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Passers-by no longer pay attention to the corpses of starved peasants on a street in Kharkiv, 1933
Child victim of the Holodomor

The Holodomor (1932-1933) (Ukrainian: Голодомор), was an artificial famine created in the Ukraine by Stalin, which resulted in the starvation deaths of 4.5 to 7 million ethnic Ukrainians. The Holodomor was caused by the government of the Soviet Union under Stalin, rather than by natural causes, and the Holodomor has been declared a genocide by Ukraine and many other countries.[1][2][3][4][5]

The parliament of Ukraine and the governments of 26 other countries have recognized the Holomodor as being an act of genocide.


The word comes from the Ukrainian words holod, ‘hunger’, and mor, ‘plague’,[6] possibly from the expression moryty holodom, ‘to inflict death by hunger’. Ukrainian "moryty" (морити) means "to poison somebody, drive to exhaustion or to torment somebody". Neologism “Holodomor” is given in the modern two-volume dictionary of the Ukrainian language as "artificial hunger, organised in vast scale by the criminal regime against country population."[7] Sometimes the expression is translated to English as "murder by hunger."[8]

Causes and outcomes[edit]

While complex, it is possible to group the causes of 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.

Policy of collectivization[edit]

Horse in the time of Great Famine in Ukraine 1932-1933

A policy of collectivization was introduced and by early 1932, 69% of households were collectivized.[9] Even though several other regions in the USSR were collectivized to a greater extent,[10] the effect of the collectivization on the Ukrainian agriculture was very substantial. The collectivization campaign proved highly unpopular with the rural population: when collectivization was still voluntary, very few peasants joined collective farms. Some of them "self dekulakization" ("samoraskulachivanie") when the peasants slaughtered their livestock.

Ukrainian SRR livestock (thousand heads)
Year Horses all
from them working
Cattle all
from all- oxen
from all- bulls
from all- cows
Sheep and goats

For this reason, the regime increasingly pressured peasants to join collective farms. To expedite the process of collectivization, tens of thousands of Soviet officials were sent into the countryside in 1929–1930.

At the same time, the "Twenty-Five Thousanders" (industrial workers and mostly devoted Bolsheviks) were sent to run the collective farms. In addition, they were expected to quash the increasing passive and active resistance to collectivization by engaging in what was euphemistically referred to as "dekulakization": the arresting of 'kulaks' — "well-to-do" farmers and transferring their families to the Urals and Central Asia, where they were to be placed in others sectors of the economy such as timber.[11] Effectively, the term 'kulak' was applied to anybody resisting collectivization and many of the so-called 'kulaks' were no more well off than other peasants. According to the declassified data, around 300,000 Ukrainians out of a population of about 30 million were subject to these policies in 1930-31 and Ukrainians composed 15% of the total 1.8 million 'kulaks' relocated Soviet-wide.[12]

Collectivization in Ukrainian SRR as of October, 1 1932
Oblast (Region) Number of Kolhozes % of peasantry households collectivization
Kiyevska 4053 67.3
Chernigivska 2332 47.3
Vinnytska 3347 58.9
Kharkivska 4347 72.0
Dnipropetrovska 3399 85.1
Odeska 3594 84.4
Donetska 1578 84.4
Moldavian A SRR 620 68.3
Ukrainian SRR 23270 69.0 (77.1% of arable land)

Collectivization had an adverse effect on agricultural output everywhere, but since Ukraine was the most agriculturally productive area (over 50% of exported grain and 25% of total production of grain in the Russian Empire originated from Ukraine in 1913. And same time from 22893,6 thousand hectares 20720,3 used for grain production - 90,5% of total arable land ), the effects here were particularly dramatic. As projections for agricultural production declined, so did collections by the state. For the 1932 harvest, it was planned that there would be 29.5 million tons 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.[13] The collections by the state were virtually the same in 1930 and 1931 at about 22.8 million tons. For 1932, they had significantly been reduced to 18.5 million tons. These were the total estimated outcomes of the grain harvests:[13]

USSR Grain production and collections, 1930-33 (million tons)
Year Production Collections Remainder Collections as % of production
1930 73-77 22.1 51-55 30.2-28.7
1931 57-65 22.8 34-43 40-35.1
1932 55-60 18.5 36.5-41.5 33.6-30.8
1933 70-77 22.7 47.3-54.3 32.4-29.5
Article from Soviet newspaper with first version of plan for grain collections in 1932 for kolhozes and peasants - 5831.3 thousands ton + sovhozes 475 034 tons
Ukrainian SRR Grain production and collections, 1927-33 (million tons)
Year Production Collections
1927 18.67 0.83 centralized collection only
1928 13.88 1.44
1929 18.7 4.56
1930 22.72 6.92
1931 18.34 7.39
1932 14.65 4.28
1933 22.29 (including sorgo)

Criminal prosecution for withholding or bargaining of grain[edit]

On August 7, 1932, the Soviet government passed a law "on the safekeeping of Socialist property"[14] that imposed from a ten year prison sentence to the death penalty for any theft of public property.[15][16][17][14] Stalin personally appended the stipulation: "People who encroach on socialist property should be considered enemies of the people." Additionally, the age limit for the death penalty was reduced to 12 years old: children were shot for gathering ears of corn left in the field after harvest. Within the first five months of passage of the law, 54,645 individuals had been sentenced under it and 2,110 sentenced to death. Acts as minor as bartering tobacco for bread were documented as punished by 5 years in prison.[14]

The scope of this law, colloquially dubbed the "law of the wheat ears,"[14] included even the smallest appropriation of grain by peasants for personal use. In little over a month the law was revised, as Politburo protocols reveal that secret decisions had later modified the original decree. On September 16, 1932, the Politburo approved a measure that specifically exempted small-scale theft of socialist property from the death penalty. It declared that "organizations and groupings destroying state, social, and co-operate property in an organized way by fires, explosions and mass destruction of property shall be sentenced to execution without weakening", and listed a number of cases in which "kulaks, former traders and other socially-alien persons" should be subject to the death penalty. So-called "kulaks", whether members of a kolkhoz or not, who "organize or take part in the theft of kolkhoz property and grain", should also be sentenced "to the death penalty without weakening." But "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 beet, animals, etc."[18]

Soviet expectations for the 1932 grain crop were high due to the Ukraine's bumper crop the previous year, which Soviet authorities believed were sustainable; as a consequence, 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", "nationalists", and "Petlurovites". According to a report of the head of the Supreme Court, by January, 15, 1933 as many as 103,000 people 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. Those sentenced to death were categorised primarily as kulaks; many of those sentenced to ten years were individual peasants who were not kulaks.[18]

A special commission headed by Vyacheslav Molotov was sent to Ukraine in order to execute the grain contingent.[19] On November 9, a secret decree urged the Soviet security agencies to increase their "effectiveness". Molotov also ordered that if no grain remained in Ukrainian villages, all beets, potatoes, vegetables and any other food were to be confiscated.[citation needed]

On December 6, a new regulation was issued that imposed the following sanctions on Ukrainian villages that were considered "underperforming" in the grain collection procurement: ban on supply of any goods or food to the villages, requisition of any food or grain found on site, ban of any trade, and, lastly, the confiscation of all financial resources.[20][21] Measures were undertaken to persecute upon the withholding or bargaining of grain. This was done frequently with the aid of requisition detachments, which raided farms to collect grain. This 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.

Restrictions on the freedom of movement[edit]

Holodomor victim lying in the street in Charkov in 1932

Special barricades were set up by the GPU units throughout the USSR to prevent exodus of peasants from the hunger-stricken regions. During only one month of 1933 219,460 people were intercepted and escorted back or arrested and sentenced.[22]. In Ukraine, these measures has following results - according to the declassified documents [21] -[22] [23] [24] during the 11 days (23/I - 2/II) after the January 22, 1933 Decree 3861 people were intercepted of which 340 were arrested "for farther recognition". At same period at trains and railway stations at whole Ukrainian territory 16773 intercepted (from them 907 not living at Ukraine) – from them arrested 1610. Such figures also included criminals. In same document OGPU informed about number of peasants which already left the Ukrainian territory (94433 persons) for period from between December 15, 1932 and January 2, 1933 (data for 215 districts out of 484) and Moldavian ASRR).

The government introduced new identity papers and obligatory registration for citizens in December 1932.[22] Initially, the area of new identity papers and obligatory registration implementation were limited to Moscow and Leningrad (encircling 100 km ) and Kharkov (encircling 50 km) and the wen measures were planned for implementation by June 1933.

To further prevent the spread of information about the famine, travel from Ukraine and Kuban region was specifically forbidden by directives of January 22, 1933 (signed by Molotov and Stalin) and of January 23 1933 (joint directive VKP(b) Central Committee and Sovnarkom). The directives stated that the travels "for bread" from these areas were organized by enemies of the Soviet power with the purpose of agitation in northern areas of the USSR against kolkhozes,same as it happened last year (1932) from Ukraine, but were not prevented. Therefore, railway tickets were to be sold only by ispolkom permits, and those who already reached the north should be arrested.[23]

Information blockade[edit]

The Soviet government denied initial reports of the famine, and prevented foreign journalists from travelling in the region. At same time there was no credible evidence of information blockade arrangements on a considerable number of foreign specialists (engineers, workers, etc) which engaged at many construction site at Ukrainian territory. Scholars who have conducted research in declassified archives have reported[24] "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."

Insufficient assistance[edit]

However, aid to famine-stricken regions had only a limited impact on the famine. Between February and July 1933 at least thirty-five Politburo decisions and Sovnarkom decrees selectively authorized issue of a total of 35,19 million poods ~ 0,576 million tons[25] of grain for food, seeds and forage for Ukrainian SSR peasants, kolhozes and sovhozes. Such figures does not include grain/flour aid provided for urban population, children and aid from local sources. Stalin personally authorized distribution of aid in the case of a request by Sholokhov, whose own district was stricken.[25]

Documents from the Soviet archives indicate that the aid distribution was made selectively to the most affected areas and from the spring months such assistance has the goal of the relief effort at sowing time was targeted to recovering patients. A special resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of Ukraine for the Kiev Oblast March 31, 1933, ordered dividing peasants hospitalized into ailing and recovering patients. The resolution ordered improving the nutrition of the latter 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.[26] The food was dispensed according to the special resolutions from the government bodies and additional food was given in the field where the laborers worked.

Export of grain[edit]

Despite the crop failure, the grain exports continued,[27] even though on a significantly lower level than in previous years. In 1930/31 there had been 5,832,000 tons of grains exported. In 1931/32, grain exports declined to 4,786,000 tons. In 1932/1933, grain exports were just 1,607,000 tons and in 1933/34, this further declined to 1,441,000 tons.[28] Officially published data slightly differ Cereals : 1930 - 4,846,024;
1931 - 5,182,835; 1932 - 1,819,114; 1933 - 1,771,364 tons. From that wheat: 1930 - 2,530,953; 1931 - 2,498,958 ; 1932 - 550,917; 1933 - 748,248 tons. Via Ukrainian commercial ports in 1932 were exported(thousand tons): 988.3 -grains, 16,5 othear types of cereals; in 1933 - 809.6,-grains 2.6 -cereals; 3.5 meat, 0.4- butter, 2.5 - fish. Via Ukrainian commercial ports in 1932 were imported(thousand tons): 1932 - no more then 67.2 of grains and cereals 1933 - 8.6 of grains. Received from other Soviet ports - 1932 (thousand tons): 164 - grains, 7.3 - other types of cereals, fish -31.5 and no more then 177 thousand tons of meat and butter 1933- 230 - grains, 15.3 other types of cereals 0,1 - meat , 0.9- butter, fish - 34.3.

Natural reasons[edit]

Drought has began to be mentioned as the major reason of Holodomor by Soviet propaganda sources since 1983 [29] [30]. This explanation has been supported by several Western historians Cite error: A <ref> tag is missing the closing </ref> (see the help page). However, the drought was not as bad as that of the non-famine year of 1936, and it was centered outside Ukraine, according to the leading Soviet authority on drought [31] Nevertheless there was a significant drought in 1931 which caused a significant decrease of harvest while in 1936 decreasing of harvest was not so catastrophic.


Another factor in the decline of the harvests were the shortage of draught power for ploughing 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 desperate efforts to replace horses by tractors failed to compensate for this loss. In 1931, the total supply of tractors to agriculture amounted to 964,000 h.p., 393,000 produced at home, and 578,000 imported. But in 1932, because of the foreign trade crisis, no tractors at all were imported.[32] In the whole of 1932, only 679,000 tractor horse-power was supplied 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 draught power deteriorated in quality. Horses were fed and maintained even more inadequately than in the previous year.[32] The acute shortage of horses led to the notorious 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."[26] February 23, the Lower Volga party bureau decided to use 200,000 cows for special field work. The following shows the number of horses in the USSR:[33]

Horses in USSR
Year All Horses(thousands)
1930 30237
1931 26247
1932 19368
1933 16579
1934 15664
Number of tractors in Ukrainian SRR (pcs by end of the year)
Year Tractors H.P.
1929/30 15112 160500
1931 26051 321097
1932 39089 514259
1933 51320 720094
1934 64516 933300
Ukrainian SRR fallow land and winter tillage put into the service (thousands hectares )
Year fallow land winter tillage
1932 603.4 3069.7
1933 1581.0 4338.5
1934 2312.2 8358.8

Number of deaths and murders[edit]

While the course of the events as well as their underlying reasons are still a matter of debate, the fact that by the end of 1933, millions of people had starved to death or had otherwise died unnaturally in Ukraine, as well as in other Soviet republics, is undisputed.

The Soviet Union long denied that the famine had ever existed, and the NKVD (and later KGB) archives on the Holodomor period opened very slowly. The exact number of the victims remains unknown and probably impossible to find out even within a margin of error of a hundred thousand.[34]

The estimates for the number of deaths due to famine in Ukraine (excluding other repressions) vary by several million and numbers as high as 10 million are sometimes cited.[35][36] Even the results based on scientific methods also vary widely but the range is somewhat more narrow: between 2.5 million (Volodymyr Kubiyovych) and 4.8 million (Vasyl Hryshko).

One modern calculation that uses demographic data including that available from formerly closed Soviet archives narrows the losses to about 3.2 million or, allowing for the lack of the data precision, 3 to 3.5 million.[37][38][39][40]

The formerly closed Soviet archives show that excess deaths in Ukraine in 1932-1933 numbered 1.54 million[41]. In 1932-1933, there were a combined 1.2 million cases of typhus and 500,000 cases of typhoid fever. Deaths resulted primarily from manifold diseases due to lowered resistance and disease in general rather than actual starvation[42]. All major types of disease, apart from cancer, tend to increase during famine as a result of undernourishment resulting in lower resistance to disease, and of unsanitary conditions. In the years 1932-34, the largest rate of increase was recorded for typhus. Typhus is spread by lice. In conditions of harvest failure and increased poverty, the number of lice is likely to increase, and the herding of refugees at railway stations, on trains and elsewhere facilitates their spread. In 1933, the number of recorded cases was twenty times the 1929 level. The number of cases per head of population recorded in Ukraine in 1933 was naturally considerably higher than in the USSR as a whole. But by June of 1933, incidence in Ukraine had increased to nearly ten times the January level and was higher than in the rest of the USSR taken as a whole.[43]

Incidence of Disease in Russian Empire and USSR
Year Typhus Typhoid Fever Relapsing Fever Smallpox Malaria
1913 120 424 30 67 3600
1918-22 1300 293 639 106 2940


1929 40 170 6 8 3000
1930 60 190 5 10 2700
1931 80 260 4 30 3200
1932 220 300 12 80 4500
1933 800 210 12 38 6500
1934 410 200 10 16 9477
1935 120 140 6 4 9924
1936 100 120 3 .5 6500

However, it is important to note that the number of the recorded excess deaths extracted from the birth/death statistics from the Soviet archives is self-contradictory and cannot be fully relied upon because the data fails to add up to the differences between the 1927 and 1937 Soviet census results.[37]

The following calculation is presented by Stanislav Kulchytsky.[37] The declassified Soviet statistics show a decrease of 538,000 people in the population of Soviet Ukraine between 1926 census (28,925,976) and 1937 census (28,388,000). The number of births and deaths (in thousands) according to the declassified records is:

Year Births Deaths Natural change
1927 1184 523 661
1928 1139 496 643
1929 1081 539 542
1930 1023 536 487
1931 975 515 460
1932 982 668 314
1933 471 1850 -1379
1934 571 483 88
1935 759 342 417
1936 895 361 534

According to the correction for officially non-accounted child mortality in 1933[44] by 150,000 calculated by Sergei Maksudov, the number of births for 1933 should be increased from 471,000 to 621,000. Assuming the natural mortality rates in 1933 to be equal to the average annual mortality rate in 1927-1930 (524,000 per year) a natural population growth for 1933 would have been 97,000, which is five times less than this number in the past years (1927-1930). From the corrected birth rate and the estimated natural death rate for 1933 as well as from the official data for other years the natural population growth from 1927 to 1936 gives 4.043 million while the census data showed a decrease of 538,000. The sum of the two numbers gives an estimated total demographic loss of 4.581 million people. A major hurdle in estimating the human losses due to famine is the needed to take into account the numbers involved in migration (including forced resettlement). According to the Soviet statistics, the migration balance for the population in Ukraine for 1927 - 1936 period was a loss of 1.343 million people. Even at the time when the data was taken, the Soviet statistical institutions acknowledged that its precision was worse than the data for the natural population change. Still, with the correction for this number, the total number of death in Ukraine due to unnatural causes for the given ten years was 3.238 million, and taking into account the lack of precision, especially of the migration estimate, the human toll is estimated between 3 million and 3.5 million.

In addition to the direct losses from unnatural deaths, the indirect losses due to the decrease of the birth rate should be taken into account in consideration in estimating of the demographic consequences of the Famine for Ukraine. For instance, the natural population growth in 1927 was 662,000, while in 1933 it was 97,000, in 1934 it was 88,000. The combination of direct and indirect losses from Holodomor gives 4.469 million, of which 3.238 million (or more realistically 3 to 3.5 million) is the number of the direct deaths.

A 2002 study by Vallin et al[45] utilizing similar primary sources to Kulchytsky, and performing an analysis with more sophisticated demographic tools with forward projection of expected growth from the 1926 census and backward projection from the 1939 census found that the total Ukrainian population shortfall from the expected value between 1926 and 1939 amounted to 4.566 million. Of this number, 1.057 million is attributed to birth deficit, 930,000 to forced out-migration, and 2.582 million to excess mortality and voluntary out-migration. Therefore, direct deaths as the result of the 1932-33 famine were somewhere below 2.5 million.

According to estimates[44] about 81.3% of the victims were ethnic Ukrainians, 4.5% Russians, 1.4% Jews and 1.1% were Poles. Many Belarusians, Hungarians, Volga Germans and Crimean Tatars became victims as well. The Ukrainian rural population was the hardest hit by the Holodomor. Since the peasantry constituted a demographic backbone of the Ukrainian nation,[46] the tragedy deeply affected the Ukrainians for many years.

Destruction of Ukrainian culture[edit]

The famine of 1932-1933 coincided with the assault on Ukrainian national culture. The events of 1932-1933 in Ukraine were seen by the Soviet Communist leaders as an instrument against possible Ukrainian self-determination. At the 12th Congress of the Communist Party of Ukraine, Moscow-appointed leader Postyshev declared that "1933 was the year of the defeat of Ukrainian nationalist counter-revolution."[47] This "defeat" encompassed not just the physical extermination of a significant portion of the Ukrainian peasantry, but also the virtual elimination of the Ukrainian clergy and 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".[48] 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 terrifying purge of the CP(b)U. The Communist Party of Ukraine, under the guidance of state officials like Kaganovich, Kosior, and Postyshev, boasted in early 1934 of the elimination of "counter-revolutionaries, nationalists, spies and class enemies". Whole academic organizations, such as the Bahaliy Institute of History and Culture, were shut down following the arrests.

In the 1920s, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church had gained a following amongst the Ukrainian peasants due to the Soviet policy of weakening the position of the Russian Orthodox Church (see History of Christianity in Ukraine). Nonetheless in the late 1920s the Soviet authorities went after the Ukrainian Church as well, were thousands of parishes were closed and clergy repressed. By 1930 the church was taken off the Soviet Registry and the Secret Police made sure that it did not exist unofficially. At the same time the widespread action against the surviving Russian Orthodox Church parishes was dramatically reduced.

However, this repression of the intelligentsia occurred in virtually all parts of the USSR. Furthermore, there is no credible evidence that the repression of the Ukrainian elite was accompanied by restrictions of cultural expression. In 1935-36, 83% of all school children in the Ukrainian SSR were taught in Ukrainian even though Ukrainians were about 80% of the population.[49] In 1936 from 1830 newspapers 1402 was Ukrainian, as also 177 magazines. In 1936 was published 69 104 thousands Ukrainian books.

The question of genocide[edit]

The inventor of the term "genocide", Raphael Lemkin, was a featured speaker at the manifestation of Ukrainian-Americans in September 1953 to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the famine.[5] Today, the heads of state, governments or parliaments of 26 countries, consider the 1932-1933 famine as an act of genocide. Among these countries are Ukraine, Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Spain, United States, and Vatican City. In addition, scholars have documented that the famine affected other nationalities. The 2004 book The Years of Hunger: Soviet Agriculture, 1931-1933 by R.W. Davies and S.G. Wheatcroft gives a best estimate of around 5.5 to 6.5 million deaths in the Soviet-wide 1932-1933 famine.[50] Still, the Holodomor remains a politically-charged topic not settled even within the mainstream scholarship.

Robert Conquest, the author of one of the most important Western studies published prior to the declassifying of the Soviet archives, concluded that the famine of 1932–33 was artificial—that is a deliberate mass murder, if not genocide committed as part of Joseph Stalin's collectivization program under the Soviet Union and many historians agree. In 2006, the SBU declassified more than 5 thousand pages of Holodomor archives. These documents show that Moscow singled out Ukraine, while regions outside it were allowed to receive humanitarian aid.[51] Some historians maintain, however, that the famine was an unintentional consequence of collectivization, and that the associated resistance to it by the Ukrainian peasantry exacerbated an already-poor harvest.[52]

According to the US Government Commission on the Ukrainian Famine, [27] 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". It is also notable, however, that 20% of Ukraine's population at the time consisted of nationalities other than Ukrainian while the rural population, most strongly affected by the famine, had a stronger Ukrainian majority that the population of Ukraine overall.

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 the well-respected historians like James Mace, Hubert Laszkiewicz, Andrea Graziosi, Yuriy Shapoval, Gerhard Simon, Orest Subtelny, Mauro Martini, etc. - 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.[53][28]

On May 15, 2003, the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) of Ukraine passed a resolution declaring the famine of 1932–1933 an act of genocide, deliberately organized by the Soviet government against the Ukrainian nation. Governments and parliaments of several other countries have also officially recognized the Holodomor as an act of genocide.[1][2][3][4][54]

At the conference on Recognition and Denial of Genocide and Mass Killing in the 20th Century, City University of New York, 13 November 1987 was stated that the Soviet Ukraine suffered a man-made famine in 1932–1933 during which millions died. As 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 [29].

The Russian Federation officially denies that the Holodomor was an ethnic genocide. The Russian diplomat Mikhail Kamynin has stated that Russia is against the politicization of the Holodomor, and this question is for historians, not politicians.[55] At the same time, the vice-speaker of the Russian State Duma, Lyubov Sliska, when asked in Kiev when Russia would apologise for its repressions and famines in Ukraine, replied, "why always insist that Russia apologise 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."[55] 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."[56]

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),[57] evaluating 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.[56]

Comprehending the famine[edit]

The famine remains a politically-charged topic; hence, heated debates are likely to continue for a long time. Until around 1990, the debates were largely between the so called "denial camp" who refused to recognize the very existence of the famine or stated that it was caused by natural reasons (such as a poor harvest), scholars who accepted reports of famine but saw it as a policy blunder[58] followed by the botched relief effort, and scholars who alleged that it was intentional and specifically anti-Ukrainian or even an act of genocide against the Ukrainians as a nation.

Nowadays, most "scholars" tend to agree that the famine affected millions. While it is also accepted that the famine affected other nationalities in addition to Ukrainians, the debate is still ongoing whether the Holodomor qualifies as the act of genocide since the fact that the famine itself took place or that it was unnatural are not disputed. As far as the possible effect of the natural causes, the debate is restricted to whether the poor harvest[52] or post-traumatic stress played any role at all and to what degree the Soviet actions were caused by the country's economic and military needs as viewed by the Soviet leadership.[59]

Still, the Holodomor issue is politicized within the framework of uneasy relations between Russia and Ukraine (and also between various regional and social groups within Ukraine). The anti-Russian factions in Ukraine have a vested interest in advancing the interpretation that the Holodomor was a genocide, perpetrated by Russia-centric interests within the Soviet government. Russian political interests and their supporters in Ukraine have reasons to deny the deliberate character of the disaster and play down its scale.

The Ukrainian communities are sometimes criticized for using the term Holodomor, Ukrainian Genocide, or even Ukrainian Holocaust, to appropriate the larger-scale tragedy of collectivization as their own national terror-famine, thus exploiting it for political purposes.[60]

One of the biggest arguments is that the famine was preceded by the onslaught on the Ukrainian national culture, a common historical detail preceding many centralized actions directed against the nations as a whole. Nation-wide, the political repression of 1937 (The Great Purge) under the guidance of Nikolay Yezhov were known for their ferocity and ruthlessness, but Lev Kopelev wrote, "In Ukraine 1937 began in 1933", referring to the comparatively early beginning of the Soviet crackdown in Ukraine. [61].

While the famine was well documented at the time, its reality has been disputed due to ideological reasons, for instance by the Soviet government and its spokespeople (as well as apologists for the Soviet regime), by others due to being deliberately misled by the Soviet government (such as George Bernard Shaw), and, in at least one case, Walter Duranty, for personal gain.

An example of a late-era Holodomor objector is Canadian journalist Douglas Tottle, author of Fraud, Famine and Fascism: The Ukrainian Genocide Myth from Hitler to Harvard (1987). Tottle claims that while there were severe economic hardships in Ukraine, the idea of the Holodomor was fabricated as propaganda by Nazi Germany and William Randolph Hearst to justify a German invasion. Tottles damaging evidence of pointing out fake famine photos and lies concering "eye witnesses" has aided in revealing the truth in this history of the USSR.


To honor those who perished in the Holodomor, monuments have been dedicated and public events held annually in Ukraine and worldwide. The fourth Saturday in November is the official day of remembrance for people who died as a result of Holodomor and political repression.[62]

In 2006, the Holodomor Remembrance Day took place on November 25. President Viktor Yushchenko directed, in decree No. 868/2006, that a minute of silence should be observed at 4 o'clock in the afternoon on that Saturday. The document specified that flags in Ukraine should fly at half-mast as a sign of mourning. In addition, the decree directed that entertainment events are to be restricted and television and radio programming adjusted accordingly.[63]


  1. ^ a b U.S. Commission on the Ukraine Famine, "Findings of the Commission on the Ukraine Famine" [1], Report to Congress, Washington, D.C., April 19 1988
  2. ^ a b US House of Representatives Authorizes Construction of Ukrainian Genocide Monument
  3. ^ a b Statement by Pope John Paul II on the 70th anniversary of the Famine
  4. ^ a b HR356 "Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding the man-made famine that occurred in Ukraine in 1932-1933", U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C., October 21, 2003
  5. ^ a b Yaroslav Bilinsky (1999). "Was the Ukrainian Famine of 1932-1933 Genocide?". Journal of Genocide Research. 1 (2): 147–156.
  6. ^ Ukrainian holod (голод, ‘hunger’, compare Russian golod) should not be confused with kholod (холод, ‘cold’). For details, see romanization of Ukrainian. Mor means ‘plague’ in the sense of a disastrous evil or affliction, or a sudden unwelcome outbreak. See wiktionary:plague.
  7. ^ Голодомор, in "Velykyi tlumachnyi slovnyk suchasnoi ukrainsʹkoi movy : 170 000 sliv", chief ed. V. T. Busel, [[Irpin], Perun (2004), ISBN 9665690132
  8. ^
  9. ^ R. W. Davies, Stephen G. Wheatcroft, "The Years of Hunger: Soviet Agriculture, 1931-1933 (The Industrialization of Soviet Russia)", Palgrave Macmillan, 2004, ISBN 0-333-31107-8. p.487
  10. ^ eg. 83% in Lower Volga, Davies and Wheatcroft, ibid
  11. ^ Wheatcroft and Davies
  12. ^ Davies and Wheatcroft, p.490
  13. ^ a b Davies and Wheatcroft, p. 448
  14. ^ a b c d Konchalovsky and Lipkov, The Inner Circle. Newmarket Press, New York. 1991, p.54
  15. ^ Potocki, p. 320.
  16. ^ Serczyk, p. 311.
  17. ^ Andrew Gregorovich, "Genocide in Ukraine 1933", part 4: "How Did Stalin Organize the Genocide?", Ukrainian Canadian Research & Documentation Centre, Toronto 1998.
  18. ^ a b Davies and Wheatcroft, pp.167-168, 198-203
  19. ^ Rajca, p. 77.
  20. ^ ibid, p. 321.
  21. ^ Memorandum on Grain Problem, Addendum to the minutes of Politburo [meeting] No. 93. Resolution on blacklisting villages. ^ December 1932
  22. ^ a b Nicolas Werth, Karel Bartošek, Jean-Louis Panné, Jean-Louis Margolin, Andrzej Paczkowski, Stéphane Courtois, The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression, Harvard University Press, 1999, hardcover, 858 pages, ISBN 0-674-07608-7
  23. ^ Terry Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939., Ithaca. N.I., 2001, p. 306
  24. ^ Davies and Wheatcroft, p. 424
  25. ^ On April 6, 1933, Sholokhov, who lived in Vesenskii district (Kuban, Russian Federation), wrote at length to Stalin describing the famine conditions and urging him to provide grain. Stalin received the letter on April 15, and on April 16 the Politburo granted 700 tons of grain to the district. Stalin sent a telegram to Sholokhov "We will do everything required. Inform size of necessary help. State a figure." Sholokhov replied on the same day, and on April 22, the day on which Stalin received the second letter, Stalin scolded him, "You should have sent answer not by letter but by telegram. Time was wasted" Davies and Wheatcroft, p. 217
  26. ^ CC C(b)PU resolution cited through Stanislav Kulchytsky, "Why did Stalin exterminate the Ukrainians?", Den', 29 November 2005 at same time original document mentioned by Kulchytsky does not have any "distrophy" wording and issued for only one reqion instead of whole Ukraine - [2] doc # 204
  27. ^ Encyclopedia of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity - Page 1056 ISBN 0028658485
  28. ^ Davies and Wheatcroft, p.471
  29. ^ Robert Conquest, The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine Oxford University Press New York (1986) ISBN 0-195-04054-6
  30. ^ A News Release Communique from the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa dated 28 April 1983; see also Harvest of Sorrow by Conquest, page 346.
  31. ^ A.I.Rudenko. Zasukhi v USSR, see also Harvest of sorrow, page 222
  32. ^ a b Davies and Wheatcroft, p.111
  33. ^ Davies and Wheatcroft, pg.449
  34. ^ Valeriy Soldatenko, "A starved 1933: subjective thoughts on objective processes", Zerkalo Nedeli, June 28 - July 4, 2003. Available online in Russian and in Ukrainian
  35. ^ For instance the speech of Stepan Khmara to the Ukrainian parliament, cited by Kulchytsky
  36. ^ BBC report
  37. ^ a b c Stanislav Kulchytsky, "How many of us perished in Holodomor in 1933", Zerkalo Nedeli, November 23-29, 2002. Available online in Russian and in Ukrainian
  38. ^ Stalislav Kulchytsky, "Reasons of the 1933 famine in Ukraine. Through the pages of one almost forgotten book" Zerkalo Nedeli, August 16-22, 2003. Available online in Russian and in Ukrainian.
  39. ^ Stanislav Kulchytsky, "Reasons of the 1933 famine in Ukraine-2", Zerkalo Nedeli, October 4-10, 2003. Available online in Russian and in Ukrainian
  40. ^ Stalislav Kuchytsky, "Demographic losses in Ukrainian in the twentieth century", Zerkalo Nedeli, October 2-8, 2004. Available online in Russian and in Ukrainian.
  41. ^ Davies and Wheatcroft, p.415
  42. ^ Davies and Wheatcroft, p.429
  43. ^ Davies and Wheatcroft, p.512
  44. ^ a b Sergei Maksudov, "Losses Suffered by the Population of the USSR 1918–1958", in The Samizdat Register II, ed R. Medvedev (London–New York 1981)
  45. ^ Jacques Vallin, France Mesle, Serguei Adamets, Serhii Pyrozhkov, "A New Estimate of Ukrainian Population Losses during the Crises of the 1930s and 1940s", Population Studies, Vol. 56, No. 3. (Nov., 2002), pp. 249-264
  46. ^ Robert Potocki, "Polityka państwa polskiego wobec zagadnienia ukraińskiego w latach 1930-1939" (in Polish, English summary), Lublin 2003, ISBN 83-917615-4-1
  47. ^ "12th Congress of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of Ukraine, Stenograph Record", Kharkiv 1934.
  48. ^ E.g. Encyclopedia Britannica, "History of Ukraine" article.
  49. ^ Ronald Grigor Suny, The Soviet Experiment
  50. ^ Davies and Wheatcroft, p. 401
  51. ^ SBU documents show that Moscow singled out Ukraine in famine 5tv - Ukraine Channel Five. 22 November 2006. Retrieved 23 November 2006.
  52. ^ a b Tauger 1991 and the acrimonious exchange between Tauger and Conquest.
  53. ^ [ Convegno internazionale di studi La grande carestia, la fame e la morte della terra nell'Ucraina del 1932-33
  54. ^ Countries whose government recognize Holodomor as Genocide are Argentina [3], Australia [4] [5], Azerbaijan [6], Belgium [7], Canada [8], Estonia [9], Georgia [10], Hungary [11], Italy [12], Latvia [13], Lithuania [14], Moldova [15], Poland [16], United States [17] and the Vatican [18]
  55. ^ a b News Ru Russia owes Ukraine no apologies" thinks vice-speaker of the Duma Released on 5th of December, 2006.
  56. ^ a b Borysov, Dmytro "Russian diplomat denies the Holodomor" Lvivska Hazeta 29.11.2005 [19] ‹See Tfd›(in Ukrainian)
  57. ^ Joint Statement on Holodomor
  58. ^ J. Arch Getty, "The Future Did Not Work", The Atlantic Monthly, Boston: March 2000, Vol. 285, Iss.3, pg.113
  59. ^ ‹See Tfd›(in English) David Marples, "Debating the undebatable? Ukraine Famine of 1932-1933" in Edmonton Journal, June 28 2002.
  60. ^ "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."[20] Himka, John-Paul. "War Criminality: A Blank Spot in the Collective Memory of theUkrainian Diaspora". Spaces of Identity. 5 (1): 5–24.
  61. ^ Subtelny, Orest (1988). Ukraine: A History. Toronto: University of Toronto Press,. ISBN 0-80205-808-6.
  62. ^ Bradley, Lara. "Ukraine's 'Forced Famine' Officially Recognized. The Sundbury Star. 3 January 1999. URL Accessed 12 October 2006
  63. ^ Yushchenko, Viktor. Decree No. 868/2006 by President of Ukraine. Regarding the Remembrance Day in 2006 for people who died as a result of Holodomor and political repressions ‹See Tfd›(in Ukrainian)

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