View the h-russia Discussion Logs by month
View the Prior Message in h-russia's May 2002 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
View the Next Message in h-russia's May 2002 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
Visit the h-russia home page.
Sent: Wednesday, May 01, 2002 1:44 AM Subject: Re: Ukrainian Famine I am not a specialist on the Ukrainian famine but I am familiar with the recent research by several scholars on the matter, and think rather a lot of the deep and broad research that Mark Tauger has conducted over many years. That familiarity leads me to believe that there are no simple answers to this. A "man-made" famine is not the same as a deliberate or "terror-famine". A famine originally caused by crop failure and aggravated by poor policies is "man aggravated" but only partially "man-made". Why in this field do we always insist on absolutes, especially categorical, binary and polemical ones? True/false. Good/evil. Crop failure/Man made. Reminds me of the Stalinist approach. Many questions have ambiguous answers. > 1 Why was the Ukraine sealed off by the Soviet authorities? Not necessarily to punish Ukrainians. It was also done to prevent starving people from flocking into non-famine areas, putting pressure on scarce food supplies there, and thereby turning a regional disaster into a universal one. This was also the original reason for the internal passport system, which was adopted in the first instance to prevent the movement of hungry and desperate people and, with them, the spread of famine. > 2 Why were foreign journalists, even Stalin apologists like Duranty, > refused access to the famine areas? For the same reason that US journalists are no longer allowed into US combat zones (Gulf War, Afghanistan) since Vietnam. No regime is anxious to take the chance on bad press if they can control the situation otherwise. > 3 Why was aid from other countries refused? Obviously to deny the "imperialists" a chance to trumpet the failure of socialism. Certainly politics triumphed over humanitarianism. Moreover, in the growing paranoia of the times (and based on experience in the Civil War) the regime believed that spies came along with relief administration. > 4 Why do I read and hear stories of families who tried to take supplies > from other regions to help their extended families through the period having > all foodstuffs confiscated as they crossed back into the famine regions? The regime believed, reasonably I think, that speculators were trying to take advantage of the disaster by buying up food in non-famine (but nevertheless food-short) regions, moving it to Ukraine, and reselling it at a higher price. In true Bolshevik fashion, there was no nuanced approach to this, no distinguishing between families and speculators, and everybody was stopped. As with point 1 above, regimes facing famine typically try to contain the disaster geographically. This is not the same as intending to punish the victims. > 5 If it was a harvest failure, why was the burden of that failure not > simply shared across the Soviet Union? It was. No region had a lot of food in 1932-33. Food was short and expensive everywhere. Everybody was hungry. With the above suggestions, I do not mean to make excuses or apologies for the Stalinists. Their conduct in this was erratic, incompetent, and cruel and millions of people suffered unimaginably and died as a result. But it is too simple to explain everything with a "Bolsheviks were just evil people" explanation more suitable to children than scholars. It was more complex than that. Although the situation was aggravated in some ways by Bolshevik mistakes, their attempts to contain the famine, once it started, were not entirely stupid, nor were they necessarily gratuitously cruel. The Stalinists did, by the way, eventually cut grain exports and did, by the way, send food relief to Ukraine and other areas. It was too little too late, but there is no evidence (aside from constantly repeated assertions by some writers) that this was a deliberately inflicted "terror-famine." Finally, > To deny the Jewish genocide quite rightly brings opprobrium. Surely to deny > the terror famine of 1932-33 ought to provoke the same response. This is a position that I personally find grotesque, insulting and at least shallow. Nobody is denying the famine or the huge scale of suffering, (as holocaust-deniers do), least of all Tauger and other researchers who have spent much of their careers trying to bring this tragedy to light and give us a factual account of it. Admittedly, what he and other scholars do is different from the work of journalists and polemicists who indiscriminately collect horror stories and layer them between repetitive statements about evil, piling it all up and calling it history. A factual, careful account of horror in no way makes it less horrible. ________________________________________ J. Arch Getty Professor of History, UCLA email@example.com ________________________________________