The Great Famine-Genocide in Soviet Ukraine (Holodomor)


Diarmuid Johnson, Welsh Literature Abroad
Cymru/Wales, UK, October, 2003

WLA wishes to thank Nigel Linden Colley for his help in the preparation of this introductory article to the life and career of Gareth Jones. Seventy years ago, Josef Stalin, implementing a five year collectivisation plan for Soviet agriculture, seized lands in the Ukraine, deported part of the farming population, and precipitated a famine which caused the deaths of a number estimated between seven and ten million people.

Gareth Jones

Of those who knew the truth about Stalin's regime, one did speak out. His name was Gareth Jones, personal secretary to Lloyd George, a brilliant young Welsh linguist and journalist.

In recent months, interest in the story of Gareth Jones (1905-1935) has been rekindled. The publication of Gareth Jones, A Manchukuo Incident, Margaret Siriol Colley's investigation of Gareth Jones' death, acted as a catalyst. Now, extensive information on his career is available on The Gareth Jones website. A biography is being planned in America. Hopes of publishing a selection of the newspaper articles of Gareth Jones are also high. Most remarkably, the jury of the Pulitzer Prize has recently seen fit to consider honouring Jones with a posthumous award for his articles on the Ukrainian famine of the early 1930s. Who was Gareth Jones, and how did he come to publish on Stalinist Russia in The Western Mail?

The saga of Gareth Jones' involvement with the Ukraine may be traced to 1868, when a certain John Hughes, at the behest of Tzar Alexander II, began to search for iron ore and coal in the vicinity of the present day city of Donetz. Between 1889 and 1891, John Hughes' grandchildren were tutored in the Ukraine by Mrs Annie Gwen Jones, Gareth Jones' mother.

Gareth Jones grew up in Barry, south Wales. After graduated from Cambridge in 1929 with first class honours in German, French and Russian, Gareth Jones was employed as Foreign Affairs Adviser to Prime Minister, David Lloyd George with whom he worked until April 1931. He then joined Ivy Lee and Associates in Wall Street, New York. Lee had an interest in Standard Oil, and intended to write a book on the Soviet Union: Jones' brief was to undertake the research.

In the summer of 1931, he was invited to accompany Jack Heinz II to Russia for a six weeks tour. They travelled widely and visited the Ukraine. Jones kept a diary: 'With knowledge of Russia and the Russian language, it was possible to get off the beaten path, to talk with grimy workers and rough peasants, as well as such leaders as Lenin's widow and Karl Radek. We visited vast engineering projects and factories, slept on the bug-infested floors of peasants' huts, shared black bread and cabbage soup with the villagers'.

In 1933, Gareth Jones joined The Western Mail and in March of that year again visited the Soviet Union: 'I walked alone through villages and twelve collective farms. Everywhere was the cry, 'there is no bread; we are dying'. This cry came to me from every part of Russia.' Such was the tone of Gareth Jones' Western Mail articles: 'Russian Workers Disillusioned' (10.04.31), 'Russia Dreads the Coming of Winter (15.10.32), 'We Are Starving' (03.04.33) read the bleak headlines.

On March 31st 1933, in The New York Times, Walter Duranty, recipient of the 1932 Pulitzer Prize 'for his series of dispatches on Russia especially the working out of the Five Year Plan' (, countered Gareth Jones, and wrote of the situation in Russia as follows as follows: 'There is serious food shortage throughout the country with occasional cases of well- managed state or collective farms. The big cities and the army are adequately supplied with food. There is no actual starvation or death from starvation...'

Another British journalist, Malcolm Muggeridge, also published articles on the state of affairs in Russia at this time. Three of them appeared unaccredited in the Manchester Guardian on March 25th, 26th and 27th 1933. Muggeridge's time in Russia is documented in his autobiography The Green Stick (Collins, Glasgow 1972, 316pp).

In The Green Stick, Muggeridge writes as follows of Walter Duranty: 'It, of course, suited his material interests thus to write everything the Soviet authorities wanted him to - that collectivisation of agriculture was working well, with no famine conditions anywhere; that the purges were justified, the confessions genuine, and the judicial procedure impeccable' (284). Muggeridge continues: '...he admired Stalin and the regime precisely because they were so strong and ruthless' (284).

Interestingly, Muggeridge makes no reference to Gareth Jones in his 1972 The Green Stick. Despite this, there can be no doubt that he knew him. It may be suggested that Muggeridge, following Gareth Jones' premature death in 1935, saw fit to associate his own name with the reporting of the Russian famine by British journalism. However, in his book Winter in Moscow (1934), Muggeridge devotes a chapter to a character whom he calls 'Pye'. Since the time of the book's publication, readers of Winter in Moscow have presumed 'Pye' to be an alias for Muggeridge himself.

Recent research however suggests that 'Pye' is in fact a representation of Gareth Jones. The account of 'Pye's' research - his seeking of first hand information on the ground -and the conclusion drawn from this research - the fact of widespread and acute hunger - are consistent with the contents of Gareth Jones' newspaper articles about conditions in Russia from 1931 until 1933.

Having left Russia, Gareth Jones undertook a trip to the Far East. He met his death on August 12th 1935. For more information see The Gareth Jones Website:

Welsh Literature Abroad, Canolfan Mercator Centre, October, 2003
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