CHRONOLOGY OF THE FAMINE YEARS
This year marks the 50th anniversary of one of history's most horrifying cases of genocide - the Soviet-made Great Famine of 1932-33, in which some 7 million Ukrainians perished.
Relying on news from Svoboda and, later, The Ukrainian Weekly (which began publication in October 1933), this column hopes to remind and inform Americans and Canadians of this terrible crime against humanity.
By bringing other events worldwide into the picture as well, the column hopes to give a perspective on the state of the world in the years of Ukraine's Great Famine.
On November 5, Svoboda carried a news brief about the publication of a new book on Soviet agriculture which had recently appeared in Germany. It contained essays by 16 specialists, including journalists Malcolm Campbell and William H. Chamberlin, who had spent time in the USSR. Svoboda noted that the book attempted to explain the jumbled agricultural situation in the Soviet Union.
On November 10, Svoboda headlines read "The Famine in Ukraine Intensifies." Datelined Kiev, the story read: "From all parts of Ukraine, the richest breadbasket of Europe, comes news of the growing famine. From all parts of Ukraine, cries of 'Bread, bread, bread' are heard, but there is none to be found."
Forced collectivization, reported Svoboda, resulted in the peasantry planting only enough grain for its own needs. However, the government collected grain from the people and continued to export the same amount of grain, if not more, than ever before.
The population had eaten up its livestock during the previous winter, reported the newspaper. The government, reported Svoboda, had issued food cards to the peasants. Bread prices continued to be very high, and bread was scarce.
On November 11, Svoboda reported an incident concerning a group of men and women who tried to cross over to Polish-occupied Ukraine. Most of the men and women were shot and killed by Soviet guards, the newspaper said.
Svoboda received news from Moscow on November 15 which said that the government had laid off 25,000 workers from government jobs. According to the news, the workers were to appear at the work bureau, which would supply them with factory and farm jobs. In this way, the Soviet government would supply the agricultural and industrial work force with much-needed laborers.
European newspapers also speculated as to the situation in the Soviet Union. On November 15, Svoboda also carried a commentary published in a Vienna daily, which described the Soviet Union as a country "covered by a veil of haze" from the rest of Europe. The newspaper reported that samples of Soviet bread had been smuggled out of the country and analyzed in a Munich laboratory. The bread was composed of ingredients which did not justify it being called bread. Five percent of the bread was made up of sand. The lab report read: "It is not rich, it is of a dark gray-green color, looks unappetizing, does not taste like any other bread and leaves a bitter aftertaste."
Another European newspaper reported that: "To obtain bread (in the Soviet Union), the bread that contains such ingredients as sand, one must stand in long lines for long hours, both day and night and even then, one is not guaranteed the bread rations on food cards. There is no need to mention butter, eggs, meat, fat, sugar - none of this is available."
Svoboda commented on the fact that there were 1.5 million Communists in the Soviet Union who ruled over 150 million people.
On November 17, Svoboda received news from Moscow which pointed out that the first five-year plan, that was actually scheduled to be completed in four years, had seriously harmed the economic situation in the country. The newspaper reported that workers went without food, that their working conditions were miserable, yet the government planned to institute its second five-year-plan.
On November 18, the headlines in Svoboda read, "The Bolsheviks Will Starve Out Disobedient Workers." A decree issued by the government stated that if they missed a day of work a month, the laborers would have their food stamp books taken away from them, assuring them of a death by starvation. The government had also warned that it would take away the people's living quarters if they did not report to work.
On November 21, Svoboda carried an article which labelled Walter Duranty, the Moscow correspondent of The New York Times, a friend of the Bolsheviks. He reported on the peasants' discontent with the regime. He said that the population had expressed dissatisfaction with the regime, but added that the people could not openly confront the government with petitions, demonstrations and protests. According to Duranty, work sabotage and unfulfillment of grain quota was the peasants' way of protesting the regime. He added that, although opposition to government was not organized, it was strong and this worried Communist leaders who continuously tried to break the peasants.
According to reports in the November 26 issue of Svoboda, two-thirds of the Soviet Union's population was starving and only had small quantities of potatoes and bread available to them. Except for the people in cities and in factories, of whom the Bolsheviks took special care, the people of the Soviet Union existed on virtually nothing, the newspaper said. Even the city dwellers' food was of very poor quality. The peasants lived mostly on potatoes, cabbage and dried-up bread.
On November 28, an article headlined "Duranty Blames the Peasants and Workers for the Famine in the Soviet Union," appeared in Svoboda. Svoboda reported that Duranty said the workers refused to cooperate with the government's working conditions and thus caused their own demise. The workers' restlessness, their constant search for a better way of life, their inability to sit at one job for any length of time caused the chaos evident in the Soviet Union. This was also true of the peasant farmers who refused to work, who allowed acres of grain to rot as a protest to the five-year plan, the article said.
However, Duranty assured his readers not to worry about the situation because the people of the Soviet Union "know how to tighten their belts and live in great suffering."
"For this reason, the hunger in the Soviet Union will not cause any revolution or uprising against the government," he reported.
On November 29, Svoboda reported that the Communists were not particularly worried about the famine in the Soviet Union. The Communist press reported the "surprising lack of foodstuffs in the Soviet Union." The Communists added that the peasantry should be taught what is good and profitable by force.
However, the Soviet situation was not as hushed-up in the world, as the Communists wished. Following are excerpts from a November 29 Svoboda article written in English, titled "Ukraine Under Soviet Russia."
"One of the most up-to-date methods of propaganda adopted by the Soviet government has been the organization of carefully shepherded tours of the 'Soviet Paradise.' The tours usually start in London and proceed by sea to Leningrad, and after visiting Leningrad and Moscow a trip is made to Nizhnyi-Novgorod (now to be renamed Gorky) and Ukraine. These trips have appealed to intellectual sentimentalists and others with little knowledge of life and human affairs. They are shown what the Soviet government intends to show them, they are naturally shown the best, and they come back and usually report what the Soviet government intends them to report. Some of them have never set foot in Russia to make their reports which are simply abstracts of Soviet official statements, which they just as easily could have read at home in England.
"But in spite of that, the reports of certain tourists, who for the most part set off with a bias in favor of the Soviet system, present a very gloomy picture of the failure of the Soviet authorities. The Soviet press in September reported that a group of journalists recently visited Russia on a 30-day trip and mentioned the following names: Hamilton Fyfe, representing Reynolds, Jules Mencken of the Economist, Kingsley Martin, editor of the New Statesman and Nation, Emrys Hughes of Forward, Ian MacDonald of the Yorkshire Post, Hubert Griffith, H.W. Smith, foreign editor of the News-Chronicle, F. Yeats-Brown of the Spectator.
"From the above-mentioned list it will be seen that most of these gentlemen have been carefully selected on account of their socialistic tendencies.
"We have awaited with interest the reaction of these gentlemen to the charms of Soviet Russia. Nearly all have now written their impressions and without exception, they provide a damning indictment of conditions in Soviet Russia, more especially in the great agricultural area of Ukraine."
"In its October 8, 1932, issue, the Economist wrote: 'Peasants are said to be complaining more and more openly. During August, a decree was passed penalizing theft of corn from the fields with death; and even during our short stay the decree was executed. Nevertheless stealing continues, and one traveler returning from the relatively prosperous Crimea reported a grim encounter with hungry peasants, who were kept from molesting his party only because it was armed.'"
"On September 6, the News-Chronicle wrote: 'The food queues are characteristic of the situation in the Russian cities, and you cannot escape them. Sometimes they are long and they stretch down the payment, sometimes no more than an irregular cluster round a bread store, but women and children pass many hours of the day in the dreary wait for food which, except for the bread ration, is often disappointing.'"
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Around the world:
Democratic candidate Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected the 32nd president of the United States.
A hunger march by 10,000 of England's unemployed was staged in London. Reports stated that a letter written by the Soviet regime was found. It instructed the English to stage such a demonstration, instigating a class struggle.
Benito Mussolini granted amnesty to 15,000 prisoners in celebration of the 10-year reign of Fascists in Italy.
In Moscow, Nadezhda Sergeyevna Alliluyeva, the second wife of Joseph Stalin, died. Although she was given a royal funeral, nowhere in the Soviet press was it mentioned how she died or that she was the wife of Stalin.
In Germany, after two successive elections failed to bring Franz von Papen substantial support in the Reichstag, he submitted his resignation after the November elections. Kurt von Schleicher succeeded him as chancellor.
Celebrations throughout western Ukraine marked the 14th anniversary of its short-lived independence proclaimed on November 1.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, May 1, 1983, No. 18, Vol. LI
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