The Man-Made Famine Genocide (Holodomor) took place in the Ukrainian SSR during 1932-33. Between 7 and 10 million Ukrainians were purposely starved to death by order of Stalin and the Soviet authorities. After the adoption of “socialism in one country,” the USSR embarked on a path of break-neck industrialization in order to ‘catch up’ to the level of industrialization in Europe and North America.

This rapid industrialization was to be paid for by the export of the USSR’s most important commodity – grain. In order to facilitate this process, agriculture was to be collectivized. Peasants were to join collective farms and work as employees of the state on their land. The drive to expropriate the land from the peasantry and force the peasantry to join collective farms was met with fierce resistance. Dekulakization saw the expropriation and arrest of the richer peasantry (known as kulaks) – millions of peasants were arrested, sent to labor camps or deported to the farthest corners of the USSR.

Part of the effort to break the peasantry and bend it to the will of the Soviet authorities involved pacifying the Ukrainian peasantry, which had been the backbone of the Ukrainian nation during tsarist times and had always resisted Moscow’s attempts to control Ukrainian territory. Larger and larger taxes were levied against peasants who refused to join collective farms; soon more drastic measures were taken. Peasants who refused to join collective farms had their property expropriated and were deported. The result was that by the end of 1931 virtually all agriculture in the Ukrainian SSR was collectivized or run by state farms.

In order to facilitate industrialization the Soviet government began to raise quotas for the amount of grain the collective farms had to deliver to the state. Soon, the quotas were raised to such a level that the entire yield had to be turned over to the state. In July 1932 the ‘hoarding’ of grain was declared an offense against the state that carried with it a ten-year term in a labor camp. Teams of NKVD recruits scoured the countryside and searched the peasants for any grain they may have been ‘holding out.’ The peasantry was left with, quite simply, nothing to eat. The introduction of an internal passport system kept the peasants away from the cities, where the situation with food was better, and tied them to the villages

By the fall of 1932 famine was raging in several regions of the USSR. It was most intense in the Ukrainian SSR and in the Kuban in the RSFSR (a majority of the Kuban peasantry was Ukrainian by origin). The Soviet authorities, who went to great lengths to cover up the horrendous crime being committed, vigorously denied reports of the Famine. Any and all aid was refused. It was difficult for Western governments to believe that the USSR would dump millions of tons of grain on the international market while its own citizens were starving. Left with nothing to eat, the peasants began dying by the thousands.

The Famine was stopped as suddenly as it started. Having broken the peasants and murdered more than twenty percent of the population of Ukraine, Stalin and the Soviet authorities relaxed grain quotas in 1933 and the Famine came to an end.

The Holodomor, one of the greatest crimes ever perpetrated by a regime against its citizenry, had an impact on WWII as well. As German forces occupied Ukraine millions of Ukrainians, remembering the horrors of the Holodomor, and a few years later, the Great Terror, rejoiced. Given the brutality with which the Stalinist regime treated its own citizens it is surprising not that so many Ukrainians fought on the side of the Germans but that so few did.