We're talking about the "Terror-Famine" created by Soviet farm policy in the 1930s which killed millions of people in Ukraine. If you like our content please become a patron and get our premium episodes, plus our public episodes, all ad-free!
The Soviet Union had problems with food production throughout its existence. From the outset in 1917, Lenin was forced with a farm revolt in the Penza province that resulted in his infamous "hanging order" to execute 100 kulaks. We explain what a kulak is, how that class of people came to be, and how Stalin tried to exterminate them in the 1930s. 1
After Lenin's death in the early 1920s, it was Trotsky or Stalin for who would succeed him. Trotsky had the army, but Stalin had everyone else, and the fate of millions were sealed when Stalin rose to power. Stalin's first five year plan involved the collectivization of farmland, and it was thought that machinery could increase production with less labor, and so the kulaks were sent to labor camps and the women of farming villages left to work the fields, with disastrous results. On the low end, 3 to 5 million Ukrainians starved to death. Another 1.5 million Kazakhs. More in the northern Caucasus. And those not killed by the famine were also targets in Stalin's purges a few years later.
Kherson, Odessa, and Mariupol: all cities in the news today with Russia's current invasion. They're grain ports in the country known as the bread basket of Europe, and Ukraine is still fighting for them 100 years later. Famines in 1918 may be more aptly described as food terrorism today, as Putin's destruction of grain ports could cause a global food crisis. Will we have mass migrations in response to mass hunger in Europe in 2022 if grain supplies run low?
Little was written of the famines in the west, except by journalists like Welshman Gareth Jones, who kept diaries of his travels through Soviet territory. Sadly, Jones' legacy was tarnished by western journalists complicit with the Stalin regime such as Walter Duranty of the New York Times, who admitted in private that millions were dying of hunger, but downplayed that fact in the the paper of record. He was given a Pulitzer and "perks" from the Soviets for his efforts, Gareth Jones was given three fatal gunshot wounds while reporting on the Japanese invasion of Mongolia in 1935 with a man we now know to have been with the NKVD: the precursor to the KGB. 2
The famine was also documented in the photos of people living in 1930s Soviet territory such as Alexander Wienerberger and James Abbe. A particularly striking photo of Wienerberger's was one of a Soviet Health Minister's summer palace in Crimea, in which he lived while millions of people below his stately grounds were falling dead in the streets from starvation. Not very comrade-like... 3, 4
1. Lenin's Hanging Order for the Kulaks (1918). Alpha History. ⇤
2. Neil Prior. Journalist Gareth Jones' 1935 Murder Examined by BBC Four. BBC, July 2012. ⇤
3. 'A Gift To Posterity': Four Men Who Risked The Wrath Of Stalin To Photograph The Holodomor. Radio Free Europe. May 2021. ⇤
4. Alexander Wienerberger. Soviet Health Commissar's Summer Residence in Crimea. The Holodomor Research and Education Consortium. ⇤
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