Now it’s official: Ukraine marks birthday of Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera (PHOTOS)
While the world celebrates the new year, Ukraine has marked the birthday of Stepan Bandera, a nationalist leader and Nazi ally, regarded as a hero by many in the country. From 2019, the day is an official holiday.
Thousands of people carrying Ukrainian flags, torches and chanting pro-Bandera slogans marched in the center of Kiev on Tuesday. A similar event — on a smaller scale — was held in city of Lvov in the west of the country.
While Ukrainian nationalists have been gathering annually for the birthday anniversary of Bandera, this year January 1 became an official national holiday. The legislation was approved this December by the Ukrainian Parliament.
Bandera, who was born on January 1, 1909, was a prominent leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (UPA). The group which was created between the two world wars primarily fought against Poland, Czechoslovakia (modern Slovakia and Czech Republic) and the Soviet Union for an independent national state for Ukrainians. While at first it was mostly propaganda, the methods later started to become more cruel and abusive.
The organization collaborated with the Third Reich long before World War II, hoping to get more assistance for its cause. Before the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, Bandera was actively working with the Reich’s special services. Yet when the UPA was no longer useful for Nazi regime, it was subjected to a crackdown. Bandera was arrested in 1941 and spent three years in prison before being released as a potential organizer of resistance to the advancing Soviet troops.
After his release, Bandera, as well as his nationalist group was actively supported by Western intelligence. He continued his life in Germany and by the 1950s he and his family were residing in Munich. But his past made him the target of several reported assassination attempts. In 1959, a KGB agent shot him fatally with a cyanide dart gun.
Despite his biography, modern Ukraine views Stepan Bandera a hero. His legendary status was made official in 2010 when then-president Viktor Yushchenko gave the highest state merit to Bandera’s grandson. Bandera’s sympathizers insist that he had no control over the violence conducted by UPA’s militant wing, which included mass killings of Poles and Jews during the war.
“Bandera is a typical representative of the ideology of 'political Ukrainianism',” Oleg Nemensky, a leading researcher at Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, told RT. This position implies imposing its will “on the passive majority by an active minority,” he added.
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