Andreas Umland, Dr. phil. (history), Ph.D. (politics), is DAAD Associate Professor
(dotsent) of German and European Studies in the Department of Political Science at
the National University Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. He has guest-edited several previous
issues of Russian Politics and Law.
Russian Politics and Law, vol. 51, no. 5, September–October 2013, pp. 3–10.
© 2013 M.E. Sharpe, Inc. All rights reserved. Permissions: www.copyright.com
ISSN 1061–1940 (print)/ISSN 1558–0962 (online)
DOI: 10.2753/RUP1061-1940510500
Starting Post-Soviet Ukrainian
Right-Wing Extremism Studies from
Guest Editor’s Introduction
The academic legacy of post-Soviet political science, combined with a
limited focus on Ukraine and general disinterest among Western social
scientists in the study of extreme right-wing nationalism, has left a blank
spot in the study of the contemporary Ukrainian extreme right that needs
to be filled.
The collection of articles translated here is, it seems, the first larger pub-
lication project on contemporary Ukrainian ultranationalism in a Western
language—and published, moreover, in a journal titled Russian Politics
and Law. It is remarkable how little attention Ukraine’s post-Soviet
extreme right has received from both Ukrainian and non-Ukrainian re-
searchers over the last quarter-century. A major reason for this prolonged
inattention was, obviously, the limited success that Ukrainian right-wing
extremists had in national elections until October 2012. During the first
twenty years of relative political freedom in post-Soviet Ukraine—from
about 1989 to 2009—little was published on contemporary radical nation-
alism in Ukraine.
Only with the stunning success of the All-Ukrainian
Union Svoboda (Freedom) in Ukraine’s regional and local elections in
2009–10 did the topic start to attract the interest of experts on Ukraine and
the extreme right—as well as the general public. Since then, the number
of journalistic and academic publications on the post-Soviet Ukrainian
extreme right has been rising continuously.
Not only were there, however, other ethnocentric, radically nationalist
organizations and circles, based primarily in western Ukraine—such as
the Social-National Party of Ukraine (SNPU), the Congress of Ukrainian
Nationalists, or Ukrainian National Assembly—before Svoboda took off
in 2009 and entered Ukraine’s national parliament in 2012. Arguably,
one could, among other pan-Slavist organizations, also count the grossly
misnamed Progressive-Socialist Party of Ukraine (PSPU), led by Na-
taliia Vitrenko and largely based in southeastern Ukraine, as a radically
nationalist—if ardently pro-Russian—organization. The PSPU played a
considerable political role around 2000, when the party had a small fac-
tion in the national parliament, and Vitrenko was posing as a presidential
candidate. Therefore, the failure of Ukrainian historians and political
scientists, as well as the international communities of area specialists and
right-wing extremism experts, to pay attention to these developments was
surprising. Four factors seem to have played a prominent role here.
The first and most obvious factor is that Ukraine’s history and politics
are, as a whole, understudied. Academic Ukrainian studies are a dispro-
portionally small subdiscipline within Russian and East European or
communist and post communist studies. That sad state of affairs reflects
the low status that Ukraine and the Ukrainian language have among the
Western and non-Western public in general. By comparison, Russian
studies—including those of the Soviet as well as the pre- and post-Soviet
periods—are a crowded field assembling hundreds of more or less prolific
full- and part-time scholars and journalists across the globe. The commu-
nity of notable international Ukraine experts, in contrast, is a small club
of a few dozen, frequently isolated, specialists in Europe, North America,
and Australia who largely play minor roles in their respective scholarly
disciplines such as Slavic studies, political science, or history. Worldwide,
there seem to be, apart from a few minor research programs in Central
Europe and Russia, only two significant research centers on Ukraine: the
Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and
the Canadian Institute for Ukrainian Studies in Edmonton, Alberta. The
various Russian, Eurasian, and/or East European studies centers at several
universities around the world often play only scant attention to Ukraine.
That is true even though Ukraine is largest in terms of territory among
the entirely European states. With over forty-five million inhabitants, it is
also one of Europe’s more populous countries and arguably a pivotal na-
tion in the post-Soviet space. Whether Ukrainian state and nation building
and European integration succeed after the collapse of the Soviet Union
will have repercussions beyond Ukraine’s borders—especially in Russia
and Belarus but also in the South Caucasus and even Central Asia. The
fate of the young Ukrainian state will, to considerable degree, determine
the stability of the new European security architecture that has emerged
since the end of the cold war. Nevertheless, after more than twenty years
of independence, Ukraine remains a third-rate topic in international jour-
nalism, politics, academia, and cultural life. Ukrainian is often treated as
a minor language in philology, training in translation and interpretation,
and cultural studies. For these reasons, Ukraine’s politics and history
receive far less attention than they deserve. This generally dire state of
affairs in international Ukrainian studies also extends to the post-Soviet
Ukrainian extreme right.
Second, Ukrainian political science is under- and misdeveloped, as is
true in many postcommunist countries. The post-Soviet scholarly study
of politics still suffers heavily from the constraints imposed on political
science during the Soviet period. Most politologists (politologi) from
the former Soviet Union either have not studied political science or have
studied it with scholars who themselves have had no or insufficient proper
social science training. The main issue here is not even a lack of factual
knowledge among these academics, but a deeper structural problem that
affects post-Soviet politology’s approach to its research subject.
A more intractable and less acknowledged defect afflicting post-Soviet
political studies is that many of the new politologists are themselves
not trained in political science, sociology, or economics but rather in
philosophy or law. Others studied at politology departments whose re-
search approach and methodology were developed within a nonempirical
discipline like philosophy, law, literature, or mathematics. Today many
scholars at such departments teach students and judge scholarship ac-
cording to criteria less influenced by the international social sciences than
by normative or, at best, analytical philosophy, and other nonempirical
As a result, the post-Soviet politologists tend to regard political re-
search as an intellectual, logical, literary, or/and interpretive exercise
rather than as an observational, analytical–empirical, and comparative
endeavor. Many of these scholars seem to have little interest in the
intricacies of empirical research design and systematic data collection
and analysis—whether qualitative or quantitative. They rarely engage
in focused discussions on the reliability and validity of measurement of
narrowly defined parts of empirical reality. Instead, they tend to debate
the meaning of various political hypotheses, historical scenarios, classical
scholars, seminal texts, or scientific terms. As a result, there is an abun-
dance of theoretical, philosophical, exegetic, and conceptual discussion
in post-Soviet politology, yet a lack of basic empirical research, even on
the domestic politics of the post-Soviet politologists’ home countries.
Therefore, much of the foundational descriptive, observational, and
cross-cultural research on post-Soviet politics comes from Western aca-
demics, sociological services, or post-Soviet nonacademic researchers.

In the Russian case, for instance, two civic organizations—Vladimir
Pribylovskii’s Panorama Agency and Aleksandr Verkhovskii’s Sova
Center—which have no connection to any Russian university or aca-
demic institute have produced the overwhelming majority of valuable
empirical studies on the post-Soviet Russian extreme right. Ukraine has
no equivalent of Panorama or Sova, so apart from a few sociological
surveys, it also has no comparable data base.
The only exceptions are
the annual Ukrainian xenophobia reports written by Viacheslav Likha-
chev, who worked at Panorama with Pribylovskii in the 1990s. After
Likhachev moved to Kyiv, he researched and published extensively on
Ukrainian ultranationalism, hate speech, and xenophobic violence—with
support from the Euro-Asiatic Jewish Congress. Although Likhachev’s
work is excellent, until recently he stood almost alone in his field. Many
details of the rise of Ukraine’s extreme right—such as the history of
Svoboda’s predecessor, the SNPU—thus were and, to some extent, still
are unknown.
A third reason for the absence of sufficient studies on Ukraine’s ex-
treme right is the low status given to right-wing extremism studies in
international political science, with the partial exception of Germany.
Whereas the study of European fascist and other ultranationalist move-
ments is central to the discipline of contemporary history, mainstream
postwar Western political science research and teaching has not paid
much attention to radical groups, including ultraright groups. Because
ultranationalist groups play only a minor role in current West European
and North American high politics, most of the leading political science
journals published in these countries rarely focus on the extreme right.
Leading English-language specialized journals such as Patterns of Preju-
dice, Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions, The Journal for the
Study of Radicalism, or Nations and Nationalism occupy a position that
is at best intermediate in Western political science. The obvious reason
for such inattention is the low political salience of extremely right-wing
groups to postwar Western domestic decision making and international
relations—and a resulting lack of demand from society for knowledge
about extremist tendencies.
A partial exception is Germany, which for historical reasons supports
communities of largely leftist investigators of international racism and of
largely conservative researchers into European extremism who produce
several publication series. The most important of such series may be the
Jahrbuch Extremismus und Demokratie (Yearbook of Extremism and
Democracy), founded in 1989 and currently published by the Institute for
Political Science at the Chemnitz University of Technology, in conjunc-
tion with the Hannah Arendt Institute for the Study of Totalitarianism
at the Dresden University of Technology. Even in Germany, however,
few political science chairs are dedicated to the study of international
right-wing extremism. Western political science’s relative disinterest
in right-wing extremism prepared it poorly for the rise of the extreme
right in postcommunist Eastern Europe, and especially for the impor-
tance that ultranationalists have attained in Russian and Serbian national
politics—as well as, if to a lesser degree, in Poland, Slovakia, Hungary,
and Ukraine.
The fourth and most sensitive factor influencing the relative academic
inattention to Ukraine’s extreme right has to do with the structure of
historical and political research within Ukraine and Ukrainian studies in
the United States and Canada, which have the largest concentrations of
scholars in this field. The North American discipline of Ukrainian studies
has traditionally included a number of émigrés from Ukraine who were
either affiliated with or sympathetic to the Organization of Ukrainian
Nationalists (OUN). The OUN is a—if not the—major historical source
of inspiration for all Ukrainophone nationalist parties, especially the more
radical ones. Within Ukraine, too, a considerable number of historians
and political scientists identify themselves as “patriotic” and tend to
regard the Galician cult around the Bandera faction of the OUN with
ambivalence, understanding, or even sympathy. These attitudes among
the Ukrainian intelligentsia are amplified, if not partially motivated, by
the demonization of the OUN’s military arm, the Ukrainian Insurrection
Army (UPA), in Soviet propaganda until 1991, and its continuing vilifica-
tion in post-Soviet Russian or pro-Russian mass media today.
Some Ukrainian intellectuals and scholars extend their ambivalence
regarding historical Ukrainian radical nationalism to the neo-Banderovite
wing of Ukraine’s post-Soviet extreme right. Ukraine’s contemporary
radically nationalist tendencies are, from this point of view, seen as a
perhaps excessive but still legitimate expression of Ukrainian national
identity and pride.
For these observers, Ukraine’s extreme right gained
legitimacy in the 1990s via its continuation of historic tradition and
inclusion of legendary OUN veterans like Slava Stets’ko, the widow of
Yaroslav Stets’ko, or Iurii Shukhevych, the son of Roman Shukhevych.

Today, quite a few Ukrainian intellectuals tolerate—and sometimes
admire—Svoboda as the most radically anti-Yanukovych section of the
oppositional coalition in Ukraine’s national parliament, the Supreme
Council (Verkhovna Rada). Presumably, the conspicuous rarity of criti-
cal analysis, including scientific investigations, applied to Svoboda and
similar parties may derive from this approach to current Ukrainian politics
among “patriotic” historians and political scientists, both in Ukraine and
within the Ukrainian diaspora in the West.
We hope to gradually close the still large gap in both Ukrainian and
right-wing extremism studies with publications like this one. As co-editor
of the Russian-language Web journal Forum noveishei vostochnoevro-
peiskoi istorii i kul’tury, based in Germany, I invite further submissions
to Forum providing detailed empirical analyses of Ukrainian ultrana-
tionalist groups—including those that, unlike Svoboda, are oriented
toward Russia.
1. Exceptions include Bohdan Nahaylo, “Ukraine,” The Politics of Intolerance,
special issue of RFE/RL Research Report, vol. 3, no. 16 (1994), pp. 42–49; Taras
Kuzio, “Radical Nationalist Parties and Movements in Contemporary Ukraine Be-
fore and After Independence: The Right and Its Politics, 1989–1994,” Nationalities
Papers, vol. 25, no. 2 (1997), pp. 211–42; Kuzio, “Populist-Nationalists in Ukraine,”
Ukraine Analyst, vol. 1, no. 16 (2009), pp. 1–4; Liudmila Dymerskaya-Tsigelman
and Leonid Finberg, “Antisemitism of the Ukrainian Radical Nationalists: Ideol-
ogy and Policy,” Analysis of Current Trends in Antisemitism, 1999, no. 14; Roman
Solchanyk, “The Radical Right in Ukraine,” in The Radical Right in Central and
Eastern Europe Since 1989, ed. Sabrina Ramet (University Park: Pennsylvania State
University Press, 1999), pp. 279–96, 357–58; Paul J. Kubicek, “What Happened to
the Nationalists in Ukraine?” Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, vol. 5, no. 1 (1999),
pp. 29–45; Adrian Ivakhiv, “In Search of Deeper Identities: Neopaganism and ‘Na-
tive Faith’ in Contemporary Ukraine,” Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative
and Emergent Religions, vol. 8, no. 3 (2005), pp. 7–38; Per A. Rudling, “Organized
Anti-Semitism in Contemporary Ukraine: Structure, Influence and Ideology,” Ca-
nadian Slavonic Papers, vol. 48, no. 1–2 (2006), pp. 81–119; and Andreas Umland,
“Die andere Anomalie der Ukraine: Ein Parlament ohne rechtsradikale Fraktionen,”
Ukraine-Analysen, 2008, no. 41, pp. 7-11.
2. Andreas Umland and Anton Shekhovstov, “Pravoradikal’naia partiinaia poli-
tika v postsovetskoi Ukraine i zagadka elektoral’noi marginal’nosti ukrainskikh
ul’tranatsionalistov v 1994–2009 gg.,” Ab Imperio, 2010, no. 2, pp. 219–47 (a ver-
sion of which is translated in this issue of Russian Politics and Law); Shekhovtsov,
“The Creeping Resurgence of the Ukrainian Radical Right? The Case of the Free-
dom Party,” Europe–Asia Studies, vol. 63, no. 2 (2011), pp. 203–28; Shekhovtsov,
“Ukraine—The Far Right in Parliament for the First Time,” Open Democracy, 1
November 2012 (www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/anton-shekhovtsov/ukraine-
far-right-in-parliament-for-first-time [all Web site addresses accessed 20 August
2013—Ed.]); Shekhovtsov, “From Para-Militarism to Radical Right-Wing Populism:
The Rise of the Ukrainian Far-Right Party Svoboda,” in Right-Wing Populism in
Europe: Politics and Discourse, ed. Brigitte Mral, Majid Khosravinik, and Ruth
Wodak (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013), pp. 249–63; Per A. Rudling, “Anti-
Semitism and the Extreme Right in Contemporary Ukraine,” in Mapping the Extreme
Right in Contemporary Europe: From Local to Transnational, ed. Andrea Mammone,
Emmanuel Godin, and Brian Jenkins (London: Routledge, 2012), pp. 189–205;
Rudling, “The Return of the Ukrainian Far Right: The Case of VO Svoboda,” in
Analyzing Fascist Discourse: European Fascism in Talk and Text, ed. Ruth Wodak
and John E. Richardson (London: Routledge, 2012), pp. 228–55; Alina Polyakova,
“Organizing Nationalism: How the Radical Right Succeeds and Fails in Ukraine,”
IREX Scholar Research Brief, February 2012 (www.irex.org/sites/default/files/
Scholar%20Research%20Brief_Polyakova.pdf); Ivan Katchanovski, “Ukrainian
‘Freedom’ Party Should Be Ringing Alarm Bells,” Open Democracy, 21 March
2012 (www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ivan-katchanovski/ukrainian-%E2%80%
98freedom%E2%80%99-party-should-be-ringing-alarm-bells); Mridula Gosh, “The
Extreme Right in Ukraine,” Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung International Policy Analysis,
October 2012 (http://library.fes.de/pdf-files/id-moe/09407.pdf). A more detailed
bibliography is provided in Umland, “Issledovaniia sovremennykh ukrainskikh
ul’tranatsionalisticheskikh partii—s chistogo lista: chetyre prichiny otsutstviia
postsovetskikh pravoekstremistskikh studii v Ukraine,” Forum noveishei vostoch-
noevropeiskoi istorii i kul’tury, vol. 10, no. 1 (2013), in press.
3. On the relevance of description for political analysis, see John Gerring,
“Mere Description,” British Journal of Political Science, vol. 42, no. 4 (2012), pp.
4. N. V. Panina, “Faktory natsional’noi identichnosti, tolerantnosti, ksenofobii
i antisemitizma v sovremennoi Ukraine,” Vestnik obshchestvennogo mneniia: dan-
nye, analiz, diskussii, 2006, no. 1, pp. 26–38; V.I. Paniotto, “Dinamika ksenofobii
i antisemitizma v Ukraine (1994–2007),” Sotsiologiia: teoriia, metody, marketing,
2008, no. 1, pp. 197–214.
5. David R. Marples, “Stepan Bandera: The Resurrection of a Ukrainian National
Hero,” Europe–Asia Studies, vol. 58. no. 4 (2006), pp. 555–66; Per A. Rudling,
“Theory and Practice: Historical Representation of the Wartime Accounts of the
Activities of the OUN–UPA (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists—Ukrainian
Insurgent Army),” East European Jewish Affairs, vol. 36, no. 2 (2006), pp. 163–89;
Rudling, “Iushchenkiv fashyst: kul’t Bandery v Ukraini ta Kanadi,” in Strasti za
Banderoiu: statti ta esei, ed. T. S. [Tarik Cyril] Amar, I. Balins’kii, and Ia. Hrytsak
(Kyiv: Grani-T, 2010), pp. 237–309; Rudling, “The OUN, the UPA, and the Ho-
locaust: A Study in the Manufacturing of Historical Myths,” Carl Beck Papers in
Russian and East European Studies, 2011, no. 2107; Wilfried Jilge, “Nationalukrain-
ischer Befreiungskampf: Die Umwertung des Zweiten Weltkrieges in der Ukraine,”
Osteuropa, vol. 58. no. 6 (2008), pp. 167–86; Ivan Katchanovski, “Terrorists or
National Heroes? Politics of the OUN and the UPA in Ukraine,” paper presented
at the 2010 Annual Conference of the Canadian Political Science Association in
Montreal, 1–3 June 2010 (www.academia.edu/454566/Terrorists_or_National_He-
roes_Politics_of_the_OUN_and_the_UPA_In_Ukraine); Katchanovski, “The
Politics of World War II in Contemporary Ukraine,” paper presented at the Eigh-
teenth Annual World Convention of the Association for the Study of Nationalities,
Columbia University, New York, 18–20 April 2013 (www.academia.edu/3378079/
The_Politics_of_World_War_II_in_Contemporary_Ukraine); Timothy Snyder, “A
Fascist Hero in Democratic Kiev,” New York Review of Books Blog, 24 February
2010 (www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2010/feb/24/a-fascist-hero-in-democratic-
kiev); John-Paul Himka, “Debates in Ukraine over Nationalist Involvement in the
Holocaust, 2004–2008,” Nationalities Papers, vol 39, no. 3 (2011), pp. 353–70; Ivan
Katchanovs’kyi [Katchanovski], “Suchasna polityka pam’iati na Volyni shchodo
OUN(b) ta natsysts’kykh masovykh vbyvstv,” Ukraina moderna, 2013, no. 3 (www.
uamoderna.com/md/199); Kachanovs’kyi, “OUN(b) ta natsists’ki masovi vbivstva
litom 1941 roku na istorichnii Volini,” Ukraina moderna, 2013, no. 20, forthcom-
ing; Tarik Cyril Amar, “Different but the Same or the Same but Different? Public
Memory of the Second World War in Post-Soviet Lviv,” Journal of Modern European
History, vol. 9, no. 3 (2011), pp. 373–96; and Andreas Umland, “Der ukrainische
Nationalismus zwischen Stereotyp und Wirklichkeit: Zu einigen Komplikationen
bei der Interpretation von befreiungs- vs. ultranationalistischen Tendenzen in der
modernen Ukraine,” Ukraine-Analysen, 2012, no. 107, pp. 7–11.
6. On some aspects of this issue, see V.G. Panchenko, “Lehalizatsiia i diial’nist’
OUN v Ukraini protiahom 1990-kh rr.,” Naukovi pratsi istorychnoho fakul’tetu
Zaporiz’kogo natsional’noho universytetu, 2011, no. 30, pp. 38–41 (http://archive.
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