The Great Famine-Genocide in Soviet Ukraine (Holodomor)

Walter Duranty of the New York Times and his Pulitizer Prize

By Natalia A. Feduschak
The Washington Times
Washington, D.C.
Saturday, March 29, 2003


Ukrainian officials and Ukrainian-Americans have begun a campaign to revoke the Pulitzer Prize awarded to a New York Times writer who reported that a man-made famine that killed millions in the 1930s never happened.

"It has become a world action," said Tama Gallo, executive director of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, a New York-based group that began the effort to have the prestigious prize awarded to Walter Duranty in 1932 withdrawn.

Mr. Duranty, who was the Times' Moscow correspondent from 1921 to 1934, won the Pulitzer for a 1931 series of reports about Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's five-year plans to reform the economy.

His stories appeared in the Times before the Ukrainian famine of 1932-1933, which left 5 million to 10 million dead.

Western historians now generally agree that the famine was the result of Stalin's industrialization effort and an attempt to break the will of the independence-minded Ukrainian people.

To ensure cities were fed, the Soviet dictator set impossibly high grain quotas for Soviet Ukraine's collectivized farmers and removed every other source of food available to them.

Police were sent to the Ukrainian countryside to monitor compliance. Anyone found hiding grain was fatally shot, according to eyewitnesses.

Ukrainian-Americans have sporadically attempted to have Mr. Duranty's prize withdrawn.

With the 70-year anniversary of the famine being commemorated in an independent Ukraine, the movement has gained new momentum. In unprecedented hearings recently in parliament, demands were made that the prize be revoked.

The government in Kiev is expected to ask the United Nations to recognize the famine as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people.

In his 1932-1933 dispatches, Mr. Duranty denied that a famine was occurring in Soviet Ukraine, although he has been quoted in several books as privately telling friends he had never seen such misery.

Sig Gissler, administrator for the Pulitzer Prizes, said he understands the concern regarding Mr. Duranty, who died in 1957, but past Pulitzer boards have not deemed it necessary to revoke his prize.

"I do think there is a tendency to merge the prize, which is from reporting in 1931, with events in 1932-33," he said.

Mr. Gissler said he could not speculate whether future boards would return to the question of withdrawing the prize.

The New York Times itself has criticized Mr. Duranty's reporting. In displays and materials devoted to its Pulitzer Prizes, the Times notes that writers at the paper and elsewhere have discredited his coverage.

Still, the Times has not asked that the prize be revoked.

"The Pulitzer Board has reviewed the Duranty prize several times over the years, and the board has never seen fit to revoke it," said Catherine Mathis, vice president of corporate communications for the New York Times Co. "In that situation, the Times has not seen merit in trying to undo history."

The Washington Times, Washington, D.C., Saturday, March 29, 2003
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