Kyiv Post | 21Nov2010 | David Marples

Let's put civility back into historical debates

I offer some comments on the editorials written by Askold Lozynskyj, which appeared in the Kyiv Post (Feb. 16, 2010 - "Rewriting history: an evidentiary perspective" and Sept. 22, 2010 - "History should be written by objective and competent scholars").

In Mr. Lozynskyj’s earlier article, he wrote the following: “John [sic!] Himka was a notorious Soviet apologist and remains a Ukraine detractor.”

The first allegation simply drags the discussion to the level of the gutter. I have known Professor Himka for many years and he was never a supporter, advocate or sympathizer of the SovietUnion. Second, what is a “Ukraine detractor”? In this case it appears to mean he does not hold the same opinions as Lozynskyj.

Himka was born in Detroit of Ukrainian and Italian ancestry. His mentor and predecessor at the University of Alberta, the late Ivan Lysiak-Rudnytsky, was a brilliant scholar who helped bring Ukrainian studies into the mainstream and is revered today in Ukraine as well as North America. Himka completed his Ph.D. under the tutelage of Roman Szporluk, then at Michigan and subsequently the Mykhailo Hrushevsky Professor of History at Harvard University.

Himka is one of the most popular teachers at the University of Alberta and has attracted a plethora of outstanding graduate students from Ukraine, Japan, Poland and other countries. He is widely accepted as the leading scholar on 19th century Galicia, and has now turned his focus to the Holocaust, as well as Ukrainian Church studies. His books have received international critical acclaim.

Over the past few years, Himka has indeed revised his views on the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (known as OUN, whose members fought for Ukrainian national independence in the first half of the 20th century) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (the organization's military wing, known as UPA), based on his archival research. His conclusions may not be popular but they are not motivated by some grudge against the community in which he was raised.

Let me now make eight brief comments on Lozynskyj’s second editorial.

First, Himka’s response to Lozynskyj’s original opinion piece was not tardy at all. That response was offered in mid-March, but for unknown reasons was not published by Kyiv Post until Sept. 21, 2010 ("Ukrainian past and future", a delay of more than six months. It did appear promptly, however, on the Internet list of publications on Ukraine issued by the chair of Ukrainian Studies, University of Ottawa [].

Second, Himka was referring to the Kolodzinsky Division of UPA-North, and not Colonel Kolodzinsky of the Carpathian Sich army. So the rest of Lozynskyj’s third paragraph is irrelevant.

Third, Lozynsky’s reference to Marco Carynnyk’s “lack of credentials” is little less than character assassination. Carynnyk, a respected poet and translator of Dovzhenko, is a private scholar and the author of a forthcoming book from Yale University Press on Poles, Jews, and Ukrainians in the summer of 1941. Inter alia, he has published a major article on OUN in Harvard Ukrainian Studies and co-edited a collection of documents on the famine with Lubomyr Luciuk and Bohdan Kordan.
Fourth, plainly . Himka made a typographical error with regard to Taras Bul’ba-Borovets, as he would be well aware that he was the founder of UPA rather than the OUN. Mr. Lozynskyj describes that mistake as “obscene.” “Unfortunate” would have been a more appropriate word. Moreover, it does not negate anything that follows, i.e. Bul’ba-Borovets did deplore the slaughter of Poles that followed in Volhynia in the spring and summer of 1943.

Fifth, one wonders whether research grant donors, such as the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, impose conditions on their grantees. All scholars need to fund their research, but it does not mean they adopt partisan opinions or standpoints.

Sixth, Lozynskyj more than once has commented on the unreliability of eyewitness testimony, which he describes as “fertile ground for embellishment.”

Yet eyewitnesses proved vital for the uncovering of the events of the Famine-Holodomor of 1932-33, especially those gathered by the U.S. Commission on the Ukraine Famine in the 1980s, led by James E. Mace. In response, the Communist Party leader of Soviet Ukraine, Volodymyr Shcherbytsky, was forced to acknowledge the existence of the Famine for the first time in December 1987. As in all scholarly research, eyewitness accounts are an important way to support and corroborate archival documents and official reports.

Seventh, what is one to make of the confused allusions to Soviet documents in Mr. Lozynskyj’s article? In paragraph four, he writes that Himka “must be aware of Soviet predilection for forging both documents and witness protocols.” He then proceeds to use Soviet evidence to support his last statement that the Nuremberg Trials did not uncover any wrongdoing or even mention OUN and UPA. One cannot have it both ways. If Soviet evidence is unreliable because of forgeries or otherwise, then this surely applied to the materials presented at Nuremberg as well.

Lastly, with regard to Nuremberg, it proved to be simply the beginning of an investigation not the end point. Historians, unlike lawyers, do not close cases, not least because our knowledge of subject matter increases over time. Thanks to the opening of new archives in the former Soviet Union, the availability of new CIA materials, and the vastly improved communication between scholars, we know far more about events of the Stalin years than we did during the Cold War period or even by the end of the 20th century.

Again, the example of the Famine-Holodomor is instructive. Most of the primary documents consulted in recent works emerged after the end of the Soviet Union, and especially in the years of Yushchenko’s presidency. As with OUN and UPA, historians were able to uncover new revelations, as evidenced by the plethora of new books in Ukrainian, Russian, and English.

However, the key issue in today’s Ukraine, as the recent arrest of Ruslan Zabilyi has demonstrated, is the need for scholars’ continued unfettered and free access to such documents. Without that we cannot have a debate at all. In the meantime, those of us who are still free to speak should at least adopt a civil tone.

David R. Marples is author of Heroes and Villains: Creating National History in Contemporary Ukraine (Budapest and New York: Central European University Press, 2008).

Serhiy Kostyuk, , 2010.11.27 -- 01:12

Since my February 2010 editorial "Ukraine Expert", Eh? Marples Owes Ukrainians and Ukrainian Canadians an Apology" in Ukrainian News (re-printed by Kyiv Post, which is available under Periodicals section from:, Dr.Marples has changed his written style about Ukrainian history.

However, there is no author’s voice as a historian and a scholar on the Holodomor, one would expect to be in the Kyiv Post’s Opinion Section. There are careless mistakes, and, most importantly, there is no clear understanding that Holodomor was an act of genocide against Ukrainians.

First of all, a more precise definition of Holodomor is “Killing by Hunger”, based on two Ukrainian words: holod - “hunger, starvation, famine”, and moryty -- “to induce suffering, to kill”. “Death by Hunger” (as described by Marples) and “Killing by Hunger” are two different things; and they ultimately lead to different context of Holodomor -- either tragedy (Act of God) or genocide (Act of a Man -- and even those who describe Holodomor as tragedy, know the name of this man -- Josef Stalin).

Second, the Holodomor fully conforms to the definition of genocide according to the 1948 UN Convention of Genocide. The goal was to destroy the Ukrainian nation. The Communist regime targeted the Ukrainians, in the sense of a civic nation, in Soviet Ukraine, and as an ethnic group in Soviet Russia, especially in the predominantly Ukrainian Kuban region of the Northern Caucasus.

Article 2 of the 1948 UN Convention says that “…genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a)killing members of the group; (b)causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c)deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its psychical destruction in whole or in part; (d)imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e)forcibly transferring children of the group to another group”.

Consequently, even from the selected facts a title is essential: "Documenting a GENOCIDE”. Entitling this piece as "Documenting a Tragedy" is with lines of current Ukraine’s President, its Administration and Government. For example, on Nov. 22, 2010 Foreign Minister of Ukraine K.Gryshchenko in his "Address to Ukrainians Abroad on the Occasion of the 77th Holodomor Anniversary" disseminated by the Embassy of Ukraine in Canada did not dare to call Holodomor 1932-33 as an act of Genocide. Minister called it tragedy, like President Yanukovych, of course (who appointed him), like name them.

PM of Canada called it genocide, both in Canada and while in Ukraine, the Parliament of Canada and five legislatures across the country called it genocide, Parliament of Ukraine called it genocide, and 14 countries in the world called it genocide... Often biased towards Ukrainian history Edmonton Journal newspaper on Nov. 21, 2010 published an article titled "Edmontonians Commemorate Ukrainian Genocide".

Are those who call the Ukrainian Holodomor 1932-33 as Genocide wrong? Or does what you see depend how you look at it?

Third, quoting Mace in the last paragraph is not seeing the forest for the trees. Here is another quote from the world renowned Holodomor scholar James Mace: “I remain convinced that for Stalin to have complete centralized power in his hands, he found it necessary to physically destroy the second-largest Soviet republic, meaning the annihilation of the Ukrainian peasantry, Ukrainian intelligentsia, Ukrainian language, and history as understood by the people; to do away with Ukraine and things Ukrainian as such. The calculation was very simple, very primitive: no people, therefore, no separate country, and thus no problem. Such a policy is Genocide in the classic sense of the word”.

Finally, Ukrainians worldwide are commemorating the 77th anniversary..., NOT "78th" as written by Marples in the first sentence.

Serhiy Kostyuk

“Ukraine expert”, eh?
Marples owes Ukrainians and Ukrainian Canadians an apology
By Serhiy Kostyuk

At first it was difficult to believe that David Marples, Ph.D., a distinguished professor at the
University of Alberta could write such a misleading and offensive article (“Hero of Ukraine
links to Jewish killings”) and the Edmonton Journal would actually print it, as they did on Feb.
7, 2010, the day the people of Ukraine peacefully elected a new President of Ukraine.
The “scholarly” component of Marples’ article has been very aptly addressed by Stepan
Bandera’s grandson Stephen, Ukrainian News Editor Marco Levytsky, CIUS Director Dr.
Zenon Kohut and Lubomyr Markevych. And the distress this has created in our community was
noted in the Letter to the Editor of The Journal by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Alberta
Provincial Council, which “is receiving calls from respected individuals in Alberta society who
are being harassed at work as a result of an inaccurate, inappropriate and sensational headline
and column.”

Who is Marples and why he is throwing around comments that nurture Ukrainophobia?

I’ve looked up two Jan 28, 2010, Voice of America (VoA) reports by Andre de Nesnera “Tymoshenko
Faces Yanukovich in Feb. 7 Ukrainian Presidential Runoff ” and “Yanukovich Seen as Front-
Runner in Ukraine Presidential Election”, both basically the same story under different
headlines, in which Marples was quoted and referred to as a “Ukraine expert”. Some expert.
Marples says that Ukraine’s Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko “earned a doctorate in
economics”. Not true. In actual fact, Tymoshenko only defended her Candidate of Economic
Sciences degree in 1999, and never started working on her doctorate after that. (In Ukraine a
doctorate takes another 4-6 years of study following a Candidate degree).

While noting that Yanukovych was convicted of assault and manslaughter (the second not
true) as a youth, Marples adds that “Tymoshenko also spent time in prison — but for so-called
‘white collar’ crimes. So both the presidential candidates of Ukraine have been in jail”. Again
not true. Yanukovych was convicted twice and served sentences for each of these offenses, but
Tymoshenko was never convicted of either “white collar” or “street” crimes. She spent six
weeks in a detention centre, but in March 2001 Pechersk District Court of Kyiv revoked the
arrest warrant issued by Prosecutor-General’s Office and dismissed the charges against her).
Marples is also careless with his dates. He says that Yanukovych “was arrested in 1968”.
Not true. Yanukovych was sentenced a year earlier, on December 15, 1967 (according to
Article 141, Part 2 of the Criminal Code of the Ukrainian SSR).

But what lessons do we take from the Marples article that was published in The Edmonton

First, can you imagine that the Canadian Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre for
Holocaust Studies or someone in a similar position would publish Nazi propaganda? Yet what
is Marples, who is the Director of the Stasiuk Program for the Study of Contemporary Ukraine
at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies at the U of A, doing when he makes the totally
unsubstantiated claim that “members of the OUN-B spearheaded pogroms in L’viv in the summer
of 1941 when about 4,000 Jews were killed”? He is spreading Soviet disinformation.

Second, historical research on the Ukrainian nationalist movement during the Second
World War, Stalinism, repressions, Holodomor-Genocide 1932-33, Famine 1946-47, and
dissident movement in Ukraine should be based on the unclassified archived documents and
memoirs, which are now available in printed and electronic formats. Researchers should stop
unquestioningly using material from Soviet sources on the history of the USSR and Ukraine,
which serves only to spread stereotypes of Ukrainians. They should distinguish between the
Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, the Galicia Division
(later renamed First Division of the National Army of Ukraine) and the Roland and Nachtigall
Battalions of the Wehrmacht. The English author Samuel Johnson once said “It is more from
carelessness about truth than from intentionally lying that there is so much falsehood in the

Third, Ukrainian Canadians should respect not only others, but also themselves. We should
defend our human rights and continue to battle discrimination. We should think twice before
inviting Marples to deliver a lecture, giving him research and travel grants, allowing him to
manage Ukrainian projects or rewarding him in other ways. It is unfortunate that he was
awarded the Shevchenko Medal in 1999 by the “Ukrainian Canadian Committee (national)”, as
he says on his web site. Apparently he’s unaware the title Ukrainian Canadian Committee was
replaced with Ukrainian Canadian Congress 10 years before his award, back in 1989.
Finally, Marples should be held responsible for his statements and apologize to Ukrainians
for the disinformation he is spreading. In 2009 Ignatieff apologized for and condemned
statements he had posed in the form of a rhetorical exercise in his 1992 book “Blood and
Belonging”. In 2008 Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall apologized for speaking in an
exaggerated Ukrainian accent and mocking then-NDP leader Roy Romanow, who went on to
become premier in the 1991. Similarly Wildrose Alliance chief of staff Stephen Carter
apologized for poking fun at Premier Ed Stelmach’s Ukrainian accent in 2009.
Ukrainian Canadians welcomed the belated or quick, but unequivocal apologies from
Ignatieff, Wall, Carter and others, and considered those matters closed. Does Marples have the
courage to apologize for a rehash of misinformation?

Serhiy Kostyuk
Candidate of Political Sciences
Ukrainian News, Edmonton, February 18, 2010


Guest, 2010.11.23 -- 12:29

Marples is a very weak scholar of Ukraine (as seen in his book Heroes and Villains which does not use good sources such as school textbooks) and writes most of the time on Belarus and the USSR. The Ukrainian-Canadian community is so starved on "Ukrainian experts" that he is touted as such.

 Guest, 2010.11.25 -- 01:53

hmmm.... "good sources such as school textbooks?" Something fishy here :)

Andrew Norman Wilson, 2010.11.23 -- 11:24

"In universities and intellectual circles, academics can guarantee themselves popularity -- or, which is just as satisfying, unpopularity -- by being opinionated rather than by being learned."
- A. N. Wilson

Guest, 2010.11.22 -- 16:47

Lozynskyj's comments must have hit close to home...Marples' attempt at rebuttal is interesting, except for the first 6 paragraphs...which sound like a big fat baby...all debate is good...

Guest, 2010.11.22 -- 07:14

Himka's work on iconography and churches in Western Ukraine is his best, but it doesn't pay the bills, so he chose to become a captain of another "industry."

 LES, 2010.11.22 -- 07:33

Does this book mention the UKRAINIAN Churches that were destroyed or converted during the 1920's, 1930's, and 1940's?

Guest, 2010.11.22 -- 05:29

These fellows in the Department of History at the University of Alberta certainly expend a great deal of time defending each other -- repeatedly. Probably because their research is so poor and based ONLY on eye witness testimony. Marples talks about the de-classified archives but then fails to mention what they revealed. Well here is a bit of eye-witness testimony for you. My family lived in Western Ukraine before the war. First the Poles came in and slaughtered and took whatever they felt like taking. Then the Russians. Then the Germans. In 2010 we have the spectacle of "analysis" from Marples and Co at the University of Alberta-their conclusion-the real perpetrators of all the wartime horror in Ukraine were Ukrainians. This explains the increasing contempt with which they are regarded in the Ukrainian community.

 LES, 2010.11.22 -- 07:44

Then after the Germans left, the red army returned and it was time to send UKRAINIANS to the Gulags AGAIN.

Do these fellow "historians" realize that UKRAINE lost about 10,000,000 between 1939-1945?

 Former academic, 2010.11.24 -- 01:08

No doubt some people find masochistic pleasure in being recognized (and having their country recognized) as the world's top martyrs. They may well be reminded that they hold no monopoly on martyrdom. Other Soviet-ruled peoples (including the Russians) suffered just as much, or more. But nobody whines more than some self-proclaimed Ukrainian leaders.

Guest, 2010.11.22 -- 04:18

So what Prof Marples is saying is don't criticize prof Himka because that is uncivil. Just give Himka a free ride to promote his half truths and out of context descriptions.
I'm all for civil discourse....but I find Marples whining uncivil in itself. Besides, Himka is a big boy and he can defend his position
if there is an adequate defense. I don't think Prof Marples' cheerleading role on behalf of Prof Himka does credit to either of them. Makes them look...well...whiney!

 LES, 2010.11.22 -- 07:25

I refrained from my initial impulse to write a scathing comment because marples would whine and say that rather than being civil that my comment was argumentum ad hominem. Besides, KP would have deleted it due to the language. This article looks as if it was written by the kremlin with its innuendos, half truths, and semantics.

Guest, 2010.11.22 -- 00:57

Who cares about history? That what fucks countries up and people cause they use their history to take revenge on another country or even on their own people.

Its time to move on and to forget about history. To focus on the now and here.

I agree with having a civil conversation that should be followed for any conversation regardless.

People often use history as a negative e.g. The controversial genocide debate of Armenians by Turks?? If there was any? This is why it corrupts people's minds too much. Look at the troubled and failed Balkans. History is starting to repeat itself. Look at Bosnia, Kosovo. War mongering is continuing.

 Guest, 2010.11.26 -- 18:46
Президент Ізраїлю радить українцям забути свою історію

Guest, 2010.11.21 -- 22:20

Marples and Himka are no friends of Ukraine while operating under "scholarly objectivism". It is easy to mention only the wrongs Poles have suffered at the hands of Ukrainians while ignoring the fact that Poland had at one time occupied Ukraine (and still does in 4 provinces in Halychyna) all the while Poles conducted atrocities against Ukrainians. Both Marples and Himka have selective methods of research. The true history of Ukraine and its suffering throughout its long years of occupation by its enemies has yet to be written and certainly NOT writen by these two "objective" historians. They are in the same league as Mogocsyi who has been trying to divide Carpatho Ukrainians, once again under the cloak of "scholarly objectivism" A plague on such historians.

 Guest, 2010.11.26 -- 18:48

we're still waiting for them to share the 18 hours of censored German video documentary of the Lviv massacre...don't hold your breath

 Former Academic, 2010.11.24 -- 01:02

And why is it necessary for historians to be "friends" of something they study? If we apply your logic, the best and most truthful books on Soviet history were written by Soviet Marxist-Leninist historians, while all Western books should be considered cr*p, as they were written by no friends of the USSR.