Savik Shuster and Yevhen Konovalets: One Degree of Separation

Another piece from the Navigator today.  The headline reads:  “Shuster drops the mask:  He lectured the Nazis from Azov about war with Russia”.

A very tanned-looking Savik Shuster lecturing Azov recruits

Well, I’m not so sure that the fellow in question ever actually wore much of a mask, but sure enough, the piece is about Savik Shuster, a major TV personality in Ukraine, who hosts possibly the best talk show ever, but whose political views are not exactly a secret.  Now, everybody has known for a long time that Shuster is a dedicated supporter of Ukrainian nationalism; but the photo accompanying the Navigator piece actually says it all:  There is Shuster, waving a book called “2017 War With Russia”.  This best-seller, written by (recently retired NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commander) General Sir Richard Shirreff, predicts or should I say incites full-out war between NATO and the Russian Federation, as early as next year!  So everybody, start gathering your canned foods and building your own personal bomb shelter.

And there is reckless Savik waving this book and lecturing on its contents in front of a classroom of students garbed in cute “Azov” tee-shirts which were probably purchased by unwitting American tax payers.  The students in this class belong to the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion and are studying a “course for Sergeants”.  Now, this particular “Sergeants school” is named after a Ukrainian historical figure, Yevhen Konovalets,  who is considered a major hero in today’s post-Maidan Ukraine, along with Stepan Bandera and other Ukrainian political figures of the nationalist hue.

According to an Azov press-release, Shuster passed on to the younger generation of Banderite students his own grizzled experiences fighting Russians back in the day.  Describing his time as a “war correspondent” in Afghanistan.  Recall that back in 1980 Shuster, in wiki’s words “worked for three months with a French humanitarian organization that was working on the side of the anti-Soviet mujahedin in Afghanistan”.  Mujahedin who, as everybody knows, went on to become Al Qaeda and later ISIS, and who still enjoy blowing things up all over the world.  But don’t worry about that:  If they were anti-Soviet or (nowadays) anti-Russian, then they are by definition the good guys!

And Savik the Lithuanian Ukrainian continues this ancient tradition, and continues to play “The Great Game” by pumping up Azovites to go to war against Russia, in the name of Stepan Bandera and Yevhen Konovalets.

Who was Konovalets?

Funny you should ask. The Konovalets English-language wiki entry is rather sympathetic, and indeed, Konovalets had the good fortune to be assassinated in 1938, therefore he cannot be charged with the more egregious Banderite actions such as the Volhynia massacre nor the countless other war crimes committed by Ukrainian nationalists during the Great Patriotic War. Which included, it goes without saying, being the best stock of concentration camp guards for the Nazis.

Hetman Pavlo Skoropadsky

No, Konovalets was from a slightly earlier generation than the more egregious Nazi collaborators.  Which is why this piece from Fort Russ is a bit unfair, in my opinion.  Namely, calling Konovalets a “Nazi collaborator”.  What actually happened was that history placed Konovalets in a bit of a pickle, and he had to make a tough Sophie’s Choice.  Recall how, in Styron’s book, Sophie had to choose between her son and her daughter, which would live, and which would die, at the hands of the Nazi concentration camp guards.  Similarly, Konovalets had to choose between alliance with Poland and alliance with Germany, neither of whom cherished Ukrainian interests to their heart.

So, Konovalets chose a recently Nazi Germany as the more reliable ally of the two:

“Time has tested our friendship and cooperation with Germans and has demonstrated that, despite numerous temptations to come to terms with the Poles, we have chosen the only correct orientation,” Konovalets wrote to Sheptitsky of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church.

Ukrainian nationalists have always had to wiggle around and spin like dervishes, trying to pick a more reliable friend from among the nest of scorpions available.  The one constant in Konovalets career,  just as in Savik Shuster’s, is his undying hatred for Russia.  And the Russians hated him right back:  Konovalets was duly assassinated in 1938 in Rotterdam (Netherlands), by an NKVD operative sent by Uncle Joe Stalin for that purpose.

Again, early death kept Konovalets from being overly egregious.  Although he can rightfully be charged with helping to form one of the most noxious diasporas in the world:  the Ukrainian diaspora of Canada and the U.S. which continues, to this day, to wield inordinate political power, well beyond its actual numbers.  Quoting from this piece:

Ukrainian nationalist hero, Yevhen Konovalets

During a visit to the United States of America and Canada [this was in the early 30’s], Konovalets encouraged his followers to establish Ukrainian veterans’ associations, which became the nuclei of nationalist community organizations: the Organization for the Rebirth of Ukraine in the United States and the Ukrainian National Federation in Canada.

To this day, Konovalets is noted for being a great, and tireless, political organizer.  Not unlike V.I. Lenin, but from the other side of the barricades.  But organizing for what?  What was the ultimate aim?  Why, an indepedent Ukraine, of course.  Yes, but then what?  This is the thing about “nationalism”, it only gets you so far.  Even if you come to power and gain independence, somebody still has to take out the trash tomorrow.  What kind of society are you planning to build?

And this where the class issue always comes to the fore, and even the most ardent nationalists still have to address the issue of which class gets to rule, and which class has to take out the trash.  No nation can live on a simple diet of just hating other nations.

Fascism and the Class Issue

The normal pattern in European history is that the “nationalists” are anti-worker.  And indeed, Konovalets, the dedicated anti-communist, showed his stripes early on when, in 1918, he gunned down proletarians in Kiev who were demonstrating against the Central Rada.

But the one good thing about fascists and which sets them above, say, “bourgeois democrats” is that they do not deny that the class issue exists.  They do not pretend that classes don’t exist.  They recognize classes, and class conflict.  And they offer their own version of a solution to this conflict:  namely, class peace through cooperation, for the good of he nation.  I found this piece which offers a glimpse of the Konovalets position on economic matters, and what life was to look like in an independent Ukraine:

OUN Party leaders

According to its initial declaration the OUN’s goal was to establish an independent, united national state on Ukrainian ethnic territory. This goal was to be achieved by a national revolution led by a dictatorship that would drive out the occupying powers and set up a government representing all regions and social groups. The economy was to be a mixture of private ownership, nationalization, and co-operation. The OUN rejected all party and class divisions and presented itself as the dominant force in Ukrainian life at home and abroad. Defining itself as a movement, not a party, it condemned the legal Ukrainian parties in Galicia as collaborationist. Blaming the socialist and liberal camps for the failure of the Ukrainian struggle for independence (1917–20), the OUN stressed the importance of a strong political elite, national solidarity, and reliance on ‘our own forces.’ It was attracted to B. Mussolini’s fascist regime, which appeared to have saved Italy from anarchy. By the 1930s differences in outlook had appeared in the OUN: Ye. Konovalets and most of the PUN were pragmatic realists who thought in terms of traditional militaristic authoritarianism, whereas the younger members were integral nationalists who espoused a romantic, irrational devotion to the nation. These ideological differences contributed ultimately to the split in the organization.

Be that as it may, one can say that the ideas of the OUN today form the dominant and ruling ideology of the Ukrainian government, and therefore that, in essence, Yevhen Konovalets finally came to power in Ukraine.  A couple of generations too late, and a few hryvnas too short, to fairly test out his core ideology.

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