Favorable conditions for activisation of Ukrainian national liberation movement were created on Ukrainian territory during the Second World War. This movement aimed at creating an independent Ukrainian State on ethnic Ukrainian territory. In the 1930s it was headed by the Organisation of Ukranian Nationalists.
Arbitrary rule of the Polish government and the breakout of the German-Polish conflict stimulated the OUN to conduct general military trainings for its members and supporters according to the instruction of Regional Executives of Western Ukrainian territory concerning the organization of insurgent struggle in case of proclamation of general mobilization by the Polish government. This instruction demanded from the OUN members to avoid drafting to Polish military service, to hide in forests, and to unite in insurgent units.
In the early July 1939 the OUN leadership made a deal with German Abwehr to form “Ukrainian legion” under the command of the colonel Roman Sushko. The OUN leadership viewed this military unit as the basis for future Ukrainian army. But the legion was not actively participating in the struggle against Poland during the September campain in 1939.
In mid September the defeat of the Polish army at the front and demoralization of society created favorable conditions for armed rebellion of Ukrainian nationalists, which was based on the “theory of re-building of the country from the first village”. Its author was military referent of the Regional Executives of Western Ukrainian territory Mykhailo Kolodzinskyy – “Huzar”. According to this theory, in case of seize of power in any Ukrainian administrative unit, the OUN members have to proclaim renewal of the Ukrainian State.
About 8 thousand rebels actively participated in anti-Polish uprisings, which spread over almost all territory of Galicia and Volyn. Fighting and conflicts of the OUN insurgent martial groups with Polish police and army units appeared almost in every province of Western Ukraine. But this rebellion did not lead even to the short-term proclamation of independence. On September 17th, 1939, the Soviet occupation of the region began.
Activity of the OUN in Galicia in 1939-1941
After occupation of Western Ukraine in 1939 the Bolsheviks started arresting members of political parties and NGOs. The only organized political force that withstood against Bolsheviks’ terror was the OUN. The OUN leadership that stayed in Krakow tried not to allow the establishment of Stalin totalitarian regime in Western Ukraine.
From 1939 to 1941 NKVD conducted 5 special operations against the OUN, that resulted in arrests of 5,4 thousand members and supporters of the organization. The Regional Executives was twice destroyed; leaders of the underground were arrested. Immediately after the first arrest of Regional Executives in March 1940, experienced “undergrounders” D.Myron and L.Zatsnyy were directed to Lviv to set up a new regional center in Western Ukraine. New leadership introduced strict conspiration and began preparation for anti-Soviet uprising. Special head-quarters were set up for this reason. In September 1940 NKVD struck another blow against Ukrainian underground forces. At that time Lviv Regional Executives was destroyed, together with Stanislavskyy, Kolomyiskyy, and Stryiskyy regional leadership teams. But Soviet Special Forces did not manage to liquidate Ukrainian national underground forces completely on the territory of Western Ukraine. Those leaders that avoided arrest soon returned the organization to life, enhanced conspiration, stopped cooperation with the Youth from the OUN and with all suspected by the NKDV people.
In November 1940 there were approximately 7 thousand people in the OUN in Western Ukraine. In order to fight with the OUN, the NKDV together with arrests used the method of demonstration trials. The most notorious trial was “The process of the second OUN execution”, also known as “the process on 59”. Inspite of the verdict to kill 42 young people, those sentenced did not refuse from their ideas and convictions. Inspite of the Bolsheviks’ repressions in 1939-1941, the Organization managed to keep enough human resources for further struggle in new conditions.
National Resistance Movement during the German-Soviet war
Having anticipated an armed conflict between the NAZI Germany and the USSR , the OUN organized volunteer military units within Abwehr – “Nachtigall” and “Roland”. They were supposed to play a very important role in founding independent Ukraine and its army. Due to the concerted actions of “Nachtigall” soldiers, who kept under guard all strategic buildings in Lviv right after withdrawal of Soviet troops from the region, on June 30th, 1941, the Act of Renewal of the Ukrainian State was proclaimed. Negative reaction of German administration and arrests of the OUN leaders influenced further actions of nationalistic forces, which were forced to transfer to anti-Nazi underground movement.
In the beginning of the German-Soviet war in Polissya and Volyn the first insurgent units of Taras Bulba-Borovets were organized, who were fighting with the remains of the Red Army and set up divisions of their own police. In his activity Taras Bulba-Borovets oriented towards the exile UPR government and revival of the sovereign Ukrainian State. Local government was established on the controlled by the “Polissian Sich” territory that was to create the basis for the future Ukrainian state. In order to avoid repressions from the Nazi security service, the “Polissian Sich” in August 1941 officially liquidated itself. The most reliable fighters transferred to the underground forces and formed in March 1942 the Ukrainian Insurgent Army that took the offensive against new occupants.
Nature of Ukrainian Polissya contributed to the development of insurgent movement. Ukrainian insurgent military units, which were organized in 1942, varied in terms of their quantity, and they tried to protect local people from German depredation, economic exploitation, deportation of people capable of working to work in Germany, burning of villages. Among them the most politically-oriented ones were subdivisions of the OUN-M that were organized on the territory of Rivne, Lutsk, Kremenets. The most famous campaign of the OUN-M military units was successful attack in January 1943 on the prison in Dubno. During this attack they set many prisoners free. In the end of summer 1942 in Kremenets region the Front of Ukrainian revolution (FUR) was founded headed Tymish Basyuk (“Yavorenko”). In the headquarters of the FUR three departments were created: operational, martial, and propaganda.
In the end of summer 1942 in Krements region the Front of Ukrainian Revolution (FUR) was set up, headed by Tymish Basyuk (“Yavorenko”). Three subdivisions were formed as a part of the FUR: operational, militant, and propaganda subdivisions. T.Basyuk organized widespread agitation work among local people. On December 14th, 1942, the FUR members took over the printing house in Kremenets, where they planned to print a big number of propaganda literature, and also to participate in taking a prison in the city by storm.
There were also a number of technical subdivisions in Volyn. In particular, “Kholodnyy Yar”, “Vilna Ukrayina”, and subdivisions of “Vilne kozatstvo” headed by “Vyshnya” (Hayvoronskyi), who were oriented towards the hetman Pavlo Skoropadskyi. In order to protect local people from German punitive measures, from the Red army guerilla fighters, and Polish military units, in autumn 1942 military units OUN-B headed by Serhiy Kachynskyi (“Ostap”) and Hryhoriy Perehiynyak (“Korobka”) were formed. Bandera military units and self-defending “bush” subdivisions became the basis for organizing in February-March 1934 the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UIA) . These subdivisions protected local people from German punitive and requisition actions and from the terror of Soviet guerilla fighters. Also, the OUN encouraged youth to join Ukrainian police in order to receive proper training. At the 3rd Conference that was held on February 17-21, 1943, the OUN set course for armed fight with the Nazi occupational regime and anti-German rebellion. Members of the OUN military units and departments of self-defense formed insurgent units. In March-April 1943 almost all police from Volyn region joined the UIA. As a result of continuing military actions in Volyn and Polissya against the Germans and their allies in 1943, the UIA inflicted substantial casualties on German occupational troops and administration.
Organized Ukrainian insurgent movement occurred in Galicia later than in Volyn. Divisions of the Ukrainian People’s Self-defense (UPS) were functioning in the second half of 1943. Using repressions, the German administration was fighting with any attempts to organize Ukrainian independent groups in Galicia. The first units of the UPS were formed in summer 1943 in Drohobych and Stanislav regions. The necessity in such forces appeared due to the need to protect local people from the guerilla unit of S.Kovpak that was operating at that time in the region.
Reorganization of separate units took place under the sole command of the UIA during spring-summer 1943. The Army was subdivided into three General military districts (GMD). The “UIA-North” (Volyn and Polissya) was set up in summer 1943 under the command of Klym Savur (“Okhrim”). Formation of the “UIA-South” (Kamyanets-Podilskyy, Zhytomyr, Vinnytsya and southern part of Kyiv regions) began in the beginning of 1944 under the command of Omelyan Hrabtsya (“Batko”). The Ukrainian People’s Self-defense was reorganized into the “UIA-West” (Galicia, Bukovyna, Carpatho-Ukraine, and Trans-Curzonia) in summer 1943 under the command of the colonel Vasyl Sydor (“Shelesta”). The UIA was protecting Ukrainian villages from attacks by Polish military units, the Red army guerilla fighters and despotism of the German occupational government. That is why the UIA actions were for the most part aimed at protection. A number of officer schools were set up for commanding officers’ training.
As the front was getting closer to Western Ukraine in 1944, the number of the UIA armed operations against German invaders was reducing. Anti-German fight stopped in order to save up manpower and resources to get ready for struggle for independence of Ukraine. But in many districts of Galicia armed struggle with the Germans had not stopped. In general in 1944 there were almost 100 of them.
The UIA tactics towards German government in Galicia did not have a distinctive offensive character, but it was creating obstacles for the Germans on their path to devastate the region economically. Ukrainian independent underground forces and armed units were spreading the idea of liberation among local people, and they also represented self-organization of Ukrainians on the occupied territory.
In the second half of 1944 Ukrainian territory was occupied by Russia. Peasants had significant supply commitments; on the Eastern territory “kolkhozes” were resumed. In order to reduce mobilizing base of the UIA, the Soviets issued the order to mobilize men aged from 15 to 50 from “liberated” territory to the Soviet army. Many of those “volunteers” were immediately thrown into the war so they could pay for their “guilt” with blood. Casualties in newly-created battalions were over 50%. The UIA rose in opposition to the actions of red occupants. In 1944 resistant movement spread on 150 thousand square kilometers with the population of 15 million people, overall strength of the army rose to 100 000 people.
Because of the significant strength of the adversary during fighting, the UIA refused to keep big military subdivisions and from September 1949 the chief of the UIA Roman Shukhevych ordered for insurgent subdivisions and staff to work only in the underground.
According to the official Ukrainian SSR NKVD data in 1944-1945 in Western regions of Ukraine 39 778 Chekist-military operations were performed, 103 313 people were killed, 110 785 people were taken hostage, 14 329 insurgents were arrested, 50 058 were proven guilty. All in all in 1944-1945 500 000 people were repressed, out of them 132 000 people were arrested, 153 000 people were killed, over 203 000 were sent in exile “for life”. In 1973 archive-accounting department of Ukrainian SSR KGB made public information about general casualties of the Soviet side during the same time period: 30 676 people died. Objectivity of this data is still rather debatable.
Anti-communistic resistance of the UIA in Ukraine drew a wide reaction and support in Ukraine and abroad. After the UIA Chief Roman Shukhevych was killed by NKVD on March 5th, 1950, in Bilohorshcha village, and after the UIA chief V.Kuk was arrested on May 23rd, 1954, the number of fights fell drastically. The last person killed from the Soviet side was the interrogator of Ukrainian KGB lieutenant V.Storozhenko, who was killed by the UIA member P.Pasichnyy on October 12th, 1959. The last victims from the side of the OUN were undergrounders P.Pasichnyy and O.Tsetnarskyi, who were killed on April 14th, 1960 during military operation near village Lozy Pidhaytsi district, Ternopil region.
Ukrainian resistance movement prevented the Stalin system from committing all planned crimes and laid the foundation for modern Ukrainian state.