During a whirlwind U.S. book tour in late October, Anne Applebaum – author, journalist, historian, columnist, professor – introduced her groundbreaking new book, “Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine,” to diverse audiences, Ukrainian and non-Ukrainian alike, and was featured in quite a few broadcast, print and online news media. Nearly seven years in the marking, “Red Famine” presents conclusive evidence that the Holodomor was genocide committed against the Ukrainian nation; furthermore, it says the Holodomor was part of a larger plan.
As Ms. Applebaum told her audience at Harvard, “Within six months [after Stalin decided to increase the grain quotas for Ukraine and to seize everything edible] more than 4 million Ukrainians died. But famine was only half the story. While peasants were dying in the countryside, the Soviet secret police, the same people who were organizing the Famine, simultaneously launched an attack on the Ukrainian intellectuals and political elite. All of these people including professors, museum curators, writers, artists, priest, theologians, public officials, bureaucrats, and anyone who had promoted the Ukrainian language or history or had worked for Ukrainian independence were publicly vilified, jailed, sent to labor camps or executed.” Ms. Applebaum pointed out that “Raphael Lemkin, the Polish-Jewish lawyer who invented the word ‘genocide,’ spoke of Stalin’s assault on Ukraine as the ‘classic example’ of his concept.” She argued: “It is a case of genocide, of destruction, not of individuals only, but of a culture and a nation.” An entire generation was wiped out as “Stalin tried to destroy the Ukrainian national identity” and to get rid of the “Ukrainian problem.”
Timothy Snyder of Yale University, writing in The Washington Post, noted that, “Until the Holocaust, the great famine in Soviet Ukraine was the largest policy of mass killing in Europe in the 20th century” and said of Ms. Applebaum’s book: “…she rightly insists that the deliberate starvation of the Ukrainian peasants was part of a larger policy against the Ukrainian nation. …The first show trial directed against Ukrainian culture was organized in 1930. Applebaum counts 200,000 arrests in the Ukrainian republic at the time of the famine, directed disproportionately at the new Ukrainian schools, publishing houses, newspapers and museums. Important backers of Ukrainian culture committed suicide; the great writers and artists who survived were murdered in the Great Terror a few years later.”
“Red Famine” has earned great reviews. The New York Times columnist Bret Stephens called it a “brilliant new history of the deliberate policy of mass starvation inflicted on Ukraine by Joseph Stalin in the early 1930s.” The New Republic’s David Patrikarakos said the book, “stands both as a work of huge historical importance and contemporary relevance,” and “is a book of great emotional power, which stems directly from Applebaum’s willingness to give space to Ukrainian voices.” Writing in the National Review, Andrew Stuttaford commented: “ ‘Red Famine’ is powerfully written, extensively researched and, frequently, painful reading. It tells of a meticulous annihilation that tore a nation away from its traditions, its language, its morality, its past, its future, its everything…”
“Red Famine” is a valuable follow-up to “The Harvest of Sorrow” by Robert Conquest. Indeed, it goes beyond that landmark work in drawing on recently opened Soviet-era archives in Ukraine to relate not only that the Famine-Genocide happened but to explain why it happened.
That is why, at the presentation of the 2017 Antonovych Foundation Award, Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze quite fittingly described Ms. Applebaum as “a historian that is bringing more truth to the world about my country” and helping to return Ukraine “to the cultural and historical map of Europe and the whole world.”
For her monumental work on “Red Famine,” Ms. Applebaum (and all those who played a role in the publication of this essential book – individuals, research institutions, foundations, etc.), we offer our sincere thanks and congratulations.