January 10, 1988

Shcherbytsky says famine was a result of collectivization of Soviet agriculture


(The Ukrainian Weekly, January 10, 1988, No. 2, Vol. LVI)

KIEV – Volodymyr Shcherbytsky, first secretary of the Communist Party of Ukraine, stated on December 25 that famine in the 1930s was a consequence of the collectivization of Soviet agriculture.

Speaking to a party meeting in Kiev on the 70th anniversary of Soviet rule in Ukraine, Mr. Shcherbytsky broke new ground in the debate over Joseph Stalin. Previously, General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev had criticized Stalin’s collectivization policies, but had not mentioned the famine.

Mr. Gorbachev had referred to the “excesses” of collectivization under Stalin. He stated that the policy had been carried out incorrectly, but that it was a transformation of “fundamental importance.”

Western historians estimate that some 7 million persons died as a result of the 1932-33 famine in Ukraine.

Mr. Shcherbytsky, whose speech was published in the December 26 issue of Pravda Ukrainy, denounced the forced tempo of farm collectivization, the use of “administrative methods,” or commands handed down from the Kremlin, in violation of the principle of voluntary membership in the collective, and “distortions” in the attitude toward the middle-class peasantry and the fight against the kurkuls, or prosperous farmers.

“In addition, there was an unforseen drought,” Mr. Shcherbytsky said. “All this caused serious food problems at the end of 1932 and the beginning of 1933, and in a number of rural areas, even famine.”

However, Mr. Shcherbytsky stated, “The Soviet government did everything possible to help the population of Ukraine, the Don, Kuban, Volga and Kazakhstan who suffered as a result or this evil.”

Mr. Shcherbytsky did not mention Stalin by name, but he did say that the Communist Party had “condemned the Stalin cult and its consequences.”

He cited “crude violations of the law, unfounded accusations against many party, soviet and agricultural workers, and cultural and scholarly activists of political mistakes and nationalistic deviations (that) were allowed in our republic as well (as throughout the USSR).”

The Ukrainian party chief also said the party leadership had called on historians to review the period and to make appropriate proposals, perhaps hinting at the possible rehabilitation of certain persons from the Stalin period.

Finally, Mr. Shcherbytsky also attacked Ukrainians living abroad and “Zionist nationalist centers.”

“Soviet Ukraine,” he said, “is constantly the subject of imperialistic propaganda” – the work of “Western intelligence agencies, their servants – Ukrainians living abroad, and Zionist nationalist centers.”