UKRAINE IN 1932-1933


 In 1932-1933 an unprecedented famine struck Ukraine – a country, which was previously known as the “Breadbasket of Europe”.

Unlike in numerous cases of famines in European history, caused by natural disasters, bad harvest, or consequences of wars, Ukrainian famine of 1932-1933 was an artificial measure, undertaken by the regime of Joseph Stalin within the implementation of the Soviet project.

This policy implied practical elimination of national ideas and identities that could have impeded the creation of the Soviet state on the vast territories of many nations, which had been earlier seized by Russian empire and failed to maintain their independence in the struggle with the Bolsheviks – the virtual successors of tsarist imperialism.

Ukraine, which after long sanguinary battles for the statehood was captured by Bolsheviks and joined the Soviet Union as Ukrainian Socialistic Soviet Republic in 1922, still remained a country with strong national traditions and European social model. The twenties years of the last century were marked by a new wave of Ukrainian cultural revival under the paradoxical leadership of the Communist party of Ukraine.

The national traditions of Ukrainian society and autonomist tendencies demonstrated by the leadership of Soviet Ukraine could not have possibly coexist with the Stalinist vision of the Soviet future. Thus, Ukraine was condemned.

 In 1932 the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin ordered his government to seize crops from Ukrainian peasants in a campaign to collect money for industrialization and militarization of USSR. Kremlin raised Ukraine's grain procurement quotas by 44%. In practice, this meant that the harvest, which was extremely rich that year, was to be completely deprived from the peasants in order to execute the directives of Moscow. This was also a way to destroy traditional agriculture culture and create kolkhoz type agriculture. This resulted in famine with between seven to 10 million Ukrainians, mostly peasants, starving to death in the very country known as "the breadbasket of Europe." At the same time the grain was exported to obtain funds for military buildup and speedy industrialization. Only in 1933 Soviet regime dumped 1.7 million tons of grain on Western markets.

Soviet officials, with the aid of regular troops and secret police units, waged a merciless war against peasants. Even indispensable seed grain was forcibly confiscated from households. Any man, woman, or child caught taking even a handful of grain from a collective farm was to be executed or deported. Those who did not appear to be starving were often suspected of hoarding grain. The NKVD and a system of internal passports prevented peasants from leaving their villages. Permanent hunger caused mass mental disorders, which led to the horrible facts of cannibalism. At the height of the famine Ukrainians were dying at a rate of 25,000 per day. Nearly 1 in 4 rural Ukrainians perished as a direct result.

Death toll from the 1932-33 famine in Ukraine has been estimated between seven and ten million.

At that, the famine was accompanied by a devastating purge of Ukrainian intelligentsia, as well as of the representatives of Ukrainian Communist party, which attempted to uphold the principle of Ukrainian autonomy. At present, it is almost impossible to determine the exact number of people, who were executed, imprisoned or deported to Siberia as “the people’s enemies”.

 It`s already easy to understand if you just look at the official statistics from Soviet authorities concerning growth of population from 1926 to 1939. Keep in mind that there was no war at that time and Ukraine has been always considered as the most prosperous part of the former USSR.






Growth of population

Growth of population





+ 23,529 mln.

+ 16,0




+ 21,800 mln.

+ 28,0




+ 0,536 mln.

+ 11,2




- 3,084 mln.

- 9,9

So, if you take into account just average growth rate in USSR, than conclusion is that the minimal loses of Ukraine were 8. 075 mln persons.


The UN Convention of 1948 for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as a any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Ukraine, referring to the international law, started her struggle for the historical equity.

On 28 November 2006, the Parliament of Ukraine adopted the Law “On Holodomor in Ukraine of 1932-33”, which qualifies the artificial famine in Ukraine as an act of genocide against Ukrainian people.

The Day of Victims of Famine and political repression is commemorated annually in Ukraine on November 26.

On the international level, the tragedy of Ukrainians was recognized by the Joint Statement of the 58th Plenary Session of the UN General Assembly on the Seventieth Anniversary of the Holomodor (artificial famine) in Ukraine – the document, which was supported by 63 countries, including all 25 EU member-states of that time.

At the same time, the act of genocide against Ukrainians was recognized by the parliaments of Argentina, Australia, Canada, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Poland and the USA[1].

 Ukrainians feel a special gratitude to Ukrainian Diaspora, which started the elucidation of Holodomor in the 80th, when this topic was still forbidden by agonizing Soviet regime.

The monuments and memorial signs for victims of Famine and political repressions could be seen in Australia, Austria, Argentina, Belgium, Estonia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Canada, Russia, and the USA.


At present, the issue of recognition of Holodomor as genocide was raised AT THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT. The MEPs Konrad Szymanski, Marec Siwiec and Charles Tannock initiated signing a Written Declaration 4/2007 on the international recognition of Holodomor – the great famine in Ukraine (1932-33) as genocide.




Eyewitnesses testify:

 "... On one side, millions of starving peasants, their bodies often swollen from lack of food; on the other, soldiers, members of the GPU carrying out the instructions of the dictatorship of the proletariat. They had gone over the country like a swarm of locusts and taken away everything edible; they had shot or exiled thousands of peasants, sometimes whole villages; they had reduced some of the most fertile land in the world to a melancholy desert."  
Malcolm Muggeridge - British foreign correspondent -  May 1933

" I saw ravages of the famine of 1932-1933 in Ukraine - hordes of families in rags begging at the railway stations, the women lifting up to the compartment windows their starving brats, which, with drumstick limbs, big cadaverous heads and puffed bellies, looked like embryos out of alcohol bottles."  
Arthur Koestler, The God That Failed p. 68

"In 1932 and 1933 Kyiv seemed like a paradise to nearly villagers who had been stripped of all they had by the Soviet government.  A no wonder:  some villages were dying out completely, except for those who still had the courage and strength to flee.  There were cases where mothers had gone mad and killed a child to feed the rest of the family.  So, thousands of villagers flocked to the city of Kyiv.  Many of the weak ones sat or lay down by buildings or fences, most never to get up again.  Trucks driven by policemen or Communist Youth League members, mobilized for that purpose, went around picking up bodies or carrying those still alive somewhere outside the city limits.  It was especially terrible to see mothers whose faces had turned black from hunger with children who no
longer cry, but only squeal, moving their lips in an attempt to find sustenance where there was none.   People sought salvation and found death.  I saw these things as  I walked to work through the Haymarket on Pidvil'na Street near the Golden Gates and Volodymyr Street."
Varvara Dibert - Genocide Survivor - from Congressional testimony presented before the United States Ukraine Famine Commission in Washington, DC, October 8, 1986.

“About 20 miles south of Kyiv I came upon a village that was practically extinct by starvation.    There had been 15 houses in this village and a population of 40-odd persons. Every dog and cat had been eaten.  The horses and oxen had all been appropriated by the Soviets to stock the collective farms.  In one hut they were cooking a mess that defied analysis.  There were bones, pig-weed, skin and what looked like a boot top in this pot.  The way the remaining half dozen inhabitants eagerly watched this slimy mess showed the state of their hunger.  One boy of about 15 years of age, whose face and arms and legs were simply tightly drawn skin over bones, had a stomach that was swollen to twice its normal size.  He was an orphan; his father had died of starvation a month before and he showed me the body.  The boy had covered the body with straw, there being no shovels in the village since the last raid of the Soviet secret police.  He
stated his mother had gone away one day searching for food and had not returned.  This boy wanted to die – he suffered intensely with his swollen stomach and was the only one of the group who showed no interest in the pot that was being prepared.

Thomas Walker - American journalist who traveled in Ukraine during the Genocide of 1932-1933


 Petro Luchko, Zapruddja, Kyiv region (born in 1924): “In 1932-33 there were special brigades – “red fellings” – that took away the grain… People were severely beaten while questioned, where they keep the grain… That brigades took away all the cattle as well…”

 Andrij Ganchenko, Sophiyivka, Chernigiv region (born in 1915): “More than one third of inhabitants of our village died. The dead were laying in the houses and along the streets, and no one buried them. From time to time, the cadavers were taken to the edge of the village and piled in a pit. Once, I saw them doing it. Some of the people that were thrown to the pit seemed to be still alive…”

 Ljubov Kurinna, Cherkassy region (born in 1919): “They took the dead to the territory of the collective farm ant threw them into the pit. Some of them were still stirring. Our neighbors said that behind the village, where they usually buried the dead bodies, they saw the land moving…”

[1]The Statement of the Parliament of Estonia from 20 October 1993 condemning the communist policy of genocide; Resolution # 680 of the Senate of Australia of 31 October 2003 which recognized those events in Ukraine as one of the most terrible cases of genocide in human history, and the like resolution of the Legislature of the New South Wales of 20 November 2003; the Declaration to commemorate the memory of the victims of the 1932-1933 famine in Ukraine, adopted by the Senate of the Argentinean Republic of 23 September 2003; the resolution of the Senate of Canada of 19 June 2003 which calls upon the Government of Canada to recognize the 1932-1933 famine in Ukraine and to condemn any attempts to conceal historical truth about this tragedy as an act of genocide. The document also envisages to declare the last Saturday of November as a Day of mourning in Canadian schools; the resolution of the House of Representatives of the US Congress, including #356 of 20 October 2003, the submission of the bill on erection of the monument to the victims of the famine-genocide in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the famine; the decision on the 70th anniversary of 1932-1933 famine in Ukraine by the State Assembly of the Hungarian Republic of 24 November 2003; the message of the UNESCO Director General in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the famine from 16 December 2003.