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[Ukrainian Statehood in the Twentieth Century: Historical and Political Analysis. Kyiv: Political Thought, 1996. pp. 39-52.]

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Ethnocratic Concepts


1. Mykola Mikhnovsky Romantic of the Ukrainian Idea

Mykola Ivanovych Mikhnovsky, an attorney from Kharkiv, was the first Ukrainian to make a public statement concerning the colonial status of Ukraine in the Russian Empire and the right of its people to self-determination. In 1900 he made a speech entitled "Independent Ukraine" which in that same year was published in a pamphlet form in Lviv. For the first time in modern history the problems of Ukrainian-Russian relations were considered from the standpoint of Ukrainian statehood. The "Ukrainian dream," naturally in a form narrowed to the issue of the Ukrainian national liberation, was placed before the public. And though the publication begged more questions than it answered as to by what means Ukraine should employ in order to gain independence, the way the issue was posed won for its author a prominent place in the Ukrainian political pantheon.

Mykola Mikhnovsky emotionally described the oppression of Ukrainians in tsarist Russia. "By what right," he aksed, "does the Russian tsarist government treat us on our own territory as if we were its slaves? ... On the basis of what right have only Russian Moskals (corrupted Ukrainian for "Muscovite") of Russianized renegades been appointed to all the government posts in our country? On the foundation /40/ of what right are our children brainwashed in school to become confirmed enemies and haters of our people? Why is only the language of our oppressor heard in our church? By what right does the Russian government spend money taken from us for the benefit of the Russian nation, nurturing and supporting its science, literature, industry, etc.? And finally, most importantly, does the tsarist government have the right at all to issue decrees, laws, and administrative regulations for us?".1

Answering these questions, he argued that Russia had violated nearly all the articles of the Pereyaslav Treaty (1654), reducing Ukrainian autonomy to nought. He came to the logical conclusion that the non-observance of the Treaty by one side rids the other of any legal obligation to observe it. And, hence, "one and indivisible Russia" did not exist for Ukraine.

In outlining the top priority tasks of the new Ukrainian intelligentsia, whom Mikhnovsky considered the driving force of the national revolution, he emphasized: "The times of embroidered shirts, svytas (a kind of Ukrainian overcoat), and horilka (Ukrainian vodka) are gone forever and will never return... The Ukrainian intelligentsia stands up to fight for its people, to fight fiercely, giving no quarter. It believes in its power and the power of its nation, and it will do its duty..."2

Of course, Mikhnovsky substituted wish for reality. For neither the Ukrainian people, which had not yet undergone social stratification and had a rather vague idea of its own interests, nor the intelligentsia, largely captivated by socialist ideas and accustomed to serving the imperial regime while considering itself a part of all-Russian democracy, were then ready to struggle politically for national rights. Moreover, the radicalism of the author of Independent Ukraine that sometimes bordered on chauvinism seemed to be an obstacle blocking widespread acceptance of his largely reasonable ideas. Statements of the type "anyone who in the whole of Ukraine is not for us is against us. Ukraine is for /41/ Ukrainians and so long as there remains but one enemy alien on our territory we will have no right to lay down our arms"3 repelled other ethnic groups in the multiethnic Ukrainian society from the Ukrainian idea.

Mikhnovsky's booklet was the first attempt to harness the offended national feelings of Ukrainians to a political program. One can hardly call it, in fact, a program because issues of the tactics and strategy of political struggle were outlined in Independent Ukraine rather tangentially. Rather, we might consider Mikhnovsky's work as a sort of mirror of the passions that raged in the minds of young Ukrainians elated with ideas of the national liberation on the eve of revolutionary upheavals of the beginning of the twentieth century. This can explain the dominance of emotional factors, a certain failure to give an unbiased analysis, and its chauvinistic overtones. But these obvious shortcomings cannot prevent a generally positive assessment of posing unambiguously the question of an independent Ukrainian state. The greatest service rendered by Mikhnovsky for Ukrainian state-building is that he raised these issues by publicly stating the legitimate right of the Ukrainian people to solve its problems on its own.

Mikhnovsky saw Russia as Ukraine's main enemy. He warned his compatriots carried away by socialist ideas that even if autocracy were overthrown, Ukraine would still remain in a colonial status if it did not secede from the empire during the revolution. Mikhnovsky urged the Ukrainian people to keep to the beaten track of Western countries by making use of the creative potential of European-type nationalism.

However, he failed to take into account the fact that, say, in Germany or Italy nineteenth century nationalism generally went hand in hand with the struggle for universal human rights and freedoms. In addition, the population of these countries was largely monoethnic. But in the case in point, these essential factors were neglected, and Mikhnovsky's version of the national idea failed to be widely adopted by the /42/ Ukrainian movement at the beginning of this century.

In mid-1920s these ideas were transformed into a movement in Western Ukraine, then under Poland. This movement adopted as its ideology the "integral" or "active" nationalism created by Dmytro Dontsov.

2. The Main Ideas of Dmytro Dontsov's Active Nationalism

At the beginning of his political and publicistic activities, Dontsov paid tribute to socialist ideas and was even a member of the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Labor Party. But already before World War I, his works showed prominent anti-Russian traits which grew stronger as he grew more distant from his party comrades. He pointed to the threat of Ukraine's following the example of its northern neighbor and called on Ukrainians to fix their gaze on the West.

On the basis of this idea Dontsov advocated linking Ukraine's geopolitical future to Germany and AustriaHungary. Specifically, on the eve of the impending conflict of those nations with Russia and its allies, he called for establishing, in case of the latter being defeated, a Ukrainian crownland within the Austrian Empire. Dontsov always warned Ukrainian politicians against being carried away by the socialist ideas coming from pre-revolutionary Russia. "The equality of slaves before the powerful ruler and master," he wrote after the events of the 1917 revolution, "were passed off as the equality of free citizens, and the myth of "democratic Russia" was laid to waste by the vulgarly thinking mass. To this was added the new myth of Russia as the bearer of political and social progress. The impulsive play of forces in a barbarous ungovcrncd society, the natural outburst of dissatisfaction in the despotically ruled country was mistaken for a manifestation of colossal spiritual energy while the chaotic jabbering of a body infected by the disease of despotism was confused with its attributes of resistance /43/ and great vital force."4 One might well argue that the picture painted by Dontsov can, in fact, be observed even now. Entering the third decade of the twentieth century, Ukraine found itself in a very complicated situation. Galicia was under Poland where the Pilsudski regime look a hard line toward its Ukrainian ethnic minority. Parts of Ukrainian territory went to Romania and Czechoslovakia. "Ukrainian statehood" in the guise in which we know it emerged in the form of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Understandably, we have no grounds to maintain that this pseudo-state could solve on its own the problem of molding a civil society and a full-fledged nation.

In the mid-1920s the idea of Ukrainian statehood underwent serious crisis. In Dontsov's opinion, the democratic model had been compromised by the incoherent and largely ruinous policy of the Central Rada, and the monarchist variant by objectively similar actions of Hetman Skoropadsky. It was necessary to find new impulses in order to reanimate the Ukrainian popular will to sovereignty. This drive had to be born under the conditions when totalitarian ideas were gaining momentum primarily thanks to the successes of Russian bolshevism, Italian fascism, and German Nazism. The political gains ot these radical movements made it possible to hope that introduction of their main postulates into the strategic designs of any national idea would lead to positive results. Dontsov who had lived since 1921 in Lviv bet on this also. Flis well-known work Nationalism 5 became the quintessence of these theoretical quests.

As in earlier periods, by rhetorically applying ideas of philosophical irrationalism of Schopenhauer, Hartmann and, especially, Nietzsche and others to Ukraine, Dontsov urged Ukrainians to discard once and for all a rationally cognizant interpretation of the world. Instead, the dominant position was to be occupied by the will to life.6 The manifestation of will, in. Dontsov's interpretation of the philosophy of will, "is nothing but a delight in expansion, in going beyond one's borders."7 For "expansion is not only a self-affirmation /44/ of one's own will to life, but also a denial of it to others."8

From this, two bases of active nationalism were derived: to consolidate the will to life, to power, to expansion, and "striving for struggle and understanding of its imminence."

Dontsov outlined another imperative of volitional nationalism romanticism and dogmatism in adopting the offered ideology. The former was "to be nourished by the myth of the final battle," by the denial of what is in fact a delightful picture of catastrophe that will bring about the New, while the latter is to emerge to the accompaniment of the categorical imperative and unhesitating submission.9

Uniting these two ideas, Dontsov remarked: "illusionism is a synthesis of both: it sets the irrational against the "meaningful"..., naked affirmation against argumentation..., it does not argue.., strives to realize the idea that is not existent and principally contradictory to the concrete one" all this motivates "its militancy and anti-pacifism."10

Dontsov placed fanaticism and amorality among the principal demands active nationalism made of its adherents. The national idea, in his opinion, was to be "amoral," i.e., it should not be guided by principles of universal human values. And this amoral policy has to be effected by a fanatic, who "takes his truth to be public, general, and accepted by others. Hence, his aggressiveness and intolerance of other views."11

The fifth "synthetic" requirement of the proclaimed doctrine lay in bringing the policy of imperialism up to the level of the state policy."Imperialism," Dontsov held, "is not only plundering but also the fulfilling of social functions in the public interests of nations with a mission and task to do just that. There are superior and inferior nations, those which know how to rule others (and themselves) and those which do not... The right of stronger races is to organize peoples and nations to consolidate extant culture and civilization."12

Dontsov suggested that the above right should be exercised by way of "creative violence of a minority showing ini-/45/tiative," which must subjugate its own people to itself and force it to undertake aggression against others. This is the sixth requirement underlying his theory. He was certain that "this means (violence) is not the one that may or may not be. The aggression due to which the new idea comes to life is not accidental, it. is immanent to any "theological" religious or national idea."13

Concluding his magnum opus, Dontsov stressed, following Nietzsche: "we must undertake a radical reassessment of values. "Fanaticism," "instinctive sensations," "emotionality" instead of "rationality," the spirit of "ethnic intolerance" all that has been debased in us should be rehabilitated by a fresh and young Ukrainianism."14 And one has to admit that the slogans presented under the guise of struggle for a genuinely sacred goal, the liberation of Motherland, managed to attract Galician youth under Polish military dictatorship, put into the circumstances which, first, made it more difficult for Ukrainians to obtain higher education, a good job, limited their legal status, and, second, stimulated them to fight for their own national and universal human rights by violent means.

3. Active Nationalism as the Ideological Basis of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN)

Totalitarianism, from the 1920s to the 1950s, held sway over much of Europe, and Dontsov tried in his book to bring the Ukrainian national movement to this ideology. One of the OUN leaders S. Lenkavsky, to my mind rightly, explained the phenomenon of success of Nationalism among Ukrainian youth. In his opinion, the task of politicians who tried to head the resistance movement in Galicia was to master the trends that "buzz with excitement in the souls of the generation in search of its own path. Dontsov sought to consolidate and substantiate theoretically those psychic processes which explode spontaneously as a denial of the extant reality and on that basis to transform the soul of a new /46/ Ukrainian. The soil from which this ideology sprang up is entirely psychological."13 This "negation" was taken advantage of by those who in 1929 founded the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. Never belonging formally to the OUN, Dontsov nevertheless became its leading ideologist.

While the political side of Dontsov's integral nationalism was based on the classical doctrine of fascism, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists was, rather, closer to similar formations in countries of Eastern Europe. The late Ukrainian emigre historian Ivan Lysyak-Rudnytsky observed in this connection: "The closest relatives of Ukrainian (integral) nationalism should be sought not in German Nazism or in Italian Fascism, products of industrialized and urbanized societies, but rather among parties of this type in agrarian, economically backward nations of Eastern Europe, among the Croatian Ustashes, Rumanian "Iron Guard", Slovak Hlinkoites, Polish ONR... etc."16

Dontsov also developed a theory of the OUN's organizational structure. It is to this problem that his prewar booklets was devoted (later collected under the title By Cross and Sword published in Toronto in 1967).

In one of his essays "Unification or Separation," the author called for imposing forcefully the will of the OUN upon all other trends of Ukrainian political life. In order to do this, it is necessary, in his opinion, "to sow the seeds of hatred toward our own kith and kin! To foster discord and mutual distrust! To bring discord to our native home! Yes, that's it! For without it there is no unity, no wielding together. No wonder that dim-witted democracy cannot grasp that."17 Dontsov also emphasized how that subjugated community should be consolidated: "First of all, by establishing a number of dogmas, a number of rules, and number of axioms in all spheres of common life, strictly regimented and clearly opposed to all others, uncompromising; proclaiming its own truth, unique and infallible... To hammer this faith and truth into heads dimmed by unstable times and alien regimes, overwhelming mercilessly all unbelievers... The /47/ ever-increasing role of that unifying magnet is played by the minority, the circle. It imprints itself on the thinking and will of the masses. It is organized not in a party, not in an association, but in a punitive Order and it leads those masses."18

This Dontsovite credo dearly cost the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists which, at least until 1943, accepted his ideology unconditionally. Ukrainian political scientist Andry Bilynsky holds that in that period Dontsov's dogmas made up the "content which the OUN took over completely. In all its prewar writings the OUN gloritied Dontsov as the ideologist of Ukrainian nationalism... "Dontsovism" was proclaimed by the OUN its political religion."19

4. The Ethnocratic State of Mykola Stsiborsky

Dmytro Dontsov was not the only OUN ideologist. Mykola Stsiborsky, at that time the second figure in the OUN after Yevhen Konovalets, offered his own model, that of an ethnocratic Ukrainian state, in the mid-thirties. In 1935 he published in Paris his book Ethnocracy in which he put forward his vision of Ukrainian statehood.

In that work he criticized bitterly and sometimes reasonably democratic, socialist, communist, and monarchist social systems. At the same time, he praised fascism on the Italian model. For Stsiborsky, "fascism is first of all nationalism love for one's own Motherland and patriotic feelings driven to self-sacrifice in a cult of sacrificial fanatism."20

And here Stsiborsky also explained what "ethnocracy" meant: "By ethnocracy we understand the regime of a nation ruling in its own country which is effected by the power of all socially useful strata, unified according to their socioproductive functions in representative bodies of public administration."21 This might seem to be quite a viable design and possible to implement. But under one condition, namely, that there is a real, rather than abstract political nation. And ethnocrats solved the problem very simply: with-/48/ out argumentation they announced that "nation is eternity" and hence, they proclaimed the wish reality. From this flows their inability to discuss the feasibility of the social model they offered. "Decisive is the fact," writes Stsiborsky, "that nationalism is not a fuzzy sham of party theory; it is a universal and irreconcilable, in its inner sense, world outlook." "To reconcile" it with anybody by way of "congress discussions" and bargaining is just impossible... Combining the ideological lines of nationalism with the political tactics of "All-Ukrainian congresses" would be equivalent to the former's suicide."22

According to Stsiborsky's model, for ethnocracy state syndicalism is the proper form of social organization. Ethnocracy does not envisage the participation of political parties in public administration. It calls for dictatorship and organized nationalism as a militant shock detachment of the revolution to be its mainstay. And since Stsiborsky was one of the most influential members of the OUN leadership, one can easily understand what kind of organization he meant.

At the same time Stsiborsky stressed that, unlike the fascist doctrine which recognizes dictatorship as the sole form of social organization, in an ethnocratic state dictatorship would be but a transitional stage. "In assigning to dictatorship extraordinary historic tasks in the conviction that only it will be able to fulfill them," he wrote, "nationalism at the same time realizes the danger of its ceasing to develop and becoming outdated, when it becomes an aim in itself... In contrast to other authoritarian concepts, it recognizes that dictatorship is not an unchanging principle and can only be justified by its expediency for the time being."23

To be concise, Stsiborsky understood the cthnocratic Ukrainian state like this: the popular masses take part in social and political life through representation in bodies of local self-government and syndicalist organizations. Administratively the state must be subdivided into lands, districts, and communities governed by their own bodies of self-government. Elections to these bodies take place on the basis of /49/ direct, universal, and equal voting by secret ballot. There arc also state, administrative, economic, and other institutions which will fulfill their missions under the immediate supervision of the national government. The legislative functions are to be fulfilled by a state Rada (Council) elected on the same principles as lower instances from candidates nominated by syndicates. The leader of the nation and of the state organization is the Head of State.

Thus we see a somewhat naive but quite plausible model of the state system. Incidentally, some of its elements (for example, Presidential representatives in the regions and districts) were borrowed by the previous regime of President Kravchuk, while the present administration seems to be dreaming about some others (a complete restriction of the prerogatives of the Supreme Rada, i.e., the Ukrainian Parliament). The only thing that renders the plans of Stsiborsky obviously Utopian is its above-mentioned simplistic interpretation of Ukrainian nation-creating processes. Stsiborsky pointed out that the OUN was competing not for domination over the nation but "only for the domination of the nation itself this is the mission that organized nationalism faces and will face."24 However, with time, when fascist regimes in European countries grew ever stronger, the OUN ceased to pay any lip service to its serving the people.

5. The Transformations of Integral Nationalism

A monoparty system and the totalitarianization of all state structures became the backbone of the OUN political program. At its Second Great Convention that took place in 1939 in Rome it was pointed out, inter alia, that in a new Ukraine built on the foundations of Dontsovism "political parties will be banned. The OUN will be the only form of the popular organizing, as the basis of the state order and the main factor of national education and organization of social life."25

It must be noted at once that integral nationalists failed /50/ to create their own state. True, the Bandera branch of the OUN tried to proclaim the "restoration of Ukrainian statehood" in German-occupied Lviv on June 30, 1941. However, this "independence" was not to the liking of the new authorities. As an eyewitness to the events put it on the pages of the magazine Samostiyna Ukraina (Independent Ukraine) published in Chicago (U.S.A.) German Abwehr officer Koch present at the proclamation of independence meeting "did not greet those present," said something intimidating and at the end announced: "You will do whatever you arc told by the German government."26 Since the Banderites were in no hurry to fulfill the wishes of the occupation authorities and to dissolve the "government" instituted by them, the Germans simply did away with it in less than two weeks after its proclamation. Such was the sad end of the struggle of Dontsov's followers for statehood.

Thus it was not until August 1943, when the Banderites learned from experience that, in the first place, their orientation toward Hitler's fascism suffered defeat, and, in the second place, that an absolute majority of Ukrainians were not inclined to take the road chartered by the author of Nationalism, that they somewhat changed their bearings. It was then that the Third Extraordinary Convention of the Bandera faction of the OUN adopted a new program, radically different from Dontsov's postulates Significantly, Dontsov's alterations and amendments to the new program of the Banderite OUN were not even discussed at the Convention.

The document stated, among other things, that "the organized Ukrainian nationalists arc fighting for the interests of the Ukrainian people, and therefore, all ideas of their domination over the people are alien to them...

The OUN is fighting for freedoms of the press, speech, thought, religion, and world view, against any official imposition of ideological doctrines and dogmas upon society... For the absolute right of national minorities to develop their own, both in form and content, national culture... For /51/ the equality of all citizens of Ukraine, irrespective of their nationality, in social and human rights and duties."27

Thus, the Ukrainian independence movement took an entirely new direction from that envisaged by Dontsov. At first this was just a declaration of intent, for people educated in the spirit of Nationalism were not in a position to change their views immediately. But the fundamental idea of the national-liberation struggle of the Ukrainian people radically changed. Instead of the totalitarian principles of integral nationalism, the principles of universal human rights and freedoms, including national ones as well, became its main essence. According to M.Sosnovsky, "the relationship between the ideology of the Ukrainian nationalist movement and the ideology of "active" nationalism could be graphically shown in the form of two lines starting from different points, then nearly converging or crossing each other at some section in order to separate from each other. During the 1940s this relationship was eventually broken, the development of the Ukrainian nationalist thought taking its own peculiar path while the development of the ideology of "active" nationalism terminated and ceased to exist along with the writings of Dontsov himself. All nationalist authors, who wanted to remain within the limits defined by the Dontsov ideology, failed to make any truly original contribution to that ideology while those authors, who went beyond uncritically following Dontsov's lead, not only broke with him in the long run, but even took positions completely opposite to the ideology of active nationalism."28 These words are worth remembering for those of our fellow countrymen who strive to express their rightful dissatisfaction with everyday hardships by resorting to Dontsov's integral banners. Instead of creative ideas directed toward independent nation-creation, they are sure to find there only the tools for a new national ruin.

Ukrainian nationalists seem to have come to clearly understand this themselves. At least the materials of the Congress Convention of Ukrainian Nationalists that took /52/ place on July 2-4, 1993, in Kyiv condemned the principles of dogmatism, fundamentalism, personality cult: of the leader, ideological stagnation, and phrase-mongering which undcrlied "intergal" nationalism.29

1 Mykola Mikhnovsky, Independent Ukraine (London, 1967: in Ukrainian), pp. 14-15.

2 Ibid., pp. 26-27.

3 Ibid., p. 29.

4 Dmytro Dontsov, The Culture of Primitivism (Cherkasy, 1918), p. 8.

5 Dmytro Dontsov., Nationalism (London-Toronto, 1966).

6 Ibid., pp. 230-231.

7 Ibid., p. 233.

8 Ibid., p. 235.

9 Ibid., pp.257, 263.

10 Ibid., p. 258.

11 Ibid., p. 263.

12 Ibid., pp. 280,283.

13 Ibid., p. 284.

14 Ibid., p. 311.

15 The Making of a Nation (Prague, 1928: in Ukrainian), parts 7, 8, p. 273.

16 Ivan Lysiak-Rudnytsky, Between History and Politics (Munich, 1973: in Ukrainian), pp. 239-240.

17 D.Dontsov, By Cross and Sword (Toronto, 1967: in Ukrainian), p. 123.

18 Ibid., pp. 129-130.

19 Andriy Bilynsky, The World and We (Munich, 1963: in Ukrainian), p. 148.

20 Mykola Stsiborsky, Natiocracy (2nd edition: Prague, 1942: in Ukrainian), pp. 72-73.

21 Ibid., p.109.

22 Ibid, p. 138.

23 Ibid., p. 141.

24 Ibid., p. 151.

25 The Program and Statute of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, (1940, in Ukrainian), p. 34.

26 Samostiyna Ukraina, 1981, No 7-8, p. 8.

27 Suchasnist, 1983, No 7, pp. 113-114, 127-128.

28 M. Sosnovsky, Dm. Dontsov: A Profile (New York-Toronto, 1974: in Ukrainian), pp. 23-24.

29 See: Shliakh peremohy, July 10, 1993 (in Ukrainian).

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