Quotes about the 1933 Genocidal Famine in Soviet-Occupied Ukraine

Teacher’s tip: Quotations are a wonderful tool for educators to use in the classroom. They may be used to introduce a topic, encourage a discussion on a specific aspect or concern or as a starter statement for an essay topic for students to research and analyze. Below are a number of such quotes.

On genocide

A genocide begins with the killing of one man – not for what he has done, but because of who he is.
The intrusion of history is not just theoretical. It is also the legacy of being an accomplice or a victim, or just an onlooker. In each case, history entails the uncomfortable presence of earlier unresolved roles.

Genocide in Ukraine

This was the first instance of a peacetime genocide in history. It took the extraordinary form of an artificial famine deliberately created by the ruling powers. This savage combination of words for the designation of a crime — “an artificial, deliberately planned famine” — is still incredible to many people throughout the world, but indicates the uniqueness of the tragedy of 1933, which is unparalleled, for a time of peace, in the number of victims it claimed.
Here, the genocide of a ‘class’ may well be tantamount to the genocide of a ‘race’ —the deliberate starvation of a child of a Ukrainian kulak as a result of the famine caused by Stalin’s regime “is equal to” the starvation of a Jewish child in the Warsaw ghetto as a result of the famine caused by the Nazi regime.

Explanations for the Genocidal Famine

But it is also beyond doubt that after all, the peasant question is the basis, the quintessence, of the national question. That explains the fact that the peasantry constitutes the main army of the national movement, that there is no powerful national movement without the peasant army, nor can there be. That is what is meant when it is said that in essence, the national question is a peasant question.
What nonsense. What a foolish rationalization of murder and perversion of Leninist policy. … I’m sure when that time comes, historians will be able to find sufficient material to make an objective assessment. In addition to our own experience here in the Soviet Union, they will be able to draw on examples of collectivization in the German Democratic Republic, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Romania… There were nowhere near as many victims as in our country… but the worst troubles with collectivization in other countries were a far cry from what happened in the Soviet Union under Stalin. Collectivization in Romania was a gradual process, carried out in stages. While it elicited local disturbances and resistance, there were no major or widespread riots.
The Terror-Famine of 1932-33 was a dual-purpose by-product of collectivization, designed to suppress Ukrainian nationalism and the most important concentration of prosperous peasants at one throw.
Ukrainians, being profoundly religious, individualistic, believers in private property, and attached to their plots of land, were obviously unsuitable material for building communism, and this fact was noted by high-ranking Soviet officials. As a nation we were subject to destruction. The remnants of the Ukrainian people were to become material for forming a “new historical society — the Soviet people,” with the Russian population, language and culture at its core.
Moscow employed famine as a political weapon against the Ukrainians for a second time in the years 1932-33, with this difference, that this time the famine was in its entirety artificially induced and organized.  It was the result of a well worked-out plan which was to take in the entire Ukrainian SSR and the Kuban districts which had a Ukrainian population.
Research into the surviving documents that have been released since the collapse of the Soviet Union clearly has shown that the Soviet government used the Famine, which certainly hit the Soviet Union as a whole, and was particularly severe in other areas of peasant resistance, like the Volga and the Don, as a tool to break the Ukrainian peasantry’s opposition to collectivization in particular, and also to eliminate the leadership of the Ukrainian Communist Party, which it believed to be too nationalistic and too sympathetic to the plight of the peasantry.
Nowhere did restrictions, purges, repressions and in general all forms of bureaucratic hooliganism assume such murderous sweep as they did in the Ukraine in the struggle against the powerful, deeply-rooted longings of the Ukrainian masses for greater freedom and independence.
Under the direct leadership and directions of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and personally of comrade Stalin, we smashed the Ukrainian nationalist counterrevolution.
I remain convinced that, for Stalin to have complete centralized power in his hands, he found it necessary to physically destroy the second-largest Soviet republic, meaning the annihilation of the Ukrainian peasantry, Ukrainian intelligentsia, Ukrainian language, and history as understood by the people; to do away with Ukraine and things Ukrainian as such. The calculation was very simple, very primitive: no people, therefore, no separate country, and thus no problem. Such a policy is GENOCIDE in the classic sense of the word.
Famine was quite deliberately employed as an instrument of national policy, as the last means of breaking the resistance of the peasantry to the new system where they are divorced from personal ownership of the land and obligated to work on the conditions which the state may dictate to them and deliver up whatever the state may demand from them.
This famine may fairly be called political because it was not the result of any overwhelming natural catastrophe or of such a complete exhaustion of the country’s resources in foreign and civil war as preceded and helped to cause the famine 1921-22.
I saw the ravages of the famine of 1932-33 in the Ukraine: hordes of families in rags begging at the railway stations, the women lifting up to the compartment window their starving brats which — with drumstick limbs, big cadaverous heads, puffed bellies —looked like embryos out of alcohol bottles…
… On one side, millions of starving peasants, their bodies often swollen from lack of food; on the other, soldiers, members of the GPU carrying out the instructions of the dictatorship of the proletariat. They had gone over the country like a swarm of locusts and taken away everything edible; they had shot or exiled thousands of peasants, sometimes whole villages; they had reduced some of the most fertile land in the world to a melancholy desert.
On a battlefield men die quickly, they fight back, they are sustained by fellowship and a sense of duty. Here I saw people dying in solitude by slow degrees, dying hideously, without the excuse of sacrifice for a cause. They had been trapped and left to starve, each in his home, by a political decision made in a far-off capital around conference and banquet tables. […] The most terrifying sights were the little children with skeleton limbs dangling from balloon – like abdomens. Starvation had wiped every trace of youth from their faces, turning them into tortured gargoyles; only in their eyes still lingered the reminder of childhood. Everywhere we found men and women lying prone, their faces and bellies bloated, their eyes utterly expressionless. Anger lashed my mind as I drove back to the village. Butter being sent abroad in the midst of the famine! In London, Berlin, Paris I could see with my mind’s eye people eating butter stamped with a Soviet trademark. “They must be rich to be able to send out butter,” I could hear them saying. “Here, friends, is the proof of socialism in action.” Driving through the fields, I did not hear the lovely Ukrainian songs so dear to my heart. These people had forgotten how to sing. I could hear only the groans of the dying, and the lip-smacking of fat foreigners enjoying our butter…
And the peasant children! Have you ever seen the newspaper photographs of the children in the German camps? They were just like that: their heads like heavy balls on thin little necks, like storks, and one could see each bone of their arms and legs protruding from beneath the skin, how bones joined, and the entire skeleton was stretched over with skin that was like yellow gauze. And the children’s faces were aged, tormented, just as if they were seventy years old. And by the spring they no longer had faces at all. Instead, they had birdlike heads with beaks, or frog heads — thin, wide lips — and some of them resembled fish, mouths open. Not human faces.

Consequences of the Famine in Ukraine

Churchill had his first wartime meeting with Stalin in Moscow in August 1942. After formal negotiations during the day, they were having an informal dinner in Stalin’s quarters on the last evening before Churchill’s departure. I [Churchill] asked, “have the stresses of this war been as bad to you personally as carrying through the policy of the Collective Farms?” This subject immediately roused the Marshal [Stalin]. “Oh, no,” he said, “the Collective Farm policy was a terrible struggle.” “I thought you would have found it bad,” said I, “because you were not dealing with a few score thousands of aristocrats or big landowners, but with millions of small men.”’ “Ten millions,” he said, holding up his hands. “It was fearful. Four years it lasted. It was absolutely necessary for Russia.”
Hundreds of thousands of lives were lost — maybe even millions. I can’t give an exact figure because no one was keeping count. All we knew was that people were dying in enormous numbers.
Imagine the Titanic sinking every day for thirteen years! Such were the losses from the 1933 Famine Genocide in Soviet Ukraine.
Yet it is well to remember, as Robert Conquest’s powerful book obliges us to do, that the forced collectivization of agriculture decreed by the Soviet master and his party likely cost the lives of more people than perished in all countries as a result of the First World War.
It was the forced resettlement of a whole people, an ethnic catastrophe. But yet so cleverly were the channels of the GPU – Gulag organized that the cities would have noticed nothing had they not been stricken by a strange three – year famine — a famine that came about without drought and without war.

Cover-up and Denial

The Stalinist totalitarian regime tried hard to ensure that everyone kept silent about the Holodomor, even people who had survived it, as well as their children and grandchildren; so that no one knew about this genocide abroad, and if they found out about it, they would keep silent.
For quite six years the English admirers of Hitler contrived not to learn of the existence of Dachau and Buchenwald. And those who are loudest in denouncing the German concentration camps were often quite unaware, or only very dimly aware, that there are also concentration camps in Russia. Huge events like the Ukraine famine of 1933, involving the deaths of millions of people, have actually escaped the attention of the majority of English Russophiles.
Duranty was a chain-smoking, Scotch drinking vulgar sort of man who made no apologies for his admiration of Stalin. He was held in awe by other journalists, especially young female journalists. He did not fail to use the awe to his advantage, or rather their disadvantage. As Fascism rose in Europe, and Japanese jingoism emerged in the East, Duranty wrote glowing accounts of Stalin’s Five-Year Plan. Almost single-handedly did Duranty aid and abet one of the world’s most prolific mass murderers, knowing all the while what was going on, but refraining from saying precisely what he knew to be true. He had swallowed the ends-justifies-the-means argument hook, line and sinker. Duranty loved to repeat, when Stalin’s atrocities were brought to light, ‘you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.’ Those ‘eggs’ were the heads of men, women and children, and those ‘few’ were merely tens of millions.

Canada on the Holodomor

Member of Parliament Inky Mark: “Mr. Speaker, as many as seven million Ukrainians were starved in Soviet socialist dictator Josef Stalin’s artificial forced famine in Ukraine in 1932 and 1933. This is approximately the total population of Manitoba, Newfoundland, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and P.E.I.


[Excerpt From Holodomor in Ukraine, The Genocidal Famine 1932-33: Teaching Materials for Teachers and Students

– By Valentina Kuryliw]