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Not So Free at Last’

In response to:

Not So Free At Last from the October 22, 1992 issue

To the Editors:

Abraham Brumberg has attempted an extraordinary undertaking, a synthetic view of 1,000 years of Ukrainian history—all in 8 brief pages of text.

Anything which differs from his notion of Ukrainian history, however flawed, is presented as an undesirable revisionism. Brumberg asserts that I glossed over “the role of Bandera and the OUN [there were two factions of the OUN at that time] in helping the Germans to organize the notorious SS Galician Division…”

The facts are that from July 5, 1941, when he was arrested, Bandera was under lock and key, and subsequently kept in the German concentration camp Sachsenhausen until September 1944, and could not have had any involvement in this matter.

Secondly, the OUN (B) during this period was under the leadership of Mykola Lebed, who led the anti-German resistance and was strongly opposed to the formation of the Division.

Should Mr. Brumberg ever get around to rewriting his revisionist view of history, it would be very helpful for all if he could pay greater attention to the facts.

Peter J. Potichnyj
Professor
Department of Political Science
McMaster University
Ontario, Canada

Abraham Brumberg replies:

Several of my critics take me to task for tracing the origin of the Ukrainian language to Russian, rather than—together with Russian and Belorussian—to a common East Slavic source. They are right, and Professor Flier is also right to absolve Professor Stankewicz from any error. The fault is entirely mine, and I apologize for it. I should also have called the nineteenth-century Ukrainian groups “hromady,” rather than “bratstva,” the name for the religious associations of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The sources I had consulted claim that “Ukraina” stems from the Russian word okraina. According to Professor Flier, it derives from the Polish word ukraina, which also means border-land. He may well be right, but this does not seem a matter of large importance. Professor Opalski, for whose otherwise generous comments I am most grateful, feels, as do some other correspondents, that I have exaggerated the pernicious character of contemporary Ukrainian nationalism. Compared to the varieties of nationalism one finds in other parts of the former USSR, the Ukrainian version is indeed benign. However, my comments dealt explicitly with the inherently dangerous trend of chauvinism in a country with a large population that is not indigenous, and a good part of whose indigenous population, too, is strongly Russified. In Ukraine itself, I found that many Ukrainian intellectuals are seriously worried about this trend.

Resentments in Ukraine’s own “border-lands” are growing, for example in the region known as Novaya Rossiia (New Russia), where ethnic Russians make up between 20 and 45 percent of the local population, and even more so in Transcarpathia. There the large Ruthenian population (Rusyny) regards itself as a Slavic nation separate from the Ukrainians and is demanding the status of a “special self-governing administrative territory.”

As for Professor Potichnyj, he is correct to claim that Bandera was under arrest when the SS Galicia Division was formed, but, as John Armstrong points out in his classic Ukrainian Nationalism (1990), the division had the support of most of Bandera’s followers—indeed, “almost universal support.” Roman Shukhevich, a Bandera adherent who became commander in chief of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), actually “ordered a considerable number of his followers to enter [the Galicia Division], where they occupied prominent positions” (pp. 126–131). It seems to me that Professor Potichnyj would be well-advised to apply his admonition about “greater attention to the facts” to himself.

Another exchange on this subject will appear in the next issue.

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