By Vadim Kogan, M. D.
AGAPIT, Number 13, 2002
The Ukrainian Historical and Medical Journal
National Museum of Medicine of Ukraine
Archives are the most valuable materials that form the basis of fundamental
works devoted to the history of medicine. This also concerns the problems
of famine from the medical point of view, the problems that, until recently,
had been kept secret.
The study of these problems in the State and other archives began, due to
well-known reasons, not so long ago. Such a study needs time and skilled
personnel. Unfortunately, there are only a few adequate medical historians
in Ukraine able to do much in this field for a short period of time. The
same holds for the literature dwelling upon the historical and medical
issues that have something to do with "white spots" in history.
From the very beginning, there was a little hope that the totalitarian
regime had left intact the documents covering that terrible period in the
history of Ukraine, the documents that had been kept secret for almost
60 years by the KGB professionals.
Fortunately, there exist a lot of such materials with top security
classification which concern the medical aspects of the deliberately
arranged famine in Ukraine. Of course, the most discrediting and important
documents could have been destroyed. It has become known that many
materials of this kind really disappeared. This especially holds for some
12,000 files of the former interior commissariat of Ukraine dated the 1930s.
Those documents were not transferred to the State Archives and had been
destroyed before German troops occupied Kiev in 1941. The materials
relating to medical aspects of the famine were found in the State archives,
those of the Institute for political studies, the state archives of Kiev,
Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Odessa, Cherkasy and Kherson regions.
Unfortunately, the search was not performed in other archives as a result
of time shortage.
Such materials are mostly of a similar type. Valuable documents were
found in the state archives, in Kiev, Cherkasy and Kherson regions.
The most important documents were found in the state archives in Kharkiv,
Odessa and Dnipropetrovsk regions. The latter contains information about
the famine results in each district of the region.
Medical aspects of the famine are covered in the materials in several
directions which were used as the basis for the study conducted by the
department of history under the Ukrainian institute of social hygiene and
health protection board. Such directions were as follows:
- the condition of medical establishments and medical personnel in rural
areas prior to the famine and during it;
- the famine and morbidity rates (including infections);
- registration of the patients with marked famine signs, the people who
died of hunger, falsification of diagnosis;
- natural migration of the population (data on birth and death rates in
- registration of homeless children and adults, state of children medical
- turnover of medical personnel in rural areas;
- poisoning by food substitutes.
It is worth noting that nothing is known about the people engaged in
cannibalism and eating of cadavers during the famine except their
names and addresses. More detailed information about such cases is
available in medical journals giving the relevant statistics about the
famine in Ukraine in 1921.
- secret studies of the famine results;
- aid to the starving people on the part of health protection bodies
and the like.
The search for new documents is going on.
We also hope that Moscow will return some relevant materials to
They concern, first and foremost, the annual reports of the Ukrainian
health commissariat in the 1930s about the work of medical
establishments, morbidity rates, etc.
The archives documents depicting medical aspects of the famine in
1932-1933 help show in true light that dark period in the history of our
country, compare their information with the falsified data presented by
official press at that time. Such a tragedy, such a big social stress
naturally badly affected the health of the whole nation, changed
the demographic situation for the worse.
These documents also have a certain moral back-ground since such
notions as medicine and artificially created famine contradict and exclude
each other. Taking into account the importance of this problem, all
relevant archives documents should be properly registered to help the
researchers analyze them as quickly as possible.
As we see it, such materials must be duly classified. This work can
be done with participation of the association of researchers of the
famine in Ukraine that was set up in 1992.
All this should be done for the sake of those who died of hunger in
1932-1933 during the most terrible tragedy in the time of peace in
the 20th century.
It is obvious that quite a few archives documents will be included into a
big book about the famine in order to prevent such tragedies in the future.
http://www.histomed.kiev.ua/agapit/ag1/ag01-15e.html, (English ISO)
The Ukrainian Historical and Medical Journal AGAPIT
A. Grando, PhD, Honored Scientist of Ukraine, Editor-in-Chief
National Museum of Medicine of Ukraine
Chmelnitzkoho St. 37, Kyiv, Ukraine, Tel. 380 44 234 1574