Torches Lit, Ukrainian Nationalists Celebrate An Inconvenient Hero

The pro-Western protests on Kiev's Independence Square turned into a New Year's celebration on Tuesday, transforming the world's biggest ongoing protest into a huge party. But after some 200,000 people looked hopefully to the upcoming year amid fireworks, dancing, and mass singing of the national anthem at the "Euromaidan," the dawn of 2014 saw a different kind of torch-lit protest.

On January 1, Thousands of Ukrainian nationalists marched in Kiev and the western city of Lviv to honor the what would have been the 105th birthday of Stepan Bandera, one of the most controversial figures in modern Ukrainian history -- a Nazi collaborator, freedom fighter, and, to some, a terrorist.

The marches, and their hero, highlight the profound complexities in today's Ukraine, where past allegiances, prospects for the future, and a strong desire for independence -- after centuries under foreign rule -- all run into each other, creating a web difficult to untangle.

The anti-government opposition is far from a unified, "Western-minded," liberal front that would provide an easy narrative for would-be allies in the West. While the Maidan's leadership includes the charismatic boxing champion Vitali Klitschko (who became the face of the fight against President Victor Yanukovych's regime), it also boasts Oleg Tyagnibok, a notoriously racist leader of the far-right Svoboda party.

The common denominator within the opposition is not an overwhelming desire to join the ranks of globalized Europe, but the protesters' anti-Yanukovych and anti-Russian convictions. For many a Maidan demonstrator choosing to join the European Union is a no-brainer; but for nationalists it's more of a lesser evil.

The nationalists' hero is the 1930s politician and World War II guerrilla leader Stepan Bandera, who weaved visions of a grand Ukraine, powerful and free from foreign yoke. But his appeal reaches far wider than just extremist right wing circles. The New York Times reported in 2010 that Bandera monuments are sprinkled across Western Ukraine "as if he were the George Washington of Ukrainian nationalism."

In Eastern Ukraine, Russia, and Western Europe, however, Bandera is condemned as a Nazi collaborator and widely seen as a perpetrator of ethnic cleansing in neighboring Poland. His only supporters form an isolated enclave in a country of split loyalties and a complicated history. 

"Locals will tell you about the typical 20th Century Lvivite, who was born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, grew up in Poland, got married under the Nazis, had children in the Soviet Union, and retired in independent Ukraine ... all having never left the city," BBC correspondent Gabriel Gatehouse wrote in 2009.

Born on January 1, 1909, in a small village in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire and today is Western Ukraine, Bandera moved to Lviv as a student and became one of those "typical 20th century Lvivites," raised in the volatile cauldron of modern European history.

He rose to be the country's most prominent right-wing politician, head of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), a group that fought for Ukrainian independence -- from the surrounding foreign powers and from perceived Jewish influence.

He was allegedly involved in planning an attack on a Soviet diplomat in Poland, and his party carried out the assassination of a Polish government minister. Bandera was subsequently sentenced to death in 1936 in Poland, but released once the Nazis invaded the country. Upon his return, he took over a radical faction of the OUN.

Bandera's later life would become even more of a microcosm of European power struggles. The Ukrainian nationalists, who allied themselves with the Nazis well before World War II, organized acts of massive violence against the Polish population living in territories that today belong to Ukraine, and assisted with pogroms of the region's Jews.

In 1941, however, they declared an independent Ukrainian state, which was not to Hitler's liking and which landed Bandera in a concentration camp (a part of his life story that redeems his Nazi past, in the eyes of his supporters). He spent the rest of his life in Munich, where he was finally assassinated by a KGB agent in 1959.

In January 2010, shortly before he lost the presidential election against Viktor Yanukovych, Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko named Stepan Bandera a "Hero of Ukraine," riling Jewish and Russian groups. A year later, President Viktor Yanukovych, after some hesitation revoked the honor bestowed on Bandera. 

While toppling the statue of Vladimir Lenin in the first days of the Maidan protests may have been a powerful act of anti-Russian fervor, it appears that toppling Stepan Bandera as a Ukrainian hero will be a much more difficult project.



How to Tell If You’re Eating Fox When You Meant to Eat Donkey

Whether in Britain or in China, no one wants to think they're eating a familiar meat product only to discover they're really eating an exotic, as one unfortunate Wal-Mart customer in northern China experienced recently, when his "strange" tasting donkey meat turned out to be fox.

But telling meats apart can be tricky! Even experienced beef eaters last year seemingly couldn't tell cow apart from horse when it was smothered in lasagna; it gets all the trickier when it comes to distinguishing donkey, which far less of the world is familiar with, from fox, which seemingly no one eats on a regular basis.

With that in mind, we've put together this guide to telling apart these two unusual edibles. 


Is your meat tough and chewy? It's more likely to be fox. While the 2005 "Field Guide to Meat," describes donkey meat as "tough" and our own Isaac Stone Fish likened his experiences with donkey meat to "beef jerky made from shoe leather," it may all come down to how it's cooked: food bloggers who've sampled different styles of donkey in China have found it to be tender and sweet when sliced thinly against the grain, usually chopped or shredded and eaten in a sandwich, or stir fried.  Donkey is also still regularly used in salami in Italy, usually tempered somewhat with the more familiar pork. 

Fox, on the other hand, seems universally considered a tough meat -- at least among the very small group who've actually eaten the canine. I was unable to track down an FP staffer who'd eaten fox meat, and even the "Field Guide," which claims to cover "virtually every meat, poultry and game cut" hasn't gotten around to fox. But most of the fox meat recipes I found (that would be a grand total of three) I've found suggest pre-soaking in vinegar brine to help tenderize it.


Does the meat you're preparing smell horrible? You may be about to cook fox. While the "Field Guide" claims donkey has a "very strong smell" it may not necessarily be bad. Nobel Prize-winning Chinese novelist Mo Yan, who writes lustily of donkey meat in his novel The Republic of Wine, describes it as "aromatic." By contrast, the smell of raw fox flesh is described as "repulsive" "like skunks" and even "fishy."  Cooked, the meat has been described as smelling "sheepy or goaty."

So: is your meat chewy? Does it give off an unpleasant odor? Put that fox sandwich down!

Happy gustatory adventures!