April 17, 2015

Visiting BINTEL — Ivan Mukovsky

Mukovsky Ivan TimofeevichMukovskyi Ivan Tymofiyovych

Doctor of Historical Sciences, Professor, Academician of the Academy of Sciences of Higher Education, Honored Worker of Science and Technology, winner of M. Kostomarov Prize.










“People Should Be Proud of the Victory and Celebrate the Anniversary of It, but Not Turn It into a Propaganda Weapon”

Ivan Tymofiyovych, for a long time you have been studying the theme of human losses of the Ukrainian people in World War II. Today, in the difficult for Ukraine circumstances, why has this topic suddenly become subject to debates, at the international level included?

When I was entering the postgraduate course, I dedicated my essay to the border guards' of the South-Western Front fighting in the early period of the war. Candidate's dissertation was completely devoted to the South-Western Front of the period of the beginning of the war. Doctoral dissertation was also dedicated to World War II. Later I participated in writing the Book of Memory. I sought to determine the value of the Ukrainian people's contribution into the victory in World War II. After all, our citizens have the right to know not only its individual pages. I was able to find out more than 250 names of our soldiers who died in the Battle of Kursk. And their families learned how soldiers fought, what awards they received and under what circumstances they were killed. All this is described in the book “Victory and Sacrifices. Ukrainians at fronts of World War II”.

Victory and Sacrifices. Ukrainians at fronts of World War IIAre all the facts and figures confirmed by relevant documents?

Yes, they are. I did work on documents. For example, in the archive in Podolsk I had been working for more than seven years. There have never been complains about my book. By the way, at the Institute of Military History of the Russian Federation my work was positively assessed with one and only remark: Too much attention is paid to the national question. But I did study the facts directly relating to Ukraine!

Was there a need for opponents?

— Each researcher needs opponents to improve the research work. Over time, leafing through my papers, copies of documents, I wondered how much I managed to have learnt, read, and thought over.

Well, now scientists like you, have more than enough of opponents. I mean some, so to speak, speeches of representative of the Russian political establishment about what and how much each of the peoples of the Soviet Union did for the victory over fascism. Tell please, in the course of training students in high school did you have to fundamentally change the teaching methodology? If you did, for what reasons?

The methodological approach, for example, when writing books does not change. But this cannot be said about the methodology of teaching in schools. After all, it is very important for a true historian assess historical events objectively, based on archival materials. Without bias, without concealing any facts.

It is known that in Soviet times, some historical events for certain reasons had been concealed. Today there is an opportunity to return to the facts, because without them we would not have an objective picture of the events...

Absolutely. The fact is that while the objective, truthful history of Ukraine was not expedient, it had been hidden in special funds. That is why our citizens' knowledge of it was poor, they were barred from historical memory. Dovzhenko in his diary once wrote: “The only country in the world where the history of its own state is not taught at universities, where the history is prohibited, hostile and counterrevolutionary — is Ukraine. There is no other such country in the world.

Did you communicate with your foreign counterparts? If so, do their approaches to studying historical events differ greatly from ours?

I participated in international conferences, “round tables”. That's when I got acquainted with Taras Gunchak and Orest Subtelnyi. Gunchak assisted me in developing my theme on the participation of the Ukrainian people in the victory in the Second World War. In particular, in the question of Ukrainians' losses at fronts. He, by the way, had only total figures of such losses, but he did not have figures of military losses. If we talk about approaches in the study, they are the same as ours. Some assessment of historical events may differ.

Do your counterparts always approve of such assessments?

If you touch on the question of geopolitics' influence on history, there is something to talk about here... While working on the Book of Memory, I was able to devote a lot of time to writing of its concept. Working conditions were very difficult. Representatives from different sides — partisans and UPA soldiers — would gather and they had a different perception of my advice on the preparation of materials for the book. For over two years we had been working on the book, and still there was no conception. I had again and again to meet veterans and coordinate with them common approaches to the preparation of materials. It even came to creation of a special commission to develop the above-mentioned concept.

Could you ever think that Ukraine's role in World War II will be determined so ambiguously, as we have seen lately? In particular, how to perceive the statement that Russia alone could have defeated the invaders?

I have already written that the people's desire to defend its freedom was much greater than the desire to settle scores with its leader (Stalin — Ed.). Therefore, in one line to fight fascists were those who kneeled before Stalin as savior, and those who cursed him as a tyrant. But the war opened a criminal carelessness, complacency, selfishness, cowardice of those who tried to stay away, and even avoided being drafted into the army. However, historians seldom wrote about this, limited to declarations of solidarity, moral and political unity of the people, their superiority over the enemy. The history of the war had been re-written in favor of the then leadership, the true course of events had been distorted, and the human losses had been silenced. The version had been imposed of the unexpected Germans' attack and so on. Little wonder we still know not everything about the war. Meanwhile, every nation of the former USSR contributed into the victory. And it would be sacrilege to extol separately the role of one of them, based only on ethnicity. You see, people should be proud of the Victory and celebrate the anniversary of it. But it is a crime to turn it into a propaganda weapon, like Russians are trying to.

This year marks 70 years since the end of World War II. What do you think, why this historical fact suddenly begins to come to the fore in international relations?

Just because there are many unexplored facts in the history of those events. They, those events, have not been properly studied and adequately assessed. And therefore certain “findings” have been promulgated that satisfy individuals interested in them.

It's called manipulation.

Yes, a deliberate statement of events from a certain angle. Here are some facts about Ukraine. The first weeks of fighting, that is, the beginning of the war, to the present day has not been studied. Working on the Book of Memory, on the Candidate and Doctoral dissertations, I found out that there are no archives of the initial period of the war with records of combat actions of military units and formations. They have been destroyed. Anfilov's book is devoted to this topic, but I think that it is subjective, because the events in it are written about without documentary evidence. Without documents, the events of the time are very difficult to be recreated or even imagined.

Or another example: everyone knows the tragedy called “Uman's Pit” where in 1941 our army died. This fact has never been studied properly — either during the Soviet power or nowadays. In my book, I tried to tell about it — about the 26th Army's Commander Ponedelin, the situation in which he was as the Commander. Although at the time there was no front as such, but what he did as a military leader, he did right. This is my opinion.

I also want to remind: the fighting near Kyiv in the summer-autumn of 1941 destroyed the plans of the “lightning war” which fact was recognized even by German generals. And when Hitler having rejected the offer of his Army Commander to advance on Moscow, August 21 ordered the strike to the south, we may say that it actually saved the Soviet capital. Historian M. Braychevskyi concluded in his book that “it is the defense of Kyiv that should be considered a turning point in the war. Without it, there would have been no victory at Moscow and without the Moscow counteroffensive there would have been no Stalingrad”.

Why do some people make attempts to downplay the role of Ukraine in the war?

Ask our so-called opponents from Russia... Yes, indeed, by the number of Heroes of the Soviet Union, they are in the first place. Ukrainians — in the second. By the number of marshals and generals, Russians are in the first place, Ukrainians — in the second. Explain to me why the current Russian leadership seeks to play down authority of Ukraine, which is actually a full-fledged state? In this regard, I remember the following fact: in 1943, Stalin authorized the establishment of the Order of Bohdan Khmelnytskyi in order to guide the national feelings of Ukrainians in the right direction. Exactly of the Ukrainian Hetman Khmelnytskyi, whom the “Great Soviet Encyclopedia” of 1935, during the struggle against Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism, called “traitor and cruel enemy of the rebelled Ukrainian peasantry.” That's not for nothing that the proverb warns: do not shoot a gun at the past, because the future will shoot at you from a cannon.

By the way, Professor F. Sverdlov recently have published his observations about the rewards for Soviet soldiers during World War II. By May 9, 1945, in the Red Army had been awarded — with orders and medals — 9,284,199 soldiers, officers and generals. In this, list 6 million 173 thousands were Russians, 1 million 711 thousand — Ukrainians, 311 thousand — Belarusians, 175 thousand — Tatars, 161 thousand — Jews and so on. Professor writes: if you define proportionality of the awarded in relation to the population of each nationality, it turns out that for 100 thousand people, soldiers-Jews received 7 thousand orders and medals, Russians — 5415, Ukrainians — 4624, Belarusians — 3936. Is there a need to talk about greater or lesser contribution into the achievement of a certain people in the hope for its short memory? And at this trying to mix this with politics?

— At the beginning of World War II in parts of South-Western Front Ukrainians made majority. Since the beginning of the liberation of the Soviet Union, in particular, Ukraine, when the call was held in the liberated territories, military units were filled by Ukrainians. In units and parts of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th Ukrainian fronts they made up to 70-80 percent. I asked, and what was the ethnic composition of these military units when they came to Berlin? In other words, what was the Ukrainian citizens' mite in the victory over the enemy? It turned out that in some parts of them there remained 18-20 percent. The rest had died on battlefields. So draw your own conclusions!

Ivan Tymofiyovych, how natural is the relationship between history and geopolitics? Is it correct to use it for achieving political goals?

Unfortunately, the historical science today is used to justify the events of which we are eyewitnesses. Sometimes historical facts are being “fitted” in the topic of the day in purpose. I have already written in my research that, until recently, geopolitical aspects of World War II, associated with Ukraine, our historical science did not study. Geopolitics was considered “bourgeois political doctrine that attempts to justify the aggressive policy of imperialist states”. That is what the Political Dictionary edited in 1987 said. In their turn, historiography of the West lacked a thorough approach to coverage of the events, it lacked, in particular, the Ukrainian base of primary sources. In addition, Ukraine in its eyes was not a subject of European geopolitics, but an integral part of the Soviet Union. Scientists from the Ukrainian diaspora managed to catch up with something in this matter, but their works still lack a complete picture of the Ukrainian geopolitics during the Second World War.

How do you assess the research conclusions of Russian historians?

They have the following angle of view: at that time Ukraine did not exist, there was only the Soviet Union, an integral part of which was Ukraine. This approach suits them, in this context it is convenient to interpret historical events, to make necessary conclusions.

Do they have grounds, if we remember political processes of the pre-war period? I mean all sorts of secret and not so secret international treaties such as the MolotovRibbentrop Pact.

All documents must sooner or later be declassified. Then there will be no manipulation, historical conclusions will not cause doubts.

We have already touched upon the question of the role of history as a science of social development. If, for example, we look through the pages of the history of each of the former Soviet republics, is it possible to find a lot of so-called mistakes, that is, intentional misrepresentations of facts?

It is bad when people in power try to alter historical events up to their liking. Over time, this necessarily results in negative consequences. French historian Marc Bloch rightly pointed out that it is necessary to understand why people study history, what motivates them to study what has already been studied. He said that new generations are at a different point of the invisible line that leads from the past into the present, and from this new point, we see things differently, at a different angle. We do not sweep aside our ancestors' knowledge, but think it over in the light of new historical experience. History is not a story about the past, it is asking past events questions that concern us today.

Waves of military battles of the Second World twice swept through Ukraine. The population, which could not get evacuated to the East, came under occupation. And after the liberation this population was not trusted, it was accused of collaboration with the occupiers, was limited in rights in the post-war life. Do you not think that something similar could happen in the East of Ukraine, where some will be accused of separatism, and others — of betraying the so-called “Novorossia”?

Recently, some official publications have published official documents. As well, as research versions of the losses of the Soviet people during World War II. In Russia, this issue has become a priority for military and civilian historians who have made in this direction a series of sequential steps. In Krivosheev, Sokolov, Gareev, Kolosov and Tereshchuk's works, based on the analysis of so far not closed archival materials, there are attempts to study deeper the issues of military losses. However, the true figure of losses has not been disclosed. In this research was engaged a special team of the Russian General Staff officers. Their professionalism is beyond doubt. And yet, the figure they have announced cannot be considered accurate. They calculated, for example, that mortality of soldiers-Ukrainians made 1 376 000 people. (Note that this refers only to permanent losses). The Ukrainian people's total losses, according to our Book of Memory, made 11,654,600 people. This figure of military losses was derived from operational materials included in regional editions of the Book of Memory of Ukraine. One can judge of Ukraine's military losses from the following table.

Ukraine’s Military Losses in WWII, peopleThese are not final figures. The data on the Red Army staff are in Russian (once central) archives.

The sorrowful martyrology would not be complete without taking into account losses of Ukrainian partisans and underground fighters, members of the OUN/UPA (5 to 10 thousand, and the maximum — 15 to 20 thousand). Other data on the losses of the UPA — up to 57 thousand people. In the resistance movement, in the Wehrmacht — in the SS Division “Galicia” — were killed 16 thousand people. All in all, direct military losses of Ukrainian citizens total of 6 million people. And this is not the final figure. We may compare Ukraine's military losses with those of Western states by using the following data: Germany — 6 million; Hungary — 863,900; Italy — 93,900; Romania — 680,800; Finland — 86,000; Austrian, Sudeten, Luxembourg Germans — 460 thousand; USA's permanent losses — 405,000; UK — 375 thousand; Japan — 2.5 million. 8 649 thousand people were lost by the states of the so-called “axis”.

Of the 15 Fronts of that time, more than half were headed by generals and officers of Ukrainian origin. Someone tries to argue that we resort to the dry statistics. But behind this statistics there are fates and fortunes of our citizens!

This statistics allows us to better understand our roots, to better understand ourselves. On Ukrainian lands almost all kinds of hostilities took place. Pointing out the role of the Ukrainian factor in the war, we must remember that the war on the territory of Ukraine had not stopped for a moment from June 22, 1941 to October 22, 1944. During this period almost half of all strategic operations had been conducted here. The Ukrainian territory was the site of the largest concentration of manpower and equipment. The apogee of hostilities was from autumn 1943 to autumn 1944. Half of the Red Army was concentrated on Ukraine's territory.

German's most powerful military units, all SS groupings also were here. During the liberation of Ukraine, had been carried out 15 offensive and 2 defensive operations (11 strategic and 6 front-line ones). Irrecoverable sanitary losses during the liberation of Ukraine amounted to 4 million people. The liberation of Ukraine was not a heroic march, as some people are trying to present it.

As for the issue of the so-called Novorossia, here can be traced some “tradition” to seek those responsible for catastrophic events, at some point imposed on the population in order to help real culprits of the present tragedy to escape responsibility.

I am interested in your views on the plans of the German command during the Second World War in regard to the Crimea. It seems that now they have something in common with those of Russia's, which annexed the Peninsular.

It is appropriate to recall older events, when during the First World War the European territory was being redrawn. Then came the collapse of empires, new nation-states were formed, attempts were made, in particular, to form an independent Ukraine. Yuri Lypa in his program book “Ukraine's Mission”, published in 1938, sets out his vision of the issue of the German occupation of the Crimea in 1918. Here is what he, in particular, wrote: “To the German strategists the Crimea was first of all of geopolitical importance. No Kyiv's degrees or young Ukrainian Army's resistance could save the Crimea from German occupation in April 1918.” And Lypa refers to the report of the Chief of the Austrian Staff to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Austria Burian of 13 June, 1918: “Germany has set itself a separate economic and political goal in Ukraine. It wants to once and forever secure for itself the most secure way to Mesopotamia and Arabia through Baku and Iran,” and so on.

Now let's recall the events of 1941, when the Germans turned their large forces from the central axis of advance to the southern direction. They decided to take the Left-Bank Ukraine and enter the Crimea, having formed a convenient springboard for capturing the Caucasus with its oil. German General von Butlar believed that that step would also impress Turkey. But already the events we are witnessing today, eloquently speak about the Peninsula's real importance. Despite whoever's attempts to talk whatever about the reasons for its annexation. That is, the fate of the Crimea depended and depends on its geopolitical role. It will never be the periphery, it will always fall into the geopolitical whirlwind, especially when the world order is violated. But if the Crimea had not stayed out of sight of the Ukrainian leadership for the last two decades, its annexation would have been out of the question.

Ivan Tymofiyovych, those who closely follow the course of military conflicts, study them, they understand that those conflicts “produce” a stratum of people, who recognize nothing but violence. Russia received such a stratum at the end of the wars in Chechnya, and now seems to be happy sending them to our Donetsk and Luhansk regions. If you recall the post-war years of the last century, the same problem was observed in the former USSR. From the memories of witnesses it is known that at the end of the war, for example, in Kyiv, homeless veterans and the disabled, who got settled in urban slums, NKVD units once forcibly took away in an unknown direction... not better was the fate of those who stayed during the war in enemy captivity. What can you say about this?

Those who wage wars, should know that soon there will be a stratum of citizens, who, after passing through a military meat grinder, will differently perceive the world, and will have their own values. These people's psychology changes, they think, based on the experience got in harsh conditions. And they do not accept the fact that their views are neglected or despised. They would not be manipulated, authorities should be ready to talk with them, to cooperate. This problem is very complicated.

Back in 1999, in the textbook “Ukraine in the Geopolitical System of Coordinates during the Second World War”, along with co-authors you point out: “The lessons of the Second World War are of continued importance in determining Ukraine's geopolitical orientation both, at present and in the future because if geopolitical ambitions of Russia's chauvinist forces are based on an adequate defense industry, and these forces fully seize power in Moscow, we can expect NATO's appropriate response. Since the path to NATO for our country is permanently closed, Ukraine may face an alternative: to get back into the Kremlin's hegemonic embrace or once again to be at the geopolitical crossroads of the continental confrontation, as it happened before and during the last war.” How were those predictions perceived at that time?

There was a response to our conclusions and warnings, we were agreed with. But, as we have seen, the state leadership little has done for the country's security. Today it is not easy for me to explain this, although someone may think that everything is already clear without any explanations.

As it turned out, we not only were not ready for separatism, so to speak materially, but also mentally. I did warn about dangers of separatism, which was manifested in Donetsk region, in Trans-Carpathians, when I lectured before future diplomats back in 1994.

In this regard, I recall, in 1987 the Soviet military historians of Armenian origin, analyzing the current situation, warned that the Soviet Union's years of existence were already counted. Did their warnings draw anybody's attention?

Probably, their forecasts were perceived like today are perceived conclusions of scientists from the Institute of Mathematics of the Russian Academy of Sciences named after Keldysh, who at a conference unveiled their mathematical modeling of historical processes. They warn that unless urgent measures are taken — to pursue sound fiscal policies; to really start economic development of the society; to pay attention to innovations and so on, — Russia will soon suffer a disaster... You see, this warning may be one of the many options of foresight. Something might come true, and then they will talk about his genius, and its author will claim to be a visionary. In history conclusions should be drawn, based on specific facts, and one must be able to have a good understanding...of historical events. Not of invented, not of conjunctural, but of the present ones, without concealment, regardless of how unpleasant these events can be. None of us would demand from a doctor only a good diagnosis, everyone wants to have a correct diagnosis, which determines the methods and results of treatment.

We see that the history is made by politicians (honest or dishonest), it is studied by historians (true or accidental), and all this is paid for by peoples' lives and well-being.

If you make an attempt to summarize the events unfolding in Ukraine, how do you interpret them as a scientist and an analyst of international relations?

We have to live at the turn of the history of mankind, for which we were not prepared because of our narrow-mindedness. Remember the saying of the Russian poet: “We are lazy and incurious”? I would say that we are too lazy to be honest to ourselves.

Thank you for your honest answers to my questions.


 Recorded by Oleg Makhno.