Lenin’s Incentive to Self-Determination and Ukrainian Nationalism
Rosa Luxemburg criticized Lenin’s policy of acknowledging the right of self-determination of nationalities, particularly for fanning Ukrainian nationalism, which she called a “burlesque farce.” She warned this nationalism would serve as rallying cry for the counterrevolutionary forces and fracture Ukraine. But Lenin went ahead with the policy, and as Luxemburg predicted, nationalist forces did shatter Ukraine through bloody anti-communist and anti-Semitic uprisings. Matters were made even worse by Stalin’s terror and the horrible famine caused in large part by his dekulakization and collectivization policies. So, when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, many Ukrainians welcomed the Wehrmacht as liberators and thousands collaborated in the fight against the Bolsheviks and in the extermination of Jews. Those ultraright, nationalistic, and anti-Semitic forces in Ukraine, led by Stepan Bandera, would continue their fight against the Soviet Union after the Second World War, this time with the support of Western intelligence services. The movement was eventually crushed by the Soviets in the late 1950s, but it resurfaced in the 1990s and 2000s as one of the main drivers of the Orange Revolution, once again causing a schism in Ukraine.