Was the Ukrainian famine in 1932/33 deliberate?

Or rather, to what extent was it a manifestation of the will of Stalin? There seems to be no doubt that many factors of the Holodomor, as it is know, were caused by man and not natural means - but was it incompetence or malice behind these causes?

For instance, we know that later on the Nazis worked in starvation deliberately, there can be no doubt about the maliciousness of “der Backe-Plan” in prioritising Germany over the needs of their conquests and the deaths that would result. Is there any documentation, testimony etc that suggests Soviet policy in the '30s was similar?

That’s kind of like asking whether the Civil War was deliberate.

“When Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin forced peasants off their homesteads and into collective farms, special military units requisitioned grain and other food before sealing off parts of the countryside. Without food and unable to escape, millions perished.”


If it wasn’t “malice”, it was colossal criminal indifference. Same result.

Well, that was the Ukranian line, at a time when they were trying to wring reparation money out of Moscow. The fact is, however, that Stalin undoubtedly thought that, as Communist ideology implied, the collectivization of farming would lead to huge improvements in agricultural efficiency, and greater productivity, and that the Ukranian farms would be able to feed not only the people working them but the populations of the rapidly industrializing Russian cities. That expectation proved to be disastrously false and production fell precipitously, leading to shortages, and, in those circumstances, it was felt, rightly or wrongly, that the workers in the cities deserved to be fed as much or more than the farmers who were producing so much less, so much of the food that was produced was taken to feed the industrial workers. Communist ideology may have played a role in this prioritization of the needs of the industrial workers over the farmers, and, no doubt, Stalin, as was his wont, carried matters through with great ruthlessness. However, the notion that he deliberately set out to starve large numbers of the people whom he ruled, and from whom his and his country’s power ultimately derived, or even that he did not care that they starved, is absurd, and really could only be believed by people in a culture still deeply affected by the after effects of cold war propaganda. Clearly the famine greatly weakened the Soviet Union at a crucial time in its development. That was not what Stalin wanted or needed at all.

One line I’ve heard was that the starvation was payback for the farmers’ reluctance to leave their land. A lot of the people targeted were relatively well-off farmers who owned their own farms, so therefore more of the money-making capital-owning class that needed to be shown the proper way and taught a lesson.

Yeah, he also didn’t want to purge all those intellectuals or kill off large numbers of military leaders, drastically weakening the armed forces he was going to badly need in World War II. It was just a slight lapse in judgment, grossly overhyped by cold war propagandists. :dubious:

Sheesh. Those Ukranians. And lok at Germany still has to put up with.

Maybe deliberate was the wrong word…planned, maybe? Exploited? Was it what Stalin had wanted or did he just decide to exploit it once it was occuring?

Thinking of it as akin to a victim in a car crash; was it premeditated murder - cut the brake cables? Or gross incompetence - mechanic put on defective brakes? Or callous indifference - point and laugh at the wreckage?

My belief is that it was intentional. Stalin needed to confiscate a lot of food to feed Soviet citizens and prevent a general uprising. If he had tried to be equitable about it and confiscated a percentage of food from all of the farmers in the Soviet Union, he would have been creating millions of people who were angry at his regime. But by declaring one group of farmers enemies of the state and taking all their food, he was able to focus and eliminate the potential opposition. The farmers who had all their food confiscated starved to death so they didn’t form a pool of future opposition. The other farmers, who hadn’t been touched this time, would be grateful for having been spared and indirectly warned about what the government could do if it wished - so they wouldn’t step out of line.

MOST starvation is deliberate, at least since the development of food storage and transportation. Starvation is used as a weapon of “ethnic cleansing” or war in Africa and other places even today.

The default assumption whenever mass starvation occurs should be that someone is causing it. IMHO, the burden of proof would be on Stalin supporters to show why he shouldn’t have been responsible. Presumably, it would go something like this: “Despite being able to mobilize hundreds of thousands of people for any labor project that occurred to him, and having total power over life and death in a country whose millions would do anything he asked, and an extensive internal spy network keeping him apprised of everything that happened, Stalin somehow wasn’t able to respond to a protracted event that lasted several years.”