A few days ago I got a call from my relatives in Switzerland. They said they were going to attend the lecture “Was the Holodomor in Ukraine an Act of Genocide?” by the Ukrainian historian Stanislav Kulchytsky, scheduled for Nov. 22 at Geneva’s Museum of Ethnography. The moderator is one of the most distinguished Ukrainians in the world, Bohdan Hawrylyshyn. A number of journalists have been invited. Professor Kulchytsky told The Day that his lecture is based on several works, particularly his latest book Why Did He Destroy Us? Stalin and the Ukrainian Holodomor, the latest addition to The Day’s Library Series (published in September 2007). The guest speaker will also present the English-language book Day and Eternity of James Mace, which features articles by this noted American researcher of the Ukrainian Holodomor.
Ukraine will honor the memory of the victims of the Holodomor and political repressions on Nov. 24. On this date the large-scale action, “Candle in the Window,” initiated by the late James Mace in 2003, will take place.
Below we offer readers the most interesting comments by Ukrainian historians and literary scholars on Stanislav Kulchytsky’s book. These are not simply impressions but precious ideas that boil down to the assumption that the more frequent the acts of misunderstanding and aggression in our society, the clearer is our understanding that such projects and books are badly needed. If we neglect historical memory, we may well end up as half-citizens, half-Ukrainians.
Prof. Ruslan PYRIH, Ph.D. (History):
Stanislav Kulchytsky’s book is a timely and adequate response to the challenges of the current reality that has made the Holodomor issue topical and much politicized.
First of all, it is written by one of the pioneers and leading researchers of this scholarly problem, which is complex, painful from the moral and psychological standpoint, and politically sensitive. Second, it is the quintessence of the author’s search for an answer to the sacramental question: “Why did they destroy us?”
This book describes the complicated process of scholars coming to grips with the Holodomor tragedy, and then by society in the early 1930s. The author gives due credit to the contribution made by foreign researchers in shedding light on this topic. He engages in polemics, rejects certain views, and offers his own original vision of the most essential aspects of this issue.
The author should be commended for the fact that he has consistently championed his own method of calculating the numbers of Holodomor victims in Ukraine for almost two decades. He was the first to qualify the total confiscation of foodstuffs from the Ukrainian peasantry in 1932-33 as the main factor in the murder by starvation of millions of people. In interpreting the Holodomor problem as an act of genocide, Stanislav Kulchytsky has consistently demonstrated the specifics of the 1931-32 famine in the Ukrainian SSR and the famine of 1932-33, their similarity and cardinal differences compared to such processes in other regions of the USSR. It is important that the author, while pointing to Stalin as an embodiment of the creators of this tragedy of the Ukrainian people, views the communist regime as the main perpetrator.
Without a doubt, Prof. Kulchytsky’s work will become another pillar in the foundation of restoring historical truth and justice, helping the current and coming generations to grasp the true causes and consequences of the Holodomor tragedy.
Anatolii MOROZOV, head of the Department of Modern History, Bohdan Khmelnytsky National University of Cherkasy:
It should be stated that Stanislav Kulchytsky started working on the Holodomor topic long before our society began discussing it extensively and publicly. (By the way, he is a real workaholic). He and I spoke a lot about the famine in Ukraine. I grew up in a family that lost several members during that horrible period, and I also lived through the 1946 famine. At one time I was also studying the Holodomor, but had to stop for psychological reasons; living with this knowledge was too horrifying. Therefore, I am sincerely grateful to Stanislav Kulchytsky for embarking on such a complicated mission. Believe me, any researcher who deals with this terrible material lives through it, in one way or another.
Indeed, the losses caused by the Holodomor are still being felt; they have affected Ukrainians in terms of both quantity and quality. The most horrible thing is that the Stalinist system inoculated us with a virus of fear, especially fear of resistance. Therefore, it is necessary to be frank and speak out loud about the famine in Ukraine, its causes, and its consequences — like The Day is doing — in order to rid ourselves also of the viruses of falsehood and theft, because we often find ourselves living with a falsified history.
Prof. Petro KRALIUK, Ostroh Academy National University:
Let me first thank Stanislav Kulchytsky and The Day for publishing articles about the Holodomor and for the book Why Did He Destroy Us? Stalin and the Ukrainian Holodomor, which is based on these articles.
These days, much is being said about the Holodomor in Ukraine. There are numerous political speculations on the part of the left wing and all those who are in love with Moscow, those who refuse to recognize the Holodomor and describe the events that took place in Ukraine in 1932-33 as “shortcomings” and “overzealous efforts,” as well as of “outspoken Ukrainian patriots,” who are trying to capitalize on this subject while pursuing their own “narrow political objectives.” Kulchytsky’s book is a pleasant exception to the rule. The author, who had access to a great deal of documented material, analyzes the problem at length and in depth and unravels its various political, economic, social, and cultural aspects.
At the same time, this book is not purely scholarly research but a semi- popular work that reads easily and is understandable even to readers who know little about this subject. The author, however, pays too much attention to Stalin (and the fact is evident from the title). Stalin is presented as the key perpetrator of the Holodomor, although the hard facts of the case show that he was not the only one. Here the whole Bolshevik system was at play and similar famines, albeit on a smaller scale, took place in Ukraine earlier — for example, right after the Civil War, when Stalin was not in power yet. In fact, he was not the leader of the USSR in 1932-33, as the struggle for power was still being waged by higher party nomenklatura, which ended with Stalin’s victory in 1936-37.
These and other inferences made by the author can be topics for scholarly debate, which is only natural. Not all the i’s have been dotted in the question of the Holodomor, and they won’t be in the short run. I would like to draw your attention to another problem, which is mostly ignored in writings on the Holodomor. It is true that the Holodomor is a great tragedy of the Ukrainian people, but it shows that this nation is capable of surviving in the most horrible conditions; this is precisely what makes our people so strong. Therefore, it is hard to disagree with the line from Larysa Ivshyna’s foreword to Kulchytsky’s book: “Our nation, which has survived all this cannot but have ambitions.”
Ihor SIUNDIUKOV, The Day’s Ukraine Incognita and History columnist:
It is exceptionally difficult and painstaking to analyze historical tragedies, dramas, and catastrophes. I would even describe this work as ungratifying. Apart from everything else, it requires the highest scholarly level because it must rely on hard historical facts rather than emotions, however justifiable.
The historian Stanislav Kulchytsky has coped with his task brilliantly. The articles included in this book were published by our newspaper at various times. Taken together, they offer a convincing answer to the fundamental question: “Why did this unimaginable atrocity become possible?” The author’s brief but substantial answer is that “...the Soviet system under Lenin and Stalin could be built only by means of iron and blood...The terror by famine was the same kind of tool as ‘socialist construction’ and other forms of terror.”
Kulchytsky’s call to “peer into the abyss” — in other words, to comprehend the essence of the communist “revolution from above,” the Kremlin’s nationality policy, and the mechanism of this genocide all add up to the possibility of answering the question: “Why did Stalin destroy us?” This call is directed at all Ukrainians.
Prof. Yuri SHAPOVAL, historian:
Today there is no dearth of studies on the tragic events of the early 1930s. It is true that in the past couple of years qualitative changes have taken place in the comprehension of that horrible cataclysm and its far-reaching consequences. Researchers in various countries — and not just researchers — are still debating this issue because without all-round comprehension of the Holodomor tragedy it is impossible to understand many events of the 20th century. Convincing proof of this is found in Prof. Stanislav Kulchytsky’s new book, which consists mainly of articles carried by The Day.
Despite the popular nature of these articles, they undoubtedly expand knowledge about the Holodomor. They reflect the activities of the Soviet political leadership in 1932-33, the conduct of regional leaders, particularly the party and state nomenklatura of the Ukrainian SSR. This book offers deeper insight into the technology of this crime, namely, how and with what mechanisms the Stalinist regime acquired grain, motivating this by the need for modernization, the Moloch of which devoured millions of people. Kulchytsky’s studies foster a better understanding of the doctrinal and situational motives that guided the communist establishment; help to accurately recreate the situation on the macro— and micro-levels (exceptionally important for arriving at general, realistic conclusions and assessments); and help to refute the claim about the absence of specific features in the actions of the authorities in one region or another of the former USSR in 1932-33.
As any reader will easily discover, this book explains many things. This is its undeniable asset. At the same time, as the British researcher Norman Davies has written, a good historian must always have the right to doubt. This is why it is important for me to know that Prof. Kulchytsky’s collection of articles is not a collection of incontrovertible axioms or an attempt to impose his conclusions. This book is food for thought and stimulates further debate and research. This is the most important thing for me.
One cannot fully agree with everything in this book, and there are things that are not totally understandable. For example, I still don’t understand whether my colleague regards the Holodomor as an act of genocide. He warns against interpreting the thesis about the annihilation of the Ukrainians or peasants too narrowly. Nevertheless, Ukrainian peasants were the first to die; they were the chief and most wanted victims of the regime. What I read on this subject in his book left ambivalent impressions, to put it mildly. But perhaps this is just my impression.
Prof. Volodymyr PANCHENKO, Kyiv Mohyla National Academy:
Stanislav Kulchytsky’s book is important from several standpoints. It not only adds to our knowledge of our own history, but also seriously influences the process of making important political decisions with regard to the Holodomor. Actually, the main theme of this book is an analysis of the mechanisms of terror by famine that Stalin used against the Ukrainian countryside, as well as a clearly defined scholarly assessment of the horrible famine- Holodomor-genocide triad.
The entire system of arguments employed by Kulchytsky convincingly states that the 1932-33 famine in Ukraine was precisely a Holodomor, since on Stalin’s direct instructions all foodstuffs were confiscated from the peasants. It is important that proof of this is supplied not only in the form of eyewitness accounts but also archival documents, specifically Stalin’s New Year’s telegram dated Jan. 1, 1933, authorizing mass searches and confiscations. The researcher reaches the conclusion that while other regions of the USSR suffered from the famine, the Holodomor took place only in Ukraine.
Then there is the issue of genocide. Stanislav Kulchytsky knows better than most how much effort it will take Ukrainian researchers, politicians, diplomats, and lawyers to convince the world community that what happened in 1932-33 was an act of genocide. From this standpoint, Kulchytsky’s conclusion that the Holodomor in Ukraine occurred “at the intersection of the socioeconomic and nationality policies” that were being waged by the Kremlin is extremely important. He is absolutely correct; one must take into account both of these factors in their satanic combination. Stalin feared Ukraine; he was afraid that if it rebelled and withdraw from the USSR, then the Red empire would collapse. And so terror by famine was aimed against the citizenry of the Ukrainian state as representatives of the Ukrainian political nation. In other words, according to Kulchytsky, ethnic affiliation was not decisive, although quite a few Holodomor victims believed that they were being annihilated precisely because they were Ukrainians. The same thing happened in 1934-38, when the Ukrainian intelligentsia began to be destroyed in accordance with all the laws of genocide. As far as I am concerned, Stanislav Kulchytsky could have placed more emphasis on the ethnic component of the genocide of 1932- 33, as there are sufficient grounds for this.
Many years ago the philosopher S. L. Frank wrote that “Utopia calls for violence.” This is precisely what happened in the case of the communist regime, which did not abide by any laws. It is a disgrace that a political party that is anti-Ukrainian by nature and a political heir of the Bolsheviks is still being supported by some people in Ukraine, while violently resisting any efforts to objectively assess such tragic pages in our history. They are resisting this because historical assessments imply responsibility for past acts. The ashes of the countless victims of this genocide must continue to knock at the hearts of the living — not for vengeance but for purification, for a just reckoning with the past. I think that this is the very reason why Stanislav Kulchytsky wrote his book.