Soviet famine of 1932–33

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Famine in USSR, 1933. Areas of most disastrous famine marked with black. A – grain-consuming regions, B – grain-producing regions. C – former land of Don, Kuban and Terek cossacks, C1 – former land of Ural and Orenburg cossacks. 1. Kola Peninsula, 2. Northern region, 3. Karelia, 4. Komi, 5. Leningrad Oblast, 6. Ivanovo Oblast, 7. Moscow Oblast, 8. Nizhny Novgorod region, 9. Western Oblast, 10. Byelorussia, 11. Central Black Earth Region, 12. Ukraine, 13. Central Volga region, 14. Tatar, 15. Bashkortostan, 16. Ural region, 17. Lower Volga region, 18. North Caucasus Krai, 19. Georgia, 20. Azerbaijan, 21. Armenia.[1]

The Soviet famine of 1932–33 was a man-made famine that affected the major grain-producing areas of the Soviet Union, leading to millions of deaths in those areas and severe food shortage throughout the USSR. These areas included Ukraine, Northern Caucasus, Volga Region and Kazakhstan,[2] the South Urals, and West Siberia.[3][4] Gareth Jones was the first Western journalist to report the inhumane devastation.[5][6][a] The subset of the famine within the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and the Kuban, all of which were heavily populated by Ukrainians, is referred to as the Holodomor.


Unlike the previous famine of 1921–22, Russia's intermittent drought was not severe in the affected areas at this time.[7]

Some historians, such as Robert Conquest, claim that the government's forced collectivization of agriculture as a part of the Soviet Union's first five-year plan, forced grain procurement, and political repression in the countryside were the main reasons for the famine. Conquest, and others, additionally claim that the famine was a deliberate act of genocide against ethnic Ukrainians, although some disagree.[8]:507

Historian Mark B. Tauger of West Virginia University suggests that the famine was caused by a combination of factors, specifically low harvest due to natural disasters combined with increased demand for food caused by the collectivization, industrialization and urbanization, and grain exports by the Soviet Union at the same time.[9]

A similar view was presented by Stephen Wheatcroft, who has given more weight to the "ill-conceived policies" of Soviet government and highlighted that while the policy was not targeted at Ukraine specifically, it was Ukraine who suffered most for "demographic reasons".[10]

The Law of Spikelets[edit]

The "Decree About the Protection of Socialist Property" – nicknamed by the farmers the Law of Spikelets – was enacted on August 7, 1932. The purpose of the law was to protect the property of the collective farms. It was nicknamed the Law of Spikelets because it allowed people to be prosecuted for gleaning leftover grain from the fields. There were more than 200,000 people sentenced under this law.[11]


Starved peasants on a street in Kharkiv, 1933

There was a wave of migration due to starvation, and authorities responded by introducing a requirement that passports be used to go between republics, and banning travel by rail.[citation needed]

Soviet internal passports (identity cards) were introduced on 27 December 1932 to deal with the mass exodus of peasants from the countryside. Individuals not having such a document could not leave their homes on pain of administrative penalties, such as internment in Gulag labor camps. The rural population had no right to freely keep passports and thus could not leave their villages without approval. The power to issue passports rested with the head of the kolkhoz, and identity documents were kept by the administration of the collective farms. This measure stayed in place until 1974.

The lack of passports could not completely stop peasants' leaving the countryside, but only a small percentage of those who illegally infiltrated into cities could improve their lot. Unable to find work or possibly buy or beg a little bread, farmers died in the streets of Kharkiv, Kiev, Dnipropetrovsk, Poltava, Vinnytsia, and other major cities of Ukraine.


The Russian part of the inscription says "At this place will be a monument to famine victims of the years 1931-1933". In the center of Almaty, Kazakhstan. The upper half is in Kazakh language.

The famine of 1932–1933 was officially denied, so any discourse on this issue was classified as criminal "anti-Soviet propaganda" until Perestroika. The results of the 1937 census were kept secret as they revealed the demographic losses attributable to the Great Famine.

Some well known journalists, most notably Walter Duranty of The New York Times, downplayed the famine and its death toll.[12] In 1932, he received the Pulitzer Prize for Correspondence for his coverage of the Soviet Union's first five-year plan and thus, he was considered the most expert Western journalist to cover the famine.[12] In an article "Russians Hungry, But Not Starving", he responded to an account of starvation in Ukraine and, while acknowledging that there was widespread malnutrition in certain areas of the USSR (including parts of the North Caucasus and Lower Volga), generally downplayed the scale of the starvation and claimed that there was no famine.[13] Duranty's coverage led directly to Franklin Roosevelt officially recognizing the Soviet Union in 1933 and thus revoked the United States' official recognition of an independent Ukraine.[14] A similar position was taken by the French Prime Minister Edouard Herriot, who toured the territory of Ukraine during his stay in the Soviet Union. However, other Western journalists did report on the famine at the time, including Malcolm Muggeridge and Gareth Jones, who both severely criticised Duranty's account and were later banned from returning to the Soviet Union.[15]

George Orwell's Animal Farm was inspired by Gareth Jones articles about the Great Famine of 1932–1933.[16]

Estimation of the loss of life[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ In November 2009, Gareth Jones' diaries recording the manmade genocide of the Great Soviet Famine of 1932-33 went on public display for the first time at Cambridge University.[5]


  1. ^ Markoff, Dr. Alexandr Pavlovich (1933). professors of the Russian Commercial Institute, eds. "Famine in the USSR" (pdf). Bulletin Economique Russe (in French). 91, Rue Lecourbe, 91; Paris 15e, France: English translation by the Russian Commercial Institute in Paris. 9. Retrieved April 18, 2016. 
  2. ^ Engerman, David. Modernization from the Other Shore (Google Books). 
  3. ^ "Famine on the South Siberia". Human Science. RU: NSC. p. 15. 
  4. ^ "Demographic aftermath of the famine in Kazakhstan". Weekly. RU: Demoscope. Jan 1, 2003. 
  5. ^ a b "Welsh journalist who exposed a Soviet tragedy". November 13, 2009. Retrieved April 7, 2016. 
  6. ^ Brown, Mark (November 12, 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 April 7, 2016. 
  7. ^ Viktor Kondrashin (ru), Голод 1932—1933 годов. Трагедия российской деревни, Moscow, Росспэн, 2008, ISBN 978-5-8243-0987-4., Chapter 6. "Голод 1932—1933 годов в контексте мировых голодных бедствий и голодных лет в истории России — СССР", p. 331.
  8. ^ Marples, David R. (May 2009). "Ethnic Issues in the Famine of 1932–1933 in Ukraine". Europe-Asia studies. 61 (3): 505–518. Geoffrey A. Hosking concluded that: Conquest’s research establishes beyond doubt, however, that the famine was deliberately inflicted there [in Ukraine] for ethnic reasons...Craig Whitney, however, disagreed with the theory of genocide 
  9. ^ Mark B. Tauger. "Natural Disaster and Human Actions in the Soviet Famine of 1931-1933" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-01-27. 
  10. ^ "The Soviet Famine of 1931-33: Politically Motivated or Ecological Disaster?". Retrieved 2015-05-07. 
  11. ^ Michael Ellman, Stalin and the Soviet Famine of 1932-33 Revisited Europe-Asia Studies, Routledge. Vol. 59, No. 4, June 2007, 663-693. PDF file
  12. ^ a b Lyons, Eugene (1938). Assignment in Utopia. Transaction Publishers. p. 573. ISBN 978-1-4128-1760-8. 
  13. ^ 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 2003-03-30. 
  14. ^ Taylor, Sally J. (1990). Stalin's Apologist. Oxford University Press. 
  15. ^ Shipton, Martin (June 20, 2013). "Welsh journalist hailed one of greatest 'eyewitnesses of truth' for exposing '30s Soviet famine". Wales Online. 
  16. ^ Obenson, Tambay A. (July 23, 2015). "140 New Projects Selected for the IFP's 2015 Project Forum Slate". Retrieved April 7, 2016. 
  17. ^ Davies & Wheatcroft 2004, p. 401.
  18. ^ "Ukraine – The famine of 1932–33". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  19. ^ Conquest, Robert (1986), The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine, Oxford University Press, p. 306, ISBN 0-19-505180-7 .
  20. ^ Ellman, Michael (September 2005). "The Role of Leadership Perceptions and of Intent in the Soviet Famine of 1931–1934" (PDF). Europe-Asia Studies. Routledge. 57 (6): 823–41. doi:10.1080/09668130500199392. Retrieved 2008-07-04. 
  21. ^ Naimark, Norman M (2010), Stalin's Genocides (Human Rights and Crimes against Humanity), Princeton University Press, p. 131, ISBN 0-691-14784-1 .
  22. ^ Works related to Soviet famine of 1930s at Wikisource