On Monday 23 June, the Times published an excellent article on the Holodomor entitled "The Ukrainian ‘genocide by starvation’". On Friday 27 June a letter from the Russian Ambassador denied genocide on the grounds that other national groups also suffered in the Holodomor, and accusing Ukraine of using the Holodomor for political reasons.

Ukrainians have reacted with both sadness and anger to the defensiveness of Russian government policy, since the campaign for recognition of the Holodomor is a moral and not a political issue.

Letters to the Times have been sent by both the AUGB and by organisations and individuals in Great Britain and around the world. Two are reproduced here to ensure that the accusations of the Russian Ambassador do not go unanswered.

The Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain
49 Linden Gardens, London W2 4HG.
020 7229 8382
Mob 07971 406787

28 June 2008


The Russian Ambassador’s reaction to the article and editorial opinion on the Holodomor (Letters 27 June) is inexplicably defensive and based on a very partial interpretation of the facts.

Ukrainians were certainly not the only nationality to suffer from the enforced famine of 1932-33 or indeed any other of Stalin's repressions.  But Ukraine and regions populated by ethnic Ukrainians were indisputably treated differently. During the late 1920s there were mass arrests, deportations and executions of politicians, teachers, priests, intellectuals and others to suppress Ukrainian national consciousness.

From 1932, Ukraine’s borders were closed to prevent journalists and others from travelling freely; internal passport systems prevented starving peasants from leaving their villages to search for food; laws were passed to allow execution as the punishment for being in possession of as little as a handful of grain; state directives forbade all mention of famine in Ukraine; death certificates were falsified so that deaths from starvation were not recorded; and offers of aid from Western charitable organisations were not allowed into Ukraine.

Documents now being released from Ukrainian state archives show clearly that famine was used as an instrument of Stalin’s policies and that no humanitarian considerations were to deflect him from his twin objectives: to collectivise all agriculture and to break all opposition.

Even Viktor Yanukovich - leader of the opposition Ukrainian Party of the Regions, which has traditionally supported closer ties with Russia, has said:

“The Holodomor is a tragic moment in the history of our people, and causes pain in the hearts of all Ukrainians. Our losses were enormous - we lost at least seven million of our compatriots. This was not just a heavy blow to the nation’s gene pool. In essence, the existence of the Ukrainian nation was placed in doubt”.

More documents exist in Russia’s archives, but there has been a marked reluctance to make these available to Ukrainian and other historians. One can only ask why.

No-one is blaming the Russian nation and the Russian people, who also suffered from Stalin’s crimes against humanity. Yes, we should honour the memory of all the victims of the Holodomor but we must also acknowledge that it is time to look history in the eye and recognise that this was an atrocity which was quite deliberately targeted at Ukrainians. It is only the Russian Government that is making this a political issue. For Ukrainians, acknowledging the full horror of the Holodomor is a matter of morality.

Yours faithfully

Iryna Terlecky
Deputy Chair
Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain

Ambassador Yuri Fedotov's letter (The Great Famine in the Former USSR. Ukraine's historical revisionism) calls to mind Hamlet's Queen Gertrude. To paraphrase Shakespeare, "the Ambassador doth protest too much, methinks".

Ukraine is making no claims against Russia. The genocide issue is raised in the name of historical truth and justice to the victims, not to drive a wedge between the Russian and Ukrainian people.

The number of victims is disputed but it is clear from the documents that most of them perished in Ukraine and the regions of the RSFSR with heavy concentration of ethnic Ukrainians (in all 8 million souls). Northern Caucasus had 3 million Ukrainians and the most affected Kuban region was home to 900.000 Ukrainians or 62 % of the population.

Many of Stalin's repressive policies targeted the Ukrainians. In December 1932, the Ukrainian language was outlawed in the RSFSR. In January 1933, the borders around Ukraine and the Kuban were cordoned off to prevent starving peasants from seeking food in the rest of the Soviet Union.

Stalin wrote in August 1932: "Unless we begin to straighten out the situation in Ukraine, we may lose Ukraine." The destruction of part of the Ukrainian nation was Stalin's preventive measure.

Roman Serbyn Professor of  History (retired) Université du Québec à Montréal

Ukrayinska Dumka


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