Starvation as a Political Weapon
Among the many crimes committed by Marxist leader Joseph Stalin was the forced famine of the Ukraine over the years of 1932-1933. As is common in nations where socialism reigns, purposeful starvation was used as a political tool used to achieve desired ends against various classes. The victims singled out in this case were the kulaks - peasant famers who owned property and employed workers.
When Stalin took power in 1924, he saw Ukranian nationalism as a threat to Soviet power, believing any potential future insurrections to likely come from kulaks. So he decided to crush them by using methods that had been so successful in the USSR under the policy of "liquidating them as a class". In 1929, he arrested thousands of Ukranian intellectuals under false charges and either shot them or sent them to labor prisons in Siberia. He implemented "collectivization" of Ukranian farms - seizing all privately owned farmland and livestock - affecting roughly 80% of all people of the Ukraine, once known as the breadbasket of Europe. He declared the kulaks "enemies of the people".
An estimated 10 million were dispossessed of their homes and belongings and shipped off to Siberia in unheated boxcar trains, of which at least a third died in the frigid living conditions. The ones left behind in the Ukraine fared as badly, if not worse. Facing a propaganda war and an uphill battle, many kulaks rebelled, taking back their property, and even killing local Soviet authorities.
As word of the insurrection was received by Stalin, the kulaks' small success became short lived. Red Army soldiers were sent in to quench the rebellion and secret police enacted a campaign of terror with the goal of breaking the kulaks' will. In 1932, with most Ukranian farms forcibly collectivized, Stalin ordered quotas for food production increased. He did so multiple times until there was no food remaining for Ukranians. The 1933 wheat crop was sold on the foreign market at below market prices. Historians estimate that this crop could have fed Ukranians for two years.
When the Ukranian Communist Party asked Stalin for a reduction in quotas, he responded by ordering Red Army soldiers to exterminate the Ukranian Communist Party and by sealing off the Ukraine and creating one gigantic concentration camp within its borders. Secret police terrorized the populace with random inspections of personal belongings and seizures of any and all food, now considered sacred property of the state. Any theft of food from the state resulted in either immediate killing or at least ten years in the Gulags.
The effect was starvation, massive and prolonged. Millions died as there was simply no food to be had. The characteristic look of small children became one of skeleton-like limbs and swollen abdomens. Mothers reportedly tossed their children into train-cars headed to the larger cities with the hope that someone would be better able to care for them there. Unfortunately, even the cities were full of misery and hunger. Ukranians resorted to eating leaves, dogs, cats, rats, birds, and frogs. When this was not enough, they even resorted to cannibalism. It is written that, "Cannibalism was so widespread that the government printed posters that said: Eating your children is an act of barbarism."
At the height of the famine, approximately 25,000 people were dying every day in the Ukraine. The finally tally stands between 5 million and 8 million. When foreign relatives of Ukranians in the West responded by sending in food supplies, Soviet officials seized that relief. Western governments largely ignored the reports of famines periodically escaping the Soviet terror state. Franklin Delano Roosevelt formally recognized the Communist government of Stalin in 1933, and the Soviet Union was admitted into the League of Nations in 1934.
The kulaks don't have a museum, much less a memorial. Today, we remember them.
fn1. The Black Book of Communism, Courtois et al
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