Monday, November 17, 2008, Kyiv, Ukraine
Will not participate in activities surrounding 75th commemoration of Holodomor
President of Russia, Official Web Portal, Moscow, Russia, Friday, November 14, 2008

Dear Viktor Andreyevich,
In response to your messages concerning the so-called Holodomor as well as the steps taken by the Ukrainian leadership on the issue, I consider it necessary to elaborate on our views of and approaches to the issues at hand.

I would immediately note the following. We clearly see that in recent years this topic combined with persistent attempts to receive a NATO «membership action plan», have become a central element of Ukrainian foreign policy. We also note the intention of the political elite and leadership of Ukraine to use this issue as a "test for patriotism and loyalty".

In your messages, you call for "removing the ideological layers from history". Naturally, I share this approach. But at the same time I propose that we be absolutely consistent and guided by the principle of fair, honest and non-partisan treatment of historical heritage.

In connection with this, I am forced to point out that, in our opinion, the tragic events of the early 1930s in Ukraine are being used to achieve immediate short-term political goals. In this regard, the thesis on the "centrally planned genocidal famine of Ukrainians" is being gravely manipulated. As a result, including thanks to your personal efforts, this interpretation has even received legislative support. In particular, I am referring to the law passed on 28 November 2006 by the Verkhovnaya Rada [Ukrainian parliament] that you signed, which states that "the famine of 1932-1933 in Ukraine was a genocide
against the Ukrainian people".
I would also mention your initiative to criminalize the denial of the events of the period as they are outlined in the law. Therefore without waiting for the results of a comprehensive study of the issue by competent experts, you imposed a single interpretation on this history. And dissenters are threatened with prosecution – just as they were in the totalitarian past. To put it mildly, according to this "one-sided logic" any citizen of Ukraine that claims that in addition to Ukrainians, Russians, Kazakhs and Belarusians died of starvation in the same period is, in your opinion, a criminal.

It is unlikely that such steps can be explained by the desire to restore historical justice or to honour the memory of the victims. These efforts rather seek to divide our peoples as much as possible, peoples united by many centuries of historical, cultural and spiritual ties, by special feelings of friendship and mutual trust.

The most difficult pages of our common history undoubtedly need to be fully explained. But this is only possible on the basis of objective professional studies. However, we see that those who push through the thesis of «Holodomor-genocide» are not in the least interested in historical accuracy. Various manipulations and distortions are occurring, data on the actual number of deaths are being falsified. Representatives of the Ukrainian authorities are making public statements that contribute to distorting the picture.
Thus in an interview in November 2007 you refer to census data from 1929 and 1979 to argue that Ukrainians were the only nation whose population was halved during this period, and declined from 81 million to 42 million. Yet according to the All-Union census which, incidentally, was not held in 1929 but in 1926, the total number of Ukrainians in the USSR, including residents of the western areas, was about 30 million.

We are open for discussion and don't want academics to take on political "attitudes". In our country the theme of the famine of 1932-1933 - as well as other difficult historical questions - can be discussed freely, without fear of becoming an "enemy of the nation". Russia has long ago destroyed the "Iron Curtain of silence" about which you write.

The famine in the Soviet Union in 1932-1933 was not aimed at the destruction of any one nation. It was the result of a drought, forced collectivization and de-kulakization [campaign of political repressions of the better-off peasants and their families] and affected the entire country, not only Ukraine. Millions of people in the middle and lower Volga regions, northern Caucasus, central Russia, southern Urals, western Siberia, Kazakhstan and Belarus died.
We do not condone the repression carried out by the Stalinist regime against the entire Soviet people. But to say that it was aimed at the destruction of Ukrainians means going against the facts and trying to give a nationalist subtext to a common tragedy. As to referring to "qualitative differences" between the famine in Ukraine and that in Russia and other regions of the USSR, it is, in our view, merely cynical and immoral.

I would note that the decisions taken about collectivization were made by the multinational leadership of the Soviet Union and the Soviet republics, while the policy of enforced food requisition was carried out in the Ukrainian Republic by predominantly Ukrainian personnel. The latter both zealously acting on instructions from the centre as well as often making "counterplans", including reprisals against their brothers, Ukrainians themselves.

Historical truth demands that we adopt a responsible approach. But attempts to resort to the "national factor" are unfair to the memory of the victims, not to mention the questionable legal basis of such claims.

With regard to steps taken by the Ukrainian side in international organizations to "ascertain the nature and ensure the condemnation of such crimes" I would note that the UN and UNESCO have already expressed themselves on this subject. The 2007 UNESCO General Conference paid tribute to the millions of deaths from starvation in the 1930s regardless of the victims' nationality and refused to recognize this tragedy as a "genocide of the Ukrainian people".
And at the 58th UN General Assembly most of the CIS member states including Russia, Ukraine and many other nations issued a joint statement in which they expressed their deepest sympathy to millions of Russians, Ukrainians, Kazakhs and representatives of other nations, victims of starvation in USSR.
The statement refers to the events of the 1930s as a "tragedy". I believe that further discussion of this topic in international organisations would not be beneficial and will not produce any results.

Therefore, as I have already said, we should focus on correcting a dangerous disparity which has arisen, whereby the slogan "condemnation of the genocide of Ukrainians" belittles the tragedy of other affected peoples of the former Soviet Union. I propose to begin work on a joint approach to these events. In doing so, it would be useful to involve experts from Kazakhstan, Belarus and other interested CIS countries.

Meanwhile, in the light of the above, I do not consider it possible to participate in the activities surrounding the 75th anniversary of the "Holodomor" in Ukraine.

For my part I would like to confirm my sincere desire to build a positive atmosphere of cooperation in the cultural and educational spheres, and to substantiate this cooperation with concrete actions that are understandable to our citizens and benefit the traditionally friendly relations between our countries and peoples.

Sincerely, Dmitry Medvedev.
LINK: http://www.kremlin.ru/eng/text/docs/209178.shtml
Matvey Ganapolskiy, Political Commentator, Ekho Moskvy
Ekho Moskvy radio, Moscow, Russia, in Russian, Friday, 14 Nov 08 
BBC Monitoring Service, UK, In English, Friday, November 14, 2008 

In his commentary on the Russian president's decision not to attend the events in Kiev dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the famine of 1932-1933, Matvey Ganapolskiy, political commentator of the Ekho Moskvy radio station, said:

"Yushchenko and Medvedev are worth each other. The first wants the victims of bloody maniac Stalin to be exclusively Ukrainians. In other words, he does not care a damn about the fact that everyone was dying from famine and that the very essence of the famine mechanism was not to eliminate someone but to eliminate all for the sake of the bright idea of world communism.
This has been proven a thousand times, but we know that any president for the benefit of his own country would not even stop at deceiving his own people. And since the benefit in question is immediate accession to NATO, the fairy-tale about exclusive Ukrainians still goes on.

"But Yushchenko has a spitting image. His name is Dmitriy Medvedev. He does not want to stand next to nationalist Yushchenko, so he writes a letter to him in which he explains how everything should be interpreted and understood. He does not go to the remembrance ceremony but teaches how the event should be remembered. It is reminiscent of his speech on the eve of Obama's victory. The latter had not yet won the election but Moscow had already issued instructions.

"Anyway, Medvedev could have attended the ceremony in Kiev and the two countries may have reconciled. But the Putin-Medvedev duet is hiding in the bushes, waiting for these devil incarnates - Yushchenko and [Georgian President Mikheil] Saakashvili - to disappear. And now they will be waiting not for eight but 12 years.

"As we can see everyone plays their own game. And in this game everything is important, except the main thing, the wretched victims of Holodomor, whose memory is being buried in the lies of some and the political expediency of others."
REUTERS, Moscow, Russia, Friday, November 14, 2008

MOSCOW - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev accused Ukraine’s pro-Western leader yesterday of distorting history for political gain by commemorating a famine engineered by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

The dispute over next week’s anniversary of the 1932-33 famine is part of a long series of rows between the ex-Soviet neighbours over Kiev’s shift towards the West which includes seeking membership of NATO and the European Union.  Historians say about 7.5 million people died in the famine, intended to break the spirit of Ukraine’s independent farmers.

Ukrainian authorities, led by President Viktor Yushchenko, have sought to have the famine declared internationally a “genocide”. Russia denounces such an interpretation, saying the events at that time hit many ethnic groups in the Soviet Union.

“We clearly see that this theme, along with persistent attempts to secure an invitation to NATO’s ‘prep classes’ has in recent years all but become the main element of Ukrainian foreign policy,” Medvedev told the Ukrainian leader in a letter.

“Such steps can hardly be explained by a bid to restore historical justice or to honour the victims’ memory. They are more likely aimed at dividing our peoples as much as possible.”

Medvedev said the famine was “the consequence of drought and forced collectivisation...To suggest that the main aim was to destroy Ukrainians is to fly in the face of the facts and paint a general tragedy in nationalist tones.”
Russia has repeatedly been at odds with the pro-Western leaders swept to power by the 2004 “Orange Revolution” mass protests against election fraud.
Moscow is highly critical of moves by Ukraine and pro-Western Georgia to join NATO and said on Friday it would pull out of the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty if the two ex-Soviet states were placed on the path to membership.

The Kremlin was deeply angered by Yushchenko’s support for Georgia in the brief war pitting it against Russia in August. The foreign ministry in Moscow this week denounced a decision by Ukraine to halt the screening of a Russian film on the conflict.

Border demarcation disputes further divide the neighbours as does Ukraine’s intention to end in 2017 the presence of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in the Crimea peninsula. Several days of commemorations next week include a conference to be attended by regional leaders, the unveiling of a monument and a solemn procession to honour victims.

The famine, one of three to strike Ukraine last century, is particularly sensitive as it touched many regions in a country usually divided into a nationalist west and Russian-speaking east. Soviet authorities denied for years that it had occurred.

It was created by authorities setting impossibly high harvest quotas and requisitioning crops and livestock. Farmers were left to die in their own homes.
At its height, 25,000 people perished every day. Soldiers dumped bodies into pits and cannibalism became rife.  
UkrInform - Ukraine News, Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, November 14, 2008

KYIV - The leader of the Crimean Communists, radical and deputy of the Ukrainian Parliament Leonid Hrach supported Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's position who officially refused today from an invitation from Kyiv to participate in the events to perpetuate the memory of the Holodomor victims of 1932-33.

Hrach had repeatedly accused President Viktor Yushchenko of “falsification of historical facts of the Soviet period” and in a “cynically-refined Russophobian policy”.

The Parliamentary deputy from the CPU faction called memorial events on the Holodomor in Ukraine as a “Sabbath”. “Medvedev's refusal is a signal to the Ukrainian society so that it looked attentively at its leaders, who lead it apparently not to right side, lead it to confrontation with Russia actually in all the spheres, turning it into a state ideology”, Hrach said.

As UKRINFORM earlier reported, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev stated in an address to President Viktor Yushchenko that the famine in Ukraine in the early 1930ies has been used for reaching short-term political aims.  According to the Russian President, the Holodomor, alongside with the course towards NATO, is a part of Ukraine's foreign policy.

Dmitry Medvedev once again confirmed the Russian position that rejects availability of genocide during the famine of 1932-1933.

Large-scale memorable events will take place in Ukraine on November 18-22, dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the Holodomor 1932-1933, recognized by about 15 countries as genocide, participation of thirty foreign delegations is expected, including at the highest level.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (of the Moscow Patriarchy) recognized the Holodomor of 1932-33 as act of genocide at the Holy Synod over these days.

By Marcus Franklin, Associated Press (AP), New York, NY, Friday,  November 14, 2008
NEW YORK - The New York Civil Liberties Union has demanded that city officials explain why they ordered a private art school to remove a banner displaying an image of Josef Stalin.

In a letter Thursday to the Department of Buildings, NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman expressed concern that the banner was taken down from The Cooper Union after some residents of the local Ukrainian community complained that it "seemed to promote" the Soviet dictator on the 75th anniversary of a famine he imposed. The famine, called the Holodomor, killed millions of Ukrainians.

The banner was part of an art exhibit, "Stalin by Picasso, or Portrait of Woman with Mustache." Lene Berg, the artist who created the banner, said it was intended to provoke discussion about the relationship between art and politics.

The 52-foot-by-36-foot banner features a reproduction of a 1953 Pablo Picasso portrait of Stalin. At the time, the image was viewed as a critique of the Soviet leader.

But the Ukrainian community found it offensive, said Tamara Olexy, president of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America. "It's like hanging a portrait of Hitler in a synagogue or in a Jewish community," she said.

After receiving several complaints, the Department of Buildings investigated the banner's legality and determined it violated construction and zoning regulations, the agency said Friday.

"We determined the sign was too high, too large, lacked a permit and blocked the building's windows," buildings spokeswoman Kate Lindquist wrote in an e-mail. "The department does not regulate sign content."

But Lieberman said the NYCLU's understanding was that the complaints were about the banner's content, not its size. "The question remains as to whether the building code was enforced because of objections to the content. If so, that raises questions about censorship," Lieberman said in a statement.

In a Nov. 13 letter to buildings department community affairs director Donald Ranshte, Lieberman said the banner's removal would raise First Amendment concerns if regulations had been selectively enforced based on complaints about its content.

Buildings officials told the school Oct. 31 to remove the banner because it didn't have a permit, Cooper Union spokeswoman Jolene Travis said Friday. The school immediately took down the banner, which had been put up on Oct. 26.

Cooper Union initially planned to apply for a permit to display the banner again, but not until after Nov. 15, when the Ukrainian community in the nearby East Village plans to hold events commemorating the famine, Travis said. But the school abandoned the effort after being told by buildings officials that banners can't block windows because of fire hazards.

The banner controversy comes less than six months after a Roman Catholic watchdog group protested a Cooper Union student art exhibition that included what the group considered vulgar depictions of religious symbols such as a crucifix and a rosary.

Mr. E. Morgan Williams, Director
Government Affairs, Washington Office
SigmaBleyzer Private Equity Investment Group
President/CEO, U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC)
Publisher & Editor, Action Ukraine Report (AUR)
Trustee: "Holodomor: Through The Eyes of Ukrainian Artists"
1701 K Street, NW, Suite 703, Washington, D.C. 20006
Mobile in Kyiv: 380 50 689 2874
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