Understanding the Causes and Consequences of the Famine-Genocide of 1932-1933 in Ukraine: The Significance of Newly Discovered Archival Documents


Today there is no dearth of research on the tragic events that transpired in Ukraine in the early 1930s. A bibliography containing 6,000 works on the famine-genocide was recently published in Ukraine. However, it may also be said that genuinely qualitative changes in understanding the far-reaching consequences of this social cataclysm, a topic that researchers from various countries (and not just researchers) are still discussing today, have taken place only in the last few years.

This change may be explained primarily by the gradual accessibility of documents revealing the activity of the top Soviet leadership in 1932-1933, and the conduct of regional leaders, particularly the party-state nomenklatura of the Ukrainian SSR. These documents enable scholars to grasp the exact mechanisms with which the Stalinist regime extracted grain under the guise of modernization--the great Molokh that ended up swallowing the lives of millions of people. They also foster a clearer understanding of the doctrinal and situational motives that governed the communist establishment.

          These kinds of documents were published in the book Komandyry velykoho holodu, which I co-edited with Valerii Vasyliev in 2001.28 The book contains direct archival testimonies on the activity of the extraordinary grain procurement commissions controlled by the head of the Council of Ministers of the USSR Viacheslav Molotov and the secretary of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (b) Lazar Kaganovich in Ukraine and the Northern Caucasus. Included among the documents are telegrams exchanged by Stalin,

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28 See: Komandyry velykoho holodu. Poizdky V. Molotova i L. Kaganovycha v Ukrainu ta na Pivnichnyi Kavkaz. 1932-1933 rr. [Commanders of the Great Famine: V. Molotov and L. Kaganovich's Trips to Ukraine and the Northern Caucasus, 1932-1933]. Ed. by V. Vasyliev and Yu. Shapoval, Kyiv: Heneza, 2001

Molotov, and Kaganovich; letters; memoranda to the above three; drafts of decisions of leading regional organs edited by Stalin's emissaries; and their speeches at various gatherings. The book also contains Kaganovich's unique diaries of his journeys to Ukraine and the Northern Caucasus, which record his day-to-day activity during these trips; speeches; and instructions aimed at "stimulating" grain procurement.

This publication, which includes materials from Molotov and Kaganovich's personal  fonds in Moscow, is only one example illustrating the importance of making documentary sources in particular accessible. Such documents do not merely facilitate the reconstruction of events and the paradigm of the communist leaders' thinking. Juxtaposed against regional testimonies about the famine, these documents enable scholars to recreate the situation on the macro- and micro-levels, which is crucially important for a general, objective assessment. Publication of these kinds of documents is crucial to the repudiation of statements about the alleged absence of specific details and characteristics in the government's actions in this or that region of the former USSR in 1932-1933.

The particular set of circumstances that distinguished Ukraine was the fact that, together with the Northern Caucasus, Ukraine supplied more than half the grain grown in the entire USSR. In discussing the Soviet Ukrainian republic in 1931, Stalin noted, "A number of fertile, grain-producing raions are in a state of devastation and famine".29 At the same time, however, the Kremlin leaders believed that Ukraine had huge grain reserves that collective farms and independent homesteads (i.e., those that did not belong to a cooperative) were supposedly hiding from the state. For that reason, the government applied intensified methods to carry out grain procurements. As early as 1931, plans for these procurements were reduced for a number of oblasts in the Urals, the Middle Volga, and Kazakhstan, yet Ukraine and the Northern Caucasus were virtually unaffected by these reductions.

In 1931 Ukraine supplied less grain than in 1930. Then, a special resolution of the CC of the All-Union Communist Party (b) proclaimed February 1932 as the critical, accelerated month for concluding grain procurements. As a result, more than 150,000 people in Ukraine died as early as 1931. By March- April 1932 large numbers of starving people were appearing in Ukrainian villages, while cities became the dumping ground for children abandoned by their parents. This was an obvious precursor of the coming disaster.

However, this did not stop the government, which began blaming the problems on the actions of local leaders. For any attempt to resist the harsh

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29 lbid., p. 23.

 

directives "from above," local workers were expelled from the party and tried as traitors and organizers of sabotage. Thus, on 1 January 1932, the administrations of 250 collective farms were disbanded, administrators of 345 collective farms were tried on charges of hampering the work of grain procurements in 146 raions of the Ukrainian SSR (out of a total of 484 raions), and 355 people were dismissed from their posts. During 1931 and the first half of 1932, 80 percent of the secretaries of raion party committees were replaced in Ukraine.30

Under these circumstances, the members of the central Soviet leadership began to express concern. The last chance for them to avert an imminent famine was the III Conference of the CP(b)U, which took place in the summer of 1932. Stalin's closest associates, Molotov and Kaganovich, also participated in the conference. Together with Stanislav Kossior, who was the head of the CC CP(b) U since 1928, there were three members of the Politburo of the CC of the All-Union Communist Party (b) present at this gathering.

      The stenographic notes from this assembly were published in book form in 1932. However, in the archives I managed to find a carefully edited authentic text, which contained those sections that were not published later in the official version. In their speeches some raion leaders strove not only to describe the difficult situation in the villages but also to demonstrate that it was not advisable to shift the main responsibility for this situation onto the lower chains of command, primarily the recently created raions. But neither the raion representatives' speeches nor the tentative attempts of some Soviet Ukrainian leaders to point out the complex state of affairs of Ukraine's agriculture succeeded in softening Stalin's emissaries. The Kremlin leaders believed that the grain procurement plan was a realistic one and that, with their requests, the leaders of the Ukrainian SSR were merely trying to make life easier for themselves.

      In his concluding speech Stanislav Kossior repeated his criticisms of the speeches of certain secretaries of raion party committees, emphasizing: "So far not everyone has realized [their] responsibility for implementing the tasks... We must put a decisive end to such frames of mind. After what has been said at the conference, after the speeches by comrades Molotov and Kaganovich and your unanimous approval of these speeches we should unfold work in a Bolshevik manner and ensure that the difficulties being experienced by certain raions of Ukraine are swiftly overcome.''31

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30 Ibid., p. 160.

31 III Conference of the CP(b)U. 6-9 July 1932. Stenographic report. Kharkiv, Partvydav, 1932, pp. 145, 147.

 

The conference delegates approved a resolution ratified by the plenum of the CC CP(b)U on 9 July 1932, which opened the doors "to the unconditional implementation" of the grain procurement plan that had been designated for Ukraine: 356 million poods of grain from the peasant sector. Since there could be no question of any "unconditional implementation," the plan immediately began to be reduced. By 17 August 1932 the Politburo of the CC of the All-Union Communist Party (b) had passed Stalin's proposal "on reducing the grain procurement plan in Ukraine by 40 million poods as an exception for raions in Ukraine that had been particularly hard hit, so that the plan is reduced by one half for collective farms that have especially suffered, and by one-third for individual [homesteads]." On 28 August a list of raions was ratified by the Politburo of the CC of the All-Union Communist Party (b). At the same time it was noted that the "reduction of the plan mostly affects the beet-producing raions.''32

The plan was reduced a total of three times, and by 1 November 1932 only 136 million poods of grain had arrived from the peasant sector of Ukraine.33

Thus, regardless of the harsh demands, Ukraine was not carrying out the assigned tasks. Stalin then expressed his dissatisfaction, as indicated in his letter to Kaganovich, dated 11 August 1932. This letter lay untouched in the archives for almost seventy years, and was mentioned by no one except party leaders back in the 1930s. The Moscow newspaper Nezavisimaia gazeta first published the letter in 2000. This is nonetheless an extremely important document.

In his letter Stalin writes about the shoddy work of party and state workers and the unsatisfactory efforts of the Soviet Ukrainian GPU in its struggle against "counter-revolution." However, it is not his distrustful attitude toward the Ukrainian peasantry that makes the letter so unique. What is unprecedented is that Stalin is questioning the loyalty of the entire party organization of Ukraine, which, he claimed, was dominated by "Petliurites" and agents of Pilsudski. "As soon as matters worsen," Stalin wrote, "these elements will not hesitate to launch a front from within (and outside) the party and against the party." Stalin's letter also contains concrete instructions: "If we do not set about correcting the situation in Ukraine today, then we may lose Ukraine... [We] must set ourselves the goal of transforming Ukraine into a

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32 Stalin i Kaganovich. Neizdannaia perepiska. 1931-1936. [Stalin and Kaganovich.
Unpublished Correspondence, 193 1 - 1936]. Moscow: Rossiiskaia politicheskaia entsiklopediia, (ROSPEN), 2001, p. 290.

33
See S. V. Kulchytsky, 1933: trahediia holodu [1933: The Tragedy of the Famine]. Kyiv: Znannia, 1989, p. 33.

 

Genuine fortress of the USSR in the shortest possible period of time; into a truly model republic. Money is not to be spared.''34

This was a clear anti-Ukrainian signal. Stalin did not offer such assessments about any other regions in the USSR. Naturally, the euphemisms "genuine fortress" and "model republic" were supposed to be converted into a number of political and economic measures. These combined measures were aimed at 1) extracting the maximum quantity of grain from Ukraine (motivated by the exigencies of modernization and the need to feed the cities); and 2) carrying out a repressive "purge" of all social spheres (motivated by the preponderance of latent "Ukrainian nationalists" and other enemies).

As attested by documents published in recent years, all the ensuing events in Ukraine may be viewed as the implementation of the above-mentioned tasks, which from the very outset could not be carried out without victims.

For a certain period of time--until October 1932--the party-state apparatus of the Ukrainian SSR maneuvered in the hopes that Moscow would soften its demands. In late October 1932, in keeping with a decision passed by the Politburo of the CC All-Union Communist Party (b) of 22 October 1932, an "extraordinary commission" headed by Molotov began its work in Ukraine. One week later, on 29 October, Molotov informed Stalin: "It was necessary to criticize the Ukrainian organization harshly and particularly the CC CP(b)U for the disarray in the grain procurements... "35 Molotov thus gave a mighty impulse to the implementation of repressions.

From 3 November 1932 to January 1933 the "extraordinary commission" extracted an additional 90 million poods of grain from the peasants. The system of special grain-confiscation brigades had just been perfected in Ukrainian villages. These brigades received a certain percentage of the looted grain and food products, which they used to feed themselves and thus survive.

There were other "extraordinary commissions" than just the one headed by Molotov. Kaganovich headed a similar commission in the Northern Caucasus, and Postyshev in the Trans-Volga region. However, a few comments are in order here. According to Russian researchers, actions undertaken by Postyshev's commission were not as brutal as those of his two colleagues, while Kaganovich's commission carried out repressions that were directed primarily against Ukrainians living in the Kuban region.

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34 Stalin i Kaganovich, p. 274.

35 Komandyty velykoho holodu, p. 228.

 

Newly discovered archival documents provide grounds for the following conclusion: it was the meticulous organization of the execution of Ukrainian peasants that invested the Holodomor, i.e., forced starvation, in Ukraine with the character of a genocide.

It was no accident that in late 1932 these three individuals--Molotov, Kaganovich, and Postyshev--would gather in Ukraine to implement harsh, repressive actions. Vsevolod Balytsky [Balitsky], who would soon head the GPU of the Ukrainian SSR, also joined them. All these political figures were advocates of pressure methods, and according to their a priori reasoning, there was sabotage in Ukraine, which was impeding the grain procurement plans and thus had to be liquidated. A new round of "establishing order" began in the Ukrainian SSR. Balytsky put forward yet another theory, according to which "organized sabotage of grain procurements and the fall sowing, organized mass thefts in collective farms and Soviet state farms, terror [waged] against the most stalwart and principlcd communists and activists in villages, the movement of dozens of Petliurite emissaries, [and] the distribution of 'Petliurite leaflets"' were taking place in Ukraine. He was convinced of the "clear-cut existence in Ukraine of an organized, counter-revolutionary insurgent underground that has links abroad and with foreign intelligence services, primarily the Polish general staff.''36

On 5 November 1932 Molotov and the secretary of the CC CP(b)U Mendel Khataievych sent a directive to oblast party committees, ordering them to undertake immediate and decisive actions to implement the law of 7 August 1932, which were to be "accompanied by mandatory and speedy implementation of repressions and merciless punishment of criminal elements within collective farm leaderships on the basis of the well known decree on the protection of collective property...''37 On 26 November 1932 the Soviet Ukrainian press published an order issued by the People's Commissar of Justice and the General Prosecutor of the Ukrainian SSR, which emphasized that repression was one of several powerful instruments used for crushing class resistance to the grain procurements. The order authorized the use of ruthless measures against kulaks and all class enemies, who were wrecking or impeding the successful struggle for grain.

On 5 December 1932 Balytsky issued "Operational Order of the GPU of the Ukrainian SSR #1 ," which assigned his subordinates the "basic and principal task--the urgent dismantling, exposure, and crushing defeat of counter- revolutionary, kulak-Petliurite elements that are actively thwarting the basic measures of the Soviet government and party in the villages.''38

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36 YU. I. Shapoval and V. A. Zolotarov, Vsevolod Balytsky. Osoba, chas, otochennia [Vsevolod Balytsky: The Person, the Times, the Milieu], Kyiv: Stylos, 2002, p. 189.

37 Komandyry velykoho holodu, p. 236.

38 Shapoval and Zolotarev, Vsevolod Balytsky, p. 189.

 

On 13 February 1933 Balytsky issued order #2, "On the Next Tasks of the Secret Service-Operational Work of the Organs of the GPU of the Ukrainian SSR." First, Balytsky informed his subordinates that an "analysis of liquidated files indicates that in the present case we have encountered a single, painstakingly elaborated plan for the organization of armed resistance in Ukraine by spring 1933 with the goal of overthrowing the Soviet government and establishing a capitalist system, the so-called 'Ukrainian Independent Republic."' At the same time he assigned the GPU of the Ukrainian SSR "the most fundamental and principal task...of ensuring the spring sowing.''39

In order to execute this order, raion divisions of the GPU were relieved of "cases with little promise," while workers from oblast divisions of the GPU were dispatched to assist them. Employees of special departments were dispatched to those raions where "insurgents and spies" were active, workers from economic departments were sent to industrial raions with large Soviet state farms, while employees of secret-political departments of the GPU were dispatched to every other raion. Balytsky's order also authorized the use of critical measures in order to prevent a mass exodus from Ukraine of peasants searching for bread. Chekists took part in searches for hidden grain.

Thanks to recently uncovered archival documents, scholars are now able to picture in a more systematic fashion, without simplification or onesidedness, the exact methods that were used to strike a "decisive blow" against Ukrainian villages.

Fines in kind. These penalties were introduced by a resolution "On Measures for Intensifying Grain Procurements," passed by the CC CP(b)U on 18 November 1932. In particular, the resolution authorized the levy of fines in kind from independent homesteads not fulfilling the grain delivery plan: these took the form of a fifteen-month quota of meat deliveries and a yearly quota of potatoes, on top of grain deliveries.

On 20 November 1932 the Council of People's Commissars of the Ukrainian SSR approved a decision to introduce fines in kind for collective farms that "had allowed the theft of collective farm grain and [which] were maliciously wrecking the grain procurement plan." These fines in kind appeared to be "additional tasks" requiring a fifteen-month quota of meat deliveries that a given collective farm was to supply in the form of both collectivized cattle and cattle belonging to collective farm members. In other words, the principle of both individual and collective responsibility was being introduced here. As one Ukrainian researcher has precisely noted, "In Soviet Communist Party resolutions on fines in kind, only meat, fatback, and potatoes are mentioned.

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39 DA SBU, Kyiv, Fonds of administrative documents, fols. 3-4.

 

They made no mention of long-storage products. Yet within two months after the publication of the 18 November resolution "malicious debtors" were issued fines in kind in full. Holodomor survivors have confirmed this. With the exception of 1,500 farms, all the collective farms in Ukraine were branded as "malicious debtors.''40

Ban on trading food. On 1 December 1932 the Council of People's Commissars of the Ukrainian SSR banned the trade in potatoes in raions that were maliciously refusing to fulfill their contract duties and the inspection of current stores of potatoes in collective farms. Twelve raions in the Chernihiv region and four raions each in Kyiv and Kharkiv oblasts were listed. On 3 December trading in meat and animals was banned in a number of raions in Ukraine. In keeping with a resolution of the CC CP(b)U and the Council of People's Commissars of the Ukrainian SSR, from 6 December 1932 these villages began to be entered on so-called "blacklists."

Stoppage of deliveries of manufactured goods. As early as 30 October 1932 Molotov wrote in a telegram to Stalin: "We are using manufactured goods as an incentive, and the deprivation of a portion of manufactured goods as repression of collective farms, particularly independent homesteads.''41 Sources confirm that no detail was too small for Stalin's premier. For example, on 20 November 1932 Molotov sent a telegram to Kossior from Henychesk: "Until now the order concerning the sale of matches, salt, and kerosene has been in place everywhere in the raions. There is a telegram about this from Bliakher, dated 9 November. It is necessary to abolish it immediately and make sure that it is carried out.''42

On 15 December 1932 the CC CP(b)U confirmed a list of eighty-two raions where deliveries of manufactured goods had been suspended because these raions had not carried out the grain procurement plan.

Ban forbidding peasants to flee the famine. In the fall of 1932 and the winter of 1933 a food blockade was set up on the borders of Ukraine, which was enforced by Interior troops and the militsiia. The blockade prevented peasants from leaving the Ukrainian SSR, thereby dooming them to death by starvation. At the same time there was a ban on food "reverses," i.e., private individuals were forbidden to bring food from Russia into Ukraine without the state's permission.

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40 Stanislav Kulchytsky, ,,Prychyny holodu 1933 roku v Ukraini: po storinkakh odniiei pryzabutoi knyzhky,"[The Causes of the 1933 Famine in Ukraine: From the Pages of a Forgotten Book], Dzerkalo tyzhnia, 16-22 August 2003.

41 Komandyry velykoho holodu, p. 229.

42 Ibid., p. 241.

 

On 22 January 1933 Stalin and Molotov sent a directive to party and Soviet organs, which emphasized that the migration processes that had begun among the peasantry as a result of the famine were being organized by "enemies of the Soviet government, S[ocialist]R[evolutionarie]s, and agents of Poland with the goal of conducting agitation against the collective farms and generally against the Soviet government 'through the agency of the peasants' in the northern raions of the USSR."

In this connection governmental and GPU organs of the Ukrainian SSR and the Northern Caucasus were ordered to prevent mass departures of peasants to other raions. Appropriate instructions were issued to the transport departments of the OGPU USSR.43

One detail is striking: the famine did not affect any Russian oblasts bordering Ukraine. This is why starving Ukrainian peasants--those who were able to cross the designated borders--travelled there to barter and buy bread.

Introduction of the passport system. On 15 November 1932 the Politburo of the CC of the All-Union Communist Party (b) approved a decision "On the Passport System and Relieving Cities of Superfluous Elements," which noted that with the goal of "relieving Moscow and Leningrad and other large urban centers of the USSR of superfluous elements not connected to manufacturing and institutions, as well as of kulak, criminal, and other anti-civic elements that are hiding in the cities," it was essential to introduce a single passport system throughout the USSR with the concomitant elimination of all other types of identification.

On 27 December 1932 the Central Executive Committee and the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR approved a joint resolution "On the Creation of a Single Passport System throughout the USSR and the Obligatory Registration of Passports." A few days later, on 31 December, the All-Ukrainian Central Executive Committee and the Council of People's Commissars of the Ukrainian SSR passed a congruent resolution.

On 28 April 1933 the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR passed a resolution on the issuing of passports to Soviet citizens residing everywhere on the territory of the USSR. The resolution declared, "citizens who reside permanently in rural areas do not obtain passports.''44 Registration of the population in these areas was carried out according to settlement lists of villages and village councils controlled by raion administrations of the militsiia. In this manner the Soviet regime in fact "bound" the peasants to this or that territory,  transforming them into neo-serfs.

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43 TsDAttO Ukrainy [Central State Archive of Civic Associations of Ukraine], fond 1, list 16, file9, fols. 115-16.

44 Yu. Shapoval, Nevyhadani istorii [Uninvented Histories], Kyiv: Svitohliad, 2004, p. 82.

 

Purchase of valuables from peasants. The All-Ukrainian Bureau TORGSIN, i.e., the All-Union Association for Trade with Foreigners, was created on 29 June 1932. The system of TORGSIN stores was in operation earlier. Besides foreigners, it catered to citizens of the USSR: for hard currency, they could purchase food products and other items. Gradually the objective of the TORGSIN system was made more exact: these stores were relied on to extract gold and valuables from the population, and the network of stores was expanded accordingly. By October 1933 in the Ukrainian SSR there were 263  such stores consisting of a system of shops, receiving points, and branches.45

In 1931, the TORGSIN system generated 6 million currency karbovantsi (roubles) for the Soviet treasury; in 1932, nearly 50 million, and in 1933--107 million.46 Peasants would bring to the Torgsin stores the crosses they wore around their necks, rings, earrings, family valuables, etc. In one working day some receiving points purchased up to 800 kilograms of gold, which they would accept according to a single standard and then record a different standard in the registry books.

Eighty-six out of the above-mentioned 107 million karbovantsi collected in 1933 represented internal revenue. In addition, the TORGSIN stores were a type of "litmus test" for the GPU: if peasants brought in gold coins, they were immediately detained. The Chekists also demanded lists of "gold suppliers" with their addresses and surnames. Directors of TORGSIN stores were obliged to remit currency valuables to the fund for industrialization.

Actions of the communist special service in villages. Archival documents provide evidence that this service crushed genuine peasant resistance in the places where it was occurring, and also fabricated various types of cases as a preventive counteraction to the peasant discontent. At the same time the GPU was the very structure that knew the truth about the realities of the famine. On 16 February 1933 a party-state directive was issued: "Categorically forbid any kind of organization to record cases of famine-related swelling and death, with the exception of the GPU organs.''47 Village councils were instructed not to

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45 v. I. Marochko, "'Torgsin': zolota tsina zhyttia ukrainskykh selian u roky holodu (1932-1933), ["'Torgsin': The Golden Price of Ukrainian Peasant Lives in the Famine Years (1932-1933)], Ukrainskyi istorychnyi zhurnal, No. 3, 2003, p. 91.

46 Ibid., p. 96.

47 N. Ivnitsky,  “Rol Stalina v golode 1932-1933 godov na Ukraine. Po materialam byvshego kremlevskogo Arkhiva Politbiuro TsK KPSS” [Stalin's Role in the Famine of 1932-1933 in Ukraine. Based on materials of the former Kremlin Archive of the Politburo of the CC CPSU]. Paper presented at the international conference "The Great Famine and Genocide in Ukraine in 1932-193Y' in Vicenza, Italy, 16-18 October 2003. Author's personal archive, p.3

 

indicate the cause of death in the registers. In 1934 a new instruction was issued: all Registry Office books concerning the registration of deaths for the period 1932-1933 were to be sent to special sections, where they were most probably destroyed.48

This was one of several steps taken by the Stalinist regime to maintain secrecy around information concerning the famine. On 14 January 1933, People's Commissar of Foreign Affairs of the USSR Maksim Litvinov, replying to numerous questions from abroad, issued a special announcement that there was no famine in the USSR--it was all an invention. On 23 February 1933 the Politburo of the CC of the All-Union Communist Party (b) passed a resolution "On Foreign Correspondents' Journeys throughout the USSR," establishing an order "by virtue of which they may travel around the USSR and visit certain places only with the permission of the Main Militsiia Administration.''49

At this very time the USSR continued to export grain abroad at dumping prices. In 1930, 48 million poods of grain were exported; in 1931, 51 million; in 1932, 18 million, and in 1933, 10 million.50 After the famine began, the Soviet political leadership, knowing full well that millions of their citizens were dying, was exporting grain, all the while declaring that such exports were dictated by industrialization needs. When a movement arose to ban Soviet grain exports, Stalin's emissaries very deftly countermanded it, while Western countries essentially shut their eyes to the real cost of the exported grain. In an interview published in Pravda, the British writer and prominent Soviet sympathizer George Bernard Shaw declared: "...If they prevent the Soviet Union from selling their food to foreigners, then what is it going to do with them? It doesn't occur to these state leaders, who occupy high positions, that the USSR can itself consume these products.''51 However, that was the whole point: the Soviet regime was not prepared to provide food for its own population. Although this was incomprehensible to people like Bernard Shaw, it was the unvarnished truth.

The world economic crisis caused an unprecedented drop in world prices for industrial equipment. Soviet external trading organizations were aggressively purchasing such equipment with hard currency, with advantageous terms of payment. But prices for agricultural products fell even lower.

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48 Ibid.

49 Stalin i Kaganovich, p. 307.

50 E. Radzinsky, Stalin. Moscow: Vagrius, 1997, p. 276.

51 "Bemard Shou ob ottavskoi konferentsii" [Bernard Shaw on the Ottawa conference], Pravda, 12 September 1932.

 

In order to earn hard currency, the Soviet Union sold primarily grain and forestry products, at  the same time assuring the West that there was no famine in the USSR.

There were forces in the West, however, that knew the famine was no fabrication. Information, particularly about the situation in Ukraine, was being transmitted primarily through diplomatic channels. For example, on 31 May 1933 the Italian consul in Kharkiv Sergio Gradenigo sent a dispatch in which he wrote: "Famine is continuing to rampage and destroy people, and it is simply impossible to comprehend how the world can remain indifferent to such a disaster...”52

On 21 October 1933 the Moscow correspondent of the British newspaper Manchester Guardian, wrote: "As for the question of hunger, no honest and open-eyed observer in those villages which I personally visited would either assert that there is hunger now or deny that there had been hunger, and a good deal of it, in the early months of the year, especially in April and May... It can be definitely stated that no provinces within a radius of several hundred miles of Moscow experienced the Ukrainian and North Caucasian extremities.''53

What made the situation in Ukraine radically different from what was happening, say, in Russia or Kazakhstan, were changes in the national policy. On 14 December 1932 Stalin and Molotov signed a resolution of the CC of the All-Union Communist Party (b) and the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR in connection with the execution of the grain procurement campaign. This document stipulated the "correct implementation of Ukrainization" in Ukraine and beyond its borders in regions densely settled by Ukrainians. The document also included a categorical imperative to wage a struggle against Petliurite and other "counter-revolutionary" elements. This spelled the end of the limited policy of "Ukrainization" and the beginning of anti-Ukrainian purges.

This was confirmed by the events of 1933, when cadre changes took place in the party-state leadership of the Ukrainian SSR. The most important change was the appointment of Pavel Postyshev as second secretary of the CC CP(b)U and first secretary of the Kharkiv oblast party committee of the CP(b)U. Postyshev simultaneously retained his post as secretary of the CC of the All-

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52 "Holodomor: teror Moskvy proty ukrainskoi natsii" [Famine-Genocide/Holodomor: Moscow's Terror against the Ukrainian Nation], Rozbudova derzhavy, No. 4, 1992, p. 14.

53 “The Soviet Countryside: A Tour of Inquiry,” Manchester Guardian, 21 October 1933, p.14. After Malcolm Muggeridge left the Guardian, William Henry Chamberlin became the Moscow correspondent for both the Manchester Guardian and the Christian Science Monitor. The series in the Guardian is attributed to “our Moscow Correspondent.” In 1933 the Ukrainian Press Bureau in London summarized this five-pan series in a press release that it sent out to such Ukrainian newspapers as Dilo and Novyi chas. The press release is cited in Shapoval, Nevyhadani istorii, pp. 84-5.

 

Union Communist Party (b). Newly discovered archival materials indicate that throughout 1933 Postyshev and his "team" (his closest associates, as well as party workers who had come from Russia for "support") implemented the Kremlin's economic line for obtaining grain, and carried out a large-scale purge of Petliurites and Ukrainian nationalists from all social spheres. The latter were soon accused of organizing the famine.

In his speech at the joint Plenum of the CC and the Central Control Commission of the CP(b)U in November 1933 Postyshev drew up a political summary of the events of 1932-1933. Underlining the fact that collective farms in Ukraine had been turned into Bolshevik ones, he also emphasized that "errors and shortcomings committed by the CP(b)U in implementing the party's national policy were one of the chief causes of the decline in Ukrainian agriculture in 1931 - 1932. There is no doubt that without the liquidation of errors in the implementation of the party's national policy, without the crushing defeat of nationalistic elements that had lodged themselves in various areas of social construction in Ukraine, it would have been impossible to liquidate the lag in its agriculture.''54

The Plenum approved a resolution that noted, "[A]t the present moment the chief danger is local nationalism that is uniting with imperialist interventionists." This "present moment" would be extended over a period of many years, thus legitimizing the rollback of the Ukrainization policy and the beginning of the campaign of mass repressions, which in Ukraine began as early as 1933, in time becoming an organic part of the history of Yezhov's "Great Terror" of 1936-1938.

To summarize, archival documents that have been uncovered in the last few years incontrovertibly attest to the fact that the famine-genocide was a desirable and effective device for transforming Ukraine into a "model republic," to use Stalin's euphemism. According to these new documents, the actions of the Stalinist regime reveal special anti-Ukrainian accents, whose significance and profound consequences will serve to expand the range of scholarly discourse on the Holodomor.

Yurii SHAPOVAL
Professor, Doctor of Historical Sciences
Institute of Political and Ethnic Studies,
National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (Kyiv)

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54 P. P. Postyshev, “Radianska Ukraina--nepokhytnyi forpost velykoho SRSR,” [Soviet Ukraine--The Unshakeable Forepost of the Great USSR], Chervonyi shliakh, No. 10, 1933, p. 245.