THE UKRAINIAN FAMINE OF 1932-1933
AS A CRIME OF GENOCIDE
The Ukrainian nation – the second most populous in the USSR – had a great cultural and historical heritage, its own traditions of state building and national liberation struggle. It therefore posed a serious threat to the imperial intentions of the USSR’s leaders who wished to merge by any means all of the nations and nationalities of the USSR into a single “Soviet people”. Moreover, they wished to create a powerful military-industrial complex at the merciless expense and exploitation of the peasantry in order to spread communism throughout the world by force.
It was for these reasons that Stalin’s totalitarian regime consciously resorted to the physical elimination of the Ukrainian nation by exhausting its material and spiritual resources and exterminating the peasantry as its natural social base. At the same time, however, the totalitarian regime did not intend to completely exterminate the Ukrainian peasantry, but to turn the survivors into submissive collective farmers and a labour force for developing the Soviet empire and implementing its expansionist plans.
The fact that the Holodomor took place not only in Ukraine, but also in Kuban and North Caucasus, where the majority of the population at that time was ethnic Ukrainian, indicates that it was directed against Ukrainians as a nation. According to the 1926 census, 3,106,000 Ukrainians lived in the North Caucasus, and in Kuban 62% of inhabitants identified themselves as Ukrainians, with this percentage exceeding 80% and even 90% in some districts.
The USSR had sufficient reserves of food to feed the entire population as indicated by the volumes of grain exports. For example, in 1930 the USSR exported 58 million tons of grain, in 1931 – 4.8 million tons, in 1932 – 1.6 million tons, and in 1933 – 2.1 million tons). The harvest was confiscated from the farmers and sold to other countries for hard currency, which was later directed to the purchase of equipment for industrialization.
At the same time, the Soviet regime denied the existence of the famine and refused the assistance offered by the international community and International Red Cross. Furthermore, in order to hide the fact of the Holodomor, foreign correspondents were forbidden from visiting Ukraine.
In accordance with Article 2 of the Convention, acts committed “with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such,” and in particular, by “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part” are considered to be genocide.
The following specific facts attest to the deliberate policy of extermination of the Ukrainian nation:
1) On 20 November 1932, the Council of People’s Commissars of the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic adopted the Resolution “On measures to strengthen state grain procurements” pursuant to which fines of meat and potatoes were introduced for concealing grain from confiscation;
2) On 6 December 1932, the Council of People’s Commissars of the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic and the Central Committee (Bolsheviks) of Ukraine adopted the Resolution “On blacklisting villages which maliciously sabotage state grain procurements.” For such villages the transportation of commodities, co-operative and state trade were immediately suspended, all goods were seized from shops owned by state and collective farms, collective farm trade and crediting ceased entirely, and pre-term penalties of credits and financial obligations were implemented. Pursuant to this Resolution, 6 villages were blacklisted, to which 380 collective farms and 51 villages were added by local authorities. By the end of December 1932, the supply of goods to 82 districts in 5 regions of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic was terminated;
3) On 14 December 193, the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) and the Council of People’s Commissars of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics adopted the Resolution “On the state procurements of grain in Ukraine, North Caucasus and Western Region,” in which the problem of state procurement of grain became tied to the policy of Ukrainization;
4) On 29 December 1932, the Summons of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (Bolsheviks) of Ukraine “On removing all available funds for state grain procurements within a five day period” was sent to regional and district committees of the party, according to which collective farms were required to hand over their seminal funds in implementation of the relevant Resolution of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks);
5) At the beginning of 1933 unified norms were introduced for state procurements from every planned hectare sown with grain (Resolution of Central Committee of All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) and the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR, dated 19 January 1933), and with sunflower and potatoes (Resolutions of Central Committee of All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) and Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR, dated 20 February 1933). Late implementation of the norms was punished with fines equal to the cost of arrears and confiscation of equal quantities of food. According to eyewitness reports, all foodstuff was confiscated without exception.
Unprecedented measures were taken to isolate inhabitants of the famine-struck territories. For this purpose peasants were stopped from leaving the territory of Ukraine, Kuban and the North Caucasus for the towns and cities of central Russia and Byelorussia. This prohibition was facilitated by the introduction of the passport system which turned Ukrainian peasants into virtual serfs.
On 22 January 1933, the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) and the Council of People’s Commissars of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics adopted the Directive “On preventing mass departure of starving peasants” according to which all borders between Ukraine and Kuban, as well between other regions of the USSR were closed to peasants. The departure of peasants from Ukraine and the North Caucasus to a number of districts of the USSR was also forbidden. This Directive eloquently testifies to the fact that at that time there was only large-scale famine in the territories inhabited by Ukrainians. In neighbouring regions there were no such food shortages.
According to the Resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (Bolsheviks) of Ukraine “On fulfilling the Directive of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) and the Council of People’s Commissars of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics of 22 January 1933” dated 23 January 1933, peasants were prohibited from leaving their collective farms without approval of the collective farm management.
According to statistics, the then Kharkiv and Kyiv regions (present-day Poltava, Sumy, Kharkiv, Kyiv, Cherkasy and Zhytomyr regions) were most affected by the famine, accounting for 52.8% of the victims. As a whole, the famine covered all of the central, southern, northern and eastern regions of modern Ukraine. These were regions territorially close to Russia and where lived the most nationally conscious population that resisted the totalitarian regime and represented the kernel of the Ukrainian national liberation movement.
According to population censuses, in 1932-1933 the population of Ukraine decreased by approximately 9.9%, i. e., from 31,195,000 in 1926 to 28,111,000 in 1939, during which period the population of Russia increased from 77,791,000 to 99,591,000 and that of Byelorussia – from 4,739,000 to 5,275,000.
However, official statistics only partially reveal the scale of the tragedy because, in the attempt to conceal the famine in Ukraine by all means, the communist authorities intentionally distorted the numbers and not all cases of starvation were registered.
The aforementioned facts indicate that the Holodomor of 1932-1933 resulted neither from drought nor error on the part of authorities and prove that the Holodomor was directed against Ukrainians as a national group.
It is considered that in fact that up to 10 million people perished during the Holodomor in Ukraine.
One may therefore conclude that the actions that took place on the territory of Ukraine in 1932-1933 should be qualified as the crime of genocide directed towards the intentional elimination of the Ukrainian people as a national group by inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in part.
Consequently, Ukraine’s Holodomor of 1932-1933 complies with the concept of genocide provided for in the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide dated 9 December 1948.