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Peasants into Perpetrators: The OUN-UPA and the Ethnic Cleansing of Volhynia, 1943–1944

Jared McBride
Slavic Review
Vol. 75, No. 3 (FALL 2016), pp. 630-654
DOI: 10.5612/slavicreview.75.3.0630
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5612/slavicreview.75.3.0630
Page Count: 25
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Peasants into Perpetrators: The OUN-UPA and the Ethnic Cleansing of Volhynia, 1943–1944
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Abstract

The Ukrainian nationalist-led ethnic cleansing campaign against Poles in Volhynia during 1943–44 has long been the subject of international tension and contentious public and scholarly debate. This article analyzes the topic through a microhistorical lens that looks at one ethnic cleansing operation in the Liuboml' area of Volhynia that killed hundreds of Poles. Using newly declassified materials from Ukrainian secret police archives, alongside more traditional testimonial sources, I demonstrate that not all participants were prepared nationalist ideologues eager to kill. Rather, there was a range of actors involved in the massacres and the Ukrainian nationalist leadership was able to recruit average peasants to participate in ethnic cleansing through diverse mechanisms. This disaggregation of the killers and their motives not only contributes to growing social science research on mobilization for violence, but also challenges assumptions inherent in the double or triple occupation thesis frequently used to explain violence in Volhynia from 1939 to 1945.

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