Holodomor: Maps and demography

Maps and demography:

“In reality, the presence of famine was clear, but everything was done to conceal it.” (demographer Jacques Vallin, 2012)


MAPA: Digital Atlas of Ukraine Great Famine
Project by the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute together with partners in Ukraine. A variety of maps from “Thematic Map Gallery” of Ukraine clearly illustrate where the greatest loss of life occurred in relation to a variety of factors such as level of collectivization, blacklisting, and many other economic, administrative and geographic characteristics. For example, the map shown is one of 11 illustrating population losses, with accompanying descriptive text.

Of particular interest is the  interactive feature, the “Famine Web Map” which allows users to layer, sequence, and otherwise integrate a variety of economic, political and demographic data in geographic displays. Also included: the “Famine Story Map Journal,” a brief chronology of the Holodomor through maps, photos, and narrative; and an article by Serhii Plokhii, “Mapping the Great Famine“, a detailed analysis comparing a variety of data as distributed geographically, in the context of archival documentation.

~ Ukrainian Lands During the Interwar Years: map
Depicts Ukraine with its geographic neighbors as existed between WWI and WWII. Both the political borders and Ukrainian ethno-linguistic boundaries are delineated. Also available on p. 588 of: A History of Ukraine; the land and its peoples, 2d ed.,by Paul Robert Magocsi. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 2010.

Demography of the famine:

“…Four to five million died, roughly 15 percent of Soviet Ukraine’s 30 million inhabitants. Even Mao’s 1958–62 Great Leap Forward famine, during which some 36 million Chinese died, was proportionally milder, amounting to 5 percent of China’s total population of about 700 million.”  (from: “Demographic Trends in Ukraine: Past, Present, and Future,” by Anatole Romaniuk and Oleksandr Gladun. Population and Development Review, 2015, pp.318-9.)

Famine related daily losses of human life each month during 1933, in Ukraine.

Courtesy: Oleh Wolowyna (Univ. North Carolina), 2016. Based on latest research done by the US/Ukraine demographic team of Nataliia Levchuk, Omelian Rudnytskyi, Pavlo Shevchuk, and Oleh Wolowyna.


This website adheres to the population loss estimates derived by demographers who follow professional Western scientific methodology that is accepted by the scholarly community at large, and are published by peer-reviewed journals in North America and Europe (See selected resources that follow).  There are small variations among these scientifically derived estimates.

A majority of the resources found on this page are based on or written in collaboration with a team of demographers and historians from the Institute of Demography and Social Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, along with US demographer Dr.Oleh Wolowyna (Univ. of N. Carolina) and Dr.Serhii Plokhy, (Director, Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute.)

Current estimates of Holodomor losses

These population loss statistics for the Holodomor are presented within the following clearly specified parameters:

  • famine related deaths of individuals of any ethnicity
  • residing within the borders of Soviet Ukraine
  • during the years 1932-1934,
  • above and beyond the normal average death toll for that period.

Within these parameters, an estimated 3.94 million lives were lost (4.5 including the unborn) as a result of the Holodomor famine. The Holodomor-related mortality of Ukrainians living elsewhere in the USSR is currently being studied and reported separately.


Selected Resources

~”A Demographic Framework for the 1932–1934 Famine in the Soviet Union,” by Oleh Wolowyna, Journal of Genocide Research, 2020. DOI: 10.1080/14623528.2020.1834741
Applying a “collaborative demographic-historical research strategy,” the author demonstrates the large differences in mortality rates between Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine.  Request a copy directly from the author. For full abstract:

~“Demographic Trends in Ukraine: Past, Present, and Future,” by Anatole Romaniuk and Oleksandr Gladun. Population and Development Review, 2015, v. 41, no. 2, pp. 315–337.
(from the abstract): Examines the 20th c. catastrophes of World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution, the 1932/33 famine, the massive deportations and executions of Stalin’s Great Terror, and World War II. Also looks at the factors causing post-independence declines in Ukraine’s population. Request a copy directly from the authors.

~“Demography of a man-made human catastrophe: The case of massive famine in Ukraine 1932–1933,” by Omelian Rudnytskyi, Nataliia Levchuk, Oleh Wolowyna, Pavlo Shevchuk, Alla Kovbasiuk. Canadian Studies in Population, 42, no. 1-2, 2015. Pp. 53-80.
A scholarly presentation on the estimates of 1932–34 famine direct losses for rural and urban areas of Ukraine, and how and why the dynamics varied. Helpful introduction provides basic background history of the Holodomor, the parameters that specifically define the article’s data, and the difficulties in obtaining accurate numbers.

~“Famine losses in Ukraine in 1932 to 1933 within the context of the Soviet Union,” by Omelian Rudnytskyi, Nataliia Levchuk, Oleh Wolowyna and Pavlo Shevchuk; in: Famines in European Economic History: The Last Great European Famines Reconsidered. London: Routledge, 2015. Pp. 192-222.
Chapter 8 of a scholarly examination of the Irish, Finnish, and Ukraine famines.
The authors document the diverse impact of the 1932-1934 on the different Soviet Republics: from extremely high in Ukraine and Kazakhstan to negligible in the Caucasus republics.  Relative losses in Ukraine were four times the number of relative losses in Russia.

~“Monthly Distribution of 1933 Famine Losses in Soviet Ukraine and Russian Soviet Republic at the Regional Level,” by Oleh Wolowyna, Nataliia Levchuk, and Alla Kovbasiuk. Nationalities Papers, May  2020, v. 48, special issue 3,  pp. 530-548.
Examines the various historical explanations for the remarkable surge of deaths that occurred in the spring and early summer of 1933; and through analyzing a combinational of historical and demographic data, reveals that existing economic explanations by Wheatcroft and others alone are inadequate.  The author proposes that the scale of the surge could have only happened due to politically motivated decisions.

~ Mortality and Causes of Death in 20th-Century Ukraine, by France Mesle, Jackues Vallin, V. Shkol’nikov, S.I. Pyrozhkov, and Serguei Adamets. Dordrecht: Springer, 2012.
Particularly, Chapter 2: “The Crisis of the 1930s”, by Jacques Vallin (pp. 13-38).
Best understood by demographers; it demonstrates the difficulties in attempting to derive accurate estimates of population loss due to the famine in Ukraine in the face of highly unreliable data from that time. As the authors state: “In reality, the presence of famine was clear, but everything was done to conceal it.” (p. 13).

Graph of the annual trends in life expectancy at birth between 1927 and 1939 in Ukraine
*From: Meslé, France, et al. Mortality and Causes of Death in 20th-Century Ukraine. Dordrecht: Springer, 2012. Chap. 2, P. 36.

Holodomor annual sex-specific trends in numbers of birth and death in Ukraine from 1924 to 1939
*From: Meslé, France, et al. Mortality and Causes of Death in 20th-Century Ukraine. Dordrecht: Springer, 2012. Chap. 2, P. 17.
*May not be reproduced for public distribution without permission from publisher.

~”Regional variations of 1932–34 famine losses in Ukraine,” by Oleh Wolowyna, Serhii Plokhy, Nataliia Levchuk, Omelian Rudnytskyi, Alla Kovbasiuk and Pavlo Shevchuk. Canadian Studies in Population 43, no. 3–4 (2016): 175-202.
(from the abstract): “Contrary to expectations, the highest losses are not found in the grain-producing southern oblasts, but in the north-central Kyiv and Kharkiv oblasts. Several hypotheses are proposed and tested to explain this finding. …Quantitative analyses are presented of resistance and Soviet repressions in 1932, and effects of the food assistance program and historical-political factors on direct losses in 1933 are analyzed.” With several maps, graphs, and charts.

~“Regional 1932–1933 Famine Losses: A Comparative Analysis of Ukraine and Russia,”   by  Nataliia Levchuk, Oleh Wolowyna, Omelian Rudnytskyi, Alla Kovbasiuk and Natalia Kulyk. Nationalities Papers, May 2020, v. 48, special issue 3,  pp. 492-512.

Using both historical and demographic data, this study “adds to our understanding of the factors contributing to regional loss differences and reinforces the statement that UkrSSR [Soviet Ukraine] was distinctive in terms of both the level of Famine-induced mortality and the scale and range of mass repressions against the peasantry.”


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