The genocide famine and the deaths from hunger in the villages of Ukraine were very well known to Moscow in the spring of 1932.(11) Under normal
circumstances the Soviet government and the Communist party would have been prepared to prevent the repetition of a similar catastrophe in the ensuing
years of 1932-1933. The government and the party could have done so, but this was not their plan; Moscow had foreseen an increased sharpening in the
struggle with the peasantry for grain, and had, therefore, prepared well in advance all their organizational efforts to promote an artificial famine and to step up
The following was done to accomplish the desired results:
1. Plans for grain-collections were prepared for Ukraine, in spite of the actual state of the harvest yield and of the food requirements of the population.
Thus, a determined effort was made to strip the peasantry of all grain.
2. A special effort was issued to expropriate the entire village economy, including that of the smallest peasant. The peasants were forbidden under pain
of death, to utilize the products of their toil, regardless of whether they belonged to a collective farm or not.
3. A special law was enacted to establish a commercial blockade of the Ukrainian villages in most of the regions of Ukraine.
4. Special laws were enacted to bind all toilers, workers and peasants to specific places of employment. A passport system was established to prevent
the peasants from seeking employment outside their village, thus depriving them of the right to produce food from other sources.
5. Ukraine as a whole, and especially the Ukrainian peasantry, was placed under a special transportation blockade, thus depriving the population of the
opportunities to travel in quest of food.
6. The authorities made strenuous efforts to conceal the existence of the genocide famine in Ukraine, not only from the outside world, but also from other
national groups in the USSR.
The summer of 1932 in Ukraine was notable for the sharp conflict between the authorities and peasants for bread. The government tried to get as much food
out of Ukraine as possible; the peasants, on the other hand, did everything in their power to prevent this and to keep as much as possible for themselves.
Some of the collective workers, individual farmers, and collective farms completed their quotas in full. But, in general, the majority of Ukrainian peasants did not
fulfill the plan and used all possible means to evade it.
The government then embarked upon forcible collection of food from the collective farms, collective farmers, and individual peasants who had not given up their
quotas. According to the central directives, it was proposed that every village should, depending on its size, be divided into a number of subdivision (hamlets,
etc.) and to each of these a special brigade was attached, whose task it was to complete the plan of collection.
As a rule such a brigade consisted of a number of the presidium of the village soviet or a party representative, and two or three local "activists" (this latter group
would include former red partisans, former hoboes, ex-convicts and such), and there would also be an additional member from the board of the local
cooperative stores. Depending on local conditions the composition of the brigade would sometimes differ; if the quotas were large and poorly executed, they
would include a larger number of party representatives from the regional, district or central offices. Quite often teachers, students and clerks from village and
district offices would be compelled to join. The groundwork of the organization of such brigades was laid in 1930 and 1931 and they were constantly improved
upon. As a rule the man in charge would be an outsider, a special functionary dispatched from the county, region, or capital. Every brigade had at least one
"specialist" charged with uncovering hidden foodstuffs with the aid of a large sharp-pointed steel prong.
These brigades went from house to house, day after day, looking for hidden food. They searched homes, attics, cellars and all farm buildings, barns, stables,
pens and stacks. They would measure the thickness of the wall under the oven, to find if there was grain concealed in the foundation. They knocked on floors
and walls and whenever the sound was dull they would pry the place open. Sometimes whole walls were pulled down, ovens wrecked, and the last grain taken
away when anything was found. The collection was characterized by acts of wanton destruction and extreme cruelty. Every brigade had its headquarters,
manned by a special staff. Peasants were hauled to headquarters and there subjected to all-night interrogations with beatings, water-treatment, and semi-
naked confinement in cold cells. At that time, many instances of torture were noted.
The methods employed were many and varied. A former scientist of Kharkiv University, C. R. (who is now in the United States) received the following description
of an action from his father, a local peasant of Lysiache,Karlivcounty near Poltava:
"My son-in-law did not join the collective, so in the fall of 1932 a production-tax of 100 poods (1 pood = approximately 36 Ibs.) of grain was levied on him. He
paid this in full. Then, just before Christmas, an additional 200 poods was levied. He did not have the 200, he did not even have 20, so he was threatened with
jail for failing to pay. He sold a cow, a horse, and some clothes, bought the necessary 200 poods and paid the tax. Then in February, 1933, the local authorities
notified him that he had to surrender another 300 poods. He refused to pay this third assessment, because he had nothing left and was himself starving. A
commission then came to his house to look for food. Of course they did not find anything except a little bag of inferior grain and a pot of beans, which they took.
The only thing he had left was a sack of potatoes. This last food went fast, and then ... "
Local activists who took part in the search for food for confiscation naturally by¬passed their own homes, and thus succeeded in keeping some small reserves
for themselves. The emissaries sent down to collect grain from the larger centers then changed their method of operation so that brigade members would not
work in their own villages. When working among strangers they would be more thorough and not let one house get by without a search. This explains why even
many activists died as a result of famine in the spring of 1933. Their food had also been taken away from them.
Eyewitnesses from all parts of Ukraine tell similar stories about food collections conducted in the fall of 1932 and the spring of 1933:
"All edible products were requisitioned" - village of Zorich, Orzich county, Poltava region.
“They took away everything that could be eaten" - village of Vprik, Hadyach county, Sumy region.
"All bread was requisitioned, and even peas, down to the last kilogram" - village of Uspenivka, Khmiliw county, Mikolayiv region.
"They took grain, potatoes, and beets almost to the Iast kilogram" - village of Sofievka, Nove-Mirhorod county, Odessa region.
"Everything, literally everything was taken, they did not leave one kilogram of bread" - village of Strizavka, Rzhyshchev county, Kyiv region.
There are known cases where, in the winter of 1932-1933, commissions charged with confiscating grain from the peasants examined human fecal matter in
order to establish what the people were eating, because although people were swearing that they had nothing to eat, yet they were still alive! People who, in
this manner were proved to have been consuming grain bread had to flee in order to escape persecution.
Conditions under which the plans for grain collection were being executed in 1932 can best be illustrated by the fact that a single Pavlohrad county near
Dnipropetrovsk, consisting of 37 village soviets and 87 collective farms, had a team of 200 collectors sent down from the country party committee, and almost a
like number from the county Komsomol committee.
(10)Taken from: S. O. Pidhainy, Editor-in-Chief, The Black Deeds or the Kremlin: A White Book, Volume 2, The Great Famine in Ukraine in 1932-33 (Detroit: DOBRUS, Globe Press, 1955)
pp. 433-¬434; 34-37.
(11)After the 1931 harvest, outbreaks of starvation occurred in a number of regions in Ukraine.
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A Teacher's Curriculum Guide
THE ORGANIZED PREPARATION OF THE GENOCIDE FAMINE(10)