The Great Famine-Genocide in Soviet Ukraine (Holodomor)


Letter to the Editor of UKRAINE REPORT 2003, E. Morgan Williams
Ukraine Market Reform Group, Washington, D.C.

By Prof. James Mace, Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, June 2, 2003

Concerning the discussion on H-Russia List about Cheryl Madden's
"The Ukrainian Famine (Holodomor) of 1932-1933 and Aspects of
Stalinism-New Bibliography: A Detailed Annotated Bibliography-in-
Progress in the English Language


Dear Morgan,

Thank you for disseminating the H-Russia discussion of Cheryl Madden's, "The Ukrainian Famine (Holodomor) of 1932-1933 and Aspects of Stalinism-New Bibliography: A Detailed Annotated Bibliography-in- Progress in the English Language" in your UKRAINE REPORT, Number 49, May 25, 2003, Article 12. In that material I have seen the comments and discussion by Grover Furr, David Marples, Lou Coatney, and Elizabeth Haigh.


Bibliography is by its nature a thankless task because one either fails to find something or leaves something out that somebody else thinks ought to be left in.


Posting a bibliography in progress on the Internet is very brave but also very clever, in that it allows the author to consider all the objections before the work is hardened into a book. She has my compliments and support, whatever that might be worth in view of the discussion that not only leaves a bad aftertaste but could be a foretaste of something even worse to come.

Photo By Mykola LAZARENKO, The Day


The argument made by Prof. Furr is a continuation of one originating in the 1980s. It first appeared in a document largely drafted in Kyiv, where I now live, in the then Institute of Party History under the CC CPU, an affiliate of the All-Union Institute of Marxism-Leninism under the CC CPSU.


I know, because I later worked in that institute in a later incarnation, by then already under the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences, and met some of the authors.


The institute, like all those inherited from the Soviet period, has evolved, mutated, and trying hard to adapt to the new realities of a newly independent state of a nation that has been deeply traumatized by one of the two truly evil regimes of the twentieth century. Or perhaps, my alleged Right-wing prejudices are showing through.


For drafting nineteen conclusions of the late unlamented US Commission of the Ukrainian Famine, of which I was staff director, based primarily on an analysis of the official Soviet Ukrainian press of the period along with whatever else we could find, which is what historians, as I was taught the craft, are supposed to do, then try to see how the fit together and try to figure out what happened and why.


I heard that the research was sloppy and biased, that I was even falsifying history, but nobody ever really explained why in a way that I could understand. But it has often taken me some time to understand many things.


The second document was a statement made by one Ivan Khmil, a sometime historian who had written about how the toiling peasantry had all wanted the Bolsheviks to come and give them all the blessings of War Communism, but at that time a member of the Ukrainian SSR delegation to the United Nations.


In 1983 he responded in the UN Third Committee to a remark by the American representative mentioning the Ukrainian Famine, now called Holodomor in these parts, with an outburst of which he was so proud that he had it released as a separate press release and a couple of appearances on the Foreign Service of Radio Kiev recorded in FBIS.


The specific references will be found in the Commission on the Ukraine Famine, Report to Congress published in 1988 and available in any repository of government documents, of which every state has to have at least one.


Only later after moving here did I learn that Dr. Khmil had lost his own parents in the Holodomor, but he showed himself to be a true soldier of the Party, and if he wants his single appearance on the stage of his nation's history to be so remembered, that is his affair and his posterity are free to judge it accordingly.


The argument both in the Canadian press release issued over the signature of then Soviet Ambassador Aleksandr Yakovlev and Khmil's statement are as follows, there was not famine but there was some hardship because of terror and sabotage by kulaks (kurkuly in Ukrainian) along with bad weather. This nonexistent famine was a lie made up by Nazi collaborators first to serve their nefarious masters and then to justify their illegitimate presence in the West.


Then came Coplon's article in The Village Voice. Both Robert Conquest and I published our responses in subsequent issues of that publication, and anyone interested can look them up.


This time the author went to a number of scholars from the then-fashionable school of Soviet history dedicated to discredited the totalitarian model, Cold War ideology, and maybe even get that next Soviet visa and carefully limited archival access such as (1) Steven Wheatcroft, who in the mid-1980s argued in "Problems of Communism" that when I argued what happened to the Ukrainian countryside might have had something to do with what had been happening up to that time in Ukraine as a country; (2) Roberta Manning, who had written a number of interesting things about the pre-Revolutionary Russian peasantry but whose major claim to expertise on collectivization was a study published in the University of Pittsburgh's Carl Beck Papers based on the archives of the Belyi raion suggesting that the collective farm system had actually evolved due to some kind of informal dialog of power between the regime and the peasants, which enabled the collective farm system to evolve basically the way the peasants wanted it to; (3) Lynne Viola, who only later came to the realization that those village women resisting collectivization might have actually had a point; and (4) Moshe Levin, who for all his classic work on early Stalinism seemed to have some sort of problem with Ukrainians.


Coplon's response, was that nobody cited my works - strange that some still do - and Wheatcroft had published in Soviet Studies, which I had as well. The main argument, however, was once again that this was all a hoax mage up by Nazi collaborators and Jew-killers, for who else could possibly want a Ukraine independent from the Soviet Union or Russia?


Forgive me, most people in independent Ukraine, where I now reside find this argument difficult to understand, but I think I have stated it fairly.


The argument was then brought to its fullest flower in book form by Douglas Tottle, "Fraud, Famine and Fascism: The Ukrainian Genocide Myth from Hitler to Harvard." The book was published in 1987 after a delay of over a year by Progress Books of Toronto, the publishing outlet of the Communist Party of Canada.


The delay had been caused, I later learned, because the opposition of certain Ukrainian Communists in Canada and the US. Obviously, they must have had something to do with Hitler as well, but due to their continued opposition, it was then withdrawn from circulation.


I agree with Grover Furr in that such works should be included with appropriate commentary in a bibliography on the Ukrainian genocide, just as any bibliography on the holocaust should have an appropriate selection on Holocaust denial.


What might be considered a transition work appeared in 1989: Stephan Merl, "Entfachte Stalin die Hungersnot von 1932-1933 zur Auslöng des ukrainischen Nationalismus?" Jahrbücher für Geschichte Ostauropas, XXVII:4 (1989), which, relying on Tottle, describes my work and Conquest's as part of a campaign by Ukrainian nationalists to discredit the Soviet Union and pillory liberal journalists like Walter Duranty.


His main argument was that the famine in Ukraine could not have been aimed at Ukrainians because there was also famine in other parts of the Soviet Union.


He dismissed the Commission on the Ukraine Famine, as part of the Reagan campaign against the USSR as an evil empire without having bothered to look up the legislative history and its work without having bothered to read it, especially the chapter on famine outside Ukraine.


Is this serious scholarly discussion? Or is this simply an otherwise serious scholar of the Russian peasantry dismissing something about which he knows nothing without bothering to learn what the issues are?


How could the fate of Ukrainian peasants possibly have anything with the political situation in the Ukrainian SSR of the period? It must be my bias showing through again.


The work of Mark Tauger began with an article in Slavic Review in 1991 which makes the hardly original argument that the 1932 harvest was smaller than anticipated or admitted. This was not even news when it happened, because at the summer 1932 Third All-Ukrainian Party Conference the Communists in Ukraine were making it as clear as they possibly could that the quotas being imposed on them by Moscow could not possibly be met.


I wrote about this in the 1988 Report to Congress, that nobody seems to have actually read. Now we have learned that Stanislav Kosior appealed to Stalin as early as June of that year to lower the quotas.


However, Prof. Tauger goes on from this less than original discovery to argue that since there was a "famine harvest," famine was unavoidable and Stalin had no alternative but starve the peasants in order to feed the cities and sell as much grain as possible abroad to pay for his grandiose plans of industrialization.


Serious journals sometimes publish silly arguments, so please bear with me while I explain why I did not take the argument seriously in 1991 and cannot bring myself to do so today. There is a discipline called economics that was once dubbed the dismal science because it tells you that you can't always have everything you want when you want it.


You have to decide what you can afford now, what you will have to do without, and what you would like to get rid of. The argument then becomes why one choice or another is made and what the person making the choice wants to happen given the range of possibilities at a given point in time.


Did Stalin have to take so much food from the countryside after the harvest of 1932 that millions of people starve to death, blame the failure to find non-existent grain on the local Communists being infiltrated by Petliurists, Makhno supports, various other enemies, and use this to break the Ukrainian SSR as a thing that had earlier been able to do things its own way to at least some extent?


Did he have no alternative but orchestrate a mass hysteria against enemies in general in connection with the Shakhty trial of 1928, force the peasants into collective farms against their will while destroying the most prosperous segment of the peasantry?


Did he have no alternative but to unleash the Great Terror of the Yezhov period or turn against the Jews after World War II? Maybe we could also argue that Hitler had no alternative but to kill the Jews because he needed their property and gold teeth for his war effort to take over the world.


Somehow I find this line of argumentation prima facie specious. Yes, he has done work in the archives, but the argument, even if one accepts his facts, remains lame.


Sincerely, Jim


Letter to the Editor by Prof. James Mace, Kyiv, Ukraine

Letter to the Editor of UKRAINE REPORT 2003, E. Morgan Williams, Ukraine Market Reform Group, Washington, D.C. By Prof. James Mace, Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, June 1, 2003 Concerning the discussion on H-Russia about Cheryl Madden's "The Ukrainian Famine (Holodomor) of 1932-1933 and Aspects of Stalinism-New Bibliography: A Detailed Annotated Bibliography-in- Progress in the English Language
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