Volodymyr Viatrovych

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Volodymyr Viatrovych
Volodymyr Viatrovych with a copy of his sixth book The second Polish-Ukrainian War, 1942-1947 (2011)

Volodymyr Viatrovych (Ukrainian: Володи́мир В'ятро́вич; born 7 July 1977) is a Ukrainian historian researching the Ukrainian independence movement. He has been Director of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance since 25 March 2014. He is a Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D) in historical sciences, director of the Center for Research of Liberation Movement in Lviv, and a member of the board of trustees of the "Prison on Łąckiego" Museum.[1] From 2008 to 2010 he was director of the Archives of the Security Service of Ukraine. In 2010-2011 he visited the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University, working in particular with the archival documents of Mykola Lebed.[2]

Biography and academic career, 1994 to present[edit]

From 1994 to 1999 Viatrovych was a student at the history faculty of Lviv University (West Ukraine) where he specialised in Ukrainian history. In 2004 he defended his doctoral thesis: “UPA raids beyond Ukrainian borders as part of the creation of an anti-totalitarian national-democratic revolution among the nations of East-Central Europe”. (He had already issued a book on the subject in 2001.)

From November 2002 to March 2008 Viatrovych was director of the Centre for the Study of the Liberation Movement, based in Lviv. In 2005 and 2006 he lectured at the Ukrainian Catholic University. During that time he drew up the first course in Ukrainian higher education on “The Ukrainian Liberation Movement from the 1920s to 1950s” for students of the historical faculties of the Catholic University and the Ivan Franko Lviv University.

From August 2005 to December 2007 Viatrovych was a research associate at the I. Kripyakevich Institute for Ukrainian Studies at the National Academy of Sciences in Kiev.

In 2010-2011 he worked in the USA at the Ukraine Research Institute at Harvard University.

Viatrovych subsequently became director of the Center for the History of State-Building in Ukraine at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.[3]

National Remembrance, 2007 to present[edit]

Between May 2007 and January 2008 Viatrovych was a representative of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance for Lviv Oblast.

In 2008 he served as research consultant to the international project, “Ukraine Remembers, the World Acknowledges” which aimed to popularise the subject of the Holodomor, the 1932-3 famine in Ukraine, and, through international lobbying, to gain world recognition that this was an act of genocide. From January to October 2008 Viatrovych was head of the archives department at Ukraine’s Institute of National Remembrance.

From October 2008 to March 2010 Viatrovych was adviser on research to Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, the head of the SBU or Security Service of Ukraine (2006-2010). Viatrovych was a moving force behind the idea of putting Stalin and other Soviet leaders of the time on trial for genocide for their part in the Holodomor. They were found guilty in January 2010 by the Court of Appeal in Kiev (prompting an indignant reaction from certain Russian officials).[4]

Viatrovych has been a trustee of the Lontsky Prison National Museum-Memorial to the Victims of Occupation Regimes (Nazi and Soviet) in Lviv, since it was set up and opened to the public in 2009. From March 2008 onwards he has chaired the research council of the Centre for the Study of the Liberation Movement (Lviv).

On 25 March 2014 Viatrovych was appointed Director of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance.[3]

Political activism, 2004 & 2013-2015[edit]

When the Orange Revolution took place in 2004 Viatrovych took an active part, supposedly as a leader of the Pora ("It's Time!") youth movement.

During the Euromaidan protests in 2013 Viatrovych called for active measures against the authorities.[5] He coordinated mass demonstrations and led a column of activists to block the government buildings and the parliament (Verkhovna Rada).

Speaking of the rotation of Euromaidan activists he recalled the activities of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army or UPA: “In the 1940s and 1950s conditions in the underground were worse: people did not leave temporarily to go back to work, but because a comrade had gone forever. That is why we shall succeed!” He also commented: “We do not intend to halt after the regime has changed in Ukraine, when we have got rid of the rule of Yanukovych.”[6]

In May 2015 President Petro Poroshenko approved four laws concerning Decommunization in Ukraine. Volodymyr Viatrovych was concerned in the drafting of two of these laws. The criminal sentences imposed by these acts and their phrasing came in for criticism within the country and abroad. The law "On access to the archives of repressive bodies of the communist totalitarian regime from 1917-1991" placed the state archives concerning repression during the Soviet period under the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance, now headed by Volodymyr Viatrovych.[7]

Decorations and awards[edit]

Viatrovych as historian (2002-2012)[edit]

There has been considerable discussion in Ukraine and abroad about the historical studies published between 2002 and 2012 by Volodymyr Viatrovych (see Publications, below) and of his public role, since 2008, in relation to the opening and access to archives and the process of National Remembrance.

Army of the Immortals, 2002[edit]

His third book Army of the Immortals (2002) was discussed some years later on the Polit.ru website by Professor Alexei I. Miller of the Central European University in Budapest and Ukrainian historian Georgy Kasyanov from the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. In Miller's view the book was essentially glorification of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). Many historical sources were disregarded in the book's writing, says Miller, and falsified stories were cited. Viatrovych preferred to ignore all criticism of the Army of the Immortals that originated within the academic community, says Miller.[10]

In 2013 similar concerns about discussion of the past, the role and influence of Volodymyr Viatrovych, and the impact of divergent views on the present were raised in a discussion following a Columbia University workshop on “Russian and Ukrainian Nationalism: Entangled Histories”[11][12]

OUN attitudes towards the Jews, 2006[edit]

Viatrovych's next book OUN attitudes towards the Jews: Formulating a position against the backdrop of catastrophe (2006) aroused much controversy, extending beyond historians to Yad Vashem and back. Viatrovych and some of his colleagues went to look for certain documents held at the Holocaust History Museum in Israel.[13]

Among those who criticized Viatrovych's new book were John-Paul Himka and Taras Kurylo from the University of Alberta,[14] Per Anders Rudling[15] and German-Polish historian Grzegorz Rossoliński-Liebe.[16] In their view OUN Policy towards the Jews was an attempt to deny the crimes committed by the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) against the Jews[16][17][13] and to dismiss the allegations of its anti-Semitism.[15][16][18] In the opinion of Kurylo and Himka, the book did less to understand history than to distort it, although it contained interesting material and could form the basis for further discussions on the attitude of OUN and UPA towards the Jews.[19]

The Second Polish-Ukrainian War, 2011[edit]

Viatrovych's The Second Polish-Ukrainian war, 1942-1947 (2011) met with criticism from Polish, Ukrainian and Western historians. A series of comments on the book were published, many appearing in 2012 in successive issues of the Ab Imperio quarterly, an international historical journal based in Kazan (Tatarstan). Among the contributors to the discussion were Ihor Ilyushyn,[20] Andrij Portnov,[21] Grzegorz Motyka,[22][23] Andrzej Zięba,[24] Per Anders Rudling,[25] Grzegorz Rossoliński-Liebe,[16] Andrzej Leon Sowa[26] and Grzegorz Hryciuk.[27]

In the book Viatrovych presented his interpretation of the Polish-Ukrainian conflict during the years 1939-1947 (including the massacres of Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia) as a war between Poles and Ukrainians. According to Portnov, Viatrovych tried to prove that the OUN leadership issued no order for the extermination of the Polish minority, and the killings in Volhynia were a spontaneous rebellion of Ukrainian peasants, provoked by the Poles.[28] It was Motyka's view that Viatrovych achieved that goal by rhetorical devices and by ignoring inconvenient facts.[29] Andrzej Zięba considered that the book passed over certain materials or engaged in their outright falsification in order to "absolve" OUN-UPA and to rally Ukrainians around nationalist positions.[30] The aim of the book, Portnov argued, was to serve UPA apologetics and political motives.[28]

By using the word "war" with regard to relations between Poles and Ukrainians Viatryovych was trying to hide the OUN-UPA's ethnic cleansing of the Polish population, said his critics.[31][32] According to Rossoliński-Liebe and Rudling, the way Viatrovych set about denying crimes against Poles differed little from his denial of anti-Jewish violence.[16][32] Rudling said he would recommend The Second Polish-Ukrainian war to readers only as an object of comparative studies in far-right revisionism and obfuscation.[32] In the opinion of Hryciuk, the version of events presented in the book was factually untrue.[33]

The section on the SS-Galizien Division and the fate of the Ukrainian population in Poland in the years 1945-1947 was of some value, in Motyka's view,[31] but as a whole he considered The Second Polish-Ukrainian War an unsuccessful work.[34] A similar conclusion was reached by Sowa.[35]

In West Ukraine, Portnov noted, The Second Polish-Ukrainian war had been met with uncritical enthusiasm.[36] Ivan Katchnovski (University of Ottawa) believed that the aim of Viatrovych in disseminating his narrative was to "restore Bandera's good name" mostly in the mass media and in non-academic or unscholarly publications.[2]

Viatrovych as a public figure[edit]

In May 2016 in Foreign Policy Josh Cohen claimed that Viatrovych was "whitewashing Ukraine's past".[37] In a reply published some weeks later Viatrovych assured Cohen and readers of Foreign Policy that Ukraine's history "was in good hands".[38]



  • Lieutenant "Burlaka" (Sotennyi "Burlaka" - Сотенний "Бурлака"), 2000.
  • UPA Raids on Czechoslovak territory (Rejdy UPA terenamy Chekhoslovachchyny - Рейди УПА теренами Чехословаччини), Lviv, 2001 (the subject of his 2004 Ph.D. thesis).
  • The army of immortals: Insurgents in images (Armiia bezsmertnykh. Povstans'ki svitlyny - Армія безсмертних. Повстанські світлини), Lviv, 2002.
  • OUN attitudes towards the Jews: Formulation of a position against the backdrop of a catastrophe (Stavlennia OUN do ievreiv: formuvannia pozycii na tli katastrofi - Ставлення ОУН до євреїв: формування позиції на тлі катастрофи), Lviv, 2006.
  • Polish-Ukrainian relations, 1942-1947, in the documents of OUN and UPA (ed.) (Pol'sko-ukrains'ki stosunky v 1942-1947 rokakh u dokumentakh OUN ta UPA - Польсько-українські стосунки в 1942—1947 роках у документах ОУН та УПА), Lviv, 2011.
  • The Second Polish-Ukrainian war. 1942-1947 (Druha pol'sko-ukrains'ka viina. 1942-1947 - Друга польсько-українська війна. 1942—1947), Kiev, 2011; expanded edition, 2012.
  • History marked "Classified Material" (Istoriia z hryfom "Sekretno" - Історія з грифом "Секретно"), Kiev, 2011.
  • History marked "Classified Material": New subjects (Istoriia z hryfom "Sekretno": Novi siuzhety - Історія з грифом "Секретно": Нові сюжети), Kiev, 2012.

Collective works[edit]

  • V. Viatrovych, R. Hryc'kiv, I. Derevianyi, R. Zabilyi, A. Sova and P.Sodol', The Ukrainian Insurgent Army: a history of the undefeated (Ukrains'ka Povstans'ka Armiia: istoriia neskorenykh - В. В’ятрович, Р. Грицьків, І. Дерев’яний, Р. Забілий, А. Сова, П. Содоль. Українська Повстанська Армія: історія нескорених), Lviv, 2008. (digital version)


  • Per Anders Rudling: "The OUN, the UPA and the Holocaust: A Study in the Manufacturing of Historical Myths," The Carl Beck Papers in Russian & East European Studies, No. 2107, November 2011, ISSN 0889-275X, p. 28-30 [6]
  • Josh Cohen, "The historian whitewashing Ukraine's past", Foreign Policy, 2 May 2016 [7]
  • Volodomyr Viatrovych, "Ukraine's history is in good hands", Foreign Policy, 17 June 2016. Reply to Josh Cohen


  1. ^ Biographical note in The Ukrainian Insurgent Army 2008 (in Ukrainian).
  2. ^ a b I. Katchanovski I. "Terrorists or national heroes? Politics and perceptions of the OUN and the UPA in Ukraine", Communist and Post-Communist Studies, 48 (2015) 217-228.
  3. ^ a b "The New Director of the Ukrainian National Memory Institute says that Historical Memory Policy is a Safeguard Against Repeating the Crimes of the Past", Center for the Study of the Liberation Movement (website), 23 March 2014.
  4. ^ "Yushchenko brings Stalin to court over genocide", RT.com, 14 January 2010.
  5. ^ Mariana Petsukh, "Volodymyr Vyatrovich: 'We are obliged to leave the Maidan as an organised force'," Evropeiska Pravda website, 23 December 2013 (in Ukrainian).
  6. ^ Mariana Petsukh, "Volodymyr Viatrovych: 'We are obliged to leave the Maidan as an organised force'," Evropeiska Pravda website, 23 December 2013 (in Ukrainian).
  7. ^ Halya Coynash, "'Decommunization' in Ukraine Carried Out Using Communist Methods", Human Rights in Ukraine website, 9 June 2016.
  8. ^ President of Ukraine Decree No. 1100/2009 «Про відзначення державними нагородами України»
  9. ^ "The Vasyl Stus prize has gone to a rights activist, a historian and a poet", UNIAN news agency. Other prize-winners that year were rights activist Evgen Zakharov and poet Irina Zhilenko.
  10. ^ Miller, Alexey; Kasianov, Georgy (2 April 2009). "Россия-Украина: как пишется история / Ukraine-Russia: How history is being written" (in Russian). polit.ru website. Retrieved 12 May 2016. 
  11. ^ Taras Kuzio, "This is not how Ukrainian history should be debated", The Ukrainian Weekly, 19 May 2013.
  12. ^ Discussion of David Marples, "The Limits of Tolerance", Current Politics in Ukraine website; contribution by Halya Coynash, 3 June 2013.
  13. ^ a b John-Paul Himka, "True and False Lessons from the Nachtigall Episode", Brama News and Community Press website, 19 March 2008.
  14. ^ Taras Kuryło, John-Paul Himka, “Iak OUN stavylasia do ievreiv? Rozdumy nad knyzhkoiu Volodymyra Viatrovycha”, Ukraina Moderna 13 (2008), pp.252-265 - "Is that how OUN regarded the Jews? Thoughts about Volodymyr Viatrovych's book" (in Ukrainian) [1]
  15. ^ a b Per A. Rudling, "The OUN, the UPA and the Holocaust: A Study in the Manufacturing of Historical Myths", The Carl Beck Papers in Russian & East European Studies, No. 2107, November 2011, ISSN 0889-275X, pp.28-31
  16. ^ a b c d e Grzegorz Rossoliński-Liebe, "Debating, obfuscating and disciplining the Holocaust: post-Soviet historical discourses on the OUN–UPA and other nationalist movements", East European Jewish Affairs, 42:3, pp. 207-208
  17. ^ Per A. Rudling, "The OUN, the UPA and the Holocaust...", p. 29.
  18. ^ Taras Kuryło, John-Paul Himka, “Iak OUN stavylasia do ievreiv?...", p.265.
  19. ^ Taras Kuryło, John-Paul Himka, “Iak OUN stavylasia do ievreiv?...", p.264.
  20. ^ Игорь Ильюшин, Плохо забытое старое: о новой книге Владимира Вятровича, Ab Imperio, 1/2012, pp.382-385 - Ihor Ilyushyn, "A poorly forgotten past: Volodymyr Viatrovych's new book" (in Russian).
  21. ^ Андрей Портнов, Истории для домашнего употребления, «Ab Imperio», 3/2012, pp. 324-334 - Andrij Portnov, "History for domestic consumption" (in Russian).
  22. ^ Гжегож Мотыка, Неудачная книга, «Ab Imperio», 1/2012, pp.387-400 - Grzegorz Motyka, "An unsuccessful book" (in Russian).
  23. ^ Grzegorz Motyka, "W krainie uproszczeń", Nowa Europa Wschodnia, 1/2013, pp. 97-101 - "An extreme simplification", New Eastern Europe (in Polish).
  24. ^ Анджей Земба, Мифологизированная “война”, «Ab Imperio», 1/2012, pp. 403-421 - Andrzej Zięba, "A mythologised 'war'" (in Russian).
  25. ^ Per Anders Rudling, "Warfare or War Criminality?: Volodymyr V’iatrovych, Druha pol’s’ko-ukains’ka viina, 1942–1947 (Kyiv: Vydavnychyi dim Kyevo-Mohylians’ka akademiia, 2011). 228 pp.", «Ab Imperio», 1/2012, pp. 356-381.
  26. ^ Andrzej Leon Sowa, "Recenzja książek: Polśko-ukrajinśki stosunki w 1942-1947 rokach u dokumentach OUN ta UPA, red. Wołodymyr Wiatrowycz oraz Wołodymyr Wiatrowycz, Druha polśko-ukrajinśka wijna 1942-1947," [in:] Pamięć i Sprawiedliwość, nr 21, pp. 450-460 - "A review of Polish-Ukrainian Relations in 1942-1947 (ed. Viatrovych) and The Second Polish-Ukrainian War, 1942-1947", in Memory and Justice (in Polish) [2]
  27. ^ Grzegorz Hryciuk, "Recenzja książki: Wołodymyr Wiatrowycz, Druha polśko-ukrajinśka wijna 1942-1947", [in:] Pamięć i Sprawiedliwość, nr 21, pp. 460-471 - "A review of Viatrovych, The Second Polish-Ukrainian War, 1942-1947", in Memory and Justice (in Polish).[3]
  28. ^ a b Portnov (2012), p. 327.
  29. ^ Motyka (2012), pp. 389, 392 and 399.
  30. ^ Zięba (2012), pp. 405 & 419.
  31. ^ a b Motyka (2012), p. 399.
  32. ^ a b c Per Anders Rudling, "Warfare or War Criminality?...", p.379.
  33. ^ Grzegorz Hryciuk, "recenzja książki...", p. 471.
  34. ^ Motyka (2012), p.400.
  35. ^ Andrzej Leon Sowa, "Recenzja książek...", p. 459.
  36. ^ Portnov (2012), p. 326.Abstract.
  37. ^ Josh Cohen, "The historian whitewashing Ukraine's past", Foreign Policy, 2 May 2016 [4]
  38. ^ Volodymyr Viatrovych, "Ukraine's history is in good hands", Foreign Policy, 17 June 2016 [5]

External links[edit]