About the Holodomor

The term Holodomor (Ukrainian for “inflicted death by starvation”) refers to the genocidal starvation of untold millions of Ukrainians in 1932–33. The Holodomor resulted from the brutal imposition of Soviet Communist policy in order to break the backbone of a young democratic movement in Ukraine.

In 1918, Ukraine fought for and achieved short-lived independence in 1918 before Ukraine was overrun by the Soviet Red Army and incorporated into the Soviet Union. In the 1920s, Soviet central authorities realized they needed more support from the populace and allowed for some cultural autonomy through the policy known as “indigenization.”

By the end of the 1920s, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin put an end to Ukraine’s cultural autonomy, launching the intimidation, arrest, imprisonment and execution of Ukrainian intellectuals, Ukrainian Orthodox church leaders, as well as Ukrainian Communist Party functionaries who had supported Ukraine’s distinctiveness. At the same time, Joseph Stalin ordered the collectivization of agriculture, forcing people to work on government collective farms. The majority of Ukrainians were small-scale farmers, and they resisted the confiscation of their property. The more prosperous farmers and those who resisted collectivization were declared enemies of the state, referred to as kulaks, who deserved to be eliminated as a class. It is estimated that 1 to 2 million kulaks were thrown out of their homes and deported or executed.

In 1932, the Communist Party set impossibly high quotas for the amount of grain Ukrainian villages were required to contribute to the Soviet state. When villages were not able to meet the quotas, the authorities intensified the requisition campaign, confiscating even the seed set aside for planting and demanding that villagers pay fines for failure to fulfill the quotas in the form of meat and potatoes. Stalin’s Soviet Agency, specifically teams of the NKVD, were sent to search homes to seize any remaining hidden food. Starving farmers attempted to leave their villages in search of food, but Soviet authorities issued a decree forbidding Ukraine’s peasants leaving the country.

A law, known as The Five Stalks of Grain, was introduced that made it a crime punishable by death to take as little as five stalks of grain. In some places, soldiers in whatch towers stood on guard to be sure that desperate villagers did not take any of the harvest.

As millions starved to death, the USSR sold the crops that had been seized from Ukraine abroad. The USSR vigorously denied that the Holodomor had occurred for over 60 years. However, once the Soviet Union collapsed, documents in archives of the Communist Party and secret police became accessible, proving that Soviet authorities pursued policies that they knew would result in the deaths of millions of Ukrainians.


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Survivor Accounts of the Holodomor

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Holodomor National Awareness Tour