Death by Starvation “The famine began…The dead were all around; on the roads, near the river, by the fences…Altogether 792 souls have died in our village during the famine, in the war years – 135 souls” (Kuryliw, p. 2). This is how Antonina Meleshchenko remembers the Holodomor, or the Ukrainian genocide famine. This famine took place between 1932 and 1933 in a country in Europe called Ukraine. Although many survivors wish not to remember, this event needs to be recognized.
The Ukrainian genocide famine killed hundreds of thousands of people; this tragic incident occurred because Stalin wanted to convert the world to communism. After 250 years of living under Russian Tsarist rule, the Ukrainians became part of the Soviet Union in 1922. Farmers thrived, economic freedom was permitted, and private enterprise was allowed. Among these, writers, artists, and scholars grew. Stalin, in 1924, took over Russia after the previous leader, Vladimir Lenin, died. Later, in 1928, Stalin launched a plan to force farmers into giving up their private land, livestock, and farms.
Joseph Stalin felt he could not trust the Ukraine peasantry; he believed that the upper class farmers, or kulaks, were holding crops. Stalin took all the grain from the peasants. He had his men search for any hidden grain and Stalin analyzed fecal matter to see if the Ukrainians had stolen ‘government property’ and eaten the grain themselves. It was because of Stalin that many starved and resorted to eating anything. They drank water to fill their empty bellies. Small children perished first, then the elderly, followed by the men, and soon after, the women.
Up to twenty-five percent of the population died because Stalin took all of the food. When Stalin seized all of the rations, starvation became widespread. Blockades prevented the hungry to leave and search for food. Viachislav Molotov was in control of transporting grain to other countries. He punished the Ukrainian farmers by taking away anything that could be eaten. Help from other countries was not an option. Stalin was very careful in keeping this famine a secret and denied the world and international aid from entering the country.
Secret police and troops were used to control rebellious farmers and keep all the Ukrainians inside Ukraine. Lazer Kaganovich controlled a particular section of the secret police. He handled mass executions and became the organizer in charge of mass murder. The troops were also in charge of the camp in Siberia were over 850,000 Ukrainians are deported. Stalin ordered the kulacks, or wealthy farmers, into three groups: those to be executed, those to be imprisoned, and those to be shipped off to Siberia and Russian Asia. Stalin caused starvation and death in Ukraine when he detained all of the food.
Stalin’s plan to take all the food was based off of the ideas of the former Russian leader, Vladimir Lenin. Lenin knew that peasants believed that what they grew was theirs and that the peasants could do whatever they wanted with their crops. He knew that this would result to poor rationing. Non-equal rationing went against Lenin’s policy of communism. Since the farmers controlled the crops, Stalin knew he would have to ‘break the body and spirit of the Ukrainian farmer and nation, thus, subjugate the Ukrainian people completely to Soviet rule’ (Kuryliw, p. 1).
Stalin recognized that without the farmers, Ukraine would not be strong enough to stand by itself. He wanted to overpower the Ukrainian people to Soviet rule and convert Ukraine to communism. He desired to control Ukraine because the country was the last to resist Russian control. He needed a capital to build more factories and increase agricultural exports. Stalin believed the fastest way to increase exports was to obtain Ukraine and use their farms to attain and trade crops. After Stalin achieved power in Ukraine, he was able to reach his goal and break the farmers.
From 1932 to 1933, Ukraine suffered through a famine that killed between seven to ten million people. Various were shot and killed by firing squads while others were shipped to concentration camps. Twenty-five percent of the population was starved. This event was caused by Joseph Stalin in his effort to convert Ukraine to communism. He wanted to use Ukraine’s agricultural exports to his advantage and break the spirit of the farmers to control the whole country. The Ukrainian genocide famine was known as the ‘Holodomor,’ which means death by starvation.