Why don’t Russians commemorate the Terror Famine?

Orphaned children-victims of the Holomor in a village near Dnipropetrovsk (Image: fundholodomors.org.ua)

Orphaned children-victims of the Holomor in a village near Dnipropetrovsk (Image: fundholodomors.org.ua) 

2015/11/29 • Analysis & Opinion, History, Ukraine

Today Ukrainians around the world commemorated the Holodomor, the terror famine Stalin directed against the peasantry in the first instance in Ukraine. But there is one nation that has never established a day to remember the victims of collectivization — the Russians — and the reasons for that say much about these two nations now.

President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko attending a memorial on November 22, 2014 in Kyiv for the victims of the Holodomor, or the Famine-Genocide conducted by the Soviets in Ukraine in 1932-1933, which killed millions of Ukrainians. (Image: ImagineChina)

President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko attending a memorial on November 22, 2014 in Kyiv for the victims of the Holodomor, or the Famine-Genocide conducted by the Soviets in Ukraine in 1932-1933, which killed millions of Ukrainians. (Image: ImagineChina)

On Kasparov.ru today, Moscow commentator Elena Galkina points out that unlike the Ukrainians, Russians don’t like to recall this day, “perhaps because,” she says, “constant recollection about those destroyed by the bestial state machine for its own ‘greatness’ is a medicine against slavery.”

Galkina says that she personally disagrees with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s characterization of the Holodomor as “a manifestation of the centuries-long hybrid war which Russia has been conducting against Ukraine.” Indeed, it was a war “but not of Russia against Ukraine but of the empire against the personality.”

In 2014, Russia became the incarnation of the imperial mindset, while Ukraine became an exemplar of the defense of the human personality, the result of divergent paths that the two peoples selected much earlier and continue to pursue.

A Holodomor monument in Edmonton, Canada (Image: Wikipedia)

A Holodomor monument in Edmonton, Canada (Image: Wikipedia)

The Soviet authorities, she writes, viewed people “as material for the construction of a powerful state” and thus took actions that “developed the main line of the Russian Empire.” That is something “the subjects of the USSR understood very well.” Many driven into the collective farms said that the initials of the CPSU stood for “the Second Serf Law of the Bolsheviks.”

The tsarist authorities were also quite prepared to see the peasants suffer in order to sell grain abroad and promote their own goals. But the Soviets took this to a qualitatively “new level” and that lead to the deaths of millions of Ukrainians as well as of others in Kazakhstan, Belarus, and even the Russian Federation itself.

“After the collapse of the Soviet Union,” Galkina writes, “Russia had a chance to become a democratic country, but the chekistnomenklatura elite killed it in the 1990s.” Many of its leaders viewed the people of the Russian Federation as simply cannon fodder for their favored “social-economic experiments.”

His Eminence Metropolitan Antony of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the US blesses the Holodomor Memorial on November 7, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Holodomor Memorial honors the millions of victims of the 1932-1933 genocidal famine in Ukraine. AFP PHOTO / MOLLY RILEY

His Eminence Metropolitan Antony of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the US blesses the Holodomor Memorial on November 7, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Holodomor Memorial honors the millions of victims of the 1932-1933 genocidal famine in Ukraine. (Image: AFP / Molly Riley)

Ukraine in contrast has been able to function “without inhuman experiments on people, and as a result, its society has become many times stronger and freer than the Russian,” the Moscow commentator writes.

Emblematic of this is that “in Russia, there hasn’t been and isn’t now a day of memory for the victims of collectivization. And this is evidence of the obvious: the population of the Russian Federation remains enslaved by the empire” whose leaders don’t care about human beings but only about their own temporary power and glory.

  • Victims of starvation in Kharkiv. The Holodomor in Ukraine, 1933 (Image: fundholodomors.org.ua)
    Victims of starvation in Kharkiv. The Holodomor in Ukraine, 1933 (Image: fundholodomors.org.ua)
  • A victim of starvation in Kharkiv. The Holodomor in Ukraine, 1933 (Image: fundholodomors.org.ua)
    A victim of starvation in Kharkiv. The Holodomor in Ukraine, 1933 (Image: fundholodomors.org.ua)
  • A victim of starvation in Kharkiv. The Holodomor in Ukraine, 1933 (Image: fundholodomors.org.ua)
    A victim of starvation in Kharkiv. The Holodomor in Ukraine, 1933 (Image: fundholodomors.org.ua)
  • The Soviet government sign in the outskirts of Kharkiv says in Russian: "Burying corpses is prohibited here categorically!" The Holodomor in Ukraine, 1933. (Image: fundholodomors.org.ua)
    The Soviet sign prohibits burying corpses in the Kharkiv outskirts. The Holodomor in Ukraine, 1933. (Image: fundholodomors.org.ua)
  • Victims of the Holodomor in Kharkiv province of Ukraine, 1933 (Image: fundholodomors.org.ua)
    Victims of the Holodomor in Kharkiv province of Ukraine, 1933 (Image: fundholodomors.org.ua)
  • A victim of starvation in Kharkiv. The Holodomor in Ukraine, 1933 (Image: fundholodomors.org.ua)
    A victim of starvation in Kharkiv. The Holodomor in Ukraine, 1933 (Image: fundholodomors.org.ua)
  • A victim of starvation in Kharkiv. The Holodomor in Ukraine, 1933 (Image: fundholodomors.org.ua)
    A victim of starvation in Kharkiv. The Holodomor in Ukraine, 1933 (Image: fundholodomors.org.ua)
  • Starving orphans in Kharkiv in search of food. The Holodomor in Ukraine, 1933 (Image: fundholodomors.org.ua)
    Starving orphans in Kharkiv in search of food. The Holodomor in Ukraine, 1933 (Image: fundholodomors.org.ua)
  • Crowds waiting for bread near a Soviet bread store in Kharkiv. The Holodomor in Ukraine (Image: fundholodomors.org.ua)
    Crowds waiting for bread near a Soviet bread store in Kharkiv. The Holodomor in Ukraine (Image: fundholodomors.org.ua)
  • A village in Kharkiv province where all population was starved to death. The Holodomor in Ukraine, 1933 (Image: fundholodomors.org.ua)
    All inhabitants of this village near Kharkiv were starved to death. The Holodomor in Ukraine, 1933 (Image: fundholodomors.org.ua)
  • A mass grave of the starved to death in Kharkiv province. The Holodomor in Ukraine, 1933. (Image: fundholodomors.org.ua)
    A mass grave of the starved to death in Kharkiv province. The Holodomor in Ukraine, 1933. (Image: fundholodomors.org.ua)
  • A victim of starvation in Kharkiv. The Holodomor in Ukraine, 1933 (Image: fundholodomors.org.ua)
    A victim of starvation in Kharkiv. The Holodomor in Ukraine, 1933 (Image: fundholodomors.org.ua)
  • Only two of the women in this photo taken in 1927 in the Village of Shkarivka near Kyiv survived the Holodomor. (Image: fundholodomors.org.ua)
    Only two of the women in this 1927 photo taken survived the Holodomor. (Image: fundholodomors.org.ua)
  • Memorial to the Holodomor Victims in Kyiv, Ukraine
    Memorial to the Holodomor Victims in Kyiv, Ukraine

Edited by: A. N.

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  • Michel Cloarec

    The russians did choose communism without knowing what was the goal. In some ways , russians always love to suffer whatever it is , patriotic war or gulag work forces at low cost to build up the utopia of communism. Sometime one feel sorry for the russians , but really they had a chance in the 90´s to change all that , but still they support at 89,9 % the kremlin . How stupid to be ! 100 years of misery and still going.

  • Peter K

    I am disappointed that Paul Goble does not call the Holodomor a genocide in this article. But perhaps that is because the author he is citing, Elena Galkina, does not seem to understand that Holodomor and collectivization were not the same things. Collectivization was undertaken across the Soviet Union, but in the Ukrainian SSR as well as Ukrainian-majority regions of the Russian SFSR (regions like Kuban) and Kazakh ASSR, collectivization (along with de-kulakization) became an instrument with which the Soviet state targeted the Ukrainian nationality for destruction. Strictures on travel and unrealistic grain requisition quotas were imposed on Ukrainian farmers which were not imposed on Russian farmers. These “laws” were enforced brutally in Ukraine and Kuban, with the intent to murder millions of Ukrainians and destroy the Ukrainian nationality. Thus collectivization was not merely a war of “empire against personality” as Galkina says but truly a war of Russia against Ukraine, as she denies. Russians (and others, perhaps Goble as well) need to recognize that the Holodomor was not an “all-Russian” tragedy. The Holodomor was a genocide against Ukrainians. It needs to be considered on its own and not lumped in together with collectivization as a whole, or else the essence and truth of the tragedy cannot be understood.