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.
A story datelined Moscow in the February 5 issue of Svoboda reported that Soviet actions against the Ukrainian nationalists continued. According to the story, Ukrainian nationalists had supplied books on Ukrainian nationalism to schools. Only after Pavel Postyshev came to Ukraine was this action halted, Komsomolska Pravda reported.
That same day, Svoboda printed a letter in English which was written by a staff worker for The Oregonian. Quoting a lecture by a labor expert Whiting Williams, who was formerly on the faculties of Harvard, Dartmouth and Oberlin, he wrote:
"'All of my observations in Russia last summer led me to support the pope in his contention that there is widespread starvation in the red land.'"
"American correspondents in Moscow were prohibited from entering the starvation districts in the Ukraine at the time Mr. Williams was visiting the district and seeing many persons starving to death before his own eyes. Between the harvest of 1932 and 1933 at least 5 million persons died as a result of starvation," the report noted.
On February 8, Svoboda printed a news item about helping the hungry in Ukraine. The article stated that the foreign press had quieted down about famine in Ukraine. The press in western Ukraine was unable to write much about it because of Polonization. The article stated that it was up to Ukrainians beyond the boundaries of Ukraine, who had the power to speak out against the Soviet Union, to protest the famine in Ukraine. Written by members of a committee to help the hungry in Ukraine, sponsored by the Ukrainian National Women's League of America, the article appealed to the Ukrainian community in the United States and to the American press to take an interest in the situation in Ukraine.
On February 9, Svoboda reprinted news from English newspapers, which stated that the reason the capital of Ukraine was moved back to Kiev from Kharkiv was because the Soviets wanted to cultivate better relations with Poland, and Kiev was geographically better placed for this.
That same day Svoboda printed an article which had appeared in Izvestia on January 17 and gave an outline of the continued Russification of Ukraine. The article blamed Mykola Skrypnyk for breeding a bourgeois nationalist environment in Ukraine. The author commended the achievements of Postyshev in Ukraine; in an 11-month period, he managed to purge the schools of 4,000 teachers, nationalists, Petliurists and Makhnovtsi.
On February 10, Svoboda printed an article with the headline: "Why the Soviets are Moving the Capital Back to Kiev." News reports in Pravda revealed that workers and "kolhospnyks" in Kharkiv were applauding the move back to Kiev stating that it would cure the people of Kiev of any nationalistic-counterrevolutionary tendencies they might have had.
During this time, it was announced in Kiev that Ukraine would be divided into gubernias.
On February 12, Svoboda printed a news item about Cardinal Theodore Innitzer's international conference to help the hungry in Ukraine. According to the news in Svoboda, the actions were aimed at focusing world attention on the situation in Ukraine.
Svoboda published news about the Communist Party's meeting at which the worst enemies of the Ukrainians, the ones who most spoke out against Ukrainian nationalists, were elected to the party's executive.
On February 14, Svoboda printed a story datelined Moscow, whose headline read: "Postyshev Struggles against Ukrainian Nationalists." According to the story, Postyshev believed that Skrypnyk had developed a plan for Ukrainian nationalism, including separating the nationalities question from that of the class struggle.
On February 19, Svoboda published a reprint from the Manchester Guardian about the moving of the capital of Ukraine from Kharkiv back to Kiev. Excerpts follow.
"This is much more than a measure of administrative convenience. There are, of course, good geographical reasons why the 'mother of all Russian cities' should return to its old status as the capital. It lies on the great river Dnieper well at the center of the 'black earth' agricultural region, on which the old prosperity of the Ukraine has always rested. Kharkiv, upon the other hand, lies close to the Ukraine's northeastern border. It has only two good qualifications as a capital. It is without historical traditions and it is remote from Russia's western frontier. Now that the Soviet government is on best terms with Poland, one of these reasons loses its old force. What of the other? Kiev is much more than the most ancient of all Russian cities. Its great 11th century cathedral, St. Sophia, and its cloisters have kept alive the influence on popular imaginations throughout Russia. Its wonder-working icons drew their millions of pilgrims before the revolution. Their power is gone, but the old city cannot lose its power. It is the spiritual center of Ukrainian nationalism, and Moscow is acutely conscious of the danger of Ukrainian nationalism.
"The recent party and administrative purges have shown the strength of this half-conscious movement against Moscow. The peasants of the Ukraine have suffered more than any other from the ruthless process of collectivization; their inarticulate resistance could be crushed, but the more dangerous propaganda of the petty bourgeois in the peoples' commissariats is the harder to stamp out. Hence, the most drastic measure to purify Ukrainian administration during 1932 and 1933. Poland is faced with the same problem in Galicia and has been 'solving it' by comparable measures. The restoration of the capital to Kiev will make it easier for the rulers of the Ukraine to cooperate with the Poles."
On February 9, The Ukrainian Weekly printed an appeal on behalf of starving Ukrainians. It read, in part: "The Relief Committee for the Starving Ukrainians is making a special appeal to the Young American Ukrainians to join them in their humanitarian work. We know that all young Ukrainians are enthusiastic and willing to help in any worthy cause, but often do not know just what procedure to take." The appeal was issued by the Ukrainian National Women's League of America, proposing a plan to sell raffle tickets to make money, which would be sent to aid brothers and sisters in Ukraine.
The following week The Ukrainian Weekly editorial stressed the importance of youth taking part in the drive. Titled "A Good Example," the editorial pointed out that the chairperson of the UNWLA drive was Dr. Nellie Pelechovitch, someone of the young generation who was born and raised in America and was currently practicing medicine in New York. The editorial urged young people to give the drive their most active support.
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Around the world:
Austrian chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss took a strong position against the Nazis. A Christian Socialist, he enacted measures against the Social Democrats who offered to cooperate on moderate terms against the Nazis. Dollfuss rejected their offer and the Socialists resisted by force. They were crushed in a battle which broke out February 12 and lasted for several days with heavy casualties. Many socialists were thrown into concentration camps and the movement was driven underground.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, October 23, 1983, No. 43, Vol. LI
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