I was chosen by your dead
Legacy of the Famine: Ukraine as a postgenocidal society
Courtesy of E-Poshta
February 18, 2003
By James Mace
The Day, Kyiv, Ukraine

On February 12 (2003) the Verkhovna Rada held special  hearings commemorating the Manmade Famine of 1932-33, here called the Holodomor.  This year, marking the seventieth anniversary of the tragedy, the Ukrainian public remembers millions of fellow citizens who fell prey to a premeditated genocidal policy by Stalin's Kremlin and carried out by the Communist leadership of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. The parliamentary hearings are intended to spur international bodies, primarily the United Nations, to recognize the Holodomor as an act of genocide. This time The Day presents an article written by one who stood by the cradle of modern studies of the Holodomor. In the late 1980s, Prof. James Mace was executive director of the US commission that collected evidence and eyewitness accounts from survivors, who survived the Golgotha of Soviet Ukraine in the 1930s.


Image courtesy Olga Kaczmar

                         In 1981, as I embarked on studies of the Great Famine in
                         Ukraine, there were still many unpublished Party documents.
                         After studying national communism within the context of the
                         Ukrainian history of the period, along with documents,
                         speeches, and editorials carried literally every day by the
                         official press of Soviet Ukraine, the main features of the Soviet
                         official policy toward Ukraine became completely clear to me.
                         At this point a digression is in order. Why should I, a born and
                         bred American, take up such a topic? What did I need it for? I
                         have been asked this question very often and I have often
                         been tempted to ask in turn: Why should millions of Russians,
                         Jews, Armenians, and Ukrainians travel across the ocean to
                         that faraway godforsaken country, my America? I did it
                         because Ukrainian Americans required such research, and
                         fate decreed that the victims chose me. Just as one cannot
                         study the Holocaust without becoming half Jewish in spirit, one
                         cannot study the Famine and not become at least half
                         Ukrainian. I have spent too many years for Ukraine not to have
                         become the greater part of my life. After all, Martin Luther said,
                         "Here I stand, I can do no other."

                         The perpetrators' motive was simple, and all the documents
                         and later research have not changed the overall portrait of the
                         events I first presented in 1982 International Conference on the
                         Holocaust and Genocide in Tel Aviv. I remain convinced that,
                         for Stalin to have complete centralized power in his hands, he
                         found it necessary to physically destroy the second largest
                         Soviet republic, meaning the annihilation of the Ukrainian
                         peasantry, Ukrainian intelligentsia, Ukrainian language, and
                         history as understood by the people; to do away with Ukraine
                         and things Ukrainian as such. The calculation was very simple,
                         very primitive: no people, therefore, no separate country, and
                         thus no problem. Such a policy is GENOCIDE in the classic
                         sense of the word.

                         Until the end of war communism in 1921, the Bolsheviks
                         cultivated an almost pathological hatred what they called
                         bourgeois nationalism. The essence of Lenin's formula,
                         "rapprochement and merger of nations," can itself be
                         interpreted as progenocidal, since imposing a single national
                         pattern was proclaimed "historically progressive." During the
                         first Soviet occupation of Kyiv, Bolshevik forces shot anyone
                         they found in the streets speaking Ukrainian. The famine of
                         1921-23, killing millions in Ukraine, was obviously
                         exacerbated by Moscow's economic policy with regard to
                         Ukraine. Food was pumped out of that country in an openly
                         discriminatory manner. In 1919 the head of the second Soviet
                         Ukrainian government, Khristian Rakovsky, in 1919 formally
                         branded Ukrainian a counterrevolutionary language. In 1921,
                         the Council of People's Commissars of the Russian
                         Federative Soviet Socialist Republic (RFSSR) asked for help
                         only for the starving populace in Volga Basin and the New
                         Economic Policy (NEP) that ended the forced seizure of
                         foodstuffs delayed in Ukraine six months to prolong the
                         prodrazverstka campaign of requisitioning farm produce. It
                         was only with the start of NEP in 1921 that an attempt was
                         made to have Soviet power coexist with non-Russian
                         languages and cultures (resolution On the National Question of
                         the Tenth RKP{b} Congress). In the course of Ukrainization (or
                         "indigenization" proclaimed by the Twelfth Party Congress), in
                         1923-32, Communists in Ukraine attempted to gain control of
                         the Ukrainian national cultural process by directly participating
                         in it. Halting this policy during the Holodomor of 1932-33 had
                         all the hallmarks of genocide. To enforce his direct rule in
                         Ukraine, Stalin restored to terrible repression and, finally to
                         famine. In late October 1932, the All-Union Communist Party
                         (VKP{b}) took the grain procurements campaign under its
                         direct control through Vyacheslav Molotov, Chairman of the
                         USSR Council of People's Commissars, who was appointed
                         chairman of the grain procurements commission in the
                         Ukrainian SSR. (Lazar Kaganovich headed an analogous
                         commission in what was then the South Caucasus Territory,
                         including the heavily Ukrainian Kuban.) On November 18 the
                         Central Committee of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of
                         Ukraine (KP{b}U) , presided over by Molotov, instituted a
                         system of fines payable in kind. This was actually a directive
                         aimed at making collective farmers return to the state grain
                         received as advance payments on crops, and confiscating
                         other foodstuffs in the absence of grain. All this could only be
                         interpreted as a policy meant to cause a famine, the

                         The CC VKP(b) Politburo resolution of December 14, 1932,
                         signed by Stalin and Molotov, accusing the Ukrainian SSR
                         government and leadership of the North Caucasus Territory of
                         Ukrainian nationalism, this being allegedly the main reason for
                         the unwillingness or inability of the local Communists to comply
                         with the procurements quotas for mythical grain, along with a
                         January 24, 1933 VKP(b) reprimand of the entire KP(b)U,
                         were graphic evidence that the leadership in Moscow sought
                         to end any independent activity by the KP(b)U and Soviet
                         Ukrainian government. The mass terror unleashed against
                         Ukrainian culture in 1933 was additional evidence that
                         Moscow wanted to destroy Ukrainian national identity as the
                         basis of such independent activity. In 1988, the US
                         Commission on the Ukraine Famine, relying on such evidence,
                         determined that the Holodomor was an act of genocide. In
                         1990, an international commission to study the 1932-33
                         Holodomor in Ukraine, set up by the World Congress of Free
                         Ukrainians, failed to arrive at an unequivocal conclusion
                         because certain members erroneously considered genocide a
                         matter of legislation (droit) rather than unchanging law (loi),
                         contrary to the basic international instruments. The
                         commission explained its decision, saying the Manmade
                         Famine in Ukraine was organized 15 years before the said
                         documents were adopted, and that an act of genocide could
                         be claimed only by the then Soviet government; that none of
                         the actual organizers of the Holodomor were among the living,
                         except Lazar Kaganovich. The nature and scope of the
                         Holodomor in Ukraine remain subject to dispute by foreign

                         We investigated the issue as best be could. It seems to me
                         that the documents we collected, including eyewitness
                         accounts and our Report to Congress, have played their role.
                         The further work with this material we leave to posterity. We
                         simply could not endure the pain and horror. Stalin's
                         sociological scorched earth policy maimed Ukraine to such an
                         extent that it created a discontinuity in the normal development
                         of the Ukrainian people, producing a unique situation. While in
                         countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, etc.,
                         the collapse of communism could and did result in the
                         restoration of independence lost by the previous states, in
                         Ukraine, except for its western territories, the Ukrainian nation
                         - as a community possessing a broad consensus regarding its
                         identity, history, and cultural values - has remained in a sense
                         a national minority in its own country. In other words, the
                         people as such was so deformed that when Ukraine finally
                         became independent there was no broad consensus
                         concerning its future. All that remained was the surviving
                         structures of Soviet Ukraine. In 1991, all of us made a
                         fundamental albeit unconscious error in assuming that the
                         newly independent states were new independent states. Now
                         it is clear that in fact hitherto extant but dependent states
                         merely became independent with the same people remaining
                         in basically the same positions, doing basically the same
                         things, and the course of events evolved from there.
                         Postcommunist Ukraine already no longer just an independent
                         Ukrainian SSR, but it is also not a Ukrainian Ukraine, in the
                         subjective sense - with people sharing the same national
                         values and understanding of their identity - in the sense in
                         which Poland is Polish and the Czech Republic is Czech.

                         All broad historical narratives are to some extent artificial, yet
                         this is a natural process of self-understanding for any given
                         people. In the case of the Soviet Union, there was the artificial
                         incorporation of Ukrainian history and those of other peoples,
                         imposing a different national identity, as seen fit by those in
                         power at the time. In 1950, the late Anna Pankratova made a
                         discovery in the nineteenth edition of her History of the USSR,
                         writing that the Cossack revolution, which began in 1649, was
                         the "Ukrainian war of national liberation war led by Bohdan
                         Khmelnytsky." The apparent subtext was that for Ukrainians
                         "national liberation" meant "reunification" with the big brother,
                         Russia; they were to distinguish between the "Great Patriotic
                         War" from World War II, meaning that they won that war as a
                         "little brother" under the big one's able guidance and not as a
                         full-fledged member of the United Nations taking part in a
                         world struggle against Nazism. Works in Russian by, say,
                         Mikhail Bulgakov were generally available, but a whole
                         generation of Ukrainian literati known as the rozstriliane
                         vidrodzhennia, the renaissance that was executed, was
                         "erased," although its representatives were as talented as all
                         those representing Russia's coterminous silver age (Mykola
                         Khvyliovy, Yury Yanovsky, young Sosiura and Tychyna, along
                         with Mykola Zerov's neoclassicist poetry and translations from
                         ancient literature). The Soviet regime did its best to "root out
                         and destroy nationalism" (Bilshovyk Ukrayiny, 1933, No. 7) in
                         the language itself, purging the very vocabulary of the language
                         as the intellectual building blocks of the cultural development in
                         any human community. What was left remained too little to
                         make Ukraine an equal member of the world community of
                         nations. [...]

                         Only the Ukrainians themselves can decide how they should
                         speak and write. Yet how can they decide this, not knowing the
                         words once banned (again, see Bilshovyk Ukrayiny, 1933, No
                         7!)? I wish that someday someone would sit, as I have done,
                         over the suppressed works from the 1920s of the Academy of
                         Sciences Institutes of Scientific Language and Living
                         Language. When will the results of their work will be published,
                         so that one all can examine what was done by that lost
                         generation and then be able to make the most basic building
                         blocks of the nation's thought?

                         The main thing is that Ukrainians will never become a
                         full-fledged people and an equal member of European
                         civilization until power flows from the state to a self-organized
                         people able to force those in power to do what the people
                         want. This is precisely what makes us often fail to understand
                         the actual meaning of the concept, civil society. It is not an
                         ideal system, not always completely democratic, but no one
                         has discovered anything better thus far. No state will ever
                         make Ukraine Ukrainian. Only self-organized Ukrainians can
                         do this, and I am deeply convinced that they will.

                    The Day's Reference

                    Prof. James Mace, author of numerous scholarly works and one of the first
                         serious researchers of the 1933 Holodomor, was born February 18, 1952,
                         in Muskogee, Oklahoma. In 1973, he graduated from Oklahoma State
                         University and went on to earn an M.A. and Ph.D. in history at the
                         University of Michigan, in 1981defending his dissertation, "Communism
                         and the Dilemmas of National Liberation: National Communism in Soviet
                         Ukraine, 1919-33," later published in book form (Harvard, 1983). Upon
                         completing his graduate studies Dr. Mace was invited to join the famine
                         project at the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute where he collected
                         material for Robert Conquest's Harvest of Despair.

                    In 1986-90, James Mace served as executive director of the US Ukraine
                         Famine Commission, a hybrid body subject to Congress and the
                         president, supervising its daily work and drafting its findings for approval by
                         the full commission. After 1990, he held fellowships at Columbia and
                         Illinois Universities. In 1993, Prof. Mace moved to Ukraine, working first as
                         a supervisory research fellow at the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences
                         Institute of Ethnic and Political Studies, then teaching politics at the
                         Kyiv-Mohyla Academy National University and International Christian
                         University. Since 1998, Prof. Mace has been consultant to our English
                         digest, The Day.