo-Nazi symbols marched down the streets of L'viv, shouting slogans like 'Halychyna—division of heroes!,' and 'One race, one nation, one Fatherland!'7 Svoboda, which dominates the L'viv city council, decorated the city with billboards with the symbol of the unit, accompanied by the texts 'the treasure of the nation' and 'they defended Ukraine'.
The investigation of Bandera's life, his cult, and the history of the OUN and UPA are highly contingent upon the study of archival documents and original publications. Because of the extremist nature of the OUN and its involvement in the Holocaust and other kinds of etnic and political mass violence during and after the Second World War, OUN émigrés and UPA veterans began producing forged or manipulated documents during the Cold War, by means of which they whitewashed their own history. They removed undesiderable and inconvenient phrases from republished documents, especially those relating to fascism, the Holocaust, and other atrocities. In 1955, for example, in a new edition of documents entitled The OUN in the Light of the Resolutions of Great Congresses, the OUN reprinted the resolutions of the Second Great Congress of the OUN in Cracow in April 1941. According to the original resolutions, the OUN adopted a fascist salute, consisting of raising the right arm "slightly to the right, slightly above the peak of the head," while saying "Glory to Ukraine" (Slava Ukraïni!), and answering "Glory to the Heroes" (Heroiam Slava!)