The 20th century is one where history books recorded some of the greatest atrocities and evils committed by mankind. The Holocaust; The Armenian Massacre; Japanese human experimentation in Manchuria. But there is another story of untold suffering and genocide that seems to not get the same amount of mention or scrutiny. This is that of The Holomodor, or “Death by Hunger”.
During Soviet rule, Ukraine proudly boasted as being the “breadbasket” of the USSR. The amount of grain, agriculture and other provisions produced were key in feeding the Red Army and in meeting Josef Stalin’s needs for having the Soviet Union catch up to its European neighbors and to bolster its armed forces. It can be very plausibly argued that without the production capabilities of Ukraine and its contributions toward Moscow and to Stalin, the military successes and growth of the USSR would have been significantly impacted.
Despite these patriotic acts by the Ukrainian populace and the sacrifices made toward Stalin’s vision, there was a perverse and paranoid streak inside Stalin that led him to believe these very same people who had contributed so much would somehow turn on him and that they, then, deserved to be punished. This twisted mindset let to The Holomodor, one of the greatest crimes perpetuated in the 20th century.
Between 1932 and 1933, it is estimated that at least 7 million Ukrainians were murdered, with some saying that at the height of the Holomodor at least 25,0000 Ukrainians were dying each day. This number is absolutely staggering. This was accomplished by Stalin ordering that grains and other foodstuffs be confiscated from local farms to be taken back to Moscow. Farmers who were caught trying to hoard any of their grain or food in general were severely punished by Soviet troops. Further adding to this purposely inflicted cruelty was a dragnet being thrown around Ukraine, preventing locals from seeking food and nourishment outside its borders. It was ensured that Ukrainians were stuck inside the confines of their land and that they would systematically be starved to death from within. The sadism exhibited by Josef Stalin was further exacerbated by rejections of food aid from outside. The goal was quite clear from the beginning. Murder the Ukrainians by starving them and to make it as painful and traumatic as possible, and all this done to a people who had done nothing but to help contribute to the Motherland and to ensure its survival. This was the thanks the Ukrainians were to get for their sacrifices, having genocide as a reward.
This article from the BBC further corroborates the atrocities done during this time, and a woman who managed to survive The Holomodor recounts how she and her mother barely managed to live by eating flour pancakes mixed with weeds and grass and boiling pieces of horse skin for sustenance.
This horror has been downplayed or outright disputed by Soviet authorities up until the present date, while numerous other countries, such as the United States, Australia and other EU states and countries in Latin America backing up what is an undeniable, terrible, historical fact.
While the present day regime in The Kremlin still continues to contest what is documented genocide, the truth is more powerful and the events that led to The Holomodor must be repeated and remembered so that it may never happen again.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” – George Santayana
(Sources: The BBC; worldwithoutgenocide.org; Embassy of Ukraine in Canada)