CHRONOLOGY OF THE FAMINE YEARS
The year 1983 marked 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, 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 September 4, Svoboda printed a news item datelined London, which reported that the English Institute of Slavic and Eastern Studies at the University of London had recently published a book on collectivization.
The study, which included the essays of many authors, concluded that collectivization in the Soviet Union brought ruin to agriculture, mainly the production of grain in the USSR.
The book reported that the populace of the country was worse off that year than in previous years, and the Soviets continued to confiscate the peoples' grain. The authors concluded with the statement that collectivization had completely failed in the Soviet Union.
On September 8, Svoboda published a lengthy article about the Soviets and their tax-collecting system. According to the article, the Soviets lowered the tax on the agricultural products because they had been scarce in the past year's harvest. However, the peasants were also subject to "self-taxation to satisfy cultural and agricultural needs." This tax was called a "tax for the good of the peasants" by the government, yet it ruined them financially. The "kurkuls" suffered the most; they had to pay three times as much as the collective farmers.
On September 10, Svoboda reported that no vegetables were available in the Soviet Union. Svoboda reported that once again the Soviet newspapers were looking for someone to fault for the lack of vegetables produced during the year, as well as for the bad distribution of those which were harvested and, once again the peasants had to take the blame.
On September 21, Svoboda reported that the League of Nations in Geneva recorded a protest from the captive nations of the Soviet Union, including Ukraine, Georgia, northern Caucasus, Azerbaijan and Turkestan. The countries stated that they had been invaded by Soviet Russia and robbed of their independence, and that their struggles for independence would continue. They also protested the fact that the League of Nations would admit the Soviet Union into its ranks.
On September 27, Svoboda published a news report from Finland which stated that a corpse had been found in the forests of Finland. The identification papers found on his body had yellowed, however, the Finnish police could determine from the writing that he had been a Ukrainian teacher at a polytechnical institute. The communist regime had sent him to a concentration camp in northern Russia. He had escaped, lost his way, and died of exhaustion and malnutrition.
That same day Svoboda reported that cattle breeding had severely dropped in the last few years in the Soviet Union. Svoboda reported that 5 million families could not get milk because they had no cows. According to statistics, there were only 16.6 million horses in the Soviet Union as opposed to 31 million in 1929; 39.6 million cattle as opposed to 68.1 million in 1929. The number of all farm animals had fallen drastically.
Also on September 27, Svoboda published a commentary titled "From Famine Hell in Ukraine," which included excerpts from foreign-language newspapers translated into Ukrainian. Svoboda reported that Austrian, German and English papers had carried news of the famine. One correspondent, writing for an Australian publication, stated that he had traveled through a village whose population had died out. Earlier there had been 40 people in the village; now only six remained alive. All the dogs and cats of the village had been eaten.
In a German newspaper, a correspondent reported that a German organization called Brothers in Distress, which was aimed at helping the hungry in the Soviet Union, was attacked in the Soviet press. Soviet newspapers had labeled this an anti-Soviet organization and refused its help. The article published in Svoboda concluded with the following: "This newest Soviet order is obviously nothing more than yet another link in a chain of Soviet events, aimed at hiding the facts from the rest of the world." However, it concluded, the facts would soon become clear, since it was general knowledge that the Brothers in Distress committee had always been a humanitarian organization helping needy people all around the world.
On September 29, Svoboda reported that, according to the latest Communist data, "kurkuls" still existed in the Soviet Union. Therefore, the authorities had decided to increase the taxes one more time, in order to destroy the last of the private farms and force all private farmers to join collective farms.
On September 7, The Ukrainian Weekly reported: "The London Daily Express recently printed a dispatch of its correspondent who has just returned from a journey through Soviet Ukraine. He reported that during the past 18 months more than 6 million peasants died of hunger in Ukraine. During the past winter the Soviet authorities forcibly collected from among the peasants all their grain and left them to starve.
"His dispatch describes the horrible scenes he saw at the railroad stations where peasants crowded around the train in the hope of finding a piece of bread. He also saw many corpses of famine victims in the villages."
* * *
Around the world:
President Franklin D. Roosevelt continued reorganizing government agencies in order to rebuild the United States. He established two new agencies: the National Industrial Recovery Board and the Industrial Policy Committee.
The Soviet Union became a member of the League of Nations.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, January 15, 1984, No. 3, Vol. LII
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