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“Russia sees no fundamental difference between the Holodomor in Ukraine and famines elsewhere in the former Soviet Union”

25 November, 2003 - 00:00

On October 16-18, Vicenza (Italy) hosted Western Europe’s first scholarly forum on the issues of the Ukrainian Holodomor Manmade Famine of 1932-33. The symposium, dedicated to the seventieth anniversary of the Ukrainian Holodomor/Genocide (this is its official name), was held under the auspices of the Italian President and the Ukrainian Embassy in Rome.

The Day’s correspondent approached a regular contributor to our newspaper Prof. Stanislav KULCHYTSKY, Doctor of Sciences in history, for a more detailed account of this major scholarly event.

“Italy was represented by ten professors and lecturers from seven universities headed by Gabriel de Rosa, director of the Vicenza Institute of Social and Religious History. The Ukrainian scholarly delegation met this legendary person for the first time. He is a decorated World War II veteran and antifascist, senator of the Italian Republic, director of a scholarly research institution whose research fellows were the first to investigate the hidden aspects of East European history, including that of Ukraine.

“Ukraine was represented by James Mace, Professor at the Kyiv Mohyla Academy, former executive director of the US Congress Commission on the Ukrainian Holodomor Manmade Famine of 1932-33; literary critic Oksana Pakhliovska; senior research fellow of the Institute of Political, Ethnic and National Studies of the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences Yury Shapoval, who is know in the world scholarly community for his groundbreaking publications addressing the topical problems in the Soviet history and whom the general Ukrainian public knows for his brilliant radio and television programs; writer and political activist Yury Shcherbak, former Ukraine’s ambassador to Canada, Israel, USA, founder of the greens movement, author of first publications on the Manmade Famine of 1932-1933 carried in Yunost [Youth], a popular soviet magazine. Russia was represented by two professors, Mykola Ivnytsky (the Russian History Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences) and Viktor Kondrashyn (Penza University), who began to explore the 1932-33 famine in the USSR in the late 1980s. Canada was represented by Orest Subtelny, professor at the York University in Toronto; Germany sent Gerhard Simon, professor at the Koln University, and Poland delegated Hubert Laszkewicz and Ewa Rybalt of the Lublin University.”

“What makes the Vicenza symposium different from similar meetings held previously?”

“Before, when attending the conferences on the Holodomor of 1932- 33 held abroad, I met only like-minded people with whom there could be no politicized arguments. At other conferences the problem of Ukrainian Holodomor was more often than not viewed as one devoid of scholarly grounds. I have often heard reproaches, especially from Russian scholars, such as ‘Why do you keep broaching an inexistent problem of a famine in Ukraine, since there were famines in other regions of the Soviet Union!’ Sometimes, that same opinion was expressed as follows: ‘Stalinist repressions were of a class and not national nature. You cannot blame Russia for a famine that was allegedly organized in Ukraine alone.’

“Hard facts spoke against such a stand. Moreover, deportations of small peoples and a fight with ‘cosmopolitanism’ did not fit in with the so-called ‘class struggle.’ Simultaneously, one should recognize the groundlessness of accusations against Ukrainians, Russians, Jews, Germans, and other peoples of crimes perpetrated by some regimes or political forces. In totalitarian societies the people are not responsible for the actions of their governments.”

“Were there any politically colored discussions among the participants of the symposium?”

“The Vicenza seminar was characterized by an atmosphere of goodwill. The very statement of the problem, “famine in Ukraine,” reflected the intention of the organizers and participants of this meeting to find out what made our republic different from all the rest. Within this context, the report by Kondrashyn, Holodomor of 1932-33 in Russia and Ukraine: a Comparative Analysis (Causes, Dates, and Consequences), merits special note.

“I haven’t seen Kondrashyn for a decade and a half. When we first met he was an up-and-coming scholar just competing his dissertation, Famine of 1932-33 in Povolzhzhia. Now he is a professor of world renown, who has his own scholarly school. He brought to the symposium his major study (coauthored by Diana Pepper of the Memphis University, USA), Famine: the Years 1932-33 in the Soviet Countryside (Based on the Materials Gathered in Povolzhye, Don, and Kuban), published in Penza in 2002. I held this book of 432 pages with a special feeling, since I found in it historical sources I have never heard of.

“Kondrashyn’s study along with other studies confirm that the human toll in Ukraine and Russian Kuban from the famine of 1932-33 was higher by an order of magnitude than the tolls in Povolzhzhia or other regions in the Northern Caucasus. Thus, the terms famine and manmade famine should be differentiated. However, Kondrashyn does not differentiate between the two notions and makes no attempt at establishing the causes of the Ukrainian Holodomor. Meanwhile, you shouldn’t look far for the causes, as confirmed by the surviving victims of Holodomor: Kuban Cossacks and Ukrainian peasants had not only grain, but also all foodstuffs taken away from them. We showed decrees issued by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine instituting penalties in kind (potatoes and meat were seized as ordered by the extraordinary bread procurement commission of Molotov), as well as witness accounts about the confiscations of other products (special decrees on the confiscation of haricots and onions were not issued). How can one refute the difference between the Ukrainian Holodomor and other famines in Soviet republics after hearing all this? Unfortunately, Russia does not see a fundamental difference between the Holodomor in Ukraine and famines elsewhere in the former Soviet Union.”

“How did the symposium participants receive the demand by the Ukrainian scholars to recognize the Holodomor as genocide?”

“It is a very difficult question. At the 58th General Assembly of the UN, delegations from twenty countries signed a document (Italy signed it on behalf of the EU and associated members), in which the Ukrainian Holodomor has been recognized as a tragedy caused by the actions of a totalitarian regime. But the Holodomor has not been recognized as genocide.

“The very name of the Vicenza scholarly symposium implied such a recognition: Holodomor/Genocide. The Ukrainian Famine of 1932-33 was recognized as genocide by the US Congress commission and the International Lawyers’ Commission in the late 1980s. However, Russia did not recognize it then, nor does it now. Thus, the UN document does not offer a logical conclusion in the assessment of the Ukrainian Famine.

“The issue of the Holodomor as an act of genocide dominated the reports by Ukraine’s Ambassador in Italy Borys Hudyma, contributor and consultant to The Day Prof. James Mace, Gerhard Simon, and Yury Shcherbak. During the discussion that followed such an opinion was convincingly substantiated by Oksana Pakhliovska and Yury Shapoval. Eventually, the representatives of the Russian delegation, much like the Italian scholars headed by Gabriel de Rosa, accepted this viewpoint. This is of major importance, since the resolution of the 58th General Assembly of the UN does not solve the problem of the Holodomor. Now that the international community has recognized the very fact of this tragedy, sooner or later it will heed the scholars’ demands and will place it among the Jewish Holocaust, carnage of Armenians in Turkey, or the horrible tragedy in Rwanda.”

Interviewed by Serhiy MAKHUN, The Day