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Stalin was afraid of counterrevolution and he was particularly afraid of Ukraine. He remembered that during the Civil War era, there had been a major peasant rebellion in Ukraine. And in 1932, he knew there had been an armed uprising in opposition to collectivization in Ukraine…. Actually, in the autumn of 1932 when they passed the decrees that were designed specifically toward Ukraine, one of the decrees they passed was an end to [the 1920s-era policy of] ‘Ukrainization’ – that is, language and culture, the propagation of Ukrainian identity… So, the famine, along with a crackdown on Ukrainian intellectuals – these two things together were an attempt to make sure there would be no counterrevolution coming from Ukraine. 

I think that for Stalin, Ukraine represented an idea. The idea of an independent Ukraine was a challenge to central Soviet power that could potentially undermine the Soviet state. This is what he believed. I think he also believed a sovereign Ukraine would find allies, would ally themselves with Poland or other countries and they might not be loyal to the Soviet system. For him, it was very important to eliminate this Ukrainian idea.”

Mining Awareness +

In the late 1980s [came the Chernobyl disaster] and immediately afterward many Ukrainians began saying, “Look, this is something that has happened to us before. We had this famine disaster and that was also kept secret.” People began speaking again about the famine right at the time when Ukrainian independence became something that was possible again. Although I think there are other reasons why Ukraine sought independence, it was an important motivation for people, a memory of something terrible that had happened and that had been silenced. One of the motivations for people to begin speaking again about Ukraine and Ukrainian sovereignty was to talk once again about the famine.” (Historian Anne Applebaum cited below in RFERL interview).

Photo of Famine victims in Ukraine from “Muss Russland Hungern? [Must Russia Starve?], published by Wilhelm Braumüller, Wien [Vienna] 1935“.

Famine in USSR, 1933. Areas of most disastrous…

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