The Great Famine-Genocide in Soviet Ukraine (Holodomor)


COMMENTARY By Les Kinsolving, Grants Pass, OR, December 6, 2003


Walter Duranty, the New York Times Moscow correspondent, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1932 - despite being described by his fellow Soviet Union correspondent Malcolm Muggeridge as "the biggest liar I have seen in 50 years as a journalist."

For Duranty was a holocaust-denier - which enabled him to win exclusive interviews with Josef Stalin - whose Red Army caused the death by starvation of 5 to 10 million Ukrainians.

The New York Times disgraced itself by refusing to send back Duranty's Pulitzer - as the Washington Post did when they discovered Janet Cooke had also extensively lied in a Pulitzer-winning series about a non-existent 9-year-old heroin addict.

On Friday, Nov. 21, the Pulitzer Prize Board further disgraced itself by voting against revoking Duranty's prize - in spite of many thousands of letters, e-mails and phone calls from Ukrainian-Americans and others who protested this prize being awarded to this New York Times denier of their holocaust.

This Pulitzer board conducted their voting in a manner which if tried by any government body in the U.S. would provoke strenuous newspaper protests. This board refuses to disclose whether this was a unanimous or divided vote. There was no report on how each board member voted.

This board's co-chairman, New York Times columnist William Safire, recused himself from voting. And he also disclosed, when asked, that he was not informed how any of the predominantly newspaper editor board members voted.

Is this good journalistic behavior in the course of adjudging journalism's most renowned award?

The following are excerpts of the Saturday, Nov. 22 New York Times report of one of the greatest embarrassments in that newspaper's history:

The board that administers the Pulitzer Prizes said yesterday that it had decided not to revoke the prize awarded in 1932 to Walter Duranty of The New York Times for a series of articles about the Soviet Union that were later discredited as too credulous of Soviet propaganda.

Mr. Duranty's Pulitzer Prize, which was awarded for a series of 13 articles written in 1931, has become the subject of protests by Ukrainians and other groups angry over his failure to report the vast famine of 1932-33 in the Soviet Union.

The Pulitzer Prize Board's statement acknowledged that Mr. Duranty's prizewinning articles had fallen far short of "today's standards for foreign reporting." But the board concluded after months of debate that there was "no clear and convincing evidence of deliberate deception" by Mr. Duranty in the articles that won the prize.

The Times went on to report:

Tamara Gallo Olexy, director of the national office in New York for the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, said the roots of the famine could be traced to a period before 1932.

"Unfortunately, you can't say that the famine in the Ukraine started exactly on Jan. 1, 1932," she said in a telephone interview. "It started earlier than that, in 1929, when the whole collectivization started."

Calling the board's decision "outrageous," Ms. Olexy said her organization would continue to campaign for the revoking of the prize. "This is not the end," she said. "We are not going to stop."

But this Pulitzer board's statement noted:

"Revoking a prize 71 years after it was awarded under different circumstances, when all principals are dead and unable to respond, would be a momentous step and therefore would have to rise to that threshold"

And so, instead of rising, this Pulitzer board fell - in leaving in place the Pulitzer-honoring of an unquestionable denier of the Ukrainian holocaust.

The Times reported:

Some historians have contended that Mr. Duranty helped hide the existence of the famine, which resulted in the death of several million Ukrainians. But the board said it had focused its attention on the 1931 articles for which he won the prize, rather than on his whole career or his failure to report on the later famine.

"A Pulitzer Prize for reporting is awarded not for the author's body of work or for the author's character," the statement said, "but for the specific pieces entered in the competition."

In a coda addressing Mr. Duranty's critics, the board said, "The famine of 1932-1933 was horrific and has not received the international attention it deserves."

"The board," the statement added, "extends its sympathy to Ukrainians and others in the United States and throughout the world who still mourn the suffering and deaths brought on by Josef Stalin."

Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher of the Times, said in a statement: "We respect and commend the Pulitzer board for its decision on this complex and sensitive issue. All of us at The Times are fully aware of the many defects in Walter Duranty's journalism, as we have and will continue to acknowledge. We regret his lapses, and we join the Pulitzer board in extending sympathy to those who suffered as a result of the 1932-33 Ukrainian famine."

And I ask: Just how deep is the Times sympathy for the sons, daughters and grandparents of those starved to death in the holocaust that Duranty of the New York Times denied as ever having taken place? Many thousands of these demands have now been dismissed by that Pulitzer board, and by the New York Times, which we strongly suspect dominates it.

The Times also reported:

In response to inquiries from the Pulitzer board, the Times hired Mark von Hagen, a Columbia University history professor who studies the former Soviet Union, to examine Mr. Duranty's prizewinning articles. In an eight-page report to the Times, professor von Hagen said their "lack of balance and uncritical acceptance of the Soviet self-justification for its cruel and wasteful regime" had misrepresented history and done a disservice to the paper's readers.

Professor von Hagen's report did not address the possibility of rescinding the prize, but in subsequent interviews with the New York Sun and the Times, he said he favored that action. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Mr. Sulzberger, in a cover letter submitting the historian's report to the board, acknowledged that Mr. Duranty's work had been "slovenly," but he argued that revoking the prize might evoke the "Stalinist practice to airbrush purged figures out of official records and histories." He also wrote that "the board would be setting a precedent for revisiting its judgments over many decades."

But what the Times refused to report was the fact that professor von Hagen, on Nov. 10 at Columbia University, presided over an international conference on the Ukrainian famine - and the Times' Duranty who denied its existence.

The New York Times, which was notified of this conference, refused to cover it.


Les Kinsolving hosts a daily talk show for WCBM in Baltimore. His radio commentaries are syndicated nationally. He is White House correspondent for Talk Radio Network and WorldNetDaily. His show can be heard on the Internet at  8-10 p.m. Eastern each weekday. Before going into broadcasting, Kinsolving was a newspaper reporter and columnist - twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for his commentary.