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Russian MFA spokeswoman Maria Zakharova claims “Glory to Ukraine!” is a Nazi slogan. Here’s why she’s wrong

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Following a recent scandal involving Russian pop singer Valery Meladze, who responded to the greeting “Glory to Ukraine!” (“Slava Ukraini!”) at a concert in Dubai by saying “Glory to the heroes!” (“Heroyam slava!”), Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova claimed that the use of the salute is allegedly a direct reference to Nazism.

The emergence of the slogan “Slava Ukraini!” (“Glory to Ukraine!”) – with varying responses – has nothing to do with nationalists. Its first known mention, with the response “Po vsiy zemli slava!” (“Glory all around the world!”), is associated with the Kharkiv Ukrainian student community of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

“Glory to Ukraine!”, a slogan-turned-greeting, originated in the times of the Ukrainian People's Republic (UPR), a state that controlled the territories of central, eastern and southern Ukraine after the October Revolution of 1917 until 1921. Petro Dyachenko, commander of the 1st Cavalry Regiment of the Black Zaporozhets (a UPR military formation that existed in 1918-1920), recalled the greeting “Slava Ukraini – Kazakam slava!” (“Glory to Ukraine! – Glory to the Cossacks!”).

General Vsevolod Petriv recalled that the slogan sounded differently during the rule of Hetman Pavel Skoropadskiy:

“It was primarily about the Cossacks, who marched well and loudly exclaimed 'Slava Ukraini, Hetmanu slava’ [‘Glory to Ukraine, Glory to the Hetman’]”.

An order of UPR army general Mykhailo Omelianovych-Pavlenko, dated April 19, 1920, said the following:

“All units of the army will answer 'Slava Ukraini’ [‘Glory to Ukraine'] in praise, or gratitude for their service to Ukraine.”

In his novel “Kholodny Yar”, Yuri Horlis-Horskyi wrote that he heard the greeting “Slava Ukraini! – Ukraini slava!” from the rebels of the Kholodny Yar Republic (a short-lived state formation on the lands of the UPR in the Chyhyryn district of the Kyiv province, in the area of the Kholodny Yar forest tract):

All have rifles, some have sabers and revolvers, one has an ancient saber, set in silver.

I approach them:

- Good day, fellas!

- Slava Ukraini! – several voices reply. This made me a little confused. I didn’t know that it is customary for the people of Kholodny Yar to say “Slava Ukraini” instead of “Hello”, with the response being “Ukraini slava!”.

The response “Heroyam slava!” (“Glory to the heroes!”) was indeed invented by Ukrainian nationalists – but, contrary to Zakharova's claims, prior to the start of World War II. The slogan originated in in its current form in the Legion of Ukrainian Nationalists (“Lehion ukrayins'kykh natsionalistiv,” active in years 1925-1929):

In 1925, Artyushenko, along with Mykola Stsiborskyi and other like-minded people, organized the Legion of Ukrainian Nationalists in Poděbrady. When the question of organizational congratulations arose, it seems it was Yuri Artyushenko who suggested using the greetings of the Black Zaporozhets: “Slava Ukraini! – Kazakam slava!”. The proposal was accepted by the legion, but with a correction – the response had to be “Heroyam slava!” (“Glory to the heroes!”).

After that, the greeting began being used among the members of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and the Organization of the Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). A reminder is needed here: the Ukrainian nationalists didn't collaborate with Nazi Germany, contrary to claims by Russian propaganda. The OUN-UPA was never convicted as a Nazi organization by the Nuremberg or any other international tribunal. Stepan Bandera, Ukraine's main “Nazi” (according to the Kremlin), spent most of the war in a German concentration camp, and his followers were hunted by Nazi special services. Bandera was never a Nazi accomplice.

The OUN, a faction of which was headed by Bandera, was very far from the concepts used by German Nazism from the very start of its existence. The ideology of the OUN completely lacked the main Nazi component – the doctrine of racial and national exclusivity. The members of the OUN never considered the Ukrainians to be a “superior race,” but sought “samostiinist” (independence) for their nation, freeing it from Polish and/or Russian (Soviet) dependence.

It should also be noted that the slogan “Glory to Ukraine!” – “Glory to the heroes!” was also used during the collapse of the USSR as a symbol of the restoration of Ukrainian independence. In 1989-1991, the slogan gained popularity among students, as well as the creative and cultural intelligentsia. During the Revolution on Granite (a student-led protest campaign that took place primarily in Kyiv and Western Ukraine in October 1990), the slogan became one of the main greetings of its participants.

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