By Dennis Behreandt
The New American, Volume: 19, Number: 18
American's Conservative Bi-Weekly Magazine
Appleton, Wisconsin, September 8, 2003
Using terror and famine, Josef Stalin murdered millions in the Ukraine.
Walter Duranty; the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and the New York
Times covered up the massacre.
When it was discovered that New York Times reporter Jayson Blair's
work was shot through with plagiarism, fraud, and fabrication, the BBC
described the affair as "the biggest scandal in the history of America's
most distinguished newspaper." As is now widely known, the Times found
inaccuracies, misrepresentations, and outright lies in 36 of 73 reports
penned by Blair.
Walter Duranty, 1945, University of Arizona
Still, the Blair scandal is hardly as significant, or unusual, as the BBC's
report on the matter suggested. The Times, in fact, has a long history of
misleading the public through selective coverage and the reporting of
outright lies and falsehoods. This is especially the case whenever a
left-wing tyrant or budding dictator has found himself in need of a friend
in the media. In late 1957, for instance, as Marxist revolution swept Cuba,
the Times published a series of influential reports by Herbert Matthews
lionizing a young revolutionary leader named Fidel Castro. The Castro
program, the Times reported, "amounts to a new deal for Cuba, radical,
democratic, and therefore anti-Communist."
In covering for Castro, the Times and Herbert Matthews were simply following
a blueprint established decades earlier by another Times man, Walter
Duranty. As the New York Times' chief correspondent in Moscow, Duranty
established his reputation as the world's leading newsman while covering the
rise of Josef Stalin. His later coverage of Stalin's First Five Year Plan
garnered a Pulitzer Prize. During the same period, though, Stalin's brutal
regime was carrying out a terrifying genocide.
In the early 1930s, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of innocent
victims were deported to Siberia's uninhabitable hinterlands and abandoned
to their fates. Millions more, possibly 10 million, starved to death in
their ancestral homeland, surrounded by fertile land that once served as the
breadbasket of Europe.
In a scandalous infamy far worse than the Blair episode, Walter Duranty,
in the pages of the New York Times, said the genocide didn't happen -
even though he and the Times knew that it did. For both Duranty and the
Times, casting Stalin's "workers' paradise" in a favorable light was more
important than telling the truth that the Soviet government was murdering
millions of innocents.
Pulitzer Prize winner: New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty won
considerable acclaim as a journalist for his reports from Soviet Russia in
the 192Os and '3Os. Nevertheless, he was a central figure in the massive
cover-up of Stalin's genocidal crimes.
Thanks to much hard and thankless work by Ukrainians and others around the
world, the truth about the terrible genocide in the Ukraine has gradually
become known to a wider circle. Now, not only has the Times begun distancing
itself somewhat from the work of Walter Duranty, but the Pulitzer board is
reviewing the case with an eye toward the unprecedented revocation of
Duranty's Pulitzer Prize. As the sordid tale of Duranty's career in Moscow
illustrates, such a move is long overdue.
THE DEVIL AND DURANTY
Walter Duranty was born in late Victorian England to a family of some
wealth. he attended, for the most part, the finest schools, first at Harrow
as a boy, and later moving on to Cambridge. Despite possessing a fine mind
and academic capability, Duranty ended his higher education prematurely,
preferring instead a more exciting life as a poor vagabond frequently
journeying between New York and Paris. That he was tapping into the seedy
underground world of both cities can be inferred from the fact that during
this time he met and befriended Aleister Crowley.
Crowley believed himself to be the Anti-Christ and called himself "Beast
666." He devoted himself to studying the occult and practicing Satanic
magic, but, by the end of the first decade of the 20th century, had fallen
into a funk. No longer sure of himself, he was on the verge of giving up his
life-long quest for evil. It was then that Crowley met Duranty. The new
relationship invigorated Crowley, who recovered from his depression and
rededicated himself to a life of depravity.
The two men became friends and partners, sharing an interest in the occult,
in drugs, and in the affections of Jane "the Scarlet Woman" Cheron. It was
now 1913, and by the end of the year Crowley, assisted by Duranty and
another partner named Victor Neuberg, began the elaborate Satanic rituals
Crowley dubbed "the Paris workings." These rituals were designed to evoke
the Roman gods Mercury and jupiter, whose analogues in the Greek Pantheon
are Hermes and Zeus. The first of 23 ceremonies, composed of pagan, Satanic
rituals and chants mixed with homosexual encounters between the
participants, took place on December 31, 1913. Duranty, serving as "priest,"
administered what Crowley termed a "sacrament," the key component of which
was a homosexual act.
THE WAR CORRESPONDENT
At this time, Duranty was leading a sort of double life. When not
participating in Satanic perversion, he was on the lookout for a vocation,
preferably something that would employ his considerable, if still
unpolished, literary skills. A few months before the "the Paris workings,"
Duranty and a companion walked into the offices of the Paris bureau of the
New York Times and introduced themselves to bureau chief Wythe Williams.
Duranty and his partner, a photographer, proposed a story on a French
aviator who intended to fly upside down in an airplane, a feat many thought
Williams was not enthusiastic about the idea, but the pair persisted,
finally winning the assignment. The next day, Duranty submitted his first
manuscript to the Times. Though badly written, Williams largely rewrote it
and had it published. This initial, modest success motivated Duranty to seek
regular employment with the Times as a journalist. Though at first
frequently rebuffed, his perseverance won the day. "He finally talked
himself into a position," Williams recalled, "because he talked so much I
could no longer refuse him and arranged with the Times to give him a
Young revolutionary: A young Fidel Castro at the time of the Communist
revolution in Cuba. The New York Times and correspondent Herbert
Matthews denied Castro's Communist affiliations, absurdly referring to the
revolutionary's program as "radical, democratic, and therefore
anti-Communist." The Times treatment of Castro was not unlike the paper's
earlier cover-up of the murderous nature of the Soviet regime.
When World War I broke out in 1914, the still inexperienced Duranty was
kept by the Times in Paris, rather than sent to the front with the more
Still, there was plenty to report on in wartime Paris, The biggest story by
far came on January 30, 1916. That night, as Duranty sat at a street-side
cafe, German zeppelins appeared over the city. The monstrous, gray airships
dropped their payloads of bombs on horrified citizens as police and fire
crews scrambled to extinguish lamps to obscure targets. Still, a number of
German bombs fell in a heavily populated sector of the city. Duranty secured
a cab and arrived near midnight at a nightmarish scene of destruction. His
report on the aftermath in the Times exhibited the easy and lucid but
dramatic style that marked his later work and contributed to his
Fiend and friend: Aleister Crowley was well-known for his diabolical,
perverse, and Satanic practices and delighted in calling himself the "Beast
666." The man who believed himself to be the Anti-Christ was nevertheless
befriended by a young Walter Duranty, who willingly participated in
Crowley's elaborate pagan and homosexual rituals known as "the Paris
If wartime Paris provided material for Duranty's first serious work as a
reporter, it also provided opportunity for his first sellout of journalistic
principles. In the summer of 1917, Duranty was asked to write a false report
to aid the Allied propaganda effort. The circumstances of this request, as
Duranty biographer S.J. Taylor records, have been lost. But Duranty himself
felt strongly enough about the episode to record the incident. "I was young
and inexperienced," he recalled, "but I had to decide the question alone."
He decided to write the story, penning a report about a fictional battle in
which the Allies repulsed a German submarine attack.
He "fancied," he wrote later, that on occasion "a noble end" justified
"somewhat doubtful means." More significantly, Duranty's willingness to
fabricate the news, supposedly to achieve "a noble end," would make him
particularly useful to the Times when it came time to conceal Stalin's
DURANTY GOES TO MOSCOW
After the war, Duranty continued to work for the Times, in Paris and around
Europe. During this time he frequently reported on happenings inside Russia
in relation to the Bolshevik (i.e., Communist) takeover there. Western
journalists were not allowed in Russia then, and most of Duranty's
reporting, like that of his colleagues, was produced while outside the
border. His early work on Russia was notable for its anti-Bolshevik stance.
Taylor records that, in Duranty's opinion, at least for a time, Bolshevism
was "a compound efforce, terror and espionage, utterly ruthless in
conception and execution." Unfortunately, Duranty purged anti-Communism
from his articles as soon as the opportunity to gain entry to the Soviet
Union presented itself.
By 1921, the Communist tyranny in Russia had resulted in a food shortage and
famine that took, in Duranty's own estimation, the lives of "5,000,000 or
6,000,000 including deaths from disease." The Soviets sought help from
foreign relief agencies. One of those that agreed to help was the American
Relief Association, but its assistance was predicated upon the Soviets
allowing Western journalists to report from within Russia.
Immediately, the Times sent Duranty to Riga, Latvia, where he was to attempt
to get a visa for entry into the Communist state. Once there, a Soviet press
officer told him that he had been rejected for entry into Russia because of
his past anti-Soviet bias. Determined to reverse this decision, Duranty
wrote a puff piece on Soviet dictator Lenin's New Economic Policy (NEP).
Lenin had contrived the NEP as a step back from the repressive "War
Communism" that had brought about economic stagnation and famine. The main
objective of the NEP was to reintroduce into the Soviet system, in a manner
controlled by the state, some elements of a market economy in an attempt to
recover the economic ground lost under "War Communism." The NEP was
tantamount to an admission by the Bolsheviks that Communism, as an economic
system, was a dismal failure. Such criticism as this, justified though it
was, did not make it into Duranty's report. When it was finished, Duranty's
work on the NEP in the Times apparently met with favor in Soviet circles,
and Duranty was in.
Now that he had gained entry to the Soviet Union, the old Duranty who had
been skeptical of the Bolshevik regime was quickly replaced with the new
Duranty who was willing to heap praise on the Communists. On January 18,
1923, he provided his readers with a glowing critique of Stalin and the
During the last year Stalin has shown judgement and analytical power not
unworthy of Lenin. It is to him that the greatest part of the credit is due
for bringing about the new Russian Union, which history may regard as one of
the most remarkable Constitutions in human history. Trotsky helped him in
drawing it up, but Stalin's brain guided the pen.
"All the news that's fit to print" is the motto of the New York Times. In
the case of Stalin's genocidal crimes, the Times saw fit to publish the lies
of Moscow correspondent and Stalin-favorite Walter Duranty.
In the coming years, Duranty would cement his reputation as the leading
journalist in Russia and the top journalistic expert on Russian affairs by
covering such important events as Lenin's death and the rise to power of
Stalin, whom Duranty referred to as "a remarkable personality."
In 1928, the Stalin regime adopted the first of the Five Year Plans. The
plan's goal, as stated by party propaganda, was to "catch up and bypass the
capitalist world." The plan called for rapidly developing industry,
especially heavy industry, which the commissars pledged would grow by 330
percent. Stalin intended to finance this expansion by collectivizing the
USSR's agricultural sector. By confiscating the land and assigning the
peasants to collective farms, the Soviets hoped to increase agricultural
output by 150 percent. From this output they expected to reap a bloody
profit sufficient to finance their dreams of industry.
The drive for completely collectivizing agriculture, Stalin and his henchmen
realized, would be resisted by those peasants who had been farming their own
meager holdings and retaining what profits could be made. These "kulaks"
thus became enemies of the state, and Stalin, in a chilling proclamation,
called for the "liquidation of the kulaks as a class." This order led to
deportation, famine, and genocide, primarily in the Ukraine.
To carry out the "dekulakization" campaign and force the peasantry onto the
collective farms or "kolkhozes," the Kremlin dispatched brigades of loyal
Communists and Komsomol (Young Communist League) members to the
Ukraine and to other agricultural areas to organize and enforce the effort.
These fanatical party functionaries used whatever means necessary, up to and
including the frequent use of lethal force, to expropriate the land from the
peasants and force them to labor on the collective farms. Those unfortunate
enough to be deemed kulaks - the official definition was sufficiently vague
so that nearly anyone could designated as such were the first to come under
Ukrainian historian Orest Subtelny noted that "the 'dekulakization' process
reached its high point in the winter of 1929-30." Kulaks who resisted were
simply shot. Most of the remainder were forcibly relocated to Siberia and
the Arctic. "Hundreds of thousands of peasants and their families," Subtelny
writes, "were dragged from their homes, packed into freight trains, and
shipped thousands of miles to the north where they were dumped amidst Arctic
wastes, often without food or shelter." Approximately 850,000 peasants were
removed in this way. Many did not survive the journey. Many more died of
exposure and related ailments shortly after being abandoned in the
Those allowed to remain in their ancestral homelands also suffered the
confiscation of their property and livestock. Predictably, a fierce
resistance developed. This resistance was principally a homemade
scorched-earth policy. Rather than relinquish their assets to the slate, the
peasants did what they could to destroy them. Professor Nicholas V.
Riasanovsky of the University of California at Berkeley notes that "from
1929 to 1933 in the Soviet Union the number of horses, in millions, declined
from 34 to 16.6, of cattle from 68.1 to 38.6, of sheep and goats from 147.2
to 50.6, and of hogs from 20.9 to 12.2"
In response, Stalin determined to destroy the population through starvation.
Soviet agents actively worked to enforce strict collection quotas on
agricultural production, leaving little or nothing for consumption in the
Ukraine and other affected areas. In conjunction with this, the GPU (a KGB
precursor) was ordered to ban "by all means necessary the large-scale
departure of peasants from the Ukraine and the Northern Caucasus for the
towns. Once these counter-revolutionary elements have been arrested," the
order continued, "they are to be escorted back to their original place of
Without food, and without an ability to seek relief by leaving the region, a
terrible and brutal famine developed. In testimony to the San Francisco
regional hearing of the U.S. Commission on the Ukraine Famine in 1987, Ivan
Kasiianenko, who in 1932 at the time of the famine was only a boy, described
in a chilling account the horrors he witnessed:
A man-made famine: When Ukrainian peasant farmers resisted the Soviet
campaign to steal their belongings and force them to work as slaves on the
collective farms, Stalin determined to starve the entire populace into
submission. One witness to the genocide recalled seeing "starving people on
the verge of death" and "even mothers [who] sometimes lost their sanity and
turned into animals who smothered their own children and ate them."
My father was always on the run during the day and would only come at night.
We had nothing; they had taken everything from us. They came with their
pikes, poked around, asked questions and grabbed my mother by the hair. They
tore off my mother's earrings and her cross. We children cried, but nothing
helped. No one paid any attention to our tears.
They locked our mother in the basement. So there we were, five of us
children with me the oldest, and our father nowhere to be found. They came
back to see if they had missed anything and found one egg that had not been
taken. They took it away....
After two weeks they let mother out of the basement. But what could she do
when there was nothing to eat? In March or April 1933 they took our cow. The
first to die was my youngest sister, then another sister. Then my brother
and a third sister died at the same time. Father died and was buried on Holy
Thursday. Mother died two days later, and they threw her in a hole on Easter
Sunday. I remember how a neighbor came and comforted me, saying that
although my parents had gone, they had died on holy days, Holy Thursday and
Easter. It was a terrible time for me. I was starving myself, to such an
extent that 1 could not walk.
Ivan Kasiianenko's testimony goes on at length describing the grisly horrors
he witnessed, from "starving people on the verge of death" to "even mothers,
[who] sometimes lost their sanity and turned into animals who smothered
their own children and ate them."
At the height of the famine, Duranty was living in relative comfort in
Moscow with his mistress, Katya, and enjoying the acclaim that results from
winning the Pulitzer Prize. he was given that prestigious honor in 1932 for
his reporting on developments in Russia during the previous year. "Mr.
Duranty's dispatches show profound and intimate comprehension of conditions
in Russia and of the causes of those conditions," the official announcement
of the award enthused. "They are marked by scholarship, profundity,
impartiality, sound judgement, and exceptional clarity, and are excellent
examples of the best type of foreign correspondence."
In the very acceptance of his award, however, Duranty put the lie to the
myth of his impartiality. "I learned to respect the Soviet leaders," he
said, "especially Stalin, whom I consider to have grown into a really great
statesman, and their [the Bolsheviks'] planned system of economy, despite
During this period, Duranfy worked hard from his Moscow quarters to dismiss and belittle reports that the Soviet regime was engaged in a campaign of
genocide. Both Duranty and the Times knew the truth, of course. In an
absolutely incredible admission, Duranty confessed that his writings
reflected the official Soviet line. As Soviet expert Leonard Leshuk notes in
his recent book US Intelligence Perceptions of Soviet Power, 1921-1946, in
June of 1931, Walter Duranty "admitted to A. W. Klieforth of the U.S.
Embassy in Berlin ... that 'in agreement with The New York Times and the
Soviet authorities' his official dispatches always reflect the official
opinion of the Soviet regime and not his own."
That is, the New York Times, the most powerful, most respected news
organization in the United States, served as a Soviet mouthpiece.
Undoubtedly, the Times was much more effective than Pravda, the
Moscow-based Communist newspaper, at burying the truth, since the Times
was much more highly respected, was supposedly impartial, and had a much
wider readership in the West.
And Walter Duranty, based in Moscow, was the Times ' key propagandist
popularizing the lie that there was no genocide in the Ukraine. On November
11, 1932, the Times published a front page report from Walter Duranty
entitled "All Russia Suffers Shortage of Food; Supplies Dwindling." Through
clever semantics the report minimized the tragedy in the Ukraine by claiming
that all Soviet citizens faced the same difficulties. But more to the point,
Duranty dismissed the prospect of famine altogether. "There is no famine or
actual starvation, nor is there likely to be," he wrote.
The death toll: Millions died because of Stalin's terror famine. Walter
Duranty, who for public consumption said there was no famine, privately
admitted that as many as 10 million may have perished.
The very next day the Times published a follow-up report in which the
celebrated reporter, parroting the official Stalinist propaganda, blamed the
food shortage on the peasants themselves. In a report headlined "Food
Shortage Laid To Soviet Peasants," Duranty wrote that "the food shortage
must be regarded as a result of peasant resistance to rural socialization,
or, perhaps more accurately, as a result of the measures taken to overcome
that resistance. The measures have proved effective and the resistance has
Still, Duranty placed the blame most squarely with the peasants rather than
with Soviet policy because, he wrote, "food production dwindled as the
peasants killed their livestock and abandoned the production of surplus food
stocks." This was shockingly false. The root cause of the food shortage was
the Soviet government's systematic oppression of the peasants, its outright
murder and deportation of the most successful "kulak" farmers, and the
brutal, state-sponsored and organized theft of all remaining peasant assets.
The worst whitewash of the famine perpetrated by the New York Times
with the help of Duranty came in the spring of 1933. During the height of
the famine, a young British traveler named Gareth Jones spent three weeks
walking through the affected region. After his trip Jones, who had once been
secretary to British Prime Minister Lloyd George, announced to the world, at
a press conference in Berlin and a lecture in London, that he had seen
starvation on a massive scale.
According to Eugene Lyons, a Western reporter with left-leaning sympathies,
the head of the Soviet Press Office, Constantine Oumansky, demanded that
Western journalists based in Russia denounce Jones' report, under penalty
of losing their credentials.
"The scene in which the American press corps combined to repudiate Jones is
fresh in my mind," Lyons wrote in his book Assignment in Utopia. "It was in
the evening and Comrade Oumansky ... consented to meet us in the hotel
room of a correspondent.... There was much bargaining in a spirit of
gentlemanly give-and-take, under the effulgence of Oumansky's gilded smile,
before a formula of denial was worked out."
According to biographer S.J. Taylor, Walter Duranty was one of the reporters
to attend that meeting. In Duranty's subsequent report repudiating Jones,
published by the Times on March 31, 1933, Duranty wrote that "there is no
actual starvation, or deaths from starvation," and, though "conditions are
bad... there is no famine." Moreover, he crassly dismissed hardships caused
by Soviet policy. "To put it brutally," he wrote, "you can't make an
omelette without breaking eggs...."
Franklin Delano Roosevelt: On November 17,1933, not long after his initial
election to the presidency, FDR announced that the United States would
normalize relations with the Soviet Union. This action was made possible
largely because the American public remained ignorant of Stalin's barbaric
crimes. It was the cover-up engineered by the New York Times and Walter
Duranty that kept the American people in the dark.
The omelette the power elite on both sides of the Atlantic hoped to concoct
included normalizing relations between the United States and the Soviet
Union. On November 17, 1933, the still-new administration of Franklin Delano
Roosevelt granted full diplomatic recognition to the Soviet Union, despite
the massive campaign of genocide underway there. The deal was brokered from
the Soviet side by Foreign Minister Litvinoff, who traveled to Washington
earlier in the month aboard the steamer S.S. Berengaria. The only Western
journalist on board for that trip was Walter Duranty.
Diplomatically, Duranty was little more than a sidelight to the proceedings,
but his reporting from Russia certainly facilitated the normalization of
relations. Almost certainly, if the true nature and scale of the Soviet
genocide in the Ukraine had been truthfully reported, the Roosevelt
administration would have found it impossible to grant diplomatic
recognition to the Soviet Union. Indeed, Stalin himself congratulated
Duranty for his reporting not long after the normalization of relations.
"You have done a good job in your reporting the U.S.S.R.," the dictator
told Duranty on Christmas Day, 1933.
THE TRUTH COMES OUT
For public consumption, Duranty was happy to deny the famine and thereby
help the Times cover for the Soviets. Privately, though, he was willing to
concede that the famine was real and disastrous. "In private conversation
with British diplomats," writes Soviet expert Leonard Leshuk, "he [Duranty]
estimated that as many as 10 million people may have starved to death."
Similarly, in Assignment in Utopia, Eugene Lyons describes Duranty's
estimates of the death toll following the latter's return from a trip to the
Lyons writes that he and his wife, Billy, were dining with Duranty, Anne
O'Hare McCormick (also of the Times), and McCormick's husband. Duranty,
Lyons recalled, "gave us his fresh impressions in brutally frank terms and
they added up to a picture of ghastly horror. His estimate of the dead from
famine was the most startling I had as yet heard from anyone."
Despite the artful misrepresentations made by Duranty and many others who
covered the Soviet Union during the famine years, the existence of this
monumental crime would prove impossible to deny. Thanks to the tireless work
of many Ukrainian-Americans and several groups representing Ukrainian
immigrants to America, the genocide in the Ukraine has become more
well-known, as has the shameful role of Walter Duranty and the New York
Times in its cover-up.
Now, 70 years after the famine, a push is on to have Duranty's Pulitzer
Prize revoked due to the slanted and partisan nature of his reporting and
his role in covering up the man-made famine. In announcing earlier this year
its campaign to have the prize revoked, the Ukrainian Congress Committee
of America noted that Duranty not only disregarded the famine in his
dispatches but "called other journalists outright liars for reporting about
Ukraine's Famine Genocide."
The publicity generated by a new interest in uncovering this monstrous
atrocity is having an effect. According to CBS News, "more than 15,000
postcards and thousands more letters and e-mails were sent to the Pulitzer
Board" by concerned Ukrainians and others around the world asking that the
prize be taken from
As a result, a committee of the Pulitzer Board is undertaking a review to
determine if the prize should be revoked. Calls placed by THE NEW
AMERICAN to the Pulitzer panel seeking information on the status of the
review have not been returned as of this writing. Still, the review is a
step in the right direction. For its part, the New York Times remains proud
of Duranty's Pulitzer, if one can judge by the paper's actions. Though it
posted a disclaimer on the prize indicating that "other writers in the Times
elsewhere have discredited this coverage," the paper has neither apologized
for Duranty's lies on its behalf nor returned the prize.
In the summer of 1917, the Times asked Duranty to write a false report to
aid the Allied propaganda effort. Duranty's willingness to fabricate the
news, supposedly to achieve "a noble end," would make him particularly
useful to the Times when it came time to conceal Stalin's crimes.
Duranty's early work on Russia was notable for its anti-Bolshevik stance.
But once he gained entry to the Soviet Union, Duranty was willing to praise
the Communists. He referred to Josef Stalin as "a remarkable personality."
Publicly, Duranty was happy to deny the famine and thereby help the Times
provide cover for the Soviets. Privately, though, he was willing to concede
that the famine was real and disastrous. According to Leonard Leshuk,
Duranty admitted that upwards of 10 million people may have starved to
Now, 70 years after the famine, a push is on to have Duranty's Pulitzer
Prize revoked due to the slanted and partisan nature of his reporting and
his role in covering up the man-made famine.
The New American, Appleton, Wisconsin, September 8, 2003
America's Conservative By-Weekly Magazine
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