A fresh campaign has been launched to gain international recognition for the Holodomor genocide, a “deliberate” famine in the Ukraine in 1932 and 1933 that killed an estimated 7 million ethnic Ukrainians. While people starved, grain was shut away in barns for export.
Many historians agree that the famine was genocide.
The latest initiative for the act to be termed a genocide, held at an informal news conference in Brussels on Friday, aims to persuade the UK government in particular to join 25 other countries which have formally acknowledged the genocide.
A petition asking for Holodomor to be recognised as a “deliberate act of genocide” was formally handed to Ivan Rogers, the UK Permanent Representative to the EU. It is also used to describe the Ukrainian genocide that began in 1929 with massive waves of deportations of Ukraine’s most successful farmers as well as the deportations and executions of Ukraine’s religious, intellectual and cultural leaders, culminating in the devastating forced famine that killed millions more.
The genocide continued for several more years with the further destruction of Ukraine’s political leadership, the resettlement of Ukraine’s depopulated areas with other ethnic groups, the prosecution of those who dared to speak of the famine publicly, and the consistent blatant denial of famine by the Soviet regime.
Ukrainians mark a Holodomor Remembrance Day every year on the fourth Saturday of November.
Some historians, like Yale University’s Timothy Snyder, who has done extensive research in Ukraine, place the number of dead at roughly 3.3 million. Others say the number was much higher.
The term Holodomor refers to the artificial famine imposed by Stalin’s regime on Soviet Ukraine and primarily ethnically Ukrainian areas in the Northern Caucasus in 1932-33. Whatever the actual figure, it is a trauma that has left a deep and lasting wound among this nation of 45 million.
Entire villages were wiped out, and in some regions the death rate reached one-third. The Ukrainian countryside, home of the “black earth”, some of the most fertile land in the world, was reduced to a silent wasteland.
Cities and roads were littered with the corpses of those who left their villages in search of food, but perished along the way. There were widespread reports of cannibalism.
Several EU countries have recognised the genocide as has the European Parliament in a resolution passed by MEPs.
The petition launched in Brussels points to a Soviet Poliburo resolution from 1932, which refers to “exterminating counter revolutionary clusters.” The petition states, “Our aim is to reach 10,000 signatures in order to generate an official response. This atrocity took place on the most fertile soil in Europe and was carried out in secret. In fact, for many decades in the Soviet Union any mention of the act of Holodomor was a criminal offence.”
The campaign is backed by Inna Chefranova, a Ukrianian national who lives in Belgium.
Speaking at the launch, she said, “There are still to this day a small but dwindling number of Holodomor survivors. It is important for them, as well as those who were killed, that we get some sort of justice.
“Recognition of this terrible act as genocide would at least bring some comfort to these people and the families of those who lost their lives in this famine.”
By Martin Banks