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 16-31, 1933
On January 16 Svoboda reported news from Moscow which stated that the Communist Party Central Committee would establish commissar posts at every tractor station in the Soviet Union. The commissars, along with helpers would see to it that the orders of the Soviet government were carried out by the collective farm workers and factory laborers. The orders were: to make sure no one sabotaged government plans; to organize workers into collective farms and factories; to conduct propaganda for the Communist Party; and to punish all who did not follow the orders of the party, especially the kulaks. The commissars, who were members of the secret police, were to report their progress to Moscow on a regular basis.
On that same day, O. Snovyda wrote a commentary in Svoboda titled "The Downfall of the (Bolshevik) Communist Party in Ukraine." Mr. Snovyda cited TASS, the Soviet press agency, and Pravda and Izvestia reports about Ukrainian farm workers. He stated that the Ukrainian peasants are classified as "undisciplined workers" by the Soviet press. They are often called saboteurs who do not perform for the good of the government, he wrote. "The support of the Moscow-Bolshevik government in Ukraine is getting to be very shaky," Mr. Snovyda observed. The "aparatchiks" of the Soviet government refuse to listen, he added.
On January 17, Svoboda reported that the residents of the villages and towns who were not employed by the collectives or by state-run institutions, would face deportation from their towns. This worried the dwellers, Svoboda stated, because they would also not be able to obtain food stamp books and coupons to purchase daily necessities from state-run stores. The deportation and resettlement of the peasants was to take place in conjunction with the issuance of Soviet internal passports to everyone in the Soviet Union.
On January 18, the headlines in Svoboda read: "Communists at Fault in Disorganization of Ukrainian Peasantry." The news, datelined Moscow, reported that in Stalin's speech to the Central Committee, he blamed the failure of the collective agricultural system on the Communists.
Stalin said that the Communists had not realized that establishing the collective system would not be enough to ensure success for the government. Stalin stated that it was easier for the Communists to influence people grouped in masses, so it was also easier for the enemies of the Communists to influence these masses already grouped in collective and state-run institutions. The Soviet press reported that not since the days of Lenin had the Communist Party heard a speech such as this.
On January 21, the headlines in Svoboda read: "Bolsheviks Send the Population of Three Kuban Villages to Siberia." The subhead read: "45,000 Ukrainian men, women and children from that area will be sent to Siberia and the Solovetski Islands while Moscow colonists will resettle the Kuban." According to news from Soviet newspapers, the reason for this resettlement of 45,000 people from the Poltavske, Medvedivske and Uriupynske villages of the Kuban was due to the failure of the peasants to follow through on the Soviet agricultural plan. In place of the Ukrainian peasants, the Communists would supply the land with "hard workers." Communist newspapers in the Kuban and Don Basin region reported that the punishment for the Ukrainians was well-deserved.
The January 23 headlines in Svoboda announced that the Bolsheviks had changed their methods of "robbing" the peasants of grain. According to the news Svoboda received from Moscow, a new decree had been issued by the Soviets which stated that there would be a change in grain collection procedures from the peasants. The government would first decide upon how much grain it would collect. Then it would issue a quota to the peasants. Supposedly the government would ask for only 5 to 15 percent of the harvest.
The collection of grain would begin every November, payable in rates. The government also stated that it would permit the peasantry to sell its grain after it gave the specified amount to the government. Those who did not turn over their grain before the monthly deadline would be severely punished. They would have to pay the price of the going-rate on the open market to the government as a late cash fee.
On January 24, the news from Sevastopil was that six government ministers of the city's financial department were executed for "counterrevolutionary activity." The head of the department and six other government workers were sent to hard-labor camps. No other details reached Svoboda.
News from Berlin reached Svoboda on January 25. The Berlin press wrote about the frequent Soviet peasantry's and factory workers "revolts." On the eve of the issuance of passports to Soviet citizens, over 2 million people (who were not employed in the collective farms or factories) faced deportation.
According to reports from Berlin, Stalin was readying his government in case of mass peasant revolts by preparing tanks of poisonous gasses, and other extraordinary measures to rid the country of enemy element, if need be.
Besides the fact that 45,000 people were resettled in Siberia from the Kuban region, a new decree issued by Stalin and Molotov stated that peasants who in any way attempted to harm the preparations for spring planting in the Kuban would be executed. The area's local government also faced Stalin's terror if the plans were not carried out, reported Svoboda.
On January 28, once again news from Berlin reached Svoboda. The headlines read: "Famine Encompasses all of Soviet Ukraine and a Part of Russia."
Employees of the German Consulate in the Soviet Union reported that: "The people of Ukraine lack everything, including bread, which now is worth its weight in gold. All the trains are overcrowded with hungry people who travel from town to town in search of bread," they said.
The Germans also reported that near the larger cities, army look-out posts had been established to keep the people who did not have special permits out of the city. They also reported that not a week went by without revolts in cities such as Kharkiv, Kiev and Odessa.
Most often the people would break into food stores. The government supplied the food stores with stock at night so as not to tempt the hungry masses, the German newspapers reported. The Soviet government tried to combat the famine by force with its army and secret police.
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Around the world:
The people of western Ukraine also suffered tremendously during this time. Svoboda carried a clipping from The Chicago Daily Tribune, which reported on the execution of two Ukrainian men near Lviv, who were sentenced to die in the gallows for a crime committed in the name of patriotism.
The Daily Tribune reported: "The executed pair were Dymitr Danilyshyn, 22, and Wasili Bilas, 21, who held up and robbed the Grodek Jagielonski post office in an attempt to secure funds for the Ukrainian nationalist organizations, the leaders of which live in Germany and Switzerland."
The news story went on to say: "There was one episode in the case even more tragic to the boys than their execution. As they fled from the scene of the crime, they were surrounded in the village of Woryn by an angry mob of Ukrainian peasants who, thinking they were thieves who had robbed the village cooperative store, beat the boys with sticks and stones. When police rescued them, Danilyshyn, covered with blood, exclaimed: 'We are dying for Ukraine and you are killing us.'"
Japan and the League of Nations came into conflict trying to establish negotiations. Japan requested that representatives of the United States and the Soviet Union not participate in their talks about Manchuria. From day to day, relations between Japan and China fluctuated; sometimes it seemed they were on the brink of war, at other times, close to a peace agreement.
In Germany, in an attempt to prevent Adolf Hitler from seizing power, General Kurt von Schleicher demanded authority from President Hindenburg to dissolve the Reichstag and to assume emergency powers. President Hindenburg refused, and Gen. Schleicher resigned on January 28.
Economists in the United States noticed a wave of workers returning to the farmlands. Within the previous two years, mainly due to unemployment, 648,000 Americans had moved back to the farms, they reported.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, May 22, 1983, No. 21, Vol. LI
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