b. 1 January, 1909, Kalush County, Galicia, d. 15 October, 1959, Munich

More than any other nationalist leader, Stepan Bandera has come to symbolize the Ukrainian struggle for independence in the 20th century. Bandera was born into a clerical family and became active in the nationalist movement from a very early age. In 1927, as a student at Lviv Polytechnic Institute, he joined the Ukrainian Military Organization, and in 1929, became a member of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists.

Bandera rose quickly through the ranks of OUN, and in 1931 became chief of propaganda in the national executive. In June 1933 he became the head of OUN’s executive in Galicia. In Galicia Bandera oversaw OUN sabotage and assassination operations, directed against both the Poles and Soviets – in 1933 an official of the Soviet consulate in Lviv was assassinated on the order of Bandera. Bandera also directed mass boycott campaigns against Polish monopolies of liquor and tobacco. Bandera was arrested in 1934 and tried in Warsaw for the assassination of the Polish Minister of Internal Affairs. He was also tried in Lviv along with other members of the OUN executive. He was sentenced to death, which was commuted to life imprisonment.

Bandera was released after the fall of Poland in September 1939. He and several other young leaders of OUN split with OUN leader Andriy Melnyk over what they saw as a lack of revolutionary radicalism in Melnyk’s leadership; many of the OUN cadres operating on Ukrainian territory sided with Bandera. Bandera was responsible for the formation of the Ukrainian National Committee, under which Ukrainian political forces were consolidated.

After the German invasion of the USSR, OUN-Bandera declared an independent Ukrainian state in Lviv on 30 June 1941. After Bandera refused to rescind this declaration, the Germans arrested him, and from July 1941 to September 1944 Bandera was interned in German prisons and concentration camps.

Bandera was elected to the OUN leadership in 1945 and elected head of OUN in 1947. Bandera continued to have contacts with and oversee the activities of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, under the command of Roman Shukhevych. In May 1953 he was elected head of OUN-abroad. He remained leader until 15 October 1959, Soviet agent Bohdan Stashynsky assassinated him in Munich. During Stashynsky’s trial, it was established that the order for Bandera’s assassination came directly from the head of the KGB Shelepin. Throughout his life Bandera consistently held to principles of integral nationalism and the establishment of a Ukrainian independent state through revolutionary violence.

Due to Soviet propaganda Bandera became an extremely controversial personality in Ukraine. The Soviet propaganda machine went to great lengths paint Bandera as a fascist and extreme nationalist who was a traitor to the Ukrainian people; the word “Banderovets” became a Soviet euphemism for a fascist and traitor. Despite this campaign of lies and disinformation, which, to some extent, is still being carried out by leftist forces in contemporary Ukraine, who continue to deny the crimes of the Soviet regime, Bandera has deservedly remained a symbol of the Ukrainian struggle against imperialism – Soviet, German and Polish – in the 20th century.