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Ukraine - Anti-Soviet Partisans - 1941-1949

In 1945, when according to an official version the World War II ended, in a large part of Europe an armed struggle continued. The partisan war started in territories in Eastern and Central Europe occupied by the USSR: notably Lithuania, Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus and others.

The armed resistance movements in Western Ukraine in 1944–1953 became major determinants for future events. The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (Orhanizatsiia Ukrains'kykh Natsionalistiv - OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA - Ukrains'ka Povstans'ka Armiia), fought both the German and the Soviet forces for the establishment of independent Ukraine.

Origins - 1929-1939

Veterans of the Soviet-Ukrainian War of 1917–20 formed the basis of the Ukrainian Military Organization (UVO), which launched its activities on the territory of Polish-ruled Western Ukraine. Various youth groups began emerging parallel to the UVO, and opted for nationalism as their ideological platform. In 1929, both these currents united to form the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN).

Most of the members of the group were Galician Ukrainians who were Polish subjects from 1920 to 1939. The Ukrainians accused the Poles of treating them as an inferior people, denying them cultural autonomy, curtailing their Chances for professional advantages and persecuting them for opposing in any way the complete Polonization of ethnically Ukrainian territory. The Poles erroneously believed that the Galician Ukrainians represented a disloyal Soviet fifth column in their midst. In actual fact, the Galician Ukrainians were in violent opposition to communism and wanted above all else to be part of a liberated, non-Russian Ukrainian state.

The name Bandera became synonymous with Ukrainian nationalism during the Soviet era. Stephan BANDERA was born in 1909 in the town of Trostianec, near Stryj. His father was a Greek Catholic priest. He attended elementary school in Sokal and high school in Stryj. While still in high school he became a member of UVO, the veterans' organization of Ukrainian nationalists from the First World War.

In 1932, Stefan BANDERA became commander of the OUN for Western Ukraine, and Poland. There is little doubt that Stefan BANDERA was an extreme rightist in his political outlook. In 1934, he and Mikola LEBED planned and organized the assassination of PIERACKY, the Polish Minister of the Interior, accused by the Ukrainians of anti-Ukrainian acts. He was first sentenced to death and then the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. His trial took place in 1935 after which he was committed to the Holy Cross jail where he remained until 1939. It is alleged that his sentence was commuted to avoid an uprising of Ukrainian nationalists in Eastern Poland and the Ukraine.

With the Germans - 1939-1943

The circumstances surrounding BANDERA's escape or release from Polish prison in 1939 are not clearly known. Once free, BANDERA resumed his leadership of OUN in the homeland. After the invasion of Poland (1939), the OUN collaborated with Germany against the Poles and, later, against the Soviet Union.

In early summer 1940 the OUN split and BANDERA became the overall chief of the greater part of the organization. For some time the OUN was composed of two factions, both claiming the name. The dissident group, comprising about 80 percent of the organization, was called OUN-BANDERA [OUN(B)] or the BANDERA group. The larger faction OUN-B was headed by Stefan Bandera and the smaller faction OUN-M (headed by Andre Melnik. Both OUN factions created their own special forces units, named "Rolland" and "Nachtigall."

Realizing that the aspiration for national independence was uppermost in the minds of a majority of Ukrainians, the Third Reich promised at the beginning of World War II that the Ukrainians would be freed from Soviet domination and could found a Ukrainian state. When the Germans attacked Russia, many members of the OUN followed the Germans' advance eastward. BANDERA remained in Cracow.

A "Ukrainian State" was founded by Bandera on 10 June 1941. The proclamation of the "state" took place in an atmosphere of great solemnity, with Hitler's repreeeeeetives participating. The German occupation forces at the time needed agents and informers who were conversant with conditions in Poland and could help the Bitlerite invaders. They could find no better men for the job than Handera and his followers. Bendera launched the campaign which was to make him master of the OUN. To achieve this, he found it necessary, first, to compromise the old leadership headed by Mel'nik. A simple denunciation to the Gestapo was sufficient to cause persons objectionable to Bandera to be arrested and liquidated at his order.

Over 10,000 Jews were destroyed in a single operation at the border of the Carpathian Ukraine. The Hungarian gendarmes drove these Jews out from the area which had been occupied by Hungary with Hitler's consent. At the border, they were received by "special" elements of the Bandera militia, which drove them to unknown parts, destroying all of them en route. Altogether, during the 5 weeks of its existence, the Benders "state" destroyed over 5,000 Ukrainians, 15,000 Jews, and several thousand Poles.

The "Ukrainian State" of Stepan Bantera ended its short but ignominious existence in August 1941, when it was announced in Lvov that Western Ukraine had been incorporated as the "District of Galicia" in the "General Governorship" (occupied Poland).

And when BANDERA had done his duty, he and some of his assistants were dispatched to a concentration camp. The Gestapo had its own candidates for the posts of gauleiters and governors of the Ukraine. At any rate, BANDERA was taken to Berlin and placed under house arrest there. He was shortly transferred to the Prinz Albrechtstrasse Gestapo jail reserved for important political prisoners. In 1942 BANDERA and several other OUN leaders were transferred to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

Against the Soviets - 1943-1945

In 1943 the OUN(B) quit the collaboration game and turned on the Germans in an effort to establish an independent Ukraine free of Nazi or Soviet control. The Nazis did not recognize the government created by the part of OUN headed by Stepan Bandera on 10 June 1943. At the beginning of 1943 the OUN(b) started to create UPA that started the underground struggle when the Red Army entered the territory of the Western Ukraine. At all stages of UPA existence, the Soviet regime with all its political, military, and security structures (partisan, army, NKVD units, and internal forces), remained the number one enemy of the Ukrainian nationalists.

The population was still resentful for the recent genocidal famine in Ukraine. The war between UPA and Soviet military and security structures coincided in time with the war of the United Nations (including the Soviet Union) against the fascist bloc, although these wars are entirely different by nature and origin.

During the war years, at the time that BANDERA was incarcerated in a German concentration camp, there sprang up in the Ukraine a number of fighting units. Some of these units united under the banners of Taras BULBA-BOROVETS, OUN/MELNYK and OUN/BANDERA. Since it was apparent to all that there should be a unified command, all three commands tried to unite, but OUN/BANDERA, being possibly strongest in number, decided that it should lead all others. It was at this time that there was considerable fratricide committed. Rumor has it that the entire general staff of Tares BULBA-BOROVETS was liquidated by OUN/BANDERA, as well as a number of those who backed Colonel Andrew EELNYK - among the latter two OUN/MELNYK leaders, STSIBORSKY and SENYK-HRYBIVSKY.

Underground forces of the OUN and UPA supported peasants in their struggle against collectivization. The Ukrainian Insurgent Army had its own particular system of military decorations and awards that were introduced in early 1944 as a means of recognizing service and achievement. These included Gold (two classes), Silver (two classes), and Bronze Crosses of Combat Merit, while Gold, Silver, and Bronze Crosses of Merit were awarded to UPA soldiers as well as civilians. The actual decorations were manufactured at a significantly later date (in 1951).

after the War - 1945-1950

In 1945, at the end of the War, Stepan BANDERA remained confined in a German concentration camp. BANDERA escaped from the Germans and disappeared. At the end of the war he was in the Austrian Tyrol. In the summer of 1945 he came to Southern Bavaria In 1945 the Soviets made a thorough search after Stepan BANDERA all over Western Europe. Although at that time BANDERA was in a place which belonged to the Soviet sphere of influence, he was not identified.

From 1945 to 1948 members of the OUN and of the UPA arrived from the Soviet Ukraine on foot. The messages they and returning German prisoners of war brought, conclusively confirmed that the OUN and the UPA were continuing to fight against the Soviets with the weapons and ammunition which the retreating German armies had left behind.

The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, which organized and led the fight of the Ukrainian people, developed its activity in the Ukraine as well as abroad, primarily in those western countries where the Ukrainian emigration had settled. Between those two parts of the Ukrainian liberation movement there was maintained a communication service across the Iron Curtain, which is based on the courier principle. Armed groups of messengers recruited among members of OUN and soldiers of UPA/Ukrainian Insurrection Army/ are sent from the Ukraine abroad and vice versa.

In continuing their struggle in Western Ukraine after the war, the UPA and the Ukrainian nationalist underground were not alone in fighting the Soviets in Central and Eastern Europe. Remnants of Armia Krajowa (the Freedom and Sovereignty organisation) were active until 1947, refusing to accept the People’s Republic of Poland established by Moscow. Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian anti-communist “forest brothers” were active in the Baltic states until the early 1950s.

Having emerged under conditions of Polish rule in the Western Ukrainian territories in the interwar period, the Ukrainian Military Organisation (UVO) and the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) relied on the previous experience of secret revolutionary groups in stateless nations in the 19th and early 20th century. The UVO and the OUN used methods of struggle that were common practice at the time: individual terror against officials and policemen; sabotage (arson and destruction of communication lines), bomb explosions and the expropriation of local government’s assets.

Raids were one of the best-known elements of the UPA’s insurgency tactics. Thanks to their constant manuvering and billeting changes, UPA soldiers were able to carry out surprise and harassing attacks while not allowing the enemy the opportunity to strike them with force.

A pivotal role in the Soviets’ destruction of the Ukrainian underground was played by military operations and terror measures against the civilian population. During 1944–50, Soviet military leaders developed a number of organizational principles for their war against the Ukrainian insurgency. Initially, individual front-line units of the Red Army were deployed against the UPA, while SMERSH detachments from its specialized counterintelligence department were deployed against the members and sympathizers of the Ukrainian underground. However, when the Allied–Axis front moved westward, these functions were transferred first to the rear units of the Red Army and eventually to the NKVD troops.

The Soviet secret police units to fight underground and nationalist organizations were the Anti-Banditry Departments (OBB) which were a part of the NKVD. In the popular perception, the Soviet secret police is associated with a smooth-running machine that only spelt violent repressions and ruthlessly crushed any symptoms of resistance to Soviet rule. But deeper research into the archives and subject literature yields a totally different picture. The ravages of war caused a telling shortage of well-qualified personnel, hence many officers had no theoretical knowledge or practical experience of police work.

Managerial posts were given to experienced Chekists delegated from Ukraine’s eastern and central oblasts, but rank-and-file civil and military personnel was drawn from “trusted” local residents. They were used to stealing from local residents and resorting to thoughtless violence during in the subjugation phase. Most of the lower rank officers were known to drink on duty. The problem became especially difficult during the partisan war. The helpless situation that many officers found themselves in can be put down to drunkenness and violence towards local residents.

World War II brought unprecedented disruption to the historical continuity of the borderlands of East Central Europe. In these unequal fights, more than 60,000 Ukrainian freedom fighters perished. During the Second World War, according to various sources, the OUN lost between 16,000 and 35,000 members, who were arrested and executed up to 1945. In 1944–45, the NKVD carried out 26,693 operations against the Ukrainian underground. According to NKVD data, they resulted in 22,474 Ukrainian freedom fighters killed and 62,142 captured.

According to the information which was suppressed for many years in the soviet archives, in the period from February 1944 to May 1946 about 111,000 UIA fighters were killed, 250,000 were arrested and imprisoned, and 203,000 were deported from Ukraine and placed in concentration camps. Within the same period of time, about 14,000 Soviet troops and members of punitive detachments engaged in operations against the OUN-UIA, died in battle. By one account, over 35,000 members of the Soviet secret police system were killed by the OUN-UPA after World War II.

The Soviet regime imprisoned or deported to Siberia more than 900,000 residents of Ukraine. The peak of the deportations was a special operation called Zakhid (West) which was carried out on 21 October 1947. During the course of that one day 76,192 people were forcibly deported from Western Ukraine. The goal of the mass deportations was to destroy the base of the insurgent movement.

In 1945–46, the Ukrainian insurgents gradually changed course from an active offensive to defensive methods; similarly, the scale of their operations was also gradually reduced. By 1946, the UPA operated only in the Carpathian Mountains and the Zakerzonnia region. But by late 1949, pursuant to a resolution of the Ukrainian Supreme Liberation Council and on orders from the Supreme Command of the UPA, they too were disbanded or demobilized.

Between 1945 and 1950, Ukrainian insurgents carried out a number of operations on the territory of the Belorussian SSR, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Romania. In 1950, UPA soldiers made an unsuccessful bid to carry out a raid into Lithuania in order to join their efforts with the Lithuanian insurgents, who were known as “forest brothers.”

The UPA operated with large-scale forces until the summer of 1945, when it was forced to reorganize because of heavy losses. Individual units were turned into smaller ones, and ailing, battle-fatigued, and elderly insurgents, as well as those with large families, were demobilized or assigned to the OUN regional network. After the late 1940s, the larger UPA units were disbanded.

The Ukrainian freedom fighters continued to operate in the conditions of the enemy’s all-out offensive and blockade, which lasted from late 1945 until July 1946. In the period from December 1945 to February 1946, 15,562 military-secret service operations took place during the so-called “Great Blockade.” As a result of these tactics, over 4,200 Ukrainian insurgents were killed, and more than 9,400 people were taken prisoner or arrested. A total of 130 armed formations of the Ukrainian underground were eliminated.

In 1938, Khrushchev became the general secretary of the Central Committee of the Ukrainian Communist Party. During the war and after, Khrushchev was assigned by Stalin to take control and wipe out the "bourgeois" nationalist forces in Ukraine. Khrushchev was heavily engaged in the liquidation of many individuals and groups connected with the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). On March 30-31, 1949, at the interregional council in Lviv, Khrushchev demanded to finish collectivization in Lviv, Stanislav, Ternopil, and Rivne regions by the end of 1949. The armed Resistance movement was deprived of any support. When the UPA went underground in 1949, resistance to the Soviet totalitarian regime acquired new forms and necessitated considerable ingenuity, especially on the part of the leaders of the liberation movement.

Opposition Abroad - 1950-1957

In July 1944 in a forest in the Carpathian mountains between Lvov and the former Hungarian border, the ZP/UHVR Zakordonne Predstavnytstvo Uktains'koyi Holovnoyi Vyzvolnoyi Rady - (Foreign Representation of the Supreme Ukrainian Liberation Council / Ukrainian Supreme Liberation Council) was formed, chiefly by OUN members of the BANDERA faction. It provided the political, leadership of the UPA - Ukrainska Povstanska Armia (Ukrainian Insurgent Army).

The UHVR was based on democratic principles and aoted as a provisional national assembly for the Ukraine, composed of elements of all the various parties, including the Eastern Ukrainians. The organization of the UHVR and its affiliated groups was rather complicated, with considerable overlapping of personnel. A struggle between the OUN-BANDERA abroad, headed by BARBERA himself, and the UHVR started in 1947 and reached its first climax in 1948, when the representatives of the UHVR were summarily expelled from the BANDERA emigre OUN group.

The thinking of Stefan BANDERA and his immediate emigre supporters in the emigration had become radically outmoded in the Ukraine. Since BANDERA had not been in the Ukrainian SSR proper since the early 1930 and not even in Galicia since his arrest by the Germans in mid-1941, he was unable to participate in the evolution of the movement on home soil after 1941.

AERODYNAMIC (formerly CARTEL, ANDROGEN, AECARTHAGE) (1949-70) was the cryptonym for CIA support for ZP/UHVR (Ukrainian Supreme Liberation Council), which began in 1949. CIA helped to establish in New York City the Prolog Research and Publishing Company in 1953 as ZP/UHVR's publishing and research arm. Prolog, through an affiliate in Munich, published periodicals and selected books and pamphlets which sought to exploit and increase nationalist and other dissident tendencies in the Soviet Ukraine. ZP/UHVR operational activity concentrated on propaganda and contact operations. In 1970, AERODYNAMIC was redesignated QRPLUMB. CIA terminated QRPLUMB after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991 and provided funds to enable Prolog to transition to a privately-funded company.

Politically, as evidenced by its editorials, OUN/B stood for an independent Ukrainian state. Even though communism is overthrown there was no guarantee that there will be a Ukrainian state if the integrity of the Russian empire was maintained. Anyone who even remotely seemed to back an undivided Russia was subject to attack. By 1952 the US had not voiced a policy friendly toward the non-Russian peoples of the USSR, it too had been attacked on a number of occasions. This stand however, is not peculiar to OUN/B but is one which had been accepted by all the significant parties in the Ukrainian emigration.

Since the beginning of the Korean war the OUN/Bandera published articles in its press which criticized the United States rather violently for what OUN/Bandera members deemed to be a blind or non-existent policy toward the Ukrainian resistance movement. The OUN/Bandera reasoned that the United States government should show some interest in an anti-Soviet nation of 40 million people within the Soviet Union which had carried out military opposition to the Soviet regime for the last ten years.

On 15 October 1959 someone murdered Bandera in a Munich apartment block.

Later Developments - 1959-1995

Only OUN and Security Service fighting groups continued to engage in combat activity, organize subversive acts, ambushes, and sabotage, and conduct propaganda work. UPA hideouts functioned until the mid-1950s. It is difficult to say precisely when the Ukrainian underground finally halted its activity, long after the war had ended. Clearly, the turning point came in 1954 with the capture of Vasyl Kuk, the last Supreme Commander of the UPA.

Describing the repressive policies conducted by Moscow in Ukraine against the OUN-UIA, Yury Shapoval, a prominent historian, said, “Dozens of thousands of people, then thousands of people, then hundreds of people, then dozens of people and finally separate individuals on this side of the Iron Curtain [in Ukraine] fought in the period of 1945 to 1955 against the [soviet] occupiers, heroically fighting for independence of Ukraine.” But, as an old adage has it, “history is made in blood and written in ink.”

In the early 1960's successful attempts were made by ZP/UHVR to establish contacts with several leaders of the new movement in Ukraine. One of the most remarkable products of these ties have been samvydav documents written by Ukrainian dissidents and smuggled out of Ukraine for publication abroad. Hundreds of documents (books, pamphlets, appeals, protests, individual and group letters) were published since by Prolog and Suchasnist.

At the beginning of the 1970's the Ukrainian political spectrum had many features of the prewar Ukrainian political groupings. The decisive political role was played by three factions of the OUN (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists): OUN/B (Bandera), OUN/M (Melnyk) and OUNz (za kordonom - abroad).' The first one was the largest but had few followers with an intellectual background. OUN/B - Orhanizatsiya Ukrainskykh Natsionalistiv - BandeTivtsi (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists - Bandera Group) had its headquarters in Munich.

In comparison with the situation in the 1960's and the beginning of the 1970's when the Ukrainian political spectrum preserved many features of the prewar Ukrainian political groupings, the second part of the 1970's brought about substantial changes caused primarily by the natural process of aging and/or the decrease of the political activity.

The essence of the problem is a historical assessment of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (Ukr. abbr., UPA) as a military formation and the political force that inspired it, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). The All-Ukraine UPA Fraternity, Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, and Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists insist on officially recognizing UPA as a combatant during World War II.

The Soviet Army veterans en masse refuse to recognize the status of UIA veterans as being equal to theirs and thus entitled to the same privileges and social benefits. The Organization of Ukrainian [War] Veterans, its pro-Russian tendencies and nostalgia for the Soviet Union well known, and supporting Left parties refuse to change the Soviet assessment of OUN and UPA.

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Page last modified: 09-01-2016 20:04:21 ZULU