Saturday, 22 November 2014

Holodomor Memorial Day - Remembering the Victims of One of the Worst Soviet Atrocities

Today is Holodomor Memorial Day.

The Holodomor (Ukrainian: "murder by starvation") was a famine in Ukraine and adjacent parts of Russia deliberately engineered by the Soviet authorities between 1932 and 1933. Estimates of the number of deaths vary but it is generally accepted that around 7 million Ukrainians perished.  25 countries recognise the Holodomor as a genocide of the Ukrainian people. Moscow still denies it ever happened.

Many minority nations forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union suffered murder, deportation, terror and the loss of their respective countries' independence.  Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania each lost around 25% of their populations when they were invaded, occupied and annexed by the Soviet Union in the Second World War.  Stalin deported the entire Chechen and Crimean Tatar populations from their respective homelands in 1944 and forcibly resettled them in the Kazakh and Kyrgyz Soviet Socialist Republics. They were only allowed to return home decades later.

However, the scale of the Holodomor with its millions of deaths remains unprecedented.  Soviet forced collectivisation was deeply unpopular among the Ukrainian farming community and had been the cause of many revolts.  All grain produced by Ukrainian farmers was confiscated by the Soviet authorities - anyone found to be hiding any grain or other foodstuffs was punished with death.  So extreme was the situation that over 2,500 people were convicted of cannibalism, and these are just the people who were caught.

The fact that this very event was even possible is staggering in the extreme.  Ukraine's rich, black soil is some of the most fertile in the world,  Its farmers had become experts in cultivating it over the millennia with knowledge being passed down for countless generations.  Ukraine was known as the bread basket of the Soviet Union.  For people like me who grew up in a functioning democracy with the rule of law, such an occurrence seems utterly unfathomable.  Stalin and his henchmen went to extraordinary efforts to ensure this famine occurred, most likely to put down the countless revolts resulting from his collectivisation policies.

We must remain ever vigilant of the scale of suffering which occurs when a state ceases to function and evil people are allowed to take charge of it.  There are Stalins and Hitlers living among us who would take over countries and commit foul murder and genocide all over again if given half the chance.