Primary Sources related to the Holodomor:
What is a primary source? A good definition is found in Wikipedia: “In the study of history as an academic discipline, a primary source (also called original source or evidence) is an artifact, a document, diary, manuscript, autobiograp
Primary sources are generally created by witnesses to the event being studied, or by its participants – voluntary or involuntary. While official documents and newspaper reports from that time are obvious examples, the testimony of victims, perpetrators, and others inadvertently caught up in the event are also considered important primary sources. Please see EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS for a wide selection of these primary sources. The closer the testimony is taken to the time of the actual event, the more accurate it is likely to be. Diaries are particularly valuable. However, in the case of the Holodomor, where survivors were not permitted to voice their memories of an event that was officially denied as long as they had to live under Soviet rule – the likelihood of finding fresh testimony was very small.
For authenticated sources of photographic documentation of the Holodomor, please see the section: Sources for authenticated photographs of the Holodomor here: AUTHENTIC HOLODOMOR PHOTOGRAPHS AND OTHER VISUAL RESOURCES
Except for The Holodomor Reader, the items listed below are all full-length primary resources, some in English translation, mostly of an official nature. Also included are a selection of memoirs by English speaking witnesses published in the 1930s that include their experiences of the Holodomor, and an important diary.
Selection of Primary Sources
Where to Begin:
~ The Holodomor Reader; a Sourcebook on the Famine of 1932-1933 in Ukraine. Compiled and edited by Bohdan Klid and Alexander J. Motyl. Toronto: CIUS Press. 2012.
Best place to begin your research. Compendium of essential readings on the Holodomor, including excerpts of many primary sources in English translation. The 200 excerpted texts range from Stalin’s correspondence, to consular reports, survivor accounts, scholarly works, and more. Now most of the book is available full-text online, with an option to buy the hardcopy edition.
~ Famine in Ukraine, compiled by the United Ukrainian Organizations of thе United States. New York, 1934.
(click the pdf button to download the 32 p. text; alternative access.) This is a primary source of selected primary sources. It includes:
The resolution relative to famine in Ukraine, submitted in the US Congress by Hamilton Fish in May 1934; early 1934 reports by W.H. Chamberlin, Moscow correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, a Boston Post comment on those reports; and an extended memorandum by the editors identifying numerous published reports that describe eyewitness accounts of starvation in Ukraine, primarily in 1933. It includes the full reprint of the text of a two part article by US labor relations specialist Whiting Williams. The accompanying photographs to that article, and a biographical essay about Williams can be found in the Whiting Williams Collection of the Holodomor Photo Directory.
~ Assignment in Utopia, by Eugene Lyons. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company. 1937.
A journalist and avowed Socialist who was assigned in 1928 to cover Russia for the United Press wire services, Lyons became disillusioned as he saw his ideals shattered and he came to vehemently oppose Stalin’s brutal regime. Presents his reflections on censorship, propaganda, the brutality of dekulakization, anti-intellectualism, show trials, the famine and more – in contrast to the views of many intellectual elites in the US during that time.
~ How People Live in Soviet Russia : Impressions from a Journey, by Mendl (Mendel) Osherowitch. Translated from Yiddish by Sharon Power; edited by Lubomyr Y. Luciuk. Kingston, Ontario: Kashtan Press, 2020.
For two months in early 1932, Osherowitch visited the USSR on assignment for the Yiddish daily published in New York City, Forverts. Spending much time with members of his family still in Ukraine, he spoke both with pro-Soviet activists and resisters and observed the alarming conditions of repression, surveillance, and cultural assimilation in addition to the growing famine that would culminate in the Holodomor genocide. His articles, published in Yiddish, were followed in 1933 by a more detailed book, also in Yiddish. This is the first translation to appear in English.
~ Proletarian Journey: New England, Gastonia, Moscow, by Fred Erwin Beal. New York: Hillman-Curl, 1937.
Beal was an idealistic and notorious unionizer who ran afoul of the law and “skipped” out to what he expected would be the worker’s paradise, the Soviet Union, where he lived from 1930-1933. With increasing shock and horror, he learned that it was not as promised. His experiences, including in Kharkiv during the famine years, are described in the second half of this memoir.
~ “Tell Them We Are Starving”: the 1933 Diaries of Gareth Jones, by Gareth Jones and Lubomyr Y. Luciuk. Kingston, Ont.: Kashtan Press. 2015.
“provides high quality facsimiles of the 3 pocket notebooks as well as a transcription of the contents that Welsh journalist Gareth Jones collected during a 3-week stay in the USSR during March 1933…”
See further details about this book, and several pages of diary entries, on the Gareth Jones website.
See also description of the 2013 biographical study, Gareth Jones; Eyewitness to the Holodomor, by Ray Gamache.
~ Gareth Jones: Diary Notes Relating to Soviet Ukraine Famine 1932–33
Facsimile pages from the diary, un-transcribed and unannotated, as held by the Institute of History of Ukraine. To access the facsimile pages, click on the pdf icon below the title in the bibliographic entry linked above.
~ Gareth Richard Vaughan Jones: Hero of Ukraine and specifically “Famine Exposure Newspaper Articles relating to Gareth Jones’ trips to The Soviet Union (1930-35)”
A fascinating website dedicated to the writings and correspondence of Gareth Jones, a Welsh journalist who wrote forthrightly about the political, social and economic conditions in Russia and Ukraine in the early 1930’s, as well as about the Ukraine famine. His death in 1935 under highly suspicious circumstances in Manchuria is generally considered a result of the unflinching honesty of his reporting from the USSR. The website includes numerous images of newspaper articles as they appeared in print at the time, and other of Jones’ writings.
A selection of official reports and documents as primary sources:
Please note that most of the laws, resolutions, and legislative reports listed in REFERENCE, GOVERNMENT REPORTS, LAWS are linked to online facsimiles of the documents as originally published or transcriptions; hence those items can be considered primary sources.
“I had not opened my food box since leaving Moscow [several days ago] and when I did, I found my sandwiches were very bad, my butter rancid, and my loaf of white bread very mouldy. I threw the sandwiches out of the window and she [woman in the same train compartment] asked me why I threw away food when I must be able to see that the thousands of miserable people we had passed all day were hungry. I agreed that they looked hungry, but I would not offer them putrid food. She said it did not matter. She took my very mouldy loaf, cut the mould off and gave the mouldy bits to the train conductor, and skimmed off the top of my rancid butter for him also; the rest of the bread and butter she kept for her two children and herself.” (Andrew Cairns, The Soviet Famine, 1932-33: An Eye-Witness Account of Conditions …, p.62)
~ Holodomor of 1932-1933 in Ukraine: Documents and Materials, by Ruslan I. A. Pyrih. Kyiv: Kyiv Mohyla Academy, 2008.
73 key primary source documents from Communist Party and KGB archives, in English translation. Online access to the document text courtesy of the Education Division of the Holodomor Research and Education Consortium (Canada); the hard copy book also includes useful introductory material, a list of documents, glossary and numerous authentic photos of the period.
~ “Kliefoth memorandum,” U.S. Embassy in Berlin, June 4, 1931.
Walter Duranty, correspondent in Moscow for the New York Times, stopped by the US embassy in Berlin on his way to vacation. The conversation with Embassy member A.W. Kliefoth, is summarized here, with the now widely quoted final sentence: “In conclusion, Duranty pointed out that ‘in agreement with the NEW YORK TIMES and the Soviet authorities,’ his official despatches [sic] always reflect the official opinion of the Soviet regime and not his own.”
~ “Ukrainian Famine” from the “Revelations from the Russian Archives: Internal Workings of the Soviet Union” online Exhibit, U.S. Library of Congress.
Very brief segment that includes an image of an official order to blacklist villages in Ukraine because of grain collection failures. A translation of the document is also provided.
~ The Soviet Famine, 1932-33: An Eye-Witness Account of Conditions in the Spring and Summer of 1932, by Andrew Cairns and Tony J. Kuz. Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta, 1989.
Presents 3 reports by noted agricultural expert Andrew Cairns, representing his tours of: Western Siberia; Ukraine, Crimea and N. Caucasus (pp.47-102); and the Volga Region in 1932. The reports not only give detailed accounts of the conditions of the fields, farm animals, and statistics of production; but considerable detail about the extremely overpriced, poor quality of the food sold at the bazaars and the already appalling conditions of hunger, death by starvation, destitution and misery that was already widespread among the population in 1932, particularly in Ukraine.
~”Italian Diplomatic and Consular Dispatches,” Appendix II of: U.S. Commission on the Ukraine Famine. Investigation of the Ukrainian Famine, 1932-1933: Report to Congress. Washington: U.S.GPO. 1988, pp. 395 -506.
Translations of official letters and reports sent to Rome in 1932 -1935 from the Italian Consulate office in Kharkiv (later from Kyiv) and the Italian Embassy in Moscow describing the alarming conditions in Ukraine and the actions of the “Moscow Government” and its enforcement arm, the GPU against Ukraine’s citizenry.
~ The Foreign Office and the Famine: British Documents on Ukraine and the Great Famine of 1932-1933, by Marco Carynnyk, Lubomyr Y. Luciuk, and Bohdan S. Kordan.
Kingston, Ont.: Limestone Press, 1988.
Presents a selection of 85 documents written between 1932-1935 that clearly demonstrate what the British Government knew and how they chose to respond regarding the Famine. This remarkably valuable collection includes diplomatic correspondence and numerous reports by specialists and foreign officials, as well as an in-depth introductory analysis and explanatory notes.
~ The Holy See and the Holodomor: Documents from the Vatican Secret Archives on the Great Famine of 1932-1933 in Soviet Ukraine, by Lubomyr Y. Luciuk and Athanasius McVay. Kingston, Ont.: Kashtan Press, 2011.
An enlightening introductory essay accompanies this collection of numerous archival documents, translated into English, that portray the Vatican’s restrained response to the Famine.
~ Holodomor: The Great Famine in Ukraine 1932-1933. Poland and Ukraine in the 1930’s-1940’s: Unknown Documents from the Archives of the Secret Services, by Diana Bojko, Jerzy Bednarek, et al. Warsaw: Institute of National Remembrance, Commission of the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation. 2009.
Presents 230 original documents, in English translation, written primarily from 1928-1935 by Soviet special services, Polish military intelligence and Polish and German diplomatic services, including Polish police and local government reports from Polish occupied Ukraine on the reactions of Ukrainian leaders, clergy, and other residents with respect to the tragic events in Soviet Ukraine. This online version does not include the 32 p. insert of photos available in the print edition.
Forthcoming 2022: Selected English language newspaper and news journal accounts from the period
3 major sources in Ukrainian:
~ Ukrainian Archives. Holodomor: Famine in Ukraine, 1932 – 1933 (Central State Archive of Popular Organizations) Published by Primary Source Microfilm, Gale Cengage. 158 reels.
Official directives, resolutions, correspondence, reports, appeals, and citizens’ letters in Ukrainian and Russian. An archival resource for the serious researcher. Description of collection.
~ Голодомор 1932-1933 років в Україні : документи і матеріали; Пиріг, Р. Я. Kyïv: Києво-Могилянська академія, 2007. (Holodomor 1932-1933 rokiv v Ukraïni : dokumenty i materialy; R I︠A︡ Pyrih. Kyi︠e︡vo-Mohyli︠a︡nsʹka akademii︠a︡, 2007. )
A compilation of nearly 700 official documents, with an additional section of diary entries and photographs.
~“Голодомор в Україні 1932–1933: реєстр архівних документів, опублікованих у 1990–2007 рр,” Боряк Г. В., Папакін Г. В. Національна книга пам′яті жертв голодомору 1932–1933 pp. в Україні. – Вид-во ім. О. Теліги, 2008, С. 421–423, 424–532.
Primary source citations using MLA, with examples from the Library of Congress:
http://www.loc.gov/teachers/usingprimarysources/chicago.html (using Chicago)