The Great Famine-Genocide in Soviet Ukraine, 1932-1933 (Holodomor)
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"Peasants Are Arrested Even For Gleaning The Fields"
  

Professor Calvin Hoover's Russian Observations
To Embassy of the United States of America
Berlin, March 1, 1933

 

Embassy Of The United States of America
Berlin, March 1, 1933
No. 2218
Subject: Professor Hoover's Russian Observations

CONFIDENTIAL

The Honorable Secretary of State

Sir:


       I have the honor to enclose herewith a strictly confidential
memorandum written
by Dr. Calvin Hoover, Professor of Economics of Duke University, who has
just
returned from an observation trip to Soviet Russia. Professor Hoover
visited Russia the
first time about three years ago, and wrote a book on the results of his
observations
at that time. In this book he expressed the opinion that Russia was
experimenting
successfully with an interesting development of socialism. Now he is of the

belief
that Russia is headed for chaos and ruin, or, at the best, the establishment
of a brutal
autocratic state, with a group of officials, calling themselves Communists,
living at the
expense of millions of exploited wage-earners worse off than slaves in the
darkest
ages of mankind.


                                               Respectfully yours,


Frederic M. Sackett

Enclosures:
     Memorandum

Copy to Riga.
800B
AWK EM



Enclosure 1

                            MEMORANDUM

      I returned to Berlin on February 28th from a stay
of nine days in Soviet Russia. I am concerned that
such information as I was able to obtain should be at
the disposal of our Government.

The agricultural situation is fearfully bad. In
Kazakstan great numbers of people have died from starva-
tion. This applies primarily to the native Kazaks and
Kirghiz, but to the other population to some extent. Many
German colonists have also died of starvation in this
district. This information is from an eye witness and
is also corroborated from other sources. There is a
very bad shortage of food in the North Caucasus and in
the Ukraine. In the North Caucasus some thousands of
peasants have been exiled on the grounds of resistance
to the Soviet Government. In the North Caucasus and
in the Ukraine a certain amount of seed grain has been
sent from the Government reserves to enable the peasants
to sow, after attempts to extract seed from the peasants
by forceful measures had failed. A state of guerrilla
warfare exists in the North Caucasus. This statement
in regard to the North Caucasus is based upon conver-
sations with foreign correspondents and others, some
of whom had been in the North Caucasus, and also upon
statements in the Soviet press. In the Ukraine the
situation is almost as bad as in the North Caucasus but ap-
parently represents a later stage of development. Earlier
measures of force by the Soviet Government are being
ameliorated slightly in the hope of conciliating the
peasants. However, by any standards, the situation
there is fearfully bad. According to an eye witness
(an American citizen of Ukrainian race, who has been a
tractor mechanic in Russia, and who left Russia on the
same train on which I traveled) peasants are arrested
even for gleaning the fields after they have been har-
vested, and in some cases of attempts at resistance to
arrest, this man says, many peasants have been shot. He
has personally witnessed the arrest, but the shootings
were only a matter of common report. He reports that
there have been numerous small uprisings of Ukrainian
villages but of course unsuccessful ones. These upris-
ing in the Ukraine apparently took place some months
ago. This man also described the tales of the expulsion
of so-called Kulaki from their homes. These expulsions
are now apparently carried out at night and the Kulak
families are expelled at once without any regard to the
weather and sometimes stripped of boots, overcoats, or
anything else which the persons caring out the expulsion
consider of value.


      It is recorded in the Soviet press that spring sow-
ings are to be carried on with main reliance upon the
machine tractor stations. These machine tractor stations
are being placed upon a military basis, with the person-
nel of the political departments of the Red Army being
transferred to and placed in charge of these stations.
Foreign correspondents, who have been in the Ukraine,
report that in many villages practically no fall sowing
was done.

 

      Food conditions in Moscow, while bad enough, could
not be considered catastrophically bad. Regulations on
food cards have been greatly tightened. It is pro-
posed to expell some hundreds of thousands of the more
recent arrivals in Moscow (many of these people are
peasants who fled from famine conditions in the
Ukraine) with the purpose of reliving the pressure
upon the food supply of Moscow. Up to the present
one may say that the Soviet Government has been success-
ful in providing food supplies, on a very restricted
basis at least to the city of Moscow. The shortage of
food in the shops is much more apparent, however, than
it was in the spring of 1930. It is said, and it is
apparently true, that the Red Army, the GPU, and other
instruments of the state power, are well nourished and
cared for. Indeed, my impression was that there had
been an improvement in the appearance and discipline
of the Red Army soldiers since 1930.

      Apparently the industrial machinery of the Soviet
State is functioning inefficiently and rather badly; an
American engineer from Magnitagorsk reported to me that
the furnace in operation there had, during the winter,
been operating at about 20 per cent of capacity. He
thought that the production of steel (or perhaps he
said pig iron) was about 400 tons daily at this place.
Apparently it has been necessary to give up the grandi-
ose plans for the second Piatletka. I mean by this
that for the present an attempt will be made primarily
to complete the plants which are already under con-
struction and to get into more satisfactory production
the plants which were constructed and the derangement of the
industrial plans of the Soviet Government, the indus-
trial situation can not be considered hopeless, and if
the extremely critical agricultural situation could be
overcome, I am of the opinion that Soviet industry
could develop upon a tolerable basis. Several American
engineers, with whom I talked, were, however extremely
pessimistic.

      In this connection, it was my very definite im-
pression that the people on the streets of Moscow were
better dressed than they were in 1930. For example,
a German worked, with whom I spoke in one of the Soviet
factories, reported that food conditions had grown worse
but that clothing was much easier to obtain than for-
merly. It should be noted, however, that foreign cor-
respondents and other foreigners with whom I spoke in
Moscow did not agree at all with my impression that
the people were better dressed than they were in 1930.

      There has been a tremendous increase in auto traf-
fic in Moscow during the three years since I was there.
It appeared to me that the supply of industrial consump-
tion good in the shops, although obviously poor quality,
was greater than three years previously.

      On the other hand, the amount of new buildings
which had been completed appeared much less than I had
expected to find. This, however, is merely a super-
ficial impression without statistical evidence.

      There has been an extraordinary depreciation in
the purchasing power of the ruble since 1930. The nomi-
nal official rate is still 1.94 to the dollar. The rate
on the "Black Bourse" varies between 40 and 70 to the
dollar. A kilo of butter on the free market sells for
about 60 rubles. The usefulness of the ruble as a pur-
chasing agent is being constantly more restricted. Food
is obtainable by the workers primarily in the factory

restaurants and in the closed cooperative food shops
in connection with the factory. The food available in
these shops is very limited, and the prices, except
for bread which is quite cheap, are high.

      A surprising number of Russian seem to purchase
commodities at the Torgtein shops, where payment can
be made in foreign valuta or in precious metals (including
silver). The number of Russians who use these
shops is the more surprising because of the danger to
a Russian of whom it becomes known that he has valuta
in his possession. The most extraordinary measures
are being taken by the GPU and other instruments of
the Soviet power in order to extract valuta from the
population. These measures include wide-spread ter-
rorism and torture. It happens that a considerable
proportion of the people who are tortured are Jews.
This is not due to any degree of anti-Semitism, but
is only due to the fact that the Jews are the most
likely to have any valuta left. The torture to which
reference is made is not only psychological but is phy-
sical as well.

      There seems to have occurred a market pshcyological
change in the three years since I was in Russia before.
It seems to me that there has been a marked decline in
revolutionary idealism and fanaticism. The tremendous
amount of terror which was obvious in 1930 was directly
connected with revolutionary and socialistic goals.
Since 1930 the terror has increased rather than diminished,
but it now includes a greater percentage of victims from
classes which even the Communists could not consider to
have been "privileged." While the same revolutionary
phrases are being used, it appears that the pri-
mary and real objectives of the Soviet regime is to main-
tain itself in power.l There is no hesitation to take,
any measures against any classes in the furtherance
of this purpose. I notice a marked change in the at-
titude of state officials toward the workers. Army
officers, GPU officials, etc., (and their wives) appear
to be reestablishing something of the "bourgeois" mode
of life. They seem to take it quite for granted that
they should be fairly well dressed, have automobiles,
etc., and to be quite unconcerned about the miseries
of the peasantry and other classes of the population.
Indeed, my impression was that the general population
of Moscow had begun to take the system, including its
terror, for granted. There is a marked diminution of
the revolutionary fanaticism of other days and indeed
of the type of enthusiasm which existed during the
first years of the first Five-Year-Plan. Also people
have apparently finally had to adjust themselves to
the new conditions and to accustom themselves not to
react emotionally to conditions which previously would
have horrified them. Consequently, even some of the
numbness and horror which existed alongside of the re-
volountionary enthusiasm has begun to disappear.

      One may rationalize this and infer that there would
be less interest in progress of the "World Revolution"
than previously. It should be noted, however, that
this is entirely rationalization and is based on no im-
mediate evidence of the observer. It should be added
that there is, moreover, no evidence at all for any
revival of Russian nationalism. It is also probable
that the present Soviet Government would be quite
willing to use the revolutionary movement abroad in its
own interest. Furthermore, it still is undoubtedly
true that the Soviet regime would be pleased at any
difficulties of major importance in capitalistic
countries.

      Nothing that has been stated above should be
taken to imply that there has been any increase of
pacifism within the Community party, because quite
the contrary is true. The position of the Soviet
Government and of its military and police personnel
is now that of a military caste which holds a country
and utilizes it completely without ruth or scruple.
These psychological changes which have taken place have
no doubt been a natural consequence of the necessity
on the part of the Soviet Government of taking the most
extreme measures if it was to maintain itself in power
in the face of enormous difficulties.

      In conclusion, it should be stressed that the
military position of the Soviet State should be con-
sidered in the light of the bitter hatred of the peasan-
try and the disappearance of enthusiasm on the part of
the workers. It is probably true that the standing
army of the Soviet Government in respect to the dis-
cipline of its personnel and its mechanical equipment
is in a better condition than it was three years ago,
but a Russian army of the size which necessitated the
conscription of large masses of the population would
beyond any doubt have a fighting power very much less
than that of the army of Imperial Russia in 1914.

Professor Hoover/gw-EM

Addendum:

                      The foreign correspondents with whom I talked
were unanimous in saying that the Soviet censorship has
become more severe. Quite recently two American
correspondents were refused permission to go to the
Ukraine to investigate conditions there. I believe
they would almost all agree that under the present
circumstances their despatches cannot be accepted as
a satisfactory basis for understanding the existing
situation.

CH EM


Original Document is reprinted in:
Stalin's Famine and Roosevelt's Recognition of Russia
M. Wayne Morris
University Press of America, 1994
4720 Boston Way
Lanham, Maryland 20706
3 Henrietta Street
London WC2E 8LU England
Pages 171-181

 

 

 
 

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