Was Ukrainian Famine a Genocide

The Holodomor as Genocide

Raphael Lemkin photoMany of the resources listed on this website discuss the genocide question; here is a selection of articles, books and a documentary film that  specifically focus on the topic.  For links to laws and the US Famine Commission reports, see:  Reference, Government Reports, Laws: Part B.  Most Holodomor educational resources also include a discussion of the Holodomor as genocide related to the UN convention on Genocide or to Stanton’s stages of genocide.

Key Genocide Documents:

~ Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Adopted by Resolution 260 (III) A of the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948.
Complete, clearly presented text as displayed on the Organization of American States (OAS) website. To see the primary source document: Original UN presentation with notes and signatories.

The Ten Stages of Genocide, by Gregory H. Stanton. Genocide Watch. 2013.

Holodomor as Genocide – click to view:

~ “Soviet Genocide in the Ukraine” by Raphael Lemkin, 1953. Original paper located in the Raphael Lemkin Papers archive, New York Public Library. Lemkin, who coined the word genocide and authored the UN Convention on Genocide, asserts from the outset that “the classic example of the Soviet genocide” is the “destruction of the Ukrainian nation.” After laying out a clear description of the 4 pronged attack against the Ukrainian people: destruction of its intelligentsia, its spiritual leadership, its farmers, and its ethnic unity, he concludes “This is not simply a case of mass murder. It is a case of genocide, of the destruction, not of individuals only, but of a culture and a nation.”

~ “Lemkin on Genocide of Nations.” by Roman Serbyn. Originally published in:  Journal of International Criminal Justice 7 (2009), 123-130.
Brief essay on Lemkin’s life and work on defining genocide, along with the full annotated text of his 1953 speech: “Soviet Genocide in the Ukraine.”

~ 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.
Particularly, chapter 2: “Legal assessment, Findings, and Resolutions,” pp. 65-97.  Includes key excerpts from official documents and legal  analysis on the subject of genocide.

The Soviet 1931–1933 Famines and the Ukrainian Holodomor: Is a New Interpretation Possible, and What Would Its Consequences Be?”, by Andrea Graziosi.  Harvard Ukrainian Studies 27 (2004–2005), pp. 97–115.
With clarity and precision, defines a particular point in time during late 1932, when the actions of Stalin’s regime turn deliberately from criminal repression to genocide. Also presents an outstanding overview of why the study of the famines was suppressed until Robert Conquest’s seminal work,  The Harvest of Sorrow.

~ “How the Holodomor Can Be Integrated into our Understanding of Genocide,” by Norman Naimark. East/West: Journal of Ukrainian Studies (ewjus.com) Volume II, No. 1 (2015), pp. 117-132.
From the article abstract:  “there are many aspects of genocide studies that could be illuminated by an understanding of the Holodomor. These include its examination as a “Communist genocide” as per Mao’s 1950s famine or Cambodia, but perhaps more specifically within the context of Stalin’s actions in the 1930s. Another important aspect is the problem of isolating ethnic from social and political categories: the Holodomor saw a concomitant attack on the Ukrainian intelligentsia and Ukrainian language and culture.”

Lemkin did not classify the famine in Ukraine as a genocide. Rather, he saw the famine as the most brutal stage of a genocide. Indeed, for Lemkin, genocide was about destroying what he called the national patterns of the oppressed,what we might today call their social identities.Thus, for Lemkin, the Soviet genocide against the Ukrainian nation began long before the first individuals were killed. Famine is a particularly effective means of committing genocide, Lemkin believed, not only because of the large number of individual deaths it achieves but because hunger and starvation shatter the social bonds between families, friends, and communities. In Lemkin’s mind, what makes starvation such an effective tool for destroying social groups is that hunger pits members of a social group into competition for survival, ensuring that the bonds of trust, friendship, and love that hold a social group together, and which form the basic content of an individual’s social identity, are shattered.  (from: “Raphaël Lemkin, Genocide, Colonialism, Famine, and Ukraine,” by Douglas Irvin-Erickson, East/West: Journal of Ukrainian Studies, 2021.)


~”Raphaël Lemkin, Genocide, Colonialism, Famine, and Ukraine,” by Douglas Irvin-Erickson, East/West: Journal of Ukrainian Studies, Vol 8, no 1, 2021.

“Was the Ukrainian Starvation a Genocide?”  by Bohdan Klid. Original title: Holodomor and UN Genocide Convention Criteria,” Modern Genocide: Understanding Causes and Consequences.  ABC-CLIO, 2013. Subscription web resource. 21 Nov. 2013. Reprinted on the HREC website by permission. Brief summary.

“The Great Ukrainian Famine of 1932-33”, by Nicolas Werth.  Mass Violence & Resistance (MV&R); formerly the Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence, 18 April 2008.
Meticulously documents the implementation of the famine by Stalin and his cadres, with numerous references to actual communiques. Concludes with one of most clearly presented arguments for defining the Holodomor as genocide.

~ “Ukraine (Famine)” by Roman Serbyn. Reprint of the original article in the  Encyclopedia of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, edited by Dinah L. Shelton,  Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005.  pp. 1055-1061.
Detailed overview of the implementation of the Holodomor, and how it meets the definition of genocide. Also discusses earlier famines that occurred in Ukraine and elsewhere in the USSR, and how they differed from the Holodomor.

~ “Was the Ukrainian Famine of 1932-1933 Genocide?” by Yaroslav Bilinsky. Journal of Genocide Research. 1999: 1(2), pp. 147-156. (reprint of the original article).
Provides a review of writings on the Holodomor as genocide, in addition to his own scholarly assessment.

~ “The Ukrainian Holodomor of 1932-33 as a Crime of Genocide: A Legal Assessment,” by Volodymyr Vasylenko.  Kyiv: Olena Teliha Publishing House, 2009.
Abtract of an in-depth scholarly legal essay. Also excerpted in the Holodomor Reader: Legal Assessments….pp. 18-23; in the hardcover edition, pp. 86-92.

~ “Legal Recognition of the Holodomor as Genocide: International Covenants, Agreements, and Court Decisions,” by Bohdan A. Futey.  Presented at the Zenowia & George Jurkiw Ukrainian Historical Encounters Series Special Event: Taking Measure of the Holodomor, New York, NY, Nov 5-6, 2013.
Documented analysis of the evolution of the definition of genocide, the precedents of prosecutions for acts of genocide before various tribunals, the enactment of legislation in Ukraine, as well as prosecution based on the legislation.

Holodomor as Genocide – via libraries and booksellers:

“A family like many others in the world, suffering senselessly.” Photo display board by Nikolai Bokan. 1936. Further details at: https://vitacollections.ca/HREC-holodomorphotodirectory/3632074/data?n=21

~ The Ukrainian Holocaust of 1933, by  Vasyl Hryshko and Marco Carynnyk. Toronto: Bahriany Foundation, 1983.
One of the earliest (after Lemkin’s) detailed discussions of the “Soviet genocide” both against the peasant in general, and specifically against the Ukrainian nation.

~ Encyclopedia of Genocide, by Israel W. Charny. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO, 1999. Particularly: “Ukrainian Genocide,” Vol. II, pp. 565-567; and “On the Ukrainian Famine and the Definition of Genocide,” Vol. II, pp. 382-383, which presents an extended quotation by eminent genocide scholar Leo Kuper asserting the Ukrainian Famine as genocide.

~ Stalin’s genocides, by Norman M Naimark. Princeton University Press. 2010.
Particularly, Chapters 3: “Dekulakization” and chapter 4 , “Holodomor,” pp.51-79; and “Conclusions,” pp.131- 137. Straightforward and readable; presents a fresh challenge to the application of the UN definition of genocide. Table of contents and introduction.

~ Genocide; a Comprehensive Introduction, by Adam Jones. New York: Routledge. 2011 (2nd ed.); 2017 (3rd ed.)
Particularly, Chapter 5: “Stalin and Mao. Table of contents and introductory text.

~Genocide A World History, by Norman M. Naimark. Oxford University Press, 2017.
Particularly, “Chapter 6: Communist Genocides” Table of contents and introductory pages.

~ Blood and Soil : A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur, by Ben Kiernan. Yale University Press, 2007. Table of contents and preview.
Particularly Chapter 13: “Soviet Terror and Agriculture.”

~ The Historiography of Genocide, by Dan Stone. Palgrave Macmillan. 2010.
Particularly, Chapter 15, by Nicolas Werth, “The Crimes of the Stalin Regime: Outline for an Inventory and Classification,” pp. 400-419, with specific focus on the Famine genocide in Ukraine on pp. 406-408 and 414-415.  Table of contents and intorductory pages.

~The Routledge History of Genocide, edited by Cathie Carmichael and Robert C. Maguire. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2015.
Particularly, “Chapter 10: The Great Ukrainian Famine of 1932–3” by Nicholas Werth. Table of contents and introductory pages.

~ “A classification of denials of the Holocaust and other genocides.” by Israel W. Charny.  in The Genocide Studies Reader, ed. by Samuel Totten and Paul R. Bartrop. New York: Routledge, 2009. pp. 518 -537. Originally published: Journal of Genocide Research, 2003,  5(1):pp.11-34 request from author;  and recently, in Genocide and Human Rights, 2017:  (pp.517-540)  request from author.
The Holodomor presents the classic case of denial.  Although Charny does not mention the Holodomor specifically, his classification provides a perfect structure for demonstrating in detail how the Holodomor was denied or ignored over the years, along with pertinent countermeasures.

Holodomor as Genocide – documentary film

~ Genocide Revealed, directed by Yurij Luhovy. Quebec, MML Inc. 2011.
Full length documentary film based on the latest archival evidence, with academic commentary and eyewitness accounts to affirm the Holodomor as genocide. Winner of 12 US and international awards.  Purchase.