General prime source for this blog is book Red Famine by Anne Applebaum.
History reminds us that in the 1932-33 period in the USSR, Stalin caused mass starvation in the Ukraine by the confiscation the grain and other food stuffs produced there for the consumption others in the USSR while leaving little to none for the locals. Such was the famine’s devastation that Ukrainian emigre publications coined a new word to describe its barbarity: ‘Holodomor,’ a combination of the Ukrainian words for hunger (holod) and extermination (mor). It is not disputed that in this time frame, 5 million people died from starvation in the USSR including 3.9 million Ukrainians. The issue to be discussed related to Stalin’s intentions towards the Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. This Holodomor is still a big issue that effects the current conflict and relations between Ukraine and Putin’s Russia.
The Bolsheviks in 1918, under the leadership of Lenin, referred to the Ukraine as “Southwest Russia” having no independence, unique cultural identity or more specifically a separate language. There was a brief effort for Ukrainian independence after Russia signed the Brest-Litovsk treaty but quickly “General Mykhail Muraviev, the commanding officer, declared he was bringing back Russian rule from the “far North,” and ordered the immediate execution of suspected nationalists. His men shot anyone heard speaking Ukrainian in public and destroyed any evidence of Ukrainian rule, including the Ukrainian street signs that had replaced Russian street signs only weeks before.”Applebaum, Anne. Red Famine (p. 24). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Starting in 1918, the Russians clearly acknowledged the agricultural “bread basket” potential of the Ukraine region to be used for the critical supply of food/grain for the Red Guard and upper party officials at the expense of the peasants in the Ukraine. Collectivization process was soon setup and the identification and prosecution of “kulaks” as counter-revolutionaries was begun. As long as the annual two harvests were as provided as expected, the collectives in the Ukraine part of Russia were able to survive.
The book, Red Famine, then discusses many expects of the events in the Ukraine during the 1920s but specifically during what is called the Holodomor from summer/fall of 1932 through spring/summer of 1933. I have included some significant quotations from Applebaum text that are included below where the author documents the starvation effects of the Holodomor as well as the attitudes and leadership of party officials and specifically Josef Stalin:
A) Stalin’s policies that autumn led inexorably to famine all across the grain-growing regions of the USSR. But in November and December 1932 he twisted the knife further in Ukraine, deliberately creating a deeper crisis. Step by step, using bureaucratic language and dull legal terminology, the Soviet leadership, aided by their cowed Ukrainian counterparts, launched a famine within the famine, a disaster specifically targeted at Ukraine and Ukrainians. (p.190).
B) On 18 November the Ukrainian communists carried out his wishes. The party issued a resolution declaring that “the full delivery of grain procurement plans is the principal duty of all collective farms,” to be prioritized above and beyond anything else, including the collection of grain reserves, seed reserves, animal fodder and, ominously, daily food supplies. In practice, both individual and collective farmers were forbidden from holding back anything at all. Even those allowed to keep grain in the past had to give it back. Any collective farmer who produced grain for his family on a private plot now had to turn that over too.22 No excuses were accepted. (p. 191).
C) Dead bodies caused a sanitary crisis. In January 1933 the city of Kyiv had to remove 400 corpses from the streets. In February the number rose to 518, and in just the first eight days of March there were 248.64 (p. 201).
D) As winter turned to spring, and the lack of food took its toll, the vast majority of peasants ceased to fight back. Even those who had rebelled in 1930 stayed silent. The reason for this was physical, not psychological. A starving person is simply too weak to fight back. Hunger overwhelms even the urge to object. (p. 236)
E) . . . survived the famine because her father was a party leader who had access to a special Communist Party shop providing grain and sugar. The highest party officials also had ration cards, which enabled them to make purchases that were impossible for others. Privileges were also extended to their children, as those less fortunate remembered: “There was a special school for the children of the bosses. There was a canteen inside…breathtaking smells spread from that kitchen . . (p.235)
Applebaum continued for 200 pages with detailed documentation of the events and meaning of the Holodomor and the responsibility of the party officials, specifically Josef Stalin, for the deaths by starvation in Ukraine the 1932-33 period. Although the propaganda from the USSR, even to today, denies the details, there was established in 1984 the International Commission of Inquiry Into the 1932-33 Famine in Ukraine . The final report was issued in 1990 with the following conclusions: 1) 4.5 million Ukrainian victims died and the responsibility of the famine was placed on the central government of the USSR. 2) the policy of the USSR disregarded the precepts of basic morality and must be vigorously condemned. 3) The commission does not believe that the famine was systematically organized to crush the Ukraine nation once and for all but did use the famine to crown the new policy of denationalization. 4) The commission concluded that the Soviet authorities, without actively wanting the famine, most likely took advantage of it to force peasant to accept policies they strongly opposed. That commission’s report is available online. There is also an organization in Canada that focuses on the Holodomor at https://education.holodomor.ca. The photo images in this blog are from that website.
I found the details of this Holodomor book very difficult to read as it reflected the absolute lack of humanity shown by the party officials of the USSR, as lead by Josef Stalin, in the 1920-1933 time period.