Kyiv Post | 26Apr2010 | Natalia A. Feduschak
Europe takes up Holodomor debate
LVIV, Ukraine -- After two years of often
intense negotiations, Ukraine looks poised to score a major political
victory this week when the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of
Europe is expected to declare the country’s 1932-33 famine a criminal
Olha Herasymiuk, a member of Ukraine’s delegation to PACE, said there
is every indication that the body will call the country’s Holodomor a
crime against humanity, but won’t go as far as calling it genocide.
Europeans “didn’t want to put the question as genocide because of the
relationship with Russia. They aren’t ready for that. But this
resolution is acceptable to us,” Herasymiuk said.
Ukraine’s Holodomor was a man-made famine instigated in 1932-33 by
Josef Stalin that left some seven million people dead. Some Western
historians have argued the famine was resultant in part because of
Stalin’s ambitious collectivization policies. Ukrainians, however, have
said the Holodomor was part of a larger campaign by Moscow to ensure
their people remained subjugated to Russian rule.
PACE will meet in Strasbourg, France from April 26-April 30, 2010.
Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych is expected to address the
council on April 27, 2010, although it is unclear if he will discuss
the Holodomor resolution, which will be taken up by the Europeans the
Garnering international recognition of the Holodomor was a cornerstone
policy of Yanukovych’s predecessor, Victor Yushchenko. Since his
election two months ago, Yanukovych has distanced himself from the
famine, going as far as removing the Holodomor section from the
presidential website which Yushchenko had initiated and updated
throughout his five-year term.
Even though some members of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions have publicly
spoken out against the resolution, the documents the party provided as
attachments to the decree indicate the Holodomor was criminal,
Kyiv has lobbied PACE to recognize the Holodomor as genocide against
the Ukrainian people since 2008 and in that year submitted a proposal
to the Council to discuss the issue.
While the PACE draft resolution pays tribute to those who perished from
hunger in the 1930’s in other former Soviet republics, particularly
Kazakhstan, Moldova and Russia, it pays special heed to the tragedy
suffered by Ukrainians.
“The report honors the memory of all those who perished in this human
disaster, and strongly condemns the policies of the totalitarian
Stalinist regime, which led to the death of millions of innocent
people, as a crime against humanity,” noted rapporteur Mevlut Cavusoglu
in a statement posted on the PACE website.
He noted that his own fact-finding mission to the region leaves “no
doubt that the Soviet regime bears the responsibility for the deaths of
millions of people in Ukraine as a result of its actions and policies,
and is guilty of the crime against its own people.”
Among its points, the resolution calls on Council of Europe member
states and those from the former Soviet Union to open their national
archives for further study of the famine, refrain from exerting
political pressure on scholars and historians and to not prejudge the
outcome of independent scientific research.
One of the goals of the resolution is to ensure the Holodomor becomes
part of international lexicon, as much as is the Holocaust, Herasymiuk
In a statement posted on its website, Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine party
welcomed PACE’s review, but said the famine should be treated as
Volodymyr Telishak, a historian at the Ukrainian Institute for National
Memory, which has dedicated significant study to the Holodomor, said,
however, it was less important that the famine be called genocide.
“In Ukraine, it is seen as genocide under a law that was passed in
2005. What’s more important is that it is qualified as a crime by the
Parliamentary Assembly,” he said. “The problem we have now is that the
Russian leadership is rebuilding history where Stalin is at the center.”
Many historians said the Holodomor was Stalin’s obsessive determination
to squash any attempts by Ukrainians at statehood..
“Ukraine was the Trojan Horse of the Soviet Union,” said Yaroslav
Hrytsak, head of the Institute for Historical Research at Lviv’s Ivan
Franko National University. “If the state would have lost Ukraine, then
Stalin would have lost power.”
Ukraine’s peasantry favored private property, while Ukraine’s Communist
Party was dominated by intellectuals who showed their opposition to
Moscow’s policies. In time, many of the party members also perished
during the Holodomor.
“His evil genius was to kill the spirit of protest in the people,”
Russia had resisted the resolution. But because it comes on the heels
of the April 10 plane crash in western Russia that took the lives of
Polish President Lech Kaczynski and 95 other individuals, the Holodomor
resolution may put Russia’s leadership in a particularly awkward
Kaczynski was on his way to pay homage to some 20,000 Polish officers
who were murdered by Soviet authorities in the Katyn forest near
Smolensk when his plane crashed. For decades the Soviets denied the
secret police had killed the officers, blaming the massacre on the
Nazis. Moscow only recently admitted the Soviet leadership was to blame.
“If we look at what happened at Katyn, then we have to judge Stalin.”
Hrytsak said. The quandary from Moscow’s point of view is that if
Stalin was a criminal regarding the Poles, then he was a criminal
regarding Russians as well.
“That question creates discomfort,” Hrytsak said. “Russia is now at a
crossroads of (how it approaches) national memory. The Holodomor isn’t
the final point in the discussion, or the final act.”
Natalia A. Feduschak is the Kyiv Post’s correspondent in
western Ukraine. She can be reached at [email protected].