Causes of the Holodomor

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The Holodomor (Ukrainian: Голодомор) is the name of the famine that ravaged Soviet Ukraine in 1932–1933. Estimates for the total number of casualties within Soviet Ukraine range between 2.2 million and 10 million.[1]

The causes of the Holodomor are a subject of scholarly and political debate. Some historians theorize that the famine was an unintended consequence of the economic problems associated with radical economic changes implemented during the period of Soviet industrialization.[2][3][4][5] Others claim that the Soviet policies that caused the famine were an engineered attack on Ukrainian nationalism, or more broadly, on all peasants, in order to prevent uprisings. Some suggest that the famine may fall under the legal definition of genocide.[1][4][5][6][7]

Deliberately engineered or Continuation of Civil War[edit]

Overview[edit]

During the 1930s, the Soviet Union was dominated by Joseph Stalin, who sought to reshape Soviet society with aggressive economic planning. As the leader of the Soviet Union, he constructed a massive bureaucracy that was responsible for millions of deaths as a result of repressive policies. During his time as leader of the Soviet Union, Stalin made frequent use of his secret police, prisons, and nearly unlimited power to reshape Soviet society.

A campaign of political repression, including arrests, deportations, and executions of better-off peasants and their families occurred from 1929 to 1932. The richer peasants were labeled kulaks and considered class enemies. More than 1.8 million peasants were deported in 1930–1931.[8][9] [10] The stated purpose of the campaign was to fight the counter-revolution and build socialism in the countryside. This policy was accomplished simultaneously with collectivization in the Soviet Union and effectively brought all agriculture in the Soviet Union under state control.

The "liquidation of the kulaks as a class" was announced by Stalin on December 27, 1929.[8] The decision was formalized in a resolution, "On measures for the elimination of kulak households in districts of comprehensive collectivization", on January 30, 1930. The kulaks were divided into three categories: those to be shot or imprisoned as decided by the local secret political police; those to be sent to Siberia, North, the Urals, or Kazakhstan, after confiscation of their property; and those to be evicted from their houses and used in labour colonies within their own districts.[8]

The combination of the elimination of kulaks, collectivization, and other repressive policies contributed to mass starvation in many parts of the Soviet Ukraine and the death of at least 7 to 10 million peasants in 1930–1937.[8]

Requisition quotas[edit]

Sources such as Encyclopædia Britannica say there was no physical basis for famine in Ukraine, and that Soviet authorities set quotas for Ukraine at exceedingly high levels. The famine was caused by the food requisition actions carried out by the Soviet authorities.[11] The government plans for central grain collection in Ukraine were lowered by 18.1% relative to the 1931 plan. Collective farms were expected to return 132,750 tons of grain, the amount that had been provided in spring 1932 as aid. The grain collection plan for July 1932 was adopted to collect 19.5 million poods. The actual state of collection was disastrous, and by July 31 only 3 million poods (compared to 21 million in 1931) were collected. The total amount of grain collected by February 5, 1933 was only 255 million poods (compared to 440 million poods in 1931).

In 1930 the Ukraine provided 27% of the Soviet harvest but 38% of the deliveries. In 1931 it made 42% of deliveries. The Ukrainian harvest fell from 23.9 million tons to 18.3 but the same quota, 7.7 million tons, was demanded, 7 million was collected. 7.7 was again demanded in 1932, reduced to 6.6, only 4.7 was collected.[12]

Criminalised gleaning[edit]

Gleaning is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers' fields after they have been commercially harvested or from fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest. Some ancient cultures promoted gleaning as an early form of a welfare system. In the Soviet Union, people who gleaned and distributed food brought themselves under legal risk. The Law of Spikelets criminalised gleaning under penalty of death, or ten years of forced labour in exceptional circumstances.

Some sources claim there were several legislative acts adopted in order to force starvation in the Ukrainian SSR. On August 7, 1932, the Soviet government passed a law, "On the Safekeeping of Socialist Property",[13] that imposed penalties starting at a ten-year prison sentence and up to the death penalty for any theft of socialist property.[14][15][16] Stalin personally appended the stipulation: "People who encroach on socialist property should be considered enemies of the people."[citation needed] Within the first five months of passage of the law, 54,645 individuals had been imprisoned under it, and 2,110 sentenced to death. The initial wording of the decree, "On fought with speculation”, adopted August 22, 1932, led to common situations where minor acts such as bartering tobacco for bread were documented as punished by 5 years imprisonment. After 1934, by NKVD demand, the penalty for minor offenses was limited to a fine of 500 rubles or three months of correctional labor.[17]

The scope of this law, colloquially dubbed the "law of the wheat ears",[13] included even the smallest appropriation of grain by peasants for personal use. A little over a month later, the law was revised, as Politburo protocols revealed that secret decisions had later modified the original decree of September 16, 1932. The Politburo approved a measure that specifically exempted small-scale theft of socialist property from the death penalty, declaring that "organizations and groupings destroying state, social, and co-operate property in an organized manner by fires, explosions and mass destruction of property shall be sentenced to execution without trial", and listed a number of cases in which "kulaks, former traders, and other socially-alien persons" would be subject to the death penalty. "Working individual peasants and collective farmers" who stole kolkhoz property and grain would be sentenced to ten years; the death penalty would be imposed only for "systematic theft of grain, sugar beets, animals, etc."[18]

Soviet expectations for the 1932 grain crop were high because of Ukraine's bumper crop the previous year, which Soviet authorities believed were sustainable. When it became clear that the 1932 grain deliveries were not going to meet the expectations of the government, the decreased agricultural output was first blamed on the kulaks, and later on agents and spies of foreign intelligence services, "nationalists", "Petlurovites", and from 1937 on, Trotskyists. According to a report from the head of the Supreme Court, by January 15, 1933 as many as 103,000 people (more than 14 thousand in the Ukrainian SSR) had been sentenced under the provisions of the August 7 decree. Of the 79,000 whose sentences were known to the Supreme Court, 4,880 had been sentenced to death, 26,086 to ten years of imprisonment, and 48,094 to other punishments.[18]

On November 8, Molotov and Stalin issued an order stating, "from today the dispatch of goods for the villages of all regions of Ukraine shall cease until kolkhozy and individual peasants begin to honestly and conscientiously fulfill their duty to the working class and the Red Army by delivering grain."[19]

On November 24, the Politburo ordered that all those sentenced to confinement of three years or more in Ukraine be deported to labor camps. It also simplified procedures for confirming death sentences in Ukraine. The Politburo also dispatched Balytsky to Ukraine for six months with the full powers of the OGPU.[20]

Blacklist system[edit]

Some researchers[who?] claim that in December 1932, Soviets imposed special sanctions and blockade by NKVD units which led to complete extermination by starvation of certain villages and areas. The blacklist was applied with harsher methods to selected villages and kolkhozes that were considered to be "underperforming" in the grain collection procurement: “Immediate cessation of delivery of goods, complete suspension of cooperative and state trade in the villages, and removal of all available goods from cooperative and state stores. Full prohibition of collective farm trade for both collective farms and collective farmers, and for private farmers. Cessation of any sort of credit and demand for early repayment of credit and other financial obligations.” [21][22] Initially, such sanctions were applied to only six villages, but later they were applied to numerous rural settlements and districts. For peasants, who were not kolkhoz members and who were "underperforming" in the grain collection procurement, special measures were adopted. To reach the grain procurement quota amongst peasants, 1100 brigades were organized, which consisted of activists, often from neighboring villages, who had either already accomplished their grain procurement quota or were close to accomplishing it.

Since most of the goods supplied to the rural areas were commercial (fabrics, matches, fuels) and sometimes obtained by villagers from neighboring cities or railway stations, sanctioned villages remained thus for a long period — as an example mentioned in the December 6 decree, the village of Kamyani Potoky was removed from blacklist on October 17, 1933, when they completed their plan for grain collection early. After January 1933, the blacklist regime was modified, with 100% plan execution no longer required. As mentioned in the December 6 Decree, the villages Liutenky and Havrylivka were removed from the black list after 88% and 70% plan completion, respectively.[23]

Measures were taken to persecute those withholding or bargaining grain. This was done frequently by requisition detachments, which raided farms to collect grain. This was done regardless of whether or not the peasants retained enough grain to feed themselves or enough seed left to plant the next harvest.

Restrictions on freedom of movement[edit]

Some sources state that Ukrainian SSR borders were sealed by the NKVD and the army in order to prevent starving peasants from travelling into territories where food was more available. Some researchers believe these measures extended to urban areas inside Ukrainian SSR. During the First Five-Year Plan, urban population growth brought more than 10 million people from villages to cities; the number receiving food rations increased from 25 million in 1930 to 40 million in 1932. Food production declined and urban food supplies fell drastically. Reserves did not keep pace with ration requirements. Desertion of factories, combined with peasants' flight from collective farms, resulted in millions of people moving around the country. In response, the government revived the tsarist institution of internal passports at the end of 1932.[24]

Special barricades were set up by GPU units throughout the Soviet Union to prevent an exodus of peasants from hunger-stricken regions. During a single month in 1933, 219,460 people were either intercepted and escorted back or arrested and sentenced.[25] In Ukraine, these measures had the following results, according to the declassified documents:[26][27][28][29] During the 11 days (January 23–February 2) after the January 22, 1933 decree, 3,861 people were intercepted, of which 340 were arrested "for further recognition". During the same period, there were 16,773 people intercepted (907 of those not living in Ukraine)in trains and at railway stations on the whole Ukrainian territory; out of those, 1,610 people were arrested. These figures also included criminals. In the same document, the GPU states that 94,433 peasants had already left the Ukrainian territory during the period from December 15, 1932 to January 2, 1933 (data for 215 districts out of 484, and Moldavian ASRR). It has been estimated that there were some 150,000 excess deaths as a result of this policy, and one historian asserts that these deaths constitute a crime against humanity.[30]

The government introduced new identity papers and obligatory registration for citizens in December 1932.[25] Initially, the area of new identity papers and obligatory registration implementation was limited to Moscow, Leningrad (encircling 100 km), and Kharkiv (encircling 50 km), and the new measures were planned for implementation by June 1933. In Ukraine, introduction of the passport system was to be carried out by the end of 1933, with top priority given to its enforcement in Kharkiv, Kiev, and Odessa.[31]

Travel from Ukraine and the Northern Caucasus Kuban kray region was specifically forbidden by the directives of January 22, 1933 (signed by Molotov and Stalin) and of January 23, 1933 (joint directive Central Committee of the Communist Party and Sovnarkom). February 16, 1933, the same measures were applied to the Lower-Volga region.[32] After February, the directives stated that travel "for bread" from these areas was organized by enemies of the Soviet Union, with the purpose of agitation in northern areas of the Soviet Union against kolkhozes, but was not prevented. Therefore, railway tickets were to be sold only by ispolkom permits, and those who had already reached the north should be arrested.[33]

Information blockade[edit]

Some sources claim that the Soviet regime, by preventing news of the famine from reaching the outside world, prevented foreign sources from providing aid to alleviate the famine and associated hardships. Some claim the same thing happened during the earlier 1921–23 famine in the Soviet Union. With regard to the earlier famine, some researchers say initial Soviet pleas for aid in early autumn 1921 were refused by European countries, and what aid was eventually provided didn't come for four or five months, so the Soviet government may not have expected the outside world to be very helpful in this instance either.[citation needed]

On February 23, 1933, the Politburo of Central Committee adopted a decree requiring foreign journalists to seek travel permits from the General Directorate of Militia before entering the affected areas. Also, the Soviet government denied initial reports of the famine (but agreed with information about malnutrition), while preventing foreign journalists from traveling in the region. At the same time, there was no credible evidence of information blockade arrangements on a considerable number of foreign specialists (engineers, workers, etc.) who worked at construction sites at Ukrainian territory.

For example Gareth Jones, one of David Lloyd George’s private secretaries, spent several days in mid-March travelling to “all twenty villages, not only in the Ukraine, but also in the black earth district, and in the Moscow region, and... I slept in peasants' cottages, and did not immediately leave for the next village”.[citation needed] He reached the neighboring rural area of Kharkiv (the capital of Soviet Ukraine), spent some days there, and despite seeing no dead people or animals himself, reported “that there was famine in the Soviet Union”.[citation needed]

On August 23, 1933, foreign correspondents were warned individually by the press section of the Foreign Office of the Soviet Union not to attempt to travel to the provinces or elsewhere in the Soviet Union without first obtaining formal permission. The Foreign Office of the Soviet Union, without explanation, refused permission to William H. Chamberlain, Christian Science Monitor correspondent, to visit and observe the harvest in the principal agricultural regions of the North Caucasus and Ukraine. From May–July 1933, two other American correspondents were forbidden to make a trip to Ukraine.[34] Such restrictions were softened in September 1933.

Scholars who have conducted research in declassified archives have reported "the Politburo and regional Party committees insisted that immediate and decisive action be taken in response to the famine such that 'conscientious farmers' not suffer, while district Party committees were instructed to supply every child with milk and decreed that those who failed to mobilize resources to feed the hungry or denied hospitalization to famine victims be prosecuted."[35]

By the end of 1933, based on data collected by undercover investigation and photos, the Bohemian-Austrian Cardinal Theodor Innitzer began an awareness-raising campaign in the West about the massive deaths by hunger and occasional cases of cannibalism that were occurring in Ukraine and the North Caucasus at that time.[36]

Refusal to provide aid for starving[edit]

Street in Kharkiv, 1932

Some sources claim that, despite the pleas for assistance and the acknowledged famine situation, the Moscow authorities refused to provide aid; some researchers state that aid was provided only during the summer. The first reports regarding malnutrition and hunger in rural areas and towns (which were undersupplied through the recently introduced rationing system) to the Ukrainian GPU and oblast authorities are dated to mid-January 1933. However, the first food aid sent by Central Soviet authorities for the Odessa and Dnepropetrovsk regions 400 thousand poods (6600 tonnes, 200 thousand poods or 3300 tonnes for each) appeared as early as February 7, 1933.[37] Measures were introduced to localize these cases using locally available resources. While the numbers of such reports increased, the Central Committee of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of Ukraine issued a decree on February 8, 1933, that urged every “hunger case” to be treated without delay and with a maximum mobilization of resources by kolkhozes, raions, towns, and oblasts. The decree set a seven-day term for food aid which was to be provided from “central sources”. On February 20, 1933, the Dnipropetrovsk oblast received 1.2 million poods of food aid, Odessa received 800 thousand, and Kharkiv received 300 thousand. The Kiev oblast was allocated 6 million poods by March 18. The Ukrainian authorities also provided aid, but it was limited by available resources. In order to assist orphaned children, the Ukrainian GPU and People's Commissariat for Health created a special commission, which established a network of kindergartens where children could get food. Urban areas affected by food shortage adhered to a rationing system. On March 20, 1933, Stalin signed a decree which lowered the monthly milling levy in Ukraine by 14 thousand tons, which was to be redistributed as an additional bread supply “for students, small towns and small enterprises in large cities and specially in Kiev”. However, food aid distribution was not managed effectively and was poorly redistributed by regional and local authorities.

After the first wave of hunger in February and March, Ukrainian authorities met with a second wave of hunger and starvation in April and May, specifically in the Kiev and Kharkiv oblasts. The situation was aggravated by the extended winter.

Between February and June 1933, thirty-five Politburo decisions and Sovnarkom decrees authorized the issue of a total of 35.19 million poods (576,400 tonnes),[38] or more than half of total aid to Soviet agriculture as a whole. 1.1 million tonnes were provided by Central Soviet authorities in winter and spring 1933 — grain and seeds for Ukrainian SSR peasants, kolhozes and sovhozes. Such figures did not include grain and flour aid provided for the urban population and children, or aid from local sources. In Russia, Stalin personally authorized distribution of aid in answer to a request by Sholokhov, whose own district was stricken.[39] However, Stalin also later reprimanded Sholokhov for failing to recognize "sabotage" within his district. This was the only instance that a specific amount of aid was given to a specific district.[39] Other appeals were not successful, and many desperate pleas were cut back or rejected.[40]

Documents from Soviet archives indicate that the aid distribution was made selectively to the most affected areas, and during the spring months, such assistance was the goal of the relief effort. A special resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of Ukraine for the Kiev Oblast, from March 31, 1933, ordered peasants to be hospitalized with either ailing or recovering patients. The resolution ordered improved nutrition within the limits of available resources so that they could be sent out into the fields to sow the new crop as soon as possible.[41] The food was dispensed according to special resolutions from government bodies, and additional food was given in the field where the laborers worked.

The last CPSU Politburo decision about food aid to the whole of the Ukrainian SSR was issued on June 13, 1933. Separate orders about food aid for regions of Ukraine appeared by the end of June through early July 1933 for the Dnipropetrovsk, Vinnytsia and Kiev regions. For the kolkhozes of the Kharkiv region, assistance was provided by end of July 1933 (Politburo decision dated July 20, 1933).[42]

Extensive export of grain and other food[edit]

Some publications claim that after recognition of the famine situation in Ukraine during the drought and poor harvests, the Soviet government in Moscow continued to export grain rather than retain its crop to feed the people,[43] though at a significantly lower rate than in previous years. In 1930–31, there had been 5,832,000 metric tons of grains exported. In 1931–32, grain exports declined to 4,786,000 metric tons. In 1932–33, grain exports were just 1,607,000 metric tons, and in 1933–34, this further declined to 1,441,000 metric tons.[44] Officially published data [45] differed slightly:

Cereals (in tonnes):

  • 1930 – 4,846,024
  • 1931 – 5,182,835
  • 1932 – 1,819,114 (~750,000 during the first half of 1932; from late April ~157,000 tonnes of grain was also imported)
  • 1933 – 1,771,364 (~220,000 during the first half of 1933;[46] from late March grain was also imported[47])

Only wheat (in tonnes):

  • 1930 – 2,530,953
  • 1931 – 2,498,958
  • 1932 – 550,917
  • 1933 – 748,248

In 1932, via Ukrainian commercial ports the following amounts were exported: 988,300 tons of grains and 16,500 tons of other types of cereals. In 1933, the totals were: 809,600 tons of grains, 2,600 tons of other cereals, 3,500 tons of meat, 400 tons of butter, and 2,500 tons of fish. Those same ports imported the following amounts: less than 67,200 tons of grains and cereals in 1932, and 8,600 tons of grains in 1933.

The following amounts were received from other Soviet ports: in 1932, 164,000 tons of grains, 7,300 tons of other cereals, 31,500 tons of, and no more than 177,000 tons of meat and butter; in 1933, 230,000 tons of grains, 15,300 tons if other cereals, 100 tons of meat, 900 tons of butter, and 34,300 tons of fish.

Michael Ellman states that the 1932–33 grain exports amounted to 1.8 million tonnes, which would have been enough to feed 5 million people for one year.[30]

Elimination of Ukrainian cultural elite[edit]

Some researches found that the famine of 1932–1933 followed the assault on Ukrainian national culture that started in 1928.[citation needed] The events of 1932–1933 in Ukraine were seen by the Soviet Communist leaders as an instrument against Ukrainian self-determination. At the 12th Congress of the Communist Party of Ukraine (CP(b)U), Moscow-appointed leader Pavel Postyshev declared that "1933 was the year of the defeat of Ukrainian nationalist counter-revolution."[48] This "defeat" encompassed not just the physical extermination of a significant portion of the Ukrainian peasantry, but also the mass imprisonment or execution of Ukrainian intellectuals, writers, and artists.

By the end of the 1930s, approximately four-fifths of the Ukrainian cultural elite had been eliminated.[49] Some, like Ukrainian writer Mykola Khvylovy, committed suicide. One of the leading Ukrainian Bolsheviks, Mykola Skrypnyk, who was in charge of the decade-long Ukrainization program that had been decisively brought to an end, shot himself in the summer of 1933 at the height of the purge of the CP(b)U. Whole academic organizations, such as the Bahaliy Institute of History and Culture, were shut down following the arrests.

Repression of the intelligentsia occurred in virtually all parts of the Soviet Union.[50]

Despite the assault, education and publishing in the republic remained Ukrainianized for years afterward. In 1935–36, 83% of all school children in the Ukrainian SSR were taught in Ukrainian, with Ukrainians making up about 80% of the population.[51] In 1936, of 1830 newspapers, 1402 were in Ukrainian, as were 177 magazines, and in 1936, 69 thousand Ukrainian books were printed.[52]

Deliberate targeting of Ukrainians[edit]

Although famine, caused by collectivization, raged in many parts of the Soviet Union in 1932, special and particularly lethal policies, described by Yale historian Timothy Snyder in his book Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin (2010), were adopted in and largely limited to Ukraine at the end of 1932 and 1933.[53] Snyder lists seven crucial policies that applied only, or mainly, to Soviet Ukraine. He states: "Each of them may seem like an anodyne administrative measure, and each of them was certainly presented as such at the time, and yet each had to kill":[53]

  1. From 18 November 1932 peasants from Ukraine were required to return extra grain they had previously earned for meeting their targets. State police and party brigades were sent into these regions to root out any food they could find.
  2. Two days later, a law was passed forcing peasants who could not meet their grain quotas to surrender any livestock they had.
  3. Eight days later, collective farms that failed to meet their quotas were placed on "blacklists" in which they were forced to surrender 15 times their quota. These farms were picked apart for any possible food by party activists. Blacklisted communes had no right to trade or to receive deliveries of any kind, and became death zones.
  4. On 5 December 1932, Stalin's security chief presented the justification for terrorizing Ukrainian party officials to collect the grain. It was considered treason if anyone refused to do their part in grain requisitions for the state.
  5. In November 1932 Ukraine was required to provide 1/3 of the grain collection of the entire Soviet Union. As Lazar Kaganovich put it, the Soviet state would fight "ferociously" to fulfill the plan.
  6. In January 1933 Ukraine's borders were sealed in order to prevent Ukrainian peasants from fleeing to other republics. By the end of February 1933 approximately 190,000 Ukrainian peasants had been caught trying to flee Ukraine and were forced to return to their villages to starve.
  7. The collection of grain continued even after the annual requisition target for 1932 was met in late January 1933.[53]

The recent award-winning documentary Genocide Revealed (2011),[54] by Canadian-Ukrainian director Yurij Luhovy, presents evidence for the view that Stalin and his cohorts in the Communist regime (not necessarily the Russian people as a whole) deliberately targeted Ukrainians in the mass starvation of 1932–1933. Stalin's regime proceeded to eliminate the intelligentsia of Ukraine[citation needed], to forcibly deport Ukrainian Kulaks who opposed its collectivization policies, and to orchestrate a deliberate mass starvation by hunger of Ukrainians, wherever they were found throughout the Soviet Empire.[55] This documentary reinforces the view that the Holodomor was indeed an act of genocide.

Consequence of collectivization[edit]

While a complex task, it is possible to group some of the causes that contributed to the Holodomor. They have to be understood in the larger context of the social revolution from above that took place in the Soviet Union at the time.[56]

Collectivization[edit]

Approaches to changing from individual farming to a collective type of agricultural production had existed since 1917, but for various reasons (lack of agricultural equipment, agronomy resources, etc.) were not implemented widely until 1925, when there was a more intensive effort by the agricultural sector to increase the number of agricultural cooperatives and bolster the effectiveness of already existing sovkhozes. In late 1927, after the XV Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, then known as the All-Union Communist Party (bolsheviks), a significant impetus was given to the collectivization effort.

In 1927, a drought shortened the harvest in southern areas of the Ukrainian SSR and North Caucasus. In 1927–28, the winter tillage area was badly affected due to low snow levels. Despite seed aid from the State, many affected areas were not re-sown. The 1928 harvest was affected by drought in most of the grain producing areas of the Ukrainian SSR. Shortages in the harvest and difficulties with the supply system created difficulties with the food supply in urban areas and destabilized the food supply situation in the USSR in general. In order to alleviate the situation, a system of food rationing was initially implemented in Odessa in the second quarter of 1928, and later spread to Mariupol, Kherson, Kiev, Dniprelstan (Dnipropetrovsk), and Kharkiv. At the beginning of 1929, a similar system was implemented throughout the USSR. Despite the aid from the Soviet Ukrainian and the Central governments, many southern rural areas registered occurrences of malnutrition and in some cases hunger and starvation (the affected areas and thus the amount of required food aid was under-counted by authorities). There was also a shortage of forage livestock. Most of Kolkhozes and recently refurnished sovkhozes went through these years with few losses, and some were even able to provide assistance to peasants in the more affected areas (seed and grain for food).

Despite the intense state campaign, the collectivization, which was initially voluntary, was not popular amongst peasants: as of early 1929, only 5.6% of Ukrainian peasant households and 3.8% of arable land were collectivized. In early 1929, the methods employed by the specially empowered authority UkrKolhozcenter changed from a voluntary enrollment to an administrative one. By October 1, 1929, a plan for the creation of kolkhozes was “outperformed” by 239%. As a result, 8.8% of arable land was collectivized.[57]

The next major step toward "all-over collectivization" took place after an article was published by Stalin in Pravda, in early November 1929.

While initiated by a November 10–17 meeting of Communist Party Central Committee Twenty-Five Thousanders only trained at special short courses, the main driving force of collectivization and dekulakization in Ukraine became a "poor peasants committee" (“komnezamy”) and local village councils (silrady) where komnezams members had a voting majority.

The USSR Kolhozcenter issued the December 10, 1929, decree on collectivization of livestock within a three-month period (draft animals 100%, cattle 100%, pigs 80%, sheep and goats 60%). This drove many peasants to slaughter their livestock. By January 1, 1930, the percentage of collectivized households almost doubled to 16.4%.

Despite the infamous January 5, 1930 decree, in which the deadline for the complete collectivization of the Ukrainian SSR was set for the period from the end of 1931 to spring 1932, the authorities decided to accelerate the completion of the campaign in autumn 1930. The high expectations of the plan were outperformed by local authorities even without the assistance of the 7,500 Twenty-Five Thousanders,[58] and by March, 70.9% of arable land and 62.8% of peasant households were collectivized. The dekulakization plan also “over-performed”. The first stage of delukakization lasted from second half of January until the beginning of March 1930. Such measures were applied to 309 out of 581 total districts of Ukrainian SSR, which accounted for 2,524,000 of 5,054,000 peasant households. As of March 10, 61,897 peasants households (2.5%) were dekulakized, while in 1929, the percentage of dekulakized households was 1.4%.[59] Some of the peasants and "weak elements" were arrested and deported "to the north”. Many arrested kulaks and "well-to-do" farmers resettled their families to the Urals and Central Asia.[60] The term kulak was ultimately applied to anybody resisting collectivization as many of the so-called kulaks were no more well-off than other peasants.

The fast-track to collectivization incited numerous peasant revolts in Ukraine and in other parts of the USSR. In response to the situation, Pravda published Stalin's article "Dizzy with success", which blamed overeager Party members and declared that "collective farms must not be established by force".[61] Soon, numerous orders and decrees were issued banning the use of force and administrative methods. Some of those dekulakized were declared to have been labeled mistakenly and received their property back, and some returned home. As a result, the collectivization process was rolled back. On May 1, 1933, 38.2% of Ukrainian SSR peasant households and 41.1% of arable land had been collectivized; by the end of August these numbers declined to 29.2% and 35.6% respectively.[citation needed]

A second forced-voluntary collectivization campaign was initiated in the winter of 1931, with significant assistance of the so-called tug-brigades composed of kolkhoz udarniks. Many kulaks, along with their families, were deported from the Ukrainian SSR.

According to declassified data, around 300,000 peasants in Ukraine were affected by these policies in 1930–31. Ukrainians composed 15% of the total 1.8 million kulaks relocated Soviet-wide.[62] Beginning in summer 1931, all further deportations were recommended to be administered only to individuals.[63]

This second forced-voluntary collectivization campaign also caused a delay in sowing. During winter and spring 1930–31, the Ukrainian agricultural authority Narkomzem issued several reports about the significant decline of livestock caused by poor treatment, the absence of forage, stables, and farms, and "kulak sabotage".[citation needed]

According to the First Five-Year Plan, Ukrainian agriculture was to switch from an exclusive orientation of grain to a more diverse output. This included not only an increase in sugar beet crops; other types of agricultural production were expected to be utilized by industry, including cotton, which was established in 1931. This plan anticipated a decrease in grain area and an increase of yield and area for other crops.

By July 1, 1931, 65.7% of Ukrainian SSR peasant households and 67.2% of arable land were reported as collectivized, while the main grain and sugar beet production areas were collectivized at levels of 80–90%.[64]

The decree of Central Committee of the Communist Party on August 2, 1931 clarified the all-over collectivization term — in order to be considered complete, the all-over collectivization did not have to reach 100%, but could not be less than 68-70% of peasants households and 75-80% of arable lands. According to the same decree, all-over collectivization was accomplished in the following areas: Northern Caucasus (Kuban), with 88% of households and 92% of arable lands collectivized; Ukraine (South), with 85% and 94% respectively; Ukraine (Right Bank), with 69% and 80%; and Moldavian ASRR (part of Ukrainian SRR), with 68% and 75%.[65]

As of the beginning of October 1931, the collectivization of 68% of peasant households, and 72% of arable land was complete.[66]

Article from a Soviet newspaper with the first version of a plan for grain collections in 1932 for kolkhozes and peasants - 5,831.3 thousand tons + sovkhozes 475,034 tons

The plan for the state grain collection in the Ukrainian SSR adopted for 1931 was over-optimistic — 510 million poods (8.4 Tg). Drought, administrative distribution of the plan for kolkhozes, and the lack of relevant general management destabilized the situation. Significant amounts of grain remained unharvested. A significant percentage was lost during processing and transportation, or spoiled at elevators (wet grain). The total winter sowing area shrunk by ~2 million hectares. Livestock in kolkhozes remained without forage, which was collected under grain procurement. A similar occurrence happened with respect to seeds and wages awarded to kolhoz members. Grain collection continued until May 1932, but reached only 90% of the planned amounts. By the end of December 1931, the collection plan was 79% accomplished. Many kolkhozes from December 1931 onwards suffered from lack of food, resulting in an increased number of deaths caused by malnutrition, which were registered by OGPU in some areas (Moldavian SSR as a whole and several central rayons of Vinnytsya, Kiev, and North-East rayons of Odessa oblasts)[67] in winter, spring and early summer 1932. By 1932, the sowing campaign of the Ukrainian SSR was implemented with minimal drafht power, as most of the remaining horses were incapable of working, while the number of available agricultural tractors was too small to fill the gap.

The Government of the Ukrainian SSR tried to remedy the situation, but it had little success. Administrative and territorial reform (oblast creation) in February 1932 also added to the mismanagement. As a result, Moscow had more details about the seed situation than the Ukrainian authorities. In May 1932, in an effort to change the situation, the central Soviet Government provided 7.1 million poods of grain for food for Ukraine and dispatched an additional 700 agricultural tractors originally intended for other regions of USSR.[citation needed]

By July, the total amount of aid provided from Central Soviet Authorities for food, sowing and forage for the agricultural sector totaled more than 17 million poods.

Speculative prices of food in the cooperative network (5–10 times more compared to neighboring Soviet republics) brought significant peasant “travel for bread”, while attempts to handle the situation had very limited success. The quota on carried-on foods provision was lifted by Stalin (at Kosior's request) at the end of May 1932. The July GPU reports for the first half of 1932 mentioned the “difficulties with food” in 127 out of 484 rayons and acknowledged the incompleteness of the information for the regions. The decree of Sovnarkom on “Kolkhoz Trade” issued in May fostered rumors amongst peasants that collectivization was rolled back again, as it had been in spring 1930. The number of peasants who abandoned kolkhozes significantly increased.

As a result, the government plans for the central grain collection in Ukraine was lowered by 18.1% compared to the 1931 plan. Collective farms were still expected to return 132,750 tons of grain, which had been provided in spring 1932 as aid. The grain collection plan for July 1932 was adopted to collect 19.5 million poods. The actual state of collection was disastrous, and by July 31, only 3 million poods (compared to 21 million in 1931) were collected. As of July 20, the harvested area was half the 1931 amount. The sovhozes had only sowed 16% of the defined area.

Beginning in July 1932, the Ukrainian SSR met with difficulty in supplying the planned amount of food to the rationing system (implemented in early 1928) to supply extensively growing urban areas with food. This system almost became the sole source of food delivery to cities, while the alternatives, cooperative trade and black market trading, became too expensive and undersupplied to provide long-range assistance. By December 1932, due to faulty grain procurement, daily rationing for the rural population was limited to 100–600 grams of bread, with some group of rural citizens completely withdrawn from the rationing supply.[23][67]

This disparity between agricultural goals and actual production grew later in the year. An expected 190 thousand tons of grain were to be exported, but by August 27, 1932, only 20 thousand tons were ready. Taking into account the situation with the harvest at right bank Ukraine, Stalin lowered procurement plan for the Ukrainian SSR by 40 million poods at the end of August 1932.[68] By October 25, the plan for grain collection was lowered once again. Nevertheless, collection reached only 39% of the annually planned total.[69] A second lowering of goals subtracted 70 million poods but still demanded plan completion and 100% efficiency. Attempts to reach the new goals of production proved futile in late 1932. On November 29, in order to complete the plan, Ukraine was to collect 94 million poods, 4.8 million of them from sovkhozes. On January 2, targets were again lowered to 62.5 million poods. On January 14, the targets were lowered even further to 33.1 million. At the same time, GPU of Ukraine reported hunger and starvation in the Kiev and Vinnytsia oblasts, and began implementing measures to remedy the situation. The total amount of grain collected by February 5 was only 255 million poods (compared to 440 million poods in 1931), while the numbers of “hunger and malnutrition cases” as registered by the GPU of Ukrainian SSR increased every day.[70]

Whilst the long-lasting effect of overall collectivization had an adverse effect on agricultural output everywhere, Ukraine had long been the most agriculturally productive area, providing over 50% of exported grain and 25% of total production of grain in the Russian Empire in 1913. Over 228,936 square kilometres (56,571,000 acres), 207,203 square kilometres (51,201,000 acres) were used for grain production, or 90.5% of total arable land. This degree of dependency on agriculture meant that the effects of a bad harvest could be almost unlimited. This had been long recognized, and while projections for agricultural production were adjusted, the shock of limited production could not be easily managed. While collections by the state were in turn limited, there were already clear stresses. The 1932 total Soviet harvest was to be 29.5 million tons[vague] in state collections of grain out of 90.7 million tons in production. But the actual result was a disastrous 55–60 million tons in production. The state ended up collecting only 18.5 million tons in grain.[71] The total Soviet collections by the state were virtually the same in 1930 and 1931 at about 22.8 million tons. For 1932, they had been reduced significantly to 18.5 million tons, with even lower figure in Ukraine. These were the total estimated outcomes of the grain harvests:[71]

Peasants’ reaction[edit]

Another potential factor contributing to the situation in spring 1933 was that the peasants’ “incentive to work disappeared” when they worked at “large collective farms.”[72] Soviet archival data for 1930–32 also support that conclusion. This is one of the factors for reducing the sowing area in 1932 and for significant losses during harvesting.[46] By December 1932, 725,000 hectares of grain in areas of Ukrainian SRR affected by famine remained uncollected in spring 1933.[73]

A second significant factor was "the massacre of cattle by peasants not wishing to sacrifice their property for nothing to the collective farm."[74] During winter and spring 1930–31, the Ukrainian agricultural authority Narkomzem issued several reports about the significant decline of livestock and especially draft power caused by poor treatment, absence of forage, stables, and farms, and "kulak sabotage". [75]

Legislation provisions[edit]

Law "On the safekeeping of Socialist property" text 12 of August 1932

On August 7, 1932, the Soviet government passed a law, "On the Safekeeping of Socialist Property",[13] that imposed penalties from a ten-year prison sentence up to the death penalty for any theft of socialist property.[14][15][16] Stalin personally appended the stipulation: "People who encroach on socialist property should be considered enemies of the people."[citation needed] Within the first five months of passage of the law, 54,645 individuals had been imprisoned under it, and 2,110 sentenced to death. The initial wording of the decree, "On fought with speculation”, adopted August 22, 1932 led to common situations where minor acts such as bartering tobacco for bread were documented as punished by 5 years imprisonment. After 1934, by NKVD demand, the penalty for minor offenses was limited to a fine of 500 rubles or three months of correctional labor.[17]

The scope of this law, colloquially dubbed the "law of the wheat ears",[13] included even the smallest appropriation of grain by peasants for personal use. In little over a month, the law was revised, as Politburo protocols revealed that secret decisions had later modified the original decree of September 16, 1932. The Politburo approved a measure that specifically exempted small-scale theft of socialist property from the death penalty, declaring that "organizations and groupings destroying state, social, and co-operate property in an organized manner by fires, explosions and mass destruction of property shall be sentenced to execution without trial", and listed a number of cases in which "kulaks, former traders and other socially-alien persons" would be subject to the death penalty. "Working individual peasants and collective farmers" who stole kolkhoz property and grain should be sentenced to ten years; the death penalty should be imposed only for "systematic theft of grain, sugar beets, animals, etc."[18]

Soviet expectations for the 1932 grain crop were high because of Ukraine's bumper crop the previous year, which Soviet authorities believed were sustainable. When it became clear that the 1932 grain deliveries were not going to meet the expectations of the government, the decreased agricultural output was blamed on the kulaks, and later to agents and spies of foreign Intelligence Services — "nationalists", "Petlurovites", and from 1937 on, Trotskyists. According to a report by the head of the Supreme Court, by January 15, 1933, as many as 103,000 people (more than 14,000 in the Ukrainian SSR) had been sentenced under the provisions of the August 7 decree. Of the 79,000 whose sentences were known to the Supreme Court, 4,880 had been sentenced to death, 26,086 to ten years' imprisonment, and 48,094 to other sentences.[18]

On November 8, Molotov and Stalin issued an order stating "from today the dispatch of goods for the villages of all regions of Ukraine shall cease until kolkhozy and individual peasants begin to honestly and conscientiously fulfill their duty to the working class and the Red Army by delivering grain."[19]

On November 24, the Politburo instructed that all those sentenced to confinement of three years or more in Ukraine be deported to labor camps. It also simplified procedures for confirming death sentences in Ukraine. The Politburo also dispatched Balytsky to Ukraine for six months with the full powers of the OGPU.[20]

The existing practice of administrative punishment known as black board (blacklist) by the November, 18 Decree of Central Committee of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of Ukraine was applied to a greater extent and with more harsh methods to selected villages and kolkhozes that were considered to be underperforming in the grain collection procurement: “Immediate cessation of delivery of goods, complete suspension of cooperative and state trade in the villages, and removal of all available goods from cooperative and state stores. Full prohibition of collective farm trade for both collective farms and collective farmers, and for private farmers. Cessation of any sort of credit and demand for early repayment of credit and other financial obligations.” [21][22] Initially, such sanctions were applied to only six villages, but later they were applied to numerous rural settlements and districts. For peasants who were not kolkhoz members and who were underperforming in the grain collection procurement, special measures were adopted. To “reach the grain procurement quota” amongst peasants, 1100 brigades, consisting of activists (often from neighboring villages) which had accomplished their grain procurement quota or were close to accomplishing it, were organized.

Since most of goods supplied to the rural areas were commercial (fabrics, matches, fuels) and sometimes obtained by villagers from neighbored cities or railway stations, sanctioned villages remained so for a long period. As an example mentioned in the December 6 Decree, the village of Kamyani Potoky was removed from blacklist only on October 17, 1933 when they completed their plan for grain collection early. Beginning in January 1933, the black list regime was softened when 100% of plan execution was no longer demanded. The December 6 Decree stated that the villages Liutenky and Havrylivka were removed from the black list after reaching 88% and 70% plan completion respectively.[23]

Measures were undertaken to persecute those withholding or bargaining grain. This was frequently done by requisition detachments, which raided farms to collect grain, and was done regardless of whether the peasants retained enough grain to feed themselves, or whether they had enough seed left to plant the next harvest.

Procurement practice[edit]

In 1928, a by contract policy of procurement (contracts for the delivery of agricultural products) was implemented for kolkhozes and ordinary peasants alike (kulaks had a "firm" plan for procurement). Accordingly, from 1928 through January 1933, "grain production areas" were required to submit 1/3 to 1/4 of their estimated yield, while areas designated as grain were required to submit no more than 1/8 of their estimated yield. However, between autumn 1930 and spring 1932, local authorities tended to collect products from kolkhozes in amounts greater than the minimum required, in order to exceed the contracted target, in some cases by more than 200%. Especially harmful methods utilized in the by contract policy were counter-plan actions, which were additional collection plans implemented in already fulfilled contracts. Such counter-plan measures were strictly forbidden after the Spring of 1933 as "extremely harmful for kolkhoz development."[76]

In 1932 a "1/4 of yield" procurement quota for "grain production areas" of the Ukrainian SSR was planned for implementation. On September 23, 1932, a telegram signed by Molotov and Stalin noted that the harvest of 1932 was "satisfactory", according to estimates provided by the agricultural planning authorities, and therefore requests for seed for winter crops were refused, while total winter tillage acreage demands were increased.[77] Later, Stalin blamed the statistical and planning authorities for inaccurately estimating potential yields and thus a "Commissions for yield estimation" was created on December 17, 1932, by his order.[78] The 1932 harvest figures provided at the time were largely overestimated, and the actual difference between estimated and actual harvest was significant. Such unrealistic figures resulted in demand that was impossible to fulfill and greater grain procurement than was possible from late 1932 through February 5, 1933[79]

The 1932 grain procurement quota and the amount of grain actually collected were much smaller than those of any other year in the 1930s. In 1932, some 5.8 million tons of procured grain were returned to the rural sector, more than had been in 1930 or 1931.[24]

Natural reasons[edit]

Drought has been mentioned as the major reason for the Holodomor by Soviet sources since 1983.[80][81] This explanation has been modified by the Western historian Dr. Mark Tauger, who concluded that the famine was not fundamentally "man-made".[82][83] He says that rustic plant disease, rather than drought, was the cause of the famine. The most that can be said of the contribution of human actions is that draft shortages, lack of labor, systemic economic problems, mismanagement, and peasant resistance exacerbated the crop failures already created by natural disasters.[24]

In 1932, extremely dry weather reduced crops in some regions, and unusually wet and humid weather in most others fostered unprecedented infestations. These conditions reduced the potential yield, as drought had in 1931. Drought, rain, and infestations destroyed at least 20% of the harvest, and this would have been sufficient on its own to cause serious food shortages or even famine. The historian Mark Tauger believes that if these factors had not developed in 1931 and 1932, agricultural production would have been considerably larger.

The drought was not as bad as that of the non-famine year of 1936, and the earlier drought was centered outside Ukraine, according to the leading Soviet authority on drought.[84] The prime cause of the major crop failure of 1932–33 was plant rust rather than drought. Nevertheless, there was a significant drought in 1931, which caused a considerable decrease in the harvest, while in 1936 the decrease in the harvest was not as catastrophic. Historian James Mace wrote that Mark Tauger's argument "is not taken seriously by either Russians or Ukrainians who have studied the topic."[85] In addition, Stephen Wheatcroft, author of The Years of Hunger, claims Tauger's view represents the opposite extreme in arguing the famine was totally accidental.[86]

Sovkhozes general fault of 1932[edit]

After grain collection difficulties in 1927 and 1928, Stalin ordered the creation of state grain and meat enterprises — sovkhozes — which, according to his initial vision, should deliver more than 100 million poods of grain in 1932. However, in 1932 their production results were disastrous due to poor general and agricultural management and planning, despite the significant (as compared to kolkhozes) amount of modern agricultural mechanisms (agricultural tractors, harvesters, etc.) employed.[87] The main reason for low output was that wheat was continually sown, beginning in 1929, on the same areas without fertilizers. Sovkhozes also suffered from a lack of manpower and infrastructure (roads, elevators etc.). Losses during harvesting were extremely high.[78] Thus instead of the expected 290 millions of poods (more than 5 million tons) in 1932, sovkhozes produced 5 time less, while the situation with livestock was even worse.[76] As of July 20, 1932 sovhozes of the Ukrainian SRR had logged 16% of the defined sowing area.

Primitive agriculture[edit]

Another factor in the decline of the harvests was that the shortage of draft power for plowing and reaping was even more acute in 1932 than in the previous year. The number of working horses declined from 19.5 million on July 1, 1931 to 16.2 million on July 1, 1932. The efforts to replace horses by tractors failed to compensate for this loss. In 1931, the total supply of tractors for agriculture amounted to 578,000 hp (431 MW), with 393,000 hp (293 MW) produced at home and 578,000 hp (431 MW) imported. But in 1932, because of the foreign trade crisis and home producing establishing, no tractors were imported.[88] In the whole of 1932, tractors supplied 679,000 hp (506 MW) to agriculture, considerably less than in 1931. Only about half became available in time for the harvest, and even less in time for the spring sowing. Animal draft power deteriorated in quality. Horses were fed and maintained even more inadequately than in the previous year.[88] The acute shortage of horses led to the decision to employ cows as working animals. According to the speech of one Soviet official at one of the most affected by famine region, the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, "in 1932 we employ only 9000 cows, but in 1933 we involve at least 3/4 of their total number; 57000 employed at sowing."[89] On February 23, the Lower Volga party bureau decided to use 200,000 cows for special field work.

References[edit]

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  2. ^ С. Уиткрофт (Stephen G. Wheatcroft), "О демографических свидетельствах трагедии советской деревни в 1931—1933 гг." (On demographic evidence of the tragedy of the Soviet village in 1931-1833), "Трагедия советской деревни: Коллективизация и раскулачивание 1927-1939 гг.: Документы и материалы. Том 3. Конец 1930-1933 гг.", Российская политическая энциклопедия, 2001, ISBN 5-8243-0225-1, с. 885, Приложение № 2
  3. ^ http://web.archive.org/web/20030429084514/http://www.unimelb.edu.au/ExtRels/Media/UN/archive/1998/319/stalinismwasacollective.html 'Stalinism' was a collective responsibility - Kremlin papers], The News in Brief, University of Melbourne, June 19, 1998, Vol 7 No 22
  4. ^ a b http://www.uofaweb.ualberta.ca/historyandclassics/davidmarples.cfm Dr. David Marples], The great famine debate goes on..., ExpressNews (University of Alberta), originally published in Edmonton Journal, November 30, 2005
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  14. ^ a b Potocki, p. 320.
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  78. ^ a b Soviet Agricultural Encyclopedia 2-nd edition 1939 Moscow
  79. ^ Кульчицький С.В., "До оцінки становища в сільському господарстві УСРР у 1931-1933 рр." Ukrainian Historical Journal, №3, 1988, ст-ст.15-27; and also a S. Kulchytskyy letter to the International Commission of Inquiry into the 1932–33 Famine in Ukraine.
  80. ^ Robert Conquest, The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine Oxford University Press New York (1986) ISBN 0-19-504054-6
  81. ^ A News Release Communique from the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa dated April 28, 1983; see also Harvest of Sorrow by Conquest, page 346.
  82. ^ See collection of papers by Mark D. Tauger
  83. ^ Davies and Wheatcroft, pp 51, 53, 61-63, 66, 68, 70, 73-76, 109, 119-23, 131, 231, 239, 260, 269, 271n, 400, 439, 458-9
  84. ^ A.I. Rudenko. Zasukhi v USSR, see also Harvest of sorrow, p. 222
  85. ^ James Mace, Intellectual Europe on Ukrainian Genocide, The Day, October 21, 2003
  86. ^ Wheatcroft, S. G. TOWARDS EXPLAINING SOVIET FAMINE OF 1931-3: POLITICAL AND NATURAL FACTORS IN PERSPECTIVE, Food and Foodways, 2004, 12:2, 107 — 136
  87. ^ Development of the Ukrainian SRR Economy. Kiev-1949 Ukrainian Academy of Science publishing
  88. ^ a b Davies and Wheatcroft, p.111
  89. ^ "З доповіді І. Гаврилова на сесії ВУЦВК". Archives.gov.ua. Retrieved 2008-11-16.