Ignorance is dangerous, needs to be remedied
Sen. Dennis DeConcini, co-chair, Democratic Party's Council on Ethnic Americans.
Mr. Chairman, it is a great pleasure for me to testify before your subcommittee in support of H.R. 4459, establishing a commission to study the 1932-33 Ukrainian famine. Mr. Chairman, I commend you on your considerable efforts to arrange these important hearings. The Senate has passed identical legislation (S. 2456), and I urge the members of this panel and the House to pass this bill. As a co-chairman of the Democratic Party's Council on Ethnic Americans, I feel that a clear, comprehensive examination of the famine is not only beneficial, but vital.
As it stands now, little is known in the United States or the rest of the world about the details of the 1932-33 Ukrainian famine. I believe that this ignorance is dangerous and needs to be remedied. Present and future generations need to know the events that caused an estimated 7 million people to die. With the knowledge, we could help prevent such a tragedy from ever occurring again. Ukrainian American citizens feel that their heritage is being obliterated due to Soviet suppression of the facts and lack of Western interest. We need to give recognition to this holocaust and those who suffered from it. The best way to do this is to set up a commission for the purpose of documenting he causes and consequences of the man-made famine.
In studying this particular example of Soviet domestic policy in action, we would do well to pay particular attention to the reasoning of the Soviet leaders and methodology involved. One year after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the peasants of the Ukraine fought against Soviet control as a single unified national political force. The Soviet regime under Stalin ordered the deportation of kulaks (wealthy peasants) and collectivization of the Ukrainian peasantry in an effort to break their will. Poor harvesting techniques in the Ukraine region were consistently higher than the actual harvest between 1930 and 1933.
In addition, collectivization reduced production by over 30 percent. Yet Stalin made little or no adjustments for the discrepancies between the actual harvest and the target level of production. By 1931 it was impossible for the Ukraine to meet the grain quotas Moscow imposed. The reaction by the Soviet government was to halt all deliveries of consumer items to those areas blacklisted for not meeting their quotas. The result was mass starvation.
The famine played a crucial role in the Soviet suppression of the Ukrainian people. By crushing the peasants and intimidating the intelligentsia, the Soviets were able to stamp out Ukrainian nationalism. Russification of the country began soon after. By being aware of the methods by which the Soviets have been able to gain control of one area, we could alert ourselves to future warning signals in other countries.
The purpose of the proposed commission is to expand the world's knowledge of the Ukrainian famine and to provide further insight into the Soviet leadership by studying their role in this famine. The results of the study will be a welcome addition to the present information gap that exists in educational institutions, libraries and the general public.
Mr. Chairman, I thank you for giving me the chance to voice my support for establishing a Ukrainian famine study, outlined in H.R. 4459.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, October 14, 1984, No. 42, Vol. LII
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