As a national Ukrainian movement based on love and loyalty to the Motherland, Plast has been subjected to repressions, destroying and vilification by Moscow throughout its 111-year history.
Especially during the last years of Ukraine’s independence, russian propaganda and pro-russian organizations have been creating a number of fake news about Plast. Their purpose is to distort its image and undermine its credibility: a modern Hitlerjugend, a Nazi, russophobic and militaristic organization, etc.
Why russia hates Plast so much and is afraid of its prosperity — is discussed below.
The history of bans and destruction
In 1919, the Bolshevik authorities banned Plast and later replaced it with a pioneer movement led by a communist party. This decision was made primarily because of the active participation of Plast members in the First Liberation Movement.
“The nature of the communist regime towards personal development was godless, limited and repressive. This made any real scouting activity in Soviet Ukraine impossible for many future generations – although the authorities did not hesitate to adapt certain characteristics of this movement for organizations of so-called young pioneers”, writes historian Orest Subtelny, who also belongs to Plast.
The Soviet authorities persecuted and repressed people, even for the former activities in Plast. Many Plast members died at the hands of the occupiers: Serhiy Kostetskyi, Dionysii Chornega, Bohdan Plavyuk, Bohdan Hamula, and Ostap Struk. Likewise, the Soviet authorities took the lives of two of the founders of Plast – Ukrainian scouting in general.
Ivan Chmola was executed by the NKVD in Drohobych.
And Petro Franko was probably “shot for nationalist activities” (as stated in the found documents, but the circumstances of his death are still not fully elucidated).
“In general, all those who had been actively involved in Ukrainian organizations and institutions in the past, were labeled by the Bolsheviks as those who should be subjected to repressive measures or even executed,” notes Orest Subtelny. Plast members were persecuted and killed for their activities for the development of Ukrainian youth, and even for speaking Ukrainian.
At the same time, the Soviet authorities created its own alternative to the scouting movement to displace Plast.
In May 1922, the decree “On the Children’s Movement” was issued, which meant the emergence of a pioneer organization (actually a distorted copy of scouting, which was part of the ideology).
And in 1924, the organization was given the name “All-Union Pioneer Organization named after V.I. Lenin”.
In this way, the Soviet (russian) authorities banned the activities of Ukrainian scouting and instead introduced their own model of working with young people. It formed individuals who were completely loyal to the Communist Party and the Soviet state. This is how “The Union of Pioneer Organizations of Ukraine” emerged in 1990 and other successors to the pioneer movement in the following years.
Instead of patriotic upbringing and comprehensive development of the child — loyalty to communism. Instead of the scout lily — a red breast star. And instead of Plast members — octobrists, pioneers, young builders of communism, and Komsomol members. While formally pioneering was voluntary, in reality it became almost compulsory and obligatory.
During the period of restructuring and the so-called “liberalization” of the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) in the 1980s and 1990s, Plast in Ukraine began its revival. But it was immediately opposed by the authorities. During the Plast camp named after Shuhevych in August 1989 in the Lviv region, the KGB (State Security Committee) “visited” the Plast members and shut it down. The very next day, on August 5, 1989, Lviv residents protested against the dispersal of the camp.
Propaganda, disinformation, fakes
Today’s russia is actually continuing the anti-Ukrainian and anti-Plast activities of the Soviet government. Russia continues to destroy everything Ukrainian: not only physically, but also spiritually and culturally.
This is confirmed by the fake news and propaganda it has been spreading about Plast since the Soviet era, before Ukraine gained independence, and to this day. Russia and pro-russian organizations are making efforts to destroy the image of Plast, to impose militarism, cruelty and Nazism on it.
In Soviet films, Plast members appeared only as traitors to the Soviet system:
“‘The Old Fortress” was very popular among Soviet teenagers, so it performed a broad anti-Ukrainian propaganda function. The plot periodically features Plast members, who are portrayed as cunning cowards, traitors” (Taras Zen’).
- “Betrayal is Their Craft” (1984).
A fragment of the film shows the moment when Plast member Antonina Horokhovych was detained for “subversive activities” in Plast.
Since Ukraine’s independence, russian media and pro-russian organizations have continued to spread anti-Plast propaganda.
Fakes in russian propaganda
A great wave of outrage was caused by the law “On Recognition of the Plast Movement and Peculiarities of State Support for the Plast and Scout Movement”. Russian media covered it as an element of the state’s russophobic policy, as if the state granted Plast a monopoly on educating young people in the spirit of hatred for russia.
Today, when russia is waging a full-scale war against Ukraine, more than 530 Plast members are standing up for the defense. They are risking their lives every day for the sake of our free future. This fact is constantly used by russia in its propaganda to reinforce the fake image of Plast as a paramilitary and nationalist organization.
Unfortunately, there are also individuals and organizations in Ukraine that spread these same russian narratives. We have seen cases when other so-called “Ukrainian” organizations deliberately call Plast in the Western world a paramilitary or nationalist organization, using photos of support for Plast defenders, and call on international audiences not to cooperate with Ukrainian Plast members.
Moreover, the occupier’s media regularly spreads fake news about the participation of underage Plast members in hostilities. Although this is prohibited by Ukrainian law. But propagandists are trying hard to create an image of Plast as a modern Hitlerjugend.
They have even accused Plast members of wearing identical uniforms to those of the Hitlerjugend. Although the Plast uniforms existed before the phenomenon of “Hitler Youth” arose. Also for all scouts in the world, not just Ukrainian ones, these colors are traditional.
In this way, russia and pro-russian organizations have been trying for 111 years to create a false image of the Nazi and military Plast for their society and the whole world.
The current war that russia has unleashed clearly shows its desire to seize Ukrainian territories. But this is not a new phenomenon, because the entire history of relations between the two nations is a history of conquest attempts by russia. But since Ukrainians could not be completely subdued, the occupier decided to assimilate everything that was possible and destroy everything that was impossible.
This is the case today, when russia is destroying everything Ukrainian, as it was before, under Soviet rule or during the empire.
The “Red Terror,” the Holodomor of 1932-1933, Stalin’s repressions, the “Executed Renaissance”… Millions of Ukrainians died at the hands of the russian authorities. Among them were poets, writers, public and spiritual figures, as well as Plast members.
The Plast, which identified itself as the Ukrainian scouting movement 111 years ago, has always been a source of fear in russia. After all, for more than a century, it has been educating strong young people who have served for a free Ukraine at all stages of development, whether within the country or abroad. And in the 2019 law on Plast, the state officially recognized Plast’s contribution to Ukraine’s development.
Therefore, the desire of russia and pro-russian organizations to destroy Plast — physically or through propaganda — is a natural continuation of their fight against Ukraine and everything Ukrainian.
But despite these attempts to destroy and discredit the Ukrainian scouting movement — Plast, both more than a century ago and today, Plast members continue to do everything they can for Ukraine. Today — for its victory today, in the future — for its development and prosperity. To raise strong Ukrainian youth using the scouting method. Just as it is enshrined in the Plast Law and Oath.
Author: Sofiya Vitivska
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