The “So-Called” Golodomor
24 November 2008
Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev did not attend the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Golodomor. Instead, he sent a letter in which he waxed wrathful about the wedge being driven between two brotherly peoples by ill-wishers who speak of a “so-called” Golodomor.
“The tragic events of the early 1930s are being used to further transient and fleeting political aims,” the President wrote. He added: “Without waiting for the results of a wide-ranging study of the problems by competent experts, we are having a simplistic depiction of the past imposed on us. The people who are promoting the thesis of a “genocidal man-made famine” do not care in the least about scientific accuracy. Their aim is to drive a wedge between our fraternal peoples.”
Last Friday, I was on Savik Shuster’s “Shuster Live” program which was dedicated to the Golodomor. The guests on the programme divided into two parties. One group consisted of Russophile politicians. The view they expounded was that firstly, there wasn’t any Golodomor, secondly, the Americans were to blame, and thirdly, that everyone suffered from it.
Some of the attendees actually managed to combine various points of view within a single statement. Thus former Duma deputy Mitrofanov declared that firstly, the Americans with their Great Depression were to blame for the Golodomor, secondly, a Georgian organised crime group was tat the root of it, and thirdly, the Ukrainians committed genocide against the Russians because in the 1970s there were many Ukrainians at the summit of power and the USSR built its best factories in the Ukraine. “Don’t talk to me about dead bodies in the streets!” thundered Mitrofanov. “Just tell me why was Yuzhmash built in the Ukraine?”
Others – Duma deputy Sergei Markov, for example – insisted that the famine was a crime committed by Stalin’s régime against the country as a whole. This member of the Duma was promulgating the export version of the Putinite ideology. He refrained from mentioning that the Duma of which he is a member does not refer to Stalinist crimes, that on April 2nd, this very Duma passed a decree (proposed by a number of general and a drugs dealer) on the Golodomor in which it declares that the annihilation of “petty property owners was driven by the need to ‘resolve the tasks’ of ‘forming an army of workers’ for the rapid industrialisation of the country” and that the “DneproGES hydro-electric dam, the Krivorozhstal steel works and other projects stand as the eternal monuments to the heroes and victims of the 1930s”.
Of note is the fact that the Russophile guests of various stripes all had one thing in common: the ability to perceive as facts things that are simply not true. They called against “driving wedges between…”, against “distorting history.” Yet their opponents were not trying to drive wedges between anyone and not distorting history in any way. Ex-president Kravchuk (who was constantly interrupted by a yelping Markov) calmly described how is uncle was shot merely for reading in barracks a letter about victims of the famine. And that he, as president of the Ukraine, could not very well investigate famine in Russia.
I should state here that I agree that the Golodomor, the use of famine as a means of genocide against the Ukrainian nation, took place. It is not true to say that Ukrainians were not especially targeted. Stalin’s terror was directed against all sorts of different groupings. Sometimes Stalin worked on annihilating classes – nobles, peasants, and at one period – members of the Party. At others, it was directed against peoples. The whole population of Chechnya was exiled (some were exiled, some burnt to death – for example, in the high-mountain village of Khaibakh, since it was too much trouble to get transport there). We cannot forbid the Chechens from saying they they were not particularly victimised, that their miseries were not separate from the general misery Stalin visited upon us. Polish officers were shot en masse at Katyn and there’s no way we can say that it’s unfair for the Poles to be driving a wedge between our two peoples because not only Poles were shot there.
Stalin annihilated the peasantry to drive them into the collective farms. It so happened that the richest peasants were in the Ukraine. It so happened that no fewer than 8 million Ukrainians were killed. It so happened that Stalin was afraid of the Ukraine’s desire for independence and exerted especial efforts to break the Ukraine, just as he exerted especial efforts to break Chechnya.
Maybe the word “genocide” is not quite the appropriate word, however. As a term, it is usually used to describe the murder of one nation by another – e.g. of Jews by the Germans, of Armenians by the Turks. In the USSR, and also in China and Cambodia, a new kind of genocide was invented: the total annihilation of society, with particular reference to certain classes and ethnicities if such existed. A new term is perhaps required: Autocide? Selfcide?
If there is something that is most peculiar about our foreign policy, it is the way in which Putinite Russia chooses to relate to its close neighbours. It would seem that we are more or less prepared to be friendly with France and Germany but that any attempt by the former constituent parts of the former empire to shed light on their own history drives the Kremlin into unconcealed fits of fury, to accusations of “wanting to lay blame” without “waiting for the results of an all-round study of the problem by competent experts”.
The Poles request that a criminal case be opened on the subject of Katyn. I’m sorry, but they have every right to ask for that. The response is an avalanche of publications from which it would seem that, firstly. Katyn didn’t happen, and secondly, the Poles deserved it. Instead of explaining how it came to be that tens of thousands of doctors, teachers, and officers – who had not fought against the Soviet Army but on the contrary gave it arms because they thought that army would pass through Poland on its way to fight Hitler – were shot in the back of the head by the side of a ravine. To top it all, Putin also institutes and celebrates November 4th as a day of victory over Poland.
In Tallin, the Monument to the Unknown Soldier is taken down. I’m sorry, but the Estonians have every right to do what they want. I personally would not be too happy about, say, keeping in Red Square a monument to the Mongol-Liberator erected long ago by Mongol General Batya. In Estonia NKVD veteran Arnold Meri is on trial for genocide (against his own people, by the way). What business of ours is it that an Estonian is being tried in Estonia for killing Estonians? But no! “Kangaroo court!”, “WWII Revisionism!” the Duma fumes, then passes a resolution in his support. Meanwhile, in Gorny Altai region, where Meri also engaged in a spot of murdering (Russians, this time), a street is named after him.
Just imagine a letter being sent from Kazan in Tatarstan to the Kremlin angrily denouncing “ the policy of reviewing the results of the Tartars’ liberation of Russia from the Teutonic invaders” and the “incorrect interpretation put upon the actions of the vassal to the Tartar Khans Alexander Nevsky”.
The letter would go on to remind us that it was Khan Batya who gave permission for Alexander Nevsky to call himself king. That Tartar troops were sent to aid him against his brothers when they rose up against the Tartars. That Alexander Nevsky by the force of his iron fist obliged the citizens of Novgorod to pay their tribute to the Khan after they rose up against him. And that even when another uprising against the Tartars was headed by Nevsky’s son Vasili, Alexander rode with the Tartars and did not flinch from exiling his son and severely punishing his son’s comrades.
In conclusion, we are encouraged not to drive wedges between brotherly nations and not to review the results of history by celebrating the liberation of Russia from the “so-called Mongol yoke”. Something tells me that our historians are not rushing out to re-write the history books.
Least clear of all is what the Kremlin hopes to gain from this. We seem to have set ourselves the aim of proving to our neighbours that Russia is ruled by the successors of the very people who in the past shot Polish officers in the back of the head at Katyn and exported millions of tons of grain abroad when people were dying of famine at home. The only difference would seem to be that back them, the rulers, contemptuous of their own people, dreamt of world domination, while today their dreams are more modest – a villa in Nice, a Jaguar, and a Swiss bank account.
These people are too nasty to be friendly with in any way and too petty to be afraid of.