One of the specific features of the Ukrainian national liberation movement in the Ternopil’ region during the 1940s was that it encompassed two distinct territories: a northern sector (Volyn’) and a south-central one (Halychyna). The Volynian raions of Ternopil’ oblast, the birthplace of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), were also one of the centers of the army’s structural formations. In the spring and summer of 1943 OUN(M) detachments led by “Khrin” (Mykola Medveds’ky) and OUN(B) detachments commanded by “Kruk” (Ivan Klymyshyn), which often carried out joint armed actions against the German occupiers, were stationed in the Kremenets’ Woods near the village of Antonivtsi. In the spring of 1943 representatives of both these military-political forces, seeking to coordinate combat actions, discussed the creation of a zonal operational-combat headquarters staffed by impartial activists. Their verbal agreements were formally ratified by an act signed by insurgent units based in the Kremenets’ area—the detachments led by “Kruk” and “Khrin”—which resulted in the creation of the First Kremenets’ Unified Insurgent Headquarters. The command center was supposed to direct the actions of its detachments from the two OUN factions, Melnykite and Banderite, and to establish links with the headquarters of other operational detachments with the goal of uniting them into a single army. Captain “Orlyk,” who was appointed chief of staff, was ordered to recruit people to work in the Unified Staff. Although the document was signed by the commanders of both factions, the plan never got further than its signing.1
In early July 1943, during the period of acute military and political conflict that had arisen among the members of the national resistance movement in southern Volyn’—armed detachments of the OUN(M) and the OUN(B) as well as Tymofii Basiuk’s Front of the Ukrainian Revolution—a single powerful armed formation was created in the Kremenets’ area, which became the nucleus of the UPA-South group commanded by Petro Oliinyk (“Enei,” “Roman”). Its headquarters were located near the village of Antonivtsi. According to contemporary eyewitnesses, “during the second half of 1943 three groups were operating on the territory of Kremenets’ okruha. A group numbering 140 fighters led by “Herasym” (Ananii Prysiazhniuk), who was born in the village of Oderadivka in Shums’ke raion, was active in that district and certain areas of Dederkaly raion. The group was stationed in the villages of Uhors’k, Tyliavka, and Zabara. The “Reshetylo” group, consisting of forty mounted fighters, operated in Pochaiv raion, in the villages of Hai, Kryzhi, Hrada, Petruky, Mysyky, Dukhiv, and Krutniv. The Lanivtsi and Vyshnivets’ areas were the base of operations of the “Morozenko” group, which numbered between sixty and eighty men.2
In August 1943, after a partial lifting of their clandestine status, the OUN(B) and the UPA operating in the Northwestern Ukrainian Lands (PZUZ) moved to a wartime footing, with a front and rear-line services under the general command of the military authorities—the Supreme Command of the UPA (HK UPA) headed by the Chief Commander of the UPA, “Klym Savur” (Dmytro Kliachkivs’ky). The commandant of the rear-line services, “Horbenko” (Rostyslav Voloshyn) was also a member of the HK UPA.
The HK UPA controlled a significant swath of territory which, as a result of the insurgents’ efforts, was transformed into so-called “insurgent republics” marked by certain features of statehood. In August and September 1943 measures aimed at the practical realization of the “Directives…” issued by Dmytro Kliachkivs’ky were implemented in these territorial entities. The inhabitants of the territories under insurgent army control were within the sphere of its military-administrative influence and therefore bound (voluntarily or forcibly) to act within the framework of the legal field that had been established. This primarily concerned questions, such as mobilization into the ranks of the UPA, security of the rear-line services’ self-defense, the organization of cash or material deliveries to the insurgent army, etc. The functions of an “active minority” that was responsible for coordinating the activities of the UPA and its rear-line services were carried out by the OUN underground, which was the nucleus and moving force of the rear-line services and, simultaneously, a force that the local population associated with the insurgent authorities. A huge responsibility was therefore placed on the shoulders of the underground members, who were faced with the task to boost and safeguard the optimum viability of the rear-line services, as well as to protect the population from the physical and material depredations of the occupying forces.
In 1943–45 the main centers of the insurgent movement were distinguished by the activities of these “insurgent republics,” which had begun forming in Volyn’ as early as the spring of 1943, in areas where German control was completely non-existent. The distinguishing features of each “insurgent republic” was the existence (within the bounds of a certain territory) of “sovereignty” as evidenced by exclusively Ukrainian power in the form of the UPA, as well as the absence of external factors, such as the German occupation administration. Every “republic” functioned as an administrative center of the regional insurgent rear-line services, in which the main base of the UPA’s food supply and medical-orderly service was concentrated and various training courses were held, etc. The leaders of the Ukrainian resistance movement sought to avoid restricting the operations of the “insurgent republics” to providing only material and technical assistance to the UPA. Their other task—to legitimize the insurgent authorities in the largest possible expanse of territory—was no less important.
The administrative and political influence of one of the largest of these Ukrainian “insurgent republics”—Antonivtsi—covered a substantial portion of southern Volyn’, including the northern raions of Ternopil’ oblast. Time and again, German occupation officials did not risk engaging in conflicts with it, particularly in the fall of 1943. One OUN document describes an incident that clearly illustrates the sociopolitical situation in this region. “A woman from Onyshkivtsi came to see the Landwirt [German agricultural leader] in Shums’ke to request permission to grind wheat, concerning which he replied: ‘Go to Antonivtsi, there is a Ukrainian general there who will give you permission.’”3 Local inhabitants viewed this type of republic as a “state within a state” personifying the Ukrainian power, from whose representatives one could seek protection. As a rule, the German occupiers’ efforts to destroy these “insurgents republics” (e.g., the “Antonivtsi republic” in the summer of 1943) resulted in failure. During the German occupation this type of insurgent rear-line services was quite active, inasmuch as it allowed for the mobilization of substantial military forces outside the reach of the German occupation authorities. However, the most important function of each “insurgent republic” was the organization of non-stop economic work. The village of Antonivtsi had a mill that was used by the residents of neighboring villages. Close by, in the hamlet of Zalishchyna, were a bakery, a small slaughterhouse, a sewing workshop, and a cooper’s workshop.4
The “Antonivtsi Republic,” which existed for one year (spring 1943–spring 1944) was an important component of the national liberation movement in southern Volyn’. During this period it served as the coordinating center of the region’s military, economic, and political life. Consequently, after the communists returned to power here in 1944, Soviet officials saw its physical liquidation as their top priority. Judging by the operational announcements prepared by various Soviet organs, the local Soviet leadership was quite familiar with the military and political situation in the region. One document notes: “From the moment the raion branch of the NKVD began its work in March 1944, it was determined that the village of Antonivtsi was the headquarters of the main command of the UPA’s Southern Group led by Enei, whose task was to wage a struggle against the Red Army and the Soviet power with the goal of establishing an Independent Ukraine. In fact, in the last days of April 1944 this armed gang numbered 17 battalions that were concentrated that month on the territory of Shums’ke raion. With the aid of implemented operational measures…Chekist-military forces liquidated the given grouping, destroyed part of it, and scattered another part.”5
The Soviet government employed mass terror against the local population—an important instrument of its consolidation—seeking to legitimize itself not so much by legalistic means as by methods of lawlessness based on instilling total fear. “In April 1944 the Bolshevik punishers razed to the ground the village of Antonivtsi in Shums’ke raion, which was renowned as a ‘nationalist capital’; the earth there was plowed over and a forest was planted.”6 The liquidation of the “Antonivtsi Republic” partly destabilized the insurgent movement in the southern part of Volyn’, but did not spell its complete rout.
In 1943 the county of Pidhaitsi, situated in the Galician part of Ternopil’ oblast, was considered a little island of freedom. Located here were important UPA headquarters and commands as well as clandestine administrative institutions, such as military schools, hospitals, food procurement points, and storehouses of food, weapons, and farming equipment. In the spring and summer of 1944 the Ukrainian insurgent movement’s center in the Pidhaitsi area was the village of Shumliany. According to eyewitnesses, “large hideouts were being constructed in the village and the forest. The villagers helped with everything: they supplied food, clothing, provided moral support, [and] grieved for our common cause. Once the front had passed, the villagers instantly informed the insurgents as soon as the Bolsheviks appeared in the village. We were doing important work: collecting and accumulating food supplies for the UPA army, medicine, clothing; we dealt with communications, organized the training of field medical nurses. At that time hospitals were based in various houses. Tailor and sewing workshops were [also] organized in houses.”7
During the winter and spring of 1943–44 both the German occupiers and the Soviet special forces intensified their military pressure on the “insurgent republics” in Volyn’. This situation forced the insurgent leadership to pass a decision in the fall of 1944 “to liquidate all the republics.” Since the restoration of Soviet rule had taken place in this region of Western Ukraine earlier than in the rest of the territory, additional small islands of Ukrainian rule were created in Halychyna and Subcarpathia. After the front moved in the winter and spring of 1944 and Soviet rule was re-established, the leaders of the insurgent movement were forced to change their tactics. They now sought to avoid engaging in armed clashes with Red Army units, concentrating instead on the process of regrouping their forces. Nevertheless, they were unable to avoid all clashes.
The best known and most dramatic event of this period was the Battle of Hurby, which took place on 22–25 April 1944 in the Kremenets’ Woods. Five thousand soldiers of UPA-South were pitted against 30,000 NKVD troops reinforced by Red Army subunits. Although the insurgents were defeated, nevertheless the Soviet command failed to achieve its main goal—to rout the main UPA forces in the southern part of Volyn’. Official Soviet sources dating to the first half of 1944 contain information on local armed actions that were carried out by subunits of UPA-West. For example, according to data compiled by the Ternopil’ oblast committee of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of Ukraine (KP(B)U) as of 1 June 1944, in April and May UPA groups operating in the region carried out a number of attacks on small military subunits and Red Army soldiers.8 However, these types of actions were not widespread; they were, rather, a local phenomenon. The insurgent movement faced a more realistic task: to prevent the potential of its rear-line services from being weakened, if not utterly destroyed.
Modern historiography views Soviet rule, which was being reinstated in Western Ukraine in 1944, as a military and political regime whose features were defined by a range of socioeconomic, political, and spiritual-religious factors determined by the geopolitical situation and the region’s historical past. Thus, the actions that the Soviet government was undertaking with the goal of restoring the process of Sovietization in the region were neither humane nor democratic. One of the first measures initiated by the Soviet government was the mobilization of the local population into the Red Army. On 25 January 1944 Stalin signed a special State Defense Committee order entitled “On the Mobilization of Soviet Citizens in the Raions of Western Ukraine and Western Belarus’, Liberated from German Occupation.”9 Considering the objective situation at the time, i.e., wartime, the call-up of Western Ukrainians into the Red Army would appear to be a reasonable and logical step. However, there was a clearly disadvantageous aspect to the mobilization campaign in Ukraine’s western oblasts: the Soviet leadership regarded this campaign as an important aspect of the struggle against the Ukrainian insurgents. By March 1944, when Soviet troops were just entering Western Ukraine, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the KP(B)U Nikita Khrushchev prepared a State Defense Committee draft resolution for Stalin’s consideration, which was aimed at the total rout of the Ukrainian nationalists. This document proposed mobilizing all men of draft age and sending them in groups through special filtration points in the rear lines; forming paramilitary units, including NKVD detachments, consisting of between fifty and sixty men; and dispatching an additional five brigades of NKVD troops to Ukraine’s western oblasts from the eastern districts of the Ukrainian SSR—a total of 2,000 Ukrainian-speaking Chekists. Another proposed measure was to deport the families of members of the UPA and the UNRA (Ukrainian People’s Revolutionary Army) to far-flung districts of the USSR. In the Ternopil’ region “the Bolsheviks announced a mobilization on the eighth day after their arrival. First, they took men between the ages of 18 and 35, then up to 52, and finally, up to 55. Exempt from mobilization were administrative workers, desiatykhatnyky [well-to-do peasants whose task, among other things, was to report regularly to the authorities on the situation in their village and on the whereabouts of bandits and their helpers—Trans.) teachers (to a certain extent), workers employed on railways, highways, and other important sites, as well priests and deacons, cantors, sextons, bell-ringers, and church elders.”10 By 16–17 March military draft commissions were already at work in the Lanivtsi, Velyki Dederkaly, Shums’ke, Vyshnivets’, Novosilka, and Zbarazh raions of Ternopil’ oblast.11
The mass conscription into the Red Army of the male population of Ukraine’s western oblasts and the dispatching of boys too young to be drafted to work in the Donbas region gutted the insurgent rear-line services, the potential social base of the UPA and its rear-line services. It was also eminently clear that not all residents of the oblast were enthusiastic about the prospect of helping to expand the anti-Soviet resistance movement. Even OUN underground sources record the prevalence of pessimistic, moribund moods within the insurgent rear-line services. For that reason, the insurgent leadership began implementing a number of measures aimed at subverting both the Soviet mobilization campaign and, eventually, the process of restoring local Soviet organs of power, particularly in the form of rural and raion soviets. As a result of the insurgents’ energetic agitation and propaganda activities (frequently conjoined with combat actions) the public mood became increasingly radical, which hampered the Soviet mobilization campaign.
Besides the UPA, the main player in the national resistance movement in the Ternopil’ region, and elsewhere, was the OUN underground together with the insurgent rear-line services. In early 1944 its structure was established by an order signed on 1 February by Roman Shukhevych, Supreme Commander of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.12 According to this document, “the oblast comprises the smallest territorial unit. All oblast responsible leaderships, including the army and the SB, are under the jurisdiction of the oblast leader. The army and the SB, starting from the okruha through the stanytsia, inclusively, are not under the jurisdiction of the territorial leader but his official superiors.” The order also designates the dual subordination of the commander of a Military Okruha (VO): in all military matters he reported to the Krai Military Headquarters (KVSh), and “in political, territorial [matters] [and] in interrelations with other oblast responsible leaders,” to the oblast leader. “The staff of a VO also includes the head of the organizational-mobilizational section of the headquarters. Therefore, the Krai Military Headquarters and the Military Command of the Military Okruha [VSh VO] encompass all military work in a krai or oblast. Organizational-mobilizational sections from the okruha down to the stanytsia, inclusively, are also under the jurisdiction of territorial leaders,” the document notes.
During the first half of 1944 the organizational structures of the OUN(B) launched a program of vigorous activity aimed at organizing economic, medical-orderly, and military mobilization work within the framework of the insurgent rear-line services. The results of these measures are attested by both nationalist and Soviet documents. Analysis of the information recorded in these documents provides good grounds for confirming that as of early September 1944 the insurgent rear-line services were quite substantial, especially in Ternopil’ oblast.
In a memorandum sent to Nikita Khrushchev, Ivan Kompanets’, secretary of the Ternopil’ oblast committee of the KP(B)U, thus characterized the political situation in the region: “Nearly all raions in the oblast are under the control of terrorist groups and larger armed gangs. Four okruha leaderships of the OUN are active on the territory of the oblast.
1. Ternopil’—okruha leader “Zakhar”;
2. Chortkiv—okruha leader “Stary”;
3. Berezhany—the okruha leader has not been identified;
4. Kremenets’—okruha leader “Korzh.”
“Each okruha leadership includes 6 nadraions; each nadraion, 6–7 raions; each raion, 3–4 subraions; each subraion—10–12 stanytsias. As a result of such broad ramification, all populated areas of the oblast are covered by a network of small OUN units [lanok].”13 Another Soviet source reports that in the summer of 1944 a clandestine captains’ school was based in the northern part of the oblast in the village of Kotliarivka, Velyki Dederkaly raion.14
While the OUN underground served as the organizational nucleus of the insurgent rear-line services, the latter’s existence was safeguarded by a network of local self-defense divisions, or armed fighting units. Compelling proof may be obtained by analyzing the political situation in the two raions that were farthest from the oblast center: Zalishchyky (located in the southernmost part of Ternopil’ oblast) and Shums’ke (located in the northernmost part of the region). According to a memorandum prepared by officials of the Ternopil’ oblast committee of the KP(B)U, entitled “On the Results of the Struggle against Banditry throughout Zalishchyky Raion for December 1944,” Soviet security forces recorded the presence of a substantial number of armed insurgents organized in detachments. They were stationed in villages situated along the banks of the Dnister River, which were farthest from the raion center. “…already since November a gang numbering up to 400 men was based in the village of Kolodribka, which is situated 32 km from the raion center. The nucleus of the gang is comprised of members of a local UPA fighting unit headed by local bandits: Ivan Hryhorovych Kozeriuk, codename “Yavir,” Yakiv Markovych Andrusyk, codename “Anhel,” Mykhailo Vasyl’ovych Pytl’ovany, Vasyl’ Vasyl’ovych Pytl’ovany, and others…The third point selected by the bandits for their disposition was the village of Zozulyntsi…” The authors of the document indirectly acknowledge the fact that individual areas of the raion were under the total control of Ukrainian insurgents, confirming that the “presence of large gangs in certain villages did not allow our operational workers to be in those villages… it was risky to come to the rest of the villages in small groups, and often there was no possibility to send large groups by virtue of the fact that some [of these] villages were also under inadequate [Soviet] control.”15
In the eyes of the Soviet government, the situation in the northern Ternopil’ region was more critical. Even after the tragic—from the UPA’s standpoint—events that occurred in this region in the spring of 1944, the insurgent movement found the necessary inner reserves to revitalize itself in the second half of 1944. The formation of the rear-line services took place parallel with the replenishment of armed UPA units. In a 6 January 1946 memorandum addressed to Tymofii Strokach, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of the Ukrainian SSR, the secretary of the Shums’ke raion committee of the KP(B)U reports that “for the most part the raion is entirely blighted by the counterrevolutionary nationalist OUN underground and armed gangs of the UPA and the UNRA. As of 1 January 1945, every village and populated area has local fighting units numbering between 20 and 40 men, who carry out subversive and terrorist acts. In addition to fighting units, large armed gangs numbering 100 and more men often move throughout the raion.”16
In their memorandum to T. Strokach, P. Zhuchenko, member of the Ternopil’ oblast committee, and Antonov, secretary of the Shums’ke raion committee of the KP(B)U, report that “starting in September 1944 until the present time the OUN underground and UPA gangs are once again stepping up their counterrevolutionary activity. This takes the form of mobilizing the local population, carrying out procurements of agricultural products [and] clothing, robbing cooperatives, confiscating money from financial agents, plastering a large numbering of leaflets in all villages, which appeal to the populace not to deliver grain to the state, not to fulfill other state obligations, to take weapons into their hands and kill leading Soviet party activists and NKVD officials; in certain villages they are banning travel to the raion center, forbidding the heads of rural convenience stores to travel to the raion and bring back salt, fatback, etc. They are inflicting mass terror on party, Soviet, and economic employees, as well as leading local activists… Current methods of struggle against banditry in the raion are not producing any real results, people are just pushed around to no avail, they come out in the daytime for an operation, they walk around for awhile and then arrive at the raion center in good time.”17
In adapting to the new military and political circumstances, the OUN underground frequently reorganized its structures, as, for example, in early October 1944 in Halychyna, when an order was circulated to liquidate subraions. The reason for this was the intensifying pressure from the Soviet power organs, which led to the territorial contraction of the insurgent rear-line services. In addition, casualties were rising both within the nationalist underground and the local population. The leaders of local OUN organizations often discussed with the higher leadership the feasibility of carrying out reorganizations. Although the population of Ukraine’s western regions was psychologically prepared to accept Soviet rule, the scale of the government’s repressions was appalling. According to eyewitness reports, “the first months of Bolshevik rule were horrific: a huge oversaturation of army troops in the territory, mass round-ups, arrests, hangings, murder, destruction, rapes of women, evacuation, [and] forcible mobilization.” All this “completely terrorized and shocked the population.”18
With Jesuitical duplicity the Soviet authorities demanded that the local inhabitants publicly demonstrate their friendly attitude to the government. They organized public meetings of villagers and residents of small towns, during which members of the national liberation movement who had given themselves up, as well as their relatives, gave speeches. For example, in mid-July 1944 a woman named Hanna E. spoke at a meeting in the village of Kam’ianka in Pidvolochys’ke raion, Ternopil’ oblast, which was held to mark the liquidation of an “OUN emblem”—a symbolic grave. In her speech she insisted that “the Banderites are not fighters for the liberation of the Ukrainian people but its enemies, loyal lapdogs of the fascist German invaders.”19 Many other examples can be cited. Those who gave such speeches were governed by a variety of motives. Some people had genuine political convictions, while others sought to demonstrate their friendly attitude to the Soviet government. Still others wanted to get in the government’s good graces for selfish, careerist reasons. But many of those who were summoned to make false statements against the Ukrainian resistance movement did so out of fear that their families would be persecuted and repressed.
One of the crucial factors that helped destabilize the morale of Western Ukrainian society was the use of extermination battalions, which were created by the Soviet government in the first half of 1944 in order to boost the effectiveness of the anti-insurgent struggle. Official Soviet documents reveal that as of 1 June 1944, 21 extermination battalions numbering 1,046 troops were stationed in practically every raion of Ternopil’ oblast. By the end of the year, the number of extermination battalions had risen to 39, with a total of 4,809 troops most of whom were not Ukrainians. During the early months of restored Soviet rule, most of the personnel of the extermination battalions were comprised of Poles. On 28 July 1944 an extermination battalion was formed in Berezhany raion. By late December the 143-man battalion was composed of 130 Poles and 13 Ukrainians. The extermination battalion in Pidhaitsi raion comprised 127 Poles and 53 Ukrainians. A similar situation existed in other raions of Ternopil’ oblast: in May 1944 the Budaniv raion extermination battalion consisted of 48 men, 40 of whom were Poles, while the Terebovlia battalion had a total of 78 Poles. As of 1 January 1945, of the 4,232 members of extermination battalions based in Ternopil’ oblast, 2,310 were Poles, 1,539 were Ukrainians, 248 were Russians, and 144 were of other nationalities.20
The heavily-Polish composition of extermination battalions was germane to raions compactly settled by Poles: where Ternopil’ oblast is concerned, these were the central and southwestern districts. In enlisting for service in auxiliary groups or extermination battalions, the Poles anticipated, on the one hand, that they would be able to curb the activities of nationally aware Ukrainians in the region, if not to expel them completely from “their” territory. On the other, they sought to demonstrate their loyalty to the Soviet government. One must not overlook subjective factors, such as revenge for long-held grudges, the desire to enrich oneself at the expense of so-called “enemies of the people,” etc. With regard to the revenge factor, it is only fair to point out its universal, supranational character inasmuch as many Ukrainians also engaged in such activities. Oblast party officials were becoming seriously alarmed by the escalation of national hostilities in Western Ukrainian districts, where the majority of the personnel of the extermination battalions were Poles. The Soviet authorities also suspected that, apart from their work in the extermination battalions, the Poles were simultaneously active in the “gangs of the Armia Krajowa.” Their suspicions led to the adoption of a decision in May 1945 to restrict, or even bar, Poles from serving in extermination battalions.21 The Soviet government continued to employ these battalions as a supplementary method in the struggle against the insurgent movement until the early 1950s.
In order to help the Soviet punitive organs, among others, instill an atmosphere of total fear in society, the Soviet authorities adopted a method that was designed to exert the utmost moral and psychological pressure: public executions by hanging, shooting, etc. After being viciously tortured, people suspected of cooperating with the OUN or the UPA were killed, and their bodies were publicly displayed for several days in order to terrorize the rest of the population. Often, the Soviet authorities deliberately mined the corpses of killed insurgents or transported them to a raion center, dumping them on sidewalks or other public areas for their relatives to identify. The relatives of the deceased (if s/he were identified) were subject to deportation to Siberia. The Soviet security organs first introduced this method in L’viv and Ternopil’ oblasts in January and February 1945. It entailed the “public hanging of Ukrainian insurgents [and] revolutionaries in raion centers; on the heroes’ corpses the Stalinist executioners usually placed a sign with the following inscription: ‘[This] bandit (first name and surname) murdered such-and-such a number of innocent Soviet citizens.’”22
All these methods produced results. The population, which was generally sympathetic to the insurgent movement, was becoming increasingly fearful of responding to the nationalists’ appeals to participate in the anti-Soviet resistance movement. Willingly or as a result of external pressure, people began to collaborate with the Soviet power organs by acting as informants or agents.
In 1945 the Soviet repressive-punitive organs devised a new and very effective method in their struggle against the Ukrainian insurgents and began implementing it vigorously: summoning large numbers of rural inhabitants for talks at raion divisions of the NKVD. This practice was introduced throughout Budaniv, Terebovlia, Probizhna, Kopychyntsi, and other raions of Ternopil’ oblast. These “talks” spread distrust and suspicion among fellow villagers and led to the departure (so-called legalization) from the underground of some members of the Ukrainian national liberation movement. Ukrainian insurgents who had given themselves up were often used by the Soviet special organs for propaganda purposes. The Soviets applied this measure to further another goal: to recruit agents from the insurgent milieu. Between 5 and 18 December 1945 alone, raion divisions of the NKVD in Ternopil’ oblast “issued summons for talks with the population of 45 villages, encompassing between 25 and 60 people in each village. As a result of these mass summons, 13 OUN members, 16 bandits, [and] 21 abettors of gangs were exposed. Of those whom NKVD raion divisions had summoned for a talk, 25 people were recruited for agentura work.”23
The process of reformatting the main structures of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army was completed in the second half of 1944. In Ternopil’ oblast the army operated within the bounds of two Military Okruhas. The northern part of the region (Shums’ke, Kremenets’, Lanivtsi, and Vyshnivets’ raions) belonged to Military Okruha “Bohun,” which was subordinated to the General Military Okruha, UPA-South24; the southern and central parts of the oblast were part of Military Okruha “Lysonia,” which was subordinated to UPA-West. This structure existed in part until 1947.25
In late November 1944 UPA-West consisted of five Military Okruhas. Ternopil’ oblast was the field of operations of VO “Lysonia,” commanded by the UPA colonel, Omelian Pol’ovy (“Ostap”). The chief of staff was Volodymyr Yakubovs’ky (“Bondarenko) who took over Pol’ovy’s duties after the latter’s arrest in 1946. By the spring of 1945 VO “Lysonia” was divided into five Tactical Sectors (TVs): Berezhany, Buchach, Kam’ianets’-Podil’s’ky, Ternopil’, and Chortkiv. Military Okruha “Lysonia” consisted of eighteen insurgent companies divided into the following battalions: “Kholodnoiartsi,” “Burlaky,” “Lisovyky,” “Rubachi,” “Buini,” “Holky,” and “Siri vovky.” According to very subjective data culled from Soviet sources, as of mid-March 1945, 79 insurgent detachments numbering 1,908 fighters operated in Ternopil’ oblast.26
In the winter and spring of 1945 a critical decline ranks of the Ukrainian resistance movement convinced the UPA leaders to seek out new forms and methods for organizing their struggle. The first change took the form of a structural reorganization of the underground. Beginning in 1945, the Military, Economic, Women’s, Youth, and Liaison Sections, as well as the Ukrainian Red Cross, were abolished. According to Soviet data, the Berezhany okruha leadership and the Kremenets’ nadraion leadership voluntarily disbanded. During this period the following individuals were arrested or killed: “Chuhaister,” the head of the Ternopil’ okruha leadership of the OUN; “Hrim,” the head of the Chortkiv okruha leadership; and “Maksym,” the Security Service (SB) responsible leader in Ternopil’ oblast.27
Most historians concur that the Ukrainian insurgents changed their military tactics in early summer 1945, disbanding large units numbering between 400 and 500 soldiers and creating smaller ones of 10 to 15 fighters. However, this reform affected the UPA in particular.
In the fall of 1944 the OUN underground stepped up its work of creating small fighting units within the UPA rear-line services, so-called self-defense kushch units (KSVs). Each unit had “15–35 riflemen headed and commanded by the leader of the self-defense kushch unit, who was appointed by a county military man.” The KSVs were supposed to function as separate territorial detachments (platoons or squads) that were “subordinated within the entire UPA command through county-based and higher military leaders. The weapons of these self-defense units were identical to those in UPA units.”28 However, the KSVs were under the direct command of the leaders of the appropriate OUN(B) structures.
One of the key figures in the OUN underground was the responsible leader of organizational-mobilizational work (orhmob) whose duties included safeguarding the military aspect of the work of the UPA rear-line services. The personnel composition in Ternopil’ okruha was quite substantial. A report covering the period from November 1944 to January 1945 notes that the “function of the okruha orhmob here is carried out by Commander ‘Burlaka,’ who is assisted by Commander ‘Sup.’ The position of okruha orhmob in Ternopil’ County is held by Commander ‘Zorenko’; in Terebovlia County, Commander ‘Bar’; in Skalat County, Commander ‘Dmytrenko’; in Kopychyntsi County, Commander ‘Les’’; in Chortkiv okruha the position of okruha orhmob is held by Commander ‘Sosnovy’; his assistant is Commander Yaskravy’; the orhmob of Chortkiv County is Commander ‘Orest’; Buchach County, Commander ‘Horlis’; Borshchiv County, Commander ‘Kalyna’; and Zalishchyky County, Commander ‘Puhach.’ In Berezhany okruha the position of orhmob is held by Commander ‘Choven’; his assistant is Commander ‘Shakh.’ The position of orhmob in Rohatyn County is held by Commander ‘Vivchar’; in Peremyshliany County, Commander ‘Dovbnia’; in Pidhaitsi County, Commander ‘Nechai’; in Berezhany County, Commander ‘Char’; in Zboriv County, Commander ‘Karmeliuk.’”29 The newly appointed orhmobs were supposed to help train the “self-defense fighting units”; they were also responsible for carrying out an audit of existing weapons and military “equipment,” drawing up “lists of a mobilizational nature” that included: 1) the number of people in the self-defense fighting units; 2) the number of able-bodied males in the territory; 3) the status of enemy forces in the territory.
In the spring of 1945 the Soviet government stepped up its struggle against the Ukrainian national liberation movement by expanding its arsenal of methods. The main ones included: 1) the creation of “random bases”; 2) population census; 3) blockade; 4) culpability of families and property; 5) public executions and torture; 6) agentura work and provocations; and 7) round-ups and combing of forests. A typical practice of Soviet and party activists was the use of armed detachments of the NKVD, NKGB, extermination battalions, Interior Troops, etc. as the “main argument” in demonstrating the advantages of the Soviet socialist lifestyle. In the latter half of 1944 the frequent and mass-scale round-ups and operations to “comb villages and hamlets, small search groups dispatched into individual villages, and ambushes in areas where bandits might appear”30 had a very demoralizing effect on the rear-line services, sowing fear and distrust among the population, especially after 1945.
Soviet documents provide a rough picture of the scale of these actions. Even a superficial analysis of the contents of the “Operational Plan of the Zalishchyky Raion Division of the NKVD on Combing Villages, Exposing Clandestine Organizations of the OUN and the UPA” provides unquestionable proof that, in seeking to destroy the insurgent rear-line services, the Soviet authorities relied almost exclusively on physical force. How else can one explain the fact that in order to “eliminate an organization in the village of Mshana, which numbered 10 people,” 100 armed troops31 were used? In general, the Soviet punitive organs employed huge numbers of armed troops to conduct these types of special operations.
On 10 January 1945 the TsK KP(B)U adopted a special resolution “On the Intensification of the Struggle against the Ukrainian-German Nationalists in Ukraine’s Western Oblasts,”32 which described the liquidation of the Ukrainian anti-Soviet resistance movement as the “main and top-priority matter of the Bolsheviks in Ukraine’s western oblasts.” The resolution includes a detailed plan of measures aimed at stepping up the anti-nationalist struggle. Secretaries of oblast, raion, and municipal committees of the KP(B)U, as well as heads of Soviet organizations in Ukraine’s western oblasts were tasked with stepping up the struggle against the nationalists, with the added proviso that the winter period should be used for the ultimate rout and liquidation of UPA detachments and the OUN underground. The resolution includes undisguised appeals to engage in repressions: “Do not overlook a single case of gang manifestations without retaliatory repressions, step up the deportation of the families of bandits and kulaks who are providing any assistance whatsoever to the bandits.” This document obliged Soviet officials “to carry out a registration of rural residents from the age of 15 and older by 15 February.” The main goal was to establish the exact location of each Soviet citizen. Those who did not register for any reason were automatically considered “members of gangs, and their families were subjected to repressions, i.e., arrest and deportation to Siberia.”33 Other articles in the resolution clearly indicate that the Soviet government was hereby officially proclaiming the introduction of a hostage system, which was being successfully implemented in the struggle against the Ukrainian resistance movement.
In keeping with the resolution, the registration of the population was carried out during the second half of January. Throughout the countryside public meetings were organized against the OUN and the UPA; a network of agents and informants was created at a rapid pace; extermination battalions were equipped, and district militias were organized according to the ratio of one district militia officer for every two villages. As a result of this “complex of work,” once the registration was completed, villages were supposed to be “completely cleansed of bandit groups of Ukrainian-German nationalists and their abettors.” The work of the registration commissions was accompanied by round-ups organized in populated areas, such as small towns, villages, and hamlets. Contemporaries report that “the Bolsheviks carried out particularly thorough round-ups in February—the so-called [Operation] ‘Mitla’ [Broom]. One village, sometimes two, would be completely surrounded, no one would be let out; they would search through everything and check everyone.”34 As a result of these “anti-Banderite” operations in Ternopil’ oblast, between 10 and 31 January 461 people were captured and 438 gave themselves up.35
At the same time, the Ukrainian insurgents stepped up their terrorist methods, targeting representatives of the Soviet regime. An information-type document signed by the head of the Shums’ke division of the NKVD on 6 January 1945 states that “as of 1 January 1945 in every populated area in the raion are local gangs of UPA fighters, numbering between 5 and 60 people, who carry out subversive and terrorist acts.” According to official Soviet sources, “during July-August 1944 [alone] 65 terrorist acts were committed in the oblast, in which 48 people were killed, as well as 87 bandit attacks, in the course of which 31 people were killed.”36 By late fall 1944 the number of terrorist acts committed by members of the Ukrainian anti-Soviet resistance movement had increased to such an extent that the party leadership of Ternopil’ oblast was forced to report to the TsK KP(B)U that “…in connection with the grave situation that has arisen in the oblast (manifestations of mass terror by Banderite gangs), some ‘intellectuals’ from other oblast organizations are arbitrarily leaving for republican organizations with a request for discharge from Ternopil’ oblast; they are inventing all kinds of reasons. A number of employees of individual organizations have been affected by the ‘suitcase’ mood.” In the summer of 1944 Antonov, the secretary of the Shums’ke raion committee of the KP(B)U expressed alarm at the fact that “in the countryside one often has to appoint heads and secretaries of rural soviets, who ‘disappear,’ i.e., either they join a gang voluntarily or some are frightened by the gang into going into the forest. A gang of OUN people is killing Soviet activists. Forty-seven people were killed in the village of Peremorivka in the space of one night.”37 This situation lasted for another six months.
In early summer 1945 the Ukrainian nationalists, intent on preserving their ranks, changed their anti-Soviet tactics. Small fighting units numbering between five and ten people, or individuals operating solo, began adopting methods of terror and subversion. A broad network of clandestine fighting units was formed in the insurgent rear-line services. These were stationed in far-flung mountain homesteads, hamlets, and hideouts located in forests and fields, as well as on rural farms. In 1945 the Soviet punitive organs launched a concerted effort to uncover these hideouts. In this stage of the anti-insurgent struggle they began utilizing the agentura network. The dynamics behind the discovery and liquidation of “bandit hideouts” by the Soviet special organs may be established partly through official daily reports on the course of the struggle against banditry, which, beginning in February 1945, were sent from each raion to the oblast committee of the KP(B)U. Analysis of this type of documentation on the state of affairs in Ternopil’ oblast reveals that as of 31 January 1945 the Soviet special organs uncovered 197 hideouts; as of 22 February 1945, 562; and as of 26 July 1945, a mere 11. In other words, the largest number of underground hideouts was discovered in January and February 1945, which tallies with the registration of the population, the mass round-ups, and cleansing campaigns.38 The existence of the large number of rural hideouts and bunkers attests to the thorough work that OUN conspirators carried out with the goal of preparing the rear-line services for prolonged resistance to the Soviet occupiers.
By mid-autumn the OUN underground succeeded more or less in stabilizing the work of their organizational structures. A number of measures implemented by the insurgent leadership in order to strengthen the UPA’s cooperation with the OUN underground network had a positive impact on the organization of the people’s self-defense. These included the implementation of guidelines promulgated by the Krai Military Headquarters of UPA-West in September 1945, whereby all insurgent formations stationed in various territories, in conjunction with their subordination along the chain of military command, were also subordinated to the local OUN leadership.39
During the winter of 1946 the Soviet government, with the aid of NKVD Interior Troops, was compelled to employ, for the first time, the considerable forces of Soviet army subunits stationed in the L’viv and Subcarpathian Military Districts. On 9 January 1946 the political directorate of the Subcarpathian Military District issued a special directive ordering the liquidation of the remnants of OUN groups on the territory of Stanyslaviv, Ternopil’, and Chernivtsi oblasts. According to the insurgents’ calculations, the Soviet government marshaled 585,000 Border Troops and divisions of NKVD Interior Troops to carry out this task in Ukraine’s western oblasts. Practically every village had a garrison numbering between 25 and 100 soldiers; between 2,000 and 5,000 troops were stationed in each district. Three hundred and forty-two garrisons were stationed in the villages of three western oblasts—Stanyslaviv, Ternopil’, and Chernivtsi—each of which had an average of twenty soldiers and officers.40
The Soviet government was also accelerating its efforts to engage increasing numbers of local residents in the process of Sovietizing the country by forcible methods. This process entailed, above all, the creation of self-defense groups in the form of extermination detachments. As of 1 January 1946, 38 detachments comprising 323 extermination groups (a total of 7,887 troops) were operating in Ternopil’ oblast.41 The government continuously sought to exploit various ways to encourage the local population to serve in the extermination battalions. Potential recruits were offered a military enlistment waiver as well as a waiver exempting them from work in the Donbas mines. Recruited members of extermination battalions who had distinguished themselves in service were offered incentives in the form of cash rewards paid out from the operational needs fund as well as from the funds of various Soviet agencies. They were also offered material stimuli, which was an important factor. According to official Soviet data, before 1946 the personnel of extermination battalions, with the exception of chiefs of staff, did not receive any material stimuli. However, in 1944–46 the property of so-called “enemies of the people and their abettors” was practically not inventoried, which allowed the members of extermination battalions to rob peasants with complete impunity. Furthermore, the battalion members living in barracks received legally sanctioned food products, clothing, and footwear confiscated from uncovered insurgent bunkers and hideouts. Thus, on the basis of this decision it is practically impossible to determine the fine line between “legal confiscation” and “illegal robbery.”
The following psychological factor should also be taken into account: all those who were “on the other side” were considered a priori as criminals and bandits. Therefore, the various repressive actions that were used against them were considered entirely justified. Hence, the moral threshold of so-called “law enforcers”—the NKVD, militiamen, and members of extermination battalions—was extremely low. There were cases where, with the government’s connivance, some leaders of these detachments terrorized the residents of entire villages, as happened, for example, in the fall of 1945, when a certain “Hordii and his strybky [truncated Ukrainian term for the Russian term istrebitelnye batal’ony] rampaged in the village of Hnylytsi, in Pidvolochys’ke raion. This was a gang of thieves and robbers, who terrorized and robbed the populace.”42
The scale of abuses was so shocking that on 21 March 1945 the communist leadership of the Ukrainian SSR was forced to adopt a resolution entitled “On the Facts Pertaining to Gross Violations of Soviet Legality in Ukraine’s Western Oblasts.” The Soviets’ own analysis of the work that party and Soviet structures carried out in Ukraine’s western regions in 1945 showed dismal results. The list of all violators indicates that most worked for the Soviet power structures: the NKVD, NKGB, militia, soldiers, and members of extermination battalions. The most widespread abuses were beatings and illegal confiscations of property during operations to deport the families of members of the Ukrainian national liberation movement. According to an official report prepared by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Ukrainian SSR, 15,040 “families of bandits”—a total of 57,145 individuals—were deported in 1944–46.43
The array of measures devised and implemented by the Soviet government in late 1945 and early 1946 amounted to a huge blockade of Ukrainian villages, towns, and cities. The catastrophic result of this policy was that during the winter and spring months of 1946 the insurgent rear-line services rapidly lost their territorial contours and their structures changed accordingly. The main task of the insurgent movement during this period was to subvert the elections to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR in order to expose the violent, repressive, and anti-Ukrainian character of the Soviet communist regime. At the end of 1945 a number of official instructions concerning the order of work were circulated among the insurgents. For example, in keeping with operational information prepared by the Berezhany raion division of the NKVD in Ternopil’ oblast, special groups of insurgents were dispatched to this district in order to subvert in every way possible the preparations for the upcoming elections, and on the eve of and the very day of the elections, 10 February 1946, to step up their anti-election campaign of agitation and terror against Soviet communist activists. Applying all possible measures, the insurgents sought to forbid the residents of the rear-line services to take part in the voting, especially teachers, in the hope that the peasantry would follow their example. In cases where it was impossible to avoid the polls, voters were asked to spoil their ballots by crossing out the names of all candidates or to inscribe the name of their own candidate. According to the data of the Soviet security services, in 1946 the most dynamic insurgent activity in the Ternopil’ region was observed in the raions of Berezhany, Pidhaitsi, Buchach, Tovste (today: part of Zalishchyky raion), Zalishchyky, Husiatyn, Zolotnyky (today: part of Terebovlia raion), and Hrymailiv (today: part of Husiatyn raion).44
However, the insurgent forces were outnumbered and as a result, during the first four months of 1946 the Ukrainian liberation movement suffered a crushing blow. The insurgent leadership reached the conclusion that continuing their current tactics could lead to disastrous consequences. At a conference of OUN leaders held in June 1946 in the village of Byshky in Kozova raion the participants passed a resolution, one of whose decisions declared the necessity to switch tactics—from insurgent to clandestine activity—both in the OUN and the UPA.45 In implementing the instructions of the Supreme Command of the UPA, the commands of the army’s territorial units and local OUN leaderships launched a restructuring of their subunits.
Meanwhile, the Soviet government continued its all-out offensive against the Ukrainian underground. In order to implement the decisions of the TsK KP(B)U resolution “On the Struggle against Banditry and the OUN Underground,” local party committees, together with the organs of Soviet power structures, devised a set of measures aimed at the destruction of raion- and okruha-based OUN leaderships. The entire territory of Ukraine’s western oblasts was divided into sectors, to which interior ministry workers were designated. With the goal of liquidating the UPA units, operational groups consisting of two or three highly experienced Chekists were created to coordinate the actions of the interior and state security ministries.46 In order to thwart the insurgents’ access to food supplies during the harvest period of 1946, the Soviet authorities set up guard teams manned by the personnel of raion divisions of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, together with “members of garrisons.” During the harvest campaign in Ternopil’ oblast 619 Chekist-military operations and 739 ambushes were carried out. As a result, 171 insurgents were arrested, 170 were killed, and 7 fighting units and 8 OUN organizations were liquidated.47 The nationalist underground in the Ternopil’ region also suffered considerable losses in 1947. Practically the entire krai leadership of the OUN, which coordinated underground activities in Ternopil’ and Kamianets’-Podil’s’ky oblasts, was smashed. The Ternopil’ okruha leadership of the OUN, which directed clandestine activities in seventeen raions in the northern part of the region, was completely liquidated. The Chortkiv okruha leadership, which controlled twenty-one southern raions, was partly liquidated, and three nadraion and eight raion leaderships were smashed.48
As soon as the Bolsheviks returned to power in Ukraine’s western oblasts, they began introducing the collective farm system, which had already been tried and tested in the eastern Ukrainian lands. Local Communist Party functionaries claimed that collective farms were being created “at the demand of the poorest peasants…on the basis of the lands and property that belonged to landowners.” By 27 June 1944, “four collective farms with an elected administration were organized”49 in Borshchiv raion, Ternopil’ oblast. Within two weeks the number of collective farms had doubled; a total of “193 farms (283 workers).”50 Throughout Western Ukraine “there were 38 collective farms: 35 in Ternopil’ oblast, 1 in L’viv oblast, 1 in Rivne oblast, and 1 in Chernivtsi oblast.” Within a year (as of 20 April 1945) the entire region had “136 collective farms and 183 initiative groups. Of them…35 and 22 [respectively] were in Ternopil’ oblast.”51
The Bolshevik policy of mass collectivization was traditionally based on the stratification of the rural population according to the class principle. The Soviet government thus began implementing this policy in the Western Ukrainian countryside. The authors of the bulk of official Soviet propaganda materials—documents, leaflets, and articles, et al.— always appealed to the poorest peasant strata, which were specifically defined as the bulwark of the Soviet power. The communist government constantly emphasized the anti-people character of the “Banderite movement,” claiming that it enjoyed the support of “kulaks, traders, [and] other counterrevolutionary elements,” and partly that of those poor and middle peasants whom the “heads” had duplicitously lured “into their filthy clutches.” This is clearly illustrated by a report entitled “Information on the State of Affairs in Shums’ke Raion in Ternopil’ Oblast” (6 January 1945) and signed by the head of the raion division of the NKVD. According to the author of this document, the reason behind the raion population’s hostile attitude to the Soviet government is that “throughout their lives they were raised in a capitalist and nationalistic spirit; most of them displayed private property tendencies; they also had not gone through the stages of struggle against the enemies of the Soviet people, owing to which a certain segment of the population, having fallen under the sway of the German-nationalistic and kulak element, also set out on the path of active assistance to the OUN underground and UPA gangs.”52 It was never publicly mentioned that the members of the Ukrainian insurgent movement were ordinary peasants and intellectuals.
The communist government’s efforts to split Western Ukrainian society along class lines were doomed to failure. There was no social stratification in Ukraine’s western oblasts, as was the case in eastern Ukraine. The population of the western regions consisted for the most part of poor and middle peasants. There were no organizations along the lines of Committees of Poor Peasants, and land communities did not have a clearly defined social character. Regardless, in its socioeconomic policies vis-à-vis the countryside the party and Soviet leadership single-mindedly emphasized the need to organize collective farms. In the final result, this strategy paid off because the Soviet government was only able to neutralize the UPA once it had succeeded in crushing the resistance of the Ukrainian peasantry through the introduction of collective farms and the use of mass terror. Even though the Ukrainian armed underground continued to subvert collectivization until 1947, this problem was no longer that acute: that year saw the all-out collectivization of agriculture throughout Ukraine’s western regions. On 21 June 1947 the Council of Ministers of the Ukrainian SSR adopted the notorious resolution “On the Taxation of Kulak Farmsteads on the Territory of L’viv, Stanyslaviv, Drohobych, Ternopil’, Rivne, Volyn’, and Chernivtsi Oblasts,” which was stamped with the words “Not for publication.” While the peasantry engaged in spontaneous resistance to collectivization, the Ukrainian underground sought to shape this anti-collective farm movement into organized form. As part of their agitation and propaganda measures, the insurgents distributed leaflets, circulated a variety of slogans, and engaged in terrorist actions targeting Soviet agitators as well as potential and current members of collective farms. On 24 November 1947 two peasants were hanged: Petro Rabotenko in the village of Luky, Koropets’ raion, and Tetiana Chupryk, in the village of Nahoriany, Tovste raion. Both of them had “actively campaigned for the introduction of collective farms in their respective villages and were behind their creation, and they were also members of the administration.”53
Many similar examples can be cited. However, such incidents did not convince the Soviet authorities to pursue non-violent methods to resolve these problems. On the contrary, they escalated their brutal reign of terror through the pacification method, above all, the mass deportation of insurgents’ families, so-called “abettors of gangs,” to Siberia and the Far North. A particularly large-scale deportation was carried out by the Ministry of State Security (MGB) in October 1947, which was launched simultaneously in all oblasts on 21 October: at 2:00 a.m. in cities and 6:00 a.m. in villages. The operation swept up a total of 26,000 families (78,000 people) of which 15,508 people were deported from Ternopil’ oblast alone.54
Starting in the mid-1940s, the Soviet security organs launched the formation of so-called pseudo-insurgent fighting units, which pretended to be subunits of OUN and the UPA and acted in their name. The interior and state security ministries in the western regions of the Ukrainian SSR utilized these false-flag units during their operations to mop up the OUN underground and its armed formations. Some of the personnel included former members of the OUN Security Service. One particularly effective unit was the “Khmara” group, consisting of sixty former partisans and UPA soldiers who had been recruited by the Soviets. Their commander was Captain V. Kashcheev, a Ukrainian NKVD operative, who pretended to be the chief of an UPA company commander’s bodyguard unit. In March 1945, this group was deployed from the Rivne region to Ternopil’ oblast, where it took part in liquidating the “Herasym” and “Nalyvaiko” detachments.55
These special groups also conducted identity checks of people suspected of being members of the underground and extracted information from arrested OUN and UPA leaders, interrogating them ostensibly in the name of the Security Service or leading OUN centers. Their duties included convincing faltering underground members to give themselves up and obtaining information from them about insurgent actions that had been carried out or were being planned. By late 1945 the interior and state security ministries of the Ukrainian SSR had created 150 of these bogus insurgent groups numbering 1,800 people. In April of that year, however, special groups based at municipal and raion divisions of the MGB were disbanded. From that point, only oblast directorates of the MGB could grant permission for the use of such groups. By February 1950 there were only 19 groups (130 people) left.56
Starting in 1946 the Ukrainian insurgents faced, in addition to the threat of their imminent extermination, the crucial problem of the steady de-escalation of the liberation movement. Meanwhile, the Soviet government had succeeded in turning the sociopolitical moods of the local population to its advantage. The external manifestation of this was the increase in the number of communists and Komsomol members in the local population and their recruitment to local bodies of the Soviet government. Soviet documents indicate that “at approximately in late 1949 and early 1950 a turning-point [was] observed in the population’s attitude to the underground.”57 Signs of exhaustion were evident throughout: the decade-long armed struggle during the war and the German occupation, the repressive measures of the Soviet regime, and the destruction of the traditional system of agriculture now replaced by collective farms—all this had taken a heavy toll. There was also growing dissatisfaction with the underground’s use of terror, which led to the escalation of Soviet repressions and punitive actions.
On 3 September 1949 General Roman Shukhevych issued order no. 2 disbanding the remaining UPA units. Only one pocket of armed resistance, consisting of OUN members, former UPA soldiers, and members not affiliated with either the OUN or the UPA, now remained.58 Soviet punitive expeditions continued to carry out mass round-ups and comb villages and forested regions, while deportations of the population proceeded apace. Certain innovations were introduced, such as political trials of underground members, which were open to the public. One such trial took place in May 1951. The defendant was Ilarii Skazins’ky (“Kryha”), the OUN leader of Chortkiv okruha, who was tried together with three other underground members: Levko Behers’ky (“Don”), the leader of Zolotyi Potik raion, Borys Popovych (“Borys”), and Dmytro Malynyk (“Potap”). The trial, led by Roman Rudenko, chief prosecutor of the Ukrainian SSR, took place on 27–30 October 1951 in the city of Chortkiv. All four were sentenced to death by hanging; the sentence was executed in December 1951, in the Chortkiv market square. The bodies, guarded by twenty Soviet soldiers, were left hanging in the square for three days.59
Despite the extreme repressions that were carried out by the Soviet state power structures, documentary sources reveal that as late as 1951 there were still pockets of insurgent resistance in the Ternopil’ region, led by the following individuals: “Burlan,” the organizational responsible leader of the “Podillia” krai OUN leadership; “Oles’,” the leader of the Ternopil’ okruha OUN leadership; the leaders of the Berezhany and Skalat nadraion leaderships; the responsible leader of the Kremenets’ nadraion OUN leadership; 11 raion OUN leaderships, and 31 kushch fighting units—a total of 144 people. The underground movement was also active in such raions as Budaniv, Velyki Birky, Velykyi Hlybichok, Pochaiv, Skalat, Strusiv, Terebovlia, Chortkiv, Shums’ke, Berezhany, and others.60
In 1952 the nationalist underground as a whole and Ternopil’ oblast in particular were in an extremely fragile state. By 1 August 1952, 18 fighting groups and OUN leaderships had terminated their activities; more than 60 insurgents were killed and 13 captured, and 85 people linked to the liberation movement were arrested.61 Practically all underground structures, such as bunkers and hideouts, were destroyed, and it had become almost impossible to find a safe house. The remaining members of the OUN Leadership then handed down a decision to scale back their terrorist activities and focus their attention on internal organizational and educational work. Only a handful of insurgents were advised to remain in the underground network; the rest were ordered to move to other Ukrainian oblasts, and even abroad, in order to acquire legal status.62
Thus, the early 1950s mark the final stages of the Ukrainian people’s armed national liberation struggle for independence. The stu