Gareth Jones (journalist)

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Gareth Richard Vaughan Jones
Gareth Jones 3.jpg
Born(1905-08-13)13 August 1905
Died12 August 1935(1935-08-12) (aged 29)

Gareth Richard Vaughan Jones (13 August 1905 – 12 August 1935) was a Welsh journalist who first publicized in the Western world the existence of the Soviet famine of 1932–33.

Life and career[edit]


Jones was born in Barry, Glamorgan. His father Major Edgar Jones was headmaster of Barry County School which Gareth attended. His mother had spent the period 1889–1892 as tutor to the children of Arthur Hughes, the son of Welsh steel industrialist John Hughes, who had founded the town of Yuzovka or Hughesovka, modern day Donetsk, in Ukraine, and her stories inspired in Jones a desire to visit the Soviet Union, and particularly Ukraine.

Jones graduated from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth in 1926 with a first class degree in French, and from Trinity College, Cambridge in 1929 with a first class honours degree in French, German, and Russian.[1] In January 1930 he began work as Foreign Affairs Advisor to former British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, and that summer made his first brief "pilgrimage" to Yuzovka (by then renamed Stalino).

In 1931 he was offered employment in New York City by Dr Ivy Lee, public relations advisor to organisations such as the Rockefeller Institute, the Chrysler Foundation, and Standard Oil, to research a book about the Soviet Union. In the summer of 1931 he toured the Soviet Union with H.J. Heinz II of the food company dynasty, producing a diary published by Heinz as Experiences in Russia 1931, a diary which probably contains the first usage of the word "starve" in relation to the collectivisation of Soviet agriculture. In 1932 Jones returned to work for Lloyd George and helped the wartime Prime Minister write his War Memoirs.

During the 1930s, he was a reporter for the Western Mail.[2] In late January and early February 1933 Jones was in Germany covering the accession to power of the Nazi Party, and was in Leipzig on the day Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor. A few days later on 23 February in the Richthofen, the fastest and most powerful three-motored aeroplane in Germany, Jones became the first foreign journalist to fly with Hitler as he accompanied Hitler and Joseph Goebbels to Frankfurt where he reported for the Western Mail on the new Chancellor's tumultuous acclamation in that city.[2][3][4] He wrote that if the Richthofen had crashed the history of Europe would have changed.[3] The next month, he travelled to the Soviet Union and eluded authorities to slip into Ukraine, where he kept diaries of the man-made starvation he witnessed.[4][5] On his return to Berlin on 29 March 1933, he issued his press release, which was published by many newspapers, including The Manchester Guardian and the New York Evening Post:

I walked along through villages and twelve collective farms. Everywhere was the cry, 'There is no bread. We are dying'. This cry came from every part of Russia, from the Volga, Siberia, White Russia, the North Caucasus, and Central Asia. I tramped through the black earth region because that was once the richest farmland in Russia and because the correspondents have been forbidden to go there to see for themselves what is happening.

In the train a Communist denied to me that there was a famine. I flung a crust of bread which I had been eating from my own supply into a spittoon. A peasant fellow-passenger fished it out and ravenously ate it. I threw an orange peel into the spittoon and the peasant again grabbed it and devoured it. The Communist subsided. I stayed overnight in a village where there used to be two hundred oxen and where there now are six. The peasants were eating the cattle fodder and had only a month's supply left. They told me that many had already died of hunger. Two soldiers came to arrest a thief. They warned me against travel by night, as there were too many 'starving' desperate men.

'We are waiting for death' was my welcome, but see, we still, have our cattle fodder. Go farther south. There they have nothing. Many houses are empty of people already dead,' they cried.

This report was unwelcome in a great many of the media, as the intelligentsia of the time was still in sympathy with the Soviet regime.[4] On 31 March, The New York Times published a denial of Jones' statement by Walter Duranty under the headline "RUSSIANS HUNGRY, BUT NOT STARVING".[6] In the article, Kremlin sources denied the existence of a famine, and said, "Russian and foreign observers in country could see no grounds for predications of disaster". On 13 May, Jones published a strong rebuttal to Duranty in The New York Times, standing by his report:[7]

My first evidence was gathered from foreign observers. Since Mr. Duranty introduces consuls into the discussion, a thing I am loath to do, for they are official representatives of their countries and should not be quoted, may I say that I discussed the Russian situation with between twenty and thirty consuls and diplomatic representatives of various nations and that their evidence supported my point of view. But they are not allowed to express their views in the press, and therefore remain silent.

Journalists, on the other hand, are allowed to write, but the 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'. Consuls are not so reticent in private conversation.

In a personal letter from Soviet Foreign Commissar Maxim Litvinov (whom Jones had interviewed while in Moscow) to Lloyd George, Jones was informed that he was banned from ever visiting the Soviet Union again.


Banned from the Soviet Union, Jones turned his attention to the Far East and in late 1934 he left Britain on a "Round-the-World Fact-Finding Tour". He spent about six weeks in Japan, interviewing important generals and politicians, and he eventually reached Beijing. From here he traveled to Inner Mongolia in newly Japanese-occupied Manchukuo in the company of a German journalist. Detained by Japanese forces, the pair were told that there were three routes back to the Chinese town of Kalgan, only one of which was safe; they took this route but were captured by bandits who demanded a ransom of 100,000 Mexican silver pesos. The German journalist was released after two days, but 16 days later the bandits shot Jones under mysterious circumstances, on the eve of his 30th birthday. There were strong suspicions that Jones' murder was engineered by the Soviet NKVD, as revenge for the embarrassment he had previously caused the Soviet regime.[8]

On 26 August 1935, the London Evening Standard quoted Lloyd George paying tribute to Jones:

That part of the world is a cauldron of conflicting intrigue and one or other interests concerned probably knew that Mr Gareth Jones knew too much of what was going on... He had a passion for finding out what was happening in foreign lands wherever there was trouble, and in pursuit of his investigations he shrank from no risk... I had always been afraid that he would take one risk too many. Nothing escaped his observation, and he allowed no obstacle to turn from his course when he thought that there was some fact, which he could obtain. He had the almost unfailing knack of getting at things that mattered.

In November 2009, his diaries recording the man-made genocide of the Great Soviet Famine of 1932–33 went on display for the first time at Cambridge University.[5]

Serhii Bukovs'kyi's 2008 Ukrainian film The Living is a documentary about the Great Famine of 1932–33 and Gareth Jones' attempts to uncover its horrific atrocities.[9][10] The Living premiered 21 November 2008 at the Kyiv Cinema House. It was screened in February 2009 at the European Film Market, in spring 2009 at the Ukrainian Film Festival in Cologne, and in November 2009 at the Second Annual Cambridge Festival of Ukrainian Film.[5][11][12] It received the 2009 Special Jury Prize Silver Apricot in the International Documentary Competition at the Sixth Golden Apricot International Film Festival in July 2009 and the 2009 Grand Prize of Geneva in September 2009.[11][12][13]


In 2015, a feature film titled Mr. Jones, based on Jones' famine reporting, was announced.[14] In April 2016 it was announced that the Oscar-nominated Polish director Agnieszka Holland would direct the picture.[15] English actor James Norton portrays the titular character.[16] In January 2019, the film was selected to compete for the Golden Bear at the 69th Berlin International Film Festival.[17]


On 2 May 2006, a trilingual (Welsh/English/Ukrainian) plaque was unveiled in Gareth Jones' memory in the Old College at Aberystwyth University, in the presence of his niece Margaret Siriol Colley, and the Ukrainian Ambassador to the UK, Ihor Kharchenko, who described him as an "unsung hero of Ukraine". The idea for a plaque and funding were provided by the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association, working in conjunction with the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain. Dr Lubomyr Luciuk, UCCLA's director of research, spoke at the unveiling ceremony.

In November 2008, Jones and fellow Holodomor journalist Malcolm Muggeridge were posthumously awarded the Ukrainian Order of Merit at a ceremony in Westminster Central Hall, by Dr Kharchenko, on behalf of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko for their exceptional service to the country and its people.[18][19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "'Unsung hero' reporter remembered". BBC News. 2 May 2006. Retrieved 9 August 2008.
  2. ^ a b Brown, Mark (12 November 2009). "1930s journalist Gareth Jones to have story retold: Correspondent who exposed Soviet Ukraine's manmade famine to be focus of new documentary". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  3. ^ a b Jones, Gareth (28 February 1933). "With Hitler across Europe". The Western Mail and South Wales News. Cardiff. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  4. ^ a b c "Famine Exposure: Newspaper Articles relating to Gareth Jones' trips to The Soviet Union (1930–35)". Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  5. ^ a b c "Welsh journalist who exposed a Soviet tragedy". 13 November 2009. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  6. ^ Walter Duranty (31 March 1933). "RUSSIANS HUNGRY, BUT NOT STARVING; Deaths From Diseases Due to Malnutrition High, Yet the Soviet Is Entrenched". The New York Times: 13. Archived from the original on 30 March 2003.
  7. ^ Gareth Jones (13 May 1933). "Mr. Jones Replies; Former Secretary of Lloyd George Tells of Observations in Russia". The New York Times: 12. Archived from the original on 24 March 2003.
  8. ^ "Journalist Gareth Jones' 1935 murder examined by BBC Four". BBC News. 5 July 2012. Retrieved 5 July 2012.
  9. ^ ""Live" – a film about Holodomor by Sergey Bukovsky". Ukraine Film Office. 29 October 2008. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  10. ^ "The Living Historical Documentary Premiered, Ordered by Ukraine 3000 International Charitable Foundation". International Charitable Fund "Ukraine 3000". 21 November 2008. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  11. ^ a b "The Second Annual Cambridge Festival of Ukrainian Film". Eventbrite. 13 November 2009. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  12. ^ a b "Ukrainian Studies Film Festival". Cambridge Ukrainian Studies. Cambridge University. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  13. ^ "The Winners of 6th Golden Apricot". GAIFF. 19 July 2009. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  14. ^ Obenson, Tambay A. (23 July 2015). "140 New Projects Selected for the IFP's 2015 Project Forum Slate". IndieWire. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  15. ^ "'American Honey', 'Rams' execs among EFP Producers On The Move" Archived 4 August 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Screen International.
  16. ^ Clarke, Stewart (25 May 2018). "James Norton on 'Gareth Jones,' Agnieszka Holland and History Lessons". Variety. Retrieved 27 May 2018.
  17. ^ "Selection for Competition and Berlinale Special Completed". berlinale. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  18. ^ "Ukraine to honour Welsh reporter". BBC Wales. 22 November 2008. Retrieved 22 November 2008.
  19. ^ "Telling the truth about the Ukrainian famine". National Post (Canada). 22 November 2008. Archived from the original on 12 January 2009. Retrieved 22 November 2008.

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