Ukrainian Christmas

Ukraine has a long and tumultuous history and there are actually four different dates which essentially serve for Christmas celebration:

  • December 19—Saint Nicholas Day (Julian calender). Instead of putting presents into socks later, St. Nicholas sneaks them under pillows while children are sleeping. Very popular in the Western Ukraine;
  • December 25—Christmas by Gregorian calender. Not that popular but it’s slowly gaining popularity thanks to the actions of russia;
  • January 7—Christmas by Julian calender. Traditional for the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church (though many people would gladly celebrate it on both dates);
  • and the 1st of January—the date selected by Soviet Union to replace Christmas celebrations with something secular. But now it’s getting a very different meaning…

In the year 1909 on the very first day of January a boy was born in a small Ukrainian village (then under Austro-Hungarian rule). He has not managed to do enough yet his deeds made him a religious figure, feared in russia and (mostly for that reason) praised in Ukraine. Of course I’m talking about Stepan Bandera.

His biography can be condensed to this: he was born in a Ukrainian priest family with a history of cultural and political activism, so it was natural for him to join political movements that were fighting for the independence of Ukraine; later he became an important member of the Organisation of the Ukrainian Nationalists. After the internal disagreements OUN was split into two wings named after their leaders—Melnyk and Bandera. Bandera’s OUN was also called OUN-R(evolutionary) since they believed that Ukrainian independence can be won only through war (as 2022 demonstrated, they were right). In order to achieve that goal OUN-B cooperated with National-Socialistic Germany against International-Socialistic USSR and on the 30th of June 1941 they tried to declare the restoration of Ukrainian state. Germans tolerated puppet states on Yugoslavian territory but not here, so many of the Ukrainian activists were arrested and put to prisons—including Stepan Bandera himself who was at the same concentration camp as Andriy Melnyk. Couple of years later he was released in hope that he could be useful in fighting against USSR. He remained in Germany and was involved in political activism until the assassination by a KGB agent in 1954.

So what was his main contribution that made him immortal? Making OUN-R into an organisation that formed Ukrainian Insurgent Army and fought against Soviet occupation until late 1950s. Of course Soviet propaganda made them all into arch-enemies and in this way preserved his name for the future generations. Similarly Ukrainians started to perceive the same things as something good and accepted this new Bandera identity.

I called Stepan Bandera a religious figure because most of the people who use his name have no idea who he really was, what he has done (beside abstract “fought for Ukrainian independence”) or what his views are. russians fling Banderite as an insult at anybody speaking Ukrainian (which should be a giveaway for their chauvinism already), some still believe he’s alive (so how is this not a religion?). But if you look at his actual views (or what is passed for them), you’ll see that they were adopted in USSR and russia (single-party state with the leading role of one nation) but not Ukraine (actually even back in the 1940s Ukrainian Insurgent Army ditched them already). Now throw in the fact that his birthday in still a state holiday in russia and you’ll see a religion in forming.

Слава Україні! Героям слава!

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