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Publisher's Summary

“What are the causes of the famine? The main reason for the catastrophe in Russian agriculture is the Soviet policy of collectivization. The prophecy of Paul Scheffer in 1920-30 that collectivization of agriculture would be the nemesis of Communism has come absolutely true.” (Gareth Jones)

Famine - one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse in the Book of Revelation - continues to be one of the most crippling and destructive scourges of humanity. This inexorable affliction, traumatically fatal in the worst-case scenarios, has terrorized every single continent at some point throughout history, some more so than others. Perhaps the most famous was the notorious Irish Potato Famine of 1845, during which a noxious, fungus-like microorganism known as the “Phytophthora infestans” destroyed half of Ireland's potatoes and three-fourths of the crop in the following seven years, resulting in the deaths of 1.5 million and the forced migration of some two million citizens. The catastrophic Bengal Famine of 1943, which was precipitated by a dreadful cyclone and tidal waves the previous year, led to the deaths of an estimated seven million Bengalis. 

Among some of history’s famines, the Holodomor’s death toll is considerably lower than others, such as the the Chalisa and South India Famines between 1782 to 1784, which killed roughly 11 million people altogether, or the Chinese Famine of 1907, which claimed up to 25 million lives in northern China. The Holodomor, however, which ravaged Ukraine between 1932 and 1933, was not a natural occurrence, but a ghastly man-made famine brought about by Stalinist policies. 

When Ukraine was incorporated into the Soviet Union, communist ideology was enforced on every part of society, religion was effectively prohibited, and dissenters were sent to the Gulag prison camps. The church was an early target for the communists, as many buildings and religious icons were vandalized and believers were mocked. 

As awful as that all was, Stalin’s economic plans were especially disastrous for Ukrainians. This Holomodor, calculatedly inflicted to serve the dictator's agenda, as well as to suppress Ukrainian nationalism and stamp out those who dared resist the regime, consequently resulted in the avoidable deaths of anywhere between 3.9 million and 10 million Ukrainian civilians. It was equivalent to roughly 25 percent of the population, a third of them children, and the victims all died in less than two years. One historian of the Soviet Union, Anne Applebaum, charted these events in her book Red Famine, concluding that the “Soviet Union’s disastrous decision to force peasants to give up their land and join collective farms; the eviction of ‘kulaks,’ the wealthier peasants, from their homes; the chaos that followed’ - these policies were ‘all ultimately the responsibility of Joseph Stalin, the General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party.’” 

While Ukrainians marked this tragedy as the Holodomor (a composite of the Ukrainian words hunger (holod) and extermination (mor)), and the modern Ukrainian state recognized the period as a genocide in 2006, the Holomodor was deliberately swept under the rug for several decades. As a result, it remains widely unacknowledged to this day, and the nature of the famine - particularly whether it should be considered a genocide - is still debated by scholars. 

The Holodomor: The History and Legacy of the Ukrainian Famine Engineered by the Soviet Union examines the events that brought about the famine and its terrible toll.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

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  • Korbin Collins
  • 01-03-21

Harrowing but brilliant

Concise and easy to follow account of the horrors of the Ukrainian famine. Great listen for people interested in this part of history