Friday, June 12, 2015

Putin and the assault on Ukraine

I don't know if any of my readers/friends are more sympathetic with Putin (who's pulling the righteous Christian act) than the Ukrainians, but countries have memories that reach back. 7 million Ukrainians were starved by Stalin in the 1930s. These are the horror stories I heard from my classmates in college, most born in the late 1930s or early 1940s whose parents told them.

By the spring of 1933, the height of the famine, an estimated 25,000 persons died every day in the Ukraine. Entire villages were perishing. In Europe, America and Canada, persons of Ukrainian descent and others responded to news reports of the famine by sending in food supplies. But Soviet authorities halted all food shipments at the border. It was the official policy of the Soviet Union to deny the existence of a famine and thus to refuse any outside assistance. Anyone claiming that there was in fact a famine was accused of spreading anti-Soviet propaganda. Inside the Soviet Union, a person could be arrested for even using the word 'famine' or 'hunger' or 'starvation' in a sentence.

The Soviets bolstered their famine denial by duping members of the foreign press and international celebrities through carefully staged photo opportunities in the Soviet Union and the Ukraine. The writer George Bernard Shaw, along with a group of British socialites, visited the Soviet Union and came away with a favorable impression which he disseminated to the world. Former French Premier Edouard Herriot was given a five-day stage-managed tour of the Ukraine, viewing spruced-up streets in Kiev and inspecting a 'model' collective farm. He also came away with a favorable impression and even declared there was indeed no famine.

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