The Ukrainian famine was not a genocide


Nobel-prize winning Russian novelist, dramatist and historian
May 31, 2008

From as far back as 1917, we Soviet citizens had to hear and obediently swallow all sorts of shameless, not to say meaningless, lies. That the All-Russian Constituent Assembly was not an attempt at democracy but a counter-revolutionary scheme (and was therefore disbanded). Or that the October coup d'état (this was Trotsky's brilliant maneuver) was not even an uprising, but self-defense from the aggressive Provisional Government (composed of the most intelligent cadets).

But people in Western countries never became aware of these monstrous distortions of historical events - neither at the time nor later. So they had no chance to immunize themselves to the sheer impudence and scale of these lies.

[...] And in 1932-33, when a similar great famine hit Ukraine and the Kuban region, the Communist Party bosses (including quite a few Ukrainians) treated it with the same silence and concealment. And it did not occur to anyone to suggest to the zealous activists of the Communist Party and Young Communist League that what was happening was the planned annihilation of precisely the Ukrainians. The provocative outcry about "genocide" only began to take shape decades later - at first quietly, inside spiteful, anti-Russian, chauvinistic minds - and now it has spun off into the government circles of modern-day Ukraine, who have thus outdone even the wild inventions of Bolshevik agitprop.

To the parliaments of the world: This vicious defamation is easy to insinuate into Western minds. They have never understood our history: You can sell them any old fairy tale, even one as mindless as this.

When we analyze Solzhenitsyn's op-ed, what do we find?

First, there is no analysis, historical or otherwise, of the Holodomor controversy, the author gives no arguments why the Ukrainian famine should not be considered a genocide.
Second, the text is no great piece of literature, and the fact that the translators had trouble understanding it was not due to the complexity of ideas but to poor style.
Third, artistic license stops where social science begins; the question of famine and genocide is demand serious discussion not bouts of delirium.
Fourth, the piece is extremely insulting, first to the Ukrainian community, and then to the general western public.


I. A bit of history:

The article was not written specifically for the Globe and Mail, nor is it of a recent date. One may thus wonder what was so valuable or news worthy that a paper that prides itself on being "Canada's National Newspaper" would see it worthy to reproduce it now, more than eight weeks after it appeared in Russian and was immediately translated into English.

[...] The timing of Solzhenitsyn's diatribe was not fortuitous. That same day (2 April) the Russian Parliament was getting ready to discuss Ukraine's claim of Holodomor-Genocide, and the coincidence was not lost on the Russian commentators. Luke Harding, writing in the Guardian a day later, believed it was an attack on Bush who two days earlier (1 April), together with Yushchenko, laid a wreath at a monument to the victims of the famine in Kyiv. [...]

[...] On 5 April, the Boston Globe published Solzhenitsyn's piece under the title "Ukrainian famine not a genocide". The translation was very "liberal", some parts were left out and others added (compared to the Izvestia version on the internet). Actually the last two paragraphs in the three newspapers (Guardian, Boston Globe, G&M) differ quite a bit, showing the almost incomprehensible style of Solzhenitsyn's prose and the particular spin each translator/paper wished to give.

II. Content analysis:

[...] The first paragraph lists some of the the lies that Soviet citizens had to swallow about the origins of the Communist regime.

The second paragraph states that people in the West did not become aware of these lies and did not become immunized against them.

The third paragraph talks about the famine of 1921. This paragraph is tendentious:

[...] c) he is right to criticize the Communist for only blaming natural drought (which actually took place & was greatly responsible for the famine), and neglecting to admit to the forced requisition that was the other reason for the famine; however, but fails to mention about famine relief aid that was asked for and received from the west;

d) leaving Ukraine out of the picture, Solzhenitsyn fails to mention that Ukraine had enough food to feed its population but was forced to send it to Russia (Petrograd, Moscow & the Volga), even from the drought stricken regions of the south  and for this reason there was a famine in Ukraine as well;

e) the term Holodomor not used at that time, although the expression "moryty holodom" probably was; it has to be investigated. But most Ukrainian farmers were conscious of the fact that the famine was man-made and documents reflect this realization.

Such omissions for an author that is presented as a historian is not excusable.

The fourth paragraph is the only one that actually deals with the famine of 1932-33. The author once more gives a most biased presentation:

a) he mentions that there were Ukrainians among the communist bosses, but fails to mention that Kuban' (part of RSFSR), which he cites was two-thirds Ukrainian;

b) he claims that the Communist bosses treated this famine with the "same silence and concealment"; double error: in 1921 the bosses knew of the famine and asked for aid (first for Russia & eventually for Ukraine); in 1933 the bosses from Ukraine (Petrovsky, Chubar & others) informed Stalin, Molotov & Kaganovich and begged for aid but were refused; Published collections of documents (Stalin-Kaganovich correspondence; Sovetskaia derevnia glazami OGPU; Tragedia sovetskoi derevi) just to mention the ones published in Moscow & therefore easily available for Solzhenitsyn give a very precise picture of the difference of the famine in Ukraine and in Russia.

[...] The fifth paragraph begins with seeming appeal to the World: "To the parliaments of the world:". But if it were aimed at foreign parliaments, then the author would not address them in the third person: "They have never understood our history: You can sell them any old fairy tale". The original Russian text has only four paragraphs and in fact last two form a single whole. The sentence "To the parliaments of the world" are in quotation marks. What the author is saying is that the Ukrainian government circles are taking their "fairy tales" to the parliaments of the world.


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