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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Missing Millions Figure Big in Famine's Toll

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In response to "Ukrainian Famine," letters by E. Morgan Williams and David Brandenberger on June 20. Those letters were written in response to "One Pulitzer That Should Shake the World," a comment by Matt Bivens on June 16.


In the past, Soviet apologists such as Bernard Shaw denied the Ukrainian famine's existence. Now, it seems, others are prone to deny its importance. In their letters, David Brandenberger and E. Morgan Williams question Matt Bivens' portrayal of the famine as a Ukrainian genocide. Let's consider some more facts about the famine.

In 1932, Stalin ordered grain requisitions in Ukraine to be increased by 44 percent. Because peasants were forbidden from receiving grain until they met their personal quota, this meant starvation for Ukraine's rural population. Military, police and volunteers were sent into villages to ensure compliance, and the penalty for being caught with "illegal" grain -- even for a child -- was death.

Data from the Soviet census confirm that the tragedy that resulted was immense. On Dec. 17, 1926, the population of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic was 29,042,934. By 1939, the count had increased by 1,917,287 to 30,960,221.

And yet, according to these same sources, the Ukrainian population grew by 2.36 percent throughout the 1920s. Continuing at this rate over the twelve-year period from 1926 to 1939, the population of Ukraine should have increased by 10,287,985 to 39,330,919.

The difference between the projected and reported increments is 8,370,698. Taking into account that many of these "missing people" did not starve to death but were, instead, the result of a drop in the birthrate during the famine, Bivens' quoted figure of around seven million deaths is not inaccurate. The death of millions of people can hardly be dismissed as mere "neglect, incompetence and disdain for rural culture," as Brandenberger suggests.

While it is true that collectivization caused famine and death in other republics, the extent was not nearly the same as in Ukraine. Millions of Poles, Gypsies and others perished in Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust, but the tragedy is rightfully considered a Jewish one. When we take into account the liquidation of Ukraine's cultural elite during the 1930's, Stalin's numerous Ukrainophobic comments and Russification as a whole, Bivens' claim that the famine was an ethnic genocide is not off the mark.

Andrew Pleshkevich

Laws of Corruption

In response to "Corruption, Complicity Create Loyalty," a column by Yulia Latynina on June 25.


Thank you for Yulia Latynina's insightful column. Although specific practices and levels of corruption vary from place to place, the psychology on which they rely remains constant. Here in the northeastern part of the United States, we've recently seen a spate of corruption cases involving politicians and public contractors in urban areas, most of which involve "pay for play" trades of public contracts and money in exchange for kickbacks. On the national level, too, housing fraud is on the rise and is becoming increasingly sophisticated.

If one looks closely at the details in individual instances of both phenomena, one common theme is the way in which complicity binds people together and creates unbreakable loyalties. Ultimately, corruption destabilizes not just the particular financial endeavor or political entity at stake, but the ethical and moral sense of those who are involved. As the number of complicit individuals multiplies, society itself is threatened

Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
Albany, New York

May Day Parade

In response to "Give Me a Break," a letter by George Singleton on June 20.


In his letter on The Moscow Times' habit of taking holidays off, George Singleton displayed remarkable ignorance of Russia and the origins of May Day. Firstly, Russia has 11 official holidays -- only one more than the United States -- so one could hardly call that the basis for an economic meltdown (though I might agree with him that The Moscow Times should consider publishing on holidays). Secondly, it is in no way "absurd" to continue celebrating May Day, "now that Russia is a democratic nation."

May Day has been celebrated for centuries as the beginning of spring (Russia now marks that holiday on May 2). The move to establish May 1 as International Labor Day actually began in the United States in the late 19th century with the efforts of labor unions to establish an eight-hour work day. U.S. trade unions were later joined by their European counterparts for major May Day demonstrations in 1890, and Russia celebrated the day for the first time a year after that.

I would remind Mr. Singleton that the United States, a democracy, continues to celebrate Labor Day, only in September instead of May.

John Mann

Remembering the War

In response to "The Great Patriotic War Today and Yesterday," a comment by Zaira Abdullaeva on June 25.


For those such as myself who were born in America in late 1944, World War II permeated every day and every aspect of our childhood. We saw every movie on the subject and read as many books as we could understand.

As Zaira Abdullaeva notes, there was a time when I could recite, from memory, the chronology and names -- and even the code names -- of every major European battle in which American troops had fought. We were never told, of course, that Russia's losses were fifty times greater than ours.

My adult children have seen war films such as "Saving Private Ryan," but they actually know very little of the context behind them. We search for heroes far away, often not realizing that they might be as close as the old grandfather next door.

Abdullaeva's comment is a small but meaningful reminder of what I have learned from my own visits to countries in the former Soviet Union: At the level of neighborhood and human interaction, people are pretty much the same.

Bill McCune,
Phoenix, Arizona

No Ultimatums

In response to "Rockers Give Lesin an Ultimatum on Piracy," a story by Alex Nicholson on June 6.


The headline and second paragraph of The Moscow Times' account of the music industry press conference earlier this month is inaccurate and misleading. Jay Berman of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry issued no "ultimatum" to Press Minister Mikhail Lesin or to anyone else. He indeed called for urgent actions to be taken to tackle piracy, and these have been publicly pledged by Lesin. It is incorrect to describe this call to action as an ultimatum.

I am concerned that this should be taken into account in your future coverage of this issue.

Adrian Strain
Communications Director, IFPI

Turkey Looks Back

In response to "Challenging Armenian Genocide Accounts," a letter by L. Murat Burhan on May 30. That letter was written in response to "Armenian Genocide Lesson," a comment by Michael Chapman on May 19.


I am astonished by the letter of L. Murat Burhan, apparently a high-ranking Turkish diplomat in Moscow, concerning the question of the Armenian genocide. It is hard to understand why today's Turkish ruling elite so passionately defends its Ottoman ancestors and, in particular, the Young Turks, who did their fair share in destroying Turkey.

Soviet authorities made criticism of their tsarist predecessors national policy, and now their own actions -- and, in particular, the cruelty of Stalin's regime -- are being exposed. Isn't that how a dynamic society acts?

It is a pity that the present Turkish elite is so conservative and so strongly identified with the 19th century. What future can there be for such a conservative and obscurantist state? Idolizing the imperial past and its policies could be dangerous for peace in the region and harmful to Turkey itself.

Karren G. Danielyants

Che's Guerilla War

In response to "The Fight for Che's Legacy," a comment by Boris Kagarlitsky on June 17.


I am not a communist and I do not believe in the principles that Ernesto "Che" Guevara represented. But as a Nicaraguan, I know that it is inaccurate to say that Nicaragua's guerilla warriors took their cues from Che. If anything, it was the other way around. Castro and Che got their tactics from Nicaragua.

A Che of the 1920s and 1930s, Augusto Sandino was one of the first true guerilla warriors. Many former Cuban rebels have stated that his tactics were taught to them indirectly. Che and Fidel Castro did modernize Sandino's tactics to a certain extent. But the guerilla soldiers of Nicaragua learned their strategies directly from the former Sandanista soldiers of the beginning of the century.

Giancarlo Tiffer
Managua, Nicaragua