I would like to talk about the stark similarities between the rehabilitation of Stalin and the USSR in Russia and the rehabilitation of Bandera and UPA in Ukraine…
As the two countries came out of the shadow of Communism and gained sovereignty, the cults of Bandera, Shukhevych, the UPA on one hand, and Stalin and the USSR on the other were rather marginal. As Levada polling shows the popularity of Stalin in the early nineties was rather marginal. It is something that grew steadily over the nineteen nineties. Before the second Maidan, Russian Stalinophilia even spilled over to the Russian speaking regions of Ukraine. In 2010, the Communists in Zaporozhie set up a bust of Stalin, which stood there for 7 months. It was first decapitated and then blown up on Bandera’s birthday on 1st January 2011.
In 1997, the British researcher Andrew Wilson claimed the appeal of “narrow ethnonationalism” is limited by “historical, ethnic, linguistic factors”. Wilson noted however that Ukrainian nationalism had “a strong emotive appeal to a minority, who may thus undermine Ukraine’s attempts to construct an open civic state.”
Fast forward 20 years and the nationalist agenda seems to have gained the upper hand over the civic and multiethnic alternative. Not only has the nationalist agenda for the linguistic sphere, that is affirmative action for the Ukrainian language, been implemented, the state accepts the nationalist point of view on historical events. The secession of Crimea and Donbass has removed much of the Russian element which previously formed a formidable opposition to Ukrainisation attempts. What remains of the Russian element in the South and East of the country is now seriously weakened as an opposition force.
This arguably is the biggest difference the cult of Bandera in Ukraine has with the Russian cult of Stalin. In Russia, while many influential people are engaged in popularising Stalin, the state itself has not endorsed Stalin. And there are even instances, when the state opposes monuments to Stalin. Recently in Novosibirsk, local Art’s Council rejected a bust of Stalin that was to be installed in the city on the initiative of the Communist Party. Putin himself said in interview to Oliver Stone that Stalin was a controversial figure which ought to be seen in it historical context. The Gulag Archipelago by Solzhenitsyn is included in literature programme in Russian schools.
This is a qualitatively different attitude from Ukraine. Due to differing historical circumstances (two Maidans, secession, and civil war), the rehabilitation of Bandera has been much more endorsed by the state. There is an “Avennue of Stepan Bandera” in Kiev now but Moscow still waits for its Stalin Street. It appears most Stalin streets in Russia are in the republics of North Caucasus. Certainly, Moscow and the majority of big cities is still untouched. Perhaps in the future, the Russian Stalinophiles will get enough influence to immortalise their moustached idol in the capital.
While there definitely is a qualitative difference between the two phenomena, there is a similarity when it comes to motivation. The growth of both of thesecults appears to be a reaction to the failed transformation from planned economy to capitalism, and from the rule of one party to pluralism. High levels of poverty, political instability, rule by robber barons in both countries has caused some people to look up to these rather ghoulish figures. You often hear the Ukrainian nationalists shout at their marches: “Bandera, priyde, poryadok navede!”, which means “Bandera will come, he will establish order!” They want a new order, not the current one established in the nineties. Surprisingly, or rather not, the Stalinophiles think in exactly the same way.
Enjoy videos of the troglodytes below: