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Holodomor: Stalin's Secret Genocide Against the Ukrainian People

Updated on September 14, 2017
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ReadMikeNow is a freelance writer who loves to travel. He likes to find unique stories about interesting places.

Ukrainians remembering Holodomor
Ukrainians remembering Holodomor

Holodomor is a Ukrainian word meaning “to kill by starvation.” It is often used when referring to the Ukrainian Genocide of 1932-33. Many scholars have proof it was planned by Joseph Stalin. The man-made aspects of the genocide were rejecting all offers of help from many other countries. Household foodstuffs were confiscated from hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian families. Ukrainians in areas with no food were prevented from going to any other area to search for food and more.

Ukrainian Nationalism

Many scholars have shown how the Russian leaders under Stalin utilized the man-made famine as a way to crush Ukrainian Nationalism. The starvation of the Ukrainian people was accompanied by regular persecution as well as mass incarceration and mass executions. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, thousands of pages of government documents covering the time of Holodomor have been declassified. These documents have shown how the Soviet regime of the 1930s focused on the Ukraine and crushing Ukrainian nationalism.

Ukrainian Farming during 1930s
Ukrainian Farming during 1930s


Ukrainian farmers were known for their independence. They refused to be part of the collective farming program instituted by the Soviets. In 1929, Stalin put in place a policy to break down the resistance of the Ukrainian farmers who refused to follow collectivization. Successful farmers were labeled as enemies of the state. Brutal enforcement of Stalin's policies was done by regular Soviet troops as well as secret police.

Deportations and Executions

During the early 1930s, the most experienced and knowledgeable farmers in the Ukraine were deported. Executions of Ukraine's cultural leaders, as well as religious leaders, and intellectuals started. Ukraine's political leadership were also deported or executed. Depopulated areas of the Ukraine were then repopulated with Russian ethnic groups. Anyone who tried to speak of the famine was severely punished.

Ukrainian family starving during Holodomor
Ukrainian family starving during Holodomor

Sent to Siberia

Millions of Ukrainians died as a result of Stalin's policies. Armed Soviet brigades roamed the countryside and went to Ukrainian farms. They would confiscate property, livestock as well as land. Entire families were removed from their farms. Millions of Ukrainians were forced from their homes, placed on trains and taken to remote areas of Siberia. They were then left there with no food or shelter. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian children died during this time from the train ride or soon after arriving in Siberia.

Newspaper account of Holodomor
Newspaper account of Holodomor

Production Quotas

The Soviet government dramatically increased the quotas for production of food during the 1930s in the Ukraine. A law was put in place that made it legal for a person to be arrested or executed for even taking a few stalks of wheat or any type of food from a field. This punishment also applied and was carried out against children. Military blockades were placed around entire villages to stop any possible transportation of food. This forced thousands to desperately search for something to eat. Brigades of young soviets were encouraged to continue going to Ukrainian villages and look for hidden grain and any food hidden in a Ukrainian family's home. Documents from that time show Stalin stated how he would teach a lesson to the Ukrainian people with famine. His desire was for the Ukrainians to experience a crushing blow to any desire they had for independence.

Dead people on street during Holodomor
Dead people on street during Holodomor

Ukrainian Death Rate

The height of the famine was June of 1933. It is estimated Ukrainians were dying at a rate of over 29,000 each day. A third of those dying were children under the age of 10. Over 4 million people died between 1932 and 1934. The majority of the deaths were caused by starvation. This number does not include the Ukrainians executed, deported and more.


During this time, Stalin was telling the world there was no such thing as famine in the Ukraine. The Soviets regularly exported millions of tons of grain to other countries around the world. Many scholars believe the exported grain could have easily fed those starving in the Ukraine. Denial of Holodomor by prominent journalists was common in the west. Any person or journalist who claimed there was famine in the Ukraine was accused of creating anti-soviet propaganda. European governments were aware of the suffering of the Ukrainian people. They took a passive attitude concerning the famine. Europeans believed it could be handled using confidential diplomatic methods.

Declassified document
Declassified document

Incontrovertible Proof

When the Soviet Union controlled the Ukraine, Holodomor was never part of official discussions. After the fall of the Soviet Union, and Ukrainian independence in 1991, previously suppressed evidence of Holodomor was provided to the world. Soviet governmental archives previously unable to be viewed, as well as oral testimony of many survivors, provided a vast amount of evidence. It provided incontrovertible proof of the genocide of the Ukrainian people by Stalin’s regime. A decree was passed by the Parliament of the Ukraine in 2006 defining Holodomor as an intentional Act of Genocide. This genocide has been accepted by dozens of nations around the world. Scholars from many different countries continue to engage in research and documentation of the events associated with Holodomor.

United Nations And European Union Resolution

In 2003, the United Nations declared the famine in the Ukraine resulted from the policies and actions of a totalitarian regime causing the death of millions of Ukrainians. The European Parliament adopted a resolution on October of 2008. The resolution recognized Holodomor as a crime against humanity. It declared the famine that occurred in the Ukraine during the 1930s was caused by cruel and deliberate actions resulting from policies of the Soviet regime in place at the time. It goes on further to state the Soviet policies were responsible for the deaths of millions of innocent people in the Ukraine.

Holodomor Memorial Washington DC
Holodomor Memorial Washington DC

Ukrainian Court of Appeals

During 2010, the known facts concerning the genocide-famine and Holodomor was heard in a court of appeals in Kiev. This court determined that Joseph Stalin and other Soviet leaders were guilty of genocide against the Ukrainian people. Since none of the leaders from that time were alive, the court dropped criminal proceedings.

Movie poster for "Bitter Harvest"
Movie poster for "Bitter Harvest"


A movie titled “Bitter Harvest” concerning the Ukrainian genocide was release in 2017. It was written by Richard Bachynsky Hoover, a Ukrainian Canadian screenwriter. It was filmed on location in the Ukraine. One of the film's producers stated the movie is a part of history that needs to be told. This is the first movie to tell about Holodomor in English as a feature film.

Statute known as "Bitter Memory" outside National Museum in Ukraine
Statute known as "Bitter Memory" outside National Museum in Ukraine

National Museum “Holodomor Victims Memorial

This is a world-class museum devoted to the victims of Holodomor. It was opened in 2008 as part of the 75th anniversary of Holodomor. The goal of the museum is to collect, preserve, study and provide information as well as knowledge concerning Holodomor. It makes certain the world remembers Holodomor was an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people. The museum is located in Kiev, Ukraine.

Holodomor Documentary


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    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR


      22 months ago

      WTS, thanks for reading the article. The genocide against the Jewish people was talked about in the American media because American soldiers saw the concentration camps. i believe the Jewish people deserve everything they have gotten since the end of World War II. They experienced a genocide that was horrible. Holodomor occurred in the 1930s and reporters from the New York Times were influenced by Stalin to say it didn't happen. Americans didn't see it with their own eyes. Holodomor was also overlooked by Europe and the United States because Stalin was essential for defeating Nazi Germany. It could not have happened without Russians fighting Nazi Germany. What Ukrainians would like most is for the world to acknowledge that it happened. That's it. The United Nations to declare a genocide was committed against the Ukrainian people by Stalin's Russia. Most of the details about Holodomor have been obtained from papers acquired after the fall of the Soviet Union. The Russian people of today are not responsible for this, it is their history.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      22 months ago from Kaufman, Texas

      They never taught us about this in school. I'd never heard of such things until I was an adult, and I'm certain I only ever learned of this happening after getting my first computer, and being connected to the internet, in about 2008.

      Isn't it strange how US mass media never talks about genocide unless it involves Jews? Oh wait, that's not strange at all. Possibly there is a connection in the ownership of mass media, and an agenda.

      Recently I saw the film Child 44, starring Tom Hardy. It's a great historical film, and in the beginning you see the star is a child who managed to survive the Holodomor. The rest of it concerns the case of the Ripper of Rostov.

      The brilliant Stalin had stated that murder was a capitalist disease. So when a serial child killer was detected, no one could safely even say children were being murdered. Murder only happens in capitalist nations.

      Communism is so brilliant. We've lots of the same sorts of brilliant persons in the USA today. Trump isn't their president, you know.

    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago

      Yes, Russia has done a great job in hiding this genocide. There is a memorial in Washington DC to remember Holodomor.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      2 years ago from USA

      So sad. This is the first I've learned of this. Your article is so important in educating others. When governments lie, massive tragedies like this can happen.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Always educational.


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