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Washington becomes first US state to recognize Holodomor as genocide

The holodomor memorial in Kyiv stands near the Mykhailivskyi monastery
Washington becomes first US state to recognize Holodomor as genocide

On 22 May 2017, the Washington State Senate approved a resolution calling Holodomor “genocide by Stalin’s regime against the people of Ukraine,” Voice of America reported. The resolution was introduced by Republican Senator Mark Milosia, while the Ukrainian diaspora led by Honorary Consul of Ukraine for Washington and Oregon States Valeriy Holoborodko lobbied the adoption of the document.

As well, the resolution calls to establish 26 November 2017 as Holodomor Remembrance Day in Washington State.

Here is the full text of the resolution:

  • “WHEREAS, 2017 marks the 84th anniversary of the Holodomor, or “murder by starvation”, the tragic man-made famine in Ukraine that resulted in the deaths of at least five million men, women, and children in Ukraine;
    “WHEREAS, The man-made famine was deliberately caused by the Soviet regime through the confiscation of land, grain, and animals and the blockade of food shipments into the affected areas, as well as by forcibly preventing the starving population from leaving the region, for the purposes of breaking the resistance of Ukrainian farmers to Soviet authority and destroying Ukraine’s national identity;
    “WHEREAS, Holodomor was genocide by Stalin’s regime against the people of Ukraine;
    “WHEREAS, Until the collapse of the Soviet Union, many denied the existence of the famine because the Soviet Union forbade foreigners from traveling to the Ukrainian countryside during that time and later barred access to government records from the era, and many official records were falsified, lost, or destroyed;
    “WHEREAS, The Western journalists and scholars who witnessed the mass starvation and wrote about it were subjected to disparagement and criticism in the West for their reporting of the famine;
    “WHEREAS, In 1988, the US Commission on the Ukraine Famine reported to Congress that the victims were “starved to death in a man-made famine” and that “Joseph Stalin and those around him committed genocide against Ukrainians in 1932-1933”;
    “WHEREAS, Although the Ukraine famine was one of the most horrific massacres in the 20th century, it remains largely underreported and unknown in the United States and throughout the world;
    “WHEREAS, Washington State is now home to the fifth largest Ukrainian-American population in the United States, and Americans with Ukrainian heritage living in Washington State have enriched our state through their leadership and contributions in agriculture, business, academia, government, and the arts; and
    “WHEREAS, In August 2015, a memorial to the millions who perished in the Ukrainian man-made famine of 1932–1933, known as “Holodomor”, was erected in the United States capital, and the dedication ceremony took place on 7 November 2015;
    “NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, That the Washington State Senate solemnly remember and honor the millions of victims of the tragic famine that occurred in Ukraine in 1932-1933; and
    “BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Legislature designates November 26, 2017, as Holodomor Remembrance Day in Washington State and encourages individual citizens, educators, businesses, groups, organizations, and public institutions to observe Holodomor Remembrance Day with appropriate activities designed to honor the victims and educate residents of Washington State about this tragedy; and
    “BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That copies of this resolution be immediately transmitted by the Secretary of the Senate to the US Committee for Ukrainian Holodomor-Genocide Awareness 1932-33, and for the Consulate of Ukraine in Seattle for appropriate distribution.”

Previously, legislature to commemorate the victims of the Holodomor were officially recognized by Senates of several states, including California, but in these documents, the Holodomor was not called a genocide.

This isn’t the first time the topic of Holodomor as genocide is being brought up in the USA. Some websites list the US among the countries that recognize the Holodomor as genocide. According to Lana Babij, US official documents make reference to the Holodomor as genocide, but there is no Congressional resolution that  actually explicitly “resolves”  that the Holodomor is genocide, nor is there a US law that explicitly recognizes that the Holodomor is a genocide.

However there have been several other pieces of legislature. In 1988, the US Commission on the Ukraine Famine reported to the Congress that “Joseph Stalin and those around him committed genocide against Ukrainians in 1932-1933.” This statement is the closest to an official declaration; however, the findings of commissions are considered advisory, rather than having the legal weight of Congressional resolutions that must be passed and approved.

Wikipedia cites as the recognition document:  H. RES. 356 [108th] “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding the man-made famine that occurred in Ukraine in 1932–1933.” (2003). However, nowhere does this document “resolve” that the famine is genocide. In the Senate, also in 2003, the following Resolution was introduced, but NOT passed: S.RES. 202  [108th] – “A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate regarding the genocidal Ukraine Famine of 1932-1933.” Unfortunately, S. Res. 202 died in Committee and was never put to a vote on the floor. Another resolution was passed in the House in 2008: H. RES.1314 [110th] which clearly describes the genocidal nature of the famine and refers to the US Commission findings, but again without directly calling the famine a genocide, or resolving that it is a genocide.

But, Babij states, a 2006 US law authorizing funding for the Holodomor memorial might be construed to show indirect US acknowledgement, as it says that “the Government of Ukraine is authorized to establish a memorial on Federal land in the District of Columbia to honor the victims of the Ukrainian famine-genocide of 1932– 1933.”

This memorial was constructed in 2015.

Also, the mayor of New York recognized the Holodomor as genocide against the Ukrainian people, according to Ukraine’s embassy to Canada.

Altogether, there are 18 countries recognizing the Holodomor as genocide. The latest one to do so was Portugal.

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