By David Williamson, The Western Mail
The National Newspaper of Wales
Cardiff, Wales, Published on www.icwales.co.uk
March 10, 2003
THE work of a Western Mail journalist who revealed to the world the
starvation experienced by millions under the rule of Stalin is now being
used by descendents to piece together the story of a disaster they call the
Gareth Jones travelled through Russia and the Ukraine in the early 1930s and
was shocked at the famine conditions he encountered. An estimated seven to
10 million people died between 1932 and 1933.
Though denounced by newspaper colleagues who considered his revelations a
danger to their privileged positions in Moscow, Ukrainians are now using the
internet to circulate the devastating reports.
His niece, retired GP Dr Margaret Colley, and his great-nephew Nigel Colley
maintain the website at http://colley.co.uk/garethjones.
During the Soviet era, the suffering and death - much of it caused by
disastrous Communist economic policies - was suppressed. Those trying to
write a history of the tragedy were aware of Mr Jones's articles, but were
able to read them only once they were in the family's on-line archive.
Descendents of those who were forced to flee, emigrating around the world,
now hope to publish an anthology of his work.
Mr Jones, born in Barry in 1905, gave a press conference in Berlin days
before he wrote in The Western Mail that Stalin had become "the gravedigger
of the Bolshevik dictatorship".
Moscow-based foreign correspondents from Western newspapers were alarmed by
the publication of the reports. The journalists knew that if they wrote in
similar terms of the human and economic tragedy surrounding them, they would
Even though Malcolm Muggeridge of the Manchester Guardian anonymously
detailed the destruction of Soviet agriculture, the starvation of the
peasants and the military's tactics of persecution, other members of the
media sought to discredit Mr Jones's testimony.
The most serious repudiation came from Walter Duranty, the Pulitzer
Prize-winning reporter of The New York Times.
He dismissed the eye-witness account as "a big scare story". While admitting
that attempts to create giant collective farms had "made a mess of Soviet
food production", Mr Duranty insisted there was "no actual starvation".
In a furious attack on the coterie of foreign correspondents who had turned
against him, Mr Jones congratulated "the Soviet Foreign Office on its skill
in concealing the true situation in the USSR".
He wrote, "Journalists ... are allowed to write, but the censorship has
turned them into masters of understatement."
United Press Moscow correspondent Eugene Lyons was among the reporters who
played down Mr Jones's stories. Four years later he wrote apologetically of
his part in hiding the famine.
He said, "Throwing down Jones was as unpleasant a chore as fell to any of us
in years of juggling facts to please dictatorial regimes - but throw him
down we did, unanimously and in almost identical formulas of equivocation.
"Poor Gareth Jones must have been the most surprised human being alive when
the facts he so painstakingly garnered from our mouths were snowed under by
His career survived the controversy and he was fast establishing a
reputation as one of the most fascinating and significant journalists of his
generation when his life was violently cut short.
He was murdered in 1935 on the eve of his 30th birthday by bandits while
travelling in Inner Mongolia.
Dr Colley has recorded the details of his death in her book, A Manchukuo
Mr Jones's dispatches from Wales, America, Asia and Russia are also
available on the family's website. There are also unique portraits of some
of the most celebrated figures of his age.
Before joining The Western Mail Mr Jones had worked as an aide to former
Prime Minister David Lloyd George.
This connection guaranteed him an audience with international figures such
as Adolf Hitler, President Herbert Hoover, publisher William Randolph Hearst
and architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
The Western Mail, Cardiff, Wales
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