Parliament Discusses the Famine...Should We Really Give This
Verkhovna Rada More Authority to Implement the Political Reform?
By Serhiy Makhun, James Mace, The Day
The Day Weekly Digest, Kyiv, Ukraine
Tuesday, May 20, 2003
On May 15 Verkhovna Rada adopted a resolution, On an Address to the
Ukrainian People from the Participants of the Verkhovna Rada Special
Meeting to Commemorate Victims of the 1932-1933 Holodomor, declaring
that the catastrophic manmade famine, which claimed lives of untold millions
of Ukrainians, was "an act of genocide" and "a terrorist act of the
political system of Stalinism" against the Ukrainian people, UNIAN reported.
The resolution was supported by 226 lawmakers, the minimum required
for its adoption, of the 410 attending the session.
When almost three years ago in late October 2000 the president of Ukraine
issued an order, On the Day to Commemorate Victims of the Famine and
Political Repression, it seemed that the state had finally formulated its
approach to its totalitarian past. However, the discussion of the resolution
at the hearings left the impressions that there were more questions than
Perhaps we will have to wait for a proper historical, legal, and moral
estimate of, to quote the address, "such a social catastrophe in the history
of our country as the 1932-1933 Holodomor Famine which is worthy of
annual commemoration of its uncounted victims." According to various
estimates, from 3 to 10 million of our compatriots died.
The discrepancy in figures is truly startling. The low figure, between 3 and
3.5 million was argued by Prof. Stanislav Kulchytsky last year ("How Many
of Us Perished in the Holodomor of 1933," Dzerkalo tyzhnia, No. 45,
November 23-29, 2002).
When one considers a number of circumstances, there are very good reasons
to consider Kulchytsky's estimate a significant understatement:
(1) the Holodomor also ravaged the largely Ukrainian Kuban, directed there
by Lazar Kaganovich while Molotov was carrying out the job in Ukraine;
(2) Stalinist figures are notoriously unreliable, and even in the 1928
controversy surrounding Mykhailo Volobuyev's argument that the Ukrainian
SSR was being exploited within the USSR it became clear that you could find
different official statistics to prove anything, while by 1932 almost all
sources of reliable statistics were being systematically destroyed;
(3) the documents show that villages that were depopulated by the Holodomor
and attendant repressive measures were resettled by people brought in by
other republics (for example, on November 22, 1932, Stalin personally
ordered the "resettlement" of 2000 "kulak" families from the North Caucasus
with their land and property to be given to reliable peasants from other
republics; and without any provision for the support of such "enemies of the
people" at their points of destination it is safe to estimate that most
died) and this was reflected by a drop of the percentage of Ukrainians in
both the Soviet Union and Ukraine substantially in excess of the population
decline in the Ukrainian SSR itself; and
(4) other famines have usually shown a higher than average birth rate a year
and a half to two years after they ended because of delayed childbearing and
that those in their prime childbearing years were most likely to survive.
Factoring all this in would require some pretty sophisticated
number-crunching, but it would not lead to the seven to ten million figure
often cited. For example, the US Commission on the Ukraine Famine said
only that millions died and found that it constituted genocide because of
what went along with it.
The problem of genocide is not in how many people died but whether it was
used to help permanently cripple a given nation as such.
Among the unpleasant surprises was the fact that at the hearing the
scheduled speech by President Leonid Kuchma, which was intended to raise
the level of discussion at the Verkhovna Rada session, did not take place.
The half-empty session hall (representatives of the Left factions
demonstratively ignored the meeting) was depressing. Only a few of the 450
deputies listened carefully to the speeches of Vice Premier on Humanitarian
Affairs Dmytro Tabachnyk, very competent historian, from the government
and People's Deputy Hennady Udovenko, learned in international law, from
the parliament. Why?
Of course it is easier and more pleasant to demonstrate one's oratorical
gifts at such meetings. Many of the absent deputies do it all the time. In
this case, by contrast, they should have listened to the arguments carefully
and attentively. Unfortunately, what happened was the muddled thinking, to
which we have become all too accustomed.
Certainly, it is necessary to condemn and recognize Ukrainian famines on
global level, but the state also has to decide on its own position.
Chairman of the Kyiv branch of the Memorial Society Roman Krutsyk
noted, "Today Verkhovna Rada should pass not an address but a law On
Recognizing the Famine as Genocide.
"It is a pity for us and our parliament that, while the fact of genocide in
Ukraine was recognized by the US Congress (actually a commission, not
Congress as a whole - Ed.), the parliaments of Canada, and even Denmark,
we continue to mouth half-truths. We do not even want to follow the
precedents of the European states.
"Take the US, which presented its apologies for slavery to all of Africa, or
Kwasniewski and Schroeder to the Jews; the Pope has also made apologies for
the Inquisition. We still don't want to tell the truth about those crimes
and criminals involved in the genocide and repression against the Ukrainian
people. These actions or rather inaction by the state are evidence of their
knowledge about Ukraine on the level of a Soviet fourth grade textbook.
"Without coming to terms with our totalitarian past we will never be able to
move forward in terms of either our economy nor politics. The Baltic states,
Poles, and Czechs have already done this, and now they are developing as
part of the united Europe."
The Day Weekly Digest, Kyiv, Ukraine, May 20, 2003
For personal and academic use only