Sunday, April 12, 2009

Harvest of Sorrow in Ukraine

I’ve been reading a bit about the horrors of Stalin’s “dekulakization and collectivization.” My impression is that if you want to know very much about these subjects, you are going to have to read a European language. These horrors were downplayed, explained away, or ignored in Russia – and, by the way in Leftist circles throughout Europe and elsewhere as well. Stalin was the leader of that noble utopian experiment called Communism. Of course he hadn’t achieved it, no one is saying that, but he was well on the way – sort of like the Christian who is “saved,” and yet a long way from perfection – at least that was the theory everyone on the Left had faith in.

And given this faith in the Communist experiment, those who first spoke out about its failure, about what was actually happening in the Soviet Union were castigated for their disbelief. Comparisons of Stalin to Hitler and the Soviet Union to Nazi Germany seemed especially heinous to them and yet parallels exist. The same sorts of things went on in both places. The true believer is forced to say that the Soviet horrors were perpetrated in a worthy cause. But we know now that the cause was a sham. It was a reckless experiment that cost the lives of millions. It is time to quit apologizing for Stalin and the Soviets and start assigning blame.

I recently bought Robert Conquest’s Harvest of Sorrow, subtitled, “Soviet Collectivization and the terror-famine.” It is still in print, I was interested to note. It is ranked 192,240 by The left has been outraged by Robert Conquest for years. How dare he describe what actually happened during the “dekulakization and collectivization” in the Soviet Union?

Bear in mind that what Stalin and his Soviets did was all experimental. It had never been tried before except in very tiny little enclaves all of which were short-lived.

[p. 4] “. . . Dekulakization meant the killing, or deportation to the Arctic with their families, of millions of peasants, in principle the better-off, in practice the most influential and the most recalcitrant to the Party’s plans. Collectivization meant the effective abolition of private property in land, and the concentration of the remaining peasantry in ‘collective’ farms under Party control. These two measures resulted in millions of deaths . . .”

“Then in 1932-3 came what may be described as a terror-famine inflicted on the collectivized peasants of the Ukraine and the largely Ukrainian Kuban (together with the Don and Volga areas) by the methods of setting for them grain quotas far above the possible, removing every handful of food, and preventing help from outside – even from other areas of the USSR – from reaching the starving. This action, even more destructive of life than those of 1929-32, was accompanied by a wide-ranging attack on all Ukrainian cultural and intellectual centres and leaders, and on the Ukrainian churches. The supposed contumaciousness of the Ukrainian peasants in not surrendering grain they did not have was explicitly blamed on nationalism: all of which was in accord with Stalin’s dictum that the national problem was in essence a peasant problem. The Ukrainian peasant thus suffered in double guise – as a peasant and as a Ukrainian.”

“. . . Though confined to a single state, the number dying in Stalin’s war against the peasants was higher than the total deaths for all countries in World War I. There were differences: in the Soviet case, for practical purposes, only one side was armed, and the casualties (as might be expected) were almost all on the other side. They included, moreover, women, children and the old.”


It surprises me that Stalin still has his supporters. The evidence is in. He killed more of his own people than Hitler did. My only question is in regard to motive. Did he purposely kill the Kulaks and the Ukrainian peasants? Or did he stupidly believe that his experimentation would really work. Conquest takes the former view. Evidence may be on his side. We know that Stalin ruthlessly killed those who opposed him as well as those who “might oppose him” at some time in the future. Those independent Ukrainian kulaks clearly fit into that category.

Now, years later Ukraine was anxious to be independent of Russia. It had its Orange Revolution, and of the former Soviet Republics it is among those who get along least well with Russia. Can one nation forgive another which has killed so many of its people? I don’t know. Let’s ask Poland.

1 comment:

Greg Kensington said...

Review of Soviet Union’s policy of collectivization