Who and How Fought Together with Ukrainians at the Common Front of Oppressed Peoples


Studying the documents of period of the Second World War from the Sectoral State Archive of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine, I have just come across materials on how representatives of different nationalities fought shoulder to shoulder in units of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). Not without interest I was looking through yellowed leaflets – originals and copies – calling on Uzbeks, Georgians, Armenians, Russians, Chechens, Bashkirs and other peoples of Asia and Siberia to come into the ranks of the UPA and jointly struggle against Moscow-Bolshevik and Nazi invaders.

I did know long ago that representatives of many nationalities fought in UPA. Many studies have been devoted to this theme. But today against the background of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, these materials are perceived quite differently than, say, five or twenty-five years ago. Appeals to the peoples of the world written by fighters for independence of Ukraine more than seventy years ago in Volyn forests, are strikingly relevant today. Moreover, they still haunt the Kremlin leadership, which once again, this time to the 70th anniversary of the victory over Nazism, is trying to discredit participants of the Ukrainian people’s liberation movement of the period.

But accusing Ukrainian patriots of “hopeless nationalism” and hatred for everything non-Ukrainian is beaten by facts which the Russian propaganda does not want to notice. Perhaps for ideologues of the “Russian World” it is difficult to understand how in the Ukrainian Insurgent Army coexisted and fought under one flag Ukrainians, Russians, Georgians, Armenians, Uzbeks, Lithuanians, Ossetians, Hungarians and other nationalities. No wonder they cannot understand why now almost all the countries of Europe and the world are united against Russia’s aggressive policy.

But let’s come back to history, to documents from the archive of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine. Some, similar to them, have been seen and cited before, but there are also original ones, which will be another argument for debunking of crusty Soviet myths.

In the study of reports, letters, notes, signed by heads of departments or officers of the NKVD or commanders of Soviet partisan groups regarding UPA groups, I have noticed that in the texts is occasionally mentioned the fact that the UPA’s  forces included groups consisting of different nationalities. Thus, the letter dated December 16, 1943, addressed to the People’s Commissar of State Security of the Ukrainian SSR, State Security Commissar Savchenko, signed by the Chief of the 4th Department of the NKVD of the USSR, State Security Commissar Sudoplatov, among other things reads as follows: “Near the village Barsuki, Vyshgorodskyi district is deployed Banderites’ hundred, formed from Uzbeks- prisoners of war. Within this hundred, as well as in other units of UPA, recently has been conducted recruitment into cavalry“(Sectoral State Archive of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine (hereinafter -SSA of the SZR of Ukraine), f. 1, Archive File 7088, Vol.1, extract from page 102).

Another paper, of February 19, 1944 reads: “The Commander of the partisan force comrade Saburov has reported that through agents, as well as from the arrested and detainees and those UPA fighters who switched to our side, it has been found out that the personnel of the UPA has 40% of Eastern nationalities – Ingushes, Ossetians, Circassians, Turks, Russians. Ukrainian nationalists make the core of the UPA. The OUN members of different nationalities work among the prisoners of war of the Red Army, to unite these nationalities under the leadership of the OUN “(SSA of the SZR of Ukraine, F.1, Archive File 7088, vol.1,p.191).

Researchers in their studies point out that the first national subunit of the UPA was Uzbeks subunit created in mid-1943. Almost at the same time there appeared a Georgian Kurin (Batallion) and Kuban Cossacks’ Hundred. A little later in Volyn there appeared a Kurin of Azerbaijanis. At the beginning of 1944, according to participants of the national liberation movement, UPA consisted of about 50 Ukrainian and 15 national Kurins. By some estimates, the number of UPA at the time was about 100 thousand people, 80 thousand – Ukrainians and 20 thousand – representatives of other nations.  Besides, there are mentions that in summer –autumn of 1944, units of the Crimean Tatars, Kalmyks, Chechens, Georgians and Azerbaijanis participated in raids to the East of Ukraine.

Apart from representatives of the above-mentioned peoples, the UPA was joined also by the French, Serbs, Croats, Hungarians, Italians and even Germans who fled from the front, deserted and tried with the help of the rebels to quickly get to their homelands. Greatly respected among soldiers and commanders of the UPA were Jewish doctors, of which fact there are many documentary confirmations.

Interesting is the story of a Belgian Albert Hazenbruks, who was a speaker of the underground shortwave radio station and broadcasted in English and French. He always started as follows: “You can hear the voice of the free and independent Ukraine!” The radio station worked in the village Yamelnytsya (now Skole district, Lviv region) from 1943 to 1945, until the moment when in April 1945 NKVD troops threw grenades into the secret place from which the speech was conducted directly on the air. Some workers of the radio station were killed, while badly wounded Albert Hazenbruks was caught and later sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment for participating in the UPA.

In the SZRU’s archive there is a document, signed March 19, 1944 by Sudoplatov, which states: As part of the “UPA”, there was a group of Magyars, about 100 people, who avoided capture by the Red Army. Part of these Magyars wear the uniform of Hungarian army officers, hence the rumors that under the guise of Hungarians in December 1943 at the UPA Headquarters  there arrived representatives of England and America “(SSA of the SZRU, p. 1, Archive File 7088, vol. 1, extract from Page 212) .

Perhaps the presence of such a number of representatives of other peoples in the UPA was the impetus for the First Conference of the Oppressed Peoples of Eastern Europe and Asia. It was held on 21-22 November 1943 in the village Buderazh, Zdolbuniv district in Rivne region. The report on this event mentions that the conference was attended by 39 delegates from 13 nationalities: 6 Georgians, 6 Azerbaijanis, 5 Uzbeks, 5 Ukrainians, 4 Armenians, 4 Tatars, 2 Belarusians, 2 Ossetians, 1 Kazakh, 1 Circassian, 1 Kabardyn, 1 Chuvash, 1 Bashkir.

First of all, participants with a minute’s silence honored the memory of the fighters of all oppressed peoples who had died in the struggle for national independence. And then after a series of speeches and discussions of the political situation they agreed that a common front was needed for the “struggle for national liberation from the yoke of Stalinist and Nazi conquerors” (SSA of the SZR of Ukraine, p. 1, Archive File 7088, vol. 1, pp. 359pp. 360).

These calls are in all further materials, appeals and leaflets distributed by the UPA. The simplest and most effective method to prove their position and make representatives of the rest of nations participate in the common front was those leaflets. The Archive of the SZR of  Ukraine contains a number of materials that once fell into the hands of members of intelligence groups of Soviet security organs and partisan groups that operated behind enemy lines collecting information about the situation in the occupied territories. They were addressed to members of certain nationalities: “Russians”, “Armenians and other peoples of the Caucasus”, “Georgians”, “Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Turkmens, Tajiks, Bashkirs, Tatars, peoples  of the Urals, Siberia and Volga, peoples of Asia!” And Later, in 1945-1946, there were cards with appeals to peoples of Europe – “Poles”, “Czechs! Slovaks! Soldiers! “.

For representatives of each of the peoples the authors of the  leaflets found special words, taking into consideration historical features of their development, trying to remind of their tragic past, to reach the heart, to make them realize the necessity of struggle against the oppressors. The texts are usually written in Russian and then translated into languages ​​of those to whom they were addressed. Thus, the leaflet addressed to the peoples of Central Asia and Siberia reads, ”The war, into which Moscow has drawn you, is conducted for imperialist interests. Moscow and Berlin argue among themselves about which of them may rob you. The imperialist Moscow for centuries has been stripping you of your bread, your iron, your coal, your cattle, your cotton, and during the war it has taken from you the dearest: your own sons and fathers to the front … “(SSA of the SZR of Ukraine, p. 1, Archive File 7088, v.2, Page 180).

Georgians were addressed with the following  words: “Georgians! The descendants of the heroic people of the Caucasus! Over the centuries, you have bravely fought against Turkish and Russian invaders. You have suffered bloody sacrifices, defending your freedom and your own state … The Ukrainian people is your faithful ally in the struggle against imperialists. We are fighting for an independent Ukrainian state, as you are fighting for your independent Georgia. We invite you to struggle together against the common enemies … “(SSA of the SZR of  Ukraine, p. 1, Archive File 7088, Volume 1, Page 47).

Special words were found for Russians too: “Today the Russian people has found itself at a crossroads. Where to go? Where to find the solution to the national question? To return to the form of the old Tsarist Russia? Impossible! The wheel of history cannot be turned back! To support the bankrupt communism? This won’t lead to anything good! The idea of ​​communism is dead… Only a peaceful, friendly co-existence of independent states will stop the imperialist bloodshed and will create conditions for peace and economic progress. Only in such circumstances is possible the revival of Russian national spirit of the state “(SSA of the SZR of Ukraine, p. 1, Archive File 7088, Volume 1, Page 45).

This leaflet, written seventy years ago, in June 1943, is relevant today. It contains no offence, no threats, no arrogance. No bad words to the Russians. And all this – despite the fact that during the war it was possible to start taking revenge on people’s- enslavers, one of which Ukrainian nationalists believed was the Russian people. Moreover, the Commandment of the UPA decisively abandoned a pronounced anti-Russian policy. On the contrary, it used the least chance to attract to its ranks Russians who were not happy with the Soviet regime, let alone with the new order of the German occupiers. The authors of leaflets constantly appeal to patriotism and sense of national dignity against the common enemy – Hitler’s and Bolshevik- Moscow imperialism.

Of course, not everything in the history and ideology of the UPA was absolutely positive, correct and beautiful. I do not like to go to extremes, whitening somebody or depicting reality exclusively in pink. The harsh reality had been written in different colors: white, black and blood-red. Meanwhile, speaking about the UPA’s national policy and relying on documents from the archives of special services, it is difficult not to agree that it was based on respect for other peoples, which in principle has always been characteristic of the Ukrainian.

And in the face of the new aggression we should more often refer to history, draw correct conclusions, adopt proven techniques and learn from the mistakes of our ancestors in order to build a truly strong Ukraine.

Oleksandr Skrypnyk,

Advisor to the Chairman of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine

”Ukraina Moloda”(”Young Ukraine”), April 21, 2015