It sounds like something straight out of the wackiest conspiracy sites on the internet — but it may be true. The US Government — through its main foreign aid agency the US Agency for International Development (USAID) — may indeed be inadvertently funding the Ukrainian Government’s far-reaching project to whitewash and glorify the Hitlerist World War II era nationalist OUN and UPA organizations, whose hordes were responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands of Jewish and Polish civilians.
As anyone who has been following Defending History would realize, Ukraine’s Orwellian “Institute of National Memory” (UINP) and its director Volodymyr Viatrovych have spent the last several years trying to turn OUN—UPA and their leaders into heroes. The legal basis for this is Ukraine’s 2015 law establishing OUN—UPA as heroes and enabling prosecution of those who “publicly exhibit a disrespectful attitude” towards these groups and their leaders. In response to this, 70 academic specialists from North America, Europe and Ukraine signed an Open Letter to President Poroshenko condemning this law which sums up the consensus among serious historians about the OUN and the UPA. The letter said:
“Not only would it be a crime to question the legitimacy of an organization (UPA) that slaughtered so many thousands of Polish civilians in one of the most heinous acts of ethnic cleansing in the history of Ukraine, but also it would exempt from criticism the OUN, one of the most extreme political groups in Western Ukraine between the wars, and one which collaborated with Nazi Germany at the outset of the Soviet invasion in 1941. It also took part in anti-Jewish massacres and pogroms in Ukraine and, in the case of the Melnyk faction, remained allied with the occupation regime throughout the war.”
UINP’s latest initiative — based on a recent law signed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on May 2 — aims to rehabilitate the many victims of Soviet repression. Given the history of Soviet oppression this is — in principle — a perfectly legitimate goal. However, a closer look at the UINP website announcing this initiative indicates a hidden motive may be at work here.
“The adoption of this law restores justice, because it removes the brand of ‘enemies of the people’, ‘ killers’, ‘spies’, ‘saboteurs’ from those people who fought for Ukraine’s independence. With these changes, Ukraine finally provides an opportunity to restore moral justice to those who fought for independence. The law on the rehabilitation of victims of the communist totalitarian regime is a logical continuation of de—communism and a rethinking of our past. These are important conclusions that we all have to make in order to build a new future for Ukraine, with its own history and heroes,” said Alina Shpak , First Deputy Head of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance .
This reference is a clear allusion to the OUN—UPA and its leadership. This is then followed by a clear statement that OUN—UPA leaders are to be rehabilitated:
- Persons who have fought with arms in their hands against the regime:
- Participants in the state—building process and the liberation movement from 1917 to 1921
- Participants of the peasant uprising of the 20s
- Participants of the peasant uprising on the eve of the Holodomor of 1932—1933
- Members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists
- The soldiers of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.
Certainly, not every individual soldier who fought for OUN—UPA was a Holocaust collaborator or killer of Polish civilians. However, there’s no doubt many were, and its dominant ideology was deeply Antisemitic. That’s not all though. The allusion to the 1917—1921 liberation will almost certainly include nationalist Symon Petliura, whose troops massacred between 35,000 — 50,000 Jews in one of the most heinous pogroms in history. UINP’s director Viatrovych has long promoted Petliura and OUN—UPA leaders Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych as comprising his pantheon of Ukrainian “heroes” and it is quite possible that that these men and their underlings will be among the beneficiaries of this new law so that they are officially “rehabilitated.”
Here’s where USAID comes in. At the bottom of the page on its site announcing this new law, UINP clearly indicates work on the law was funded by USAID under one of its projects in Ukraine:
“The Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance, people’s deputies of Ukraine, as well as representatives of the public, including the “Policy of National Remembrance” of the Reanimation Package of Reforms, the Center for the Studies of the Liberation Movement, individual researchers, experts, and representatives of the Archive of the Security Service of Ukraine worked on the draft law. Also, in the process of drafting the bill, public hearings were held in the format of the Town Hall Meeting, which organized the Laboratory of Legislative Initiatives together with the League of Interns within the framework of the USAID RADA: Accountability, Responsibility, Democratic Parliamentary Representation, carried out by the Eastern Europe Foundation.”
While it is possible that UINP is making this all up, its publication calls for immediate scrutiny from mainstream Western media. For one thing, if we look at USAID’s website we can clearly see that this RADA project exists.
Defending History will be tracking the story, and you’ll be able to find the latest updates on our Twitter timeline @DefendingHistor.