The Great Famine-Genocide in Soviet Ukraine (Holodomor)


The Ukrainian Weekly
Ukrainian National Association
Parsippany, New Jersey
December 20, 1998


Following is the text of a statement by Volodymyr Yelchenko, permanent representative of Ukraine to the United Nations, delivered on December 2 (1998) at the Plenary Meeting of the 53rd session of the U.N. General Assembly on the "50th anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide."


Ukraine Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko:

This year the world marks a very important event of historic significance: the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - an international instrument designed to promote and protect the basic elements of a meaningful human existence.

It is symbolic that adoption of this declaration was preceded by approval by the General Assembly on December 9, 1948, of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, widely considered to be the most reprehensible of all crimes.

This form of crime is often understood as being almost exclusively associated with the Nazis in their drive to exterminate "untermenshen" (subhuman peoples). Unfortunately, in the present day the meaning of this word is much broader, both in temporal scope and in terms of the techniques employed. Many researchers maintain that the word "genocide" describes a process that is considerably more multifaceted and sophisticated than a simple mass murder.

According to Raphael Lemkin, the Polish lawyer (whom the distinguished delegate of the United States already mentioned), "genocide" does not necessarily mean an immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation.

It is intended, rather, to signify a coordinated plan of various actions aimed at destroying the essential foundations of the life of specific national groups, with the aim of annihilating them, their political and social institutions, their culture, language, national feelings, religion as well the individual's personal security, liberty, health and dignity.

The 20th century unfortunately, has witnessed many examples of genocidal policies.

Last month Ukraine commemorated one of the most tragic chapters in its history, the 65th anniversary of the man-made famine of 1932-1933, when the Ukrainian people became the object of a conscious and deliberate genocide undertaken by the Soviet regime of those days.

That famine was not caused by calamities of nature, it was the result of a twisted political ideology calculated into a vicious criminal scenario and implemented by those who pursued the authoritarian ruling of Stalin's regime aimed at suppressing and eliminating the freedom aspirations of such freedom-loving nations as Ukraine.

Not very many people in the world know the truth about this tragedy experienced by the Ukrainian people. According to the most modest estimates, it took some 7 million innocent lives. Some researchers suggest that this number could be much bigger.

A report by the prominent Belgian daily Le Flandre published in September 1933 captures graphically the drama and the tragedy unfolding in Ukraine. I quote:

"So, Ukrainians are dying of hunger. This is a great calamity not only for Ukraine and Ukrainians, but for the future of Russia, Europe and even the whole world. For this dying land was once a great production center of agriculture. The soil is not changed, only the people have. This is where we have to look for the causes of the great drama in which a whole nation has become the sacrificial victim."

Many years have passed since then, but this horrible tragedy cannot and should not be forgotten.

Recently, President Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine issued a decree in accordance with which from now on the last Saturday of November will be marked as Famine Victims Memorial Day.

In his message on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the 1932-1933 Famine addressed to the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian American community, President Bill Clinton of the United States stressed that "we have a solemn obligation to keep alive the memory of the innocent victims who suffered and died because of Stalin's attempt to crush Ukraine."

Neither should we forget the horrors of the second world war, which saw the Holocaust and the extermination of many millions of people. The post-war period also has seen a number of crimes of genocidal nature. Let's remember Cambodia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Rwanda to refresh our minds.

This is hard to believe, but it's a fact that 50 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide we hear about mass exterminations of innocent people and ethnic cleansing in various parts of the world. And all this happens on the threshold of the next millennium!

There is a need for a fresh look at the substance of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. We must try to determine why all this happens and to discuss the ways and more effective means to ensure the practical implementation of the convention.

That is why we note with satisfaction the recent relevant decision of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The creation of the International Criminal Court will also become an extremely important step toward this end.

In our view, the definition of genocide should be expanded to include all groups targeted by policies that lead to the annihilation of humanity. Chemical, biological or radiological warfare could also be regarded as innately genocidal.

The sad lessons of the 20th century also prove that mass destruction of human lives often originated from intolerance and hatred, from the denial of people's rights to their own thoughts, and from the search for domestic enemies.

By founding the United Nations in 1945, the creators of this universal organization have elaborated and put into the preamble of its Charter one of the best human principles addressed to their contemporaries and to future generations: "to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors."

Therefore, it was very symbolic and very timely that the General Assembly has included on its agenda for this session the item "Dialogue among Civilizations." In its resolution proclaiming the U.N. Year of Dialogue among Civilizations, the General Assembly, recognizing the diverse civilizational achievements of mankind, emphasized "the importance of tolerance in international relations and the significant role of dialogue as a means to reach understanding, remove threats to peace and strengthen interactions and exchange among civilizations."

The Ukrainian Weekly, December 20, 1998, No. 51, Vol. LXVI, Roma Hadzewycz, Editor-in-chief, 2200 Route 10, P. O. Box 280, Parsippany, New Jersey, 07054. Published by the Ukrainian National Association.

For personal and academic use only.