To Counter Ukraine Charges of Genocide, Moscow Admits to Mass Murder
r.amirejibi-mullen at qmul.ac.uk
Fri Feb 27 15:04:45 UTC 2009
February 27, 2009
WINDOW ON EURASIA
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
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
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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