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Holodomor in Ukraine: One of the World’s Worst Genocides


Ukraine is the largest country entirely within Europe, with a population of more than 42 million. It is the former Soviet Republic which has re-established its independence in 1991. Currently, it is known in the media for its conflicts with Russia which annexed the Crimean peninsula and which is pursuing military actions in Donbas.

The territory of Ukraine has very fertile soil and it has been considered the breadbasket of Europe. During the establishment of communism, the Soviet Union authorities decided to exterminate wealthy and independent farmers. Such decision lead to the Famine-Genocide in Ukraine, best known as Holodomor.

What is Holodomor?

The word Holodomor is a compound word which translated in English means “death by hunger/starvation”. It refers to the man-made famine perpetrated by Stalin’s regime on the people of Soviet Ukraine. This famine was a consequence of the collectivization policy imposed by the Soviet Union, which required farmers to give up their land and livestock to state-owned farms and work there as labourers to gain food. This policy was not well received by the peasantry who then organised revolts which did not please the Soviet Union.

Ukraine was not the only country to suffer from famine. The policies of the Soviet Union caused starvation also in other territories, such as Soviet Russia and Kazakhstan. Holodomor, however, was more severe since Soviet authorities introduced measures explicitly addressed to Ukraine.

The territory of Soviet Ukraine was very valuable because of its historical significance as the mother country of eastern Slavic people. Moreover, Ukraine has always been an important crossroad between Asia and Europe. The core of Ukraine‘s national identity has always been the social class of the wealthy and independent farmers. By eliminating this social class, Stalin aimed to prevent any uprising and assimilate Ukraine with other Soviet member states. The provisions that were taken by force from the farmers were exported or let parish.

Death Toll and Genocide Question

Million of people had died of starvation at the end of 1933. It is very hard to make an accurate count of the casualties due to the genocide since the Kremlin denied that it was a man-made famine. In 2010, the Court of Appeal of Kyiv estimated that the direct famine deaths amounted to about 4 million and more than 6 million deaths were a consequence of birth deficits due to starvation. However, experts believe that between 3 and 12 million people died because of hunger. Still today, not everyone agrees that Holodomor was a genocide. 16 countries, as well as both houses of the United States Congress, recognize Holodomor as a genocide which makes it the third-worst genocide by death toll.

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