HARTFORD, CT -- Last week, Russian tanks, missile launchers and columns of goose-stepping soldiers again paraded through Red Square. The Victory Day parade sent a collective shudder through the republics of the former Soviet Union.
Although the modern governments of Japan and Germany have renounced
their militaristic past and have worked to atone for the acts of
genocide committed by the Nazis and the Hirohito regime, the new rulers
of Russia remain in a state of denial about the horrific crimes their
predecessors inflicted on millions of people throughout Eastern Europe
Not only are Vladimir Putin and his hand-picked successor Dmitry
Medvedev completely unrepentant about their Soviet past, they are
actively promoting a resurgence of Russian chauvinism and militant
imperialism that is clearly aimed at intimidating its neighbors and
reasserting Russia's dominance as a world power.
Today, human rights activists and members of the Ukrainian American
community from across Connecticut will meet at the state Capitol to
commemorate the 75th anniversary of one of the most brutal campaigns of
ethnic cleansing ever perpetrated on a defenseless population.
In the late 1920s, Josef Stalin ordered the collectivization of farms
throughout the Soviet Union. When Ukrainian farmers resisted his
policies, Stalin ordered the confiscation of grain and foodstuffs from
villages throughout eastern Ukraine and the predominantly Ukrainian
ethnic areas of Kuban and the Northern Caucasus.
Millions of Ukrainians starved to
death in what became known as the
Holodomor ("death by hunger") or The Great Famine. Years later, Stalin
admitted to Winston Churchill that the death toll from his forced
collectivization campaign was more than 10 million people.
This was accompanied by the execution of Ukrainian political leaders
and the mass deportation of Ukrainians into Siberian death camps in an
attempt to crush their cultural identity.
Khrushchev told the delegates to the 1956 Communist Party Congress that
Stalin harbored such a deep antipathy for the Ukrainians that he would
have deported them all to Siberia, except there were too many of them.
While the Soviets exported the bumper crops they had seized, the secret
police and military sealed off Ukraine's borders to prevent foreign
observers or relief shipments from reaching the victims.
Gareth Jones, a British embassy official, was one of the few Westerners
who defied Stalin's orders and slipped into Ukraine on foot to witness
the horror. He wrote about the swollen stomachs of the children in the
cottages where he slept.
Historian Robert Conquest compared the Ukrainian countryside in 1933 to
"one vast Belsen where a quarter of the rural population ... lay dead
or dying, the rest in various stages of debilitation with no strength
to bury their families or neighbors."
Years later these ghost towns and prairies were resettled by ethnic
Russians who remained loyal to the Kremlin and largely ignorant of the
plight of the people they replaced.
Unlike the Nuremberg Trials, there was never an accounting for the
crimes committed against the Ukrainian people. Today, as a new Russian
regime tries to rekindle a perverse nostalgia for its Soviet past, it
is vital for the world community to remember the Holodomor and to
insist that such crimes never be repeated.