I realize that due to the nature of baby-boomerness, November 22nd is largely marked due to the events of November 22nd…. 1963.
But as that old cynic Stalin once said, “One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic.”
And he should know, since he generated a large number of “statistics” on his own.
Today also marks events that wound down by the time of November 22nd, 1933, the final running out of one of the most monstrous crimes against humanity in history – the Ukrainian “Holodomor.”
“Holodomor” in Ukrainian translates roughly as “Death by Hunger” – and that is exactly what the communists forced upon a defiant but defenseless population.
This is an event that still gets far too little attention in the wider world. You really have to go to Ukraine (as I regularly do) to begin to try to get to grips with the absolute monstrosity of this crime against humanity.
The history is actually quite easy to summarize in brief.
By 1932, Stalin and Kaganovich faced three serious problems:
1) The “base” of communism was in the cities, and in the cities there was a shortage of food; as the Bolsheviks knew from 1917, there’s no quicker way to a revolution than bread riots;
2) The Soviet Union (as was the case throughout its history) was in desperate need of “hard” currency from outside the country;
3) Ukraine was the breadbasket of Europe, but the Ukrainian peasantry was refusing to embrace collectivization.
So Stalin and Kaganovich basically rolled all three “problems” together to produce one “solution.” They set requisition levels for food from Ukraine to levels much higher than anything that had been stored or could be produced – and they sent their thugs into Ukraine to enforce confiscation under penalty of death (anyone caught hiding so much as a loaf of bread from the requisition gangs was subject to summary execution).
So it all just fell together nicely for Stalin and Kaganovich – they got tons (literally) of food for the restive city-folk, they had a surplus of food that they could export (both to earn hard currency, and to be able to use the food exports as “proof” that the rumors of famine couldn’t possibly be true), and they broke the Ukrainian peasantry by literally “liquidating” (that’s commie-speak for “killing”) all the “class enemies” in Ukraine.
It’s hard to know numbers, but the estimates are that ten million were killed by forced starvation during 1932 – 1933. As noted above, the Ukrainian label attached to this is “Holodomor” – “death by hunger.”
One sidelight of the Holodomor was the reaction of the “fellow travelers” who had been star-struck by the false god of communism. Walter Duranty of the New York Times willfully fabricated stories denying that there was any such famine going on – even pointing to the Soviet grain exports (diabolically created in the worst way) as “proof.” Others, such as Arthur Koestler, were so horrified by what they observed that they saw communism and collectivism for what they truly were.
Today in Kyiv (Kiev), a simple monument to these horrific events may be found just outside the main gate of St. Michael’s monastery:
(Photo by the author, April 2007.)
With its searing simplicity, this is one of best (and most eloquent-in-summary) memorials in the world.
Over here, Thanksgiving, differing from its original intent, is basically a harvest festival – celebrating the bounty of a good harvest and the plenty that will ensue.
Holodomor Remembrance Day is thus something of an “inverse Thanksgiving.” As fall turned into winter in Ukraine in late 1933, good summer and fall weather had produced a bumper crop in Ukraine’s ultra-fertile fields. By later in November, it continued to sit there and rot under the impending damp of winter – because there was no one to harvest it. Everyone who had planted the crops in the spring was dead – there was no one left alive to gather the harvest.