A ghost of World War II history haunts Ukraine’s standoff with Russia

tags: World War II, Russia, Ukraine




KIEV, Ukraine — The West may be feeling the chill of a new Cold War. But for Ukraine and Russia, no era or actor is more omnipresent in their crisis today than World War II and Stepan Bandera.

Born in an obscure village in 1909, Bandera for decades fought for an independent Ukraine, but in the early 20th century its territory was carved up between Poland and the Soviet Union. Honoring what they see as his legacy as a thorn in the side of the Soviets, Ukrainian nationalists have strung up a massive poster of their hero in this city’s Independence Square, using him as a rallying cry against the new menace in Moscow.

But if Bandera is idolized by some in the capital and western Ukraine, he is reviled as a fascist in much of the heavily ethnic-Russian east and south as well as in Russia itself. There, memories are still fresh of Soviet-era campaigns that sought to discredit Bandera, and his quest for a Ukrainian homeland, by playing up his ties to Germany’s Third Reich.

The fierce debate has made history a protagonist here, with love and loathing of a larger-than-life figure now vividly on display on Ukrainian streets.



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