The Ukrainian famine in the 1930s
Source Dave Anderson
Date 07/08/04/08:39

I looked up the Wikipedia article on the Ukrainian famine:

and forwarded that to a friend of mine, Jim Zarichny, who is Ukrainian-American and who has read a great deal about that country. After he retired, Jim lived in Ukraine for eight years in the 1990s and taught English in high school there.

Jim has been on the left since he was a kid in Flint, Michigan when his parents were involved in the autoworkers' sit-down strike in the 1930s. He was a member and leader of the Communist Party USA until 1954. He was involved in the founding of Students for a Democratic Society (after he went back to college). He later was a leader of the Boulder, Colorado chapter of the New American Movement (a democratic socialist group).

Here are Jim's comments:

AT THE TIME, I did not believe that the famine had occurred. That was because the reporter for the New York Times, Walter Duranty, said there was no famine. . The spokes person for the Soviet government gave Duranty a map of Ukraine and a bunch of needles and told him to stick the needles into the map and they would take Duranty there. He did this, and they took Duranty to a village where every every needle was struck. They showed him that there was no famine. They did this to other people. My dad's village was one of the villages that was pro Soviet. His sister was married to the head of the village. They brought many foreigners there to show that there was no famine. There was a sizable scattering of non famine villages thruout Ukraine, villages which were co-operating.

Stalin wanted to industrialize. He needed steel mills and machinery. Nobody gave him credit, so he put a huge tax on the peasantry to get the money. Most villages refused to pay the tax. My uncle on my mother's side told his village not to pay it. He was arrested and deported to the area called Archangel where he worked in a tannery and died a year later. My grandmother and her two sons were arrested but later released. My cousin, a Communist, arrested his grandmother. The village did not pay the tax, so the soldiers came to collect it. They confiscated the stuff in the graneries of the peasants so that Stalin could sell the grain on the world market and buy his steel mills and machinery. About a hundred people (out of 2000), died of starvation. Everybody else was hungry.

Villages which paid the initial tax did not have the famine. My cousins on my dad's side got a university education while their dad was alive and they became relatively important people. They showed me photographs of themselves with members of the Politburo who came to the city of Khmelnitsky.. But after their dad was murdered by a right winger, the younger children were not given scholarships. Stalin was able to industrialize because he had money gotten by selling grain on the world market.

The question of Russification is an interesting question. At all times during the Soviet era, almost all rural villages conducted everything in Ukrainian. The question centered around the use of Ukrainian in universities. Stalin argued that they could not tie up science and talent in universities in translating from one language to another of the multitude of languages spoken in the Soviet Union He ruled that all universities should be conducted in Russian. Stalin felt that it would be uneconomical to have scientific journals written in many languages and a lot of people translating from one language to another.

Admission to universities was based on entrance examinations conducted in Russian. Out of 3,000,000 Jews, about a million survied in Ukraine. They were urban and attended Russian language schools in the city. So for Ukrainians, entrance exams to universities were conducted in a foreign language. As a result, the Ukrainians did not know Russian well enough to pass the entrance exams. So, under Stalin the majority of university students in Ukraine were Jews or Russians. The Ukrainians could not pass entrance exams given in a foreign language. This was changed by Khrushchev who ruled for affirmative action. He said 80% of all university seats in Ukraine should go to Ukrainians. Because of the shortage of university seats, many thousands of Jews who had attended Russian language schools and scored very high on the entrance exams were denied admission. They claimed anti-Semitism.

A side point. The Ukrainians formed the Sergeant class in the Red Army. Stalin made the claim that the Red Army could not function if the army officers did not share a common language (Russian). Under Stalin, you could not be an officer in the Red Army if you did not know Russian. It was things like this that fueled Ukrainian nationalism. The Ukrainians were at a disadvantage in so many ways.

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