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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Criminality of Holodomor denial

Ukraine’s first president recalls how his job was once to deny the Holodomor and dispels drought myth

In the chapter “Peredden” (The day before) of his autobiography, President Leonid Kravchuk recalls the shake-up that occurred in the Communist Party of Ukraine after Volodymyr Ivashko was elected leader and replaced Volodymyr Shcherbytsky in Sept. 1989. Seventeen years of zastoi-ful rule under Shcherbytsky – Leonid Brezhnev’s fellow Dnipropetrovsker – brought humanity many memorable moments including Shcherbytsky’s denial that a nuclear disaster had occurred at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant in April, 1986. The Communists were experts at denial and the disinformation campaign against the Holodomor spanned decades. Earlier in his career as a communist ideologist, Leonid Kravchuk was responsible for countering the Ukrainian Diaspora’s public education campaign of the 1980s, marking 50 years of the Soviet terror famine in 1983. That’s when Kravchuk, by his own words, first learned the truth of the matter:

“Thanks to the position of the new leader of the republican communist party, Ukraine saw its first book on the Holodomor. That was, without exaggeration, a bold move. I do not want to speak ill of Shcherbytsky but I could not imagine a similar publication appearing when he was first person of the republic. Ivashko instructed me to collect the necessary materials. I was already familiar with this bitter subject. In the early 1980s many publications began appearing in the Western press on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of one of the most horrific tragedies in the history of our people. A counter-propaganda machine was put into motion, and I was one of its “wheels.” It was then, in 1984 I believe, that I first had an opportunity to study a small selection of archival materials. What I read and saw astonished me. It was total terror and I constantly chased away the idea that these pitiful people were doomed to torture by design. That understanding came several years later.”

“When Ivashko instructed me to find materials for the future book, I do not think he could imagine the scope of this tragedy. He had perhaps heard something, but I think he believed that it was nothing but rumors. Volodymyr Antonovych probably thought the publication would dispel those rumors.”

“It soon became apparent that neither Ivashko nor I (already somewhat familiar with these materials) could grasp the entire scope of the evil. With an opportunity to study the materials more closely, I felt a second shock, far more powerful than the one experienced in 1984. The crime was so horrible and the Communist Party’s guilt so apparent, that I lost the ability to think about anything else. I had always enjoyed a strong sleep, even in hostile conditions. But now I first encountered insomnia: the faces of the children killed by famine stood before my eyes constantly. I began to feel remorseful as I realized that I belong to an organization that can justifiably be called criminal. At the same time I did not want to associate the monsters guilty of murdering millions of my countrymen with many of the honest and respectable communists whom I knew and worked with.”

“The selected materials and photographs (one and half thousand, I believe) were passed on to the first secretary. Ivashko telephoned me soon thereafter. His voice was trembling: ‘This can’t be so!’ He refused to believe and I understood why. He ordered a publication ban until such time that evidence was found that the famine was not artificial. Ivashko ordered me to see if there were droughts in Ukraine in those years. I sent a request to the republican Hydromedtsentr state hydrological center but they did not keep those kinds of records. I sent requests to appropriate services in Moscow and they provided very detailed information. It showed that rainfall levels for those years were not lower than acceptable norms. This was a very serious argument and Ivashko decided to raise the issue at a meeting of the politburo. The discussion was not easy, but thanks to the principled nature of the first secretary, the book’s publication was approved. Many were understandably displeased with the decision. However, the most terrifying photographs were not approved for print, and their number was reduced from 1,500 to around 350.”

Kravchuk, Leonid Mayemo te, shcho mayemo: spohady i rozdumy, Kyiv, 2002, Stolittya (392 p.) ISBN 966-95952-8-2 , pp. 44-46, English translation mine

Holodomor-denial on Wikipedia:

1 comment:

ALJ said...

I can't believe that I, as an American, had never heard of this before. It was never in any history book in any classroom I ever attended in my life - not even during college! It grieves me to know that for so long these poor people were swept aside & forgotten by the world (at least the world I know).

Is this book available in English?