Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine

Kyiv 09:39

Ukraine Marks the 85th Anniversary of Deadly 1932-1933 Famine

25 November 2017, 11:05

The Holodomor ("Extermination by hunger" or "Hunger-extermination"; derived from "to kill by starvation) was a famine in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1932 and 1933. During the famine, which is also known as the "Famine-Genocide in Ukraine", millions of citizens of the Ukrainian SSR, the majority of whom were Ukrainians, died of starvation in a peacetime catastrophe unprecedented in the history of Ukraine.

By June 1933, at the height of the famine, people in Ukraine had been dying at the rate of 30,000 a day, nearly a third of them are children under 10. Between 1932-34, approximately 7 million deaths are attributed to starvation within the borders of Soviet Ukraine. This does not include deportations, executions, or deaths from ordinary causes. Stalin denies to the world that there is any famine in Ukraine, and continues to export millions of tons of grain, more than enough to have saved every starving man, woman and child.

“Any report of a famine in Russia is today an exaggeration or malignant propaganda. There is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation but there is widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition.” (as reported by the New York Times correspondent and Pulitzer-prize winner Walter Duranty)

Denial of the famine by Soviet authorities was echoed at the time of the famine by some prominent Western journalists, like Walter Duranty. The Soviet Union adamantly refused any outside assistance because the regime officially denied that there was any famine. Anyone claiming the contrary was accused of spreading anti-Soviet propaganda. Outside the Soviet Union, Western governments adopted a passive attitude toward the famine, although most of them had become aware of the true suffering in Ukraine through confidential diplomatic channels.

In fact, in November 1933, the United States, under newly elected president Franklin D. Roosevelt, chose to formally recognized Stalin's Communist government and also negotiated a sweeping new trade agreement. The following year, the pattern of denial in the West culminated with the admission of the Soviet Union into the League of Nations. Stalin's Five-Year Plans for the modernization of the Soviet Union depended largely on the purchase of massive amounts of manufactured goods and technology from Western nations. Those nations were unwilling to disrupt lucrative trade agreements with the Soviet Union in order to pursue the matter of the famine.

In the ensuing decades, Ukrainian émigré groups sought acknowledgment of this tragic, massive genocide, but with little success. Not until the late 1980's, with the publication of eminent scholar Robert Conquest's "Harvest of Sorrow," the report of the US Commission on the Ukraine Famine, and the findings of the International Commission of Inquiry into the 1932–33 Famine in Ukraine, and the release of the eye-opening documentary "Harvest of Despair," did greater world attention come to bear on this event. In Soviet Ukraine, of course, the Holodomor was kept out of official discourse until the late 1980's, shortly before Ukraine won its independence in 1991. With the fall of the Soviet Union, previously inaccessible archives, as well as the long suppressed oral testimony of Holodomor survivors living in Ukraine, have yielded massive evidence offering incontrovertible proof of Ukraine's tragic famine genocide of the 1930's.

On November 28th 2006, the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament of Ukraine) passed a decree defining the Holodomor as a deliberate Act of Genocide. Although the Russian government continues to call Ukraine's depiction of the famine a "one-sided falsification of history," it is recognized as genocide by approximately two dozen nations, and is now the focus of considerable international research and documentation.

Ukrainians mark annually the anniversary of the Holodomor with commemorative events honoring the memory of the victims. A variety of lectures, film nights, discussions with survivors and commemorative services raise awareness of this genocide of the Ukrainian people.

Holodomor is a great tragedy in the history of Ukraine. And we find it really important that not only Ukrainians, but also other nations recognize it as one and talk about it.

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