Primary documents

Primary documents are an excellent resource for students to develop critical thinking skills by having them analyze and synthesize information.  The recent publication and translation of Soviet and Ukrainian archives on the Holodomor have made the study of primary documents possible.

Teachers are urged to have students practice the Historian’s Craft, by having them analyze primary documents as if they were the only information available on the topic.  This could be done by analyzing individual documents as a class, or by using a ‘jigsaw’ exercise to extract basic information from all the documents in a concise and quick manner, using a prepared chart for recording the information

The following documents appear in the collection Holodomor of 1932-33 in Ukraine: Documents and Materials, Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, 2008, Kyiv, Ruslan Pyrih, ed.

1. Resolution “On safekeeping property of state enterprises, collective farms and cooperatives and strengthening public (socialist) property (excerpt)

August 7, 1932


  1. Make all property belonging to collective farms and cooperatives (harvests in the fields, public reserves, livestock, cooperative stock and stores, etc.) equivalent to state property and fully strengthen the protection of this property against theft.
  2. Use judicial repressions of the highest degree as measures of social protection against theft of kolhosp and collective property: execution by shooting and confiscation of all property, variable under mitigating circumstances to ten years imprisonment with confiscation of all property.
  3. Amnesty cannot be granted to criminals sentenced in cases of collective farm and cooperative property theft.


  1. Conduct decisive battle with all anti-public, kulak-capitalist elements that use violence and threats, or promote the use of violence and threats, against collective farmers, forcing them to leave or purposefully destroy collective farms.
  2. Use measures of judicial repressions for protecting collective farms and collective farmers from violence and threats on the part of kulak and other anti-public elements: imprisonment for five to ten years in a concentration camp.
  3. Amnesty cannot be granted to criminals sentenced in these cases.

Head, USSR Central Executive Committee, M. Kalinin

Head, Council of Peoples’ Commissars, V. Molotov(Skryabin)

Secretary, USSR Central Executive Committee, А. Yenukidze

Communist newspaper, August 9, 1932; “Collectivization of agriculture: the most important resolutions of the Communist Party and Soviet government, 1927-1935,” Moscow, 1957, pp. 423-424.

* This law made collective farm property equal to state property and provided extremely severe punitive measures for encroaching on the harvest. In popular lore, this resolution became known as “the law of five ears of wheat.” Stalin would later invoke the law in a January All-Union Politburo resolution.

Ruslan Pyrih, ed, pp. 46-47

2. Letter from Stalin to Kaganovich on changing Ukrainian SSR leadership (excerpt)

August 11, 1932

… 3) The main issue is now Ukraine. Matters in Ukraine are currently extremely bad.  Bad from the standpoint of the Party line.  They say that in two oblasts of Ukraine (Kyiv and Dnipropetrovsk, I believe), nearly 50 raion Party committees have spoken out against the grain procurement plan as unrealistic.  They say the matter is no better in other raion committees.  What does this look like?  This is not a Party, but a parliament, a caricature of a parliament.  Instead of directing the raions, Kosior is always waffling between CC AUCP directives and the demands of raion committees, and he’s waffled himself to the end.  Lenin was right when he said that a person who lacks the courage to go against the flow at the right moment cannot be a real Bolshevik leader.  Bad from the standpoint of the Soviet line.  Chubar is no leader.  Bad from the standpoint of the GPU. [Stanislaw] Redens is incapable of leading the battle with counterrevolution in such a large and unique republic as Ukraine.

If we do not correct the situation in Ukraine immediately, we will lose Ukraine.

Also keep in mind that within the Ukrainian Communist Party (500,000 members, ha, ha) there is no lack (yes, no lack!) of rotten elements, active and latent petlurites and direct agents of Pilsudski.  As soon as things get worse, these elements won’t hesitate to open a front within (and outside) the Party, against the Party.   Worst of all, the Ukrainian leadership does not see these dangers.

Things should not continue this way any longer.

It is necessary:

  1. to remove Kosior from Ukraine and replace him with you [Kaganovich]; you will retain the post of secretary of the CC AUCP(b);
  2. after this, transfer Balitsky to Ukraine as chairman of the Ukrainian GPU (or PP [authorized representative] to Ukraine, as it seems the GPU chairman position in Ukraine does not exist) and he will remain deputy chairman of the [All-Union] OGPU; make Redens a deputy to Balitsky in Ukraine;*
  3. in a few months replace Chubar with another comrade, say, Hrynko or anybody else, and appoint Chubar to be Molotov’s deputy in Moscow (Kosior can be made one of the secretaries of the CC AUCP(b));**
  4. Set yourself the goal of turning Ukraine into a fortress of the USSR, a real model republic, within the shortest possible time.  Don’t spare money for this purpose.

Without these and similar measures (economic and political strengthening of Ukraine starting with the raions along the border, etc.), I repeat once again: we will lose Ukraine.

What do you think on this matter?

This requires attention as soon as possible, immediately after [your] arrival in Moscow.


J. Stalin


Р. S. I have spoken to Menzhinsky about Balitsky and Redens. He agrees and fully supports the changes.***

RGASPI, fond 81, list 3, file 99, sheets 146-151;

Stalin and Kaganovich. Correspondence. 1931-1936 (Moscow, 2001, 798 pp) Stalin i Kaganovich. Perepyska. 1931-1936 pp.273-274.

* Vsevold Balitsky (1892-1937) was dispatched to the Ukrainian SSR by CC AUCP(b) Politburo resolution “On a Special OGPU Commissioner for Ukraine” from November 24, 1932. Balitsky was the deputy head of the OGPU joint state political administration, SNK USSR (1931-1934). He headed the GPU political police in Ukraine (1933-1937) and was a member of the Central Oversight Commission of the All-Union Party. Stanislaw Redens (1892-1938) was a member of the Central Committee of the All-Union party (1927-1934) and the head of the Ukrainian SSR republican GPU (1931-1933). He was replaced by Balitsky as head of the Ukrainian GPU in February 1933.

** Hryhori Hrynko (1890-1938) was the SNK USSR Peoples’ Commissar for Finance (1930-1937).

*** Vyacheslav Menzhinsky (1874-1934) was the head of the SNK USSR OGPU (1926-1934)


Ruslan Pyrih, ed, pp. 47-49

3. Resolution of CC AUCP(b) and USSR SNK on grain procurements in Ukraine, the Northern Caucasus and the Western Oblast

December 14, 1932


On hearing reports from Comrades Rumiantsev, Secretary of the Western Oblast Party

committee; Kosior, Secretary of the CC CP(b)U; Stroganov, Secretary of the Dnipropetrovsk oblast Party committee; and Sheboldaev, Secretary of the North Caucasus regional Party committee, the CC AUCP(b) and the SNK USSR resolve the following:


  1. The CC CP(b)U and the Ukrainian SSR RNK, on the personal responsibility of Comrades

Kosior and Chubar, shall fully complete the grain and sunflower seed procurement

plan by the end of January 1933.


  1. The North Caucasus regional Party and executive committees, on the personal responsibility

of Comrades Sheboldaev and Larin, shall fully complete the procurement

plan for grain by January 10 to 15, 1933, and for sunflower seeds by the end of January



  1. The Western Oblast Party and executive committees, on the personal responsibility of

Comrades Rumiantsev and Shelekhes, shall fully complete the procurement plan for

grain by January 1, 1933, and for flax by February 1, 1933.


  1. In view of extremely poor efforts and the absence of revolutionary vigilance in a number of local Party organizations in Ukraine and the North Caucasus, a significant number of raions has been infiltrated by counterrevolutionary elements: kulaks, former officers, petlurites, supporters of the Kuban Rada, and so on. They have managed to find their way into collective farms as directors and other influential administration members, accountants, storekeepers, threshing floor foremen, and so on. They have succeeded in infiltrating village councils, land management bodies and cooperative societies, and are now trying to direct the work of these organizations against the interests of the proletarian state and Party policy, as well as trying to organize a counterrevolutionary movement and sabotage of the harvest and sowing campaigns. The CC AUCP(b) and SNK USSR order the CC CP(b)U, North Caucasus regional Party and executive committees and the RNK of Ukraine to resolutely root out these counterrevolutionary elements by means of arrest and long-term imprisonment in concentration camps, without stopping short of capital punishment for the most malicious elements.


  1. The CC and RNK instruct party and government organizations of the Soviet Union that the worst enemies of the Party, working class, and collective farm peasantry are the saboteurs of grain procurement who have Party membership cards in their pockets. To please kulaks and other anti-Soviet elements, they organize state fraud and double- deals, and fail to complete tasks established by the Party and government. The CC and RNK order appropriate structures to apply austere repressions against these traitors and enemies of Soviet rule and collective farms, who still carry Party membership cards in their pockets: five to ten year terms of imprisonment in concentration camps and, under certain circumstances, execution by shooting.


  1. The CC and RNK point out that instead of the correct Bolshevik implementation of nationality policy, “ukrainization” was carried out mechanically in a number of raions of Ukraine, failing to take into consideration the peculiarities of every raion and without the meticulous selection of Bolshevik cadres. This made it easier for bourgeois nationalist elements, petliurites and others to create their legal facades and counterrevolutionary cells and organizations.


  1. The CC and RNK especially point out to the Party and executive committees of the

North Caucasus region that the irresponsible, anti-Bolshevik “ukrainization” which affected nearly half of the raions in the North Caucasus do not correspond to the cultural interests of the population. It was carried out with a complete lack of supervision on the part of territorial agencies over the ukrainization of schools and the press, and provided the enemies of Soviet rule with legal facades for organizing resistance to the endeavors of Soviet authorities by kulaks, [czarist] officers, re-emigrating kozaks, members of the Kuban Rada, etc. In order to crush the resistance to grain procurement by kulak elements and their “Party” and non-party flunkeys, the CC and SNK USSR resolve the following:


  1. a) To relocate the entire population of the most counterrevolutionary “Poltava” stanytsia (Northern Caucasus) to the northern oblasts of the USSR in the shortest time possible, with the exception of those collective and individual farmers who are truly loyal to Soviet rule and who have not been implicated in grain procurement sabotage. Populate this village with conscientious collective farmers who are Red Army soldiers and are currently working in territories that suffer from shortages and poor quality of land. Transfer all lands, winter crops, buildings, inventory and livestock from the farmers being expelled to these settlers. Responsibility for implementing this resolution (paragraph “a”) shall rest with Comrades Yagoda, Gamarnik (with Comrade Bulygin as his substitute), Sheboldaev, and Yevdokimov.


  1. b) Prosecute and sentence traitors of the Party who were arrested in Ukraine for organizing the sabotage of grain procurement to five-ten year terms in concentration camps: former raion secretaries, chairmen of executive committees, directors of land management bodies and chairmen of raion associations of collective farms, specifically: Golovin, Pryhoda, Palamarchuk, Ordelian and Lutsenko in Orikhiv raion; Khoroshko, Us’ and Fishman in Balakliya raion; Yaremenko in Nosiv raion; Liashenko in Kobeliaky raion; Lensky, Kosiachenko, Dvornik, Zyka and Dolgov in Velykyi Tokmak raion.


  1. c) Exile all former communists who were expelled from the Party for sabotaging the sowing and grain procurement campaigns to the northern oblasts as kulaks.


  1. d) Propose that the CC CP(b)U and RNK of Ukraine pay serious attention to the proper implementation of ukrainization, to eliminate its mechanical implementation, to expel petliurites and other bourgeois-nationalist elements from Party and government organizations, to meticulously select and train Ukrainian Bolshevik cadres and to ensure Party management of and supervision over ukrainization on a regular basis.


  1. e) Immediately change the language used in offices of Soviet entities and cooperative societies, as well as all newspapers and magazines in the ukrainized raions of the Northern Caucasus, from Ukrainian to Russian, explaining that Russian is more understandable to Kuban residents. Also, prepare to change the language of instruction at schools to Russian by autumn. The CC and RNK order the regional Party and executive committees to immediately investigate the staff workers of schools in ukrainized raions.


  1. f) In cancellation of a previous resolution, allow delivery of goods to Ukrainian villages and grant Comrades Kosior and Chubar the right to suspend delivery of goods to particularly retrograde raions, until they fulfill the grain procurement plan.


Chairman of the SNK USSR V. Molotov (Skryabin)

Secretary of the CC AUCP(b) J. Stalin

RGASPI, fond 17, list 3, file 911, sheets 42-44;

TsDAHO Ukrayiny, fond 1, list 20, file 5243, sheets 234-238;

Commanders of the Great Famine: V. Molotov and L. Kaganovich, trips to Ukraine and the Northern Caucasus. 1932-1933. (Kyiv, 2001, 399 p.)


Komandyry velykoho holodu: poyizdky V. Molotova i L. Kaganovicha v Ukrainu i na Pivnichnyi Kavkaz. 1932-1933.

pp.210-212. Ruslan Pyrih, ed, pp. 65-69


This is a black and white image taken in Donetsk in the 1932-33 and is part of the Innitzer collection. This image depicts 7 men standing behind sacks of grain, this grain will be packed up and taken away to store houses or shipped to other locations in Russia. In the front and beside the sacks of grain and two women, both who do not meet the gave or lens of the camera.


4. Report from Balitsky to the OGPU on the mass exodus of villagers from Ukraine 4

January 22, 1933

The mass exodus of peasants from villages primarily in Kharkiv, Odesa, Kyiv and from parts of Chernihiv oblasts that began in late December, 1932, can be broken down as follows:


Kharkiv oblast:

Incidents of flight have been registered in 19 raions and 39 villages. A total of 20,129 people have fled. Among them: 7,423 collective farmers, 12,698 private farmers and eight Party activists. Odesa oblast: Incidents of flight have been registered in 19 raions, 177 villages and 228 collective farms. A total of 3,447 individuals and 2,642 families have fled. Among them: 1,683 individual collective farmers, 1,259 collective farmer families, 1,320 individual private farmers, 1,007 private farmer families, 438 individual kulaks, 377 kulak families and six Party activists. Kyiv oblast: Incidents of flight have been registered in 27 raions and 437 villages. A total of 6,576 people have fled. Among them: 1,287 collective farmers, 3,936 private farmers, 1,244 kulaks and 109 Party activists.


Chernihiv oblast:

Incidents of flight have been registered in nine raions and 68 villages. A total of 1,541 individuals and 146 families have fled. Among them: 146 individual collective farmers, three collective farmer families, 1,246 private farmers, 124 private farmer families, 141 individual kulaks, 19 kulak families, and five Party activists. All told, incidents of flight in these oblasts have been registered in 74 raions, 721 villages, and 228 collective farms. A total of 31,693 individuals and 2,789 families have left. Among them: 10,539 individual collective farmers and 1,262 collective farm families, 19,203 individual private farmers and 1,131 private farm families, 1,823 individual kulaks and 396 kulak families and 126 Party activists. In most cases, the incidents of flight can be attributed to the search for work. The fact that malicious non-deliverers of grain prevail among those fleeing is evidence that this exodus is from the countryside. Some of those fleeing from their villages take their families along, boarding up their houses and hiding their grain reserves with neighbors and relatives. Some of those fleeing from the villages have buried their grain in the ground. In some villages, those fleeing are primarily the heads of families. Most of those fleeing their villages are headed to Donbas and large industrial centers. The exodus of collective farmers is occurring on a much lower scale than the flight of private farmers. There are also incidents of village council and collective farm chairmen, including “communists,” leaving their villages without permission. “Communists” are fleeing from their villages because they are afraid of facing repressions for the sabotage of grain procurement and failure to perform the tasks set by the Party. Inspections of the Lozova and Sumy railway junctions in Kharkiv oblast, where flight from villages is particularly large in scale, showed high ticket sales for long-distance trains in January this year: 16,500 tickets were sold at Lozova station and 15,000 at Sumy station in January. The growth of ticket sales has also been observed at the Pomoshchna station,

Odesa oblast:

In November, 879 tickets for long-distance trains were sold, 3,614 in December and 1,617 in the first half of January. No rapid spikes of long-distance train ticket sales have been observed at other railway junctions. In early January, in order to stop the flight from villages in a resolute manner, Ukraine’s GPU began arresting the organizers and instigators of the exodus and stepped up intelligence and information-gathering efforts in places where mass exodus had occurred. More than 500 malicious instigators of exodus have been arrested. Ukraine’s GPU has been reporting to the CC CP(b)U and OGPU’s SPO [secret political division] on the mass exodus since December 25, 1932. I am issuing additional orders as per your instructions.

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


  1. Balitsky


APRF, fond 3, list 30, file 189, sheets 7-10;

Top Secret: From Lubianka to Stalin on the state of the country in 4 volumes (Moscow, 2001,

Volume 4) “Sovershenno sekretno”. Lubianka – Stalinu o polozhenii v strane: v 4 t. pp.393-394.

Ruslan Pyrih, ed, pp. 83-85



This is a black and white image taken in Kharkiv in the 1932-33 and is part of the Innitzer collection. This image depicts another one of the mass grave sites that had been used to bury the dead.

Kharkiv – masove pokhovannia