This is not the first time a foreign authoritarian leader has put down a Ukrainian citizenry that had set its eyes upon self-determination…
1932-33 Stalin and Grain Policy
Eighty years ago Ukrainians in the 1930s also tried to resist Soviet collectivization of their farms. Stalin’s policy to break them is known as “Holodomor” which translates as “Death by forced starvation”.
Basically, Stalin systematically turned Ukraine into a concentration camp between 1932-1933. The result was a Ukrainian holocaust a full ten years before Hitler’s “Final Solution.”
A timeline of events leading to the imposed starvation comes from the Connecticut Holodomor Awareness Committee :
The Soviet government sharply increases Ukraine’s production quotas, ensuring that they could not be met. Starvation becomes widespread.
In the summer of 1932, a decree is implemented that calls for the arrest or execution of any person – even a child — found taking as little as a few stalks of wheat or any possible food item from the fields where he worked. By decree, discriminatory voucher systems are implemented, and military blockades are erected around many Ukrainian villages preventing the transport of food into the villages and the hungry from leaving in search of food. Brigades of young activists from other Soviet regions are brought in to sweep through the villages and confiscate hidden grain, and eventually any and all food from the farmers’ homes. Stalin states of Ukraine that “the national question is in essence a rural question” and he and his commanders determine to “teach a lesson through famine” and ultimately, to deal a “crushing blow” to the backbone of Ukraine, its rural population.
By June, at the height of the famine, people in Ukraine are dying at the rate of 30,000 a day, nearly a third of them are children under 10. Between 1932-34, approximately 4 million deaths are attributed to starvation within the borders of Soviet Ukraine. This does not include deportations, executions, or deaths from ordinary causes. Stalin denies to the world that there is any famine in Ukraine, and continues to export millions of tons of grain, more than enough to have saved every starving man, woman and child.
“I remember Holodomor very well, but have no wish to recall it. There were so many people dying then. They were lying out in the streets, in the fields, floating in the flux. My uncle lived in Derevka – he died of hunger and my aunt went crazy – she ate her own child. At the time one couldn’t hear the dogs barking – they were all eaten up.”
(From the memories of Galina Smyrna, village Uspenka of Dniepropetrovsk region)
“At that time I lived in the village of Yaressky of the Poltava region. More than a half of the village population perished as a result of the famine. It was terrifying to walk through the village: swollen people moaning and dying. The bodies of the dead were buried together, because there was no one to dig the graves.
There were no dogs and no cats. People died at work; it was of no concern whether your body was swollen, whether you could work, whether you have eaten, whether you could – you had to go and work. Otherwise – you are the enemy of the people.
Many people never lived to see the crops of 1933 and those crops were considerable. A more severe famine, other sufferings were awaiting ahead. Rye was starting to become ripe. Those who were still able made their way to the fields. This road, however, was covered with dead bodies, some could not reach the fields, some ate grain and died right away. The patrol was hunting them down, collecting everything, trampled down the collected spikelets, beat the people, came into their homes, seized everything. What they could not take – they burned.”
(From the memories of Galina Gubenko, Poltava region)
2014 – Putin and Gas Policy
Could this happen again in 2014? A mass starvation of the people? No, probably not — at least not in the same way.
The Soviets under Stalin wanted to control agricultural production in the largest bread basket in Europe, the Ukraine. The wanted the wheat and other grains not just to feed their populous but to sell the grain on the open market, to get hard currency to pay for industrialization. It was a transfer of wealth from peasants to factory owners and industrialists who would build the factories for the urban workers.
Putin’s plan today is similar. Only his involves not grains but gas. He needs to control Ukraine because of its ability to move vast quantities of natural gas through its pipelines into Europe. Gazprom, the company that owns those lines is largely controlled by Vladimir Putin and he cannot and will not allow any threat to his ability to control Europe via threats of restriction to natural gas supplies.
75% of Russia’s gas exports to Europe flow through Ukraine. If he has to “starve” the people into submission by turning off the gas, and preventing relief aid he will, just as Stalin did before him. In a disturbing sign of things to come, Gazprom announced today that it will raise gas prices in the Ukraine.
The Putin made crisis begins, as it intensifies he will justify more and more aggression to protect Russia’s interest, which is the same as Putin’s interest in what is now more of a fascist system than the communist one which existed under Stalin.
Ukraine has disarmed and stands naked before Putin’s aggression with only the fig leaf of “international law” to protect them from another Holodomor type event. The United States is powerless to stop him, just as we were in the 30s. And he knows it.
Let’s pray it never gets to that and we never forget those Ukrainians that died at Stalin’s hand eighty years ago.
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