Ukraine blames Russia for Holodomor famine


MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Pyotr Romanov)

Vitaly Churkin, Russia's Permanent Representative (Ambassador) to the United Nations, said the Russian delegation had thwarted Ukraine's attempts to persuade the UN General Assembly to examine and approve a resolution on recognizing Holodomor, the 1932-1933 famine, or Hunger Plague, that affected Soviet Ukraine and several other regions of the U.S.S.R., as genocide of the Ukrainian nation.

The Ukrainian administration of President Viktor Yushchenko representing one of the country's several political forces has been trying to facilitate this resolution's approval for a long time.

Last year, Russia also managed to thwart Ukrainian diplomatic efforts to persuade the 62nd UN General Assembly to discuss the Holodomor issue. In despair, the Ukrainian delegation to the UN launched a signature-collection campaign in support of a Holodomor declaration. This motion was supported by 30 member-states, with another 160 voting against.

It appears that this issue will be raised again. In November 2006, the Ukrainian Supreme Rada (Parliament) passed a law on Holodomor, recognizing it as genocide against the Ukrainian nation.

Ukrainian authorities have investigated the Holodomor case and will submit their findings to the national Supreme Court soon. Many analysts say Kiev or Ukrainian citizens would have the right to file lawsuits with applicable European courts after the Supreme Court examines the case. Technically speaking, Russia, the legal successor of the Soviet Union, would have to assume responsibility in case it fails to defend itself to the EU court.

Doubtless, the 1932-1933 Holodomor is a terrible tragedy; and the memory of its victims deserves every respect. I have read the speeches of President Yushchenko and the law on Holodomor, and I agree with many aspects.

However, I cannot agree when the discussion of Holodomor involves time-serving political considerations and unsophisticated, albeit bellicose radical Ukrainian nationalism. This mixture of sincere human suffering, outright politicking and uneducated hostility is the most deplorable aspect of the discussion.

But I don't doubt that Holodomor was caused by natural factors and the Marxist-Leninist ideology, and that the Soviet Government used various methods, including famine, to fight peasantry. However, this had nothing to do with the Ukrainian nation's genocide.

If the Holodomor tragedy is removed from historical context, there are some geographic and ideological questions. In reality, the terrible famine of 1932-1933 was simply another episode in a grandiose peasant war, sometimes called "Green Noise" by historians, including foreign researchers.

I advise you to read "The Great Soviet Peasant War: Bolsheviks and Peasants, 1917-1933" by Italian scholar Andrea Graziosi who calls those events the greatest peasant war in European history, and with good reason.

However, that war began long before the October 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Graziosi says many of those who led the bloody 1918-1921 peasant revolts, including Nestor Makhno (1888-1934) and Alexander Antonov (1888-1922), had made a name for themselves during the First Russian Revolution of 1905-1907.

The Tsarist Government, rather than the Bolsheviks, had introduced the food-surplus appropriation system at the beginning of World War I. The Provisional Government simulated this strategy, with the Bolsheviks introducing even tougher measures from 1918 through 1921 during the Russian Civil War. However, Russian and Ukrainian peasants always resisted food-supply squads under Nicholas II (1868-1818), Alexander Kerensky (1881-1970) and the Red Commissars.

Although famines were not uncommon in the former Russian Empire, Ukraine only remembers the tragedy of 1932-1933. However, the 1921 Russian famine that affected mostly the Volga-Ural region was no less terrible. In the early 1930s, famine spread to southern Belarus, the Volga Area, the Central Black Soil Region, the Cossack regions of the Don and Cuban river basins and the North Caucasus where it had begun in 1931. Northern Kazakhstan, South Urals and West Siberia were also affected. West Ukraine, then part of Poland, also experienced famine.

Such amnesia on the part of Ukrainian analysts hardly amounts to minor discrepancies. It would be more logical to suspect them of deliberate and selective forgetfulness.

The Soviet Government did take tough action to crush peasant revolts. Famous Red Army commander Mikhail Tukhachevsky (1893-1937) who later became Marshal of the Soviet Union used poison gas to suppress the Tambov rebellion of 1919-1921. Although similar punitive tactics were used in Russia and Ukraine, the Red Army did not fire poison-gas shells against Ukrainian peasantry.

The Bolsheviks used famine as an instrument to persuade peasants to join collective farms and to completely weaken their resolve but cared little about their ethnic affiliation. The Ukrainians were not the only ones who suffered under Soviet rule. This is nothing but ideological illiteracy. The Bolsheviks and the Nazis perpetrated numerous crimes, albeit for different reasons. The Nazis used racial discrimination as a rationale to kill so-called sub-humans. This was real genocide. The Bolsheviks who advocated internationalism killed enemies from other social strata.

Instead of blaming the Russian nation, Kiev ought to condemn Marxism and Stalinism.

Although official documents, including the law on Holodomor, say nothing about possible compensation from Russia, radical Ukrainian nationalists are sure that the world will equate Holodomor with the Holocaust, and that Moscow will reimburse Kiev.

Ukrainian nationalists believe that the descendants of those who survived chemical attacks near Tambov must reimburse the descendants of Holodomor survivors. In my opinion, this is the ultimate in cynicism.

On October 19, The Mirror of the Week, a Ukrainian online publication, said: "Ukraine has repeatedly stated that it does not link the recognition of Holodomor as genocide with the Russian Federation's responsibility under international law and will not make any claims to it. However, this does not rule out the right of private individuals, the descendants of Holodomor victims, to file claims against the Russian Federation, which is considered the legal successor of the U.S.S.R."

This amounts to political double standards. Ukrainian authorities would distance themselves from private lawsuits which could be upheld. However, such behavior is inconsistent with universal human values.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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