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UKRAINE NEWS : Dec 28,2008

Translation for 140 languages by ALS
Genocide in Ukraine

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AUR#922 Dec 28 Battle for Truth Continues; It Is For Those Who Come After Us; An Obligation To HistorySunday, December 28, 2008 2:28:06 AM
From: morganw@patriot.net
To: morganw@patriot.net
An International Newsletter, The Latest, Up-To-Date
In-Depth Ukrainian News, Analysis and Commentary

Ukrainian History, Culture, Arts, Business, Religion, Economics,
Sports, Government, and Politics, in Ukraine and Around the World       
Textbooks Are Being Rewritten To Cover-up Crimes; Butchers
Made Into Heroes; Archives Seized; 'Mistakes' Forgiven; Battle
For Truth Must Continue; An Obligation to History, To the Future
Mr. Morgan Williams, Publisher and Editor, SigmaBleyzer
Clicking on the title of any article takes you directly to the article.               
Return to Index by clicking on Return to Index at the end of each article
By Alex Rodriguez, Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Illinois, Friday, December 26, 2008
By Richard Galpin, BBC News, Moscow, Russia, Sat, Dec 27, 2008
Window on Eurasia, by Paul Goble, Vienna, Monday, December 1, 2008
Analysis & Commentary: By Jeff Emanuel, American Thinker, El Cerrito, CA, Sat, Dec 06, 2008
By Dariya Orlova, Staff Writer, Kyiv Post, Kyiv Ukraine, October 3, 2008
"I cannot agree when the discussion of Holodomor involves time-serving political
considerations and unsophisticated, albeit bellicose radical Ukrainian nationalism."
Analysis & Commentary: by Pyotr Romanov, RIA Novosti political commentator
RIA Novosti, Moscow, Russia, Monday, December 22, 2008
Aleksander Biberaj: There must be a will by Russian politicians to condemn the
Stalin regime crimes committed in Ukraine and other territories of former Soviet Union.”
Interview with Aleksandr Biberaj, PACE VP and Rapporteur
Interviewed by Mykola SIRUK, The Day Weekly Digest in English #38
Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, 2 December 2008
Interview with Olha Herasymiuk, Member of PACE Monitoring Committee
By Alina Popkova, The Day Weekly Digest in English #36, Tue, 18 Nov 2008
The Russians and the Holodomor, their hard ideological line and distorted historical realities.
By Volodymyr Serhiichuk, Professor and Doctor of History
The Day Weekly Digest in English, Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Stalin deliberately starved his own people and concealed the millions of deaths
OP-ED: By David Marples, Professor of History at the University of Alberta
The Edmonton Journal, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Saturday, Nov 22, 2008
Republished in the Kyiv Post, Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, November 27, 2008
Genocide is a crime that does not and will never have a statute of limitations.
By Prof. Zinovii Partyko, Ph.D. (Linguistics), Head of the Department of Publishing and Editing
Institute of Journalism and Mass Communications of the Classical Private University
The Day Weekly Digest in English #38, Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, 2 December 2008 
Holodomor: "I am categorically against bringing this topic into the dimension of ethnocide."
Rossiya TV, Moscow, Russia in Russian 1700 gmt 14 Dec 08
BBC Monitoring Service, UK, in English, Sunday, December 14, 2008 
Holodomor and historical memory in Ukrainian, Polish, and Russian cultures* 
Oxana Pachlowska, University of Rome La Sapienza; Shevchenko Institute of Literature, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
The Day Weekly Digest in English, #37 & #39, Kyiv, Ukraine, Nov 25, 2008 & Dec 9, 2008
Is the New York Times "airbrushing" history again?
Analysis & Commentary: by William F. Jasper, Senior Editor
The New American magazine, Appleton, Wisconsin, Mon, 24 Nov 2008  
Ignorance breeds more ignorance as nation fails to recognize its past and heritage during national tragedies
OP-ED: Alina Rudya, Staff photographer and writer for the Kyiv Post.
Kyiv Post, Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, November 27, 2008
Window on Eurasia: By Paul Goble, Vienna, Friday, November 28, 2008
Letter-to-the-Editor, by Yaroslav Bilinsky, Professor Emeritus
University of Delaware, USA, Friday, December 26, 2008 
Action Ukraine Report (AUR), Wash, D.C. Sunday, December 28, 2008
By Alex Rodriguez, Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Illinois, Friday, December 26, 2008

ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - At first, the purpose behind the midday raid at a human-rights group’s office here was murky. Police, some clad in masks and camouflage, cut the electricity to Memorial’s offices and demanded to know if any drugs or guns were kept on the premises.

Five hours later, after police had opened every computer and walked out with 11 hard drives, the reason for their visit became clear to Memorial director Irina Flige.

On the hard drives, a trove of scanned images and documents memorialized Josef Stalin’s murderous reign of terror. Diagrams scrawled out by survivors detailed layouts of labor camps. There were photos of Russians executed by Stalin’s secret police, wrenching accounts of survival from gulag inmates and maps showing the locations of mass graves.

“They knew what they were taking,” Flige said. “Today, the state tries to reconstruct history to make it appear like a long chain of victories. And they want these victories to be seen as justifying Stalin’s repressions.”

Stalin, the brutal Soviet dictator responsible for the deaths of millions of his citizens, has been undergoing a makeover of sorts in recent years. Russian authorities have reshaped the Georgia-born dictator’s image into that of a misunderstood, demonized leader who did what he had to do to mold the Soviet Union into the superpower it became.

In Russian classrooms, history teachers are guided by a new, government-approved textbook, Alexander Filippov’s “Modern History of Russia: 1945-2006,” which hails Stalin as an efficient manager who had to resort to extreme measures to modernize the Soviet Union’s lumbering, agrarian economy.
There were, writes Filippov, “rational reasons behind the use of violence in order to ensure maximum efficiency.”

A museum commemorating Stalin as a national hero opened in 2006 in the southern city of Volgograd. The following year, a 40-episode TV drama broadcast on a state-controlled network whitewashed Stalin’s crimes and portrayed him as Russia’s savior.

When he was president, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin never lavishly praised Stalin, but he sought to shift the nation’s focus away from the Soviet leader’s legacy of brutality. Meeting with history teachers in 2007, Putin acknowledged that Russian history “did contain some problematic pages. But so did other states’ histories.

“We have fewer of them than other countries, and they were less terrible than in other nations,” Putin continued. “We can’t allow anyone to impose a sense of guilt on us.”

The battle over how Stalin should be remembered remains one of Russia’s most divisive topics. For many Russians, Stalin’s achievements far outweigh his crimes. He is seen as the wartime leader who the saved the Motherland from Nazi Germany in World War II and engineered the country’s ascent as an industrial and military powerhouse.

For many others, that ascent was made using millions of Russians’ lives as grist. Historians estimate that Stalin’s decrees led to the deaths of as many as 20 million people, either from famine, execution, incarceration in labor camps or during mass deportations.

After Stalin’s death, Nikita Khrushchev’s rise to power included a program of de-Stalinization, which condemned Stalin’s dictatorial rule and brought an end to forced labor.

In recent years, Russian authorities have made strides in rehabilitating Stalin. In 2006, nearly half of Russians polled by the Levada Center, a leading Moscow survey group, said they viewed Stalin positively, while just 29 percent perceived him negatively. When a Russian television network conducted an online survey this summer asking who was the greatest Russian ever, Stalin was a leading contender.

Memorial’s St. Petersburg branch has been researching and documenting Stalin’s crimes for 20 years, building one of the world’s most complete archives of one of the darkest chapters in Russia’s history.

These archives are now in the hands of Russian police. St. Petersburg prosecutors say they conducted the raid because they were trying to track down an article in Novy Peterburg, a local newspaper under investigation on charges of extremism. But Flige says Memorial has no connection with the paper.

The archives include information and images that Flige says play an invaluable role in preserving the historical record of the Stalin era, including databases recording the names and biographical data of thousands of Stalin’s victims.

Flige says she does not know when she will get the archives back, or what condition they will be in when they are returned. “They could damage them, either deliberately or by accident,” she says.

The raid occurred Dec. 4, a day before Flige was slated to join leading historians and academics at a conference in Moscow about Stalin’s place in Russian history. “The way we see it, the raid was a kind of greeting card from the authorities ahead of the conference,” she said.
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

By Richard Galpin, BBC News, Moscow, Russia, Sat, Dec 27, 2008

MOSCOW - The former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin may have killed millions of his own people but this weekend he could be chosen by Russians as their
greatest-ever countryman.

Inspired by the British competition 100 Greatest Britons, one of Russia's biggest television stations Rossiya has been conducting a nationwide poll
for much of this year. From an original list of 500 candidates now there are just 12 names left from which viewers can select their all-time hero.

The winner will be announced on Sunday. More than 3.5 million people have already voted and Stalin - born an ethnic Georgian - has been riding high for many months. In the summer he held the number one slot but was knocked down several places after the producer of the show appealed to viewers to vote for someone else.

Amongst the others on the list are Ivan the Terrible, Lenin, Catherine the Great and Alexander Pushkin.

The fact that Stalin has been doing so well comes as no surprise to members of the Communist Party, which remains one of the biggest political parties
in the country.
Pyotr Stolypin, pre-Revolutionary statesman - 426,300
Alexander Nevsky, medieval warrior prince - 418,200
Alexander Pushkin, poet - 397,100 votes
Joseph Stalin, Soviet dictator - 397,000
Vladimir Lenin, Revolutionary leader - 342,400
data correct as of 1400 GMT 27 December
"Stalin made Russia a superpower and was one of the founders of the coalition against Hitler in World War II," says Sergei Malinkovich, leader
of the St Petersburg Communist Party. "In all opinion polls he comes out on top as the most popular figure. Nobody else comes close. So for his service
to this country we can forgive his mistakes."

Not only is Mr Malinkovich prepared to forgive Stalin's "mistakes", he also wants the man who is regarded as one of the most bloodthirsty tyrants of the
20th Century to be made a saint. As I was interviewing him, he held a small neatly framed icon of Stalin's face.

Last month an Orthodox priest also displayed an icon of Stalin in his church near St Petersburg. Although he was eventually forced to remove it, he vowed
he would not be silenced and went on to describe Stalin as his "father".

Many in Russia do still revere Stalin for his role during World War II when the Soviet Union defeated the forces of Nazi Germany. But now there is a
much broader campaign to rehabilitate Stalin and it seems to be coming from the highest levels of government.

The primary evidence comes in the form of a new manual for history teachers in the country's schools, which says Stalin acted "entirely rationally". "[The initiative] came from the very top," says the editor of the manual, historian Alexander Danilov.
"I believe it was the idea of former president, now prime minister, Vladimir Putin. "It fits completely with the political course we have had for the last eight years, which is dedicated to the unity of society."
But the campaign goes further than reinterpreting history for schoolchildren. It is also physical. Earlier this month, riot police raided the St Petersburg office of one of Russia's best-known human rights organisations, Memorial.

Claiming a possible link with an "extremist" article published in a local newspaper, the police took away 12 computer hard-drives containing the entire digital archive of the atrocities committed under Stalin. Memorial's St Petersburg office specialises in researching the crimes committed by the Soviet regime.

"It's a huge blow to our organisation," says Irina Flige, the office director. "This was 20 years' work. We'd been making a universally accessible database
with hundreds of thousands of names. "Maybe this was a warning to scare us?" Irina Flige believes they were targeted because they are now on the wrong side of a new ideological divide.

The new ideology is "Putinism" which, she says, has evolved over the past two years and is based on a strident form of nationalism.  It seems Russians are to be proud of their history, not ashamed, and so those investigating and cataloguing the atrocities of the past are no longer welcome.

"The official line now is that Stalin and the Soviet regime were successful in creating a great country," says Irina Flige. "And if the terror of Stalin is justified, then the government today can do what it wants to achieve its aims." The outrage at what has happened to the Memorial archive spreads beyond
Russia's borders.

The British historian Orlando Figes worked with Memorial when he was researching his latest book "The Whisperers: Private Lives in Stalin's Russia."
"By conservative estimates 25 million people were repressed in the Soviet Union [under Stalin] between 1928 and 1953," he says.

"That means people executed, arrested and sent to prison camps or turned into slave labourers or deported. "Virtually every family was affected by repression." "What we have now [in Russia] effectively is the KGB in power," he adds.

"Opposition forces and awkward historians reminding the Russian population of what the KGB did 50 years ago is inconvenient for these people." So it seems whoever is voted the country's greatest citizen on Sunday, it is Joseph Stalin who is the biggest winner this year as he is rehabilitated in Russia's brave new world.

LINK: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7798497.stm
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

Window on Eurasia, by Paul Goble, Vienna, Monday, December 1, 2008

VIENNA - At a time when Moscow education officials in deference to the Kremlin are whitewashing the Soviet past, some Russian teachers are doing all they can to ensure that their students learn the student about the crimes committed by Stalin and other communist leaders against the population.

Their efforts are highlighted in a recent book, entitled "School Lessons on 'the History of Political Repressions and Resistance to Unfreedom in the USSR" published last year in Moscow under the sponsorship of the Sakharov Museum and reviewed in the just-released December issue of Znamya" (magazines.russ.ru/znamia/2008/12/ko21.html).

As the reviewer Svyatoslava Kozhukova notes, this book, which attempts to stand up to the disturbing tendency of forgetting the crimes of the [Soviet] powers toward society," consists of a set of outlines of the best lectures on history, civics and literature prepared by teachers in various regions of the country.

This effort is important, Kozhukova continues, because "the historical memory of a society is not something as natural as the personal memory of an individual.  It must be formed. And its content depends on who is doing that, how they are doing it, and what goals they are pursuing.

Building a democratic society in countries with an authoritarian past is impossible unless that society faces up to its past, she says.  Unfortunately, as officials at the Sakharov Museum point out, "Russia lives without understanding what has taken," despite some progress in Khrushchev's, Gorbachev's and Yeltsin's time to do so.

"But more recently," Yury Samodurov, the museum's director says, "public interest in [this past] was again extinguished.  [And] in the consciousness of society has been introduced the conviction that one should not 'blacken the historic past.'" That has prompted a group of concerned democratic activists, historians and teachers look for a way out.

Theirs is no easy task, Kozhukova argues in her review. "What and how must one tell children about Soviet realities so that future generations will not repeat the mistakes of the past? And how should they tell this at a time when outside the school, the child may encounter an opposing point of view?"

More specifically, "what should they do if a significant part of society is deprived of historical memory and considers Stalin a hero, and grandmothers with a failing mind recall the words 'Thank you Comrade Stalin for our happy childhood' and tell their grandchildren that the teacher is lying?"

The task is complicated, the compilers of the book say, because it is not only a question of fact but of methodology.  Not only do children need to learn specific facts about the Soviet past, but they need to learn these facts in a way that does not reinforce the authoritarian patterns of the past.

That is, they need to acquire these facts not by taking down, memorizing and giving them back on tests – the classical authoritarian approach which has the effect of leading students to accept the idea that someone else will always tell them what the facts are – but by asking questions and by acquiring the information in that more open and democratic way.

In many respects, changing the way history is taught is an even bigger challenge than changing what is taught about it, the compilers say. And they acknowledge that so far, they have made less progress in this direction than many of them have hoped for. But the discussions in this volume provide some importance guidance in this respect as well.

I.G. Yakovenko of the Moscow Institute of Sociology in one of the book's chapter points out why this is so critical. Children need to learn that individuals bear responsibility for what happens to their societies, rather than always seeking to blame others, be they foreign governments or their own, for what happens.

They need to brought to an understanding, Yakovenko writs, that one cannot explain Stalinist crimes by reference to the organs of the state but must recognize the role millions of "simple people" played in denouncing their fellow citizens – people who are "just like those who consider Stalin a hero and the period of Stalinism in Russia the heroic past of the country."

But those like the compilers of this book who want an honest examination of the past face an uphill battle.  As one of the authors notes, polls show that as Russians feel better of themselves and their situation, they show less and less interest in the past and prefer to stay with mythologized versions that have little in common with the facts.

Unfortunately, Kozhukova writes, if they remain in that situation, Russians and all the others who were victims of the communist past, will not be able to escape from it. And she points out that "the establishment of a free, civilized society in countries which have experienced a totalitarian regime is not the same thing as establishing such a society in principle."

Such societies must "overcome" the past by avoiding forgetfulness, by internalizing what happened and by committing themselves to avoiding any repetition.  Those are steps that Germany has made, but it is a step that many Russians, with the encouragement of their own government, have not been willing to take.

And Kozhukova concludes that "the present-day growth of nationalism and authoritarianism in Russia are the results of a past that has not been dealt with" in the ways that the crimes of the Soviet era must be if the country is finally to escape from them and to ensure that they never happen again.
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

Analysis & Commentary: By Jeff Emanuel, American Thinker, El Cerrito, CA, Sat, Dec 06, 2008

In recent years, the Russian bear has bared his fangs at Ukraine as the grim season commemorating genocide-by-famine 75 years ago. On November 22, the former "Soviet republic" of Ukraine observed the 75th anniversary of the end of the Holodomor, a genocide-by-famine perpetrated by Josef Stalin's Soviet government which left up to ten million Ukrainian men, women, and children dead due to forced starvation.

In the fall of 1932, Stalin's Soviet Union was facing unrest caused by a shortage of food in the cities under his control. Rather than allow for the chance of a replay of 1917, when inner-city hunger helped the Bolsheviks instigate their successful communist revolution, Stalin turned his attention westward to the breadbasket of Europe, Ukraine.

Driven by the dual goals of increasing Russia's grain stockpile to the point where it could not only feed its city-dwellers but also export food for profit, and of forcing the Ukrainian farming class to accept Soviet collectivism (something it had not yet done at this time, despite the imposition of a communist central government on the East European state), Stalin increased the amount of grain Ukraine was required to provide the USSR by 44%, a level too high for the Ukrainian farmers to meet and also be able to feed themselves.

Stalin sent a host of Communist Party officials, soldiers, and secret police to Ukraine to enforce on penalty of death the Soviet law stating that no grain or grain products - not even a loaf of bread - could be kept by the Ukrainian peasants for their own consumption until the entire requisition quota had been fulfilled.

Further, according to a Ukrainian historical website, "an internal passport system was implemented to restrict movements of Ukrainian peasants so that they could not travel in search of food. Ukrainian grain was collected and stored in grain elevators that were guarded by military units [and] NKVD secret police units while Ukrainians were starving in the immediate area."

The barbaric tactic worked all too well. Between 1932 and November 1933, the man who became infamous for, among other things, coining the phrase, "One death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic" added nearly ten million innocents to his tab through starvation, while taking such plentiful fruits of their labors for his own use that "journalists," like New York Times writer and communist sympathizer Walter Duranty, easily swallowed and regurgitated that Soviet party line that the sheer amount of grain flowing into Moscow and out through port cities like Leningrad and Vladivostok meant that the claim of famine anywhere in the Soviet principate was patently absurd.

One writer at conservative weblog www.RedState.com described the ending of that year of barbarism: As fall turned into winter in Ukraine in late 1933, good summer and fall weather had produced a bumper crop in Ukraine's ultra-fertile fields. By later in November, it continued to sit there and rot under the impending damp of winter - because there was no one to harvest it. Everyone who had planted the crops in the spring was dead - there was no one left alive to gather the harvest.

On November 28, 2006, after Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko ordered the release of thousands of KGB documents showing that the forced famine was perpetrated in part for the purpose of wiping out ethnic Ukrainians, that nation's Parliament declared the Holodomor - a Ukrainian term which, roughly translated, means "Death by Hunger" - a deliberate act of genocide by the USSR.

While Ukrainians were somberly observing the 75th anniversary of the end of Stalin's forced famine, Russian chose to remind those in Ukraine and elsewhere of its continued desire to play a negative role in the affairs of its neighbors. This time, Moscow threatened to cut off the natural gas supply flowing through that gateway to Western Europe if the entirety of Ukraine's fuel-related debt to its former ruler, estimated at $2 billion, was not immediately settled.

The timing of the threat, which was likely every bit as accidental as President Dmitriy Medvedev's statement, made on the day Barack Obama was being elected President of the United States, that Russia was "prepared to place short-range missiles in the territory of Kaliningrad in response to U.S. plans for a missile-defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic," did not go unnoticed by its target audience.

"The unsubtle Kremlin gets no points for timing," wrote the editors of Ukraine's Kyiv Post on November 26. "The threat to cut off gas in the dead of winter came over the weekend that Ukrainians commemorated the Holodomor, the death by hunger of millions of Ukrainians in 1932-33. The Soviets lied about the Stalin-ordered famine and today's Russian leadership still belittles the epic crime."

On December 4, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reiterated the threat, this time before an international television audience. The move comes as Russia is attempting to force its former vassals, Ukraine included, to transition from paying Soviet-era subsidized prices for natural gas to paying the full international rate.

"How can we leave in place the prices of the current year?" Putin asked, referring to the hardship being brought on Russia by the growing global economic crisis (and by the transcontinental state's decision to increase the percentage of its GDP being spent on the military by nearly 200% over the last year to fund its invasion of former satellite Georgia and to fund its efforts to reassert itself on the global stage as a counter to the U.S.).

"Then," according to an AFP report of Putin's address, "drawing on a Ukrainian colloquialism -- and speaking in Ukrainian -- Putin added: ‘Have you lost your mind?'"

"In the long march of history, progress is being made," the Kyiv Post's editors wrote. "Kremlin leaders in the early 20th century starved Ukrainian men, women and children to death. Their successors in the 21st century merely threaten to freeze Ukrainians to death."

Russia's threat to cut off heating fuel to Ukraine, where winter temperatures reach as low as -68° Fahrenheit as a matter of course, is not without precedent. In January 2006, Russia responded to Ukraine's refusal to pay a higher price for fuel by reducing the natural gas flowing through Ukraine to a level commensurate with Western Europe's paid allotment alone.
Ukraine responded by siphoning gas to meet its own needs (though the government still officially denies that any siphoning ever took place), and, after some European leaders expressed concern about the amount of natural gas that was reaching their nations, Russia returned the flow of fuel to its full previous level.

The former Soviet capital has taken advantage of the state of flux in America's political leadership, and of outgoing President George W. Bush's unwillingness to make any further military commitments, to take a more active role both in the affairs of its neighbors and in those of Western nations.
From providing weapons and nuclear aid to Iran, to running roughshod over former vassal state and current NATO applicant Georgia this August, to dispatching President Medvedev to meet with Fidel Castro in Cuba and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, to conducting joint naval exercises with Venezuela in the Caribbean Sea, Russia's leaders are working to regain the lost trust and rebuild the damaged nationalist pride of their subjects by asserting international relevance in the best way they know how: by intimidating neighbors and acting, despite their inability to actually be such, as a global counterbalance to the United States.

This year's dispute with Ukraine will likely be solved, as its 2006 predecessor was, with little or no physical harm done to Ukraine's population. Putin's threat, though, is yet another example of Russia's growing efforts to impose itself once again on the international stage in the way it has been doing so for centuries: through imperialism and intimidation.

"It seems that the closer a country is located to Russia, the worse Moscow's relations are with that nation," Russian radio host Yulia Latynina wrote in the December 3 Moscow Times. "The Kremlin wants to be on good terms with France and Germany, for example, but if any country that was once part of the Soviet empire tries to shed light on its own history, the Kremlin lashes out with angry reproaches that it is deliberately provoking a conflict."

While this will likely always be a hallmark of Russia's foreign policy, it is one which the civilized nations of the world - from Eastern Europe to the United States - have a duty to oppose in all cases where it manifests itself in acts of aggression, lest invasions of sovereign states like Georgia and the perpetration of barbaric tragedies like the 1932-33 Holodomor be allowed to occur once again.

NOTE: Jeff Emanuel, a special operations military veteran, is a columnist, a combat journalist, and a director emeritus of conservative weblog www.RedState.com. An archive of his writings can be seen at www.JeffEmanuel.net.
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC): http://www.usubc.org
Promoting U.S.-Ukraine business relations & investment since 1995.
By Dariya Orlova, Staff Writer, Kyiv Post, Kyiv Ukraine, October 3, 2008
While most consider Josef Stalin as one of the most prolific mass murderers in all of history, Russian schoolchildren may be taught that he was “an efficient
manager.” Russian history now glosses over persecution and hails Soviet-era triumphs

The foreign ministries of Russia and Ukraine are not the only soldiers in the ongoing war of words over the countries’ shared Soviet history.
The battle over the past is also being waged in the classrooms of both countries. The stakes are high, as the victor may be able to win over the hearts and minds of future generations.
The Stalin-ordered Great Famine of 1932-1933, which claimed millions of lives, is a stark example of the conflicting historical views.

A current Russian version: “It should be stressed that there was no organized famine in the U.S.S.R.’s countryside. It was not instigated by authorities against one or another people or social group.”

A current Ukrainian view of the same event: “The Holodomor of 1932-33 was for Ukrainians what the Holocaust was for Jews and the slaughter of 1915 for Armenians.”

The statement exposes the increasingly widening gap between the two nations’ understanding of history.

Since 2003, Ukraine has sought international recognition of the Holodomor (death by hunger) as an act of genocide against Ukrainians since 2003. President Victor Yushchenko has pursued the goal vigorously, drawing the ire of Stalin’s apologists at home and in Russia.

The Russian version of the same tragedy is not an obsolete bit of Communist propaganda. It is what Russian education officials are recommending for their country’s school curriculum. It comes from the Russian Ministry of Education and Science’s “Concept paper on Russian history from 1900-1945.”

Ukraine blames the Communist regime and Stalin specifically for the famine of 1932-33, while Russia seems to justify – or at least minimize – Stalin’s policies. According to the proposed Russian teacher’s manual, starvation was caused by poor weather conditions and problems with collectivization.
The Russian manual now under consideration also explains away the Great Terror and mass repressions of the 1930s.

This is the Russian description of Stalin, one of the great mass murderers in world history: “It is important to show that Stalin acted as a very efficient manager in a specific historical situation, as a protector of the system, as an unwavering backer of the country’s transformation into an industrial society managed from a single center, as a leader of a country which faced the threat of imminent large-scale war.”

The rationalization of mass repressions in Russia’s school curriculum was presented to teachers just before the beginning of the current school year, sparking debate in Russia.

Last year’s textbook “History of Russia, 1945-2007” evoked criticism for its extremely loyalist coverage of the Soviet period and characteristic of Stalin as an “efficient manager.” Yet the textbook was published and distributed in schools.

The shift in official interpretation of history is related to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s view of the Soviet past. In 2005, Putin famously called the Soviet empire’s disintegration the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century.

Putin held several major meetings with the country’s teachers where he emphasized the need to produce decent history textbooks – or those that teach history in the cheerleading manner that the former KGB agent evidently prefers.

“We need to remove all the layered husk and foam. Textbooks must include historical facts, they must nurture pride in the country and its history among young people,” Putin said back in 2003.

With its resurgent oil wealth, cost appears to be no objection to nurturing pride in Russia – which means overlooking some of its darkest chapters.
“As to some problematic pages in our history – yes, we’ve had them. But what state hasn’t? And we’ve had fewer of such pages than some other [states],” Putin told teachers last year. “All sorts of things happen in the history of every state. And we cannot allow ourselves to be saddled with guilt.”
Given the Kremlin’s attention to historical issues, the contents of textbooks have turned into a political matter in Russia, observers noted.

“In the 1990s, there was a relative diversity in the interpretations of Russian history in the textbooks while the mainstream ‘history of state and statehood’ was quite critical in its estimation of the Soviet period,” said Georgiy Kasianov, a Ukrainian historian. “In the 2000s, we see a tendency to glorify empire and its greatness and, thus, the apologetic estimation of the Soviet period, justifying the extremes of Stalinism by a renewed version of raison d’etat.”

Another Ukrainian historian, Stanislav Kulchytsky, said that Russian history textbooks provide a “light” version of Soviet history.

“Yes, they speak about repressions, but they try somehow to explain them…All in all, there is kind of a mixture of everything that is in line with the modern state-building process in Russia. They use the Red Army, the White Guard, and the Tsarist Army [to glorify Russia],” Kulchytsky said.

It remains to be seen if reinterpreted history wins over Russians minds. If the television project "Name of Russia"  -- Russia’s equivalent of the BBC’s 100 Greatest Britons – is any indication, Stalin’s apologists are making progress: the dictator was ranked second behind 13th century Russian leader Aleksandr Nevsky.

Meanwhile, the situation with teaching history in Ukraine leaves a lot to be desired. On the one hand, top Ukrainian officials are pursuing an approach similar to Putin’s in establishing a “correct” version of history. On the other hand, the poor quality of Ukrainian textbooks is to blame. Kasianov said the major problem with Ukraine’s textbooks is institutional.

“The system for evaluating textbooks in Ukraine is non-transparent, muddled by conflicts of interest and ineffective. The main problem is that the primary consumers – parents, teachers and students – have no influence on quality and are forced to use what the state imposes upon them. It’s not an issue of influencing the contents of textbooks. It’s a question of the right to choose among several textbooks on a given subject that are different in terms of quality,” Kasianov said.

“In contrast to Russia, these issues are actively discussed by professional historians and the public in Ukraine, but so far with little results.”

Officials have become more involved in humanitarian disciplines, Kasianov said, citing Yushchenko’s campaign to have Holodomor recognized as genocide against the Ukrainian people. The president’s administration has also signalled to the Institute of National Memory that it should prepare a “correct” textbook on Ukraine’s history.

“But the permanent political mess is drawing Ukrainian officials’ attention away from more active interference,” Kasianov said.
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
"I cannot agree when the discussion of Holodomor involves time-serving political considerations
and unsophisticated, albeit bellicose radical Ukrainian nationalism. This mixture of sincere human
suffering, outright politicking and uneducated hostility is the most deplorable aspect of the discussion."

Analysis & Commentary: by Pyotr Romanov, RIA Novosti political commentator
RIA Novosti, Moscow, Russia, Monday, December 22, 2008

Vitaly Churkin, Russia's Permanent Representative (Ambassador) to the United Nations, said the Russian delegation had thwarted Ukraine's attempts to persuade the UN General Assembly to examine and approve a resolution on recognizing Holodomor, the 1932-1933 famine, or Hunger Plague, that affected Soviet Ukraine and several other regions of the U.S.S.R., as genocide of the Ukrainian nation.
The Ukrainian administration of President Viktor Yushchenko representing one of the country's several political forces has been trying to facilitate this resolution's approval for a long time.
Last year, Russia also managed to thwart Ukrainian diplomatic efforts to persuade the 62nd UN General Assembly to discuss the Holodomor issue. In despair, the Ukrainian delegation to the UN launched a signature-collection campaign in support of a Holodomor declaration. This motion was supported by 30 member-states, with another 160 voting against.
It appears that this issue will be raised again. In November 2006, the Ukrainian Supreme Rada (Parliament) passed a law on Holodomor, recognizing it as genocide against the Ukrainian nation.
Ukrainian authorities have investigated the Holodomor case and will submit their findings to the national Supreme Court soon. Many analysts say Kiev or Ukrainian citizens would have the right to file lawsuits with applicable European courts after the Supreme Court examines the case. Technically speaking, Russia, the legal successor of the Soviet Union, would have to assume responsibility in case it fails to defend itself to the EU court.

Doubtless, the 1932-1933 Holodomor is a terrible tragedy; and the memory of its victims deserves every respect. I have read the speeches of President Yushchenko and the law on Holodomor, and I agree with many aspects.

However, I cannot agree when the discussion of Holodomor involves time-serving political considerations and unsophisticated, albeit bellicose radical Ukrainian nationalism. This mixture of sincere human suffering, outright politicking and uneducated hostility is the most deplorable aspect of the discussion.

But I don't doubt that Holodomor was caused by natural factors and the Marxist-Leninist ideology, and that the Soviet Government used various methods, including famine, to fight peasantry. However, this had nothing to do with the Ukrainian nation's genocide.

If the Holodomor tragedy is removed from historical context, there are some geographic and ideological questions. In reality, the terrible famine of 1932-1933 was simply another episode in a grandiose peasant war, sometimes called "Green Noise" by historians, including foreign researchers.

I advise you to read "The Great Soviet Peasant War: Bolsheviks and Peasants, 1917-1933" by Italian scholar Andrea Graziosi who calls those events the greatest peasant war in European history, and with good reason.

However, that war began long before the October 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Graziosi says many of those who led the bloody 1918-1921 peasant revolts, including Nestor Makhno (1888-1934) and Alexander Antonov (1888-1922), had made a name for themselves during the First Russian Revolution of 1905-1907.

The Tsarist Government, rather than the Bolsheviks, had introduced the food-surplus appropriation system at the beginning of World War I. The Provisional Government simulated this strategy, with the Bolsheviks introducing even tougher measures from 1918 through 1921 during the Russian Civil War. However, Russian and Ukrainian peasants always resisted food-supply squads under Nicholas II (1868-1818), Alexander Kerensky (1881-1970) and the Red Commissars.

Although famines were not uncommon in the former Russian Empire, Ukraine only remembers the tragedy of 1932-1933. However, the 1921 Russian famine that affected mostly the Volga-Ural region was no less terrible. In the early 1930s, famine spread to southern Belarus, the Volga Area, the Central Black Soil Region, the Cossack regions of the Don and Cuban river basins and the North Caucasus where it had begun in 1931. Northern Kazakhstan, South Urals and West Siberia were also affected. West Ukraine, then part of Poland, also experienced famine.

Such amnesia on the part of Ukrainian analysts hardly amounts to minor discrepancies. It would be more logical to suspect them of deliberate and selective forgetfulness.

The Soviet Government did take tough action to crush peasant revolts. Famous Red Army commander Mikhail Tukhachevsky (1893-1937) who later became Marshal of the Soviet Union used poison gas to suppress the Tambov rebellion of 1919-1921. Although similar punitive tactics were used in Russia and Ukraine, the Red Army did not fire poison-gas shells against Ukrainian peasantry.

The Bolsheviks used famine as an instrument to persuade peasants to join collective farms and to completely weaken their resolve but cared little about their ethnic affiliation. The Ukrainians were not the only ones who suffered under Soviet rule. This is nothing but ideological illiteracy.
The Bolsheviks and the Nazis perpetrated numerous crimes, albeit for different reasons. The Nazis used racial discrimination as a rationale to kill so-called sub-humans. This was real genocide. The Bolsheviks who advocated internationalism killed enemies from other social strata.

Instead of blaming the Russian nation, Kiev ought to condemn Marxism and Stalinism.

Although official documents, including the law on Holodomor, say nothing about possible compensation from Russia, radical Ukrainian nationalists are sure that the world will equate Holodomor with the Holocaust, and that Moscow will reimburse Kiev.

Ukrainian nationalists believe that the descendants of those who survived chemical attacks near Tambov must reimburse the descendants of Holodomor survivors. In my opinion, this is the ultimate in cynicism.

On October 19, The Mirror of the Week, a Ukrainian online publication, said: "Ukraine has repeatedly stated that it does not link the recognition of Holodomor as genocide with the Russian Federation's responsibility under international law and will not make any claims to it. However, this does not rule out the right of private individuals, the descendants of Holodomor victims, to file claims against the Russian Federation, which is considered the legal successor of the U.S.S.R."

This amounts to political double standards. Ukrainian authorities would distance themselves from private lawsuits which could be upheld. However, such behavior is inconsistent with universal human values.

NOTE FROM RIA NOVOSTI: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
LINK: http://en.rian.ru/analysis/20081222/119103228.html
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
Aleksander Biberaj: There must be a will by Russian politicians to condemn the
Stalin regime crimes committed in Ukraine and other territories of former Soviet Union.”
Interview with Aleksandr Biberaj, PACE VP and Rapporteur
Interviewed by Mykola SIRUK, The Day Weekly Digest in English #38
Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Mr. Aleksander BIBERAJ, PACE Vice President, and Rapporteur on the issue of the Ho­lo­do­mor crimes condemnation com­­mitted by Stalin’s to­ta­litarian regime in Ukraine and other territories of former USSR, visited our country for his third time within the framework of his mission. In this visit the Albanian MP participated in the International Forum on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the 1932-1933 Holodomor in Ukraine.
In The Day‘s exclusive interview Mr. Biberaj explained why he agreed to be a rapporteur on this issue and why to his opinion the crimes of the Stalin’s totalitarian communist re­gime, spe­cifically the Ho­lo­domor should be condemned. Mr. Biberaj also ex­plai­ned why the Albanians want to join NATO and why they consider that Kosovo’s independence should not in any way used as a precedent for Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Os­setia.

[Aleksander Biberaj] “The Holodomor was a big tragedy for the Ukrainian people of that time. Millions of people became victims of Stalin regime. Our mission as politicians is to whiten what happened during Stalin communist regime in order to prevent those crimes in the future. Almost three years ago, the Parliamentary Assembly adopted a resolution for the condemnation of the communist crimes.
"As a rapporteur I have to prepare a report on the Holodomor and the Mass Famine in other territories of former Soviet Union, and I am sure this will be a very good contribution to history. It is easier for the politicians of former communist countries to understand what really happened during this regime. The PACE report will be prepared and adopted within two years starting from June 2008.

Mr. Biberaj, what did you know about the Holodomor before being appointed a rapporteur on this important issue?

[Aleksander Biberaj] “I had no idea about Holodomor till the collapse of Soviet Union, because of total isolation of communist countries. The history schoolbooks gave us no information on that. I firstly learned about Holodomor only several years ago in the Council of Europe when the Ukrainian delegation raised this issue.
Since that I became very interested in learning the whole history of Holodomor, and my request to be a rapporteur on that issue was approved unanimously by Political Affair Committee of PACE in June 2008. According to the rules of procedures of PACE, I have to represent the report to Political Affairs Committee within two years and afterwards it will be submitted for approval by PACE.
"It is planned to have fact finding missions in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, and maybe in other former Soviet Union Republics which suffered from the Mass Famine. The report will be prepared in two parts. The first one will be dedicated to the Holodomor, the second one - to the Mass Famine in other former Soviet Union Republics.

What is your opinion considering the fact that Russia is against Holodomor recognition, whereas other countries support the Holodomor recognition, including its recognition as genocide committed to Ukraine people? How about the opinion this issue does not belong to politics?

[Aleksander Biberaj] “I think it is our obligation as politicians to open the door to historians which write the history, because the world history gives us many examples of having closed this door to historians by Politics. Khru­shchev was the first one who spoke up against Stalinist crimes in 1956. Unfortunately, there was no possibility until 1990 to learn about the Holodomor of 1932-33.
"Now, after 75 years, it is easy for every politician to understand clearly what happened in that time in order not to have any doubts about those communist regime crimes. It is for sure that Stalin regime was a criminal one which caused lots of tragedies not only here in Ukraine but also in all former Soviet Union Republics. So, it is the duty of politicians all over the world to condemn the crimes committed by communist regimes.”

 What do you think about Russia’s position, in particular, the letter of Russian president to the Ukrainian one, in which Dmitri Medveded speaks about the “so-called Holodo­mor”?

[Aleksander Biberaj] “Yet I have not read this letter, but I think that Russian politicians should condemn the crimes of the Stalinist regime which were committed in Ukraine and other former Soviet Union Republics”.

Do you expect that Putin and Medvedev as well as the Russian Duma must openly condemn Stalinist communist regime?

[Aleksander Biberaj] “Of course they have to do so. All possibilities are created after 1990s for Russian politicians to condemn the crimes committed by the Stalin regime. According to my opinion, it is their obligation toward people and history.”

Was it easy to get rid of Hoxha’s regime which copied with Stalinist regime?

[Aleksander Biberaj] “Unfortunately, my country has severely suffered from the Hoxha`s dictatorship regime, even after Stalin’s death. If we see the history of Southeastern European countries, we would easily understand that those regimes softened after Stalin’s death, whereas communist regime in Albania continued the same as before even Stalin died. Hoxha’s regime fall in 1990s. The experiencing of Albanian communist regime helps me a lot of understanding what has really happened here in Ukraine”.

Can you say that Hoxha’s regime has been condemned in your country and it is impossible to come back to it?

[Aleksander Biberaj] “The history has proved to us, if we do not condemn the crimes committed by criminal regimes, it may happen again. But we have to be very, very careful about such tragedies often repeated in history. If people allow their leaders to become dictators, a dictatorship regime may happen”.

Your country received the MAP in 1999 and in April it received an invitation to join NATO. What has helped your country to reach its goal?

[Aleksander Biberaj] “Albania was member of Warsaw Treaty until 1968. In 1991 Albania was the first former communist country applying for NATO membership, and we hope that next year Albania will become a full NATO member. Successful reforms are the key issue for NATO membership. Also the consolidation of rule of law, democracy and respecting of human rights are very important issues. NATO membership is very important for every European country, for their peace and security.”

What is the main reason that over 90 percent of Albanians support NATO membership?

[Aleksander Biberaj] “The historical orientation of Albanian people for peace, development and integrity is the key reason for that”.

Is your country worried about the guaranties of protection in NATO regions after the war in South Caucasus? After this war the Baltic countries asked NATO to show the plans of their defense in case of an extraordinary situation.

[Aleksander Biberaj] “We feel sure for the security of NATO members. If Ukraine and Georgia would be accepted as NATO candidates during the Bucharest summit last April, there wouldn’t be any military conflict in South Caucasus. Therefore I consider that NATO enlargement is key security for every NATO candidate for membership”.

European integration is another priority of Albania. Your country has already signed the EU Agreement on Stabilization and Association. When will Albania be able to start negotiations for EU membership?

[Aleksander Biberaj] “This agreement was ratified so far by the European parliaments and 26 EU member states. I hope that next year Albania will start the negotiations phase with EU. I participated in many EU meetings and I saw a good will of EU concerning the admission of the Balkan countries, but the decision depends also on our reforms”.

Which country was as a good example for Albania for the implementation of constitutional reform?

[Aleksander Biberaj] “We had debates to choose the new constitution model. There were two options, either having our own model or an international one. I supported the idea that it was better to have a combination which considers the specific features of the country. In recent constitutional changes approved by the parliament, we choose and combined the Spanish and German models as proper ones for Albania.
"The two major political parties both from the ruling coalition and opposition agreed about the content of the constitutional amendments. I hope that the Constitution will be valid for decades in order not to make often changes of it”.

“The parliament may ap­pro­ve certain amendments to the constitution. However, the necessity may arise to conduct a referendum concerning certain questions. But it is understandable the difficulty of putting certain questions to referendum, because the voters may vote based on their political preferences. Irish referendum for Lisbon Treaty is a good example of that failure because the voters did not understand the technical details”.

[Aleksander Biberaj] Will Albania hold any referendum concerning NATO membership or it will pass through parliament?

“My country does not need to put this question to referendum, because our statistics show that more than 90 percent of the population supports NATO membership. The political parties are also unanimous for NATO membership.”

[Aleksander Biberaj] Your country is a neighbor of Kosovo, so what is your attitude to Russia’s usage of Kosovo precedent for annexation of Georgian regions - Abkhazia and South Ossetia?

“I assure you that Kosovo case is a unique one and it can never be used as a precedent. Kosovo has never been part of Serbia. Unfortunately in 1913 the Big Powers decided to detach Kosova from Albania and grant it to Serbia. More than ninety percent of Ko­sovo’s population are Albanian Kosovars, and Serbia carried out sheer genocide against them.

Many crimes were committed against the Kosovars. As you remember, in 1999 NATO intervened into Kosovo, because the regime of Slobodan Milosevic was conducting ethnical cleansing there. The intervention into Kosovo was an international one and was headed by NATO. I would say that unfortunately Russia is trying to use the Kosovo case as justification and pretext on South Ossetia and Abkhazia case. Meanwhile, there is no similarity between Kosovo case and South Ossetia and Abkhazia case”.

“Even the so-called argument used by Russia concerning Kosovo case failed after Moscow recognized Ossetia and Ab­kha­zia. If Russians used the same standards they should have immediately recognized Ko­so­vo’s independence. I hope that Russia and Serbia sooner or later will recognize Kosovo, beca­use this is a part of new reality which we have been observing in Europe since the 1990s. We know that after the communist regime collapsed, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia collapsed as well.
"Recalling history, we can see that creation of the USSR and Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia took place with the help of instruments of dictatorship rather than people’s will. These were artificial formations which could not last for long. And now we have many independent states which were part of the Soviet Union. Many countries emerged within Yugoslavia as well. And Kosovo was the latest moment of Yugoslavia’s collapse. Therefore this is a new reality in the Balkans. I hope that the West-Balkan countries, including Kosovo and Montenegro, will soon join NATO and the EU.”

[Aleksander Biberaj] Won’t Kosovo join Al­ba­nia?

“Kosovo’s and Albania’s aspirations include only NATO and EU membership. This is the future for the West-Balkan countries.”

[Aleksander Biberaj] What is your opinion for the relations between our countries?

“Our countries have good economic relations. Ukraine is one of the largest exporters of goods to Albania. We also have very good relations on a political level. I think that relations between our countries are getting closer”.
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NOTE: Send in a letter-to-the-editor today. Let us hear from you.
Interview with Olha Herasymiuk, Member of PACE Monitoring Committee
By Alina Popkova, The Day Weekly Digest in English #36, Tue, 18 Nov 2008

Ukraine is having a hard time getting the Holodomor of 1932-33 to be recognized on the international level. What with the Kremlin’s frenzied resistance, Ukraine has to struggle even for its right to submit pertinent resolutions for consideration by international organizations and look for additional arguments to prove its rightness and explain its stand, although it is self-evident.
Olha HERASYMIUK, chairperson of the subcommittee for cooperation with NATO and the WEU Assembly of the Verkhovna Rada’s Committee on European Integration and a member of PACE’s Monitoring Committee, believes that Ukraine has just embarked on the road leading to the international recognition of the Holodomor.
In the following interview with The Day, she tells about how the issue of the Great Famine is being dealt with by various international organizations: the UN, PACE, and European Parliament. As a Ukrainian MP, she offers answers to acute questions relating to current Ukrainian realities.

Ms. Herasymiuk, you recently returned from New York City where you took part in the 63rd Session of the UN General Assembly. Do you think Ukraine stands a chance of the UN passing a resolution on the Holodomor in Ukraine in conjunction with its 75th anniversary?

[Olha Herasymiuk] ”It is still a long way before the United Nations approves any do­cument recognizing the Ho­lo­domor as a crime. I think the coming anniversary of this tra­gedy is meant for us, Uk­rain­ians, for all those who have survived it, and their children and grandchildren.
"Ap­parently, this date will be marked also by the countries that have recognized the Holodomor as an act of genocide and a crime. As for the UN, we have just embarked on the road, although five years back we had a UN document relating to this problem.
"Today the new Russia is going all out to frustrate our efforts along these lines. This takes the form of brazen and open blackmailing regarding various countries. Five years ago, Russia signed a document that includes the word ‘Holodomor’ and recognizes the fact that it was a crime perpetrated by the Stalinist regime. This is no surprise, considering Russia’s vision of its current foreign political course, as recently voiced by President Dmitri Medvedev.
"He declared that the Kremlin will not remain indifferent to what is happening in the so-called outskirts of Russia, which include, above all, Ukraine — of course, the way the Kremlin sees it.

”In addition to these circumstances, we are witnessing how Stalin is being restored as a historical figure and a person who programmed quite specific imperial view of Russia’s role in the world. Therefore, I must say that the path to the recognition of the Holodomor will not be easy.
"I would advise everyone to be aware that this road is a long one indeed. The Jews upheld their resolution on the Holocaust in the UN for 62 years, so I hope you understand what I’m talking about.

”As for the current situation, I believe this issue will be raised during the 63rd UN General Assembly session.

”I would also like to point out that the more intrigue is generated around this issue (and given such harsh measures into which Russia translates this intrigue), the more interested the world is in what we are defending. You won’t find one delegate in the UN audience, even from the remotest country, who doesn’t know about the Holodomor or who does not believe that [Russia’s] blackmailing regarding the Ukrainian issue is redundant.

”I realized this when I was in New York as a member of the CE delegation. Even in the present conditions of financial crisis, terrorism, and reshaping of the map of the world, this all-European body believes that what we need now is an even closer cooperation with the UN, especially in the domain of human rights. We were there to discuss this need. We held numerous meetings with people who were in charge of various areas of UN activities.

”Apparently one of the most interesting meetings was with the UN official in charge of genocide and mass violence and destruction. We discussed the sensitive issue of genocide, its definition and boundaries, and what a post-genocidal country should do along this line. We found the following answer: no one should be stopped on this road by what is usually the simplest counterargument, which is a request to present documentary evidence. There is hardly any evidence of this kind left in these cases because such heinous crimes are committed in a different way, leaving no evidence for the future trial.

”The UN official said that Ukraine was doing the right thing by defending this issue because the goal that we set before us is what matters in the first place. In this debate the main thing is to know what kind of goal we have set. If it is to prevent this evil from happening ever again, then we must struggle on, come what may. Here the important thing is presenting our case to the international community as frequently and loudly as possible, making the issue clear and explaining it. This is the only way to guarantee that this crime will never be perpetrated again.

”This debate may have been more on the philosophic side, but delegates of various countries were genuinely interested. In particular, there was the Polish representative, who had not previously supported our stance on the Holodomor (while Poland is generally friendly to us in this issue).
"He said that Poland had appealed to Russia demanding that it acknowledge the mass massacre of the Poles at Katyn as a crime of the Stalinist regime. Russia had flatly refused to do so. This is another proof of the Kremlin’s serious determination to ‘take case of its outskirts.’

”The Holodomor is not merely a historical issue. Its recognition is fundamental because this is what we may face if we lose our state and independence and stop resisting the bear that is stretching its paws over all the lands which it calls its empire’s provinces. There is nothing anti-Russian in these statements of mine; it’s just that the threat to a number of countries is too serious.”

Not so long ago the European Parliament supported Ukraine by recognizing the Holodomor of 1932-33. Will this decision have an impact on the UN resolution in regard to this problem?

[Olha Herasymiuk] ”The European Parliament’s support is extremely important, and yes, it will have its impact, but there has to be many such resolutions; we have to struggle on a daily basis to have them passed, and not just in conjunction of the 75th anniversary, so we can cross it off the list.
"I think we’ll have to persist in this direction for more than a year-the way your newspaper has been doing it: not for the sake of awards or laudatory entries in the service record, but valiantly, never swerving from the road and involving in this complicated task people who regard it as a cause to be defended, rather than a temporary project.

”This is how this was done back in 1993 by the late Lidia Kovalenko and Volodymyr Maniak. They collected piles of letters containing accounts of the Holodomor by its victims and published a memorial volume which you can’t buy anywhere now, just as you can’t find any of those letters.

”The point in question is not the date but the fact, the principle, and the phenomenon. It is very important not to bury this ussue under the layer of red-letter day events. Views expressed by the OSCE and UNESCO still carry a lot of weight.”

We know that the Albanian envoy, Aleksander Biberaj, will prepare a report for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on the Famine of 1932-33 in Ukraine and elsewhere in the [former] Soviet Union. Can you please tell us about the progress of this report and its special features?

[Olha Herasymiuk] ”The procedure for writing reports is not widely known, so let me explain. The thing is that it takes years to prepare each such report. At the current stage, Aleksander Biberaj has been approved and the first discussions have taken place during the autumnal session. His position is to study the Holodomor as a special page in the history of the Stalinist regime. He is investigating the issue and has already visited Ukraine and attended a scholarly conference here, where he gained a lot of [pertinent] knowledge.

”I met with him during the UN session in New York and we continued our discussion. I might as well point out that he has no doubts that the Holodmor was an act of genocide. He plans to attend our forum on November 22. By the way, among our guests will be the chairman of PACE’s Political Committee, who is the author of the report on the condemnation of totalitarian crimes — one of the best-known reports in the PACE.
"This report was successfully presented in 2006. However, the Holodomor issue was left out, blocked by Russia, and Ukraine was not mentioned. These two European representatives will attend our forum to voice their support and continue investigating this issue.

”There are procedures according to which Biberaj will come to Ukraine again to explore the areas where the crimes [pertaining to the Holodomor] were committed, study archival documents, and talk to scholars. He also intends to visit Russia, including the Kuban and Kazakhstan. He is taking a keen interest in this problem because of the truths that have been revealed to him, while many Europeans remain unaware of them.
"He says he will work hard to deliver his report at the earliest possible date; he isn’t going to spend many years writing it. Meanwhile, the Russians are delaying contact with Biberaj and have developed a strategy of playing for time. So this project will take a while.”

Ms. Herasymiuk, this August you forwarded a parliamentarian message to the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), requesting that they monitor the situation with the unlawful issuance of Russian passports to Ukrainian citizens, specifically in the Crimea. Are there any results? Has the SBU been able to ascertain anything? Was this problem placed on the PACE agenda?

[Olha Herasymiuk] ”The SBU replied that they are also concerned with this issue. It is being investigated by competent authorities. They also promised that I will be informed about the findings on a priority basis, period. However, this issue remains in the limelight. We discussed it at the PACE session with colleagues from the Baltic countries, Georgia, Moldova, and other countries that are also disturbed by this phenomenon. We spoke about the necessity of a resolution on the matter.

”Many members of the Council of Europe tell us that Ukraine may be next after Georgia. Even if we are silent on the subject, it is brought up by others to keep us on our toes. After all, [President] Medvedev recently stated that he demands a prolongation of his presidency and is launching a new program to resettle ‘fellow countrymen.’ This program is being very actively implemented in Kaliningrad. He wants to deploy missiles there, too. These signs tell us that Russia is paying little attention to weak warnings. We all must be constantly prepared to defend ourselves.”

[Olha Herasymiuk] Do you think the South Ossetia scenario could be played out in the Crimea?

”There is no joking about the situation. We are monitoring the Kremlin’s policy. It’s just that we have to constantly work on it, rather than react to a possible sudden explosion, for we may simply be too late to respond to it. Implementing Ukrainian [national] policy in the Crimea is not easy, yet we are doing just that.
"Recently, criminal proceedings were initiated against Communists who seized the studio of the State Television and Radio Company. The Crimea will soon host a local drama production dedicated to the Holodomor with the support of the Symferopil branch of Our Ukraine. The Crimea is part of Ukraine. Our people live there.”

Ukraine obviously cannot count on being granted the Membership Action Plan in December. Who do you think is to blame for this situation?

[Olha Herasymiuk] ”The situation in country is least conducive to state-building, for the time being anyway. There are probably objective reasons for this. The politicians and individuals that have to remain in politics should be those who address the issues of the state, rather than do what they are doing now. There we need to have new statesmen and people who have already brought great, real benefits to this country and whose accomplishments are still being used.

”I think that we are in a very complicated situation now, in particular because the rest of the world no longer admires some of our politicians. Previously, after Yulia Tymoshenko delivered her speech in Brussels, Javier Solana would quote her. This euphoria is no longer there. The world is disturbed but what is happening between the branches of power in Ukraine. It certainly does not reject Ukraine. On the contrary, Ukraine is now in the limelight with the European and international communities. They are willing to help Ukraine on this road.

”I see nothing fatal about what is happening on our road to progress. The world wants to have Ukraine with its tremendous intellectual potential, traditions, history, and capacities. I think that we should continue on our course toward Euro-Atlantic integration. We shouldn’t let any failures depress us. This is a special course that has to be mapped out by experts, not amateurs.

”Our society must also share the responsibility for the individuals it elects to be its leaders. We must advance individuals who will eventually go down in history as those who have helped this country’s progress, rather than comic or scandalous characters, as is, regrettably, the case today.”

Why do you think our politicians cannot join efforts and come to an agreement even now, in the conditions of the world financial crisis?

[Olha Herasymiuk] ”Such is the level of their professionalism: frankly, it is not very high. I also believe that this situation will continue until the election campaign separates the chaff from the grain so good bread can be baked. This society must duly assess its politicians, and it’s not worth relying on the images generated by Internet mass media and political shows. Our media are shaping the wrong kind of politicians. As a rule, on our television screens we see those who tend to wrangle in a loud way. This forms a certain [public] attitude to [our] politics, so our society must learn to respond to this kind of offer and this kind of television.”

Aren’t you tired of politics? For example, Sviatoslav Vakarchuk couldn’t stand it any longer and called it quits.

[Olha Herasymiuk] ”What Vakarchuk did is not an example for me. He must have had no goal, considering that he took up politics and got tired of it so quickly even though he promised he would not give up without a fight, as he sang in his song. You can get tired doing something tiresome and burdensome only if you don’t understand why you are doing it.

”Indeed, building an independent state is a hard task, like a stonemason’s work. It can never be easy, much less so in our situation. Ukraine is the goal of my life. I have made a conscious choice, so I don’t accept the notion of fatigue in this sense. Nor should our society get tired or disillusioned — mind you, our society has changed.
The Maidan demonstrated that we are different from what we were before and that we have willpower. It would be a crime against Ukraine to say, ‘Well, we have failed so let’s go back.’ I can predict that there will be more snap elections and more fiascos, but this is our road. It cannot be any different.”
LINK: http://www.day.kiev.ua/257135/
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
The Russians and the Holodomor, their hard ideological line and distorted historical realities.
By Volodymyr Serhiichuk, Professor and Doctor of History
The Day Weekly Digest in English, Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Once Empress Catherine II felt she was sitting firmly on the Russian throne, she immediately instructed Prince Viazemsky to take a number of certain steps to force Ukrainians “to get Russified in a delicate way” as soon as possible. Just a hundred years later Russia’s interior minister Valuyev considered it necessary to persuade the entire world that “there were not, are not and cannot be” any Ukrainians.

I recalled this when I read the book "The 1932-1933 Famine: a Tragedy of the Russi­an Count­ry­side" by the Penza-based professor of history Viktor Kondrashin, which was recently published in Moscow.
This author, who decided to study the 1932-1933 famine in the Volga, Don and Kuban regions, failed to see there the Ukrainians who were the main grain-growing trail-blazers at least in the two last areas: “The Russians, Mord­vins, Tatars, Ingushes, and other peoples lived then and are living now in the above-mentioned regions of Russia.
At the same time, this study puts emphasis on the Russian population of the Volga, Don and Kuban areas because, historically, it was they who were involved in grain production and, therefore, became the primary object of Stalin’s forced collectivization” (p. 51 in Russian).

Why Kondrashin wants to convince the readers that there were no Ukrainians in these regions from the very beginning of cultivation and farming and does not consider them “historically involved in grain production” becomes clear from the panegyric that the author dedicates to himself in his own book: “V. V. Kondrashin actively opposes in the media and scholarly publications, including foreign ones, the idea of Ukrainian historians and politicians about ‘genocide of the Ukrainian people by the 1932-1933 Holodomor.’ He concludes in his publication son this matter that the 1932-1933 famine is a common tragedy of all the USSR peoples and this tragedy should unite, not disunite, the peoples” (p. 29, Russ.).

Given this self-assessment of the author, it is small wonder why he did not consider it necessary to mention Ukrainians among the main agricultural ethnoses in the Volga, Don and Kuban regions. But they really lived there. According to the 1926 census, Ukrainians prevailed, for example, in all the 40 Kuban villages (stanitsas) founded by the first Zaporozhian Cossack resettlers in the late 18th century: Ba­tu­ryn­ska (5,034 Ukrainians out of the total 7,086 residents), Be­re­zanska (9,297 and 10,443, respectively), Briukhovetska (9,698 and 12,466), Vasiurynska (9,142 and 10,443), Vyshestebliivska (2,400 and 3,251), Dinska (10, 316 and 12,525), Diadkivska (6,665 and 7,324), Ivanivska (12,983 and 14,209), Irkliivska (5,884 and 6,473), Kanivska (13,878 and 17,248), Kal­ni­bo­lotska (8,606 and 10,998), Katerynynska (11,824 and 13,391), Kisliakivska (11, 416 and 13, 112), Konelivska (7,824 and 8,7121), Korenivska (9,313 and 15,548), Krylivska (8,146 and 9,427), Kushchivska (9,364 and 11,865), Medvedivska (15,222 and 18,146), Ne­za­ma­ivska (10,150 and 12,133), Pa­sh­kiv­ska (14,166 and 18,000), Pereyaslavska (7,552 and 8,781), Plastunivska (10,528 and 12,375), Platnyrivska (11,628 and 13,925), Poltavska (10,985 and 14,306), Po­po­vychivska (7,762 and 10,715), Rogivska (10,806 and 12,475), Sergiivska (4,127 and 4,714), Sta­ro­de­re­vian­kivska (6,529 and 7,230), Sta­ro­dzhe­reliivska (5,158 and 5,413), Starokorsunska (10,477 and 12,273), Staroleushkivska (5,857 and 6,521), Staromenska (19,736 and 22,604), Sta­­ro­my­sha­stivska (8,171 and 9,826), Sta­ro­nyzh­chestebliivska (11,356 and 12,273), Starotytarivska (8,552 and 9,536), Staro­shcher­bynivska (14,453 and 17,001), Ty­ma­shevska (8,961 and 12,112), Umanska (17,008 and 20,727), and Shkurynska (8,864 and 9,749).

On the whole, there were 915,450 Ukrainians in Kuban and 3,106,852 in the Northern Cau­ca­sus. So we find it difficult to understand the famine in these villages as a tragedy of “the Russian countryside” alone. All the more so that Kondrashin names such Kuban districts as Yeysky, Kanovsky, Kjorenivskt, Kra­sno­darsky, Staromensky and Kur­sav­sky in the Stavropol region as ones that make part of the “especially affected” areas of the Northern Caucasus.

Of course, this is also presented as a tragedy of the Russian countryside. However, the 1926 census recorded 74,037 Uk­rai­nians and 23,568 Russians in Yesky district; 45,451 and 8,130, respectively, in Kanivsky; 76,422 and 36,939 in Ko­re­niv­sky; 103,8312 and 18,086 in Kraskodarsky; 65,488 and 9,583 in Staromensky; and 57,665 and 8,767 in Kursavsky district.
After all, we are also not indifferent to the destiny of the 35,115 Ukrainians in the Kondrashin-quoted Armavisrsky district and the 11,514 in Kurganinsky district, where the Russians numerically prevailed at the time.

Similar facts of ethnic Uk­rai­nian enclaves during the 1932-1933 Holodomor can also be traced in the Don and Volga regions. In the latter, there were 49 percent of our ethnos in Kapustin Yar district, 51.9 in Yelansky, 69.3 in Kotovsky, 72.4 in Kranoyarsky, 74.9 in Pokrovsky, 79.3 in Samiylivsky, 81 in Mykolayivsky, and almost 90 in Vladirirsky district.
According to the 1926 census, the Lower Volga region alone was populated by 600,000 people who continued to identify themselves as Ukrainians. Some of them did not even speak Russian, which is proved by the following fact: failure to meet the planned targets of grain harvest in 1929 in Dubynsky district was explained by the fact that “Ukrainian slogans on grain procurement were apprehended in the district executive committee, and Russian-language placards were sent to the Uk­rai­nians.”

As for the Ukrainian population in the Don region, there was also a large number of areas, where our people made up the absolute majority. This was especially the case in some Taganrog districts. And the 1932-1933 Holodomor took a heavy toll of all these Ukrainians.

But we should admit that the Kuban Ukrainians were the first to suffer from this horror. And we cannot help recalling the village of Poltavska whose population favored the development of their native culture and where there was the first All-Russian Ukrainian Teacher-Training School. Its population was the first to be deported to the north, its houses were given to Red Army Cossack veterans, and it was renamed Krasnoarmeyska so that nothing betrayed its Ukrainian origin.
The second Ukrainian village in Kuban that suffered the same tragedy was Umanska. After the deportation, it was renamed Leningradska.
Incidentally, we could not find similar Kremlin instructions with respect to Rus­sia’s non-black-soil area which also failed to meet the grain procurement targets.

Indeed, this did not repeat on a mass scale in Soviet Ukraine because in many cases there was nobody to deport: entire villages had died out. There are documents that prove that a great number of Russians and Be­la­ru­sians were brought to hundreds of the famine-ravaged Ukrainian villages.

As for the “black boards,” they were introduced not only in Kuban, Don, the Central Black Soil Region, the Volga basin and the Ukrainian SSR but also in Northern Ka­zakh­stan on the republican leadership’s initiative. But if we look at the list of the villages that suffered this kind of punishment, we will see at once that they were predominantly populated with Ukrainian peasants.
For example, such villages in Ust-Ka­me­nogorsk or Fedorivsky districts were mostly Ukrainian because the Uk­rai­ni­ans were the principal grain producers in this region. For instance, the 1926 census sho­wed that out of the 28,302 residents of the Fe­dorivsky district 25,408 were Uk­rai­nians.

When you read the Penza historian Kondrashin’s book, you can see clearly that he tries, above all, to serve the current political interests of Russia, which consist in the refusal to recognize the 1932-1933 Ho­lo­do­mor as genocide of the Ukrainian people: “We do not support the opinion of Ukrainian po­liticians and historians about the national genocide in Ukraine by means of the 1932-1933 famine.
Nor do we agree with their definition of ‘holodomor’ as an action organized by the Stalinist regime inn order to exterminate millions of Ukrainian residents... We do not share the Ukrainian side’s position because no documents have been found, which would say that Stalin’s regime intended to eliminate the Ukrainian people.”

This raises a question to Kondrashin: and what about the directive documents on stopping the Ukrainization in the areas densely populated by Ukrainians (nothing of the kind was done against other nations in 1932-1933)? Do they not prove that Stalin’s regime aimed to exterminate, at least spiritually, millions of Ukrainians?
And the fact that the 1939 census showed that the Uk­rainian population of what is now Krasnodar Territory had diminished by 1,437,151 people in comparison to 1926? Does it not make the historian Kondrashin think that there was a carefully-orchestrated strike against the Ukrainian nation?

And the VKP Central Com­mit­tee and USSR Council of People’s Commissars resolution of January 22, 1933, on forbidding only Ukrainian and Kuban peasants to go to other regions in search of bread? Does this not prove that Ukrainians were deliberately left to starve to death? Then how should we interpret the following comment of Kon­dra­shin: “What can be called direct organization of the famine are draconian directives of Stalin-Molotov on the prevention of spontaneous migration of peasants, which kept them locked in the starving villages and doomed them to death by starvation. It is for this reason that the 1932-1933 famine can be considered a manmade famine, and this famine is one of the gravest crimes of Stalin” (p. 376, Russ.).

In our opinion, only after reading a large number of documents that prove the genocide of Uk­rai­nians could Kondrashin write, perhaps subconsciously, the following: “The famine helped Stalin liquidate what he considered a potential opposition to his regime in Ukraine, which could become political, rather than cultural, and rely on the peasantry. There are some facts that prove this, including those in the third volume of the documentary collection Tragedy of the Soviet Countryside devoted to the holodomor, which describes the activities of GPU organs in the Ukrainian countryside” (p. 242, Russ.).

Pressing the argument of the absence of concrete documents on pre-planned extermination of Ukrainians, Kondrashin refers us to the International Commission of Jurists which allegedly concluded that “it is not in a position to confirm the existence of a premeditated plan to organize famine in Ukraine in order to ensure the success of Moscow’s policies” (p. 18, Russ.).

Unfortunately, Kondrashin did not quote the next lines of this documents, which say: “Ho­we­ver, most of the commission members believe that even if the Soviet authorities did not actually plan the famine, they apparently took advantage of this famine to force [the populace] to accept the policy they resisted.”

Besides, the International Com­mis­sion of Jurists with the Swedish professor Jacob Sundberg at the head (and without a single Ukrainian, incidentally) also made this conclusion: “Although there is no direct evidence that the 1932-1933 famine was systemically masterminded to break the Ukrainian nation once and for all, most of the commission members believe that Soviet officials deliberately used this famine to pursue their policy of denationalizing Ukraine.”

It should be stressed that Prof. Kondrashin hushes up the fact that the Soviet government furnished no archival documents to this commission and refused altogether to cooperate with it, organizing protest letters against its activities on the part of communist historians. Nor does the monograph’s author cites the commission’s findings that show, on the basis of open censuses in 1926 and 1939, certain demographic changes in the USSR population.

The truth is that while the population increased by 16 percent in the USSR, by 28 percent in the Russian Federation, by 11.2 percent in Belarus over the aforesaid period, it dropped by 9.9 percent in the Ukrainian SSR. This provided ample grounds for well-known jurists in various countries to recognize the 1932-1933 Holodomor as a deliberate strike on Ukrainians.

We cannot bypass one more cardinal question that Kondrashin touched upon in his book. Admitting that “the mindless collectivization and excessive state procurement targets ruined Ka­zakh animal and land husbanders, caused a mass-scale migration to China and the famine-related death of hundreds of thousands of Kazakhstan residents,” this author claims: “at the same time, Kazakh academics did not follow in the footsteps of their Ukrainian colleagues and are treating the 1932-1933 tragedy in line with the approaches of Russian re­sear­chers” (p. 27, Russ.).

At the same time, Kondrashin himself points out that Kazakhs were allowed to settle and set up collective farms, say, in the Volga region during the Holodomor. For example, there were 81 economic entities with 391 people in Sorochinsky district, Middle Volga region (p. 188, Russ.).

In other words, Kazakhs were not forbidden to look for food outside their republic. This is proved, incidentally, by dozens of archival materials found in Kazakhstan. It is only with respect to the famine-stricken Ukrainian population that the regime would issue draconian, to quote Kondrashin, directives that deprived it of a possibility to flee from death to the neighboring regions.

Prof. Kondrashin tries to persuade us several times that no concrete documents have been found. But this is not a sound argument because Moscow also tried to persuade us 20 years ago that there were no secret supplements to the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact on dividing the spheres of influence in Europe, signed in the Kremlin on August 23, 1939. Then these documents were found.
It is quite obvious that Nikita Khrushchev’s announcement at the CPSU 20th Congress that Stalin intended to deport all Ukrainians to Siberia will also find documentary proof some day. After all, why do Kondrashin and other Russian historians not ascribe to this kind of documents Stalin’s telegram to CK KP(b)U Mendel Khatayevich, dated November 8, 1932, saying that “the Politburo is now considering the question of how to bring the Ukrainian peasant down to his knees?”

Russian authors keep saying that the Holodomor tragedy should unite, not disunite, peoples. But this will only occur when they abandon the hard ideological line and admit historical realities.
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
Stalin deliberately starved his own people and concealed the millions of deaths

OP-ED: By David Marples, Professor of History at the University of Alberta
The Edmonton Journal, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Saturday, Nov 22, 2008
Republished in the Kyiv Post, Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, November 27, 2008

This weekend marks the 75th anniversary of the Ukrainian famine, known as the Holodomor (death by hunger). Many governments, including those of Canada and the United States, have recognized the famine as an act of genocide by Stalin's regime against Ukrainians. Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko has issued a bill that would make it a criminal offence to deny that the famine was genocide.

After 75 years, we know much about this tragedy, but the academic community has yet to reach a consensus on the issue. A majority of western scholars -- at least judging from published articles and books -- denies that Stalin's intention was to kill Ukrainians per se and maintains that he targeted the Soviet peasantry as a whole. Thus they deny an ethnic dimension.

For example, in his acclaimed 2007 book on life under Stalin, "The Whisperers," British historian Orlando Figes writes that the Soviet regime "was undoubtedly to blame for the famine. But its policies did not amount to a campaign of 'terror-famine,' let alone of genocide ... ." Harvard University's Terry Martin and the University of Amsterdam's Michael Ellman have expressed the same opinion.

We may never know how many died of starvation in 1932-33. Yushchenko and others speak of 10 million, or about a third of the population of Ukraine. However, more reliable estimates in Ukraine and elsewhere suggest that the death toll was three to five million, still a truly staggering figure.

It is problematic for scholars when issues become heavily politicized before definitive conclusions have been reached. The Soviet regime denied the existence of the famine for 54 years. Communists in Ukraine reject the notion that Moscow turned on Ukrainians, as do Russia and several western countries.

However, Yushchenko has made the Holodomor the central event in the history of modern Ukraine. It is a divisive one because of the association of the U.S.S.R. with modern Russia. Implicitly, it is alleged that Russia is responsible for the deaths of millions of Ukrainians. Russian president Dmitry Medvedev demurs, and the late Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn argued that famine occurred also in Russia as well as among ethnic Russians, Jews and Germans resident in Ukraine.

However, archival evidence suggests that the ethnic dimension of the famine was always present. Soviet Ukraine in the 1920s had been allowed to develop its own culture and institutions under a policy known as "indigenization." By the early 1930s the Soviet authorities were very concerned by the results. Led by the commissar of education and former colleague of Lenin, Mykola Skrypnyk, the republic was distancing itself from Russia.

National "deviationism" in Ukraine was linked by Stalin with the danger of new intervention from Poland, regarded as a hostile neighbour since the war of 1919-20. He wrote in a letter to his colleague Lazar Kaganovich, party leader of Ukraine in the 1920s, that he feared that "we might lose Ukraine" and that Polish leader Josef Pilsudski would exploit dissatisfaction in the republic.

Added to these volatile elements, the Soviet regime began rapidly to collectivize farms starting in 1929. Ukraine was among the first republics to be collectivized. In Kazakhstan, a third of the peasantry (about one million people) died by 1931. Stalin's goal was "to liquidate the kulaks (rich peasants) as a class." Many so designated destroyed their livestock rather than give it up to the new collective farms. The countryside became a war zone in which millions were dispossessed, with many deported to Siberia or the Far North.

After collectivization, state grain quotas were imposed on the farms. Grain was taken before the farmers could feed themselves and their families, and quotas were raised sharply in Ukraine, despite a poor harvest in 1931 in particular. Stalin, who used the grain to feed the growing urban population as well as the Red Army, appointed Extraordinary Grain Commissions in several regions. Vyacheslav Molotov led the one in Ukraine. When the grain ran out, Molotov demanded that the commissions take all food from the villages, which were stripped bare as though a plague of locusts had descended on them.

Peasants could not travel to towns or cross borders to obtain food after 1932, as they were not assigned passports like the rest of the population. In January 1933, Ukraine's border with North Caucasus was closed. Ukraine's leadership in Kharkiv, the capital at the time, was distraught. Most Ukrainian Communists blamed "kulaks" and nationalists for the starvation in villages. Stalin then sent his own plenipotentiary, Pavel Postyshev, to Kharkiv to purge the dithering leaders. Later all these figures either died during the purges or, like Skrypnyk, took their own lives.

The mass deaths of peasants were concealed from the public with the collusion of some western journalists and diplomats. Many prominent figures -- including George Bernard Shaw, and Sidney and Beatrice Webb -- reported that this ravaged land was in fact a Communist utopia. Walter Duranty of the New York Times lied systematically to Americans about the situation in the Soviet countryside.

The link between the Ukrainian famine and external events is clear. In January 1933 Hitler had come to power in Germany, adding another dire threat to Stalin's regime. Ukrainian nationalists, Poles, Hitler and Stalin's chief enemy, Leon Trotsky, all feature in Stalin's correspondence and party documents as threats to Soviet security.

Whether or not this catastrophe was premeditated--and we may never find a "smoking gun" -- Stalin, Molotov and other Soviet leaders deliberately starved their own people and then concealed this atrocity from the outside world.

NOTE: David Marples is a professor of history at the University of Alberta.
LINK: http://www.kyivpost.com/opinion/op_ed/31302

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Genocide is a crime that does not and will never have a statute of limitations.
By Prof. Zinovii Partyko, Ph.D. (Linguistics), Head of the Department of Publishing and Editing
Institute of Journalism and Mass Communications of the Classical Private University
The Day Weekly Digest in English #38, Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, 2 December 2008 

Genocide is a crime that does not and will never have a statute of limitations. The conscience of humankind and of each nation which humankind consists of will never resign itself to the idea that deliberate extermination of millions of people may remain unpunished in the moral, legal, political and historical aspects of the matter.
Even though God claimed long ago the lives of those who organized the mass-scale massacre, those who are living on Earth have a sacred duty to exact well-deserved revenge on the criminals, for this will be a lesson for generations to come.

Stalin, Kaganovich, Molotov, Postyshev, Kosior, Chubar, and other Bolshevik figures who masterminded and employed genocidal terror by famine in Ukraine in 1932-1933 or contributed to it by obeying criminal instructions from Moscow, departed this life long ago.
But it would be hy­po­crisy pure and simple to allege that this very fact cancels the problem of liability and punishment for the deliberately planned Great Famine of 1932-1933. This problem is just taking a somewhat different shape.
In this article, Prof. Zinovii Partyko, Ph.D. (Ling­uist­ics), reflects on the likely ways of resolving this problem which is important always, all the more so in these sorrowful days of the 75th anniversary of the Ukraine Holodomor. We are inviting our readers to take part in the debate.

Ukraine is honoring the memory of Holodomor victims. Whenever a televised debate is held on this subject, viewers ask, “But who in fact masterminded this unheard-of crime?”

As there were no natural calamities, including a drought, in 1932-1933, the answer is definite: the government that ruled the country. And, to be more exact, the political party that ruled the USSR which Ukraine was part of. There was only one party in the USSR: the All — Union Com­munist Party of Bolsheviks — VKP(b), later renamed as Communist Party of the Soviet Union — CPSU.

Naturally, many would like to condemn the VKP(b)-CPSU’s ideological groundwork, i.e., the theory of Bolshevism. But no court will ever condemn this ideology, for it is the preserve of politicians and academics. A court can only convict the people who have committed crimes, irrespective of whether or not they adhered to this ideology.

Ukraine has already seen attempts to ban the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU), the modern “clone” of the VKP(b)-CPSU. Let us recall those attempts.

[1] FIRSTLY, an attempt was made in the early 1990s not to register the KPU as a party which has violated basic universally recognized human rights, such as the right to life (the Holodomor is a sufficient and illustrative example of the violation of this right), the right to free movement (the institution of propiska (domicile registration) in the USSR, denial of internal passports to peasants in the Stalin era, the ban on free travel abroad), the right to a fair trial (out-of-court “troikas” that sentenced millions of people to death and deportation to GULAG prison camps; judges who used to convict dissidents in the 1960s-1980s), the right to free expression of opinion (clauses in the USSR Criminal Code on “anti-Soviet agitation”), the right to free conscience (tens of thousands of convicted priests of different religions, mass-scale destruction and confiscation of the places of worship), and a number of other rights.
Yet there were no juridical grounds to deny the KPU registration in the early 1990s because,
(1) firstly, it was not a legal successor to the CPSU;
(2) secondly, this party’s statute says that it functions within the limits of the Ukrainian state and, therefore, pledges to obey its Constitution; and,
(3) thirdly, there has been no legally-bound ruling on its antihuman essence. There has never been a trial of the VKP(b)-CPSU, patterned on the 1946 Nuremberg Trial of the National Socialist Party of Germany.

The other attempts were of a local nature.

[2] THE SECOND ATTEMPT: on February 8, 2000, the Lviv Oblast Council resolved that “the regional justice department suspend KPU activities on the oblast’s territory until these activities are brought into line with the constitutional norms of Ukraine.” Besides, the oblast council decided “to support the demands of the populace, political parties and civic organizations to conduct a trial of the CPSU-KPU for crimes against humanity.”
But can a regional-level organization suspend a party registered at the highest, national, level? Of course not, for it is only in the powers of national-level governmental bodies (e.g., the Supreme Court of Ukraine).
Even if a party has grossly violated the administrative or criminal law in a certain region or district, it is the leaders of this territorial cell, not the entire party, that will be held responsible — therefore, this provides no ample grounds for de-registering the party. Moreover, the KPU Lviv cell did not commit any administrative or criminal offenses. So the Lviv Oblast Council’s resolution was of a purely emotional nature, which is inadmissible in a rule-of-law state.

[3] THE THIRD ATTEMPT: As is known, real life is far richer than the deadpan line of juridical codes. For this reason, March 9, 2000, saw a very special variety of a KPU trial. This occurred quite spontaneously and resembled the year 1991. Aware of the older generation’s helplessness, eleven young people of Ukraine penetrated into and barricaded the door of the former KPU Central Committee, demanding a trial of this party.
This was a cry from the heart to those political parties and civic organizations which, instead of filing a lawsuit as soon as possible, were busy grabbing the hetman’s mace or doing the parliamentary tug-of-war. But was the local court, which handled the KP CC building seizure case, authorized to consider CPSU activities on the territory of Ukraine in 1917-1991? Obviously not.

This means that one unpunished crime bred new ones: failure to pass a judicial ruling over KPU activities in Ukraine brought about the unlawful resolution of a regional council and a violent offense by the young people. But can we morally condemn those who failed to organize a KPU trial in good time? Apparently not, at least morally.

Yet it does not follow from this conclusion that millions of Ukrainians were dying accidentally, without “assistance” of a totalitarian and misanthropic state, during the Civil War, the Holodomor, the Second World War, and in the times of “unbounded” socialist optimism. The crimes of the VKP(b)-CPSU, already recorded in tens and hundreds of books of memory, oblige us to restore historical justice.
All the more so that the VKP(b)-CPSU itself let the cat out of the bag, when one of its leaders, Kliment Voroshylov, said at a party conference that “collectivization and industrialization cost the state ten million human lives” (quoted from the mass media).

Let us draw some historical parallels. It is common knowledge that Nazism is an ideology whose bearers were convicted at the Nuremberg international trial. But was there a trial of the VKP(b)-CPSU leaders who organized genocide and concentration camps similar to those in Nazi Germany? Not yet.
Therefore, millions of Ukrainian citizens who accept the communist or procommunist ideology are drawing a subconscious conclusion from this (I am not saying whether it is correct by its essence): the Bolshevik Marxist-Leninist ideology, which the VKP(b)-CPSU adhered to, is not criminal and, hence, is quite acceptable.

It is a fact. In particular, this is why there still are so many people in Ukraine, who gather for public rallies under red flags (this may be one of the most important reasons why the populace supports communists). In­ci­dentally, propaganda of the ideas and symbols of Nazism is banned by law in present-day Germany.

So why not just ban the KPU in this country, as Germany did to the Nazi-oriented parties?

Banning the KPU now (even if we accept the possibility of a political, not juridical, decision to this effect because there are no juridical grounds) will be of no tangible effect. Rather, it will produce results opposite to those expected. Particularly, the ban will force the KPU to go underground (as was the case in tsarist Russia).
It is difficult to fight underground organizations, and their member are bound to win a huge aureole of “martyrs.” So the ban is only testimony to the weakness of those who will impose it. This is why I am convinced that neither the Verkhovna Rada nor the President of Ukraine will ever agree to this in the present-day conditions.

Let us draw the following conclusion from the aforesaid: the KPU should not be banned or, moreover, de-registered. We need to take legal action against it.
Only a court can say who is the criminal to be punished and who is the victim of the crime. So I will now express my opinion on the KPU trial.
The first thing to do in this matter is to find out the subject of the crime, i.e., who is to be tried: the former CPSU, the former KPU, or the present-day KPU? For these are three different organizations. Naturally, the present-day KPU, which is not the CPSU’s legal successor, bears no juridical responsibility for its crimes. As for the former KPU, it was just a component of the CPSU (not a self-sufficient organization), so it is not responsible either.
Therefore, it is only the VKP(b)-CPSU that can and must be held responsible for the crimes it committed. What is more, the politburo of this party was the body that wielded actual power not only in this party but also in the state because leaders of the government were ex-officio members of this highest party body.
But the point is not only in finding out the crime’s subject. To file a lawsuit, one has to tackle some incomparably more complicated juridical problems.
There are four of them.
1) This organization, VKP(b)-CPSU, ceased to exist as long ago as 1991. Figuratively speaking, it was made a “dead man” very quickly and adroitly in anticipation of the future: instead of standing trial, it “self-disbanded” in 1991.
2) The party leaders who committed most of the crimes (Stalin, Kaganovich, Postyshev, and their henchmen) are also dead. And, according to juridical norms, both Ukrainian and international, the dead cannot be brought to criminal justice. Otherwise, among those facing criminal liability would be the mummies of Egyptian pharaohs because pharaohs used forced slave labor to build the pyramids. But an embalmed mummy cannot appear as defendant in a court of law (nor can the mummy of Lenin, incidentally).
3) The governing bodies of the party that is supposed to be the defendant, VKP(b)-CPSU, is on the territory of Russia, a foreign state.
4) A part of Ukrainian convicts (those who were not executed and did not starve to death) also served their terms in the now foreign state - Russia.

It follows from the aforesaid that the VKP(b)-CPSU should not be tried in Ukraine, for it would be an intrastate trial. Naturally, we cannot fully rule out altogether an intrastate trial (for example, of those VKP(b)-CPSU members who committed overtly criminal actions), although it will be of an extremely little, if any, effect.
For the Ukrainian communists - members of the former KPU - can always say: we only obeyed instructions from Moscow and behaved in line with the applicable Soviet law, so the blame should be put not on us but on those who made those decisions in Moscow, i.e., members of the VKP(b)-CPSU Politburo.

This provokes attempts to consider the possibility of lawsuits against Russia on whose territory the VKP(b)-CPSU functioned.

[1] OPTION ONE. As the VKP(b)-CPSU and its former leaders no longer exist physically and juridically, there can only be legal cases about material compensation of the aggrieved party (the repressed) for the damage caused.
Any aggrieved person or a group of them could be the plaintiff in such a case, with Russia being the defendant because it is the legal successor to the USSR and, as was noted above, the convicts served their terms on the territory of that state (Russia used to reap a handsome benefit from the slave labor of millions of prisoners).
There could be a mechanism which resembles the ostarbeiteren compensation scheme now being effected in Germany. Such a case could be heard by the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg. But...
But, unfortunately, it is impossible because Russia ratified the European Covenant of Human Rights and Basic Freedoms as late as in 1996, so the court will not consider any of the events that had occurred on its territory before that, as the international law has no retroactive effect. All one can do is lodge the same suit, but with a different demand: to compensate only for the moral damage the aggrieved party has been suffering since 1996.
The probability of winning such a case is all too negligible. In addition, a compulsory precondition for this option is a preliminary trial of the case in a Russian court, which will present considerable, not only legal, difficulties.

[2] OPTION TWO. Naturally, the Ukrainian state may take legal action against Russia at the International UN Court in the Hague to demand compensating the repressed citizens of Ukraine for the moral damage caused. It would be, naturally, the ideal option. But this raises new problems.
(1) Firstly, in accordance with this court’s statute, Russia itself must agree to this process (whether or not Russia would agree to this is clear from the way it “allowed” the UK to interrogate the former security officer Lugovoi suspected of poisoning Colonel Litvinenko).
(2) Secondly, the difficulty also is that the repressed were tried by Ukrainian, not Russian, courts.
Of course, the question may be put as follows: was it really a Ukrainian court or the court of a different state (Russia), which functioned on the territory of Ukraine? Answering this question, one should remember that Ukraine had certain signs of statehood (e.g., it was a UN member). So the repressed were tried by Ukrainian courts and, in all probability, claims against Russia would be groundless.

As we see, any attempts to file lawsuits against Russia, on whose territory the VKP(b)-CPSU functioned, will produce no tangible effect - all the more so nowadays, when the political situation in Russia is characterized with authoritarianism and a criminally condescending and all-forgiving attitude to the past.
But is the situation really a blind alley? For if there cannot be an intrastate or a interstate (between Ukraine and Russia) trial, it does not mean there can be no trial at all. So let us look more in detail and more thoroughly into the nature of VKP(b)-CPSU crimes.


First of all, let us take the question of the territory on which crimes were committed. The point is that those crime were committed on the territory of several, not one, states.
[1] Firstly, these are the republics that were once part of the USSR and are independent states now.
[2] Secondly, those states were Comecon members: Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and others (we are only singling out the countries which we think suffered the most from Soviet armed aggressions aimed at crushing the uprisings of 1956, 1968, and other years).
[3] Thirdly, those were European and other states, on the territory of which Soviet KGB agents committed a number of terrorist acts (for example, the assassinations of Lev Rebet and Stepan Bandera — to mention only Ukrainian figures).

The VKP(b)-CPSU crimes on the territory of the above-mentioned states had the following consequences:
[1] firstly, mass-scale repressions that affected millions of people and were based on the rulings of unjust courts (executions, prison camps, deportations); [2] secondly, genocide of the Ukrainian peasantry;
[3] thirdly, violation of the Comecon countries’ sovereignty (stationing of the armed forces on their territory without their consent); and, fourthly, terrorist acts (assassinations) on the territory of other-than-Comecon states.

Those crimes adversely affected, to a larger or smaller extent, citizens of all the Comecon member states.

It unambiguously follows from the aforesaid that the VKP(b)-CPSU should be tried not by an intrastate court or a court of two states (Ukraine and Russia) but by an international court that involves a number of states.
Let us consider the possible options for such an international trial.

[1] OPTION ONE. It would be a good idea if Ukraine, as a UN member, turned to the Hague-based UN International Court. Such a petition can go not only from Ukraine but also simultaneously from other states that were part of either the USSR (e.g., the Baltic countries) or the Comecon. This courts exercises jurisdiction over all the UN members states (as is known, all the former Soviet republics and Comecon states are UN members).
Although this court has no criminal jurisdiction and cannot try war criminals, it can still tackle suck problems as interference of one state into the affairs of another, the use of force, and human rights abuse.
The UN International Court can make consultative conclusions in legal matters, which are not binding for the offending state (in this case Russia, on whose territory the criminal party functioned) but are secured by this court’s authority. It is also clear that this conclusion will be important for a number of other states, including some in Asia, which are still ruled by communist regimes.

To bring this judicial process into play, it is necessary, firstly, that the UN Security Council or General Assembly should turn to the In­ter­national Court for a consultative conclusion; secondly, that each interested state should apply in writing to the International Court for a consultative conclusion (if Russia fails to apply, the court can hear this case even without its participation on the basis of other states’ applications).

As for the International Criminal Court which was established by the UN in 1998 and began functioning in July 2002, Ukraine cannot turn to it for help because, although it signed the court’s statute, the Verkhovna Rada has not ratified it, following a negative ruling by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine. But even if this court’s statute is ratified, this will not change the crux of the matter because the International Criminal Court will only hear the cases of crimes committed after July 1, 2002.

[2] OPTION TWO. The countries that suffered from VKP(b)-CPSU crimes can sign an agreement based on the Roman Statute, the cornerstone of the International Criminal Court, to the effect that an international tribunal for the VKP(b)-CPSU be established. This would be an ad hoc court, i.e., one supposed to hear this specific case only.

The states that suffered from VKP(b)-CPSU crimes would then have to ratify this tribunal’s statute which would determine the court’s jurisdiction, time and space parameters, staff requirements, and the legal mechanisms of court ruling implementation. Sitting in the dock could be concrete individuals guilty of committing the crimes listed in the statute (if member states agree to surrender their citizens to this court).

This trial would see, as respondents, all the still living former communist leaders of what was known as socialist camp. The only point is whether these leaders will come to attend a session of this international tribunal (yet, as is known, a court may be in session even in the absence of the defendant).
Among the defendants should also be Mikhail Gorbachev, the last surviving CPSU leader. If we assume that he is present, it is most likely that Gorbachev and members of the last CPSU Politburo will be acquitted because they obviously did not commit any crimes.

It is this court, the International Tribunal for the VKP(b)-CPSU, that can make a clear legal assessment of the past events and of the individuals who masterminded them.

[3] OPTION THREE. It is possible to organize an international civic court. Proceedings in this case could be instituted by civic organizations or even political parties of all the former socialist states: from the Baltics, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Central Europe.

It would be fair to invite the world’s top-skilled lawyers to plead in this court, including those of the European International Human Rights Court in Strasbourg, the Hague-based International Court, and the UN International Criminal Court. To ensure maximum impartiality, it would be good to invite also jurists from the countries where communist regimes did not rule.

This kind of court would rely on both the applicable international legal standards and the authority of the international law experts who participate in it. Naturally, rulings of this court can have no juridical consequences whatsoever. Yet, if we opt for a civic court, we should take into account that moral condemnation is no less important than juridical one.

These are, in our opinion, the likely options for a judicial inquiry into the activities that VKP(b)-CPSU pursued, particularly, on the territory of Uk­raine, especially during the genocidal Holodomor.

The analysis of the three aforesaid options for a judicial hearing can lead to only one conclusion: it is very difficult but not impossible to hold a trial of the VKP(b)-CPSU at the existing international courts and in the legal system accepted by the world community. This will require major financial expenditures and involvement of all the branches - executive, legislative, and judicial - of power.
Obviously, it is the Ministry of Justice, preferably in conjunction with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, that should play first fiddle to launch a judicial inquiry into this case. Incidentally, the recent resolution of the Council of Europe on recognizing the fact of a manmade famine in Ukraine is a very important achievement of our diplomats.

As Ukraine is short of the required funds, I think we could begin collecting donations for filing an international lawsuit (it is up to experts to choose an option). By donating even one hryvnia, every citizen of Ukraine will in fact vote for the opening of this case. I hope that all the repressed citizens of Ukraine and their relatives will give a hryvnia for this long-overdue case.
The Institute of National Memory could be a civic initiator of this judicial hearing. Unfortunately, over all the 16 years of Ukraine’s independence, none of the nationally-conscious parties has tried to put the judicial inquiry into VKP(b)-CPSU activities on a practical footing (I do not take into account frequent rag-chewing in the mass media).

We need not only and not so much a Ukrainian trial of the present-day KPU as an international trial of the former VKP(b)-CPSU leaders who abode by the Bolshevik ideology that claimed millions of human lives, particularly, during the Civil War, the 1930s genocidal Holodomor, and the 1930s-1950s repressions, as well as produced prisoners of conscience in the 1960s-1980s. I think that only after such an international trial is it possible and advisable to raise the question of banning the current KPU at the governmental level.

The VKP(b)-CPSU trial should no longer be adjourned if Ukraine and other states are to avoid new and very dangerous procommunist relapses.
Maybe, international law experts should also express their professional opinion in this matter? Shall we switch from words to deeds?
FOOTNOTE:  Some edits in the format of the article were made by the Action Ukraine Report (AUR).  

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Holodomor: "I am categorically against bringing this topic into the dimension of ethnocide."
Rossiya TV, Moscow, Russia in Russian 1700 gmt 14 Dec 08
BBC Monitoring Service, UK, in English, Sunday, December 14, 2008 

The newly elected Ukrainian parliament speaker, Volodymyr Lytvyn, was interviewed on state-owned Russian television channel Rossiya's "Vesti Nedeli" news and current affairs programme on 14 December. Lytvyn answered questions on the current political situation in Ukraine and Russian-Ukrainian relations. How do you feel being elected speaker for the second time?

"Let me tell you frankly, it is quite difficult, because there is an attempt today to break up the parliament and take Ukraine to elections in the conditions of the deepening crisis," Lytvyn said.When will the collation agreement be signed?
"The document [on setting up a coalition of Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc, Our Ukraine-People's Self-Defence and the Lytvyn Bloc] has been ready for a long time. The problem is that, as I learnt today, the president of Ukraine does not support the creation of the coalition," Lytvyn said.
"I had a long meeting and conversation with the president. Very regrettably, the standoff between the president and the prime minister is quite tense, and society, the country and people remain hostages to this standoff", he added.
"The [parliament's] conciliatory council has decided to recommend the Ukraine's Supreme Council to consider the report of the investigative commission next week, on Friday, in order to set the record straight on the matter. This decision, in essence, was supported by representatives of all factions. I think this will bring clarity. I am deeply convinced that everything should be done today to establish a normal dialogue between Ukraine and Russia", Lytvyn said.Ban on Russian TV channels

"Obviously, my attitude to this is negative. There can be no ambiguity about it. I believe that people should have the possibility to receive comprehensive information in which they are interested and draw relevant conclusions. Therefore, especially in the conditions of a crisis, when there is no bread, and people feel that their rights are being infringed in the information space too, this creates a sort of cumulative negative charge. I am categorically against this.
This issue has already been raised. I think that we will thoroughly study this issue at the level of Ukraine's Supreme Council and we will offer our recommendations", Lytvyn said.
"I am categorically against splits that will not leave Ukraine unaffected, I mean splits with Russia in religious matters as well. As regards the topic of Holodomor [the famine of 1932-33] as such, I am categorically against bringing this topic into the dimension of ethnocide. What is being done in Ukraine with respect to this topic is intended for export. I think it would be important for politicians to listen to scientists. The manner in which this topic is being bumped up in Ukraine, it is turning into a farce", Lytvyn said.
Will you run for president? "I do not see grounds to raise the issue of an early presidential election in the political context today", Lytvyn said. "A headache should be treated when one has it. We shall see how it works out", he added.
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Holodomor and historical memory in Ukrainian, Polish, and Russian cultures*

By Oxana Pachlowska, University of Rome La Sapienza; Shevchenko Institute of Literature, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
The Day Weekly Digest in English, #37 & #39, Kyiv, Ukraine, Nov 25, 2008 & Dec 9, 2008

The sign over the entrance gate to the Soviet Solovki concentration camp read: “We Shall Force Humankind into Happiness with an Iron Hand.”

The sign over the main gate to a Nazi concentration camp read: “Arbeit macht frei” —“Work Makes You Free.”

It is hard to say which of the two formulas is more cynical. They both are, because at the time an individual could only expect to find happiness and freedom in the afterlife.

In early April 2008, a NATO summit took place in Bucharest, during which the then President Vladimir Putin of Russia declared that there is no such state as Ukraine; that half of Ukraine’s territory has been presented to Ukraine by Russia as a gift, whereas the other half is not Ukraine, either, but part of Eastern Europe. (1)

Several days prior to this statement, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a Nobel Prize winner and the conscience of the Russian opposition to the totalitarian regime, described the Holodomor as a “provocative outcry about ‘genocide’” that took shape in “the musty chauvinistic minds.” He went on to say that this is “rakish juggling” and a “cunning teaser” for “western ears” and that the purpose of this “ready fable” is to antagonize these friendly (even fraternal) peoples. (2)

Together the above quotes epitomize Russia’s age-old attitude to Ukraine. There is nothing new here. The main point is that this “bipolar” synthesis of two antipodes, the Chekist and the victim of the Chekist regime, reflects the basic mechanism of Russian identity: all rules of human life, ranging from Christian charity to international law, are worth nothing against the Moloch of the State, the Absolute Idea of “Great Russia” that turns the death of entire nations and individuals (millions of them) into a relative “fact,” “temporary mistakes made by the party,” a “mishap,” or an “incident” in the realization of this providential idea.

A former dissident of the Cheka-KGB-sired totalitarian system and a president produced by this system are speaking the same language. For both of them, Ukraine is a specific territory inhabited by an abstract people-it does not actually exist; if it does, then only inasmuch as it suits Russia’s interests and plans. This specific territory is meant for the expansion of the “Russian world” and is inhabited by a ghost people, which is allowed to live or die depending on the interests of the Russian state.

When the Russian empire was falling apart in 1917 and Ukrainian intellectuals set about building an independent Ukraine, the latter was perceived as a nation-state. Mykhailo Hrushevsky wrote: “Ukraine must be not only for Ukrainians, but also for all who live in Ukraine, who, while living there, love this country; who, while loving it, wish to work for the good of this land and its people and serve it ... rather than exploit it for their own benefit. All people who harbor these views are our cherished fellow citizens.”

The Ukrainian government will not “in any way restrict this equality and freedom of our non-Ukrainian fellow citizens to serve the misinterpreted interests of the Ukrainian community,” since “entire generations of Ukrainians did not fight and suffer for the rights of our people to set a different goal in the moment of victory-that of taming the ethnic minorities and reigning over the great Ukrainian land... I do not wish ‘domination’ to my people because I believe that domination causes demoralization and degeneration of the dominating people and is incompatible with a truly democratic system... I do not desire Ukrainian imperialism.”

Ukraine’s reluctance to become an empire (an equivalent of this country’s fundamental self-identification as a European culture in the writings of the 19th-20th century intellectuals) was projected on all the neighboring peoples.

In the case of Russia it was an opposition between two different national projects (Respublica vs. Imperium), whereas the prospects of relations with neighboring Poland were seen in a totally different light. Over two centuries, from Romanticism writers and historians to 20th-century intellectuals, the “Polish question” was an inalienable component of the Ukrainian national liberation struggle.
There are two especially interesting aspects in this context.

First, the factor of religious differentiation was subordinated to an entirely new, absolute and uniting value-freedom. Second, the problem of Ukraine-Poland relations was regarded as part of Eastern Europe’s historical and cultural evolution. This idea took shape in the first half of the 19th century. Russian pan-Slavists saw the future of the Slavs as “Slavic streams” merging into the “Russian sea” (to quote Pushkin), Ukrainian Slavophiles believed that there would emerge a federation of equal Slavic nations.

Ivan Franko believes that the idea of a Slavic federation was for the first time set forth in Mykola Kostomarov’s Zakon Bozhyi. Knyhy buttia ukrainskoho narodu (God’s Law. Books of the Genesis of the Ukrainian People), which was the program of the clandestine revolutionary organization Cyril and Methodius Brotherhood (1845-47).

Restored Polish-Ukrainian fraternity was envisioned as the foundation of this federation. Books of the Genesis were the Ukrainian romanticists’ response to Adam Mickiewicz’s Ksiegi narodu i pielgrzymstwa polskiego (Books of the Polish People and the Polish Pilgrimage) — Poland and Ukraine were again brothers-in-arms in the struggle of these two most oppressed and rebellious Slavic peoples for the liberation of the entire Slavic community from the imperial yoke.

The 20th century saw deepened understanding and further articulation of this problem. “The most important thing, wrote Ivan Lysiak-Rudnytsky, is that today and for a long time in the future Poland and Ukraine have obvious and urgent common political interests. A systematic, far-reaching cooperation between Poles and Ukrainians inspires hopes for a balance of power in Eastern Europe... We hope and pray that past mistakes, for which the Ukrainian and Polish people had to pay such a dear price, will not be repeated.”

The issue of territory gave way to that of common values-freedom and equality. After the Second World War, Jerzy Giedroyc declared that Lviv would be a Ukrainian city; Vilnius, a Lithuanian city; Grodno, a Belarusian one, adding that Poles had to learn to solve their problems in the common European home. These ideas were shaped and formulated against the backdrop of smoldering political and territorial conflicts between Poland and Ukraine, which made the principled stand taken by those intellectuals even more valuable.

Giedroyc’s courage cannot be overstated: at the time he made his declaration, the Polish-Ukrainian antagonism was still part of public mentality in Poland and Ukraine. Giedroyc went against the totalitarian system and the views espoused by a number of his colleagues and a considerable part of his own society.

The Declaration on the Ukrainian Cause, adopted on his initiative, read: “there will be no truly free Poles, Czechs, or Hungarians without free Ukrainians, Belarusians, or Lithuanians-or free Russians, for that matter.” The Rev. Josef Majewski, of Pretoria, echoed him on the pages of Kultura: “Just as we Poles have the right to Wroclaw, Szczecin, or Gdansk, so Lithuanians are right in their claim to Vilnius and Ukrainians, to Lviv... May Lithuanians, who are even less fortunate than we are, take pride in Vilnius, and let a blue-yellow flag fly over Lviv.”

There was also Josef Lobodowski’s article “Against the Vampires of the Past” (1952), an impassioned and bitter analysis of the factors preventing Poland and Ukraine from reaching understanding. “We are separated by a sea of blood and centuries of pitched struggle,” he wrote. “So where is the way out of this bloody circle of hatred? ... Should we stand our ground to the end, fighting over who was the first to start all this, is more guilty, and has shed more blood?

Or should we be the first to something different-extending our hand?” The idea of “extending one’s hand first” was true moral progress, just like the concept of “mutual guilt”: “However, the guilt is mutual and we will not be able to move another step forward if we continue to deny the bitter truth.”

These statements are not typical rhetorical declarations of “friendship among the brotherly peoples.” The latter were germane to the communist epoch and are currently being manifested in Russia’s militant expansionism and xenophobia in regard to all non-Russian peoples within the radius of Russian-Soviet dominance. These peoples are faced with the choice of being either a slave or an enemy, without any other options. In the case of Poland, what is the topic of the debate is the “moral dimension of Polish freedom,” owing to which Poland has been able to generate and consolidate the European code of its culture.

Indeed, it is the moral dimension of precisely Polish freedom, which is conceived as freedom of the Polish people surrounded not by downtrodden slaves, but by other peoples that can be described as free among the free and equal and among the equal. Tragic damages inflicted by one people on the other in the past can be assessed and forgiven only in the conditions of mutual freedom.

These ideas propounded by Polish and Ukrainian intellectuals echo, and at times radicalize, the concepts underlying the cultural identity of Europe and the political and legal structure of the European Union. The inviolable freedom of another people is the cornerstone of the age-old evolution of Europe as a cultural space and the basis on which the European Community was formed after the war, in particular as a legal space.

Past conflicts are being resolved only on a parity basis. The inviolability of postwar national frontiers is imperative. A specific territory must belong to a specific people, regardless of its past relations [with other peoples] — precisely because territory is not what matters in the first place.

What does have top priority is Fatherland, in the European sense of the word.

A memory model is inseparably linked with the notion of Fatherland. In other words, a memory model is a way to perceive the fact of belonging to a civilization. Awareness of the past may well turn into inter-ethnic conflicts on cemeteries. It can be regarded as an unnecessary burden that interferes with living one’s life hic et nunc, here and now. It can also become a moral decision, i.e., a critical revision of one’s history, so as to finally get out of the trap of domestic and external interpretive patterns imposed by this or that ideology.

In this sense, the above quotes from Polish, Ukrainian, and Russian authors illustrate two memory models: (a) Russian and (b) Polish and Ukrainian. These models, which could be conventionally designated as Eurasian and European, correspondingly, have radical distinctions.

1. The Category of the Other. The entire European civilization is based on this category. The entire evolution of the European civilization has been a slow but sure progress toward perception of the Other as an equal human (national, cultural) dimension. On the one hand, the memory of the Other has independent value. On the other, it belongs to the sum total of universal values.

All phenomena that are currently being associated with the notions of pluralism, tolerance, and respect for ethnic minorities reflect the essence of Europe as plures in unum, a civilization rooted in the principle of unity in diversity.

The innermost nature of European culture is in the preservation and protection of the differentiating elements. However, this very principle has also become the foundation for such distinctly democratic values as freedom and law.

Unlike its European counterpart, Russian culture relies on the principle reductio ad unum, reduction of the many to the one. In this context, the Category of the Other does not exist in the form of an autonomous entity and its rights. This other entity is either an enemy or a neutral element in the mechnical composition of the imperial space.

Therefore, the history of any other country and/or people is regarded exclusively in terms of Russia’s interests-in other words, whether it is beneficial or detrimental to Russia. Hence, the memory of the other entity is always to be guided by the interests of Russia’s memory or “amnesia.” If this entity’s memory does not conform to Russia’s views, it is interpreted as “alternative memory” and regarded as something “suspicious” or “hostile.” Only memories that are positive in regard to Russia are accepted, whereas all “alternative memories” are vetoed a priori.

2. The space of European identity has specific parameters. Here one finds clearly defined criteria and categories of what is “national” and “European.” The reason lies in the formation of democratic society in the bottown-up fashion-at the level of the grass roots, rather than supreme power. The result is that Europe is home to various fatherlands, and that this space is consolidated by the fundamental values of the European civilization.

In the political sense, the Old World, as the nucleus of the Western world, is historically identified with democracy. The space of Russian identity has no clearly defined parameters, so it is interpreted in the broad sense of the word, sometimes displaying mutually exclusive characteristics.

Orthodox Russia sees Genghis Khan as its demiurge. (His grandson Batu Khan used the ruins of Saint Sophia’s Cathedral in Kyiv as a pasture ground for herds of his goats.) Nostalgic imperial sentiments are mixed with Stalinist ones, as if the Bolshevik vandals did not trample tsarist Russia under their blood-covered boots.
Communists are converting to the Orthodox Church, as though they never blew up medieval temples and tortured and crucified priests on prison walls. [Russia’s] “sovereign democracy” sees itself as the fifth empire. In anti-NATO rallies, Russian marches were accompanied by shouts Sieg heil! and the Slavianski Soiuz (Slavic Union) is designated by the humble acronym SS.

Therefore, the notion “Russian world” does not coincide with Russia’s borders. Depending on the situation, this “world” shrinks or expands, damaging its national and cultural tissue. This space can be the territory where the Russian language, and/or Orthodox, communist, or Eurasian ideology are prevalent. In any case, this ideology will be antiliberal and, hence, anti-Western.

This framing of the issue is, in fact, a sign of a deep crisis of Russian identity. The boundary of the “European world” coincides with that of democracy, while Russia simply has no answer to the question, where is the beginning and the end of the “Russian world”? After declaring and effectively proving its non-European nature, this world has not as yet found its identity even on its eastern borderlands, which are being increasingly drawn under the shadow of China with its population of 1.5 billion. This “mobility” of the hypothetical cultural frontiers of the “Russian world” only serves to generate instability along Russia’s political borders and adds to the fuzziness of identity criteria within this multinational country.

This produces Russia’s aggressive attitude to what it sees as its “own” world when it suddenly gets out of control and breaks free of the set pattern, as has periodically been the case with Ukraine, Georgia, and previously with Poland, the Baltic states, and the rest of Eastern Europe. A country looking toward the West, i.e., in the direction of democracy, automatically becomes an enemy-not because of the absurd NATO “threats”, but because of Russia’s uncontrollable fear of a civilization based on liberal values. These are the values that official Russia refuses to accept pointblank and does not even bother to develop intellectual tools to engage in polemics. Instead, it changes the subject to missile range and the quantity of bombers.

3. Imperial myths. After the Second World War, there were no empires left in Europe and even the temptation to build them was gone. The “Deutschland uber alles“ project was the last and most tragic act in the history of European imperialism. In order to establish the European Union, Europeans had to carry out an extremely complicated mission by generating coordinated and mutually acceptable national interpretive models of history. Naturally, problems abound even now, but the views on landmark events in European history have been harmonized.

This is undoubtedly a moral and scholarly accomplishment with a political dimension: no European country can challenge another one with territorial claims, and so on, simply by referring to a historical fact. The breakup of the empires was accepted as an element of progress and modernization, rather than the catastrophe of losing territories. Of course, I am speaking about countries with stable identity, where no nation can be superior to any other, both culturally and legally.

The Eurasian countries, lacking the experience of mature democracy, attach their unstable identities to stable ideological myths designed to confirm their “grandeur,” “might,” and so on. Naturally, this “grandeur” is established in regard to, and at the expense of, their closest neighbors. Thus, the world’s largest 40-meter-high statue of Genghis Khan is being erected near Ulan Bator. Can you picture a statue like that being built for Cromwell, Napoleon III, Lincoln, or Garibaldi?

Over at this end, the Slavs are still fighting over the monument to Catherine II, the plump German empress of Russia. Remember the street fights in Odesa (2007) involving operetta Russian Cossacks brandishing real horsewhips? Or the clashes between the “right” and “wrong” Orthodox adherents, with patriotic hobos standing guard over the monument?

Now can you picture Spaniards fighting the British at the foot of the statue of Elizabeth I? Impossible. In the Eurasian context into which Russia is becoming increasingly integrated, imperial (state, ideological) discourse prevails over balanced historiography that relies on hard facts and is open for verification. The a priori nature of imperial discourse does not allow for any objections using rational methods, documents, comparative views, or debates.

4. Civilizational distinctions between Europe and Russia are exacerbated by the fact that in the European context the category of the state is subordinated to that of the individual. Naturally, the state remains primarily a political and legal category with additional symbolic import. For Russia the state is a territorial and symbolic category, but not a legal one. In other words, the state is a mythical space in which every historical fact can be used for positive or negative propaganda.

Naturally, keeping this space in control requires certain ideology-hence the a priori concept of sacred Mother-Russia. This dimension is absolutely non-verifiable, yet it relies on Orthodoxy, which, in the case of Russia, has mutated from a religion to an ideology serving the throne. Once a religion allows itself to be controlled by the government, it loses its ethic autonomy and its moral dimension and delegates its functions to the powers that be.

5. “Court history” and free history. In the second century B.C., Lucian of Samosata wrote in his treatise Quomodo historia conscribenda (How to Write History) that being independent of those in power and rejecting servility are the two elements that distinguish a historian from a courtier. The progress of European historiography, from Hellenic culture to present-day Europe, is a gradual liberation of historiography from dependence on and pressure from both lay and religious authorities and making historians independent of their milieu and the dictates of their epoch.

The “Byzantine world” is dominated by the opposite model. From the time of Ivan the Terrible to Nikolai Karamzin to Soviet times, historiography was done by court historians writing to please their sovereign. They produced a kind of narration that reflects history that “belongs to the tsar,” to quote Karamzin. This discourse is governed by the interests and priorities of the government, while the individual and/or the people take a subordinate place. This kind of narration focuses on the sacred origins of secular power which evolved from “Caeseropapism,” a doctrine germane to the Byzantine-Russian type of the Imperium.

Settling historical accounts and a guilt complex are Europe’s constant catharsis. In his Le Sanglot de l’Homme blanc (The Tears of the White Man, 1983), the French philosopher Pascal Bruckner says the feeling of guilt is one of the main features of Western culture, and that it is rooted in the biblical sense of guilt, the original sin committed by European civilization.
As a result, the West keeps criticizing itself and is unable to love itself. Bruckner even says that the West hates itself and this hatred is “the central dogma” of European culture. Of course, this is a complicated thesis that requires an articulate approach.
Be that as it may, an ability to think critically is one of the most distinct features of European civilization. At the same time, it is one of the guarantees of its periodic moral regeneration. After all, it is not only about theoretical self-analysis, as there is now institutional protection against revanchist ideology, including criminal prosecution for the denial of the Holocaust.

The death toll of Communist violence in the world stands at 85-100 million, including at least 20 million victims for which Russia is responsible, reads The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression (its Russian version was published in 1999). Com­mu­nist Russia is second only to Communist China with its 65 million victims.

Does it make a difference that this ideology is “cushioned” by the false ideologemes of “world revolutions” and “internationalism”? Genealogically, it is an extreme manifestation of Russian imperialism, just as Nazism is of German imperialism. Therefore, the measure and the essence of responsibility are the same. However, a divergence begins precisely when it comes to the perception of this responsibility. This is a discrepancy between history as the formation of critical memory in European culture and history as the formation of apologetic memory in a culture that sets itself in opposition to European values.

That is why what emerged in Europe was post-totalitarian historiography with its absolute autonomy from the political system. In Russia, history has been constantly rewritten, depending on the political leadership’s ideological orientation. Putin regards Stalin as a “successful manager.” Putin identifies himself with Stalin and the public applauds. After the first elements of rudimentary democracy, Russian history textbooks are once again written in the Kremlin.

It stands to logic that what is martyrology for other countries is “bad image” for Russia. Let me quote a Russian political scientist: “Image-building factors are important for us and that is why recognition of the Holodomor is such a painful topic... It isn’t just that Ukrainians have explained history. It is a blow to Russia’s image, just as ‘Soviet occupation’ damages this image and is regarded as an aggressive act.” (http://www.unian.net/ukr/news/news-254370.html).

Indeed, this is almost like an image of the world turned upside down: occupation, deportations, mass repressions, tortures, famine, misery, and decades-long bans are not acts of aggression because they concern other peoples (actually including the Russian people, but this, apparently, is of no importance whatsoever).
What counts as aggression (directed against Russia’s mythical inviolability in the empyrean of its alleged holiness) is writing about the tragedy of peoples that lost entire generations, their intellectual elites, and historical prospects for long years, due to Russia’s eschatological projects of world supremacy, as well as paying homage and remembering the sufferings of these people.

Image is a concept form the domain of advertising and communications. Memory is a historical, moral, existential, and philosophic category. Mercy is a Christian category.

Therefore, where other peoples see millions of victims-it is all about image for Russia. In the case of the Holodomor, it is millions of victims, people who died a horrible, even humiliating death because there was no way they could defend themselves and were denied the right to be [properly] buried, mourned for, and remembered. These innocent victims are non-persons, just an existentialist void. Generations that vanished without a trace, a black hole in a nation’s memory - all this is just insignificant “details” in the context of Russia’s providential mission.

An apologetic model of history leads to amnesia, to use a Freudian term. Memory that turns into oblivion blocks the society’s moral progress. Tragic pages of history are reconsidered to prevent these tragedies from happening again in our time. Keeping one’s actions under control is an essential component of cultivating responsibility within a given society.

In Russia, past events have never been [critically] reconsidered; on the contrary, this country is turning its eyes to the past in order to project the forged images of its “grandeur” and justified crimes on the future. So Russia’s threats today are its old, barely upgraded threats. Russia’s occupation of Georgia in August 2008 is a postmodernist remake of its bloodshedding campaigns in the 19th century, with the same glorification of force and contempt for mercy.

In his Prisoner of the Caucasus, Pushkin eulogized a tsarist general who “as though he were black plague, / Pursued, destroyed the tribes”: “I shall sing glory to the time / When, sensing bloody battle, / Our double-headed eagle rose / To crush the belligerent Caucasus.” The poet sees, first and foremost, the figures of bloodthirsty Russian warriors in the “grandeur” of imperial violence, whereas the people felled by their swords are some obscure “tribes,” whose life and culture were nothing compared to the empire.
This is the empire that moves around generals like Yermolov yesterday and Nogovitsyn today in lands far and near — the countries it is bent on conquering. After when this happens, it will be the end of these peoples, and no one to mourn for them.
The poet writes: “A horseman will ride up, unafraid, // To the gorges, where you used to nestle, // Grim legends will recount // Your death at hangman’s hand.” Why execute them? Because those were different, separate people? Small wonder that in 2008 no one would remember that the Caucasus had remained “belligerent” for several centuries. Most humiliating of all is when this “execution” (as well as others) is presented as the “friendship of the peoples,” and when Russia’s Clio once again sweeps these peoples down into a common grave.

The age-old subjugation of the Russian Church by the political powers that be and the latter’s ability to manipulate religious ideas for the sake of ideological speculations have obliterated in Russian mentality the sense of guilt and the ethos of guilt as such. It would seem that this assumption is at variance with the very nature of Russian literature of the 19th century.
After all, Dostoevsky created the moral dimension of the guilt experienced by a person who assumes responsibility for all the sins of humankind. According to Dostoevsky, Russia has a mission of “service of humanity, of brotherly love and the solidarity of mankind...” (The Karamazov Brothers). He refers to Western Europe as a “graveyard” and to Russia as the emerging power; he believes that the future of Europe belongs to Russia owing to this kind of universal “morality” that the latter possesses.

However, this reference system has no place for specific guilt for a specific sin. Instead, there is the abstract moral, dehistorized Christian guilt placed outside historical time. At the same time, Russian history, “sacralized” and alienated from profane time, is exempt from verification by “secularized” methods; it always stands above human judgment. In other words, this history is alienated from the dimension of guilt.

Since, on this view, the past is held sacred, it cannot be disowned, reconsidered, or regarded as a critical lesson for the future. The past must always be an edifying, positive lesson (e.g., the cult of Ivan the Terrible during the Stalin epoch and that of Stalin during the Putin epoch). Hence there is the absence of a rational approach to history and, consequently, of a rational design for the future. The future is a value that is programmed by the consecrated past. That is why the promised “bright future” will never come. To quote Lobodovsky, “the vampires of the past” will devour it before it can even begin.

This peculiarity of the Russian cultural identity is turning Russia into a hostage of its own past. Lacking the sense of its own guilt, it is forced to look for culprits outside Russia. Hence the typical enemies-of-Russia repertoire. This mythologeme has become a matter of state concern- there is even a statistically verified list of Russia’s top five enemies (the US, the Baltic states, Georgia, Ukraine, and Poland; remarkably, Ukraine “declassed” Poland for the first time in history by moving ahead of it on Russia’s enemies list).

This issue has been around for a long time. Starting with Ivan the Terrible and for centuries onward, Russian culture has been characterized by anti-Polish, anti-Ukrainian, anti-Caucasus, and also anti-European texts. In actuality, Russia’s worst enemy is its messianism, the myth about its sanctity, which is above and outside history, and its immunity to the laws of the real world. The more this trait is deepened, the more de-Europeanized Russian culture becomes. This has become especially noticeable over the past couple of years.

Let us get back to the connection between the model of memory and the dimension of Fatherland. With the fall of the Berlin Wall Russia lost its (imaginary or real) “Russian space.” It decided to rebuild this space by way of “regaining territories“ without ever trying to analyze why it had lost them in the first place.
The idea of reclaiming these territories, termed “the sphere of Russia’s legitimate interests” by [Russian] political scientists, ignores man, peoples, their cultures, and the problems of their national identity. Naturally, the stronger Russia’s imperial ambitions, the smaller the chance of rapprochement with the peoples it previously dominated. Russia’s failure to comprehend this exacerbates conflicts that can easily turn from ideological into military ones.

In contrast to Europe, there is no differentiation between the “small” and “big” Fatherland in Russian cultural mentality. In Europe, small Fatherland comes first. The big land of forefathers is made up of small ones. Europe emerged from small fatherlands whose borders had, above all, an emotional, ethic, aesthetic, and also legal (legislative) meaning (Greek poleis, Italian city-communes, and militant duchies and principalities that resisted centralization).
Moreover, these small fatherlands are, as a rule, not monoethnic-they show traces of other cultures (for example, Arabs in Sicily or Spain; enclaves of Jewish culture in various European countries, and so on).

Of course, political borders were also set by using military force and reshaping territories. Yet the moral evolution of Europe (and the rest of the democratic world) lies precisely in cultural polycentricism, achieved through the gradual recognition of cultural diversity as wealth and, thus, of minorities as a value. This gave rise to the concept of preserving and protecting ethnic minorities, their languages, and local cultures. The unity-through-diversity principle makes this protection imperative.

In contrast to this, Russia emerged from conquests of foreign territories and their unification. The existence of cultural distinctions and specifics has always been regarded not as a value that must be preserved, but as an encroachment on the integrity of “single and undivided,” monocentric Russia. Therefore, the homeland of each of the conquered people has long been regarded only as political territory-or as business territory, to use modern terminology. By this logic, a people that has been destroyed or oppressed on such a territory has no right to independent existence, which is a priori valueless and senseless.
There are just the concepts of the Center and the Periphery, or Province. This gigantic Periphery is controlled by the all-consuming Center. Territories can only be lost or gained. All other peoples are dust to be sucked in by the vacuum cleaner of the empire. They are just “a senseless handful of evil spaces,” to quote from the nationalist newspaper Zavtra (http:// www.zavtra.ru/cgi/veil/data/zavtra/06/654/11.html). Their existence makes no sense outside the Imperium.

Chechnya is the penultimate example of this approach. Chechens as a people alien to Russia, and their culture, traditions, and love for their fatherland have no value whatsoever for the Russian in the street. It is impossible to picture the Spanish government ordering bomb raids against Basque towns. No matter how acute the problem of Basque terrorism is in Spain, the Basque land has cultural value and the Basque separatists have inalienable civil rights.
In the case of Chechnya, the entire people was destroyed, along with everything it owned and held dear. The journalist Anna Polikovskaya was assassinated. Hers was one of few Russian voices raised in defense of Chechnya. However, the territory of this people is an inalienable part of Russia and is regarded as an integral part of the empire.
The first sign of the physical destruction of this people was not the assassination of its three presidents, the mutilated bodies of militants, or countless civilian victims, but a youth choir singing Russia’s anthem after the almost unanimous Soviet-style election of the Kremlin-appointed “Governor General” Kadyrov in 2003.
Terror, demoralization, and corruption of memory have combined to lay a solid foundation for divorcing the coming generations from the history of their fathers and brothers, who wanted to achieve freedom for their fatherland. If Russians succeed in lobotomizing this battle-weary Chechen society, its people will turn into population used by Russia to service this much-needed territory.

The latest example is Russia’s invasion of Georgia in August 2008 and the de facto annexation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The situation was exactly the opposite to that in Chechnya, with Russia posing as a defender of the separatist peoples, knowing that their separation would cut off a chunk of Georgia’s territory and attach it to Russia. Chechen separatism is qualified as terrorism, while Abkhaz and Ossetian separatism is justified as a reaction to an act of genocide on the part of Georgia. These are mirror-inverted contexts.
In fact, a list of countries and organizations that expressed solidarity with Russia’s invasion characterizes it best: Nicaragua, Hamas, Hezbollah, etc. In a word, our Party of Regions is in good company, especially considering what Somalia, the country of pirates, and the democratic republic of Western Sahara are considering extending recognition to South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Historical thinking is “shorted” in Russian culture by mythologizing Russia as the Fatherland and reducing the fatherlands of other peoples to their utilitarian value. Everything that “undermines” the idea of the great, universal, abstract Fatherland is edited out of history. That is why Russia is doomed to periodically reiterate its own history and re-enter the same authoritarian and ideological paradigms. As a result, little has changed over the centuries while Russia-Europe dyscrasia is worsening.

In his article “New Europe, Old Russia” (The Washington Post, Feb. 6, 2008), US political scientist Robert Kagan comments on the lack of communication between Europe and Russia resulting from the fact that they live in different epochs: “Russia and the European Union are neighbors geographically. But geopolitically they live in different centuries.
A 21st-century European Union, with its noble ambition to transcend power politics and build an order based on laws and institutions, confronts a Russia that behaves like a traditional 19th-century power. Both are shaped by their histories.
The supranational, legalistic EU spirit is a response to the conflicts of the 20th century, when nationalism and power politics twice destroyed the continent... Europe’s nightmares are the 1930s; Russia’s nightmares are the 1990s. Europe sees the answer to its problems in transcending the nation-state and power. For Russians, the solution is in restoring them.”

These features of Russian identity determine also the controversial aspects in restoring the identity (and historical memory) of Russia’s neighbors. This is what makes the situation with the Holodomor in Ukraine the most complicated and, at the same time, most telling one. The geographical spread of the Holodomor recognition coincides with the map of Russification and Sovietization of Ukraine.

Russia has succeeded in dividing Ukraine into the fatherland and non-fatherland. People in Western Ukraine, which was not affected by the Holodomor, remember this tragedy best and are more concerned about preserving this memory than others. It was easier to terrorize, Russify, and eventually lobotomize the populace of the areas that had suffered the famine’s direct impact.
Kharkiv, Donetsk, and Luhansk oblasts sustained hair-raising losses (in Kharkiv oblast, over 600,000 people died in three months in 1933, and the overall death toll in this region reached two million, or one-third of the peasants of Slobozhanshchyna).

On Nov. 28, 2006, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine passed the Holodomor bill. Only two MPs from the Party of Regions, whose electorate is mainly in Eastern and Southern Ukraine, voted in favor. In November that same year none of the local authorities in Kharkiv oblast attended the ceremonies commemorating the Holodomor at the Ukrainian and Polish Memorial and at the Cross for Holodomor Victims.
Kharkiv, known as the “capital of despair” in the 1930s, is now one of the biggest anti-Ukrainian cities. Here and in other cities in Eastern and Southern Ukraine Holodomor memorial signs are destroyed with certain periodicity. Streets in eastern Ukrainian cities are named after those who destroyed millions of Ukrainians.

Unrestored memory is a source of society’s moral degradation. Un­la­mented victims and impunity generate cruelty, indifference to human life, and lack of love for one’s native land. In the Christian system of values violence is repaid with mercy to the conquered. The absence of memory permits violence to triumph. In the morally perverted world violence results in disregard for the dead, annihilation of the memory of generations, an amputated sense of mercy and solidarity. In this sense the Holodomor was also an act of blotting out fatherland from the Ukrainian society’s memory.

This issue does not relate only to the past or present. Destroying the dimension of Fatherland has a dramatic effect on the future, specifically on Ukraine’s European integration strategy. Two aspects, the internal and the external one, can be singled out here.

For Europe the recognition of the Shoah is part of its identity as a democratic entity. Less consolidated but sufficiently imperative is the demand that each country wishing to join the EU settle its historical accounts. This specifically relates to Serbia. Its road to Europe, despite Europe’s ambivalent behavior during the Balkan tragedy, lies through the recognition of Serbia’s guilt for the genocide against Bosnians and the extradition of war criminals to the Hague Tribunal.

What regards countries that are not included by the EU in its cultural space, the imperativeness of these demands drops dramatically, as the moral-legal plane is reduced and that of Realpolitik is expanded. Europe regards as valid the latent thesis: those wishing to be well-off and live in peace embark on the road of European integration. Those who choose a different model of civilization subject themselves to its laws. Such is the case with the Armenian genocide, which is of “minor” importance compared to the relations between the West and Turkey. The latter resolutely denies its historical guilt.
(Nevertheless, recognition of the Armenian genocide is on the list of EU requirements if the European integration plan for Turkey comes to a point at which it will have to be made more specific.)

We are witness to a similar situation with the Holodomor. What the West wants in the first place is to maintain the cooperation balance with Russia because it serves its interests, and so its attitude to the Holodomor is consistently cautious, if not equivocal. However, this equivocality is mainly rooted in Ukraine’s ambiguous identity parameters, its image in the West, and its inconsistency in defending its own interests.

This is a great cultural problem. In 2008 Israel was gripped by a debate on whether German Chancellor Angela Merkel has the right to address the Knesset in German, the language used by the murderers of the Jewish people. In the end, Merkel was allowed to use her native language — and Germany and the rest of Europe accepted this debate with understanding.

In the context of the Shoah there is a universal recognition of the value of every human life. That is why at the Yad Vashem museum the announcer pronounces the name of every perished child and the place and year of his or her death.

In each of the former Nazi concentration camps scattered across Europe there is a meticulous collection of the victims’ photos and names, along with any other evidence, however scanty. In Majdanek, near Lublin, you can see glass cases with Jewish children’s dolls trampled under SS boots and every surviving fragment of Jewish tombstones, which the Nazis used to pave the road to their inferno.

In Ukraine, one’s has to struggle for the right to have even the smallest signs commemorating millions of nameless victims. Yet even this moral and scholarly need of Ukrainian society may be interpreted as “aggression” act against Russia. Hence Ukrainians have to fight for the right to have the tragedy of the Holodomor recognized in the West, especially in Europe.
They often encounter a lack of understanding and/or acceptance, express reluctance to acknowledge this fact, and even obstruction. This means that there are two categories of victims: recognized and unrecognized, those that deserve respect and memory and those destined to vanish without a trace, i.e., first- and second-rate victims. Therefore, the moral aspect of the matter concerns Ukraine, Russia, and all of Europe.

One thing is clear: a people that does not know how to protect the memory of its victims allows them to be murdered again. If so, who is there to protect a people that does not protect itself?

In view of this, for Ukraine, awareness of and knowledge about the Holodomor are part of its historical, cultural, and moral memory, as well as remembrance about its state-building, political, and civilizational experience. It is precisely in this sense that the Holodomor has the same catastrophic symbolic dimension as the Shoah has for Israel and for the whole Jewish people.

Certain Ukrainian historians believe that the hidden memory of the Holodomor was one of the reasons behind the referendum against the USSR in 1991. Today, the memory of the Holodomor is also one of the ways out of the trap of the totalitarian past from whose hold we have yet to free ourselves completely. Without awareness of the Holodomor it is impossible to unite this society and achieve solidarity. In the long run, without this Ukraine will have no European prospects.

The noted Polish historian Maria Janion titled her book in a prophetic way: Do Europy tak, ale razem z naszymi umarlymi (To Europe — Yes, But Together With Our Dead, 2000). Entering Europe without memory would mean losing one’s identity and one’s positions. A country that is incapable of discarding its memory has the willpower to be actively present in modern history. Poland today, as a country with an excellent memory of its identity, with its presence in the EU and its unwavering stand, is slowly but surely altering the geocultural and geopolitical balance of the Old Continent.

The situation in the Ukrainian-Russian context in which Ukraine is struggling so hard for its right to memory is exactly the opposite to that in the Polish-Ukrainian context. The relations between Poland and Ukraine are following a long, at times painful yet constructive, course aimed at accepting and understanding each other.
It is a long process, indeed — it started in the time of Romanticism when Poland and Ukraine discovered each other as “sister nations” and victims of the same tyrants. However, this awareness was born with a sense of guilt before the Other-the guilt that has to atoned for. This catharsis of mutual discovery brought forth a new ethos in the relations between the two peoples.

Another aspect has to do with the rational concept of Fatherland. As stated above, for Russia the idea of Fatherland is a sacred space without boundaries or borders, or with constantly shifting borders that are preserved by means of military and other expansion. In the Polish and Ukrainian context, the concept of Fatherland means, above all, a struggle for stable and clearly defined frontiers. Within their fixed borders the concept of the Other causes both nations to put their historical and moral space in order.
This is the source of Giedroyc’s formula about Ukraine’s Lviv and Lithuania’s Vilnius cited at the beginning of this article. Jerzy Hoffman said in an interview to Ukrainian television this summer that peoples that live and evolve well are no threat to each other. That is to say, you have to step away from each other before you embrace. Stepping away in a civilized manner means finding a new form of unity later. Being forced to unite means division forever.

This sophisticated knot of moral and political problems is reflected in all aspects of Polish-Ukrainian relationships, from literature to historiography to politics. The tragedy of Volyn (UPA’s massacre of peaceful Polish residents in 1943) and Operation Vistula (deportation of Ukrainians for the purpose of scattering them on Polish territory in 1947) are the pages of mutual, or even common, tragedies rather than separate subjective ones. The memory of Volyn is also a Ukrainian drama and the memory of Operation Vistula is also a Polish drama.

A lot of books have been written on the subject and debates have never been calm. Is it possible to say that the subject is closed? No. However, all mutual offences and hurt feelings notwithstanding, it is necessary to learn to recognize the other side’s truth. For example, the Armia Krajowa was heroic for Poland, just as the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) was for Ukraine.
The most important thing is that today it is a matter of the historical domain, considering that neither official Poland nor official Ukraine has any territorial claims or expansionist plans regarding each other. This is precisely why the room for speculations using these facts is inevitably shrinking, while the room for historical studies is expanding. And so “the vampires of the past” no longer have power over the future of these peoples.

In Polish-Ukrainian relations, the European memory model has helped frame historical analysis in concrete and factual terms. At the same time, recognizing the Other as a victim and acknowledging human sufferings on both sides produce a cathartic moral effect and become a guarantee that such tragedies will not happen again. This approach is an indication that Polish and Ukrainian cultures have matured as instances of European culture, regardless of the current political frontiers.

In the case of the Holodomor and Russia, the situation is the exact opposite: there is still plenty of room for speculations and ideological propaganda with very little opportunity for professional understanding. And “the vampires of the past” sit side by side with scholars even during conferences and press the aye/nay buttons in the Verkhovna Rada. You cannot kill them by driving an aspen stake in their heart because, unlike regular vampires, they have no heart.

One last point. After the fall of the Russian empire, not only the “proletarian poets” like Vladimir Mayakovsky, but even aristocrats like Aleksandr Blok wrote that the old world had to be ruined. Ukrainian-and Polish-poets wrote that it was necessary to revive the old world in order to build a new one, because their past, the “old world” they were referring to, had been destroyed by violence, vandalism, persecutions, and bans on the part of Russia.

In his foreword to Rozstriliane vidrodzhennia (Executed Renaissance, an anthology published by Giedroyc in Paris in 1959), the literary critic Yurii Lavrinenko wrote about writers and artists annihilated by the Soviet regime as a generation that had no sense of revenge and lived in the cosmic light of Tychyna’s “clarinets.” This light emanated from newly acquired freedom that would be soon thereafter snuffed out by the “red nightmare” of Bolshevism.
The result of the Ukrainian intellectuals’ Christian approach to history was a cemetery of millions of the living dead. At this cemetery Ukrainians were forbidden to weep and keep memories. And so this cemetery turned into an abyss between Ukraine and Russia. This abyss also separates Russia from Europe. The only way Russia can achieve its European identity is by confronting its own history. If this process begins, it will be a long and dramatic one, but the important thing is for it to begin.

This is the only way to overcome the syndrome of history repeating itself and stop any “iron hand” that can, today and tomorrow, once again try to force humankind to be happy, the way Georgia was forced into peace. It happened precisely on a dramatic day — the 40th anniversary of Soviet troops’ deployment in Prague.

History, when not sufficiently studied, or discarded, or falsified, repeats itself and murders. Studying and learning from history — through the discovery of the Other, with mercy and solidarity-is the only catharsis that will keep “the vampires of the past” from robbing humankind of its future. 

*Taken from a conference presentation published in: Staszczyk, D., A. Szymanska (eds.) Pamiec i miejsce. Doswiadczenie przeszlosci na pograniczu (Mied­zy­narodowa konferencja naukowa, Chelm, 16-17 maja 2008 r., Chelmskie To­warzystwo Naukowe, Instytut Nauk Hu­ma­ni­sty­cznych). Chelm, Panstwowa Wyzsza Szkola Zawodowa w Chelmie, 2008.
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
Is the New York Times "airbrushing" history again?

Analysis & Commentary: by William F. Jasper, Senior Editor
The New American magazine, Appleton, Wisconsin, Mon, 24 Nov 2008  

Is the New York Times "airbrushing" history again? It would seem so. On Saturday, November 22, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko presided over a commemoration in Kiev of the 75th anniversary of the famine genocide of 1932-1933 that took the lives of 7-10 million Ukrainians.
Known as the Holodomor (Ukrainian for "murder by hunger"), it is one of the greatest mass murders in history, and one of the cruelest. Joining President Yushchenko for the event were official delegations from 44 countries, including the presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Macedonia, Georgia, Latvia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina.

The New York Times prides itself on being the national "newspaper of record" and still carries its longtime motto, "All the News That's Fit to Print" in the upper left-hand corner of its front page. If we are to believe the Times' motto, the week-long Holodomor commemoration didn't take place, or at least it didn't qualify as "news." A search of the Times website — using both visual scan and their own search engine — yielded zero results for current or recent stories.

Using the Times' search engine and various combinations of "Holodomor," "Ukraine," and "Ukrainian famine," brings up a number of articles, most of which are years or decades old. The most recent entry was a September 6 article covering a visit to Ukraine by Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife. They are shown in a photograph with President Yushchenko and his wife.
The caption for the photo reads: "Vice President Cheney, his wife Lynne, left, and Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and his wife at the memorial for the victims of the Holodomor in Kiev, Ukraine, on Friday." However, there is no explanation of Holodomor for the Times' readers, 99 percent of whom have never seen or heard the word before.

The photograph accompanies an article entitled, "Cheney Pledges Support for Ukraine," which reports on the conflict between Russia and Ukraine over Ukraine's desire to join NATO. However, there is no mention of Holodomor or famine in the article.

There was plenty of Times coverage of other breaking European and World "news" on November 22: an increase in boar hunting in Germany, the semi-retirement of famed French chef Olivier Roellinger, Russian President Medvedev's trip to Venezuela, an inquiry into the alleged crimes of General Franco in Spain during the 1930s, etc.

The Times neglect of the 75th anniversary of the Holodomor is especially inexcusable, inasmuch as the Times served as an indispensable handmaiden to Stalin as he carried out this horrendous crime against humanity. While the communists carried out the mass annihilation of the Ukrainian farmers, the Times assured the Western world that all reports of starvation in Ukraine were merely anti-Soviet propaganda.
Times reporter Walter Duranty, known as "Stalin's Apologist," became a willing tool for the Kremlin and denounced as liars those heroic journalists who dared to report the truth — that Ukrainians were dying by the millions, their bodies filling the streets of many towns and villages.
The two most notable of those journalists were Gareth Jones of Wales and Malcolm Muggeridge of England, both of whom are revered in Ukraine and were posthumously awarded the country's Order of Freedom on November 22 at a ceremony in Westminster.

Jones, who wrote for The Western Mail, The Times [of London], The Manchester Guardian, and other European and American newspapers became a "marked man," due to his outspoken and fearless exposés of Soviet atrocities, corruption, and failures. In 1935, he was kidnapped and murdered in Mongolia. Although authorities claimed his death was the work of bandits, evidence showed the deed was actually an assassination, carried out by the NKVD, forerunner of the KGB. 

Meanwhile, the Times' Walter Duranty, basking in the glory of a Pulitzer Prize for his sychophantic pro-Stalin reportage, continued to promote the communist line. Without the Times and Duranty providing cover, it would have been politically impossible for President Franklin Roosevelt to grant recognition to the Soviet regime.
Four presidents before him and as many Secretaries of State had adamantly refused recognition because of the numerous crimes and atrocities of the communist regime and because of its continuing sponsorship of communist subversive activities within the United States.
However, with the Times covering up Stalin's crimes, including the famine genocide in the Ukraine, Roosevelt was free to arrange official U.S. recognition for the U.S.S.R. on November 16, 1933.

The New York Times got away with its perfidy for decades, though this publication and its predecessors (American Opinion and The Review of The News), along with other conservative publications, had been exposing the Times'' key role in the Holodomor cover-up for years.
Ukrainian groups had been demanding that the Times admit its deception, but to no avail. It was not until 2003, when it was reeling from a scandal involving another of its star reporters, Jayson Blair, that it appeared the Times might be forced to come clean on one of the biggest journalistic crimes of all times.

Under pressure from the Ukrainian community to return Duranty's ill-gotten Pulitzer to the Pulitzer Prize Board, the Times hired Professor Mark Von Hagen of Columbia University to make an independent assessment of Duranty's coverage of the Soviet Union during the 1930s. Dr. Von Hagen called Duranty a "disgrace" and criticized his work for its "uncritical acceptance of the Soviet self-justification for its cruel and wasteful regime.''
He recommended that the Pulitzer Board take back Duranty's Pulitzer Prize. Reporting on Von Hagen's verdict on October 23, 2003, Times writer Jacques Steinberg attempted to give the appearance that the Times had already issued a sufficient pronouncement of public contrition. 
Steinberg wrote: That The Times regretted the lapses in Mr. Duranty's coverage was apparent as early as 1986, in a review of Robert Conquest's The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine (Oxford University Press). In the review, Craig R. Whitney, who reported for The Times from Moscow from 1977 to 1980, wrote that Mr. Duranty "denied the existence of the famine in his dispatches until it was almost over, despite much evidence to the contrary that was published in his own paper at the time."

That, apparently, is the Times' idea of justice: a one-sentence half-apology to make up for reams of propaganda enabling and covering up the murder of millions. Steinberg cited a letter by Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., the publisher of the Times, to the Pulitzer Board.
In the letter, Sulzberger referred to Duranty's reporting merely as "slovenly," as though he had been careless, rather than deliberately and criminally mendacious. Steinberg then went on to reiterate a theme propounded by Sulzberger, who argued, incredibly, that to strip Duranty and the Times of the Pulitzer would be to engage in Stalinism.
Steinberg reported: Mr. Sulzberger wrote that the newspaper did not have Mr. Duranty's prize, and thus could not ''return'' it. While careful to advise the board that the newspaper would ''respect'' its decision on whether to rescind the award, Mr. Sulzberger asked the board to consider two things. First, he wrote, such an action might evoke the ''Stalinist practice to airbrush purged figures out of official records and histories.'' He also wrote of his fear that ''the board would be setting a precedent for revisiting its judgments over many decades.''

Bill Keller, the Times' executive editor repeated the same line, telling Steinberg, "As someone who spent time in the Soviet Union while it still existed, the notion of airbrushing history kind of gives me the creeps.''

Professor Von Hagen responded to the Times' twisted and deceptive excuse for failing to relinquish the Pulitzer, pointing out the obvious: Airbrushing was intended to suppress the truth about what was happening under Stalin. The aim of revoking Walter Duranty's prize is the opposite: to bring greater
awareness of the potential long-term damage that his reporting did for our understanding of the Soviet Union.

The Times ran out the clock on the Duranty-Pulitzer-Holodomor issue in 2003, simply allowing it to die down, apparently confident that only diehard Ukrainian activists would remember.
In so doing, the Times compounded its culpability. Not only is the Times the principal agent in the western media responsible for airbrushing of Stalin's crimes out of existence, it continues to use the airbrush to prevent any exposure of its past involvement in those deeds.
An important case in point is its suppression of a document that has come to be known as the "Gordon Dispatch." This is a recently released memorandum by George A. Gordon, U.S. Charge d'Affairs in Berlin, Germany, to the U.S. Secretary of State.
Gordon said of Duranty, who had just come from the Soviet Union and had stopped by the embassy before going on vacation, "Duranty pointed out that 'in agreement with The New York Times and the Soviet authorities' his official dispatches always reflect the official opinion of the Soviet regime and not his own."

The Times' defense in recent years - that Duranty pulled the wool over the eyes of the Times - is shown to be likely false. The Gordon Dispatch indicates that it was the Times itself, not merely Duranty, that was responsible for the pro-Stalin, pro-Soviet slant in the Times' pages.
But in the case of Holodomor the Times was guilty of far worse than "slanting" the news; it was a willful collaborator in a "crime of the century," a willful collaborator in blatant propaganda to cover up that crime. The Times has never mentioned the Gordon Dispatch.
According to Ukrainian scholars like Dr. Walter Zaryckyj, an adjunct professor at New York University, the management of the Times has not attempted to atone for paper's egregious sins in the Holodomor-Duranty case by thoroughly airing the facts, admitting its guilt, publicly apologizing, and unequivocally denouncing Duranty and returning the Pulitzer Prize.
"They were allowed to get off in 2003," on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of Holodomor, Dr. Zaryckyj told The New American, because not enough other members of the media, academia, and the public pressed the issue, when the Times was most vulnerable.
"Now it is the 75th anniversary and the Times shows no sign of changing its ways," he said. "This would have been the perfect time to interview the remaining survivors of the Holodomor and to cover the commemoration [in Kiev, New York City, and elsewhere] and bring world attention to this terrible crime and its victims. The survivors are in their 80s and 90s; five years from now, at the 80th anniversary, most of them will have passed away."

As far as the Times is concerned, apparently, they will be airbrushed out of history, along with the Holodomor commemoration this year and the original victims of the Holodomor 75 years ago.

LINK: http://www.thenewamerican.com/world-mainmenu-26/europe-mainmenu-35/540
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
Ignorance breeds more ignorance as nation fails to recognize its past and heritage during national tragedies
OP-ED: Alina Rudya, Staff photographer and writer for the Kyiv Post.
Kyiv Post, Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, November 27, 2008

When the evening of Nov. 22 came, I lit a candle to commemorate the victims of the Holodomor of 1932-33 and put it on my window. Then I looked around as I was expecting more candles in the neighborhood, but saw less than a dozen in more than a couple thousand empty windows.

Later that evening, I went to Mykhailivska Ploshcha, where people were supposed to light candles next to the small Holodomor memorial. There were more candles, but still not enough – not the number I expected on the 75th anniversary of a mass murder which probably touched every family in contemporary Ukraine.
It was really cold at the square and a girl walking by said to her boyfriend: “What the hell are we doing here? It is damn cold, so let’s get a beer in a warmer place.” They both laughed and left. At that moment, I felt like someone started dancing at my grandmother’s funeral.

I came back home and opened my blog. My friend’s page was full of complaints from people who were stuck in traffic jams during the opening of the new Holodomor memorial at the Park of Eternal Glory (Park Vichnoi Slavy).
Most of them were blaming President Victor Yushchenko for thinking too much about the dead and not enough about the living. And those were people with cars. And the Internet. As I have already noticed, wealthier people are usually the ones less satisfied. My favorite word – irony – comes to mind.
The funniest (or the saddest) thing is that all these people spent hours standing under the rain at Paul McCartney’s concert. And these people are OK with the jams during New Year’s celebrations. But when it comes to giving at least a little respect to those innocents brutally murdered by the Stalin regime, no one cares. And then I ask myself – what is wrong with us, people? Why do we forget our past so fast? And not only forget, but also disrespect it with our ignorance.

Many people say Holodomor happened a long time ago, so why remember it? Well, I answer: the Holocaust also happened a long time ago. But why are Jews so much more respectful about their dead? Why do so many books and movies based on this topic come out every year?
Think also about the Armenian genocide question, which arose not such a long time ago and which basically cost Turkey a place in the European Union. Ukrainians watch “Shindler’s List” or read “Orphan Pamuk” and cry, pitying Jewish and Armenian people, find their own tragedy not worth mentioning.

I don’t want to talk about politics and political speculations on this day. I don’t know what Yushchenko’s intentions are when he raises the Holodomor question. I just think that, for what it’s worth, he is doing the right thing. Maybe it’s the only good thing he has done in his political career and yet, even here, people blame him, ignoring millions of dead who stand beside the beautiful words and theatrical show of the anniversary.

The only thing I want to understand here is "why?" Why are Ukrainian people so ignorant? Why don’t they have national pride? I’m not a historian and I cannot tell for sure whether Holodomor should be defined as genocide. (It’s an interesting but understated fact that the actual word genocide, which was invented by Jewish-Polish lawyer Rafael Lemkin, referred to the Holodomor as well. As far back as the 1950s, Lemkin wrote a book titled the “History of Genocide,” in which he specifically included a chapter on “Soviet Genocide in Ukraine.”

Whatever we call it officially, isn’t  the mass murder of millions of people in less than two years (according to different sources, the number of victims varies from 2.2 million to 14 million), something we should talk and talk and talk about?

I believe that people who don’t respect their past don’t respect themselves. And if we don’t respect ourselves, why are we expecting others to do that? Some people are so busy blaming the president and current government for all their troubles. They fail to understand that economic issues are not the only ones that help a nation unite and rise up.
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]


Window on Eurasia: By Paul Goble, Vienna, Friday, November 28, 2008


Vienna, November 28 – Kyiv's efforts to call attention to Stalin's terror famine on the 75th anniversary of that tragedy and especially its moves to gain international recognition of it as a genocide against the Ukrainian people has generated much criticism by Russian officials from President Dmitry Medvedev on down as well as from numerous Moscow commentators.


But one of the most intriguing consequences of the Ukrainian discussion of the famine has so far passed largely unremarked: What Kyiv has been doing has prompted some in both the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan, whose peoples suffered greatly from the same Kremlin-organized famine, to ask why Moscow and Astana have not paid equal attention to this tragedy.


And that in turn has prompted some in the Russian Federation at least to suggest that the Russian government set aside a special day of memory of the victims of the mass hunger of the 1930s, proposals that in the current environment may spark more discussions among the Russian people about what Stalin did to them.


In an essay posted online this week, Moscow political analyst Andrey Okara says that he is both uncomfortable and ashamed that the memory of the millions of Russians who died in the 1933 famine in the RSFSR is not officially marked in the Russian Federation at the present time (www.apn.ru/opinions/article21058.htm).


In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he points out, Russians paid homage to the memory of those repressed by Stalin between 1934 and 1937, but "the victims of 1932-33 did not have such "advocates" even though the number who died in the famine, which most investigators say, was the product of Stalin's policies, was far larger.


The reaction of Russian officials to Ukrainian efforts to remember that tragedy, Okara continues, has been extremely unfortunate: Moscow's approach has infuriated many pro-Russian Ukrainians, been ineffective, and "not always moral because when one is speaking about millions" of deaths, political calculations are inappropriate.


And their fear that Kyiv will demand compensation from Moscow if anyone talks about the victims is misplaced.  On the one hand, Ukraine is just as much a legal successor of the USSR as Russia is, and on the other, the organizers of the famine were "not Russia and the Russian people but the Stalinist political machine.


Such absurdities are listened to, Okara says, only because "now it is considered that Stalin was an effective manager."  And if one  considers only the number of his victims 75 years ago in the famine that hit much of the Soviet peasantry, he was quite clearly "a super-effective" if not an especially admirable one.


Meanwhile, in Kazakhstan, Serik Maleyev, an Almaty commentator, pointedly asks "why the Kazakhs are silent" on the issue of the famine.  After all, he says, from three to 4.5 million Kazakhs lost their lives as a result of Moscow's policies between 1918 and 1932 and another million fled the republic (www.liter.kz/site.php?lan=russian&id=150&pub=12560).


The answer he provides to his own question does little credit to the moral sense of the Kazakhstan leadership.  According to Maleyev, Kazakh officials are not talking about this tragedy because they see themselves being drawn into a political struggle on the side of Moscow which denies the famine was a genocide or of Kyiv which insists that it was.


In fact, on issues of this kind, he just like his Russian counterpart argues that political calculations have no place.  And he insists that the voice of the Kazakhs Ought to be heard and heard loudly as this debate goes forward if for no other reason than the memory of those who died in Kazakhstan.


Some in Russia at least are beginning to speak out.  At a meeting in Moscow earlier this month clearly assembled to denounce Ukrainian efforts to define the famine as a genocide against Ukrainians, speaker after speaker insisted that Russians had suffered as much or more than the latter.


And one of them, Duma deputy and political commentator Sergey Markov proposed organizing an annual day of memory of the victims of the terror famine.  That idea has found support in the Russian Orthodox Church, which among other things, is extremely concerned about the consequences for itself of the stand-off between Moscow and Kyiv on this issue.


Father Georgy Ryabykh, the secretary for church ties to society in the Moscow Patriarchate's powerful External Relations Department, has come out in support of declaring a national day of mourning every November 22 in order to recall the victims of the famine of the early 1930s



"The establishment of such a memorial day," he says, is a time for remembering "our compatriots who loved to work, loved their Fatherland, and were true to their faith." In taking this step, he continues, there is no need for repentance or self-laceration. "We need only remember the dead and honor their memory."

[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

Letter-to-the-Editor, by Yaroslav Bilinsky, Professor Emeritus
University of Delaware, USA, Friday, December 26, 2008 
Action Ukraine Report (AUR), Wash, D.C. Sunday, December 28, 2008

Thank you for including Professor Volodymyr Serhiichuk's brilliant and SUBSTANTIVE answer to Professor Kondrashin's super-arrogant attempt to
eliminate all ethnic Ukrainians from Kuban, the Volga Region and elsewhere in the former RSFSR ("Why they [the Russians] do not want to see us, or
history on the service of an imperial policy, The Russians and the Holodomor, their hard ideological line and distorted historical realities,"
AUR, No. 921, December 22, 2008, Item 24.

Having worked in Soviet and then Ukrainian archives for decades, Serhiichuk does know his documents. I also agree with Professor Roman Serbyn's judgment that somebody in Kyiv made a big error in excluding ethnic Ukrainians' losses in the former RSFSR from the Holodomor genocide debate.

My own father, Petro Bilinskij, worked with Ukrainian politicians in Kuban before World War I. The most outstanding of those was Prime Minister of
Kuban Government in 1920 Vasyl Ivanys (1888-1974), an economist who died in Toronto.
[return to index] Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
A Free, Private, Not-For-Profit, Independent, Public Service Newsletter
With major support from The Bleyzer Foundation, Kyiv, Ukraine
Articles are Distributed For Information, Research, Education, Academic,
Discussion and Personal Purposes Only. Additional Readers are Welcome.
LINK TO THE 2007-2008 AUR ARCHIVE: http://www.usubc.org/AUR/

Mr. E. Morgan Williams, Director, Government Affairs
Washington Office, SigmaBleyzer, The Bleyzer Foundation
Emerging Markets Private Equity Investment Group;
President, U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC)
Trustee, "Holodomor: Through The Eyes of Ukrainian Artists"
1701 K Street, NW, Suite 903, Washington, D.C. 20006
Tel: 202 437 4707; Fax 202 223 1224
Power Corrupts and Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely.
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