Stepan Bandera Biography

(Ukrainian Politician and Far-Right Leader)

Birthday: January 1, 1909 (Capricorn)

Born In: Staryi Uhryniv, Ukraine

Ukrainian far-right radical revolutionary Stepan Bandera is remembered as the leader of the OUN-B, the militant wing of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. Bandera participated in nationalist politics since an early age and later hoped to gain Ukrainian independence by teaming up with the German Nazis. However, after his men launched the Proclamation of Ukrainian statehood in German-occupied Lviv in 1941, he was arrested. He was subsequently sent to Nazi concentration camps. Though he led the OUN-B till his death, he failed to prevent the formation of a revolting faction, OUN Abroad. He spent his final years in Munich and was eventually assassinated by cyanide poisoning. A revolutionary hero in western Ukraine, he was awarded the Hero of Ukraine honor post-humoustly, though a pro-Russia president later revoked the title. The Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, however, made most Ukrainians look up to him as a revolutionary idol.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Stepan Andriyovych Bandera

Died At Age: 50


Spouse/Ex-: Yaroslava Vasylivna Bandera (m. 1940–1959)

father: Andriy Mykhaylovych Bandera

mother: Myroslava Volodymyrivna Bandera

children: Andriy Stepanovych Bandera, Lesya Stepanivna Bandera, Natalya Stepanivna Bandera

Born Country: Ukraine

Political Leaders Ukrainian Men

Died on: October 15, 1959

place of death: Munich, Germany

Cause of Death: Assassination

Childhood & Early Life

Stepan Bandera was born on January 1, 1909, in Uhryniv Staryi, Kalush County, Galicia, part of Austria-Hungary (or the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria, formed after the first partition of Poland), presently in the province of Ivano-Frankivsk, Western Ukraine.

He was born into the family of Catholic priest Andriy Bandera and his wife, Myroslava. He had (at least) five siblings: three sisters and a brother.

Bandera was not put through primary school education because of World War I and was home-schooled by his parents instead. He was fond of singing and playing musical instruments. A sports lover, he would often be seen jogging, swimming, ice-skating, or playing chess or basketball.

He was active in community affairs. While in high school, he joined the Plast Ukrainian Youth Association. He graduated high school in 1927.

He had plans to join the Husbandry Academy in Czechoslovakia, but they never materialized. The following year, he joined the agronomy course in Lviv Polytechnic but eventually had to leave without a degree due to political unrest in his country.

Following the dissolution of Austria-Hungary due to World War I, Galicia became the West Ukrainian People's Republic for a while. Bandera's father was part of the Ukrainian Galician Army and participated in the nationalistic movement, that led to the Polish-Ukrainian War of 1918-1919, which ended with Ukraine’s defeat.

Following this, the West Ukrainian People's Republic was made part of eastern Poland. Myroslava moved with Stepan and his siblings to Yahilnytsya, while Andriy was away. The Ukrainian Galician Army were outnumbered eventually, while Poland reclaimed much of the land that had been occupied by them.

Myroslava then started her 100-mile journey back west to Staryi Uhryniv, with her sons and without her husband. On the way, she fell ill and died of tuberculosis.

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Before World War II

Stepan Bandera joined various nationalist movements while still in his teens. In 1927, he became part of the Ukrainian Military Organization, whereas in 1929, he joined the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), and gradually grew to gain a position of authority.

In 1931, he was named the chief of propaganda at the OUN national executive. In 1932-33, he became second-in-command at the OUN, and by June 1933, he had risen to the position of the head of the national executive in Galicia.

In his capacity, he expanded the OUN's network throughout Western Ukraine, providing a structure to its conflict with Poland and the Soviet Union. Bandera relied on the OUN's militancy to counter the Polish officials and their anti-Ukrainian policies. He also organized campaigns against the Polish tobacco and liquor monopolies.

He tried to instil nationalism among the Ukrainian youth. In June 1934, he was arrested. He was later tried twice: once in Warsaw, regarding the assassination of the internal affairs minister, Bronisław Pieracki, and again in Lviv, at the trial of the OUN national executive. Eventually, his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

World War II and Later

In 1939, following the fall of Poland in the wake of World War II, Stepan Bandera was released from prison. He then moved to the Generalgouvernement, but due to a difference of opinion with OUN leader Andrii Melnyk, he started leading a rival faction.

Around 1940-41, his faction turned into an organization, while his followers came to be known as the Banderites. Just when the German-Soviet war was about to commence, Bandera launched the Ukrainian National Committee (in Cracow) to integrate Ukrainian political forces.

He connected with German military forces, along with two Ukrainian battalions, Nightingale and Roland, hoping they would support Ukrainian independence, and even sent a letter to Adolf Hitler, explaining his cause. However, his hopes dashed when Germany refused to recognize Ukraine as a separate state and placed him under house arrest instead.

He then launched a Ukrainian military legion, or the Legion of Ukrainian Nationalists. He also brought together several OUN expeditionary groups and organized the restoration of the Ukrainian state, by the June 30, 1941 Proclamation of Ukrainian statehood in Nazi-occupied Lviv.

His refusal to take back his decree led to his arrest. From July 1941 to September 1944, he spent his days in various German prisons and concentration camps, notably the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. In 1945, he was elected a member of the OUN leadership. In 1947, he became the OUN chief.

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In May 1953, Stepan Bandera became the chief of OUN sections abroad. However, he also faced internal revolts and was unable to supress a dissenting faction in February 1954. The faction, led by Lev Rebet and Zynovii Matla, later became OUN Abroad, while Bandera continued leading what was now known as OUN-B.

The OUN-B continued its fight for independence in Ukraine, supported by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. Both the Nazis and the Soviets killed countless OUN-B fighters.

Personal Life

Stepan Bandera was married to Yaroslava Bandera and had three children with her. They moved to Toronto, Canada, after his death.

His brothers, Oleksandr and Vasyl, were arrested by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz concentration camp. At the camp, they were reportedly killed by Polish inmates.

The Soviets arrested his father, Andriy, in 1941, for protecting a OUN member, and transferred him to Kyiv, where he was later sentenced to death and executed. Bandera’s sisters Oksana and Marta–Maria, were arrested by the NKVD and sent to Siberia. Though later released, only Oksana could return to Ukraine. Another sister, Volodymyra, served in Soviet labor camps and later returned to Ukraine.

Death & Legacy

Following the end of World War II, Stepan Bandera lived in Munich until his death. On October 15, 1959, he was killed by a Soviet (KGB) agent named B. Stashynsky. It was later proved that his assassination had been ordered by KGB head A. Shelepin.

Bandera apparently collapsed outside Kreittmayrstrasse 7 in Munich and died shortly. It was later revealed that he had been poisoned by a spray of cyanide gas. On October 20, 1959, he was buried in Munich’s Waldfriedhof Cemetery.

Bandera later became a symbol of revolutionary zeal in western Ukraine. In 2016, Kviv renamed the avenue Moscow Prospect as Bandera Prospect. Volia Zaderevatska, where the family once lived, has a Bandera national museum. The 1995 film Atentat (Assassin) was based on his story.

However, in eastern Ukraine, people still follow the Soviet version of Bandera’s story and view him as a Nazi ally. Under the administration of pro-Western president Viktor Yushchenko, Bandera was posthumously awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine.

Later, pro-Russia president Viktor Yanukovych revoked the title. However, in the wake of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, a majority of Ukrainians started idolizing him as a revolutionary role model.

See the events in life of Stepan Bandera in Chronological Order

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