Kyiv Post | 20May2011 | Boris Danik

Controversy over ranking of genocides

The ongoing arguments at the newly established Canadian Museum of Human Rights are about the question of primacy of the 20th century Jewish Holocaust over all other grand atrocities that decimated parts of mankind. Lately this dispute has been sidetracked away from a basic issue -- the refusal of the Canadian museum to accord the Holodomor, in which the Soviet communist regime killed millions of Ukrainian peasants in 1933 by intentional mass starvation, a similar recognition and standing in its presentations as it has given to the Holocaust.

An op-ed in the Kyiv Post, “Open letter vilifies freedom fighters, minimizes Holodomor,” on May 7, 2011, described the allegations made in an “open letter” against the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

These allegations distort the position of these two organizations concerning the Holocaust. In the same letter, the signers digress far beyond the subject matter, in attempts to discredit the World War II actions of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and the fight of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army against the Nazis and the Soviet KGB troops.

Such diversions are not new. They have been a recurrent theme on various occasions. Refuting such untenable accusations has been like whistling in the wind, although it needs to be done. Again, the above-mentioned Kyiv Post article provided a cogent response, with extensive pertinent detail.

Arguably, extensive public focusing on Holodomor and its wide recognition as a genocide on a massive scale might not be convenient from all points of view. This is so because the circle of Holodomor perpetrators was larger than Josef Stalin’s closest board of directors. Not that any of them lived beyond year 2000. But they still could cause discomfort for the living.

Ironically, many of those liquidators who organized the Holodomor were later themselves removed and wiped out by the same Soviet regime during the Great Terror of the 1930s.

And so, torpedoing the efforts of Ukrainian Canadians to gain the right standing at the museum or the Holodomor could be a priority for some who have a hefty political wallop.

Is a historic Ukrainophobia a factor in this ongoing controversy? Probably yes. But the weakness of Ukraine as a geopolitical entity on the international chessboard is certainly a factor. The spiking and snubbing of the Holodomor is likely to be the norm. And, also noteworthy, is the wishy-washy and sometimes hostile attitude of the President Viktor Yanukovych administration towards vital Ukrainian issues. This quasi-Ukrainian government of Ukraine works like a stimulant for detractors.

The flip side for Holodomor deniers and minimizers is their equivocation and the resorting to subterfuge as substitute for proven facts. Who, except them, can throw sand in the face of actuarial data of the 1920s and 30s and doubt the huge mortality numbers in Ukraine, or rationalize those numbers by natural causes when massive coercive confiscations of grain were carried out by thousands of requisition squads, and a blockade was enforced by KGB troops preventing people from leaving and moving from Ukraine?

And how impressive is the subterfuge? Does it cut mustard about wartime atrocities ascribed to the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists?

The accusers are referring not to the piles of corpses discovered in the cellars of the KGB in Lviv, nor did they have in mind thousands of bodies found in mass graves in Vinnytsia in 1942 -- shot in the back of head a few years before the dogs of war disrupted the clock of the Soviet satrapia. The accusers were not shedding tears over the hundreds of thousands deported from Ukraine in railway wagons to die in the snows of Siberian taiga.

It is the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army that is a problem for the company that would rather push the subject of Holodomor off the table.

Boris Danik is a retired Ukrainian-American living in North Caldwell, New Jersey.