An Ominous Sign For Ukraine

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 and Asia.

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.

HolodomorMillions 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.