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Sent: Wednesday, April 24, 2002 4:48 AM Subject: Re: Ukrainian Famine I cannot understand why the whole discussion about the nature of the 1932/33 famine centres around the question whether the 1932 harvest was bad or not. Small or large, what was crucial in bringing about mass starvation was the fact that this harvest was forcibly taken away from the rural population by the state, and relocated to needs that were deemed to be more important than feeding the rural population. I would call that man-made famine. But let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that in spite of the rampant chaos prevalent in the countryside since the collectivisation, neither the state nor the rural population had realised that the harvest of 1932 was at risk, as Mark Tauger believes. And therefore, that the regime took away all that grain because it thought it would not harm the countryside, then still the famine comes out as largely man-made, because once people started to starve the regime did nothing to alleviate the situation. What is more, it used the famine in some regions and areas, among which Ukraine and the North Caucasus to break the resistance of the rural population to collectivisation. "Blacklisting" starving villages, and preventing all foodstuffs from coming in, as happened to many Cossack stanitsy in the Don and Kuban area - I would call that man-made famine. In Kazakhstan, where to all evidence the famine took the largest toll among the population, percentage-wise, the famine was a direct result from the forced settlement into kolkhozy of a nomad population that had no experience whatsoever with sedentary agriculture. I would call that man-made famine. I am all in favour of critically approaching seemingly well-established opinions, and of doing detailed empirical work in order to determine whether conventionally held opinions can stand the test, but, please, try to be more accurate in delineating the implications that arise from "refuting" part of the empirical underpinning of conventional wisdom. Writing history is not a binary exercise, in which there are only ones and zeros. Even if we would find the 1932 harvest to have been exceptionally bad due to a combination of natural disasters of virtually biblical proportions, then that finding does not automatically mean that the general opinion that the famine was man-made, which often, but not always, leans on contemporaries' observations of a plentiful harvest, is mistaken in its entirety. I believe, personally, that the harvest was indeed bad; it would have taken a miracle for the 1932 harvest to have been plentiful after the pillaging, destruction, demoralisation and large-scale population displacement of the preceding three years. In fact, largely because of that, as well as for the reasons I set out above, I consider the famine to have been man-made. It has been observed by R.W. Davies and S. G. Wheatcroft that the Bolshevik grain procurement policy of the early 1930s did not reckon with the possibility of a bad harvest, that in setting procurement targets the regime "gambled" on a succession of good harvests. But when a bad harvest came in 1932, they lost the gamble. I would call that man-made famine. -- Gijs Kessler International Institute of Social History Amsterdam, The Netherlands firstname.lastname@example.org c/o Prospekt Mira 108-28 129626, Moscow Russian Federation