The Great Famine-Genocide in Soviet Ukraine (Holodomor)


Reuters, New York, NY, Thursday, October 23, 2003

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Most everyone agrees former New York Times reporter Walter Duranty was undeserving of the 1932 Pulitzer Prize for his reporting from the Soviet Union, but the jury is out on whether honor should be revoked.

The Times published findings on Thursday from a report it commissioned in July, after prodding by the Pulitzer board, from a Columbia University professor that trashed Duranty's 1930s reporting as a "disservice" to Times readers.

The Pulitzer Prize Board says it is now confidentially considering its options, The Times wonders whether rescinding the award would be tantamount to committing a Stalinistic sin of "airbrushing history," while professor Mark von Hagen says integrity dictates Duranty be stripped of the honor.

"It should be rescinded for the integrity of the Pulitzer Prize itself and for anybody who gets it in the future and for The New York Times, too," von Hagen said on Thursday.

The Pulitzer Board and The Times both acknowledge being pressured because of Duranty's later failure to report a famine that killed millions of people in Ukraine in 1932 and 1933.

Duranty, who died in 1957, has been criticized for simply parroting the political line from Stalin's government in his dispatches and ignoring harsh realities.

The Times story on Thursday detailed two examples of its own repudiation of Duranty, including a 1990 editorial acknowledging that his articles "contained some of the worst reporting to appear in this newspaper."

The Times said it would respect any Pulitzer decision, but raised points against revoking the award.

Times publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr, in a letter to the Pulitzer board, noted it might be setting an unfortunate precedent for revisiting judgments made over many decades.

Executive Editor Bill Keller, who covered the Soviet Union for The Times for five years from 1986, was quoted in the Times story as having misgivings about wiping out Duranty's award.

"As someone who spent time in the Soviet Union while it still existed, the notion of airbrushing history kind of gives me the creeps."

Von Hagen dismissed that line of thinking.

"I find that very troubling," said von Hagen, an expert on early 20th century Russian history. "I really don't find that there is a moral equivalency to taking away a prize they agree he didn't deserve, with Stalin doing what he did to people."

Sig Gissler, administrator of The Pulitzer Prizes, said there was no timetable on a decision about Duranty. The board holds its next biannual meeting on Nov. 21.

Reuters, New York, NY, Thursday, October 23, 2003