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Famine and Genocide in the Soviet Ukraine

Every nation and country has its own darkest periods when different destructive things are happening to its inhabitants. And maybe one of the darkest periods in all Ukrainian history was a phase between the years 1930 – 1933. Under brutal Soviet rule, the country had experienced a most terrible man-made famine and its extensive consequences. Some people just call it famine or a Great famine, but a memory of murdered innocent people and a reality of Ukrainian law, makes us call it a Famine-genocide of the Ukrainian nation.

During that period 10 million Ukrainians that made up one-quarter of the country’s population, perished. It is really hard to explain why such cruel things happened to so many people, for it is not likely for a normal human being to understand the logic of beasts that were planning and executing their savage plans. Nevertheless, there are a couple of obvious reasons that could cause someone with no humanity, full of hatred and wickedness, to make reality a horror. Among those reasons are Ukrainian history, geographical location, Soviet policy of collectivization, as well as national Identity and mentality of Ukrainians.

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Not too many people know the history of Ukraine or even can recognize it as a country on a world map. Nonetheless, the first Ukrainian state, according to the famous historian Mychailo Hrushevskyi was established in the late ninth century, and it was called Kyivan Rus’ or so-called Vkrayina that is Ukraine in English translation.

Later the Byzantine Empire named it Russia, and they kept this name for subsequent centuries. During the10th and 11th centuries the country was the largest and most powerful state in Europe, but unfortunately, weakened by internecine quarrels and Mongol invasions, Kyivan Rus’ split up and was incorporated into other European principalities within the next centuries. However, a great name and ancient history of the Kyivan state were written in the chronicles of many European principalities, but a country itself has stopped its existence.

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For that reason in the late seventeenth century, to rise among other nations, little known principality of Moskovy adopted the name of the ancient Ukrainian state in its Latin form, Russia. From that time on, Ukrainians lost not just a name, but their eminent history as well. But even being under foreign rule, in the mid-17th century, they managed to create a new Ukrainian state, the Cossack Hetmanate. It was a country of free, highly trained military people, who fought their battles with many enemies, including Poles, Moskovians or so-called Russians, Turks and others.

They were fighting for the right to live free and have their own democratic government. But, there were too many external enemies, consequently, Cossack Hetmanate was finally annihilated by Moscovy in the latter part of the 18th century, and free people were literally placed into slavery. Although Ukraine lost its independence, with the rising of the Russian revolution in 1917, the independence was regained for another four years of fighting for its freedom with communist Russia and other external as well as some internal enemies.

The country was again conquered by foreign rulers and now it was Soviet Russia. Stalin who was a tyrannical ruler of the Soviet Union part of which was Ukraine, and who dictated Russian nationalism, driven by hatred of the Ukrainian drive for freedom, decided to wipe out from the face of the earth as many Ukrainians as possible.

It is relevant to say that history of Ukraine is mainly dependent on its geographical location, for the land located between many different countries, always was wanted by its neighbours. In addition, the soil on Ukrainian territory, called black earth, is highly productive, as a result, too many nations tried to gain control over it. Especially a newly established state in the second decade of the nineteenth century called the Soviet Union, and under which rule was Ukraine, highly needed food support for its urban population.

For that cause, its ruler Stalin and the communist party in whole were doing everything they can and want to make farmers of a country called the ‘breadbasket of Europe’, provide cities with food. Also, they were very interested in exporting grain, the main product of Ukrainian farmers, to the western countries in exchange for modern technology in many different fields of industry. Consequently, farmers were forced to give a lot of grain and other farm products to the state, and they were allowed to leave a little for themselves. It caused strong resisting of the farmers, which might be one of the main factors why famine was engineered on Ukrainian territory.

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Thus, after Stalin and the communist party encounter resistance of Ukrainian farmers, they made a new policy of collectivization; its goal was to take all land property from farmers and peasants to the state. Because too many farmers were refusing to surrender their lands, a new law was made which was saying that all farmers who are making as much money as a factory worker, or who own any kind of motorized farm machinery, or who use hired labourers, are the enemy of the state. Accordingly, starting from 1929 under this criteria fell 1.4 percent of all Ukrainian households, and they were arrested, exiled to the distant corners of the Soviet Union for slave labour, or were executed.

This wasn’t enough for blood-thirsty Soviet rulers, for even in peasants they’ve seen potential danger, as they were afraid that freedom-loving people will rebel again against foreign tyrannical rulers. The simplest way to deal with this fear for Stalin and the communist party was to murder all people whom they think may cause a problem for a state.

In addition, there was a great fear of a nation with ancient history, culture, its own traditions and beliefs, that may rise again against its dictators. Ukrainian national identity goes deep into the ninth century when the first Ukrainian state of Kyivan Rus’ was established. During Rus’ period, Ukrainians get used to the humane attitude from most of their leaders. This caused them to develop a democratic way of thinking, and it made a strong imprint on the Ukrainian mentality.

Moreover, with the rising of Cossacks, Ukrainians strongly established themselves as free people, for they were fighting against any oppressors that would try to put their rule over them. Ukrainian people also had their own culture and religion that they were passing to each other throughout many generations. It was something that was very frightening for Staling and his communist party that were obsessed with Russian nationalism, for they didn’t want to see a nation with its own identity, capable of rising against its oppressors.

Therefore, in less than three years beginning from the year 1929 one million Ukrainian scholars, poets, scientists and priests, including all members of their families, were imprisoned, exiled for slave labour or executed. Thus, the last strike on the Ukrainian nation was its lower class, the peasants, and they were supposed to be murdered slowly by a famine.
In the year 1930 Great Famine-Genocide has started in Soviet Ukraine, and it lasted till 1933. Began with imprisoning of farmers it ended up with liquidation of any kind of food from peasants mainly on all territory of Ukraine.

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The main goal of breaking the nation’s national identity, its longing for freedom, as well as the success of collectivization, was achieved. There were no more people left that would dare to think of having their own country or simply own land in Soviet Ukraine, the price was paid, it was a quarter of the Ukrainian population, 10 million people perished in less than two years. During the spring and summer of the fateful year 1933, 25,000 people died every day, or 1,000 people every hour, or 17 people every minute. It was a famine in the Soviet Ukraine and genocide of the Ukrainian nation that will always be a reminder of the horrific Soviet epoch in Ukrainian history.

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Famine and Genocide in the Soviet Ukraine. (2021, Feb 18). Retrieved March 27, 2023, from