Ukraine was formally incorporated into the USSR as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (UkSSR) in 1922. The Communists were aware that
resistance to their regime was deep and widespread. To pacify the Ukrainian people and to gain control, Moscow initially permitted a great deal of
local autonomy to exist in the UkSSR. The newly established Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and the new All-Ukrainian Academy of
Sciences, non-Communist national institutions of great importance, were both permitted to continue their work until the end of the 1920's.
All of this changed once Stalin came to power. Stalin wanted to consolidate the new Communist empire and to strengthen its industrial base.
Ukrainian national aspirations were a barrier to those ends because even Ukrainian Communists opposed exploitation by Moscow. In Stalin's eyes,
Ukraine, the largest of the non-Russian republics, would have to be subdued. Thus, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church was placed under
the jurisdiction of the Communist-controlled Russian Orthodox Church. Ukrainian bishops, priests and thousands of Christian lay leaders were sent
to Siberian labor camps, the so-called "Gulag." Hundreds of thousands, possibly over a million, of Ukraine's intellectual leaders - writers, university
professors, scientists, and journalists - were liquidated in purges ordered by Stalin. Not even loyal Ukrainian Communists were exempt from Stalin's
terror. By 1939, practically the entire (98%) of Ukraine's Communist leadership had been liquidated.
Hardest hit by Stalin's policies were Ukraine's independent landowners, the so-called "kulaks" (Kurkuly in Ukrainian). Never precisely defined, a
kulak was a member of the alleged "upper stratum" of landowners. In reality anyone who owned a little land, even as little as 25 acres, came to be
labeled a kulak. Stalin ordered that all private farms would have to be collectivized. During the process, according to Soviet sources, which are no
doubt on the conservative side, some 200,000 Ukrainian families were "de-kulakized" or dispossessed of all land. By the summer of 1932, 69.5% of
all Ukrainian farm families and 80% of all farm land had been forcibly collectivized.
Stalin decided to eliminate Ukraine's independent farmers for three reasons:
(1) they represented the last bulwark of resistance to totalitarian Russian control;
(2) the USSR was in desperate need of foreign capital to build more factories and the best way to obtain that capital was to increase agricultural
exports from Ukraine, once known as "the breadbasket of Europe";
(3) the fastest way to increase agricultural exports was to expropriate land through a process of farm collectivization and to assign procurement
quotas to each Soviet republic.
During the collectivization process, Ukrainian farmers resisted vigorously, often violently, especially when the GPU (secret police) and militia forced
them to turn their land over to the government. Thousands of farmers were killed and millions more were deported to Siberia to be replaced by more
To increase exports and to break the back of remaining resistance, Moscow imposed grain procurement quotas on Ukraine that were 2.3 times the
amount of grain marketed during the best year prior to collectivization. Laws were passed declaring all collective farm property "sacred and
inviolate." Anyone who was caught hoarding food was subject to execution as an "enemy of the people" or, in extenuating circumstances,
imprisonment for not less than 10 years.(4) To make sure the new laws were strictly enforced, special "commissions" and "brigades" were
dispatched to the countryside. In the words of one Sovietologist:
The work of these special "commissions" and "brigades" was marked by the utmost severity. They entered the villages and made the most
thorough searches of the houses and barns of every peasant. They dug up the earth and broke into the walls of buildings and stoves in which
the peasants tried to hide their last handfuls of food. They even in places took specimens of fecal matter from the toilets in an effort to learn by
analysis whether the peasants had stolen government property and were eating grain.(5)
Stalin succeeded in achieving his goals. The grain harvest of 1932 was greater than in 1931, providing more monies for industrial expansion. The
cost to Ukraine, however, was catastrophic. Grain procurements continued even though it was clear to Soviet officials that more and more people
were going hungry in the Ukrainian countryside. The result was inevitable. A man-made famine, the magnitude of which staggers the imagination,
struck Ukraine and still the Soviet government failed to provide relief. Detailed and documented descriptions of the horrors which prevailed in the
rural areas of Soviet Ukraine have been presented by Ukrainian eye-witnesses, Congressional reports, and various newspaper accounts. Thomas
Walker, an American journalist who traveled in Ukraine during the famine, left us an especially graphic account of the situation in one rural area:
About twenty miles south of Kiev, I came upon a village that was practically extinct by starvation. There had been fifteen houses in this village
and a population of forty-odd persons. Every dog and cat had been eaten. The horses and oxen had all been appropriated by the Bolsheviks
to stock the collective farms. In one hut they were cooking a mess that defied analysis. There were bones, pig-weed, skin, and what looked like
a boot top in this pot. The way the remaining half dozen inhabitants eagerly watched this slimy mess showed the state of their hunger. One boy
of about 15 years, whose face and arms and legs were simply tightly drawn skin over bones, had a stomach that was swollen to twice its
normal size. He was an orphan; his father had died of starvation a month before and he showed me the body. The boy had covered the body
with straw, there being no shovels in the village since the last raid of the GPU. He stated his mother had gone away one day searching for food
and had not returned. This boy wanted to die - he suffered intensely with his swollen stomach and was the only one of the group who showed
no interest in the pot that was being prepared.(6)
The Soviet government has preserved the greatest secrecy concerning the exact number of persons who perished in Ukraine during the Genocide
Famine, but an analysis of recently revealed Soviet census data comparing 1939 with 1926 figures suggests that no fewer than ten million men,
women, and children perished.(7) According to American Sovietologists and other experts on the Stalin era, the famine need never have occurred.
Despite the meager harvest, the peasants could have pulled through without starvation if there had been substantial abatement of the requisition of
grain and foodstuffs. But the requisitions were intensified rather than relaxed; the government was determined to "teach the peasants a lesson" by
the grim method of starvation ...
By the beginning of the winter all the grain, including the seed grain of the farms in Ukraine, had been seized by the government. The peasants lived
on the last remaining potatoes, killed their last remaining livestock, they slaughtered cats and dogs, ate nettles and linden leaves. The acorns were
all gone by January, the people began to starve. By March no food at all remained, and they died. The children died first, mostly the younger children,
followed by the older people, then usually men before the women, and finally everyone else.
(3)Myron B. Kuropas, The Ukrainians in America (Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company, 1972) pp. 32-36. Also see James E. Mace, Communism and the Dilemmas of National
Liberation: National Communism in Soviet Ukraine. 1918-1933 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983); Hryhory Kostiuk, Stalinist Rule in the Ukraine' A Study of the" Decade of Mass
Terror (London: Atlantic Books, 1960) p. 129.
(4)James Mace, "The Man-Made Famine of 1932-1933; What Happened and Why," The Great Famine in Ukraine: The Unknown Holocaust (Jersey City: Ukrainian National Association,
1983) p. 29.
(5)Clarence Manning, Ukraine Under the Soviets (New York: Bookman Associates, 1953) p. 97.
(6)The Chicaqo American (March 6, 1935).
(7)Anton Antonov-Ovseyenko, The Time of Stalin: A Portrait of Tvrannv (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1981) p. 65.
(8)William Henry Chamberlin, The Ukraine: A Submerged Nation (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1944) pp. 59-60.
(9)Robert Conquest, et. aI., The Man-Made Famine in Ukraine (Washington: ,American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, '1984) p. 4.
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|1932-1933: THE GENOCIDE FAMINE IN UKRAINE
A Teacher's Curriculum Guide
SOVIET POLICY AND THE GENOCIDE FAMINE
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