Sunday, May 9, 2021

Khrushchev’s Amnesty of 50,000 Banderites and Forest Brothers in 1955-56 Led to Demise of USSR, Gushchin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 8 – In 1955-56, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev amnestied 50,000 Ukrainian Banderites and Baltic Forest Brothers, many of whom had worked for the Germans, and allowed them to return to their homes where they helped form nationalist movements in those places that ultimately led to the demise of the Soviet Union, Viktor Gushchin says.

            Indeed, the historian and current president of the Russian community of Latvia says, one is forced to conclude that these powerful “’fifth columns’” were the work of the highest leadership” of the Soviet Union and were an enormous gift to the West which hoped to destroy the USSR (

            It appears, the Riga-based historian says, that Khrushchev took this step in order to end talk about the GULAG because he and those in the leadership had been deeply involved in its operation earlier and because the Soviet leader wanted to develop better relations with the West and especially West Germany. But what he did was a criminal mistake, Gushchin argues.

            These fighters were allowed to return to their homes without any explanatory media effort by the Soviet authorities, and as a result, many in Ukraine and the Baltic countries came to view them as heroes who had been unjustly imprisoned than as the Nazi collaborators that Gushchin insists they were.

            What Khrushchev did had a pre-history. In March 1946, the Soviet leadership of Latvia asked that members of the Latvian Legion of the SS be amnestied so that they could return home and help that republic recover from the ravages of war. Remarkably, Gushchin continues, Moscow agreed.

            Latvian legionnaires were amnestied “indiscriminately and unconditionally” and they too came home without any effort by the Soviet government to explain what their crimes had been. What is striking, Gushchin argues, is that the Forest Brothers and the Banderites were in “a more privilege position” than members of the Vlasovite movement.

            The latter were immediately arrested if they returned to the USSR, but some Banderites and Forest Brothers who came back – he gives no numbers – were allowed to return to peaceful life without prejudice, Gushchin says.

            According to the Russian activist, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that Khrushchev did all this completely consciously and thus “created hothouse conditions for the development of Baltic and Ukrainian nationalism.” And while he was doing this, he was eliminating many of the Stalinist guard that fought the Nazis during the war.

            It is thus no surprise that things turned out the way they did, Gushchin concludes.

            On the one hand, this is a classic post hoc ergo propter hoc argument, an insistence that anything someone doesn’t like necessarily is uniquely responsible for the direst consequences later. But on the other, this perspective reflects the increasingly anti-Western and anti-reform attitudes of the Putin regime and its supporters. And thus it too is “no surprise.”


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