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The 80th Anniversary of the Ukrainian Famine

  • Hon. Benjamin L. Cardin
    US












Senate

113th Congress, First Session

Madam President, this year we commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Holodomor, the genocidal Ukrainian Famine of 1932-1933. Eighty years ago, an engineered famine in Soviet-dominated Ukraine and bordering ethnically-Ukrainian territory resulted in the horrific deaths of millions of innocent men, women, and children.

I visited the Holodomor monument in central Kyiv, a poignant reminder of the suffering perpetrated by Soviet dictator Stalin’s deliberate and inhumane policy to suppress the Ukrainian people and destroy their human, cultural, and political rights. Requisition brigades, acting on Stalin’s orders to fulfill impossibly high grain quotas, took away the last scraps of food from starving families and children. Eyewitness accounts describing the despair of the starving are almost unfathomable. Millions of rural Ukrainians slowly starved–an excruciatingly painful form of death–amid some of the world’s most 
fertile farmland, while stockpiles of expropriated grain rotted by the ton, often nearby. 

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s borders were sealed to prevent the starving from leaving to less-affected areas. International offers of help were rejected, with Stalin’s henchmen denying a famine was taking place. At the same time, Soviet grain was being exported to the West.

The final report of the congressionally created Commission on the Ukraine Famine concluded in 1988 that “Joseph Stalin and those around him committed genocide against Ukrainians in 1932-33.” No less than Rafael Lemkin, the Polish-Jewish-American lawyer who coined the term “genocide” and was instrumental in the adoption of the 1948 U.N. Genocide Convention, described the “destruction of the Ukrainian nation” as the “classic example of Soviet genocide.”

We must never forget the victims of the Holodomor or those of other republics in the Soviet Union, notably Kazakhstan, that witnessed cruel, mass starvation as a result of Stalin’s barbarism, and we must 
redouble our efforts to protect human rights and democracy, ensuring that 20th-century genocides such as the Holocaust, Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, Ukraine, Bosnia, Cambodia, and Rwanda become impossible to imagine in the future.

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