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Historian Mark Tauger points out that the peasants shot themselves in the foot in addition to having a natural famine as well as the commissioners (who weren't Jewish but ethnic Ukrainians) being dicks. This link contains his essays showing this. However a daily beast article points this out:
Not surprisingly, Blinova makes no mention of that-or of reports on the famine by British journalists Gareth Jones and Malcolm Muggeridge two years before Walker's fictions. (Jones, who coined the term “man-made famine,” was barred from re-entering the Soviet Union in retaliation; in 1935, he was murdered by bandits while traveling in China, in what may have been a hit organized by Stalin's secret police.) Nor does she mention accounts by Russian Jewish writers Vasily Grossman and Lev Kopelev, who could hardly be suspected of pro-Nazi sympathies. And, of course, she does not say a word about declassified documents such as government decrees imposing draconian punitive measures on villages that failed to meet grain production quotas-including confiscation of all food and a complete cutoff of supplies.
I should point out this was happening in Russia as well… so should we really call this an ethnic genocide?
What was the biggest cause of Holodomor?
Rapid Industrialization --> Need of financing long-term projects --> Food export increase. Plus bad harvest, plus criminal negligence of authorities of all kinds.
so should we really call this an ethnic genocide?
Crime? Yes. Genocide? No.
P.S. Collectivization was a (very bad) "tool", which only made things worse, but it was not a true cause.
The biggest cause of Holodomor was the policy of Soviet authorities called collectivization. Collectivization was performed in most of the Soviet Union, not only in the Ukraine. But in the Ukraine it was especially severe, because the government wanted to punish Ukrainians whose resistance to Sovetization was perceived as more dangerous than resistance of people in proper Russia. (Ukraine was conquered by the Communist Russia only after 3-d attempt during the civil war.) Similar conditions prevailed in some other regions of Soviet Union. Collectivization in the Ukraine was accompanied by extermination of Ukrainian intellectuals.
"Should we call this ethnic genocide?" The parliament of the independent Ukraine did officially call this genocide. Elsewhere, the issue is somewhat controversial. (Like with genocide of Armenians in Turkey). One reason is that, as I wrote above, collectivization was performed in most of Soviet Union, not only in Ukraine, and there were many victims everywhere. So one can argue that this genocide was not really ethnic, but had some other nature. So "should we call" or not, everyone decides for herself.
The situation with "assigning labels" is somewhat similar to the present situation. Russia attacked Ukraine with military force and annexed its territory, violating all relevant international law and specific agreements. However Western governments are reluctant to call this with proper names, like "war" and "aggression", for political reasons. Even the Ukrainian government did not formally declare war. Though everyone calls this a "war" in Ukraine, and it is clear that this is a war. Politicians, when labeling things, always have many considerations, other than just telling truth.
Governments which recognized Holodomor as genocide: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holodomor#Statements_by_governments
Governments which recognized Armenian genocide: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armenian_Genocide#Recognition_of_the_Genocide
Governments which condemned Russian invasion of Ukraine: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_reactions_to_the_annexation_of_Crimea_by_the_Russian_Federation
The “Holodomor” explained
The famine in Ukraine, the so-called “holodomor” was a serious natural disaster. The collectivization of agriculture began in 1928 and the Ukrainian famine of 1932-33 seriously threatened the success of collectivization and the entire Five-Year Plan.
The primary reasons for the famine were the weather conditions. There were two serious crop failures in a row (and others before) because of drought and snow which prevented sowings. A plant disease called ‘grain-rust’ also destroyed much of the crops. ‘Rusted’ crops can look normal and so the government didn’t originally recognize that much of the food was ruined. The bulk of this article describes the causes of the famine in detail, based on the research of Mark B. Tauger, Associate Professor of History at West Virginia University, who has published many peer-reviewed scientific papers and articles on these topics.
WHY DID THE COLLECTIVIZATION OF AGRICULTURE TAKE PLACE?
The collectivization began in 1928 because of several reasons:
- the USSR needed to industrialize to build socialism. Collectivization was necessary in order to grow enough food for a larger industrial proletariat.
- the USSR needed to industrialize fast, to build a strong modern military to defend itself
- class relations inside the country had reached a crisis in 1927. The NEP succeeded in rebuilding the economy after the Civil War, but it allowed the rural capitalists (‘kulaks’) to grow stronger. Most small farmers only produced enough food for their own families and didn’t sell food. Most food on the market was produced by large kulaks. They demanded less regulations on prices, and demanded higher prices for higher profits. They controlled the food supply of the cities and could use this to blackmail the government. In 1926-27 the kulaks were refusing to sell or produce food. The government responded by confiscating food which they were hiding. Kulaks responded by destroying food, slaughtering animals, and stopping farming etc.
The Soviet government had two options: to accept the demand for de-regulation and move back to unrestricted capitalism. Or to fight the kulaks and move towards socialism. Of course they chose to fight. It was impossible to accept the kulak demands, it would’ve meant the death of the socialist revolution and the country would’ve remained underdeveloped.
Poor peasants were encouraged to take over lands from kulaks which were not being used, and set up collective farms on those lands. The fight intensified in the countryside and kulaks were able to destroy many farm buildings and kill huge amounts of animals. This contributed to the famine, but was not the main cause of it.
Prof. Mark Tauger has shown conclusively that the Soviets couldn’t have avoided the famine in any way. The weather caused the crops to not grow, and thus they didn’t have enough food regardless of what they did.
Right-Wing propagandists claim that collectivization caused the famine, which is obviously false. We have evidence that the famine was caused by crop failure due to weather, but also the famine ended when the collective farms produced a good harvest. And after that the Soviet Union didn’t have famines anymore, except because of the war.
Some right-wingers also claim that the famine was purposefully orchestrated to kill Ukrainians, but there is no evidence of that. Ukraine received a million tons of food aid from the Russian SSR etc. The famine was a disaster for the Soviet economy, so they would never have caused it on purpose.
WAS THE FAMINE ORCHESTRATED ON PURPOSE?
“A Ukrainian nationalist interpretation holds that the Soviet regime, and specifically Iosif Stalin, intentionally imposed the famine to suppress the nationalist aspirations of Ukraine and Ukrainians revisionists argue that the leadership imposed the famine to suppress more widespread peasant resistance to collectivization… recent research has cast substantial doubt on them. Several studies and document collections have shown conclusively that the famine did not stop at Ukraine’s borders, but affected rural and urban areas throughout the Soviet Union, and even the military.”
(Prof. Mark B. Tauger, Natural Disaster and Human Actions in the Soviet Famine of 1931-1933, p. 2. From now on this article will be cited simply as “Tauger”)
The Soviet government sent several millions of tons of food aid to Ukraine. This was all they had, but not enough. The famine was not caused by any government decision or policy, but by natural disasters which lead to crop-failures:
“The Soviet government did have small reserves of grain, but continually drew these down to allocate food to the population… virtually the entire country experienced shortages of food… the Soviet Union faced a severe shortage, and the most important cause of that shortage has to have been small harvests in 1931 and 1932… Russia itself has endured more than one hundred fifty famines in its thousand years of recorded history, virtually all of which resulted directly from natural disasters, in most cases drought…” (Tauger, p. 7)
“[E]nvironmental disasters… have to be considered among the primary causes of the famine. I argue that capital and labor difficulties were… not as important as these environmental factors, and were in part a result of them… I conclude that it is thus inaccurate to describe the Soviet famine of 1932-1933 as simply an artificial or man-made famine…” (Tauger, p. 8)
In his article “The 1932 Harvest and the Famine of 1933” Tauger explains that grain procurement by the government was decreased in 1932 which should’ve left more food in villages assuming that the harvest was alright. But there was famine because the harvest was ruined by natural disasters. Procurement or export weren’t the problem. The narrative that the government supposedly took all the food and left people to die, cannot be supported by evidence.
“The low 1932 harvest worsened severe food shortages already widespread in the Soviet Union at least since 1931 and, despite sharply reduced grain exports, made famine likely if not inevitable in 1933.” (Tauger, “The 1932 Harvest and the Famine of 1933”)
“This situation makes it difficult to accept the interpretation of the famine as the result of the 1932 grain procurements and as a conscious act of genocide. The harvest of 1932 essentially made a famine inevitable.” (Tauger, “The 1932 Harvest and the Famine of 1933”)
Anti-communist eye-witnesses are unreliable in any case, but in “Natural Disaster and Human Actions in the Soviet Famine of 1931-1933” Tauger demonstrates that the reason eye-witnesses might’ve claimed the harvest was good, is probably because they didn’t have the expertise to recognize diseased crops on the fields. More of this later in the article.
The crop-failure was not caused by the Soviet system. In fact other countries at the same time also experienced droughts and famine. However, capitalist-colonialist regimes behaved much more cruelly in these situations:
“The Soviet regime was not unique in this experience: other major agricultural countries in the world also encountered major natural disasters and food crises in the early 1930s. The United States in 1930-1931 endured what was termed “the great southern drought,” which affected twenty-three states from Texas to West Virginia, brought immense suffering and increased mortality, and caused a major political scandal when Herbert Hoover refused to allocate food relief from federal government resources… French colonies in western Africa in 1931-1932 endured a drought, locust infestation, and the worst famine ever recorded there, though the French authorities continued to demand taxes.” (Tauger, pp. 9-10)
Russia before the Bolshevik Revolution was a poor underdeveloped country. As such, it was food insecure and at the mercy of natural disasters and crop failures. To combat droughts, pests, floods and other disasters it would’ve been necessary to build massive irrigation projects, drains, pesticide industries and to improve the soil. Something which the Russian Empire had completely neglected. It fell upon the shoulders of the Soviet government to overcome these challenges.
“Russia itself has endured more than one hundred fifty famines in its thousand years of recorded history, virtually all of which resulted directly from natural disasters, in most cases drought…” (Tauger, p. 7)
“The grain crisis and famine of 1928-1929 were among the main factors that led Soviet leaders… to undertake the collectivization of agriculture. Even in 1930 many regions had unfavorable weather and crop failures… The domestic context of the 1931-1933 famine, therefore, was one of chronic food insecurity. Natural disasters, especially drought alone or in combination with other environmental factors… repeatedly caused crop failures during the early years of the Soviet Union and threatened to revive the food crises and famine of the Civil War period…” (Tauger, p. 9)
Before the famine many grain-growing areas only had 25% of the necessary rain:
“[D]rought played a central role in precipitating the famine crisis… In the main spring-grain maturation period of mid-April to mid-June, precipitation in the southern Urals and Western Siberia was one-fourth of the amount that agronomists there considered necessary for normal plant growth.” (Tauger, p. 11)
“Serious famine conditions in villages and towns in Ukraine by early 1932 required special food relief. The regime admitted the seriousness of this drought publicly, in particular by holding a conference on drought in October 1931 attended by agricultural specialists as well as Sovnarkom chairman Viacheslav Molotov and other high officials. The government also established a meteorological monitoring service and began plans for construction of major irrigation projects along the Volga and in other drought-prone areas. The Central Committee also dispatched seed and food loans to most of the severely affected regions.” (Tauger, p. 12)
Collected grain had to be sent back to the farms, because otherwise they wouldn’t have any seed-grain to sow:
“This was the situation throughout the eastern regions. The Urals oblast’ … had to obtain a seed and provisions loan of 350,000 tons, 45 percent of its procurements. Kazakstan received back 36 percent. Western Siberia 22 percent, Bashkiria 20 percent.” (Tauger, p. 12)
WINTERKILL AND TEMPERATURE FLUCTUATIONS
“Other weather conditions quite distinct from drought affected the 1932 crop. In January 1932 a sudden warm spell in the southern regions of the Soviet Union caused fall-sown crops to start growing, after which winter temperatures returned and killed a portion of the crop. In Ukraine this winterkill destroyed at least 12 percent of fall-sown crops, more than double the long-term average in one district 62 percent of winter crops failed.” (Tauger, p. 13)
It may sound paradoxical but despite the early drought and snow which prevented sowing and killed crops, the rest of the year was actually much too humid. Heavy rainfall (as much as triple the normal rain) destroyed crops and the humidity stimulated the spread of plant-diseases, massive growth of the insect population and weeds, which also destroyed crops.
“And most important, despite the regional droughts mentioned above, 1932 was overall a warm and humid year. In several regions heavy rains damaged crops and reduced yields… [there was] heavy rainfall in 1932 which was double or triple the normal amount in many regions. “ (Tauger, pp. 13-14)
“such rainfall encourages the spread of crop diseases. This type of problem chronically affected the Soviet Union… The most important infestation in 1932 came from several varieties of rust, a category of fungi that can infest grains and many other plants…” (Tauger, p. 15)
The most sinister aspect of grain-rust and other such diseases, is that they are hard to detect. Crops can look normal for a long time but be inedible:
“Although in some cases rust will kill grain plants, rusted grain ordinarily will continue to grow, form ears, and in general appear normal but the grain heads will not “fill,” so that the harvest will seem “light” and consist of small grains, or of fewer normal-sized grains, and disproportionately of husks and other fibrous materials. In other words, a field of wheat (or barley, rye, oats, or other grain, all of which are susceptible to rust) could appear entirely normal and promising, and yet because of the infestation could produce an extremely low yield… Rusts have been the most common and the most destructive infestations of grain crops, and remain so today… In 1935, wheat stem rust caused losses of more than 50 percent in North Dakota and Minnesota…” (Tauger, p. 15)
“In 1932, however, a large epiphytotic of rust, one of the most severe recorded, affected all Eastern Europe… Studies of estates in Germany found losses of 40 to 80 percent of wheat crops, a scale not seen in decades, if ever… In Hungary, a leading specialist described the rust epidemic that year as the worst in generations additional reports from elsewhere in the Balkans, Czechoslovakia, and Poland referred to “fantastic” losses.” (Tauger, p. 16)
“Identifying rust required specialized knowledge and training… peasants in the North Caucasus could not distinguish between rust and other diseases…This problem was by no means limited to the USSR a study of wheat growing in Maryland in 1929 found an inverse relation between the condition of the crop and its final yield, because the high rainfall that stimulated plant growth also fostered plant diseases: “A farmer observing a lush stand reported a high condition, not recognizing the development of the disease before harvest time.” The fact that rust was difficult for nonspecialists to detect helps to explain the numerous claims in memoirs and testimonies of a good 1932 harvest Famine survivors in the Volga region whom the Russian historian Viktor Kondrashin interviewed, however, remembered that in the 1932 harvest the ears were somehow “empty,” the characteristic one would expect from rusted grain.” (Tauger, p.17)
“While rust infestations were not a new problem in Russia, the extreme outbreak in 1932 took agronomists by surprise…” (Tauger, p.18)
“Rust was not the only plant disease to affect Soviet agriculture in 1932: large outbreaks of smut also caused substantial losses. Smut spreads through the soil or from contaminated seed, and like rust does not alter greatly the external appearance of the crop… the disease not only destroys grain in infested plants but also easily contaminates healthy grain in the harvest… Smut had been a severe problem in Soviet agriculture during NEP [in the 1920s]. Infestations in many parts of the country in 1922 caused substantial losses, in extreme cases more than 80 percent…” (Tauger, p. 18)
INSECTS AND PESTS
“The warm, humid weather in 1932 also led to severe insect infestations, including locusts, field moths, and other insects on grain and sugar beets… [There was a] failure of winter sowings due to pests and the above-mentioned winterkill in 333 districts in Ukraine, encompassing an area of 747,984 hectares, which inducted 8.6 percent of winter sowings and 10.5 percent of winter wheat.” (Tauger, p. 20)
“Weeds were a major problem through the famine period… The unusually warm and wet weather in 1932 greatly stimulated this weed growth” (Tauger, p. 40)
LACK OF HORSES AND OTHER DRAUGHT ANIMALS
Lack of horses contributed to the famine. The majority of animals were owned by rich peasants (kulaks). Most poor peasants only owned a single horse or cow, and one third of peasants didn’t own any. Because most animals were concentrated in the hands of kulaks, they were able to slaughter large amounts of them as a form of economic warfare. However, the biggest cause for lack of horses was the famine itself:
“Animals were the immediate victims of shortages in 1930-1933 since starving peasants had no choice but to feed themselves first from the dwindling reserves” (Tauger, p. 22)
“By April 1932 30-40 percent of the horses were incapable of work.” (Tauger, p. 24)
It would be a mistake to blame the famine on sabotage by kulaks or by capitalists, but instances of sabotage did occur:
“some 5,000 tractors purchased from the American company “Oliver” had leaking radiators and loud sounds in their mufflers, transmissions, and motors… Allis-Chalmers tractors purchased in 1930 arrived with missing parts.”
(Tauger, p. 24)
The Soviet Union was producing tens of thousands of tractors during 1932 but this was not enough to meet the growing need, due to the unexpected catastrophe.
Soil science was invented in Russia because of the extreme soil exhaustion in the final period of the Russian Empire. This continued to be a problem for the early USSR especially when it was decided to try to cultivate new lands and increase crop-area. Grain was a priority, so peasants neglected crop-rotation which caused exhaustion of the soil. This was due to ignorance but also due to economic motivators. The government also considered that to solve the grain-shortage this was acceptable for a period of 5 years maximum, but no more. However, already in 1932 the Politburo issued a decree to increase crop-rotation and thus combat soil exhaustion.
“soil exhaustion from repeated sowings of grain in the same fields and lack of crop rotations caused serious declines in yield… This situation reflected a general problem in the Soviet Union: despite its vast size, [due to the Czarist backwardness] the country had surprisingly little good agricultural land at this time the United States had more land under crops than the Soviet Union.” (Tauger, pp. 38-39)
“[I]n September 1932 the Politburo formed a commission… to raise crop yields and combat weeds. Stalin and Molotov themselves joined this commission, and the result was the decree of 29 September “on measures for raising harvest yields.” This decree ordered that all party, state, and economic organizations focus their work on raising harvest yields “as the central task of agricultural development at the present moment” and specified measures to increase grain sowings at the expense of technical crops and to introduce crop rotations.” (Tauger, p. 46)
During collectivization of agriculture the Communists deported many rural capitalists (kulaks) from their land and gave the land to poor and landless peasants. It is often claimed that this “ruined” Russian farming. However, that’s false:
“the common assertion that dekulakization removed the best farmers from farming contains two arguments that are questionable at best… “poor” or “middle” peasants were potentially just as competent farmers as the “kulaks.” Dekulakization, therefore, would not have removed all the best farmers, even if officials applied the policy to remove the “well-off’ farmers.” (Tauger, p. 26)
It is also often claimed that the famine resulted from massive peasant resistance. This is also false:
“Peasant resistance and unwillingness to work in the collective farms are fundamental themes in discussions of the famine and Soviet agriculture generally… My research on Soviet farm labor policies and actual peasant practices and my reading of this literature, however, has made me skeptical of the argument for labor resistance… for peasant resistance to have been sufficient to cause the low 1932 harvest an extremely large number of peasants would have had to act this way… the argument asserts that the majority of peasants attempted to deprive their families and fellow villagers of sufficient food to last until the next harvest. This interpretation, therefore, requires us to believe that most peasants acted against their own and their neighbors’ self-interest. This viewpoint is difficult to accept both on general human terms and particularly when applied to peasants in Russia and Ukraine. The great majority of these peasants had lived for centuries in corporate villages that had instilled certain basic cooperative values, and the kolkhozy perpetuated basic features of these villages.” (Tauger, p. 28)
“Although observers at the time argued, as do some scholars today, that peasant resistance took forms that diminished the harvest, the evidence… leads to a more ambivalent conclusion. Some peasants’ actions clearly indicated that they sought to do as much as possible to save the harvest… in some cases peasants restored kolkhozy (reports referred to cases in the Middle Volga, Nizhnii Novgorod, and Moscow regions)…” (Tauger, p. 33-34)
There was real sabotage committed by kulaks and middle-peasants who had been persuaded by kulaks. This sabotage still wasn’t among the main causes of the famine:
“Only in certain types of actions can we discern a clear, conscious effort to reduce food production… In some cases …[saboteurs] attacked kolkhozniki working in the fields in order to induce them to join with the leavers and divide up the farm… In the Middle Volga, Nizhnii Novgorod, Ivanovo, and Northern regions, arson destroyed thousands of hectares of unharvested grain and hundreds of tons of harvested grain, in addition to hundreds of thousand of hectares of forests, cut timber, housing, and fuel. In some places [saboteurs] attacked officials and other peasants involved in harvest work and destroyed harvest machinery” (Tauger, p. 33-34)
However, there were no real signs of massive peasant resistance. Tauger states that from what we can see: “at least some peasants worked hard, and this situation was not limited to Ukraine.” and other peasants “may not have worked less” (Tauger, p. 36)
In reality, the Soviet government relied on the workers (industrial but also agricultural) and poor and middle peasants:
“the regime’s actions during and after the famine indicated that they did not see the peasants exclusively as enemies. For example, the political departments formed in MTS and sovkhozy in early 1933 to organize farm work during the famine… promoting thousands of peasants… and… relied on the peasants to overcome the crisis. ” (Tauger, p. 49)
In reality, older sources which described alleged peasant resistance may simply have mistaken fallow land as “abandoned by resisting peasants”. Eventually these stories became widespread in anti-communist circles and were repeated constantly:
“[C]ritical observers may have mistaken fallows as abandoned lands.” (Tauger, p. 39)
Peasant resistance was also exaggerated because the government “may have misinterpreted as a protest what may have been simply a farm with more labor than it could employ” (Tauger, p. 36)
Anti-communists have claimed that the USSR was only able to “force” peasants to farm during this period due to extreme repression such as punishing those farms who refused to sell excess grain. However, according to Tauger the repression was not quite so severe:
“repressive measures… however, seem to have had limited effects.” (Tauger, p. 37)
Instead of believing in conspiracy theories, it is much more likely that the peasants farmed simply because it was in everybody’s best interest. The collective farm movement was not something completely alien to them, and the movement itself relied on tens of millions of peasants and activists.
DID THE USSR EXPORT FOOD DURING THE FAMINE?
The USSR needed capital to purchase industrial goods, machines and to hire foreign experts. This was part of the Soviet Industrial Revolution, to turn a backward country into a modern industrial country. The Russian Empire also used to expert raw-materials (mainly grain and cotton) because it was a backward agrarian state. The USSR tried to escape this backwardness.
“[T]hat put the Soviet Union under intense pressure to export commodities”
(Tauger, p. 44)
The USSR tried to achieve some level of economic independence but was being squeezed ruthlessly by foreign countries, which forced it to export:
“According to the commercial counselor of the British Embassy in Moscow, writing in late 1931, “failure [by the Soviet government] to meet its obligations would certainly bring disaster in its train. Not only would further credits cease, but all future exports, all Soviet shipping entering foreign ports, all Soviet property already in foreign countries would be liable to seizure to cover sums due. Admission of insolvency would endanger the achievement of all aspirations based on the five-year plan and might indeed imperil the existence of the government itself” (PRO FO 371. 15607 N7648/ 167/38, 6-7). German Chancellor Bruening told a British diplomat in Berlin in early 1932 that if the Soviets “did not meet their bills in some form or other, their credit would be destroyed for good and all” (PRO FO 371 16327 N456/ 158/38).” (Tauger, “The 1932 Harvest and the Famine of 1933”)
It is often claimed that the government supposedly had lots of food, but simply exported all of it. This is a conspiracy theory, and is not based on any reliable evidence.
“The amount of grain exported during the peak of the famine in the first half of 1933, however, approximately 220,000 tons, was small, less than 1 percent of the lowest harvest estimates, and the regime was using virtually all the rest of the available harvest to feed people.” (Tauger, p. 6)
“Total aid to famine regions was more than double exports for the first half of 1933.”
(Tauger, “The 1932 Harvest and the Famine of 1933”)
“The severity and geographical extent of the famine, the sharp decline in exports in 1932-1933, seed requirements, and the chaos in the Soviet Union in these years, all lead to the conclusion that even a complete cessation of exports would not have been enough to prevent famine.” (Tauger, “The 1932 Harvest and the Famine of 1933”)
The fact is that even if all exports had been stopped, it wouldn’t have prevented the famine. However, it would have made industrialization impossible and thus kept the country in poverty, and at risk of future famines. Industrialization was a necessity in order to end famines. If the harvest of 1932 had been successful, as everyone hoped, then there would not have been any famine. However, the USSR at the time was still not industrialized and therefore was to a large extent at the mercy of environmental factors outside of their control.
“The [low] harvest of 1932 essentially made a famine inevitable.“
(Tauger, “The 1932 Harvest and the Famine of 1933”)
“Any study that asserts that the harvest was not extraordinarily low and that the famine was a political measure intentionally imposed through excessive procurements is clearly based on an insufficient source base and an uncritical approach to the official sources. The evidence cited above demonstrates that the 1932-1933 famine was the result of a genuine shortage, a substantial decline in the availability of food… [The famine was] the result of the largest in a series of natural disasters… it is clear that the small harvests of 1931-1932 created shortages that affected virtually everyone in the country and that the Soviet regime did not have the internal resources to alleviate the crisis.” (Tauger, p. 48)
The famine ended in 1933 when the collective farms produced a successful crop, much larger then ones before. The collective system demonstrated its effectiveness by increasing crop yields continually.
From a Local Erfahrungsgeschichte of Holodomor to a Global History of Famines
In German historiography, the Ukrainian famine has not received adequate attention. A few exceptions exist, such as the 2004 special issue of the journal Osteuropa edited by Gerhard Simon and Rudolf Mark, but no single monograph in the German language nor any research project deals with the Holodomor . Moreover, amongst the broader German public, the Soviet famine of 1932–3 is relatively unknown, despite being one of the great catastrophes in twentieth-century European history and (in terms of its death toll) one of the biggest single crimes of Stalinism. How can this obvious omission on the part of German academic researchers of Stalinism be explained?
In German historiography, the Ukrainian famine has not received adequate attention. A few exceptions exist, such as the 2004 special issue of the journal Osteuropa edited by Gerhard Simon and Rudolf Mark, but no single monograph in the German language nor any research project deals with the Holodomor. Moreover, amongst the broader German public, the Soviet famine of 1932–3 is relatively unknown, despite being one of the great catastrophes in twentieth-century European history and (in terms of its death toll) one of the biggest single crimes of Stalinism. How can this obvious omission on the part of German academic researchers of Stalinism be explained?
In part it can be explained by historiographical chronology. In the 1980s the publication of Robert Conquest's book Harvest of Sorrow – the book that brought greatest public attention to the Ukrainian famines in the mainstream British and US press, coincided with the German ‘Historians’ Dispute’ (Historikerstreit) of 1986–7 that focused on the singularity of the Holocaust. This debate, which garnered considerable media attention, was initiated by an article written by Ernst Nolte, in which he argued that the murder of class enemies by the Bolsheviks was the ‘logical and factual precedent’ to the racial murder of the National Socialist regime. For Nolte the Gulag, Auschwitz, and the deportations and the mass death of kulaks in connection with Soviet collectivisation were comparable phenomena. The millions of Ukrainian famine victims did not figure in at all in the discussion among leading German historians.
But, as Guido Hausmann has recently argued, there might even exist a longer tradition of ignorance and lack of public discussion in Germany with regard to the Soviet collectivisation famines. Even in the 1930s they never became a focus of concern amongst the German public, although diplomats like Gustav Hilger, a member of the German embassy in Moscow, travelled through parts of Ukraine in 1932 and recognised and noted the precursors of the catastrophe. Partly due to Soviet policies of secrecy and partly due to the Nazi takeover in Germany in 1933, the mass starving in Ukraine (as well as in other parts of the Soviet Union) did not receive widespread public attention.
Thanks to the opening of the former Soviet archives, a large number of documents on the Ukrainian famine have been published since the 1990s in Ukraine and abroad. Yet, at the same time, the general discussions among academics focused and often still focuses on the genocide question, as well as the question of Stalin's intentions, whereas there is an almost complete lack of empirical research into many other important questions.
With regard to the genocide question, new research that historicises the drafting and enacting of the United Nation's Genocide Convention shows the political instrumentalisation of the term and definitions of ‘genocide’ during the Cold War. In his new book The Soviet Union and the Gutting of the UN-Genocide Convention, Anton Weiss-Wendt has shown how in the midst of Cold War ideological struggles the political aims of the superpowers rendered the convention a weak instrument for addressing abuses against human rights. At that time the Soviet Union wanted to keep both the famine victims and the vast system of labour camps out of the genocide discourse. The United States, for its part, feared that the Convention could be used against them in relation to the plight of African Americans. As Alexander Etkind shows in this roundtable, a closer look at Raphael Lemkin's biography and development of thoughts and ideas around genocide in the context of the Ukrainian famines, can also be quite helpful for developing new ideas on the topic.
Apart from these questions of intention and interpretation, studying regional and local micro-histories of the famine should be a priority for future research. We still don't have a clear picture of the practices of the famine in different Ukrainian regions or the role of the local and regional actors. So far, our knowledge about the geography of the Holodomor seems to be more or less limited to the recognition of considerable differences in mortality rates between different regions (oblast), but also between different administrative divisions on the lower district level (raions) within the same oblast. Regions where there was no grain surplus were less of a focus in the grain requisitions, and this played a major role in the lower death rates within them. Having said this, the phenomenon cannot fully be explained by factors such as grain surplus and vegetation.
The following section will explore in more depth the example of the Donbas, an industrial region next to the forested Chernihiv oblast, and the region with one of the lowest famine mortality rates in Ukraine. At the height of the famine in 1933 the mortality rate in the Donbas was half the average death rate in Ukraine at that time. As a showcase region of the Stalinist industrialisation project, even during the famine years inhabitants of Donbas received the highest food rations. According to the central food supply plans and statistics, the urban population in the Donbas even received higher bread rations than the inhabitants of Moscow or Leningrad. This did not mean that the Donbas urban population did not suffer from the famine at all, as rations always depended on the individual utility of the worker for the socialist construction project. However, in general, the rural population in the Donbas profited from the higher bread rations given to the urban workers, as many peasant families had relatives working in the coal mines. Most interestingly, mortality rates differed significantly across the different rural districts of the Donbas, which leads to the assumption that, in addition to the general factors, the individual actions of local and regional actors also played an important role. In some areas local and regional party leaders hid peasant starvation from higher party authorities and did not take any measures to combat the famine for fear of being repressed themselves. In other places local actors tried to stop the starving. In one village, for example, a party secretary organised effective support for the collectivised farm workers (kolkhozniki), but only for the communists, not for the non-party members. In another village a party secretary organised help for all peasants and successfully managed to keep the mortality rate low. In some villages instances of cannibalism were reported, which were often carefully investigated by the secret police, the State Political Directorate. Hiroaki Kuromiya has shown that protests of party cadres and workers’ strikes increased significantly during the famine years in the Donbas, indicating a certain culture of resistance and protest. Generally, the famine reports of the party district (raion) committees show that all groups of the rural population were likewise affected by starvation, from stigmatised kulaks to the decorated kolkhos workers who overfilled production norms, and even kolkhoz chairmen. Ethnic affiliation made no difference: Greek, German and Russian peasants suffered equally to Ukrainian peasants.
These micro histories of the diverse social practices, political cultures, actors and experiences of the famine in different local and regional settings of Ukraine can open up the possibility for a new ‘experiential history’ (Erfahrungsgeschichte) of the famine, which also pays more attention to the individual perceptions of the famine by victims and local perpetrators. Anne Applebaum has shown in her book the great potential of these personal famine stories in oral history testimonies and memoirs. This might also add a new perspective to our understanding of the heterogeneous regional developments and antagonisms in Ukraine, still visible in Ukrainian politics today.
Research on Soviet collectivisation famines has so far mostly followed national lines, not least due to the academic development in the Soviet Union's successor states. It would certainly enlarge the perspective to look at the Holodomor in broader comparison to the famines in Kazakhstan and Russia, as Sarah Cameron and Niccolo Pianciola have argued in this roundtable. In addition, Robert Kindler's book on the famine in Kazakhstan discusses the famine as a special means or technique of bringing the Kazakhs under Soviet rule. Kindler explains the famine as a result of food requisitions, class struggle, forced sedentarisation of the nomads and collectivisation. But other than in Ukraine, where since the 1990s the Holodomor constitutes an important element in Ukrainian nation building and memory culture, in Kazakhstan the famine catastrophe has so far played only a marginal role in the official historical narrative of the country. In Kazakhstan the few scholars who have argued in favour of a genocide thesis have not gained an important voice.
Future research must answer the many questions which remain in the entangled history of the Soviet famines, such as: did the famine crisis in Kazakhstan, which began already in the fall of 1930, serve as a ‘model’ for Stalin's policy in Ukraine, as some researchers have argued? Did the Soviet famine policy in Central Asia include a colonial element in contrast to the policy in Ukraine? What can the history of the Holodomor contribute to a global perspective on famines? Not only in the Soviet Union, but also in China and Cambodia, forced industrialisation and collectivisation in the second half of the twentieth century led to famine catastrophes, which resulted in millions of deaths, leading us to the question if famines under state socialism followed their own logics and patterns. The sinologist Felix Wemheuer has made a first attempt to combine the history of the Holodomor in Ukraine 1932–3 and ‘the three bitter years’ between 1958 and 1962 in China, which caused more than 40 million deaths. He showed the many parallels between the preconditions and practices of Ukrainian and Chinese famines and paid considerable attention to the individual experiences and survival strategies of the affected people in both countries. Wemheuer shows that even in the handling of responsibility for the famine, the Chinese government borrowed heavily from the Soviet Union. Research on the Great Famine in China can thus inspire a fresh look on the Holodomor. In the Chinese case research has shown that directives of the centre were executed quite differently by regional and local party representatives, ranging from overeager to delayed order fulfilment, which at least partly explains the large deviations in mortality rates. Moreover, to explain the enormous dimension of the Chinese famine, factors including bureaucratic mismanagement, communication problems and incorrect information from the provinces seem to have been of crucial importance. It makes a lot of sense, then, to take a closer look at similar questions with regard to the Soviet famines.
Finally, the entangled history of famines is also reflected in the historical experiences of the affected populations. The fact that the population of Soviet Ukraine experienced at least four famines during the first half of the twentieth century – in 1921–3 after the civil war, during the Holodomor, under German occupation in the Second World War and after the war in 1946–7 – has to be better taken into account. To some extent, the selective hunger plan of the Nazi regime in Ukraine represented a kind of reversal of the Holodomor experience under Stalin because it primarily affected the population of the industrial centres and bigger cities, whereas the peasant population did not suffer to the same extent. Another important aspect, mentioned by Applebaum, is that under the Nazi occupation the German occupation press (for purely propagandistic reasons) reported on the Holodomor and other crimes of Stalinism. So, in Ukraine the first discussion of the famine as a crime of Stalinism (and so to say a first stage of de-Stalinisation) took place much earlier than, for example, in Kazakhstan, where the discussion started only half a century later. Even in Khrushchev's secret speech the collectivisation famines were not brought up and remained a secret. Does this difference explain among others the development of different memory cultures on the famine in Ukraine and Kazakhstan? Which lessons did the population of Ukraine learn from these different famine experiences? Which survival strategies were developed within families and how did the different famines figure in the family memories? How did the famine experiences under Soviet rule influence peoples’ loyalties towards the Soviet state? These and other questions still need to be researched systematically.
As the examples here show, Holodomor historiography can fruitfully contribute to a modern global history of famines, particularly if it finally leaves aside the genocide debates and starts to fill the aforementioned desiderata and blanks with solid empirical research.
Western Historians Debunk the Ideology of Holodomor
The first victim of the propaganda of the 1933 holodomor as the genocide of the Ukrainian people by the Soviet government was the real truth about the famine of the 1930s.
Ukrainian historians are least interested in facts. They were handed down from above by a political order to quickly rivet the anti-Russian ideologue about holodomor that allowed each Ukrainian government to solve two tactical tasks at once: to get the support of a violent nationalist electorate and to keep the rest of the citizens in a state of moderate gravity Russophobia in order to justify the existence of Ukrainian self-determination.
The myth of holodomor imposed on the inhabitants of Ukraine consists of two parts. The first is the claim that the famine was a man-made disaster performed by Stalin to destroy the freedom-loving Ukrainian people. The second is the assertion that there is a consensus in Western historical science about Stalin’s guilt in this tragedy.
But there is a political rather than scientific consensus in the West about the common history of the peoples of Russia and Ukraine. It is expressed in strong Russophobic propaganda and accusations of Moscow being responsible for all the troubles of Ukraine. When the author of these lines was a student of one of the Ukrainian universities in the mid-1990s, the source of knowledge about the famine of the 1930s for students was “History of Ukraine” published in Canada.
The cover said: for free distribution in educational institutions of Ukraine. It described how Joseph Stalin said heartlessly about starving Ukrainians: “Let them suffer”. There was no reference to the original source, of course. And there couldn’t be.
As for the scientific consensus on holodomor, it is not in Western historical science. Not all historians accept on faith the story of the purposeful nature of the tragedy of the 1930s. Just on the eve of the current “Holodomor anniversary” in Alberta, Canada, the dismissal of assistant teacher Dougal McDonald was demanded as he called Ukraine’s story about Holodomor a lie and myth .
Scientific dissent on this issue is suppressed by force. The Congress of Ukrainians of Canada (consisting of descendants of fugitive Nazi collaborators who are not in a hurry to move to their “native Ukraine”, preferring to love their homeland from afar) expressed this: “Even in 2019, we can not afford to be compliant in teaching and informing about Holodomor”.
The biggest damage to the propaganda story about targeted famine in Ukraine was caused by the research of Mark Tauger, an associate professor at the University of West Virginia and specialist in economics and agriculture of the USSR of the Stalin era. He, too, put sticks in wheels, which prevents his work from being spread to the United States, but some of it could not be prevented from being published.
In an extensive article entitled “Natural Disaster and Human Actions in the Soviet Famine of 1931-1933, Carl Beck Papers in Russian and East European Studies, no. 1506”, Tauger, referring to archival documents, acknowledges that the yield in 1932 in the USSR was 20-30% lower. The export of Soviet grain abroad was reduced to 1%, the remaining 99% went to feed the population.
Tauger criticises the research approach of American historians James Mace and Robert Conquest, who wrote about Holodomor. Mace is generally considered to be the father of the ideology of the Ukrainian Holodomor. In the 1990s he came to teach in Kiev and introduced the phrase “post-genocide society” to Ukrainians. Like saying that modern Ukrainians still bear the psychological imprint of the genocide of their ancestors by the Soviet government.
Before Mace, Ukrainians had no idea that they were a post-genocide society and felt no mark of genocide. Mace carried out a political order and tried to introduce Russophobia into the national psychology of Ukrainians under the guise of anti-Sovietism. The Holodomor myth was ideal for this task. During Ronald Reagan’s presidency, a special United States Commission on Famine in Ukraine was established “to provide American society with a better understanding of the Soviet system by exposing the role of the Soviets in the Ukrainian famine”. The head of this commission was James Mace, and when American historians skeptically accepted the conclusions of a colleague about the genocide of the Ukrainian people, calling them “unscientific”, he went to Ukraine. Thus, the idea of “Holodomor”, developed in the United States in the 1980s, was developed, especially during the time of President Yushchenko, and now it is one of the activities of the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory.
But Tauger writes that neither Conquest nor his assistant Mace took into account either real yield indicators or weather conditions in 1930-1933 in the Soviet Union. They claimed that the grain was sufficient, but it was taken away from Ukrainians. In reality, drought was rampant in the USSR, in some regions the amount of precipitation was 10-55% below the norm.
In those years, drought struck 23 of the 51 US states and China, triggering many deaths (especially in China). And American President Herbert Hoover refused to provide federal assistance to starving fellow citizens.
Following the drought of 1931 came the rainy 1932. Precipitation fell two or three times more than normal, in Kiev basement floors of buildings flooded. Rain also poured on Uzbekistan, and in central Russia in September there was a hurricane. An impressive part of the harvest was destroyed. Humidity triggered the growth of pathogenic bacteria, and they destroyed nearly 90 million centners of grain, just as 50% of cereals died in the states of Minnesota and North Dakota in 1935. In 1932, plant diseases destroyed about 50% of the harvest in Germany, Romania, and the Balkans.
Famine crossed the borders of Ukraine, covered Kazakhstan, Siberia, and the Caucasus. But the Russian Volga region was particularly hard hit. Tauger quotes Stalin’s words at the Central Committee’s plenum in January 1933 that crop losses in the Volga region are twice as severe as in Ukraine. Even in the 1980s the expression “starving Volga region” was still doing the rounds in the USSR.
The extent of the famine in Russia was evidenced by Otto Schiller, Germany’s agricultural attaché in the Soviet Union, and Andrew Cairns, a Canadian farmer who traveled around our country in 1932. However, Conquest and Mace “did not notice this evidence”.
Tauger writes that in 1932 the Soviet government developed a food distribution system for 40 million people in order to provide food to the population. In the same year, thousands of tractors were sent to Ukraine, and thousands more were purchased abroad. But 5,000 vehicles from the American firm “Oliver” arrived already damaged, and from the firm Allis-Chalmers – with missing parts.
The question is: why did Moscow send tractors to Ukrainian farmers in 1932 if in a year it was going, according to Kiev, to organise for them a famine genocide?
The above factors, multiplied by the risky economic policy of the authorities, led to what later in Ukraine will be called Holodomor. There was a famine in the 1930s. But there was only no genocide and no special plans to exterminate Ukrainians. The country fought famine together as hard as it could.
… At the end of October 2019, the petition committee of the Bundestag of Germany considered the appeal to recognise Holodomor as “genocide of the Ukrainian people”. The German Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly opposed the position, arguing, among other things, that in addition to Ukraine, there was a famine in Russia and in the Caucasus. In 2016 such a petition had already appeared on the website of the Bundestag, it had also received a negative assessment by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was withdrawn from consideration. Now Ukrainian nationalists are trying to sell it again – for the reason that it is vital for them to demonstrate the West’s support for the Holodomor ideology.
In the photo. A memorial dedicated to “Holodomor,” in Washington: the idea of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, the place for construction was chosen under Yushchenko, the monument was built with the funds of the state budget of Ukraine and private donations (the largest contribution – $2.5 million, made by Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash), unveiled on November 7th 2015 with the participation of then President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko. The monument attracted criticism from the Americans because it is located near the “Childs” restaurant and is not related in any way to the history of the United States. But a second argument can be disputed – it was the Americans who invented the ideology of Holodomor as genocide.
What Caused the Holodomor?
Three weeks ago, Grover Furr charged me with spreading fascist propaganda on CounterPunch because my film review of “Bitter Harvest” held Josef Stalin accountable for the famine in Ukraine in 1932-1933. Like the Australian theology professor Roland Boer who blogs at “Stalin’s Moustache”, Furr’s political life revolves around celebrating Stalin’s greatest achievements—such as they were. I advise my readers, especially younger ones, to visit “Stalin’s Moustache” and Furr’s website to get a handle on a school of thought that has largely died a natural death.
Instead of answering Furr’s attack, I will turn my attention to the historiography of Mark Tauger who he describes in a prefatory note as being a “world authority” on the famine. Since Tauger blames a severe drought for the deaths of between 2.5 to 7 million Ukrainians, it is understandable why he would be hoisted on the shoulders of both Grover Furr and Roger Annis, a Canadian leftist and occasional CounterPunch contributor who endorsed Tauger on his “New Cold War: Ukraine and Beyond” website as “One of the world’s leading scholars on the development of agriculture in the Soviet Union”. So, you get the picture. If you are in the business of representing Ukraine as a victim of Stalinist or Putinist colonial brutality, Tauger is essential for turning that victim into a criminal.
Around the time Furr wrote his article, I had already begun reading scholarly literature on the Holodomor including everything that Tauger had written on the topic. Despite his reputation as a leading authority on the famine, he has never written a book about it. At one time, he had an archive of his articles on the U. of West Virginia but they seemed to have mysteriously disappeared. One hopes that a Pravy Sektor hacker was not responsible.
Fortunately, my privileges as a Columbia University retiree has enabled me to read Tauger’s articles, including one titled “Natural Disaster and Human Actions in the Soviet Famine of 1931-1933” that can be accessed at the University of Pittsburgh Carl Beck Papers in Russian and Eastern European Studies.
I was surprised, but not overly so, to discover Tauger applying the same methodology to other famines in that article. If you are one of those leftists who blames British colonialism for the Potato Famine in Ireland, he will disabuse you of such foolish notions:
Consequently an understanding of the Soviet famine, and of the intense conflict between regime and peasants over grain procurements emphasized in most studies, requires an examination of the causes of those small harvests. Two examples from the vast historiography of famines demonstrates the legitimacy and importance of such an investigation. In the case of the Great Irish Famine of 1845-1851, a nationalist literature, similar to the Ukrainian nationalist literature on the Soviet famine, holds the British government responsible.
The British government responsible? No, we can’t have that. Nor was the British government responsible for the 1943 famine in Bengal, according to Tauger’s “The Indian Famine Crises of WWII”:
This “man-made” famine argument, however, rests on uncritical acceptance of one set of unreliable statistical data that Sen and others have incorrectly described as “production data.” As will be shown below, scholars who presented this view of the famine had clear evidence that discredited these data, but they did not acknowledge this conflicting evidence, let alone address its implications. As a result their discussions of the rice harvests in Bengal before the famine have misrepresented both the data and the causes of the famine. These scholars also claim that Bengal had no shortage of rice during the famine, yet they minimize or ignore environmental conditions that did in fact cause serious shortages. Much more reliable harvest data from rice research centers in Bengal during the famine show that Bengal had a major harvest failure in 1942 and a significant shortage of rice.
Of course, it is easy for some on the left to recoil at the idea that it was natural causes such as drought or blight rather than British colonialism that was responsible for the deaths of millions of Irish and Indians. Yet, when it comes to Ukraine, we are used to thinking the worst. If Victoria Nuland was on the phone with nationalist politicians prior to Euromaidan, it seems reasonable that Stalin was forced to unleash a brutal repression in the early 30s to prevent Hitler from invading Russia—or something like that.
Lenin had no problems making the connection between the colonial status of Ireland and Ukraine as indicated in a 1918 Open Letter to Boris Souvarine, a French Communist who had trouble distinguishing between oppressor and oppressed nations:
Socialists always side with the oppressed and, consequently, cannot be opposed to wars whose purpose is democratic or socialist struggle against oppression. It would therefore be absurd to deny the legitimacy of the wars of 1793, of France’s wars against the reactionary European monarchies, or of the Garibaldi wars, etc…. And it would be just as absurd not to recognise the legitimacy of wars of oppressed nations against their oppressors, wars that might break out today—rebellion of the Irish against England, for instance, rebellion of Morocco against France, or the Ukraine against Russia, etc….
Just about a year after Lenin wrote this letter, the Bolsheviks seized power and created the USSR. For the Ukrainians, this held out great promise since they carried out measures that could finally bring an end to the colonial oppression that had existed since the time of Catherine the Great. To start with, Ukraine—like all the other socialist republics—would have the right to secede. Just as importantly, the landed gentry would be expropriated and the land turned over to the peasants. Keeping in mind that that the demand for “Peace, Bread and Land” sparked the Bolshevik revolution, the third plank meant more to the Ukrainian than most Russians since national oppression and serfdom were intertwined under Czarism. The native Ukrainian tended to be a peasant whose language rights and culture were routinely violated. Communism marked a new day.
In the immediate aftermath of the revolution, Russia was plunged into a bloody civil war and forced to adopt “War Communism” that weighed more heavily on the peasant than other sectors of the population. Grain was impounded to feed the Red Army and the workers in the armaments industry who were needed to keep the counter-revolutionary invasion at bay. No matter how painful the Spartan regime, the peasant at least had title to his land.
After the war ended, Lenin persuaded the Communists to adopt the New Economic Policy that would allow private enterprise under strict controls to help revive the economy. In some ways, it was a forerunner to the model now adopted by the Cubans. Neither the Cuban nor the Russian revolutionary leaders were happy about tourist hotels and wealthy farmers (kulaks) gaining a foothold but their choices were limited.
Written 7 months before his death, Lenin’s article “On Cooperation” promoted the idea that peasant cooperatives were the most important way to carry the revolution forward. An alliance between the working class and small peasants organized in cooperatives was “all that is necessary to build a complete socialist society”. Especially because from the standpoint of transition to the new system, they were “the simplest, easiest and most acceptable to the peasant” (emphasis in the original). If anything, I would have had acceptable to the peasant in both italics and bold, had I been Lenin at the time.
When Lenin wrote this article, the Communist Party was dividing into two factions. The majority was co-led by Bukharin and Stalin who thought that the peasants should be given free rein. Bukharin, who was the architect of their program, wrote: “Overall, we need to say to the entire peasantry, to all its different strata: enrich yourselves, accumulate, develop your farms. Only idiots can say that the poor must always be with us. We must now implement a policy which will result in the disappearance of poverty.”
Trotsky formed a opposition on the basis that the Soviet Union needed to industrialize as rapidly as possible, which meant strengthening the hand of wage labor on the farms and the encouragement of collective farming. The 1927 Platform of the Joint Opposition urged that “The growth of land-renting must be offset by a more rapid development of collective farming.” Furthermore, despite the use of the term collective farming, it was clear that Trotsky and his comrades were simply endorsing the measures found in Lenin’s “On Cooperation”:
The task of socialist construction in the country is to reform agriculture on the basis of large-scale, mechanized, collective agriculture. For the bulk of the peasants the simplest road to this end is co-operation, as Lenin described it in his work On Co-operation. This is the enormous advantage which the proletarian dictatorship and the Soviet system as a whole gives to the peasant.
In other words, despite the slander directed against Trotsky as someone who “underestimated the peasantry”, there is little doubt that he was simply arguing in favor of policies proposed by Lenin, who Stalin tended to regard as the final word on everything (no matter that Lenin called for his removal from party leadership from his death-bed.)
Largely because of his bureaucratic control and the rapid influx of self-seeking elements into the party, Stalin could crush the opposition and allow the growth of an agrarian bourgeoisie that towards the end of the 20s began to assert its class power. Lurching leftward, Stalin moved against the peasantry in a manner that confused some of Trotsky’s supporters. Wasn’t Stalin adopting the program of the Left Opposition?
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Stalin’s forced march did not discriminate between rich and poor peasants. In the name of “liquidating the kulaks”, every peasant in the USSR was herded into state farms or collective farms, called sovkhozes and kolkhozes respectively. The state farms were conceived strictly as agrarian factories based on wage labor while the collective farms were collective in name only. The peasants forced to work on them were not even entitled to sell crops from their own private gardens in the marketplaces and were paid a wage tied to their output and, even more against the spirit of Lenin’s “acceptable to the peasant”, were chained to the kolkhoz that became a virtual concentration camp.
For the most exhaustive treatment of why they failed, you can read R.W. Davies and Stephen G. Wheatcroft’s 582-page “The Years of Hunger: Soviet Agriculture 1931-1933” that considers Stalin’s policy throughout Russia. Despite not being focused on the Ukraine, it is the most authoritative account of why the famine took place there. Rejecting Tauger’s “the drought did it” argument specifically, they blame Stalin’s feckless and brutal forced collectivization for the death of millions, both Ukrainians and elsewhere.
Much of Davies and Wheatcroft is highly technical and overloaded with statistics but is worth consulting for the weight of the evidence. All of it leads to a conclusion that could not be further from Tauger’s monocausal explanation:
Collectivisation, coupled with dekulakisation, brought agriculture under state control. But its introduction brought with it enormous difficulties. These were partly inherent in the huge operation of moving 25 million individual peasant economies into a quarter of a million socialised collective farms. The difficulties were made worse by the inability of most communists, from Stalin to the party members sent into the countryside, to understand agriculture and the peasants, and offer sensible means of coping with the transformation of the countryside. In 1930, collectivisation proceeded at a breakneck pace, and impracticable schemes were enforced for the wholesale socialisation of livestock as well as grain. Even with a good harvest, the collective farmers were not guaranteed a minimum return for their work. Although some of the Utopian policies of 1930 were soon abandoned, in both 1931 and 1932 Stalin and the Politburo overestimated the harvest and imposed collection plans based on their misjudgment. Most agricultural difficulties were not attributed to mistakes in policy, or even treated as a necessary cost of industrialisation. Instead, the machinations of kulaks and other enemies of the regime were blamed for the troubles, and the solution was sought in a firmer organisation of agriculture by the state and its agencies.
Wheatcroft and Davies also dispense with Tauger in their work. It seems that one Sigizmund Mironin, who they describe as a “doughty supporter of the Stalinist regime” wrote a book on the famine inspired by Tauger. Mironin wrote: “Using the articles of M. Tauger … I seek to prove: that Stalin and the Politburo, as a result of the drought in 1931, did not have grain stocks, but did everything they could to reduce human losses from the famine, and took every measure to prevent famine from recurring.” Wheatcroft and Davies sum up Mironin’s work and implicitly what Furr and Annis have written in Stalin’s defense:
This view of the famine is emphatically and justifiably rejected by most Russian historians. We show in the following pages that there were two bad harvests in 1931 and 1932, largely but not wholly a result of natural conditions. But the 1932 harvest was not as bad as Mark Tauger has concluded. Stalin was certainly fully informed about the scale of the famine. Moreover, Mironin’s account neglects the obvious fact that the famine was also to a considerable extent a result of the previous actions of Stalin and the Soviet leadership. Mironin’s book is Stalinist apologetics, not history. Unfortunately this approach to the Stalin era is increasingly publicised in contemporary Russia.
Now at this point inquiring minds might ask who Wheatcroft and Davies are. Couldn’t they be in cahoots with Victorian Nuland and the Pravy Sektor? Even if they blame Stalin for policies that constitute manslaughter in the first degree rather than premeditated murder, doesn’t that align them with Nazi propaganda and Louis Proyect’s film reviews?
As it happens, R.W. Davies, who is now 92 years old, was an occasional contributor to New Left Review when CounterPunch editor Alexander Cockburn was on the prestigious journal’s editorial board alongside Tariq Ali.
Among the more notable contributions Davies made to the journal was a debate with Robert Conquest, whose book on the Holodomor is considered the purest expression of anti-Soviet hatred by people like Furr. In 1995, Davies wrote an article titled “Forced Labour Under Stalin: The Archive Revelations” that Conquest took exception to because it accepted “figures given to the Khrushchevite leadership by a KGB which was still falsifying—for example—death rates and causes in rehabilitation cases.” Davies defended his findings in a subsequent article that still did not mollify Conquest who complained to NLR in one more article.
This article is a bit longer than I hoped it would be but it is difficult to cover such a complex topic in less than five pages. I strongly recommend that CounterPunch readers read Tauger’s article referred to above, as well as have a look at the Wheatcroft/Davies book that is online.
Finally, to reiterate the point I made in my film review. I do not think that Stalin carried out a systematic genocide that had any similarities to what one-time CounterPunch contributor Arno Mayer called “the Judeocide”. Stalin’s policies were not that much different than those carried out in the primitive accumulation phase of capitalism that Marx, quoting British historian William Howitt, described as “one of the most extraordinary relations of treachery, bribery, massacre, and meanness”. That all this was carried out in the name of communism makes little difference, especially since the alienation it created led in part to its downfall—whatever it was.
“Holodomor”: Fact or Fiction
Former Premier of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin
In this piece, I will examine the situation in the Soviet Union, particularly in Ukraine, 1932–1933, of what is commonly referred to as “Holodomor”.
“Holodomor” refers to the claim of an “intentional man-made famine-genocide in Ukraine caused by Communist collectivization of the Soviet Union” or often times more specifically, of Stalin himself.
To begin, I will start with its origins. Its ori g ins are widely credited to a Welsh man named Gareth Jones. Who was he? Jones before arriving in the Soviet Union in March of 1933, he was in nazi Germany. In an article entitled, “WITH HITLER ACROSS GERMANY” which was published on February 23rd of 1933, he outlines his experience flying on Hitler’s private plane along with other high ranking nazi officials such as Goebbels. In the piece he says of the nazi leaders, “There is nothing hard and Prussian about my fellow-passengers. They could not be more friendly and polite, even if I were a red-hot nazi myself.” Continuing, after fawning over the nazis, he says regarding Hitler: “There are two Hitlers — the natural boyish Hitler, and the Hitler who is inspired by tremendous national force, a great Hitler. It is the second Hitler who has stirred Germany to an awakening.” In a following article by Jones, he states regarding Goebbels that “He has a remarkably appealing personality, with a sense of humour and a keen brain. One feels at home with him immediately, for he is amusing and likeable.”
After leaving nazi Germany, he arrived in the Soviet Union. After arriving, Gareth Jones reported that “millions are dying of hunger”. In the article he gives multiple anecdotes of unidentified and nameless persons — devoid of any information of any backgrounds, of their class interests, etc — making claims such as “we are waiting for death”, while presenting the entirety of not only Ukraine but the entire Soviet Union, as a monolith.
Following this, on the 13th of April of 1933, Jones expands in this article his claim regarding the cause of the situation. He states “the main reason for the catastrophe in Russian agriculture is the Soviet policy of collectivisation.”
Today, by the “holodomor-genocide” campaigners, collectivization is pushed as being the sole cause of the situation. Despite this, Gareth Jones of all people, even admitted the following factors played a role: natural droughts in some areas, landowning kulaks who he says their “incentive to work disappeared”, “massacre of cattle by peasants not wishing to sacrifice their property for nothing to the collective farm”, and that “prices have dropped most in precisely those products, wheat, timber, oil, butter, & co., which the Soviet Union exports, and least in those products, such as machinery, which the Soviet Union imports”.
In the previously attached article from April 13th of 1933, Jones also predicted that the next harvest will likely be worse and stated, “The outlook for the next harvest is, therefore, black. It is dangerous to make any prophecy, for the miracle of perfect climatic conditions can always make good a part of the unfavourable factors.”
Jones placed the blame mainly on the Soviet policies of collectivization, but still admitted — unlike the “holodomor-genocide” campaigners of today — the previously stated factors. Today if you mention these factors, you are demonized by certain people as being just as bad as the people who deny the holocaust, that you are a genocide denier equal to a holocaust denier.
Here we have the following factors by Jones, aside from collectivization:
- Exporting grain & co. for industry machinery
- “Disincentives” among ex-landowners
- Slaughter of cattle by disgruntled ex-landowners
Before moving forward, it is important to take into account the location and the era of which this situation had occurred. For centuries prior, the entire region had regularly struggled against famines and droughts, including in Ukraine. Due to the economic backwardness of the feudal era, the entire region was largely ill-prepared to overcome these situations. As Jones mentioned, the Soviet Union was importing machinery. This was true. The reason for this was that it was that industrialization, as part of the first five-year plan, was a key to improving the agricultural system and overcoming the famines which had been inherited from the pre-revolutionary era. In a sense, the decision was as follows: “Do not industrialize, save some food, and allow the famines to continue anyway, or do industrialize, sell some food, and try to overcome the famines as quickly as possible”.
According to anti-Communist Nicholas V. Riasanovsky in “A History of Russia”, he states that the Soviet Union went from being the 5th in terms of industrial power, to second, only behind the United States, within the span of the first five-year plan. This bares out in many ways that industrial production was rapidly expanding. The first of which is that after industrialization and the end of the second world war, the famines which had plagued the regions for centuries, had stopped. They did not worsen, or even continue. It is also made clear through the fact that the industry of the Soviet Union was capable of repelling nazi Germany to the point of pushing the Germans not only out of Moscow, but all the way back to Berlin and the Reichstag. Finally, it is also shown by official statistical data of the Soviet Union. Granted that many will claim statistics from the Soviet Union cannot be trusted at all or are entirely fabricated, the fact still remains that even the western capitalist governments such as the United Kingdom will begrudgingly admit that during the era “almost all heavy industries [in the Soviet Union] enjoyed substantial increases in production”.
Regarding the issue of kulaks having no “incentives” to work, Isaac Mazepa, a hardline nationalist who had nothing but hatred of the Soviet Union & Communism, admitted the same as Gareth. He notes in the excerpt that kulaks and nationalists had first began murdering collective farm workers and Communist officials then eventually adopted a “passive” form of resistance. He openly admits that kulaks and anti-Communists had intentionally and knowingly left ‘whole tracts unsown’ and left “20, 40, and even 50 per cent” of crops to rot in the fields. To reiterate, this is not being claimed by a Soviet government official or a Communist, but by a leader of the Ukrainian nationalists and anti-Communists.
The Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance has stated that “Starting in February 1933, in order to ensure the spring sowing campaign, assistance began to arrive in Ukrainian regions. It was designated for local party leaders and activists as well as for those who worked at the collective farms.” It is in this that we begin to realize the class character of the situation and understand a little more of the truth of the situation. Above, Jones noted that the ex-landowning class refused to work in collectives saying they had ‘no incentive’, then we have Mazepa stating that many refused to sow land and harvest grain in the collectives out of spite, then the Institute claims that the aid was given to what largely amounted to those who worked. In essence, the picture painted by these admissions is exactly what Louis Fischer had stated when he was in Ukraine in 1932, as shown below.
This begins to paint a picture of exactly who, largely but not exclusively, starved and suffered. Though “the kulaks starved themselves” is regarded as “Stalinist propaganda”, that is effectively something that the “holodomor-genocide” campaign itself has inadvertently through this admitted to be true.
According to the infamous anti-Communist Robert Conquest, he reaffirms that kulaks did in fact slaughter their own cattle out of spite.
Though some will undoubtedly claim that since these statistics come from the Seventeenth Party Congress in 1934 that it must be fake, despite Conquest even saying that the numbers are “supposedly lower than the reality”, it is shown to be evident due to the fact that Soviet documents report that the Soviet Union had to and did import cattle to attempt to replace some of that what the kulaks destroyed.
To summarize this far, it has been well-documented, even among anti-Communists of the early “holodomor-genocide” campaign, that in fact kulaks did refuse to work and actively acted to harm the production of the harvest, kulaks did slaughter their cattle out of spite for the collective farms, natural drought did impact the harvest’s quantity, and industrialization was crucial to stop the famines.
According to Gareth Jones, collectivization was supposedly the main reason for the situation of 1932–1933 and he said that famines would likely continue due to it. By the end of the year of 1931, according to official statistics, the percentage of farms that were collectivized was only at 52.7%. By the end of the year of 1933, the percentage of farms that had been collectivized rose to 65.6%. Had collectivization as a policy, in and of itself, been responsible for the situation, then it would only be inevitable that the situation would not only continue, but intensify and worsen. But it did not. Given that by the end of year of 1937 some 93% of farms had been collectivized, it would only make sense that if the situation from 1932–1933 had been caused by collectivization with only 52.7% of farms being collectives that in 1938 there would be a situation much, much, much worse and intense. But it wasn’t. Unfortunately, Jones was unable to witness this fact to prove his theory wrong for himself as he had passed away in 1935.
In addition, and despite some people (i.e., Norman Naimark) saying “The Soviet Union made no efforts to provide relief”, reports show that the Central Soviet Authorities sent hundreds of thousands of tonnes of food aid to Ukraine. In early February of 1933, Odessa and Dnepropetrovsk regions each received 3,300 tonnes of food aid. By the end of February, the Dnipropetrovsk region received 20,000 tonnes of food aid, Odessa received around 13,000 tonnes, and Kharkiv received almost 5,000 tonnes. Reports document that from February to June in the year of 1933, over 500,000 tonnes of food aid was sent to Ukraine.
According to archived documents, Joseph Stalin himself, along with Molotov, personally took it upon themselves to scold Joseph Vareikis, First Secretary of the Voronezh Regional Committee of the CPSU, on March 31st of 1933 for his objection to sending 26,000 pounds of potatoes to the Donbass region of Ukraine. These behaviors including, but not limited to, sending food aid and at that personally intervening to ensure food aid is being given, is fairly odd or strange behavior for, as the “holodomor-genocide” campaigners would say, a “genocidal maniac who wanted to kill Ukrainians”. Truly, there was no reason for Stalin to go as far as personally intervening in that situation as he did to ensure food aid was sent to Ukraine if he was genuinely trying to create a famine to crush Ukraine.
Regarding the issue of “intent”, on March 16th of 1932 the Politburo stated that “The Political Bureau believes that shortage of seed grain in Ukraine is many times worse than what was described in comrade Kosior’s telegram therefore, the Political Bureau recommends the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine to take all measures within its reach to prevent the threat of failing to sow in Ukraine.”
This is one piece of conflicting evidence among many that was presented to Stalin and others of the Central Soviet Authorities. Conflicting reports of whether or not there was an issue, and if so to what degree or totality, by regional members and others in Ukraine casts doubt on the claim that Stalin was aware of the situation or that he was orchestrating it. Though the Central Soviet Authorities and Stalin were suspicious of it being worse than some had claimed, they still pushed for them to be careful and cautious.
Following that, Stalin wrote on the 2nd of July of 1932 to Lazar Kaganovich and to Molotov regarding Kosior and Vlas Chubar stating “Give the most serious attention to the Ukraine. Chubar’s corruptness and opportunistic essence and Kosior’s rotten diplomacy…and criminally frivolous attitude toward his job will eventually ruin Ukraine. These comrades are not up to the challenge of leading the Ukraine today.” By this point, it is without a doubt that Stalin is aware of the situation and automatically began to critically evaluate the situation and isolate the problems.
Shortly after this, Stalin sent another letter to Kaganovich on July 17th and mentions to Mr. Lazar that “These shortcomings are a great economic (and political!) danger to us”. The claim that this situation had been an intentional and man-made situation on behalf of Stalin & co. does not square up with this. For if it was, Stalin would not be concerned of these “shortcomings” and would certainly not be be viewing them as ‘dangerous’ to them.
It is at this point that it is also worth noting the distinction between squarely blaming Communism & collectivization for the situation and between identifying elements or persons within the government as being responsible in part for the situation, in the way that Stalin identified specifically Kosior and Chubar and specific failures produced by them that in part led to this situation being able to develop under their watch.
By August 1st of 1932, Stalin wrote, and quite poignantly & savagely, regarding Kosior that “Instead of leading the raions, Kosior keeps maneuvering between the directives of the CC CPSU and the demands of the raikoms — and now he has maneuvered himself into a total mess”. Stalin continues, ripping into Chubar, stating that “Chubar is no leader. Things are bad with the GPU […] Unless we begin to straighten out the situation in Ukraine, we may well lose Ukraine.”
At this point, it becomes beyond evident that Stalin is now aware of the situation, is actively concerned about the situation and worried, is actively identifying the problems that have allowed this situation to unfold as it did, and began taking steps to begin to rectify the situation.
The situation 1932–1933 being viewed as a “genocide to crush Ukrainian nationalist resistance” is further undercut by the fact that the situation encompassed the entire union in varying levels and degrees. Nevertheless of the varying intensities, it included but was not limited to, Siberia, the Volga, the Kazakh ASSR, etc. With that being said, it was then not a man-made famine from the start, as some pretend, to “crush Ukraine” nor was it manipulated and weaponized to do the same. We’ve seen the true cause of the situation, that the food aid sent from other regions less impacted to more impacted regions such as Ukraine, and that the Georgian leader Stalin, the “evil Russian chauvinist who wanted to crush Ukraine”, personally intervened to make sure food aid was being sent when a regional official within the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic objected to sending aid to Ukrainians in Donbass.
The situation in 1932–1933 did lead to suffering and some death. But the level of which has been grossly inflated and exaggerated, disrespecting the people who actually did suffer and perish — it belittles the truth of the situation. The estimated range of the “holodomor-genocide” campaigners ranges from 3 million to as high as 12 million, some even higher, like Conquest alleging 14 million. Regarding these tolls, “starved to death” is not always accurate or truthful — intentionally or not. At the same time, there was a record outbreak of over a million cases of typhus and typhoid fever, a dramatic spike from the prior years and higher than in the rest of the Soviet Union. This resulted in a number of people dying due to the diseases, but not from hunger. However among certain historians, it is not differentiated, or even often noted — intentionally or not. That in fact many of the people who “starved to death” were not all people who did.
In 2010, in the same ruling that the Court of Appeals of Kiev decided to qualify the situation as a ‘genocide against Ukraine, to crush Ukraine’, they also made some noteworthy admissions. In it they claimed that 10,063,000 people had “died”. However, their qualification for a “death” is rather unusual. They note that 6,122,000 of the “deaths” are unborn people. Not even unborn babies that did not make it, but a person never born, a fetus never even conceived. Approximately 60% of the “deaths” were not even people that were even born! This is unimaginably childish logic, equivalent to saying one person being murdered is actually 10 people being murdered because that one person being murdered may have had kids and they may have had kids too, etc. According with the ruling, that leaves slightly under 4,000,000 people they claim were actually alive. Of the usual death toll claimed by the campaigners, the Ukrainian court’s is only a third. Meanwhile the Soviet archives estimate that around 1,800,000 people died.
The death toll alleged by the Ukrainian court was approximately 4,000,000 and the Soviet archives estimated 1,800,000 deaths during this period, which includes from the typhus outbreak, typhoid fever, etc. The number of deaths during this period being so significantly lower than what today’s “holodomor-genocide” campaigners claim may be relevant to the fact that Jones himself had admitted on May 13th of 1933 that he never actually saw any dead people. Jones stated that “Mr. Duranty says that I saw in the villages no dead human beings nor animals. That is true…” continuing, he implies that the reason he didn’t see anybody who had died during his entire trip that all of the people who had died were buried before he had the chance to witness a single person who had died.
For whatever reasons, since the 1930’s, and even to this day, the “holodomor-genocide” campaigners repeatedly and constantly use photos from regions and eras which are not 1932–1933 Ukraine. Beyond simply ordinary people who falsely attribute a photo, whether it is intentional or not, it is also “journalists” and other so-called “experts” such as Anne Applebaum.
Holodomor Hoax: Joseph Stalin's Crime That Never Took Place
Playing into the hands of Ukrainian nationalists, a monument to the so-called Ukrainian "Holodomor," one the 20th century's most famous myths and vitriolic pieces of anti-Soviet Propaganda, has been erected in the US capital.
In 1949 the CIA and the US State Department sponsored the OUN-UPA leaders' immigration to the United States, planning to use them as subversion groups and intelligence agents in the Cold War against Soviet Russia.
One of them, Mykola Lebed was characterized as "a well-known sadist and collaborator of the Germans" by the CIA, according to Swedish-American historian Dr. Per Anders Rudling in his book "The OUN, the UPA and the Holocaust: A Study in the Manufacturing of Historical Myths." However, this fact had not prevented the CIA from recruiting the former Nazi collaborator.
"Mykola Lebed [who was responsible for the murder of Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia] lived in Queens, New York, until the 1990s, totally supported by the CIA or State Department," the US expert in Soviet history Professor Grover Carr Furr of Montclair State University, narrated in an interview with Sputnik in May, 2015.
While the Ukrainian nationalists provided Washington with valuable information about its Cold War rivals, the CIA in return was placing the nationalist veterans into positions of influence and authority, helping them to create semi-academic institutions or academic positions in existing universities.
By using these formal and informal academic networks, the Ukrainian nationalists had been disseminating anti-Russian propaganda, creating myths and re-writing history at the same time whitewashing the wartime crimes of OUN-UPA.
One of these myths was "Holodomor" that claimed that the USSR and its leader Joseph Stalin deliberately starved to death from three to seven million Ukrainians.
"In 1987 the film "Harvest of Despair" was made. It was the beginning of the 'Holodomor' movement. The film was entirely funded by Ukrainian nationalists, mainly in Canada. A Canadian scholar, Douglas Tottle, exposed the fact that the film took photographs from the 1921-22 'Volga famine' and used them to illustrate the 1932-33 famine. Tottle later wrote a book, 'Fraud, Famine, and Fascism: The Ukrainian Genocide Myth from Hitler to Harvard,' about the phony 'Holodomor' issue," Professor Furr elaborated.
However, it was under Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko (who gained his power after the Western-sponsored Maidan uprising of 2004, also known as the Orange Revolution) when the anti-Russian myth making caught its second wind in Ukraine. Under Yushchenko, several institutes of "memory management" and "myth making" were established in the country.
Both Russian and Western historians have questioned the "Holodomor" concept as well as evidently exaggerated number of victims of the famine of 1932-33 in Ukraine.
American historian Professor Mark B. Tauger, West Virginia University, carried out thorough research on the famine of 1932-33 in the USSR, and came to the conclusion that the disaster was due to environmental circumstances and was evidently not related to the Soviet policy in the region.
"Popular media and most historians for decades have described the great famine that struck most of the USSR in the early 1930s as "man-made," very often a "genocide" that Stalin perpetrated intentionally against Ukrainians and sometimes other national groups to destroy them as nations&hellip This perspective, however, is wrong. The famine that took place was not limited to Ukraine or even rural areas of the USSR, it was not fundamentally or exclusively man-made, and it was far from the intention of Stalin and others in the Soviet leadership to create such as disaster. A small but growing literature relying on new archival documents and a critical approach to other sources has shown the flaws in the "genocide" or "intentionalist" interpretation of the famine and has developed an alternative interpretation," Tauger wrote in his research work "Review of R.W. Davies and Stephen G. Wheatcroft, The Years of Hunger: Soviet Agriculture, 1931-1933."
Tauger stressed that climatic conditions played the main role in the famine of 1932-33.
Interestingly enough, official Soviet Ukrainian primary sources show that the 1928-29 famine, caused by natural disaster, mainly drought, was very serious, and Ukraine received more aid from the Soviet government, than the Kremlin sent to other parts of the USSR. This obviously disproves the false theory of the Ukrainian nationalists' "malicious" conspiracy against Ukrainian peasants in the Soviet Union, noted Grover Furr in his book "Blood Lies: The Evidence that Every Accusation Against Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union in Timothy Snyder's Bloodlands Is False."
In response to historians who suggest that the Ukrainian peasants starved and suffered especially because of Collectivization &mdash Stalin's policy of the early 1930s aimed at consolidating individual lands into collective farms &mdash Tauger emphasized:
"These studies minimize or ignore the actual harvest data, the environmental factors that caused low harvests, the repeated recovery from the famine and crop failures, the large harvests of the 1930s, the mechanization of Soviet farms in these years, Soviet population growth, and the long-term increases in food production and consumption over the Soviet period" ("Soviet Peasants and Collectivization, 1930-1939).
Remarkably, the famine of 1932-33 was the last famine that struck the Soviet Union with the exception for the famine of 1946-47 the country suffered from after the Second World War.
Although the "Holodomor" myth was never based upon credible evidence and there are enough authentic sources to prove that it is a hoax, it is simply taken for granted. Unsurprisingly, Washington supports the myth as a part of its recent Cold War-style anti-Russian campaign. Alas, even repeated a thousand times a lie will never become the truth.
What was the biggest cause of Holodomor? - History
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In 1932 and 1933, millions died in the Ukraine. The country was hit by the Holodomor, a famine so terrible that, for the people caught in the middle of it, seeing an emaciated body collapsed on the side of the road had become an everyday sight.
The country became a living nightmare a place where thousands of starving people had turned to cannibalism to survive. And yet, in the news outside of the Ukraine, newspapers denied it was even happening.
The Ukrainians call the famine the "Holodomor," a name that means "murder through starvation." The Holodomor, they believe, wasn't just a natural disaster, it was deliberately planned to starve them out.
Soviet leader Joseph Stalin had been warned that the country would be hit with a famine two years before the Holodomor started, but he did little to stop it from happening. He was bent on industrializing the Soviet Union. Even with a famine coming, he kept moving workers into the city and out of the farms of the countryside.
When the Ukraine famine started, Stalin actively made things worse. He exported almost two million tons of food out of the Ukraine, pulling away the little food the people had to survive. Then he barred the people there from moving to any other part of the country. They had no food they had no way to escape – nothing to do but wait and die.
People did what they had to do to survive. Men became thieves, women became prostitutes, and countless people did things far, far worse. Some turned to cannibalism.
Life, during the Holodomor, was so harsh that 2,500 people were arrested and convicted for eating their neighbors' flesh. The problem was so widespread that the Soviet government put up signs reminding the survivors: "To eat your own children is a barbarian act."
It seems impossible to throw a blind eye to these horrors but Stalin barely acknowledged that there anyone in the Soviet Union was hungry at all. He denied that the Ukraine famine was happening for years.
The cover-up didn't just happen in the USSR. The New York Times published long articles calling the Ukraine famine "mostly bunk," once quipping, "You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs." The man writing them, Walter Duranty, had seen the horrors of the Holodomor first-hand – but he'd been pressured into silence and lies. For an article that covered up a genocide, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.
Today, there's no question the Ukraine famine really happened – the only thing in question is the specifics. Nobody knows for sure how many people died. The lowest guesses put the number at two million, while others rise well over 10 million dead.
For Holodomor deniers, the exact number has become a fierce question of debate – but when millions of people die, does the number of millions really change whether it was a tragedy?
Whatever petty details we can debate, there is no question that the Ukraine went through a horror unlike any we can imagine. Over two years, millions of people died in the worst way possible – by slowly starving to death and watching their neighbors turn to cannibalism. It's also a fact that the people in power actively went out of their way not to help.
These things happened. The Holodomor happened. And it could have been prevented.
Now that you've read about the Ukraine famine, take a glimpse into the Armenian Genocide and life in a Soviet Gulag.
Was the Ukrainian Starvation a Genocide?
The famine of 1932–33 in Ukraine, called the Holodomor (a word coined in the late 1980s, meaning a famine deliberately initiated to cause suffering and death) can be considered genocide according to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in light of Article 2 (c). This clause identifies as genocide deliberate actions that create conditions of life leading to the physical destruction in whole or in part of a national, ethnic, religious or racial group.
The famine in Ukraine began in late 1931 during the Soviet Union’s first Five-Year plan, which called for rapid industrialization and the forced collectivization of agriculture. During the collectivization drive that began in 1929, private farms were abolished, and in their place state-owned and collective farms were established. Ostensibly run by the collective farmers themselves, the collective farms were actually controlled and monitored by Soviet or Communist Party officials. At the same time, successful, well off-farmers, labelled kulaks (according to the Soviet regime, these were exploiters of poorer peasants), were persecuted, stripped of their possessions, arrested and deported. Many were sent to far-off lands, and some were even executed. In practice, any farmer opposed to collectivization, even if not well off, was often labelled a kulak or kulak supporter.
Most peasants (subsistence and small-scale farmers) in the Soviet Union were reluctant to give up private farming to join the new collectives. In Ukraine, which had a strong tradition of private farming, resistance was particularly strong. In some cases, Ukrainian peasants and urban dwellers resented collectivization and other policies that emanated from Moscow. Reaction to these policies reinforced sentiment for more autonomy or even independence for Ukraine. Ukrainians had established an independent state in 1918, but this attempt at achieving full-fledged statehood failed by 1920 owing mainly to military intervention from Communist Russia. In 1922 Ukraine became incorporated into the Soviet Union as a republic, retaining nominal forms of statehood and autonomy.
The establishment of state and collective farms in the Soviet Union was justified by its leaders as an essential part of building socialism. Soviet officials also considered them more reliable than individual farms as sources of surplus grain production, which was to fulfill compulsory state grain collection quotas. Grain collected by the state was used to feed the rapidly growing urban population, and for exports to finance purchases of machinery abroad to support the industrialization drive. However, the collectivization of agriculture led to chaos and a drop in farm production in Ukraine, which was a key grain-producing area in the Soviet Union. Despite this, the Soviet leadership maintained high quotas for Ukraine’s farmers to deliver grain to the state.
When famine broke out in Ukraine—triggered by confiscatory measures taken by Soviet officials to fulfill unrealistically high grain collection targets in the wake of the substantial drop in agricultural production—top Soviet Ukrainian government leaders informed the Kremlin of starvation, requesting aid and a reduction in the grain quota for the country. The Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, called instead for an intensification of grain collection efforts. He also voiced his distrust of Ukrainian officials, suspecting many of them as nationalists, and expressed fear that opposition to his policies in Ukraine could intensify, possibly leading to Ukraine’s secession from the Soviet Union.
Stalin’s response was catastrophic for Ukraine. Under his urging, the Soviet leadership passed draconian laws and adopted punitive and repressive policies, ostensibly to help meet the grain quota. Special teams were sent to the countryside, headed by Stalin’s top lieutenants, to collect more grain, even though farmers had little stored for the winter and spring months ahead. Even seed grain was taken, and fines in meat and potatoes were instituted for those who had not fulfilled the grain collection plan. Other foodstuffs were also confiscated by search squads.
Unsurprisingly, the situation in the Ukrainian countryside became desperate by winter. But the regime did not relent from its policies of confiscation, punishment and repression. On January 22, 1933, in response to large numbers of hungry Ukrainian farmers leaving their villages in search of food, primarily to Russia, the Soviet leadership issued an order prohibiting their departure from the republic. Around the same time, Stalin began replacing some of Ukraine’s leaders and changed state policy that had supported the development and use of the Ukrainian language. A campaign of persecution and destruction of many Ukrainian intellectuals and officials who were accused of being Ukrainian nationalists also began.
The famine in Ukraine subsided in summer 1933 as that year’s harvest was gathered. By that time, resistance in the countryside had been broken. Demographers estimate that close to four million residents of Ukraine, mostly Ukrainian peasants, perished as a direct result of starvation.
Any discussion of the famine as genocide should begin with a review of the ideas of Raphael Lemkin, a legal scholar who was the “father” of the UN’s genocide convention. In a speech delivered in 1953, he called the USSR’s policies toward Ukraine under Stalin “the classic example of Soviet genocide.” He viewed the famine in Ukraine as a key component of what he called the “Ukrainian genocide,” which he understood as a series of actions that also included the destruction and subjugation of Ukraine’s intellectuals and political elite, the liquidation of the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and the government-directed settlement of Ukraine’s farmlands by non-Ukrainians, which took place in the wake of the famine of 1932–33.
In assessing the charge of genocide, one should recognize that it carries legal and political implications, and thus could be controversial. Political figures and entities have sometimes made statements or offered opinions on specific cases where the question of genocide has been raised. This is true of the famine in Ukraine. In 1988, a special commission of the US Congress established to investigate the Ukrainian famine concluded that “Joseph Stalin and those around him committed genocide against Ukrainians in 1932–33.” In 2006, Ukraine’s legislature, the Verkhovna Rada, adopted a law that called the Holodomor genocide. Some countries, like Canada, have adopted resolutions or statements recognizing the Holodomor as genocide. However, Russia’s national legislature, the Duma, stressed in a declaration that famine in these years was a pan-Soviet tragedy and denied that the Ukrainian situation was specific.
Controversy can also occur because of a lack of consensus among scholars. There is general agreement among scholars that the Holodomor resulted from the actions of Soviet authorities and was thus man-made and avoidable. However, some scholars as well as political figures have argued that the charge of genocide in Ukraine cannot be substantiated because famine occurred at the same time in other republics of the Soviet Union, including Russia. It has also been argued that the famine was used as a weapon aimed against peasants as a social group, and not against Ukrainians as an ethnic group. Two scholars of the Soviet Union, Robert E. Davies and Stephen G. Wheatcroft, have argued that the Soviet leadership caused the famine partly through “wrongheaded policies,” but that it was “unexpected and undesirable.” The famine, they argue, was “a consequence of the decision to industrialise this peasant country [the Soviet Union] at breakneck speed.”
The Italian scholar Andrea Graziosi, in support of the genocide interpretation, has argued that in assessing the issue one must take into account the extremely high mortality rate in Ukraine—triple the mortality rate in Russia. This was caused by the additional measures taken by Soviet authorities that intensified the famine in Ukraine. Graziosi also stresses Stalin’s understanding of the peasant and national questions as closely linked in largely peasant-based countries like Ukraine. He thus concludes that the Ukrainian villages were “indeed targeted to break the peasants, but with the full awareness that the village represented the nation’s spine.”
There are other arguments to be made in favour of the genocide interpretation. Grain exports continued during the worst months of the famine, and Soviet government reserves contained enough grain to feed the starving. When aid was first authorized in February 1933, it was selective, and not nearly enough grain was released to save millions from starvation. The mobility of Ukraine’s peasants was blocked through the January 22, 1933 decree depriving them of possible access to food in other regions of the Soviet Union. It is also clear that Stalin in 1932 was worried about losing Ukraine, tied the shortfall in grain collections in Ukraine to perceived failures of the republic’s leadership, and referred to this to justify removing some of Ukraine’s leaders when he replaced them with loyal followers. He also saw resistance in the Ukrainian countryside to grain collection as motivated by both class antagonisms and nationalism. If one considers the anti-Ukrainian measures he promoted, including authorizing persecutions of Ukrainian intellectuals and of the more nationally oriented political leadership, the overall anti-national thrust of Stalin’s decisions in 1932–1933 becomes more evident. Finally, news of the famine was suppressed in the Soviet Union, offers of outside aid were refused, and unntil the late 1980s the Soviet government denied that a famine had even taken place.
“Holodomor: Holodomor and UN Genocide Convention Criteria.” Modern Genocide: Understanding Causes and Consequences. , ABC-CLIO, 2013. Web. 21 Nov. 2013. Reprinted courtesy of ABC-CLIO.
Random Facts That Holodomor Was A Man-Made Soviet Famine That Killed Millions, And Most People Have Never Heard Of It (11 items)
Located "at the crossroads of Central Asia, Russia, Europe and the Black Sea," the area encompassing Ukraine, Russia, and Crimea has always been complex and faced myriad challenges as it attempts to reconcile autonomy with democracy and efficiency.
Although many factions of people spanning these borders share various traits, as well as a common culture and history, there has been a harsh history of conflict as each region struggles to maintain its own nationality. Ukraine has long wanted its own autonomy apart from Russia, which Russia has never supported. Russia frequently attempts to invade or annex various parts of its regional family, and in neighboring Crimea, which is part of Ukraine, the Russian Federation forcibly took control of the republic in 2014.
The Annexation of Crimea sparked conflict between Ukraine and Russia, which devolved into warfare between the two states. Corrupt elections oversaw Russian puppets installed in Ukrainian higher office in order to create trade deals, and innocent civilians have lost their lives. A brief ceasefire in 2015 was quickly violated. Hopefully, one day the animosity at the root of the Holodomor will be peacefully resolved.
(#1) Soviet Authorities Forcibly Removed Food From The Kulaks, Ukrainian Farmers
The Kulaks, which literally translates to “fists” in Russian, were successful farmers who resisted Stalin’s collectivization policies, which they considered to be a return to serfdom. The Soviet authorities branded them as enemies of the working class, and set out to destroy them. "Now we have the opportunity to carry out a resolute offensive against the kulaks, break their resistance, eliminate them as a class and replace their production with the production of kolkhozes and sovkhozes,” Stalin said. Kolkhozes and sovkhozes were the collective communist government farms.
By the 1930s, Stalin implemented his dekulakization policy, where Soviet authorities forcibly took land and food away from the farmers, and sent many of them off to Siberia. The rest were left to die of starvation.
(#8) There Has Been A Lot Of Denial Of The Holodomor
After the end of the Holdomor in 1933, the Soviet government tried to suppress evidence of the state-caused famine. Stalin even banned the publication of census data. The Kremlin has never acknowledged the genocide. They rejected the label, claiming it was a “nationalistic interpretation.” Even former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, claimed it was “incorrect and unjust” to call Holodomor “the genocide of a certain people.”
(#9) The Holodomor Was First Recognized As A Genocide In 2006
14 countries have formally recognized the Holodomor as a genocide. The United States is not one of them. Australia, Canada, Mexico were among the first nations to acknowledge the genocide when supplied with information from the Ukrainian Ministry for Foreign Affairs in 2006. Even the Vatican has recognized it. Five additional countries have officially claimed that the Holodomor was a criminal act.
(#7) Journalist Walter Duranty Won A Pulitzer Prize For Denying The Holodomor
Walter Duranty was the New York Time ’s Moscow correspondent during the Holodomor. However, the man who coined the term “Stalinism” was nothing more than a puppet for the communist dictator. He brushed off the Holodomor as “mostly bunk,” adding that, “You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.”
He was pressured into downplaying the famine, and was even praised for his reporting by Stalin himself. In 1934, he won a Pulitzer Prize for his false reporting on the Holodomor, but his writing left a shameful legacy. One journalist at the Times called his work "some of the worst reporting to appear in this newspaper."
(#5) Stalin’s Collectivization Policy Was Meant To Destroy Ukrainian Nationalism
In 1928, Stalin introduced his policy of agricultural collectivization, which at first, particularly in the West, was thought to consolidate all privately-owned Ukrainian farmland and livestock under Soviet rule. With it, Stalin supposedly intended to feed the industrial workers in the city and sell grain abroad to finance industrialization.
But, as it was written in Proletarska Pravda in 1933, it was also meant to “destroy the social basis of Ukrainian nationalism.” Indeed, after the Holodomor, one of its principal architects, Pavel Postyshev, said, “ We have annihilated the nationalist counter-revolution during the past year, we have exposed and destroyed nationalist deviationism.”
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In the late 1920s, the Soviet Union began industrialization and agricultural collectivization. In 1931, Soviet agriculture experienced a reduction in grain production, and rural labor productivity also dropped significantly. Soon, the famine appeared in 44 districts of Ukraine. As the most important grain-producing region in the Soviet Union, Ukraine suffered the most from this famine and lost about a quarter of its residents.
For most of the history of the Soviet era, the true circumstances of this famine have been carefully covered up. The random tool explained 11 facts about Holodomor that was a man-made Soviet Famine. Many papers claimed that the famine was a planned genocide action by the top Soviet leaders, with the aim of eliminating the Ukrainians.
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