From 1932-1933 about 6 to 7 million people In Ukraine died from a man-made famine known as the Holodomor genocide; holodomor means death by hunger. It started with the policies of mass agriculture and forced collectivization in 1929. Joseph Stalin was trying to eliminate the small, privately held farms that the Soviet government seized. This affected about 80% of Ukraine's population. Land was confiscated along with livestock and families were evicted from their homes. Thousands were deported to Siberia or sent to concentration camps. Stalin ordered mandatory quotas of food to be shipped out of Ukraine and cut rations to those still living in Ukraine.
Library of Congress
Survivors from the Ukraine famine genocide recall the tragedy they endured from the early 1930s. One lady remembers eating the leaves from her apple tree because there were no apples to eat. Another said the NKVD (the Soviet secret police) took food out of their oven and ate it. Then they threw her and her mother out in the snow and locked them out of their own home; they had already taken her father. One woman said all her classmates and peers that were dying had sunken eyes and a teacher recalls all 40 of his students dying from hunger. Another lady remembers not being allowed to talk about it; otherwise they would have been killed too.
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It was a crime in Ukraine to mention or teach about the Holodomor genocide up until 1991 when Ukraine gained independence. The Soviet government denied that the Holodomor genocide had ever taken place or that they had any part in starting it. Although in November 2006 the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament of Ukraine) recognized the Holodomor a deliberate act of genocide, the Russian government continues to deny it. It's still debated today and there isn't an international consensus as to whether the famine falls under the legal definition of genocide.
Besides eating plants and animals that would not normally be considered food, many were so desperately hungry they resorted to cannibalism during the famine. Some people lived off of eating other victims who had already died and in some cases they murdered others to eat. In some instances families killed their weakest child as a way to save their other children. Doctors weren't allowed to help the starving villagers and officials that tried to go against their superiors were executed. Several survivors have memories of watching their family members die from hunger in front of them.
Anne Applebaum's new book called "Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukraine" reveals how the famine from the early 1930s still has its affects today. She contends that the Holodomor shapes the thinking of Ukrainians and Russians. She believes it connects to what is happening now between Ukraine and Russia; that it's the reason why Putin invaded Ukraine after the revolution in 2014 and that Putin's view is similar to Stalin's.