REMEMBERING MODERN HISTORY’S GREATEST CRIME
Canada's planned recognition of the 1932-1933 genocide, or Holdomor, in Ukraine is very significant, even if long overdue. It was also apropos for this week's visit of Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko, who remains that troubled nation's best hope for democracy and continued independence.
Ottawa's decision was motivated as much by ethnic politics as historic justice, but Prime
Minister Stephen Harper's government deserves kudos for doing the right thing.
For eight decades, the greatest mass murder in modern history has been shamefully covered up or ignored. I was shocked to receive letters from young Ukrainian-Canadians saying they had known nothing about the Holdomor until reading about it in my columns. Hopefully, more now will know.
From 1932-33, Josef Stalin and henchmen, Lazar Kaganovich and V.M. Molotov, conducted a merciless campaign to crush resistance by Ukrainian farmers to communism and collectivization. They isolated Ukraine, then cut off all food supplies and seeds. Six to nine million Ukrainians died from the ensuing man-made famine and mass executions of "anti-State elements." Cannibalism became common.
Large numbers of Ukrainians were also murdered during the Great Terror of 1936-38 in which an estimated two million Soviet citizens were shot and the same number died in Stalin's concentration camps.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the Soviet penal system reached its zenith: 5.4 million people were prisoners in the gulag or in frigid Siberian exile.
TO THE GULAG
Some 300,000 more Ukrainians were sent to the gulag under the supervision of Commissar Nikita Khrushchev, and 21,259 were killed in Soviet "pacification" campaigns.
During the same period, Moscow unleashed terror on the tiny Baltic states. From March to May 1949, 95,000 Lithuanians, 27,000 of them children, were sent to concentration camps. In total, 120,000 Lithuanians, 50,000 Latvians and 30,000 Estonians went to the gulag where the death rate was 51% per annum.
While the western world rightly commemorates genocide inflicted on Armenians, Europe's Jews, Cambodians, Rwandans and Bosnians, it shamefully shut its eyes to the Ukrainian Holdomor because it was conducted by a key wartime ally whom President F.D. Roosevelt hailed as "Uncle Joe."
Nor has the West ever acknowledged genocide against other peoples of the Soviet Union. In the Caucasus, Stalin sent most of the Chechen and Ingush peoples to the gulag, where 500,000 died. Yet when the children of the survivors fought for independence from Russia, the West branded them "Islamic terrorists."
Up to three million Muslims of the Soviet Union died at Stalin's hands, including 1.5 million
Kazakhs and Crimean Tatars. No holocaust memorials exist for them.
Nearly 100,000 Moldovans were murdered in a purge conducted by then Commissar Leonid Brezhnev, who would later lead the Soviet Union and be feted by Western leaders.
Add to this butcher's bill Volga Germans, Greeks, Cossacks, Armenians and Poles.
If we keep demanding that Germany and Japan atone for their wartime crimes, is it not time for our governments to finally recognize and atone their alliances with the biggest mass murderer in history, Stalin? His crimes exceeded those of Adolf Hitler by a factor of at least four times. Particularly so in the United States, where the Second World War has become something of a state religion and is invoked endlessly to justify foreign military adventures. Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky demanded a Nuremburg trial for all the Soviet crimes, but unfortunately this will never happen. Most of the criminals are dead.
Canada's recognition of this historic crime is important for two reasons. First, Canada is one of the world's most respected nations. Its acknowledgement of the Holdomor will be heard around the globe. Second, nostalgia for Stalin is on the rise in today's Russia. His memory and politics are being rehabilitated. Russians must be reminded of his crimes and reign of terror.
In "les abuses de la memoire," the Bulgarian-born French philosopher Tzvetan Todorov wrote, "Life cannot withstand death, but memory is gaining in its struggle against nothingness."