Holodomor: The Secret Holocaust in Ukraine
Written by James Perloff
When Ukraine resisted Soviet attempts at collectivization
in the 1920s and '30s, the
Soviet Union under Stalin used labor camps, executions,
and starvation (Holodomor)
to kill millions of Ukrainians.
In 1933, the recently elected administration
of Franklin D. Roosevelt granted official
U.S. recognition to the Soviet Union for the first
time. Especially repugnant was that this
recognition was granted even though Soviet
dictator Joseph Stalin had just concluded
a campaign of genocide against Ukraine that
left over 10 million dead. This atrocity was
known to the Roosevelt administration, but
not to the American people at large,
thanks to suppression of the story by the Western
press — as we shall show.
genocide remains largely unknown. After 76 years, the blood
of the victims still cries for truth,
and the guilt of the perpetrators for exposure.
Many Americans are barely acquainted with Ukraine, even though it is Europe's second
largest country after Russia, and has been a distinct land and people for centuries. One
for this unfamiliarity is that Ukraine has rarely known political independence; it
was under Russia's heel throughout much of its existence — under Soviet domination
to 1991, and under Czarist Russia before that. Many American students heard little
of Ukraine in their history classes because the nation had been relegated to the
of a Russian "province."
Stalin accomplished genocide against Ukraine
by two means. One was massive executions
and deportations to labor camps. But his
second tool of murder was more unique: an
artificial famine created by confiscation
of all food. Ukrainians call this the Holodomor,
translated by one modern Ukrainian
dictionary as "artificial hunger, organized on a vast
scale by the criminal regime
against the country's population," but often simply translated
Ukraine was the last place one
would have expected famine, for it had been known for
centuries as the "breadbasket
of Europe." French diplomat Blaise de Vigenère wrote in
is overflowing with honey and wax.... The soil of this country is so good
and fertile that
when you leave a plow in the field, it becomes overgrown with grass after
two or three
days. It will be difficult to find." The 18th-century British traveler Joseph Marshall
wrote: "The Ukraine is the richest province of the Russian empire.... The soil is a black loam....
I think I have never seen such deep plowing as these peasants give their ground."
In the aftermath of the 1917 Russian Revolution, Ukraine became part of
a bloody battlefield
of fighting between the Bolsheviks (the group that eventually
became the Communist Party
of the Soviet Union), Czarist Whites, and Ukrainian nationalists.
Ultimately, of course,
the Bolsheviks prevailed, but Lenin shrewdly recognized that
concessions would be necessary
to gain Ukraine's cooperation as a member of the unstable
young USSR. To exploit
Ukrainians' long-standing resentment of Czarist domination,
he permitted them to retain
much of their national culture. Ukrainians experienced a relatively
high degree of freedom
extending into the mid-1920s. The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox
non-communist Ukrainian Academy of Sciences were allowed to operate independently.
However, as the Soviet Union consolidated its power, and Joseph Stalin ascended to
the party's top, these freedoms became expendable, and Ukrainian nationalism,
at first exploited, now became viewed as a liability.
Despite a communist push for collectivization,
Ukraine's farms had mostly remained private
— the foundation of their success. But in
1929, the Central Committee of the Soviet
Union's Communist Party decided to embark
on a program of total collectivization. Private
farms were to be completely replaced
by collectives — in Ukraine known as kolkhozes.
This was, of course,
consistent with Marxist ideology:
the Communist Manifesto had called for abolition
of private property.
was placed upon Ukrainian peasants to join the kolkhozes. Twenty-five
young communists from the USSR's cities were sent to Ukraine to
compel the transition.
These became known as the Twenty-Five Thousanders; each was
assigned a particular
locality, and was accompanied by a weapons-bearing communist
entourage, including members
of the GPU (secret police, forerunner of the KGB). A communist
commission was established
in each village.
Holodomor survivor Miron
Dolot, in his book Execution by Hunger, describes what happened
soon after a commission was started in his village by its Twenty-Five
Thousander, Comrade Zeitlin:
We did not have to wait too long for Comrade Zeitlin's strategy to reveal itself. The
first incident occurred very early on a cold January morning in 1930 while
our village were still asleep. Fifteen villagers
were arrested, and someone said that the
Checkists [GPU] had arrived
in the village at midnight....
The most prominent villagers were among those arrested.... This was frightening. Our
official leadership had been taken away in one night. The farmers, mostly illiterate
and ignorant, were thereby left much more defenseless.
The leaders of Dolot's village were never seen again.
Throughout Ukraine, the Twenty-Five Thousanders held mandatory village meetings in
which they demanded that all peasants relinquish private farming and "volunteer" to join
a collective. Most peasants fiercely resisted. In principle, of course, there is nothing wrong
with farmers pooling their resources and efforts in a cooperative venture. But this was
what the communists meant by collectivization. On the kolkhozes, the government
everything — the land, animals, equipment, and produce. The worker kept
of his labor, and was at the state's mercy to receive a pittance of pay.
Soviet collectives never succeeded. As the eminent Sovietologist Robert Conquest noted
of them, "Wherever they had existed they had, with all the advantages given them by the
regime, done worse than the individual farm." On the kolkhozes, livestock, poorly cared
for, easily died, and equipment fell into disrepair. This was because the workers did not
own them, nor did they have any stake in the collective. This illustrated the conflict
between Marxist ideology and the reality of human nature. Making matters worse, the
collectives were organized by the Twenty-Five Thousanders, who, being urban youths,
had no agricultural experience; their ignorance of farming basics often became the butt
of jokes among local Ukrainians.
force the villagers into collectives, the communists threatened them with being
enemies of the state, to be dealt with by the GPU. Jails — unfamiliar to
peasants — began appearing in every village. To instill additional fear,
army units were brought in, lodging themselves in homes without permission.
were devised, such as "path treading," in which a resisting peasant
be forced to walk through the snow to the next village, there to be interrogated by its
officials, and if he still refused to join a collective, walk to the next village. This would carry
on until the peasant either died of exhaustion or bent to the state's will. A very effective
method was to simply seize a family's food supply. Threatened with seeing their children
starve, many peasants gave in. By the summer of 1932, 80 percent of Ukraine's farmland
had been forcibly collectivized.
for Communist Failure
But since the kolkhozes
failed to produce as predicted by Marxist theory, and with many
peasants still refusing
to join, Stalin sought a scapegoat. It was announced that the
failure of collectivization
was due to sabotage by "kulaks." These were the more prosperous
Merely owning a cow, hiring another peasant, or having a tin roof (instead of
the more common
thatched roof) were all considered evidence that one was a kulak.
Of course, in any economy, some people thrive more than others. This is usually owing
to industriousness and efficiency. According to Marxist doctrine, however, all wealthier
(kulaks) were "bloodsuckers" and "parasites" who had grown rich by exploiting
poorer peasants and who were now subverting collectivization. Stalin announced that the
solution to better grain production was to "struggle against the capitalist elements of the
peasantry, against the kulaks," and he proclaimed the goal of "liquidation of the kulaks
as a class." In reality, however, Ukraine had never had a distinct social class of kulaks —
this concept was a Marxist invention.
Those accused of being kulaks were either shot, deported to remote slave labor camps
in Russia, or put in local labor details. Few survived. One could be accused of being
a kulak on the flimsiest evidence. Some peasants accused others merely out of envy
or dislike. As one Soviet writer later noted: "It was easy to do a man in; you wrote a
denunciation; you did not even have to sign it. All you had to say was that he had paid
people to work for him as hired hands, or that he had owned three cows." Some very
peasants were accused of being kulaks simply because they were religiously
And ironically, many of the "rich" kulaks earned less income than the
officials prosecuting them! "Dekulakization" slaughtered millions.
Ironically, this process killed off the most productive farmers, guaranteeing a
harvest and a more impoverished Soviet Union. The remaining farmers did not
steps to improve their lands or prosper, for fear they would be reclassified as kulaks.
Stalin accomplished his true goal: destroying leadership that might oppose the
subjugation of Ukraine.
This campaign extended beyond kulaks to broadly attacking all vestiges
Ukrainian nationalism. As Dolot notes, the Soviet Communist Party
sent [Pavel] Postyshev, a sadistically cruel Russian chauvinist, as its viceroy
His appointment played a crucial role in the
lives of all Ukrainians. It was Postyshev
who brought along and implemented
a new Soviet Russian policy in Ukraine. It was
proclaimed policy of deliberate and unrestricted destruction of everything
Ukrainian. From now on, we were continually reminded that there were "bourgeois-nationalists"
among us whom we must destroy.... This new campaign against
the Ukrainian national
movement had resulted in the annihilation
of the Ukrainian central government
as well as all Ukrainian
cultural, educational, and social institutions.
The Ukrainian Language Institute, Ukrainian Institute of Philosophy, Ukrainian State
Publishing House, and countless other institutions were purged, their leaders murdered
or imprisoned. So fanatical was the war on nationalism that even the colorful embroidered
costumes Ukrainians wore were seized. Eyewitness Yefrosyniya Poplavets recalls:
save our embroidered shirts we put them on under our old ragged jackets.
work! They undressed us and took the shirts to eradicate any national spirit
in the household."
But perhaps the most intense thrust was against the
church, for it
represented not only a form of Ukrainian solidarity, but the Gospel
whose principles inherently oppose those of Marxism. The Communist
declared: "The church is the kulak's agitprop." Priests were
sent to labor camps; church land was confiscated;
monasteries were closed. The churches —
some of them centuries-old
national monuments — were either demolished, or turned
libraries, barracks and other secular uses for the state. Church icons
were smashed; books and archives were burned; church bells were
sold as scrap. By the end of 1930, 80 percent of all Ukraine's
village churches had
been shut down. These measures were applied
not only against Ukraine's Orthodox churches,
but against other denominations
and religions, for as Marx had said, "Religion
is the opiate of the masses."
Yet the worst still awaited
Ukraine. By 1932, virtually all kulaks had been liquidated, but
many of the remaining
poor peasants still resisted communism and collectivization.
Stalin now began war
upon Ukraine's poorest — ironically those who,
in Marxist doctrine, should have been
esteemed as "the proletariat."
Stalin demanded that Ukraine increase its grain output by 44 percent. Such
would have been unachievable even if the communists had not already ruined
productivity by eliminating the best farmers and forcing others onto the feeble
That year, not a single village was able to meet the impossible
quota, which far exceeded
Ukraine's best output in the pre-collective years.
Stalin then issued one of the cruelest orders of his dark career: if quotas were not met,
all grain was to be confiscated. As one Soviet author much later wrote: "All the grain without
exception was requisitioned for the fulfillment of the Plan, including that set aside for sowing,
fodder, and even that previously issued to the kolkhozniki as payment for their work." The
authorization included seizure of all food from all households. Any home that did not turn
over all its grain was accused of "hoarding" state property. One villager
recalled the process by which communist "brigades" invaded homes:
Every brigade had a so-called "specialist" for
searching out grain. He was
equipped with a long iron crow-bar
with which he probed for hidden grain.
The brigade went
from house to house. At first they entered homes and asked, "How
much grain have you got for the government?" "I haven't any. If you
don't believe me search for yourselves," was the usual laconic answer.
And so the "search" began. They searched in the house, in the attic,
and the cellar. Then they went outside and searched
the barn, pig pen, granary and
the straw pile. They measured
the oven and calculated if it was large enough to hold
behind the brickwork. They broke beams in the attic, pounded on the floor
of the house, tramped the whole yard and garden. If they found a suspicious-looking
spot, in went the crow-bar.
Miron Dolot recalls:
They measured the thickness of the walls, and inspected them for bulges where grain
could have been concealed. Sometimes they completely tore down suspicious walls....
Nothing in the houses remained intact or untouched. They upturned everything: even
cribs of babies, and the babies themselves were thoroughly
frisked, not to mention the
other family members. They looked for
"hidden grain" in and under men's and women's
Even the smallest amount that was found was confiscated. If so much as a small
can or jar of seeds was found that had been set aside for spring planting, it was taken away, and the
owner was accused of hiding food from the state.
Of course, to avoid starvation, nearly every
family did attempt to conceal food. But
experience soon made the brigades proficient
at detecting even the most clever hiding places.
result was mass starvation that took millions of lives during the terrible winter of
1932-33. Food was nearly impossible to find anywhere. Many begged neighbors
skins or other scraps — only to find their neighbors equally destitute.
There was still some food on the collectives, which the communists did not deplete
households. However, in August 1932 the Communist Party of the USSR had passed
law mandating the death penalty for theft of "social property." Watchtowers were
on the collectives, manned by trigger-happy young communists. Thousands of peasants
were shot for attempting to take a handful of grain or a few beets from the kolkhozes,
to feed their starving families.
Unable to get food, many ate whatever could pass for it — weeds, leaves, tree bark, and
insects. The luckiest were able to survive secretly on small woodland animals.
journalist Thomas Walker wrote:
About twenty miles south of Kiev (Kyiv), I came upon a village that was practically
extinct by starvation. There had been fifteen houses in this village and
of forty-odd persons. Every dog and cat had
been eaten. The horses and oxen had
all been appropriated by the
Bolsheviks to stock the collective farms. In one hut they
were cooking a mess that defied analysis. There were bones, pig-weed, skin, and what
looked like a boot top in this pot. The way the remaining half dozen inhabitants
eagerly watched this slimy mess showed the state of their hunger.
A few people even resorted to cannibalism, eating those
had died and, in some cases, murdering those still living.
Many peasants attempted to reach Ukraine's cities like Kiev, where factory
still allowed a little pay and food. However, in December 1932 the communists
the "internal passport." This made it impossible for a villager to get
a city job
without the Party's permission, which was almost universally denied.
Other peasants hoped to get to Poland, Romania, or even Russia, where
there was no
famine. But emigration was strictly forbidden. Ukrainian train stations were swamped
the starving, who hoped to sneak aboard a train, or beg in hopes that a passenger
passing train might throw them a bread crust. They were repelled by GPU guards,
found themselves faced with the problem of removing countless corpses of the starving
who littered these stations.
British journalist Malcolm
Muggeridge, who secretly investigated Ukraine without Soviet
permission, was able to
escape communist censorship by sending details
home to the Manchester Guardian in a
diplomatic bag. He reported:
On a recent visit to the Northern Caucasus and the Ukraine, I saw something of the
battle that is going on between the government and the peasants.... On the one side,
millions of starving peasants, their bodies often swollen from lack of
food; on the other,
soldier members of the GPU carrying out the instructions
of the dictatorship of the
proletariat. They had gone over
the country like a swarm of locusts and taken away
they had shot or exiled thousands of peasants, sometimes whole
they had reduced some of the most fertile land in the world to a melancholy desert.
At the famine's height, 25,000 people per day were dying.
As the winter wore on, Ukraine
became a panorama of horror. The roadsides were filled
with the corpses of those who died
seeking food. The bodies, many of which snow concealed
until the spring
thaw, were unceremoniously dumped into mass graves by the communists.
Many others died of starvation in their own homes. Some chose to end the
suicide, commonly by hanging — if they had the strength to do it. "They
just sat," writes
Dolot of his fellow villagers, "or lay down silently,
too feeble even to talk. The bodies of
some were reduced to skeletons, with their skin
hanging grayish-yellow and loose over their
bones. Their faces looked like rubber
masks with large, bulging, immobile eyes. Their
necks seemed to have shrunk onto their shoulders.
The look in their eyes was glassy,
heralding their approaching death."
The communists, on the other hand, ate excellent rations, and party bosses
luxurious ones. In Robert Conquest's Harvest of Sorrow, we read
following account of the party officials' dining hall at Pohrebyshcha:
Day and night it was guarded by militia keeping the starving
peasants away from the
restaurant.... In the dining room,
at very low prices, white bread, meat, poultry, canned
delicacies, wines and sweets were served to the district bosses.... Around these oases
famine and death were raging.
But perhaps the worst paradox: although much of the confiscated grain was exported
to the West, large portions were simply dumped into the sea by the Soviets, or allowed
to rot. For example, a huge supply of grain lay decaying under GPU guard at Reshetylivka
in Poltava Province. Passing it in a train, an American correspondent saw "huge
pyramids of grain, piled high, and smoking from internal combustion." In the Lubotino region,
thousands of tons of confiscated potatoes were allowed to rot, surrounded by barbed wire.
All this underscores the true purpose of the food confiscation: genocide.
the Italian consul in Moscow, wrote in a dispatch to Rome on May
has been deliberately planned by the Moscow government and implemented
by means of brutal requisition. The definite aim of this crime is to liquidate the Ukrainian
problem over a few months, sacrificing from 10 to 15 million people. Do not consider this
figure to be exaggerated: I'm sure it could even have been reached and
exceeded by now.
there is disagreement over how many lives the genocide claimed, Gradenigo's
turned out to be rather accurate. In Harvest of Sorrow, historian Robert Conquest,
considered by many the leading authority on the famine, put the toll at 14.5 million. About
half of these deaths represent the liquidation of the kulaks, via execution and slow death
in gulags, while the famine itself claimed the lives of approximately seven million,
three million children.
Stalin Hide the Holocaust
How did a holocaust
of these dimensions remain unknown in the West? First, the Soviets
suppressed all information
regarding the famine. Russia's state-controlled press was prohibited
it, and for ordinary citizens, just mentioning the famine carried a penalty of
three to five
Although some Western
observers did report the magnitude of the Ukrainians' plight,
such comments were extremely
rare. During the famine, the Soviets prohibited foreign
journalists from visiting
Ukraine. But just as significant was the cooperation of influential
sympathetic to communism. The Fabian Socialist George Bernard Shaw,
after receiving a tour
carefully orchestrated by the Soviets, proclaimed in 1932:
"I did not see a single
under-nourished person in Russia, young or old."
But by far the worst offender was Walter Duranty, New York Times' Moscow bureau chief
from 1922 to 1936. Duranty enjoyed personal access to Stalin, called him "the greatest living
statesman," and even praised the dictator's notorious show trials. To call Duranty a Soviet
sympathizer greatly understates his role. Journalist Joseph Alsop termed Duranty a "KGB
agent," and Malcolm Muggeridge called him "the greatest liar of any journalist I have met
in 50 years of journalism."
published denials of Ukraine's Holodomor were perhaps the vilest acts of his
career. In November 1932, he brazenly told his New York Times readers, "There is no
famine or actual starvation nor is there likely to be." He denounced as "liars" the few
brave writers who reported the famine, which he called "malignant propaganda." When
accumulating reports made the massive deaths hard to dispute, Duranty switched tactics
from outright denial to downplay. He wrote in the Times in March 1933: "There is no actual
starvation or deaths from starvation but there is widespread mortality from deaths due
was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for
"dispassionate, interpretive reporting
of the news from Russia."
ask: did the Ukrainians resist the genocide? Yes! Throughout Stalin's war, hundreds
of riots and revolts, on various scales, erupted throughout Ukraine. There are even a number
of stories where groups of heroic women overran the communist-guarded kolkhozes and
seized grain for their starving children. And it was not unusual for a village's local party tyrant
to suddenly be found dead.
resistance was brutally suppressed. The Soviets had passed gun registration
in 1926, 1928, and 1929, and few Ukrainians owned effective weapons. Resistance
constituted pitchforks against machine guns. The GPU and Soviet army dealt with
were brought in to suppress the more serious ones. And the famine of 1932-33
peasants too weak to resist.
Last, Tragedy Not Forgotten
stands as a permanent warning of what happens when unlimited state power
God-given rights. A cursory review of America's Bill of Rights demonstrates that
every right mentioned was trampled on by Stalin in Ukraine. Yet although the
used every means to eradicate the people's will, the national spirit
lived on unbreakably,
until Ukraine gained its independence in 1991.
Here in the United States, Ukrainian-American organizations such as the
Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), Ukrainian Genocide Famine Foundation,
and others work diligently to maintain awareness of the Holodomor. Last year, they
commemorate the genocide's 75th anniversary. And largely thanks to their efforts,
in 2008 the
U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution deploring the genocidal
famine. One of
UCCA's ongoing campaigns — which The New American heartily endorses
is for the long-deserved revocation of Walter Duranty's Pulitzer Prize.
James Perloff is the author of
The Shadows of Power: The Council on Foreign Relations and the American Decline
Ukrainians welcome the righteous German army
as liberators from Communist tyranny and savagery.
Ukrainian women mourn the deaths of their husbands who had been rounded up and
executed en masse by Jewish-Soviet NKVD agents and local Jews who collaborated
the Communist occupiers of their nation. The Ukrainians eagerly joined the fight against
the beastly abomination of a nation: the USSR (a de-facto Jewish colony since 1917).
What the Jews did to the Ukraine (having lived through the Jewish-Soviet Holocaust of
6-10 million of their people in 1932′s Holodomor a decade earlier) they also did in Poland,
Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Hungary, and other Eastern European countries that had
come under Soviet-Communist occupation in late 1939 and early 1940 — i.e. betray the
country by collaborating with the invading/occupying hordes of mass murderers and mass
rapists, the Soviet Communists.
How Stalin Hid Ukraine's Famine From the World
In 1932 and 1933, millions died across the Soviet Union—
and the foreign press corps helped cover up the catastrophe.
In the years 1932 and 1933, a catastrophic famine swept across the Soviet Union. It
began in the chaos of collectivization, when millions of peasants were
forced off their
land and made to join state farms. It was then exacerbated,
in the autumn of 1932, when
the Soviet Politburo, the elite leadership
of the Soviet Communist Party, took a series of
decisions that deepened the famine
in the Ukrainian countryside. Despite the shortages,
the state demanded
not just grain, but all available food. At the height of the crisis,
teams of policemen and local Party activists, motivated by hunger, fear, and a
of hateful propaganda, entered peasant households and took everything edible:
potatoes, beets, squash, beans, peas, and farm animals. At the same time, a cordon was
drawn around the Ukrainian republic to prevent escape. The result was a catastrophe: At
least 5 million people perished of hunger all across the Soviet Union. Among them were
nearly 4 million Ukrainians who died not because of neglect or crop
failure, but because they had been deliberately deprived of food.
Neither the Ukrainian famine nor the broader Soviet famine were ever officially recognized
by the USSR. Inside the country the famine was never mentioned. All discussion was
repressed; statistics were altered to hide it. The terror was so overwhelming
that the silence
was complete. Outside the country, however, the cover-up
required different, subtler tactics.
These are beautifully illustrated
by the parallel stories of Walter Duranty and Gareth Jones.
In the 1930s, all of the members of the Moscow press corps led a precarious
At the time, they needed the state’s permission to live in the USSR, and even
Without a signature and the official stamp of the press department, the central
office would not send their dispatches abroad. To win that permission, journalists
bargained with foreign ministry censors over which words they could use,
and they kept
on good terms with Konstantin Umansky, the Soviet official responsible for the
press corps. William Henry Chamberlin, then the Moscow correspondent for the
Science Monitor, wrote that the foreign reporter “works
under a Sword of Damocles—
the threat of expulsion from the country or of the refusal
of permission to re-enter it,
which of course amounts to the same thing.”
Extra rewards were available to those, like Walter Duranty, who played the game
well. Duranty was The New York Times correspondent in Moscow from
until 1936, a role that, for a time, made him relatively rich and famous. British
birth, Duranty had no ties to the ideological left, adopting rather the position of a
and skeptical “realist,” trying to listen to both sides of the story. “It may be
objected that the vivisection of living animals is a sad and dreadful thing, and it is true
that the lot of kulaks and others who have opposed the Soviet experiment is not a happy
one,” he wrote in 1935—the kulaks being the so-called wealthy peasants whom Stalin
accused of causing the famine. But “in both cases, the suffering inflicted is done
a noble purpose.”
This position made Duranty enormously
useful to the regime, which went out of its way
to ensure that Duranty lived well in Moscow.
He had a large flat, kept a car and a mistress,
had the best access of any correspondent,
and twice received coveted interviews with
Stalin. But the attention he won from his
reporting back in the U.S. seems to have been
his primary motivation. His missives from
Moscow made him one of the most influential
journalists of his time. In 1932, his series
of articles on the successes of collectivization
and the Five Year Plan won him the
Pulitzer Prize. Soon afterward, Franklin Roosevelt,
then the governor of New York,
invited Duranty to the governor’s mansion in Albany,
where the Democratic presidential
candidate peppered him with queries. “I asked
all the questions this time. It
was fascinating,” Roosevelt told another reporter.
As the famine worsened,
Duranty, like his colleagues, would have been in no doubt
about the regime’s
desire to repress it. In 1933, the Foreign Ministry began requiring
to submit a proposed itinerary before any journey into the provinces;
all requests to
visit Ukraine were refused. The censors also began to monitor dispatches.
were allowed: “acute food shortage,” “food stringency,” “food deficit,”
“diseases due to malnutrition,” but nothing else. In late 1932, Soviet officials even visited
Duranty at home, making him nervous.
In that atmosphere, few of them were inclined to
write about the famine, although all
of them knew about it. “Officially, there was no
famine,” wrote Chamberlin. But “to anyone
who lived in Russia in 1933 and
who kept his eyes and ears open, the historicity of the
famine is simply not in question.”
Duranty himself discussed the famine with William
Strang, a diplomat at the British embassy,
in late 1932. Strang reported back drily that
the New York Times correspondent
had been “waking to the truth for some time,” although
he had not “let
the great American public into the secret.” Duranty also told Strang that
reckoned “it quite possible that as many as 10 million people may have died directly
indirectly from lack of food,” though that number never appeared in any of his reporting.
Duranty’s reluctance to write about famine may have been particularly acute: The story
cast doubt on his previous, positive (and prize-winning) reporting. But he was not alone.
Eugene Lyons, Moscow correspondent for United Press and at one time an enthusiastic
Marxist, wrote years later that all of the foreigners in the city were well aware
of what was happening in Ukraine as well as Kazakhstan and the Volga region:
The truth is that we did not seek corroboration for the simple reason that we
entertained no doubts on the subject. There are facts too large to require eyewitness
confirmation. … Inside Russia the matter was not disputed. The famine was accepted
as a matter of course in our casual conversation at the hotels and in our homes.
Everyone knew—yet no one mentioned it. Hence the extraordinary reaction of both the
establishment and the Moscow press corps to the journalistic escapade of Gareth Jones.
Jones was a young Welshman, only 27 years old at the time of his 1933 journey to Ukraine.
Possibly inspired by his mother—as a young woman she had been a governess in
the home of John Hughes, the Welsh entrepreneur who founded the Ukrainian city of
decided to study Russian, as well as French and German, at Cambridge
then landed a job as a private secretary to David Lloyd George, the former
prime minister, and also began writing about European and Soviet politics as a
In early 1932, before the travel ban was imposed, he journeyed out to the
countryside (accompanied by Jack Heinz II, scion of the ketchup empire) where
on “bug-infested floors” in rural villages and witnessed the beginnings of the famine.
In the spring of 1933, Jones returned to Moscow, this time with a visa given to him
largely on the grounds that he worked for Lloyd George (it was stamped “Besplatno” or
“Gratis,” as a sign of official Soviet favor). Ivan Maisky, the Soviet ambassador to
London, had been keen to impress Lloyd George and had lobbied on Jones’s behalf. Upon
arrival, Jones first went around the Soviet capital and met other foreign correspondents
and officials. Lyons remembered him as “an earnest and meticulous little man … the sort
who carries a note-book and unashamedly records your words as you talk.” Jones
Umansky, showed him an invitation from the German Consul-General in Kharkiv, and
asked to visit Ukraine. Umansky agreed. With that official stamp of approval, he set off south.
Jones boarded the train in Moscow on March 10. But instead of traveling
all the way to
Kharkiv, he got off the train about 40 miles north of the city. Carrying
a backpack filled
with “many loaves of white bread, with butter, cheese, meat
and chocolate bought with
foreign currency” he began to follow the railway track towards
the Kharkiv. For three days,
with no official minder or escort, he walked through
more than 20 villages and collective
farms at the height of the famine, recording
his thoughts in notebooks later preserved
by his sister:
I crossed the border from Great Russia into the Ukraine. Everywhere
to peasants who walked past. They all had the same story.
is no bread. We haven’t had bread for over two months. A lot are dying.”
first village had no more potatoes left and the store of burak (“beetroot”) was
running out. They all said: “The cattle are dying, nechevo kormit’ [there’s
feed them with]. We used to feed the world & now we are hungry. How can
when we have few horses left? How will we be able to work in the fields when we
are weak from want of food?”
on the floor of peasant huts. He shared his food with people and heard their
“They tried to take away my icons, but I said I’m a peasant, not a dog,” someone
told him. “When we believed in God we were happy and lived well. When they tried to
away with God, we became hungry.” Another man told him he hadn’t eaten meat for a year.
Jones saw a woman making homespun cloth for clothing, and a village where people
eating horse meat. Eventually, he was confronted by a “militiaman” who asked to
see his documents, after which plainclothes policemen insisted on accompanying him
on the next train to Kharkiv and walking him to the door of the German consulate. Jones,
“rejoicing at my freedom, bade him a polite farewell—an anti-climax but a welcome one.”
In Kharkhiv, Jones kept taking notes. He observed thousands of people queueing in
lines: “They begin queuing up at 3-4 o’clock in the afternoon to get bread the next
morning at 7. It is freezing: many degrees of frost.” He spent an evening at the theater
—“Audience: Plenty of lipstick but no bread”—and spoke to people about the political
and mass arrests which rolled across Ukraine at the same time as the famine.
on Umansky’s colleague in Kharkiv, but never managed to speak to him.
slipped out of the Soviet Union. A few days later, on March 30, he appeared
in Berlin at a
press conference probably arranged by Paul Scheffer, a Berliner
who had been expelled from the USSR in 1929. He declared that a major
famine was unfolding across the Soviet Union and issued a statement:
Everywhere was the cry, “There is no bread. We are dying.” This cry came
every part of Russia, from the Volga, Siberia, White Russia, the North Caucasus,
Central Asia …
“We are waiting for death” was my welcome:
“See, we still have our cattle fodder.
Go farther south. There they have nothing.
Many houses are empty of people already dead,” they cried.
Jones’s press conference was picked up by two senior Berlin-based U.S. journalists,
in The New York Evening Post (“Famine grips Russia, millions dying, idle on rise says Briton”)
and in the Chicago Daily News
(“Russian Famine Now as Great as Starvation of 1921, Says Secretary of Lloyd George”).
Further syndications followed in a wide range of British publications.
The articles explained
that Jones had taken a “long walking tour through the Ukraine,” quoted his press release
added details of mass starvation. They noted, as did Jones himself, that he had broken
the rules which held back other journalists: “I tramped through the black earth region,”
he wrote, “because that was once the richest farmland in Russia and because the
have been forbidden to go there to see for themselves what is happening.”
went on to publish a dozen further articles in the London Evening Standard and
Express, as well as the Cardiff Western Mail.
The authorities who had showered favors on Jones were furious. Litvinov, the Soviet
Foreign minister, complained angrily to Maisky, using an acidic literary allusion to Gogol’s
famous play about a fraudulent bureaucrat:
is astonishing that Gareth Johnson [sic] has impersonated the role of Khlestakov
succeeded in getting all of you to play the parts of the local governor and various
characters from The Government Inspector. In fact, he is just an ordinary citizen,
calls himself Lloyd George’s secretary and, apparently at the latter’s bidding, requests
a visa, and you at the diplomatic mission without checking up at all, insist the [OGPU]
jump into action to satisfy his request. We gave this individual all kinds of support,
helped him in his work, I even agreed to meet him, and he turns out to be an imposter.
In the immediate wake of Jones’s press conference, Litvinov proclaimed
an even more
stringent ban on journalists travelling outside of Moscow. Later, Maisky
Lloyd George, who, according to the Soviet ambassador’s report,
from Jones, declaring that he had not sponsored the trip and had
not sent Jones as his
representative. What he really believed is unknown, but Lloyd George
never saw Jones again.
The Moscow press corps was even angrier. Of course its members
knew that what Jones
had reported was true, and a few were looking for ways to tell
the same story. Malcolm
Muggeridge, at the time the correspondent for the Manchester
Guardian, had just smuggled
three articles about the famine out of the country
via diplomatic bag. The Guardian published
them anonymously, with heavy cuts made
by editors who disapproved of his critique of the
USSR, and, appearing at a moment
when the news was dominated by Hitler’s rise to
power, they were largely ignored.
But the rest of the press corps, dependent on official
goodwill, closed ranks against Jones.
Lyons meticulously described what happened:
down Jones was as unpleasant a chore as fell to any of us in years of juggling
to please dictatorial regimes—but throw him down we did, unanimously and in
identical formulations of equivocation. Poor Gareth Jones must have been the
surprised human being alive when the facts he so painstakingly garnered from
our mouths were
snowed under by our denials. … There was much bargaining in a
spirit of gentlemanly
give-and-take, under the effulgence of Umansky’s gilded
smile, before a formal
denial was worked out. We admitted enough to soothe our
consciences, but in roundabout phrases
that damned Jones as a liar. The filthy
business having been disposed of, someone
ordered vodka and zakuski.
Whether or not
a meeting between Umansky and the foreign correspondents ever took
place, it does sum
up, metaphorically, what happened next. On March 31, just a day after
Jones had spoken out
in Berlin, Duranty himself responded. “Russians Hungry But Not
read the New York Times headline. Duranty’s article went out of its way to mock Jones:
There appears from a British source a big scare story in the American press about
famine in the Soviet Union, with “thousands already dead and millions menaced by
death and starvation.” Its author is Gareth Jones, who is a former secretary to David
Lloyd George and who recently spent three weeks in the Soviet Union and reached
conclusion that the country was “on the verge of a terrific smash,” as he told the
writer. Mr. Jones is a man of a keen and active mind, and he has taken the trouble to
learn Russian, which he speaks with considerable fluency, but the writer thought
Jones's judgment was somewhat hasty and asked him on what it was based.
It appeared that he
had made a 40-mile walk through villages in the neighborhood of
Kharkov and had found
I suggested that that was a rather inadequate cross-section
of a big
country but nothing could shake his conviction of impending doom.
Duranty continued, using an expression that later became notorious: “To
put it brutally—
you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.” He went
on to explain that he had made
“exhaustive inquiries” and concluded that “conditions
are bad, but there is no famine.”
Indignant, Jones wrote a letter
to the editor of the Times, patiently listing his sources—
a huge range
of interviewees, including more than 20 consuls and diplomats—
and attacking the
Moscow press corps:
Censorship has turned them into masters
of euphemism and understatement.
Hence they give “famine” the polite name
of “food shortage” and “starving to death”
is softened down
to read as “widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition...
And there the matter rested. Duranty outshone Jones: He was more famous, more widely
read, more credible. He was also unchallenged. Later, Lyons, Chamberlin and others
expressed regret that they had not fought harder against him. But at the time, nobody
came to Jones’s defense, not even Muggeridge, one of the few Moscow correspondents
who had dared to express similar views. Jones himself was kidnapped and murdered by
Chinese bandits during a reporting trip to Mongolia in 1935.
Hungry But not Starving” became the accepted wisdom. It also coincided nicely
the hard political and diplomatic considerations of the moment. As 1933 turned into
and then 1935, Europeans grew even more worried about Hitler. By the end of 1933,
Roosevelt administration was actively looking for reasons to ignore any bad
the Soviet Union. The president’s team had concluded that developments in
and the need to limit Japanese expansion meant that it was time, finally, for
United States to open full diplomatic relations with Moscow. Roosevelt’s interest in
planning and in what he thought were the USSR’s great economic successes—
president read Duranty’s reporting carefully—encouraged him to believe that there
might be a lucrative commercial relationship too. Eventually a deal was struck. Litvinov
in New York to sign it—accompanied by Duranty. At a lavish banquet for the Soviet
foreign minister at the Waldorf Astoria, Duranty was introduced to the 1,500 guests.
He stood up and bowed.
Loud applause followed. Duranty’s name, the New
Yorker later reported, provoked
“the only really prolonged pandemonium”
of the evening. “Indeed, one quite got the impression
that America, in a spasm of discernment,
was recognizing both Russia and Walter Duranty.”
With that, the cover-up
This article has been adapted from Anne Applebaum’s
Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukraine.
Russia livid over Israeli bill to recognize Ukrainian genocide
'Cynical, speculative claim about millions of victims for political reasons;
our Knesset friends distorted history.'
Russia & Israel: Gloves still
Russia reacted seriously to yesterday's Knesset bill to recognize the Ukrainian
in the 1930's advanced by Druze MK Akram Hasson (Kulanu) and
marking the Holodomor
("to kill by starvation"), the mass famine
in Ukraine between 1932-3 in which millions
were killed. The Russian Embassy
reacted by saying the bill "sadly distorts history".
Meanwhile, the Russians are applying additional pressure on the media. Yesterday,
Deputy Ambassador to Israel Leonid Frolov spoke with Galei
Tzahal's Michael Hauser Tov.
Frolov was asked whether this law
intensifies sensitivities while security coordination
and Moscow regarding Iran and Syria is at its peak.
Frolov said: "This is not a good time to discuss such
a proposal. This is a very important time
for all the world and
now, when Mr. Trump declared Jerusalem as the capital, Israel needs
the support not only of the United States; Israel needs the support of many other countries,
who think in a different way."
The Ukrainian wholesale murder in the 1930s perpetrated by Stalin is an upsetting
issue for the Russians. According to Hasson's proposal, the State
of Israel will officially
recognize the Ukrainian genocide, and even hold
a memorial day and ceremony on the subject.
claims it was natural disaster that caused the terrible hunger, and not, as they say
in Ukraine, a deliberate action of the Soviet Union against them. Moscow
over the years
has exerted heavy pressure on many countries, including Israel, not
to recognize the genocide.
However, the new bill states that "there
is no reason why the Knesset
should not recognize it
as such," and that "this is the most serious
humanitarian disaster other than the Holocaust." MK Hasson is
aware of the sensitivities but insists on advancing the law. Hasson's
office said that he decided to submit the bill following a visit with
a delegation of Knesset members in the Ukraine a few weeks ago.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said during a speech
in the Knesset
in November 2017 that "the moral support and the
of Israel's solidarity with the victims of totalitarian terror against
the Ukrainian people in 1932 and 1933 are very important to us.
I want to emphasize that among the Ukrainian nation, so many
people died of starvation that in those years we lost perhaps more
than we lost during World War II."
Even though the law is only in its infancy and it is not certain
whether it will be promoted, Moscow is already angry at Israel.
A source in the Russian Foreign Ministry says:
the law is promoted we will respond sharply.
have far-reaching implications for the
relationship between Russia
Embassy in Israel also said:
"This is a cynical,
peculative claim about
memory of millions of victims
for political reasons. It
is regrettable that our
friends in the Knesset prepared
a bill that
distorted history. We call on all
relevant elements in
Israel to study historical facts more
morning several representatives from
the Russian embassy in Israel will
meetings with Knesset officials in an attempt
to thwart the bill even before it comes up.
by Hauser Tov whether the law, if advanced, could really harm
between Israel and Russia, Deputy Ambassador Frolov replied,
find a way how to solve differences
between our peoples and countries.
It will be bad;
it will be a wrong step, but relations between
countries is much more important."
The Deputy Russian Ambassador also referred to
the Polish Holocaust Law and took a swipe at Israel:
now wants to delete some pages of history ... on Israel's part,
proposal [on the Ukraine] also is to rewrite history,
the Polish case."
Ukraine Marks 'Holodomor' Anniversary
has marked the 85th anniversary of the Stalin-era famine, known as the Holodomor,
in which millions of people died of starvation ... Moscow responded by rejecting
describe the Holodomor
exclusively as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his wife, Maryna, on November 24 laid bouquets
fashioned from wheat stalks and red flowers at a memorial to
the victims of the Holodomor
on Kyiv's Mykhailivska Square ... The Holodomor took place in 1932 and 1933 as Soviet
authorities forced peasants in Ukraine to join collective farms by requisitioning
and other food products.
Estimates of the famine's death toll range from three million to
Ukrainians Around World Commemorate 'Holodomor' Victims
Today [Nov. 24] Ukrainians
around the world commemorate victims of an artificial famine of
known as the Holodomor, the result of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's order to force
peasant households into collective farms. The exact number of Ukrainians who perished
during the Holodomor genocide is unknown but scholars say at least 3.9 million
were starved to death in Ukraine as the Soviet government seized
their property and crops,
closed off the borders and denied any
outside aid. Besides Ukraine, millions of people in
regions of the Soviet Union were subjected to collectivization and starvation.
Of all ethnic groups, Kazakhstan saw the highest death ratio: an estimated 38 percent of the
ethnic Kazakh population died during the 1931-1933 famine, according to a Harvard University
study published in 2001.
Pope Francis Recalls Ukraine 'Holodomor' Famine
Pope Francis remembered the man-made famine that struck Ukraine in 1932-1933 and
the anniversary of the event which occurred on Saturday. The famine is known as
in Ukrainian, which
means "to kill by starvation". Pope Francis called it "a terrible famine
instigated by the Soviet regime which caused millions of people to die."
Though the final
death toll is unknown,
most estimates put the number of people killed between 3.3 and 7.5
million, most of whom were ethnic Ukrainians. The Vatican City State is one of 16
to consider Holodomor
an act of genocide carried out by the Soviet government.
Nationalism and Genocide: Origin of the Artificial Famine of 1932-33
... These elementary analogies are
enough to show that the murder of seven million
in 1933 could not have been motivated by socio-economic or "class" reasons
alone. Conflicts claim millions of victims only in struggles between nations,
as in wars,
colonial struggles, and so forth,
when the national question is paramount. Moscow
a holocaust. The imposed famine of 1933 and the whole range of repressive
mass killings during the 1930s were an expression of the empire's struggle for self-preservation.
It was this instinct, and not the economic doctrine of collectivization, that impelled
to carry out the horrors of the