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 March 1, 1933, Svoboda reported on a news story filed by The New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty. He wrote that, despite efforts on the part of the Communist Party and the Soviet government, the peasants refused to sow grain for the spring planting. Mr. Duranty believed that the reason for this was because the peasants had planted last season's crop and it was taken away from them; the government had not left them enough to eat and they were not ready for a repeat of this.
According to the news, the Soviets were planning to collect all the grain they needed from Ukraine, the Caucasus and lower Volga regions. However, they would be faced with difficulties because the peasantry refused to plant the grain, thereby sabotaging Soviet plans.
On March 7, news from Tokyo reached Svoboda which described peasants' protests against hunger. Hungry peasants demonstrated outside Stalin's villa near Moscow; 400 people were killed as the Soviet army protected Stalin's residence.
The Japanese press also received news from Siberia, where peasant rebellions did not subside, but grew stronger and stronger.
On March 13, Svoboda quoted news from Soviet Communist newspapers. The Soviet press had written that the government was trying to organize aid for hungry peasants in Ukraine and the northern Caucasus region. Unfortunately, Svoboda reported that the news did not provide information on the famine conditions in the Soviet Union. The Communist newspapers also reported that the regime was pushing a healthy spring planting.
On March 14, the headlines in Svoboda read: "Bolsheviks Execute 35 Saboteurs." The news related that 35 government officials in the agricultural department, including officials from the ministries of agriculture and foodstuffs, had been shot because the peasants in their territories had not completed spring planting. The regime also punished its party officials for the breakdown of tractors and the failure of the planting. Such massive arrests had not taken place since 1930 when 48 officials had been shot for mismanagement of food distribution, the press reported.
The news in the March 21 issue of Svoboda came from Moscow, where Stalin had recently granted absolute rights to the secret police to purge the villages in the Soviet Union. The secret police began executing people without trials and inquiries, in this way scaring saboteurs and counterrevolutionaries.
On March 29, Svoboda reported that the spring planting was failing. According to reports from Moscow, workers would go out into the fields and not take any grain with them. Other workers stood around discussing what side to start planting on, obviously stalling for time, according to newspaper reports.
The spring planting season did not look hopeful, according to the Soviet press. Svoboda reported that the Soviets had destroyed the experts in agricultural planting (the experienced farmers) for they had refused to work. Now the work load was put on the young Communists.
On March 30, the headlines in Svoboda read: "Bolsheviks Systematically Send Ukrainians to Siberia." The subhead which followed stated: "Correspondent for American Newspaper Saw Groups of Hungry and Ragged 'Kulaks' Waiting to be Shipped Off to Siberia."
Passing through northern Kuban train stations, the correspondent of the New York Sun reported that he saw streets of empty houses, because the residents had been either arrested, executed, sent off to prisons or exiled to Siberia.
The reporter wrote that some of the empty houses already had new dwellers - Communist recruits from Moscow - they, too, were already suffering and swelling from hunger.
On March 31, Svoboda reported that Gareth Jones, former secretary to British statesman Lloyd George, had visited towns and villages in Ukraine and the northern Caucasus region. Because this was a secret journey, Mr. Jones was able to view first-hand the peasants' living conditions and gather materials to bring back to England. He reported his findings in the Manchester Guardian and stressed that indeed there was a famine in Ukraine and in Russia and that hundreds of thousands of people were dying every day.
Mr. Jones also reported that unemployment grew rapidly; not only were hungry peasants going without food, but factory workers as well could not find nourishment.
Svoboda reported that the Communists were trying to cover up the famine. The newspaper said that when Mr. Jones traveled through towns, he was told by the Communists that the people were inventing this famine. However, everywhere he went, the peasants told him: "We haven't seen bread for such a long time. We are dying of hunger." Mr. Jones related an incident which took place while he was traveling on a train through the Ukrainian countryside. As his traveling companions were convincing him that there was no famine, he discarded the ends of a piece of bread he was eating. Immediately, a peasant appeared at the garbage and retrieved the end piece, ravenously putting it in his mouth. Mr. Jones witnessed the same behavior when he threw an orange rind out the train window.
According to Mr. Jones, one-fifth of the Kazakhstan population had already died of hunger. Mr. Jones reported that he perceived that Stalin was the most-hated man among the peasants, and those who were aware of George Bernard Shaw's praises of the Communist government put him second on their list of most-despised.
The Soviets did not allow any foreign correspondents to venture past the Moscow city limits, reported Svoboda, making it impossible to get reliable information about the true conditions in Ukrainian towns and villages.
* * *
Around the world:
After only four weeks in office as president of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt began reorganizing various departments in an effort to save the United States money. He began the famous "Hundreds Days" of his administration, (March-June 1933) which rushed a flood of anti-Depression measures through Congress.
Ramsey MacDonald of England met with Benito Mussolini, Italy's leader, to discuss ways to calm European stirrings. These talks included returning land to Hungary, granting Germany a corridor through Poland and giving Austria sea rights.
One of England's government officials revealed in an interview that not since 1914 had there been so much talk of war in Europe.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, June 12, 1983, No. 24, Vol. LI
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