среда, 26 ноября 2008 г.

Point of view: Holodomor – an unrecognized stratocide*


The millions of victims of the 1930s' 'Holodomor' famine, potentially due to the disastrous soviet collectivization policy, in Ukraine and Russia have been subject to political manipulation and the creation of historic myths by both countries.

* Stratocide – elimination of a social class, from Latin ‘strat’ (stratum – layer, social layer, class) and ‘cide’ (oxido, occido – to vanish oft. reacting with air, to massacre).

President Dmitry Medvedev’s refusal to participate in the events dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the Holodomor famine in Ukraine has brought the issue of the millions of peasants’ death in the time of the USSR’s first five year plan to the fore again. The evaluation of those events has acquired not only a historic but also a moral meaning. However, in Ukraine and in Russia historical ignorance is widely favoured in the name of political expediency.

Peasantry – a threat to Bolshevism

The Stalinist collectivization policy was specific to the revolutionary process in 1917. It’s impossible to understand the reasons and the character of the unprecedented tragedy of 1932-1933 which is often referred to as ‘Holodomor’ without evaluating the events taking place before and during collectivization. In the years of 1918-1920 a new ruling class was formed in the country, maintaining political power and privileges by the means of authoritarian rule by one party. The Communist Party bureaucrats (around 150 thousand people by 1930-1932) comprised leaders of party organizations, employees of the central administration and party governing agencies as well as leaders of punitive state security agencies.

The food crisis of 1927-1928 made it evident that the coexistence of a self-sufficient country peasant and the Communist Party officials was impossible.

The peasant and the entrepreneur had always been a threat to the Bolsheviks through their capability to control the situation in the food market, and thus affecting major supplies to the cities. In 1928 Stalin realized that ‘the Soviet power’ was hanging by a thread and it had to be rescued. After 1928 it was possible for the nomenclature to retain power only by creating a system of production which exploits the labour of the population. Keeping any other forms of economic relations would have inevitably strengthened the influence of free entrepreneurs in the country. As a result, had the entrepreneurs been left on their own they would have pushed Communists out of the economical and political life of the country. The nomenclature would have been stripped of their power, and would suffer inevitable personal responsibility for the socialist experiment and crimes committed after 1917 with unpredicted consequences for many active members of the Communist Party. Consequently, a peasant – a free producer of bread and agricultural goods – had to become either a farm labourer attached to the land or a state enterprise or be annihilated.

It was not a national but a social group, despite its geographic or regional boundaries, became a target for a massive instance of monstrous violence.

The main reason of collectivization, first of all, is that the superior nomenclature of the Communist Party strives to retain its supremacy in Russia won by the Bolsheviks in the years of the civil war.

In 1929, around 154 million people lived in the USSR with no less than 130 million peasants among them. By 1932 the Bolsheviks had herded 61.5 % of peasant farms into collective farms, which became state enterprises for compulsory work on the land. By 1937 they had collectivised 93% of the peasant population.

Counterrevolutionary activists

On January 5, 1930, the Central Committee made a decision to “collectivize” most peasants’ property. On January 15 a special commission was formed with Molotov as its head. The commission prepared the following recommendations to eliminate ‘kulaks’ (well-off peasants):

(1) Abolish the law concerning hired labour thus, disabling the kulaks from hiring other peasants to work on their land.

(2) Requisition agricultural property, such as: tools, farm animals, agricultural and residential constructions, produce-processing facilities, and food, fodder and seed reserves.

(3) All kulaks were to be divided into three categories. Those whom OGPU and party officials included in the first category, “counterrevolutionary activists,” were to be sent to concentration camps or executed; those in the second category were to be deported to remote areas inside the USSR; and those in the third category were to be expelled outside the collective farms.

On January 30, 1930, the recommendations prepared by the Molotov Commission were approved by a Politburo secret resolution.

In the first category, the plan was to execute or send to concentration camps 60,000 people; while under the second category, deport 245,000 people to the northern regions, Siberia, the Ural Mountains, or to Kazakhstan.

The deported people were allowed to keep “only the most necessary items, basic tools (axes and shovels), and a minimal amount of food. All money was to be confiscated; each family was allowed to keep no more than 500 roubles. Family members of those arrested by OGPU would automatically be in the next category.

In 1930, OGPU “troikas” considered 180,000 cases. Of these, 19,000 people faced the firing squad, and approximately 100,000 were sent to prisons and camps. By the end of 1930, the number of people in Soviet prisons was 250 to 300 thousand, plus 160 thousand more in OGPU camps.

(The number of people imprisoned, by comparison, in the Russian Empire as of January 1, 1911, at that time there were 174,733 prisoners, including 1,331 political prisoners.)

Collectivization activists, Communists, and Komsomol members along with representatives of local authorities would draw an inventory of a kulak’s property, and then his family would be thrown outside the house and sent along with other kulaks to a nearby railway station.

At the station, men, children, women and old people were loaded like animals onto cargo trains and sent away to Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Komi, the Urals, and Siberia. They travelled for weeks without bread, food and water. Once they arrived, they were left on a barren steppe. It took a long time to build a house. By September 1930, less than two percent of the housing needed for the deported was ready in the Arctic Region. This means that people spent the winter of 1930 outside, in dugouts, in tents, dying by the thousand in woods and swamps.

According to some recently declassified reports from FSB archives, from 1.8 to 2.1 million deported kulaks died in special settlements during the 1930s.

In response to the collectivization, peasants staged major rebellions during the winter and the spring of 1930. In Don, Kuban, and Terek in Western Siberia and even in some central provinces, rebels offered resistance to armed groups of Soviet and party activists that were reinforced by OGPU and army units. According to OGPU reports, during the first four months of 1930, there were more than 6,000 peasant rebellions, involving almost 1.8 million people (By the summer of 1919 the number of White Army troops by comparison in Russia was 600,000).


As a result, Stalin had to reduce pressure on peasants temporarily, announcing that the collectivization movement was “voluntary.” As a result, in the spring and the summer of 1930 collective farms started falling apart, but the future of the Communist elite still depended on their success in establishing a system of collective farms. Therefore, the mandatory collectivization resumed in 1931-1932. It met with particular resistance in the grain-producing provinces and in those areas which were centres of anti-Bolshevik resistance in 1918-1920.

Holodomor and collectivization


Long before the Nazis the Party officials started to apply famine as a tool for political repressions against their own nationals in a peaceful time.

The plan was, through excessive bread procurements, to force the unruly population to live from hand to mouth and not resist a forced creation of collective farms.

The immense number of deaths because of the famine in villages in 1933 was organized by Party and Cheka officials’ excessive and ruthless bread procurements held in the autumn of 1932 and winter of 1932-1933. Collective farming allowed the Bolsheviks to get cheap grain more effectively than during grain requisition in 1918-1921. In 1930 the Party and Soviet authorities took away more than 30% of the crop, but in 1931, it was about 40%. In 1932 the norm of grain withdrawal was increased by 45%, though the crop of 1932, 698.7 million centners (a soviet measurement, or 69.87 million tonnes), was much lower than the crop of 1930 (834.5 million centners, or 83.45 million tonnes).

As a result the grain procurements of 1932 were higher than the grain procurements of 1930, by more than 30%.

In the summer of 1932 some regions were already seized by famine. In Ukraine 127 regions suffered from a famine. In Central Kazakhstan about 100 thousand farms starved. That spring almost 15 thousand Kazakhs died. At the same time, the harvest of 1932 was not as poor as in 1931.

There were no objective conditions for high mortality in the country. The harvest of 1932 was good enough to avoid a famine and provide reasonable grain supplies,
Moreover the crop of 1932 (698.7 million centners) was higher than the “not so hungry” 1931 (694.8 million centners), but the crop of 1932 was unbearable for peasants. The excessive plan was fulfilled with enormous hardships. Neither collective farmers nor farmers were not in any hurry to supply grain to the state, which pretended to have not only excessive grain, but also winter and spring supplies for personal needs.

In the winter of 1932-1933 millions starved to death in a famine in Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

The famine had become interregional by the winter of 1933. In September of 1940 Stalin personally mentioned that about 25-30 million people starved in Ukraine, the Northern Caucasus, the Volga region, Kazakhstan, Tavriya and southern regions of the Central provinces of Russia, in some regions of the Far East and the Urals in spring-summer of 1933.

Documents that have now been published depict appalling pictures of human sufferings and degradation.

Only in the late summer of 1933 did Holodomor begin to decline. The exact number of victims of a famine of 1932-1933 is not known. Despite the collectivization the country had a steady population increase, though in 1931-1932 it shrank. On the first of January in 1934 it was 156,797,000 thousand people. Even in a tragic year of 1932 when a famine seized Ukraine and Moldova, the natural growth in population compensated for its decline. And in 1932 the Soviet population increased by 1,051,000 people. In 1933, however, the population of the USSR did the opposite, and shrank by 6,115,000 people.

Direct victims of the Soviet era as a result of collectivization and the Holodomor (1930–1933) are roughly distributed as follows: no less than 100 thousand died in repressions against collective farms from 1930 to 1932 and extrajudicial repressions during collectivization; 6.5 million (4 million of which in Ukraine) as a result of Holodomor organized by the Party officials in the second half of 1932 and winter of 1933 to weaken resistance to collective farming in areas of the Don, in Kuban; in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, the Volga areas and Western Siberia; 1.8 – 2.1 million of the deported died due to poor conditions and excessive labour in special settlements created by the authorities in 1930-1940; 35,734 people charged with 'counter-revolutionary crimes' were shot by OGPU-NKVD in 1930-1933. The total death toll is roughly 8,450,000 people.

PR on Blood

The attempt by modern Ukrainian politicians to present the tragedy of villagers exclusively as an “act of Russia’s repressive policy against Ukraine” does not stand up to criticism. Similar assessments can be equally considered an insult of the memory of those farmers who died during the collectivization years and were not ethnic Ukrainians.

The artificial famine was staged by the top nomenclature officials of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolshevists (the VKPb) not only in Ukraine, but also in the areas of the Volga, the Don and in Kuban, Kazakhstan and some other regions of the Soviet Union.

It’s quite obvious that the number of Soviet farmers, including ethnic Russians, Ukrainians, Kazakhs and others, eliminated by Stalin during the collectivization years is several times more than the number of Soviet Jews killed by the Nazis during the occupation in 1941-44, and in total exceeds the number of civilian victims in the occupied territories of the USSR during the war. It is a question of a humanitarian disaster quite comparable with the Holocaust, although with a social, rather than ethnic, tinge.

This is why the authorities in the Russian Federation in their turn, are definitely not keen on an objective assessment of the collectivization and Holodomor during the years of the first Five-Year Plans, as well as the perpetuation of the memory of millions of farmers who died then. Similar steps would make the question of a legal and moral evaluation of the political undertakings of the Communist Party topical again.

A recognition of the Stalinist state policy in 1929-33 as an act of stratocide - a massive elimination of its own population according to social status – would sharply contradict the false historical memory, rooted in the Russian public awareness and the attempts to build a new Russian statehood based on recognition of the value and the positive character of the Soviet period. Unfortunately, millions of collectivization victims in Ukraine will be used only for political machinations and to create Russophobia myths, whereas in Russia they will be continuously debunked, so as not to allow the delegitimization of the current people in power who are not capable to exist in their positions without returning to the Soviet historical tradition.

Kirill Aleksandrov, St. Petersburg State University for Gazeta.Ru
(translated by Maya Kalinina, Vladimir Demidov, Andrey Pechonkin, RT)

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