By Prof. James Mace, Consultant to The Day
The Day Weekly Digest, Kyiv, Ukraine
Tuesday, October 21, 2003
Vicenza, with its Renaissance atmosphere and European courtliness, was the
ideal setting for discussing such a sensitive and painful topic as the
Holodomor, and on October 16-18 the Onlus Institute for the Research of
Social and Religious History sponsored an exceptional international
conference on the topic. Scholars from Italy, Ukraine, Russia, Poland,
Germany, the United States, and Canada took part.
The conference ended with a resolution urging Italian Premier and President
of the European Union Silvio Berlusconi and President of the European
Commission Romano Prodi to support efforts to gain international recognition
of the Ukrainian Famine of 1932- 1933 as an act of genocide.
Organized by the institute's director, Prof. Gabrielle de Rosa, and Prof.
Oxana Pachlowska of the University of Rome under the patronage of the
president of Italy, Ukrainian ambassador to Italy and the Holy See, the
region of Venice, and the Commune of Vicenza, the conference brought
together a number of the leading scholars in the field.
For those of us who came from Ukraine, the high point was undoubtedly
meeting our colleagues from Russia - Nikolai Ivnitsky from Moscow and
Viktor Kondrashin from Penza.
Professor Ivnitsky, whose work on the collectivization of agriculture from
the 1960s onward has long won him legendary status in the field, turns out
to be a Ukrainian from Belgorod oblast, who told me about the problems he
faced when his village school was switched from Russian to Ukrainian in
1933: none of the children knew the language.
His contribution on Stalin's role in the Holodomor, based on Russian
archival documents, some of which can be used but not directly cited, was
outstanding. Prof. Kondrashin was kind enough to bring along a book
published last year, Golod 1932-1933 godov v sovetskoi derevne (The
Famine of 1932-1933 in the Soviet Countryside), which he co-authored
with Prof. D' Ann Penner of the University of Memphis.
Although the work seems to have been intended to prove that other parts of
the Soviet countryside starved in 1933 (which it most certainly did), our
Russian colleagues admitted that certain specific things happened in Ukraine
and the then mainly Ukrainian Kuban, which perhaps led them to abstain on
the final conference resolution.
Interestingly, the book was published in a series called American Studies of
Russia, and carried a great deal of misinformation about the US commission
where I once worked, drawn from one Stepan Merle, who decided some years
ago to write on why the commission was created without bothering to look up
its legislative history, and that of Mark Tauger, whose argument - that the
harvest was so bad that Stalin was forced to starve the peasants in order to
feed the cities - is not taken seriously by either Russians or Ukrainians
who have studied the topic.
One suspects, however, that such intellectual faux pas were more the work
of the American co-author than of this scholar who has indeed made a major
contribution to expanding our understanding of the tragedy of 1933.
After the customary introductory addresses by Prof. De Rosa and Ukrainian
Ambassador to Italy Borys Hudyma, I was unexpectedly asked to deliver the
first paper on why what happened in Ukraine was genocide, since the
scheduled speaker, Prof. Orest Subtelny of York University (Canada) could
come only the second day. This actually tallied perfectly with former
Ambassador (successively to Israel, Mexico, the United States, and Canada)
Yury Shcherbak's presentation on the legal aspects of genocide.
Special mention should be made of the paper by Prof. Gerhard Simon of
Cologne (Germany) that provided an excellent overview of the general context
of changes in Soviet nationality policy during the period. Saving the best
for last, Yury Shapoval and Stanislav Kulchytsky were assigned to the final
session of the conference, but throughout the discussions of various papers,
they presented the Ukrainian case so well that there was little more that I
could add. A more detailed account of the conference will appear in a later
Still, it was most rewarding that Ukrainian and Russian scholars could meet,
share their knowledge, and discuss their differences in such a civilized and
beautiful setting together with colleagues from other countries. Prof. De
Rosa described the event as representing intellectual Europe, while the
conduct and content of the conference indicated that this is a Europe with
which Ukraine has already become integrated.
For all that has been and will be said about Ukraine's European integration,
this is the most important type of integration, for intellectual integration
provides the surest basis for all the other stages of integration to follow.
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