Holodomor memorial in Canada.
90 years since the famine genocide in Ukraine

90 years since the famine genocide in Ukraine


The event of 1932–1933 is marked in history as the Holodomor, translating from Ukrainian as 'killing by starvation'

Alekk M. Saanders

Friday, 24 February 2023, 16:05

The full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to sow death and destruction across the country. The war in Ukraine has already killed thousands, forced millions to flee their homes, reduced entire cities and sparked misery.

Russian troops have been accused of committing genocide in Ukraine. Last century the country also experienced a human catastrophe that killed millions of people and has widely been recognised as genocide.

Dictator's plan

The Holodomor was part of the wider Soviet famine which affected the major grain-producing areas of the Soviet Union besides Ukraine including Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. It was a consequence of rapid Soviet industrialisation and collectivisation of agriculture. The historians agree that the cause of the famine was man-made. It was an order of a future dictator, Joseph Stalin.

According to Stalin's policies to collectivise agriculture in 1929, teams of Communist Party agitators forced peasants to relinquish their land, personal property, and sometimes housing to collective farms. Wealthy peasants called 'kulaks' were deported. A drop in production and the disorganisation of the rural economy lead to food shortages. In some parts of Ukraine, a series of peasant rebellions took place, and even armed uprisings occurred.

It is believed, that anger and resistance to the state agricultural policy within the Ukrainian Communist Party scared Stalin. He was concerned that Ukraine would leave the Soviet Union. A series of decisions were taken immediately in order to widen and deepen the famine in the Ukrainian countryside. Farms, villages, and whole towns in Ukraine were placed on blacklists and prevented from receiving food. At the same time, peasants were forbidden to leave the Ukrainian republic in search of food. People were not able to survive, and in spring 1933 death rates in Ukraine spiked.

A joint statement to the United Nations signed by 25 countries in 2003 declared that 7-10 million died, though current scholarship estimates a range with 3.5 to 5 million victims.

«Stalin planned and exacerbated the famine in order to eliminate a Ukrainian independence movement. My granny used to tell me horrible episodes of those years where starving people ate just grass. Examples of cannibalism were found in the archives. We learnt more about the Holodomor when Ukraine became independent, and nowadays, schoolchildren take a more extensive course of the history of the Holodomor,» Aleksey Tyshchenko, a Ukrainian living in Torremolinos, told SUR in English.

Genocide recognition

The Holodomor caused mass graves were dug across the countryside was an attack on Ukrainian identity and culture.

In 1998, Holodomor Memorial Day on the fourth Saturday of November was established in Ukraine by presidential decree. In Canada, where lots of Ukrainians live, Holodomor Memorial Day was also marked to commemorate the genocide. The day is observed by Ukrainian diaspora communities in other countries, including Spain, though Spain doesn't belong to the countries that recognise the Holodomor as genocide.

Since 2006, the Holodomor has been recognised by the European Parliament, Ukraine alongside 22 countries including Portugal, USA, Australia. Last year, Ireland and Germany joined the list of the counties. United Kingdom has to monuments to the Holodomor – in London and in Edinburgh.




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