Declaration of Ukrainian Independence, 1941

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The Declaration of Ukrainian Independence of June 30, 1941 was announced by the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) under the leadership of Stepan Bandera, who declared an independent Ukrainian State in Lviv. The prime-minister was Yaroslav Stetsko, and the head of Council of Seniors was Kost Levitsky.

The OUN intended to take advantage of the retreat of Soviet forces from Ukraine. Some members thought that they had found a new powerful ally in Nazi Germany to aid them in their struggle against the Soviet Union. Days after the Nazi invasion of Lviv, however, the leadership of the newly formed government was arrested and sent to concentration camps in Germany. Within two years of the declaration, the Nazis had imprisoned or killed 80% of OUN-B leadership.[1]

Background[edit]

Ukrainian Territory Between World Wars[edit]

After World War I, Ukraine was divided into three parts: most of Central and Eastern Ukraine became the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1921. The capital was Kharkiv.

The majority of current Western Ukraine became part of the Second Polish Republic. This included the city of Lviv, which at the time was the center of Ukrainian nationalist activity.

A small part of current far Western Ukraine, the Zakarpattia, became part of Czechoslovakia.

The Ukrainian Nationalist Movement in Western Ukraine[edit]

For various reasons, the Ukrainian nationalist movement was more active in Western Ukraine than in Central Ukraine in the inter-war period. At the end of World War I, veterans of the Sich Riflemen created the Ukrainian Military Organization in 1920 to promote the creation of an independent Ukrainian state. The leader was Yevhen Konovalets.

The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists - the OUN[edit]

In 1929, the Ukrainian Military Organization became the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. The first leader was Bohdan Kravciv. The stated goal of the OUN was the creation of an independent Ukrainian State.

In 1940, the OUN suffered a split into two groups - one group supported Andriy Melnyk (this group became known as the OUN-M, or "Melnykivtsi"), while the other group supported Stepan Bandera (this group became known as the OUN-B, or Banderivtsi). The OUN-B was considered the more radical of the two.

Prelude to the Declaration[edit]

The OUN realized that an opportunity was available to fulfill their mandate - the creation of a Ukrainian State.

On June 22, 1941, the Ukrainian National Committee (Ukrayinsky Natsionalny' Komitet; UNK) was created in Kraków, with Volodymyr Horbovy as a president. The UNK published an essay, "Memorial", which outlined the plans of the OUN to declare independence.

This essay was met with severe disapproval of the Nazi authorities, and the leaders of the UNK, Horbovy and Bandera, were told to rescind the document. They refused, and made their way to Lviv.

On June 26, 1941, Soviet forces fled from Lviv, and the Ukrainian Nachtigall Battalion entered the city. The leader of the battalion was Roman Shukhevych.

Preamble[edit]

In his memoirs Vasyl Kuk said:

On Monday June 30, at 6 p.m. on the second floor of the Prosvita building in Lviv (Rynok square 10) there was a community meeting. Community members living in Lviv and its environs, clergy, leading members of OUN, and members of the Ukrainian underground were gathered. The hall was overflowing with delegates. The meeting was called by the first assistant to the leader of the OUN Yaroslav Stetsko to honour the Ukrainian fighters who had laid down their lives fighting for Ukraine. In an intensive speech, he spoke about the political situation which Ukraine was in with the declaration of war, stating that once again this war will take place in Ukraine over these rich lands and that the Ukrainian people cannot stand idly by but must be active and participate. Regarding Germany, he stated that a Union with Germany was only possible if Germany recognized Ukrainian independence and its government. Stetsko read out the Proclamation of Ukrainian independence. Those present listened to the proclamation standing, unanimously endorsed it and sang the Ukrainian national anthem Shche ne vmerla Ukraina.[2]

Text[edit]

The Act of Proclamation of Ukrainian Statehood

1. By the will of the Ukrainian people, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists under the direction of Stepan Bandera proclaims the formation of the Ukrainian State for which have laid down their heads whole generations of the finest sons of Ukraine.

The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, which under the direction and founder and leader Yevhen Konovalets has undertaken in the past ten years a bloody battle with the Moscovite-Bolshevik enslavers in an energetic battle for freedom, calls all the Ukrainian people not to place down its weapons until all Ukrainian lands are united to form a Sovereign Ukrainian Government.

The Sovereign Ukrainian Government will guarantee Ukrainian people order, unilateral development of all its energies and all its needs.

2. In the western lands of Ukraine a Ukrainian Government is formed, which is subordinate to the Ukrainian National Government that will be formed in the capital of Ukraine – Kiev.

3. The newly formed Ukrainian state will work closely with the National-Socialist Greater Germany, under the leadership of its leader Adolf Hitler which is forming a new order in Europe and the world and is helping the Ukrainian People to free itself from Moscovite occupation.[note 1]

The Ukrainian People's Revolutionary Army which has been formed on the Ukrainian lands, will continue to fight with the Allied German Army against Moscovite occupation for a sovereign and united State and a new order in the whole world.

Long live the Ukrainian Sovereign United Ukraine! Long live the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists! Long live the leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Ukrainian people – STEPAN BANDERA.[3]

GLORY TO UKRAINE!

State seal of the Government of the Ukrainian state 1941.

Government[edit]

After the proclamation of the Ukrainian independence a government was announced. This government included politicians from various parties, as well as political ideologies. They were:

  • Prime Minister Yaroslav Stetsko (OUN)
  • Deputy Prime Minister Markian Panchyshyn (no political affiliation)
  • Deputy Prime Minister Lev Rebet (OUN)
  • Minister of Interior Volodymyr Lysy (Socialist Radical Party)
  • Deputy Minister of Interior Konstantyn Pankivsky (Socialist Radical Party)
  • Minister of External Affairs Volodymyr Stakhiv (OUN)
  • Deputy Minister of External Affairs Oleksandr Maritchak (Ukrainian National-Democratic Party)
  • Minister of Defense Vsevolod Petriv (Social Revolutionary Party)
  • Deputy Minister of Defense Roman Shukhevych (OUN)
  • Deputy Minister of Defense Oleksandr Hasyn (OUN)
  • Minister of State Security Mykola Lebed (OUN)
  • Minister of Justice Yulian Fedusevych (no political affiliation)
  • Deputy Minister of Justice Bohdan Dzerovych (no political affiliation)
  • Secretary of the Ministry of National Economy Dmytro Yatsiv (OUN)
  • Secretary of the Ministry of National Economy Roman Ilnytsky (OUN)
  • Minister of Agriculture Yevhen Khraplyvy (Ukrainian National-Democratic Party)
  • Deputy Minister of Agriculture Andriy Piasetsky (Front of National Unity)
  • Minister of Health Markian Panchyshyn (no political affiliation)
  • Deputy Minister of Health Roman Osinchuk
  • Secretary of the Ministry of Health Oleksandr Barvinsky (no political affiliation)
  • Minister of Education Volodymyr Radzykevych (no political affiliation)
  • Minister of Communication N. Moroz (no political affiliation)
  • Minister of Information Oleksandr Hai-Holovko (no political affiliation)
  • Secretary of the Ministry of Information Osyp Pozychaniuk (OUN)
  • Secretary of the Ministry of Information Yaroslav Starukh (OUN)
  • Minister of Political Coordination Ivan Klymiv-Lehenda (OUN)
  • Director of Government Administration Mykhailo Rosliak (Socialist Radical Party)

A Council of Seniors headed by Kost Levytsky as president was also formed.[4]

Reactions to the proclamation[edit]

Reaction in Ukraine[edit]

The act of proclamation was broadcast by Yaroslav Stetsko over the radio in Lviv, which made many believe it was supported by the advancing German troops. The act received immediate support from several Ukrainian church officials such as Metropolitan Archbishop Andrey Sheptytsky of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Metropolitan Bishop Polikarp Sikorsky of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and Bishop Hryhoriy Khomyshyn Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

Apparently convinced that the group of Stetsko had the backing of the Germans Metropolitan wrote a pastoral letter in which he exhorted the people to support the newly proclaimed government "the scarifies which the final attainment of our goals require demand above all dutiful obedience to the just orders of the government which do not conflict with God’s law." Moreover he declared:

We greet the victorious German Army as deliver from enemy. We render our obedient homage to the government which has been erected. We recognize Mr.Yaroslav Stetsko as Head of State Administration of Ukraine.

The pastoral letter was read over the radio by chaplain of Nachtigall Battalion Father Hryn’okh the same morning. It appeared to have removed any doubts which may have been lingering in the mind of most prominent Ukrainians in Lviv concerning the origin of the Stets’ko government.[5]

Supporters of Ukrainian independence have been divided in their assessment of the proclamation. Some considered it brilliant, others considered it reckless or even foolish.[6]

Reaction by the German Government[edit]

The Declaration of Independence took the German authorities completely by surprise, and they saw it as an attempted coup.[7] When Nazi troops entered Lviv, the German authorities told the leadership of the Ukrainian government to disband. However, it did not, and in reprisal the leaders of the government were arrested and interned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. These included President Yaroslav Stetsko, and Stepan Bandera.

By December 1942, Hitler personally recommended "most brutal means" even against "women and children" against supporters of the OUN[8]

Post-war reaction to the Declaration[edit]

Some Ukrainian groups downplayed the early cooperation between the Ukrainian nationalist parties and the Nazis. They emphasized how Ukrainian nationalists fought both the Germans and the Soviets, and how the Ukrainian nation suffered enormously at the hands of both.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Section 3 of the Stanislaviv version is often omitted in Ukrainian Diaspora publications dealing with this subject.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Timothy Snyder. The Causes of Ukrainian-Polish Ethnic Cleansing 1943. Past & Present, No. 179 (May, 2003), pp. 207
  2. ^ (In Ukrainian: Ukrainska Povstanska Armiya - Istoriya Neskorenykh - Lviv, 2007 p.29
  3. ^ From the front page of the Newspaper "Samostiyna Ukraina" published in Stanislaviv, July 10, 1941
  4. ^ The Restoration of the Ukrainian State in World War II. Published by Ukrainian Central Information Service, London 1987. ISBN 0-902322-35-4.
  5. ^ John Armstrong, Ukrainian Nationalism, 2nd edition: New York: Columbia University Press, 1963) pp.80-81
  6. ^ Michael Savaryn. Proclamation of Ukrainian statehood, 1941. Encyclopedia of Ukraine.
  7. ^ OUN-German Relations 1941-1945, Taras Hunczak. (1994). From German-Ukrainian relations in historical perspective. Hans-Joachim Torke, John-Paul Himka, eds. Edmonton, Alberta: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press, University of Alberta. pg. 178
  8. ^ http://www.infoukes.com/history/ww2/page-05.html