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ARCHIVES  Danyliw Seminar 2017

Marta Havryshko

Institute of Ukrainian Studies, Lviv, Ukraine

Marta Havryshko is a Junior Research Associate in the Department of Contemporary History at the Ivan Krypiakevych Institute of Ukrainian Studies in Lviv. Her research interests include gender/feminism and nationalism, women and war, gender-based violence during armed conflict, oral history, and memory studies.



Overcoming Silence: Men, Women and Violence in the Ukrainian Nationalist Underground

Despite the recent growth of serious research on women in the Ukrainian nationalist underground, most of this work remains limited: little attention is paid to analyzing gender, private life, and reproductive behavior. Some researchers have drawn a veil to deliberately close their eyes to certain “inconvenient aspects,” trying to preserve a homogenized heroic nationalist narrative. Moreover, for political reasons the issue of sexual violence among insurgents remains silenced even today in official and individual memory. The theme of violent nationalists’ practices is one of the most difficult in the process of recording interviews with female members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN(B) and the Ukrainian Insurgency Army (UPA). Women tend to avoid direct answers, use euphemisms, change the subject, complain about memory problems. On the one hand, it can be explained by shame, fear of reprisals and secondary stigmatization, blaming and discrimination of survivors. On the other hand, divulging any negative information about former fellow underground members remain a taboo. Keeping silent about sexual abuse towards “theirs” is the part of military culture, where cohesion remains highly valued. 


Women’s bodies play a special role in the national narrative and not only because they biologically reproduce the nation. Women’s bodies symbolize the national landscape and delimit the borders of the nation, as well as the “honor” of the nation and its defenders. Therefore, women’s bodies become central to cultural hierarchies, where female sexuality becomes an integral part of the “national capital.” Within Ukrainian nationalist discourse about female sexuality, the myth of concerned motherhood and the notions of “purity,” “loyalty,” “modesty,” and “virginity” are at the center. The female body became most important with the beginning of the struggle between the Ukrainian nationalist underground and the Soviet regime, at which time ever greater attention was paid to regulating women’s bodies in numerous ways. Actions by both the Soviet state and the nationalist resistance rendered the Ukrainian female body increasingly vulnerable. By tormenting this body (including sexually) during arrests, interrogations, and military-KGB operations, Soviet intelligence agencies aggressively challenged the masculinity of their opponents, demoralizing and humiliating them by showing that they were not able to protect “their” women. In addition, the Ukrainian female body was expropriated and exploited as a resource in the system of Ukrainian nationalist reconnaissance, and even in perpetrating acts of individual terror against Soviet officials and their collaborators.


I propose to analyze the construction of ideas about normative and deviant forms of female sexuality, mechanisms of control over intimacy and women’s reproductive behavior, sexual harassment and assault against women and also systems of punishment (symbolic and physical violence) for women who breached sexual norms (including voluntary and forced intimate relations and marriage with “enemy” men) in the Ukrainian nationalists underground in the 1940-1950s. The paper is based primarily on research in the Arkhiv SBU in Kyiv and various oblast archives, supplemented by published documents the OUN(B) – accounts, orders, instructions, correspondence, as well as memories and 52 in-depth biographical interviews with female veterans which I have conducted in 2015-2017.

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