The Truth About Holodomor and Memory of the Victims

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To a moderate extent, we get nearer to the truth the closer we are the event, as over the progression of time, discoveries are made, and unknown facts are revealed, which were not readily available close to a certain event. In the case of an occurrence such as the Holodomor, it is described as a man-made famine with intensive suffering on a hitherto unimagined scale, now littered with academic dissension. The word ‘Holodomor’ itself means ‘to inflict death by hunger’. Over several decades, time enabled sources and revisionism to develop and effect interpretations of the truth behind the Holodomor, in order to get closer to the truth. At the time of the Holodomor, there were factors that blockaded facts from emerging at the time and was unrelentless in having the world learn about the event.

Polluted with barricaded facts and inaccessible evidence which was not discovered until recent decades, historians are now able to utilise new research to aid in getting nearer to the truth. Although through the progression of time, unknown knowledge is gained, there inevitably is the first-time experience and witnesses that can never be accurately, genuinely or truly reconstructed. However, there are factors which may be changed by modern society overtime, and details can be lost through time, as the truth of an event with mass witnesses has subjective truths. Therefore, we get nearer to the truth the closer we are to an event to a limited extent, as although time invites new technologies and discoveries to come into play, there are factors that were unable to be fully uncovered.

To a limited extent, we have gotten nearer to the truth the closer we are to an event as discoveries that have been made in recent decades have been recently uncovered bread samples, newly mapped data regarding the victim number, and the U.S. Commission Report to Congress in April 1988. On November 23rd, 2018, a Kyiv archivist discovered bread samples from the Holodomor. Samples of ersatz bread from the Stalin era famine were discovered by archivists who were analysing declassified records from 35 000 criminal cases during Stalin’s rule, which shed new light on the famine. Olesksiy Sorokin, who was a 55-year-old music teacher and choir conductor, wrapped one of the bread scraps inside note and hid it inside his home. The note read that ‘in Kyiv, we still have some bread and are not yet dying of hunger. But we don’t have enough to eat. The hunger is terrible’.

The archivists said that ‘samples of that kind of bread have never been discovered’ and that ‘there are absolutely original samples of bread that have been dated precisely’. Furthermore, newly mapped data made on June 11 in 2018 led to new insights. HURI bough demography Nataliia Levchuk, who worked with MAPA to provide estimates of the Holodomor losses in terms of excess death at a regional level. They did this by further classifying urban areas against rural areas. The group made reconstructions of the population of raions for the period before the famine, which is around 1926-30 and looking into the year of the famine, 1933. This enabled them to calculate excess deaths, as they analysed the difference between all deaths in 1933 and the expected number of deaths that would have occurred if there had been no famine. This allowed the team to definitely prove that there was an surplus in deaths, as there is a certain number of deaths from natural or artificial causes every year.

After the estimations were mapped, it was found that 391 raions demonstrated that the areas who suffered most from the Holodomor were the areas which were unspecialised in growing grain, which is usually the case for natural famines. It surprised scientists, as the shocking pattern portrayed that I challenged expectations, as the highest losses were found in north-central areas of Ukraine, which are not prime grain-growing regions within Ukraine. The MAPA team continued to work on the findings, and allows researchers to use population data such as ethnic structure and rural population density. The team further analysed economic indicators, including grain procurement quotas versus actual grain quotas. There are also institutions and organisations which dedicate their time to researching the Holodomor and uncover information to get close to the truth. The Holodomor Research and education Consortium in the University of Alberta, the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institution, Ukrainian Canadian Research and Documentation Centre all contribute information and findings to the mystery of the Holodomor. An example which has attributed to new findings is the U.S Commission’s Report to Congress in April in 1988. It made several conclusions about the Holodomor such as the number of victims, the definitive policies which were implemented regarding food gathering policies.

To a certain extent, we get nearer to an event the closer we are to an event, due to factors that blockaded facts from emerging at the time of the Holodomor, including the collapse of the USSR, in which history was completely revised, legislation regarding Holodomor considered as genocide, and the misleading nature of prominent journalists. In March 1990s, there were open elections held, where consequently the pro-democracy candidates won 25% of the seats in the Ukrainian parliament. Independence movements in the alternative Soviet republics were threatening to destroy the USSR, and so counteract these movements in an order of prevention, Gorbachev urged the Republics to sign a union treaty. The agreement would have granted some independence to Ukraine, but this means they would also need to reserve some important powers for the central Soviet government.

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In August 1991, just before Ukraine and other Soviet republics were to sign the treaty, conservative Communist party’s authority rapidly declined. Ukraine took a public vote which was held in December 1991, where an overwhelming 90% of the Ukrainians approved of this action. Ukraine officially proclaimed its independence on August 24, 1991. On December 25, 1991, Gorbachev resigned, and the Soviet Union was formally disintegrated. The former USSR which was essentially controlling Ukraine, mandated forms of psychological blockades, in an attempt to stop any news or facts about the Holodomor of disseminating further. The collective body but separated 14 bodies of the USSR meant that the famine which occurred within the walls of Ukraine were

Moreover, the very mention of the Holodomor was subject to severe punishment in the Soviet Union. Up until 2006, any mention of the famine was criminalised, and was punishable by five years in the Gulag labour camps. For generations, mentioning the famine was forbidden, and often remained as a family secret among survivors to their children. Even mentioning the Holodomor was punishable by hard labour and blaming the authorities could cause detrimental ramifications. This extended to officials who were fulfilling job titles, as many were executed for reporting accurate numbers of the victims to the Soviet government. The misinterpretation and blatant denial by profound journalists such as Walter Duranty, contributed to the ignorance by the Western world.

We get nearer to the truth the closer we are to an event to a moderate extent, as overtime, facts can be altered with ease and important significant details can be lost due to external causes. This is mainly due to Ukraine’s lack in retainment of national memory and has resulted in lost memories and truth being merely subjective. In Auschwitz, there are horrific display cases filled with gruesome things that depict the extent of clothing and accessories from victims which attempt to construct the traces of countless victims. In Ukraine, there are no museums, or which preserve the memories of the Holodomor, or that act as a memorial to those that were lost to the famine. There are no museums to actualise memory and give voice to grief, nor exhibits, nor a generally known narrative of these events, not even a preliminary register of those who perished. (need to intertext ref.

Until quite recently, the collective national memory of the Holodomor in Ukraine was also absent. The absolute number of victims is said to be from five million to seven million, but in 1933 it would have been between one-fifth to one-quarter of the entire Ukrainian population. The accurate dimensions of the Holodomor can ultimately only be portrayed using demographic statistics and the steadily increasingly documentary evidence. The circumstances of the Holodomor are attested by the memories of witnesses, documentation and photographs and even some film. And subsequently by literacy and artistic works are we able to have some understanding of what occurred to witnesses. Although there may have been a substantial amount of evidence even proving its existence, the modern-day public only have a fragment of the holistic picture, and wherever possible, the evidence was systemically destroyed and covered up.

The preservation, or lack thereof, of memory of the Holodomor, occurred almost entirely without an institutional base. While historians began making efforts to directly address the Holodomor after pre- Ukrainian independence, and more intensely afterwards, the government position of the Holodomor recognised it as a genocide. It is only as a result of this sudden shift, that there were genuine, continuing and officially sanctioned efforts which were made by the Yushenko administration, to inscribe and embed the Holodomor into the consciousness of Ukraine’s citizens and the rest of the globe. The Holodomor was covered up to the fullest extent, where some sources claim that the blacklist system, which imposed special sanctions, and blockades by NKVD units ultimately exterminated by hunger the mention of villages and areas. Other sources also claim that a information blockade was established, where the Soviet regime prevented the news of the famine from reaching the outside world.

Another claim is that in December 1932, the Ukrainian SSR borders sealed by the NKVD and army prevented starving peasants from travelling to areas which were more abundant in food. Due to this secretive nature of the Holodomor, is lead to lost memories and dead witnesses which could not account for the Holodomor’s enigmatic reputation.

Truth is simply relative, and all depends on the person telling the supposed truth. The immense amount of physical and psychological blockades imposed on the victims. An historian, Henry R Huttenack said that “Denial has become an integral part of genocide, not to take this aspect into consideration is to fail to comprehend a major component of the dynamics of extermination.”

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