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Paper on the topic:
The Holodomor of 1932–1933: Political and Economic Aspects
Student in the Economics Faculty
National University of the Ostroh Academy
Ostroh, Ukraine - 2004
1.1 Political and economic reasons for the Holodomor
1.2 Industrialization and the Five-Year Plans
1.3 The process of collectivization
2.1 The consequences of collectivization and the beginning of the Holodomor
2.2 Grain delivery campaigns. The blacklist.
2.3 Press reaction to events in Ukraine: the foreign and diaspora press
3.1 The famine peaks. Eye-witness accounts.
3.2 The aftermath of the famine and the losses to Ukraine
A rifle-butt hammered at the door…
A rifle-butt hammered at the door, knuckles rapped on the window.
“Open up in there, young woman! Why are you hiding inside your house?”
Her heart pounded and stabbed: “Oh, horror! Guests have come to me. What will I offer them?—my son is not cooked yet…”
She runs to open the door of the hay store and bows deeply to her guests. She invites her guests to come in and closes the door behind them.
The soldiers enter the house: one of them sits down to write, two more stand by the oven. Two more stand with their rifles at the door.
“How’s life, young mistress? Let’s see what you’re cooking up.”
The young woman stands still and only smiles quietly.
The men pull the pot out of the oven and see the curled up fingers.
The young woman stands still and only smiles beatifically.
They find the chopped up legs, the little ribs soaking in the trough and, under the sieve, the blue little head that has already begun to reek.
The young woman stands still and only smiles terribly.
“So, how are you keeping alive, young woman? Why are you so quiet? Why don’t you talk?”
“This is how I keep alive,” she said, and spoke no more.
Whose voice is that in her throat? Hoarse but trembling and gay.
“Yes, this is how I live,” she larked. “Am I not mother to him? Tell me, did we not want to eat? Do you not want to eat? Then sit. Among you, I, too,
am young. By God, believe me, people—”
At this she choked, her heart hammered once and went silent again.
“Believe me, people, by God…this is how I live,” she chirped. “I am a young widow.”
She suddenly trembled, as though remembering something. Her eyes traveled wildly around the house and she threw herself at her son, patting
his head and covering his mouth tightly with her hand.
She wants to weep in grief but she cannot. She can only pound her head on the floor: “My little son, my darling child! What have I done with you?!”
The soldiers take the wretched woman and lift her up, freshening her face with water.
Meanwhile, the soldier keeps writing and writing, but tears keep getting in his way.
Pavlo Tychyna, from the collection, “A wind from Ukraine”
The Ukrainian people have survived many tragedies, but a more terrible evil than the Famine of the 1930s, the history of Ukraine has not seen.
Its reasons have not been determined to this day. Some believe that Stalin and his henchmen all along planned to destroy Ukrainian peasantry—
whom they saw as the mainstay of nationalism and private property. Others say it was the result of an insane approach to gaining capital for
industrialization, and the fate of the countryside was simply not taken into account. One thing is obvious: the famine in Ukraine was not the result
of a natural disaster but was man-made.
Over many decades, Ukrainian schoolbooks claimed that at the beginning of the 1920s, famine affected only the Volga region. This is how it was
publicized at the time before the western world as well, giving Lenin and his collaborators to ask for food supplies to this specific region. Yet
when the same kind of famine struck all of southern Ukraine, from which grain was being impounded and shipped north and for export, Moscow
One of the major contemporary students of the Ukrainian Holodomor of 1932–33 was James Mace.
During his lifetime, American James Mace came to be called “The first Knight of Ukraine,” which was awarded to him by a community
organization. Yet he was given no national awards or orders from Ukraine. Nor did he have the typical signs of a successful American lifestyle:
his own home, a car and a six-figure bank account. Dr. Mace, a world-renowned historian, had only one thing: his name. He dedicated his life to
studying a part of Ukrainian history—the Holodomor of 1932–33. This first among western researchers was very clear about the reasons for this
tragedy: It was an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people. The fact that the US Congress also acknowledged this in 1988 was to a very
large extent due to the role played by Dr. Mace. James Mace lived in Kyiv for more than 10 years, where he found kindred spirits. And the love of
his life: Ukrainian writer Natalia Dziubenko.
James Mace was born on 18 February 1952 in the city of Muskogee, Oklahoma. He gained his doctorate at the University of Michigan on the
topic, “Communism and the dilemma of national liberation,” which was about Soviet Ukraine from 1918 to 1933. In 1983–1986, he collaborated
with Robert Conquest on materials for the seminal book, “Harvest of Sorrow.” He authored a two-volume “Study of the Ukrainian Famine.”
Working under a Harvard project together with Leonid Hertz, he collected and edited an “Oral History” based on eye-witness accounts that was
published in 1990. Between 1986 and 1990, he was the executive director of the US Commission on the Ukrainian Holodomor (Washington DC)
and the main presenter of the Commission’s report before the US Congress.
At the beginning of 1990, he moved from the US to Kyiv. Here he converted to the Orthodox religion. In 1995, he became a professor of political
science at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. In 1997, he began to privately consult and write for Den’, a Ukrainian-language daily
paper. Dr. Mace’s son William lives in the US.
1.1 Political and economic reasons for the Holodomor
The tragedy of a great famine in Ukraine could have been foreseen already in 1925, when the XIV Congress of the Communist Party decided to
go for mass industrialization. This was to happen at the cost of rural areas, for which purpose the Congress enshrined asymmetrical prices for
industrial and agricultural goods.
Soviet economists themselves calculated that the artificial difference in prices for industrial and farm products in order to move capital in favor of
industrial development, mainly in Russia, cost Ukrainian farmers 300 million pre-war gold karbovanets annually, which amounted to 20
karbovanets for every tenth of a hectare of sown land. In short: where a Ukrainian peasant prior to WWI was able to purchase a manufactured
good for 1 pood [40 Russian pounds or 16.4 kg] of grain, then now it cost the equivalent of 4–5 poods.
On 23 February 1929, “Journal de Geneve,” a Swiss paper, commented thus on the travel notes of American farmer Tom Campbell, who was
familiarizing himself with agricultural problems in the Soviet Union: “As long as the Ukrainian farmer sees that he is working ‘pour le roi des
Russes (for the Russian King),’ that is, the masters of the Kremlin, as long as his surplus production is confiscated or purchased for a price that
makes it not worth the extra effort, as long as his success is envied and his purchase of livestock in order to work automatically makes him a
member of the so-called “kurkul” class—of course, he won’t take a single step in the direction of expanding production. Nothing encourages him
to do so—on the contrary, everything is being done to cut down any and all opportunities.”
From 1 November 1932 to 1 February 1933, the Molotov commission “procured” an additional 1.711 million tonnes of grain from Ukraine. The
total amount of grain confiscated by the state from the 1932 harvest was 3.381 million tonnes. In short, Molotov was unable to fill the grain-
procurement plan, although he transported almost all existing stores out of the country. At the start of 1933, there were virtually no stores left
anywhere in Ukraine, yet people needed to survive to the next harvest. Winter grain confiscations took the last remaining bits of grain that were
left from those already suffering from famine.
Soviet archives have no documents about an emergency grain procurement commission. Because it never existed. Molotov, and occasional
Lazar Kaganovich, traveled to Ukraine on an inspection basis, gave verbal orders, and all written orders on “increasing” grain procurements that
they deemed necessary to issue, went under the stamp of republican organs with the signature of CP(b)U Central Committee’s General
Secretary, Y. V. Koster, Chair of the People’s Council Committee of the Ukrainian SSR V. Y. Chubar, and others. Even the minutes of meetings of
the CK KP(b)U politburo, which went on for hours, only listed these two emissaries of Stalin as present.
In the Ukrainian SSR’s People’s Council Committee resolution called “On measures to increase grain procurements” dictated by Molotov 20
November 1932, there was a point that allowed the use of “natural penalties.” This meant penalizing those kolhosps who “owed” grain but did
not have any by removing meat products, in order to settle with the state. These penalties were to be taken as communal livestock as well as
kolhosp livestock. Permission to do so was to be granted by each individual Oblast Executive Committee.
In and of itself, this point in the government resolution—as, indeed, the entire resolution—was ominous testimony of the barbarism of the
totalitarian state in the extreme conditions of an economic catastrophe. These “natural penalties” were, of course, to be with oblast approval, only
related to meat, and without any searches involved. In an instruction from the Justice Committee of the Ukrainian SSR dated 25 November 1932
that covered the organizing the implementation of the resolution, it was even emphasized that “mass shakedowns” were undesirable.
Still, the verbal orders of Stalin’s emissaries were more important than what was written in resolutions. Taking the “natural penalties” as a basis,
local officials expanded them to include all possible food supplies held by villagers. Archives, papers and testimony of the villagers themselves
show that in all towns of Ukraine, except those adjacent to border areas, searches of people’s yards began, including confiscation, of any and all
food supplies other than grain: rusks, potatoes, beets, salo, salted products, dried fruits and so on that villagers had prepared to tide them over
to the new crop. Confiscation was presented as a punishment for “kurkul sabotage” of grain procurements. In effect, this was a campaign that
was knowingly intended to slowly destroy rural families at the physical level. As in the Northern Caucasus, where the emergency committee was
chaired by Kaganovich, under the guise of a grain procurement campaign on an enormous part of Ukrainian territory, a gigantic, unforeseen
campaign of terror through famine was carried out in order to teach those who remained alive to be “smart and sharp” in the words of Kosior,
that is to work conscientiously for the state in the community farms known as kolhosps.
What took place in Ukraine in 1933 was not recorded anywhere in official documents. The reason was that Stalin had ordered all his people to
act as though there was no such thing as a great famine. Even in the transcript reports of the CK KP(b)U plenum and the politburo protocols of
this time, the word “famine” is not even mentioned.
There is no doubt that the deaths of millions of villagers was caused by a cold-blooded decision of Stalin’s to take all food stores away from
Ukraine’s farm dwellers and to then to wrap the hungry in a curtain of silence and to prohibit any assistance on the part of the international or
soviet communities. To prevent any initiatives on the part of the hungering masses to flee beyond the borders of the republic, squadrons of
internal forces patrolled the border areas to keep the famine victims contained.
Deaths from starvation began in the first month of the Molotov Commission’s activities. From March 1933 on, they became widespread. DPU
offices nearly everywhere registered cases of cannibalism and necrophagia. Desperate to at least save their children from a hungry death,
villagers tried to take their youngsters to towns and cities and to leave them at institutions, hospitals, even on the streets. However, in the darkest
months of this unprecedented Holodomor, Stalin only admitted publicly to “problems with food in a slew of kolhosps.” In his speech at an All-
Union Congress of Top Kolhospniks on 19 February 1933, he cynically reassured his audience: “In any case, compared to the problems
workers had 10–15 years ago, your problems today, Comrade Farmworkers, seem mere child’s play.”
Analysis of demographic statistics for the 1930s shows that direct losses to the population of Ukraine were 150,000 in 1932 and 3–3.5 million in
1933. The real demographic losses, including reduced fertility among women due to starvation, for the period 1932–1934 were around 5 million.
Scholars have come to the conclusion that of all instances of genocide known to humanity, for sheer scale, nothing matches what happened in
Ukraine in the early 1930s. [4, pp 98-102]
Regardless of the success of the New Economic Policy (NEP), the Soviet Union, including Ukraine, remained agricultural-industrial and its
economy was in need of technical and technological modernization. In the 1920s, there was considerable debate within the Communist Party
about how it would be possible to reach a world level of economic development. The dominant position was that of Josef Stalin and his circle,
who preferred an authoritarian form of managing and attaining industrialization at whatever cost in the shortest term possible. This, they thought,
would lead to “the building of the material and technical foundation of socialism.” A plan for all-encompassing radical economic transformations
was prepared in 1928. A strategy of accelerated development in heavy industry was selected, and its basic stages laid out in the so-called “Five-
1.2 Industrialization and the Five-Year Plans
The main issue that needed to be resolved in taking the course of industrialization was financing the expansion of manufacturing, especially
heavy industry. Having no way to take out external loans and no internal accumulation of capital—the nationalization of businesses had sharply
reduced the efficiency of manufacturing and ignoring market laws essentially made the concept of profits meaningless—, Stalin and his circle
resorted to a number of measures to accelerate the expansion of heavy industry: transferring capital into this sector that had accumulated in
agriculture, light industry, trade and other branches; increasing direct and indirect taxes; taking advantage of the enthusiasm for work among
workers and forced labor of political prisoners; confiscating church and monastery property and so on.
In contrast to developed countries, industrialization was introduced in the USSR not to satisfy consumer demand among the country’s
population. On the contrary, the production of consumer goods was very limited. Here, the state became not only the owner of the means of
production but also the main consumer of its output—mostly weaponry and industrial equipment. Financing all came from the state budget, that
is, out of the pockets of the general population, which is only possible in a totalitarian system. A major resource for industrialization was the
colonial abuse of captive nations, including Ukrainians among them. This was done by setting over-low prices for the import and export of
goods, especially farm products. Thus, Ukraine was paid 2.40 karbovanets for 1 centner of meat, while on a world market such as London it was
selling for the equivalent of 8.80 karbs. The cheapest item was grain that was exported from Ukraine.
The country’s top officials did not understand—or refused to understand—that undervaluing goods, systematically ignoring the interests of rural
areas, and putting off the resolution of social problems such as lodgings and mass goods, would inevitably affect the development of industry
itself. This was confirmed by the results of the first Five-Year Plan (FYP) (1928/29–1932/33). Fully detailed and meticulously debated, this Plan
never came to life. Of the two versions, the realistic and the optimal, the optimal was used as the base. In addition, Stalin issued an order to
adjust the optimal version in the direction of increasing indicators for specific items such as pig iron, petroleum, farm equipment, and so on. In
1932, although the acceptable version of the FYP called for 7mn t, and the optimal for 10mn, only 6.2mn tonnes of pig iron were actually
produced. The same indicators for output of tractors were 53,000, 170,000 and 49,000 tonnes, while for cars it was 100,000, 240,000 and a
mere 24,000 t.
This pattern repeated itself in other areas of the planned objectives. Still, despite the failure of the first Five-Year Plan, Stalin announced to the
world in January 1933 that the Plan had been completed—and ahead of time, that is, in four years and three months. Nor was the objective for
Gross Industrial Output reached, while productivity was only 41%, compared to a planned 110%. This is the point when soviet statistics became
a faithful handmaiden to the totalitarian regime, providing false figures on the real state of affairs, not only in the economy, but in soviet society as
a whole. [5, pp 83-84]
The second Five-Year Plan, 1933–1937, fared no better than the first, loaded as it was with a slew of unrealistic, economically unsound
objectives that made it essentially impossible to carry out. The steel industry and tractor manufacturing were able to reach the levels required by
the first two FYPs only in 1949. Serious failures were also typical of the pre-war third FYP, 1938–June 1941.
The first three Plans were also a flop in Ukraine. For instance, coal output in Donbas according to plan was supposed to expand from 27mn t to
53mn t, but actually only reached 45mn t. The output of pig iron was supposed to nearly triple in Ukraine, which was also an impossible goal. [5,
As a result of the Stalinesque leap in industrialization in Ukraine, as in the Soviet Union as a whole, economic development was lopsided, the
shortage of mass goods kept growing, and inflation kept rising. The crop failure of 1928 increased problems with supplying urban populations
with food products in Ukraine. In the second quarter of that year, a system of rationing cards was introduced. People in smaller places, where
these cards were not distributed, found themselves starving. Only in January 1935 was the card system cancelled and fixed prices introduced for
bread. In October of that year, prices on all foodstuffs became controlled. Completely standardized prices for basic goods were canceled only in
Thus, the main idea of the Five-Year Plans, to industrialize the country and at the same time to raise living standards in the course of “building
socialism” did not work, especially in terms of increasing the material well-being of the average person. In terms of industrial growth, Ukraine’s
first FYP proved relatively the most promising. Of 1,500 new industrial enterprises that were supposed to be established across the USSR, 400
were designated to Ukraine and most of them were actually launched.
Indeed, the technical level at some of them was quite high. Among these new plants were the Zuyivskiy and Zhterivskiy power stations. The
biggest power station in Europe at that time was Dnipro HES, built in 1932 in Zaporizhzhia. In Donbas, 53 new mines came on line, while those
plants that were already in operation in Ukraine, 12 blast furnaces and 24 Marten furnaces were installed.
Along with the expansion of existing capacities, the new giants of the steel industry arrived, like AzovStal, ZaporizhStal and KryvorizhStal. In 1932,
the first electro-plating plant was built for the purpose of manufacturing steel instrumentation, DniproSpetsStal. Ukraine soon took one of the top
places in the world for steel production. It also posted decent results in machine-building. In October 1931, the newly-built Kharkiv Tractor Plant
(KhTZ) went on line. The Luhansk Rail Engine Plant was reconstructed, as were machinery plants in Kharkiv and Kyiv. The Kramatorsk Machine-
Building Plant, Ukraine’s biggest, was also built at this time.
In the food processing industry, new branches appeared: margarine, dairy, oil processing, animal feed, and baked goods. Between 1928 and
1937, 67 mechanized bread-making factories and 5 large-scale meat-processing plants were built. In 1932, the Kherson Canning Plant was
revived. Knitting plants were opened in Odesa, Kyiv and Kharkiv. Still, light industry began to fall considerably behind heavy industry, while
demand for mass-produced goods was constantly greater than the supply.
One aspect of both the first and subsequent Five-Year Plans that was particularly bad for Ukraine’s economic development was the fact that they
established special privileges for Russia’s centralized industrial zones in Leningrad and the Urals. In Ukraine, only those branches were
supposed to expand at an accelerated pace that provided Russian industries with fuels and metals. Of the 61.6 billion karbovanets earmarked in
the first FYP for the development of the domestic economy, Ukraine was given only 11.3bn karbs or 18.3%, while Russia got 68%—much more
than should by rights have been. Of the amount allocated to Ukraine, 4.2bn karbs were to go to industry and only 1.2bn karbs was allocated for
construction. The worst was that 78% of those 1.2bn karbs were earmarked for the Donetsk-Kryviy Rih corridor (population 6.5mn), that is, to
satisfy Russian demand for coal and metals, while the rest of the territory of Ukraine (population 22.5mn) got only 22%. [3, pp 48-50]
In other words, Ukraine’s industry was largely expected to continue developing in the way that had been established under the tsars: then, as
now, Ukraine’s role came down to supplying Russia with fuel, raw metals, and heavy equipment. The next FYPs brought few changes to the
overall situation. In the second Plan, Ukraine was given even less money—only 16.7% of the overall Union budget, while in the pre-war years,
that fell to 14.5%. Russia’s share grew to 71%, meanwhile.
This kind of situation forced economist M. Volobuyev to declare that the revolution had done nothing to change the economy: Ukraine remained a
colony of Russia. The colonial nature of Ukraine’s economic was also reinforced by the institution of an unrestricted centralized system of
managing the economy, the all-Union operation of transportation, financial systems, and bodies controlling the use of material resources.
Already by the second half of the 1920s (1924–1927) 20% more Ukrainian capital was transferred into the General Budget Fund than had been
during the Russian Empire. Still, the efforts of Volobuyev and other economists to defend the sovereign rights of Ukraine as the totalitarian soviet
regime strengthened its grip were like voices crying in the desert. In the 1930s and the decades that followed, Ukraine was completely deprived
of even the semblance of a national economy.
In order to stimulate workers to fulfill the FYPs—universal employment, the enthusiasm of millions with minimal material incentives, a huge
deficit of consumer goods and services—, the Bolsheviks organized “socialist competition” on a mass scale, which was based on the
enthusiasm of the general population and which the Stalinist totalitarian regime took advantage of to the fullest. The overall management of
socialist competition was controlled by the Communist Party, while its actual organization was handled by the unions. This was the era of the
“shock troopers” and “heroes of socialist labor.” During the first FYP, this approach to organizing labor was relatively effective. In time, the
competition stopped being an effective instrument for “combating” production costs and improving product quality and no longer did much to
help the execution of economic plans. The organization of competitions and the execution of objectives tended more and more to be formalities
and tools of propaganda, while the bureaucrats reported in a timely manner on the execution of all plans and objectives and declared the
“winners.” The practice of using prison labor, especially political prisoners, became widespread.
Despite their use of mass-scale organizational measures, party/state officials were unable to get control of manufacturing and waste and chaos
were widespread. Dilatory delivery of equipment led to new factory and plant premises standing idle for long periods of time. Meanwhile, there
were cases where ill-trained operators simply damaged equipment when older “bourgeois” specialists were fired, punished as “enemies of the
people” and “enemies of socialism.” The Shakhtynsk Affair in Donbas was a classic example. Often the lack of qualified personnel meant that
enterprises were unable to actually produce the required volumes of output.
Distancing workers from the means of production, the command-administrative approach to managing led to Ukraine’s industries becoming
economically inefficient. Major repairs were put off for lack of spare capital, which normally would have been generated and accumulated by the
company’s own efforts, just as it was in industrial countries in Europe and North America.
Industrialization dramatically changed the structure of the economy, especially the relationship between manufacturing and agriculture in the
overall volume of gross output. At the end of the 1930s, the output of heavy machinery surpassed all other industrial branches, while the share of
heavy industry in the overall output of the economy was 92.5% by 1938. This kind of unbalanced industrial development effected Ukraine’s
economy. Although its industrial capacity was seven times higher than it had been in 1913—which would easily have placed Ukraine among the
leading industrial nations of Europe—, the level of development of the main branches of the economy remained low compared to developed
1.3 The process of collectivization
Having launched high-speed industrialization in the Soviet Union, Stalin and his entourage decided to also collectivize the farm sector, in order to
use non-economic pressure to force grain growers to pay an additional “tribute” to the expansion of industry. The only way to do so was to force
country dwellers to work together in collective farms and to establish a command-driven, bureaucratic system of management in the agricultural
sector, just as in other industries. This form of organization ensured control on the part of the All-Union CP(b) over farmworkers and became a
key block in the formation of the totalitarian system.
At the same time, the country’s leaders understood that the process of collectivization would be long and difficult, especially after the New
Economic Plan, under which rural people had felt a certain amount of freedom and satisfaction from working on their own land. Taking this into
account in the process of putting together the first Five-Year Plan, a target was set of getting 18–20% of rural households into the kolhosps by the
end of the FYPs (1933). This plan was based on the principles of the NEP and the cooperative development of rural areas.
The transition to collectivization led to a grain crisis in 1927–1928 that, interestingly, was not the result a crisis in farm production itself, but was
spurred by the fact that, as market prices for grain rose, farmers refused to sell their grain to the state for lower prices. Stalin and his circle took
advantage of the situation to cancel NEP altogether and begin the widespread application of emergency measures, that is, to use force against
In January 1928, the politburo of the Central Committee of the All-Union CP(b) decided on the mandatory extraction of surplus grain from
villagers and the need to force the collectivization of the farm sector. All open grain markets were shut down, farms were subject to search as in
the times when foodstuffs were confiscated from farmsteads, and the owners of any surplus grain were taken to court. This raised the ire of
farmers. In many places, there were demonstrations. At least 150 mass protests were registered in rural areas, including in Ukraine.
The decision to collectivize made the position of Stalin very clear: in addition to economic plans, that is, getting the capital to finance
industrialization, he proved completely indifferent to the mood of the countryside, ignoring the attitude of rural dwellers towards kolhosps and
their unwillingness to give up running their own farms. Mass collectivization began in 1929, which was called the “Year of the Great
Breakthrough.” Ukraine then had everything that was needed to become first among the republics to complete collectivization. A Commission
headed by the USSR People’s Commissar for Agriculture Y. Yakovlev established the timeframe for complete collectivization in the main grain-
growing regions. In the 5 January 1930 Resolution of the CC of the All-Union CP(b) “On the pace of collectivization and measures to assist the
state in building collective farms,” Ukraine was included in the regions where collectivization was to be completed by Fall 1931 or Spring 1932.
Ukraine’s state party apparatus presented a slew of its own initiatives to speed up the pace of collectivization. The slogan “high-speed
collectivization” suddenly appeared among the general population. On 24 February 1930, the Secretary-General of the CC CP(b)U, S. Kosior,
signed a directive to local party organizations in Ukraine that put the objective thus: “The steppes must be completely collectivized by the time of
spring fieldwork, while all of Ukraine must be completely collectivized by Fall 1930.” In this way, the Ukrainian Party leadership itself reduced the
timeframe for collectivization by 12–18 months.
The start of collectivization had shown that farmers were reluctant to part with their property and to turn it over to collective farms. For the Soviets
were collectivizing not only the means of production but also productive livestock, poultry and instruments. This could only be achieved using
crude force. Those who refused to join the kolhosp were declared enemies of the soviet order and thieves. They were not allowed to grind their
grain at the mills, their children were refused schooling, and doctors refused to treat them.
Attacks against better-off farmers were particularly forceful. Not only were farmers who used hired help called kurkuls (kulaks), but even those
who happened to run their own farms using a motorized vehicle or who had tin rooves on their houses. At the first, this attack came in the form of
administrative pressure: extremely high taxes, a ban on renting out lands, and so on. In December 1929, though, the soviet government switched
to a policy of open terror: villagers who actively opposed collectivization were shot or imprisoned, wealthier farmers were exiled to distant regions
of the USSR, and many were forced to leave their territories. The process of “dekulakization” hit not only better-off households, but also those
who simply did not want to join a kolhosp.
The campaign to eliminate kurkuls as a class was a way of persecuting all country dwellers without exception. Officially, the number of “kurkul”
households in Ukraine was listed as 71,500, but in fact, by 1932, more than 200,000 farmsteads had been eliminated. Together with the
members of the family, this affected almost 1,500,000 individuals. Of these, nearly 850,000 were sent as “special migrants”—more accurately
state serfs—to the north of Russia and to Siberia, where large numbers died and the rest lived and worked in inhuman conditions. Regions like
Kuzbas, Karganda, Pechora, and Kolyma were largely built on the bones of Ukrainians.
The “elimination of kurkuls as a class” campaign was intended, firstly, to destroy that layer of rural society that was capable of organizing
opposition to total collectivization. But this did not entirely work. Peasants continued to refuse to join the kolhosp: they would sell of or slaughter
their livestock and hide or wreck their equipment and other property that was supposed to be collectivized. Over 1928–1932, nearly half the cattle
herds in Ukraine were slaughtered, and it took decades to bring the numbers back up again. In many instances, it ended up in open protests on
the part of farmers, that occasionally grew into armed insurrections that encompassed entire counties. Rough estimates are that in 1930 the
overall number of insurrectionists in Ukraine was nearly 40,000. Regular army and even armed vehicle divisions, artillery, and sometimes even
air attacks were used against them.
Events took on a threatening scale. At the beginning of March 1930, Pravda, the soviet paper, published an article by Josef Stalin called “Drunk
with success,” in which certain excesses in the building of kolhosps were criticized. The main blame for “distorting the Party line,” Stalin
hypocritically laid at the feet of local officials, whose fault lay only in the fact that they fervently carried out Party orders. Farmers began leaving
kolhosps en masse, especially in Ukraine, where they amounted to more than 50%. This turn of events could hardly please the Bolshevik
leadership, and by September 1930 the attack on private farmers was renewed. By the end of 1932, nearly 70% of all farmsteads had been
collectivized in the Ukrainian SSR, covering some 80% of all sown territory.
In short, the most hard-working and successful landowners were destroyed in the process of collectivization. The fate of those country families
who were deported to the north of Russia and to Siberia was particularly tragic. They were transported in cattle cars in bitter frosts, tossed out
into a snowy wasteland, often without anything to survive by—no food, no clothing, no footwear. As a result, countless thousands, especially
children, simply died.
Once collectivization was complete, all incentives to work in rural areas were completely destroyed and the command-driven economy was
established under kolhosps that were in the complete control of state officials. In effect, the practice of confiscating foodstuffs from those who
produced them was renewed, as it had been during the years of “war communism,” with the one difference that the focus of mandatory grain
deliveries were no longer individual farmers but the kolhosp: the state could take away every last speck of grain from a kolhosp and no one
would put up the least bit of protest.
During the 1930 harvest, Ukraine delivered a mandatory grain order of 7.804mn tonnes, compared to only 5.072mn t in the previous growing
season. This was a record yield of grains, and the kolhosps were left with nearly nothing. The 1932 harvest plan was even more demanding
than in 1931, despite the repressions that were being applied, not only against private farmers, but also against individual heads of kolhosps,
village councils and county officials.
The poor organization of work at the kolhosps, the reluctance of villagers to work on them, the destruction of successful farmsteads, and the
widespread slaughter of livestock by farmers to prevent their confiscation all contributed to the undermining of the foundation of the agricultural
production. In the meantime, the gross harvesting of grain shrank, the yields of various produce on kolhosp fields began to decline: in some
kolhosps, 1932 yields were as low as 3cnt/ha. Thus, in 1931, the gross harvest of grain was 98.1% of the 1929 level, whereas in 1932 it was
only 78.6%, horse counts were only 66.7% of the 1928 level, cattle were down to 58.2%, swine down to 37.7%, and sheep and goats were only
20%. [1, pp 123-127]
The cutting off of commercial ties between the farmer and the consumer of foodstuffs as a result of the elimination of the network of enterprises
and their replacement by a farm cooperative also had a negative impact on the development of kolhosp production during its initial period. Both
the processing and the selling of agricultural products slowed down considerably, although these were desperately needed by urban dwellers
and gave country dwellers a source of income.
The incompetence of kolhosp managers brought considerable damage to the flourishing of agricultural production, as these were appointed to
their post not for their professional capabilities, but for their ideological qualities.
The kolhosps were making use of primitive tools and farm implements that had been expropriated from the local farmers. The state-run Machine
and Tractor Stations (MTSs) that were set up in rapid order—by 1932, there were 592 such points in Ukraine alone—were capable of serving
only half of the country’s kolhosps. Even so, farm technology remained low even at those kolhosps that were served by MTSs.
As in the times of serfdom, villagers were suddenly attached to their place of residence by the system of internal passports that was introduced
in 1932. Without official permission, they could not leave their collective farm. Terrorized by repression, they were essentially transformed into
All these efforts by Party-state organs were aimed at turning the countryside into the main source of capital for the unrealistic, forced pace of
industrialization. The state needed hard currency to buy industrial equipment abroad. The only way to get such currency was to export raw
materials—mainly grain, whose price had dropped sharply on international markets. But the leadership of the USSR was not prepared to take
the external situation into account and, accordingly, slow the pace of industrialization down. Despite poor prices, grain export volumes kept
growing. Whereas the country harvested 835mn centners and exported 48.4mn cnt in 1930, in 1931, 51.8mn cnt were exported although only
395mn centners had been harvested. Many kolhosps found themselves with not only all their crop but also their entire seed stores confiscated.
In many districts of Ukraine, people were beginning to starve. Some kolhosps simply collapsed at this time.
In Spring 1932, weakened villagers, who had half-starved over the winter, were unable to successfully carry out spring works. The grain crop was
poor, but not much lower than the average for many previous years. Still, the Kremlin was not pleased with this kind of situation, as it wanted to
increase exports even more. Deciding that the reason for the low harvest was the lack of desire among rural dwellers to unhesitatingly support
the utopian idea of “building socialism in our country,” the Stalinist leadership decided to take its revenge.
The most violent crime of the Communist regime against the Ukrainian people was the Holodomor organized by it in 1932–1933. The purpose
of this planned action against Ukrainian farmers was to destroy the foundation of the Ukrainian nation and national rebirth, to eliminate all
independent farmsteads, and to make it impossible for anyone to withstand the soviet regime.
“Moscow planned the famine in order to destroy the Ukrainian village as a national bastion. Ukrainian peasants were not destroyed because
they were peasants but because they were Ukrainians,” writes American author and professor Robert Conquest. Analysis convincingly shows
that events in the Ukrainian countryside at that time exhibited all the elements of political genocide. This was the conclusion reached by the
1988–1990 International Commission to study the famine in Ukraine, which included a number of top international lawyers.
Today, the US, Canada, Australia and Argentina have officially declared the same. A slew of legislatures in the world, including the Baltic
countries, are preparing to do the same. A mere 70 years after this Ukrainian national tragedy did the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine itself carry out
its civic duty to the memory of millions of Ukrainians: on 14 May 2003, it recognized the Holodomor of 1932–1933 an act of genocide against the
The main reason for the Holodomor of 1932–1933 was the deliberate, criminal policy of the Bolshevik regime. Even Stalin himself noted that the
overall grain crop for 1932 was higher than that of 1931. In other words, there was no shortage of food. But the state deliberately confiscated
most of the harvest, including grain that had been designated for seeding, for insurance and for fodder, ignoring the appeals and warnings of
local Ukrainian officials. This sentenced millions of people to death from an artificially created famine. Any attempts to counter this aggression
were violently crushed.
2.1 The consequences of collectivization and the beginning of the Holodomor
The first kolhosp spring, 1930, was promising. Ukraine had a relatively good harvest, yielding about 4.7 centners per hectare, which was a
record for all the years of soviet rule at that point. The impression was created that the collectivized countryside would be able to support the
“leap” in industrialization. Farmworkers achieved the results for the first year of total collectivization in a state of shock. Although the nasty word
“confiscation” was not being used, the half-forgotten experience of 10 years earlier returned to the collectivized countryside. The market was
disappearing. Money lost its purchasing power. Resources for preparing the soil was miserly, while wages on the communal farms were
wretched. To feed themselves, people had to mostly rely on their household gardens. Yet, the number of kolhosps kept growing.
After March 1930, administrative pressure on private farmers was considered excessive. This did not mean that collectivization somehow lost its
forcible nature. It was simply becoming more and more difficult for anyone to farm individually: private farms were being dekulakized and
burdened with difficult objectives and high taxes, while kolhosps were given tax breaks. By the end of 1932, almost 70% of Ukraine’s farms were
collectivized, covering more than 80% of sown territory. Other grain-growing regions reached similar levels of collectivization. Collectivization was
accompanied by expropriation of the successful layer of farmers and the ruination of a well-developed system of agricultural cooperatives.
Indeed, this practice of confiscation rapidly led to a crisis situation. The most significant sign of the crisis that engulfed the young kolhosp system
was the complete disinterest of farmers in developing collective farms—in short, their unwillingness to work.
Collectivization led to a steep fall in productivity in the farm sector. In 1930, the gross harvest of grain in Ukraine was 23 million tonnes; in 1931 it
fell to 18mn t, and in 1932 it plunged to 13mn t. While this was more than enough to feed the entire population of the republic, the Union
government continued to set exaggerated grain production quotas. In 1931, the republic’s leadership appealed to Moscow to reduce the plan
numbers. Stalin agreed to a slight reduction in the quota, but this did not remedy things. As a result, by the end of 1931 famine had begun in
Naturally, the forced collectivization that had began on a mass scale in 1929 ultimately destroyed the Ukrainian countryside and opened the way
for the even more terrible famine in 1932–1933. It was intended to put grain growers in place, not only in Ukraine itself, but in all ethnically
Ukrainian territories: Kuban, Stavropol, Voronezh…
Precisely on the pretext that grain production had not met the set quotas in Kuban, Moscow banned ukrainianization there on 14 December 1932.
The following day, the CC All-Union CP(b) and the Soviet RNK passed a resolution, signed also by Stalin and Molotov, to immediately terminate
all ukrainianization in the Far East, in the Central Chornozem oblasts, and in Kazakhstan. This is why it is possible to concur with the words of
the American scholar, Chamberlain: “The Soviet government used the famine as a national policy instrument on an unprecedented scale, in
order to destroy those who resisted its policies.” [cited in Tryzub, 1934]
In August 1932, a law was passed that provided for the death sentence for stealing kolhosp property. Even for the theft of a handful of grain, a
person would pay with their life. Soon there appeared a law on “combating speculation,” which provided for a sentence in a concentration camp
for 5-10 years for those villagers who, in trying to save themselves from starvation, tried to exchange household items for foodstuffs in urban
areas. They could not purchase food, because as of 1928, food was distributed on the basis of rationing cards in the cities. In short, rural
dwellers found themselves in an untenable situation.
2.2 Grain delivery campaigns. The blacklist.
Meanwhile, the grain production quotas kept growing. In 1931, Ukrainian farmers gave the state 39% of the gross national grain harvest, while in
1932 this was up to 55%. In October 1932, an emergency commission chaired by V. Molotov arrived in Ukraine to oversee the republican grain
campaign. This commission began working with the adoption of a resolution 18 November 1932 by the CC CP(b)U and 20 November 1932 by
the RNK of the Ukrainian SSR that were virtually identical in content and had the same name: “On measures to increase grain deliveries.” These
resolutions required agricultural cooperatives where kolhosp workers were being given bonuses more than the established norm during
harvesting—15% of actual threshed grain—to organize the return of illegally distributed grain. The Commission was brutal in its handling of this.
Party activists were mobilized for rural work. Both regular soldiers and squadrons of DPU appeared in the countryside and forcibly confiscated
every last grain from the local people. Party and Soviet workers and heads of kolhosps who tried to interfere in the rape of the countryside were
persecuted by order of Stalin. The Molotov Commission did not adopt any resolutions of its own, but operated in the name of the party state
officials of the republic. It instituted the practice of “natural” fines, that is confiscating meat, potatoes and other foodstuffs whenever there was no
grain to take, against kolhosp workers and private farmers who “owed” grain to the plan. The main repressive measure was permission to the
county executive committees to transfer to the grain procurement account all natural funds of the kolhosps: seed, food and forage grains.
Villages that had an especially large debt in grain deliveries were entered onto a “black list.” Being blacklisted essentially meant the village was
under blockade: the residents had no right to leave the village and if there was not enough food in the village, people simply died of starvation.
The large village of Havrylivka died out almost entirely. Only as of 15 December 1932 was it permitted to sell gas, matches and other household
products in villages, with the exception of 82 counties in five oblasts who had the biggest debts in grain deliveries.
The organization of this famine was the handiwork of such men as L. Kaganovich, who arrived in Ukraine right behind Molotov, Secretary-General
S. Kosior, and Council of People’s Committees V. Chubar. In January 1933, Stalin sent his personal emissary Pavel Postyshev to Ukraine, who
became the Second Secretary of the CC CP(b)U—but, in actual fact, the dictator of Ukraine. On his orders, the villages were ransacked and every
last bit of grain removed.
Over 1932–1933, when Ukraine was short of grain, the Bolshevik leadership did nothing to slow down grain exports, shipping out 1.72 and 1.68
million tonnes those two years. It is a safe conclusion that this export was undertaken not only to buy necessary equipment or materials abroad,
but also to create the illusion that there was plenty of grain in the Soviet Union. At the beginning of the 1930s, Ukraine was known as the
breadbasket of Europe, so any news about a terrible famine on its territory would astound everyone in the West, including France. And although
the French press dedicated much less space to publishing articles about Ukraine than the British or the Germans did, it would be a mistake to
think that the Ukrainian factor was not taken seriously by the French. The citizenry of this country generally reacted with empathy towards the
Ukrainian people, with the exception of the communists and those who insisted on believing in soviet propaganda about the wonderful life of the
people of the USSR.
2.3 Press reaction to events in Ukraine: the foreign and diaspora press
The French press was informed about the tragedy in Ukraine and—other than those publications that took their orders from Moscow—generally
condemned the Soviet regime for its inhuman way of breaking the resistance of peasants who refused to be collectivized by starving them and its
ethnic discrimination. Under the column “Famine in Ukraine,” a series of articles appeared that exposed the soviet practice of genocide.
Journalist C. Berthillon set herself the goal of exposing the bloody soviet regime. Ms. Berthillon not only saw the grim reality, but properly
assessed the imperial ambitions of Moscow. “Precisely to destroy all resistant elements, the soviet government, in the hopes of destroying an
entire peoples who were at fault for nothing other than a desire for liberty, deliberately organized this horrible famine,” she wrote. 
Reactions similar to Ms. Berthillon’s were evident in other French papers. Author Robert de Bonplan wrote in the provincial paper, “Le petit
Marseillais,” that public opinion was disturbed by news about the famine that was decimating Ukraine, where entire villages were dying out. “It’s
clear that this famine happened largely because the Soviets wanted it to, using this as a means to punish Ukraine for its prolonged national
resistance. The history of Ukraine and the Red Terror that has been unleashed there is one of the most tragic in the post-war period.” 
Naturally, the Soviet regime tried to cover up the deaths of millions of people. Domestic media said nothing. The government rejected any offers
of help from abroad, insisting that rumors of famine were being deliberately spread by enemies of the USSR. One-time Prime Minister of France,
Eduard Herriot, who traveled at the time around the Soviet Union, announced to all the world that there was no famine in the country. This was
written up in two lengthy articles on the famine in 1932–1933 in Soviet Ukraine that were published in “L’ordre,” a Parisian daily.  In an article
entitled “What E. Herriot won’t tell us after returning from his triumphant tour,” author Charles de Pere-Chappuis ironically wrote about the French
diplomat’s visit, who declared on the basis of what he had seen that “French opinion is incorrectly informed about the suffering of Ukrainian
And what truth could Herriot possibly have transmitted when, after his supposed wanderings in the Soviet Union, he wrote: “Sometimes we talk
about Ukraine, but it’s essentially like the province of Bose (one of the largest grain-producing provinces in France). I was taken to a village that
had supposedly been devastated. There, I could see fruit orchards and I could see people gathering grain on machinery. I could see the
hardworking locals and no one looked wretched. I could see nice, healthy children. If one assesses the situation in the USSR calmly, then it
becomes clear that the USSR is gradually becoming a state that will have the same power as the USA.” The “bloom of life” so blinded Herriot
that he was unable to see how entire villages were dying of hunger.
Alas, tales of the rich life in Ukraine were spread by others, like Romain Roland, Henri Barbuse and Bernard Shaw, too. Only the Ukrainian
diaspora kept crying out otherwise. One representative of the Ukrainian National Republic’s government-in-exile, Prof. Oleksandr Shulhin, having
painted a terrible portrait of the famine in Ukraine, turned to the Grain Commission that had been set up by the London Economic Conference
with this plea: “At a time when the advisory committee is supposed to decide how much grain the USSR should ship abroad, we ask you, in the
name of humanity, to reject any export of food products, especially grains, from the USSR. This grain rightfully belongs to those who sowed it and
today are dying of starvation—the farmers of Ukraine and Kuban. For our part, we protest vehemently against this export, which we cannot call
anything other than a crime.” [Tryzub, 1933] But the world remained deaf and millions of Ukrainians continued to die.
On 27 September 1933, “Le Matin” published a front-page story on two pages about the Holodomor, which had been passed on to the editors by
a one-time Petrograd professor called I. Buzyna. “Prior to the May First holiday, the starving trekked to the city, among them thieves and the
homeless who were dying on the streets. In order not to expose our wretchedness to strangers, trucks would collect them forcibly and take them
all away like rabid dogs…” “There are ever more incidents of people murdering because of hunger and occasionally someone is arrested for
selling human flesh at the market.” 
Moscow kept silent. Until 1987, there was no mention of the Famine of 1933 in any soviet histories or press.
3.1 The famine peaks. Eye-witness accounts.
The famine reached its peak in the winter and spring of 1933. People were resorting to eating crushed tree bark or straw mixed with rotten,
frozen cabbage; cats, dogs, rats, and eventually slugs, frogs and nettles. Needless to say, they would then die from terrible stomach ailments.
There were many instances of cannibalism. Some peasants went crazy with hunger and would kill their own or others’ children. Entire villages
disappeared, and meanwhile the raids and searches and the confiscation of anything edible continued. Famine spread through all of Soviet
Ukraine, as well as to the Northern Caucasus, Crimea, Kursk, the lower Volga region, and Kazakhstan. Evidence of this is in the testimony of eye-
witnesses of the terrible Holodomor such as N. Indyk from the village of Andriyivka in Poltava oblast:
“People were so weakened by hunger that entire families would die. Others fought to stay alive by looking for food. In the summer it was easier:
there were berries, apples and apricots. In the fall, people would go out in the fields and look for the potatoes that remained after harvesting, the
roots of beets or leftover corncobs. There were even cases where people would break open the pits of cherries or apricots to eat the kernels.
People ate grass, even leaves, the softer bark of trees, or even little branches. Of course, people ate beans, fodder beets which they would first
boil, then grate to make pancakes. They would also make pancakes from corn flour. These were a dirt-brown color, but tasty. People would also
eat oilcakes and the chaff from grain.
“There were more terrible incidents of people eating live birds, beetles, flies and worms. Where people ate other people. My grandmother told
me that in their village was a family called Kozub who had five children. The kids were always running around hungry, poorly clothed and barefoot
and when the youngest child fell ill and began to die, the mother decided not to bury it but to leave it so that they could eat. It was horrifying, but
true.” [6, p. 144]
3.2 The aftermath of the famine and the losses to Ukraine
The number of those who died of starvation is impossible to state precisely. Different scholars say from 2.5 million to 8 million victims died.
According to Robert Conquest, author of “Harvest of Sorrow,” a book on soviet collectivization and the Holodomor, at least 5 million peasants
died in Ukraine and another 2 million beyond its borders. At the beginning of the 1990s, S. Kulchytskiy (Ukraine) and S. Maksudov (USA) tried to
come up with a more accurate figure based on recently released archives of soviet demographic statistics. According to Kulchytskiy’s
calculations, direct losses to Ukraine from starvation were in the range of 3–3.5 million persons in 1933. Total losses, including a lowered birth
rate, range from 4.4–5 million. According to Maksudov, 4–4.5 million died of hunger, while total losses were in the range of 5.5–6 million. Other
researchers have concluded that there is no other instance of genocide that, for sheer scale, can be compared to what happened in the
Ukrainian SSR at the beginning of the 1930s. The Famine of 1933 is the most terrifying of the many crimes of the Stalin era. [4, pp 57–59]
Josef Stalin liked to combine draconian policies with insignificant concessions of a largely propagandist nature. Thus, in 1934, when the
campaign for centralization began, the capital of Ukraine was moved from Kharkiv to its traditional center, Kyiv. In 1935, Stalin repeated this
move. Prior to the “Great Purge,” he gave the people of the Soviet Union a new Constitution that guaranteed them all the civil rights that were
enjoyed in “bourgeois democracies.” He declared the Supreme Soviet, which included the House of Councils (soviets) and the House of
Nationalities, the highest organ of state power. He also confirmed the right of the republics to withdraw from the Union and increased the
number of republics from 4 to 11, dividing up the Central Asian and Caucasus regions. An infamous example of Stalin’s utter cynicism was his
phrase, spoken in the middle of the terrors of the 1930s: “Life is better, life is merrier.”
In 1997, the “Black Book of Communism” was published in France as “Le Livre noir du communisme,” edited by historian Stéphane Courtois.
The authors focused their attention on the most important “question without an answer:” How is it that communists have gotten away without
being punished for their mass murders? This question was partly answered by the British journalist, P. Jones: “The guilty have died in
comfortable beds or continue to live as well-off pensioners or are even in power today.”
Thus, the “success” of the communist regime, achieved through extraordinary means of forced industrialization of production and total
collectivization of the countryside, had an overall negative impact on the state of Ukraine’s economy. The industrialization of the 1930s
strengthened the colonial dependence of Ukraine’s economy on that of Russia and a growing imbalance between light and heavy industry in
favor of the latter. Collectivization led to the estrangement of country dwellers from their land, to the neglect of Ukrainian villages, and to their
social and moral collapse. It destroyed the incentives for farmers to work and put a brake on the development of agricultural production, the
consequences of which Ukraine feels to this day.
The communist very effectively mastered the art of covering their tracks and forcing critics to keep quiet. That is why the world knows about
Stalinism, although the initiator of mass terror, concentration camps, ethnocide and genocide was actually Vladimir Lenin. “You can fool some of
the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time,” said US President Abraham Lincoln, “but you cannot fool all of the people all of
the time.” This brilliant phrase seems particularly apt when it comes to the Holodomor of 1932–1933. For the truth, as one French writer put it in
the paper “Tap,” sooner or later becomes “clear, a public secret,” despite the disinformation spread by such foolish “tourists” as Eduard Herriot,
Walter Duranty and others.
1. Baran, V., Hrytsak, Y., Zaitsev, O., History of Ukraine, Svit: L’viv, 1996, 86 pp
2. Zhukovskiy A., “Contemporary French press on the famine in Ukraine in 1932–1933,” Suchasnist #10: Kyiv, 1983
3. Conquest, Robert., Harvest of Sorrow: Collectivization and the Holodomor, Znannia: Kyiv, 1993, 98 pp
4. Kulchytskiy, S.V., 1933: A tragedy of famine, Znannia: Kyiv, 1989, 133 pp
5. Kulchytskiy, S.V., Kotliar, M., A guide to the history of Ukraine, Ukraina: Kyiv, 1996, 280 pp
6. Serhiychuk, V., How they murdered us with hunger, Bibioteka Ukraintsia: Kyiv, 1997, 54 pp
7. Daily Mail, 19 December 1997
8. L’ordre, 10 and 13 September 1933
9. Le Matin, 30 August and 4 October 1933
10. Le monde slav, 9 September 1933
11. Le petit Marseillais, 30 August 1933