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By Oksana Piaseckyj, Guest blogger
Why this Campaign? Why Walter Duranty’s Pulitzer Prize?
Duranty was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for a series of thirteen articles that ran in the New York Times in 1931 about the Soviet Union’s economic plans. The articles can be accessed on our Duranty Pulitzer Revocation website page (www.UkraineGenocide.com). Duranty praised Joseph Stalin’s 5 year Plan. He continued in future writings to applaud the regime and deny that people were starving. Because of his prestigious prize, he could mute the writings of those journalists who told the truth, calling it “anti-Soviet propaganda”.
Why does this matter in 2021? Duranty’s famine denial helped the Soviet Union cover up its orchestrated genocide of its own citizens. No one – from the Soviet leadership ranks to actual perpetrators who killed with bullets or confiscated any edible substance from ravished farmers – was ever brought to account for this inhumanity to man. Stripping Duranty of his Pulitzer Prize would be the right thing to do. This act would show the world that a tiny measure of symbolic justice has prevailed for the victims of the Holodomor.
Did he deserve to win the Pulitzer? No. the New York Times knew that Duranty’s dispatches in the early 1930s were filled with Soviet disinformation and his contemporaries knew he was a liar: See Malcolm Muggeridge’s interview in 1983. Gareth Jones and other journalists attempted to write the truth about mass starvation, but they were ridiculed by Walter Duranty, who after receiving the Pulitzer award was considered the authority on Soviet news.
Previous Attempts – Some History
On the 70th anniversary of Holodomor in 2003 a major effort of the Ukrainian diaspora initiated by the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association with the support of the US Holodomor Committee and other organizations around the world sought to awaken the Pulitzer Board to its egregious mistake of awarding Walter Duranty a Pulitzer Prize without merit: 45,000 postcards were mailed, articles were written in support. To ignore this widespread outrage was out of the question, so the New York Times hired Columbia University professor, Dr. Mark Von Hagen, to analyze Duranty’s prize winning articles, and give his opinion in the matter. Prof. Von Hagen concluded that Duranty’s reports were “some of the worst journalism ever published”, not worthy of the prestigious prize. The Pulitzer Committee, however, refused to rescind. Avoiding passing judgement on whether Duranty’s writing lived up to the Pulitzer award’s standards for excellence, they concluded with “there was no clear and convincing evidence of deliberate deception.”
We disagree – We call it “deliberate deception” and have “the smoking gun” to prove it. The undeniable evidence is in Duranty’s own words in the “Kliefoth Memorandum”. In June 1931, Duranty admitted to the American diplomat A.W. Kliefoth at the American Embassy in Germany that “in agreement with the New York Times and the Soviet authorities” his official dispatches would always reflect the official opinion of the Soviet regime and not his own. Walter Duranty admitted that he wrote what would please Joseph Stalin. Awarding the Pulitzer to a man who suppressed the truth, negates journalism’s first obligation which is “to the truth.” See the “Kliefoth memorandum,” of 1931.
For further information on the 2003 revocation campaign please refer to: Not Worthy: Walter Duranty’s Pulitzer Prize and the New York Times.
On the 85th anniversary of Holodomor, the US Committee for Ukrainian Holodomor Genocide Awareness (USUHGA), under the leadership of Michael Sawkiw, Jr. formed a subcommittee to develop a campaign aimed at revoking Duranty’s Pulitzer Prize. Oksana Piaseckyj was designated chair with committee members, Maria Flynn and Zina Gutmanis. In 2018 a letter was sent to the Pulitzer Committee Administrator Dana Canedy asking her for a personal meeting with USUHGA. The request was ignored with no response. Telephone calls led only to her assistant, who spoke on her behalf, and said that there was no need for a meeting since the Pulitzer Board stands by its 2003 decision.
In 2019 with the arrival release of the movie “Mr. Jones”, our committee was excited by the amazing opportunity this provided to push further our revocation campaign. At theatres openings throughout the US we would get publicity and have the opportunity to parade with leaflets in front of the venues. And then the pandemic hit and the movie was relegated to home TV screens. Our opportunity for publicity was minimized; but then mostly positive reviews came out discussing the infamous Walter Duranty Pulitzer Prize. The word was out there!
The Duranty campaign continued with Maria Flynn contacting journalists and giving them suggestions in how they could best help us. Oksana Kulynych, member of the USUHGA helped with our pursuit of journalists by writing to schools of journalism, asking them to study and write about ethics in journalism with Walter Duranty’s reporting during the Holodomor as the example of “fake news”. Oksana Piaseckyj was interviewed on the Montreal Canada radio station “Ukrainian Time” to inform the Canadian Ukrainian public about our petition drive.
Our Campaign in 2021 -22 : During Genocide Awareness month in April 2021, we initiated a petition on Change.org to solicit signatures supporting our efforts to revoke Duranty’s prize. The link is: http://chng.it/SGMXXnXb. Our goal is to reach an impressive number of signatures to send to the Pulitzer Board. This drive will continue until we reach this goal.
A video on the Walter Duranty Pulitzer Revocation campaign and our call for Petition support will be available for promotion in November. We continue creating awareness by reaching out to all our Ukrainian organizations asking them to highlight our Petition. The cooperation of Ukrainian youth organizations are is crucial to our endeavors. We will be asking them to utilize our video on mass media. A webinar with the Gareth Jones expert Ray Gamache is planned for October 21 at 7 pm. The link will be forthcoming. Other projects are in the works and will be posted in the near future. For more information please go to www.ukrainegenocide.com and follow us on our FB page: duranty pulitzer revocation campaign .