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.
January 1-15, 1933
Prosperity was not one of the gifts the New Year, 1933, brought the peasants and laborers in Ukraine. Instead it brought a worsening food crisis and harsher government measures against persons hiding grain or stealing food from the state stores.
On January 3, Svoboda headlines read: "The Bolshevik Five-Year Plan Breeds Famine in the Soviet Union." According to the news, the Soviets had formally ended their five-year plan and did not mention the establishment of a second one. During the first plan, 211,000 collective farms and 5,820 state farms had been set up; however, they were not a complete success as the government found it difficult to keep the workers at their jobs, the Soviet press reported.
Svoboda commented that famine continued to spread and that it would probably exceed the famine of 1921-23. Soviet foreign trade continued to decline, and the value of the ruble took a nose dive. But, according to the Soviet press, the Soviet leaders did not lose hope, believing that the situation would soon improve.
A commentary by I. Sulyma appeared in the January 5 issue of Svoboda. Titled "The War for Bread," the article stated that one did not have to engage in espionage to dig up facts about the bread situation in Ukraine - it was all available from the Soviet press. According to Mr. Sulyma, one Communist paper in Moscow wrote: "Counterrevolutionary Communists along with the peasants burn stacks of grain, keep the seeds and grind them up in their own home-made mills instead of turning the grain over to the government. Recently, 125 home-made mills were found in the Odessa region." Therefore, the government found it necessary to purge the party of these counterrevolutionary Communists. In one week's time, one-tenth of the party members, mainly from villages, had been thrown out of the party.
The author of the article stated that Moscow did not acknowledge the famine in Ukraine. If anyone spoke of it, he was labeled a counterrevolutionary and either sentenced to a prison term, exiled or executed, he wrote.
On January 5, Svoboda also reported that the Soviets were executing commissars in Ukraine for "not faithfully organizing grain from the Ukrainian peasants." Three commissars from the Dnipropetrovske region were accused of sabotage and executed; three were sentenced to 10-year prison terms and five commissars got eight years each in jail.
Commissars were not the only ones facing death in the Soviet Union. A Berlin newspaper was cited as the source of a story reported in the January 10 issue of Svoboda. According to the newspaper, many Ukrainians were being sentenced to death for "stealing grain from state stores." Some were sentenced for agitation against the Soviet government, while still other Ukrainian intellectuals and even Communist party members were arrested and deported to Siberia.
The Berlin paper reported that such actions by the Soviet government would probably scare people away from stealing grain; yet hungry peasants continued to attempt to obtain food in this way. Svoboda reported that the Cheka, the secret police, handled most of the arrests and executions; the peasants were never brought to trial through the Soviet judicial system.
On January 11, the headlines in Svoboda read: "Stalin Consoles the Hungry Laborers and Farmers, Saying the Situation Will Improve." The news from Moscow was that the newspapers in the Soviet Union had finally printed Stalin's long-awaited speech. The speech noted that although the five-year plan had ended, socialism would continue. The problems of the five-year plan and the suffering of the masses, Stalin explained, were due to the fact that too much time and effort were devoted to organizing the country's defense and building structures necessary for this. This done, Stalin said that now the Soviet Union would focus its attention on the populace and its needs.
On January 13, Svoboda carried a brief news item about the director of the state store and three workers who were shot and killed because they stole grain from the government stores. Three other store helpers were sent to Siberia; two were sentenced to three-year prison terms.
On January 14, Svoboda reported that Stalin told the conference of the Communist Party that a purge of the party was necessary. The Central Committee reported that it would take brutal measures against any Communists who stood in opposition to Stalin and his general policies - without regard to their previous achievements.
A person named O. Snovyda wrote a commentary in Svoboda about the end of the five-year plan and underlined the ritual of party purges which occurred when the people stood in opposition to the party's leader. He stressed the fact that Stalin would soon he ridding the party of opportunists and real deviationists.
* * *
Around the world:
The "quiet pacification" of Ukrainians under Poland continued, with the Christmas Day (December 25) mass arrests of Ukrainians and the confiscation of all Ukrainian books.
Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the United States, died in January and the nation mourned his passing. His term as president was remembered as a happy time, his personal honesty and New England simplicity had appealed to the American people.
American engineers testified before a Senate subcommittee and urged the introduction of a 30-hour work week in order to decrease unemployment.
The development of new technology was mentioned in many newspapers and books in early 1933. Calling its advent the "new paradise," newspapers said the new technology would allow a person to work only four hours a day, four days a week from age 25 to 45, the rest of the time would be for leisure activities. Wages would be $20,000 yearly. The technocracy of tomorrow would probably parallel the new management system being established at the Standard Oil Co. of California, the press reported.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, May 15, 1983, No. 20, Vol. LI
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