Leaders from around the world Saturday marked the 75th anniversary of the
famine that the ripped through the Ukraine in the early 1930s, as
Ukrainian leaders seek to bring more attention to the plight of the
millions who died from hunger. But conspicuously missing from the
honoring of Holodomor , or "death by hunger," were leaders from Moscow,
who have objected to recent calls for the deaths to be labeled as
genocide. Emma Stickgold has this report for VOA in Moscow.
anniversary of Holodomor is traditionally marked in late November, when
the food shortages began resulting in the death of millions. It was
orchestrated by dictator Josef Stalin to force peasants to give up
their land and join collective farms. Ukraine, known as the breadbasket
of the Soviet Union, suffered the most.
Only recently, at the
encouragement of the Western-leaning Ukrainian politicians, have
survivors' harrowing tales of cannibalism and other desperate attempts
to stay alive come to light.
Ukrainians say collectivization
carried out in their country was an attempt to break the back of
Ukrainian nationhood, and stamp out opposition to Soviet rule.
the opening of an 80-foot tall monument to mark the 75th anniversary,
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko paid tribute to those who fell
victim to the 1932 famine, which lasted until 1933.
"We bow our
head in fraternal respect before all who suffered as we did from
Stalin's regime - Russians, Belorusyns, Kazakhs, Crimean Tatars,
Moldovans, Jews, and dozens and dozens of other nationalities," he said.
considers the intensified spotlight on the famine part of Ukraine's
continued efforts to stick a wedge between Kyiv and Moscow. But
Ukrainian officials say that Moscow is not being accused of engineering
Kostyantyn Hryshchenko, Ukrainian Ambassador to
Russia, speaking Saturday evening at the Ukrainian Cultural Center in
Moscow, said that Ukrainians want to reflect on the past together to
building a more just and more modern world together.
"We do not
consider that Russia and the Russian people - who themselves suffered
huge losses; were also victims of Stalinist terror; and lost millions
of individuals then - are in anyway to blame for this tragedy," he said.
President Dmitri Medvedev turned down an invitation to attend the Kyiv
ceremonies, instead sending a letter that was posted on the Kremlin's
Web site. He said that the events of the early 1930s, "are being used
to achieve immediate short-term political goals," adding that, "In
this regard, the thesis on the centrally planned genocidal famine of
Ukrainians,' is being gravely manipulated." Still, he said, "The most
difficult pages of our common history undoubtedly need to be fully