Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ukrainian Holocaust: Genocide by Starvation

by TONY HALPIN (TIMES ONLINE)

Ukrainian Holocaust: Genocide by Starvation (June 23, 2008) Grigori Garaschenko remembers seeing his classmates starve slowly to death in a famine that killed millions of people in Ukraine.

A neighbour driven mad by hunger killed her six-year-old daughter and began to eat her, he said, after Soviet soldiers confiscated all the food in their village during house-to-house searches.

Mr Garaschenko, 89, is one of the few remaining survivors of the famine of 1932-33. Now, 75 years on, Ukraine wants the world to recognise that what it calls the Holodomor was a deliberate act of genocide by Stalin's Soviet Union.

It is a campaign that infuriates modern Russia. Moscow argues that there was no such crime because Russians and other nationalities also starved under Stalin's policy of turning peasant farms into large state-run collectives.

The Institute of National Memory, the Ukrainian body responsible for researching the Holodomor, calculates that three million people died in the months after Stalin punished the collective farms for failing to meet grain production targets in 1932.

Soviet troops confiscated the harvest and all the food in villagers' homes.

Igor Yukhnovsky, the director of the institute, told The Times that as many as nine million may have died as a result of the famine and its aftermath. Stalin's intention, he said, was to break Ukraine's national identity.

"The land gives birth to the nation. During the Holodomor, the nation was destroyed, and this was the basic purpose," Mr Yukhnovsky, 82, said. "Now that Ukraine has restored its statehood, the first thing we must do is restore our history."

He said that preparations would begin next week for a judicial inquiry to establish who was guilty of implementing the Holodomor. He said the institute had received government approval to conduct the investigation, based in part on Soviet-era archives.

"We must know the names of the people in authority who were in charge of this criminal enterprise. They must be convicted. Of course, a lot of these people are already dead or too old, but they must have sentence passed so that their descendants can be freed from guilt," Mr Yukhnovsky said.

The institute is also overseeing the construction of a memorial complex in Kiev as part of commemorations to mark the 75th anniversary of the Holodomor in November.

Its campaign to name the guilty men is likely to exacerbate tensions with Russia, which does not deny that millions died, but insists that the famine was not a weapon aimed only at Ukrainians.

The Russian parliament, the Duma, passed a resolution in April rejecting claims that the famine "was organised along ethnic lines”, and warning Ukraine against using the tragedy as “a tool for modern political speculation".

Alexander Solzhenitsyn was equally vociferous, condemning the "provocateur's cry of ‘genocide'" in a newspaper article

(Alexander Solzhenitsyn speaks like a Russian chauvinist who is still in denial of reality)

Discussion of the Holodomor was taboo in Soviet times. But the Ukrainian parliament backed a declaration put forward by President Yushchenko in 2006 that the famine was genocide, rejecting an attempt by pro-Russian deputies to characterise it simply as a 'tragedy'.

Mr Garaschenko remembers helping to bury the dead and says that he survived only because a teacher managed to obtain tiny rations of bread for children who attended school. The teacher was later shot as an 'enemy of the people'.

He adds that people over the border in Belarus, close to his village, did not starve. Mr Garaschenko said: "There were only Ukrainians in the villages. When they tell you it wasn't a genocide against the Ukrainian people, it's all lies. The Soviet soldiers went house to house taking away all our food. They left the people nothing to eat and left them to die."

Katerina Kholivach, 80, another survivor, was only 4 when her family left her in an orphanage because she was too weak to travel as they fled the famine. When her mother returned to collect her later, Soviet officials told her that Katerina had died. Mrs Kholivach discovered that her brother and sister were alive only in 2002. She said: "The Holodomor was a huge crime and I was a victim of it. I have suffered the consequences all my life."

The great hunger

At the height of the Ukrainian famine in 1933, an estimated 25,000 people died each day

By the end of 1933, almost 25 per cent of the Ukrainian population is thought to have perished

An estimated 80 per cent of Ukraine's population were small-scale farmers

By mid-1932 almost 75 per cent of farms had been seized by the state to force Ukrainian peasants into the Soviet system of land management

Grain exports were raised dramatically and agents were sent to villages to confiscate grain, bread and any other food they could find

The Soviet Union exported 1.7 million tons of grain to the West during the famine.

Nearly a fifth of a ton of grain was exported for each person who died of starvation

Holodomor, the Ukrainian name for the famine, means "murder by hunger."

Sources: ukrainiangenocide.com; historyplace.com ; loc.gov

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article4193129.ece

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