Ukraine: Was the Soviet-era famine genocide?

Elderly Ukrainians don

Elderly Ukrainians don’t like to talk about the Great Famine, said Daisy Sinclair in During the 1932–33 Holodomor, or hunger-murder, some 10 million Ukrainians—including one-third of the nation’s children—starved to death. The memories are nightmarish: “eating birds and earthworms; watching as family members died in their arms; and in the worst instances, consuming the flesh of the dead.” Ukraine was at that time a Soviet socialist republic, and the Soviets hushed up the story. Discussion of the Holodomor was a crime against the state. Now, on the 75th anniversary of the tragedy, an independent Ukraine is openly honoring the victims and encouraging survivors to speak out.

The Holodomor was not merely a tragedy, said Viktor Yushchenko, president of Ukraine, in The Wall Street Journal. It was genocide. Ukraine, widely known as the breadbasket of the Soviet Union, had a normal harvest in 1932, and there was plenty of food. But Stalin wanted to punish Ukraine’s peasants for their refusal to give up their land and work on collective farms, so he sent troops to every farm and town and confiscated not just the harvest but also the contents of all the grocery stores. “Eventually, the whole territory of Ukraine was surrounded by armed forces, turning the entire country into a vast death camp.” At the same time, Soviet authorities waged a “terror campaign” against Ukrainian intellectuals, purging academics, writers, and musicians in an attempt to eradicate Ukraine’s cultural heritage. Ukrainians today don’t blame Russia or any other country for Stalin’s crimes. We just want the world to follow Ukraine and the U.S. in recognizing the Holodomor for what it truly was: the deliberate murder of millions of people.

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