“Cultivation of Myths”: How Radicals Try to Rewrite the History of Ukraine

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard



The Ministry of Education of Ukraine obliged publishers and authors to edit a history textbook for the 10th class: the mention of cooperation between the commander of UPA Roman Shukhevych and fascist Germany during World War II will disappear. The department made the relevant decision in response to the inquiry of the radical Svoboda party. The nationalists insist that the structures under the control of the Third Reich, as well as local SS divisions, weren’t engaged in collaboration, and the emergence of such a textbook “equates to supporting Russian propaganda”. Experts call such a distortion of facts “a tragedy for the whole generation” of Ukrainians and don’t exclude that support for such initiatives can lead to new split in the country.

“Earlier Oleg Osukhovsky addressed scientists and educators with a letter in which he expressed his outrage at the topic approved in 2018 by the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine of the school textbook for class 10 of general secondary education “History: Ukraine and the world (integrated course of study, standard level)” by M.M. Mudry and A.G. Arkusha”

it is reported on the official website of the “Svoboda” party

According to the “scientists and teachers” that the deputy refers to, the emergence of a textbook featuring a section entitled “National military formations in the German army. Manifestations of collaboration”, illustrated with a photo of Roman Shukhevych, “equates to supporting Russian propaganda”.

“People are simply afraid”

At the same time, it is difficult to say that views of those historians who the authors of the petition appeal to can be described as objective. Special attention should be paid to Ivan Patrilyak, who is a graduate of the Kiev National University of Taras Shevchenko (KNU) specialising in the history of the Ukrainian “national liberation” movement. In 2014 he became the dean of the history department of the KNU.

Patrilyak is known as an ardent defender of OUN-UPA and the SS “Galicia” division. In an interview he called the Nuremberg process “problematic” — the historian challenges the recognition of the SS as a criminal organisation.

“The Nuremberg process is not God’s judgement. A process involving the winners trialling the defeated can’t be fair”

said Patrilyak

An example of the dissenting opinion of this scientist is the notorious Volyn massacre, which he calls an “incident”.

“Concerning the Volyn massacre. When the Algerian Arabs started their war for independence, they in large quantities killed French white colonists. The same thing happened in other countries that waged war for independence. In no case does this qualify as genocide against colonists”

said Patrilyak in an interview to the Federal News Agency

It should be noted that the situation surrounding the textbook “Ukraine and the world” is not the first time “Svoboda” has complained about “wrong” school textbooks. Even before “Euromaidan”, in January 2013, the movement urged parents, pupils, and teachers to boycott a history textbook for the 5th class that didn’t have a chapter about the “national liberation” fight of Ukrainians, Shukhevych’s portrait, and also other myths from the backbone of Ukrainian nationalism — like the myth about Moscow’s deliberate “organisation” of Holodomor in Ukraine.

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The scandal surrounding the textbook written by the historians Maryan Mudry and Elena Arkusha inflamed in the autumn when teachers and pupils received an electronic version. The authors of the textbook work at the Lvov National University of Iván Franco, and in October a whole campaign was unleashed against them. Thus, an unknown person plastered the university with leaflets “branding” the historians, and the Lvov nationalist media devoted a whole series of publications to the “unpatriotic” textbook.

At the end of October Roman Shukhevych’s son Yury declared his determination to file a lawsuit against the authors of the textbook and promised to send a complaint to the Ministry of Education.

“It is hammered into our heads that we are collaborators, that we are Hitler’s helpers … But all of this is a lie … A child in the 10th class can’t be told “collaborators”, “collaboration” and shown Shukhevych’s portrait. It is driven into the child for the rest of their life, like a subliminal message…”

declared the descendant of the leader of UPA

However, many colleagues of Mudry and Arkusha weren’t afraid to stand up for them and wrote an open letter expressing their indignation with the “prejudiced public campaign” unleashed against them. According to those who signed the appeal, during a discussion about the textbook unacceptable tricks, such as “distorting facts” and “frank insinuations”, were allowed.

“Maryan Mudry and Elena Arkusha were subjected to frank persecution for their ideologically ‘wrong’ position, and in fact for having an objective, scientific, and critical approach towards teaching difficult pages of history from the 20th century”

it is said in the letter signed by about 300 representatives of the professional historical community, mainly from Lvov and Kiev

A similar statement was made by a group of students from the history department of University of Lvov named after Iván Franco on its page on Facebook.

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The political scientist Anna Aryamova in a conversation with RT paid attention to the fact that the historians who supported the authors of the textbook urged to stop only persecution, and didn’t demand to stop trying to edit it.

“People are simply afraid to act with sensible ideas in order to not be subjected to the attacks of nationalist structures that the state doesn’t even control”

explained Aryamova

In turn, a source of RT in the “Samopomich” party considers that the persecution of the textbook’s authors will stop, however the practice of rewriting monographs in Ukraine will continue.

“The position of the Ukrainian authorities has coincided with the initiatives of nationalists for a long time. Therefore I am not surprised that the Ministry of Education could follow the tastes of ‘Svoboda’. This is not surprising. There are a lot of problems in the education system: school leavers don’t know the Ukrainian language, the country’s history, and the Ministry of Education at this time thinks about Shukhevych”

stressed the interlocutor of RT

A source of RT in the “Batkivshchyna” party holds a similar opinion. In his opinion, education in Ukraine “turned into propaganda long ago”.

“A split awaits Ukraine”

The glorification of such historical figures as Roman Shukhevych and Stepan Bandera started in Ukraine before “Euromaidan”, and after the coup in 2014 they received the official status of “national heroes”.

At the beginning of last year the government of Ukraine put forward an initiative for the reburial of the remains of Ukrainian “heroes” from OUN and UPA.

“They have to come back home. Doroshenko, Golovaty, Oles, Bandera, Shukhevych, Konovalets, Skoropadsky, Petliura, Vinnichenko…”

wrote the head of the Ministry of Infrastructure of Ukraine Vladimir Omelyan on his Facebook page

In December of this year Petro Poroshenko signed a law that gives the former fighters from OUN and UPA the status of veterans. In official documents they are called as fighters “for the independence of Ukraine”.

In addition, the Verkhovna Rada decided to celebrate at the state level such dates as the birthday of Stepan Bandera, and also the anniversary of the foundation of OUN and its military wing UPA.

According to historians, fighters from OUN-UPA exterminated about 1,000,000 people, including 200,000 during the Volyn massacre. At the same time, radicals try to avoid the topic of cooperation with Hitler’s Germany.

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Nationalists try to present the activity of OUN-UPA as “the fight for freedom”. However, this narrative isn’t backed up by historic facts. Hitler’s command considered Ukrainian nationalist formations to be only a tool for the achievement of aims. Speaking about the independence of such organisations as the SS “Galicia” division and the independence of an occupied Ukraine is a waste of time. In 1941 the German leadership created “Reichskommissariat Ukraine” – an administrative unit of the Third Reich.

The reason why Ukrainian nationalists try to suppress the unattractive facts from the past about their “heroes” is very simple, considers the president of the Center for System Analysis and Forecasting Rostislav Ishchenko. Declaring a commitment to the doctrine of fascism means to be in opposition to all the international community, claims the expert.

“The current Ukrainian regime very much tries to explain that their SS groups were “a little but different” from the German ones. But in Nuremberg such segregation wasn’t made, any belonging to any SS units was considered to be a crime”

explained Ishchenko in an interview with RT.

According to him, with such initiatives the Ukrainian nazis once again prove their lameness. Hitler wasn’t ashamed of his ideology, he defended it, reminds the expert. And modern Ukrainian nazis are “ashamed of their Nazism”, and with such a feeling of their own inferiority and cognitive dissonance they won’t stay in power for long, claims the expert.

Attempts of the modern Kiev authorities to rewrite history, most likely, will affect Ukrainian society, considers Ishchenko. However such changes won’t be irreversible, he claims.

“Of course, what the Ukrainian authorities are now doing will become a tragedy for a whole generation of Ukrainian society. But the worthlessness of the modern Ukraine project itself will lead to people changing their views both towards it and the history written by it”

assures the expert

Anna Aryamova also adheres to a similar point of view. According to her, the Ukrainian authorities will also continue to support such initiatives of radicals.

“Cultivation of these myths only humiliates the Ukrainian nation, despite the fact that Ukraine can’t preserve even the statehood that was gifted to it. Most likely, a new split awaits the country if the current situation continues”

summed up Aryamova

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