Famine in Ukraine (1932-1933)

Ukraine is known as a «breadbasket» of Europe thanks to its fertile soil and wheat. It is really difficult to imagine that only about 85 years ago people starved to death on the territory of Ukraine, though there was no natural disaster or a catastrophe. Millions of people died in Ukraine, while Soviet Union was exporting wheat and butter to other countries. Hunger was the synonym of Ukraine at that time.

Famine 1932-1933 is one of the most tragic episodes in the history of Ukraine. It was the direct result of the collectivization policy. Forced Ukrainian holodomor happened when Stalin was ruling the country.

The word «holodomor» has a meaning «to kill by starvation».

It was forbidden to discuss this topic, to write about it in newspapers, to mention it in the official documents, all facts were thoroughly hidden.  It was forbidden to erect monuments on the graves of victims of starvation. But even the most severe veto on this topic was not able to make people forget about this man made Ukrainian genocide, artificial starvation. The number of famine victims varies from 7 to 10 million people.


Ukrainian collectivization was a part of the USSR collectivization program that started in 1930 and was a part of the Stalin’s five year plan. The main aim of collectivization was to change individual type of farming into the collective one. Dekulakization was a part of collectivization at that time. The word «Kulak» meant «the well-off farmer, who owned individual property». Such type of farming was typical for the Ukrainian peasants. Dekulakization program consisted of:

  • higher taxation;
  • limiting of land renting;
  • prohibition to use the wage labor;
  • prohibition to buy agricultural technique.

As a result of such policy, number of well-off peasants decreased. Government started the real terror against farmers. Wealthy households were not only liquidated, liquidations were also accompanied by the confiscation of property. Peasants, who refused to join collective farms, were deported to Siberia and to the North. About 200 000 farms were destroyed at that time and about 1,2-1,4 million people were sent to Siberia, where they did the most heavy work.

Ukrainians were against such collectivization policy and resisted to follow its rules. Some Ukrainian farmers showed their protest even by killing their livestock.

Why did the famine take place

Moscow forced people in Ukraine to starve, not only because of the opposition to the policy of collectivization, but because Russian nationalists didn’t want Ukraine to become an independent country. The idea of the liberation of Ukraine was discussed not only in some small villages and cities, but it was mentioned in the Communist party of Ukraine. In order to kill this idea, millions of talented people, writers, leaders were persecuted and liquidated. Some of them committed suicides in order to escape the punishment. Such well-known Ukrainian writer as Mykola Hvylovy was among those people.

Stalin’s propaganda of collectivization had really terrible consequences. The USSR terror technology consisted of:

  • Black Plank regime (Newspapers regularly informed about villages, Kolkhozs and even individuals, that didn’t fulfill the collective plan of provision. Debtors who were in those lists, were cruelly punished and repressed).
  • Regular searches of peasants with the main aim to find hidden grain, potatoes and meat ( 1932).
  • Confiscation of all kinds of food during the constant searches of peasants ( 1933).
  • Propaganda in order to provoke hate among starving people against kulaks.
  • Banning the word «famine» in all kinds of written documents, even in top secret ones.

Areas, which suffered the most from the Ukrainian famine 1932-1933:

  • Kyiv oblast;
  • Dnepropetrovsk oblast;
  • Kharkov oblast;
  • Odessa oblast;
  • Chernihiv oblast.

How many people died in the Holodomor of 1932-1933

Nobody knows the exact number of people, who suffered from starvation in 1932-1933.

Some documentary sources say that Ukraine has lost about 5 million people, other sources say that from 5 to 8 million people. The media uses number – 10 million people.

It is almost impossible to define the exact number of holodomor victims. Such famous historians as Stephen G. Wheatcroft and Timothy D. Snyder keep to the number – 10 million people.

Nationalities that suffered the most from holodomor:

  • 81% Ukrainians;
  • 4,5 % Russians;
  • 1,4 % Jews;
  • 1,1% Polish.

Witnesses of holodomor say that some people were brought to such despair, that they ate even dead children. Soviet government fought with this cannibalism, by publishing posters, that claimed – «It is barbarism to eat own children». Some historical sources inform that about 2500 people were condemned for cannibalism in 1932-1933.

How did the holodomor end

The crop of 1933 was better than in 1932 and it was possible to fulfill the grain deliveries. The consequences of holodomor were terrible and Ukrainian nation started to relive only in 1935-1937. Harvests improved and the number of livestock and salary rose a little bit. Ukraine began to return to the full life. The holodomor was finished on the territory of Ukraine.

Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine claimed in 2006 that Holodomor of 1932-1933 was the real genocide against the Ukrainian citizens. 23 countries admitted that Holodomor was the real Ukrainian genocide, they are: Andorra, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Georgia, Ecuador, Estonia, Spain, Italy, Canada, Columbia, Latvia, Litva, Mexico, Peru, Paraguay, Poland, Slovakia, the USA, Hungary, Czech republic, Chili and also Vatican as the separate country.

Remembrance of the Holodomor victims

The first memorial to the Holodomor victims appeared in Canada, Edmond in 1983.

The Holodomor memorial was built in Ukraine in 2008. This memorial complex is situated in Kiev and is open every day from 10 am to 6 pm. The Holodomor memorial consists of:

Chapel Candle
Chapel Candle
  • Chapel «Candle of remembrance» made from concrete. Its height is 32 meters. The museum is situated inside the candle. It is possible to watch there two movies about Holodomor.
  • The bronze sculpture of a girl in the middle of the square.
  • Sculpture of two angels near the entrance to the memorial.
  • Alley of black nameplates.
Sculpture of a girl with wheat
Sculpture of a girl with wheat

People cherish memory of starvation victims on the Holodomor Remembrance Day, every fourth Saturday of November since 1988, due to the decree of the ex-president of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma.

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