||PROF. JAMES MACE COMMENTS ON: HARVEST OF DEATH: 70TH
ANNIVERSARY OF STALIN'S FAMINE IN UKRAINE
Series by Askold Krushelnycky, RFE/RL, May 8, 2003 in a Letter to the
Editor of UKRAINE REPORT 2003, by Dr. James Mace, Kyiv, Ukraine,
Monday, June 9, 2003
Letter to the Editor of UKRAINE REPORT 2003, E. Morgan
Ukraine Market Reform Group, Washington, D.C.
By Dr. James Mace, Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, June 9, 2003
RE: Askold Krushelnycky three-part Ukrainian Famine Article
"Harvest of Death" Published by the Weekday Magazine of Radio Free
Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) on May 8, 2003
As you can well expect I found UKRAINE REPORT 2003 No. 40, for
Friday, May 9, 2003 of great interest, and have to thank you for posting
the 1933 newspaper articles by Welsh journalist Gareth Jones.
I found the three part Askold Krushelnycky Ukrainian famine article
"Harvest of Death" published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)
on May, 8, 2003, disturbing in that he confused a number of issues that
those who want to deny Ukrainians a history will certainly jump on.
The journalist Krushelnycky confuses collectivization, the famine, and the
Ukrainian issue in ways I thought I had covered quite some time ago. You
might want to go back to my "Communism and the Dilemmas of National
Liberation" (Harvard, 1983) and the "US Commission on the Ukraine Famine
Report to Congress" (Washington, GPO, 1988) as well as any number of
articles I have done on the topic over the years.
The Ukrainians in the nineteenth and early twentieth century evolved a
national movement broadly analogous to various such movements among
European peoples that had for one reason or another lost their elites. The
Czech national movement is a close analogy, and the work by Czech scholar
Miroslav Hroch on what he calls the "small peoples" presents this model
perhaps the best.
They begin with a rediscovery of their history and culture (Ukrainians
called this kulturnytstvo) that gradually finds adherents and broadens to
making political demands like a chair of Ukrainian Studies at Lviv
University in the 1890's or recognition that Ukrainian really was a language
and those who spoke it were a people or nation with a right to be
recognized as such.
RIGHT OF NATIONS TO SELF-DETERMINATION
In general, one of the main themes of European history is the evolution of
states that had grown up on the basis of a warrior (robber?) class called
the nobility in dealing with the notion that there were peoples, and that
states should represent peoples (nations) and that the nation was above the
king (emperor, prince, duke, count, margrave/marquis, or whatever) who was,
after all, only the descendant of some big guy (or guys) with a sword who
with his henchmen had been able some centuries earlier to take over and
defend an area to collect tribute or taxes from the people who did not have
weapons but engaged in occupations like growing food and managed to
come to some sort of understanding with a priesthood that justified the
In countries like England and France the new idea that there was something
called England and France that existed over and above the king led to major
outbreaks of unpleasantness whereby kings in both those countries got their
heads cut off in 1649 and 1792 respectively.
States in the West with a pretty well developed elite adapted their identity
to encompass new elites, usually commercial and secular intellectuals, and
by degrees integrate the lower orders that Americans have called the great
unwashed into this new thing called a nation based on things like history,
language, and customs.
Nations got histories by writing the concept of nationhood onto the events
of pre-existing dynastic states and languages by taking some local dialect,
standardizing it as a literary vernacular, and teaching people to read the
language in which the history (and much other stuff) was written. So much
for a grossly oversimplified travesty of Western civilization and its
In any case, when more people learned to read, moved to cities, and came
into contact with people different from themselves, the old notion of
legitimacy, that is, things are the way they ought to be because that's what
God wants, began to be questioned by all sorts of radical subversive ideas
started to pop up.
Like people having rights, that the state ought to do something for them,
and, finally, that the people ought to somehow control the states that were
necessary to maintain some kind of law and order.
Now, defining this thing called the people or nation was a very complex
process that was more or less worked out even in countries like France
only about a century ago, give or take a few decades, but it also spread
to the peoples who did not have a state and no family history of having one,
or one that it took some time-consuming historical research to reconstruct.
They wanted something that was theirs and usually this desire came to
encompass the state.
Thus, by the end of World War I, within the dynastic states of Eastern
Europe a whole political/intellectual/emotional complex of nations had
evolved and when the dynastic states of the Russian Empire, the Ottoman
Empire, the Habsburg Empire, and the German Empire all collapsed in
chaos, these nations were there to form new states.
By this time the idea that there was a right of nations to
self-determination had spread from the international socialist movement,
the Second International of which adopted the slogan in the 1890s, to
people like R. W. Seton-Watson in England (whose 1915 book, The New
Europe, was actually a blueprint for the postwar settlement), Tomas
Masaryk in what would become Czecho-Slovakia (then Czechoslovakia,
and now the Czech Republic and Slovakia), some people in Ukraine, and
was even enshrined in Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points.
In any case, in Imperial Russia, the first of these empires to disintegrate
under the blows of war and a bunch of other problems, the main people/nation
wanting some sort of political recognition was the Ukrainians, who also had
somewhat more civilized relatives in what was soon to become the former
Austro-Hungarian Empire, a national movement with mass support, and
Being less developed than other peoples farther West (Russia was much
more backward and repressive than, say, Austria-Hungary), their leaders
were reluctant to seek full independence but were basically pushed into it
by events that required foreign help against the Bolsheviks, a group of
bloodthirsty fanatics who thought they had a scientifically proven blueprint
to create heaven on earth and were not shy about killing anybody who got in
The resultant struggle was as messy as, say the Mexican Revolution of
1910-20, and for various reasons the Ukrainians lost militarily, but the
Bolsheviks realized by 1923 that they couldn't hope for any sort of
stability unless they made some pretty hefty concessions to Ukrainian
national aspirations, which they did and which some Bolsheviks in
Ukraine had been calling for since 1917.
However, there was a major problem with the so-called Leninist nationality
policy of telling people that they had both the right to national
self-determination and the substance of exercising it within a federation of
Communist-ruled states called the Soviet Union, in which everyone was
building the future under the guidance of the infallible Communist Party.
Some people might actually believe you and try to act accordingly.
This is basically what happened in the Ukrainian SSR and the theme of my
1983 book (Communism and the Dilemmas of National Liberation), which I
really wish more people interested in the famine would read. In any case,
during the period of Ukrainization or Ukrainianization as some writers call
it, the Ukrainian SSR was clearly evolving in the direction of a nation
state where just about everybody had to speak Ukrainian and the local
bosses of the mob of fanatics (or pretending to be fanatics) called the
Communist Party had a lot of elbow room in doing things their own way
and were, as political players are wont to do, seeking any opportunity
that might arise to get more.
In any case, the Soviet Union went through a succession struggle after the
death of its original godfather, Lenin, and by 1928 Stalin managed to
maneuver himself into a position that might best be described as capo di
tutti capi had he been born in Sicily instead of Georgia.
Now, many years ago Hannah Arendt wrote a book called The Origins
of Totalitarianism trying to explain, with a great deal of success, why
Nazi Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union evolved in such similar and
particularly nasty ways.
COLLECTIVIZATION AND DEKULAKIZATION
In one of the more brilliant if nasty political maneuvers of all time, but
one necessary to transform him into a real totalitarian dictator, Stalin
was able to whip up a mania of class enemies being everywhere and
turn the whole machine of enforcement against whom or whatever he
decided to get rid of, first "bourgeois specialists," then various sorts
of intellectuals, and in one of the great acts of forced social
transformation of all times, "the complete collectivization of agriculture
on the basis of the liquidation of the kulaks as a class."
The notion of kulak was never quite as clear as that of the Jew in Hitler's
particularly warped view of the world, and it went hand in hand with a
whole set of other menaces like "right deviation" or "leftist distortion"
such that just about anything or anybody could be "liquidated" (a
wonderful euphemism, when you remember that people don't melt but
die) as an enemy.
Collectivization and dekulakization were not aimed just at Ukraine,
although as a major agricultural region it was certainly a priority and
accomplishing it would be crucial in terms of making it possible for
Stalin to do to Ukraine what he did later.
Collectivization was a tremendous revolution from above that would
transform the peasant majority of the largest political community in the
world to serfdom and remove the peasantry as a class from any political
or social influence. And by subjecting these newly created serf communities
called collective farms to structures independent of territorial structures
like the Soviet republics, Stalin was able to become in essence the sole
owner of these serfs.
This opened up a whole constellation of diabolical political possibilities
and made it possible to withdraw the concessions the Bolsheviks had been
forced to make to the peasants and nationalities in the immediate aftermath
of the Civil War.
It couldn't be done easily or immediately, but it was done at a cost of the
lives of millions of Ukrainian peasants who really didn't have any political
importance in themselves by this time but as a way to get to the much
smaller number of local capos that Stalin wanted to rub out along with the
objective conditions that might allow anything like them to arise in the
If the key to unraveling the Nixon-era scandals was to follow the money,
in the Stalin period the only way to figure out the logic of what was
happening is to follow the logic of power of a completely amoral despot
intent on carrying out the original Bolshevik action plan, a state that runs
everything and one in which he had absolute power.
As the largest non-Russian Soviet republic that had got used to doing things
its own way, Ukraine was certainly a thorn in Stalin's side in terms of
getting done the things he wanted to do, and he was certainly afraid of
This was logical, for if Ukraine had continued to evolve nationally as it
doing under its local Communists after 1923, more and more of whom were
becoming Ukrainian in a society that was becoming more Ukrainian as well,
one could never rule out the possibility that it would one day evolve in a
direction something like those of the new nation states just over the Soviet
Union's western border.
This of course would be way out of line with what Lenin's Bolsheviks had
fought for in the first place, the victory of Communism and building of
heaven on an earth where the state ran everything so well that everybody
had enough of everything, thought the same things, spoke the same language,
and were perfectly happy.
PARTAKING OF THE DRUG CALLED POWER
How much Stalin actually believed in this exquisite equine excrement is
anybody's guess, but people do have a tendency to believe what they want to
believe, and the vision of the world victory of Comm unism led by Comrade
Stalin was obviously mind candy for someone like this particular Great
Dictator, just as Hitler's tastes ran in the direction of a world ethnically
cleansed of all the lesser races and breeding better people through the
science of eugenics. People can convince themselves of the darnedest
things, especially when partaking of the drug called power.
Absolute power in the sense Arendt described totalitarianism requires
smashing structures that get in the way of that power. And for Stalin, one
of those things, a very big one, was Ukraine as such. There are a number of
indicators that by the late 1920s Stalin was out to get Ukraine and make
everybody "Soviet patriots" ruled from Moscow as the capital of the
fatherland of the workers of the whole world.
This is the essence of the "permanent purge" that Zbigniew Brzezinski
discerned in the Stalinist system back in the 1950s and why the elimination
of mass terror by Khrushchev around 1953 allowed the structures to get
strong enough to oust old Nikita himself in 1964. In this sense Stalin could
see farther down the road than did his less fortunate successor.
THE ROLE OF THE FAMINE OF 1933
The role of the famine of 1933 is as the episode most costly in terms of
human life of what Hryhory Kostiuk back in 1960 called the decade of mass
terror (1929-1939) which started with the mass arrests connected with an
imaginary conspiracy called the Union for the Liberation of Ukraine in late
1929 and ended with the wholesale slaughter of the Central Committee of
the Communist Party (bolshevik) of Ukraine during the Great Terror.
Now, as you can well imagine, forcing the agricultural population onto the
newly organized serf plantations called collective farms against their will
did not exactly promote agricultural output. In addition, the Communists
tried to establish the control of Machine Tractor Stations over more land
than they had enough tractors to plow on time.
So by the spring of 1932 it was clear to our capos in the then UkSSR
capital of Kharkiv that Ukraine simply wouldn't have the grain to meet
the quotas set for the coming agricultural year and Stanislav Kosior,
CP(b)U first secretary, asked for a reduction, but Stalin was able to
force what everybody understood were pie-in-the-sky quotas at the
Third All-Ukrainian Party Conference that summer.
When the quotas couldn't be met, at the end of October Stalin took direct
control of the grain seizures by appointing "commissions" headed by Molotov
in Ukraine and Kaganovich in the North Caucasus, where Lazar Moiseyevich
concentrated on Ukrainian-speaking areas of the Kuban, especially where
people had been sent from Mykola Skrypnyk's UkSSR Commissariat of
Education (see the documents in Shapoval's "Commanders of the Great
Famine" in Ukrainian), the centerpiece of the whole policy of Ukrainization,
which was in turn the core of what made Ukraine distinct and in that sense
a political threat and what Stalin had every motive to eliminate. And Stalin
(Works, in Russian, VII, p.72), saw the national problem as, "according to
its essence, a problem of the peasantry."
Like all forms of legerdemain, politics has an element of misdirection, of
attracting the spectator's attention away from the main action so that the
result seems to happen as if by magic. Stalin was quite familiar with this
as in, for example, the doctor's plot of 1952, which, of course, couldn't
have been anti-Semitic, since one of the doctors arrested was Russian,
and in the tragedy of 1933 we see this a number of times.
For example, when he appointed Molotov and Kaganovich in charge of
the grain seizures in Ukraine, he also appointed Pavel Postyshev in charge
of a similar commission in the Volga Basin, but that commission seems not
to have been nearly as energetic as its counterparts in Ukraine and the
When on December 14, 1932, Stalin and Molotov called in the Party leaders
of the Ukrainian SSR and the North Caucasus Territory (which included the
Kuban), he also called the head of the Western oblast (Smolensk), who was
basically told to meet his quotas and go home, while the national changes
dealing with things Ukrainian were clearly spelled out, were reserved for
precisely Ukraine and the Kuban, with a decree the following day closing
down Ukrainization in other parts of the Soviet Union ("Commanders of the
Great Famine," pp. 310-313; it really is the most important book on the
topic to be published since the original 1990 collection of Party documents,
The Famine of 1932-1933 in Ukraine in the Eyes of Historians and Language
of the Documents).
DURING THIS PERIOD UKRAINE AS SUCH WAS BROKEN
Let us consider for a moment the specific stratagem used here. Stalin took
direct control of the grain seizures in Ukraine by putting Molotov and to
some extent Kaganovich in charge from late October, while the public
cheerleader of take-all-there-is campaign was Mendel Khataevich, brought in
as CP(b)U second secretary on October 12 from the Volga, where he had
earlier been given a reprimand for excessive zeal in carrying out
dekulakization, and obviously not a nice man.
Then, presided over by Molotov, on November 18, 1932, the CP(b)U
adopted a resolution authorizing the audit of all bread resources in
collective and individual farms (around 20% of peasant households
at the time) that had not completely met their "tasks" for the grain
procurement and the seizure of such all such grain (except for a seed
reserve which was ordered seized a little over a month later) as part
of the "procurements" (a delightful word in this context, don't you think)
and levying fines in kind (seizing other foodstuffs) from those
"maliciously" failing to have enough bread to seize.
Then on December 14, 1932, Kosior as First Secretary of the CP(b)U,
Shcheboldaev as his counterpart from the North Caucasus Territory, and
Rumiantsev from Smolensk were called in for the Politburo of the All-Union
Communist Party (bolshevik) to discover that the reason they had not found
all that non-existent grain was that various "enemies" had wormed their way
into the Party organizations, among them Ukrainian nationalists.
This signaled the virtual destruction of rural Party organizations in
Ukraine and the North Caucasus followed the next month by a public
reprimand of the CP(b)U for such shortcomings and the appointment of
Pavel Postyshev as Second Secretary and de facto satrap bringing with
him enough comrades from the Great White Northeast as to constitute a
virtual coup d'etat, begin a reign of terror of over even the Communist
intelligentsia in Ukraine and anybody too closely associated with
Skrypnyk's Ukrainization as the last outpost of officially sanctioned
Ukrainian things in the Ukrainian SSR, banning most everything Ukrainian
and rehabilitating Russian history (tsars and all) in 1934, adopting a very
centralizing Constitution in 1936, and finally in 1937-1938 killing off what
was left of the pre-existing CP(b)U leadership.
Are we being paranoid to think these actions might be somehow related?
Over the years my research on the famine has been criticized for being
"flawed" because of my suggesting the plausibility of such a relationship.
Judge for yourself.
In any case, during this period Ukraine as such was broken, and the idea
that millions of innocent peasants who starved to death mainly in Ukraine
just happened to be Ukrainian has seemed to me a little naive from the
standpoint of what was being done in terms of the historical context and
political situation of the time.
It also seems to me that what was left of Ukraine and what got independence
in 1991 should be viewed as a post-genocidal society, which cannot develop
the way many of us think it should precisely because of the radical
"deconstruction" of the Ukrainian nation in the Soviet period. And from this
flows a host of problems all of us are familiar with in post-communist
Is this a form of special pleading like, for example, former colonial
countries blaming their former colonial masters for "de-developing" them.
Maybe so, but that does not deny the truth or establish the falsity of the
assertion, which does seem to explain at least in part why certain countries
don't evolve in the direction certain donor states might have expected.
There is a temptation to remain silent over the temptation to remain silent
over the shortcomings that all too clearly exist and a reluctance to ask the
painful questions of why they exist. Maybe this explains something.
James E. Mace, Kyiv, Ukraine
www.ArtUkraine.com EDITOR'S NOTE: To read the entire set of
famine articles by Askold Krushelnycky that Prof. James Mace comments
on in the above Letter to the Editor, please check out the following:
HARVEST OF DEATH
70th Anniversary of Stalin's Famine in Ukraine
By Askold Krushelnycky, RFE/RL Correspondent
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)
Prague, Czech Republic, Thursday, May 8, 2003
The month of May this year marks the 70th anniversary of the height of a
devastating famine deliberately engineered by Soviet leader Josef Stalin
that claimed at least 5 million lives in Ukraine and around 2 million in the
North Caucasus and elsewhere.
In this three-part series, RFE/RL correspondent Askold Krushelnycky
reports on the motivation behind Josef Stalin's notorious plan, the memories
of those who survived the famine, and why even today so little is known
about the tragedy.
Famine -- Eliminating An 'Enemy' Class Through Collectivization (Part 1)
Famine -- Survivors Recall The Horrors Of 1933 (Part 2)
Famine -- Seventy Years Later, World Still Largely Unaware Of Tragedy
To read the three-part series by Askold Krushelnycky click on:
NOTE: Information About James Mace.
Prof. James Mace, author of numerous scholarly works and one of the first
serious researchers of the 1933 Holodomor, was born February 18, 1952, in
Muskogee, Oklahoma. In 1973, he graduated from Oklahoma State University and
went on to earn an M.A. and Ph.D. in history at the University of Michigan,
in 1981defending his dissertation, "Communism and the Dilemmas of National
Liberation: National Communism in Soviet Ukraine, 1919-33," later published
in book form (Harvard, 1983). Upon completing his graduate studies Dr. Mace
was invited to join the famine project at the Harvard Ukrainian Research
Institute where he collected material for Robert Conquest's Harvest of
In 1986-90, James Mace served as executive director of the US Ukraine Famine
Commission, a hybrid body subject to Congress and the president, supervising
its daily work and drafting its findings for approval by the full
commission. After 1990, he held fellowships at Columbia and Illinois
Universities. In 1993, Prof. Mace moved to Ukraine, working first as a
supervisory research fellow at the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences Institute
of Ethnic and Political Studies, then teaching politics at the Kyiv-Mohyla
Academy National University and International Christian University. Since
1998, Prof. Mace has been consultant to the English digest, The Day.
The Mace letter is for personal and academic use only and can be used with
credits to UKRAINE REPORT 2003, and www.ArtUkraine.com Information