Russia has issued the first of three volumes of documents on the Soviet
Union's catastrophic famine of the early 1930s. Russian officials
claim the widespread starvation was the result misguided Kremlin
policies, but in Ukraine the famine is considered an act of genocide.
first of three volumes on the Soviet famine of the early 1930s consists
of about 6,000 documents, many recently declassified by Russian
authorities. The publication follows decades when the very mention of
the famine was prohibited, even by those who survived it.
The book and accompanying DVD were presented by Russian historians and archivists at a Moscow news conference on February 25.
scholars' conclusion is consistent with the Kremlin's position the
famine was not limited to Ukraine and that its victims, mostly peasants
and landowners, were targeted not because of their nationality, but
rather their social class.
The United Nations defines genocide
as acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a
national, ethnical, racial or religious group. There is no mention of
Result of Misguided Policies?
Historians say Soviet dictator Josef Stalin ordered the
confiscation of grain in fertile regions of Russia, Kazakhstan, the
northern Caucasus and Ukraine not only to break widespread opposition
to collectivization, but also to increase grain exports to buy weapons
and fund industrialization. Russian historian Viktor Kondrashyn says
famine was the result of misguided policies.
there was no intent behind the famine. He says nobody, not even
Stalin, wanted or planned the famine. The historian says it was the
result of mistakes and miscalculations behind a poorly planned
Some Consider 'Holodmor' Act of Genocide
Ukraine's National Memory Institute
deputy director, historian Vladyslav Verstiuk, categorically rejects
Kondrashyn's claims. He points to a message Stalin delivered in
January 1933, in which the dictator issued a threat specifically to
Ukrainian peasants, "give us your grain, or you will be punished."
In Ukraine, the famine is known as the Holodomor or death by starvation, and is considered an act of genocide.
adds Stalin wanted to break what was considered to be a disobedient
republic to make clear to others his intent to create a highly
centralized Soviet state.
Verstiuk says the Soviet Union of
the 1920s was not at all similar to the Soviet Union that people still
remember, a unitary post-war state that was only formally divided into
constituent republics. This model, he says, came into existence after
the Holodomor. He adds that the breaking of Ukraine was seen as a way
of subordinating other republics under absolute obedience to Stalin,
which indeed happened.
Verstiuk notes that forced starvation in
Ukraine's rural regions was accompanied by famine in large Ukrainian
cities, which did not happen in urban Russia. He also points to
so-called passportization measures enacted in 1933 to prevent
Ukrainians from leaving their republic in search of food, and to the
simultaneous execution of Ukraine's independent-minded leaders and
He says Russian-language schools replaced
Ukrainian ones and newcomers from other Soviet republics were sent to
areas devastated by starvation.
Verstiuk says no one tried
to escape from Russia to Ukraine. Instead, he says there was planned
relocation of peasants into Ukraine, and notes documentation of a
special Resettlement Committee that directed tens of thousands of
people into areas depopulated by the famine.
But the head of the Russian State Archive, Vladimir Kozlov, rejects claims of genocide in Ukraine.
says not a single document exists that would even indirectly suggest
that a strategy was adopted against Ukrainians that was different from
other regions, moreover, a strategy aimed at genocide.
Verstiuk says no document is likely to be found, because Bolsheviks
were not so simple-minded as to put such intentions in writing. But he
notes the Kremlin did not change its policies over several years, even
when presented early on with evidence of widespread starvation, a point
confirmed by the director of the Russian State Economic Archive, Yelena
Tiurina says documents completely reject the recently
accepted legend that the center did not know what was happening in
local areas. She says the center knew everything perfectly well, down
the smallest details.
Victims of Stalin's rule
Russian officials have accused Ukrainian
leaders of politicizing the famine and of seeking to drive a wedge
between the peoples of both countries. Russia and Ukraine also
disagree about the number of famine victims.
a scholar at the Russian Academy of Sciences, has called for an
accurate analysis and chastises Russian historians for allegedly
inflating the number of victims in Russia in response to Ukrainian
estimates, which run between 6 million to 10 million victims in Ukraine.
Both sides agree that millions perished of artificially induced hunger
throughout the USSR.
In November, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko recalled the victims of Stalin's rule.
Yushchenko says Ukraine bows its head with brotherly respect and
sympathy before all peoples beside Ukrainians who suffered under
Stalin's regime, including Russians, Belarusians, Kazakhs, Crimean
Tatars, Moldovans, Jews and dozens upon dozens of others. The
Ukrainian leader also urges former Soviet Republics, above all the
Russian Federation, to collectively condemn the crimes of Stalinism and
the totalitarian Soviet Union.
The Kremlin has not responded to
Mr. Yushchenko's call, and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev declined
an invitation to attend last November's 75th anniversary commemoration of
the famine in Kyiv.
A number of countries have recognized the
Holodomor as genocide, including the United States, Canada, Australia,
Italy, and Poland.