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Why we should remember

Why We Should Remember Header copy



THE HOLODOMOR was genocide: it conforms to the definition of the crime according to the UN Convention on Genocide. The Communist regime targeted the Ukrainians, in the sense of a civic nation, in Soviet Ukraine, and as an ethnic group in Soviet Russia, especially in the predominantly Ukrainian Kuban region of the Northern Caucasus.

“It was the well-organized executions
that made the terror by starvation
in Ukraine a genocide”.

Alain Besancon, Professor of
History (Sorbonne, France)

UKRAINIAN FARMERS were not deprived of food in order to force them into collective farms; the Bolshevik collectivization process was nearly completed by the summer of 1932. The genocide by starvation was directed primarily against the Ukrainian peasantry as the nucleus of the Ukrainian nation, which had been striving for independence as a state. The Ukrainian peasantry was the carrier of the age-old traditions of independent farming and national values, both of which ran counter to the Communist ideology and aroused the unrestrained animosity of the Bolshevik leaders. Stalin emphasized this point when he declared, “the peasantry constitutes the main army of the national movement; there is no powerful national movement without the peasant army”.

THE NATIONAL ASPECT of Stalin’s policy is clearly illustrated in a Decree signed by him on 14 December 1932, which directly links the poor grain procurements in Soviet Ukraine and the Kuban to the “incorrectly implemented” policy of Ukrainization. This Decree essentially put an end to the possibility of a nationally oriented development of Soviet Ukraine and
the majority-Ukrainian Kuban region that had been launched in the 1920s.

STALIN’S GOAL of the genocide was the destruction of the Ukrainian nation.


Starved peasants leave
villages in search of food.
Photo by Winnerberger, 1933

UKRAINIZATION was the local version of the Bolshevik regime’s general policy of “indigenization”, carried out in Soviet Ukraine and the predominantly Ukrainian populated Kuban region of Soviet Russia. Implemented in the 1920s and early 1930s, it was intended as an incentive aimed at shoring up support for Soviet rule in these regions by expanding and facilitating the use of the Ukrainian language in schools, the press, government administration, and cultural life. What in fact happened was that this policy created an atmosphere conducive to Ukrainian national revival.


It should be kept in mind that in 1929–32 before the Holodomor the Soviet Government had confiscated land and households from Ukrainian peasants turning them in fact into slaves of the Communist state.


 • On 7 August 1932, Stalin promulgated a law, authored by him, on the protection of socialist property, which carried a sentence of death or 10 years’ imprisonment for the misappropriation of kolhosp* property. This law led to mass arrests and executions. Even children caught picking a handful of ears of grain from fields that until recently had belonged to their parents were convicted. It became known as the Law of “Five ears of grain”.

• By imposing so-called “fines in kind”on individual farmers and whole villages that had not fulfilled the inflated grain procurement quotas in the fall of 1932, the Soviet authorities could confiscate, in addition to grain, all other foodstuffs.

• Another form of punishment for lagging behind in grain deliveries was the ban on retail trade, introduced in August 1932, making it impossible for peasants to purchase bread.

“To execute with the confiscation of all
property or, given mitigating circumstances,
to confine in prison for not less than 10 years
with the confiscation of all property for misappropriation
of kolhosp and cooperative property…
Convicted persons are not entitled to amnesty”.

Resolution passed by the Central Committee
of the Communist Party and the Council for
People’s Commissars of the USSR, entitled
“On the Protection of the Property of State
Enterprises, Collective Farms, and Cooperatives
and the Strengthening of Public (Socialist) Property”,
7 August 1932 (known as the Law of “Five ears of grain”)


Photocopy of Instruction on
Enforcement of the so-called
Law of “Five ears of grain”,
bearing Stalin’s signature
(title page)

* Kolhosp (Ukrainian acronym for ‘collective farm’): a type of farming enterprise predominant in the Soviet Union,  forcibly introduced by the Soviet government, whereby the land, cattle, production tools, etc., nominally belonged to the members of the collective farm, but in fact were under state control. The goal of collectivization was the destruction of individual forms of agricultural production, and the exploitation of its resources and potential in order to industrialize and militarize the USSR.



• In the fall of 1932, the authorities introduced a system of blacklists which banned the sale of items such as kerosene, matches, and other consumer necessities to collective farms and individuals designated for punishment for arrears in grain deliveries. After all food and cattle were confiscated, blacklisted territories would be sealed off by NKVD detachments.

• In January 1933, in fulfilment of another of Stalin’s resolutions, the borders of Soviet Ukraine and the Kuban were closed by NKVD and militia detachments to prevent peasants from leaving starvation-hit areas in search of food in neighbouring regions of the Soviet Union. During the six-week period after the adoption of the Resolution banning Ukrainians from crossing borders, nearly 220,000 people were arrested for violating the prohibition. The law enforcement authorities forcibly sent over 186,000 people back to their homes to face starvation.

• The sale of tickets for transport by train or boat to peasants was banned. Peasants were prevented from entering urban districts, and were expelled when they did.


Photocopy of a letter of instruction issued on 22 January
1933 by the Central Committee of the Communist Party
and the Council for People’s Commissars of the USSR
“On Preventing a Massive Exodus of Peasants
from Ukraine and Banning the Sale of Transport Tickets
to Peasants” (title page)


“…a massive exodus of peasants ‘in search
of bread’ has started… without a doubt
organized by enemies of the Soviet Government.
[Therefore, regional executive party bodies in Soviet
Ukraine and the Kuban are ordered] …to prevent
a massive exodus of peasants… [Peasants from
Soviet Ukraine and the Kuban who have crossed
borders to the north] shall be arrested… and
deported back to their places of residence”.

Resolution passed on 22 January 1933 by the
Central Committee of the Communist Party
and the Council for People’s Commissars
of the USSR “On Preventing a Massive Exodus
of Starving Peasants”

STALIN’S totalitarian regime deliberately created conditions for Ukrainians that could not support life. These conditions fully comply with the characteristics of genocide as defined in the UN Convention of 1948.

THE HOLODOMOR was not caused by a bad harvest or by drought. The harvest was sufficient – the Soviet government was exporting large amounts of grain and other agricultural produce. The USSR exported 1.6 million tons of grain in 1932 and 2.1 million tons in 1933.

STATE DISTILLERIES in Soviet Ukraine were operating at full capacity during this period, processing valuable grain into alcohol bound for export.

IN FACT, almost all the starving Ukrainians could have been saved with the USSR’s strategic grain reserve, which contained at least 1.5 million tons. One million tons of grain would have been enough to feed five or six million people for one year.

“Confidential: An uprising occurred in Nemyriv.
Driven by starvation, peasants besieged the
Tsentrospyrt [state distillery]. They destroyed
the stocked alcohol, shouting that they need
grain, not alcohol”.

Report submitted on 9 May 1932 by the
Secretary of the Tulchyn District Party
Committee to the Vinnytsia Region Party



Telegram sent by Vlas Chubar, head of the Council for People’s
 Commissars of the USSR on the 110% fulfilment of
the grain export projections (December 1932)


Excerpt from the letter of Gareth Jones, former secretary of David Lloyd George
(Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1916-1922), of 27 March 1933 informing
the British politician about the devastating starvation witnessed by Jones during
his recent trek through Ukrainian villages. Jones was one of the few Westerners
who published true accounts of the Holodomor in the Western press.

THE SOVIET GOVERNMENT refused to acknowledge to the international community the starvation in Ukraine and turned down the assistance offered by various countries and international relief organizations. Moreover, these attempts to offer assistance were denounced as anti-Soviet propaganda.

“What drought was there? This [starvation]
was all due to Stalin’s orders! He hated
Ukrainians and wanted to exterminate them.
His henchmen would come and seize everything
they could. They were Stalin’s thugs.
Merciless scoundrels took away all
the food from the people”.

Mykola Melnyk, Holodomor
eyewitness, Dnipropetrovsk region

ON STALIN’S ORDERS, those who conducted the 1937 population census, which revealed a sharp decrease in the Ukrainian population as a result of the Holodomor, were shot, while the census results were suppressed.

“[T]he assault by famine on the Ukrainian
peasant population was accompanied by a
wide-ranging destruction of Ukrainian cultural
and religious life and slaughter of the Ukrainian
intelligentsia. Stalin […] saw the peasantry
as the bulwark of nationalism; and common
sense requires us to see this double
blow at Ukrainian nationhood as no coincidence.”

Robert Conquest, Holodomor scholar (USA)