To Counter Ukraine Charges of Genocide, Moscow Admits to Mass Murder

Rusiko Amirejibi-Mullen r.amirejibi-mullen at
Fri Feb 27 15:04:45 UTC 2009

February 27, 2009
Paul Goble

Vienna, February 26 ? In order to counter Kyiv?s insistence that  
Stalin carried out a genocide in Ukraine in the 1930s, an insistence  
that is at the core of the definition of the Ukrainian nation, Moscow  
has released new documents suggesting that the Soviet dictator engaged  
in a criminal campaign of mass murder across the entire Soviet Union.

Yesterday, Vladimir Kozlov, the head of Russia?s Federal Archives  
Agency, told a Moscow press conference that the famine in Ukraine and  
elsewhere in the USSR was ?the result of [Stalin?s] criminal policy?  
but that ?of course, no one planned any famine? or singled out any  
ethnic group as its victim.

Instead, he said, ?the famine was the result of the errors and  
miscalculations of the political course of the leadership of the  
country in the course of the realization of collectivization.? And he  
insisted that he and his researchers had not found ?a single document?  
showing that Stalin planned ?a terror famine? in Ukraine.

Instead, Kozlov said, ?absolutely all documents testify that the chief  
enemy of Soviet power at that time was an enemy defined not on the  
basis of ethnicity but on the basis of class,? in this case the  
peasantry which Stalin wanted to force to join collective farms  
throughout whatever means he could.

Kozlov?s comments came as he presented a new collective of documents,  
entitled ?The Famine in the USSR,? and a DVD which contained a  
selection of those documents and others, which he said will total some  
6,000 items, to be published in three volumes that are to be published  
this year.

The Russian archivist and others in Moscow said they were convinced of  
two things, first, that these documents undercut all Ukrainian claims  
to the contrary and, second, that the evidence these documents provide  
about the much broader but class rather than ethnic based crimes of  
the Soviet regime are not a problem for the contemporary regime.

But despite t his self-confidence, it is almost certainly the case  
that they are wrong. On the one hand, the extent of regime violence  
that these documents show is likely to energize rather than demobilize  
Ukrainian views about the way in which Stalin attacked the core of  
their nation nearly 80 years ago.

And on the other, the evidence the Moscow archivists provide is likely  
to lead others, including Kazakhs, Belarusians and many ethnic  
Russians to see that their communities too were the victims of mass  
murder, an act of violence that at least some of these groups are  
certain to view as directed against their nationhood and thus to see  
as genocidal whatever Moscow says.

Because that seems so likely, the arguments advanced yesterday by  
Valery Tishkov, an academician who heads the Institute of Ethnology  
and serves in the Russian Social Chamber, that the Ukrainian arguments  
will collapse, almost certainly will prove to be without any  
sustainable foundation.

And the reason for that conclusion is that Russians, Ukrainians and  
indeed the rest of the world are almost certain to be struck by one of  
the fundamental weaknesses of the position that Kozlov and Tishkov  
advance: Somehow they appear to believe that everyone will accept  
their notion that mass murder is somehow not as serious a problem as  

That such an argument may convince some is beyond question, given the  
political use to which deaths in the past are often put, but that it  
will convince all is highly improbable. Indeed, when a regime kills as  
many people as Stalin?s did, most people of good will, including many  
Russians, will question Moscow?s latest effort to politicize history  
in this way.

Indeed, it is virtually certain not only that this latest compilation  
by Russian authors will not dissuade Ukrainians from their view that  
their nation was a victim of the Soviet system but also will lead many  
others, including ethnic Russians, to dismiss Moscow?s current efforts  
to restore the image of Stalin as a wise and effective manager.

Consequently, this latest Russian effort to downplay the human tragedy  
of collectivization will have at least three effects, none of which  
Moscow will want. First, it will lead many to see that Ukrainians, as  
one Russian put it, ?deserve respect? for focusing on this tragedy.

Second, it will call attention to the ways in which Moscow is  
manipulating history for its own purposes even more than the  
Ukrainians are. After all, despite the enormous number of documents  
put forward, there will inevitably remain questions about what  
documents were NOT published.

And third, this Russian effort will call attention to something that  
many would prefer not to confront: Mass murder is wrong whether  
conducted in the name of ethnic cleansing, the class struggle or  
anything else. The dead and their memory call out for a human response  
very different than the political one Moscow offered yesterday.

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