Remembering Holodomor

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

Holodomor, as seen at the time by the foreign press.

As Ukrainians commemorate the 83rd anniversary of Holodomor, a famine planned by the Soviets, Russia’s leadership has no intention of distancing itself from the legacy of Stalin, writes Luibov Nepop.

Luibov Nepop is acting Head of the Ukrainian Mission to the EU.

These days. Ukrainians are lighting the candles all around the world in order to commemorate the 82nd anniversary of the Holodomor, an artificial famine that was cynically planned and pedantically carried out by Stalin’s regime in 1932-1933.

At the time, the Soviet regime faced a few challenges. Rapid industrialisation of the country required vast resources that could be received and controlled through forced collectivisation. The Bolsheviks had never considered Ukraine, mostly a peasant country, as reliable and trustworthy.

Trying to solve this dilemma, the Soviet leadership chose to execute millions of Ukrainians by starving them, while thousands were dying on the doorsteps of warehouses filled with grain, to be sold on the world market.     

It was believed this would break spirit of the nation, and erase its national memory.

The figures are striking. A heinous policy of genocide resulted in an estimated 3.9 million people killed. This was an enormous price paid by the Ukrainian nation for the so-called “industrial breakthrough” the Soviet Union was so proud of, and the Kremlin so often refers to.

Unfortunately, Russia’s leadership has no intention of distancing itself from the legacy of Stalinism. While the Soviet past is glorified, covert Russian aggression that has already killed eight thousand Ukrainians in Donbas, strongly reminding us of the bloody past. 

In the meantime, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, a part of sovereign Ukraine, provides us with another strong reminder of the Stalin era.

Having annexed the Crimea, the Kremlin goes to further extremes, following the KGB’s “best practices”. Under the pretext of “fighting against extremism” a new campaign, including the ethnically and politically-motivated persecution of Crimean Tatars, has been launched, with the goal of expelling non-loyal residents of the peninsula.

This sends us back to the tragic events of May 1944, when 200,000 or so Crimean Tatars, including women and children, were taken from their homes and loaded on freight trains headed to Central Asia. Nearly half of those deported died on the way to their final destination.

We hope that the international community will heed the call of the Ukrainian Parliament and recognise this mass deportation as genocide.

This year, once again we are paying tribute to those who perished under the reign of totalitarianism. Our thoughts are with those alive, who are standing against legacy of the Soviet past in the east of Ukraine, in Crimea, and in Russian prisons. 

Today’s turbulent times prove that freedom and democracy cannot be taken for granted. We are facing new attacks under different pretext – either to promote extreme religious dogma, or to defend trumped-up geopolitical interests. However, the ultimate goal remains the same: to enslave a whole nation with fear and terror by creating instability and taking away our confidence in tomorrow.     

Chilling crimes of the past once again remind us of solidarity, persistence and unity in protecting common values and principle against terror, regardless wherever it comes from – the East or West, the North or South. Otherwise, we will cease to exist as a community of liberté, égalité, et fraternité.  

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