Ambassador Kuchinsky: "Famine of 1933 was a horrific weapon of mass destruction" 

Following are remarks by Ambassador  Valeriy  Kuchinsky, permanent representative of Ukraine to the United Nations, at the  international conference on the Holodomor held at Columbia University on November 10.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

     On behalf of the government of Ukraine I would like to thank the esteemed representatives of Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, and, in particular, our friend, Prof. Mark von Hagen, for initiating and organizing this International conference.

     Dear Mark, I am sure that not only our Mission, but the entire Ukrainian community worldwide is grateful for your useful and steady support, which we highly appreciate.

     It gives me special pleasure to welcome the diplomatic representatives of the United Nations member-states who have joined us today. Your participation, dear colleagues, is yet another example that the international community attaches great importance to our efforts to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Great Man-Made Famine in Ukraine of 1932-1933 (Holodomor).

     Let me also greet here the distinguished scholars, researchers and public leaders; who, I hope, will use today's opportunity as a stepping stone towards the objective analysis of the tragic events that took place in the 1930s.

     In complex situations, related to the past and tightly interwoven with the present, historians often bear the difficult burden of searching for the truth. With issues that have exceptional political and social importance, this burden becomes even heavier. Almost like electric power transmitted over a wire, the impulses of the past might not only shed light, but, obviously, can also cause an outburst of fire or even a black out.

     I sincerely wish the participants of this conference, which symbolically has opened Famine Remembrance Week in New York, every success in their endeavours. I believe that your deliberations will help further enlighten the wide international public, which, frankly speaking, still considers Ukrainian history as terra incognita.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

     Recently, at a press conference dedicated to the Famine, a journalist asked me two very important questions. What does it mean for Ukraine to come back to the topic of the Great Famine of 1932-1933, and do the actions of the Ukrainian government have a special political undertone?

     I don't think I am wrong in saying that these questions probably interest many participants of today's conference.

     In one way or another, Ukrainian politicians, diplomats and scholars are trying to provide thorough answers. Due to various life and professional circumstances, I too have often returned to this matter. It happened when I first became aware of the troth regarding the hidden Famine: in the mid-80s, as a young diplomat, under the seal of top secrecy I translated the movie "Harvest of Despair" to the secretary general of the Communist Party of Ukraine. It happened when I became an unintentional witness to conversations regarding the Famine in the offices of former Soviet authorities. It happened when I drew the attention of the U.N. Security Council to this tragic page of our history in June of 2000, acting on behalf of the Government of Ukraine.

     The troth about the Holodomor exceeds  the framework of a historical phenomenon.  Its meaning cannot be expressed in a single phrase.

     By its magnitude, the Great Famine of 1932-1933 became a catastrophe that is not rivalled in the history of Ukraine. The Stalinist regime, in two years, purposely exterminated over 7 million innocent men, women and children. And the basis of these criminal acts had a political purpose.

     It was necessary for the regime to liquidate the wealthier independent-minded peasants who were the backbone of the Ukrainian nation. Due to state regulations, all trade was prohibited in rural areas, food supplies were cut off from the villages, the distribution of bread was "unlawful," and a system of mass grain confiscation was implemented. Against this background, a campaign targeting the Ukrainian intelligentsia and priests was carried out as well. Even the slightest attempts to resurrect the Ukrainian language, culture and national consciousness were stemmed.

     In fact, the Famine of 1933 was a horrific weapon of mass destruction which was used by the Soviet regime in Ukraine. It was not by any means a natural phenomenon, but a cynical form of state terrorism  against its own people.

     This tragedy turned into a serious psychological trauma for the Ukrainian consciousness. Exhausted by hunger, terrorized by totalitarian repressions, and, finally, devastated by World War II, Ukraine almost completely lost all of its individuality, which was artificially substituted with a pseudo-ethnographic spirit. Seventy years later, this wound has not healed in our society and continues to cause painful relapses.

     We have no way of knowing how many talented people might have been born in Ukraine if the devastation brought about in the 1930s did not occur. History does not have a conditional form. History only knows the facts.  But it is a fact that, despite apocalyptic losses, the Ukrainian nation has found the strength to restore its sovereignty and independence.

     Therefore, answering the question of whether the actions of the government of Ukraine to commemorate the victims of the  Famine have a political significance, I declare: yes!

     All branches of power, the greater Ukrainian public and Ukrainians abroad are demonstrating unity as a display of complete political understanding of our past history, which will allow us to consolidate Ukrainian society.

     Nevertheless, we do not intend to avenge the past.

     Instead, we state that the Great Famine of 1932-1933 was an act of genocide. against the Ukrainian people as a political nation that also included other ethnicities. Today, as a political nation, we are taking the initial steps needed to pave the way for historical justice, social purification and moral healing.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

     Despite the fact that the Great Famine in Ukraine is ranked among one of the greatest tragedies in history, it unfortunately remains unknown within the International community. The process of international recognition of this crime has a longstanding and complicated history.

     Though the tragic events in Ukraine were covered up, 'the truth surrounding them has been documented by witnesses and survivors, as well as investigative works like Robert Conquest's "Harvest of Sorrow" and the report of the U.S. Commission on the Ukraine Famine, established in 1983.

     Reviewing the persistent work devoted to researching the Famine, which was carried out during the past 70 years in many countries, in particular those that have Ukrainian communities, we offer heartfelt thanks to all who continued disseminating the truth about what was taking place in Ukraine despite the pressures and as a result preserved it for future generations.

     Now we have opened a new chapter in the International recognition of the Famine in Ukraine.

     Throughout the past few years our diplomacy has become more active in addressing this issue within the United Nations - the largest representative forum in the world. Last September, in his address to the General Assembly, Leonid Kuchma, President of Ukraine, called upon the international community to support Ukraine's initiative for a grand-scale commemoration in memory of the victims of the Great Famine.

     Our plea, largely supported by the Ukrainian American community, received a favorable response. Recently, many foreign Parliaments, including the Senates of Australia and Canada, the Congress of Argentina and the U.S. House of Representatives, have supported the decision to honour, the victims of this tragedy and condemn.'the actions of Stalin's regime. The U.S. Senate and, the Parliaments of Spain and Estonia are presently reviewing similar documents.

Ladies and Gentleman

     I have the honour of informing you that today Ukraine will pronounce a joint declaration in connection with the 70th anniversary of the Great Famine in Ukraine of 1932-1933 .- Holodomor, which has been distributed as an official document of the U.N..General Assembly with the support of over 20 nations. Among the co-authors of this document are the United States, the Russian Federation, Canada, Moldova, Georgia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Egypt, Pakistan and others.

     This important event is the result of the hard work and strenuous efforts of Ukrainian diplomats who have spent many months in intense consultations and discussion within the United Nations, as well as within various capitol cities These efforts have informed many political activists and, in turn. their respective nations, of the true nature of the Great Famine in Ukraine.

     The declaration is unique in that it is the first of it's kind within the United Nations to publicly condemn the Soviet totalitarian regime for the murder of millions of innocent victims.

     I feel the United Nations has made the fight decision in addressing this topic as it will raise public awareness of the tragic events in the history of mankind for their prevention in the future.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

     I would like to conclude by thanking everyone for their help and support in our work.

     I am confident that we are united in the idea that the past need not he-an obstacle for the future.

     Yet, the memory should remain with Us so that we never allow such tragedies to repeat themselves.

     Thank you for your attention.