Is This An Overview:
Soviet Russian policies caused a
Holodomor. A major famine within Ukraine
during the 1930s. Even worse than the
one they caused shorty after they took power in 1917. For centuries past before that, Ukraine was a
possession of other states. Each wanted
Ukraine for the region’s fertile land, to feed the occupiers population. But like many regions during the early 20th
century, Ukraine sought for sovereignty.
They did gain sovereignty, but could not hold it. Division within Ukraine and with various
Bolshevik strategies, the Soviet regime took control of Ukraine until the
Soviet regime fell in 1991. During their
rule, Ukraine was Russified, especially after the famine depopulated the
region. Ukrainian cultural heritage was
systematically destroyed. Until the fall
of the Soviet power, the famine was denied.
imposed on Ukraine by the Soviet power were designed to get as much food from
the peasants as possible. The effect
they had was to reduce the ability to produce food. Peasants did not want to produce food that
was going to be confiscated. They were
even willing to destroy much of their food stores to prevent food from being
confiscated. The reduction in food
production under the Soviet regime, made less food available than under Imperial
A prominent policy
was Stalin’s collectivization. Under collectivization,
peasants generally had to give up their private property, and work on collective
farms. A reintroduction of serfdom. Violence was routine. The policies were a failure, but could not
blamed on the Bolsheviks. Failures were
blamed on everyone else. Even those
starving were blamed. Deaths due to
famine were privately acknowledge, but publicly denied. Soviet propaganda worked to legitimize the
persecution of anyone who did not have Soviet support, and were effective at
manipulating foreign press as they were able to gain international
Is There Any Information On Ukraine’s History?
Ukraine means borderlands.
Founded by Slavic tribes and Viking nobility, which Russians,
Belarusians, and Ukrainians claim as their ancestor. It then belonged to Lithuania until 1569,
which it then became a part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Ukraine was part of the Russian empire
between the 18th and 20th centuries. As regional power shifted many times, Ukraine
developed a diverse cultural background, with some religious variation. Poles and Russians, saw Ukraine as a
primitive and more authentic place.
Subject to romantic poetry and fiction.
Ukraine had fertile lands.
Poles and Russians did not want to lose access to the agricultural
breadbasket should Ukraine become an independent state. The Ukraine identity was formed nonetheless,
often defined in opposition to the occupying foreigners. Poles and Russians wanted Ukraine, therefore
undermined Ukrainian sovereignty claims.
Ukrainian national aspirations were deemed a threat to Imperial
Russia. Peasants were already gaining
economic influence. Wealthier, literate,
and better organized peasantry would have demanded greater political rights. When Russia collapsed in 1917, and the
Austro-Hungarian empires collapsed in 1918, Ukrainians decided that it was time
to establish their own state.
What Was The Political Structure Of Ukraine And Russia?
Although Ukraine did not have sovereignty, they expressed
their hope like other states without sovereignty, through literature and
art. Russia had banned Ukrainian
intellectual activities such as books and culture.
Ukraine did gain independence in 1917, but temporarily. They could not develop a functioning
bureaucracy, public administration, or effective military might to defend
against invasion. Russia, Germany, and
Austria were attempting to undermine Ukrainian nationalism. The Soviets, under Lenin’s authorization
attacked Ukraine in January 1918. The
attempt to conquer Ukraine failed when German and Austrian troops supported a
There was a political division within Ukraine. There were those who wanted Ukrainian
national movement, and those who supported the Bolsheviks. Bolsheviks were a radical faction who
agitated Russia and appealed to the masses.
Led by Lenin, and after taking political control of Russia, they
considered themselves to be the vanguard of the proletariat, a dictatorship of
the proletariat. They sought absolute
power, and were willing to use violence and terror to abolish alternative
The leaders of the established USSR, did not see Ukraine as
a distinct economic region, but as Southwest Russia. They were prejudiced against any Ukrainian
identity from an early age. Seeing
Ukrainians as primitive former serfs. The
USSR Marxists ideology had contempt for Ukrainians, whom they saw as peasants
who had no class consciousness.
Lenin supported cultural autonomy and self-determination,
unless it did not work for Lenin. After
the Bolsheviks failed to maintain control of Kyiv after a few weeks, they still
invaded Ukraine with teams to confiscate peasants’ grain. The strategies changed to false flag operations. Russian troops were disguised under a banner
of Soviet Ukrainian liberation movement to confuse nationalists. Trying to convince people to accept Soviet
power. They also prevented intellectual
activity and news. Arresting Ukrainians
they accused as separatism.
What Is The Power Of Food?
There is power in food.
Food is a political tool. Food is
a weapon. Those who had food were able
to get followers, soldiers, and friends.
Support was lost quickly for those without food to give.
Food shortages in Russia began with the start of World War
One. Imperial Russia attempted to
alleviate food shortages with policies designed to centralize food
distribution. Their effect was to create
administrative problems without alleviating the food shortages. Soviet Russia extended the same principles,
but also wanted to remove the middlemen.
The Soviet result was to exacerbate the supply crisis. Lenin thought that the nationalized food
distribution was an appropriate system, but that they were not sufficiently
harsh, especially in Ukraine.
Under Marxist ideology, they created a hierarchy for
peasants. From wealthy, middle, to
poor. They called them kulaks,
seredniaks, and bedniaks. A hierarchy
meant to define who would be persecuted and benefit from the policies imposed.
In 1919, Soviet Russia was going through a crisis, and
wanted to exploit Ukraine to maintain control of Russia. They needed food to supply the
proletariat. This became known as War
Communism. Taking control using violence
means, and redistributing food to those deemed essential by the state. Imperial Russia confiscated food since 1916, which
the Provisional Government continued to do so.
Forcing peasants to sell all their grain at state dictated prices,
except those needed for agriculture and consumption. In practice, War Communism meant most people
went hungry. Trotsky supported the
requisitioning of food at all costs, for that would have meant civil war
between kulaks and other elements in the villages. Seeking to deepen divisions, which would
create anger and resentment to further Bolshevik policies.
To obtain food, Russians and Ukrainians used illegal
invisible markets, rather than non-existent state companies. Illegal markets gave people access to food,
but the Bolsheviks blamed them for the continuing crisis. Bolsheviks wanted formal markets. The Bolsheviks thought that their policy was
meant to make people richer rather than poorer, but never blamed their own
policies for the failures.
What Were The Results Of The Food Requisitions?
The policy backfired.
The Cossacks revolted against the Red Army (Bolshevik’s army), which
included the Cossacks that had previously supported the Bolshevik’s. The local Bolshevik leaders, requested an end
to gain requisitions. Moscow did not
consider their views. The requisitions
were left in place, but were unsuccessful.
Only a fraction of the requested food was taken. The Bolshevik’s were expelled from Ukraine a
2nd time in Summer on 1919, fueling a gargantuan violent peasant
uprising. The uprising and rebellion
taught the Bolsheviks that Ukraine was an intellectual and military threat.
Ukraine’s military was defeated, but not their intellectual
ideals. Nationalism that could attract
foreign allies, who could become a threat to USSR. Ukraine peasants wanted socialism, a
socialist revolution but not a Bolshevik revolution. They wanted their own representatives, not
communists. They wanted redistribution,
but wanted to work the land on their own.
They did not want another serfdom.
They wanted respect for their intellectual and cultural heritage. These ideas resonated during the 1920s.
What Information Is There On The 1920s Famine?
During 1920, Lenin requisitioned all gain from the
peasants. All grain, which included
those needed for consumption and for future planting harvest. This caused agriculture production to
plunge. Not only did the people needed
to plant were off fighting in World War One, but the farmers that were there
did not want to plant food they knew would be confiscated.
There was also a drought, causing major crop failure. Bad weather would have caused problems, as it
did in the past. But weather combined
with confiscatory food collection policies, along with a lack of labor,
produced a catastrophe. 95% of the
normal harvest did not materialize.
Prior droughts were planned for with the preservation and storage of
surplus gain. But in 1921, there was no
surplus grain as they had been confiscated.
Resulting in famine.
The 1921 famine, was not kept secret. The regime even tried to help the
starving. Setting up a famine committee
with various leaders. Local committees
were formed. Even international aid. International aid came from Red Cross, Jewish
Join Distribution Committee, various European countries, and American Relief
Administration. America was a large
source of aid, which wanted to expand the aid network into Russia.
America wanted all Americans released who were held in
Soviet prisons, and immunity from prosecution to ARA workers. Hoover thought that aid would be stolen if it
was not controlled, and that Americans would be accused of espionage. Americans were actually collecting
information. Lenin did not appreciate
the demands, but had to relent to gain famine relief. The Communist Party was meant to control the
distribution of food to gain credibility, but the American aid was allowed to
proceed which saved many lives.
Soviet leadership needed currency, and secretly sold gold
and other valuables abroad to obtain guns, ammunition, and industrial
machinery. They would even sell food
internationally, during the famine, to obtain their equipment. The ARA left Russia due to this policy.
Ukraine did receive aid eventually. The famine seemed under control by 1923, but
the delayed caused many unnecessary deaths.
There were those who thought that the opposition to relief in Ukraine
was politically inspired. Some thought
that the famine was instrumental, to end the Ukrainian peasant rebellion. Grain requisition broke up communities, and
forced many to leave home to search for food.
Those who remained were weakened and demoralized by the starvation,
which prevented armed struggles.
In 1921, Lenin even launched a New Economic Policy which
included an end to compulsory grain collection, and made free trade temporarily
legal. In 1923, the Soviets wanted to
appeal to non-Russian minorities under an indigenization program. Giving status to different languages and
cultures. By making Soviet power more
familiar to Ukrainians, the idea was to reduce Ukrainian demands for
sovereignty. Lenin was even willing to
indulge Ukrainian national emotions to prevent losing Ukraine again.
These strategies were considered a step backwards by
idealists of Marxism-Leninism. New
Economic Policy were considered a transient deviation. Considered a way to give time for the
peasants to become enlightened on Soviet ideals, in which communist policies
NEP evolved into state capitalism. Markets functioned under heavy state
control. Mandatory grain procurements
were replaced with a tax. Grain was
allowed to be sold for money. Even with
this very limited market economy, food became more available.
What Were The 1930s Policies That Impacted The Famine?
1927 was 10 years that the Communist Party took control of
Russia. Living standards were lower in
the USSR than under the tsars. Food
distribution was according to status, and was still scarce.
Lenin’s death during 1924 caused an internal power struggle
in which Stalin organized support to remove Trotsky, who was the main rival to
power. Stalin sided with the people who
supported NEP, against Trotsky’s supporters of opposed NEP as that would have
created a new capitalist class and enriched the kulaks. In 1927, Trotsky was exiled, and Stalin
changed sides to support those who opposed NEP.
Stalin radicalized Soviet policy, and wanted to remove any political
Trade was reclassified as criminal behavior. There were people who stored grain to wait
until prices would have increased. This
was considered evidence of conspiracy.
Anyone refusing to sell grain to the state at set prices would be
arrested. These policies, brought NEP to
Under the new policies, peasants that worked hard on their
land would have become kulaks, enemies of the people. If peasants remained poor, they would have
been worse off than American peasants, who they were competing with. Peasants had a choice of either ideologically
approved poverty or dangerously unacceptable wealth. This was an economic trap from which peasants
could not find a way out. Working badly
would have meant hunger. Working well
would have been punished by the state.
Success became an enemy.
Efficiency became thought of with suspicion. Stalin understood that the policies destroyed
an incentive to produce grain.
Stalin understood that smaller farms created poor peasants,
while kulaks were more productive due to bigger properties. Although larger farms would have been more
productive, this would have legitimated kulaks which was unacceptable. The resolution was collective farming. Unification of small peasants into larger
collective farms. The peasants were forced
to give up private small lands, to aggregate the resources, and join collective
Collectivization claimed would have made farms more
efficient, contain better management techniques, and utilize modern
technology. Land and equipment would be shared. Harvesters would have been leased to collective
farms. Soviet government created a
Five-Year Plan which included how the workers should behave. Former peasants, now workers, were meant to
work in shifts, and compete to overproduce.
This also created a shortage of natural resources, which were going to
be mined by peasants.
Collective farms were different, but would generally require
members to give all private property into the collective. Some peasants remined in their homes, but
others would be moved to collective homes.
None would have owned valuables.
Peasants would be paid wages, usually in the form of food and other
goods, in small quantities.
Stalin thought that exploitation of peasants was the key to
industrialization. Using the same
methods of colonialization as historic empires.
Stalin was not willing to rely on foreign loans. Which left only the colonization of the
peasants. To obtain internal
accumulation for the Soviet industry.
Peasants would pay tribute to improve the rate of industrial
growth. Stalin was willing to sacrifice
peasants to industrialize the USSR, and prepared to remove them off their
land. There were other options
available, but were avoided in favor of terror.
Forced collectivization appeared to be inevitable and unavoidable. Collectivization was Stalin’s policy, with
Stalin’s reptation at stake.
Young urban enthusiasts went to farms to help, but they were
inexperienced. Local authorities needed
to manage chains of command and conflicting priorities. Village councils were inefficient either
because of their duties, or to protect their neighbors. The inexperienced used wrong seeds for the
soil, and provided bad advice.
Ukrainians heard rumors of more requisitions, and possible
further famine. They decided to hide as
much of their valuables such as food as possible. Communist Party leaders in Ukraine had
expected a famine in late 1932, and thought that it could be prevented. They asked Stalin to follow the example from
the 1921 famine. To halt grain exports,
stop the punishing grain requisitions, or ask for international aid. There was some domestic aid offered to the
peasants, but not enough. Rather, the
Soviet leadership exacerbated the Ukrainian famine while preventing the
peasants from leaving to search for food.
Motivated by hunger and political ideology, there were teams of
policemen and party activists who entered peasant homes and took everything
Although Stalin did not order a famine, that was the effect
in practice. To protect their property
from collective farms, some slaughter their animals and the used or concealed
the meat. There were cases in which
peasants released their animals into the street. Ukrainians had to give up their grain
reserves which would have caused them to starve, or they could hide grain
reserves and risk arrest which would have confiscated the food and therefore
also starve. Even willing to destroy
their property. Peasants thought it
better to destroy everything than hand their property to the authorities. The destruction was seen as a deliberate act
To fulfill quotas, collectivization brigades used
intimidation and torture. Violence and
terror did lead many peasants to relinquish their property to collective
farms. This was through coercive means
rather than enthusiasm. Outcomes of
peasant efforts no longer belonged to the peasants. Internal responsibility was destroyed by
collectivization. As there was no
rewards for more efforts, previously self-reliant farmers worked as little as
possible. They did not even maintain the
machines which frequently broke down.
It was not the bourgeoise that caused the famine, but Soviet
Union’s policy of collective farms. Everyone
understood that collectivization had caused the shortages. Stalin received reports which detailed the
problems on the collective farms.
In 1932, Stalin decided to appear as more benevolent. When it was obvious that Ukraine could not
obtain the required amount of grain, Stalin allowed them to produce less than
required. Even though the quota was
reduced, it was still unrealistic, yet had to be collected.
Brigades were sent to collect any food. Any food that was being cooked was tossed,
and an inquiry began as how they were able to obtain the food. Those who were not starving, were
Brigades were tasked with searching other villages then
their own to prevent sympathetic views.
As familiarity would have caused the activists to protect locals, the
activists needed to be changed frequently.
There were local activists who understood that their orders would have
meant the death of their neighbors, and therefore did not carry out their
orders. Activists themselves were
searched as well, by other activists.
Collaborators in the regime were not spared. Perpetrators sometimes met resistance and
violence from their robbed neighbors.
The brigades were composed of Ukrainian peasants themselves, stealing
their neighbor’s food.
What Kind Of Persecution Was There During The 1930s
Ukraine was turned into a Soviet state through the Holodomor
and the persecution of Ukrainian intellectual and political class. The purpose was to destroy the possibility of
any Ukrainian national ideas, and prevent Ukraine from challenging Soviet
unity. While the peasants were dying due
to famine, the Soviet secret police persecuted Ukrainian intellectual and
political elites. Anyone connected to
the propagation of Ukrainian language or history were liable to be publicly
shamed, jailed, sent to labor camp, or executed.
10 years under Bolshevik control, the Bolsheviks could not
fulfill their promises, they offered scapegoats. Collectivization was not a policy allowed to
be questioned. Collectivization was
associated with Stalin. Stalin was not
allowed to be wrong. Stalin nor party
officials could not be held responsible for the failures of collectivization,
therefore the responsibility was delegated to scapegoats.
Starting in 1929, with various waves, many sent to prison or
the Gulag, or shot. The persecutions
gained more aspects over time. Which
included anyone who the political police decided on. Anyone who criticized the Communist Party
were liable to be persecuted. Those
persecuted were considered counter-revolutionaries. Anyone who were not in a collective farm were
considered counter-revolution, as enemies.
Eliminating dissidents, and those not insufficiently enthusiastic. Those considered enemies lost their property
rights, and legal standing.
Those who fit into the category of kulaks became
expansive. Any activity that produced
unearned income became a kulak. Some became
called kulak because they did not join a collective farm.
Famine was made worse by the methods used to destroy
previous values, such as dignity for human life. Even churches and village rituals were
attacked using ideological justification.
Bolsheviks were atheists who considered churches part of the old
regime. Churches provided a link to the
past, which Bolsheviks wanted to remove.
Churches provided a social function as a gathering for peasants, a place
not controlled by the state. They were centers
of opposition to the state. The attacks
on the Church caused the priests to become convinced that the Soviet Union was
an Antichrist organization. Peasants did
not want to be part of collective farms for material reason and spiritual ones,
as they did not want eternal damnation.
Collectivization destroyed social relations, with
unforgivable acts. Those who
participated in violence could not return to their old ways. Family relations were also changed, for
parents could no longer protect their children.
Children were instructed to denounce their parents. Traditions were destroyed. Before collectivization, villages tended to
have self-rule with elections. After
collectivization, elections were a façade for state determined candidates to
espouse neighbors to join the Soviet project.
Women protested because they were less likely to be
arrested. Women had less to fear from
physical retribution. Should the women
have been attacked, the peasant men would have had a legitimate reason for them
to join the protest. Men would have had
the reason of defending the honor of wives, mothers, and daughters.
With collectivization, the peasants became dependent on the
state. They had no money or
property. Peasants could only leave home
with permission, but permission was denied.
The inability to leave meant the reintroduction of serfdom.
During the famine, the starving were considered perpetrators
rather than victims. Which gave the
state justification to refuse to help the starving. Responsibility for food shortages and mass
deaths, were laid on those who were dying.
The methods used to persecute the population became more
extreme and violent. Propaganda language
masked reality. People tried their best
to prevent thinking about the events they were participating in. Repetition of hateful tasks and claims, made
it easier to continue them. Propaganda
made the persecuted appear less then citizens, less than human.
How Was The 1930s Famine Covered Up?
Until the Ukrainian independence of 1991, the story of the
1932-3 famine was not told. USSR refused
to acknowledge any history of famine.
Destroying archives and altering death records to conceal what
happened. Population and mortality
statistics were manipulated to match party rhetoric. Soviets did not keep records of the victims,
therefore denying the deaths.
Stalin’s officials wanted to conceal the starvation
statistics. But the dead bodies were
found on the streets, because no one had the strength to bury them. The officials were denying what was
happening, even as it was happening in from of them and visitors. The reports tried their best to prevent
blaming food shortages on people leaving, rather they blamed those facing
repression due to unfulfilled grain procurement obligations. Ukrainian communists referred to problems or
difficulties, rarely to famine. They
knew what was happening, but survived by observing Soviet taboos. Privately the famine was acknowledged, but
not in the public. Soviet officials used
Soviet leadership wanted foreign approval for domestic
reasons. Starting from 1917, foreigner
publications were stationed in the USSR, to support the propaganda. Publications even from America. They supported the USSR achievements, for the
publications saw what the Soviet’s wanted them to see. They were encouraged to dismiss information
about food shortages, which some did.
Franklin Roosevelt was interested in USSR policies, and then
supported their claims. They began to
actively dismiss negative news about the USSR.
As the famine worsened, information control by the USSR got
stricter. Visits to famine ravaged
regions were refused. Support from
international politics meant that USSR propaganda worked.
How Did People Survive?
As the famine grew deeper, rebellion ceased. Those who starved were physically enfeebled
and could not fight. Satiating hunger
was the overwhelming drive. The extreme
forms of hunger made any effort exhausting, which included various diseases
connected to lack of food.
Survival was difficult.
Either through performing human taboos, discovered willpower, or saved
by someone with willpower. They ate just
about anything. Flora or fauna. Brigades did their best to spoil food. As people were starving, the spoiled food was
still eaten. Survivors of the famine
witnessed cannibalism or necrophagy.
Villages had special boxes set up for anonymous information
about hidden grain deposits. It was
popular to inform on others, because part of the found food was a reward to the
What Are The Outcomes Of the Famine?
During World War Two, the Red Army retreated from Ukraine
using a scorched earth policy. Nazi
officials knew about the famine conditions before capturing Ukraine, and
decided that there was nothing that would have helped the Ukrainians even if
they wanted to. Ukrainians were
considered a racially inferior race by the Nazi, therefore could be
discarded. Although the Germans cut off
food supplies, the Nazi were less efficient than Soviets in preventing peasant
traders. Ukrainian famine was considered
a myth coming from Nazi propaganda. Nazi
occupation caused uncertainty about the famine.
By 1959-1970, as Ukrainian population was depleted by war,
famine, and purges, this gave many Russian’s opportunities to migrate to the
regions. Ukrainians left behind
assimilated into the Russian majority. Russification
of Ukraine through destruction of culture and memory had caused many to not
consider them to have a separate history.
Ukrainians began to have confused loyalties.
There are many references to
Imperial and Soviet Russia. The
references provide a limited background on Russia.
The chronology of the events can be confusing. Generally with a linear progression, but
often providing information by context and therefore sharing historical
associations. Sometimes there appears to
be time skips with details left out.