December 22nd 2007

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Articles from this issue:

EDITORIAL: Bali climate conference disconnected from reality

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Liberals not knowing which way to turn

FILM CLASSIFICATION: Porn film case dismissed by Federal Court

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Can Rudd restore an impartial public service?

FOREIGN DEBT: Last chance to avoid becoming a banana republic?

QUARANTINE: AQIS locks stable door after horse flu has bolted

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: US and Israel differ over Iran nuclear capabilities

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Christmas miscellany / Shopping spree / If the Liberals keep their nerve / One way of spending the surplus / Developing expensive tastes

GENOCIDE: Stalin's Ukrainian famine - the Holodomor

OPINION: Four factors that have shaped the new PM

OPINION: Trojan Horse inside Amnesty International

The abused generation (letter)

John Howard's dignified farewell (letter)

Asbestos cynicism (letter)

Malthusian spectre (letter)

CHRISTMAS POEM: The adoration of the Magi

CINEMA: The Golden Compass - well-crafted fantasy film 'about killing God'

BOOKS: THIRD WAYS: Family-centred economies and why they disappeared, by Allan C. Carlson


Books promotion page

Stalin's Ukrainian famine - the Holodomor

by Michael Lawriwsky

News Weekly, December 22, 2007
Seventy-five years ago, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin starved seven million Ukrainians to death. Michael Lawriwsky reports.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of a great crime, the Holodomor, which literally means, "death by starvation".

It was the deliberate murder of seven million Ukrainians by the criminal Soviet regime of Joseph Stalin. Seventy-five years ago communist fanatics ravaged the countryside of Ukraine, confiscating all food supplies from the farms.

They knew what they were doing. They knew that the people would die - and the children would die first.

The Ukrainians had an independent streak. They didn't want to live in communes, and they didn't want to be ruled by Moscow. They had to be destroyed.

The noted British Sovietologist Robert Conquest began his book, The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine (1986), with a description of Ukraine of 1932-33 as a concentration camp, "like one vast Belsen", where the camp guards walked around comfortably while their victims perished.

Deliberate policy

As millions died, and others moved in search of food, armed guards sealed off the border with Russia, where there was food. As millions died the USSR exported grain. According to Dr Taras Hunczak of Rutgers University, 28 million tons were exported during 1932 and 1933 - four tons of grain per man, woman and child who starved. There was no physical reason that they should have died. It was a deliberate policy.

By exporting grain they denied that there was a famine - they denied the genocide.

But the "Big Lie" only lived as long as the regime that perpetrated it. As the cracks appeared in the Soviet façade in the 1980s, the US Congress established a Ukrainian Famine Commission, headed by a young American academic, Dr James Mace. A part Cherokee Indian from Oklahoma who learned to speak Ukrainian, he led a team of researchers who established that the famine was indeed genocide against the Ukrainian people.

In 1987 he obtained formerly classified documents that revealed the dishonesty of New York Times journalist Walter Duranty, who in 1932 had lied in his reports to Americans that there was no famine. British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge called him "the greatest liar of any journalist I have met in 50 years of journalism".

For his efforts Duranty was awarded the 1932 Pulitzer Prize for journalism, while Stalin rewarded him with a lucrative Soviet fur-trading contract. There has been a campaign to have Duranty's Pulitzer prize revoked posthumously - so far without success.

We should be proud today to recall that, since the 1980s, Australia has a very fine record on the Ukrainian famine.

A great humanitarian, the late Victorian Senator Alan Missen, gave the first speech on the Ukrainian famine in the Australian Senate on November 1, 1983, the 50th anniversary.

Two years later, on October 10, 1985, the then Leader of the Opposition, John Howard, opened the Ukrainian Famine Memorial in Canberra. Also present were Senator Alan Missen, Philip Ruddock MP, and Senator Don Chipp. They heard John Howard describe the famine as "one of the most barbaric acts of human history. In terms of lives lost, it ranks with Hitler's war against the Jews on any measure of human evil".

In 1992, as Foreign Minister, Senator Gareth Evans publicly acknowledged that during the 20th century, "the Ukrainian people have endured the horrific loss of millions of lives in the famine of 1932-33, repeated purges of its academic and cultural leaders, and the ravages of two world wars".

Then in 2003 two Liberal senators, Bill Heffernan (New South Wales) and Rod Kemp (Victoria), worked together to introduce the Ukrainian Famine motion, which recognised that the Ukrainian Famine "constitutes one of the most heinous acts of genocide in history".

Like Australia, the parliaments of 13 countries have passed motions recognising the Ukrainian Famine as genocide. Russia is not one of them.

After the Orange Revolution of 2004, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko launched a concerted campaign to bring back the memory of the Holodomor to Ukraine, where brutal repression had taken its toll. He succeeded, and in 2006 the Ukrainian Parliament voted (narrowly) to declare the Holodomor to be genocide against the Ukrainian people.

Now Ukraine is taking the matter to the United Nations under the theme "Ukraine remembers - the world acknowledges". Now Ukraine is calling on Australia to support a resolution by the United Nations to have the Holodomor recognised as genocide.

It is noteworthy that the perpetrators of genocide have always denied their crimes. It was the same with Nazi Germany, which denied the Holocaust, and the Ottoman Empire, which denied the Armenian genocide. What if today's Germany had a Chancellor who had been a Gestapo officer in his former career, and had now surrounded himself with former Gestapo comrades, was keen on building a Fourth Reich and applauded the greatness of Adolf Hilter? Would we also expect him to deny the crime of genocide against Jews?

Now consider Putin's Russia. Putin is an ex-KGB officer who has surrounded himself with his former colleagues. He is a demagogue. He lauds Stalin as a great leader, and is gearing up Russia for a great power comeback as the successor state to the Soviet Union. He denies the genocide.

The Russian Government no longer denies that the Ukrainian Famine happened, but the genocide continues to be denied. The question asked by Dr Andrei Marchukov in Novosti in October this year, was "Why is such sensation whipped up over bygones?" His answer was that it is Ukrainian propaganda, "out to develop a guilt complex in Russians to make them feel morally and materially responsible for the tragedy". According to Marchukov, it was not genocide since "all Soviet peoples were victims". This is like claiming that the Holocaust was not genocide against Jews because all the people of Eastern Europe were victims.

Definition of genocide

The UN Convention's definition of genocide is "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical (sic.), racial or religious group, as such: a) Killing members of the group…".

We don't need to read any further.

The Holodomor was not presided over by a Russian - Joseph Stalin was a Georgian. However, the orders came from Moscow, as did the "Twenty-Five Thousanders" - the Russian communist volunteers who were sent to Ukraine to apply force to the farming communities. There were many Ukrainian accomplices to the crime - it's never black and white.

It was not genocide perpetrated by "Russians" or the Russian nation against the Ukrainian nation - that is an impossible concept. But it was, most definitely, a genocide perpetrated against the Ukrainian nation by the Soviet communist regime of Joseph Stalin based in Moscow.

It was a genocide that killed millions, and left millions more traumatised for the rest of their lives.

In conclusion I would like to leave you to consider the words of the late Dr James Mace, who finished his speech at the opening of the Famine Memorial in Canberra in 1985. He was asked to speak at the last minute, so he wrote the words on his knee, like Abraham Lincoln on his way to delivering the Gettysburg Address. Dr Mace said of the Ukrainian Famine:

"Some of those who will carry to the grave the burden of that trauma and that memory are among us today.

"We have gathered here today to join with them in an act of remembrance, to pledge that even when witnesses of the Ukrainian genocide are no longer among us, their trauma shall not be forgotten. We pledge that their children, their children's children, and their descendants to the last generation will bear remembrance.

"We pledge ourselves to the memory of that crime and that tragedy, not in the spirit of hatred and lust for revenge, but as the trusteeship of a sacred duty. We shall testify that by his crimes Stalin showed himself to be the moral equal of Hitler, and his government the equivalent of the Third Reich.

"We shall demonstrate by the example of our memory that the crime of genocide - no matter when or where, by whom or to what purpose, despite even the most strenuous of denials - will always and inevitably be exposed. We pledge ourselves before God that, until the end of days, we shall not forget."

- Text of a speech given by Professor Michael Lawriwsky, chairman of the Ukrainian Studies Fund, at the Holodomor commemoration, Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, North Melbourne, December 2, 2007.


"The most terrible thing I have ever seen"

English journalist Malcolm Muggeridge visited Ukraine and the Northern Caucasus in the early summer of 1933 and witnessed first hand the famine's devastation. Fifty years later he recalled:

"As a journalist over the last half century I have seen some pretty awful things…. But the famine is the most terrible thing I have ever seen, precisely because of the deliberation with which it was done and the total absence of any sympathy with the people."

- Malcolm Muggeridge, quoted in an interview with The Ukrainian Weekly (New Jersey), May 29 and June 5, 1983.


Writer Arthur Koestler described seeing from his train starving children who "looked like embryos out of alcohol bottles … the stations were lined with begging peasants with swollen hands and feet, the women holding up to the carriage windows horrible infants with enormous wobbling heads, stick-like limbs and swollen, pointed bellies."

- quoted in Robert Conquest, The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine (1986).


Vasily Grossman, a Jew and the Soviet Union's leading chronicler of the Holocaust, compared the condition of the Ukrainian children he saw with that of Jewish children in Hitler's camps: "Their heads [were] 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 70 years old. And by 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."

- quoted in Robert Conquest, The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine (1986).

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