Calgary Herald | 27Nov2010 | Roman Storoshchuk
Ukrainian famine is a genocide
Seventy-seven years have passed since Josef Stalin's Soviet regime
ravaged the Ukrainian nation with a fabricated famine, the Holodomor,
in 1932-33. The Holodomor (which means 'death by famine' in Ukrainian)
was engineered by the Soviet regime to quell the rise of Ukrainian
nationalism and tighten its control of Eastern Europe during this
This dark page in history saw the deliberate starvation and death of
seven to 10 million Ukrainians and was kept secret from the rest of the
world at the time.
Even now the Holodomor is still struggling for global awareness and
recognition as an act of genocide.
The Holodomor occurred at a time when a resurgence of Ukrainian
nationalism was sweeping across Ukraine. The concept of Ukrainian
national identity was very strong among Ukrainian peasants at this
time. This phenomenon was a growing danger to Josef Stalin. It
signalled a decrease in the Soviet Union's geopolitical grip on
Ukraine, an area of extreme importance for the stability of the Soviet
regime and a buffer between the Soviet empire and the west.
Stalin knew that the only way to overcome this threat was to eliminate
the Ukrainian people.
At the height of the famine Ukrainians were dying of starvation at a
rate of 25,000 per day. At the same time the Soviet Union confiscated
Ukraine's grain and exported 1.7 million tons.
Raphael Lemkin, the primary author of the UN Convention on Genocide,
used the Holodomor as a classic example of genocide. The UN defines
genocide as "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in
part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group" (Convention on the
Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Article 2). The
convention then goes on to list the various methods by which this can
be done, one of which is "deliberately inflicting on the group
conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction
in whole or in part."
The Soviet regime's implementation of the Holodomor as an action
specifically against the Ukrainian people clearly fits this description
and therefore should be easily regarded as an act of genocide.
Unfortunately this is not yet a globally accepted view.
In 2006, the Ukrainian government under President Viktor Yushchenko
took a monumental step by officially recognizing the Holodomor as an
act of genocide. Many other nations followed suit, including Canada in
2008. However, one important country that refuses to recognize the
Holodomor as a genocide is the Soviet Union's successor, Russia, which
on the contrary, has been very adamant in its denial of this
In February 2010, when Viktor Yanukovych was elected president of
Ukraine, the struggle for genocide recognition became significantly
harder. Under political pressure from Russia, Yanukovych has failed to
recognize the Holodomor as an act of genocide. In April 2010,
Yanukovych told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
that the Holodomor could not be considered an act of genocide as it was
a "common tragedy of the Soviet people," rather than a crime against
the Ukrainian people specifically. However, many declassified documents
retrieved from the KGB and Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) show
communications between Stalin and other high-ranking Soviet officials
that clearly show their intent to target Ukrainians specifically.
It is disgraceful that Ukraine's own president remains in the palm of
the Kremlin's hand in his stand on this issue. It will be extremely
difficult to achieve global recognition of the Holodomor as genocide if
Ukraine's own leadership is not on board.
Canada, however, remains strong in its recognition of this genocide
atrocity. In his recent trip to Ukraine, Stephen Harper made a point of
addressing the issue of the Holodomor as genocide with Yanukovych. As a
nation which values historical accuracy, Canada remains one of the
primary promoters of this issue.
It is extremely important that international pressure continue in order
that the Holodomor be recognized as a genocide. It is time that the
victims of this atrocity receive the recognition they deserve. Today,
the fourth Saturday in November, is an international day of awareness
for the Holodomor.
We should all do our part in spreading the word about this atrocity.
All nations must accept the truth and recognize the 1932-1933 Ukrainian
Holodomor as an act of genocide.
Roman Storoshchuk is a
philosophy student at the University of Calgary and a member of the
Ukrainian Canadian Students' Union.
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