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Reviewed by:
  • Contextualizing the Holodomor: The Impact of Thirty Years of Ukrainian Famine Studies ed. by Andrij Makuch and Frank Sysyn
  • Oleh Wolowyna (bio)
Andrij Makuch and Frank Sysyn (Eds.), Contextualizing the Holodomor: The Impact of Thirty Years of Ukrainian Famine Studies ( Edmonton and Toronto: CIUS Press, 2015). 126 pp. ISBN: 978-1-894865-43-2.

This volume contains five chapters based on papers presented at the conference “Contextualization the Holodomor: A Conference on the 80th Anniversary,” held at the University of Toronto on September 27–28, 2013, and a shorter introductory text by Frank Sysyn that provides a background to the five chapters. The five papers are: Olga Andriiewska, “Towards a Decentralized History: The Study of the Holodomor and Ukrainian Historiography”; Andrea Graziosi, “The Impact of Holodomor Studies on the Understanding of the USSR”; Francois Thom, “Reflections on Stalin and the Holodomor”; Stanislav Kul’chyts’kyi, “The Holodomor of 1932–33: How and Why?”; and Norman M. Naimark, “How the Holodomor Can Be Integrated into Our Understanding of Genocide.”

The main contribution of Sysyn’s introductory text, “Thirty Years of Research on the Holodomor: A Balance Sheet,” is a description of the genesis of Robert Conquest’s seminal book The Harvest of Sorrow and a comprehensive list of the [End Page 335] extraordinary number of reviews of the book. Sysyn’s title is somewhat misleading (in fact, it seems more suitable as a title of Olga Andriewska’s contribution, which presents a very thorough review of scholarly work, mostly by historians, on the Holodomor in the past thirty years).

In spite of the extraordinary number of works on the Holodomor (more than 20,000 according to Kul’chyts’kyi), there is still little consensus among historians about the key factors related to the why of the Holodomor and its dynamics. Graziosi, referring to de-kulakization, collectivization, and famines starting in 1919, states that “‘classes’ had but a marginal (although certainly not non-existent) role on what was basically an original, ideologically inspired, very violent and primitive state-building attempt” (P. 52). He claims that there is a strong connection between the peasant revolts of 1918–20 and resistance to these events in 1930–31, and posits a direct relationship between levels of past resistance and Holodomor losses in 1932–33 (this connection is also mentioned by Andriewska). Graziosi then links Stalin’s assertion that “in essence, the national question is a peasant question” with the why of the Holodomor. Thus we have a logical chain: peasant resistance – the nationality question as a peasant question – famine-terror as a means for breaking Ukrainian peasants’ resistance to collectivization and independence aspirations.

Kul’chyts’ky, on the other hand, claims that “class-based destruction led to the Holodomor” (P. 89). He frames his analysis on the genesis and intent of the Holodomor squarely in the context of factors such as Marxist ideology, the elimination of private property (of the peasants), and the imposition of state control of agricultural production. He divides the 1932–33 famine into two parts: a general famine affecting different parts of the Soviet Union during most of 1932, and famine-terror starting in late 1932 through the first part of 1933. Kul’chyts’kyi argues that this second part is the actual Holodomorgenocide. The genocide was caused by Stalin’s “shattering blow,” with total confiscation not just of grain but all food, and physical blockades eliminating the possibility of peasants to search for food in Russia or cities in Ukraine. The result was a tenfold increase in rural mortality in Ukraine between January and June of 1933, a unique phenomenon among man-made famines in the twentieth century. Thom explains Stalin’s imposition of collectivization and dekulakization policies on the Politburo and the Communist apparatus by a strategy of dissimulation and deception, characterized by tactical retreats at critical moments and the identification of Stalin’s personal power with the power of the Soviet state. [End Page 336]

Both Andriewska and Graziosi point out the scarcity of knowledge about the social and cultural longterm effects of the Holodomor, such as the psychological individual and collective effects of starvation, resulting in changes in moral and ethical consciousness, passivity, lack of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2164-9731
Print ISSN
2166-4072
Pages
pp. 335-341
Launched on MUSE
2017-09-19
Open Access
No
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