The Great Famine-Genocide in Soviet Ukraine (Holodomor)


By Roman Zakaluzny, Kyiv Post Staff Writer
Kyiv Post, Kyiv, Ukraine, Nov 6, 2003

The government has yet to comment on an effort by Ukrainian Diaspora groups to revoke a Pulitzer Prize awarded to the New York Times’ Moscow correspondent in 1932. If the government is to have a say in the matter, it will need to do so soon: The Pulitzer board will likely consider the issue when it meets later this month.

New York Times reporter Walter Duranty was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for correspondence in 1932, the same year Pearl S. Buck won a Pulitzer for her novel “The Good Earth.” The current effort to rescind Duranty’s prize follows an earlier, unsuccessful effort in 1990. The Pulitzer board is expected to re-examine the award on Nov. 21.

New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty chats during an Association of Foreign Correspondents luncheon honoring him on April 16, 1936 in New York (AP)

The campaign to revoke the award, spearheaded by a Canadian group, began last May. The effort has thus far attracted support from Diaspora in the United States, Australia and Britain, as well as from individuals and academics in Ukraine. Dozens of newspapers have editorialized on the subject.

The campaign was timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Holodomor, a forced famine during 1932 and 1933. The Soviet-engineered famine, which resulted in the deaths of millions of Ukrainian peasants, was part of Joseph Stalin’s rush to collectivize the Soviet Union.

While a New York Times Moscow correspondent during the 1920s and 1930s, Duranty adopted the Soviet government’s line that the famine did not take place. His dispatches on the Soviet Union and Joseph Stalin have been largely discredited.

Duranty’s modern-day critics argue that the writer actively collaborated with the Soviet cover-up of the famine in exchange for privileged access to Stalin.

The Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which is leading the revocation effort, has requested that the prize be either returned by the New York Times or revoked by the Pulitzer board.

But Ukrainian government officials have yet to issue an official statement regarding the campaign, according to Lubomyr Luciuk, the Canadian group’s research director.

“Can anyone imagine Israel not being interested in remembering the Holocaust or bringing to justice those responsible for the horrors that befell Jews and others during the Nazi occupation?” Luciuk asked from his home in Kingston, Ontario. “Of course not. Similarly, Ukraine should be actively engaged internationally in hallowing the memory of the many millions of its citizens who were murdered by the Stalin regime.”

Luciuk said on Nov. 3 that an unidentified source in the Foreign Affairs Ministry told him late last month that the ministry was aware of the campaign, but that no decision had been made as to whether to join it. The source also said that if the government took a stand, the information would be made public.

When the Pulitzer board debated the issue in 1990, it decided that the award would stand, arguing that Duranty won the Pulitzer for reporting in 1931, rather than for his work in 1932 or 1933, when he denied that starvation was killing millions of Ukrainian and Kuban peasants.

No Pulitzer has ever been rescinded, but a 1981 prize for feature writing was returned by the Washington Post after it learned that reporter Janet Cooke had fabricated a series of compelling articles she had written about an eight-year-old heroin addict.

In July, the Pulitzer board commissioned Columbia University historian Mark von Hagen to review the stories for which Duranty was awarded the prize, and to recommend whether the prize should stand.

In his report, von Hagen called Duranty’s work disturbing.

“The lack of balance and uncritical acceptance of the Soviet self-justification for its cruel and wasteful regime was a disservice to the American readers of the [New York Times] and the liberal values they subscribe to and to the historical experience of the peoples of the Russian and Soviet empires and their struggle for a better life,” von Hagen wrote in his report.

“Much of the ‘factual’ material is a dull and largely uncritical recitation of Soviet sources,” he wrote. He strongly suggested the prize be pulled.

New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. said that he would respect the decision reached by the Pulitzer committee later this month. However he was concerned about the precedent that would be set by revisiting the judgments of prizes won decades ago, since doing so could be construed as “airbrushing” history.

Luciuk said that von Hagen’s report was a positive development, but added that an official statement by the Ukrainian government would be even better.

Luciuk sent an open letter to the Ukrainian Embassy in Canada on Oct. 29 asking that a decision to participate be made soon. Luciuk argued that the Pulitzer committee would meet on Nov. 21 and that the government needed to speak up in favor of revocation before the board met.

“Those who helped the communists cover up this atrocity [should be] exposed for what they were, shills for the Soviets,” said Luciuk. “Duranty was not the only apologist for Stalin, but he was the only one who was distinguished with a Pulitzer Prize that he obviously did not deserve.”

“Ukraine should do everything that it can through diplomatic channels to let the New York Times and the Pulitzer committee know that it endorses our call for the revocation of Duranty’s Pulitzer,” he added. “That’s Ukraine’s duty, a sacred trust.”

Duranty also belittled other contemporary journalists covering the Soviet Union, including Briton Gareth Jones and the Manchester Guardian’s Malcolm Muggeridge. Both men toured Ukraine and wrote about the famine.