Holodomor in modern politics

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The Holodomor (Ukrainian: Голодомор, literal translation Death by hunger) was a man-made famine in the Ukrainian SSR and adjacent Cossack territories between 1932 and 1933 that caused the deaths of millions of Ukrainians due to starvation.[1] The famine is formally considered by the modern Ukrainian government to be an act of genocide on the part of the Soviet government; others in the international community, as well as the United Nations, also recognize it as such. Some, such as the United States and Europe, recognize that the Holodomor was an attack on the Ukrainian people, but do not recognize it as a genocide. The Russian Federation denies officially that it was an act of genocide, but rather claims that the famine caused suffering among many in the Soviet Union, regardless of nationality.


According to the US Government Commission on the Ukrainian Famine,[2] the seizure of the 1932 crop by the Soviet authorities was the main reason for the famine. The US commission stated that "while famine took place during the 1932-1933 agricultural year in the Volga Basin and the North Caucasus Territory as a whole, the invasiveness of Stalin's interventions of both the Fall of 1932 and January 1933 in Ukraine are paralleled only in the ethnically Ukrainian Kuban region of the North Caucasus".

Scholars have documented that the Soviet famine of 1932-33 affected other nationalities. The 2004 book The Years of Hunger: Soviet Agriculture, 1931-1933 by R.W. Davies and S.G. Wheatcroft gives an estimate of around 5.5 to 6.5 million deaths in the 1932–1933 famine throughout the Soviet Union.[3] Still, the Holodomor remains a politically charged topic.

One view claims that the famine primarily affected the rural population of Ukraine. However, in 1932, 75% to 85% of the Ukrainian population resided in villages.[4]

Ukrainian declaration of genocide[edit]

On May 15, 2003, the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) of Ukraine also passed a resolution declaring the famine of 1932–1933 an act of genocide, deliberately organized by the Soviet government against the Ukrainian nation. On November 28, 2006 the Ukrainian Parliament approved a law to define Holodomor 1932-1933 as genocide against the Ukrainian people.[5] In 2007 president Viktor Yushchenko proposed a law that would criminalize denial of Holodomor. However, the law was never voted by the parliament.

International recognition[edit]

Countries which officially recognize the Holodomor as genocide

The originator of the term "genocide", Raphael Lemkin, was a featured speaker at the manifestation of Ukrainian-Americans in September 1953 to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Ukrainian Famine.[6] A number of the heads of state, governments or parliaments of countries including Ukraine, Andorra,[7] Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic,[8] Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Moldova, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Spain, United States, and Vatican City, consider the 1932–1933 famine as an act of genocide.

At the international conference of the Ukrainian Holodomor, which was held in October 2003 at the Institute of Social and Religious History of Vicenza, 28 conference participants that included well-respected historians like James Mace, Hubert Laszkiewicz, Andrea Graziosi, Yuriy Shapoval, Gerhard Simon, Orest Subtelny, and Mauro Martini - endorsed a resolution addressed to the Italian government and the European Parliament with a request to recognize the Holodomor as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people.[9][10]

Governments and parliaments of several of other countries have also officially recognized the Holodomor as an act of genocide.[2][11][12][13][14]

United Nations[edit]

The final report of the "International Commission of Inquiry Into the 1932–33 Famine in Ukraine", delivered to the UN Under-Secretary for Human Rights in Geneva on May 9, 1990, concluded that the famine in Ukraine was, in fact, genocide.[15] At same time the commission majority (5 of 6) deems it plausible that the constituent elements of genocide were in existence at the time of the famine.[16] Commission is unable to affirm the existence of a preconceived plan to organize a famine in Ukraine, in order to ensure the success of Moscow policies.[17]

A significant step in the world recognition of Holodomor was the Joint declaration at the United Nations in connection with 70th anniversary of the Great Famine in Ukraine 1932-1933 (10 November 2003),[18] evaluating the Holodomor as a great tragedy. According to Valery Kuchinsky, the chief Ukrainian representative at the United Nations the declaration was a compromise between the positions of Great Britain, United States and Russia denying that Holodomor was a genocide and the position of Ukraine that insisted on recognition of Holodomor as a form of genocide.[19]

United States[edit]

At the conference on "Recognition and Denial of Genocide and Mass Killing in the 20th Century," held at City University of New York on 13 November 1987, it was stated that Soviet Ukraine suffered a man-made famine in 1932–1933, during which millions died. The United States Government Commission concluded this was part of the central governments's attack on Ukrainian nationality and culture. The United States Government received numerous contemporary intelligence reports on the famine from its European embassies, but chose not to acknowledge the famine publicly. Similarly, leading members of the American press corps in the Soviet Union willfully covered up the famine in their dispatches. In both cases, political considerations relating to the establishment of diplomatic relations with the U.S.S.R. seem to have been critical factors in this cover-up.[20]


On 3 July 2008 the Parliamentary Assembly of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe passed the resolution condemning the Ukrainian famine acknowledging the direct responsibility of the Soviet action. The resolution called upon all parliaments to take measures on recognition of the fact of Holodomor in Ukraine but fell short of recognizing it as an act of genocide as requested by the document prepared by the Ukrainian delegation.[21][22]

On 23 October 2008, the European Parliament passed a resolution that called Holodomor "an appalling crime against the Ukrainian people, and against humanity" that was "cynically and cruelly planned by Stalin's regime in order to force through the Soviet Union's policy of collectivization of agriculture". The resolution, however, stopped short of calling the famine an act of genocide.[23]

Russian Federation[edit]

The Russian Federation officially says that the Holodomor is not an ethnic genocide and the State Duma passed a resolution on the subject in 2008 saying it should not be considered genocide - "There is no historical proof that the famine was organized along ethnic lines. Its victims were million of citizens of the Soviet Union, representing different peoples and nationalities living largely in agricultural areas of the country," the Russian State Duma resolution said.[24] Russian politician Mikhail Kamynin has claimed that Russia is against the politicisation of the Holodomor, and this question is for historians, not politicians.[25] Simultaneously the vice-speaker of the Russian State Duma, Lyubov Sliska, when asked in Kiev when Russia would apologize for its part in repressions and famines in Ukraine, replied, "why always insist that Russia apologize for everything? The people whose policies brought suffering not only to Ukraine, but to Russia, Belarus, peoples of the Caucasus, and Crimean Tatars, remain only in history textbooks, secret documents and minutes of meetings."[25] Ukrainian mass media censured Evgeny Guzeev, the Consul-General of the Russian Federation in Lviv, who stated that "the leaders of the period were sensible people, and it is impossible to imagine that this was planned."[19] Kyiv Post believes that Russia contests the recognition of the famine as a genocide is because "as the Soviet Union's legal successor, Russia is also concerned about the possibility of legal action or having to pay reparations."[26]

On November 17, 2007 members from Aleksandr Dugin's radical Russian nationalist group the Eurasian Youth Union broke into the Ukrainian cultural center in Moscow and smashed an exhibition on the famine.[27]

Misuse of graphical materials[edit]

Some images related to the Russian and Ukrainian famine of 1921 or Great Depression in the United States have been presented as Holodomor-related images.[28] According to American historian, Morgan E Williams: "Ninety-five percent of the photos that are represented as being of the Ukrainian famine are from Russia. That's a sore point with me. [The gaffes] are then used by people who say we exaggerate the extent of the famine. Or even worse, by people who deny [that the famine ever occurred]".[29]


  1. ^ - "The famine of 1932–33", Encyclopædia Britannica. Quote: "The Great Famine (Holodomor) of 1932–33—a man-made demographic catastrophe unprecedented in peacetime. Of the estimated six to eight million people who died in the Soviet Union, about four to five million were Ukrainians... Its deliberate nature is underscored by the fact that no physical basis for famine existed in Ukraine... Soviet authorities set requisition quotas for Ukraine at an impossibly high level. Brigades of special agents were dispatched to Ukraine to assist in procurement, and homes were routinely searched and foodstuffs confiscated... The rural population was left with insufficient food to feed itself."
  2. ^ a b "U. S. Commission on the Ukraine Famine, Report to Congress: Findings". U.S. Commission on the Ukraine Famine. faminegenocide.com. 19 April 1988. Retrieved 26 February 2016. 
  3. ^ Davies and Wheatcroft, p. 401
  4. ^ Himka, John-Paul (2005). "War Criminality: A Blank Spot in the Collective Memory of the Ukrainian Diaspora" (PDF). Spaces of Identity. 5 (1): 5–24. ISSN 1496-6778. I am not saying that the famine or the other components of the victimization narratives do not deserve historical research and reflection, nor that evil should be ignored, nor that the memory of the dead should not be held sacred. But I object to instrumentalizing this memory with the aim of generating political and moral capital, particularly when it is linked to an exclusion from historical research and reflection of events in which Ukrainians figured as perpetrators not victims, and when “our own” evil is kept invisible and the memory of the others’ dead is not held sacred. 
  5. ^ Закон України: Голодомор 1932-1933 років в Україні - Закон від 28.11.2006 № 376-V [Law of Ukraine: Holodomor in Ukraine 1932-1933 - Law from 28.11.200t No 376-V]. Supreme Council of Ukraine (in Ukrainian). 28 November 2006. Retrieved 26 February 2016. 
  6. ^ Yaroslav Bilinsky (1999). "Was the Ukrainian Famine of 1932–1933 Genocide?". Journal of Genocide Research. 1 (2): 147–156. doi:10.1080/14623529908413948. 
  7. ^ "Proposta d'acord relativa al 75è aniversari de l'Holodomor de 1932-1933" [Proposal concerning the 75th anniversary of the Holodomor 1932-1933] (PDF). General Council of Andorra (in Catalan). 26 November 2009. 
  8. ^ Чехия признала Голодомор геноцидом украинского народа [Czech Republic recognised the Holodomor as genocide of Ukrainian people]. UNIAN (in Russian). Podrobnosti. 1 December 2007. Archived from the original on 7 March 2012. 
  9. ^ "Convegno internazionale di studi: La grande carestia, la fame e la morte della terra nell'Ucraina del 1932-33" [International conference: A great famine, starvation and death in the land of Ukraine in 1932-33] (PDF) (in Italian). Italian Association of Ukrainian Studies (AISU). October 2003. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 February 2005. 
  10. ^ James Mace (21 October 2003). "The Great Famine-Genocide in Soviet Ukraine (Holodomor): Intellectual Europe on Ukrainian Genocide". The Day Weekly Digest. artukraine.com. Retrieved 26 February 2016. 
  11. ^ "US House of Representatives Authorizes Construction of Ukrainian Genocide Monument in Washington, D.C.". UCCA. 16 November 2005. Archived from the original on 25 November 2005. 
  12. ^ "Statement by Pope John Paul II on the 70th anniversary of the Famine". skrobach.com. 2007. Archived from the original on 30 June 2007. 
  13. ^ HR356 "Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding the man-made famine that occurred in Ukraine in 1932–1933", United States House of Representatives, Washington, D.C., October 21, 2003
  14. ^ Countries whose governments recognize Holodomor as Genocide are Argentina [1], Australia [2] [3], Azerbaijan [4], Belgium [5], Canada [6], Estonia [7], Georgia [8], Hungary [9], Italy [10], Latvia [11], Lithuania [12], Moldova [13], Poland [14], United States [15] and the Vatican [16]
  15. ^ Jacob W.F. Sundberg (May 1990). "International Commission of Inquiry Into the 1932–33 Famine in Ukraine. The Final Report (1990)". The Institute of Public and International Law (IOIR). Archived from the original on 4 December 2004. 
  16. ^ Final Report of International Commission of Inquiry Into the 1932–33 Famine in Ukraine p.9 https://web.archive.org/web/20080910085025/http://www.ukrainianworldcongress.org/Holodomor/Holodomor-Commission.pdf
  17. ^ Final Report of International Commission of Inquiry Into the 1932–33 Famine in Ukraine p.48 https://web.archive.org/web/20080910085025/http://www.ukrainianworldcongress.org/Holodomor/Holodomor-Commission.pdf
  18. ^ Joint Statement on Holodomor
  19. ^ a b Borysov, Dmytro "Russian diplomat denies the Holodomor" Lvivska Hazeta 29.11.2005 [17] (Ukrainian)
  20. ^ Mace, James E. (1988). "The Politics of Famine: American Government and Press Response to the Ukrainian Famine, 1932–1933". Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Oxford University Press. 3 (1): 75–94. doi:10.1093/hgs/3.1.75. Retrieved 26 February 2016. 
  21. ^ ПА ОБСЕ приняла резолюцию по голодомору на Украине. Геноцидом он не признан, Newsru.com, 3 July 2008 г.
  22. ^ ПА ОБСЕ приняла резолюцию по Голодомору в Украине, korrespondent.net, 3 July 2008
  23. ^ "MEPs recognize Ukraine's famine as crime against humanity". Russian News & Information Agency. 2008-10-23. Retrieved 2008-10-23. 
  24. ^ Steve Gutterman (2 April 2008). "Russia: 1930s Famine Was Not Genocide". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 8 April 2008. 
  25. ^ a b News Ru Russia owes Ukraine no apologies" thinks vice-speaker of the Duma Released on 5th of December, 2006.
  26. ^ "EU denounces 1930s Ukrainian famine as crime". Kyiv Post. 23 October 2008. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. 
  27. ^ "Ukraine Demanding That Russia Punish Eurasian Youth Union Members For Smashing Famine Exhibition In Moscow". ukranews.com. November 2007. [dead link]
  28. ^ Украина обвиняет в голодоморе администрацию президента США Рузвельта Regnum 6 March 2009 (Russian)
  29. ^ "The Great Famine-Genocide in Soviet Ukraine (Holodomor): Citizen action at work". Kyiv Post. artukraine.com. 9 October 2003. Retrieved 26 February 2016. 
  30. ^ Ruslan V. Olkhovskiy. "Famine in the Soviet Union, 1921-1922 - Photographs and Postcards". artukraine.com. Retrieved 26 February 2016. 
  31. ^ «La famine en Russie» Album Illustre, Livraison No. 1, Geneva, Comite Russe de Secours aux Affames en Russie, 1922
  32. ^ "Photo". IPV news. Archived from the original on 13 September 2007. 
  33. ^ Владимир Корнилов: "Рано или поздно мы с вами должны начать контрнаступление в защиту наших с вами важнейших гражданских прав" [Vladimir Kornilov: "Sooner or later we'll have to start a counter-offensive in defence of our most important civil rights"]. Ukrainian Party of Regions (in Russian). 1 February 2008. Archived from the original on 7 December 2008. 
Map List of countries which officially recognize the Holodomor as genocide

 Andorra,  Azerbaijan,  Argentina,  Australia,  Belgium,  Brazil,  Canada,  Colombia,  Czech Republic,  Ecuador,  Estonia,  Georgia,  Hungary,  Italy,  Latvia,
 Lithuania,  Mexico,  Moldova,  Paraguay,  Peru,  Poland,  Slovakia,  Spain,  Ukraine,[a 1]  United States,   Vatican City

  1. ^ There seems to be a disagreement between branches of Ukrainian government over the issue. See Holodomor genocide question#Genocide debate: Ukrainian position for details