Rossoliński-Liebe, Grzegorz

Stepan Bandera: The Life and Afterlife of a Ukrainian Nationalist


Fascism, Genocide, and Cult



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"The Life and Afterlife of a Ukrainian Nationalist" is the first comprehensive and scholarly biography of the Ukrainian far-right leader Stepan Bandera and the first in-depth study of his political cult. In this fascinating book, Grzegorz Rossoliński-Liebe illuminates the life of a mythologized personality and scrutinizes the history of the most violent twentieth-century Ukrainian nationalist movement: the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and its Ukrainian Insurgent Army. Elucidating the circumstances in which Bandera and his movement emerged and functioned, Rossoliński-Liebe explains how fascism and racism impacted on Ukrainian revolutionary and genocidal nationalism. The book shows why Bandera and his followers failed—despite their ideological similarity to the Croatian Ustaša and the Slovak Hlinka Party—to establish a collaborationist state under the auspices of Nazi Germany and examines the involvement of the Ukrainian nationalists in the Holocaust and other atrocities during and after the Second World War. The author brings to light some of the darkest elements of modern Ukrainian history and demonstrates its complexity, paying special attention to the Soviet terror in Ukraine and the entanglement between Ukrainian, Jewish, Polish, Russian, German, and Soviet history. The monograph also charts the creation and growth of the Bandera cult before the Second World War, its vivid revivals during the Cold War among the Ukrainian diaspora, and in Bandera's native eastern Galicia after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.


The author:
Grzegorz Rossoliński-Liebe is Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Friedrich-Meinecke-Institut of the Free University of Berlin.


654 pages, 66 ill., 7 maps. Paperback. 2014
ISBN 978-3-8382-0604-2


Auch als Hardcover erhältlich.



Stimmen zum Buch:


"This important, heavily documented and rigorously researched book could not be published at a better time. Arguing that Stepan Bandera, leader of the radical faction of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), was motivated by a fascist worldview, the author shows that the OUN's specific goal was to create an independent and ethnically homogeneous Ukraine, free of Russian-Bolshevik, Polish, and Jewish influence, and led by a charismatic dictatorial leader at the head of a single party. The author exposes the intimate links between the OUN and Nazi Germany as well as its violent ethnic cleansing of Poles in Western Ukraine and its collaboration with the Germans in the genocide of the Jews, all actions for which Bandera acted as the leading spirit even from his German imprisonment. Many Ukrainians will find this argument, meticulously documented and persuasively argued, deeply troubling. Yet it is a case that needs to be made and which this book accomplishes with such energy and breadth."
Omer Bartov, Brown University


"This book is bound to generate debate, since it confronts a man and movement of mythic stature with their difficult historical context and with masses of documentary evidence. It is a pioneering effort to situate Stepan Bandera and his Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists within a history of fascism and ethnic cleansing. Bandera and his movement exercised a powerful influence on the mental framework of modern Ukrainian nationalism in Western Ukraine and the overseas diaspora and even, more indirectly, on the academic discipline of Ukrainian studies. What is written here requires reflection and engagement; it makes a major contribution to the discourse on the meaning of modern Ukrainian history."
John-Paul Himka, University of Alberta


"This fascinating and well-researched monograph provides a comprehensive account of the political career of the Ukrainian nationalist leader Stepan Bandera and of the cult that has come to surround his personality. It is essential reading for all those interested in the history of Eastern Europe during the Second World War and subsequently."
Antony Polonsky, Brandeis University


"For more than half a century after his death Stepan Bandera has been for many Ukrainians the hero of the liberation movement. On the basis of Bandera’s biography, Grzegorz Rossoliński-Liebe records the history of Ukrainian militant nationalism throughout the twentieth century, the changing relationship between the movement and German National Socialism, and its collaboration with Western secret services. The Bandera cult, this study shows, is part of the highly controversial politics of memory dividing Ukraine once more into East and West."
Susanne Heim, University of Freiburg


"Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe has written a thought-provoking book about the life and afterlife of a controversial figure of the Ukrainian radical right wing, Stepan Bandera.  In particular, his chapters on Bandera's interwar Polish period, the postwar Soviet persecution of Bandera partisans, and the evolution of Soviet ideology about Bandera contribute much that is novel and challenging to the former prevailing narratives. Much information is based on recently accessible archival collections."
Mark von Hagen, Arizona State University


"Grzegorz Rossoliński-Liebe's comprehensive book on Stepan Bandera, leader of the far-right Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), transcends the confines of a conventional biography. It is an important, heavily documented study of the OUN's ideology and its attempts to create an ethnically homogeneous Ukrainian nation-state. Rossoliński-Liebe shows that, despite the OUN's fascination with fascism and mass violence, the relationship between Nazi Germany and the OUN, especially between 1941 and 1944, was complicated and equivocal. During the Cold War, the radical nationalism and anti-bolshevism cherished and advocated by the OUN still shaped the ideology and policy aims of many Ukrainian refugees in countries such as Canada, the UK, the USA, and West Germany. Placing Bandera's activities in the contexts of occupation, extreme nationalism, fascism, and anti-communism, the monograph is a major contribution to scholarship on twentieth-century Ukrainian and European history."
Arnd Bauerkämper, Free University of Berlin


"Rossoliński-Liebes Resümee ist dem schwierigen Thema angemessen und vermeidet einseitige Schuldzuweisungen. Es verweist darauf, dass der Umgang mit der eigenen Geschichte auch ein Prozess der Heilung einer Gesellschaft sei, und dass hierbei der Ukraine noch ein langer Weg bevorstehe. Dieser sei erst abgeschlossen, wenn die Ukrainer auch Mitgefühl für die vielen Opfer der ukrainischen Nationalisten empfinden könnten.
[...] Angesichts der im Westen verbreiteten Unkenntnis über Bandera und die Zielsetzungen der 'Banderisten' sowie der in Kiew dominierenden Haltung, ihre Verbrechen einfach zu ignorieren, ist es zu begrüßen, dass Grzegorz Rossoliński‐Liebe mit seiner sehr sorgfältig recherchierten Studie Licht in dieses Dunkel bringt."
Stephan Merl (Universität Bielefeld), Sehepunkte, Nr. 1, 2016


"The book by Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe comes to fill a huge gap in scholarship, as it is the first political biography of Stepan Bandera written in English. At the same time, it provides a detailed and fascinating history of the OUN and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), its relations to Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, its conception of a Ukrainian State and of Ukrainian identity, and finally the myth that surrounded its leader and the OUN in exile after WWII and in post-Soviet western Ukraine. [...]
This book is an indispensable companion to whoever wants to understand contemporary Ukraine and its division between East and West. The author shows how the figure of Bandera has been appropriated and distorted both by the right wing nationalist supporters and by Putin’s Russia, who agitates it as a scarecrow to justify his politics of military intervention and annexation. Bandera is today more an empty icon that can be alternatively seen in negative or positive lights, than a name associated with a real person and real deeds. This book will help returning to some historical facts, including Bandera’s undoubtedly fascist, racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic credo, his nationalist fanaticism, his extremism and ultimately, his responsibility for crimes that urgently call for recognition, if Ukraine wants to integrate the European community of memory and values."
Delphine Bechtel (Université Paris IV Sorbonne), H-Soz-Kult, 13.04.2015


"Rossolínski-Liebes Buch ist ein wichtiges Referenzwerk [...]. Gewisse Passagen des Buches werden auf Widerrede stoßen. Es ist aber gerade das Ziel des Autors, eine breitere wissenschaftliche Debatte über Bandera anzustoßen."
Simon Geissbühler, Religion & Gesellschaft in Ost und West, Nr. 8, 2015


"This book by Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe is the first attempt at an academic biography of Bandera, and that is its author’s great achievement.
[...] The greatest originality of Rossolinski-Liebe's monograph lies in the study of the formation and development of the cult of Bandera, from its inception in the mid-1930s to the present day."
Oleksandr Zaitsev (Ukrainian Catholic University), European History Quarterly, Vol. 46 No.1


"Through the prism of one historical actor, readers are treated to a comprehensive study of an entire century of Ukrainian radical nationalism filled with many fascinating facts."
Karel C. Berkhoff (University of Amsterdam), Yad Vashem Studies, No. 2, 2015


"The title of Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe's massive monograph hardly does justice to the depth of the important research contained between its covers.
[...] the author, using a vast array of primary sources in all the relevant languages, has set the scholarly standard for future research on Bandera and the history of inter-war and wartime Ukraine. Whoever deals with these issues in the coming years will have to make reference to Rossolinski-Liebe's impressive work, especially given the relatively meager schalarship on contemporary Ukrainian history.
[...] this book is a fascinating read and is important if only to stimulate further research about Bandera and the contemporary history of Ukraine."
Simon Geissbühler, Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, No. 3, 2015


"Grzegorz Rossoliński-Liebe’s monograph is a vast and comprehensive biography of Stepan Bandera, spanning more than a century and providing a much-needed longue durée perspective that not only reconstructs Bandera’s life and political activity in painstaking detail, but also illuminates the reasons for the resurgence of his cult in the late 1980s and especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the achievement of Ukrainian Independence.
[...] For understanding the intricate dynamics of the resurgence of the ‘Bandera cult’, of its mixed reception in different parts of Ukraine and among different segments of the population, as well as the complex historical background prompting such associations and their contestation today, Rossoliński-Liebe’s book represents an essential contribution."
Raul Cârstocea (European Centre for Minority Issues), Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe, No. 1, 2016


"Rossoliński-Liebe clearly shows that during the 1930s, the OUN increasingly adopted elements of fascism and a radicalized nationalism that the author calls 'genocidal' because it included at least the option of 'cleansing' the Ukrainian territories from 'enemy nationalities' by violent means. Stepan Bandera and activists closely related to him were a driving force of that development. The author argues convincingly that this ideological radicalization contributed to the murder of Jews in summer 1941 by OUN-led militias, their support of German mass executions of Jews, UPA’s massacres of Poles in 1943 and 1944, and to the murder of hidden Jews by UPA units in the same period. [...]
Altogether, the book is a polemic against those who admire and make heroes of Bandera, OUN, and UPA. The author shows convincingly that Bandera stood for views and actions that are unacceptable for a modern, democratic society and that these views cannot be reconciled with celebrating him as a symbol of the Ukrainian struggle for liberation."
Kai Struve, Martin Luther Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Slavic Review No. 2, 2016

"Rossoliński-Liebe has illuminated the controversial figure of Bandera by producing a deeply researched and pioneering study. In a politicized field featuring works in Ukrainian such as 'Why We Love Bandera', this book is urgently needed. Integrating fresh international scholarship, it challenges nationally dominated narratives [...]."
Jared McBride, University of California, Kritika, No. 3, 2016


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