4 million Ukrainians who died

The Atlantic October 2017: Anne Applebaum on the famine Stalin created in Ukraine:

In the years 1932 and 1933, a catastrophic famine swept across the Soviet Union. It began in the chaos of collectivization, when millions of peasants were forced off their land and made to join state farms. It was then exacerbated, in the autumn of 1932, when the Soviet Politburo, the elite leadership of the Soviet Communist Party, took a series of decisions that deepened the famine in the Ukrainian countryside. Despite the shortages, the state demanded not just grain, but all available food. At the height of the crisis, organized teams of policemen and local Party activists, motivated by hunger, fear, and a decade of hateful propaganda, entered peasant households and took everything edible: potatoes, beets, squash, beans, peas, and farm animals. At the same time, a cordon was drawn around the Ukrainian republic to prevent escape. The result was a catastrophe: At least 5 million people perished of hunger all across the Soviet Union. Among them were nearly 4 million Ukrainians who died not because of neglect or crop failure, but because they had been deliberately deprived of food.

This wasn’t the potato famine. The grain didn’t rot in the fields, it was seized by the state along with all the other food, and the doors were locked.

Foreign journalists didn’t report on the famine, partly because they were threatened with expulsion if they did and partly because they were limited in where they could travel (Ukraine was forbidden). An aide of Lloyd George’s named Gareth Jones got off the train south early and walked through part of Ukraine, uncovering the truth. Journalists united to say he was nuts, an opportunist, deluded, blah blah blah – he was a terf, in short. His story was largely buried.

On March 31, just a day after Jones had spoken out in Berlin, [Walter] Duranty himself responded. “Russians Hungry But Not Starving,” read the New York Times headline. Duranty’s article went out of its way to mock Jones:

There appears from a British source a big scare story in the American press about famine in the Soviet Union, with “thousands already dead and millions menaced by death and starvation.” Its author is Gareth Jones, who is a former secretary to David Lloyd George and who recently spent three weeks in the Soviet Union and reached the conclusion that the country was “on the verge of a terrific smash,” as he told the writer. Mr. Jones is a man of a keen and active mind, and he has taken the trouble to learn Russian, which he speaks with considerable fluency, but the writer thought Mr. Jones’s judgment was somewhat hasty and asked him on what it was based. It appeared that he had made a 40-mile walk through villages in the neighborhood of Kharkov and had found conditions sad.

I suggested that that was a rather inadequate cross-section of a big country but nothing could shake his conviction of impending doom.

It wasn’t the popular narrative at the time, so Duranty laughed it off, knowing it was true.

Duranty continued, using an expression that later became notorious: “To put it brutally—you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.” He went on to explain that he had made “exhaustive inquiries” and concluded that “conditions are bad, but there is no famine.”

But there was, and he knew there was. He wanted to stay in Moscow and keep his role as the bigshot NY Times reporter on the Soviet Union, so he waved away Jones’s reporting.

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