Looking for Stepan Bandera: The Myth of Ukrainian Nationalism and the Russian ‘Special Operation’

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The so-called ‘denazification’ of Ukraine and the need to free the country from the radical nationalists was used by the Russian government as a central argument to justify the military invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. However, the discussion of radical rightwing nationalist groups allegedly active in Ukraine and violently oppressing the Russianspeaking population have been maintained by the governing regime in Russia already since the so-called Euromaidan protests in 2013-2014. The word ‘banderivtsi’, disciples or sons and daughters of Stepan Bandera, the leader of the Ukrainian nationalist organisations OUN and UPA, became widely used, first, by Russian pro-governmental media who this way referred to what they presented as the nationalist population of Ukraine. Consequently, the Ukrainians started using the term themselves, in an ironic way, to re-appropriate it and re-establish the national identity reshaped by the years of informational and actual wars. The present piece discusses the centrality of the concept of Ukrainian nationalism in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war. It examines how, seeking further separation from Russia, the Ukrainian government has been changing its memory politics towards a significantly modified perception and interpretation of the shared past.CEJISS, Vol. 16, Issue 3, 2022 It argues that building parallels between attacking ‘nationalist Ukraine’ and the victory over Nazi Germany central to the glorious past of Russia within the state memory politics was used by Kremlin to justify the military action in the neighbouring country.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-150
Number of pages19
JournalCentral European Journal of International and Security Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Decommunisation
  • Memory politics
  • Nationalism
  • Russia-ukraine war
  • Ukraine


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