The Biden Administration is Providing Billions of Dollars of Weapons to a Regime Dominated by People With an Attitude Towards Russia that is Similar to Adolph Hitler

Ukrainian Regime Does Not Hide Its Celebration of Fascists Who Wanted to Cleanse Ukraine of “Asiatic” Muscovite Influence

The current war in Ukraine has caused an avalanche of propaganda and distortion. Beyond the farcical reports of fictional Ukrainian pilots and babushkas with pickle jars taking on Russian drones, there is a very insidious historical trend that is now picking up steam. The movement aims to convert terrorists and bandits who murdered and terrorized the Ukrainian people into freedom fighters.

The latest propaganda series from the NATO-financed Kyiv Independent about Ukraine’s “True History” is but one example of this insidious new narrative and how it is being worked into the public eye with the full backing of the colossal propaganda machine fueling this war. Of course, their history omits key facts in the history of Ukrainian nationalism.

More seriously, however, the nationalist history omits entire groups of people. This historical erasure is one more aspect of the nationalist project to create their ideal Ukraine. Rather than simply the physical erasure of people as they have perpetrated in the past, the Ukrainian nationalists of today have created a lavishly funded propaganda machine to build their ideal nation through historical erasure.

As nationalist ideologies always do, this one has structural contradictions which easily undo its entire premise. When these contradictions have been confronted with reality, the result of nationalism has always been the same: Death to anyone who does not fit their “national idea.”

It is no different in Ukraine.

Making a Nation

One of the most important concepts to understand when studying history is that nations are not the same as people. Nations rise and fall, but people remain. For most of Ukraine’s history, the people living there would not have seen themselves as Ukrainian. At first, the word Ukraine meant “frontier” or “borderland” and was applied to the land as a description, not a name. To borrow a term from the far right, the “national idea” of Ukraine is an invention of the 1800s. However, people lived in Ukraine long before it was called Ukraine.

This part of the world has been inhabited for so long that it is difficult to say who the native people were. Throughout history, the fertile Pontic Steppe, with its vast grasslands and rich soil, has seen an endless wave of human settlement and migration. The land we now call Ukraine has been conquered and colonized countless times. Greek and Roman historians write about equestrian people they called Scythians who dominated the region for centuries until they were eventually assimilated by early Slavs in the 3rd century BCE. The Greeks and Romans were not just observers, they eventually colonized parts of Crimea and a small area around present-day Odessa. The Byzantines held their Crimean outposts until the mid-15th century.

Scythia. [Source:]

Written records are sparse until the arrival of Norse conquerors led by Rurik, who would later become the first Tsar, in the 9th century CE. Although Ukrainian nationalists rarely bother to mention it, the land was not empty when the Norsemen arrived. Indeed, at the time most of present-day Ukraine was controlled by another in a long line of Asiatic steppe nomads to live there, the Khazars. The Khazars are particularly noteworthy because they were Ukraine’s first Jews.

The Khazar nobility converted to Judaism around 750 CE, and from there, a community of Jews emerged on the steppes. It is unclear how far the religion spread to the peasantry, but Jews from around the world emigrated to Khazaria fleeing repression elsewhere. There is further evidence of a Jewish population from a 10th century letter written shortly before the Rurikid conquest, in which the Jews of Kyiv (many of them with Turkic names, suggesting conversion) ask for financial help to pay off an unfair judgment. The presence of Jews in the region so early puts to rest the old nationalist canard treating Jews as foreign agents. The history of Ukrainian Jews is longer than the history of the Ukrainian nation.

“The Bolsheviks are coming,” 1920 Polish propaganda. [Source:]

The first Polish invasion came in 1018; by the 1300s, Poland controlled all of western Ukraine until the Third Partition of Poland in 1795. They implemented the first language laws in the region when the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth banned the Ruthenian language, the predecessor of modern Ukrainian and Belarusian, and shut down all Ruthenian schools and churches starting in 1696. From there, an intentional policy of “Polonization” was carried out by the ruling elites designed to either make the natives Polish-speaking Catholics by assimilation or, if that failed, by force. These policies started the resistance against Polish rule which would continue for hundreds of years.

After most of Ukraine came under the control of the Russian Empire in 1796, it became part of the lands known as the “Pale of Settlement,” a sort of buffer zone created by Tsarina Catherine to keep the Empire’s Jews out of the Orthodox heartland. Jews were allowed to legally settle in the Pale, but nowhere else in the Empire. For about 120 years, most of the world’s Jewish population resided in this area and a thriving Yiddish-speaking Jewish culture emerged despite widespread anti-Semitism. As the Russian Empire collapsed, the situation only became worse as simmering tensions boiled over into outright war. In the 30 years from 1915 to 1945, the Pale’s Jews were almost totally exterminated. It was not just Hitler who did this. The various gangs of nationalists all had their roles to play, both great and small.

Pogroms in the Pale of Settlement. [Source:]

Anti-Semitism was nothing new to the borderland. In 1648 Cossacks led by Bohdan Khmelnytsky started an uprising against Polish rule. The Cossacks were already well known for raiding and pillaging Jewish and Catholic settlements in the region but had largely been ignored by the Polish nobility due to their usefulness as soldiers to guard the frontier against Turkish incursions.

In the resulting decades of civil war and foreign invasion, known to Poles as “The Deluge,” countless thousands of Jews were slaughtered by Cossack and Tsarist forces. Entire cities with thousands of residents were put to the sword and depopulated. Owing to the sporadic records of the era, the exact number of casualties is unknown, but between violence and the outbreaks of plague which followed, roughly one-third of the population died.

As fate would have it, the Cossacks believed themselves to be the direct descendants of the Khazars who first brought Judaism to the region and, while history is rarely simple, some link between the two is likely.

“Strange and incomprehensible in his destinies is God, merciful in long-suffering, just in punishment, as always from the beginning of the world, by the righteous standard of his justice-he magnifies some states and peoples, and humbles others for their sins and iniquity, enslaves some, frees others, raises some, lowers others. So the ancient brave Cossack people, formerly called the Kozar people, were initially exalted by immortal glory, sprawling possessions and chivalrous bravery, which inspired fear not only in the surrounding peoples, but also in the Eastern state itself, so the eastern ruler, seeking to live forever in peace with him, married his son to the daughter of the Kozar prince.”- Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk

Khmelnytsky’s Cossacks won the war and created the Cossack Hetmanate as a protectorate of the Russian Empire, thereby beginning a long history of co-operation between the Cossacks and the Romanov Tsars. At first, the relationship between the two was rocky, but after the Tsar created a new social caste in Russia’s rigid feudal system that granted the Cossacks autonomy and special privileges in exchange for military service, Cossacks soon became the Tsar’s most loyal and ferocious soldiers.

As the need for soldiers increased with the Tsar’s holdings, other groups of Cossacks were formed across the empire. Cossacks stood at the vanguard of Russian imperialism and were instrumental in expanding the frontiers. It was Cossacks who guarded the empire’s borders, and Cossack warriors fought for the Tsar in every war from the 18th century onward. Ukrainian Cossacks were eventually given land along the Kuban River in the Caucasus region, but only after they helped exterminate the native Circassians in the name of the Tsar. The Kuban Cossacks even comprised the Tsar’s guard, and their descendants still serve in the Russian Army today.

Tsar Nicholas II and his family with their Kuban Cossack guards. [Source:]

Left out of this story is one western region of Ukraine: Galicia. Galicia was conquered by Poland in 1350 and held until 1796 when it came under the control of Austria. The territory was never independent and was not part of Ukraine, in any form or fashion for almost 500 years, until the arrival of the Red Army in 1939. The irony of the militant anti-communists being Ukrainian only because of Soviet intervention seems to be entirely lost on them.

For less than one year, starting in 1918, an unrecognized rump state called the West Ukrainian People’s Republic emerged in Galicia. This was the only time in the thousands of years of history of human habitation of the region that Galicia was independent. It was not connected to the similarly short-lived Ukrainian People’s Republic to the east and was quickly reconquered by Poland.

Galicia. [Source:]

While the Cossacks fought their way through the Ukraine, Galicia was comprised mostly dairy farmers. After hundreds of years of Polish or Austrian control, the population was split between Polish and Ukrainian. Despite their centuries-long disconnection from Ukraine, the Galician nationalists still believe they are the only pure Ukrainians as their Nordic heritage is untainted by the domination of Moscow. This is why Galicia has been a hotbed of nationalism, and it was from this region that emerged the well-known terrorist organization, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, famously led by Stepan Bandera.

The ethnic composition of Poland, including occupied Galicia and Belarus circa 1931. [Source:]

This brings about a major contradiction for the Galician nationalists. They espouse a farcical and ahistorical Ukrainian nationalism where their connection to Rurik instead of the Romanov Tsars makes them the only pure Ukrainians. However, because Rurik was a foreign conqueror and Galicia was never independent, to have any history at all these Galician nationalists must co-opt the identity of the despised “Asiatic” peoples to the east. In so doing, they have created a schizophrenic national mythology.

They are simultaneously the Asiatic Cossack horsemen who served for centuries as the Tsar’s most loyal soldiers and Bandera’s pure-blooded Aryans of Viking stock who took up arms to cleanse Ukraine of “Asiatic” Muscovite influence. The only real connection between the two is violent anti-Semitism, but in the fantasies of nationalists, they are the same.

This contradiction may be why Galician nationalists have been so violent. They seek to purge a country they were not a part of so it can be reclaimed by natives who never lived there. In so doing, these Ukrainian nationalists have murdered hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians for their “national Idea.” They are not interested in a Ukrainian nation, but rather a Galician Reich.

Depiction of Bohdan Khmelnytsky. [Source:]
Stepan Bandera in a Cossack costume. [Source:]

Nationalism cannot exist in a vacuum. Any nationalist ideology must have enemies to fight, and Galician nationalism is no different. Without the specter of the “Asiatic” Tsar and perfidious Muscovite corruption, the Galician nationalists focused their hatred on the Polish invaders.

At the time, Poland was controlled by a right-wing nationalist government which sought to dominate and Polonize Ukraine. These competing nationalist ideologies put the two sides on a collision course and together they bathed the black soil in blood.

The Ideal Nation

Polish settlers and Catholic nuns at a SS-run summer camp, 1930. [Source:]

Just like Ukraine, Poland, as we know it today, is a new idea. Despite claims to a direct lineage to the mythologized kings of old, the modern Polish state emerged only after the First World War.

Poland had been partitioned for more than 100 years prior. Starting in 1772, and ending in 1779, the old Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth was gobbled up by Prussia, Russia and Austria. During the partitions, there was widespread resistance to foreign rule in the western regions, but very little in the eastern Orthodox Belarusian and Ukrainian regions. Polish nationalists refer to this area as the “Kresy,” or the “stolen lands,” and insist that it is intrinsically Polish.

Of course, very similar cracks emerge in Polish nationalist history. The Poles were conquerors of the Kresy, not natives, and for hundreds of years, the Ukrainian and Belarusian populations chafed under Polish rule. Bohdan Khmelnytsky and Stepan Bandera were only two of the many Ukrainians who fought against Polish domination.

The partitions of Poland. [Source:]

After the end of World War I, both the defeated Austria and the exsanguinated Russian Empire collapsed, leaving Poland without a government. An unstable amalgamation of Tsarist officers, fascists, the right wing of the Socialist Party and, of course, foreign powers, took power and sent their army to take back the Kresy which they viewed as rightfully theirs.

At the time, the Soviets were preoccupied fighting both the Russian Civil War and a massive foreign invasion spearheaded by the Entente Powers and their ally, Japan. The Soviet Union was invaded by more than 100,000 foreign troops from both sides and was not able to expel the last foreign forces until 1925. During the war, Ukraine fell into chaos, with the forces of the Tsar, remnants of the Kaiser’s army, Communist Partisans, and Ukrainian nationalists fighting back and forth for control.

Poland stepped into this vacuum in 1918, launching a nakedly imperialist invasion of the Kresy. Although Poland was nearly beaten by the Red Army, a defeat at Warsaw sent the Bolshevik forces reeling, and by 1921 the Soviets were forced to give up western Ukraine and Belarus in a treaty.

The Tsarists and nationalists, both Ukrainian and Polish, wasted little time in building their “national ideas.” The period from 1918 to 1921, before the establishment of Soviet power, was marked by an explosion in the number of pogroms in the area.

It is not entirely clear how many Ukrainian Jews were killed in this wave of nationalist violence. Modern estimates are nearly 300,000, with 100,000 of those murdered and the rest perished from starvation, disease and exposure to the elements. More than 600,000 Jews were forced to flee from land that had been their home for a millennium, the vast majority of whom emigrated to the Soviet Union. Despite the hysterical claims of Soviet anti-Semitism from the media today, the Bolsheviks took no part in these pogroms and provided shelter and protection to the region’s native Jews.

Victims of a UPR pogrom in Kyiv, 1919. [Source:]

Ukrainian nationalists claim that they were not involved and like to tout the short-lived Polish puppet Ukrainian People’s Republic having Jewish ministers and Yiddish as a legal language as evidence of their alleged tolerance toward the Jews.

As is usual, this is a lie. Within weeks of the formation of the unrecognized republic, the Haidamaks (a term meaning “Bandit” in Turkish, used to refer to UPR forces by Jews) had returned to their old habit of pogroms. In Zhytomyr, UPR militias responded to a Bolshevik uprising by massacring the city’s Jews. They worked street by street, raping Jewish women, pillaging Jewish property, and throwing hand grenades through the windows of Jewish homes. This violence was not an isolated incident, similar massacres were carried out throughout Ukraine. The UPR thought so little of the Jews that they never bothered to record how many Jews their soldiers killed, although estimates have the number somewhere around 50,000.

No other example speaks as strongly of the rampant anti-Semitism in the UPR as the assassination of Symon Petliura. Petliura was the former leader of the UPR, forced into exile in Paris after the collapse of the state in 1919. In 1926, Petliura was assassinated in broad daylight by a Ukrainian Jewish anarchist named Sholem Schwarzbard. Schwarzbard had a personal history with Petliura; he fled to France after his entire family was murdered by UPR soldiers in Odessa. Schwarzbard freely admitted to the crime, telling the police, “I have killed a great assassin.” This was Schwarzbard’s second attempt to assassinate Petliura, the first was prevented by the famous anarchist, Nestor Makhno.

In the resulting trial, Schwarzbard was acquitted. After hearing testimony from survivors of UPR pogroms which was so gruesome the judge was forced to stop them, the court decided that Petliura and the UPR were so violently anti-Semitic that a Jew killing Petliura in cold blood was an act of collective self-defense. Schwarzbard was forced to pay damages of one franc to Petliura’s brother and widow, then allowed to go. He died a free man in South Africa in 1951. Symon Petliura is still viewed as a hero in modern-day Ukraine.

Ex-Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko lays flowers on Petliura’s grave. [Source:]

Jews were not the only targets of violence in the Kresy. After the Jews had been killed or chased away, Polish and Ukrainian nationalists turned their guns on each other.

Although the process of Polonization of this conquered region started hundreds of years prior, it was accelerated when the unstable coalition governing Poland finally collapsed in 1926. In the resulting vacuum, a group of far-right military officers, capitalists, and fascists took power with a military coup led by Józef Piłsudski.

Piłsudski (in military uniform) at a lecture given by Goebbels, 1934. [Source:]

The so-called Sanation government quickly set about their work of “healing” the Kresy. Their ideology was called “Promethianism” by Piłsudski and called for maximum effort against Russia and Ukraine to weaken and eventually balkanize the USSR. At first, they struggled alone, but after the ascension of Adolf Hitler to power, the “Promethean” ideology gained active support from Germany, Japan, and Italy. The government even negotiated with Hitler for admission into the Axis powers until 1938. In the end, Poland was refused membership in the alliance because Hitler believed they were demanding too much territory in Ukraine.

The first steps taken to cleanse the “stolen land” were to ban Ukrainian and Belarusian languages, shut down schools, and persecute the Orthodox Church. A series of land reform laws were passed which greatly favored Poles, using discriminatory loans to force Ukrainian and Belarusian farmers from their land, which could then be claimed for pennies on the dollar by Polish settlers. Soldiers were given even more generous gifts, having free choice of the land as a way to both ensure the loyalty of the military and make sure the frontier was well defended.

More than 1.4 million acres of land were distributed to the “Osadniki” under these policies. All of it came at the expense of Ukrainians and Belarusians.

“I have already suggested to the government that part of the acquired land should become the property of those who made it Polish, renewing it with Polish blood and hard work. This land, sown with the bloody seed of war, is waiting for peaceful sowing, waiting for those who will replace the sword with the plow and would like to win as many peaceful victories in this future work as we had on the battlefield.” – Józef Piłsudski

These policies led to widespread resistance from Ukrainians and Belarusians. Both nationalists and Communists fought against Polish domination, and the Polish government worked to escalate the violence at every step. Eventually, the situation degraded into an outright insurgency against Polish rule, so the Sanation government was forced to act more forcefully.

In 1930, they recruited the staunchest Petliurist officers from the old UPR to help them “pacify” Galicia once and for all. In the resulting campaign, Polish forces put entire cities to the torch. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians were arrested and put into camps, with thousands killed.

“Pacification” of a village in Galicia by Polish soldiers. [Source:]

The repressions of the Polish government only made the people fight harder. Over the next nine years, a war broke out once again in occupied Ukraine and Belarus. The Polish army and its military settlers fought an increasingly bloody war against not just the Ukrainian nationalists, but also strong groups of Communist Partisans. Starting in 1924 Communist Partisans took up an armed struggle against Polish domination, a fact that is conspicuously ignored by the nationalist historians of today.

The Communists also undertook in-depth organizing and political agitation inside occupied Ukraine. Widespread strikes crippled the Polish economy with hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian workers taking part. The Polish government invariably responded to these demonstrations with violence.

Both the Polish and Ukrainian nationalists focused on the Communists first, as they were seen not only as the greatest threat to their far-right regimes but also because they were always identified with Judaism. Much like the Nazis, these nationalists believed that Jews and Communists were inexorably linked, and to destroy one you must destroy the other. Of the forces fighting in the Kresy, it was only the Communists who provided any support or protection to the native Jews of the area.

The far-right Galician nationalists took another path to build their ideal nation, a path of foreign collaboration. The first contact between the nationalists and German intelligence came in 1921 when the Ukrainian Military Organization was given weapons, explosives and millions of marks by Weimar intelligence. The collaboration between the Germans and nationalists continued after the Nazis took power and, by 1934, the OUN was secretly subordinated to the Gestapo as a client of the “Greater German Reich.” Money, arms and training flowed freely from then on and the OUN had the full backing of Adolf Hitler.

This occurred while the Nazis and Poles were openly negotiating for an alliance. The Polish government was none the wiser; they were so focused on Piłsudski’s goal of destroying the USSR that they did not notice when the Nazis put a knife to their throat. The desire of the Germans to play both sides of the fence makes sense when you realize that their goal was not a free Ukraine or Poland, but land free of Ukrainians and Poles. They encouraged the nationalists to kill each other to save the Nazis the effort of killing them themselves.

When he oversaw the genocidal colonial administration of Ukraine, Nazi Gauleiter and convicted war criminal Erich Koch laid out the plan very clearly.

“I need a Pole to kill a Ukrainian when meeting a Ukrainian and, conversely, a Ukrainian to kill a Pole. If they shoot a Jew on the road before then, that’s just what I need… Some people are extremely naive about Germanization. They think we need Russians, Ukrainians, and Poles to make them speak German. But we don’t need Russians, Ukrainians, or Poles. We need fertile land.“- Erich Koch

Erich Koch on trial for war crimes in Poland, 1958. [Source:]

The Polish occupation eventually collapsed. In 1939, the Nazis conquered Poland while Soviet forces reclaimed the territory illegally taken from them in 1918. As the Red Army advanced into Galicia, the OUN fled to the Nazi-occupied zone where their fighters were put under the command of the Third Reich’s elite Brandenburg unit, which provided the OUN with special forces training.

Two new battalions were formed from OUN volunteers called Nachtigall (Nightingale) and Roland, under the direct supervision of Erich Koch’s deputy, a fanatical Nazi named Theodor Oberländer. Oberländer is notable because he would later go on to be a long-time member of the West German CDU and a member of Konrad Adenauer’s cabinet for more than 20 years in the “de-Nazified” West German regime.

The OUN marched at the vanguard of Nazi troops as they invaded Ukraine in 1941 and entered Lviv before the Germans. As soon as they arrived, the OUN went to work, killing Communists, Jews and Poles based on pre-made lists. After the main group of Nazi forces arrived, they began the killing in earnest. The so-called Ukrainian nationalists in the Nachtigall and Roland Battalions beat Ukrainians to death with hammers as their leader Yaroslav Stetsko pledged allegiance to Adolf Hitler. As soon as the Nazi Einsatzgruppen were finished with their killing, the OUN invited local peasants to another pogrom named Petliura days in honor of the slain anti-Semite. The local peasants killed Jews with axes and pitchforks to get revenge for their former leader.

“The newly formed Ukrainian state will work closely with National-Socialist Greater Germany, under the leadership of its leader Adolf Hitler which is forming a new order in Europe and the world and is helping the Ukrainian People to free itself from Moscovite occupation”- Yaroslav Stetsko, Prime Minister of the OUN. Stetsko wrote: “I insist on the extermination of the Jews.” [NOTE: The first quote (ending with “Moscovite occupation” is from the “Act of Proclamation of Ukrainian Statehood,” issued in July 1941. While Stetsko was the leader of the OUN, and its PM, it was not (literally) his statement but an official statement. Also, I am not sure where the second quote (“I insist . . .”) comes from.]

With the fall of Poland and the blessing of the Nazis, the OUN could focus all its efforts on racial purity. In the autumn of 1942, OUN North commander Dmytro Klyachkivsky formed the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (the UPA), whose infamous black-and-red flag is seen in widespread use by the Ukrainian Army today. Their goal was to take the war to the Poles and physically remove them from Ukraine by any means necessary.

A priest blessing the grave of Dmytro Klyachkivsky. [Source:]

The UPA brought a level of violence to the region that not even the Nazis could rival. The UPA marauded their way through both Poland and Ukraine, regularly clashing with both the Polish resistance and Soviet Partisans in the region. Naturally, they also targeted Jews. In 1941, the city of Lviv had a population of 140,000 Jews, many of whom were refugees fleeing nationalist violence. By the time it was liberated in 1944, only 300 Jews survived because they took shelter in the sewers beneath the city.

By 1943, the region was considered “Judenfrei” (“free of Jews”) by the Nazis and, without Jews to hunt, the UPA’s war on Poles escalated to a fever pitch. The Polish Communists and the also violently anti-Semitic Home Army (AK), had to fight a war on two fronts against both the Nazis and UPA, while the UPA could focus all their efforts on racial purity.

The UPA’s wholesale slaughter of Ukrainians and Poles claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, many of them tortured to death.

Entire cities were liquidated, their residents killed, and the buildings burned to the ground. A favorite tactic of the nationalists was to target church services, spraying Catholic churches with machine-gun fire, then burning the survivors during Sunday mass. Women and children were not spared; rather, they were considered priority targets to ensure that the Galician Reich would never be repopulated by undesirables.

These attacks were marked by extreme brutality. Crucifixion, hanging, dismemberment and more were all common tactics of the UPA, who sought not just to kill the Poles, but to terrorize them so badly they would never consider returning.

The weakness and disorder of the AK, combined with the fascist sympathies of most of its membership leading to a general ambivalence to pogroms, meant that they could not and did not protect the people. The UPA’s genocide of Ukraine continued unabated until in 1944 the backs of these bandits were broken once and for all by Communist Partisans under the command of a Ukrainian peasant and twice hero of the Soviet Union named Sidor Artemyevich Kovpak.

Major General Sidor Kovpak [Source:]

The Other Ukraine

The history put forth by the nationalists who scourged the country goes to great lengths to ignore that there has always been another Ukraine. Even at the height of their power, the Nationalist gangs only had thousands of bandits, while more than seven million Ukrainians served in the Red Army where they held ranks as high as General and Marshal.

Ukrainians had such influence inside the USSR that the highest position inside the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was held by a Ukrainian from 1953 to 1982 during the time of Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev. Before that, as the Civil War raged through the former Russian Empire, millions of Ukrainians fought alongside the Bolsheviks and, of those, a great many became committed and lifelong Communists.

Between the Civil War and the conflicts that followed, millions of them died for this cause, working until their last breath to build a new Ukraine for the benefit of all Ukrainians instead of just a few. One of the most remarkable citizens of this “other” Ukraine was Sidor Kovpak.

Sidor Kovpak was born on June 7, 1887, in Kotelva, a small town in Poltava Oblast, Ukraine. Despite its small size, Kotelva was not spared from the trials and tribulations of Ukrainian history. One of the first written mentions of the town was in 1638 when the town’s residents sided with Khmelnytsky during the uprising. For the next few centuries, the town was home to a large garrison of several thousand Cossacks who used their privileged status in society to dominate the politics and economy of the area at the expense of the peasant masses.

Sidor was not a member of one of the privileged castes. Like most Ukrainians, he was born into a peasant family, a fate that usually doomed them to a life of menial labor to feed the feudal elite.

The Kovpak family owned a small plot of land, but his father Artemy could not earn enough to feed the family and so, like many Ukrainians, he had to work as a part-time laborer on the estate of a wealthy Kulak. Despite this, the Kovpaks were still so poor that the five children had to share two pairs of boots.

Sidor was a bright child and did well in three years of education at the town’s small parish school, but economic necessity meant he could never go further. The situation was so dire that the family could no longer afford to feed their children and, at age 11, Sidor was sold into indentured servitude with a local merchant. From there he worked various manual labor jobs, seemingly destined to be ground into dust for the benefit of the ruling classes like so many peasants before him.

Twice Heroes of the Soviet Union Sidor Kovpak and Aleksey Fedorov in Pripyat, Ukraine. [Source:]

When the First World War broke out, destiny dealt Sidor a different hand. He was conscripted into the Russian Army in 1914 and fought in the 47th Infantry Division for the duration of the war.

In the Imperial Russian Army, Sidor found his calling. He excelled as a soldier and was awarded the Cross of St. George, the highest possible award for a Russian soldier, on 4 occasions. Kovpak led an infantry squad during the Brusilov Offensive of 1916 where he fought to expel German invaders from Ukraine and was decorated once more for valor in combat. In a twist of fate familiar to the region, the offensive took place in Galicia, the very same region where Kovpak would fight the Germans and their OUN allies 30 years later.

In three months of fighting the total casualties in this colossal battle were nearly two million, about half of those Russian. While the battle was a Russian victory, it did nothing to change the cardinal situation in the war. The staggering number of dead is often credited by historians as one of the main catalysts for the Russian Revolution about a year later.

Dead Russian soldiers during the 1916 Brusilov Offensive. [Source:]

The tsarist generals failed to consolidate and develop the successes gained with great blood. Reserves were not brought up, ammunition, and food were not brought up. The enemy was able to regroup their forces, and our offensive collapsed. When we came to the Kaliman Pass in the Carpathians, we stopped. The soldiers of the advanced units did not have enough ammunition, they were starving, and they were poorly dressed and shod, but for more than two weeks they repelled the fierce attacks of the enemy. What was our indignation when, during the retreat, we saw large stocks of flour, butter, canned food and other products, ammunition, weapons and uniforms in the rear bases-Sidor Kovpak

Watching yet another generation of peasants consumed to sustain the Tsarist regime was a tipping point for Sidor. When the Russian Revolution broke out, he joined the Bolsheviks and fought to free Ukraine from both the Tsar and the Kaiser. Sidor and his comrades started the first regional council (known as a selsoviet) in Poltava and began a partisan war against the Germans and their puppet Ukrainian People’s Republic. Twice, Cossacks ransacked the Kovpak home looking for Sidor, but he escaped them both times by hiding in the family hayloft. Eventually, Sidor’s partisans were forced to retreat, but they returned once and for all in 1919 at the head of the Red Army.

Sidor Kovpak was not just a soldier. After the Civil War, he was repeatedly elected to head the local councils, collectives, and positions inside the Communist Party. Despite his sparse education and chronic rheumatism caused by his years on the battlefield, Sidor Kovpak was known as a tireless worker for the Ukrainian people.

In his new role, Sidor was responsible for literally building Ukraine from scratch, and he did not disappoint. Under his supervision, the workers and peasants of Poltava set up collective farms and factories to make their own construction supplies, built homes, schools, hospitals, community centers, clothing and shoe factories, grain mills and silos, roads, railways, power plants and much more. Kovpak performed tasks as mundane as officiating weddings and as important as directing agriculture for an entire raion.

Before the Revolution, Poltava and Ukraine were plagued by widespread illiteracy, so Sidor carried out a widespread literacy campaign. There were not enough teachers, so Sidor used his status in the Red Army to bring in literate officers who could fill the gaps. Before the implementation of Soviet power, Poltava had a literacy rate of less than 20% but, thanks to the efforts of Kovpak and the Communists, by the time of the war literacy rates were 95%.

In 1940, The V.I. Lenin Collective Farm managed by Sidor Kovpak was the most productive in all of Ukraine. Sadly, the peace and prosperity Kovpak and the CPSU brought to Ukraine would be destroyed only a year later when the Germans returned to Ukraine with their collaborators marching at the forefront.

The old soldier Sidor Kovpak was waiting for them. Many Soviet administrators failed to prepare for the invasion: Kovpak was far too seasoned to make that mistake. He was able to muster and arm a detachment of 42 partisans who were sent into the Spadschansky Forest near Poltava. Kovpak stayed behind until he could personally confirm the capture of the city on September 8, 1941.

On September 29, 1941, Sidor Kovpak’s second partisan war began in earnest with the partisans attacking and destroying a Nazi food requisition unit which had come to starve Ukraine to death. Starting from the tiny unit of 42 partisans in Spadschansky Forest, Kovpak’s detachment quickly merged with other partisan groups in the area.

One of those was under the command of Semyon Rudnev, a Russian commissar who became Kovpak’s close friend and second in command. Rudnev was also a long-time Communist of peasant stock from Kursk, right next to the border with Ukraine. Together, the two fought a partisan war so effectively that their forces swelled from 42 in 1941 to 15,000 by 1943. The partisans even captured tanks and airplanes from the occupier, which were then used against them.

Unlike the Nationalist bandits who had very narrow definitions of who could be Ukrainian, the Soviet Partisans allowed all of Ukraine’s people to fight for their homes. Beyond just Russians and Ukrainians, Kovpak’s partisans had members from as far afield as Georgia and once again they were the only army in Ukraine which allowed Jews. Many Jewish Ukrainians leaped at the chance to free their homeland and take revenge on the nationalists who ravaged it.

A group of Jewish partisans who fought alongside Kovpak. [Source:]

By 1943, Kovpak’s partisans had liberated the entire Sumy region along with territory in neighboring Belarus. It was in Belarus where the partisans first met the nationalist bandits who had killed so many Ukrainians. The Nazis did not have enough troops to physically occupy all their conquered land, so they relied on local collaborators working as auxiliaries to do most of the day-to-day work of implementing their “National Idea” in conquered regions.

Ukrainian women, some visibly pregnant, and their children before execution by Ukrainian nationalists near Rivne, Ukraine. [Source:]

In Belarus, one of these units was called Schutzmannschaft Battalion 201, and it was under the command of OUN leader, Holocaust perpetrator and “Hero of Ukraine” Hauptmann (Captain) Roman Shukhevych. The SBs were responsible for what the Nazis called “Bandenbekämpfung” or “security warfare.” In reality, this was little more than a euphemism for mass murder.

When faced with real opposition instead of defenseless civilians, Shukhevych’s thugs quickly turned from lion to lamb. After Kovpak’s partisans crossed the border, they beat SB 201 so badly that Shukhevych broke his contract with the Nazis at great personal risk to himself and deserted along with most of the unit, allowing the partisans to capture the region.

It will never be known how many people Kovpak’s partisans saved from the sickening brutality of Shukhevych’s death squads. It was not the last time that Kovpak would exorcise this demon. The two would meet again in 1943; Kovpak won even more convincingly then.

Roman Shukhevych (front row, 2nd from left, highlighted) with SB201. [Source:]

In June 1943, in preparation for the Battle of Kursk, Kovpak was given an audacious new mission, known to history only as the “Carpathian Raid.” A team of 1,500 commandos (about one-third of whom were Ukrainian, one-third Russian and one-third Belarusian) was tasked with raiding deep into Galicia, the very beating heart of the Nationalist Reich, to sow chaos and destruction in the enemy’s rear. Against them stood a force of more than 60,000 fascists, including the SS Galicia Division that was created from the OUN’s best killers, who were ordered by Heinrich Himmler himself to destroy Kovpak’s group. The large Nazi force, badly needed for the decisive battle raging to the east, was desperate to catch Kovpak as quickly as possible.

They failed.

The partisans penetrated more than 1,000 miles into the enemy rear. They were encircled dozens of times by the Nazis but escaped every time. When Shukhevych learned of Kovpak’s raid, he dispatched a group of , OUN bandits to stop it himself. After a series of ambushes by the partisans, the OUN was beaten so badly that they ran out of rifles and fled, never again attacking Kovpak’s unit. The OUN could not spare the men for another attempt as they were too busy massacring Poles.

Along the way the partisans destroyed everything of value to the occupiers. From July 20th to July 24th 40 oil rigs, two refineries, a petrochemical factory and underground storage containing more than 50,000 tons of oil were destroyed, denying the Nazis desperately needed fuel and lubricants. The partisans also struck liberally at transportation: The railway station at Deliatyn (near Ivano-Frankivsk) was destroyed, along with 47 bridges, 19 trains, more than 300 cars and trucks, seven garages and even two aircraft were destroyed during the raid. Adding to this, thousands of enemy soldiers were killed, 40 garrisons were destroyed, and lines of communication were severed, making the Red Army’s forthcoming liberation of Galicia much easier.

The partisans understood the significance of what they were doing. By the time of this raid, they were all seasoned soldiers who had seen the barbarity of the Third Reich first-hand. Even then, the group was shocked when they witnessed the inhuman brutality of the OUN forces against civilians.

The diary of one of Kovpak’s officers, Hero of the Soviet Union Pyotr Vershigora, is an invaluable source for both the raid and the crimes the partisans uncovered. In it, he recounts his first exposure to the OUN’s special brand of genocide.

“Tonight a group of fifty armed men burst into one of the smaller Polish villages, a forest farm in thirty huts. Unknown surrounded the village, put up posts, and then began to walk in a row from the hut to the hut and destroy the inhabitants. Not execution, not execution, but brutal destruction. Not shots, but with oak stakes on the head, with axes. All men, old men, women, children. Then, apparently intoxicated by blood and senseless murder, they began to torture their victims. Cut, pricked, choked. Having a decent experience of war and knowing the style of German punishers well, I still didn’t believe the scouts’ story to the end. This I have not yet met.“

Pyotr Vershigora in happier times after the war. [Source:]

Vershigora is an interesting character in his own right. A former film director, Vershigora left his position as a professor at the Odessa Theatrical Collage to join Red Army intelligence and was nearly killed defending the grave of Ukrainian national icon Taras Shevchenko in Cherkasy Oblast. In yet another twist of fate that is common to Ukraine, Cherkasy Oblast was also the home of Bohdan Khmelnytsky. It seems curious that a Ukrainian man who risked so much defending the personification of his homeland from foreign invaders is forgotten by nationalists, while an Austrian-born terrorist who did little besides kill Ukrainians like Bandera is idolized.

By October, the partisans had suffered heavy casualties and were running low on ammunition. Kovpak decided to end the raid, dispersing the partisans into small groups to maximize their chance of reaching Soviet lines undetected. Approximately 900 of the original 1,500 returned. Semyon Rudnev had died in battle and Kovpak was forced into retirement due to injuries, which left Vershigora as the leader of the rebuilt unit. The newly christened First Ukrainian Partisan Division was soon dispatched into Poland, where they fought from the River Bug to the Vistula at the vanguard of the Red Army.

According to the Russian Military Archives, nearly 500,000 Red Army soldiers perished liberating Poland from the Nazi yoke. The far-right government of Poland has never forgiven them.

Kovpak and Vershigora with the Sumy Partisans, 1943. [Source:]

Sadly, despite the efforts of men like Kovpak, Vershigora and the millions of other Ukrainians who gave everything in the heroic fight against fascism, the same monsters are now sending another generation of Ukrainians to die for foreign interests. As Ukrainian soldiers die in droves to clear minefields with their bodies in a battle their leaders knew they could not win, it is more important than ever to reject the nationalist ideology that has done nothing but kill Ukrainians.

Only when the people reclaim their history and remember the stories of the “other” Ukraine, hidden from them by the weight of nationalist propaganda can they take back a country that has been stolen by bandits, both foreign and domestic.

Although Sidor Kovpak is not alive to save Ukraine once more, his example can serve as a beacon to a nation poisoned by an ideology that has claimed so many Ukrainian lives.

Sidor Kovpak poses near the Dnieper River in his beloved homeland of Ukraine. [Source:]