Katarína Holešová


Every country has a national hero or a person who shaped the countries thinking as well as influenced not only history but also the presence. It is usually due to the glory brought with national pride as the nation always seeks to believe in power in its own history as well as national mentality. Ukraine is no exception of this rule. The country in Eastern Europe, tormented by the war as well as squashed between NATO and Russian Federation. It would not be a lie to say that the present persistence of Ukraine as well as its spirit of strong nationalism would be influenced by Bandera and his actions. In this essay, I am going to analyze the influence of Bandera on Ukraine on historical and sociological level, as these two connect to the present moment of Ukraine.

First, it is important to establish who was Stepan Bandera.“He was the leader of a radical Ukrainian nationalist group, the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) formed in 1929 in western Ukraine. At that time, that territory was Polish“(M. Tsymbalyuk,2022). Therefore, from this statement it is clear that Bandera was a nationalist.“In the Second World War, the OUN collaborated with Nazi occupiers to gain support of the establishment of an independent Ukraine“(M. Tsymbalyuk,2022). Thus, connecting this statement to the previous one it is clear that the goal of Bandera was to keep the Ukrainian territory without having to give up the autonomy that would come with losing the Ukrainian customs, language in part of Ukraine as well as losing the right to decide about its own countries fate.

In my opinion, the establishment of OUN as well as the clear position of Bandera who did not wish for any other country to overtake Ukraine, this is where in history, the mindset of Ukraine might have started to change. The reason for this is that through Bandera, they started to see more that they are an autonomous nation that aims to exist on its own without an intervention. My point of view is also supported by this fact:“His idolisation and that of Ukrainian nationalists who fought against the USSR began in the 1990s, when the far right activities emerged in western Ukraine.“(M.Tsymbalyuk,2022)

I believe that with this influence, the nationalism in Ukraine was sparked on unprecedented pace which encouraged not only activists but ordinary citizens to believe for its right to remain autonomous. This historical factor and strong idolisation which began around 1990s also influenced the values and positions of Ukrainians in the present moment, with the war which Russia caused. In my opinion, it is clear that the Ukrainian people and their mindset leans towards Bandera as well as it appears to be logical during the Russian aggression. However, one might also question wether the positive opinion on Bandera by many Ukrainians, who is perceived negatively by many, is not the effect and frustration of Ukrainian people rather than the true persuasion of the things done by Bandera in the past.“The glorification of Bandera is part of a growing trend in Ukraine to rehabilitate historical figures connected with the fight for Ukrainian independence, even those who are associated with atrocities“ (I.Vock,2023). This is the part that I believe might be problematic and touches both, historical and sociological levels.

First, historical: Although nationalism and being proud of the nation is important for Ukraine, one should be careful and attentive to historical events as well as the backgrounds of the historical figures in the country do not cause controversy and suspicion of radicalism among other countries, especially the ones who have a history with historical figures like Bandera. Secondly, in my opinion, celebrating Bandera as well as people similar to him or his thinking might be problematic. It is because it could lead to radical values as well as thoughts that lead to hatred, as well as there were things commited by him that causes negative feelings in the neighboring country, Poland:“ Mateusz Morawiecki, the Polish prime minister, told reporters that Poland takes “an extremely critical [stance] towards any glorification or even remembrance of Bandera”, whom he accused of “genocide”. Israel and Germany, also, have criticised Ukrainian government figures who have spoken in favour of Bandera“ (I.Vock,2023).  I would say that it has an unsettling effect on thinking of Ukrainian people, especially with Banderas rising popularity. It demostrates how human nature is willing to ignore the negatives commited towards others if the person has done something significant for its nation. In case of Ukraine, the nationalistic side of Bandera seems to remind them successfully that they are the ones who decide about the fate of their country. This might be the main reason for Bandera and his ideology being as successful.

“Perhaps most significantly, the rehabilitation of these figures is the result of a search for historical antecedents to Ukraine’s fight against Moscow“ (I. Vock,2023). This is also an important point that should be raised. It is no coincidence that Bandera has influence on Ukraine on sociological level now more than ever. It is to raise spirit of proudness of Ukraine amongst the citizens. However, as I stated, there is a thin line between being nationalist and proud and between becoming radical.“A poll by Rating, a Ukrainian research institute, shows positive opinions of Bandera soaring from 22 per cent in 2012 to 74 per cent in April 2022“ (I.Vock,2023). From my point of view, this statistic proves that the history repeats itself. As it was previously mentioned, the popularity of Bandera rose in 1990s, the years when communism fell and countries in the Eastern Block were liberated from Soviet Union regime. Now, in 2022, the popularity of Bandera rose again during again, fighting against the regime coming from Russia and its aggression. This proves that sociologically, in Ukraine, values have been shifted towards nationalism with the influence of Bandera as he might be a symbol of freedom for Ukraine. The unity is extremely important for this country to overcome the effects of the conflict, just like when in 1990s, it was to overcome the regime. It is without a doubt that this is occurrence also resulting from strongly negative feelings about Russia and therefore there is no space to judge Bandera and his actions. There is only space for Ukrainians, in these difficult times to gain the nationalistic spirit.

To conclude, it is undeniable Bandera had a prevalent influence on  both, sociological level and historical level in Ukraine due to the persistence and the defense of the country from Soviet Union and now Russia. Nevertheless, definitely this should reach its limit before it becomes dangerous for the mindset of Ukraine.



Vock, I. (2023, January 5). Ukraine’s problematic nationalist heroes. Newstatesman.com. Retrieved July 28, 2023, from https://www.newstatesman.com/world/europe/ukraine/2023/01/ukraine-stepan-bandera-nationalist

Tsymbalyuk, M. (2022, June 27). Who was Stepan Bandera, Ukraine’s controversial nationalist figure? Genevasolutions.News. Retrieved July 28, 2023, from https://genevasolutions.news/ukraine-stories/who-was-stepan-bandera-ukraine-s-controversial-nationalist-figure