Ukrainian Double Binding by Éric Aunoble (Le Monde Diplomatic

United in song: Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw sing national anthem on Independence Day on 24 August 2022

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In In early July last year, when people were sipping coffee and browsing new books in the Old Lion bookstore and cafe in central Lviv, a magazine published a biography praising the fascist leader Stepan Bandera (1909-59). I was. Locarna Istria (Local History) was displayed next to a bag printed with the words “Make books, not war”. Their country is expected to represent the peaceful and democratic values ​​of Europe in a war with Russia, but the patriotic impulses, even if it means fostering old nationalist instincts is cultivating

This ambivalence has been visible since the 2013 Maidan protests. Citizens’ movement supporters seeking closer ties with the European Union waved both the yellow and blue Ukrainian flag and her star-studded EU flag. And demonstrators who mourned the death of 100 victims of a crackdown by Ukrainian authorities in February 2014 cried: “Glory to Ukraine, glory to our heroes!” In the 1920s and into his 30s, this was the rallying cry of the far-right group, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN-B), to which Stepan Bandera belonged. (1).

In 1942, his supporters founded the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). (2)carried out the Volhynia Massacre the following year (3), a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing in which tens of thousands of Poles were killed. Nevertheless, in 2014, the Ukrainian government chose his October 14, the official founding date of the UPA, as the Day of the Defender of Ukraine. The declared purpose of this holiday is “to honor the courage and heroism of the defenders of the independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, military traditions and the victory of the Ukrainian people, to further strengthen patriotism in society, and to support Ukrainian initiatives. was ‘public’ (Four).

Since war broke out last February, history has been used more than ever to fuel patriotism. A bill on the “decolonization” of place names was submitted to the Rada (parliament) in April 2022 and passed its first reading in July. The aim is to eradicate place names that “symbolize the occupying state” or that commemorate those who carried out the “totalitarian policies” of the Soviet state. This link between modern-day Russia (the “occupier”) and the “totalitarian” Soviet Union shows a similarity to her 2015 Decommunization Act, which many historians criticized at the time. I’m here. (Five).

Ukraine is expected to represent European democratic values ​​in a war against Russia while nurturing old nationalist instincts

But seven years later, my perspective has changed. In 2015, the Russian threat was presented as a legacy of his 70-year communist dictatorship. Now the Soviet era is seen as her one episode of centuries of Russian domination, all traces of which must be wiped away. Russia’s recent aggression has given weight to the idea that Moscow’s conquest of Ukraine was a form of colonialism. However, the view has caused academic controversy.For example, Swiss historian Andreas Kapperer denies that (6) And the lack of a racist dimension is a crucial difference between Moscow’s relationship with Ukraine and the colonial rule of Africa and Asia by the West.

Authors of Russian classics under attack

Even before the bill was enacted, decalcification had begun at the local level. Last May, the municipality of Sumy, a city of 260,000 inhabitants in northeastern Ukraine, posted a page on its website called “Decommunication and DeRussification”. (7)listing all street name changes since 2015 and prompting discussion on next steps. Attacked the authors and called them “murderers, looters and ignorants” as part of an effort to reform the school syllabus. (8), was actually revamped in the summer.Ukrainian-born writers who wrote in Russian, such as Gogol and Bulgakov, retained their positions, but “foreign” Russian writers were dropped. (9).

In September, a local politician in Kharkiv proposed renaming the city’s Pushkin Theater. The majority of the city council of this mostly Russian-speaking city is against it, but the actor supports it, and the Ukrainian playwright and founder of Ukrainian literature Hrikhor Kvitka Osnobiaenko ( 1778-1843) wants to rename the theater. A bust of Pushkin in the city center had him twice destroyed before authorities removed him on November 9. (Ten).

Is this cultural distaste for Russia prevalent in politics and the media also a dominant form of patriotism in the wider population? No, judging by the streets of Lviv in early July. The cradle of Ukrainian nationalism, the city receives many refugees from the Russian-speaking east. (11)One way of expressing patriotism quickly became apparent among locals and people of Donbass. Out of half the people on the street he two-thirds wore her T-her shirt with a gold trident on a blue background, the national emblem. The tone of the accompanying slogan is the chorus of the hugely popular ‘Good evening! electronic duo PROBASS ∆ HARDI’s hit song.

Another sign of the prevailing atmosphere of patriotism is the popularity of postage stamps issued by the Ukrainian post office since the invasion. Some are humorous, one stamp depicts Ukrainian soldiers on Snake Island, famously telling an officer on a Russian warship to “fuck yourself.” In another photo, a Ukrainian tractor tows a Russian tank. and a third celebrate the revival of the “Ukrainian Dream”, a reference to the Ukrainian Antonov AN-225 Mriya (“Dream”) aircraft (the world’s largest plane) that was destroyed at Hostmer airfield last February. I use a child’s drawing for the purpose. To these benign and sometimes unfriendly forms of patriotism can be added the image of a pet rescued from war.

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“Red Viburnum in Meadow”

Since the war began, one song in particular has become a common anthem of resistance to Russian aggression. Oi u luzi chervona kalyna (Oh, the red viburnum in the meadow):

“Oh, a red viburnum bent low in the meadow / For some reason our glorious Ukraine is grieving. / And take that red viburnum and grow it.

And hey hey, let us cheer up the glorious Ukraine!

Last March, Andriy Khlyvnyuk, the frontman of the group BoomBox, recorded the song in combat uniform in Kiev’s Sofia Square. The song has also been covered by other Ukrainian artists and Pink Floyd. It has become the focus of a real popular frenzy. When his singer sang this song in the streets of central Lviv, a crowd of people who knew the word joined in. It was also sung in refugee camps fleeing from Luhansk, a suburb of Lviv. Even more amazingly, a video of her Miss Crimea 2022 singing in annexed territories fined her. (12).

Although the lyrics of the song relate to the present, it dates back to the early 20th century (the red viburnum has a long history in Ukrainian folklore). In 1914, it became the anthem of the Ukrainian Sick Riflemen (USS), “the first and most durable Ukrainian military formation during and after World War I,” according to the Ukrainian Internet Encyclopedia. . (13)However, the Ukrainian Legion was created as part of the Austro-Hungarian Army. The Habsburgs, who have ruled Galicia (where Lviv was the capital) for 150 years, are a minority in the empire, even if it means allowing Ukrainians to wear yellow and blue badges on the Austrian flag. welcomed the faction’s involvement in the war. uniform. As the conflict progressed, the USS fought in very different configurations.

First, they were deployed in the Carpathian Mountains against Russian troops. After the October Revolution of 1917, some of them were sent as prisoners of war to serve the just proclaimed People’s Republic of Ukraine in Kiev to protect Ukraine from Bolshevik aggression. After the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in late 1918, other USS detachments attempted in vain to defend the Ukrainian flag flying over Lviv from Josef Piłsudski’s newly independent Polish forces.

The city was then the capital of another short-lived Ukrainian People’s Republic known as the Western Republic. In the Polish-Soviet War of 1920, under the orders of Ukrainian leader Simon Petliura, they assisted Polish forces against the Red Army. The rifleman initially wore the uniform of his one of the empires that ruled Ukraine, then joined rival alliances, ultimately failing to build an independent Ukraine, but then It has become a “place of memory” for the nationalist movement that developed in Galicia. Diaspora beyond Soviet borders.

What began as a nationalist regional reference point has now become a national symbol, shared nationally regardless of political party. The People’s Republic of Ukraine (1917-18) – whose capital was Kiev rather than Lviv – whose leader was a self-proclaimed socialist. After that, it fades from memory. So is the reality on Ukrainian soil from 1914 to his twenty years. Ukrainians were often seen on the other side: in the Tsarist and Austro-Hungarian armies, among the Bolsheviks, and, of course, in separatist political forces that charted their course according to the whims of the changing alliance.

The reappearance of the specter of the sikryuman in this war highlights a paradox particularly relevant to the history of the Ukrainian national movement. To fight the “main enemy” in the East, Ukraine had to rely on foreign protectors. own profit.

(1) “Glory to Ukraine, the history of the slogans of the struggle for independence” (Russian), Radio Svoboda, June 19, 2017.

(2) Timothy Snyder, “Causes of Ethnic Cleansing in Ukraine and Poland, 1943”, past and present, No 179, 2003.

(3) Andriy Portonov, “Les massacres de Volynie”, Histoire partagee, memoires divisées: Ukraine, Russia, Pologne, Antipodes, Lausanne, 2021.

(Four) Ukrainian National Institute of Memory (UINP), “Adoption of October 14 as Defenders Day of Ukraine”, 2014.

(Five) David Marples et al., “Open Letters from Ukrainian Scholars and Experts on So-called ‘Anti-Communist Laws’,” Kritika, Kyiv, March 2015. Laurent Gésselin and Sebastien Gobert, “Ukraine topples Lenin statue”, Le Monde Diplomacy, English version, December 2016.

(6) Andreas Kapperer Ungleiche Brüder: Russen und Ukrainer vom Mittelalter bis zur Gegenwart (Unequal Siblings: Russians and Ukrainians from the Middle Ages to the Modern Age), CH Beck, 2017, also published in French.


(8) Siuzanna Bobkova, “Great power that produces small men” (Ukrainian), Vysoki Zamok Lviv, June 30, 2022.

(9) Iana Osadcha, “In Ukraine, the school syllabus was changed because of the war” (in Ukrainian), Ukraine Pravda, Kiev, August 16, 2022.

(Ten), Kharkov, 21 and 26 September and 9 November 2022.

(11) 150,000 refugees in a region of 2.5 million people (regional administration website,, 4 October 2022).

(13) Petro Sodol, “Ukrainian Sick Rifleman”, Ukrainian Internet Encyclopedia. Ukrainian Double Binding by Éric Aunoble (Le Monde Diplomatic

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