The Great Famine-Genocide in Soviet Ukraine (Holodomor)


COMMENTARY by Pat Buchanan
The Washington Times, Washington, D.C.
Section: A, Edition: 2, Page: A21
September 20, 1993


This September one of the great horrors in history, Stalin's "Terror Famine" in which 1 in 4 of the men, women and children of rural Ukraine were starved to death, as a matter of state policy, is being memorialized.

In that terrible winter of '32-'33, 60 years ago now, Malcolm Muggeridge, then a dedicated young socialist, had come to Moscow to cover the brave new world in which he had come to believe. Hearing of starvation in Ukraine, disbelieving the party would tolerate such a horror, he bought a train ticket and traveled to Kiev and Rostov.

What he saw terminated his affair with communism.

"The famine," Mr. Muggeridge wrote in shock, "is an organized one." More than that, it is "a military occupation; worse, active war."

Stalin's objective: break Ukraine. His strategy: requisition all grain, send in troops to search cellars and remove hoarded food, make certain the peasants did not escape their famished towns and villages. With the Russia-Ukraine border sealed, the starving could not escape the barren land, and food to save them could not get in.

Stalin's motives for this crime of the century: He was paranoid about the nationalities, especially Ukrainians. His party nourished a class hatred for "kulaks," i.e, "rich" farmers who owned 25 acres or three cows; he needed scapegoats for his failed harvests. Despising the peasantry for their attachment to old ways and old values, he wanted to collectivize all food supplies, to guarantee that the army and urban proletariat he feared, and needed to defend and industrialize his state, were fed . As the dying Roman emperor told his son: Pay the soldiers, the rest do not matter.

So began what historian Robert Conquest would call "The Terror Famine" and the world's "Forgotten Holocaust."

In "Stalin's Apologist," biographer S.J. Taylor describes the reaction of Mr. Muggeridge, Arthur Koestler and other honorable men, as well as that of her subject, the corrupt and odious Walter Duranty of the New York Times:

"In Kuban well-fed troops were being used to control and coerce peasants who were in many cases starving to death. The supplies of grain sent into the area were being used to feed the troops who, along with party activists, were still searching barns and cellars for hidden grain or hoarded food. Meanwhile, Muggeridge reported, there were `fields choked with weeds, cattle dead, people starving and dispirited, no horses for ploughing or transportation, not even adequate supplies of seed for the spring sowing.' "

To Mr. Koestler, who spent the winter in Kharkov, then Ukraine's capital, the children looked like "embryos out of alcohol bottles." Traveling by rail was "like running the gantlet; the stations were lined with begging peasants with swollen hands and feet, the women holding up to the carriage windows horrible infants with enormous wobbling heads, stick-like limbs, swollen pointed bellies."

Mr. Koestler found the local press full of reports about industrial progress, but "not one word about the local famine epidemics, the dying out of whole villages. . . . The enormous land was covered with a blanket of silence."

The blanket of silence covered a country, wrote Mr. Conquest, that had become one vast concentration camp with a "quarter of the rural population, men, women and children" dead or dying of hunger in the streets.

Overseeing this act of genocide was Stalin's "chained cur and toady" (Nikita Khrushchev's phrase), Lazar Kaganovich, who died just two years ago in peaceful retirement in Moscow, though, in the judgment of historian Roy Medvedev he had "on his conscience quite as many crimes as there were on the consciences of the Nazis hanged in 1946 at Nuremberg."

What was the reaction of the West to the deliberate starvation of millions in Ukraine, Kazakhstan and the Caucuses? Dead silence. As the famine was coming to an end, the new U.S. president, Franklin Roosevelt, was extending a warm hand of recognition to the monster who instructed Kaganovich to carry it out.

Why did America not protest? Why did we not help?

Because America did not know. And high among the reasons we did not was that Walter Duranty, dean of correspondents in Moscow, lied for Stalin. Mr. Duranty was a "fashionable prostitute" who "covered up the horrors and deluded an entire generation by prettyfying Soviet realities," said Joe Alsop, "He lived comfortably in Moscow, too, by courtesy of the KGB."

For 14 years, Mr. Duranty's was the most authoritative voice from Moscow. When editors asked if there was starvation, he wrote back: "There is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation, but there is a widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition."

"The famine is mostly bunk," he wrote a colleague.

Mr. Duranty's work won him a Pulitzer in 1932 for "dispassionate interpretive reporting of the news from Russia." Fifty years later, Time put the total number of deaths from the terror famine Walter Duranty had covered up at between 8 million and 10 million souls.

On this 60th anniversary of the Forgotten Holocaust, the New York Times would do well to renounce Duranty's Pulitzer, apologize to the people of Ukraine, and admit on Page One what the world now knows: Its famous correspondent Walter Duranty was, to borrow from Khrushchev, nothing but the "cur and toady" of Joseph Stalin.

Patrick Buchanan is a nationally syndicated columnist.
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