vendredi 20 février 2015

National identities in Ukraine and in Euromaidan



About the author

 Antony Penaud <> obtained a DPhil from Somerville College, University of Oxford, UK, in 2000. He is French and lives in London.

A pdf version of this article (with electoral maps) can be viewed on



National identities in Ukraine and in Euromaidan





In this essay, we are going to document and highlight the different identities in Ukraine.

Much has already been said on language (Russophobes in Ukraine), and here we are going to focus on historical narrative.

We are going to show that the different identities can be seen geographically, and on the electoral map.

We are going to focus particularly on Western Ukraine (where Ukrainian nationalism is the strongest).

We will also highlight the role of nationalism in Euromaidan, and its representation in the post Yanukovich government.


The plan for our essay is the following:

1. Political and identical map in short

2. Historical narratives

3. Svoboda

4. Euromaidan

5. What came out of Euromaidan





Main political parties


The two main political parties in recent Ukrainian history have been

- The Party of Regions: it was led by Yanukovich who is from the Donetsk region (Donbass, part of Eastern Ukraine), and in short it is seen as the party protecting Russophobes and willing closer ties with Russia.

- Fatherland: Yushchenko was president of Ukraine before 2010 and member of the Our Ukraine party which was ideollogicaly close to Fatherland. Our Ukraine is now dissolved. Tymoshchenko is Fatherland's leader and was PM under Yushchenko. Yatseniuk belongs to this party and supported Yushchenko in the past. In short, Fatherland can be seen as the opposite as the Party of Regions.




Because we want to focus national identities, we introduce the far right and the far left:

- Svoboda (far right nationalist party, electoral base in Western Ukraine - we have a full section about it later).

- The Communist Party (Soviet identity and anti-nationalist in short, strongest scores in the South and in the East).

Again, to summarise: in a second round of presidential elections between the Party of Region and Fatherland, Svoboda sympathisers would vote for Fatherland and Communist Party sympathisers would vote for the Party of Regions.


The political maps can be viewed on


2nd round of the 2010 presidential elections


The electoral map of the 2010 presidential elections shows a clear and strong separation: in the South and the East (where there are more Russophones and people who want closer ties with Russia), Yanukovich had more votes in every region. In particular, in the Donbass (Lugansk region and Donetsk region) Yanukovych had more than 80%, and in some parts more than 90%.

On the other hand, Timoshenko had her best scores (near 90%) in the West of Ukraine, in particular in the L’viv region.

These patterns can be found in previous presidential elections too (see electoral maps at the end).


Svoboda and the Communist Party


In the first round of the 2010 elections both parties did not do well:

- Svaboda's score was 1.43% nationally (its highest score was 5.35% in the L’viv region, but interestingly it did 34.98% in another Western Ukraine region in the local elections later that year, which might mean that Svoboda sympathisers vote for the Fatherland party in presidential elections).

- The Communists Party's score was 3.5% nationally.


In the 2012 parliamentary elections both parties made much higher scores:

- Svaboda's national score was 10.44%. In the L’viv region (L’viv is the largest city in Western Ukraine) it did 38.01%. It made a breakthrough in Kiev with 17.33%. Its lowest scores were in Crimea (1.05%), and in the Donbass (around 1.25%).

- The Communist Party's national score was 13.2%. It was 25.14% in the Lugansk region (one of the two regions of the Donbass, Eastern Ukraine) and 29.46% in Sevastopol (home to the Russian naval base in Crimea). Its lowest score was in one region of West Ukraine (1.78%).




To summarise, Western Ukraine and the Donbass region (Eastern Ukraine) are at the two extremes in terms of Ukrainian politics. The Centre of Ukraine is closer to Western Ukraine while the remaining of the East and the South are closer to the Donbass region.

Finally, the extreme South of Western Ukraine is different from Western Ukraine (it was not part of Poland before 1939), and Crimea was part of Russia until 1954 and the majority of Crimean people identify themselves as Russians.




In this section we are going to tell the different historical narratives, with a focus on Western Ukraine's historical narrative.


Western Ukraine's different history in short


Western Ukraine only became part of the USSR in 1939 following the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact (it was occupied by Germany after Operation Barbarossa in June 1941). Before 1939 it was part of Poland, and before WW1 part of the Austro Hungarian Empire. Unlike the rest of Ukraine, it is not Orthodox.

In other words, Western Ukraine was invaded by the Soviet Union in 1939. Many people from Western Ukraine fought against the Red Army during the WW2 (and alongside Nazi Germany), as opposed to other Ukrainians (see Katchanovski (1), Ottawa University) .


2.1 Bandera and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army


According to Katchanovski, "in independent Ukraine, particularly since the Orange Revolution of 2004, WW2 has become a major political battleground. There are significant divisions concerning policies, views, definitions, and commemoration of this conflict in comtemporary Ukraine".


2.1.1 Why the revival of national myths in Ukraine should alarm us


Below, we cite extracts of the 19 May 2014 article Why the Revival of National Myths in Ukraine Should Alarm Us (2) by Amar (Assistant Professor in History at Columbia University) and Rudling (Associate Professor in History at Lund University, Sweden):


"Historian Omer Bartov has long pointed out a fundamental problem which substantial parts of Ukrainian society, in and outside Ukraine, still find hard to acknowledge: it is not possible to glorify ethnic nationalists as freedom-fighting heroes and examples for today and, at the same time, to be honest about their anti-Semitism, ethnic and political mass violence, and collaboration with Nazi Germany. It is true that this collaboration was less extensive than what it could have been, had Nazi Germany accepted the Ukrainian nationalists as allies the way it did with Slovakian and Croatian ones. Moreover, some Ukrainian nationalists also periodically clashed with the Germans and were persecuted by them. Yet there is no doubt or room for argument about a simple fact: the record of Ukrainian WW2 nationalism includes massive, politically motivated, and deliberate violence against civilians, including participation in the Holocaust and the mass-murderous ethnic cleansing of tens of thousands of Poles.(...)


Seeking ideological hegemony for this mythical version of history in today's Ukraine, it was, in fact, Yushchenko who, ironically, also helped spread a stereotype equating Ukrainians with Ukrainian nationalists. In reality, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), controlled by the Bandera wing of the OUN, were – within the context of WW2 – comparatively small and strongly regional organizations. Their massive, brutal effects during the war did not reflect popular support throughout Ukraine but the opportunities offered by the war and the nationalists' ruthless, premeditated will to capitalize on them. In fact, far more Ukrainians fought against Nazi Germany – as part of Soviet forces – than for Ukrainian ethnic nationalism. By equating ethnic nationalists with the nation Yushchenko not only accepted the nationalists’ own unfounded claims at face value. He also contributed to the polarization of Ukraine. Moreover, for observers at home and abroad, he burdened the image and substance of pro-western policies with a legacy of authoritarianism and mass murder that is, in fact, irreconcilable with them. In particular, his policies complicated Ukraine's relationship with Poland; it was a Polish initiative, led by Members of the European Parliament from the otherwise pro-Ukrainian "Platforma Obywatelska" party that finally led to an EU protest against Yushchenko's most egregious provocations. Only larger geopolitical interests ultimately outweighed these concerns: the glorification of the violent legacy of ethnic nationalism went largely unchallenged during the negotiations for the EU Association Agreement.(...)


While Yushchenko no longer matters, his legacy of state glorification of ethnic nationalists has left Ukraine with one more burden to carry or, perhaps, shed.


Volodymyr Viatrovych, under Yushchenko director of the archives of the former KGB, is now the head of Ukraine’s Institute of National Memory. He has long been a key proponent of an uncritical and glorifying interpretation of the OUN and UPA. His publications, often written for a broad audience and little known in the West – but influential in Ukraine – have consistently downplayed the OUN's anti-Semitism and the UPA's anti-Polish massacres. Viatrovych has also publicly belittled the murder of civilians in Belarus by Ukrainian nationalists serving there as German auxiliaries."


2.1.2 Geographical divide


A poll


In a 2009 survey from the Kiev International Institute of Sociology (KIIS), in Galicia (the part of Western Ukraine with L’viv, Ternopil and Ivan--Frankivsk), 63% of Ukrainians had a positive attitude towards Bandera (of which 37% very positive), 12% had a negative attitude (of which 6% very negative).

In the Centre of Ukraine, 13% had a positive attitude towards Bandera (of which 3% was very positive), and 38% a negative attitude (of which 21% was very negative).

In Eastern Ukraine (Donetsk, Lugansk but also Kharkov, Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhia), 2% had a positive attitude towards Bandera (of which 1% was very positive) , and 59% a negative attitude (of which 46% was very negative).

In the South of Ukraine, 1% had a positive attitude towards Bandera, and 45% a negative attitude (of which 30% was very negative).



The view of a Donbass resident


The following 11 April 2014 interview (in Le Courrier de Russie) of a Donetsk (Donbass, Eastern Ukraine) policeman summarises it all: "Here in the Donbass, we have nothing in common with L’viv - the only thing that still unites us, is the country. It was Vatutin  [Soviet general in WW2] who liberated my city. And six months later, he was assassinated by the soldiers of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. Over there, in L’viv, their heroes are the people from the Ukrainian Insurgent Army; but for me, Vatutin is the hero. That man who led the Red Army and who freed my city from the fascists. What do we have in common with L’viv people? We have a different History and a different culture."



2.2 Holodomor


2.2.1 Yushchenko


Amar and Rudling wrote:

"During Viatrovych first tenure as head of the SBU, he allied himself publicly with Yushchenko's memory politics. The SBU presented an absurdly selective list of "the" 19 people responsible for the 1932-33 famine in Ukraine. Two fifths of the names on it were presented in the classically anti-Semitic fashion of "decoding" family names by adding the "real" Jewish name in parenthesis. Under his tenure, the SBU also produced an official number of 10,063,000 million victims of the 1932-33 famine in the Ukrainian SSR, a tripling of the consensus number by historical demographers. Such manipulation of what are terrible figures anyhow is not a minor issue but reflects a long-standing tendency to "compete" with the Holocaust.".


2.2.2 Solzhenitsyn


A few months before his death in August 2008, Alexander Solzhenitsyn (whose mother was Ukrainian) wrote:

" The great famine of 1921 shook our country, from the Urals, across the Volga, and deep into European Russia. It cut down millions of our people. But the word Holodomor [meaning murder by hunger] was not used at that time. The Communist leadership deemed it sufficient to blame the famine on a natural drought, while failing to mention at all the grain requisitioning that cruelly robbed the peasantry.


And in 1932-33, when a similar great famine hit Ukraine and the Kuban region, the Communist Party bosses (including quite a few Ukrainians) treated it with the same silence and concealment. And it did not occur to anyone to suggest to the zealous activists of the Communist Party and Young Communist League that what was happening was the planned annihilation of precisely the Ukrainians. The provocative outcry about "genocide" only began to take shape decades later -- at first quietly, inside spiteful, anti-Russian, chauvinistic minds -- and now it has spun off into the government circles of modern-day Ukraine, who have thus outdone even the wild inventions of Bolshevik agitprop.


To the parliaments of the world: This vicious defamation is easy to insinuate into Western minds. They have never understood our history: You can sell them any old fairy tale, even one as mindless as this."



2.3 Memory politics (memory wars?)


2.3.1 Bandera


Hero of Ukraine


Shortly before the 2010 presidential elections, Yushchenko awarded to Bandera the title of Hero of Ukraine. Later that year, under Yanukovych, a Donetsk court declared unlawful that decree (3) (they argued Bandera only lived in the USSR, not in the Ukrainian independent state).




In 2010 and 2011, many Western Ukrainian cities named Bandera honorary citizen of their city.

As far as we know, there are 25 Bandera statues, 5 Bandera museums, and 14 Bandera streets in Ukraine: all are recent, and all are in Western Ukraine.

The first monument for the {\it victims} of the UIA and nationalists was erected in Simferopol (Crimea) in 2007. In May 2010 in Lugansk (Eastern Ukraine), another monument for the victims of the UIA and nationalists was erected (4). There is another monument in Kharkiv (Eastern Ukraine).

Outside Ukraine, there are monuments to the victims of the UIA in Poland (tens of thousands of thousands of Poles were ethnically cleansed by the UIA). In Canada and the US, there are monuments honouring the UIA in cemeteries.


9 May


On 9 May 2011, for the celebration of the end of WW2 (because of the time difference it is not celebrated on 8 May in post Soviet countries), a group of people including WW2 veterans was attacked in L’viv by nationalists (5). That day Svoboda members stormed the office of the regional administration (Mikhailo Tsymbaliouk) and forced him to sign a resignation letter.



2.3.2 Holodomor




Since 2006, Ukraine have a Holomodor memorial day (on 25 November). In 2007, there was a 3-day commemoration in Kiev, and in 2008 a memorial was erected in Kiev.

In 2009, Ukrainian schoolchildren took a more extensive course on the History of the Holodomor, as well as on the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists and Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UIA) (6).




In 2010, the new president Yanukovych visited the Holodomor memorial.

Earlier that year he had stated in Strasbourg: "The Holodomor was in Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. It was the result of Stalin's totalitarian regime. But it would be wrong and unfair to recognize the Holodomor as an act of genocide against one nation".

The Fatherland party reacted by stating "By his statement, Yanukovych directly violated the norms of the Ukrainian law of November 28, 2006 on the Holodomor of 1932-1933 in Ukraine, the first article of which clearly states: 'The Holodomor of 1932-1933 in Ukraine is genocide against the Ukrainian people.'" (7).




While both main parties want to remember the Holodomor, they disagree on how to remember it. Fatherland have exaggerated the number of victims and see it as a genocide directed by Russians against Ukrainians, while the Party of Regions insist the famine happened in other parts of the Soviet Union too.







One should note that Bandera and the UIA were essentially from the West of Ukraine, and that in 1932-33 what we now call Western Ukraine was in Poland, and there was therefore no famine there. Therefore, the UIA was not a consequence of the famine, there was no causal relationship - they were unrelated. The East and Centre of Ukraine were the most affected part of Ukraine.


Ukraine unity


Beyond the fact that the glorification of Bandera is morally questionable, many Ukrainians in the South and the East of Ukraine do not see Bandera as a hero, and on the contrary see him as a nazi collaborator. It seems logical that such a choice for a national hero would not unify Ukrainians, but on the contrary divide them. Bandera is quite simply a divisive figure in Ukraine.




There is however a common factor between the UIA and the Holodomor. In both cases, the enemy (from contemporary Ukrainian nationalists' point of view) is the Russians. This is in fact historically not that simple: the UIA hated more the Poles than the Russians ("they have an almost religious worship of their nation and distrust anything foreign: first and foremost, Polish, then Russian; then German" (8)) and Stalin was Georgian.


The role of the EU (and the US)?


Also, we think it worth pondering on the following sentence in the Amar and Rudling article: {\it the glorification of the violent legacy of ethnic nationalism went largely unchallenged during the negotiations for the EU Association Agreement}. Indeed, it is possible that the EU (and the US) judged that it was in their interest to encourage (or at least tolerate) strong nationalistic anti-Russian sentiment in Ukrainian politics.



2.5 The CIA's assessment on Bandera


Just after the end of WW2, the US made a bond with Ukrainian nationalists: a CIA declassified (under the Nazi war crimes disclosure act) document reads (9), CIA declassified document.}:


"As relations between the US and the Soviet Unions deteriorated, the CIA expanded its ties with these émigrés (...).

many Ukrainians despised Poles and Jews as well as Soviet Communists. Ukrainians served in the German army and had been linked to Nazi atrocities on the Eastern Front (...)

Bandera led the largest faction of the OUN (which split when the war broke out), and Melnik led the smaller one. Both factions participated in terrorist activities against Polish officials before the war, and Ukrainian nationalists allied themselves with their Nazi "liberators" during the first days of Operation Barbarossa in 1941. Even though OUN's enthusiasm diminished after the Nazis failed to support Ukrainian statehood, many Ukrainians continued to fight alongside the Germans until the end of the war.(...)

The Soviet Union's demand for repatriating all its citizens suspected of war crimes and collaboration with the Nazis complicated Aradi's and Holtman's work with the Ukrainians while they established initial contacts with OUN and ZPUHVR. American acquiescence with Soviet demand would damage relations with the Ukrainians. At the same time, Nazis rounded up OUN members and placed them in concentration camps (...)

The Soviets wanted Stefan Bandera. American intelligence officials recognised that his arrest would have quick and adverse effects of US operations with the Ukrainians.(...)

The CIA recognised that Bandera's extradition would be a blow to the underground movement, but noted that his organisation 'is, as the field agrees, primarily [original emphasis] a terrorist irgnisation".


Note that the original CIA document reads "primarily [original emphasis] ".





In this section we focus on the Ukrainian nationalist party, with its electoral base in Western Ukraine.



3.1 Party history


Social National Party


Svoboda was founded in 1991 in L’viv (Western Ukraine) as the Social-National Party of Ukraine. According to Olszanski (10), its symbol was "the letters I+N

(Idea of the Nation), that is graphically identical with the ‘Wolfsangel’ rune – one of the

symbols of European neo-Nazi organisations".

It established in 1999 in L’viv a paramilitary organisation called Patriot of Ukraine.




The Social-National Party changed name to Svoboda in February 2004 and dropped the Wolfsangel logo when Oleh Tyahnibok became its leader. According to Olszanski, "The radical neo-Nazi and racist groups

were pushed out from the party. However, Tyahnybok never concealed that these changes were made primarily for image

purposes. The party remains associated with the ‘wide social nationalist movement’ comprised of numerous organisations (and

websites) and gathered around the Social- Nationalist Assembly which was set up in 2008".




Tyahnibok (who was born in L’viv, West Ukraine) became member of the Social-National Party in 1991 and became an MP in 1998. In 2002 he was reelected as part of the coalition led by Yushchenko (Yushchenko became president in 2005). He was expelled from that coalition after a speech in the summer of 2004 in which he talked of: "the Moscow-Jewish mafia ruling our Ukraine" and celebrated the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists for having fought " Muscovites, Germans, Jews and other scum who wanted to take away our Ukrainian state".




The relationship between Patriot of Ukraine and Svoboda was officially ended in 2007. At the end of 2013, Patriot of Ukraine joined forces with other nationalist groups to form the Right Sector (Pravi Sector). University of Ottawa’s Ostriitchouk (11) wrote that Svoboda "retains close links with far right paramilitary organisations trained to fighting, that we will see on the front at the Maidan."



3.2 Policies





In terms of policies, Svoboda opposes abortion and gay rights (the Kiev Post dated 11 December 2011 reads "The ultra-nationalist Svoboda Party has admitted that their activists attacked gay community and human rights activists who were holding a protest in central Kyiv on 8 December to commemorate international Human Rights Day) (12), keeping and bearing arms should be allowed, Ukrainian children should not be adopted by non-Ukrainians, ethnic origins should be specified on passports.


Historical narrative


Svoboda has organised commemorations of Stepan Bandera and of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UIA). They have organised marches (in L’viv) to celebrate the Waffen SS Galicia division.

According to Ostriitchouk, "most of the UPA monuments have been erected by Svaboda's initiative or by Svoboda funding", and "often organise the removal of Soviet monuments" (Lenin statues in particular are the object of another memorial war: Svoboda sympathisers try to topple them and Communist Party sympathisers get organised to guard them).


3.3 Views on Svoboda


3.3.1 Jewish organisations and Israel MPs


Wiesenthal Centre


In 2012, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre ranked Svoboda number 5 in its top 10 anti-semitic list, just ahead of Greece's Golden Dawn Party.


World Jewish Congress


In 2013 the World Jewish Congress labelled the party as "neo-nazi".




In 2013 too, thirty MPs of the Israeli Knesset (there are 120 MPs in total) sent the following letter to the president of the EU parliament:

"Dear Mr. President!


First of all, let us thank you for your activities to strengthen the values ​​of justice and democracy in Europe and the whole world. We want to note that Europe is a more welcoming and tolerant place now, thanks to your initiatives and to the spirit you bring to the continent.


However, it has been more than half a year we receive alarming reports on the new nationalistic trend in Ukraine stirred up by the Neo-Nazi Svoboda Party, which won more than ten percent of votes in the last parliamentary elections. We are aware of the threats and slander hurled by members of that party against the Jews, the Russians, and others. These are the people who draw their inspiration from the Nazis and openly glorify the mass murderers of the SS Ukrainian Divisions.


We were also shocked by the fact, that this party is not isolated at all but enjoys full cooperation of the two main opposition parties in Ukraine. Unfortunately, these parties did not protest at all against the actions and statements of their extreme partner, but even have compromised themselves by their own public glorification of Ukrainian Nazi war criminals.


We cannot stand idly by the phenomenon of neo – Nazism in any part of the world. Our duty is to speak out and to contact our colleagues around the world to join the efforts and to eliminate the symptoms which take us to the darkest times of humanity. We appreciate the strong position which the European Parliament expressed on this issue in December last year. We also want to thank you for the refusal of the EP to have any working relations with the Svoboda party and for the clarification to all forces operating in Ukraine, that no attempt of Nazism glorification will be tolerated by Europe. We hope to work together for the better and safer future of Europe and the whole world."


3.3.2 The EU U-turn


”Racist, anti-Semite and xenophobic


On 13 December 2012 the European Parliament adopted a text in which one paragraph read

"Parliament goes on to express concern about the rising nationalistic sentiment in Ukraine, expressed in support for the Svoboda Party, which, as a result, is one of the two new parties to enter the Verkhovna Rada [The Ukrainian parliament]. It recalls that racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic views go against the EU's fundamental values and principles and therefore appeals to pro-democratic parties in the Verkhovna Rada not to associate with, endorse or form coalitions with this part.".




Just over a year later, the EU associated with Svoboda in the toppling of the democratically elected government, and then backed the new coalition, of which Svoboda was the second most important political party. When the EU signed the trade agreement with Ukraine, Svoboda was part of the Ukrainian government.


3.4 Introducing some Svoboda MPs


Igor Miroshnichenko


Svoboda MP Igor Miroshnichenko is Deputy Head of the Parliamentary Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information. He had made news in the West in 2012 by calling Ukrainian actress Mila Kunis a "dirty jewess".


On 19 March 2014 he made news again by storming with four others the office of the head of National TV, Oleksandr Panteleymonov (13). They assaulted Panteleymonov, forced him to sign a resignation letter, and abducted him for several hours. Astonishingly, Miroshenko then posted online the video of the assault. The message he wanted to send was clear. We do not know what happened after this assault. On Panteleymonov Wikipedia page, it says "Acting CEO of National Television Company of Ukraine from 20 February 2013 to 25 March 2014)." (14).


Olha Ostriitchouk reported Tyanhibok's reaction: "If yesterday such methods were justified (for example the take over of regional administrations and people's pressure on high officials to sign resignation letters), today we don't need them (other methods, legal, can be used).".


Oleg Pankevich


From the Nation and Foreign Policy in Focus: "Svoboda has always had a soft spot for the [Waffen SS] Galicia Division, and one of its parliament members, Oleg Pankevich, took part in a ceremony last April honouring the unit. Pankevich joined with a priest of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church near L’viv to celebrate the unit’s seventieth anniversary and rebury some of the division’s dead."(15).


Yuriy Mykhalchyshyn


He was number one of the Svoboda list for the 2010 L’viv’s municipal elections. In 2005 he established a "‘Joseph Goebbels Political Research Centre" (he changed the name in 2008). The url was (see Olszanski's article). The number 88 refers to "Heil Hitler" in neo-Nazi terminology (H is the 8th letter in the alphabet), and the Nachtigal battalion was the name of one of the two Ukrainian SS divisions that sided with Nazi Germany prior and during the June 1941 attack on the Soviet Union.

Mykhalchyshyn has referred to the Holocaust as a "period of Light in history".


Iryna Farion


After the 2 May 2014 Odessa massacre in which about 40 people died after a building was set on fire, she wrote on her website "Bravo, Odessa. Pearl of Ukrainian spirit. City of the great nationalists Ivan and Youri Lipa. Let the demons burn in hell. Football fans are the best. Bravo."







It is important to realise that the presence of Svoboda in the post Yanukovych government happened {\it before} the Russian intervention in Crimea.\\

Given that before February 2014 Russia had shown no sign of their intention to reunite with Crimea, we can deduce that it is the February 2014 regime change and its new government (we will look in more details at its composition in the next section) that triggered Russia's decision.


The radicalisation of the Fatherland party


Svoboda is often presented as the ultra-nationalist party, as opposed to Fatherland. But, as said by Amar and Rudling in their article, "While Yushchenko no longer matters, his legacy of state glorification of ethnic nationalists has left Ukraine with one more burden to carry" , "he helped spread a stereotype equating Ukrainians with Ukrainian nationalists", and "he contributed to the polarization of Ukraine".

- Until 2004 and his speech, the Svoboda leader was part of the Fatherland parliamentary faction.

- MPs from the Timoshenko party supported the 1 January torch procession in Kiev, marking the 103rd anniversary of Bandera (16).

- Andry Paruby (former member of the Social Nationalist Party and commander of the Maiden armed protesters) is now a member of Fatherland.

- On 3 May 2014, the day after the Odessa massacre, MP Lesya Orobets posed pictures of herself on facebook and twitter. She was posing with a rifle and characterised the massacre as a "great victory" and "an adequate response" to the pro-Russian demonstrations.

- In a March 2014 leaked conversation (17), Tymoshenko's interlocutor said "He asked 'What should we do now with the 8 million Russians that stayed in Ukraine? They are outcasts!'", she allegedly replied "They must be killed with nuclear weapons.". When the conversation was revealed, Timoshenko said "The conversation took place, but the '8 million Russians in Ukraine' piece is an edit. In fact, I said Russians in Ukraine – are Ukrainians.". However, given that her interlocutor replied "I won't argue with you here, because what happened is absolutely unacceptable", Tymoshenko's version just does not work. This shows what the leader of the Fatherland party thinks of the population in Eastern Ukraine.

- In June 2014, Yatseniuk (Ukrainian PM) called separatists’ backers "subhumans" (18).



EU nationalist political parties


Some Western commentators have downplayed Ukrainian nationalism, comparing it to EU far right parties such as UKIP (Farage, UK) and FN (Le Pen, France). We think the reader of this essay will agree that Ukrainian nationalism is of a totally different nature. Passmore (19) argues that Le Pen is not fascist (but national-populist): "Le Pen has not attempted to use violence to lever himself into power", "The FN does not possess a mass paramilitary wing comparable to historical fascists".




4.1 Direct cause of Euromaidan: the trade agreement


Here we step back from our focus on national identities in order to introduce some background on the trade agreement negotiations.


4.1.1 Trade agreement




On 21 November 2013, Yanukovych announced that he would postpone a trade agreement with the EU. This triggered the start of the protests. On 17 December, Yanukovych signed the trade agreement with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

During the long negotiation process, Yanukovych had been talking to both organisations (EU and the Russia union). Jose-Manuel Barroso said in February 2013: "one country cannot at the same time be a member of a customs union and be in a deep common free-trade area with the European Union".

After his 21 November decision to postpone the EU deal, Yanukovych still said he wanted a deal that would include both the EU and Russia: on 29 November 2013 the Daily Telegraph reported: "Yanukovych said he was now seeking a trilateral deal which would also include Russia as a player, a notion immediately dismissed. 'When we make a bilateral deal, we don't need a trilateral agreement,' said Barroso".


The trade agreements


Let's have a closer look at the the two different offers Ukraine had to choose from.

- The EU option offered Ukraine a USD 838m loan and (together with the IMF) asked the Ukrainian government to increase gas bills by 40% and make big budget cuts (austerity).

- The Russia option offered Ukraine a loan 18 times that size (USD 15bn) plus 33% discounts on gas prices (Ukraine imports gas from Russia).


Given the better Russia offer, and that Yanukovych had been elected as a "pro-Russia" candidate (his party claims to defend the rights of ethnic Russians and speakers of the Russian language in Ukraine), it is not surprising that he decided for the Russia option.


4.1.2 Public opinion and East-West divide on the trade agreement


A 04-09 December 2013 KIIS poll (20) said that 48% of Ukrainians thought Yanukovych had been right not to sign the EU trade agreement. 35% thought he had been wrong.

82% of Western Ukrainians were in favour of signing the EU trade agreement, and 18% of Eastern Ukrainans supported the EU agreement.





4.2 A Western backed revolution


4.2.1 EU and US leaders


Since our focus is on national identities, we do not want to spend too much time on Western support for the Euromaidan and the government that came out of it.

John McCain, Victoria Nuland, Cathryn Ashton and others went to Kiev and basically participated in the revolution.

One could debate about their exact responsibility in the revolution, we do not want to discuss this here. It is sufficient to say that they actively supported it.


4.2.2 The Ukrainian diaspora


Amar and Rudling wrote:

"Last but not least, a significant section of the Ukrainian diaspora abroad, have too often reflexively taken a right-or-wrong-our-freedom-fighters approach to wartime and post-war ethnic nationalists.(...)


Some émigré scholars selectively omitted compromising statements from nationalist pronouncements. In some cases the OUN's deliberate forgeries have been circulated as authentic evidence to refute allegations of anti-Semitism. One of these consisted of an autobiography of a fictitious Jewish woman, Stella Krentsbakh or Kreutzbach, titled "I am Alive thanks to the Ukrainian Insurgent Army," presented as "evidence" to "disprove" any and all genuine survivor testimony to nationalist anti-Semitism.A similar tactic has been used, with Yushchenko’s direct involvement, to deny nationalist involvement in pogroms in 1941. A popular rhetorical strategy to counter scholars querying nationalist narratives has been to implicitly or explicitly, publicly or more quietly denounce them as "neo-Soviet," deceived by or pandering to former Soviet or current Russian propaganda.(...)"


Ostriitchouk wrote:

"The Ukrainian diaspora is an actor too important to be ignored, as is shown by the many pro-Maidan actions (including financial backing), the debates it started in Canada and the US, the way it influences their foreign policies and watches all public interventions.

This direct and long dated implication on Ukrainian politics is explained, amongst other things, by the fact that the most active part of the diaspora comes from the third wave of immigration of the 1950s, which was essentially made of Western Ukrainians and actors of the nationalist struggle, strongly opposed to the communist regime."


4.3 A West Ukrainian revolution


Because of our focus on national identities, we are not going to document the violence. We still should say that according to Ostriitchouk, violence took place on both sides. Also, it is far from sure that Yanukovych gave the orders to the snipers (see Paet Ashton leaked conversation, and the investigation by the German TV channel ARD)


Right Sector


The paramilitary organisation Right Sector was founded in November 2013 (note that it was formed early in the Euromaidan timeline) as a coalition of different ultranationalist groups and was one of the main actors of the violent stages. Many people had come to Kiev from the L’viv region (and other regions, mainly from the West) in December or January.

On 21 January, Alec Luhn (21) wrote in The Nation (22) "Spearheading the clashes with police was Right Sector, a group with ties to far-right parties including the Patriots of Ukraine and Trident, which BBC Ukraine reported is largely comprised of nationalist football fans. In a statement the next day, the group claimed credit for Sunday’s unrest and promised to continue fighting until President Viktor Yanukovych stepped down."


Ukraine above all


Alec Luhn: "Svoboda is the most visible party on the square, it has essentially taken over Kiev City Hall as its base of operations, and it has a large influence in the protestors’ security forces.

It also has revived three slogans originating in the Ukrainian nationalist movement of the 1930s [the UIA] that have become the most popular chants at Euromaidan. Almost all speakers on Independence Square—even boxer-turned-opposition-leader Vitaly Klitschko, who has lived mostly in Germany and has a US residence permit—start and end with the slogan, “Glory to Ukraine!,” to which the crowd responds “To heroes glory!” Two other nationalist call-and-response slogans often heard on the square are “Glory to the nation! Death to enemies!” and “Ukraine above all!”".


Other nationalist symbolic


Ostriitchouk: "For those who wanted to see and listen, the ultranationalist symbolic of Maidan had quickly supplanted and marginalised the EU's symbolic. At the beginning of the rallies, the red and black flags of Bandera were on Maidan next to other flags of the far right like the ones of Svoboda, KUN, UNA-UNSO, Bandera's trident and Patriot of Ukraine. The large poster of Bandera was put at Kiev's city hall as soon as the protesters took control of it. Later, the funerals of the first dead took place among those flags".


Memorial dates


Ostriitchouk: "All commemorative dates going in that direction [threat of Russian imperialism, or indeed Soviet] and falling during Euromaidan were exploited to feed popular anger, starting with the 80th anniversary of Holodomor, followed closely by the celebration of the Orange revolution, to the 200th anniversary of Taras Chevtchenko, but with also the 105th anniversary of Bandera, the memorial pilgrimage on the battlefield of the heroes of Kruty who died in the struggle against the Bolsheviks defending the young Ukrainian nation on 29 January 1918."


Pro EU or anti-Russian?


In the same article, Alec Luhn describes Svaboda's tactics: "How can the slogan 'Ukraine above all!' sound on Independence Square alongside the slogan 'Ukraine in the EU!', Ukrainian progressive activist Olga Papash asked in a recent piece on the politics and culture website Korydor. (...) Even Yury Noyevy, a member of Svoboda's political council, admitted that the party is only pro-EU because it is anti-Russia."


4.3.1 Public opinion and East-West divide on EuroMaidan


A 04-09 December 2013 poll (23) said 49% supported Euromaidan, and 45% didn't support it.

But what was interesting was that the country was geographically divided: 84% in the West of Ukraine supported it (against 11%), 66% in the Centre supported it (against 27%), 33% in the South supported it (against 60%), and only 13% in the East supported it (against 81%).




5.1 The post Yanukovych government


Let's move on to the coalition government, after Yanukovych fled Kiev. The PM was Fatherland's Yatseniuk (he had done 6.96% in the 2010 presidential elections), and the rest of the government was made of:

- 6 members of Fatherland.

- 4 members of Svoboda (Oleksandr Sych as vice PM, Ihor Tenyukh, Andrei Mokhnyk, Ihor Shvaika, ).

- (Serhiy Kvit, Minister of Education and Science) member of the far-right Ukrainian paramilitary organisation the Stepan Bandera Tryzub (this organisation is one of the founding organisations of Right Sector).

- 4 people from L’viv with unclear affiliation (the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Finance, Health, Economy).

- 2 Euromaiden activists (the Euromaiden podium presenter became Minister of Culture, another one became Minister of Youth and Sports)

- 1 former minister under the former Timoshenko government (before 2010).


5.2 Focus on Kvit, the new Minister of Education and Science


Let's quote Amar and Rudling:

" What is worrying at this moment and has, unfortunately, come to be linked to the Maidan Revolution is that several key promoters of nationalist memory politics have come into high office. Thus, Serhy Kvit, head of Kyiv Mohyla Academy, Ukraine's most prestigious university, is now the Minister of Education. Kvit insists that the nationalists of WW2 can serve as examples for today's Ukraine, demanding that this should be strictly separated from what he considers Russian propaganda. He is the author of an admiring biography of Dmytro Dontsov, one of the key theoreticians of Ukrainian ethnic nationalism. It denies and rationalizes Dontsov's anti-Semitism and marginalizes his enthusiasm for Nazi Germany and fascist Italy. It also denounces John-Paul Himka as one of the leaders of an "academic Internationale of Ukrainophobes." Such statements show that nationalist memory production deliberately cuts itself off from up-to-date international scholarship, in particular on the role of Ukrainian ethnic nationalism in the Holocaust.(...)


Kvit has also participated in robustly nationalist public activism, promoting Dontsovian ideology through the "Dmytro Dontsov Research-Ideological Center." In the 1990s Kvit was a member of the Presidium of the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists and the organization "Tryzub imeni Bandery," a wing of KUN which split from the party in 2000. He is open about the fact that he does not regard Dmytro Yarosh, leader of the "Right Sector" as an extremist".


5.3 Let's have a look at other nominations that took place


- Oleh Mahnitsky (Svoboda MP) was named General Prosecutor.

- Tatiana Chornovol (member since aged 17 of the UNA-UNS organisation, a far right organisation of which the political wing merged with Right Sector in May 2014) was appointed head of Ukrainian government's National Anti-Corruption Committee on 5 March 2014.

- Andry Paruby (former member of the Social Nationalist Party and commander of the Maiden armed protesters) became head of the National Security and Defense Council on 27 February 2014.

- Egor Sobolev became head of the new lustration committee. "He said in interviews that the goal of the lustration la will be to ban Yanukovych and his closest allies from politic for life" (24). The Svoboda bill mentioned in the article "that public servants at all levels, as well as applicants for state jobs will have to undergo a screening procedure. Those who fail the screening will be dismissed from their positions.". We don't know if the bill was passed.

- On 2 March 2014, new governors were named in the following regions: in the Dnipropetrovsk region the oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky (second or third richest man in Ukraine, 337th richest person in the world according to Forbes 2011), in the Donetsk region the oligarch Sergei Taruta (billionaire in dollars too).




The new government in short


The new government had no representative of the Party of Regions, it was a coalition Fatherland c+  Svoboda + people from L’viv + Euromaidan activists. There was no representative from the East of Ukraine.


The first day of the new government


On 23 February 2014, only the day after Yanukovych fled Kiev, with no debate, the parliament voted to remove Russian as a second official language (a week later, probably because of Western advice, the interim president vetoed it).

We ask the reader to step back and reflect. Even if the law was later vetoed, the fact that on the very first day it is this that they wanted to do is enough to understand the nature of this government.


5.5 Elections


Polls at the end of January 2014

The last polls that were made with Yanukovych in them were made in the period 24 January - 1 February 2014 (25). He was top of the polls with 29.2%. Second was boxer turned politician Klitschko (22.8%), then Timoshenko (19.1%) and Poroshenko's rise had already started (15.9%).

After Yanukovich's ousting, the Party of Regions, representing the South and the East of Ukraine, disintegrated.


5.5.1 Election of Poroshenko



The oligarch Poroshenko was elected in the first round of the elections with 54.7%.




Svoboda did a low national score, but as we saw before (low score at 2010 presidential elections followed by very high scores at the 2010 local elections), it seems that Svoboda sympathisers prefer to vote for the closest popular candidate at presidential elections.

It is also crucial to notice that Poroshenko has kept the same government. All the new jobs (in government and outside government) gained by Svoboda at the end of February 2014 were kept. The presence of Svoboda in the government was not temporary. Its presence in the government is based on a coalition between close political parties.



It is also worth mentioning the relatively high score (8.32%) of Oleh Lyashko, the candidate for the Radical Party. During the Crimea crisis he tried pass (but failed) to pass a bill in parliament that would give death penalty to separatists. Later he took matters into his own hands. On 23 May the Kiev Post reported "Paramilitaries from a group organized by presidential candidate Oleh Lyashko stormed a local government building in a sleepy eastern Ukrainian mining city and killed a pro-Russian separatist while maiming another in a gangland-style shooting on May 23. One man was shot in the head and abdomen, while a second man sustained three gunshot wounds to his neck and abdomen and was fighting for his life in a nearby hospital after the attack." (26).


5.5.2 Ukraine still divided


Poroshenko's total number of votes was 9,857,308. In the 2nd round of the 2010 elections, Yanukovich's number of votes was 12,481,266, and Tymoshenko's was 11,593,357.




The turnout was much higher in the West of Ukraine (and in the Centre), than in the South and in the East (see turnout electoral map at the end, as well as the map of turnout differences between 2014 and 2010). In the Donbass most people just couldn't vote.


Odessa 2010 and 2014


We have picked a random district of Odessa (the first Odessa district, district 135) (27). In the first round of the 2010 elections, there were 65.7% valid ballots. Yanukovych got 44.6% in the first round, i.e. 53,978 votes. In the 2010 elections, there were only 48.9% valid ballots. The 42.8% obtained by Poroshenko represented 36,563 votes.

Now, in the 2nd round of the 2010 elections, participation was stable and Yanukovych got 87,807 votes (74.4%), which is more than the total number of people who (validly) voted in 2010! (the total number of valid votes was 85,372)


Earlier referendums


Here we should also mention the other referendums that took place after Euromaidan:

- Crimeans voted for joining Russia in March 2014 . The referendum was organised by Crimeans and Russians against the will of the Ukrainian government. While some contest the figures, we are not aware of anybody contesting that a majority of Crimeans wanted to be part of Russia. A Pew Research poll (April 2014) showed that 92% of Crimeans think that Russia is playing a positive role in Crimea, and 2% think that the US are having a good influence on the way things are going in Crimea.

- People in the Donbass voted for independence in early May 2014. This referendum was organised by separatists. Polls organised on the day of the referendum by Western journalists, as well as the reporting of journalists on the ground tend to show that a large majority wanted separation (for completion: according to a LA Times article "Opinion polls conducted in April by both foreign and domestic agencies showed a sizable majority - at least 70% even in the eastern regions - opposed to secession from Ukraine or union with Russia. But the recent violence has turned many against the Kiev government", "Scores of deaths during confrontations in Odessa on May 2 and in Mariupol on Friday appear to have spurred the massive turnout Sunday", "there were huge queues of people, almost all of whom said they were voting yes to separatism." (28), note also that in the Donbass people are more likely to be for separation than in other parts of Eastern Ukraine, and that the Pew April poll also showed that 67% of East Ukrainians had a negative opinion of the new coalition).


Again, to those who sympathised with Ukrainians who went to the street during Euromaidan because they were fed up with corruption, with bad governance, or who wanted closer ties with the EU, we ask them to look at the composition of the government, to the first thing they tried to do as they came into power, and to the nominations that were made shortly after the formation of the Yatsenyuk government.






National identities


We have highlighted and documented the strong correlation between: geographical location in Ukraine, political support, and national identity. In particular we have highlighted the two poles: Western Ukraine (Ukrainian nationalism, strong popularity of Bandera, anti Soviet and anti Russian feelings), and the Donbass region (Soviet identity, sympathy for Russia, Bandera seen as an enemy). The South and the rest of the East are closer to the Donbass, while the Centre is closer to Western Ukraine.




As Amar and Rudling wrote, "Yushchenko's legacy of state glorification of ethnic nationalists has left Ukraine with one more burden to carry", "he helped spread a stereotype equating Ukrainians with Ukrainian nationalists", and "he contributed to the polarization of Ukraine".




As Ostriitchouk wrote, "The Maidan revolution is firstly a product of Western Ukraine, of a nationalist Ukrainian an West and of its Western backers, among which the Ukrainian diaspora is too important a factor to be ignored.".


Poroshenko election


By looking in details at the 2014 election results, we have seen that Proshenko's election in the first round was not due to him being a unifying figure, but to the fact that many Ukrainians in the South and in the East stayed home (the Party of Regions had disintegrated). We looked in details at the Odessa results (district 135) and found that the total number of people who went to vote in 2014 was smaller than the number of people who voted for Yanukovych in 2010.




We have shown that the new government represents West Ukraine nationalism, and that this nationalism is a strong divisive factor in Ukraine. Given the disintegration of the political party representing South and East Ukrainians, and the measures taken by the new government (e.g. the new lustration committee), we are pessimistic for Ukraine, and non-nationalist Ukrainians. Ostriitchouk talks of a "witch hunt" against those who were connected (closely or remotely) to Yanukovych (how far would it be extended to East and South Ukrainians?) and of a will to ban political opposition (Svoboda want to ban the Communist Party).


EU and US


The reason why the EU and the US have backed this revolution and this new government (part of it described by the EU as xenophobic in 2012) cannot be known for sure - we can only speculate. It is of course not impossible that the support given by the US and the EU to the new Ukrainian government is due to blindness.

Emmanuel Todd's original hypothesis is that the US have lost control of Germany, and that it is Germany that led the West into this (the US didn't want to show public disagreements with Germany).

We think it is more likely that the West's decision to support Ukrainian nationalists was US led, and that it was based on what they thought was in their best interest, which they think has to be (because of old cold war thinking?) opposite to Russia's interest. As Hudson wrote "the aim of a Ukrainian anti-Russian turn thus is not to help Ukraine, but to use that unfortunate country as a pawn in the New Cold War. As Hudson wrote "the aim of a Ukrainian anti-Russian turn thus is not to help Ukraine, but to use that unfortunate country as a pawn in the New Cold War." (29).


Historical parallel 1


We cannot help but remember the Soviet-Afghan war, in which the US supported Mujahideens, and in the process created Al Qaeda. In the Ukrainian situation there was no war though.


Historical parallel 2


From the Ukrainian nationalists' point of view, a parallel can be drawn with their predecessors in WW2. In WW2 they sided with Germany in order to fight against the Soviets (and the Poles). Today's nationalists have sided with the EU and the US to make sure Ukraine has no link with Russia economically, to drive away East Ukrainians from power, and to put in place their nationalist agenda. Again, in the 2014 situation, there was no occupation, Ukraine was an independent state.


Historical parallel 3


The last parallel is simply between the US and Ukrainian nationalists just after WW2, as mentioned earlier in our essay. The CIA described then Bandera's organisation as "terrorist". Less than seventy years later, the US (and the EU) had no moral issue backing the heirs of Bandera in Ukraine. And had no moral issue eithers when these heirs called "terrorists" (30) East Ukrainians who refused to be part of the new nationalist Ukraine, or when the Ukrainian PM called people supporting the separatists "subhumans" (31).




Antony Penaud



1. See The Politics of WW2 in Contemporary Ukraine, available on the internet.

8. See Cold War Allies: the origins of CIA's relationship with Ukrainian Nationalists, CIA declassified document.

9. See Cold War Allies: the origins of CIA's relationship with Ukrainian Nationalists, CIA declassified document.

10. Svoboda party - the new phenomenon on the Ukrainian right-wing scene by Tadeusz Olszanski in issue 56 of the Centre for Eastern Studies (04 July 2011).

11. "Dr Ostriitchouk is originally from Ternopil, [Western] Ukraine. He worked and studied in Kiev. Dr Ostriitchouk is now at the University of Ottawa with the Chair of Ukrainian Studies. Her main area of research focuses on identities issues in Ukraine." (from ). Ostriitchouk's article "D'une contestation civique à une guerre identitaire" is in French and available on  

13. Apparently, following a mistake by a releasing editor, the Crimea Red Square concert had been broadcasted during 5 minutes, see

14 On 28 April 2014, the mayor of Kharkov Gennady Kernes was shot while cycling. The Guardian's Luke Harding wrote "Kharkiv journalist Zurab Alasania blamed Russia for Monday's shooting. He noted in a Facebook post that the mayor had not changed his routine of going for a morning lake swim, despite the deteriorating security situation in the East. 'The Russian Federation is identifying and liquidating key centres of resistance,' Alasania said.". The reader was led to think that Zurab Alasania was an independent local journalist. In fact he was the pro-Maiden journalist who replaced Panteleymonov as head of National Television.

18 He said "killed by invaders and sponsored by subhumans", see

19 Fascism, a very short introduction

21 Young American journalist Alec Luhn writes mainly for The Guardian and The Nation. He is based in Moscow but has spent many of the last few months in Ukraine

25 See Wikipedia, the 2014 presidential Ukraine elections.

27 See$\&$district=135


29 See Michael Hudson, The New Cold War's Ukraine Gambit.

30 The Ukrainian government call ATO (anti terrorist operation) the civil war in the Donbass.

31 He referred to the separatists’ sponsors (did he refer to Russians or East Ukrainians?)

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