Stalin’s emissary Lazar Kaganovich: “victims are necessary” – “where to evict”?

17 November 2022

Ukrainian fertile land grew geniuses, warriors, poets and musicians, but thistles with poisonous stings sprouted on it too. Mankurts are a special breed of people who forget their origin, sometimes mocking it.

He masterfully avoided political repressions by leading them

Lazar Moiseyovych Kaganovich was born on November 22, 1893, in Kabany village of the Kyiv province (now Dibrova village of the former Polisky district). A low-educated but extremely insidious and ambitious type of opportunist. Until 1917, he had sold sheepskin and wool in Kyiv, and then, unexpectedly, he became a revolutionary.

The social and mental ability to adapt under any conditions, specific foresight and audacity contributed to an unheard-of career rise: general secretary of the Central Committee of the CP(b)U in 1925–1928, secretary of the Moscow City CPSU(b) in 1930–1935, a member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU(b) for 27 years, People’s Commissar of Communications, Oil and Heavy Industry, Deputy Chairman of the Union Government in 1938–1947. He masterfully avoided political repressions by leading them as the Chairman of the Party Control Commission. It was a phenomenal leap to the top of the political Olympus for a young Jewish man from a remote Polish village.

He ideologically persecuted the Ukrainian intelligentsia and mentally did not perceive the history and culture of Ukrainians, although he lived among them for more than 20 years. He prevented the Ukrainization of spiritual life in every way, achieved the dismissal of the People’s Commissar of Education O. Shumsky, and personally participated in the spread of the sinister ideologies of “Shumskiism”, “Hvyliovism”, “Volobuyevshchyna”, which became programmatic in the destruction of Ukrainian culture. Kaganovich selflessly served Stalin and considered himself his “faithful student.” He zealously carried out all his assignments without regard for people’s lives.

“We will resettle the rebellious ones to the North”

The list of his dark and bloody actions was not limited to approving repressions. He was one of the organisers of the Holodomor genocide in Ukraine in 1932–1933. On January 13, 2010, the Court of Appeal of Kyiv found him guilty of this grave crime.

In November 1932, that is, 90 years ago, Stalin’s emissary arrived in the Kuban to fight against the “saboteurs” of the grain harvest, that is, the farmers who did not carry out the deadly “plan to the yard”. Kaganovich took up the matter resolutely: he demanded “deprivation of the homestead land of individual farmers”, cancelled the issuance of bread for the food of collective farm workers working in the fields, prohibited the distribution of grain for trudodni (working days) over 10-15% of the actual threshed bread. Stalin’s henchman personally looked into the accounting books of available seeds but “did not go around the storerooms.” He was involved in the adoption of the resolution of August 7, 1932, on the protection of socialist property (the notorious among the people the “five ears of grain” law). He supported the arrest of 3 thousand farmers and the execution of 150 people “for stealing” ears of grain. He proposed the deportation of Ukrainian refugee farmers who “worked, especially in the Kuban, where the Ukrainian language is spoken.”He did not recognise his personal and Politburo’s collective responsibility for the famine catastrophe because “there can be no pity and softness towards the class enemy”, and whoever “is not capable of the Bolshevik struggle – let them say it and leave”. He was personally involved in the eviction of farmers from Poltavska village and spoke to them in the Polissia dialect. He intimidated the farmers who resisted: “Moscow will not allow it,” and “we will resettle the rebellious ones to the North.” Stalin’s emissary declared villages on the “black board”, that is, resorted to their food isolation, turning their life into a black strip of death.

During the second trip to the North Caucasus, which lasted from November 18 to 23, Kaganovich acted with emphatic cynicism. A member of the Politburo, who cared about social equality and the workers’ welfare, believed that “sacrifices are necessary”, but there was a problem – “where to evict”? He constantly informed Stalin about “judicial repressions”, about the listing of villages on the “black board”, about the Bolshevik pogrom in Poltavska village, in which 400 people became victims because “there was a part of the Petlyurists who migrated from Ukraine in the spring.”

“Search in such a way that they voluntarily open pits themselves”

Armed with the experience of a bread-making inquisitor, political executioner Kaganovich came to the Kharkiv and Odesa regions on December 20-29. He held meetings of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CP(b) at night and summoned officials to the government train. He was furious when he found “a lot of grain” in the chaff from repeated winnowing. He recognised the regime of “black boards” and the collection of a fine – from 25 to 30% as insufficiently effective. Politically, he should have cared about the stability of agriculture, but he deliberately destroyed it, testifying in this way to his criminal actions. He calmly accepted the withdrawal of seed, fodder and food grains from collective farms, without thinking about the terrible consequences. He personally ordered the cancellation of the resolution of the Central Committee of the CP(b)U of November 29 on the inviolability of in-kind funds of collective farms. In order to seize them, he personally inspired 4,870 commissioners of grain procurement and offered to send “strong people with fighting spirit” to the villages, that is, he ideologically blessed the Bolshevik horde to commit crimes.

In the Odesa region, he worked together with V. Balytskyi, the head of the GPU of the Ukrainian SSR, and M. Chernov, the head of the Procurement Committee of the USSR. The criminal trio pushed the farmers to death by starvation. He personally demanded to print the verdicts on the executions of “saboteurs” of the grain harvest in the newspapers, that is, he admitted involvement in the physical massacres of the farmers. He demanded the seizure of bread through “successfully conducted searches.” His cynical demand, “search in such a way so that they voluntarily open pits, because otherwise we will not have enough strength to dig up the whole earth,” impresses with cruelty. He ridiculed and warned the assistant regional prosecutor, who offered to remove the cause of death – shooting – from the death registry. The eviction of 2,000 families for failure to implement the grain procurement plan was a common thing for Kaganovich. He allowed the military to station in the villages to prevent hunger riots.

Kaganovich’s two “commandments” are symbolic of the audacious executioner of Ukrainians: the first is to “take away the bread”, and the second is to “take away the seeds.” No rye, no wheat, and therefore no seed. A closed circle of death. He never recognised the fact of hunger and considered talks about it to be a demonstration of the “class enemy.”

The cold wind from the North always brought cold and frost. Politically aggressive demands of Moscow always led to bloody consequences, hunger and torture. It is necessary to take into account the tragic lessons of the past, to beware of prophets not only in sheep’s clothing but also of former shepherds and sellers of sheep’s wool who became irresponsible politicians.

Vasyl Marochko,
professor, a leading researcher
Holodomor Research Institute
National Museum of the Holodomor-genocide

In the photo – “black” and “red” boards in the village. Verkhnya Syrovatka of the Kharkiv region until 1935. CinePhotoPhono Archives of Ukraine named after H. Pshenychny