Svoboda (political party)
|All-Ukrainian Union "Svoboda"|
|Всеукраїнське об’єднання «Свобода»|
|Parliamentary leader||Oleh Tyahnybok|
|Slogan||"20 Years of Fight"|
|Founded||October 13, 1991
Registered as political party on October 16, 1995.
|Preceded by||Social-National Party of Ukraine|
|Seats in Verkhovna Rada|
|Kiev City Council|
|Politics of Ukraine
The All-Ukrainian Union "Svoboda" (Ukrainian: Всеукраїнське об’єднання «Свобода», Vseukrayinske obyednannia "Svoboda"), translated as Freedom, is a Ukrainian nationalist political party. The party won in the late October 2014 Ukrainian parliamentary election 6 seats; losing 30 seats of the 37 seats (its first seats in the Ukrainian Parliament) it had won in the 2012 parliamentary election.[nb 1] From 27 February 2014 till 12 November 2014 three members of the party held positions in Ukraine's government.
The party was founded in 1991 as the Social-National Party of Ukraine (Ukrainian: Соціал-національна партія України) and acts as a populist proponent of nationalism and anti-communism. It is positioned on the right of the Ukrainian political spectrum, particularly in the far right. It is widely considered a fascist and/or anti-semitic party, while others have disputed the neo-fascist label, and simply considers it a radical nationalist party.
- 1 History
- 2 Political image
- 3 In government
- 4 Ideology
- 5 Platform
- 6 Party Leaders
- 7 Election Results
- 8 See also
- 9 Literature
- 10 Notes
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Social-National Party of Ukraine
The Social-National Party of Ukraine (SNPU) was registered as a party on October 16, 1995; the constituent congress of the party took place on October 13, 1991, in Lviv. The party was established by the Soviet Afghan War veterans organization, the youth organization "Spadshchyna" (Heritage, headed by Andriy Parubiy), the Lviv Student Fraternity (headed by Oleh Tyahnybok), the Rukh Guard (headed by Yaroslav Andrushkiv and Yuriy Kryvoruchko). The leader of the party was elected doctor Yaroslav Andrushkiv. The party adopted a party emblem that could be associated with fascist formation and in Europe is used by Neo-Nazi organizations.
Due to a corporate raid threat on temples of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kiev Patriarchate), there were created SNPU formations for their protection, particularly the Holy-Dormition Church of Volodymyr-Volynsky and the Saint Trinity Church in Lutsk. Due to the 1993 Massandra Accords, SNPU formed the Extraordinary Committee in Rescue of Nation and State which in the fall of 1993 picketed the Ukrainian parliament in regards to eliminate the threat of loss by Ukraine the Crimea and Black Sea Fleet.
The SNPU's official program defined itself as an "irreconcilable enemy of Communist ideology" and all other parties to be either collaborators and enemies of the Ukrainian revolution, or romanticists. According to Svoboda's website, during the 1994 Ukrainian parliamentary elections the party presented its platform as distinct from those of the communists and social democrats.
In the 1998 parliamentary elections the party joined a bloc of parties (together with the All-Ukrainian Political Movement "State Independence of Ukraine") called "Less Words" (Ukrainian: Менше слів), which collected 0.16% of the national vote. Party member Oleh Tyahnybok was voted into the Ukrainian Parliament in this election. He became a member of the People's Movement of Ukraine faction.
The SNPU established the paramilitary organization Patriot of Ukraine in 1999 as an "Association of Support" for the Military of Ukraine and registered with the Ministry of Justice. The paramilitary organization, which continues to use the Wolfsangel symbol, was disbanded in 2004 during the SNPU's reformation and reformed as an independent organization in 2005. Svoboda officially ended association with the group in 2007, but they remain informally linked, with representatives of Svoboda attending social campaigns such as protests against price increases and leafleting against drugs and alcohol. In 2014, Svoboda was noted for clashing with the far-right group Right Sector, a coalition which includes Patriot of Ukraine.
In 2001, the party joined some actions of the "Ukraine without Kuchma" protest campaign and was active in forming the association of Ukraine's rightist parties and in supporting Viktor Yushchenko's candidacy for prime minister, although it did not participate in the 2002 parliamentary elections. However, as a member of Victor Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine bloc, Tyahnybok was reelected to the Ukrainian parliament. The SNPU won two seats in the Lviv oblast council of deputies and representation in the city and district councils in the Lviv and Volyn oblasts.[third-party source needed]
In 2004 the party had less than 1,000 members.
All-Ukrainian Union "Svoboda"
In February 2004, the arrival of Oleh Tyahnybok as party leader led a significant change in moderating the Social-National Party's image. Then still the Social-National Party of Ukraine, it changed its name to the All-Ukrainian Union "Svoboda", and abandoned the "I + N" (Ukrainian «Ідея Нації» "Idea Natsii" = "idea of a nation") Wolfsangel logo (a symbol popular among neo-Nazi groups) with a three-fingered hand reminiscent of the 'Tryzub' pro-independence gesture of the late 1980s. Svoboda also pushed neo-Nazi and other radical groups out the party, distancing itself from its neofascist past while retaining the support of extreme nationalists. Andrushkiv, former head of the party, rejected Tyahnybok's claim that Svoboda was successor party to the SNPU and called Svoboda 'a different political phenomenon.' Both he and Andriy Parubiy would leave the 'new' party following its transformation.
However, according to Polish lawyer and political scientist Tadeusz A. Olszański, party leader Tyahnybok never concealed that these changes were made primarily for image purposes. The party remained associated with the ‘wide social nationalist movement’ (consisting of numerous organisations and websites) and gathered around the Social-Nationalist Assembly which was set up in 2008. Yuri Mykhailyshyn, Tyahnybok’s adviser who topped the list of Svoboda's Lviv branch in the 2010 municipal council elections, founded the Internet ‘Joseph Goebbels Political Research Centre’ (the centre later changed Goebbels for Ernst Jünger) in 2005. Ukraine’s Patriot, a paramilitary organisation dissolved in 2004 and re-established in 2005 in a different legal form continued to maintain ties with Svoboda. It was not not until 2007 that this paramilitary organisation announced the break-up of all relationships with "Svoboda". Even then, some prominent Svoboda's members, such as Andriy Illienko from Svoboda's Kiev branch, continued to identify themselves with the ideas of "Patriot of Ukraine". This neo-Nazi organisation still uses the ‘Wolfsangel’ symbol.
In 2004, Tyahnybok was expelled from the Our Ukraine parliamentary faction for a speech calling for Ukrainians to fight against a "Muscovite-Jewish mafia," and celebrated the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists for having fought "Moscovites, Germans, Jews and other scum who wanted to take away our Ukrainian state." The speech was delivered at the grave-site of a commander of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army where Tyahnybok praised its struggle against "Moskaly", a derogatory term for either Russians or pan-Russian nationalists; Germans; and "Zhydy", an archaic but controversial term for Jews in Ukraine due to it being a slur when used in the Russian language. Tyahnybok's 2004 comments were widely circulated on the three TV channels controlled by the head of the Presidential Administration, Viktor Medvedchuk: State Channel 1, 1+1 and Inter.
In the 2006 local elections the party had obtained 4.2% of the votes and 4 seats in the Ternopil Oblast Council, 5.62% of the votes and 10 seats in the Lviv Oblast Council and 6.69% of the votes and 9 seats in the Lviv city council.
In the 2007 parliamentary elections, the party received 0.76% of the votes cast, more than double their share during the 2006 parliamentary elections, when they received 0.36%. It was ranked eighth out of 20 parties (in the 2007 elections) and the non-participation of the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists made the party the only far-right party to participate in the 2007 parliamentary elections.
2009 Electoral breakthrough
The party's electoral breakthrough was the 2009 Ternopil Oblast local election when they obtained 34.69% of the votes and 50 seats out of 120 in the Ternopil Oblast Council. This was the best result for a far-right party in Ukraine’s history.
Tyahnybok's candidacy in the 2010 presidential election did not build on the 2009 Ternopil success. Tyahnybok received 1.43% of the vote. Most of his votes he gained in Lviv oblast, Ternopil oblast and Ivano-Frankivsk oblast accounted to 5% of the vote. In the second round, Tyahnybok did not endorse a candidate. He did present a list of some 20 demands for second round candidate Yulia Tymoshenko had to fulfil first before gaining his endorsement—which included publicizing alleged secret deals Tymoshenko had with Vladimir Putin and ridding herself of what he called Ukraine-haters in her close circles.
During the 2010 Ukrainian local elections the party won between 20-30% of the votes in Eastern Galicia, where it became one of the main forces in local government. The 2009 provincial elections in Ternopil had previously been the greatest success of the Svoboda party, when it won 34.4 per cent of votes cast. During the 2010 Ukrainian local elections, Svoboda surpassed this figure, accounting for 5.2% of the vote nationwide. Analysts explained Svoboda’s victory in Galicia during the 2010 elections as a result of the policies of the Azarov Government, who were seen as too pro-Russian by the electorate. According to Andreas Umland, Senior Lecturer in Political Science at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Svoboda's increasing exposure in the Ukrainian media has contributed to its recent successes.
As of 2011 Svoboda had factions in eight of Ukraine's 25 regional councils, and in three of those Svoboda is the biggest faction. Reportedly, the members and supporters of Svoboda are predominantly young people.
Several clergymen of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate, Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church are Svoboda members and have stood for election as Svoboda candidates. According to the party, they were chosen on election lists "to counterbalance opponents who include “Moscow priests” in their election lists and have aspirations to build the “Russian World” in Ukraine". Per the party's desire to separate the clergy from politics, all churchmen will be recalled if a draft Constitution of Ukraine proposed by the party is approved.
In early 2012 Svoboda was criticized in domestic and international media after party member Yuri Sirotyuk said that Ukrainian pop star Gaitana, who is of African descent, was a poor choice to represent Ukraine at the Eurovision Song Contest 2012 because she was "not an organic representative of the Ukrainian culture" Sirotyuk stated that "It looks like we don't want to show our face, and Ukraine will be associated with a different continent, somewhere in Africa."
2012 elections: Growing support
In the run-up to the 2012 election, some Ukrainian media commentators and political analysts expected Svoboda's rising support would come at the expense of more mainstream elements of the opposition and to the benefit of the ruling Party of Regions. In July 2012 the party agreed with Batkivshchyna on the distribution of the candidates in single-seat constituencies (its share was 35 constituencies) in the October 2012 parliamentary elections. In the run up to these elections various opinion polls predicted the national vote (in a parliamentary election) of the party to sixfolded or sevenfolded which would make it possible that the party would pass the 5% election threshold. But the party's results in the elections were much better than that with 10.44 percent [nb 2] (almost a fourteenfold of its votes compared with the 2007 parliamentary elections) of the national votes and 38 out of 450 seats in the Ukrainian Parliament. The lion's share of these votes were won in Western Ukraine (30-40% in three Oblasts), while in Eastern Ukraine it won 1% of the votes. At the at 116 foreign polling stations Svoboda won most votes of all parties with 23,63% of all votes. In Lviv the party reportedly won over 50% of the votes. In Kiev it became the second most popular party, after Fatherland. Voting analysis showed it was the party most popular among voters with a higher education (about 48% of its voters had a higher education). Oleh Tyahnybok was elected leader of the party's parliamentary faction (also) on 12 December 2012. On 19 October 2012 the party and Batkivshchyna signed an agreement "on the creation of a coalition of democratic forces in the new parliament". The party is also coordinating its parliamentary activities with Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (UDAR).
In recent years, the BBC writes that "Svoboda" has "tapped a vast reservoir of protest votes" because of its anti-corruption stance and because it has softened its own image. According to Sociological group "RATING" the percentage of the party's electorate who only use the Ukrainian language decreased from 75% to 68% between September 2012 and March 2013.
Post-2012 elections and Euromaidan campaign
|This section may require copy editing. (March 2014)|
In the first two sessions of the newly elected parliament, Svoboda deputies and other opposition politicians physically clashed with government MPs during the election for a new prime minister and speaker amid allegations of the continued practice of voting for absent colleagues by government deputies. Clashes again erupted in parliament in March 2013 between Svoboda and the Party of Region MPs after the head of the ruling Party of Regions, Oleksandr Yefremov, delivered a speech in Russian which was drowned out by Svoboda MPs with calls of "Speak Ukrainian". During a following speech by Tyahnybok there were chants of "fascist" which provoked a large but short fist-fight between the two parties.
Svoboda MP and deputy leader Ihor Miroshnychenko drew international attention and criticism in December 2012 for writing on his Facebook wall that American actress Mila Kunis, who was born in the Ukrainian SSR and is of Jewish descent, is "not Ukrainian but a zhydivka" (a controversial term for a Jew). Svoboda argued that in the Ukrainian language the word does not have the anti-semitic connotations that it always does in the Russian language. Upon being petitioned, the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice wrote that it considered the term to be archaic but not necessarily a slur citing a Ukrainian academic dictionary. Svoboda has repeatedly stated that it will not stop using words which it considers as legitimate Ukrainian parlance.
Overt attempts to use anti-Semitism as a propaganda weapon against the EuroMaidan movement were noted, and reports of widespread anti-Semitism contested by analysts, historians and human rights activists.
In an opinion poll conducted on December 7–17, 2013, respondents showed that in a presidential election between Viktor Yanukovych and Svoboda leader Tyahnybok, results found that Tyahnybok would win with 28.8% of the popular vote, versus Yanukovych's 27.1%.
After the Vladimir Lenin monument in Kiev was toppled during the ongoing Euromaidan protest, MP Ihor Myroshnichenko officially accepted responsibility for this action on behalf of the Svoboda, though it is unclear whether the party organized and/or planned it.
On 27 February 2014 the Yatsenyuk Government was formed which included 3 Svoboda ministers, Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Sych, Agrarian Policy and Food Minister Ihor Shvaika and Environment and Natural Resources Minister Andriy Mokhnyk. Also Svoboda party members were appointed governors of Poltava Oblast (Viktor Buhaychuk on 2 March 2014), Ternopil Oblast (Oleh Syrotyuk also on 2 March 2014) and Rivne Oblast (Sergey Rybachka on 3 March 2014).
On March 18, 2014 Svoboda party members published a video online of Svoboda MPs beating acting president of the Ukrainian state broadcaster, Oleksandr Panteleymonov, and trying to force him to sign a resignation letter because he decided to broadcast the Crimea ascension to the Russian Federation ceremony in the Kremlin. Panteleymonov's broadcast was characterized in-video as '"state treason" by Svoboda MP Miroshnychenko who serves as Deputy Head of the Parliament's Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information. Tyahnybok condemned the attack saying, “such actions were fine yesterday (during the protests), but now they are inappropriate.” The attack was also condemned by Amnesty International and by acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
On 20 March 2014 the party withdrew its observer status from the Alliance of European National Movements (AENM) over the stance by several members of the alliance who showed sympathy for the 2014 Russian military intervention in Ukraine.
2014 elections: Losing support
In the late October 2014 Ukrainian parliamentary election the party won constituency 6 seats; the party came 0,29% short to overcome the 5% threshold to win seats on the nationwide list. The parties election results thus halved compared with the 2012 election because of negative assessments of the activities of the local governments that included Svoboda members. In its former stronghold Lviv Oblast Svoboda won no constituencies. Also the fact that in this election the party was not the only one using radically patriotic, anti-communist and anti-Russian slogans undermined its election outcome.
On 12 November 2014 the party's ministers in the Yatsenyuk Government resigned (they became acting ministers till a new Government was formed). The parties governors of Poltava Oblast, Ternopil Oblast and Rivne Oblast also resigned and were formally dismissed by President Petro Poroshenko on 18 November 2014.
Olexiy Haran, a political science professor at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, says “There is a lot of misunderstanding surrounding Svoboda" and that the party is not fascist, but radical. Ihor Kolomoyskyi, president of the United Jewish Community of Ukraine, stated in 2010 that the party has clearly shifted from the far-right to the center.
Political scientist Andreas Umland predicted the party would continue to become more moderate over time, and that "there's a belief that Svoboda will change, once in the Verkhovna Rada, and that they may become proper national democrats." Since then, the party has gained seats in parliament and has net over 10% of the national vote in the 2012 parliamentary elections. The US ambassador in Kiev, Geoffrey Pyatt, said in 2014 that he had been "positively impressed" by Svoboda's evolution in opposition and by its behavior in parliament. "They have demonstrated their democratic bona fides," the ambassador asserted. Alexander J. Motyl argues that Svoboda's brand of nationalism "has significantly diminished during, and possibly as a result of, the Euro Revolution."
Membership was restricted to ethnic Ukrainians, and for a period the party did not accept atheists or former members of the Communist Party. The party also recruited skinheads and football hooligans.[clarification needed]
Former government officials
- Ihor Tenyukh - acting Minister of Defense, resigned on own initiative, resignation accepted by parliament after repeated voting
- Oleh Makhnitsky - acting General Prosecutor (not part of the Cabinet of Ukraine, officially unaffiliated)
- Oleksandr Sych - Vice Prime Minister
- Andriy Mokhnyk- Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources
- Ihor Shvayka - Minister of Agriculture
Svoboda's ideological base emanates from Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists leader Yaroslav Stetsko's "Two Revolutions" doctrine (written in 1951). The essence of this doctrine states: "the revolution will not end with the establishment of the Ukrainian state, but will go on to establish equal opportunities for all people to create and share material and spiritual values and in this respect the national revolution is also a social one". A crucial condition for joining Svoboda is that its members must belong to the Ukrainian nation.
Svoboda is a party of Ukrainian nationalism and in 2011 was noted for favoring a solely presidential regime. In 2013, however, the party pushed for constitutional reform which would limit the president's powers and return power to parliament.
The party describes its own agenda in an article entitled "Nationalism and pseudonationalism" published on its official website. Svoboda member Andriy Illienko calls for a "social and national revolution in Ukraine," a "major shift in [the] political, economic, [and] ethical system", and the "dismantling [of] the liberal regime of antinational occupation". Illienko explains that "only the revolution can now prevent Ukraine from the brink, and make it the first modern nationalist state that will ensure continuous development of the Ukrainian nation, and show other nations the path to genuine sovereignty and prosperity."[third-party source needed]. Illienko continues that cultural details are not important for a nationalist who "must wake up with the idea that he is a metal political soldier of Nation." ("Націоналіст... забов'язаний просинатися з думкою, що він – залізний політичний солдат Нації..."). This document sets up the enemy of Svoboda, a pseudonationalist, a person who wants "all-ukrainian values" ("українськість","щоб все було українське") and adheres to "conventional liberalism [of] 'civilized' Western democracy and capitalism". Another attribute of a pseudonationalist is the belief in "Free market", "democracy", "fighting authoritarianism" [the quotes are from the original document].
Party leader Tyahnybok has argued that "depicting nationalism as extremism is a cliché rooted in Soviet and modern globalist propaganda" and that "countries like modern Japan and Israel are fully nationalistic states, but nobody accuses the Japanese of being extremists." Tyahnybok defined nationalism as love of one's homeland and drew a distinction from chauvinism and fascism which he defined as the superiority of one nation over another.
The party has often staged commemorations honouring Ukrainian nationalist leader Stepan Bandera and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). Bandera lead the UPA in its struggle against the Soviets and later the Germans during World War II to establish an independent Ukrainian state but also engaged in acts of ethnic cleansing including the massacres of Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia. In a 2011 march organized by Svoboda to celebrate the WW2-era Waffen-SS Galicia Division, participants shouted “one race, one nation, one Fatherland."
The party views the dominating role of Ukraine's oligarchy as "devastating".[third-party source needed] While oligarchs have typically played a major role in the funding of other Ukrainian parties, Svoboda claims to receive no financial support from oligarchs, but rather from Ukraine's small and medium-sized businesses.[third-party source needed]
The party seeks to put a stop to immigration into Ukraine, and to make sure that only ethnic Ukrainians can be employed as civil servants.
On February 16, 2013, police in Ukraine opened a criminal case on charges of hooliganism against nationalist activists lead by Svoboda Supreme Rada deputy Ihor Miroshnychenko for the dismantling of a statue of Vladimir Lenin in Okhtyrka, Sumy Oblast. "There is no place for Communist symbols and ideology in European Ukraine and if the authorities cannot get rid of them, we will do it ourselves", said Miroshnychenko. According to police, Miroshnychenko climbed the statue and put a rope around Lenin’s figure, which was then pulled down by a truck.
Svoboda supports conservative values, and opposes abortion and gay rights. In 2012, Human Rights Watch condemned Svoboda for disrupting a gay rights rally, called "a Sabbath of 50 perverts" in an official statement by Svoboda.
Svoboda opposed legislation in 2013 that would have barred employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of their sexual orientation. Journalist David Stern describes the party as a "driving force" behind anti-gay politics in Ukraine, but states that many of its members may not share all its controversial positions.
In April 2013, three Svoboda MPs sponsored a bill banning abortions except in cases involving severe pathology, a medical risk to a woman's life, and rape when proven in court. Future Vice Prime Minister Oleksandr Sych, who has long opposed abortion, was one of the authors of the bill and responded to a question about what a pregnant woman should do if she failed to prove the rape in court by encouraging women to "lead the kind of lifestyle to avoid the risk of rape, including refraining from drinking alcohol and being in controversial company."
Allegations of neo-nazism and political extremism
Svoboda has been described as an anti-Semitic and sometimes a Neo-Nazi party by some journalists, organizations that monitor hate speech, Jewish organizations, and political opponents.
Svoboda advisor Yuriy Mykhalchyshyn started a blog called "‘Joseph Goebbels Political Research Centre" in 2005, later changing "Joseph Goebbels" to "Ernst Jünger." Mykhalchyshyn wrote a book in 2010 citing works by Nazi theorists Ernst Röhm, Gregor Strasser and Goebbels. Elsewhere Mykhalchyshyn referred to the Holocaust as a "period of Light in history".
In December 2012, the European Parliament expressed concern regarding Svoboda's growing support, recalling "that racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic views go against the EU's fundamental values and principles," and appealed "to pro-democratic parties in the Verkhovna Rada not to associate with, endorse or form coalitions with" Svoboda. Party leader Oleh Tyahnybok stated in March 2013 that the EU warning against Svoboda's influence was the result of "Moscow agents working through a Bulgarian socialist MP". Referencing a similar resolution made by the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Tyahnybok claimed it to be a result of a mud-slinging campaign by political opponents, stating: "When we did not have a parliamentary faction or normal channels for contacting influential groups in the European Union, a very negative image of Svoboda was created and in an extremely crude fashion." However, after speaking to European MP's he stated they "admitted that they had received completely different information about us." Tyahnybok furthermore stated that "spin doctors who are working against Svoboda" cover up the non-controversial points in the party's election programme "by promoting some clearly secondary issues through mass media outlets controlled by pro-government forces".
During a Party of Regions rally in Kiev to counter the ongoing Euromaidan protests, MP Olena Bondarenko called Tyahnybok a "traitor" and one "who helps the Kremlin and Moscow." Her words were altered to read on her party's website that he was instead a "Nazi" and that "Nazis are not just disrespected, they are outlawed in Europe and throughout the civilized world".
Svoboda members have denied the party is anti-Semitic. Party leader Tyahnybok stated in November 2012 “Svoboda is not an anti-Semitic party, Svoboda is not a xenophobic party. Svoboda is not an anti-Russian party. Svoboda is not an anti-European party. Svoboda is simply and only a pro-Ukrainian party”. In defense of these accusations, Tyahnybok has stated "I have repeatedly said that Svoboda is not an anti-Semitic organization. If you have any comments on our views, go to court. But nobody will, because everyone understands that even biased Ukrainian courts cannot pass any sentence against Svoboda because we do not violate Ukrainian laws." Tyahnybok says a criminal case was opened against him for promoting racial rights, but he managed to win all the court cases and protect his name.
Certain political experts write that the name of the party was an intentional reference to the Nazi Party in Germany, and that "Social National" is a reference to "National Socialism", the ideology claimed by the Nazi Party.
According to Der Spiegel, "anti-Semitism is part of the extremist party's platform," which rejects certain minority and human rights. The paper writes that Svoboda's earlier "Social-National Party" title was an "intentional reference to Adolf Hitler's National Socialist party," and that in 2013 a Svoboda youth leader distributed Nazi propaganda written by Joseph Goebbels. According to Algemeiner Journal, "Svoboda supporters include among their heroes leaders of pro-Nazi World War II organizations known for their atrocities against Jews and Poles, such as the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), and the 14th Waffen-SS Galicia Division."
Prominent Ukrainian journalist and president of TVi Channel Vitaly Portnikov defended Svoboda against criticism, as he noted he is often questioned for supporting party leader Oleh Tyahnybok despite himself being Jewish. Portnikov said, "I [stand with them] with great pleasure, because Oleh wants Ukraine to be part of the European Union" and that "presently Svoboda is acting in a very decent way, and I see no problem there. Right-wing parties function in every European country."
Ukrainian media associated with the Party of Regions, the Communist Party of Ukraine, and Russophile groups contributed to a trend of characterizing Svoboda as a "Nazi menace." Political analyst Olszański argued that voters from southern or eastern Ukraine, especially those who are poor, less educated, or attached to a "Soviet historical narrative," are hostile to nationalism, easily convinced that Svoboda is the modern analog of the Nazi invaders, and further that the Party of Regions is the only force capable of stopping a ‘brown revenge’. According to political scientist Taras Kuzio, the label "nationalist" is "disastrous" in Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine and used as an epithet by political opponents.
Statements by political scientists
Political scientist Tadeusz A. Olszański writes that the social-nationalist ideology which Svoboda formerly adhered to has included "openly racist rhetoric" concerning 'white supremacy' since its establishment, and that comparisons with National Socialism are legitimized by its history; however, Svoboda’s policy documents contain no racist elements.
Andreas Umland, a political scientist at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, has asserted in 2010 that "Svoboda was a racist party promoting explicitly ethnocentric and anti-Semitic ideas". He also believes that internally, Svoboda "is much more radical and xenophobic than what we see”. However, Umland has also stated that he believes the party will continue to become more moderate over time, stating that "there's a belief that Svoboda will change, once in the Verkhovna Rada, and that they may become proper national democrats".
Alexander J. Motyl contends that Svoboda is not fascist, neither in behaviour or in ideology, and that "they are far more like the Tea Party or right-wing Republicans than like fascists or neo-Nazis."
According to Anton Shekhovtsov, expert on radical parties in Europe, "The main peculiarity of the Ukrainian far right is that its main enemy is not immigrants or national minorities, as often happens with the EU-based far right, but the Kremlin".
Statements by Jewish organizations
Thirty members of the Israeli Knesset condemned the party in a signed letter addressed to the President of the European Parliament. In the letter the Israeli politicians accused Svoboda of "openly glorifying Nazi murder" and "Nazi war criminals". In May 2013 the World Jewish Congress labelled the party as "neo-Nazi" and called for European governments to ban them.
Ukraine’s chief rabbi Yaakov Bleich said “Svoboda is an enigma in many ways,” calling it “a right-wing, nationalist party with anti-Semitic elements in it.” Vyacheslav A. Likhachev of the Eurasian Jewish Congress, said that the “party has a very anti-Semitic core in its ideology,” and that it leads to “symbolic legitimization of neo-Nazis and anti-Semitic ideology in the eyes of society.”
Member of parliament with the pro-presidential Party of Regions, and president of the Jewish Committee of Ukraine Oleksandr Feldman criticized Svoboda as a "party which is notorious for regularly injecting anti-Semitism into their speeches and public pronouncements" and accused the party of "rallying behind this recognition and exploited mistrust of Jews to gain popularity among some in the lower class who painfully welcomed the chance to be a part of campaigns of hate". Feldman also writes that Svoboda has helped erode the shame associated with open expressions of anti-Semitism and other ethnic hatreds. Feldman has been an advocate for the Party of Regions and president Viktor Yanukovych, reportedly also funding the latter's public relations firm. During the Euromaidan protests, Feldman said the protests had degenerated into “ultra-nationalism and anti-Semitism,” and called for opposition leaders Arseniy Yatseniuk and Vitali Klitschko to distance themselves from Svoboda. Four groups, including the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, said they have seen no upsurge in anti-Semitic attacks. “We call on Ukrainian citizens and foreign observers to remain calm and critically assess the panic-mongering statements in the media regarding anti-Semitism in the country,” the groups said in a statement on the website of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress.
In 2012 international human rights organization The Simon Wiesenthal Center placed Svoboda party leader Oleg Tyahnybok fifth in its list of the top 10 anti-Semites and haters of Israel, based on his previous comments regarding Jews in Ukraine.
Party leader Oleh Tyahnybok (in January 2011) has described the Azarov Government and the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych "a Kremlin colonial administration", referencing Svoboda's opposition to perceived Russian influences in Ukrainian politics.
Before the 2012 Ukrainian parliamentary election most of the radical points which were present on the Svoboda’s original party platform vanished from the official election program that Svoboda filed with the Central Election Commission of Ukraine. In its place, a tamer, populist program focused on the impeachment of President Viktor Yanukovych and the renunciation of the 2010 Kharkiv agreements that let Russia’s Black Sea Fleet stay in Crimea through 2042 was used. In its campaign for the 2008 Kiev local elections the party also used less ethnic nationalist terms and it relied more on a strong anti-establishment, populist and anti-corruption rhetoric.
Svoboda’s platform is called “Our Own Authorities, Our Own Property, Our Own Dignity, on Our Own God-Given Land.” and includes the following points:
- Ukraine—a presidential republic, head of state is the head of government
- Lustration of state authority: publication of lists of all Soviet KGB agents that served or continue to serve in Ukraine, dismissal of such people as well as members of the former Communist Party of the Soviet Union from state leadership positions, replace them with graduates of the Ukrainian universities
- Criminal prosecution for “Ukrainophobia”
- Only those born in Ukraine can become Ukrainian citizens, with the exceptions for those who have lived in Ukraine for more than 15 years, know the Ukrainian language, culture and Ukrainian Constitution
- Renunciation[nb 3] of the 2010 Kharkiv agreements
- Impeachment of President Viktor Yanukovych
- Ban on abortion, except in cases of medical necessity, or rape; and imprisonment from three to seven years for those who violate this ban
- Criminalization of public promotion of abortions or calls for abortions (by introducing a fine for doing so)
- The right to keep and bear arms
- Cancelling taxes on Ukrainian language products—films, music and literature—and instead imposing taxes on non-Ukrainian language products. The proceeds obtained this way will be channeled into developing Ukrainian language products
- Nationalization of major enterprises, greater state control of the banking system and a ban on privatization of land
- Energy independence for Ukraine
- The development of competitive industries, particularly food processing and aircraft engineering, shipbuilding, machine-tool construction, machine manufacturing, the military industrial complex and the aerospace industry
- Ban on the import of the food products that are also produced inside Ukraine and import only exotic food that is not domestically grown
- The restoration of the Soviet practice of indicating ethnic origin on passports and birth certificates
- Proportional representation on executive bodies of ethnic Ukrainians, on the one hand, and national minorities, on the other
- Ban on adoptions by non-Ukrainians of Ukrainian children
- Preferential treatment for Ukrainian students in the allocation of dormitory places, and a series of similar changes to existing legal provisions
- Ordained persons should have no right to be elected to state authorities or local self-government authorities
- Abolition of Crimean autonomy
- Abolition of value added tax
- Farmlands are to be state-owned and given to farmers in hereditary use
- The state is to implement a firm pro-family policy
- Dismissal of employees of state structures who had been active in the Soviet apparatus before 1991
- Decommunization of public space (monuments, names of streets and places)
- Russia should apologize "for its communist crimes"
- Ukraine is to leave the Commonwealth of Independent States "and other post-Soviet structures"
- An explicit guarantee of accession to NATO within a set period of time
- Ukraine should again re-acquire tactical nuclear weaponry
Svoboda also states in its programme that it is both possible and necessary to make Ukraine the “geopolitical centre of Europe”. The European Union is not mentioned in the programme. According to Party leader Oleh Tyahnybok the programme is a worldview based on Christian values and the "rejection of various deviations".
Member of parliament Ihor Miroshnychenko asked the head of the Kiev City State Administration Oleksandr Popov on 7 March 2013 to ban a march that was held the next day because he believed it would "contribute to promoting sexual orientation" and he further stated in his request "homosexuality provokes sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS". The 8 March rally was in fact not an LGBT march but organized by feminist organizations.
In late January 2013 Svoboda urged Ukrainians to boycott revised Ukrainian history textbooks and to give up the teaching of the Russian language in school, calling Ukrainians "to categorically refuse to study in school the language of the occupier – Russian, as a further reliable means of the assimilation of Ukrainians". On February 13, 2014 following the 2014 Ukrainian revolution, Svoboda supported legislation abolishing the law on regional languages making Ukrainian the sole state language at all levels. This proposal was vetoed by acting President Oleksandr Turchynov.
|Year||Popular vote||% of popular vote||Overall seats won||Seat change||Government|
|2002||did not participate||1|
|Election year||Candidate||# of 1st round votes||% of 1st round vote||# of 2nd round votes||% of 2nd round vote|
Representation in regional councils
|Svoboda %||Svoboda individual seats won||Svoboda total seats won|
|Ternopil oblast council||
|Lviv oblast council||
|Ivano-Frankivsk oblast council||
|Volyn oblast council||
|Rivne oblast council||
|Chernivtsi oblast council||
|Kyiv oblast council||
|Khmelnytskyi Oblast council||
Change in party voting
- Olszański, Tadeusz A. (2011), Svoboda Party – The New Phenomenon on the Ukrainian Right-Wing Scene (PDF), OSW Commentary (56), Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW)
- Rudling, Per Anders (2013), "The Return of the Ukrainian Far Right: The Case of VO Svoboda" (PDF), Analysing Fascist Discourse: European Fascism in Talk and Text (Routledge): 228–255
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- Umland, Andreas (2011), "Ukraine’s Right-Wing Politics: Is the Genie out of the Bottle?", Open Democracy Russia and beyond
- In the 2012 Ukrainian parliamentary elections, Svoboda won its first seats in the Ukrainian Parliament, garnering 10.44% of the popular vote and the 4th most seats among national political parties; this transposed into 37 parliamentary seats.
- An electoral result similar to results of far-right parties in countries neighboring Ukraine in previously held elections since 1990.
- In June 2013 Ukraine’s First Deputy Foreign Minister Ruslan Demchenko stated an unilateral denunciation of the 2010 Ukrainian–Russian Naval Base for Natural Gas treaty was not possible from a legal point of view.
- Oblast Council demands Svoboda Party be banned in Ukraine, Kyiv Post (May 12, 2011)
- Olszański, Tadeusz A. (4 July 2011). "Svoboda Party – The New Phenomenon on the Ukrainian Right-Wing Scene". Centre for Eastern Studies. OSW Commentary (56): 6. Retrieved 27 September 2013.
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Anti-Semitism only permeates Ukraine’s far-right parties, such as Svoboda… Ukraine’s economic nationalists are to be found in the extreme right (Svoboda) and centrist parties that propagate economic nationalism and economic protectionism.
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Europe's Far Right Is Embracing Putin, Business Insider (10 April 2014)
Oleh Tiahnybok withdraws Svoboda's membership within the Alliance of European National Movements
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People's Front 0.33% ahead of Poroshenko Bloc with all ballots counted in Ukraine elections - CEC, Interfax-Ukraine (8 November 2014)
Poroshenko Bloc to get 132 seats in parliament - CEC, Interfax-Ukraine (8 November 2014)
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Like those of many other far-right movements, Svoboda’s official policy documents are relatively cautious and differ from its daily activities and internal jargon, which are much more radical and racist. Svoboda subscribes to the OUN tradition of national segregation and demands the re-introduction of the Soviet 'nationality' category into Ukrainian passports. 'We are not America, a mishmash of all sorts of people,' the Svoboda website states. 'The Ukrainian needs to stay Ukrainian, the Pole—Polish, the Gagauz—Gagauz, the Uzbek—Uzbek.' Svoboda’s ultra-nationalism is supplemented with more traditional 'white racism. Conspiracy theory is integral to Svoboda Weltanschauung, particularly conspiracies with anti-Semitic undertones.
- Bojcun, Marko (2012), "The Socioeconomic and Political Outcomes of Global Financial Crisis in Ukraine", Socioeconomic Outcomes of the Global Financial Crisis: Theoretical Discussion and Empirical Case Studies (Routledge): 151
- Likhachev, Viacheslav (September–October 2013). "Right-Wing Extremism on the Rise in Ukraine". Russian Politics and Law 51 (5).
In their propaganda, SNPU ideologues were more open, describing the confrontation with “Muscovite influence” as racial. SNPU publications proudly called the Ukrainian nation the “root of the white race.” Ukraine was viewed as an “outpost of European civilization” and Russia as an “Asiatic horde.” Ukraine—according to Andrii Parubii, one of the SNPU leaders (who later joined Our Ukraine)—must “confront the aggressiveness of the pernicious ideas of the Asiatic world, today embodied in Russia.” Alongside Russophobia, SNPU ideologues preached (and still preach) anti-Westernism: from their point of view, “internationalist Marxism and cosmopolitan liberalism are in fact two sides of the same coin.” I would add that all the ideological constructs formulated in SNPU publications in the 1990s still characterize Svoboda’s current ideology. Although the party toned down its official rhetoric in the 2000s, it takes pride in the continuity of its history and the unchanging nature of its ideology.
- Shekhovtsov, Anton (2013). "17: From Para-Militarism to Radical Right-Wing Populism: The Rise of the Ukrainian Far-Right Party Svoboda.". Right Wing Populism in Europe. Routledge. pp. 251–2.
The Ukrainian National Assembly (UNA), KUN and Svoboda are also Russophobic and anti-semitic. Moreover, 'white racism’ is overtly or covertly inherent in the doctrines of the UNA, Svoboda and All-Ukrainian Party'New Force' (Nova Syla), and most evidently manifests itself through the parties’ anti-immigrant positions.
- Syal, Rajeev (1 June 2012). "Guardian Weekly: Shadow of racism over Euro 2012 finals: Black football fans face uncertain welcome in Ukrainian host city". The Guardian Weekly. Retrieved 28 February 2014.
Lviv's ruling party, Svoboda, whose slogan is "one race, one nation, one fatherland", has been variously described as fascist, neo-Nazi and extreme. Members prefer to say they are nationalists and friends of Marine Le Pen's Front National.
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The head of the Israel-Ukraine inter-parliamentary association, Israel is Our Home Party MP Alex Miller, has said he does not understand why the Ukrainian opposition signed a coalition agreement with an "anti-Semitic" party - the Svo-boda All-Ukrainian Union… According to the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, Svoboda is a fascist party, and its full name - the Social-National Party of Ukraine - was chosen in association with the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP).
- Weinthal, Benjamin (28 December 2012). "Wiesenthal ranks top 10 anti-Semites, Israel-bashers. Muslim Brotherhood's rise in Egypt catapults two religious figures into No. 1 spot". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 28 February 2014.
The Wiesenthal Center also cited Oleg Tyagnibok (No. 5) from the fascist Ukrainian Svoboda party. He urged purges of the approximately 400,000 Jews and other minorities living in the Ukraine and has demanded that the country be liber-ated from the "Muscovite Jewish Mafia." Ukrainian MP Igor Miroshnichenko was cited for anti-Jewish remarks as well: He called Ukrainian-born American ac-tress Mila Kunis a "zhydovka" (dirty Jewess).
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The far-right, anti-Semitic Svoboda party of Oleh Tyahnybok is also in evidence in the square. The third organized element is the Batkivschnya (Fatherland) party, which is close to Timoshenko.
- Stern, David (13 December 2013). "What Europe Means to Ukraine's Protesters". The Atlantic. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
But Svoboda’s positions are somewhat at odds with the EU’s ideals of tolerance and multiculturalism, to put it mildly: It is a driving force behind Ukraine’s anti-gay rights movement; the party’s platform supports distributing government positions to various ethnicities according to their percentage makeup of the population; and, despite recent claims to the contrary, it remains, at least among its leadership, a deeply anti-Semitic organization (one deputy in parliament has described the Holocaust as a “bright period” for Europe.)
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Expert opinions on Svoboda in particular are divided. Per Anders Rudling, an associate professor at Lund University in Sweden and researcher on Ukrainian extremists, has described Svoboda as "neo-fascist"… But Ivan Katchanovski, a political scientist at the University of Ottawa who has studied the far-right in Ukraine, disagreed that Svoboda was so extreme. "Svoboda is currently best described as a radical nationalist party, and not as fascist or neo-Nazi," he said. "It is now not overtly anti-Semitic." Andrew Srulevitch, director of European Affairs for the Anti-Defamation League, an international group based in the U.S. that monitors anti-Semites and other political extremists, said: "Svoboda has been disciplined in its messaging regarding Jews since the Maidan demonstrations started in November, but they have a history of anti-Semitic statements to overcome, and a clear political program of ethnic nationalism that makes Jews nervous." Oleh Tyahnybok, leader of Svoboda, described the row over his party as an "information war". He told Reuters: "Unfortunately, the information concerning Svoboda's radicalism is not true. It comes from European and Russian mass-media. They just wanted to create an image of horror, of extremists, anti-Semites and xenophobes, and started to write about our party some stupid things."
- Shekhovtsov, Anton (5 March 2014). "From electoral success to revolutionary failure: The Ukrainian Svoboda party". Eurozine. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
...not only did Svoboda cooperate with several European radical rightwing parties (and, as noted above, it cooperated with the Front national even during the SNPU days), but also could not be considered a neo-Nazi party… The party, and especially its paramilitary wing called C14 under the leadership of the notorious neo-Nazi Yevhen Karas, became involved in a number of divisive activities. Displaying racist banners in the occupied Kyiv City State Administration, attacking journalists, volunteer medical workers and other Euromaidan activists, demolishing the Lenin monument, staging a torch-lit march commemorating controversial Ukrainian ultranationalist Stepan Bandera – all these activities damaged the unity, as well as the image, of Euromaidan.
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While Svoboda campaigns firmly for EU membership and Western values, their leaders, including Tyahnybok, have made anti-Semitic and racist remarks to protests by Jewish and other rights groups. The group also campaigns for strict conservative values and has called for banning abortions and spoken out against gay rights.
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Moreover, Svoboda expresses extreme hostility towards homosexuals - party members once attacked and sprayed tear gas at the participants of a gay rights rally in the capital Kiev.
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The parliament of ex-Soviet Ukraine on Tuesday indefinitely postponed a vote on a bill that would have barred employers from rejecting workers based on their sexual orientation as hundreds of anti-gay activists protested outside. The European Union-backed legislation had been up for a vote on Tuesday after a strong bid by President Viktor Yanukovych's government -- keen to eventually join the 27-nation bloc -- to get its rights laws in line with Western standards. But the bill was opposed in parliament by the Communist Party and the nationalist Svoboda group that sees most of its support in Catholic Ukrainian-speaking regions in the west of the country.
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But Svoboda’s positions are somewhat at odds with the EU’s ideals of tolerance and multiculturalism, to put it mildly: It is a driving force behind Ukraine’s anti-gay rights movement; the party’s platform supports distributing government positions to various ethnicities according to their percentage makeup of the population; and, despite recent claims to the contrary, it remains, at least among its leadership, a deeply anti-Semitic organization (one deputy in parliament has described the Holocaust as a “bright period” for Europe.)
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It is noteworthy that of these various Ukrainian nationalist parties the SNPU was the least inclined to conceal its neofascist affiliations. Its official symbol was the somewhat modified Wolf’s Hook (wolfsangel), used as a symbol by the German SS division Das Reich and the Dutch SS division Landstorm Nederland during World War II and by a number of European neofascist organizations after 1945.33 As seen by the SNPU leadership, the Wolf’s Hook became the “idea of the nation.” Moreover, the official name of the party’s ideology, “social nationalism,” clearly referred back to “national socialism”—the official name of the ideology of the National-Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) and of the Hitlerite regime. The SNPU’s political platform distinguished itself by its openly revolutionary ultranationalism, its demands for the violent takeover of power in the country, and its willingness to blame Russia for all of Ukraine’s ills. Moreover, the SNPU was the first relatively large party to recruit Nazi skinheads and football hooligans. But in the politi- cal arena, its support in the 1990s remained insignificant.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to All-Ukrainian Union "Freedom".|
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