Passing the Torch

[ Part 1: The Nationalist Reconstruction of Ukraine ]

In politics, as in everything else, children are the future. Every politician and ideologue knows that the success of a political project depends on many years of concerted efforts by many people. These projects can take years, decades, generations to come to maturity. Thus any serious political organization is concerned with cultivating a youth movement which can carry on its work into the future.

Youth movements were vital to the Ukrainian Nationalists as they recruited talented, passionate, and impressionable young people to the national cause. As the excitement of Perestroika grew these groups provided alternatives to the long-established Komsomol, which had been the youth wing of the Communist Party for generations.

Спілка української молоді (CYM), “Association of Ukrainian Youth”

Two major nationalist youth groups were formed in 1989: the first chapter of CYM was founded in May in the eastern city of Kharkov, while the SNUM was founded in June in the western city of Lvov.

Emblem of the Association of Ukrainian Youth. From Wikipedia.

CYM was a much older organization, well established in the Ukrainian diaspora. The CYM’s history page describes the organization’s founding:

The Association of Ukrainian Youth (CYM) is an organization whose existence was evidenced in the trial of the Union for the Liberation of Ukraine (SVU). According to the GPU, the Association of Ukrainian Youth was established in 1925 as a “militant, fascist-type secret organization of counterrevolutionary youth,” built on a strictly secretive basis, to carry out the special tasks of the SVU.

Encyclopedia of Ukrainian Studies, quoted by Max Podorozhniy

The leaders of the SVU-CYM were tried and convicted of anti-state activities in 1930, and their organizations were dispersed by the authorities.

In 1946 the CYM was re-founded in Germany by the Nazi collaborators, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (Bandera). The OUN-B organizers “proceeded from the CYM traditions in Ukraine.” What were these traditions?

This is what the traditions of the armed struggle for the state independence of the Ukrainian people prompted. SVU-CYM tried by all possible means (illegal and legal) in all areas of life of the Ukrainian nation to intensify preparations for the liberation struggle for state independence of Ukraine. One of the priorities, in particular, was to conduct comprehensive work with young people.

These forms were very diverse: from educational work among students of labor schools, group groups of high school students and university students, ie the use of legal opportunities, to the formation of a strictly secretive organization of student youth, called “Association of Ukrainian Youth”, abbreviated “CYM” .

Max Podorozhniy

Through the CYM the unrepentantly fascist OUN-B was able to establish a legal front for their network in Soviet Ukraine.

Spilka Nezalezhnoyi Ukrayins’koyi Molodi (SNUM), “Association of Independent Ukrainian Youth”

After the CYM established itself in Kharkov in 1989 it issued a statement of solidarity with the Ukrainian Helsinki Union and the affiliated People’s Movement for Perestroika. However, the UHS had already been organizing their own youth wing, the Association of Independent Ukrainian Youth. The name of the SNUM implied independence from the Komsomol as well as the CYM and its Banderist leaders in the diaspora.

SNUM members during Perestroika. From CYM Archive.

Co-founder Andriy Sokolov described the SNUM’s plan of action as it agitated for Ukrainian state independence in a 2010 interview by CYM:

We implemented the policy of Ukrainization through radical actions. Immediately after the creation of SNUM, she began to create cells: they are regional, city, and in the cities there were even district cells. Each center took over a certain region of Lviv or Ukraine. And in that area he had to do something to establish Ukraine: it could be quite simple actions. But then it was quite risky: breaking monuments to Lenin, destroying communist symbols, painting Russian inscriptions – for this provided criminal liability.

Andriy Sokolov

Throughout 1989 and 1990 the CYM and SNUM were expanding into cities across Ukraine. In May 1990 they held a joint meeting to discuss a federation of the two organizations. Podorozhniy reports the results of a vote on the federation’s ideological principles: 2/3 of the delegates supported a National Democratic platform and 1/3 supported an Integral Nationalist platform. Although the CYM strictly adhered to integrism, its delegates were outnumbered by the democrats in the SNUM. SNUM was itself split by voting at that meeting, leading the nationalist minority to secede from the Association six months later.

From Archive OUN.

Sokolov recounts that the SNUM lost its way after Ukraine became independent of the USSR in 1991. Instead of continuing to build “the Ukrainian state” and attacking vestiges of the Soviet system, members acted as though the goals of the organization had already been met. According to Sokolov this directionless period lasted for three years before SNUM merged into CYM and adopted its traditions.

While its parent organization would lose momentum following 1991, the splitters of the SNUM Nationalist Faction would find their way to the center of the radical nationalist struggle.

Ukrainskoy Mizhpartinoi Asamblei (UMA): Ukrainian Interparty Assembly

Ukrainian politics were drastically realigned in March of 1990. The elections to the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR was held on 8-14 March following the previous year’s law on electoral reform. The new law permitted candidates to run for election without belonging to the Communist Party. For the first and last time in history independent deputies were returned to the Supreme Soviet. They formed a “Democratic Bloc” of deputies in opposition to the Communist Party majority, which shrank to 239 of 441 seats after a split in its ranks.

Nationalists and anticommunists were elected to the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR for the first time in March 1990. From Golos.

Although the Soviet had split into multiple parties and factions, few deputies belonged to openly, radically nationalist groups. Most of the radical Nationalists remained outside of official power. Hryhoriy Prykhodko, the Ukrainian Nationalist Party chairman, maintained the impossibility of building the national state by using the Soviet structures. While the first multiparty Supreme Soviet was being convened in May 1990, UNP chairs Prykhodko and Yuri Shukevych reached out to supporters of the national alternative. By 1 July they succeeded in convening the Ukrainian Interparty Assembly.

The Assembly was attended by delegates from many nationalist organizations. The most important of these were the UNP and three registered opposition parties. Other notable delegations came from anticommunist trade unions, the Committee for the Protection of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, the Committee for the Establishment of the Armed Forces, and the SNUM Nationalist Faction.

SNUM members march to boycott the 17 March 1991 All-Union referendum on the continuation of the USSR. They carry the red and black flags of the Nazi collaborationist Ukrainian Insurgent Army. The signs read “Boycott the imperial referendum!” and “SNUM for the boycott of the All-Union referendum.” From CYM Archive.

The first session of the UMA laid the groundwork for its future actions: Yuri Shukevych was elected chairman; an extraparliamentary strategy drafted by Hryhoriy Prykhodko was adopted; the Political Statement was approved and issued. In short, the Statement asserted that the Ukrainian nation had already declared its independence as the Ukrainian People’s Republic and Western Ukrainian People’s Republic, established in 1918 and united in 1919. The UMA claimed that this state had been restored by Stepan Bandera in 1941 and that the laws creating it had never been repealed. Rejecting Soviet political structures and any referendum that would legitimize the Soviet state, the UMA aimed to restore the UPR.

A citizenship certificate for the Ukrainian People’s Republic. The UMA campaigned to register hundreds of thousands of citizens under the 1919 citizenship law of the defunct republic. Their goal was to hold a National Assembly to reinstate the UPR. From Siver.

According to CYM historian Max Podorozhniy the SNUM National Faction had applied to join the UMA on 9 June 1990, shortly after the faction had formed in reaction to the Democratic tendency of the CYM-SNUM Grand Assembly. As a founding member of the Assembly the SNUM(N) continued to radicalize, effectively becoming the youth wing of the UNA when it seceded from the SNUM:

On November 3-4, 1990, the SNUM Nationalist Faction Meeting was held in Kyiv, where a decision was made to withdraw the Faction from the Union. After discussions and debates, the creation of a new organization was announced – the Ukrainian Nationalist Union (UNS).

Max Podorozhniy

The UNS elected Yuri Shukevych as its chairman, making him leader of both the UMA and UNS. These two organizations became very closely related as UNS members rose into leadership roles. Prykhodko led the UNP out of the Assembly on 23 December 1990 in protest of those who wanted to turn it into a political party. The departure of another party from the Interparty Assembly cleared the way for energetic UNS members to take the lead. On 9 September 1991 the organization was renamed the Ukrainian Nationalist Assembly and declared a party.


It was through these processes that the Ukrainian Helsinki Union, which claimed to stand for liberal democracy and universal human rights, produced reactionary right wing groups which would long outlive the UHS and play critical roles in major political events up to the present. The majority of the UHS youth movement would join the Banderite CYM by 1994, while the minority would take the lead of the UNA, eventually becoming the basis of the Right Sector in 2014.

The UHS itself was reorganized as a national-conservative party in 1990, the Ukrainian Republican Party. The URP was the only member of the UMA which had elected deputies and it spearheaded the most radical, nationalistic resolutions of the Soviet.

Levko Lukyanenko, chairman of the UHS and URP.

What had begun as a popular demand for greater personal freedoms had become the resurgence of ultranationalism in Ukraine. The generation of Soviet dissidents succeeded in gaining independence from Moscow but their organizations soon lost relevance in Independent Ukraine. In the Post-Soviet era the old dissidents would give way to the young radicals they had nurtured, and who would carry the Nationalist project to its next stage.


[ Featured image from Day. ]

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