Bogdan Bezpalko on roots of Ukrainian nationalism

Bogdan Bezpalko on roots of Ukrainian nationalism


Bogdan Bezpalko, the deputy director of the Center for Ukraine and Belarus Studies of the MSU The first concentration camps in Europe were built in Thalerhof and Terezin in Austria. Russophiles from modern Galicia were kept there. They were native Galician residents who were thought to be Russians, a part of the big Russian nation, but they didn’t deny that they were from Galicia and that they represented a unique identity within the framework of the Russian nation. A big part of the intelligentsia of the population was represented by Uniate (not Orthodox) priests. These people remembered about their roots after the 500-year period of suppression; they remembered that they are Russians. At the beginning of the First World War a party which represented Ukrainophiles, together with the Austrian authorities, physically exterminated them in concentration camps. Ukrainophiles were the main informers; they wrote lists and sent people to concentration camps or killed them. Many residents of Lvov don’t know that there is a memorial to the victims of Terezin and Thalerhof in the Lychakovskoe graveyard. A big literary monument of victims of the massacre, the genocide, is a book by Vasily Vavrik, a resident of Galicia, which is headlined “Terezin and Thalerhof.” It was published several years ago and can be found on the Internet. The genocide was “the first fruit.” At that period there was no such strong nationalist consciousness. There was no ideology of radical Ukrainian nationalism. It was developed later in the 1920-1903s by natives from Western Ukraine. It was implemented during the Great Patriotic War, when about 200 thousand Poles were slaughtered by Ukrainian nationalists. There were ethnic cleansings in Western Ukraine, Jews were murdered in Kiev and other cities of Ukraine. The Russians and the Ukrainians who were thought not to be ideologically-correct people were slaughtered. Ordinary people were killed – agriculturists, teachers, chairmen of collective households, who were sent to the villages of Western Ukraine. But initially it started from a group of intelligentsia, which set the task of establishing a separate country, a separate nation. The phenomenon of Ukrainian nationalism lies in its artificial character. Usually nationalism comes from the peculiarities of a people, an ethnic group which has its own territory, self-administration, intelligentsia. This time it is the opposite. A group of intelligentsia decided to have a nation for themselves and detached a territory from the general space of the Russian Empire. It means nationalism is forming the Ukrainian nation. The current events in Ukraine confirm that the attempts have failed. The whole Southeast doesn’t want to be a part of the Ukrainian nation with their ideals, heroes, and values which are imposed on them. These people remembered that they are Russians. It’s not an accident that the process is called the Russian Spring. The Victory Day is a symbolic holiday, as it correlates to values which unite people in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine.

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