The Great Famine-Genocide in Soviet Ukraine (Holodomor)

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MISSING MILLIONS FIGURE BIG IN FAMINE'S TOLL
Facts About the Famine
  

By Andrew Pleshkevich, Moscow
Letter to the Editor, The Moscow Times
Friday, Jun. 27, 2003. Page 9

 

In response to "Ukrainian Famine," letters by E.Morgan Williams and David Brandenberger on June 20. Those letters were written in response to "One Pulitzer That Should Shake the World," a comment by Matt Bivens on June 16, The Moscow Times.

 

Editor,

In the past, Soviet apologists such as Bernard Shaw denied the Ukrainian famine's existence. Now, it seems, others are prone to deny its importance. In their letters, David Brandenberger and E. Morgan Williams question Matt Bivens' portrayal of the famine as a Ukrainian genocide. Let's consider some more facts about the famine. [see editor's note below about the major error contained in this statement]

 

In 1932, Stalin ordered grain requisitions in Ukraine to be increased by 44 percent. Because peasants were forbidden from receiving grain until they met their personal quota, this meant starvation for Ukraine's rural population. Military, police and volunteers were sent into villages to ensure compliance, and the penalty for being caught with "illegal" grain -- even for a child -- was death.

 

Data from the Soviet census confirm that the tragedy that resulted was immense. On Dec. 17, 1926, the population of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic was 29,042,934. By 1939, the count had increased by 1,917,287 to 30,960,221.

 

And yet, according to these same sources, the Ukrainian population grew by 2.36 percent throughout the 1920s. Continuing at this rate over the twelve-year period from 1926 to 1939, the population of Ukraine should have increased by 10,287,985 to 39,330,919.

 

The difference between the projected and reported increments is 8,370,698. Taking into account that many of these "missing people" did not starve to death but were, instead, the result of a drop in the birthrate during the famine, Bivens' quoted figure of around seven million deaths is not inaccurate. The death of millions of people can hardly be dismissed as mere "neglect, incompetence and disdain for rural culture," as Brandenberger suggests.

 

While it is true that collectivization caused famine and death in other republics, the extent was not nearly the same as in Ukraine. Millions of Poles, Gypsies and others perished in Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust, but the tragedy is rightfully considered a Jewish one. When we take into account the liquidation of Ukraine's cultural elite during the 1930's, Stalin's numerous Ukrainophobic comments and Russification as a whole, Bivens' claim that the famine was an ethnic genocide is not off the mark.

 

Andrew Pleshkevich, Moscow


EDITOR'S NOTE ABOUT MAJOR ERROR IN THE LETTER ABOVE:

The comment found above in the letter to the editor of The Moscow Times by Andrew Pleshkevich of Moscow, "In their letters, David Brandenberger and E. Morgan Williams question Matt Bivens' portrayal of the famine as a Ukrainian genocide. Let's consider some more facts about the famine," is NOT accurate at all in terms of the letter that I, E. Morgan Williams, wrote to Matt Bivens, at the Moscow Times or in terms of what I strongly believe about the tragic events that occurred in Ukraine in 1932-1933.

In my letter I did not question at all Matt Bivens' portrayal of the famine as a Ukrainian genocide. I actually do believe strongly the famine was an act of genocide against Ukraine and her people for sure. I do not know or understand how Mr. Pleshkevich came to the conclusion he did about what I wrote.

I happen to agree with what Mr. Pleshkevich wrote in his letter to the editor except for the statement he made about his impression concerning what I said in the letter I wrote.

The following is the letter I wrote to Matt Bivens and sent to The Moscow Times. I did not send it as a letter to the editor but only to start some discussion with Mr. Bivens about one point he made.

(1) The following was published by The Moscow Times on June 20, 2003. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
"Editor,

Matt Bivens' claim that the Stalinist regime "engineered a mass famine -- one so neatly political that it stopped precisely at the Ukrainian-Russian internal border" is entirely incorrect. That the famine did not stop at the Ukrainian-Russian internal border is well known, well-documented and written about in many, many books.

This enormous error should be corrected immediately as it indicates a gross lack of knowledge about what actually happened in the Soviet Union between 1932 and 1933, and how far it spread.

E. Morgan Williams, Washington"


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Many of those who deny the famine was a genocide against Ukraine are happy to point out that there were actually pockets of famine in other parts of the Soviet Union. Famine was used as a weapon to destroy family farms and farm families in some places outside Soviet Ukraine.

I did not agree totally with the following comment Mr. Bivens had in his original article, " That same year, the Stalin regime sealed the borders of Ukraine, ordered the confiscation of grain, and engineered a mass famine -- one so neatly political that it stopped precisely at the Ukrainian-Russian internal border."

As I said those who deny the genocidal aspect of the famine in Ukraine like for those who believe it was a genocidal famine to make such comments as the one above as they know they can show there were other pockets of famine in some of the important agricultural areas of Soviet Ukraine.

Recognizing there were actually pockets of famine in other parts of the Soviet Union in no way takes away from the fact that what happened in Ukraine can be easily classified as a genocidal famine.

This is the only statement in Mr. Bivens important article that I had some questions about.

The other letter to the editor that Mr.Andrew Pleshkevich, Moscow, refers to in his letter to the editor, the one by David Brandenberger, Cambridge, Massachusetts, does actually raise questions about the concept of the famine being classified as a genocide.

Why Andrew Pleshkevich lumped the comments in my letter in with what Mr. Brandenberger's stated in his letter I do not know.

As I have stated the conclusion and statement by Mr. Pleshkevish about my letter is NOT accurate or appropriate.

(2) Here is the letter that Mr. Brandenberger wrote to The Moscow Times: ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Letter to the Editor, The Moscow Times, June 20, 2003 In response to "One Pulitzer That Should Shake the World," a comment by Matt Bivens on June 16 [2003], [The Moscow Times, Moscow, Russia.] Editor,

Matt Bivens is certainly correct that Walter Duranty distorted the nature of the famine during Stalin's collectivization drive. But Bivens perpetuates a different set of myths by alleging that the famine was "engineered" and that it "stopped precisely at the Ukrainian-Russian internal border."

In fact, millions of peasants starved to death between 1932 and 1933 not only in Ukraine, but in southern Russia and Kazakhstan as well. And although the Stalinist leadership exacerbated famine conditions through its neglect, incompetence and disdain for rural culture, it is not at all clear that this was a premeditated act of genocide directed against the Ukrainian nation.

David Brandenberger, Cambridge, Massachusetts


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(3) The following is the original article written by Matt Blivens and published by The Moscow Times on June 16, 2003.


ONE PULITZER THAT SHOULD SHAKE THE WORLD
The prize in question was won in 1932 by Walter Duranty for "excellence in reporting" out of the Soviet Union

OPINION, Moscow on the Potomac
By Matt Bivens from Washington for The Moscow Times
Moscow, Russia, Monday, June 16, 2003. Page 10

 

WASHINGTON -- America's most coveted journalism award is the Pulitzer Prize, and The New York Times has collected 89 of them. But now one of those Pulitzers is being challenged because the honored reporter was a fraud.

Is this about Jayson Blair, the whiz kid whose faked articles have deeply embarrassed his paper? Yes and no.

The prize in question was won in 1932 by Walter Duranty for "excellence in reporting" out of the Soviet Union. That same year, the Stalin regime sealed the borders of Ukraine, ordered the confiscation of grain, and engineered a mass famine -- one so neatly political that it stopped precisely at the Ukrainian-Russian internal border.

The Soviets called it "collectivization," the forcing of millions of people into collective farms. Ukrainians in America refer to it as the Holodomor -- roughly, the Famine-Genocide -- and they consciously use a capital "H" in imitation of the Holocaust.

The Holocaust -- the killing of about 6 million Jews, along with some 3 million Soviet POWs and thousands of Gypsies -- is woven into the textbooks, the consciousness and the monuments of nations everywhere.

And the Holodomor? It claimed some 7 million innocents. At its height, while the Soviets exported thousands of tons of grain to the West, Ukrainians were dying at a rate of 25,000 per day. Yet no one has heard of it. Every November, the U.S. president sends a short letter to Ukrainians marking the tragedy. Other than that, it passes virtually unmentioned.

To understand how the Holodomor slipped down the memory hole, one has to look back to the 1930s. The Great Depression was on, and in the West communism was admired or feared. That, plus the Soviet practice of deporting critics, soon filled the Moscow foreign press corps with apologists for Stalin.

Duranty was not alone. (Another apologist, Eugene Lyons of UPI, repented and wrote one of my favorite books, "Assignment in Utopia." Check out chapter XV, "The Press Corps Conceals a Famine," at  www.colley.co.uk/garethjones/soviet_articles/assignment_in_utopia.htm)

But Duranty was unusually cynical. He would talk about millions of famine deaths, and then add, "But they're only Russians," and, "you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs." And incredibly, he won the Pulitzer for reporting in 1931 on Stalin's Five-Year Plans.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Holodomor, and in January the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America launched a campaign to have Duranty's Pulitzer rescinded. The Pulitzer board is formally studying that.

But in the past, the board has split hairs, arguing that Duranty's Pulitzer was for reporting that predated the famine and had nothing to do with it, while The New York Times has taken the position that its own pages have since denounced and debunked Duranty's work, and his Pulitzer is displayed with an asterisk to that effect at Times' headquarters. And that's apparently good enough.

So, a cub reporter publishes a string of articles that plagiarize or embellish upon some pretty minor realities -- and this provokes a monster mea culpa on the front page detailing the paper's sins, followed by the resignations of its editors. Meanwhile, another reporter is known to have been a serial liar, someone who actively worked over many years to cover up the equivalent of the Holocaust -- and The New York Times admits as much, yet feels OK holding on to his Pulitzer.

Doesn't that tarnish the other 88?


Matt Bivens, a former editor of The Moscow Times, writes the Daily Outrage for The Nation magazine, New York.  www.thenation.com.  Letters-to-the Editor:  http://www.thenation.com/contact/lett


The Moscow Times, Moscow, Russia, Monday, June 16, 2003
http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2003/06/16/007.html
Letters to the Editor, The Moscow Times:  oped@imedia.ru
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