State Terrorism: The Ukrainian Genocide, 1933

The Ukrainian genocide at the hands of Stalin was as great as the Holocaust engineered by the Nazis, but is much less well known. The silence of prominent Western journalists is one reason why.  Walter Duranty of The New York Times, a Pulitzer prize-winner, admitted privately that ten million or so peasants had been intentionally starved and/or killed, but in public he dismissed reports of this as exaggeration and anti-Soviet propaganda. It turned out later that Duranty was being sexually blackmailed by the KGB.

Estimates of how many people died in Stalin’s engineered famine of 1933 vary. But they are staggering in their scale – between seven and 11 million people.

But despite the horrific number of people who died, the world is relatively unfamiliar with this grisly chapter in Soviet history which claimed lives on the same scale as the holocaust. One of the main reasons is that the Germans were eventually defeated, and thousands of eyewitnesses told  their stories  about concentration  camps and massacres.  The experience  was also  captured  unforgettably in photographs, film, and written accounts, and many of those responsible for the genocide were captured and put on trial………

British historian Robert Conquest is an expert on the period and his 1986 study of the famine, “Harvest of Sorrow,” brought much information about the tragedy to Western audiences for the first time. Conquest said another contrast between the famine and the holocaust is that while Adolf Hitler had written down much of what he intended to do, Stalin did not go on record about the famine.

“In the first place, [the Germans] were caught, so it ended and they had themselves got into an operation where they said what they were doing. Stalin never said he was trying to starve anyone to death. He just took away their food. He never went on record. It was all done under the auspices of humanist talk, socialist talk — or else denied altogether. The operations were different. And in other ways they were different, too. Hitler did many horrible things but he didn’t torture his friends to tell lies. The operation was a different one.”

Conquest is in no doubt that the famine was primarily aimed at Ukrainians and that Stalin hated not only the country peasants but even senior Communist leaders, like Mykola Skrypnyk, who eventually killed himself…………

“[Stalin] was trying to break the Ukrainians, as you know, with the leading Ukrainian Bolshevik Skrypnyk committing suicide under the pressures that were put on them when they tried to defend just the ordinary alphabet of the Ukrainians. Here [Stalin] was trying to alter it, things like that. I think he also proved he never trusted Ukrainian Communists. The whole Ukrainian Central Committee was totally purged in 1937, even the ones who supported him. He had this terrific distrust of everybody, but particularly of Ukraine.”

Luciuk of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association has a different theory for why news of the famine never reached the West. He blamed a number of Western journalists based in Moscow at the time who knew of the forced starvation but chose not to write about it or deliberately covered it up.

The journalist he says played the most influential role in the cover-up was “The New York Times” correspondent Walter Duranty. A drug addict with a shady reputation, Duranty was also an avid fan of Stalin’s, whom he described as “the world’s greatest living statesman.” He was granted the first American interview with the Soviet leader and received privileged information from the secretive regime.

Duranty confided to a British diplomat at the time that he thought 10 million people had perished in the famine. But when other journalists who had traveled to Ukraine began writing about the horrific famine raging there, Duranty branded their information as anti-Soviet lies. Conquest believes that Duranty was being blackmailed by the Soviet secret police over his sexual activities, which reportedly included bisexuality and necrophilia.

The year before the famine, in 1932, Duranty won the Pulitzer Prize, America’s most coveted journalism award, for a series of articles on the Soviet economy. Luciuk says members of the Ukrainian diaspora, as well as Ukrainian politicians and academics, earlier this month launched a campaign to have Duranty’s award posthumously revoked. He said he hopes the campaign will make more people in the world aware of the famine….”

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