Thursday, April 29, 2010

Yanukovych Says Ukrainian Famine Not Genocide

It's been a good week for Moscow vis-a-vis ties with their Slavic brethren in Ukraine.  First, the Kremlin secured a 25-year extension to the lease for its Black Sea fleet.  Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin smirked smugly as Ukrainian lawmakers rocked and socked amid the a haze from smoke bombs to ratify the extension, which opposition gadflies blasted as a sellout of Ukraine's sovereignty.  For Russia, Yanukovich was paying immediate dividends.  But he wasn't finished.  Now, Yanukovich has had a rethink on the Holodomor, the Stalin-era 1930s famine that Ukrainian patriots, as well as more than a dozen countries, have classified as a genocide.Yanukovich said that Holodomor was “a consequence of Stalin’s totalitarian regime,” but cannot be called genocide against any particular nation, since mass famine was a tragedy for all countries in the Soviet Union.
Yanukovich made his reassessment before the Parliamentary Assemby of the Council of Europe, or PACE, earlier this week. 

The gist of Yanukovich's reasoning is that the famine did not target, or single out the Ukrainian people, but was rather a tragedy with suffering all around. 

A day later, PACE had a meeting of minds with Yanukovich, refusing to recognize the famine as a genocide.  

Its resolution states that the Stalin regime is guilty for the widespread famine that hurt the Soviet Union in the 30s.

"Stalin's totalitarian regime was guilty of the terrible famine in the years 1932-1933 in the Soviet Union," states the document.

The assembly said that the famine was provoked by the premeditated actions and policies of the Soviet regime and that affected millions in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldavia and Kazakhstan.

According to the head of the Russian delegation Konstantin Kosachev, the abolition of the amendments, strongly opposed by Russia, draws a final line under ex-President Yushchenko’s political project that describes Holodomor as genocide of Ukrainians.

Over at Russia Today, John Laughland from the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation in Paris, was speaking the same language.

“The attempt to present the Stalinist period – and particularly the famine of 1932-33 – as having been an act directed by Russians against Ukrainians is historical nonsense, and it’s dangerous nonsense,” he argued.

“Everybody knows that the Soviet regime was not led by a Russian but by a Georgian,” he continued. “And in any case, throughout the Soviet hierarchy and the membership of the Communist Party, there were people of all nationalities.”

“In the Soviet Socialist Republic of Ukraine, people administering the policies which led to the famine and to millions of extra deaths there would have been Ukrainians as much as many other nationalities,” Laughland added.

What a difference a few months make.

Back in January, a Kiev court adjudged the famine to have been a genocide.

The court case followed an 8-month investigation by the Ukrainian security service that produced more than 300 volumes of evidence including testimonies by survivors and witnesses, and recently declassified materials.

The Kiev court ruling came four years after the Ukrainian parliament voted in favor of a resolution calling the famine an act of genocide.

Critically, from Moscow's perspective, the court ruling did not contain claims against Russia as the legal successor of the Soviet Union. 

Nevertheless, the Russians saw something sinister lurking in the shadows. 

The decision is “part of a plan aimed at initiating a row with Russia,” said the Speaker of Russia’s State Duma, Boris Gryzlov. Gryzlov, one of the leaders of the ruling United Russia party, believes that such a plan has been on the roll for several years now.

Over the years, the Russians have thwarted Ukrainian attempts to debate the holodomor. 

Like in 2008 when Moscow threw a diplomatic wrench into Kiev's hopes to have the UN General Assembly debate the 1930s famine.

Five years earlier in 2003, the UN did agree the famine was the result of cruel actions and policies of the totalitarian regime that caused the deaths of millions of Ukrainians, Russians, Kazakhs and other nationalities in the USSR.

On October 23, 2008 the European Parliament did adopt a resolution that recognized the Holodomor as a crime against humanity, but not a genocide. 

Now, the president of the country most impacted by the crime is joining the no-genocide camp while Moscow grins. 
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1 comment:

Outside the box thinker said...

I think it is a bit strange that it is not considered as a genocide. Sure people in the soviet union and countries surrounding may have suffered starvation which now as we look at it is a famine, but during those years and even after, the incident of the famine was kept on the down low. If anyone brought up the fact, they could have been killed with their whole family. This whole issue was kept hidden and quiet for a long time. But looking at the facts, many did suffer from special and particularly lethal policies that were adopted in the soviet system, but the policies largely limited Ukraine at the end of 1932 and 1933. There were seven crucial policies that applied only, or mainly, to Soviet Ukraine:
1. From November 18, 1932 peasants from Ukraine were required to return extra grain they had previously earned for meeting their targets. State police and party brigades were sent into these regions to root out any food they could find.
2. Two days later, a law was passed forcing peasants who could not meet their grain quotas to surrender any livestock they had.
3. Eight days later, collective farms that failed to meet their quotas were placed on "blacklists" in which they were forced to surrender 15 times their quota. These farms were picked apart for any possible food by party activists. Blacklisted communes had no right to trade or to receive deliveries of any kind, and became death zones.
4. In November 1932 Ukraine was required to provide 1/3 of the grain collection of the entire Soviet Union. As Lazar Kaganovich put it, the Soviet state would fight "ferociously" to fulfill the plan.
5. On December 5, 1932, Stalin's security chief presented the justification for terrorizing Ukrainian party officials to collect the grain. It was considered treason if anyone refused to do their part in grain requisitions for the state.
6. In January 1933 Ukraine's borders were sealed in order to prevent Ukrainian peasants from fleeing to other republics. By the end of February 1933 approximately 190,000 Ukrainian peasants had been caught trying to flee Ukraine and were forced to return to their villages to starve.
7. The collection of grain continued even after the annual requisition target for 1932 was met in late January 1933.

Now as stated by a historian Timothy Snyder in his book Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, "Each of them may seem like an anodyne administrative measure, and each of them was certainly presented as such at the time, and yet each had to kill" think about those "rules" that were put down at that time mainly for and only Ukraine which did end up causing the famine, killing 1/3 of Ukraine's population.
Due to such facts, I wouldn't really say that this should be just an issue looked over and put away but instead looked over and really thought about the motives that drove and caused the famine.