April 24, 1983

1932-34 Great Famine: some further references


The article below was published as an addendum to Dr. Dana Dalrymple’s earlier piece on the Great Famine. It, too, appeared in the journal Soviet Studies, in the April 1965 issue. Dr. Dana Dalrymple is an agricultural economist who specializes in international agricultural research.

Medical account

Perhaps the most authoritative reference is provided by Dr. W. Horsley Gantt in an article which originally appeared in the British Medical Journal. 1

Dr. Gantt, a member of the school of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, was formerly chief of the medical division of the American Relief Administration, Leningrad Unit (1922-23), and later was a collaborator in Pavlov’s Laboratories (1925-29). In the summer of 1933 he returned to Russia to continue his work with Pavlov.

The famine quickly attracted his attention. Through conversations with Russian doctors who were able to provide first-hand reports, and personal travel outside the cities, he was able to gain a perspective of the famine equalled by few. And while his article was not published until 1936, Dr. Gantt indicates that he provided much of the information on the extent of the famine used by American correspondents during this period – in particular the article by Ralph Barnes (cited on p. 253, fn. 17, of my original paper).

Most of the points presented in Dr. Gantt’s article on the causes, extent and handling of the famine are in agreement with those presented in my article. Dr. Gantt, however, provides considerably more detail in the medical aspects of the famine, especially the associated deficiency diseases and the contagious epidemics (see pp. 155-156). He reports that the peak of the typhus epidemic coincided with that of the famine. Deaths from typhus were not recorded as such, but as “Form No. 2.” While the highest mortality estimate which I cited was 10 million, Dr. Gantt indicates that he privately got the maximal figure of 15 million from Soviet authorities. He adds, however, that because starvation was complicated by the epidemics, it is not possible to separate which of the two causes was more important in causing casualties.

Contemporary observers


A study of previously unopened records of the U.S. Department of State for 1933 brought to light one paper which provided some idea of knowledge of the famine among the diplomatic corps in Moscow. 3

According to the memorandum, the existence of the famine “was frankly admitted on several occasions by officials of the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs to members of the Moscow diplomatic corps.” It was the general opinion of the diplomats that the famine was even more severe than that of 1921-22. The number of people dying from starvation was placed at 7 to 8 million. The reasons given for the famine and for suppression of its knowledge were essentially those which I outlined in my earlier article.

Similar interpretations are provided by Frederick L. Schuman in “Soviet Politics at Home and Abroad,” 4 and Homer Smith in “Black Man in Red Russia.” 5 Both traveled through Ukraine during the famine. Schuman notes that while newsmen were prohibited from going into the famine area, others, paradoxically, were not. Smith summarizes his observations by stating that “Stalin’s unwritten motto was simply: machines instead of food.”

Emigre reports

Rather more intimate accounts of the famine are provided in several publications by Ukrainian emigres. Perhaps the most extensive collection is presented in “The Great Famine in Ukraine in 1932-1933.” 6 The sections of most value include an article by Petro Dolyna on “Famine as Political Weapon” (pp. 29-135), and a collection of a large number of individual accounts of the famine and excerpts from several Russian-language newspapers (pp. 431-710).

Two other recent works, in Ukrainian, also take a similar approach. In an autobiography, “Povest Krivykh Let” (The Tale of the Ragged Years), Tatiana Fessenko relates the effect of the famine on a German colony near Kiev (pp. 44-47, 49-50). 7 Wasyl Barka presents a more extensive account in his novel “Zhovty Kniaz” (The Yellow Prince). 8 The book describes a collective farm family’s futile struggle for survival during the famine and reflects most of the typical occurrences of that period. A less personal treatment is provided in “Ukraine: A Concise Encyclopaedia.” 9 Of particular interest are the sections on “The Economic Situation and the Famine of 1932-33” (pp. 820-822, 825), and “Changes in the Population After 1930, The Events of 1930-32” (pp. 200-201). The authors suggest that the death toll in Ukraine was around 3 million, while the increased incidence of diseases and the reduction of the birth rate (a point which I perhaps did not sufficiently emphasize) ultimately cut the popuiation by 5 to 7 million.

Previously cited references

In my original paper, I noted in some detail the early famine reports of Gareth Jones (pp. 253, 279-280). I have since learned that Jones was more than a former secretary to Lloyd George: he was a well-trained student of Russian affairs in his own right. He had received a first in Russian at Cambridge and was enrolled for a Ph.D. at the University of London under Pares while he worked for Lloyd George. Pares seems to have regarded him as his heir-apparent. Much of Jones’s information on the famine was gained by loading up on all the condensed food that he could carry, and walking from village to village. 10

My study concluded (p. 284) by referring to Ivan Stadnyuk’s remarkable account of the famine, “Lyudi ne angely” (Neva, December 1962, pp. 3-114). This work has now been translated into English, and published under the title “People Are Not Angels.” 11

Khrushchev on famine

Shortly after my paper went to press, Khrushchev saw fit to comment on famine conditions during the Stalin period. In December 1963 he acknowledged – for the first time – that famine had existed under Stalin and Molotov. 12 His comments, however, were confined to 1947. He stated: “Their method was like this: they sold grain abroad, while in some regions people were swollen with hunger and even dying for lack of bread.” These words seem equally applicable to the famine of 1932-34. Perhaps the new Soviet leadership will some day extend them to cover this period.

* This note, like the earlier paper, was a personal project; the views expressed are my own.


In consequence of its extent, duration and intensity, the famine of 1932-34 appears to have been one of the worst the world has ever known. Deaths from the famine ran into millions. And to the mortality can be added numerous stories of unbelievable suffering and even cannibalism.

A. Estimates of mortality

It must be admitted at the outset that it is difficult to make a precise estimate of the number of deaths from the famine. 13 The Soviet government not only has refused official recognition of its existence, but has not published any figures that might be used to calculate mortality. It did not, for example, publish crude birth or death rates during the famine period. 14 In fact, the only known statement on this subject by a named Russian official was the admission of Petrovsky, president of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic, that they knew millions were dying.” 15

Despite general official silence, some 20 Americans and Europeans who were in Russia during this period, or who had contact with émigrés, have offered their own estimates of the mortality. These range from 1 to 10 million and average 5.5 million (see Table 1).



 Estimate made or reported by Estimated number of deaths
 1. Ralph Barnes 1,000,000+
 2. Walter Duranty 2,000,000+
 3. Maurice Hindus 3,000,000+
 4. William Chamberlin 4,000,000
 5. Stephan Duggan 4,000,000
 6. Frederick Birchall 4,000,000+
 7. Bernard Pares 5,000,000
 8. Eugene Lyons 5,000,000+/-
 9. Archbishop of Canterbury* 5,000,000+/-
 10. Clarence Manning 5,000,000+/-
 11. Whiting Williams 5,000,000+
 12. Naum Jasny 5,500,000+
 13. Harry Lang** 6,000,000
 14. Thomas Walker* 6,000,000
 15. Nicholas Prychodko 7,000,000+
 16. William Chamberlin 7,500,000+/-
 17. Ewald Ammende 7,500,000+/-
 18. Otto Schiller 7,500,000+/-
 19. Serge Prokopovicz 9,000,000
 20. Richard Sallet 10,000,000
 Average 5,500,000+
 * Includes early 1934.
** Statement of ‘high Ukrainian Soviet official’; for Ukraine only.
+/- Indicates that the figure given is an average of a range.


With two exceptions, however, their figures refer to what we have labelled the 1933 period. While this was the most severe portion of the famine, there was unquestionably a significant number of deaths in 1934, and some in 1932. On this basis, then, the figures reported might be considered conservative for the full period.

In addition to these estimates, a number of other observers reported that the famine of 1933 alone was as bad or worse than the Russian famine in 1921 – which seems to be generally conceded as resulting in the death of about 5 million people. 16

On the other hand, the work of two demographers would suggest that the above figures may be on the high side. Using an indirect process (due to the previously cited lack of vital statistics), Lorimer found a discrepancy of 5.5 million in the Soviet population from 1927 to 1939 – a discrepancy which may have been due to “excess mortality.” 17  How much of this may have been due to the famine, however, was “undetermined.” 18 Eason’s study of this period leads him to conclude that it would be difficult to show how the figure could have gone over 5 or 6 million. He notes that “…the evidence seems to be for a somewhat lower figure if anything.” 19

But whatever the exact total – and we shall probably never know for certain – it is clear that the mortality from the famine ran well into the millions. If, on balance, a figure of 5 million is tentatively accepted, it may be seen that the number of deaths was over three times as high as during the well-known Irish potato famine of the late 1840s. 20 And of the few famines for which mortality is listed in the Encyclopedia Britannica, only one – the Chinese famine of 1877-78 – is given a higher total. 21

Thus, though precise estimates are lacking, it appears that the Soviet famine of 1932-34 has the dubious distinction of ranking among the great famines of all time.

B. Descriptions of the famine

But mere numbers – appalling as they may be – cannot begin to divulge the full impact of the famine. To do this we must turn to eyewitness accounts.

While the dying and the dead were to be found, at first, on the streets of the main cities, it was, as previously suggested, in the villages that the famine was at its worst. Fedor Belov was a resident of such a village. He writes:

“The famine of 1932-33 was the most terrible and destructive that the Ukrainian people have ever experienced. The peasants ate dogs, horses, rotten potatoes, the bark of trees, grass – anything they could find. Incidents of cannibalism were not uncommon. The people were like wild beasts, ready to devour one another. And no matter what they did, they went on dying, dying, dying. They died singly and in families. They died everywhere – in yards, on streetcars and on trains. There was no one to bury these victims of the Stalinist famine. A man is capable of forgetting a great deal, but these terrible scenes of starvation will be forgotten by no one who saw them.” 22

An agronomist in another village similarly reported:

“The people daily died in dozens. The bodies of the dead lay in all the villages, along the roads and in the fields. Special brigades were formed in the villages to bury the dead, but they were too weak to collect all the corpses and these were devoured by those dogs which had escaped being eaten and had gone savage. The gravedigger of today might be a corpse tomorrow.” 23

Still another collective farm member told Victor Kravchenko, then a village Communist Party representative: “…I saw blood and death when I was in the army but nothing as terrible as what’s been going on right here in my village.” 24

One might wish to classify these accounts as exaggerated, isolated events. Unfortunately, however, such does not seem to be in the case. Similar, equally gruesome tales are provided by several Americans who visited the afflicted areas – including Mr. and Mrs. Stebalo, Fred Beal, Harry Lang, and later, Thomas Walker. 25 Walker included an extensive and chilling array of pictures – as did Ammende in his book. 26 Less explicit, but no less disturbing accounts are to be found in many of the other references noted in the course of this paper.

A particularly ghastly phase of the famine, noted by many, was cannibalism. Perhaps the first public notice of this was made in June 1933 when a woman doctor in Ukraine wrote: “Our situation is such: I have not yet become a cannibal, but I am not sure that I shall not be one by the time my letter reaches you.” 27 Other references to cannibalism appeared several months later. 28

Whiting Williams reported that in Ukraine “…cannibalism has become commonplace.” 29 Harry Lang recorded that:

“In the office of a Soviet functionary I saw a poster on the wall which struck my attention. It showed the picture of a mother in distress, with a swollen child at her feet, and over the picture was the inscription: EATING OF DEAD CHILDREN IS BARBARISM. The Soviet official explained to me: “…We distributed such posters in hundreds of villages, especially in the Ukraine. We had to.” 30

In some instances, parents would not wait until their children died, but would kill them. The same would be true of other relatives. 31 There is, of course, no record of how many cases of this sort there were, but it is revealing that among the prisoners of Solovky in 1936, “…there were 325 persons guilty of cannibalism…” 32


What were the immediate causes of the famine?

Famine throughout history has generally been caused by some natural disturbance (drought, disease, pests, etc.) or war. The Soviet famine of 1932-34 does not seem to have been immediately caused by any of these factors. Rather, it appears that the famine was – to an extent perhaps unparalleled in history – a man-made one. In support of this charge, we turn to an examination of production, procurements and famine relief during this period.

A. Production

The most striking fact about food production during the famine period was that while it was less than average it was not a failure by any means. This is shown in Table 2.


(Average in millions of tons)

 Year Grain Potatoes Sugar Beet Total
 1926-30 75.3 45.1 9.4 129.8
 1931 66.1 44.8 12.0 122.9
 1932 66.4 43.2 6.6 116.2
 1933 70.1 49.3 9.0 128.4
 1934-38 76.9 57.0 16.6 150.5
 * Based on official figures, except for grain which has been adjusted.
Source: Jasny, op. cit., p. 792.


Total production was lowest in 1932, preceding the worst year of the famine. Even so, it was only about 12 percent below the 1926-30 average for grain, 5 percent below for potatoes, and 30 percent below for the less important sugar beet. For all three groups, production was only down 9 percent in a country where food was not abundant, such a shortage might lead to increased hunger, but it hardly seems that it could by itself result in the death of 5 million or so people.

Actually, one might have expected a considerably greater decrease in production – rather more for human than natural reasons. While it appears that certain areas suffered from drought and hot dry winds in 1932, 33 the weather was otherwise normal. 34

The greater problem was the demoralized state of agriculture. This breakdown was largely brought about by the policies of the Soviet government – forced collectivization, forced collection of food, elimination of the kulaks, and loss of farm experts. 35 Not only were the peasants weakened by the loss of food, but they were antagonized. As a result they showed little interest in tending the crops: fields were poorly planted, crops were choked with weeds, and the harvest was carelessly gathered. 36

In addition, there was a shortage of draft power due to the livestock mortality and to an insufficient supply of tractors (a problem which was accentuated by very poor maintenance). 37 The wonder, then, is that the crop of 1932 (or of 1931 or 33) was not lower than it was.

And though the crop was down, it appears that there was enough to keep the population in these areas alive. Nicholas Prychodko writes:

“In 1941 when the Germans invaded Ukraine they found in the Academy of Sciences in Kiev the true statistics of the cops harvested in 1932. These figures proved that the yield was sufficient to feed the Ukrainian population for two years and four months and to seed all the fields. 38

Residents of other areas indicated that they could have managed with the crop they had. 39

B. Procurements

The factor which really turned the below-average crop years of 1931, 32 and 33 into famine years was the food procurement policy of the government. 40 The extent of these government procurements for grain can be judged from Table 3.


(Average in millions of tons)

 Crop Year Production Procurements Residual
 1927-28 to 1930-31 75.1 15.0 60.1
 1931-32 66.1* 22.8 43.3
 1932-33 66.4 18.8 47.6
 1933-34 70.1 23.3 46.8
 1934-35 to 1937-38 77.2 28.1 49.1
 *Taken from Table 2.
Source: Jasny, op. cit., p. 794.


Even though production during the three famine years was down 12 percent from the previous four year average, procurements were up 44 percent. The result was that the amount of grain left in the peasants’ hands was decreased substantially.

1. 1931-32 crop year

During the 1931-32 crop year, the old “Iron Broom” technique which had been used during the years of war communism was put into use again. “Grain, needed by the Ukrainian peasants as provisions, was stripped from the land…by grain collectors desirous of making a good showing.” 41 A particularly heavy assessment was made in March 1932. 42 And from the government’s point of view this policy worked: grain procurements for the year reached record levels despite a smaller crop. 43

2. 1932-22 crop year

The same procedure was carried on in the months following the harvest of 1932. As Belov points out:

“That autumn the ‘red broom’ passed over the kolkhozy and the individual plots, sweeping the ‘surplus’ for the state out of the barns and corncribs. In the search for ‘surpluses,’ everything was collected. The farms were cleaned out even more thoroughly than the kulak had been.” 44

Even so, the grain deliveries began to lag, reserve stocks had been cleaned out the previous year, and the Ukrainian Communists who were supposed to carry out the collections apparently began to get too soft-hearted for the Soviet leaders. Therefore, early in 1933 Pavel Postyshev was sent to Ukraine as a special plenipotentiary of the Central Committee. He was accompanied by party workers from the Russian Republic. 45 The group set to work with a vengeance. Their actions were “…marked by the utmost severity…the detachments carried off not only grain but everything edible.” 46 Muggeridge describes the work of these agents of the GPU in these terms:

“They had gone over the country like a swarm of locusts and taken away everything edible; they had shot and exiled thousands of peasants, sometimes whole villages; they had reduced some of the most fertile land in the world to a melancholy desert.” 47

In this process, “…the last reserves of grain, which had been buried in the ground by the desperate peasants, were dug up and confiscated.” 48 Mikhail Sholokhov, the prominent novelist, complained to Stalin about the situation – but in vain. 49

Under these conditions it is not surprising that famine waxed during the first two-thirds of 1933. And because the peasants were forced to eat seed grain to survive, it was often the case that enough was not left for sowing. 50

3. 1933-34 crop year

During the summer of 1933 the government announced a new ruling on the delivery of grain. Henceforth, only a fixed quantity of grain would be expected from each hectare. 51 This might have been an improvement over the former system of government take all, except for the provision that “…no evasion of this obligation to deliver grain should be permitted under any condition.” 52 With a normal or good harvest, it might not have been difficult to meet these levels, but with a smaller than normal crop, the requirement pinched severely.

And to make sure that the procurement was met, the harvest was organized like a military offensive. Guards were placed by the grain fields 53 and those who would try to steal grain faced the threat of severe prison sentences. 54 According to one American traveler, “Red Army detachments were omnipresent, and even in the country, airplanes were constantly flying over the fields.” 55 The army also provided harvest “help.” 56

For those state farm officials who were lax there was prison or death. The London Times reported in July that the first of a series of important Soviet grain trials had begun at Odessa: “The central authorities declared that the state farm officials, influenced by local sentiment, had underestimated the crops and reserved more than was necessary for their own use.” They were under threat of death. 57

To complete the growing and the gathering of the crop, extensive use was made of industrial brigades from the cities. Postyshev, who continued in charge of the program, indicates that: “We threw into the struggle…huge and powerful reserves in the shape of the industrial organizations in the towns of Ukraine.” In addition, further party members were sent to the collective farms. By the end of the year 3,000 had been sent on permanent work, “…to act as chairmen of collective farms, secretaries of party nuclei, and party organizers on collective farms.” 58 Many of these party members knew nothing of agriculture, which added to the problems.

As a result of this shift, Whiting Williams found that offices were largely empty in August as workers were out helping with the harvest. 59 Belov records that in the case of his farm more than 100 office and factory workers from Leningrad were sent to assist and that two representatives of the party arrived to help organize the harvesting. 60 One such representative was Victor Kravchenko, who described his experiences in a chapter in his autobiography under the title “Harvest in Hell.” 61

Even with this tremendous emphasis on getting in the harvest, the party – as Kravchenko so vividly describes – faced an uphill battle. The basic problem was, of course, the chaotic state of agriculture. A report in The London Times indicated that: “…the total harvest in no important region equals the average. Some crops are excellent, but there are some areas which have produced nothing in consequence of bad cultivation and lack of seed.” 62

The Soviet government, characteristically, glossed over these problems. It claimed, instead, a record harvest. 63 Then, before anyone could check, it closed the grain areas to correspondents, ceased to issue harvest reports, and subsequently reported harvest on the notorious biological yield basis. Once again the “Iron Broom” was wielded. 64

And when it was all over, the government’s grain procurements for the 1933-34 period were even higher than those for 1931-32 and 24 percent above 1932-33. 65 It is small wonder, then, that famine continued to rage through the summer of 1934.

C. Lack of famine relief

In light of what we have seen so far, it comes as no surprise that the Soviet government did not appear to be particularly interested in providing relief to famine victims. Rather than relax its economic and social policies, the government proceeded as if there was no famine at all. It did not lighten its procurement policies, it did not allow outside famine relief, and it provided only the slightest pittance of food aid.

During previous famines – even in 1921 – the Russian government had allowed, even encouraged, foreign famine relief. 66 In fact, it was under the new Soviet regime from 1921-23 that the greatest famine programs in history were carried on under the direction of Herbert Hoover. 67

But during the 1932-34 famine period, as we have noted, the government refused to acknowledge the presence of famine, let alone allow or request aid. Even so, many aid organizations were established. For example, on July 14, 1933, a Civic Relief Committee For Starving Soviet Ukraine was set up in Lemberg (Lviv). Similar groups were set up in Rumania, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, America and Canada. The famine was the chief issue at the Congress of European Minorities in Berne, Switzerland, September 16-19, 1933. And on December 16 and 17, 1933, an International Conference for the Relief of the Starving Population of Russia was held in Vienna. 68 By the summer of 1934, an Inter-Confessional and International Aid Committee for the Starvation Districts in Soviet Russia had been established in Europe, with Dr. Ammende as secretary. 69 Concurrently, an English branch of H. H. Elizabeth Skoropadsky’s Ukrainian Relief Fund came into being, 70 along with a Russian Assistance Fund. 71

None of these groups, as far as could be determined were ever allowed by the Soviet government to carry out any sizable aid program. 72 The maximum that seems to have been accomplished was the sending in of some food packages and some money. The latter could be used to buy food at the Torgsin stores – though in doing so the peasants risked the chance that they might be arrested as kulaks. 73 And then there was the possibility that neither food nor money would arrive. 74

Along with what little assistance was allowed to dribble into the country, the Soviet leaders made an occasional gesture of relief. This, of course, was largely limited to collective farms. 75 In the spring of 1933, for instance, a seed “loan” of 350,000 tons in the North Caucasus and 250,000 tons in Ukraine was authorized. 76 Such “loans” were provided for routine day-to-day work in the form of an advance – so even this “extraordinarily limited” relief was used as a method of control, rather than for humanitarian purposes. 77

We see, then, that the Soviet government not only conducted very little in the way of a famine relief program, but also discouraged – even prohibited – any effective foreign aid.

D. Attitude of the government

The attitude of the Soviet government, as has been suggested, was hardly that of great concern for the starving.

Indeed, it appeared that the Soviet leaders were less concerned with human life than they were with farm animals. Following their visit, Mr. and Mrs. Stebalo reported: “It is true that cannibalism is punished, but not nearly as severely as, say, the theft of a horse or a cow from a collective farm.” 78

Ammende was of the view that: “Moscow is infinitely more anxious to preserve and even increase the number of draught oxen than to render aid to a suffering population. And, indeed, from the point of view of Russian interests, the real catastrophe is not the mortality from starvation, but the unexpected loss of draught oxen due to collectivization; for, while there is a superfluity of unskilled human labor, there is an enormous shortage, despite agricultural mechanization, of draught cattle.

“…quantities of grain which might save innumerable lives will be exported and the foreign exchange thus obtained will be used to buy and import cattle.” 79

It is small wonder, then, that the famine was quickly characterized as “man-made.” The New York Times was perhaps the first to make this charge, stating on January 1, 1933, that: “…hunger has not come upon the Russian land as an act of God; it is man-made.” 80 In March, Muggeridge indicated that “The famine is an organized one.” 81 This point did not escape the peasants. As one told Mr. and Mrs. Stebalo during the summer: “It is they who are killing us. They want us to die. It is an organized famine.” 82 Others echoed the charge. 83

Some preferred to think of the situation as war. As Lang put it: “Beneath the cloak of famine a grim and silent war was being waged.” It was a war for bread, perhaps the most gruesome war that has ever been fought” 84 The battle was particularly grotesque because the only weapon the peasants had was passive resistance.

All of this might seem a bit melodramatic to the outsider, but the charge gains credence when one considers the statements made by Comrade Hatayevich in Ukraine during the harvest of 1933:

“A ruthless struggle is going on between the peasantry and our regime. It’s a struggle to the death. This year was a test of our strength and their endurance. It took a famine to show them who is master here. It has cost millions of lives, but the collective farm system is here to stay. We’ve won the war.” 85

Indeed, as Chamberlin expresses it, there can be “no reasonable doubt” of the “historic responsibility of the Soviet government for the famine of 1932-33.” 86


What were the longer-run reasons for the famine?

Why did the Soviet leaders place such appalling emphasis on extracting food from the peasants, and at the same time prohibit foreign famine aid? Surely even the Bolsheviks had even a small measure of compassion – or at least had to work through those who did. The reasons for this unbelievably cruel behavior center about the desire to procure food, the need for control over agriculture, and the existence of rural overpopulation.

A. Desire to procure food

We have suggested that the main immediate cause of the famine was the severe procurement policy followed by the government in the countryside. Why did the government place so much emphasis on this? The answer seems to be that it wanted to secure food in order to (1) obtain foreign exchange, (2) provide for a military war chest, and (3) feed urban workers. We shall examine these factors individually.

1. Foreign exchange

In order to make the USSR a bastion of socialism, Stalin recognized that it was necessary to build industry. To do this in a backward country like the Soviet Union it was necessary to import machinery. But to obtain this machinery it was necessary to obtain foreign exchange. Characteristically, the export of agricultural products had earned a significant proportion of this exchange. Therefore, to continue industrialization at an accelerated pace, Stalin apparently thought it vital to continue the export of food – no matter what the conditions in the countryside. 87

It is, therefore, of interest to turn to an examination of Soviet export and import figures for the calendar years 1932 and 1933. Unfortunately, the data are not available on a crop year basis – for this would more nearly coincide with the famine periods. But if it is considered that most of the food exported from the 1932 crop helped lead to the famine period during the first two-thirds of 1933, the figures become more meaningful (the same, of course, would be true for the 1933-34 periods).

According to official Soviet statistics, exports of food accounted for 24.3 percent and 20 percent of the value of all Soviet exports in 1932 and 1933, respectively. Grain was the largest food item, representing 9 percent and 8.1 percent of total exports. 88 Imports of food, on the other hand, accounted for 10 percent and 8.2 percent of the value of all imports in 1932 and 1933. Tea, which has no nutritive value, was one of the largest single items, representing 1 percent and 1.7 percent of total imports. 89

On balance, there was a net export of foods in the two years. In 1932, food exports were worth twice as much as imports; in 1933, they were worth three and a half times as much. The net value of these exports was 242.5 million rubles in 1932, and 246.2 million rubles in 1933 (or about $60.6 million in 1932 and $61.5 million in 1933). 90

In terms of weight, net grain exports totalled 1.70 million tons in 1932, and 1.84 million tons in 1933. 91  In turn, gross grain exports represented about 4.9 percent and 4.2 percent of production in 1932 and 1933. 92

These figures suggest that the exports of food, while significant, were not so large that their diminution would have seriously crippled the Soviet export program. And had at least some of the nearly 1.9 million tons of grain been retained in the famine area, many lives would have undoubtedly been saved.

Why this was not done is a matter of speculation. It may have been that the Soviets were hurt by faulty investments of capital in their own country 93 and by declining terms of trade for their produce on the depressed world market, 94 and consequently determined to push export to the maximum level. Whether this was, in the long run, a wise move economically is unclear. 95

It was, of course, well known in the USSR that food was being exported. Belov recounts that the peasants were told that “…the industrialization of the country, then in full swing, demanded grain and sacrifices from them.” 96 On Kravchenko’s farm – where about half the population had died from hunger during the previous year – butter had steadily been made for export. The manager of the collective farm store commented: “You see, starvation is one thing and foreign exchange is another.” 97

Paradoxically, most of these goods were shipped out through Black Sea ports – in the immediate vicinity of some of the worst starvation. 98 This loss of food also aggravated the severe shortages in the cities. “As conditions became steadily worse, the knowledge that their government was exporting food became perhaps the deepest of the silent grievances of the Soviet people.” 99

2. War chest

A not inconsiderable proportion of the food procured by the government was placed in reserve in a military “war chest.” The military threat of that period was offered by the Japanese – the tension reaching a peak in the spring of 1932 with the occupation of the northern part of Manchuria. The Soviets reacted by concentrating troops on the border, and later in the year tensions eased. 100

For this and other strategic reasons, a particularly heavy requisition of grain was levied in March 1932. 101 Some of this grain, as well as that from other levies, was quietly used to establish reserve food supplies throughout the country. 102 Victor Kravchenko came across what appears to have been such a cache at a local railroad station in the autumn of 1933. It had remained untouched even though half of the population on his farm had died of famine the previous winter. He noted that such reserves were later noted in many other parts of the country. 103 While these stocks were tapped on at least one occasion, 104 this was apparently not done for the rural areas.

It seems that the government placed these stocks elsewhere during the winter of 1933-34 because they felt that they “…could not possibly expect any cooperation from the peasants in the event of war with a foreign power.” 105

3. Industrial labor force

Though the industrial workers did not die from starvation, their rations were not abundant. If the foreign correspondents did not acknowledge famine in the rural areas, there was an admission of a general and severe food shortage. 106 Eugene Lyons records that:

“…the search for food, the struggle for sheer physical subsistence monopolized men’s minds and drained their energies. Men changed their trades, their creeds, their friends in the hope of a little more sunflower seed oil or tea or bread. A full meal became life’s central preoccupation for the mass of the population.” 107

Presumably those who worked in factories were better off than the rest of the population because they were fed at the plant. 108 If, however, conditions at many plants were like those at the showplace tractor works in Kharkiv, there was a very limited ration. Fred Beal, who was what we might now call the public relations director and contact man for the foreign workers at the plant, records that even “The large colony of privileged foreign workers…subsisted on a starvation diet.” 109 But even more than this, they “…were in despair at having to work along starving, stupefied and dazed Russian workers.” 110 He also indicates that:

“In the spring of 1933 the Stalin government feared that a general peasant revolt might break out at any time. The collective farming system was a shambles and the ruling dictatorship was afraid that the factory workers would be left completely without food. Orders were issued to every industrial plant in the Soviet Union for all workers to put in so much of their time in planting their own gardens and raising their own products.” 111

The poor food conditions also led to a turnover problem as workers fled from plant to plant in order to secure enough food. 112

It appears, then, that the industrial workers were probably fed little more than was necessary to keep them alive. 113 It is hard to see how the minimal amount of food directed to this use could be uniquely blamed for famine in the country. If it were just a matter of feeding the industrial forces, the food supply probably would have been sufficient. And surely food for the cities could have been obtained in a more humane manner.

On balance, this writer would suggest that it was not the provision of food for the industrial forces in the cities which made famine acute in the country. Rather, the reasons seem to center around the export of food for foreign exchange and, to a lesser extent, the stockpiling of military war chests. The procurement of food, however, was not the only factor behind the famine.

B. Control over agriculture

In order to obtain control over agriculture – particularly of food for the purposes noted in the previous section – the Soviets placed great emphasis on state and then collective farms. 114 When these were tied in with machine tractor stations, the leaders had not only an ideologically desirable framework, but a very useful one. 115

The only problem was that the peasants were not interested in joining the socialized farms. Despite very intensive pressure, some still showed little interest in 1932. And many of those who did become collective farm members could hardly be described as being in favor of the system. When this recalcitrance was combined with bungling administration, loss of draught power, and heavy government requisition, it can be understood why the socialized farms did not do well at first. Even so, Stalin was dedicated to their expansion.

The famine, it soon became apparent, provided a method for driving the last of the diehards onto the state or collective farms, or out of existence. If conditions were tough on the socialized farms the Soviets made sure that they were worse on the independent farms. 116 The result was a certain transfer to the socialized sector.

But on independent and socialized farms alike, the government was confronted with a widespread passive resistance. As Lyons put it, there had arisen “…a supine despair manifest in indifference, laziness, neglect.” “None of it,” he continues, “was by design.” Rather, “It was an expression of ultimate hopelessness, a natural catastrophe of the human spirit, a non-cooperation movement that was akin to mass suicide.” Blaming the peasants for the catastrophe would be like, he says, blaming “…draught animals for collapsing under the excessive load.” 117

Stalin, however, did not look at things this way. He considered the peasant’s reaction as deliberate sabotage. 118 Consequently, he was not prepared to lower the grain demands. 119 We have seen the consequences.

His attitude may also have been related to the location of the famine – which was found in areas which had proved troublesome before. These included the fiercely independent Ukraine, the North Caucasus (home of the Don Cossacks) and Kazakhstan. Not only were the residents of these areas a thorn in the Soviet’s side, but they were a relatively unskilled group of which Russia already had great numbers. 120 Hence, why lower procurements when the famine would take care of these annoyances? 121

Or at least so it has been charged. Chamberlin alleges: “The government had in reserve and was prepared to employ the last and sharpest weapon in the armory of class warfare: organized famine.” 122 Ammende felt that the Soviet government exploited the famine in order to systematically destroy certain categories of people. 123

It appears, then, that famine was effectively utilized as a means of breaking the resistance of the peasants to the new system. 124 The result was “…the final stabilization of the collective system of agriculture and the breaking of the old mode of life throughout the whole of Ukraine.” 125

C. Rural overpopulation

It was suggested in the previous section that the Soviet leaders may not have been particularly concerned about the loss of life in the rural areas because of the large peasant population.

The fact that agriculture, already weakened, could keep going at all after the loss 5 million or so people, indicates that there may have been a rural overpopulation. That is, there may have been a greater population in the rural areas than was necessary to produce the existing output of food. Exact determination of this overpopulation for 1933 would be complicated by the lack of vital statistics, and by the fact that large numbers of urban workers were sent out in the industrial brigades.

Nevertheless, it does appear that there was – at the start of the collectivization period anyway – a rural overpopulation. A study of the Soviet investigations on this subject suggests that the figure was at least 10 percent, and may have been considerably higher. 126 Overpopulation, however, was proportionately great outside the area hit worst by famine. 127 And it appears that rural overpopulation was greater before the collectivization drive started than from the end of 1930 onward (this could have been due in part to the extensive migration of the starving to the cities). 128

Even so, this tendency to overpopulation would explain why the 10 percent or so mortality in many villages 129 could, to some extent, be absorbed.

Whether the leaders had counted on this while the famine raged is not clear, but since the issue of overpopulation had been debated by the economic planners in the late 1920s, 130 there is a possibility that it may have been considered.

The longer-run attitude of the leaders towards the whole famine was perhaps well summarized in the words of Petrovsky: “We know that millions are dying. That is unfortunate, but the glorious future of the Soviet Union will justify that.” 131


Why and how did the Soviets hide the famine?

One of the most peculiar characteristics of the 1932-34 famine was the fact that the Soviet leaders went to such lengths to hide it. This was in contrast with the situation in 1921-23 when they acknowledged the seriousness of the famine, and accepted some $66 million of American relief alone. 132

A. Why?

Why did the Soviets choose to hide the famine of 1932-1934? Was it because they thought they might be under some pressure to cut off exports if they admitted famine and invited relief? Not likely. In the autumn of 1922 “…Moscow authorities announced their intention of exporting food and at the same time asked foreign relief organizations to provide food for 4 million Russians.” 133 The purpose – as 10 years later – was to buy machinery for industrialization. And even then the policy was not new: food had been exported, and relief accepted during the famines of 1911, 1906 and 1891. 134

Were the Soviets afraid of the disruptive influence of foreigners – as they were in 1921, and as was the monarchy before them? 135 Again the answer is probably no. There were a number of Americans already in the country doing technical assistance work, and there were a number of foreign agricultural concessions; all, it would seem, without any particular disruptive influence. 136 More important, the government appears to have been much more in control of the countryside than was the case in 1921.

The reasons for the Soviets’ desire to hide the famine must lie elsewhere. One possibility has already been suggested: the Soviets’ desire to beat the last of the resistance out of the peasants and to complete the drive into the socialized farms. If the government were to acknowledge the famine and accept relief (it could not very well admit the famine and refuse famine aid at the same time) it would mean in effect a concession to the peasants. But since the government was effectively at war with the peasants, this was a compromise that it would not readily make.

Another, and perhaps equally important reason, may center about the matter of keeping face. The Soviets had been trying to spread the story of the economic and social triumph of the first Soviet five-year plan. To admit the presence of a terrible famine at the conclusion of the plan would have hardly been the sort of triumphal conclusion that the leaders might have desired. 137 Stalin, above all, was interested in creating “…in every state and every part of the world, a favorable view of the economic and cultural development of the Soviet Union.” 138

The totalitarian attitude in matters of this sort is perhaps best expressed by Chamberlin:

“When it is a matter of inflicting suffering upon individuals or classes which block the realization of their goals, dictators are hard-boiled to the last degree. But they are as sensitive as the most temperamental artist when the effects of their ruthless policies are criticized, or even when they are stated objectively without comment.” 139

In short, Stalin “…preferred to sacrifice millions of lives rather than Soviet prestige.” 140

But more than prestige may have been involved. The Soviets at about this time were working for (a) diplomatic recognition by the United States, (b) admission into the League of Nations, and (c) “non-aggression” agreements with various European nations. If the story of the famine were made known, Russia’s cause would not have been enhanced – both because the famine was essentially man-made, and because the Russians had done practically nothing to alleviate it.

In the case of U.S. recognition, Ukrainian groups in the United States did their best to focus attention on the famine. A delegation was sent to Roosevelt to ask for an investigation of conditions in Ukraine before granting recognition. 141 Public pronouncements were made and demonstrations held – particularly parades (which were attacked by U.S. Communists). 142

During the same autumn, questioning voices were also raised at the League of Nations – including those of Dr. Movinkel, premier of Norway and president of the Council of the League of Nations, 143 and M. Motta, the representative of Switzerland. 144

While these queries were undoubtedly an annoyance to the USSR, they apparently were not much of an obstacle – for she was, of course, recognized by the United States, let into the League of Nations, and did sign a number of non-aggression agreements. 145 Had the famine been better known, perhaps her course would have been a much tougher one.

B. How did they hide the famine?

If the reasons the Soviets chose to hide the famine are not entirely clear, the methods they used – alluded to earlier – are now quite apparent. And they provide an example of what was probably one of the most comprehensive and successful “news-management” programs in history.

1. Control of the press

The Soviets’ first and most important step was to intensify their control over the representatives of the foreign press in the USSR. This did no prove to be very difficult – for even before the famine the Soviets held the edge. The entire foreign press corps was located in Moscow, and the correspondents could stay only so long as the Russians wished to renew their visas. Moreover, their dispatches were subject to official clearance.

Thus, even though the correspondents had a pretty good idea of what was going on outside Moscow, they were reluctant to report anything that would strongly displease the authorities. “The result is,” Malcolm Muggeridge wrote in 1934, “that news from Russia is a joke.” 146

As the famine progressed, the bitter truth of this became more evident. The first step in the management of famine news came, as has been noted, at the beginning of 1933 when the authorities instigated a program to discourage observation tours by foreign correspondents. Following his report on conditions in the North Caucasus in January, 147 Ralph Barnes was “…advised strongly by the Soviet Bureau not to make a further provincial trip for the time being.” Then in early April when he purchased a ticket for a provincial city in order to visit villages, “…the strong advice was turned into a definite prohibition.” 148

Despite this prohibition, Muggeridge and Jones did, somehow, get into the famine area – Jones on a secret journey. 149 While there was apparently no official reaction to Muggeridge’s articles, steps were taken to counteract Jones’s report. The process was made easier for the Soviets because of the pending trial of British engineers, a subject of worldwide interest. The reporters knew that because of the interests of their papers it was necessary for them to keep on particularly good terms with the censors. Hence, when it was suggested that they refute Jones’s more serious allegations, they complied. Eugene Lyons was one of those. He writes:

“Throwing down Jones was as unpleasant a chore as fell to any of us in years of juggling facts to please dictatorial regimes – but throw him down we did, unanimously and in almost identical formulas of equivocation.” 150

He singles out for particular attention the phrasing used by one of his fellow reporters, Walter Duranty of The New York Times. Duranty had reported: “There is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation, but there is widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition.” 151 “This amazing sophistry,” Lyons states, “has become among foreign reporters the classic example of journalistic understatement.” He adds that: “It characterizes sufficiently the whole shabby episode of our failure to report honestly the gruesome Russian famine of 1932-33.” 152

Jones may have been surprised at the rebuttal provided by the Moscow correspondents – from whom he had obtained some of his information – but he was equal to the situation. Shortly thereafter he wrote to The New York Times that: “…censorship has turned them into masters of euphemism and understatement.” 153

But one thing the correspondents did report was the new ban on travel into the countryside which was promulgated in August. Following the reports of a German paper, 154 correspondents were told that they had to file a detailed itinerary and an indication of purpose for trips outside Moscow. Permission was denied for trips into famine areas. 155 Even sympathetic writers, such as Maurice Hindus, were denied permission. 156 In addition, “The Stalin dictatorship frowned on any attempts on the part of even foreign Communists to see what was going on in the country.” 157

Still, there were leaks. Whiting Williams somehow got into the area denied to correspondents, 158 as did the Stebalos and others. But theirs were only scattered reports, and in some cases (Williams, for instance) they were not published until some time later.

As the 1933 harvest was gathered, the famine area was opened in easy stages.

“The first to be given permission to travel in the forbidden zones were the technically ‘friendly’ reporters, whose dispatches might be counted upon to take the sting out of anything subsequent travelers might report. Duranty, for instance, was given a two weeks’ advantage over most of us.” 159

The Soviets’ faith in Duranty turned out to be well placed. In his articles he indicates that he “now” found conditions good in the famine areas – and admitted only that conditions had been “hard” the previous winter. 160 Yet, Lyons reports that he and several others met with Duranty on his return, at which time:

“He gave us his fresh impressions in brutally frank terms and they added up to a picture of ghastly horror. His estimate of the dead from the famine was the most starling I had as yet heard from anyone.” 161

Lest such disclosures leak out, it appears that the authorities later clamped down on travel to the point that all trips were under “…the complete control of the ‘Intourist’ organization and other Soviet authorities.” 162 Walker later notes that he broke away from such a group to make his own tour. 163

2. Concealing the symptoms

Because it was not possible to keep everyone out of the southern USSR, rather elaborate steps were taken to conceal the famine. This, first of all, meant getting the starving out of the cities and away from the factories and the railroads.

During the first part of the famine, as we have indicated, great numbers of peasants flocked to the cities in hope of finding food. They arrived in severely weakened condition, and died in great numbers. The presence of these dead and dying individuals was a severe embarrassment to the regime. Hence, they attempted to exile these people outside the urban zone – 60 miles away – or to turn them back to their own villages, to die in obscurity. 164 Others were shipped to Siberia. 165 These steps were aided by the introduction of a passport system which essentially meant that the peasants were not permitted to leave their home area. 166

About the same time, a former resident reports, the government, through the NKVD, gave strict orders “…not to allow any bodies to be lying around the rail line and that no one on the passing trains was to be allowed to see any such sight.” 167

There was also a clean-up around some of the showplace factories in the famine areas. The Kharkiv tractor factory is a case in point. The process is described by Beal:

“The Soviet authorities … would round up the starving people in the streets, collect them in great herds, and turn them over to the GPU. It was a weekly occurrence. Sometimes a raid would be improvised a few hours before the arrival of a foreign delegation.” 168

The visiting delegations were, of course, carefully steered around any other vestiges of famine. It is to be noted, for instance, that when they actually visited farming areas, they visited only a few selected farms – and never individual peasants. Hence it was that foreign guests were treated somewhat like Mr. Herriot, who “…saw only what his hosts intended him to see, and remained completely ignorant of what was going on a few miles away.” 169

It is small wonder, then, that such an otherwise well-informed student of Russia as Sir John Maynard could report after a tour through Ukraine and the North Caucasus that he “…did not witness those phenomena, including crowds of beggars and emaciated children at the river ports and railway stations, which are normally associated with serious famine” – and on this basis conclude that “…the scarcity of that time was in no way comparable to the great famines…” 170

There were other groups in the countryside, however, who could not be so misled. These were the foreign specialists who were working for foreign firms. One source of famine information, for instance, was the Drusag Agricultural Concession in the North Caucasus. It was subsequently closed in late August. 171 And during this period, Ammende suggests, the Soviets began to refuse to renew the contracts of foreign specialists who saw too much. 172

A more important method, though, was the refusal to give permission to Soviet citizens who wished to leave the country. And as today, those who did get out were reminded of the relatives that they had left behind. 173

For those who might have tried to find some trace of the famine in the national statistics, other measures were taken. First, the crop reporting system, as we have noted, was changed to a biological yield basis – which made it difficult to make comparisons with previous years (if one realized that a change had been made). 174 Secondly, the government ceased issuing vital statistics for the area during the period. 175 This meant, as we have noted, that one could not assess the famine by studying death rates. And even if these figures had been released, there is some question as to how meaningful any breakdown might have been, for physicians were reportedly prohibited from ascribing death to famine. 176

Though the whole picture of the Soviets “news management” is now clear, it was not then. The result was that the story of the famine was effectively killed. What news did leak out reached the public too late to do any good. As Eugene Lyons put it:

“The most rigorous censorship in all of Soviet Russia’s history had been successful – it had concealed the catastrophe until it was ended, thereby bringing confusion, doubt, contradiction into the whole subject.” 177

Not only were the Soviets successful in covering the story at the time, but they did such a good job that:

“Years after the event – when no Russian Communist in his senses any longer concealed the magnitude of the famine – the question whether there had been a famine at all was still being disputed in the outside world.” 178

There seems little doubt, then, that the Soviet throttling of famine news was one of the most effective programs of its sort in history.


This is about as far as we can go with the available evidence. The reason for the lack of Soviet references is obvious enough. But Soviet sources are likely to appear, for the government is becoming more liberal in its treatment of the past. To quote the Soviet poet and editor Alexander Tvardovsky:

“…whatever the past was like, we in the present must not be indifferent to it. Only by going into its consequences fully, courageously and truthfully can we guarantee a complete and irrevocable break with all things that cast a shadow over the past.” 179

A month after this statement appeared, the Russians published a short novel which for perhaps the first time contained direct references to the famine. Titled “Liudi ne angely” (People Are Not Angels), it was written by Ivan Stadnyuk and appeared in the December 1962 issue of Neva (pp. 3-114). 180

Primarily concerned with Ukrainian village life during the collectivization period, the novel (particularly section 20, pp. 57-60) is relatively courageous in that it makes no secret of the famine. In fact, its impact on family life is portrayed vividly and frankly. At one point, for instance, Stadnyuk writes that:

“Nothing is more horrible for a man, the head of a family, than to feel his complete helplessness at seeing the sorrowful and imploring look of his wife who doesn’t know what to find to feed her children…If it were only for a week, a month. But it was during many month, that most families of Kokhanovka had nothing to put on the table. All corn bins were cleaned out, all cellars emptied, no chicken was left in the back yard. Even beet seeds were all eaten…The first who died of hunger were men. Then children. Then women. But before the people died they frequently went insane and stopped being human beings” (p. 58).

The novel treats only certain rather localized aspects of the famine. Yet it is made quite clear that the heavy procurements were a major cause. There is also an implicit but unmistakable reference to central policy as a whole:

“Your ruler saw a ray of the sun and imagined the sun to live in his own soul. An imaginary sun gives imaginary warmth. The ruler’s soul is warmed with the delusion of infallibility, nourished by the sycophancy of some and the silence of others in fear of death. Incapable of encompassing all the complexity of the people, not knowing the way, unyielding as death, he sows grief in the land” (p. 77).

This paragraph occurs in a remarkable passage (the first part of section 26) which is a powerful moral condemnation of the political philosophy which made the famine possible.

The essence of Stadnyuk’s story is that the peasantry were treated as second-class citizens, expendable for political ends. Despite some minor and inessential elements of melodrama and Communist orthodoxy, he places the famine squarely within this causal framework.

This study has been a personal project; the views expressed are my own. I am indebted to Eugene Lyons for his review of an earlier draft and to Andrew Fessenko for his assistance in the preparation of the Postscript.



  1. W. Horsley Gantt, “A Medical Review of Soviet Russia: Results of the First Five-Year Plan,” British Medical Journal, July 4 and 18, 1936, starting on pp. 19 and 128, respectively; reprinted with slight changes in his Russian Medicine (Vol. XX of Clio Medica), Paul B. Hoeber (Medical Book Department of Harper & Bros.), (New York, 1937) pp. 146-162, especially pp. 151-56. I have also benefitted from conversations with Dr. Gantt in December 1963 and October 1964, and from a letter dated March 6, 1964.
  2. One account which – because of its suspect nature – will only be mentioned here appeared in Alexander Kerensky’s publication Dni (Paris). In the May 21, 1933, issue (No. 172, p. 5), the Moscow correspondent reported that in the autumn of 1932 Molotov – with Stalin’s approval – had made a speech to the active group of the Communist Party which indicated a considerable degree of premeditation to the famine. Two previous issues, April 9 and 23, (No. 170, pp. 1-2, and No. 171, p. 1), also carried articles on the famine.
  3. Memorandum of a conversation held by Felix Cole (Chargé d’Affaires, Riga) and John Lehrs with a member of the staff of a foreign legation in Moscow. Cole to Secretary of State dispatch No. 1633, October 4, 1933, General records of the Department of State, National Archives Record Group 59, Decimal File 861.48/2450.
  4. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1946, pp. 218-219. The same account appears in his “Russia Since 1917” (Knopf, 1962) p. 152.
  5. Johnson Publishing Co., Chicago, 1964, Ch. III, pp. 17-21.
  6. Vol. 2 of “The Black Deeds of the Kremlin; A White Book,” ed. by S. O. Pidhainy (DOBRUS, Detroit, 1955, 712 pp.). (DOBRUS is an abbreviation of Democratic Organization of Ukrainians Formerly Persecuted by the Soviet Regime in the U.S.A.)
  7. Novoye Russkoye Slovo, New York, 1963, 221 pp. Mrs. Fessenko was formerly with the Library of Congress.
  8. Munich and New York, 1962, 211 pp. Mr. Barka, who is with the Radio Liberty Committee in New York, indicates that his novel is based on individual recollections, and also on “many details of that time, which were later collected over a number of years.”
  9. University of Toronto Press (for the Ukrainian National Association), Toronto, Vol. I, 1963.
  10. Bernard Pares, “A Wandering Student” (Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, 1948) pp. 309-311 (also see “Mr. Jones Replies,” The New York Times, May 13, 1933, p. 12; cited in fn. 23, p. 253 of my original paper). As a result of his articles, Jones was not officially allowed to return to Russia, he subsequently tried to make his way in through Mongolia, but was captured by bandits and eventually shot (p. 311).
  11. Mono Press, London, 1963, 238 pp. (trs. by P. A. Spalding and I. Antonenko). Unfortunately this translation appears to be virtually unknown in the U.S. At the time this note was prepared, only one major library (UCLA) had reported to the National Union Catalogue that it had a copy.
  12. Pravda, December 10, 1963, p. 1 (Current Digest of the Soviet Press, December 25, 1963. p. 5).
  13. In speaking of deaths from the famine, it is necessary to include more than those who died from outright hunger. “The majority died of slight colds which they could not withstand in their weakened condition; of typhus, the familiar accompaniment of famine; of ‘exhaustion,’ to use the familiar euphemistic word in the death reports” (Chamberlin, op. cit. 1934, p. 87).
  14. Letter from Warren Eason, Department of Economics, Princeton University, March 27, 1963; Kulischer suggests that the publication of these data ceased before the famine (op. cit., p. 96).
  15. Fred E. Beal, “Word From Nowhere,” R. Hale, London, 1937, pp. 254-255 (published in the U.S. under the title of “Proletarian Journey”).
  16. In chronological order: Jones, op. cit. (March 30 and May 13); Dni (Paris: Cited in “Conflicting Stories of Soviet Famine.” The Literary Digest, April 15, 1933, p. 11); Sabline, loc. cit.; Svoboda (Riga) (Cited by Walter Duranty in “Russian Émigrés Push Fight on Reds,” The New York Times, August 12, 1933, p. 2); “Citizen,” loc. cit.; and Bertillon, loc. cit., (August 30).
  17. Lorimer, op. cit., p. 133. In this vein, Kulischer suggests that mortality during the whole collectivization period was “At least 5 million” (op. cit., pp. 97-98), while Timasheff places the figure at 8 million (Nicholas S. Timasheff, “The Great Retreat,” Dutton, New York, 1946, p. 290).
  18. Ibid., pp. 121, 133. In one place, he “arbitrarily” assigns one-third of this to 1932 (though it seems clear from his comments on p. 121 he meant 1933), which would suggest a figure of 1.83 million for that one year (p. 134).
  19. Eason, loc. cit.
  20. Cecil Woodham-Smith: “Ireland’s Hunger, England’s Fault.” The Atlantic, January 1963, p. 93; or “The Great Hunger,” Harper & Row, New York, 1962, p. 411.
  21. Reginald Passmore, “Famine,” Encyclopedia Britannica, Chicago, 1962, Vol. 9, p. 63.
  22. Belov, op. cit., pp. 12-13.
  23. Manning, op. cit., pp. 98-99.
  24. Kravchenko, op. cit., p. 118.
  25. “Visitors Describe…,” loc. cit., and Bertillon, loc. cit. (August 29); Beal, op. cit., pp. 251-253; Lang, loc. cit.; Walker, loc. cit.
  26. Ammende, op. cit.; see pictures following pp. 64, 96, 128, 160, 192.
  27. Sabline, loc. sit.
  28. “Cardinal Asks…,” loc. cit.; Birchall, loc. cit.; “Visitors Describe…,” loc. cit.; Bertillon, loc. cit.
  29. Williams, loc. cit. (February 24).
  30. Lang, op. cit. (April 15), p. 2.
  31. See, for example, Solevei, op. cit., pp. 30-32. 35.
  32. 92. Manning, op. cit., p. 98.
  33. Chamberlin, op. cit. (1934), p. 85; Manning, op. cit., p. 95; Stephen P. Duggan, “Russia After Eight Years,” Harper’s Magazine, November 1934, p. 696.
  34. Jasny, op. cit., p. 551.
  35. Ammende, op. cit., p. 48; Alan Monkhouse, Moscow, 1911-1933; Little, Brown & Co., Boston, 1934, p. 209.
  36. Barnes, loc. cit. (January 15); Chamberlin, loc. cit. (1934); Ammende, op. cit., p. 72; Muggeridge, op. cit. (May 1933), pp. 558, 561.
  37. See Dana G. Dalrymple, “The American Tractor Comes to Soviet Russia: The Transfer of a Technology,” Technology and Culture, spring 1964.
  38. Nicholas Prychodko, “Ukraine and Russia,” Ukrainian National Committee, Winnipeg, 1953, p. 13; or “The Famine in 1932-33 in Ukraine,” The Ukrainian Quarterly, summer 1953, p. 213.
  39. Chamberlin, loc. cit. (1934); “Visitors Describe…,” loc. cit.; Schiller, op. cit., p. 78.
  40. Manning, op. cit., pp. 103-104
  41. Barnes, loc. cit. (January 15).
  42. Duranty, op. cit. (1944), pp. 190-192.
  43. Jasny, op. cit., p. 794.
  44. Belov, op. cit., p. 12.
  45. The number of party workers continued to grow through the spring and summer until they totalled about 10,000 for Ukraine and 17,000 for the USSR (Postyshev, op. cit., p. 12, 13; Bolshaya Sovietskaya Entsikolpediya, loc. cit.)
  46. Manning, op. cit., pp. 96, 97. For Postyshev’s side of the story, see “The Results of the Agricultural Year 1933 and the Immediate Tasks of the Communist Party of the Ukraine,” Soviet Union Today, Moscow, 1934, pp. 3-33.
  47. Muggeridge, op. cit. (May 1933), p. 564.
  48. Chamberlin, op. cit. (1934), p. 85. Also see Schiller, op. cit., p. 78.
  49. See his letter of April 16, 1933, and Stalin’s reply, as quoted by N. S. Khrushchev in Pravda, March 10, 1963, p. 2 (Current Digest of the Soviet Press, April 3, 1963, p. 12).
  50. “Soviet Harvest…,” loc. cit.
  51. “Preparations for the Harvest of Grains,” Izvestiya, June 14, 1933 (noted in “Russian Economic Notes,” U.S. Dept. of Commerce, No. 243, July 28, 1933, p. 4).
  52. “Obligatory Delivery of Grain to the Government,” Economic Life, June 21, 1933 (“Russian Economic Notes,” No. 245, August 11, 1933, p. 1).
  53. “Preparations for…,” loc. cit.; “Semi-Starvation in…,” loc. cit.
  54. Under a law issued in August 1932, the stealing of so much as an ear of grain “…could be punished by confinement for 10 years in a concentration camp.” (Manning, op. cit., pp. 95, 96). Also see “Visitors Describe…,” loc. cit.
  55. Birchall, loc. cit.
  56. Walter Duranty, “Famine Tolls Heavy in Southern Russia,” The New York Times, August 24, 1933, p. 1.
  57. “Soviet Grain War: Trials of State Farm Officials,” The Times (London), July 14, 1933, p. 13. Also see Belov, op. cit., pp. 13-14; Chamberlin, op. cit. (1934), pp. 85-86; and Fainsod, op. cit. (1957), p. 364.
  58. Postyshev, op. cit., pp. 12, 13. For further details on Postyshev’s activities during this and subsequent periods see Hryhory Kostiuk, “Stalinist Rule in the Ukraine,” Praeger, New York, 1960, p. 27-122.
  59. Williams, loc. cit. (December 1933).
  60. Belov, op. cit., p. 13.
  61. Kravchenko, op. cit., Chapter IX, pp. 110-131. Also see Whiting Williams, “Why Russia is Hungry,” Answers (London), March 3, 1934, p. 3.
  62. “Soviet Harvest…,” loc. cit.
  63. Ibid.; “Obstacles in the Road to Peasant Prosperity,” Economic Life, September 9, 1933 (“Russian Economic Notes,” No. 256, October 27, 1933, p. 2-3); “Moscow Doubles…,” loc. cit.
  64. Walker, op. cit. (February 18), p. 1.
  65. Computed from Jasny, op. cit., p. 794.
  66. For detail on American assistance during the famine of 1891-92, see: Francis B. Reeves, “Russia Then and Now, 1892-1917, My Mission to Russia During the Famine of 1891-1892,” G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1917, 186 pp.; William C. Edgar, “The Russian Famine of 1981 and 1892,” Miller and Manufacturers Insurance Co., Minneapolis, 1893, 74 pp.
  67. Perhaps the best over-all view of this work is provided by H.H. Fisher in “The Famine in Soviet Russia, 1919-1923,” Macmillan, New York, 1927, 609 pp. Also see: F.A. Golder and Lincoln Hutchinson, “On the Trail of the Russian Famine,” Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1927, 319 pp.; Michael Asquith, “Famine” (Quaker Work in Russia, 1921-23), Oxford University Press, New York, 1943, 70 pp.; Peter C. Hiebert and Oric O. Miller, “Feeding the Hungry: Russia Famine, 1919-1921,” Mennonite Central Committee, Scottdale (Pa.), 1929, 465 pp.
  68. “Famine in Ukraine,” United Ukrainian Organizations of the United States, New York, 1934, pp. 11, 12. Dr. Ammende was secretary of the congress, while Cardinal Innitizer called the Vienna conference. (The latter was noted in “The Food Scarcity in Russia,” The Times (London), September 18, 1933, p. 11)
  69. “Wide Starvation…,” loc. cit.; Ewald Ammende, “Famine in Russia” (letter), The Times (London), September 18, 1934, p. 13.
  70. Florence May Mackenzie, “Starvation in the Ukraine,” The Times (London), August 18, 1934, p. 6.; “Appeal for…,” loc. cit.
  71. “Appeal for…,” loc. cit.
  72. The problems of rendering assistance are discussed in detail by Ammende, op. cit., in chapter VIII, pp. 281-311.
  73. The Targsin plan seems to have been mainly a device for obtaining foreign exchange. For details of its operation, see Ammende, op. cit., pp. 285-290, and Lyons, op. cit., pp. 447-64.
  74. On visiting their home village in the summer of 1933, Mr. and Mrs. Stebalo found that “… food and money that had been sent to relatives never had been delivered during the past year” (“Visitors Describe…,” loc. cit.).
  75. Chamberlin, op. cit. (April 1934), p. 504; Schiller, op. cit., p. 79.
  76. “Soviet Sells Food Stored in Fear of Conflict; Defers Ridding Big Cities of Undesirables,” The New York Times, March 7, 1933, p. 7. In Kiev, Mikoyan found the situation so bad in early April that he ordered that supplies destined for the army be sold to the public – but only to an area within 12 miles of the city (Berland, loc. cit.).
  77. Schiller, op. cit., p. 79.
  78. Cited by Ammende, op. cit., p. 101.
  79. Ibid., pp. 152-153.
  80. “The Five Year Plan” (editorial), The New York Times, January 1, 1933, Part IV, p. 4.
  81. Muggeridge, op. cit. (March 25), p. 13. Also “Winter in Moscow,” Eyre & Spottiswoode, London, 1934, p. 138.
  82. “Visitors Describe…,” loc. cit. Also see Bertillon, loc. cit.
  83. Chamberlin, op. cit. (1934), p. 88; Jasny, op. cit., p. 551; Walker, op. cit. (February 18, 27); Lang, op. cit. (April 15).
  84. Lang, op. cit. (April 23), p. 2. Even Stalin referred to the struggle as war but indicated that it was the peasants who were waging it against Soviet rule (Khrushchev, op. cit.).
  85. As reported by Kravchenko, op. cit., p. 130.
  86. Chamberlin, loc. cit. (1934).
  87. Alexander Gerschenkron, “Economic Relations With the USSR,” The Committee on International Economic Policy, New York, 1945, pp. 49-50; Merle Fainsod, op. cit. (1957), pp. 100, 101; Alexander Erlich, “Stalin’s Views on Soviet Economic Development,” in “Continuity and Change in Russian and Soviet Thought” (ed. by E. J. Simmons), Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1955, pp. 97, 98.
  88. Calculated from statistics presented in “Vneshniaya torgovlia SSSR za 1918-1940 gg,” Moscow, 1960, pp. 121, 144-149.
  89. Ibid., pp. 334, 360-363 (tea largely made up the “unprocessed, other” category).
  90. The original data were in 1950 rubles (Ibid., p. 7). They were converted to dollars on the basis of the exchange rate for that year of four rubles to the dollar (Oleg Jerschhowsky and Ferdinand Pirhalla, “Basic Data on the Economy of the USSR,” U.S. Department of Commerce, World Trade Information Service, Part 1, No. 62-52, p. 19).
  91. “Vneshniaya Torgovlia…,” op. cit., p. 144 (converted from metric tons). On a fiscal year basis, Volin reports the following gross figures: 1932-33, 1.5 million tons; 1933-34, 2.1 million tons (Lazar Volin, “A Survey of Soviet Russian Agriculture,” U.S. Department of Agriculture, Monograph 5, 1951, p. 180).
  92. Franklyn D. Holzman, “Foreign Trade,” in “Economic Trends in the Soviet Union” (ed. by Bergson and Kuznets), Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1963, p. 295 (comparable figures for butter were: 47.3 percent and 30 percent; for sugar, 9.2 percent and 3.9 percent).
  93. Ammende, op. cit., p. 42.
  94. Walter Duranty, “Food Shortage Laid to Soviet Peasants,” The New York Times, November 26, 1932, p. 9; Lyons, op. cit., p. 287.
  95. Holzman, op. cit., p. 287.
  96. Belov, op. cit., p. 12.
  97. Kravchenko, op. cit., pp. 121, 129.
  98. Ammende, op. cit., p.46. Further, the biggest export item – wheat – is “…a marvelous food for relief. It can be stored, shipped, and prepared cheaply.” (Pearson and Paarlberg, op. cit., p. 34).
  99. Lyons, op. cit., p. 180.
  100. Max Beloff, “The Foreign Policy of Soviet Russia, 1929-1941,” Oxford University Press, London, 1947, Vol. 1 pp. 77-85; George Vernadsky, “A History of Russia,” Yale University Press, New Haven, 1961, p. 370.
  101. Duranty op. cit. (1944), pp. 190-192. Duranty seems to have the idea that this single requisition was directly responsible for what famine there was. This is unlikely, for as we have seen, most of the famine deaths came more than a year later.
  102. Duranty, loc. cit. (November 26); Williams, op. cit. (March 3), pp. 3,4; Duggan, op. cit., pp. 696, 704; Dallin, op. cit., p. 164.
  103. Kravchenko, op. cit., p. 129.
  104. Berland, loc. cit.
  105. Walker, op. cit. (February 27), p. 14.
  106. See, for example, the articles by Walter Duranty in The New York Times in 1932; September 29 (p. 6.); October 4 (p. 11); November 13 (II, p. 4), 17 (p. 6)., 25 (p. 1), 26 (p. 9).
  107. Lyons, op. cit., pp. 179, 180 and 241.
  108. See Duranty, op. cit. (November 13, 17, 25).
  109. Beal, op. cit., p. 236.
  110. Ibid., p. 239.
  111. Ibid., p. 262. This remark is in interesting contrast with an earlier statement made by Beal in his official capacity that “In the spring of 1933, the foreigners decided to have a collective farm of their own.” (Fred Beal, “Foreign Workers in a Soviet Tractor Plant,” Moscow, 1933, p. 47).
  112. Kulischer, op. cit., p. 99.
  113. This point is also suggested by Williams, op. cit. (February 24), p. 28.
  114. It is an interesting parallel that large estates provided most of the pre-revolutionary exports of grain as well as the food supply for cities (Fisher, op. cit., pp. 470, 481).
  115. Fainsod, loc. cit.; Erlich, loc. cit.; Roy Laird, “Collective Farming in Russia,” University of Kansas Press, Lawrence, 1958, pp. 56-57.
  116. Ammende, op. cit., pp. 89, 179.
  117. Lyons, op. cit., p. 491.
  118. See his letter to Sholokhov (Khrushchev, op. cit.).
  119. Chamberlin, op. cit. (April 1934), p. 504. The same attitude underlay the “Iron Broom” policy of the period of military communism. The results were about the same (Fisher, op. cit., pp. 487, 499).
  120. Ammende, op. cit., p. 152.
  121. There is a curious parallel here with the action of the Soviet authorities in 1921 when the government not only withheld news of famine conditions in Ukraine, but levied a food tax and continued to ship out grain. Fisher indicated that “One cannot escape the feeling that fear or political expediency, or both, influenced the official policy in these regions.” (Fisher, op. cit., pp. 261-266).
  122. Chamberlin, op. cit. (1934), p. 82.
  123. Ammende, op. cit., p. 90, also see p. 146.
  124. Chamberlin, op. cit. (1934), p. 88. Also see Dallin, op. cit., p. 165, and Herbert S. Dinerstein, “Communism and the Russian Peasant,” The Free Press, Glencoe, 1955. p. 35, footnote.
  125. Manning, op. cit., p. 102.
  126. Nancy Baster, “Agrarian Overpopulation in the USSR, 1921-1940,” Columbia University, Faculty of Political Science, M. S. thesis, May 1949, p. 75.
  127. Ibid., p. 57.
  128. Ibid., p. 69.
  129. Schiller, op. cit., p 79; Chamberlin, op. cit. (April 1935), p. 435.
  130. Baster, op. cit., p. 4.
  131. Beal, op cit., p 255. A similar statement was reported to have been made by another Communist, Sklar (Andrew Smith, “Russia – a Starved Nation,” New York Evening Journal, May 29, 1935, p. 6).
  132. Fisher, op. cit., pp. 51, 52, 553.
  133. Ibid., p. 308.
  134. Ibid., pp. 476-80.
  135. Ibid., pp. 476-480, 505.
  136. Dalrymple, loc. cit.
  137. Lyons, op. cit., p. 541.
  138. Ammende, op. cit., p. 192.
  139. Chamberlin, op. cit. (April 1935), p. 431.
  140. Dallin, op. cit., p. 166.
  141. “Litvinov Stays Hour in Warsaw,” The New York Times, October 28, 1933, p. 16.
  142. See the following articles in The New York Times: “Ukrainian Societies Denounce Soviet,” November 12, 1933, pt. II, p. 3; “5 Hurt as 500 Reds Fight Parade Here,” November 19, 1933, p. 1; “100 Hurt in Communist-Ukrainian Riot as Reds Attack Paraders in Chicago,” December 18, 1933, p. 1.
  143. Famine in…, op. cit., p. 13; Solovei, op. cit., p. 4; Ammende, op. cit., pp. 295-296. The point was raised on September 29.
  144. Ammende, op. cit., p. 307.
  145. U.S. recognition came on November 16, 1933, and League of Nations entry on September 18, 1934.
  146. Muggeridge, op. cit. (1934), p. ix.
  147. Barnes, loc. cit. (January 15).
  148. Harnes, loc. cit. (August 21).
  149. Lyons, op. cit., p. 575.
  150. Ibid. The meeting at which this agreement was reached is described in detail on pp. 575-576.
  151. Duranty, loc. cit. (March 31).
  152. Lyons, op. cit., p. 572.
  153. Jones, loc. cit.
  154. Koelnischer Zeitung (Barnes, loc. cit. August 21).
  155. “Moscow Doubles…” loc. cit.; Chamberlin, op. cit. (April 1935), p. 433; Lyons, op. cit., p. 576.
  156. Barnes, loc. cit. (August 21).
  157. Beal, op. cit., p. 245.
  158. Williams, loc. cit. (December 1933).
  159. Lyons, op. cit., p. 579.
  160. See his series of articles datelined Kharkiv and Rostov, in The New York Times in September 1933: September 14 (p. 14); 18 (p. 8); 19 (p 15).
  161. Lyons, op. cit., p. 580.
  162. Ammende, op. cit., p. 76.
  163. Walker, op. cit. (February 18), p. 1.
  164. Ammende, op. cit., pp. 75, 76; Manning, op. cit., pp. 99, 100; Allen, op. cit., p. 329. A particularly unfortunate outcome of this move was that many parents left their children behind rather than take them back to “certain starvation.” (Williams, op. cit., February 24, pp. 16. 17).
  165. Ammende, op. cit., p. 76; Chamberlin, op. cit. (1934), pp. 85-86.
  166. Ammende, loc. cit.; Berland, loc. cit.; Duggan, op. cit., p. 696; Williams, op. cit. (February 24), p. 19; Muggeridge, op. cit. (June 5), p. 11. Also see Fyodor Abramov, “One Day in The ‘New Life'” (translation by David Floyd of “Vokrug da okolo,” Neva, No. 1, 1963), Praeger, New York, 1963 (published as “The Dodgers,” London, 1963), pp. 129-30, particularly the footnote.
  167. Solovei, op. cit., p. 34.
  168. Beal, op. cit., p. 244; also see pp. 257-259.
  169. Ammende, op. cit., p. 240. Details on Herriot’s tour are provided on pp. 223-257. Also see Lyons, op. cit., pp. 576-577.
  170. Maynard, op. cit., pp. 249-250.
  171. Ammende, op. cit., p. 190, also p. 48; “German Concession in Russia is Liquidating; Model Farm Has Been Profitable Venture,” The New York Times, August 28, 1933, p. 2.
  172. Ammende, loc. cit.
  173. Ibid., pp. 76, 190; Kulischer, op. cit., p. 97.
  174. The biological yield method is discussed by Jasny, op. cit., pp. 728-729.
  175. Lyons, op. cit., p. 579; Jasny, op. cit., p. 553; Eason, loc. cit.
  176. Birchall, loc. cit.; Williams, op. cit. (February 24), p. 22; Manning, op. cit., p. 101.
  177. Lyons, op. cit., p. 577.
  178. Ibid., pp. 577-578.
  179. From his preface to Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s novel “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,” originally published in Novy Mir, November 1962 (as cited in the Bantam-Praeger edition, New York, 1963, p. xvii).
  180. The same publication carried Fyodor Abramov’s “Vokrug da okolo” (op. cit.) one month later.