Holodomor: Photo documentation, art, exhibits

Ukrainian Famine Genocide: art, exhibits & authentic photographs from the Holodomor

Woodcut from: Ukraine 1933: A Cookbook by Bondarenko, Mykola. Kulinarna Knyha. *Woodcut on your right is from: Ukraine 1933: A Cookbook by Bondarenko, Mykola. Kulinarna Knyha.
South Bound Brook, NJ: Historical and Educational Complex of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, 2003. Summary with additional woodcuts.


~ 75th Anniversary of the Ukrainian Genocide Online Exhibit created under the auspices of the Ukraine 3000 International Charitable Fund, Kyiv, 2008; posted by the Ukrainian Association of North Carolina.

Set of 34 high quality exhibit posters.

~ Holodomor: Genocide by Famineproduced by the League of Ukrainian Canadians in cooperation with the Kyiv Memorial Society in Ukraine. 2008.

Sample posters. Comprised of 101 11×17″ color laminated panels,“presented as a complete “EXHIBIT IN A BOX” with a supporting readable and searchable CDROM and printed collateral materials.” Email: luc@lucorg.com . Also available for viewing here

Well documented and very informative. The prominently displayed high death toll is attributed to demographic parameters and estimates currently under reconsideration.

~ Famine in the Soviet Ukraine, 1932-1933: A Memorial Exhibition, Widener Library, Harvard University. by Oksana Procyk, Leonid Heretz, and James E. Mace
Cambridge, Mass: Harvard College Library, 1986.

Reflecting the knowledge at that time, “consists of a concise, well-illustrated historical narrative, a brief summary of scholarly research on the subject, excerpts from a wide range of sources, and an extensive bibliography.”

~ Holodomor Victims Memorial

When in Ukraine, visit and take a guided tour of this outstanding museum in the heart of Kyiv – a deeply unforgettable experience. Information about the museum and its many programs and resources related to the Holodomor are available on their new updated website.

Art resources:

~ Art Ukraine: Genocide
Presents examples of art works inspired by the Holodomor, as well as recent art exhibits. In most cases, images can be enlarged for better viewing.

For a discussion of these works, see “Images and Evocations of the Famine-Genocide in Ukrainian Art,” by Daria Darewych. Originally published in Canadian-American Slavic Studies Journal, 37, No. 3, (Fall 2003): 63-88.

Related article: “Holodomor: Through the Eyes of Ukrainian Artists collection,” by Morgan Williams. Unian, Nov 27, 2008.

~1933 “Famine” Edition Of Taras Shevchenko’s Kobzar. Kobzar, the collected works of Ukraine’s most famous poet, Taras Shevchenko, appeared in various editions since the mid-19th c. In 1931 and 1933, 2 editions were published with illustrations by Vasyl Sedliar, who chose to portray grim images from the contemporary terrors that came with dekulakization, forced collectivization and famine, instead of the oppression of tsarist days. Sedliar, (1937) and his editor Andriy Richytsky, (1934) were each arrested on a variety of fabricated charges of terrorist activity and executed.

The original drawings were destroyed, as well as most of the copies of the publication. One copy that survived is at the Ukrainian Museum-Archives of Cleveland, which presents a brief description. Sample illustrations are available in the online Encyclopedia of Ukraine. Information (in Ukrainian) about the recent reprint of the 1931 and 1933 editions can be found here.

~ Iconography of Power: Soviet Political Posters Under Lenin and Stalin, by Victoria E. Bonnell. Berkeley Calif.: Univ. of California Press, 1999.

Although not specific to Ukraine or the Holodomor, the famine is taken into account in the consideration of these 2 topics in particular: Chap. 5: “Bolshevik demonology in visual propaganda,” and Chap.3: “Peasant women in political posters of the 1930s.”

Sources for authentic photos from the Holodomor: updated.

Stalin adamantly denied to the outside world that farmers were dying of starvation in Ukraine during the early 1930’s. It was crucial for him to prove that collectivization was a success; and he had to sell the grain expropriated from the starving population in order to finance his huge industrial projects. Therefore, foreign reporting and photography were severely restricted and censored. What little authentic photography we have depicting famine conditions was smuggled out to the West.

This is in stark contrast to the relatively extensive documentation of the 1921-1923 famine that followed the period of Russian revolution, civil wars, and excessive requisitions by the Bolshevik government. Reluctantly, Lenin, the Soviet leader at that time, eventually allowed the West to aid the starving population. Assistance, most notably through the American Relief Administration, began arriving in 1921. Aid workers carefully documented famine victims and the work of their organizations with numerous photographs that are readily available today.

Unfortunately, over the years, newspaper editors, authors, filmmakers – even scholars – have unwittingly used unverified photos depicting starvation to give at least some visual concept to the horror of the Famine of 1932-33 in Ukraine, the Holodomor. More recently, some of these photos have been confirmed as taken in other locations or as dating from the 1921 famine.

We hope you will find the resource guidelines below helpful in identifying authentic photographs from the period of the Holodomor.

On 1921 -1923 famine in Ukraine photos, see: “Photographs of the 1921-1923 Famine in Soviet Ukraine,” by Roman Serbyn (article in Ukrainian; summary and list of photo captions in English).


~ Historical Photographs of the Holodomor

A selection with brief commentary of over 30 photographs depicting conditions in Ukraine during the early 1930’s. Many are officially approved government photos that depict Soviet policies of indoctrination, eviction, and removing stored food – along with positive imagery from the life of collective farming for propaganda purposes. Photos of hunger victims and graves were taken by Austrian technician A. Wienerberger in 1933 (labelled here as “Innitzer collection”) and smuggled out. This selection is a component of The Holodomor Education and Research Consortium’s Education Division.

~ Archive of Photodocuments of the Holodomor Victims Memorial of Ukraine.

A more extensive selection of photographs than above, presented in 5 groups. Each group is preceded by helpful historical or biographical background text. Although a very small number of photographs are of disputed attribution, this is a highly valuable resource.

~ Photo documents of the Central State CinePhotoPhono Archives (TsDKFFA) of Ukraine. Ukrainian language site.

The Ukrainian National Archive section “Famine-Genocide in Ukraine 1932-1933” is the official repository for most of the photos presented on the above listed websites and for thousands more; nearly all are officially approved government photos and close to 200 are available online as small thumbnail images. Photos 38123 are officially approved representations of idealized life on the collective farm, as well as examples of indoctrination, mass mobilization, demonization, public prosecution, dekulakization, and dispossession of personal property by the state. Photos 123, 3234 and 37 which depict conditions of starvation in Kharkiv, were taken by Austrian technician A. Wienerberger in 1933 and smuggled out . See ESSAY for more detail.

Photographs of hunger and famine: the secret photos of Alexander Wienerberger.

The sources listed below all offer somewhat different selections of Wienerberger’s photos, which were taken in the spring and summer of 1933 in and around Kharkiv, then capital of Soviet Ukraine.

~ “The 1932-33 Original Photographs from Kharkiv, Ukraine,” International Commission of Inquiry into the 1932-33 Famine of Ukraine [1987].

This represents the official contents of the “Innitzer collection,” so called because the photographs were personally deposited by Wienerberger with Cardinal Innitzer of Vienna, who was very active in humanitarian relief efforts during his tenure. 25 photocopied photographs.

A set almost identical to the Innitzer collection is available as one of the 5 groups of Holodomor photographs in the Holodomor Victims Memorial of Ukraine Photograph Archive. 2 photos (of young boys) are added, however, that are of unknown origin.

~ 1933 Famine Photos of Kharkov on the Gareth Jones website.

These 21 photos, which are a somewhat different set from the Innitzer collection, originally appeared in Muss Russland Hungern?: Menschen- und Völkerschicksale in der Sowjetunion, by ethnic minorities advocate Ewald Ammende, 1935 (first) edition. (Note: an English edition was published in 1936, and re-released in 1984 with the title: Human life in Russia. This edition which appeared after Ammende’s death, replaced some of the original photos with ones from the 1921 famine, and added others from unknown sources and locations.)

Photographs of hunger and famine: the secret photos of Mykola Bokan
~ “Unique photographic evidence of the Holodomor 1932-1933 found in the archives of the Security Service of Ukraine”
A few photographs along with some diary entries speak volumes in this set found as part of a criminal case file several years ago.

Photographs of forcible extraction of stored grain and produce

~ Партійно-радянське керівництво УСРР під час голодомору 1932–1933 рр.: Вожді. Працівники. Активісти. Збірник документів та матеріалів pp.406-415.

A small group of photos was discovered a few years ago which depict the grain procurement team of a village in the Odessa region and how they forcibly extracted hidden stores of grain and vegetables from local farmers during the winter of 1932-33.