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"WHY DID STALIN EXTERMINATE THE UKRAINIANS?"
By Stanislav Kulchytsky, Ph.D. (History)
The Day Weekly Digest in English (In Six Parts)
Kyiv, Ukraine, October, November, December, 2005
One of the most important articles written in 2005 about the genocidal
famine (Holodomor) in Ukraine during 1932-1933 was by eminent
Ukrainian historian and regular contributor to The Day, Dr. Stanislav
Kulchytsky, from Kyiv.
The Day has been the most consistent publisher of new articles about
the Holodomor anywhere over the past few years. The Kulchytsky
article was published in six parts by The Day. We have previously
published four of the six parts in The Action Ukraine Report (AUR).
To make it possible to easily read the article as one complete
document the Kulchytsky article is published here in its entirety.
We have worked with Dr. Kulchytsky and The Day in the past
regarding Holodomor research, the works of Dr. James Mace and
developing the Ukrainian Genocide-Holodomor Collection of Art
and Graphics. Our special thanks to Dr. Kulchytsky and The Day
for their work regarding the publication of this new article about
the Holodomor. EDITOR
"THE ACTION UKRAINE REPORT - AUR" - Number 621
Mr. E. Morgan Williams, Publisher and Editor
Washington, D.C., SUNDAY, DECEMBER 18, 2005
--------INDEX OF ARTICLES--------
"Major International News Headlines and Articles"
1. WHY DID STALIN EXTERMINATE THE UKRAINIANS?
PART ONE OF SIX
By Stanislav Kulchytsky, Ph.D. (History)
The Day Weekly Digest in English, #33,
Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, October 25, 2005
2. WHY DID STALIN EXTERMINATE THE UKRAINIANS?
Comprehending the Holodomor
PART TWO OF SIX
By Stanislav Kulchytsky, Ph.D. (History)
The Day Weekly Digest in English, #34
Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, November 1, 2005
3. WHY DID STALIN EXTERMINATE THE UKRAINIANS?
Comprehending the Holodomor. The position of Soviet historians
PART THREE OF SIX
By Stanislav Kulchytsky, Ph.D. (History)
The Day Weekly Digest in English, #35
Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, 8 November, 2005
4. WHY DID STALIN EXTERMINATE THE UKRAINIANS?
Comprehending the Holodomor. The position of Soviet historians.
PART FOUR OF SIX
By Stanislav Kulchytsky, Ph.D. (History),
The Day Weekly Digest in English # 37
Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, November 22, 2005
5. WHY DID STALIN EXTERMINATE THE UKRAINIANS?
The ideological dimension of the genocide
PART FIVE OF SIX
By Stanislav Kulchytsky, Ph.D. (History)
The Day Weekly Digest in English, #38
Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, November 29, 2005
6. WHY DID STALIN EXTERMINATE THE UKRAINIANS?
Socioeconomic and national dimensions of the genocide
PART SIX OF SIX
By Stanislav Kulchytsky, Ph.D. (History)
The Day Weekly Digest in English, #39
Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, 6 December 2005
1. "WHY DID STALIN EXTERMINATE THE UKRAINIANS?"
PART ONE OF SIX
By Stanislav Kulchytsky, Ph.D. (History)
The Day Weekly Digest in English, #33,
Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, October 25, 2005
This article could have a different title, one that reflects the scholarly,
political, and legal dimension: "The Holodomor of 1932-33 in Ukraine
Historians must provide scholarly evidence, while legal experts and
government officials must come to the legal and political conclusion that
the Holodomor was an act of genocide.
We must all ensure that the international community officially recognizes
the Ukrainian famine of 1932-33 as an act that falls under the UN
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
It is our moral duty to the millions of our compatriots who perished as a
result of terror by famine - they perished not as a result of famine but
terror by famine.
QUESTION AT ISSUE
On Oct. 12, 2005, the Gramsci Institute in Rome hosted a scholarly seminar
entitled "Stalin, the Soviet Famine of 1931-33, and the Ukrainian
Holodomor." The institute's director, Professor Silvio Pons, and Professor
Andrea Graziosi, dean of the University of Naples, proposed only one
question for discussion by Italian scholars specializing in Russian and
How is the Ukrainian Holodomor of 1932-33 different from the famine that was
caused by the grain procurement campaign after the 1931 harvest, which
encompassed all of the Soviet Union, including Ukraine, and the famine that
was caused by the grain procurement campaign after the 1932 harvest in all
the Soviet republics except Ukraine?
This wording of the question was meant to determine whether there are
convincing scholarly arguments to justify studying the Holodomor as an act
of genocide against the Ukrainian nation.
Few non-Italian scholars attended the seminar: I represented Ukraine and
Oleg Khlevniuk represented Russia. Oleg Khlevniuk is better known in the
West than in Russia or Ukraine, because his major monographs have been
published only in English.
Dr. Khlevniuk works at the State Archives of the Russian Federation and is
rightly considered the preeminent authority on sources dealing with the
Stalinist period of Soviet history.
We must thank those Western historians who have proven so responsive to a
problem that concerns only us. On Nov. 10, 2003, a joint statement from 36
nations was published in connection with the 70th anniversary of the
Ukrainian Holodomor of 1932-33, which was officially adopted during the
58th session of the UN General Assembly.
This statement does not contain a definition of this Ukrainian tragedy as an
act of genocide, even though the wording of the draft statement included the
word "genocide." On Nov. 25, 2004, "The Day" published an interview with
Ukraine's permanent UN representative, Valeriy Kuchynsky, who described
how this document was drafted.
But it does not provide an answer to the question, why so many diplomats
made it clear to their Ukrainian colleagues that they were not ready to
include the word "genocide" in their statement.
The answer was revealed only during the recent seminar at the Gramsci
Institute. It turns out that Ukrainian diplomats failed to prove to the
Third Committee of the General Assembly that the Soviet regime did
exterminate the Ukrainians. The documents they presented only proved that
famine claimed millions of lives in Ukraine in 1932-33. But this was known
According to Khlevniuk's authoritative statement, Soviet archival documents
do not contain a straight answer to the question of why millions of
Ukrainian peasants were exterminated. I said that we have exhaustive
documentary evidence to answer the question of HOW the peasants were
exterminated, but we do not have documents that state WHY they were
The perpetrators of the Kremlin's horrible crime required instructions,
which were later stored in the archives. Yet Stalin was not obliged to
report to anyone about WHY he had used instituted terror by famine, a
term first proposed by the British scholar Robert Conquest.
A convincing answer to the question of the motives behind this crime may be
found only through a comprehensive analysis of many documents. In 2005
"Ukrainskyi Istorychnyi Zhurnal" [Ukrainian Historical Journal] carried
articles by Andrea Graziosi and Gerhard Simon, the latter a professor at the
University of Kbln and arguably one of the best Western experts on the
nationalities policy of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
These articles analyze Stalin's terror by famine. Based on the conclusions
of my Western and Ukrainian colleagues and drawing on my 20 years of
experience researching the problem of the Ukrainian Holodomor, I will
attempt to answer the question: why did Stalin exterminate the Ukrainians?
Substantiating this answer will require a separate monograph that has yet to
be written. But I am hastening to publish a newspaper version of this book.
"The Day" publishes in three languages and has an online version, which
means that it has a broad readership among the general public.
This is especially important because the Holodomor is, at the very least, a
historical problem. First and foremost, it is a deep and unhealed wound on
the body of the Ukrainian nation. This wound will not heal unless we
understand what we were like before the Holodomor and what became of us
My opening remarks are addressed to the government. I cannot say that the
Ukrainian Institute of History is excluded from the process of making
decisions relating to Holodomor issues, which take the form of presidential
decrees. Decision makers consult the Ukrainian National Academy of
Sciences, but the scholarly community's recommendations are not always
taken into account.
As a case in point, with his decree of July 11, 2005, the Ukrainian
president ordered the Cabinet of Ministers a bill to parliament by Nov. 1
"On the political and legal assessment of holodomors in the history of the
However, I am not familiar with the text of this bill. Moreover, I am
certain that in the Ukrainian nation's history there was only one Holodomor,
which is enough for all time.
This decree instructs the government to "resolve the question of creating"
the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory (UINM) before the Day to
Commemorate the Victims of the Holodomor and Political Repression,
which will be observed this year on Nov. 26 .
An institution of this kind is crucial, as it would convey the knowledge
collected by academics and scholars to society. However, the presidential
decree does not propose a mechanism for creating the UINM.
As evidenced by the Israeli and Polish experiences of creating similar
institutions, Ukraine will face major challenges relating to the funding and
staffing of the institute, defining its functions and drafting laws to
incorporate this institution into the existing system of departments and
It is inexpedient to restrict the efforts to create the UINM to a single
item in the presidential decree, which merely declares intent to create it.
The presidential secretariat is already making plans to commemorate the 75th
anniversary of the Holodomor in 2008. I hope that such steps will put an end
to the old practice whereby the government raises the subject of the
Holodomor only on the eve of major anniversaries. Creating an Institute of
National Memory is the first step to making this work systematic and
It is also important to convince the Ukrainian public and the international
community that the Holodomor of 1932-33 was no accidental phenomenon
of unknown origin, but the result of terror by famine, i.e., genocide, which
was applied by the totalitarian government.
EARLIEST ATTEMPTS TO EQUATE THE
HOLODOMOR WITH GENOCIDE
In equating the Ukrainian Holodomor of 1932-33 with genocide, scholars
primarily face terminological difficulties, which is why the analysis of
this problem must begin with terminology.
The term genocide (the killing of a nation) was coined by the Polish lawyer
Rafael Lemkin, who first used it in his book, "Axis Rulers in Occupied
Europe," published in 1944. Lemkin used this word to describe the total
extermination of Jews and Gypsies on Nazi-controlled territories.
With this understanding of the term genocide, the UN General Assembly
stated in its Dec. 11, 1946, resolution: "...genocide is a crime under
international law which the civilized world condemns, and for the commission
of which principals and accomplices - whether private individuals, public
officials, or statesmen, and whether the crime is committed on religious,
racial, political, or any other grounds - are punishable."
Since history has known many cases of mass extermination of human beings,
and in view of the continuing threat of their recurrence, the UN decided it
was necessary to introduce the notion of genocide into international law.
This laid the legal groundwork for establishing international cooperation to
combat such crimes, including those committed by individuals
constitutionally vested with supreme power.
On Dec. 9, 1948, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted the
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Article I of the convention reads: "The Contracting Parties confirm that
genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a
crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to
Article II contains a definition of genocide: "[G]enocide means any of the
following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a
national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members
of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the
group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life
calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d)
Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e)
Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."
The convention was adopted by 56 attending members of the UN General
Assembly and opened for signature, ratification, and accession. It became
effective as of Jan. 12, 1951, i.e., on the 90th day after 20 instruments of
accession or ratification were deposited with the UN Secretary General.
Since that time this convention has been an instrument for preventing
genocide. Its effectiveness increased significantly after the end of the
The legal norms formulated in this document did not fully guarantee that all
cases of mass extermination of human beings would be identified as genocide.
Only the Holocaust of World War II fully corresponded to them: the Nazis
either exterminated Jews wherever and whenever they found them, or placed
them in conditions that were physically unsuitable for life. In effect, the
convention was developed when the memories of the Holocaust were still
There was another reason why cases of mass extermination that occurred
before the Holocaust were not always identified as genocide. Legal experts
were unwilling to make exceptions to the basic principle of jurisprudence,
i.e., that the law has no retroactive effect.
The famine of 1932-33 was a forbidden topic in the USSR. At the 20th party
congress of the CPSU in 1956 party leaders finally dared to speak out about
the Stalinist terror that primarily targeted the Soviet-party nomenklatura
However, they concealed the terror by famine in collectivized villages until
the last possible moment. The Stalinist taboo on mentioning the famine was
broken only after the Ukrainian diaspora succeeded in persuading the US
Congress to create a temporary commission to investigate the events of
1932-33 in Ukraine.
Led by the late James Mace, the congressional commission had no access to
Soviet archives. It collected most of its information from emigres who had
survived collectivization and famine and ended up in North America after the
Second World War.
Of course, Holodomor survivors could not figure out the crafty stratagems
of Stalin's policies, but their victim's instinct told them that the Soviet
government meant to physically destroy them. Based on hundreds of
eyewitness accounts, James Mace's commission recreated the real picture
of those events and presented a final report to the US Congress in April
Interviews conducted in Ukraine since 1988 have confirmed the tendency
recorded by James Mace: recalling events from half a century earlier,
Holodomor survivors sensed the authorities' intent to punish "saboteurs"
of the grain procurement campaign by starving them to death. Individual
documents that have been unintentionally preserved in archives confirm that
this is what famine victims felt.
An anonymous letter sent from Poltava in August 1933 to the editorial
offices of the newspaper "Komunist," which was written by an individual with
a higher education, judging by the content and style, even claimed to be a
summary of Stalin's national policy: "The physical extermination of the
Ukrainian nation and the exhaustion of its material and spiritual resources
are [some] of the most important points in the criminal agenda of Bolshevik
The congressional commission called the 1932-1933 famine in Ukraine an
act of genocide. Yet this conclusion was not based on documents but on
subjective judgments of Holodomor survivors. Moreover, the purpose of
the commission was to establish facts (which it did, brilliantly) but not to
provide a legal assessment of them. Therefore, after the commission
completed its work, Ukrainian organizations in North America decided to
seek legal help.
The World Congress of Free Ukrainians initiated the creation of the
International Commission of Inquiry Into the 1932-33 Famine in Ukraine,
presided over by Professor Jacob Sundberg. Representatives of the
Ukrainian Diaspora in North America appealed to the most outstanding
jurists, who because of their high public and scholarly status had
sufficient credibility with the international community.
In November 1989 Sundberg's commission published its verdict, naming
excessive grain procurements as the immediate cause of mass famine in
Ukraine, and identifying its preconditions as forced collectivization,
dispossession of wealthy kurkul peasants, and the central government's
desire to curb "traditional Ukrainian nationalism."
Thus, the jurists not only recognized in the Holodomor the Kremlin's desire
to impose an alien lifestyle on the Ukrainian peasants, they also identified
a national component in this act of terror. The Ukrainian Holodomor was
therefore identified as genocide.
Sundberg's commission determined that the principle of the non- retroactive
nature of laws applies only formally to the UN Convention of Dec. 9, 1948.
They pointed out that this principle applies to criminal law, whereas the
Convention is outside of its boundaries because it does not pass verdicts.
The Convention only encourages nations to cooperate in preventing and
Addressing those who opposed the identification of the Holodomor with the
crime of genocide only because the term "genocide" did not exist before
WWII, the International Commission of Inquiry asked: was it possible before
the war to freely destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial
or religious group?
The answer is obvious. Relying on the above arguments, the commission
stated in its final report: "Commission feels justified in maintaining that
if genocide of the Ukrainian people occurred, it was contrary to the
provisions of the international law then in force" [This sentence was
misquoted in the Ukrainian original, which omitted the word "if" - Ed.]
This verdict was based on the facts available to the commission. It stated,
however, that the inquiry into the Holodomor must continue to document
with additional facts the conclusion that it was an act of genocide, i.e.,
to reinforce its source base.
POLITICIZATION OF THE HOLODOMOR ISSUE
We all remember how important the question of the 1932-1933 famine was
in the late 1980s-early 1990s: it helped people break old stereotypes and
reevaluate Soviet history. This subject became a lethal weapon in the hands
of those who had fought for the republic's independence. After all, the
death sentences for millions of Ukrainian citizens had come from outside
It seemed that after independence the question of the Holodomor would
become the exclusive province of historians. Indeed, historians started to
explore it in a systematic and comprehensive manner. But it also became a
popular issue in the political arena.
Political opponents extracted convenient facts from scholarly publications
on the famine of 1932-1933, while ignoring their overall significance. None
of them managed to prove anything to their opponents because nobody was
interested in ascertaining the truth. It was easy to predict the outcome of
these struggles between politicians and scholars of various stripes.
While the former had unlimited access to media outlets, thereby shaping the
public opinion, the latters' voices did not reach society and died away in
the meager press runs of books and brochures.
Let us listen closely to the words of Levko Lukyanenko, the long-time
Soviet political prisoner, Ukrainian parliamentarian, and chairman of an
association of Holodomor researchers.
Addressing a Nov. 15, 2002, scholarly conference, he said: "The members
of the Association of Researchers of the Holodomors in Ukraine and other
scholars have amassed a large number of documents that prove that Moscow
deliberately planned and carried out the Holodomor in Ukraine in order to
curb the national-liberation movement, decrease the number of Ukrainians,
and dilute the Ukrainian ethnos (nation) with Muscovites, thus preventing
Ukrainians from struggling to get out from under Moscow's control in the
It would seem that these words echo the above-mentioned anonymous letter
to the editors of Komunist, which we can now support with documentary
evidence. However, there is a substantive difference between them. The
anonymous author of the 1933 letter was justified in faulting the Bolshevik
party leadership for the Ukrainian Holodomor.
Meanwhile, with all the documents uncovered by contemporary historians at
his disposal, Lukyanenko unjustifiably expands the Bolshevik-dominated
Kremlin to the size of Moscow, while referring to the Russian people
pejoratively as "Muscovites."
The "colonization" by representatives of the dominant Soviet nation of the
national republics (especially the Baltic nations and Ukraine) was not
Stalin's idea alone. This policy was in fact designed to stem national
However, these Russian resettlers (military personnel, intellectuals from
the technical and humanities spheres, and skilled workers) had no idea of
the Kremlin's strategic plans, nor did Russified Ukrainians, who had
experienced assimilation, voluntary or otherwise, throughout the centuries,
not just decades.
How could the millions of so-called "Muscovites" who currently reside in
Ukraine respond to the Holodomor according to Lukyanenko's interpretation?
Because of the irresponsible actions by individuals whose primary concern
was their own political career, our tragic past started to divide Ukraine
instead of consolidating its citizens. We felt this during the presidential
elections of 2004.
The opposing side also fueled interethnic tensions. The leader of the
Communist Party of Ukraine, Petro Symonenko, spoke during the Feb. 12,
2003, parliamentary hearings in connection with the 70th anniversary of the
Holodomor. He could no longer deny the fact that there was a famine in
1932-1933, because Volodymyr Shcherbytsky had confirmed it in 1987.
However, much like his predecessors, Symonenko blamed the famine on
drought and misrepresentations of grain procurements in raions and oblasts.
According to Symonenko, the Politburo of the CPSU's Central Committee
condemned the misrepresentations and demanded criminal prosecution of
Such blatant lies could be uttered before the archives were opened during
Gorbachev's perestroika. On the 70th anniversary of the Holodomor such
statements were shameless blasphemy.
A natural question arises: Why do representatives of the extreme right- and
left-wing political forces politicize the Holodomor issue by exchanging
contradictory statements without believing one bit in them or caring about
establishing the truth?
This question is easy to answer because the same fate has befallen other
historical problems. No one is crossing swords over the revolution of
1905-1907, and its centennial is passing completely unnoticed.
The situation with the Holodomor or the problem of the OUN and UPA
are different because they are part of the life experiences of the current
generation of Ukrainian citizens, who were participants in those events, or
the children of these people.
People tend to have differing opinions on events in the not so distant past,
whereas all politicians try to please the public. Therefore, let us have a
look at the people.
Three generations are represented in our society: grandfathers and
grandmothers, and their children and grandchildren. Living at the same time
with them is a small number of representatives of adjacent generations,
i.e., great- grandparents and great-grandchildren. Let us analyze the life
experience of each generation.
I will begin with grandparents born before 1920 inclusive. This is the
generation of the 20th century, which experienced countless disasters and a
great deal of suffering. This generation survived the Great War of
1914-1918, the Civil War and interethnic wars after the fall of the Russian
Empire, the famine of 1921-1923, industrialization, collectivization, and
the Holodomor of 1932-1933, the Great Terror of 1937-1938, World War
II of 1939-1945, postwar destruction, including the famine of 1946-1947.
I am quite familiar with this generation thanks to my profession and as a
result of personal communication with these people. I still communicate with
the youngest representatives of this generation. My exchanges have been
especially fruitful with Vasyl Kuk, the last UPA army commander; Bohdan
Osadchuk, the Berlin-based professor and the oldest active journalist in
Europe; and Petro Tronko, the former deputy prime minister for humanitarian
policy of the Ukrainian SSR, who occupied his ministerial seat for 17 years.
With the exception of those who lived outside the Soviet Union's borders
until 1939 and 1940, the representatives of this generation were the
"builders of socialism." The Bolsheviks, whom Lenin called "a drop in the
people's ocean," built their "commune state," as defined by Lenin, together
with the people.
The concerted action of the party and the people was achieved with the help
of two slogans: "Those who are not with us are against us!" and "Unless the
enemy surrenders, he will be destroyed!"
Mass repressions were the main method of building a "commune state." They
continued even after this state was built and had passed a test of strength
during the Soviet-German war, and until the death of Joseph Stalin.
Once the repressions had almost wiped out society's political activity, the
Kremlin chiefs switched to other methods of administration: propaganda and
I belong to the generation of those born between 1921 and 1950. These
people were raised in the Soviet school and were not affected by the mass
repressions. The older representatives of this generation are the veterans
of WWII, who now rightfully enjoy society's respect.
As a rule, how they picture the past differs from the way subsequent
generations view it. And this is not only due to their understandable
idealization of their youth.
When the hundreds of thousands of political prisoners, who were
"rehabilitated" by Stalin's successors, returned to their homes from the
GULAG, Lidiya Chukovska made her famous declaration: "Two Russias
have encountered each other: the one that did time, and the one that put the
former behind bars."
However, there was also a third Russia, much like a third Ukraine,
Kazakhstan, etc., which did not take part in the repressions and was not
subjected to them. The representatives of my generation formed the largest
percentage of these people. After returning from the GULAG, our fathers
kept silent, as a rule.
Perhaps they did so not only because upon their release they had signed a
"pledge not to disclose information." Perhaps they did not want to
complicate the lives of their children, who out of ignorance could start
saying bad things about the Soviet government.
Finally, they feared for their own lives, because in that country parents
were responsible for children and vice versa.
Such responsibility was viewed as the norm. We lived in a kingdom of
crooked mirrors, but didn't realize it. There was no longer any need to
deport us, because we respected or even loved the Soviet government.
We knew the things we could discuss in public, and it seemed normal
that there were things that were best kept private.
A case in point is the famine of 1932- 1933. Young and old knew that it had
occurred, but we also knew that it should not be discussed - period. My
foreign colleagues who study the Holodomor and whose numbers are
growing do not understand this.
They try to find explanations in our national character or talk about how
the KGB intimidated the population. To fully understand the Soviet people's
behavior and way of thinking, they should have been born and raised in this
Soviet citizens' dependence on the government was not just reinforced and
not even so much by standard repressions, such as extermination or
imprisonment. The government was the universal employer and could fire
anyone, if necessary. Almost everyone who "misbehaved" could end up
like a beached fish.
Notably, the chekist selectors spent a decade imprisoning or exterminating
the most active part of the population. Society was becoming conformist for
two main reasons: the percentage of dissenters was progressively declining,
while the percentage of people raised in the Soviet school was increasing as
part of a natural process.
Indoctrination and propaganda proved successful after the period of mass
repressions because the Soviet system showed the people many advantages
compared to the pre-revolutionary system.
The system enslaved the person politically, but ensured a minimum level of
its material and cultural welfare, whether this person wanted it or not. In
the Soviet period alcoholics underwent "reeducation" in therapeutic
sanatoriums, and there were almost no homeless persons.
What anticommunists cannot understand is that the Soviet government's care
for the people was not dictated by moral duty, but was a precondition of its
existence. In order to emerge, the communist system had to destroy private
enterprise in all its forms, i.e., take over the job of feeding, healing,
educating, and entertaining the entire population.
The commune state was so drastically different from states in which citizens
had political freedom that it should be viewed as a civilizationally
different phenomenon. This state did not even hide the lack of political and
national freedom in the general accepted sense.
At the same time, it labeled these freedoms "bourgeois democracy" and
"bourgeois nationalism," while espousing the "loftier" values of "socialist
democracy" and "socialist internationalism."
Communism also demonstrated its "significant accomplishments" on the
republican level. It gave Ukraine internationally recognized Soviet
statehood (a founding member of the UN!), increased its pre-revolutionary
industrial capacity many times over, turned it into a culturally developed
republic, and fulfilled the dream of many generations of Ukrainians: the
reunification of ethnic lands.
It is extremely difficult to convince the many representatives of my
generation that the civilization in which they spent the better part of
their lives was built on the blood and bones of the previous generation.
Many of my peers a priori refuse to believe that the Soviet government
could deliberately exterminate people.
There are many who still believe that "enemies of the people" really
existed. A post- genocidal society, as defined by James Mace, is a sick
People born between 1950 and 1980 belong to the third generation of
Ukrainian citizens. Long ago this generation outnumbered all the other
generations, and after the Orange Revolution its representatives ousted
almost all of their parents from managing the affairs of state and society.
This generation, and the preceding generation, was not separated by a
barrier in the form of a pledge not to disclose information. This is why
few of its representatives share their parents' stereotypes and biases,
especially since they live in an age of transformations, i.e., a time when
the established underpinnings of life become unstable.
When the commune state collapsed and vanished as a result of growing
external and internal pressures, it was replaced not by a Western-style
social state but primitive capitalism. Quite naturally, many representatives
of the third generation, much like their parents, are nostalgic for the
Citizens find it hard to take for granted historians' assertions to the
effect that the Soviet system under Lenin and Stalin could be built only
with steel and blood-plenty of blood.
We must bear all this in mind when we want to convince the public that
terror by famine was a tool of "Soviet construction" on par with other forms
of terror. We should not fault our parliament for not having shown any
interest in the Holodomor until 2002.
Parliament is the mirror image of society. We should be happy with what has
already been accomplished. At a special session on May 14, 2003, the
Ukrainian parliament adopted an Address to the Ukrainian People in
Connection with the Famine of 1932- 33.
It defined the Holodomor as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people.
With 410 parliamentarians present, the document was passed by a mere 226
votes, i.e., the minimum required.
On the fourth Saturday of November 2003, marking the Day to Commemorate
the Victims of the Holodomor, only the state-owned television channel UT-1
dedicated air time to the 70th anniversary of the Holodomor by airing a
30-minute program entitled "The Bells of Popular Memory." Meanwhile,
private television channels broadcast the usual weekend fare of
entertainment shows, comedies, and erotic films.
Nothing has changed even now. In a commentary published in the Aug. 17,
2005, issue of the [Russian-language] newspaper "Segodnia" on a proposal to
plant high-bush cranberries known as kalyna on all the Dnipro slopes in Kyiv
in memory of Holodomor victims, a female journalist addressed a question to
herself and her readers, which was framed in the banner headline: "Is this
not a lot of sorrow for Kyiv?"
Historians have their work cut out for them to convince society of the need
to face the problems of the Holodomor. Only when we accomplish this will
marginal politicians let go of this issue.
LINK: http://www.day.kiev.ua/151228 [Part one of six]
[return to index] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
2. WHY DID STALIN EXTERMINATE THE UKRAINIANS?
Comprehending the Holodomor
PART TWO OF SIX
By Stanislav Kulchytsky, Ph.D. (History)
The Day Weekly Digest in English, #34
Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, November 1, 2005
The Holodomor is a phenomenon that is hard to fathom. To do so one
must find a rational explanation for the actions of those who organized it,
and discover the logic and political interests that drove them.
In the case of other large- scale tragedies, the perpetrators' logic was
absolutely transparent. The Turkish governments and the Nazis exterminated
the Greeks, Armenians, and Jews precisely because they were Greeks,
Armenians, and Jews.
Did the communists really always exterminate the Ukrainians because of their
nationality? Even if we say that rank-and-file communists were puppets in
the hands of the leaders of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik), who
in turn were puppets in the hands of the General Secretary (which is true to
a certain extent), the question of why Stalin exterminated the Ukrainians in
1933 remains unanswered.
The absence of a convincing answer to this question does not mean that it is
impossible to find. It is no accident that groups of eminent experts - the
US Congressional Commission on the Ukraine Famine and the International
Commission of Inquiry into the 1932-33 Famine in Ukraine - concluded in
1988 and 1989, respectively, that the Holodomor was an act of genocide.
Both commissions left it up to experts to corroborate this conclusion. We
must examine how experts used the decade and a half of the time they have
had at their disposal.
Not so long ago the Institute of Ukrainian History at the National Academy
of Sciences produced a fundamental study of terrorist acts and terrorism on
Ukrainian territory in the 19th and 20th centuries.
It represents our attempt to explore the essence of state terror and
individual terrorism. There is quite enough concrete material about terror
and terrorism in Ukrainian history of the past two decades for a thorough
exploration of this issue.
One characteristic of terror and terrorism has escaped the attention of our
scholars, including me. Judging by the word terror (from the French terreur,
meaning terror, panic), terrorism is aimed at demonstrativeness, showiness.
Someone is destroyed in order to show others what will happen to them if
they do not change their conduct with respect to a certain question.
A typical example of such terror was dekulakization, i.e., repressions
directed at a certain proportion of peasants (from 2 to 5 percent of the
village population) in order through terror to force other peasants to join
collective farms. The level of wealth was the only criterion for selecting
More than others, wealthy peasants wanted to preserve their private
property, which provided them with the means of subsistence. However,
the status of a poor peasant did not provide immunity to those who were
unwilling to join. Such peasants were repressed as subkurkuls.
Dekulakization as a form of repression cannot fall under the UN Convention
on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. It is not
committed "with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national,
ethnical, racial or religious group."
True, proposals are being made to amend the UN Convention of Dec. 9,
1948, by adding the notion "social genocide." Social groups also suffer from
brutal persecution aimed at their extermination. However, "sociocide" and
"classicide" have yet to become legal notions, which is why they are not
relevant to our discussion.
At first glance, terror by famine has no characteristic features. It is
indiscriminate killing over a wide area. Its victims are not individuals
whom the perpetrator of repressions considers dangerous or "whipping
boys" chosen at random, but all people in a certain territory, including
children and pregnant women.
Because the technology of terror by famine did not require it to show
characteristic features and because it lacked "ideological security," to use
the parlance of Soviet newspapers (after all, how can you explain the need
to kill children and pregnant women?) this repression was committed in
silence. Terror by famine is silent terror.
Then what was its underlying sense? How can we find the hidden
characteristic features that are indispensable to any form of terror in the
Soviet government's actions, which were aimed at depriving peasants not
only of grain but of all kinds of food.
An answer to this question will help us understand why Stalin exterminated
Ukrainian peasants not always and not everywhere (as Greeks, Armenians,
Jews, and Gypsies had been exterminated), but (a) in 1932-1933 and (b) in
two administrative-political creations where the Ukrainian population
constituted a majority: in the Ukrainian SSR and the Kuban district of the
I know the answer, but I cannot provide it right away. An immediate answer
would be nothing more than an expression of my personal viewpoint. Too
many personal viewpoints based on emotions have been voiced in
connection with the Holodomor.
I would like my readers to arrive at the answer to this question
independently by providing them with the requisite mass of undeniable facts.
This exploration should begin with an analysis of the background to this
question. We need to ascertain how the Ukrainian Holodomor was
understood in time and space.
It is no wonder perhaps that the peasants, who were being exterminated by
means of famine, immediately understood the true situation. Holodomor
survivors told James Mace's associates that the government was purposefully
They could not prove it with documents, but sensed with all their being the
Soviet government's evil intentions. It is no surprise that based on this
testimony, the US Congressional Commission concluded that the famine of
1932-1933 in Ukraine was an act of genocide.
That people were dying of hunger was not known outside of areas where these
people were dying. The mass media kept silent. It was even forbidden to use
the word "famine" in top secret official documents of Soviet Communist Party
Further down the text you will find an example that this rule was also
observed at the pinnacle of the pyramid of power, i.e., in the Politburo of
the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (VKP[b]).
Whenever it was necessary for the government to intervene - if only to bury
the dead, appropriate instructions to subordinates were handed down as part
of the " osobaya papka" [special file] (much like the term Chekist, the
words osobist [special agent], osobyi otdel [special section], or osobaya
papka [special file] do not have equivalents in the Ukrainian language).
Perhaps this was done not only to conceal information. Famine was an open
secret in all the affected regions. The people who were victimized by the
famine knew about it. "Special files" were necessary to rule out official
and unofficial discussions of the famine in the Communist Party milieu and
that of Soviet functionaries.
Among normal people such discussions would lead to the question: How
can we help? Meanwhile, no assistance was envisioned. Therefore, the veil
of silence around the famine was one of the mechanisms of genocide.
The silence resulted in the fact that in regions where no terror by famine
was used, even high-ranking officials had a vague idea about the nature and
scale of the famine in Ukraine.
This is how Nikita Khrushchev, who in the early 1930s was second secretary
of the Moscow municipal and oblast committees of the VKP(b), recalled the
Holodomor: "I simply could not imagine how famine could be possible in
Ukraine in 1932. How many people died then? Now I cannot say. Information
about this was leaked to the bourgeois press. Until my last day in office
articles were occasionally published about collectivization and its cost in
human lives. But I am saying this only now. Then I didn't know anything
about this, and even if I had learned something, explanations would have
been found: sabotage, counterrevolution, kurkul ploys, which have to be
combated, and so on."
I can comment on this abstract from Khrushchev's memoirs only in connection
with the date of the Holodomor. When Khrushchev tape-recorded his thoughts
on his past life after his retirement, he mentioned the wrong date, which is
very telling. In the first half of 1932 there was an outbreak of famine in
Ukraine with tens of thousands of deaths and even cases of cannibalism.
It resulted from the grain procurement campaign after the 1931 harvest.
However, the Holodomor did not happen then. The Holodomor resulted
from the seizure of all grain after the 1932 harvest, which was followed by
expropriations of all remaining food supplies. Deaths from the Holodomor
began in the late fall of 1932, and the death toll peaked in June 1933.
I must add that you will not find the above quotation in the famous
four-volume compilation of Khrushchev's memoirs. It comes from a
different version of transcripts, published in the March 1990 issue of the
magazine "Voprosy Istorii" [Questions of History].
As we know today, Western special services and diplomatic representatives
possessed more accurate information about what was happening in the Soviet
Union. In particular, the British Foreign Office and the British government
had diverse and extensive information from multiple sources, as evidenced by
the compilation of documents "The Foreign Office and the Famine: British
Documents on Ukraine and the Great Famine of 1932-33," published in 1988
in Kingston, USA [sic], and edited by Bohdan Kordan, Lubomyr Luciuk, and
Benito Mussolini was well informed about the Holodomor. Italy's General
Consul Sergio Gradenigo sent him detailed and accurate reports from Kharkiv.
The reports filled an entire book compiled by Andrea Graziosi and published
in Turin in 1991. He now plans to have it translated into Ukrainian.
The then newly-elected US president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was also
well aware of the situation in the Soviet Union. However, like all the other
leaders of the great powers, in his relations with the Kremlin Roosevelt was
guided exclusively by national interests.
In 1933 Stalin began to seek a rapprochement with the Western democracies,
because he did not expect to coexist peacefully with Adolph Hitler, who had
come to power in Germany. The Western democracies welcomed this foreign
policy change. In the fall of 1933 the US recognized the Soviet Union.
Thus, the tragedy of the Holodomor was played out in plain view of leaders
and chiefs, who chose to remain silent. The current heads of the leading
nations should remember this when the question of recognizing the Ukrainian
Holodomor of 1933 as an act of genocide is raised again at the UN assembly.
THE END OF SILENCE
Unlike the political leaders who remained silent, Western journalists more
often than not carried out their professional duty if they succeeded in
visiting regions that were affected by famine.
The Maxim Gorky State Scholarly Library of Odesa compiled and published a
bibliography of the Ukrainian Holodomor partially with its own money and,
most importantly, with donations from the Ukrainian diaspora, collected by
Wolodymyr Motyka (Australia) and M. Kots (US).
Its compilers, L. Buryan and I. Rikun, located over 6,000 publications that
were published before 1999 inclusively. In the foreign press they found 33
publications dated 1932 and 180 dated 1933.
Judging by this bibliographic index, the Holodomor was especially broadly
covered by the Ukrainian-language newspaper "Svoboda," published in
Jersey City (state of New Jersey). Its article of Feb. 15, 1932, has a
characteristic headline: "Moscow wants to starve Ukrainian peasants to
This headline proves that the assessment of the famine that resulted from
the grain procurement campaign after the 1931 harvest was an emotional one.
In reality, this famine cannot be classified as genocide as defined in the
Convention. The state seized all the grain, which caused deaths among the
According to my estimates, 144,000 people died of hunger during 1932.
However, in the first half of 1932 there were no signs of terror by famine.
On the contrary, when the famine was officially established, the starving
population obtained relief in the form of 13.5 million poods of grain [1
pood=36.1 pounds, or 16.39 kilograms - Ed.].
With its May 21 decree the Council of People's Commissars of the Ukrainian
SSR identified the areas most affected by famine. They received additional
relief in the form of food-grade grain, fish, and canned foods.
As a rule, publications about the 1933 famine in the USSR appeared with
a significant delay in Western newspapers.
This does not apply to the newspaper "Svoboda," which published its
reports promptly. The following are headlines from early 1933: "Bolsheviks
deport residents of Kuban Cossack villages to Siberia" (January 21),
"Bolsheviks change method of expropriating crops from peasants"
(January 23), "Famine grips Soviet Ukraine" (January 28), "After mass
deportations of Ukrainians from the Kuban, the Bolsheviks begin
deporting peasants from Ukraine" (February 11), "Ukraine has no grain
for sowing" (February 13).
Now we understand who provoked Stalin to write his angry memo of
Feb. 13, 1933, to Politburo members Molotov and Kaganovich: "Do you
know who allowed American correspondents in Moscow to travel to the
They cooked up foulness about the situation in the Kuban (see their
correspondence). We have to put a stop to this and ban these gentlemen
from traveling around the USSR. There are enough spies in the USSR
"Svoboda" published reports that were circulated within a rather small
circle of Ukrainian diaspora representatives. The first analytical stories
about the Soviet famine were by the journalist Malcolm Muggeridge.
He managed to make a journey through the Northern Caucasus and
Ukraine before the Politburo's Feb. 23, 1933, banning decree "On
foreign correspondents' trips within the USSR."
In March of that year he published his impressions in the English newspaper
"The Manchester Guardian." His three fact-filled articles left no doubt as
to the famine that was spreading in the main grain-growing belt of the USSR.
In the wake of Muggeridge's material, this newspaper carried an article
entitled "Famine in Russia," based on the personal impressions of Gareth
Jones, the former secretary of Prime Minister Lloyd George of Great Britain.
The author said that Russia was in the grip of a famine on the scale of the
one it had experienced in 1921.
Walter Duranty, the New York Times correspondent, who was a British
citizen, tried to refute the sensational reports in "The Manchester
Guardian." The essence of his article published in the Mar. 31, 1933,
issue is reflected in its heading: "Russians Hungry Not Starving."
Notably, Duranty is the only Western journalist who ever managed to
interview Stalin. He always tried to write his articles in such a way as not
to displease the Kremlin.
Information about famine on a horrible scale in Russia continued to leak
through the Iron Curtain. On Aug. 21, 1933, the "New York Herald
Tribune" published material by Ralph Barnes with a first estimate of the
number of those who had perished - one million. Duranty also confirmed
that there was famine.
Although he did not say so directly, it follows from his short article in
the Aug. 24, 1933, issue of "The New York Times" that at least two
million people had perished. A day later this newspaper carried a report
by Frederick Birchall, quoting a figure of four million dead.
The Soviet government spared neither time nor effort to hide the
consequences of the famine from foreigners. On Dec. 6, 1932, the
All-Ukrainian Central Executive Committee and the ONK of the Ukrainian
SSR issued a decree (and published it in order to scare people) to
"blacklist" five villages that could not fulfill the government's grain
procurement quota for a long period of time.
An invention of Lazar Kaganovich, the "blacklist," meant that villagers were
banned from leaving the village, deliveries of all foodstuffs to the village
were suspended, and searches at the farms of "deadbeats" continued until
all food was expropriated.
Famine claimed all the villagers in Havrylivka in Mezhova raion,
Dnipropetrovsk oblast. This tragedy became known abroad, and American
journalists requested permission to visit Dnipropetrovsk oblast. Permission
was granted with surprising ease.
In his book "Russia Today: What We Can Learn from It," published in New
York in 1934, Eddy Sherwood writes: "A group of foreign visitors heard
rumors that in the village of Havrylivka all the people except for one had
died ofhunger. They decided to investigate and visited the local registrar's
office, the priest, the local council, the judge, and the teacher. It
turned out that three out of 1,100 residents had died of typhus. Measures
were taken to stop the epidemic. There were no deaths from hunger."
[Translations of cited passages here and elsewhere are not the published
versions - Ed.].
There is no doubt that the American journalist honestly reported what he
saw. But there is also no doubt that all the original residents of
Havrylivka starved to death.
The visit to the USSR by the prominent French politician Edouard Herriot,
the president of the French National Assembly and former prime minister,
caused the State Political Directorate (GPU) even more problems.
According to the distinguished guest's request, his itinerary included a
trip to Ukraine and the Northern Caucasus, which, he was told, were
hardest hit by the famine.
A day before Herriot was scheduled to arrive in the Soviet Union, Stalin,
who was staying at a resort in the Northern Caucasus, sent a memo to
Viacheslav Molotov, Lazar Kaganovich, and Genrikh Yagoda, the de facto
head of the Joint State Political Department (OGPU): "According to
information in possession of Yevdokimov (official OGPU representative
in the Northern Caucasus - Author), the White Guardists are preparing a
terrorist attack against Herriot in Odesa or other locations in the USSR.
In my view, Yevdokimov's proposals are justified. Balytsky (official OGPU
representative and head of the GPU of the Ukrainian SSR - Author) must be
immediately instructed to personally visit all locations visited by Herriot
and take all preventive measures against all possible excesses."
As we can see, Stalin used Aesopian language even when he was issuing
instructions to his associates to prevent the distinguished guest from
seeing signs of famine. This is striking.
On Aug. 26, 1933, Herriot arrived in Odesa aboard a steamship. On the
following day he arrived in Kyiv, then Kharkiv, and Dniprobud. Everywhere
he saw whatever he wanted to see and met with hundreds of people. On
Aug. 31 Herriot left Rostov-on-Don for Moscow without seeing any signs
indicating that the areas he had visited had experienced a famine.
It cost Stalin substantial political capital to organize this trip. On Sept.
13 the headline in Pravda cited Herriot's statement made in Riga: "What I
have seen in the USSR is beautiful."
In the USSR during the latter half of the 1930s the topic of the famine was
no longer relevant in the West. The public only remembered contradictory
newspaper stories. Not surprisingly, people had more faith in famous
politicians, like Herriot, not journalists. World War II relegated all
memories of the Holodomor to the background.
EFFORTS OF THE UKRAINIAN DIASPORA
There were numerous survivors of the Holodomor among emigrants who
ended up in the West after World War II. Some of them kept silent so as
not to provoke repressions against their relatives in the USSR. There were
also those who wanted to speak out.
Many books containing their accounts were published by Ukrainian civic
organizations on anniversaries of the Holodomor.
Two are distinguished by their fundamental nature: a two- volume reference
book entitled "The Black Deeds of the Kremlin: A White Book"
(Toronto-Detroit, 1953-55), and the Ukrainian-language compilation by
Yuri Semenko entitled "Holod 1933 roku v Ukrayini: Svidchennia pro
vynyshchuvannia Moskvoyu ukrayinskoho selianstva" ['The 1933 Famine
in Ukraine: Eyewitness Testimonies about Moscow's Extermination of the
Ukrainian Peasants''(New York, 1963).
The Ukrainian diaspora used every Holodomor anniversary to make the truth
about the Holodomor known to the general public. Tremendous work was
completed in time for the 50th anniversary.
The Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Alberta in
Edmonton and the Harvard Ukrainian Studies Institute, founded by Omeljan
Pritsak, were already functioning at this time. Trained professionals began
to study the 1932-1933 famine in Ukraine.
In 1983 Universite du Quebec a Montreal hosted a scholarly conference
on the fundamental problems of the Holodomor. The proceedings were
published in book form three years later in Edmonton.
Bohdan Kravchenko, Sergei Maksudov (the alias of the former Moscow-
based dissident Alexander Babyonyshev, who concealed his identity to
protect his relatives), James Mace, and Roman Serbyn delivered the most
The 50th anniversary of the Holodomor became a watershed in many
respects. The events of 1932-1933 in Ukraine started to attract the
attention of historians, politicians, and journalists. The situation was
further heightened by the fact that the USSR did not recognize the
existence of a famine in 1933.
When journalists questioned Ukrainian diplomats at the UN about this,
they either avoided answering or denied the fact that there was a famine.
Eventually, they were forced to turn to their government for instructions:
What should they do about this problem dating back 50 years?
The Politburo of the CC CPU instructed the Central Committee's secretary
in charge of ideology and the Ukrainian KGB chief to investigate this
On Feb. 11, 1983, they submitted a report to Volodymyr Shcherbytsky,
the gist of which is reflected in its title: "On propaganda and Counter-
propaganda measures to counter the anti-Soviet campaign unleashed by
reactionary centers of the Ukrainian emigration concerning food shortages
that took place in the early 1930s."
The late Ihor Olshaniwsky, head of the Organization of Americans in
Defense of Human Rights in Ukraine, studied the archives of the US
Congressional Commission on the Holocaust and proposed creating
an identical commission to study the Ukrainian Holodomor.
Congressman James Florio and Senator Bill Bradley, both of whom
represented the state of New Jersey, supported Olshaniwsky's idea
because there were many Ukrainian voters in the state.
In November 1983 Florio introduced a bill to form the Congressional
Commission. When it was introduced in the House of Representatives,
the bill bore the signatures of 59 congressmen, most of whom were
Florio's fellow Democrats.
Even though one year later this bill bore the signatures of 123 congressmen,
leading Democrats in the House of Representatives had little enthusiasm for
it. "Why spend American taxpayers' money on what happened some 50
years ago?" they asked.
The Ukrainian diaspora then organized a grassroots campaign in all states
with Ukrainian communities. Congressmen, chairmen of congressional
commissions and committees, House of Representatives Speaker O'Neil,
and US President Ronald Reagan began receiving tens of thousands of
individual and collective petitions. Never before or since had Ukrainian
Americans organized such a large-scale campaign.
Senator Bradley submitted the same bill to the Senate on March 21, 1984.
Myron Kuropas, vice president of the Ukrainian National Association, was
very influential in the numerous Ukrainian communities of Illinois. At one
time he actively campaigned for Illinois Senator Charles Percy, who later
chaired the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Thus, the passage of the bill in this Senate committee did not encounter any
obstacles. The first hearings were held in August and ended with positive
results. Addressing the senators, Olshaniwsky said that time does not wait:
the surviving Holodomor victims were old and weak, and it was crucial to
collect their testimonies as soon as possible. On Sept. 19 the Foreign
Affairs Committee approved the bill's wording, and two days later the
Senate unanimously approved the bill.
Meanwhile, the passage of the bill in the House of Representatives
encountered difficulties. Foreign Affairs Committee members did not want
to provoke Moscow's wrath, and State Department officials sided with
them. The Oct. 3, 1984, hearings, held on the penultimate day of the 98th
Congress, revealed differing opinions.
Robbie Palmer, the US State Department representative, claimed there was
no need for another bureaucratic committee and that its creation would
cause "an avalanche of similar demands from other ethnic groups."
On the contrary, Congressman David Roth, who represented the interests
of the American European [sic: read Jewish] Congress, reminded his
colleagues that the US Congress had a committee on the Jewish
Holocaust and emphasized: "The two peoples were persecuted for
political reasons and only for being who they were. The US Congress
therefore must pay equal attention to them so that the whole world will
learn about those heinous crimes, so that they will never be repeated."
Yet the Foreign Affairs Committee did not submit the bill lobbied by the
Ukrainian organizations to the House of Representatives. Bill Bradley saved
the day by exercising his right as senator to amend the budget. On Oct. 4,
1984, the last day of the 98th Congress, he appended the funding provision
for the temporary commission on the Ukrainian Holodomor to Congress's
The House of Representatives, which can veto senators' amendments,
agreed to this amendment without debating it, owing to lack of time,
since the Senate had already approved this bill.
The Funding Resolution, i.e., a 470 billion-dollar budget for the 1985
fiscal year with a funding provision for the Ukrainian Holodomor
Commission for 400,000 US dollars appended to it had to be approved
immediately. Without this procedure the government would be left
President Ronald Reagan signed the Funding Resolution on October 12,
1984. A Congressional Commission thus came into being, whose mission
was to "carry out a study of the Ukrainian famine of 1932-1933 in order to
disseminate knowledge about the famine throughout the world and to ensure
that the American public has a better understanding of the Soviet system by
highlighting the role that the Soviets played in the famine."
The US Congressional Commission on the Ukraine Famine was comprised
of two senators, four congressmen, three representatives of the executive,
and four representatives of the Ukrainian community.
At the request of the Organization of Americans in Defense of Human Rights
in Ukraine, James Mace, a fellow at the Harvard Ukrainian Studies Institute
and one of the few American specialists on the history of Soviet Ukraine,
was appointed the commission's executive director.
At Harvard University, Dr. Mace was helping the English historian Robert
Conquest to collect and process historical materials for his book about the
Holodomor. Conquest had earned recognition for his study of mass
repressions in the Soviet Union in 1937-1938.
At the request of the National Committee for Commemorating the 1933
Holodomor Victims in Ukraine he started to explore this new subject. In late
1986 Oxford University Press published his book "The Harvest of Sorrow:
Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine," which immediately created an
international sensation. The publishing house Lybid published a Ukrainian
translation in 1993 with money supplied by the Ukrainian diaspora in the US.
Nobody expected the research team of six Ukrainian-studies scholars headed
by James Mace to obtain convincing evidence of Stalin's greatest crime,
given the commission's short mandate. But Mace performed a scholarly and
The US Congressional Commission on the Ukraine Famine did not become
another bureaucratic committee, as Robbie Palmer feared it would. James
Mace and the young American researcher Leonid Herets developed methods
that made it possible to ensure the objectivity of testimonies provided by
Layered one on top of the other, the testimonies corrected the subjective
nature of these personal recollections. In this way they became a
As soon as it became possible, James Mace traveled to Ukraine, where he
settled permanently in 1993. For many years he worked at the Kyiv-Mohyla
Academy and contributed to "The Day." "Fate decreed that the victims
chose me," he wrote in one of his numerous columns carried by this
newspaper (Feb. 18, 2003).
Mace died on May 2, 2004. One year later "The Day's Library Series"
published a book dedicated to him: "Day and Eternity of James Mace,"
objective proof of the weighty role this American played in Ukraine's
contemporary history. -30-
LINK: http://www.day.kiev.ua/151682 [Part two of six]
[return to index] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
3. WHY DID STALIN EXTERMINATE THE UKRAINIANS?
Comprehending the Holodomor.The position of soviet historians
PART THREE OF SIX
By Stanislav Kulchytsky, Ph.D. (History)
The Day Weekly Digest in English, #35
Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, 8 November, 2005
With the Stalinist taboo broken, Soviet historians began to explore the
famine of 1933 with increasing intensity. It would be a mistake to say that
the agony of the totalitarian regime and the empire that it had created
began with the opening of this particular "Pandora's box."
Nonetheless, the subject of the famine resonated throughout Ukrainian
society, evolving into a discussion of the Holodomor as an act of genocide.
Cut off from the Ukrainian Diaspora behind the Iron Curtain, Soviet
historians were largely unaffected by the results of the Diaspora's
investigation of the Holodomor. The Iron Curtain was located not only
on the borders of the USSR but inside our minds.
What I would least like to discuss in this chapter is the quantitative
accomplishments of Soviet historians on the subject of the Ukrainian famine.
The line of discussion is determined by the wording of the question: Why
did Stalin exterminate the Ukrainians?
I will therefore not discuss the facts they exposed but only how those facts
affected the researchers' worldview. In particular, they developed an
ability to reject Soviet stereotypes, which enabled them to elicit the true
cause-and-effect relationships in the problem of the Holodomor.
The chosen line of discussion requires me to explore my own worldview
and life experience especially closely. In this sensitive matter it is hard
to find other material for the necessary generalizations.
I spent 11 years working at the Institute of Economics of the Academy of
Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR, where I studied the history of the nation's
economy, moving from one time period to the next. I then transferred to the
Institute of History to prepare a doctoral thesis within the framework of
the so-called interwar period: from 1921 to 1941.
When I received my doctorate and was appointed to chair the Department of
Interwar History, my scholarly specialty and position required me to study
the 1933 famine once it became a widely discussed topic.
Other people in the department were studying the history of the peasants
before and after collectivization, while I specialized in the problems of
industrialization and the history of the working class. Like everybody else,
I knew about the famine.
Moreover, I had access to demographic data that was locked away in special
repositories and knew that the Ukrainian countryside had lost millions of
people, and that this loss could not be attributed to urbanization. But I
could not understand the causes of the famine.
Even in my worst nightmare I could not imagine that the Soviet government
was capable of exterminating not only enemies of the people (at the time I
never questioned the legitimacy of this notion), but also children and
After several years of studying the famine, I chose a newspaper with the
highest circulation in my republic to publish a sharply-worded article "Do
we need the Soviet government?" I am grateful to the chief editor of Silski
visti [Village News] for publishing the article in unexpurgated form on June
He did, however, change the title to: "What government do we need?"
Unfortunately, piety toward the Soviet government is still widespread among
many people of my generation.
Before the worldview transformation caused by my study of the Holodomor,
I was a Soviet scholar like everyone else. That is, I looked at history from
the class point of view, viewed capitalism and socialism as socioeconomic
formations, considered uncollectivized peasants to be representatives of the
petty bourgeoisie, believed that collective ownership of production
facilities was a viable option and that collective farms were the peasants'
I considered it a normal thing that there were special repositories in
libraries and archives, i.e., I accepted the division of information into
classified and public. But for this very reason I could not understand why
the 1933 famine was a forbidden topic.
Since there was no one in Ukraine who didn't know about it, why did this
information have to be classified? An older colleague, who also chaired a
department at the Institute of History of the Academy of Sciences of the
Ukrainian SSR, confided in me that in his village everybody knew who had
eaten whom. They spent the rest of their lives with this knowledge.
When some important individuals on the staff of the CPU's Central
Committee, whom I knew well, got word of a US congressional
commission on the Ukrainian famine, they went into a state of continuing
The Feb. 11, 1983, report by the Central Committee's secretary in charge of
ideology and the Ukrainian KGB chief contained a recommendation addressed
to our specialists abroad: Do not enter into polemics on the famine. It was
clear that this polemic would be a losing proposition under any
circumstances. At the time, however, they could no longer bury their heads
in the sand.
In the fall of 1986 the CC CPU formed a so-called "anti-commission." I
found myself among its members. We scholars were expected to produce
studies that would "expose the falsifications of Ukrainian bourgeois
I had worked in special repositories before, but received clearance to
access "special files" of CPU committees only once I began working as
a member of the commission.
Soviet archives had one special characteristic: a researcher could have
access to 99.9 percent of all files, yet all crucial information relating to
the history of this totalitarian state was contained in the 0.01 percent of
After six months of working in the archives, I learned about the
agricultural situation in the early 1930s. After this, some causes, which I
had taken for granted since my school years, changed places with
consequences. The new cause-and-effect relationships often coincided
with what I got to read in the so-called "anti-Soviet" literature.
While I was working in the archives, the commission's work was proving
fruitless. Perhaps those upstairs realized that the scholars had been given
an unrealistic assignment. I sent an analytical report under my own name to
the Central Committee with a proposal that the famine be officially
Now I understand that I was demanding something impossible from the
Central Committee. Indeed, why did Stalin's taboo on recognizing the famine
last for so long? After the 20th Congress of the CPSU, Stalin's successors
readily condemned the political terror of 1937- 1938 because its primary
victim was the ruling party.
Unlike individual terror carried out by state security agencies, terror by
famine in 1932-1933 was carried out by party committees, the Komsomol,
trade unions, and komnezam committees of poor peasants.
How could they possibly admit that Stalin had succeeded in using the system
of government, which everybody called "people's rule," to exterminate the
people, i.e., to commit genocide?
In exposing famine, the rhetoric about Stalinist vices would not hide the
organic flaws of the Soviet government behind the great chieftain's broad
I remember writing that report at a time when I still had not given up many
stereotypes of the official concept of history. Now I understand that this
helped me formulate my arguments in such a way that my report would not
appear too explosive to those in a position to make the political decision
to recognize the famine.
I think this report was only about recognizing the fact that famine had
really occurred. While I, an expert on the history of the interwar period,
still could not interpret this mysterious famine as genocide in 1987, our
chiefs in the party committees were even farther from such an
Granted, we knew that books had been published in the West, in which the
victims of the 1933 famine said that the government had intended to destroy
them. But such stories were always rejected in the USSR as anti- Soviet
While rereading the text about the ability or inability of our government
officials of the time to recognize the fact of the famine, I caught myself
in a contradiction: while I state that I was demanding the impossible of the
members of the Central Committee, I am insisting that they could not
identify the famine with genocide.
I teach a course on historical methodology to M.A. students and always draw
their attention to the phenomenon of presentism: people tend to invest the
past with characteristics of contemporaneity, which it does not have, and
overlook those characteristics of that past, which are not present in their
life. For the past to shine with its true colors, we have to approach it
with expert knowledge.
I think, however, that even people who are not expert historians but have
enough life experience can recall exactly what they thought about the 1933
famine a decade and a half ago, and how their views have changed now that
thousands of horrifying documents have been published.
Those who were in power in the late 1980s had access to such documents
even in those days. I dare say, however, that they could not evaluate them
properly because they were not Stalin's contemporaries and did not
contribute to his crimes. Like me, they were products of the Soviet school.
Later in this article I will show with concrete examples that it took both
time and great mental effort for people of my generation to grasp the famine
as an act of genocide.
Representatives of the generation that had survived the famine did not
realize, but only felt, that somebody had intended to destroy them. However,
there is a difference between understanding and feeling.
A judge listens to eyewitness testimony about a crime (in our case, the
crime of genocide), but issues his ruling only after establishing the entire
sequence of events that constitute the corpus delicti of the crime.
In appealing to the international community for recognition of the Ukrainian
Holodomor as an act of genocide, we must stop playing on emotions, which
we have been doing until now, and must instead supply corroborated evidence
of the crime.
Thus, I am certain that none of the CPU leaders realized the true essence of
the events of 1933, but they all knew that something horrible and monstrous
had happened. On the other hand, they felt that the Stalinist taboo on the
word famine could no longer continue.
For several months my report wandered from office to office at the Central
Committee. Finally, they allowed me to submit it as a scholarly article to
Ukrayinsky istorychny Zhurnal, but only once a political decision to
recognize the famine as a historical fact was publicized.
That event was scheduled for Dec. 25, 1987, when Volodymyr Shcherbytsky,
the first secretary of the CC CPU was slated to deliver his report on the
70th anniversary of the Ukrainian SSR.
In the meantime, the liberalization of the political regime, which started
with Gorbachev's announcement of his policy of perestroika, was becoming
more and more pronounced. The conspiracy of silence surrounding the famine
began to disintegrate by itself.
On July 16, 1987, the newspaper Literaturna Ukraina carried two articles
that mentioned the famine matter-of-factly as a well-known fact. Discussions
of the famine began in Moscow.
On Oct. 11, 1987, the famous scholar Viktor Danilov of the Institute of
Soviet History at the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, who had already
experienced much unpleasantness within the party organs for his "distorted"
portrayal of Soviet agrarian history, published a statement in the newspaper
Sovetskaia Rossiia, stating that famine had claimed a huge number of lives
in the winter and spring of 1933.
In his short article entitled "How many of us were there then?" published in
the December issue of the magazine Ogonek, Moscow-based demographer
Mark Tolts blew the lid off the suppressed union-wide census of 1937,
revealing that its organizers had been repressed for the malicious under-
estimation of the population. Tolts pointed to the 1933 famine as the cause
of this "underestimation."
On Nov. 2, 1987, CPSU Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev delivered a
report in the Kremlin, pegged to the 70th anniversary of the October
Revolution. Aleksandr Yakovlev recalled that the conservatives and liberals
on Gorbachev's team prepared several versions of the same report. A
conservative version of this assessment of the country's historical path
got the upper hand, and Gorbachev did not mention the famine.
Volodymyr Shcherbytsky could not follow his Moscow patron's example
because what had raged in Ukraine was not merely famine but manmade
famine, or the Holodomor. Moreover, the US congressional commission
was about to announce the preliminary results of its investigation.
For this reason Shcherbytsky's anniversary report contained six or seven
lines about the famine, which was allegedly caused by drought. For the first
time in 55 years a CPSU Politburo member broke the Stalinist taboo on the
word "famine." This created an opportunity for historians to study and
publish documents on the Holodomor.
My article, "Concerning the Evaluation of the Situation in Agriculture of
the Ukrainian SSR in 1931-1933," was published in the March 1988 issue of
the Ukrainskyi istorychnyi Zhurnal. Its abridged version had already been
published in January 1988 in two Soviet newspapers for Ukrainian emigrants:
the Ukrainian-language Visti z Ukrainy and the English-language News from
In May 1988 the Foreign Ministry of the Ukrainian SSR received the materials
of the US congressional commission via the Soviet Embassy in the US and
passed them on to the Institute of History of the Academy of Sciences of the
The English-language version of my article was almost entirely quoted and
analyzed. James Mace concluded, "The scale of the famine is minimized, the
Communist Party is depicted as doing its utmost to improve the situation,
while the actions of the Communist Party and the Soviet state, which
exacerbated the famine, have been ignored."
This is an objective conclusion, for I had deliberately excluded materials
that had already been discovered in party archives from this article, which
in fact was my report to the CC CPU.
I could not afford to make things difficult for Shcherbytsky to render a
decision that was coming to a head under the conditions of increasing
glasnost and which was necessary in the face of the investigation being
pursued by the US Congress.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian writers were bringing the subject of the famine to the
forefront of civic and political life. On Feb. 18, 1988, Literaturna Ukraina
published Oleksa Musiyenko's report to a meeting of the Kyiv branch of the
Writers' Union of Ukraine.
Welcoming the new CPSU leadership's policy of de-Stalinization, Musiyenko
accused Stalin of orchestrating a brutal grain procurement campaign in the
republic, which resulted in the Holodomor of 1933. The word "Holodomor"
used in this report was coined by the writer.
In early July 1988 the writer Borys Oliynyk addressed the 19th CPSU
conference in Moscow. Focusing on the Stalinist terror of 1937, he surprised
those present with his conclusion: "Because repressions in our republic
started long before 1937, we must also determine the causes of the 1933
famine, which killed millions of Ukrainians; we must list the names of those
who are to blame for this tragedy."
In a November 1988 interview with the Moscow weekly Sobesednik
[Interlocutor], the writer Yuriy Shcherbak, the founder of the Green
movement in Ukraine, devoted much attention to the problem of the famine.
He was convinced that the 1933 famine was the same kind of method for
terrorizing peasants who opposed collective farm slavery as dekulakization.
At the same time, he was the first to speculate that Stalin's policy of
repressions in Ukraine was also aimed at forestalling the danger of a
large-scale national liberation movement. The peasantry, he said, was always
the bearer of national traditions, which is why the 1933 famine was a blow
aimed against the peasants.
In the summer of 1993 James Mace published his analytical article "How
Ukraine Was Permitted to Remember" in the American journal The Ukrainian
Quarterly. In describing the process of how the Holodomor was understood,
I have followed this article to some extent and in separate instances, while
making independent evaluations. I cannot agree with one of his statements.
In July 1988 the Writers' Union of Ukraine instructed Volodymyr Maniak to
prepare a memorial book comprised of testimonies of Holodomor survivors.
Mace wrote that Maniak was not allowed to address the famine eyewitnesses in
the press; this mission was entrusted to me. In December 1988 I appealed to
the readers of Silski visti and published a questionnaire.
In fact, neither Maniak nor I were instructed to prepare a memorial book.
This problem did not concern the republican leadership. The initiative was
Maniak's. After enlisting the support of the Writers' Union, he came to the
Institute of History at the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR with a
proposal to join forces.
At the time we were actively searching for documents relating to the famine,
which had been amassed in the archives of Soviet government agencies. We
collected so many sensational materials that we processed them in parallel
form: memoirs and documents. We could not immediately publish the
manuscripts we had prepared.
Radiansky Pysmennyk published the colossal book of recollections, Famine
1933. The People's Memorial Book compiled by Maniak and his wife Lidia
Kovalenko, only in 1991. In 1992 and 1993 Naukova Dumka published a
collection of documents from the Central State Archive of the Highest
Organs of Government and Administration of Ukraine, compiled by Hanna
Mykhailychenko and Yevhenia Shatalina.
In the meantime, the substance and even the words from my article that
appeared in Ukrayinsky istorychny Zhurnal became the target of harsh
criticism in the press immediately after its publication in March 1988. Only
one year after its publication society was viewing the fundamental questions
concerning Soviet reality in a completely different way.
In 1988 I wrote a brochure for the society Znannia [Knowledge] of the
Ukrainian SSR. While the brochure was being prepared for publication, I
obtained permission from the society to publish it in Literaturna Ukraina.
At the time this newspaper was most popular among radical intellectual
circles and in the Diaspora.
The text, published in four issues of the newspaper between January and
February 1989, was the product of 18 months of archival work. Complete with
photographic evidence, the story of Viacheslav Molotov's extraordinary grain
procurement commission shocked the public.
In June 1989 Znannia published 62,000 copies of my brochure entitled 1933:
The Tragedy of the Famine. Not surprisingly, it was published as part of
series entitled Theory and Practice of the CPSU. The art editor designed an
original cover depicting a cobweb with the brochure's title centered in red
and white lettering.
As I reread it now, I can see that it is an accurate portrayal of the
socioeconomic consequences of forced collectivization of agriculture, the
major one being famine in many areas of the USSR.
However, at the time I still did not understand the specifics of the
Ukrainian famine. In particular, the brochure listed all the clauses of the
Nov. 18 decree of the CC CP(b)U and the Nov. 20 decree of the Council
of People's Commissars of the Ukrainian SSR, both of which were approved
as dictated by Molotov.
These decrees were the spark plug of the Holodomor. The brochure also
cited the most disturbing clause, calling for the imposition of penalties in kind
(meat, potatoes, and other foodstuffs). However, at the time I still had no
facts about the consequences that stemmed from that clause.
For this reason the Ukrainian famine was considered the result of a mistaken
economic policy, not a deliberate campaign to seize food under the guise of
grain procurements: "Openness in the struggle against the famine would mean
recognizing the economic catastrophe that crowned Stalin's experiment of
speeding up the pace of industrialization.
Stalin thus chose a different path, the path of cowardly and criminal
concealment of the situation in the countryside." It follows from these
words that I did not see signs of genocide in the concealment of information
about the famine.
A detailed analysis of my own brochure was necessary to provide background
to the story about the major accomplishment of the Soviet period, which was
being quickly consigned to the past. I am speaking about the book The Famine
of 1932-1933 in Ukraine: Through the Eyes of Historians and the Language of
The book was published in September 1990 by Politvydav Ukrainy as an imprint
of the Institute of Party History at the CC CPU. It contained articles,
including one of mine, but I will discuss the documents from the archival
funds of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist (b) Party and the
The documentary section was compiled by Ruslan Pyrih, head of the team of
compilers that included A. Kentiy, I. Komarova, V. Lozytsky, and A.
Solovyova. The official pressrun was 25,000, but the real number of
published copies was ten times smaller. When it became clear that the book
would be published, somebody decided to turn it into a bibliographic rarity.
I saw the documents discovered in the party archives of Moscow and Kyiv by
Pyrih's team one year before their publication. Some of them are reason
enough to accuse Stalin of committing the crime of genocide, and I will cite
them in subsequent articles.
However, my immediate task is to elicit how the Holodomor was understood.
I will only say that at the time nobody saw the true substance of these few
documents, and thank God for that. If they had, they might have removed
these documents from the manuscript. It is no wonder that their contents
were underestimated. In my 1989 brochure I too could not assess the
significance of those fines in kind.
A battle over this manuscript broke out at the highest political level in
the republic - in the Politburo of the CC CPU. The Politburo meeting in
January 1990, to which I was invited as an expert, took a long time to
discuss the expediency of publishing this book.
I got the impression that those present heaved a sigh of relief when
Volodymyr Ivashko, the first secretary of the CC assumed responsibility
and proposed publishing the documents.
Why did the Politburo decide to publish such explosive documents?
There are at least two reasons.
First, in 1988-1989 the originally bureaucratic perestroika was already
evolving into a popular movement. Constitutional reform had divested the
ruling party of its power over society. In order to remain on top of the
revolutionary wave, party leaders had to distance themselves from Stalin's
Second, the US congressional commission had already completed its work and
published a conclusive report that contained many impressive details. The
Politburo members were familiar with the specific results of the work
carried out by Mace's commission. I am so sure of this because I have this
particular volume, 524 pages, published in Washington in 1988, in my own
The book's cover bears the red stamp of the CC CPU's general department,
identifying the date of receipt as Sept. 5, 1988. I obtained the book during
the transfer of Central Committee documents to the state archive after the
party was banned (as material foreign to the compiler of the funds).
The above-mentioned Politburo meeting of Jan. 26, 1990, approved a
resolution "On the 1932-1933 Famine in Ukraine and the Publication of
Archival Materials Relating to It."
The Politburo identified the immediate cause of the famine as the grain
procurement policy that was fatal to the peasants. Yet this statement did
not correspond to the truth, much like Shcherbytsky's statement about the
Mace came to Ukraine for the first time in January 1990. He brought me a
computer printout of the famine survivors' testimonies recorded by the US
congressional commission. The three volumes of testimonies on 1,734 pages
were published in Washington only in December 1990.
In the first two weeks of that month the journal Pid praporom Leninizmu
[Under the Banner of Leninism] published my article "How It Happened
(Reading the Documents of the US Congressional Commission on the
1932-1933 Ukraine Famine").
My own experience of analyzing archival documents and the testimonies
recorded by the American researchers enabled me to reach the following
conclusion: "Alongside grain procurements and under their guise, a
repressive expropriation of all food stocks, i.e., terror by famine was
Now the conclusion about genocide was no longer based solely on the
emotional testimony of Holodomor eyewitnesses but on an analysis of
March 1991 saw the publication of my conclusive book, Tsina velykoho
perelomu [The Price of the Great Turning Point]. The final conclusion was
formulated in no uncertain terms: "Famine and genocide in the countryside
were preprogrammed" (p. 302).
In the years that followed I wondered why this book was not known to many
researchers of the Holodomor. But eventually I realized that the announced
pressrun of 4,000 copies could have been reduced tenfold, as it happened
with the collection of documents from the party archives. Even though the
publishing house was renamed Ukraina, it was the same old Politvydav
Reviewing the book a decade and a half later, I have reconsidered its merits
and shortcomings. Its merit lay in the detailed analysis of the Kremlin's
socioeconomic policy that resulted in an economic crisis capable of
disrupting the political equilibrium.
This explained why Stalin unleashed terror by famine against Ukraine in one
particular period - a time when the economic crisis was at its peak. The
monograph's shortcoming was the lack of an analysis of the Kremlin's
nationality policy. Without such an analysis the conclusion of genocide was
suspended in midair.
In those distant years Mace and I often engaged in sharp polemics. However,
these polemics were disinterested, i.e., they concerned problems, not
specific persons. I criticized him for his inadequate attention to the
Kremlin's socioeconomic policy, and he criticized me for my inattention to
its nationality policy.
Time has shown that establishing that the Holodomor was an act of genocide
requires an equal amount of attention to both the socioeconomic and
However, Mace had an advantage in this polemic. He did not have to change
his worldview the way I had to change mine, one that was inculcated in me by
my school, university, and my entire life in Soviet society, and to do so
posthaste in the face of irrefutable facts.
He saw in me an official historian, which in fact I was. However, in the
above-mentioned article, "How Ukraine Was Permitted to Remember," Mace
concluded the chapter on the evolution of my worldview with these words: "He
approached the development of the topic [of the famine - Author] as a Soviet
historian whose works were as political as they were scholarly. When the
possibilities for studying archives expanded, he stopped being a Soviet
historian and became simply a historian."
The world we live in now is no worse and no better than the communism of the
Brezhnev period. It is simply different. We should not be happy or sad that
it has passed.
We must only understand that the communist system exhausted its life cycle
and that its continued existence would necessarily have involved government
pressure on society, which was germane to the first two decades of Soviet
rule, i.e., the Holodomor could also be repeated.
At this point I cannot help saying a good word about Yakovlev, who died
last month. He proposed the best possible way for a quick and managed
disintegration of the communist order.
Soviet communism disintegrated as an empire and as a system a long time
ago. Now it is imperative for us to overcome the worldview inherited from
Unfortunately, a decade and a half after the demise of communism this
problem persists. It can be resolved with the help of knowledge about
Ukraine's true history in the Soviet period, including knowledge of the real
causes of the Holodomor.
I can say this based on my own life experience. -30-
LINK: http://www.day.kiev.ua/152116 [Part three of six]
[return to index] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
4. WHY DID STALIN EXTERMINATE THE UKRAINIANS?
Comprehending the Holodomor. The position of Soviet historians
PART FOUR OF SIX
By Stanislav Kulchytsky, Ph.D. (History),
The Day Weekly Digest in English # 37
Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, November 22, 2005
A CONFLICT WITHIN A GENERATION
I have already mentioned that both right- and left-leaning unscrupulous
politicians tend to politicize the subject of the Holodomor. In doing so,
they aim to please their voters, which is quite natural for politicians. Why
has it become possible to capitalize on the subject of the famine?
Why do our fellow countrymen have differing opinions of the Holodomor?
Finding the answer requires the use of a more or less abstract notion - a
In the past I used to think that another abstract notion, territory, was
more suitable for such analysis. So much has been said about the division
of Ukraine into eastern and western halves, as well as about the special
mentality of the population in the western oblasts, which came under Russia
in the form of the Soviet Union (or reunited with the Ukrainian SSR, which
is also true) only in 1939-1940.
Now I consider that the decisive role in shaping the difference between the
eastern and western oblasts of present-day sovereign Ukraine was played by
the presence or absence of mass repressions when a particular generation
The Kremlin used mass repressions while building the "commune state" in
1918-1938, and during the Stalinist Sovietization of Ukraine's western
oblasts in 1939-1952. Notably in the latter case, the repressions affected a
different generation. This means that the representatives of Ukraine's
oldest living generation in the western and eastern oblasts have had
different life experiences, which is why they feel differently about
The residents of the western oblasts hate communism with a passion and
despise the Communist Party and Soviet nomenklatura that carried out
repressions during the "first Soviets," i.e., from 1939, and during the
"second Soviets," i.e., from 1944.
Meanwhile, the residents of the eastern oblasts were raised under the Soviet
system. Unlike their parents, they were loyal to the government and were
therefore spared Stalinist repressions. Even though mass repressions in the
USSR continued until Stalin's death, they became selective, targeting
individual territories (the Baltic republics, the western Ukrainian oblasts)
or nationalities (e.g., the campaign to combat cosmopolitanism, "the
Manipulating the enslaved population, Stalin used the human and material
resources of Ukraine's eastern oblasts to combat the anti-Soviet
underground movement in western Ukraine.
The anticommunism of the population in the western oblasts is manifested
always and in everything. The West and the Ukrainian Diaspora, whose
representatives mostly have Galician roots, proved very responsive to the
tragedy of the Holodomor, even though they were not directly affected by it.
The well-organized North American Diaspora made a decisive contribution
to exposing the Kremlin's most horrible crime.
For the anticommunist-minded representatives of the older generation in the
western oblasts, the 1932-1933 famine was a priori a crime committed by
the Kremlin. They needed no documents and accepted the testimonies of
Holodomor witnesses as true. It turned out that they were right to do so.
On the contrary, this generation's representatives in the east have embarked
(at least one would hope so) on a long and painful road of de-Stalinization,
consciously giving up the stereotypes of thinking and behavior, which the
Soviet system had inculcated in them since childhood.
World War II veterans and Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) veterans find it
very hard to come to terms not because they fought on opposing sides. Other
wartime enemies in Europe have long since made peace. Our veterans have
had different life experiences, and it is hard for them to give up the
beliefs of their youth.
Perhaps the real picture of the Holodomor will facilitate this painful
reassessment of values. I must admit that the realization that you have
become what you are as a result of government manipulations is an unpleasant
thing. Yet it is much more unpleasant to remain that way until your final
hour. How can one be Stalin's puppet half a century after his death?
My own reassessment of values took place under the influence of my study of
Holodomor history. In 1981 I published a book entitled Partiia Lenina - Sila
Narodnaia [Lenin's Party - the People's Strength], which was designed for
Soviet schoolchildren. I was being honest with them because I believed in
what I was writing. I believed not only because I was raised in this faith.
Built by forceful means, the Leninist "commune state" became harmonious
in its own peculiar way, when there was no longer any need to use force.
Then the eternal values propagated by the Soviet government came to the
fore. Of course, I saw the double standards, but played them down as
imperfections of human nature. I felt the lack of freedom, but justified it
by the need to survive while being "surrounded by capitalists." Indeed, what
can a bird born in a cage tell you about the sky?
After several years of exploring the Holodomor, I realized that the Soviet
government was capable of exterminating people - millions of people. What
could one's attitude be to such a government and its ideals after realizing
what the Holodomor really was?
In 1991 two younger colleagues and I published the book Stalinism in
Ukraine. The title itself is proof that I was clinging to the term
"Stalinism," which is still popular in the West, and did so in an attempt to
save the idea of social equality by blaming everything on Stalin.
Later I realized that the millions of lost lives were the result of the
implementation of Lenin's idea of the "commune state". If personalized, the
communist idea should be called Leninism. In its party dimension it should
be called Bolshevism.
Tsina Velykoho Perelomu [The Price of the Great Turning Point] is the title
of my second book that was published in 1991. The title is derived from
Nikita Khrushchev's thoughts on the cost of collectivization in the lives of
Soviet citizens. At the time these thoughts astonished me because they came
from a CPSU leader.
The book's 432 pages contain hundreds of documents that paint a vivid
picture of the Holodomor. Did this book influence the people of my
generation, who need to reassess their values?
I doubt it. The state plays a key role in society's comprehension of the
real nature of the Holodomor. Through its specialized agencies the state
must bring to citizens' attention knowledge about the not so distant past,
knowledge accumulated by scholars.
In doing so, the state can prevent interpersonal conflicts stemming from
differing life experiences. The Ukrainian president's calls for
reconciliation are futile without daily educational efforts by the
After 1987 the Ukrainian Communist Party and Soviet nomenklatura
approached the research and educational work on the subject of the famine
with affected enthusiasm. In September 1990 I was made a member of the
ideological commission of the CC CPU, even though I never held any posts
in the state machinery.
After the Ukrainian parliament proclaimed Ukraine's independence,
information on the Holodomor was used by the "sovereign communists"
headed by Leonid Kravchuk to convince voters that this [independence]
was the right decision.
James Mace recalled that Oles Yanchuk's film Holod-33 [Famine '33] on
which he was a consultant, did not receive a single kopeck in state
funding during the filming, but it was still aired on television before the
Dec. 1, 1991 referendum.
The first presidents of Ukraine mostly went no further than symbolic
gestures (a memorial plaque on Kyiv's St. Michael's Square and the Day to
Commemorate Holodomor Victims on the fourth Saturday of November).
Most of the books on the Holodomor have been published with donations
from sponsors, not with government funds.
In a decade and a half the leaders of Ukraine have not shown the will or
desire to republish the three volumes of witness testimonies that speak of
the tragic events in the Ukrainian countryside after 1928, which were
compiled by the Mace commission.
These three volumes contain the voices of the generation born before 1920.
What makes it unique is the fact that representatives of the first
generation of Soviet people are no longer among us.
Whereas government bodies had no pressing desire to become involved in
the subject of the Holodomor, opposition forces took over this function.
We must recognize that they did a great deal of good. At the same time this
subject became politicized. After the Orange Revolution, which removed the
old nomenklatura from power, individual former oppositionists decided that
now they could do as they pleased.
They started with a "small thing" - an attempt to move the Day to
Commemorate the Holodomor Victims, which Leonid Kuchma introduced
in 1998, from fall to springtime, so that it would not conflict with the
anniversary of the Orange Revolution. The moral myopia of such people is
DISCUSSIONS WITH RUSSIAN SCHOLARS
The attitude of the Russian public and government to the events of 1932-
1933 is another important issue. Even if we substantiate with facts that the
1932-1933 famine in Ukraine was an act of genocide, we will have to face
a different interpretation of our common past at the international level.
Discussions with Russian scholars should be conducted as openly as possible
so that we can prove the validity of our position to both the opposing side
and our own public. This is necessary in view of how Ukrainian citizens
presently understand the Holodomor.
Many our fellow countrymen believe that the causes of the 1932-1933 famine
are unclear. Others think that the famine was caused by droughts and/or
grain procurements. These were precisely the causes of the 1946- 1947
famine, which people still remember.
Most of those who think that the Holodomor was an act of genocide have a
shallow understanding of the political and legal essence of "genocide." They
are certain that if the government's actions cause mass deaths among the
population, they are always an act of genocide. The Kazakh tragedy refutes
Communist Party officials' ignorant attempts to force the Kazakh nomads to
settle down resulted in famine, the scale of which exceeded the Ukrainian
Holodomor if you compare the percentage of the affected population in the
two ethnic groups. However, the Kazakh tragedy was not a result of terror
The 1932-1933 famine in Ukraine should be analyzed within the context of
the political and legal substance of the term "genocide." During a
relatively short period Stalin purposefully exterminated the village
population in two Soviet political- administrative divisions in which
Ukrainians were the dominant population (the Ukrainian SSR and the
Kuban province of the Northern Caucasus Territory of the Russian
Soviet Federated Socialist Republic).
From the very outset I would like to dissociate myself from those of my
colleagues who define the purpose of this act of genocide differently:
Stalin exterminated the Ukrainians! Of course, the end result was just that:
Stalin exterminated the Ukrainians. Yet we will not be able to prove the
validity of a claim about it being an act of genocide if we use this
simplified and purely emotional formulation.
For many years I have been conferring with a small community of scholars
in Russia and the West, who are studying the Ukrainian Holodomor, and
I know their way of thinking. For this reason I have to offer a thought-out
and clear position on the subject of genocide.
I understood the socioeconomic causes of the 1932-1933 famine already
in the early 1990s. Later, at the Department of Interwar History at the
Institute of Ukrainian History we studied the totalitarianism of the
Communist Party and the Soviets as a holistic political and economic
system, which included a study of the Kremlin's nationality policy. Now
we have arguments relating to the national component of the Kremlin's
All of the comments provided here are necessary so that my account of
discussions with Russian scholars on the nature of the 1932-1933 famine
in the Soviet Union will strike the appropriate tone.
These discussions were touched off by the May 1993 informational and
analytical conference organized by the Ukrainian Embassy in Moscow, which
was entitled "The Holodomor of 1932-1933: Tragedy and Warning." Both
sides were represented by scholars, politicians, and journalists.
We spoke about terror by famine, which the Kremlin used against Ukraine,
while they claimed that the Stalinist repressions had no national component.
Only Sergey Kovalev, a former dissident, who in 1993 chaired the Human
Rights Commission in the Russian parliament, summoned the courage to say
"Forgive us!" while addressing the Ukrainian side.
Then a Moscow newspaper carried an article by the journalist Leonid
Kapeliushny, who wrote it after reading the book by Volodymyr Maniak and
Lidiia Kovalenko, Holod 33: Narodna Knyha-Memorial [Famine '33. The
People's Memorial Book]. In the book the journalist saw "eyewitness
testimonies that have legal force, testimonies of genocide witnesses"
(Izvestiia, 1993, July 3).
Kovaliov's "Forgive us" and Kapeliushny's conclusion were reinforced by
papers presented at the international scholarly conference "The Holodomor of
1932-1933 in Ukraine: Causes and Consequences," which took place in Kyiv
on Sept. 9-10, 1993 and was attended by the president of Ukraine. While
President Kravchuk blamed the tragedy of the Ukrainian nation on the
Stalinist government, Ivan Drach, who took the floor after him, placed this
problem in a different dimension.
"It is time to fully understand once and for all that this was only one of
the closest to us - surviving and now living Ukrainians - stages in the
planned eradication of the Ukrainian nation. Intolerance of this nation is
deeply rooted in the descendants of the northern tribes, to whom our people
gave its own faith, culture, civilization, and even its name," Drach said.
The Russian experts on the problems of collectivization and famine- Ilya
Zelenin, Nikolai Ivnytsky, Viktor Kondrashyn, and Yevgeniy Oskolkov -
wrote a collective letter to the editors of a historical journal of the
Russian Academy of Sciences, expressing their concern over the fact that
most conference participants insisted on "a certain exceptionality of
Ukraine, a special nature and substance of these events in the republic as
opposed to other republics and regions in the country."
They claimed that the famine in Ukraine was no different from famines in
other regions, whereas the anti-peasant policy of the Stalinist leadership
had no clearly defined national direction (Otechestvennaia istoriia
[National History], 1994, no. 6, p. 256).
In an attempt to substantiate their position, the Russian colleagues
emphasized the socioeconomic aspects of the 1932-1933 famine, quoting
my paper presented at that conference. Without a doubt, the Kremlin's
economic policy did not distinguish among the national republican
borders, and in this respect their arguments were flawless.
However, the rejection of the Ukrainian specifics of the famine, led the
Russian colleagues, whether they wanted to or not, to state that the
Kremlin had no nationality policy or repressive element of such a policy.
I heard a similar statement to the effect that "Stalin's victims have no
nationality" from a different Russian delegation at an international
symposium in Toronto, entitled "The Population of the USSR in the
1920s-1930s in the Light of New Documentary Evidence" (February
1995). However, Soviet history knows many cases of ethnically
motivated repressions. Is it worthwhile recounting them all?
In recent years the Institute of Ukrainian History has established
cooperation with the Institute of General History of the Russian Academy of
Sciences, and through it with experts at other Russian institutions as part
of the Russian-Ukrainian Commission of Historians (co-chaired by the
Ukrainian academician Valeriy Smoliy and Russian academician Aleksandr
On March 29, 2004, Moscow hosted the commission's meeting, attended by
numerous prominent Russian experts on agrarian history. They discussed the
book Holod 1932-1933 rokiv v Ukraini: prychyny ta naslidky [The Famine of
1932-1933 in Ukraine: Causes and Consequences], published in 2003 by the
Institute of Ukrainian History to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the
Thirty authors collaborated on this large-format volume of 888 pages
supplemented with a 48-page section of illustrations.
Several copies of the book were sent to Moscow long before the
commission's meeting. Yet it failed to convince the Russian historians.
Soon after that meeting Viktor Danilov and Ilya Zelenin publicized their
views of the problem discussed in an article that appeared in
Otechestvennaia istoriia (no. 5, 2004). The gist of their position is
reflected in the title of their article: "Organized Famine. Dedicated to the
70th Anniversary of the Peasants' Common Tragedy."
The journal printed a black band around the authors' names; our opponents
died soon after the meeting. It is a great loss for Russian historical
scholarship and all of us, since aspiring Russian scholars are not all that
keen to explore these "complex problems."
New archival documents on Soviet agrarian history are now circulating among
scholars. This has become possible primarily thanks to the tremendous
efforts of Viktor Petrovich Danilov. The new additions to the source base
have significantly reinforced the position of the Ukrainian side in its
attempts to convince the world that the Holodomor was indeed an act of
Summing up the results of our meeting on March 29, 2004, Danilov and
Zelenin came to the following conclusion: "If one is to characterize the
Holodomor of 1932-1933 as 'a purposeful genocide of Ukrainian peasants,'
as individual historians from Ukraine insist, then we must bear in mind that
it was in equal measure a genocide of Russian peasants." The Ukrainian side
can accept such a conclusion.
After all, we are not saying that only Ukrainians were Stalin's victims.
Moreover, because of the specifics of "socialist construction" and the
nature of the political system, between 1918 and 1938 the hardest hit
(percentage of the total) by repressions were the immediate perpetrators
of Stalin's crimes - Chekist secret police agents, followed by state party
members, especially the Communist Party and the Soviet nomenklatura,
followed by citizens of the national republics, and finally Russians.
How can one explain the Russian scholars' restraint when it comes to the
question of genocide? It may perhaps be explained by the fact that the
international community is using the Dec. 9, 1948, Convention on the
Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide more and more
actively. In January 2004 Stockholm hosted the international forum
"Preventing Genocide: Threats and Responsibility," which was attended
by many heads of state.
The forum focused on the following questions: the political, ideological,
economic, and social roots of violence connected with genocide; mechanisms
for preventing and responding to the threat of genocide at the international
level; the use of diplomatic, humanitarian, economic, and forceful means to
In Ukrainian society only marginal right-leaning politicians insist that
present-day Russia is responsible for the Ukrainian Holodomor and demand
moral or even financial compensation. However, the fact that Russia has been
recognized as the legal successor of the USSR does not burden it with
responsibility for the crimes of the Bolsheviks, White Guards, or any other
regimes that controlled Russian territory in the past.
Even the attempts of the Kremlin leadership to associate itself with certain
attributes of the former Soviet Union, as evidenced by the melody of
Russia's state anthem, are not reason enough to put forward such claims.
After all, nostalgia for the Soviet past is equally present in Ukrainian and
Russian societies, mainly in the older generations.
Russia is freely publishing documentary collections that reflect the state
crimes of the Stalinist period. In fact, it has become possible to build the
concept of the Ukrainian Holodomor as an act of genocide only on the
basis of documents publicized in Moscow.
At the same time, Russia's attempts to inherit the achievements of the
Soviet epoch, especially the victory in World War II, are forcing Russian
officials to throw a veil over Stalin's crimes as much as this can be done
in the new conditions of freedom from dictatorship. This applies
particularly to the crime of genocide, even though the Dec. 9, 1948,
Convention does not place responsibility on the legal successors of
Naturally, if Russia wants to inherit the accomplishments of the Soviet
epoch, it must also inherit its negative aspects, i.e., the obligation to
utter Kovalev's "Forgive us." The European Parliament hinted at this
"liability" in 2004, when it found the deportation of the Chechens to be an
act of genocide. However, few would like to inherit moral responsibility
for the crimes of previous regimes, unless absolutely necessary.
This is why Russia is a decisive opponent of recognizing the Ukrainian
Holodomor as an act of genocide. In August 2003 Russian Ambassador to
Ukraine Viktor Chernomyrdin said in an interview with BBC's Ukrainian
Service: "The Holodomor affected the entire Soviet state. There were no
fewer tragedies and no less pain in the Kuban, Ural, and Volga regions, and
Such expropriations did not just happen in Chukotka and the northern regions
because there was nothing to expropriate." Russia's official representatives
at the UN did everything possible to have the definition of the Holodomor as
an act of genocide excluded from the Joint Statement of 36 nations on the
70th anniversary of the Ukrainian Holodomor.
It remains for us to convince the Russians that the Ukrainian famine was a
result of not only repressive grain procurements, but also a perfectly
organized campaign to seize all food stocks from peasants. There is a body
of evidence to this effect, and if the voices of Ukrainian scholars are
reinforced by the voices of Western historians, this goal will become
POSITION OF WESTERN RESEARCHERS
A closely interconnected network of research institutions specializing in
so-called Sovietology formed in the West during the Cold War. However, no
Sovietologists were interested in what happened in Ukraine in 1932-1933.
After moving to the US, Robert Conquest, an English literary scholar and
contemporary of the Russian revolution, started to work at Columbia
University's Institute for the Study of the USSR. He is the author of the
first book of non-Ukrainian historiography on the Great Famine in the
USSR, which was published in 1986.
The author of this famous work, The Great Terror, was right to define
Stalin's policy in Ukraine as a special kind of terror - terror by famine.
Robert Conquest's book The Harvest of Sorrow was based on literary
sources, most of them collected by James Mace.
The international community found the book sensational. On the contrary,
Sovietologists disapproved of it and accused the author of political bias,
because the book was commissioned by the Ukrainian Diaspora.
In the late 1980s a "revisionist" trend emerged in the ranks of
Sovietologists. Its representatives believed that Cold War historiography
had to be revised because it was ideologically opposed to communism, i.e.,
it went beyond the bounds of scholarly knowledge.
The "revisionists" unleashed a torrent of criticism against the publications
of the US Congressional Commission on the Ukraine Famine. Mace himself
recalled that he was accused of falsifying history. With no prospects for
steady employment in the US, Mace moved to Kyiv and found a job at the
institute, which had been organized by Ivan Kuras on the foundations of the
former Institute of Party History at the CC CPU.
Much like during the Soviet period, in the early post-Soviet years Ukrainian
historical studies did not have an independent international status. In
contrast, Russian historians only had to strengthen their long-standing
ties. The international status of Russian scholarship rose sharply with the
opening of archives from the Stalinist period.
In 1992 Viktor Danilov launched a theoretical seminar entitled "Modern
Concepts of Agrarian Development" at the Interdisciplinary Academic Center
of Social Sciences (Intercenter). During its meeting on June 24, 1997, the
participants discussed the work of Stephen Wheatcroft (Australia) and Robert
Davies (UK) entitled The Years of Hunger: Soviet Agriculture, 1931-1933. The
journal Otechestvennaia istoriia (no. 6, 1998) devoted dozens of pages to a
report on this seminar. It is hard to describe it in several paragraphs, but
I will try.
In his introduction Wheatcroft condemns the thesis that it was an "organized
famine" and that Stalin purposefully seized grain to cause the peasants to
starve. The report focuses much attention on Ukraine.
It states that the Kremlin did not know anything, and when information about
the famine started to come in, "the Politburo of the Central Committee of
the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik) was addressing the increasingly
pressing problem of dispensing additional grain [to the peasants - Auth.]."
Between February and July 1933 the CC AUCP(b) and the Council of People's
Commissars of the USSR issued 35 resolutions and decrees to dispense food
That was the report. Interestingly enough, the cited facts were true. The
only thing that is not known is why millions of people died of hunger. Only
one document struck the researchers with its cynicism: a CC CP(b)U
resolution on dividing peasants hospitalized and diagnosed with dystrophy
into ailing and recovering patients. The resolution ordered improving the
nutrition of the latter within the limits of available resources so that
they could be sent out into the fields to sow the new crop as soon as
Of course, Stalin did not use terror by famine for the indiscriminate
extermination of all peasants for whatever reason. Those lucky enough to
survive were sent to perform agricultural labor and received food in the
fields while they worked. They received food dispensed according to special
resolutions from supreme government bodies. This was meant to show how
much the government cared about keeping its citizens alive. In this way the
peasants learned to work as part of state- owned collective farms.
Based on the authors' estimates, Roberta Manning of Harvard University
pointed out that before the 1933 harvest government stockpiles contained
between 1.4 and 2 million tons of grain. This was enough to prevent mass
hunger. "What forced the Soviet government to seize and export such a large
percentage of a very low harvest and stockpile more grain than it did during
the previous grain crises? These questions demand answers," she said in a
polite rebuttal of the basic points of the report.
On the contrary, Lynn Viola of the University of Toronto supported the view
of the 1932-1933 tragedy as outlined in the report primarily because it was
"revisionist," i.e., it differed from previous opinions about the famine
organized by the government or even an act of genocide committed by the
Yu. Moshkov agreed that peasants received food relief in the first half of
1933, but added to this obvious fact that "in my view, it is impossible to
deny Stalin's clear intent in the fall of 1932 to punish disobedient
peasants who refused to surrender everything including grain."
M. Viltsan used the points in the report to launch an attack against the
authors of the "concept of manmade famine" Nikolai Ivnytsky, Viktor
Kondrashyn, and Yevgeniy Oskolkov. Armed with facts, these three
repelled the attack.
This was the gist of the theoretical seminar at the Intercenter, with praise
for "revisionists" and attacks against Russian scholars who called the
famine of 1932-1933 "manmade" in the face of irrefutable facts. It is not
surprising that they did not dare go one step further and call the Ukrainian
famine an act of genocide.
This seminar reflected the way the Holodomor was comprehended in the West
in the late 1990s. The situation has improved significantly. It appears that
the turning point came during the international conference organized by the
Institute for Historical and Religious Studies in Vicenza, Italy, in October
2003. I will not dwell on its work, because James Mace wrote about it in one
of The Day's October 2003 issues.
Its result was a resolution supported by scholars from Italy, Germany,
Poland, Ukraine, the US, and Canada (Ivnytsky and Kondrashyn abstained),
urging the prime minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, who was then holding
the EU's rotating presidency, and European Commission chairman Romano
Prodi to apply efforts to have the Ukrainian famine 1932-1933 recognized
internationally as an act of genocide.
The Vicenza conference had a sequel. On Sept. 5, 2005, Kyiv-Mohyla
Academy launched a book entitled Death of the Land. The Holodomor in
Ukraine of 1932-1933. This event was attended by Italy's Ambassador to
Ukraine Fabio Fabbri and the director of the Italian Institute in Ukraine,
The book is based on the materials presented at the Vicenza conference.
Nadia Tysiachna's article (Sept. 13, 2005) on this presentation bore the
same title that James Mace used for the newspaper column that he sent from
Vicenza: "Intellectual Europe on the Ukrainian Genocide."
University of Koln professor Gerhard Simon, who participated in the Vicenza
conference, organized a discussion panel entitled "Was the 1932-1933 Famine
in Ukraine an Act of Genocide?" at the 7th International Congress of
Historians in Berlin, held in July 2005. This question touched off a heated
debate. I am grateful to Dr. Simon for sacrificing the presentation of his
own report to give me additional time to substantiate my position.
I am also grateful to him for his assistance in having my article translated
into German and published in the reputable magazine Ost Europa. The
entire staff of the Institute of Ukrainian History is thankful to this
authoritative expert on the history of Central and Eastern Europe for his
interest in the problem of the Holodomor and his article published in
Ukrainskyi istorychnyi Zhurnal [Ukrainian Historical Journal], which is a
fresh contribution to the German historiography on this problem.
PEERING INTO THE ABYSS
It is obvious that comprehending the Holodomor is no simple task for
Ukrainian and foreign scholars, Ukrainian society, and the international
community. Do we know everything that happened in our Ukraine seven or
eight decades ago? Have we broken free of the stereotypes that were
inculcated into the consciousness of several generations?
Sometimes in the face of new or reconsidered facts one has to give up one's
established views of certain aspects of the past. This is a normal thing for
a professional historian. This is the meaning of scholarly quest. At the
start of Gorbachev's de-Stalinization one impulsive woman could no longer
endure it and screamed out loud for all of the Soviet Union to hear: "I
cannot give up my principles!" She could not find the courage to peer into
the abyss and see how much Leninist ideology differs from Leninist and
We have to squeeze the hypocrisy of the Soviet period out of ourselves one
drop at a time. The sooner our society liberates itself from the stereotypes
of the previous epoch, the easier its life will be. The truth about the
Holodomor can become a powerful lever in this process.
What is this truth? In the coming issues I will propose my version of the
1932-1933 events in Ukraine. Readers who have read this historiographic
introduction in the form of these four articles should make their own
judgments based on the facts currently in possession of historians.
The upcoming articles will address the essence of the communist "revolution
from the top," the Kremlin's nationality policy, mechanisms of genocide, and
other subjects that together can provide the answer to the question of why
Stalin exterminated the Ukrainians. -30-
LINK: http://www.day.kiev.ua/153028/; [Part four of six]
[return to index] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
5. WHY DID STALIN EXTERMINATE THE UKRAINIANS?
The ideological dimension of the genocide
By Stanislav Kulchytsky, Ph.D. (History)
The Day Weekly Digest in English, #38
Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, November 29, 2005
In my previous article I pointed out that I no longer use the term
"Stalinism," which is widely used in both Ukraine and the West. As I
reread that article, I decided that I should explain my rejection of this
At the same time, I reread the article by Professor Andrea Graziosi of the
University of Naples, which appeared in Ukrainskyi istorychnyi zhurnal
[Ukrainian Historical Journal] (no. 3, 2005), and focused on the following
thought: "Stanislav Kulchytsky established the preconditions of the genocide
from a different angle, portraying the famine (at both the general Soviet
level and the Ukrainian level) as ideologically motivated genocide that
resulted from decisions made in 1929."
Combining these two thoughts, I realized that I cannot confine myself to
revealing only the socioeconomic and national dimensions of the genocide, as
I planned on doing from the start. I must single out a third, ideological,
Its analysis should start not with the year 1929, when the collectivization
of agriculture was already in full swing, but with 1917, when Lenin threw
the idea of building a "commune state" into Russian society, which was then
in revolutionary turmoil.
In doing so, I do not mean to add new touches to the concept of the
Holodomor as an act of genocide, but only to enhance the concept's
structural integrity. The cause-and- effect relationships between the
Holodomor and the entire picture of "socialist construction" should be
outlined in such a way as to make this concept logically impeccable and
clear to readers. This means that the explanation of the concept should
begin with the ideological dimension of the genocide.
ON THE NATURE OF SOVIET POWER
In 2003 I completed my book entitled Rosiiska revoliutsiia 1917 roku: novyi
pohliad [The Russian Revolution of 1917: a New Perspective]. It was
published by the Institute of Ukrainian History in two languages, Ukrainian
and Russian, the original and the translation in one volume. The limited
edition was distributed among experts, including members of the scholarly
council on the history of revolutions at the Russian Academy of Sciences.
In the book I speak of only one revolution of 1917, not the February or
October revolution, but a single Russian revolution with its specific
ramifications in the empire's peripheral national territories - Ukraine and
others. Yet this is not what my new angle on those events is about. The
greatest authority on Russian history in the West, Richard Pipes, published
his two-volume work, The Russian Revolution, in New York already in 1990.
His book quite naturally analyzes the Russian revolution as an uninterrupted
process. In 1994 the association "Russian Political Encyclopedia" translated
and published these two volumes under their original title, Russkaia
revolutsiia [The Russian Revolution].
However, even after this, few people in Russia and Ukraine abandoned the
idea of two separate revolutions. Only the terminology has changed, with the
Great October Socialist Revolution now being called the October Coup.
The novelty of my approach, which has not won any recognition either, lies
in analyzing the historical phenomenon commonly known as Soviet power. I
believe that it was the political regime with this inaccurate name that
provided Russian communism with a margin of strength that enabled it to
survive for three generations.
The essence of Lenin's approach was in dividing seized power - integral and
centralized - into two halves, only one of which had its face turned to the
people, thereby creating an impression of government by the people, or
The population formed soviets, or councils, with their executive committees,
in keeping with the norms of democratic constitutions, but did so under the
strict control of partkoms, or party committees, which recommended their own
candidates for deputies from the "bloc of communists and independents."
Party committees, which represented the second face of power, were elected
only by members of the state party.
Thanks to the principle of "democratic centralism," which was at the core of
all sociopolitical structures in the country, the membership of the
executive bodies of the monopolistic party was first determined by the
hierarchically superior link before being formally endorsed in "elections."
Executive committees of soviets possessed real administrative power. Party
committees were not involved in the process of administration unless
necessary, but had a monopoly over political decisions and appointments.
Thus, Soviet power was dual in nature, i.e., it was constructed as a
symbiosis of separately existing systems of power: party committees, all the
way up to the Central Committee of Lenin's party, and executive committees
of the soviets, all the way up to the Council of People's Commissars
(Radnarkom) of the USSR.
The communist dictatorship was collective by definition, because "democratic
centralism" could centralize power only to the level of the Politburo of the
Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik).
The relationships among Politburo members, i.e., party chiefs, could not
possibly be regulated by the constitution because the party was above the
soviets and society. Nor were they regulated by the party's charter with its
make-believe democracy - the principle of "democratic centralism." However,
these chiefs were not endowed with power by royal lineage or religion, as is
the case in traditional monarchical societies.
As a result, the relationship among them, as though in a pride of lions, was
one of constant struggle until one of them emerged victorious. The victor
concentrated in his hands absolute power over the party and society. Nobody
could stop him from implementing decisions aimed at the extermination of
millions of people in order to preserve absolute personal power. This was
the power that Stalin secured during the brutal six-year struggle
(1923-1928) within the Politburo. Soviet power...
Why can't our conscience register the profound meaning of some of Stalin's
documents that are directly linked to the Holodomor? In my previous articles
I provided one such example, and I will have an opportunity to provide one
more in my upcoming articles. The answer is this: in Soviet textbooks the
history of the USSR was far removed from reality.
Unlike us, Stalin was not a disciple of the Soviet school. He stood at the
cradle of what was called Soviet power and was well aware of its soft and
vulnerable spots. By contrast, for us the idea of Soviet power was more or
less in sync with the image that had been created by propaganda. Meanwhile,
those who hated it did so blindly.
When I say "us," I mean my generation, including the General Secretary and
members of the CC CPSU, and the deputies of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR,
all those who in 1988 embraced the slogan "Full power to the Soviets" and
blithely destroyed the system of power created by Lenin. They could not
anticipate the outcome: the totalitarian state collapsed and society
reestablished its sovereignty over the state, the sovereignty it had won in
March and lost in November 1917.
I finally realized the nature of Soviet power only after Mikhail Gorbachev's
constitutional reform, when this power was deprived of the dictatorship of
party committees and became fundamentally different. Only after this was I
able to bring clarity to the problem of its genesis. To understand how the
Holodomor became possible, we must understand how this power emerged and
what goals it pursued.
SLOGANS OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION
The term "Stalinism" entered into common usage here after the first
de-Stalinization, Khrushchev's, i.e., from the latter half of the 1950s.
Official historiographers insisted that the Bolshevik revolution was
specifically the popular revolution of 1917. According to them, the Kremlin
worked to implement the demands of the revolution and pursued a liberalized
policy in the economic sphere (New Economic Policy) and national relations
(indigenization). But then Stalin came along and spoiled everything.
The reality was different. The history of the USSR was written by the
victors, and it does not correspond to the truth. Focusing on the
exploration of "blank spots" in history (including the Holodomor) historians
have accomplished a great deal. However, on some key issues we (Western
historians as well) are still captive to the stereotypes of Soviet
The truth is that the uninterrupted chain of critical events that began in
the world in 1914, i.e., from the start of World War I, mutated in
Bolshevik-controlled Russia (from the spring of 1918) and Ukraine (from
early 1919). Subsequent events in the countries that came under communist
control developed differently from the civilized world (now customary
parlance for us).
There is no denying that the history of the USSR and the Central and Eastern
European countries was rich in its own way. There was room in it for heroism
and terror, for epochal accomplishments and so-called blank spots that
concealed some horrible crimes committed by political regimes. However, the
Soviet system was a specific and, what is more, mutated civilization that
was deprived of the mainstay that has supported mankind since the beginning
of time - private enterprise.
Despite the network of Sovietological institutions, the Western world did
not have a very good understanding of what was happening here. Moreover,
nobody could deny the communist empire the right to exist. On the contrary,
it claimed that in the future mankind would follow Soviet patterns of
development. Some political analysts even believed that the two worlds would
converge by combining the positive features of capitalism and socialism.
However, the "commune state" created by Lenin and Stalin crumbled suddenly
and quite unexpectedly.
I cannot comprehend how two contradictory ideas can coexist in the public
consciousness: the idea of Bolshevism as the offspring of the 1917
revolution and the idea of communism as an experiment that the Bolsheviks
carried out in the former Russian empire. I agree only with the latter. I
must add, however, that this experiment had nothing in common with Marxism
or Marxist ideas that were widespread among the Russian social democrats of
both Menshevik and Bolshevik leanings.
Heavily saturated with Marxist terminology, the concept of a "commune state"
originated in only one head - Lenin's. For 20 years it was being brought to
life by forceful means and with persistence that could have been put to
better use elsewhere. The communist construction, which out of tactical
considerations was renamed Soviet construction after 1921, was a veritable
revolution as far as the profundity of transformations is concerned
("revolution from the top," as Stalin referred to it).
Indeed, Bolshevik experimenters changed the appearance of the countries they
occupied and built an alternative to the existing civilization. However,
contrary to what Soviet historiography claims, the Bolsheviks' mutated
civilization had nothing in common with the slogans of the Russian
The revolution that started in Petrograd on March 8, 1917, was unlike any
other social cataclysm known in history. It saw the formation of a
democratic camp in the form of liberal and socialist party blocs. The term
"socialism" should be understood in its original meaning, which has nothing
in common with later interpretations: Lenin's (socialism as the first phase
of communism) and Hitler's (National Socialism).
The liberal bloc was less radical, while the socialist bloc was more so, but
both agreed on the need to lead the country toward the Constituent Assembly.
Aside from the political parties, however, there emerged another participant
of the revolutionary events - a camp of popular masses represented by the
On the fifth day of the revolutionary events, leaders of the workers' group
at the Central Military and Industrial Committee went from prison straight
into the residence of the State Duma - Tavria Palace. They still remembered
the experience of the 1905 revolution, when, unprompted by the parties,
workers formed soviets to organize the leadership of political strikes on
the scale of a raion of a whole town. This is why the leaders proposed that
striking groups immediately send their city council deputies to the palace.
On the night of that same day, March 12, the organ of the revolution was
created: the executive committee of the Petrograd Council of Workers and
Soldiers' Deputies, which controlled the actions of tens of thousands of
striking workers and armed soldiers in the streets of Petrograd. Soon after
that, soviets (or soldiers' committees in frontline areas) started to form
all across the empire.
Each of them functioned independently of the others, and no hierarchically
structured Soviet organization emerged at the time. The composition of the
soviets was changeable because soldiers' and workers' committees could
recall and replace their deputies at any time.
Although the political parties differed in terms of the level of their
radicalism, they acted within a single system of coordinates - a democratic
one. Unlike them, the soviets demanded the immediate expropriation of
property from landowners and the bourgeoisie.
This revolution was not only about eliminating institutions of the previous
government, as was the case in all revolutions known to historians; it was
about eliminating social classes. The soviets' extremist demands stemmed
from the sharp social contradiction inherent in Russia, which was further
exacerbated by the burden of the war that was unprecedented in its scale.
The soviet camp showed its strength from the first days of the revolution.
Who forced Tsar Nikolai II to abdicate his throne on March 15, 1917? The
tsar acted on advice from the leaders of the major parties in the State
Duma, the front commanders, and General Mikhail Alekseev, chief of staff
of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief (he was also the Supreme Commander-
in-Chief). But who forced the tsar's closest allies to recommend that he
In the Soviet period, the industrial proletariat was positioned at the
forefront of the revolutionary events of 1917. Assembled in large groups by
virtue of industrial conditions, the proletariat could act in a coordinated
manner and proved this in 1905. However, tsarism proved that it could also
handle a proletarian revolution.
By contrast, production conditions in the countryside did not facilitate
coordinated action among the peasants. Throughout the centuries the peasants
had cultivated a hatred for landowners, but they were scattered and did not
pose a serious threat to the political system with the class of landowners
at its core and an autocrat at its head. All of a sudden, from 1914 the
empire itself started to unite scattered peasants into military companies
and battalions, putting weapons in their hands. Rear garrisons formed in
In each of them instructors from the standing army trained thousands of
mobilized peasants. When the uprising began in Petrograd, the rear garrison
in Petrograd faced a dilemma: either to head to the frontline or turn their
weapons against the leadership. Wherever there were clusters of mobilized
peasants (workers were mostly employed at defense enterprises), they
immediately made their choice. It was after this that front commanders
realized that the tsar had to be deposed.
In keeping with the inertia that stems from the unjustifiable division of
the 1917 revolution into two separate revolutions, the February revolution
is mechanically called a bourgeois-democratic revolution. However, the
bourgeoisie was represented in the revolution only by liberal democrats,
primarily the Cadets. The overwhelming majority of workers and peasants
(including mobilized ones) were influenced by social-democratic parties that
emerged from the underground and acted in concert with the liberals.
The overwhelming majority of the Russian working class (including workers
in the Ukrainian provinces) supported the Menshevik Party that headed the
trade union movement and shared the positions of European social
democracy, which was aimed at reconciling the interests of workers and
owners of capital through negotiations.
The Socialist Revolutionaries were especially influential among the masses
of mobilized peasants. They also wanted to end the revolution by passing
laws in a legitimate fashion, i.e., through the Constituent Assembly. These
parties also had a decisive influence on the soviets, thereby restraining
the anarchical and destructive soviet camp. Both parties viewed the soviets
as temporary organizations designed to prevent the mobilization of
On April 16 Lenin arrived in Petrograd from Switzerland. On the following
day he addressed the participants of the all-Russian meeting of the Soviets
of Workers and Soldiers' Deputies. His speech contained 10 theses that were
published in Pravda on April 20 under the title "On the Tasks of the
Proletariat in This Revolution." This document, known as the "April Theses,"
excluded the Bolsheviks from the democratic camp that united the liberals
and socialists, and placed them apart in the revolution.
Lenin proposed the slogan "All power to the Soviets!" His strategy was to
establish control of the soviets from within, overthrow the liberal
democratic government, and replace it with his own government in a soviet
shell. He did not directly reject the idea of convening the Constituent
Assembly because it was supported by the people. Yet he rejected this idea
in a camouflaged form.
Lenin insisted on creating a soviet republic instead of a parliamentary
republic, thereby denying the people's sovereign right to form the governing
bodies. He realized that the Bolsheviks had no chance of winning a majority
of mandates in the Constituent Assembly. Winning a majority in the soviets
was more realistic.
The doctrinal extremism of the Bolsheviks, who supported the abolition of
private ownership of production, meshed to some extent with the grassroots
extremism of the soviets that were demanding the expropriation of property
from the bourgeoisie and the landowners. Concealed behind the talk of the
advantages of a soviet republic over a parliamentary republic was the
Bolsheviks' desire to force their way into power and not share it with other
In practice the slogan "All power to the Soviets!" meant the establishment
of a single-party dictatorship. The Bolshevik Party's plan was, first of
all, to oust all the other parties from the soviets and, second, merge with
the soviets, which were becoming the power on all levels of state
administration and local self-government.
By merging with Lenin's party, the soviets lost their independence, but
formally remained separate organizational structures. By preserving the
outer shell of the soviets and labeling their own dictatorial rule as Soviet
(which was to be necessarily capitalized), the Bolsheviks gained an
opportunity to control the masses.
The first five of Lenin's "April Theses" were designed to bring the
Bolsheviks to power. They were clear and specific. The remaining theses
were formulated in camouflaged wording. This part outlined the action plan
that had to be carried out once the dictatorship was established. Lenin spoke
of renaming the party as the Communist Party, adopting a communist
program, and building a commune state.
Thus, the ghost of the communist revolution was hovering over the country
already in April 1917, but nobody could see it clearly at the time. None of
the Bolshevik party members could even picture the long-term effects of the
abolition of private ownership of production.
In the first post-revolutionary months the Bolsheviks' successes were more
than modest. Their own slogans could not win them popular support. For this
reason, in August 1917 Lenin temporarily shelved his communist slogans and
armed himself with soviet slogans.
In particular, in place of the slogan that called for turning the
imperialist war into a civil war, the Bolsheviks supported the popular
demand for a separate peace. Instead of their demand to convert landowners'
estates into sovkhoz soviet farms, they adopted the peasant slogan for the
"black redistribution," i.e., an egalitarian distribution of all lands.
Having always spoken out for a centralized state, the Bolsheviks supported
the demand to federalize Russia.
In the popular imagination the Bolsheviks' powerful propaganda machinery
created an image of an opposition party that would bring the soviet slogans
to life once it was in power. For the first time, in September the
Petrograd, Moscow, and Kyiv soviets adopted resolutions proposed by the
Bolsheviks. The Petrograd soviet was chaired by Leon Trotsky.
The Bolsheviks used this soviet to prepare an all-Russian Congress of
Soviets and seized power in the capital while it was assembling. At the time
of the coup they did not have a majority in the soviets, but simply ignored
the soviets beyond their control.
The elections to the Constituent Assembly revealed the true level of the
Bolsheviks' popularity. As we know, they obtained 25% of the popular vote
in Russia and 10% in Ukraine. Yet this no longer mattered, for Lenin already
had power in his hands. December 1917 saw the creation of the All-Russian
Extraordinary Commission to Combat Counterrevolution and Sabotage.
The Bolsheviks labeled as counterrevolutionaries everyone who did not side
with them. Now voters were expected to elect the membership of soviet
government bodies from among candidates recommended by Bolshevik party
The Bolsheviks' October coup was carried out under soviet, not communist,
slogans. In fact, Lenin's party wormed itself into power disguised as
Having consolidated their power and spread it from the capital to the
periphery, in the spring of 1918 the Bolsheviks started their own,
communist, revolution. In May 1918 Lenin formulated the party's goal as
follows: "We have to organize anew the deepest fundamentals of the lives of
hundreds of millions of people."
He spoke about proclaiming the nation's economy as public (in reality -
state-owned) property; he discussed collectivization (in reality -
nationalization) of small production facilities, the elimination of money,
and the building of a centralized planned economy on the ruins of the market
economy. Such revolutions were unprecedented in the world, but in terms of
the methods employed it was a "reform from the top," which was common in
Russia since the days of Peter the Great.
"GETTING RID OF THE PEASANTS"
Countless political forces were embroiled in the Russian revolution, but all
of them were split between two sharply differing trends: democratic and
soviet. It would be a big stretch to call the latter a workers and peasants'
party, because the soviets united a relatively small percentage of workers
and peasants - the embittered, lowest social class that was willing to
expropriate and distribute everything. The spontaneous and unorganized
soviet trend triumphed in the revolution for one reason: dissolved in this
trend was the Bolshevik Party, hardened in clandestine struggle,
disciplined, and centralized.
The soviets' victory was in fact the soviets' immediate defeat. In reality,
the Bolshevik Party won, and its make-believe "dissolution" in the masses
was only a means for establishing control of the soviets. Immediately after
the October coup the Bolsheviks started to combine demagoguery and
populism with state terror.
Repressions against political parties turned out to be repressions against
all deputies in the soviets, who did not belong to Lenin's party. As a
result, the soviets stopped functioning as an independent factor of
political life. Almost at the same time, in January 1918, Lenin's government
disbanded the Constituent Assembly. This symbolized the defeat of the
democratic trend in the Russian revolution.
After the 1917 revolution exhausted its potential and wound down, the
Bolsheviks remained in possession of the battlefield. They immediately
unleashed their revolution, targeting owners and private ownership. With the
help of the masses, who unwittingly thought they were continuing their
revolution, Lenin's party managed to squelch the resistance of big owners
during the Civil War.
The party secured the peasants' backing because it had carried out Lenin's
promises from August 1917: landowners' property was distributed in Russia
on an egalitarian basis. However, the "commune state," which the Bolsheviks
started to build in the spring of 1918, was incompatible with the existence
of dozens of millions of small owners. The Bolsheviks immediately started to
have problems with the peasants.
Without hesitation Lenin placed on the agenda the question of changing the
social status of those whom he disparagingly called the "petty bourgeoisie,"
i.e., small manufacturers and farmers. He stated openly: "The major goal of
the revolution now is to fight against these two remaining classes. In order
to get rid of them, we have to use methods other than those used in the
struggle against the big landowners and capitalists" (Vladimir Lenin,
Collected Works, vol. 44, p. 38). He therefore insisted on finding other
methods, but the goal was nonetheless to "get rid of them."
The program approved by the party congress in March 1919 underscored the
Bolsheviks' view that the organization of soviet farms and the support of
all kinds of public farming associations, all the way to a commune, was the
only possible way to increase the productivity of farming work, which was
seen as an absolute necessity. However, "labor productivity" was part of the
camouflage. In reality, this was about establishing government control over
Before the program was approved, in January 1919 Moscow hosted the
Congress of Land Departments, Poor Peasants' Committees, and
Communes, which passed the resolution "On the Collectivization of
Farming." Commenting on it, the newspaper Pravda expressed the hope
that the development of these new forms would "inevitably lead to a
single communist organization of all agriculture."
The Kremlin started to implement the new land policy in newly- conquered
Ukraine, where landowners still owned the land. The Bolsheviks transferred
a large part of the landowners' lands not to the peasants but to sugar plants
and distilleries for the organization of soviet farms, or to those who
wished to form communes. In response, the peasants rose up in an armed
struggle against the Soviet government. The Red Army, most of which
consisted of peasant companies, lost its defense capability. The White
Guard quickly occupied Ukraine and Anton Denikin advanced on Moscow.
After Lenin defused the threat of the White Guard, he never again returned
to his old slogan calling for the immediate collectivization of the
countryside. To maintain the food supply to the army and cities, the Soviet
government had to conduct requisitions of food. Peasants refused to sow
crops under such conditions, which threatened to disrupt the harvest of the
To preclude this threat, Lenin decided to impose a sowing plan on each
peasant household. The 8th All-Russian Congress of Soviets in December
1920 passed a law to create a network of sowing committees. The imposition
of mandatory sowing plans returned the countryside to the days of serfdom,
the only difference being that the place of the land and serf owner was now
occupied by the "government of workers and peasants."
The peasants were reluctant to shoulder the burden of food requisitions. In
the winter months of 1920- 1921 Ukraine and the central chernozem oblast of
Russia, where the government's pressure on peasants was the greatest, turned
into an arena of mass uprisings. On Lenin's proposal, the 10th Congress of
the Communist Party was forced to replace the requisition principle in the
relations between the city and the countryside with taxes.
This first step away from the accelerated construction of communism gave
rise to others. The government abandoned the idea of abolishing money,
reintroduced free trade in agricultural products after the payment of a food
tax, and allowed private enterprise. Heavy industry remained under state
ownership, but an artificial partition - cost accounting - was introduced
between the state budget and the budgets of state enterprises. In this way a
new economic policy (NEP) materialized within the space of several months.
Embarking on the transition to the NEP, Lenin admitted that the policy of
the accelerated construction of communism did not justify hopes. Not
wanting to tarnish the doctrine, in March 1921, i.e., after the transition to the
NEP, Lenin labeled the communist transformations of 1918-1920 as "war
The chief replaced the necessary condemnation of the communist storm, which
had brought so much suffering onto the population, with a statement about
the storm itself having been necessitated by the conditions of the war. As a
result, in all Soviet encyclopedias "War Communism" was now described as a
system of temporary, extraordinary economic measures necessitated in view of
the Civil War and foreign intervention.
The NEP should not be overestimated. The market in which economic entities
found themselves was cut off from the world market, i.e., it was artificial.
Only the government's relations with peasant farms, which preserved private
ownership of production facilities (with the exception of land), were still
based on market-economy principles.
After his defeat of the opposition within the Politburo, Stalin resumed the
communist storm that Lenin had suspended in 1921. It was necessary to create
a socioeconomic groundwork for a totalitarian political regime. The lessons
of Lenin's failed storm were taken into account.
In the urban setting, within the working class, the depth of reforms was
limited. In particular, the money-for-goods exchange was preserved. The
trust-based cost accounting of the NEP period was replaced by improved
(in the sense of being more government-controlled) cost accounting of
enterprises. The working class preserved the right to freely choose the
place of employment. All of this significantly simplified the Kremlin's task
of keeping consolidated groups of workers under its control.
State party leaders even enlisted the workers' cooperation in creating heavy
industry, primarily enterprises of the military-industrial complex and their
infrastructure. Evidence of this was the genuine enthusiasm with which
workers participated in new construction projects of the first Five-Year
Implementing the communist storm in the countryside proved much harder
than in the cities. After all, real market relations had been preserved in
the countryside. A market is about selling and buying commodities based on
mutual agreement, and the peasants were not going to freely surrender to the
government the role of determining the price of their agricultural products.
When the government-imposed price seemed altogether unacceptable, the
peasants refused to sell grain. This led to grain-procurement crises.
On its part the government wanted to finance the tremendous
industrialization program at the expense of the peasantry. It simply had no
other financial resources. The Soviet government's refusal to recognize the
debts of the tsarist and interim governments deprived it of the possibility
to secure long-term loans in the West. The equipment needed for
construction projects was purchased on the terms of signature loans.
Only one thing could guarantee the extraction of the greatest possible
resources from the countryside: the peasant had to be transformed from an
owner, who independently decided what to do with his produce, into a hired
laborer in collective farms placed under the constant control of soviet and
The state had to divest the peasant of his property and equalize his social
status with that of the urban proletariat. As evidenced by the experience of
the 1919 collectivization, this could not be accomplished without resorting
to colossal coercive pressure.
Thus, the pervasive collectivization of agriculture had to be accompanied by
repressions. In turn, repressions led to resistance on the peasants' part.
This created a vicious circle. In this situation the "workers and peasants'"
state had to use all available forms of repressions against the peasants.
Only one person could decide on what kind of repressions to use: the person
who had usurped power in the state party and, by inference, in the state.
We have begun to grasp the fact that the collectivization of agriculture was
impossible without repressions. Why did Stalin opt for the most horrible
form of repressions, terror by famine, and what territory was affected and
when? These questions will be answered in my upcoming articles.
LINK: http://www.day.kiev.ua/153455/ [Part five of six]
[return to index] [The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
6. WHY DID STALIN EXTERMINATE THE UKRAINIANS?
Socioeconomic and national dimensions of the genocide
By Stanislav Kulchytsky, Ph.D. (History)
The Day Weekly Digest in English, #39
Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, 6 December 2005
In November 2003, on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the 1932-1933
Holodomor in Ukraine, the distinguished scholar James Mace proposed
lighting candles in tribute to the memory of the victims of this horrible
tragedy. Two years later the nation's leadership supported this proposal,
first publicized in The Day.
President Victor Yushchenko of Ukraine recently signed an order instituting
the Day to Commemorate the Victims of the Holodomor and Political
Repressions, which was observed this year on Nov. 26.
Now all that remains is for the Holodomor of the early 1930s to be
recognized as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian nation.
Among the researchers who are working to make this happen is the
eminent Ukrainian historian and regular contributor to The Day,
Today's feature concludes his series of articles on this subject.
In order to reveal the causes of terror by famine, it should be analyzed
within the context of the communist revolution that was carried out by the
Bolsheviks. This "revolution from the top" drastically changed the usual
forms of life in society. These changes provoked resistance, which in turn
gave rise to repressions by the state.
The communist revolution spanned two decades: from 1918 to 1938. Two
periods of onslaught can be singled out in this revolution: the Leninist
(1918-1920) and Stalinist (1929-1933). The Leninist onslaught targeted
landowners and the bourgeoisie. In its elimination of landowners the Soviet
government enjoyed the masses' absolute support. This created the illusion
of a continuous revolutionary process.
The Leninist onslaught only created the framework for the "commune state."
The attempt to extend the socioeconomic transformations to encompass small
owners failed. Faced with resistance from the peasantry, which threatened a
loss of power, Lenin implemented his new economic policy, leaving the
peasantry outside of the "commune state."
After lengthy preparations Stalin resumed the communist onslaught. The
nature and intensity of repressions during the Stalinist onslaught differed
over the course of time and from region to region. Where resistance was
strongest, Stalin used the most horrible form of repressions - terror by
famine. The Holodomor was the result of such terror.
THE PURPOSE OF SOCIOECONOMIC TRANSFORMATIONS
The propagandistic image of communism is well known: a society in which
people use as many material and spiritual resources as would satisfy their
needs. However, the true essence of Soviet communism, which was called
socialism because it could not provide enough resources to satisfy needs,
was determined by ownership relations, not an equal distribution of
None of the Bolshevik leaders intended to turn the country into a land of
milk and honey. Their aim was to eliminate private ownership of the means of
production and replace it with "common public" and "collective-farm and
cooperative" forms of ownership, to use the language of propaganda. In
reality, private ownership was to be replaced by Soviet state ownership.
At the time this state had no adequate economic foundation commensurate
with its size. It had deprived the people of political freedom, but failed
to subjugate them economically. During the Civil War the Communist Party
broke the landowners' resistance, but the property that was confiscated
from the bourgeoisie and landowners was used in different ways.
The Bolshevik leaders denounced attempts by workers' collectives to
privatize enterprises as "anarcho-syndicalism." Factories and plants were
proclaimed the peoples' property and came under state control. The state
called the working class the "leader" of the revolution and gave it broad
rights to manage production, the one thing it should be credited with.
However, the state became the arbiter of working peoples' destinies, and
the working class remained the same old proletariat.
The land was also proclaimed as the people's. However, the peasants
prevented the conversion of landowners' estates into state enterprises and
privatized them on an egalitarian basis. The Soviet government's early
socioeconomic transformations did not bring the peasantry any closer to
the "commune state"; in fact, quite the opposite. As long as the peasantry
remained economically independent, the Kremlin leaders could not
accomplish their goals.
We cannot understand the causes of the government's fanatical attempts to
collectivize the peasantry unless we answer the question: What were the
Kremlin's long- term goals?
In his "April Theses" Vladimir Lenin identified the creation of a "commune
state" and the Communist International (Comintern) as his long-term goals.
The bacchanalia of the "expropriation of expropriators" began after the
Bolsheviks seized power, but they established a very strict system of
accounting for seized valuables: gold, diamonds, and currency. Then Lenin's
emissaries spread out across Europe with suitcases stuffed with this wealth
to establish local networks of the Comintern.
After World War I, Europe underwent large-scale demobilization. In the
meantime, the war continued in Soviet Russia, and the strength of the Red
Army continued to grow, reaching five million soldiers in 1920. The
Bolsheviks felt that it was time to enter Europe. "We must probe with our
bayonets: perhaps a social revolution of the proletariat is already ripe in
Poland?" Lenin wrote.
After unsuccessful attempts to establish Soviet power in Hungary, Germany,
and Poland, the party leaders realized that a lengthy period of peaceful
development lay ahead. They had to build industry that would be on a par
with the industries of the major European countries in order to replace the
primitive bayonet with tanks and planes.
In 1920 Lenin initiated the development and consolidation of a state plan to
electrify Russia (GOELRO Plan), i.e., to rebuild and build industry and
transport, which depended on electricity. The GOELRO Plan failed for lack
of funds, but soon Stalin's Five-Year Plans were developed, requiring even
The 14th Congress of the All- Union Communist Party (Bolshevik) in
December 1925 endorsed an industrialization policy for the country. This
immediately created the problem of securing funds for capital construction.
The "all-Union elder" Mikhail Kalinin stated emphatically: we must sacrifice
the last shirt to build the Dnipro Hydroelectric Power Plant.
The plan was to take the "last shirt" off the peasants. The state could not
force peasant owners to sell grain at below-market prices, which is why it
adopted a policy to exterminate this category of producers. Turning them
into collective farmers would resolve this problem. Collective farmers, much
like industrial workers, had nothing to do with selling the products of
If you superimpose the vector of communist transformations onto the vector
of normal development, you will see an interesting picture. Because of the
unsuccessful attempt to impose communes on the Ukrainian peasantry during
the first communist onslaught, Lenin was forced to make the implementation
of the country's industrialization program constantly dependent on
requisitions of grain from peasants.
Endorsed in December 1920 by the 8th All-Russian Congress of Soviets, the
GOELRO Plan was to be implemented at the expense of food requisitions.
Hoping that the Soviet government would be able to create a grain reserve of
300 million poods [491,700 tons], Lenin told the congress that the task of
electrifying Russia could not be approached without such a reserve.
The same congress approved a bill "On Measures to Strengthen and Develop
Agriculture," according to which each peasant household was to receive a
compulsory quota for sowing the fields. Lenin told the congress, "The
essence of the bill is to arrive at practical measures to assist struggling
independent households by providing the kind of assistance that would
combine both incentives and constraint."
After three years of industrialization (1926-1928) the Kremlin was not
satisfied with the results. While endorsing the most fast-paced version of
the first Five-Year Plan, Stalin simultaneously launched the total
collectivization of agriculture. Collective farms produced incomparably more
national income than could ever come from direct and indirect taxes levied
on economically independent households of peasant owners.
The vector of sociopolitical development in European countries was directed
away from feudal and serf-like forms of labor organization toward
market-based forms that facilitated a democratic structuring of society.
Despite all assurances of its social justice and a higher degree of
democracy as compared to the bourgeois system, the vector of communist
labor organization was aimed in the opposite direction: toward forced labor.
ELIMINATION OF WEALTHY KURKUL PEASANTS AS A CLASS
The pace of capital construction in industry matched available resources
only in the first year of industrialization. From then on its volumes were
increased by way of cash infusions unsupported by goods. This tipped the
fragile market balance that had been secured during the reconstruction
period. In a country where the "command heights" of the economy were
controlled by the state, prices remained more or less stable.
The market imbalance was manifested in the form of commodity shortages.
With demand outpacing supply, industrial goods sold out immediately. The
government's attempts to restrain inflationary price hikes in agriculture
forced peasants to refuse to supply their products to the market.
Soviet historiography referred to these phenomena as the "NEP crisis."
Allegedly, the New Economic Policy had exhausted all of its potential, and
the government naturally moved toward the industrialization policy and the
concomitant total collectivization of agriculture.
In fact, the "NEP crisis," which was mostly manifested as a grain
procurement crisis, was the result of a mistaken policy of the country's
leaders, who had chosen forced industrialization as their overriding policy
goal. Grain shortages helped Communist Party committees to prepare public
support for the planned pogrom against peasant owners.
In his Nov. 7, 1929, article entitled "The Year of the Great Turning Point,"
Stalin claimed that peasants were joining collective farms "in entire
villages, volosts [several village communities - Ed.], raions, and even
districts." It was a bluff, but it served its purpose. Local leaders were
under the impression that they were falling behind their neighbors, for
their percentage of collective farms was pitiful.
This article preceded the plenum of the CC AUCP(b), which officially
broached the question of implementing total collectivization. The plenum
recommended implementing a policy of "the elimination of wealthy kurkul
peasants as a class" in areas of total collectivization.
To prevent resistance to total collectivization, Chekist agents were
instructed to divide kurkuls, wealthy peasants, into three categories: the
active body of kurkuls, who were subject to imprisonment in concentration
camps or immediate physical elimination; other elements of the active body
of kurkuls, who were subject to deportation to remote areas; and the
remaining kurkuls, who had most of their production facilities confiscated
and were allowed to settle outside the territory of collective farms.
The number of liquidated kurkul households in all three categories was
supposed to amount to between 3 and 5 percent of the total number of
"DIZZY WITH SUCCESS"
The Kremlin arbiters of the peasants' destiny thought that they could
implement collectivization entirely according to plan. It was a plan on the
scale of the 1919 program to create a "commune state." The dekulakization
campaign deprived the peasants of the will to resist, forcing them to join
the "collective farm movement." In this case the authors of total
collectivization were absolutely correct in their calculations. Why then in
the early months of 1930 did the party and state leaders suddenly feel that
the Soviet government was on the verge of collapse?
While the dekulakization lists were being compiled, every peasant was
willing to submit an application to join a collective farm in order to save
his own farm. When it turned out that they were required to part with even
the last cow and even small farm animals and poultry, peasants began to
Armed insurgencies were infrequent because the secret police had made
sure to confiscate all the weapons that remained in villages since the war.
Despite their disorganized and spontaneous nature, however, revolts
against the government were becoming increasingly more dangerous.
On Feb. 26, 1930, the CC AUCP(b) received a panicky telegram from Kharkiv,
sent by Panas Liubchenko and Hryhorii Petrovsky. The two Ukrainian leaders
reported mass civil unrest in the Pluzhniansk border raion. In the following
days, similar reports trickled in from other regions, but Stalin was
especially concerned about the situation in the Ukrainian-Polish frontier
According to the minutes of the March 5 Politburo meeting, on Feb. 28 the
Politburo voted to approve amendments to the Exemplary Charter of an
agricultural cooperative (artel). The newly-worded charter was to be
published in newspapers on March 2, followed by an explanatory article from
Unlike the old charter, the new charter clearly identified what peasants had
to hand over to common ownership when establishing a collective farm.
Collective farmers were given the right to keep a cow, small farm animals,
and a garden plot. In his article entitled "Dizzy with Success," Stalin
stated without any reservations: "The artel is the main link in the
collective farm movement."
The commune was replaced by a peasants' artel - "a two-faced Janus." One
of its faces was turned to the economy, which operated according to an
administrative command plan, while its other face was turned to the market
economy, i.e., live production that existed because of the producer's
natural motivation. The artel form of the collective farm necessitated the
formation of a free market in which prices were formed according to the law
of supply and demand. It necessitated the existence of goods-for-money
exchange, notably not only in the limited sector of agricultural production
but in the whole economy.
Initially, membership in an artel was considered temporary. The resolution
of the 16th Congress of the AUCP(b) convened in June-July 1930 under-
scored that at this stage the main form of a collective farm is an agricultural
artel. But the document also expressed the assumption that the "collective
farm movement can rise to a higher form - a commune - in line with the
rising level of technical facilities, increasing collective farm membership,
and the rising cultural level of collective farmers." However, Stalin no
longer dared attempt to encroach on a peasant's cow or garden plot.
The market economy visage of the collective farm system softened the
disproportions of the Soviet economy, which were inherent in administrative
regulation. It signaled to the managers of the planned economy when and
where they should adopt measures to avoid difficulties with the sale of
products, conversion of wages into goods, etc.
Alongside free choice of employment, which the working class received
without any efforts on its part, in 1930 peasants secured for themselves a
garden plot with a cow and small farm animals. These two elements, which are
alien to the communist economy, enabled it to function for a long time. It
was always ineffective, but it enabled the Kremlin to exploit the colossal
mobilization resource that this economy possessed by virtue of its nature.
CRISIS IN THE COLLECTIVE FARM SYSTEM
Soviet historiography recognized the fact that the collective farm system
experienced a crisis in 1930- 1932, along with "food supply complications"
that it caused. It was believed that the crisis was the result of the
farmers' inability to work collectively. In time, things purportedly
returned to normal; the party and government carried out the
organizational-economic strengthening of collective farms, and the
collective farm system emerged from the crisis.
These statements appeared to be supported by government declarations and
decrees. In March 1930 the Kremlin repudiated the idea of imposing communes
under the guise of artels. In April 1930 the government passed a law on
grain procurements: collective farms were expected to supply the government
between one-third and a quarter of their gross yield. Most of the yield was
subject to distribution according to the number of workdays. In May 1932 the
government allowed collective farms to sell their products at market prices.
The reality, however, was different. In grain-growing regions the government
in fact reinstated food requisitions from Civil War times. For three years
running almost entire harvests were confiscated from collective farms,
condemning farmers to starvation. In grain-consuming regions the government
restricted bread supplies and confiscated ration cards from entire
categories of the population, which also resulted in starvation. Where did
all the grain go?
In 1929 an unprecedented economic crisis engulfed the world, which came to
be known as the Great Depression. In these conditions prices for industrial
equipment dropped. Soviet foreign trade organizations happily bought
everything at low prices and on preferential payment terms, paying in
It turned out, however, that prices for agricultural products dropped even
further. Nobody was issuing long-term loans, and to earn foreign currency
the Soviet government had to sell more grain. Delayed exports of grain
spelled big trouble. In order to find currency for yet another payment on
its bonds, the Soviet government auctioned off museum treasures.
In the meantime, the volume of grain procurements shrank substantially.
Peasants only pretended to work in collective farm fields because they were
paid almost nothing for their products. The Kremlin offered a political
assessment of such unscrupulous behavior, condemning it as kurkul sabotage.
With each passing year grain requisitions were becoming more and more
severe. In the fall of 1932 Stalin established extraordinary procurement
commissions in the major grain-growing regions.
The commission in Ukraine was chaired by Viacheslav Molotov, head of the
USSR Council of People's Commissars (Radnarkom). The commission in the
Northern Caucasus was chaired by Lazar Kaganovich, secretary of the CC
AUCP(b). The commission in the Volga region was headed by Pavel
Postyshev, secretary of the CC AUCP(b). Their work resulted in famine in
all three regions.
Stalin appeared close-lipped even among his closest associates. In state
matters he considered it imperative to keep his distance. Only in rare
moments of extreme anxiety would he commit to paper the words that give
an inkling into the dark depths of his damned soul.
Why was Stalin occasionally compelled to write letters to his subordinates?
This was the only possible way for him to discuss confidential matters with
his subordinates in the Kremlin during his stays in southern resorts. In his
Aug. 11, 1932, letter to Lazar Kaganovich, Stalin expressed profound
outrage over the fact that dozens of raion party committees in Kyiv and
Dnipropetrovsk oblasts dared to say that the grain procurement plan was
He wrote, "Unless we immediately start to improve the situation in Ukraine,
we might lose Ukraine. Mind you, that Pilsudski is not sleeping, and his
agents in Ukraine are many times stronger than Redens or Kosior might think.
Also keep in mind that the ranks of the Ukrainian Communist Party (500,000
members, ha-ha) have quite a few (yes, quite a few!) rotten elements,
conscious and unconscious followers of Petliura, and, finally, direct agents
of Pilsudski. As soon as matters take a turn for the worse, these elements
will rush to open the front inside (and outside) of the party, against the
party. The worst thing is that the Ukrainian leadership is blind to these
dangers. This can no longer continue."
Stalin's concern merits special attention. He feared "losing Ukraine" and
intended to "improve the situation" lest "matters take a turn for the
worse." The Kremlin ruler never waited for matters to take a turn for the
worse. Stalin's 25-year-long dictatorship had seen various forms of
repressions, all of which had one thing in common: they were preventive.
Stalin stayed on top of events, remembering the maxim of the Chinese sage
Lao Tzu: "Set things in order before there is confusion."
NATIONALITY OR CITIZENSHIP?
In an article published in the Russian journal Otechestvennaia istoriia
[National History] (no. 1, 1995), the German professor Stefan Merl stated
that the very fact of famine in Ukraine in 1932-1933 does not prove that an
act of genocide took place. The total number of famine victims "had no
major significance" for him either.
This statement makes my skin crawl, but I cannot help attributing it to the
imperfections of the legal definition of the term "genocide." Merl suggests
that Robert Conquest and his fellow thinkers should prove with facts that
Ukrainians died because of their nationality and that "the Holodomor was
engineered for this very purpose."
The Russian professor Viktor Kondrashyn sided with Merl: "The famine equally
affected the countryside with a Russian and non-Russian population and had
no 'national specifics,' i.e., it did not target any one particular nation."
The truth is not on the side of Merl and Kondrashyn, nor is it on the side
of scholars who refute their allegations. Polemics in the field chosen by
Conquest's opponents will necessarily lead them to a dead end. The very
phrasing of the question is incorrect.
Let us consult available statistics. Mortality statistics in the USSR were
broken down by nation; separately for urban and rural residents. It should
be kept in mind that, first of all, vital statistics departments recorded no
more than one-half of all deaths in Ukraine in 1933; second, deaths as a
result of starvation are not singled out in these statistics.
The statistics indicate an abnormally high death rate in the countryside and
an identical mortality rate in the countryside for all national groups, if
you compare the number of deaths with the number of all village residents in
any given group. This means that the criterion according to which people
died in Ukraine was their place of residence and not their nationality. The
famine affected the countryside and the peasants as a social group.
A comparison of official mortality statistics by region creates a different
picture. In 1933 the death rate exceeded the birth rate in seven regions in
the European part of the USSR. The excess of deaths over births was most
pronounced in regions where extraordinary grain procurement commissions
were established: the Ukrainian SSR (1,459,000), the Northern Caucasus
Territory (291,000), and two territories in the Volga region (178,000).
In Central-Chernozem oblast the number of deaths exceeded the number of
births by 62,000; this figure was 35,000 for Ural oblast and 5,000 for the
Northern Territory. In the grain-consuming regions, excessive death rates
were observed in cities where people were deprived of ration cards for state
We cannot compare Ukraine and the Northern Caucasus Territory. Among
the territory's six districts, the hardest hit by famine was the Kuban
district, two-thirds of whose population was Ukrainian (according to the
The other districts suffered much less, which is why the total death rate
for the whole territory does not appear to be as horrible as the death rate
Ukraine can be compared with the Volga region, but not only according to
official 1933 statistics, which do not reflect the full picture of the
mortality rate, but according to calculations of direct losses from the
famine, based on the analysis of the 1926 and 1937 censuses and the
demographic statistics for the inter-census period.
Ukraine and the Volga region cannot be compared in terms of population size,
but they are comparable in terms of their territory. Before 1939 Ukraine's
territory was 450,000 square kilometers versus the Volga region's 435,000
square kilometers. Kondrashyn estimated that famine claimed 366,000 lives in
the Volga region. According to my calculations, the direct losses from the
famine in Ukraine were 3,238,000 persons, i.e., higher by an order of
In 1933 people starved to death in many regions, but a manmade famine with
an astounding number of victims was observed only in two political-
administrative formations, where Ukrainians made up more than two-thirds of
the general population: the USSR and the Kuban district of the Northern
Thus, the Holodomor affected primarily Ukrainians, and more specifically -
Ukrainian peasants in Ukraine and Russia. This more precise definition is
necessary, and we should not argue with Stefan Merl or Viktor Kondrashyn
on the terms that they impose on us.
We will never prove to the grandchildren of those Ukrainian citizens who
starved to death, let alone to the international community, that people died
in 1933 in the USSR as a result of their national affiliation, i.e., in the
same way that Armenians died in the Ottoman Empire in 1915, or Jews in the
European countries that were occupied by Hitler's Reich.
And there is no need to prove this, because the mechanism of the Soviet
genocide was different. The terror by famine that Stalin unleashed on
Ukraine and the Kuban was an act of genocide against Ukrainian citizens, not
THE KREMLIN AND UKRAINIAN CITIZENS
To understand why Stalin was afraid that he would "lose Ukraine," we must
examine the essence of Ukrainian citizenship and national Soviet statehood,
albeit not the statehood as it is remembered by contemporary generations,
but the statehood as it was before the Holodomor.
In the above-mentioned letter, Stalin informed Kaganovich that he wanted to
make him secretary general of the CC CP(b)U in place of Stanislav Kosior.
Kaganovich had occupied this post earlier, in 1925-1928, so he replied
obediently: "Of course, it would be easier for me to get down to business
immediately, because I know the country, its economy, and the people."
Unlike us, Kaganovich called Ukraine a country. Everyone who survived 1933
and 1937, and even more so all those who were born later, referred to the
Soviet Union as "the country." They grew accustomed to calling Ukraine a
Earlier we concluded that the symbiosis of the Communist Party dictatorship
and power of the Soviet organs enabled the Kremlin to package the
totalitarian regime as a "government by the people." Now it must be pointed
out that the dual nature of Soviet statehood made it possible to present the
strictly centralized "commune state" in the misleading guise of a country
without a name, which was made up of nine outwardly independent Soviet
states. In this way the national-liberation movement of oppressed nations
was undermined from within.
After the Civil War, the Bolshevik leaders came up with the idea to turn the
"independent" states into autonomous republics of the Russian Federation.
However, the leader of Soviet Ukraine, Khristian Rakovsky, protested. Lenin
called him an "independentist" in a friendly manner, but took into account
the feelings of peripheral Communist Party and Soviet leaders who wanted to
retain their powers. So he proposed adding another level to the Soviet
federation. All the "independent" national states were to enter on an equal
basis with Russia a new state formation - the Soviet Union.
Citizens in each union republic were given the constitutional right to
secede from the USSR. The only thing holding the "commune state together"
was the dictatorship of the Communist Party. It was up to the party to make
sure that citizens in the Union republics did not have any dangerous wishes.
Immediately after the USSR was established, the Kremlin chose indigenization
(literally, "enrooting") as the main line of its national policy. Its
Ukrainian variant was called Ukrainization. The purpose of this policy was
to implant Soviet power. But there was a side effect of this policy.
Ukrainians started to hear their previously persecuted native language in
schools and cultural institutions. A national revival began in Ukraine.
The economic and human potential of the Ukrainian SSR matched that of all
the remaining national republics taken together. For this reason it received
special attention from competing political figures within the Politburo of
the CC AUCP(b). Stalin became Ukraine's "best friend" after he managed to
install his ally Kaganovich in the top post in this republic. With the
support of Kaganovich and Stalin, People's Commissar for Education Mykola
Skrypnyk squeezed the utmost out of the indigenization policy.
In 1927 he stated publicly that the Ukrainian SSR "is a Piedmont for the
whole Ukrainian nation inhabiting the entire ethnographic territory of
Ukraine." He did not mean only the Western Ukrainian lands then occupied
by other countries. The 1926 census showed that nearly eight million
Ukrainians resided in the Russian Federation.
While Stalin was engaged in the struggle for power, he ignored such
statements. However, two decrees of the CC AUCP(b) and the Radnarkom
of the USSR, dated Dec. 14 and 15, 1932, respectively, proclaimed
Ukrainization outside the Ukrainian SSR as "Petliurite."
In the Northern Caucasus, where Ukrainization encompassed nearly one-half
of all raions, all institutions, schools, and the press immediately switched to
the Russian language as being "more understandable" to the population.
Kuban residents and Ukrainians in other districts of the territory were ordered
to consider themselves Russian.
According to the All-Union Census of 1939, 86.8 percent of the population
of Krasnodar Territory was already registered as Russians. Only 150,000
citizens, or 4.7 percent, who arrived there in the 1930s, dared admit to
On the one hand, Soviet national statehood was a major propaganda
achievement for the state party leaders. On the other hand, the Kremlin
leaders did not trust even their own party in Ukraine (recall Stalin's "ha-
ha" in his letter to Kaganovich). The Kremlin had not forgotten that between
1917 and 1919 it had to conquer Ukraine three times.
The Kremlin chiefs also remembered the single case of insurrection in the
party's nearly 100-year history, which was paralyzed since day one by the
principle of "democratic centralism": the 4th All-Ukrainian Party Conference
in the spring of 1920 voted down the list of CC CP(b)U members proposed
by Lenin and elected its own preferred leaders.
Despite the broadly advertised successes of the first Five-Year Plan, the
economic situation in the USSR was deteriorating inexorably. Stalin realized
that the crisis could weaken the Kremlin's iron grip ("as soon as matters
take a turn for the worse").
Under such conditions, the Communist Party and Soviet nomenklatura in
Kharkiv could change color from red to blue-and-yellow and use Ukraine's
frontier location and constitutional rights to secede from Moscow. During
Stalin's lifetime (in 1950) the outstanding Ukrainian historian Ivan
Lysiak-Rudnytsky published an article entitled "Against Russia or Against
the Soviet System" in a West Berlin journal.
It contained a forecast that came true only when the Soviet empire crumbled
in 1989 and 1991: "The elimination of the communist system in the
contemporary Soviet 'union republics,' much like in the satellite states,
would not in the least be a painful coup, on the contrary, it would be a
happy and natural return to their own national identity."
In order to prevent such a turn of events, Stalin turned Ukraine into the
epicenter of repressions for a long period of time.
"Without a peasant army there cannot be a strong national movement,"
Stalin wrote with confidence in 1925. One can quite agree with this
statement if one analyzes the Ukrainian revolution of 1917-1920. However,
the total collectivization of peasant households undermined the basis of
the liberation movement in all the national republics, while the terror by
famine that was used against the Ukrainian SSR and the Kuban eliminated
the potential threat to the Kremlin from the most powerful republic.
After taking care of the peasant question, which Stalin considered the
national question, the dictator immediately turned his attention to the
Ukrainian intelligentsia, both in the Communist Party and outside it. On his
orders, in November 1933 the joint plenum of the Central Committee and
the Central Controlling Commission of the CP(b)U endorsed a thesis about
nationalist deviations as the main danger within the party and the state.
The 17th AUCP(b) Congress in January 1934 supported and expanded on
this thesis. The most large-scale extermination of the Ukrainian
intelligentsia began after the suicide in July 1933 of the hounded Mykola
Skrypnyk. Under the banner of the fight against "Skrypnykivshchyna" the
membership of the CP(b)U was axed by 110,000 persons during 1933.
In 1932-1938, the years of horror for Ukraine, most Ukrainian cultural
figures, including representatives of the new generation of worker and
peasant backgrounds, ended up in concentration camps and prisons.
The secret police targeted virtually anyone who had participated in the
Ukrainian revolution of 1917-1920. At the same time, Stalin launched
purges in his own creation in Ukraine.
Of the 62 members of the CC CP(b)U who were elected by the 13th
Congress in June 1937, 56 were accused of hostile activities. Out of 11
Politburo CC CP(b)U members, 10 were subjected to repressions.
HOW IT HAPPENED
To organize the death of millions of people is no simple task. This required
special skills, experience, and tens of thousands of perpetrators.
Rejecting James Mace's conclusion of the US Congressional Commission on
the 1932-1933 famine in Ukraine, Stefan Merl wrote, "Expropriations of grain
were conducted as a rule by local activists of Ukrainian nationality. And it
is hard to combine this fact, which is mentioned with regret in the
congressional report, with the thesis about genocide."
Taking the opposite tack, his fellow countryman, the German historian
Gerhard Simon, formulated the following Bolshevik principle based on his
lengthy study of the CPSU's nationalities policy: "Victims and killers
should belong to the same ethnos."
Countless facts prove that Simon is correct. But when we approach the
problem from this angle, we should not speculate on the nationality of
those who issued and fulfilled the orders that resulted in the genocide.
Unfortunately, extreme nationalists never miss an opportunity to cast
aspersions on those nations to which they have a negative attitude.
The Georgian Stalin, the Jew Kaganovich, the Russian Molotov, or the
Pole Kosior - none of these individuals place any burden of guilt on their
respective nations. The infernal political regime created by Lenin was
international in nature.
The peasants' unwillingness to work without pay in the collective farm
fields was described as "kurkul sabotage." The unwillingness of Communist
Party and Soviet officials to extort bread from famished peasants was viewed
as "treason." In his Dec. 13, 1932, directive to local party organizations,
Kosior proposed that they immediately raise the question of depriving
"traitors" of their party cards, deporting them to the north, imprisoning
them for long periods, or executing them by firing squad.
Kosior's directive was a response to local leaders' attitudes toward the
instructions from the extraordinary grain procurement commissions:
Molotov's in Ukraine and Kaganovich's in the Kuban. The instructions
were dictated by Stalin and boiled down to terror by famine.
On Nov. 2-4 the bureau of the Northern Caucasus Territorial Committee
of the AUCP(b) considered the question "On the Course of Grain
Procurements and Sowing in the Raions of the Kuban." Ten Kuban raions
were placed on a "blacklist": within a short period of time all of their grain
and almost all foodstuffs were confiscated.
Molotov pressured the CC CP(b)U and the Radnarkom of the Ukrainian
SSR into adopting decrees, on Nov. 18 and 20, respectively, both of which
were almost identical in terms of their content and had identical titles: "On
Measures to Intensify Grain Procurements." The main point of the Ukrainian
and Kuban decrees was the introduction of fines in kind.
Collective farms, collective farmers, and independent farmers who owed grain
to the state were given additional tasks to supply a 15-month quota of meat
and a one- or two-year quota of potatoes. Stalin made his position known
after these decrees were endorsed. Addressing the Nov. 27 joint session of
the CC Politburo and Presidium of the Central Controlling Committee of the
AUCP(b), he stated that Ukraine and the Kuban are concealing grain in pits
and sabotaging grain procurements, thereby threatening the working class
The local authorities quickly fulfilled the task of confiscating grain,
meat, and potatoes from collective farms and Soviet state farms. It was more
difficult to confiscate food from peasants' households. During a visit to
Odesa oblast as part of an inspection team, on Dec. 23 Kaganovich offered
guidance to secretaries of raion party committees: "You should never hit
them in their mugs.
However, ably conducted searches, not only among individual owners but
also among collective farmers, owners, and communists, are not overkill.
You must take the village in such a "thrust" as to force the peasants to
open the pits themselves."
Stalin himself teamed up with Kaganovich. On Jan. 1, 1933, he sent a
telegram in the form of a CC AUCP(b) decree to Kharkiv.
This telegram reflects the entire year of 1933:
"Let the CC CP(b)U and the Radnarkom of the Ukrainian SSR widely inform
collective farmers and independent farmers through village councils and
collective farms that: a) those who voluntarily hand over to the government
previously stolen and concealed grain will not be subject to repressions; b)
as for those collective farmers, collective farms, and independent farmers
who stubbornly continue to hide stolen and concealed grain, they will be
subject to the severest degrees of punishment envisioned by the decrees of
the Central Executive Committee and Radnarkom of the USSR of Aug. 7,
1932 (on the protection of the property of state enterprises, collective
farms, and on cooperation and consolidation of socialist ownership)."
The horrible meaning of this New Year's telegram becomes clear only
when it is studied analytically. The first item was a warning: hand over grain,
or else. The nature of repressions was not defined. The second item
becomes clear when it is compared to the first one. It was addressed to
those peasants who ignored the warning. But such peasants had to be
identified. In what way? There was no other method except searches.
Thus, Stalin's telegram was a warning about mass searches. Grain might or
might not be found during searches. In the first case, peasants would be
subjected to repressions under the law of Aug. 7, 1932. It was not revealed
what action was to be taken in the second case. However, as of November
1932 fines in kind were imposed on everyone in whose possession no grain
was found during the search. Understandably, the peasants concluded that
where no grain was found, other durable foodstuffs would be confiscated.
For lack of space I cannot paint a full picture of searches, based on the
recollections of famine survivors. I will point out the most important
thing: they seized not only grain, meat, lard, and potatoes, as envisioned
by party and government decrees. They also confiscated beets, peas,
beans, millet, onions, dried fruit, and anything else that the peasants had
preserved to last them until the next harvest.
Searches in each village were conducted by members of poor peasants'
committees led by grain procurement officials, secret police officers, and
policemen. We cannot blame them, for they wanted to eat, just as we
cannot blame the peasants subjected to searches, who later ate their
children or parents.
The state grain procurement campaign after the 1932 harvest began in July.
One hundred thirty-six million poods [2,229,040 tons] of grain were
stockpiled by the end of October. Over the next three months Molotov's
commission "procured" another 87 million poods [1,425,930 tons] of grain.
What was the percentage of grain seized during searches? There is one
reference: between Dec. 1 and Jan. 25 the GPU and NKVD organs
discovered 14,956 pits and 1,980 other caches and confiscated 1.7 million
poods [27,863 tons] of grain.
The editors of Pravda organized a 10-day campaign against grain thieves.
The raid that lasted from Aug. 7 to 17, 1932, involved some 100,000
"shock workers of the press." Pravda's correspondent in Dnipropetrovsk
oblast appealed to his readers: Look for them; after all, there is an
underground "grain city!"
The searchers did not find anything at the time, and the house-to-house
searches in December and January produced a paltry amount of grain (it
should be added that this 1.7 million poods of grain also included grain
confiscated from grain dealers). Under the guise of a legend about
underground "grain cities," a hideous campaign to seize grain and all
non-grain foodstuffs, which had nothing to do with grain procurements,
was carried out in Ukrainian and Kuban villages.
The purpose of this campaign is revealed in a comment that Kosior made
in his March 15, 1933, letter to Stalin: "to teach collective farmers a
lesson." This judgment corresponded to the conclusion made at the time
by CC CP(b)U secretary M. Khatayevych: "Among the majority of those
collective farmers, who not so long ago were stealing collective farm grain,
mishandling collective farm property, and refusing to work honestly in
collective production, there are signs that they are increasingly
comprehending the need to work for the benefit of the collective farm in
a fair and diligent manner."
The same motif can be discerned in the May 31, 1933 report of Italy's
General Consul Sergio Gradenigo to the Italian government. A high-ranking
secret police officer told him that "the peasants should be taught a lesson"
("per dare una lezione al contadino"). Finally, we see the same motif from a
different but downright horrible angle in a report of the People's Commissar
for Agriculture, A. Odyntsov, who toured villages in the Kyiv area. "People
are becoming more conscientious, including those who are starving, and
there is growing anger at idlers and thieves," he wrote in his report.
"Conscientious farmers are for the death by starvation of idlers and
Do these statements correspond to the truth? Absolutely! The purpose of
Stalin's terror was to educate people by murdering them. This was repeatedly
proven by the hectic activity of Postyshev, whom Stalin appointed as second
secretary of the CC CP(b)U. In late 1933 he came to Kharkiv while retaining
his position as secretary of the CC AUCP(b).
Stalin gave him two main instructions: first, stop "Skrypnykivshchyna," and,
second, save the peasants who could still join the sowing campaign. As of
Feb. 1, grain requisitions were officially halted in Ukraine. The republic
began receiving loans in the form of food and seeds. Now the state was
giving food to those peasants who could work.
On Jan. 22, 1933, Stalin and Molotov sent a secret directive ordering the
adoption of measures to prevent a mass exodus of peasants to other regions.
All roads out of Ukraine and the Northern Caucasus Territory, including dirt
roads, were closed by the GPU organs, police, and local activists of poor
peasants' committees. The starving peasants were condemned to die a slow
death in their villages, with the exception of those whom the state had
begun to feed in the fields during the sowing campaign.
Without knowing the factual material available to us now, Ivan
Lysiak-Rudnytsky provided a surprisingly accurate description of the
situation in Ukraine during the years of Stalin's dictatorship in an article
entitled "Novyi Pereyaslav" [The New Pereyaslav] first published in 1956
in the Paris-based Polish-language journal Kultura: "Stalin's policy with
respect to Ukraine boiled down to a gigantic attempt to break down the
resistance of the Ukrainian people by means of physical violence.
At the same time, perhaps it was not about the total extermination of
Ukrainians, as this was done with the Crimean Tatars, Germans in the
Volga region, Kalmyks, and certain other peoples in the Northern
Caucasus; Ukrainians were too numerous for this. Instead, Stalin
consistently favored the elimination of all active Ukrainian social groups,
and thus, having decapitated the nation, to force it to capitulate and turn
it into an obedient tool in the hands of the Kremlin rulers."
The Holodomor in Ukraine and the Kuban significantly influenced the
formation of the Soviet economy as we know it. Convinced that the
peasants would not work on collective farms for free, Stalin initiated
the Jan. 19, 1933, decree of the People's Commissariat of the USSR and
the CC AUCP(b) "On Compulsory Supplies of Grain to the State by
Collective Farms and Independent Households."
Could a single decree bring about radical changes in the economic
situation? It could, and there is an example to prove it: the resolution of
the 10th Congress of the Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik) on the
transition from food requisitions to a food tax. With its decree of Jan.
19, 1933, the state recognized that products grown on collective farms
belonged to the peasants.
It recognized that the state was to receive only part of the value of these
products in the form of a tax. Collective farmers had to be informed
about the tax before the start of the agricultural year. All the remaining
products belonged to the peasants and could be used at their discretion.
For the first time this sparked interest in the results of collective
Despite this lengthy series of articles, I was unable to cover all of the
significant aspects of the Ukrainian Holodomor from the chosen
perspective. However, what has been said will suffice to refute the
superficial arguments of opponents of the idea of the Holodomor as an
act of genocide.
Now the important goal for Ukrainian historians is to circulate the
available arguments within Ukrainian society and throughout the world.
The international community must recognize the Holodomor as an act
of genocide against the Ukrainian nation. -30-
LINK: http://www.day.kiev.ua/153901/ [Concluding article, six of six]
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