Holodomor, or Famine-Genocide in Ukraine
Under the rule of both Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin, numerous document examples of unnatural mass deaths have been recorded. If one was to point the finger at the former Soviet Union for acts of genocide, then one would be able to point in many different directions. From anti-Semitic pogroms to attacks against the Cossack minority, and numerous deportations and mass imprisonments, the history of the Soviet Union is replete with genocide.
In terms of sheer numbers, it is probably the Holodomor, also known as the Ukrainian Genocide of 1932-33, that racked up the greatest score. The Russians, of course, be it in WWI or WWII, always did big numbers, but this certainly was a big one. The death toll attributed to the Holodomor runs to between 7 million and 10 million, which dwarves anything we have looked at so far. These deaths were distributed across all of the most populous regions of Russia, but the greatest impact was felt in Ukraine.
The causes of the 1932-33 famine can be attributed to nothing more complicated than state interference in production. To feed the growing industrial centers of the Soviet Union, the entire grain harvest of 1933 was confiscated, leaving local peasant populations with almost nothing to feed themselves.
As usual, the argument is one of semantics. Does this action fall into the classification of genocide? Some argue that the famine came about as an unintended consequence of the Soviet Union’s rapid, perhaps too rapid industrialization, while others claim that it was a deliberate attack against Ukrainian nationalism, and as such, a textbook case of genocide.
Factors that support claims of genocide include the confiscation not just of grain crops, that were needed to feed a growing industrial army, but also the confiscation of all foodstuffs, including livestock and domestic animals. At the same time, all and any aid was prevented from entering Ukraine, which virtually ensured famine, at least on some level. In all probability, however, this was genocide, because it could not have been done without the expectation that death on a mass scale would be the result.
Until the 1980s, International academic interest in the issue was limited by Soviet censorship, so at the time that it was occurring, very few people were aware of it. Even to date, records are patchy and inconsistent, and much of what is known is through anecdotal reporting and oral history. Currently, only the governments of Australia, Argentina, Georgia, Estonia, Italy, Canada, Lithuania, Poland, the USA and Hungary accept that the events of the Holodomor conform to the legal definition of genocide.
Needless to say, the matter is most keenly felt in the Ukraine, and on 13 January 2010, a Ukrainian court found Joseph Stalin, among numerous other Soviet officials of the period, posthumously guilty of genocide.