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The crime of genocide is defined by Article 2 of the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG) as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, such as 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”.
Joseph Stalin became the leader of the Soviet Union following the death of Lenin in 1924. He was appointed the Secretary General of the Communist Party in 1922 and he rose to a position of power after cleverly ousting Zinoviev, Lenin’s long time second in command and Trotsky, Lenin’s heir apparent.
Even before he was gripped by serious illness Lenin’s hold on the communist party had begun to decline. In May 1922, he suffered a cerebral stroke which according to Trotsky caused him deep inner fear and he started to progressively isolate himself from the party and the rest of the public.
Two months prior to that, in March 1922, the Congress of the Communist Party had acquired sufficient autonomy to decline the expulsion of, contrary to Lenin’s wishes, the party leaders of the former Workers Opposition, Shliapnikov, Medvedev and Kollontai and it further declined Lenin’s proposal to lengthen the probationary period for peasants to make the party more proletarian or worker orientated.
It was clear in the years prior to Lenin’s death that the Communist Party might not accede to Lenin’s wishes and if that were to be the case then the chances of either Zinoviev or Trotsky taking Lenin’s place would also diminish accordingly.
Following Lenin’s death in 1924, the Communist Party appointed Stalin as the leader of the Soviet Union. His appointment was not without opposition and both Zinoviev and Kamenev, another founder member of the first politburo founded in 1917 to manage the Bolshevik revolution, made it clear privately that they did not favor Stalin but were unable to do much about it because they needed his help in opposing Trotsky’s faction.
It was a three-way battle and eventually Stalin would emerge triumphant. In October 1927, Zinoviev, Kamenev and Trotsky were ejected from the Central Committee and on November 14th of the same year Zinoviev and Trotsky were expelled from the party.
Stalin had emerged triumphant. The son of a humble shoemaker from Tbilisi, Georgia, he was determined to undo his more learned rivals and bring about the modernization of the Soviet Union.
Having consolidated his power Stalin would go on to unveil his five year plans designed to put the Soviet Union at par with its more contemporary neighbors. The first five-year plan was implemented in 1928 and would continue until 1932.
Stalin embarked on a scheme that would allow the Soviet Union to surpass its western rivals and part of the scheme included bringing about an end to the private ownership of land. He unearthed a series of ambitious plans, to industrialize the country and to restructure the farming system.
Farm ownership was to be transferred from the hands of private owners to the state by force and many of the independent land owners and their families were forcefully evicted from their rightful homes and were sent to Siberian labor camps or “Gulags”.
By the 1930s Stalin’s plan to restructure the farming system or farm collectivization as it was called had spread to the Northern Caucasus and the rest of Ukraine with devastating effects. It was an induced storm that battered the Northern Caucasus at a velocity and an intensity that left a million dead in its wake.
Almost half the grain supply in Ukraine was confiscated to force independent stake holders to surrender their holdings and this precipitated widespread famine. Villages were blacklisted and surrounded by armed detachments. All food and food supplies were removed and delivery of any type of food or groceries was prohibited.
A blacklisted village simply meant death by starvation for its inhabitants. Over one third of the villages in Soviet Ukraine were blacklisted, representing a population of nearly 10 million. Thirteen counties in the Kuban Region of Southern Russia were also blacklisted. The locals called it Holodomor, a word used to describe the man made famine which struck the Ukraine and adjacent Cossack territories between 1932 and 1933.
© 2016 Kathiresan Ramachanderam and Dyarne Jessica Ward