“Separate theseses by Mrs. Applebaum seem contradictory and too categorical"- Vasyl Marochko

25 April 2018

“Red Famine” by Ann Applebaum: Reflections on the Pulitzer Prize Laureate

In the summer of 2017, another book by a well-known researcher on the history of the formation of the Soviet concentration camps of the Gulag system, Anne Applebaum (“Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine”), saw the world. For the book “The History of Gulag” an American-British journalist received the prestigious Pulitzer Prize in 2004, winners of which were famous people. In 1932, a New York Times correspondent in Moscow Walter Duranty received it, who cynically and brazenly denied the famine in Ukraine, betrayed British journalist Gareth Jones to the Stalinist regime. An attempt by the Ukrainian intellectual community to deprive him of the highest journalistic award was in vain.

If the “History of the Gulag” Applebaum, which appeared in Ukrainian in 2006, was known to a narrow circle of researchers, its “Red Famine” aroused anger of the representatives of the red-left forces, the ambiguity of reflections among the yellow-and-blue camp, the irritation of some “liberal” historians. Famous scientists and public figures – Arnold Lozynsky, Stanislav Kulchytsky, Sheila Fitzpatrick and others – responded to the book in the Internet. The circle of supporters and opponents will grow, especially after the translation into Ukrainian. I will note the strange system of the functioning of the intellectual space: as some Western researcher publish something about the Holodomor, a discussion noise begins right away. This was the case with R. Conquest’s book “Harvest of Sorrow” in 1986, against which historians and politicians of various ideological colors spoke. And about the book of the Italian historian Ettore Chinnela “Ukrainian Golgotha. In search of the truth “(2015), no one in Ukraine has mentioned, especially at a high state level. Her author is deeply convinced that the Holodomor is “… a purposeful operation of the Stalinist regime for the purpose of social and national genocide of Ukrainians”. R. Conquest, who has already been mentioned, has grown for almost 20 years from the use of the term “terror by starvation” to recognition of the genocide, as he announced in April 2006 at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University (USA).

The attempts to systematically and truthfully show the causes and consequences of the Holodomor in Ukraine – is a rare anthropological and intellectual quality of Western journalists, historians, and political scientists. Representatives of post-totalitarian societies embody them with the tolerance and advantages of democracy, professional ability and experience of deliberate coverage of controversial events and events in the history of the twentieth century. The list of righteous intellectuals, in my opinion, is significant: T. Innitzer, E. Ammende, G. Jones, M. Maggerid, R. Conquest, D. Mace, A. Besantson, N. Naimark, R. Serbin, L. Lutsiuk , D. Zlepko, E. Chinnela, R. Kushnierz. They are “righteous” because they wrote truthfully and boldly about the Holodomor in Ukraine. To them, probably, it is possible to include works by E. Applebaum, who voluntarily and boldly signed up to this cohort. At the very least, the President of Ukraine P.O. Poroshenko believes that Mrs. Applebaum has a worthy place along with legends – R. Conquest, D. Mace. He personally met with her, congratulated the book’s release, and on November 25, 2017, on several occasions her surname was mentioned at the National Museum “Holodomor Victims Memorial” memorial event.

The presentation of the book “Red Famine”, which took place on April 20, 2017, turned out to be chamber. Perhaps, the charity fee which ruled for a pass scared those who wanted – 2500 UAH. However, I had her book, which I studied for almost a month, especially the sections and conclusions of the author concerning the Holodomor. They, in fact, also prompted me to share my impressions from reading the monograph, as S. Kulchytsky, V. Grinevich, G. Efimenko, T. Boryak, O. Volovina, A. Graziosi, L. Lutsyuk, F. Sysyn were consultants, advisers and curators of the author of “Red Famine. Therefore, the book is a skillful analytical combination of individual experience and collective support. The high intellectual level of the author, as she graduated from Yale University (USA), London School of Economics and Oxford University, mastery of a journalist’s writing (work experience in British magazines (The Spectator “The Economist”; American – The Washington Post) allowed her to carefully elucidate the preconditions, causes, circumstances and, in part, the consequences of the Holodomor. The book has a comprehensive introductory part, 15 chapters, an epilogue, a reference and a bibliography.

Her academic design does not cause any doubt. Events and phenomena are chronologically and consistently laid out, and the laconic and journalistic titles of the sections only add stylistic harmony and compositional constancy to the work. The scientific training is felt, and together with the relative conceptual dependence on the generalized assessments of events and phenomena of 1932-1933 in Ukraine.

The researcher has consistently used the term Holodomor. In the monograph “The History of Gulag,” she wrote that collectivization of agriculture and the politics dekulakisation “… led in 1932-1934 to the terrible devastating famines in Ukraine and southern Russia – the Holodomor, which killed six to seven million people.” Applebaum does not revise the historical and etymological origin of the concept of “Holodomor”, although she simultaneously uses the words “hunger”, “hunger in Ukraine”, sometimes a contradictory definition of “Ukrainian famine”. It is commendable that it abolished the use of the terms “Ukrainian Famine” and “Ukrainian Genocide,” which for some reason entered the historiographic discourse, as if Ukrainians were the creators of the Holodomor, genocide. The Ukrainian normative legal acts, the works of specialists clearly indicate the correct use of these institutional definitions: Holodomor in Ukraine, genocide of Ukrainians, genocide of the Ukrainian people. The word “Ukrainian” in the case of “Ukrainian genocide” is not an adjective, even the circumstance of the place (the territory of the crime). These words in a similar linguistic design identify the subject and object of action, therefore, they must be divorced. Ukrainians are victims of the Holodomor, and not the subject of action.

However, as a researcher on the Holodomor with 30 years of experience and the author of the Holocaust Encyclopedia of Holodomor, which has just been completed, certain sentences of dear Mrs. Applebaum seem contradictory and too categorical. She obviously, under the influence of consultants, distinguishes between the “famine of 1932” and the spring and summer of 1933, which, of course, differed in the intensity of mortality, but the chronological framework of 1932-1933 is, first of all, the historical period of the Holodomor, and not the physiologically anthropological features of the hunger strike, the memorial symbol and the limit of the application of the legal classification envisaged by the Law of Ukraine of November 28, 2006. It is possible that for Western researcher and journalist, such warnings are worthless , but they are a historiographical fact, which should not be neglected.

The saddest thing is that Mrs. Applebaum was too entrusted with her advisers, especially as regards the interpretation of the statistical and demographic data of the number of victims of the Holodomor. The book “Red Famine” refers to the article of Ukrainian statistics by S. Sosnovy in the Kharkiv newspaper “Nova Ukraina” for November 1942 on the number of deaths from starvation in 1932 – 1.5 million and 3.3 million in 1933. There is a  demographic impact” of the group of modern demographers who statically” froze “on the verge of” demographic losses “from the “1932-1933 famine”- 3.9 million people. Article by S. Sosnovy is only a small part of his analytical work, which he prepared for the Main Working Group “Ukraine” of the Rosenberg Operational Headquarters to study the “East Space”. It is stored in the relevant archival fund of the Central State Archives of the Supreme Authorities of Ukraine (CDAWO of Ukraine). Her author believed that the victims of the 1932-1933 famine were 7.5 million people (4.5-5 million directly from hunger, 2.5 million from chronic diseases, 2.5 million epidemics). He repeatedly refers to this number. His German-language analytical work was sent to Berlin in 1944.

The writer of the “Red Famine” did not know about this unique document, as well as demographers, although he is on the site of TsDAVVU. Quoting the article by S. Sosnovy from “New Ukraine”, Applebaum mentioned the fact that it was an organized famine. In fact, he uses this definition, which testifies to the origin of the Holodomor, that is, the deliberate extermination of people by artificial famine, rather than as a result of natural disaster. Not denying organized famine, Applebaum says that this term is the proof of genocide – “… the intentional plan to destroy the Ukrainians as a nation.” Undoubtedly, because the organized Holodomor is an important argument. Her doubts about “genocide” aroused the fact that in 1942 this term was not yet. But S. Sosnovy only stated the fact of organized famine, since he was an eyewitness, he worked in the statistics of the Ukrainian SSR in the 1930’s.

Developing this difficult subject for journalists, Ms. Applebaum resorted to an independent interpretation of the concept of genocide, which was based on the lawyer Rafael Lemkin in the late 1940s. She singled out the legal and moral components, mentioned various interpretations of the term and the phenomenon of “genocide.” R. Lemkin had a somewhat broader interpretation of it, sticking to the systemic features and Russification of Ukrainian society, and not “sovietization,” as Mrs. Applebaum mistakenly stated in the book. Her conclusion on the active and passive cooperation (co-operation) of Ukrainians with the Soviet regime in tragic years is too categorical, especially in the context of the lack of Stalin’s intention to kill “all Ukrainians,” and hence the legal expediency of using the category of international law as a “genocide” in relation to the Holodomor.

A comparative analysis of historical events and phenomena characterized by special tragedy must be scientifically balanced, verbally correct and consistent. According to Applebaum, the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of December 9, 1948 was aimed at the physical elimination of the ethnic group – “… like the Holocaust.” Obviously, author’s vision and mental perception of this document coincided, therefore, with a subjective interpretation of the general rule of international law turned out to be. The Convention is has not and could not have a concretization of its use regarding the Holodomor or Holocaust assessment. It is a general norm of international law, the provisions of which permit the establishment of the presence of signs of genocide in those cases. An arbitrary interpretation of the Convention, as well as a nihilistic attitude to its norms, which sometimes occurs in the writings of its contemporary interpreters, is unfounded. It exists as a norm of international law, published and ratified by many countries, including Ukraine. I will note that the Criminal Code of Ukraine has a specific norm “Genocide” (Article 442).

A black and dark echo of “Red Famine” blew out on page 357, when the author writes that the Holodomor does not meet the criteria of the 1948 Genocide Convention. “The Ukrainian famine was not an attempt to eliminate every living Ukrainian,” Applepl said, “because it was stopped in the summer of 1933, long before it could devastate the entire nation.” Sometimes there was no thick and caustic smoke from the chimneys of the crematorium of the Nazi camps, but this does not mean that they did not burn Jews, Gypsies, or other prisoners. It is very sad that Ms. Applebaum actually denies the Holodomor genocide, even in such an arbitrary and unprofessional way, but also tries to reconsider the conclusion of R. Lemkin that the 1932-1933 famine in Ukraine is a classic example of the Soviet genocide. Undoubtedly, the complexity of classifying the Holodomor as genocide in the context of international law exists, but Ukraine is moving through this thorny way. I agree with her that the first President of Ukraine, who initiated the movement to recognize the fact of the Holodomor-genocide, was V.A.Yushchenko. It is important not to turn from this road, but attempts were. It is worth mentioning the objections of V. F. Yanukovych to the Holodomor-genocide during his speech in Strasbourg on April 27, 2010. Russia and the pro-Russian forces in Ukraine, as Applebaum rightly points out in the book, supported his statement. They now deny the genocide of the Ukrainian people.

Anne Applebaum completes the book with an optimistic conclusion that the Ukrainians stopped Russian aggression in the east, being well aware of the events of the twentieth century, so they will stand as a sovereign nation and have a future. The book, in spite of the author’s personal beliefs, is an event in the intellectual environment and historiographical discourse of the Holodomor in Ukraine.