| Zuzak Letters |
Atlantic Council | 21Nov2016 | Victor Rud
Holodomor Remembrance Day:
Why the Past Matters for the Future
As Americans sit down to their Thanksgiving meals on the last Thursday
in November, Ukrainians will be commemorating the memory of millions
who were murdered in 1932-33. The last Saturday in November is
Holodomor Remembrance Day in Ukraine, a time to mark the anniversary of
Joseph Stalin’s engineered starvation of the nation. In the West, the
date should also be remembered as a pivotal event that ensured the
viability of the Soviet Union, with its consequent implications for
hundreds of millions in the free world.
The Holodomor in Ukraine is too often mistakenly grouped together in
the West with the generic Soviet collectivization of agriculture. While
collectivization was extant throughout the Soviet Union, it was
distinct in purpose and result in Ukraine. There, wrote Proletarska
Pravda in 1930, collectivization was intended “to destroy
the social basis of Ukrainian nationalism.” Indeed, though
collectivization in Ukraine was virtually complete by the spring of
1932, Moscow pressed on. Having eliminated Ukraine’s political,
cultural, and religious strata, Stalin turned against the villages. It
was there that Ukrainian traditions and self-awareness were rooted, and
where the overwhelming majority of the population resided. The task,
wrote historian Norman Davies, was to forever inter any notion of
independence. The countryside was stripped not simply of grain but of
anything remotely edible. Cooking utensils and farming tools were
confiscated. The borders were sealed, and no food was allowed in. No
one was allowed out. And not just in Ukraine, but also in the heavily
Ukrainian ethnographic regions absorbed by neighboring Russia. Entire
villages simply disappeared. A year later, one of Stalin’s sycophants,
Pavel Postyshev boasted: “We have annihilated the nationalist
counter-revolution during the past year, we have exposed and destroyed
Estimates of the number of victims range from four to ten million.
Italian diplomatic dispatches at the time concluded: “The current
disaster will bring about a predominantly Russian colonization of
Ukraine.” In 1953, Raphael Lemkin, author of the UN Genocide
Convention, passionately condemned not just the murder of millions but
also the evisceration of Ukraine’s national ethos. “This is not simply
a case of mass murder. It is a case of genocide, of destruction, not of
individuals only, but of a culture and a nation.” But it was not until
the eve of their independence in 1991 that Ukrainians even dared to
whisper about the Holodomor among themselves.
Some news about the Holodomor was carried in the Western press.
France’s Le Matin wrote, “The systematically
organized famine has as its objective the destruction of a nation,
whose only crime is that it is striving for freedom.” Mainly, however,
the news was spiked by Western media. The New York Times’
Moscow correspondent Walter Duranty, a Pulitzer Prize winner,
categorically denied the horror. Washington knew the dirty secret:
Duranty had earlier admitted to US Embassy personnel in Berlin that “in
agreement with the New York Times and the Soviet
authorities, his official dispatches always reflect the official
opinion of the Soviet government and not his own.” Privately, however,
to the British Embassy in Moscow Duranty confessed a “ghastly horror,”
and that Ukraine “has been bled white.”
Western governments had their own calculus. The British Foreign Office
wrote: “We do not want to make [information about the Holodomor]
public...because the Soviet Government would resent it and our
relationship with them would be prejudiced. We cannot give this
explanation in public.” After taking a Potemkin village tour of the
starving Ukrainian countryside, former French Prime Minister Herriot
returned to France and ridiculed the notion of any starvation.
Western betrayal of Ukraine soon became official. On November 16, 1933,
US President Franklin D. Roosevelt recognized the Soviet Union.
Legitimacy, approval, and acceptance were stamped on a netherworld
dedicated to the destruction of Roosevelt’s own country. American and
Soviet celebrants dined on caviar and beef stroganoff at the Waldorf
Astoria as Ukraine became one vast necropolis. One might say that at
that moment, a great and noble nation bartered away its moral clarity.
Twelve years later, outside the court windows in Nuremberg in post-war
Europe, the United States and United Kingdom, overseen by the Soviet
Union’s secret police, “repatriated” hundreds of thousands of Holodomor
survivors and others back to that same netherworld. That was the second
betrayal, inked in Yalta.
Fast forward to 1991. Despite President George H.W. Bush’s efforts to
discourage Ukraine from withdrawing from the Soviet Union, the nation
voted for independence, catalyzing the dissolution of the USSR. Shortly
after, however, Moscow became the beneficiary of a third deal: Ukraine
surrendered its nuclear arsenal in return for US, UK, and Russian
commitments to its national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
In 2004, the Ukrainian community in the United States warned National
Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s
game plan: that there would be only one player. Washington remained
somnolent, and in 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine, occupying and annexing
its territory. With scarcely a whimper from the West, Putin savaged the
world order overnight.
This year as never before, Holodomor Remembrance Day requires more than
the commemoration of innocents. It requires that, at long last,
Washington take an accurate measure of the Kremlin. Even more so, it
must reassess its own impulse toward deal making, something that long
predates the election of the new US president-elect. That approach did
not establish a laudable record. If Ukraine is not secured as a
counterweight of freedom and stability, any "deal" will condemn the
West to a dangerous past.
Victor Rud is a board member of the Ukrainian American Bar
Association and chairman of its Committee on Foreign Affairs.
[W.Z. Other articles by Victor Rud on this website are at
http://www.willzuzak.ca/tp/holodomor/rud20120723WillZuzak.html -- Wasyl Sydorovych Rud (1916.04.11 - 2012.05.02)
http://willzuzak.ca/tp/ukrainophobia/pancake20100106WashingtonPost.html#2b -- In Ukraine, movement to honor members of WWII underground sets off debate ]