Three Lies about Holodomor in Ukraine

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Reading Time: 8 minutes


On June 14, 2017, Georgian political-economic portal Politicano published an extensive blog post on its Facebook page about the Holodomor in Ukraine. The post contained three pieces of disinformation about the tragedy recognized as genocide: 1. Politicano claims that the number of people, who died in 1932-1933 as a result of the Great Famine, is exaggerated and the Ukrainian government uses this issue for political purposes; 2. The famine was caused in Ukraine by natural conditions and it had nothing to do with the USSR policy; 3. It is unserious to recognize the Holodomor as genocide, because the Council of Europe did not recognize it as a crime.

Politicano: “We can determine the number of real victims by the data of civil registry for 1932-1933. This agency counted 514.7 thousand deceased in 1931 (before the beginning of the famine). This figure can be taken as an approximate natural mortality rate. In 1932, 668 thousand deaths were registered and in 1933 – 1850 thousand. If we subtract average natural mortality rates, the number of victims will amount to 1 489 600…It is probably funny and unserious to talk about recognizing all these as genocide. For example, PACE did not pay attention to the Ukrainians’ request and did not recognize the Holodomor as genocide of Ukrainian people.”

Politicano’s article is manipulative, as it does not include the results of the national census held in 1937, which were concealed by Stalin’s regime, while the organizers were subjected to Stalin’s repressions. Moreover, the 1932-1933 famine in Ukraine was caused by Stalin’s deliberate policy and not by meteorological problems. 17 countries recognized Holodomor as genocide and the Council of Europe, European Parliament, OSCE and UN recognized it as a crime against humanity.

Lie No.1: Number of people, who died as a result of the Great Famine in Ukraine during 1932-1933 is exaggerated.


Politicano says that according to the 1926 national census, the Ukrainian population made up 29 million, whereas according to the next, 1939 census, this figure amounts to 29.2 million. Citing these data, Politicano claims that the Holodomor did not entail millions of deaths.

Politicano, however, does not mention the census carried out in the Soviet Union on January 6, 1937, the results of which prompted Stalin to arrest Mikhail Kurman, Olimpy Kvitkin, Lazar Brand and Ivan Oblomov, main statistical professionals of the Central Statistics Office; some of them were later executed. The census results showed lower population figures than anticipated by Stalin – 162 million people. Speaking at the Communist Party’s XVI Congress on June 27, 1930, Stalin said  that the Soviet population was annually increasing by 3 million. If the results of the 1926 census showed the Soviet Union’s population at 147 million, according to Stalin’s calculations, by 1937 this figure should have increased to 180 million.

Ultimately, Stalin annulled the results of the 1937 census and held a new census in 1939, the results of which showed the Soviet Union’s population  at 170 million.

Before 1937, a six-million decline in the Soviet Union’s population was reported  in 1934 as a result of annual calculations made by the Central Statistics Office. Speaking at the Communist Party’s XVII Congress in January 1934, Stalin said that at the beginning of the year, the USSR population was 168 million. However, the table below shows that this figure has been increased artificially and it does not comply with the figure of annual calculations made by the Central Statistics Office. Real figure amounted to 154 million at the beginning of 1934 against 162.3 million a year earlier. Contrary to this figure, the figures desirable to Stalin were released in 1934, showing a three-million growth.


To manipulate the figures of the Holodomor victims, Politicano relies upon the Civil Registry’s data, saying that number of victims is 1 489 600.

However, the Registry’s data do not provide an opportunity to get a complete picture about victims due to lack of comprehensive figures. Mikhail Kurman, the chief of the Sector for Population at the Central Statistics Office, writes  in his report on the 1929 and 1937 censuses that the registry did not fully register the deaths.

Citing the falsification of the 1937 census, Stalin arrested Mikhail Kurman and exiled him to a concentration camp.

Lie No.2. The famine in Ukraine was caused by natural conditions and it had nothing to do with the Soviet policy.

Politicano states that the Holodomor was caused by natural conditions and it was not created artificially. It also notes that Ukraine’s crop areas decreased by 18-25% in 1932 y/y. However, according to official statistical data, total crop areas decreased only by about 9% in 1932 y/y.

Speaking at the Central Committee’s session on January 11, 1933, Stalin focused  on increased amount of bread in the Soviet Union in 1932 y/y.   

Stalin: “Nobody can reject that wheat crops have increased compared to the previous year, whereas as a result of draughts in five main regions of the north-east part of USSR in 1931, bread balance was reduced in the country. We also lost a certain amount of our crops in 1932 due to unfavorable climatic conditions in Kuban and Tergi, as well as in some regions of Ukraine. But it is beyond any doubt that this loss does not make even one half of the loss that we suffered in 1931 due to the draught.”

The report  of the Commission on the Ukraine Famine submitted to the U.S. Congress in 1988 reads that there was no draught in Ukraine in 1932, while the Holodomor is described as “a man-made famine.”

In his book “Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin”, Yale historian Timothy D. Snyder provides a detailed analysis of the causes of the Great Famine. He says that the 1933 famine in Ukraine was a result of Stalin’s five-year plan envisaging forced collectivization and repressions against affluent peasants, so called “kulaks”. 32.127 thousand families were exiled from Soviet Ukraine in early 1931.

Important moments of Stalin’s policy in Ukraine:

  • In 1930, peasants in Ukraine harvested abundant wheat crops that led to increased wheat requisitions from Ukraine in 1931.
  • Bad weather conditions during early flowering significantly reduced crop yields in 1931. Ukrainian party leader, Stanisław Kosior wrote in the report of that year that it was impossible to fulfill the requisition plan, but Moscow believed that peasants were hiding and stealing the crops.
  • Stalin ordered on December 5, 1931 that collective farms that had not yet fulfilled their annual requirements must surrender their seed grain. As a result of this policy, next year peasants had no seed grains to plant crops.
  • In early 1932, the Ukrainians asked Stalin to call in the Red Cross, but he rejected the request for humanitarian aid.
  • Along with the famine in Ukraine, Stalin and other top officials believed that the hunger was caused by lazy peasants and that the stricter rules of wheat requisition should have been imposed to punish them.
  • According to the law enacted on August 7, 1932, agricultural products were declared as the state property. Storing food without permission was considered stealing.
  • Surveillance towers were erected in cornfields in August 1932 to intensify control over peasants.
  • By decision of November 8, 1932, those collective farms, which failed to fulfill annual plans of requisition, would be deprived of the right to participate in Soviet economy.
  • By decision of November 18, 1932, Ukrainian peasants were banned to store wheat reserves remaining after requisition.
  • A meat fine came into effect on November 20, 1932. Those peasants, who failed to fulfill a wheat plan, had to compensate it with meat.
  • By decision of November 28, 1932, those collective farms that failed to fulfill a plan, were imposed an obligation to hand over 15-times more wheat.
  • From December 5, 1932, the famine was considered a conspiracy by Ukrainian nationalists. Based on this decision, everyone, who did not fulfill the plan, were considered betrayers.
  • By the end of 1932, seed grains were seized from peasants.
  • From 1933, Ukraine borders were close to prevent peasants from running away. From January 23, 1933, sale of tickets for traveling a long distance was prohibited.


Photo: Decision of November 27, 1932 on repressive measures against peasants
Source: The State Archives of Ukraine

Lie No.3: Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) did not recognize Holodomor as a crime.

Politicano’s  claims that the Council of Europe refused to recognize Holodomor as genocide are manipulative, because the PACE resolution of 2010 describes the Holodomor, the result of policies pursued by the Stalinist regime, as a crime against humanity.

PACE resolution  of 2010: “It strongly condemns the cruel policies pursued by the Stalinist regime, which resulted in the death of millions of innocent people, as a crime against humanity.”

17 states recognized  Holodomor as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people: USA, Argentina, Australia, Canada, Columbia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Ecuador, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, and Slovak Republic.

The Holodomor was recognized as a tragedy/crime against humanity in various resolutions adopted by international organizations.

  • The European Parliament  resolution  of 2008: “recognizes the Holodomor (the artificial famine of 1932-1933 in Ukraine) as an appalling crime against the Ukrainian people, and against humanity.”
  •  Joint  statement to the UN General Assembly: “The Great Famine of 1932-1933 in Ukraine (Holodomor), which took from 7 million to 10 million innocent lives, became a national tragedy for the Ukrainian people.”
  • PACE  resolution  of 2010: “It strongly condemns the cruel policies pursued by the Stalinist regime, which resulted in the death of millions of innocent people, as a crime against humanity.”
  • OSCE  resolution  of 2008: “The Holodomor of 1932 and 1933 was the mass starvation brought about by the cruel deliberate actions and policies of totalitarian Stalinist regime;

Denial of the Holodomor in Ukraine is part of Soviet propaganda

Denial of the Holodomor, as well as the tactic of manipulating the number of the Holodomor victims is part of Soviet propaganda. Initially, the Soviet government did its best to conceal the information on Ukraine’s famine from other republics. Just for this purpose, Ukraine’s borders were closed in 1933 and Ukrainian peasants were banned to travel a long distance. The famine was portrayed as a conspiracy by Ukrainian nationalists and people’s enemies. In the interview with British investigative journalist, Gareth Jones in 1933, the Soviet Foreign Minister denied  the Holodomor in Ukraine.

One of the first Western Holodomor deniers was Walter Duranty, the winner of the 1932 Pulitzer prize in journalism and the head of the New York Times’ Moscow Bureau, who wrote that “there is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation”, that caused a huge harm to spreading the truth on the famine in Ukraine.

To conceal reality, Soviet propaganda used the method of “a Potemkin village”. Before the visit  of Edouard Herriot, the French Radical leader, twice premier of his country, to Kiev, the population was required to clean the streets and decorate the houses. Shop windows were filled with food, but police dispersed or arrested even local citizens, who pressed too close. Homeless children, beggars and starving people disappeared. The newspaper Pravda wrote on September 13, 1933 that Herriot categorically denied what bourgeois press wrote about the Soviet famine.

See the Infographic

Topic: History
Violation: Disinformation
Country: Ukraine



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