AUR#811 Feb 4 Anti-Sovietchik No. 1; 1932-1933 Famine Not A Genocide; Great Dictators; War & Family; Past 100 Years; Holocaust; Chicago Church

                 An International Newsletter, The Latest, Up-To-Date
                     In-Depth Ukrainian News, Analysis and Commentary

                      Ukrainian History, Culture, Arts, Business, Religion,
         Sports, Government, and Politics, in Ukraine and Around the World       

                   ANTI-SOVIETCHIK NO. 1
                                  (Articles 1-4)              
Mr. E. Morgan Williams, Publisher and Editor, SigmaBleyzer

              –——-  INDEX OF ARTICLES  ——–
            Clicking on the title of any article takes you directly to the article.               
   Return to the Index by clicking on Return to Index at the end of each article
By Christopher Hitchens, The Wall Street Journal Online
New York, New York, Saturday, February 3, 2007; Page A11

Mykola Savchuk, Ukrainian News Agency, Kyiv, Ukraine, Nov 27, 2005

                                TO DR. ROBERT CONQUEST
Stanford University, Center for Russian, East

European and Eurasian Studies (CREEES)
Stanford, California, Thursday, June 15, 2006

By Richard Waters, Financial Times, London, UK, February 28, 2003

5.                      HOLODOMOR BURIED IN SEMANTICS
Kyiv Post, Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec 06 2006
     Ukraine recognizes a dark page in its history, but are the facts biased?
ANALYSIS & COMMENTARY: By Kirill Frolov, Head
Ukrainian Department Institute for CIS Studies,
The Moscow News, Moscow, Russia, December 23, 2006


                      TURKMENISTAN  – GEORGIA – FEEDBACK
                  (Comments about article related to the Holodomor)
QUICK TAKES: By Mike Averko, New York, NY, Dec 23, 2006

                           HISTORY OR HISTORICAL FACT
QUICK TAKES: By Mike Averko
New York, NY, Monday, December 25, 2006

                  (Comments about article related to the Holodomor)
QUICK TAKES: By Mike Averko, September 8-9
New York, NY, Friday, September 08, 2006

10.                                    GREAT DICTATORS
                     The Cambridge History of Russia, Three Volumes
BOOK REVIEW By Tony Barber
Financial Times, London, UK, Friday, January 26 2007

11.                     1941-1946 UKRAINE: WAR AND FAMILY
The Ukrainian Observer magazine, Issue 227
The Willard Group, Kyiv, Ukraine, January 2007

12.                  RIGHT TO THE HEART OF STALIN’S USSR
               “Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953”
BOOK REVIEW: By Seamus Martin, Irish Times
Ireland, Saturday, January 27, 2007

13.                  10 UNFORGETTABLE YEARS FROM THE

                               PAST 100 YEARS OF UKRAINE
COMMENTARY: By Yuriy Glukhov
Ukrayinska Pravda On-line, Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday January 6, 2007

                       Ukrainian town of Letichev from 1917 to 1921
Landus Rigsby, Claremont Courier
Claremont, California, Saturday, January 27, 2007


                               1-3 October 2007, Paris, France
CALL FOR PAPERS: Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Wash, D.C., Jan 2007

  Artist from Ukraine restores Chicago church, an architectural monument
By Olena SHAPIRO, special for The Day
The Day Weekly Digest #3, Kyiv, Ukraine, Tue, Jan 30, 2007


           Ukraine’s Irina Krasnyanskaya, who is the 2006 world balance
                      beam champion, will compete tonight in Frisco.
By Heide Pederson, Star-Telegram Staff Writer
Fort Worth, Texas, Saturday, February 3, 2007

By Christopher Hitchens, The Wall Street Journal Online
New York, New York, Saturday, February 3, 2007; Page A11

PALO ALTO, Calif. — Those who were born in Year One of the Russian
Revolution are now entering their tenth decade. Of the intellectual class
that got its vintage laid down in 1917, a class which includes Eric
Hobsbawm, Conor Cruise O’Brien and precious few others, the pre-eminent
Anglo-American veteran must be Robert Conquest. He must also be the one
who takes the greatest satisfaction in having outlived the Soviet

Over the years, I have very often knocked respectfully at the door of his
modest apartment (“book-lined” would be the other standard word for it) on
the outskirts of Stanford University, where he is a longstanding ornament of
the Hoover Institution.

Evenings at his table, marvelously arranged in concert with his wife
Elizabeth (“Liddie”), have become a part of the social and conversational
legend of visitors from several continents.

I thought I would just check and see how he was doing as 2007 dawned.
When I called, he was dividing his time between an exercise bicycle and the
latest revision of his classic book “The Great Terror”: the volume that tore
the mask away from Stalinism before most people had even heard of


Its 40th anniversary falls next year, and the publishers need the third
edition in a hurry. Had it needed much of an update? “Well, it’s been a bit
of a slog. I had to read about 30 or 40 books in Russian and other
languages, and about 400 articles in journals and things like that. But even
so I found I didn’t have to change it all that much.”

One of his lifelong friends, the novelist Anthony Powell, once wrote that
all classes of Englishmen employ the discourse of irony and understatement.
This would itself be an understatement of Mr. Conquest’s devastatingly dry
and lethal manner, expressed in the softest voice that ever brought down an
ideological tyranny.

His diffidence made me inquire what else might be keeping him busy. “My
publisher wants me to do a book called ‘How Not to Write About History,’
and I thought, yes. Then I’m doing an essay on the importance of India, and
something about the U.N. and internationalism.”

I know that he used to serve in the British delegation at the U.N. But
India? “My mother was born in Bombay, and I’ve always been impressed by
how Indians have mastered English literature and culture.”

What about the collection of limericks that he’s been promising for a while,
in his capacity as the last remaining master of the form after the deaths of
his other friends Kingsley Amis and Philip Larkin? “I’m getting round to
that, but there’s first my latest collection of poems, which I’m calling
‘Penultimata.’ Didn’t I mention it? Would you like a copy?”

Yes, I would and — oh, what about the memoirs? “Starting tomorrow, when
I’m finished with doing ‘The Great Terror.’ I’m going to try dictating them
into this new machine . . . Liddie, what’s it called?”

Mrs. Conquest — a scholar of English who first told me that Henry James
always dictated his novels — comes up with the name of the new
voice-activated software. “It’s called ‘Dragons Naturally Speaking Nine.'”

“Well, my handwriting’s pretty bad and my typing is worse,” says Mr.
Conquest apologetically. That’s true enough, as I know, but I can’t help
thinking that if “Dragons Naturally Speaking Nine” really works, and if it
had been available in the 1960s, then the Soviet Union would probably have
fallen several years before it actually did.

A history here, an anthology of poems there, an assortment of limericks, a
memoir, a lineup of contributions to learned journals and — I forgot to
mention — a festschrift of essays in his honor to be edited by the
Hungarian-born scholar Paul Hollander. This seems enough to be going on

Meanwhile, his other great work on the Ukrainian terror-famine of the 1930s,
“Harvest of Sorrow,” is being produced and distributed, with no profit going
to the author, by a Ukrainian charity associated with President Viktor
Yushchenko. Is it sweet to be so vindicated?

As always, I have to crane slightly to hear the whispery answer. “There was
a magazine in Russia called Neva, which found its circulation went up from
100,000 to a million when it serialized ‘The Great Terror.’

And I later found that at the very last plenum of the Soviet Communist
Party, just before the USSR dissolved, a Stalinist hack called Alexander
Chakovsky had described me as ‘anti-Sovietchik No. 1.’ I must say I was
rather proud of that.”

Somewhere in the apartment is the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded to
Mr. Conquest in 2005 at a ceremony which also featured Aretha Franklin and
Muhammad Ali. I have a picture of him sitting next to the Queen of Soul,
smiling demurely, having paid his own way to come to Washington.

And it comes back to me that he rang me up on the day of President Bush’s
first inaugural. “Did you see that line in the speech about the angel that
rides the storm? Any idea where it’s from? I’m sure I know it.”

I wasn’t able to help, but I knew I would get a later call, which I duly
did, identifying the line as coming from John Dryden. All part of the
Conquest service.

Like the limericks, some of which cannot be reproduced in a family-oriented
newspaper but many of which are literary and intellectual mnemonic
masterpieces. An instance? His deft compression of the entirety of
Shakespeare’s “Seven Ages of Man” speech:

“First you get puking and mewling/ Then very p—ed off with your schooling/
Then f—s and then fights/ Then judging chaps’ rights/ Then sitting in
slippers — then drooling.”

Just as one can never imagine Mr. Conquest raising his voice or losing his
temper, so one can never picture him using an obscenity for its own sake.

A few years ago he said to me that the old distinctions between left and
right had become irrelevant to him, adding very mildly that fools and knaves
of all kinds needed to be opposed and that what was really needed was “a
United Front against bulls–t.”

For all that, his life has been lived among the ideological storms of the
20th century, of which he retains an acute and unique memory. He was

himself a communist for a couple of years in the late 1930s, having been
radicalized while studying in France and observing events in Spain.

“I was even a left deviationist — my best friend was a Trotskyist and when
King George V was crowned we decorated the college at Oxford with eight
chamberpots painted in red, white and blue.”

He left the party after asking what the line would be if Chamberlain ever
declared war on Hitler, and receiving the reply: “Comrade, it is impossible
that the bourgeois Chamberlain would ever declare war on Hitler.” This he
found “oafish.” “I didn’t like the word ‘impossible.'”

Wartime service in Bulgaria, which made him an eyewitness to Stalin’s
takeover of the country at the end, was proof positive. From then on,
working as a researcher and later as a diplomat for the British Foreign
Office, he strove to propose a social-democratic resistance to communism.

“I’d always been a Labour man and somewhat on the left until the 1970s,
when I met Margaret Thatcher and she asked my advice.”

That advice — which translated into the now-famous “Iron Lady” speech —
was to regard the Soviet system as something condemned by history and
doomed to fail. If that sounds easy now, it wasn’t then (though Mr.
Conquest insists that it was George Orwell who first saw it coming).

Like many people with a natural gift for politics, Mr. Conquest finds that
he distrusts those who can talk of nothing else. His affiliations are
undogmatic and unfanatical (he preferred Tony Blair over Margaret Thatcher’s
successor John Major) and he does not bother to turn out at election times.

“I’m a dual national who’s a citizen of the U.S. and the U.K., so that
voting in either place seems rather overdoing it.” On the events of today he
is always very judicious and reserved. “I have my own opinions about Iraq,
but I haven’t said a great deal about the subject because I don’t know all
that much about it.”

How often do you hear anyone talking like that? If he had done nothing
political, he would still have had a life, and would be remembered as the
senior figure of that stellar collection of poets and writers — John Wain,
Philip Larkin, Kingsley Amis — who became known in the Britain of the
1950s as “the Movement.”

Liddie Conquest happens to have written rather authoritatively about this
group, though that’s not how they met. “I was teaching at the University of
Texas in El Paso and he came to give a poetry reading. But it wasn’t until I
met him later in California that something ‘clicked,’ as people like to

Mrs. Conquest might be described as a force of nature, and also as the
wielder of a Texan skillet that yields brisket of a rare and strange
tenderness; Anthony Powell in his “Journals” was again committed to
understatement when he wrote of her engagement to “Bob” that “she is
charming, and he a lucky man.”

“I know you meet different lefties from the ones I know,” he says, referring
obliquely to some recent tussles between your humble servant and the
Michael Moore faction. “But I’ve always been friends with what I call ‘the
good left.'”

In the days of the old Soviet Union, he kept up a solid friendship with the
radical Russian scholar Steve Cohen, author of a study of Nikolai Bukharin
and husband of Nation magazine editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, and admired
his objectivity. “I helped out Scoop Jackson against Kissinger on the Soviet
Jewish question. Pat Moynihan helped me get a job at the Wilson Center in
Washington in the 1970s.”

I remind him that I once introduced him to that other great veteran of the
Bay Area, Jessica (“Decca”) Mitford, and that in the course of a tremendous
evening she was enchanted to find that this dreaded friend of Mrs. Thatcher
was the only other person she’d ever met who knew all the words to the old
Red songbooks, including the highly demanding ditty: “The Cloakmaker’s
Union Is a No-Good Union,” anthem of the old communist garment district.

At the close of that dinner I challenged him to write her a limerick on the
spot, and he gallantly and spontaneously produced the following: “They don’t
find they’re having to check a/ Movement of homage to Decca./ It’s no longer
fair/ To say Oakland’s ‘not there’/ She’s made it a regular Mecca.”

The old girl was quite blown away by this tribute, and kept the inscribed
napkin as a souvenir.

An agnostic in religion (“did you know that Milton Friedman was an agnostic,
too?”) Mr. Conquest is likewise suspicious of anything too zealous or
systematic in human affairs. He is also refreshingly empirical in his

Asked why he, the great anatomizer and accuser of Stalinism, still regards
Nazism as morally worse than the Gulag, he replies mildly but somehow
irrefutably: “I simply feel it to be so.”

In his most recent books, “Reflections on a Ravaged Century” and “The
Dragons of Expectation,” he goes beyond the usual admonitions against
Jacobinism and more recent totalitarian utopias, and argues for “the
Anglosphere,” that historic arc of law, tradition and individual liberty
that extends from Scotland to Australia and takes in the two largest
multicultural democracies on the planet — the U.S. and India.

There was a time when this might have seemed quixotic or even nostalgic
(at least to me) but when one surveys the wreckage of other concepts,
and the increasing difficulties of the only rival “model” in the form of the
European Union (of which he was an early skeptic) the notion seems to
have a future as well as a past.

One very much feels, as one also very much hopes, that the same can be
said of the Grand Old Man of Stanford.                 -30-
Mr. Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair.

[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

Mykola Savchuk, Ukrainian News Agency, Kyiv, Ukraine, Nov 27, 2005

KYIV – President Viktor Yuschenko has conferred the Yaroslav the Wise

Orders V on Italian scientist Andrea Graziosi, American scholar and writer
Robert Conquest and, posthumously, on Ukrainian writer Volodymyr Maniak.
Ukrainian News learned this from decree No. 1654 of November 26.

The orders are bestowed for personal contribution to the research into
famines in Ukraine, drawing attention of the world community to recognizing
the 1932-1933 Great Famine an act of genocide against the Ukrainian nation,
and active public activities.

Graziosi is a professor at Naples University Federico II, Conquest is a
professor at Stanford University. Maniak died in an air accident in 1992. He
co-authored “The Year 1933: Famine: People’s Book-Memorial” book.

By the same decree, Yuschenko also conferred the Order of Princess Olga

III on Maniak’s wife, Lidia Kovalenko-Maniak, posthumously, the Order for
Merits II on American publisher Marian Kots, and the Orders for Merits III
on writers Borys Tkachenko and Petro Yaschuk.

As Ukrainian News earlier reported, Ukraine commemorates the victims of
great famines and political repressions on November 26. According to
different estimates, from three to seven million people died of famine in
Ukraine in 1932-1933.                                   -30-

[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

Stanford University, Center for Russian, East

European and Eurasian Studies (CREEES)
Stanford, California, Thursday, June 15, 2006

Thursday, June 15, 2006 the Honorable Oleh Shamshur, Ukraine

Ambassador to the United States came to Stanford University to
lecture and present the Ukraine Presidential Medal of Honor to Dr.
Robert Conquest.

John Dunlop, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution skillfully moderated
the event that included public policy discussion and a very emotional
ceremony. The Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies
(CREEES) and Ukrainian Studies at Stanford University hosted this unique

Mr. Shamshur addressed a very enthusiastic crowd of about 120 people
from Stanford and the Ukrainian community with a short lecture entitled:
“Maturing Democracy: Ukraine after the Orange Revolution” and then
graciously participated in a very lively question and answer period.

As the title of his address indicated, there was a great deal of interest in
the Ambassador’s thoughts on the Orange Revolution. He said: “The
post-Soviet period of the Ukraine is over.” and is convinced that
parliamentary elections in March 2006 which were ” the last test of Ukraine
on the road to democracy,” demonstrated the support of Ukraine’s voters
for the political leaders and parties that worked together during the Orange

Dr. Shamshur emphasized that the government needs the time to put into
operation legislative and other reforms to improve standards of living as
well as to increase foreign investment.

Ilja Gruen, a third year scholar in the Slavic PhD program, escorted Dr.
Conquest and his wife, Dr. Elizabeth Conquest to the event and was very
impressed with the Ambassador’s remarks. He especially appreciated the
Ambassador’s description of their greatest projects for the future. The
Ambassador stated:

“Judicial reform, which is also one of the ways to fight the current
corruption of the bureaucracy and a reform in the energy production, which
will make Ukraine less dependent on imported gas and oil. Instead, Ukraine
will develop a stronger nuclear energy program, even if it is a hard
decision in the land of Chernobyl.

(Our plans) in the international sphere are to join NATO and to prepare for
joining the European Union.” At the same time, he underlined that
maintaining good relations with Russia is a cornerstone of Ukrainian foreign

Commenting on the relationship between Ukraine and U.S. Ambassador
Shamshur said that the two countries are working together on the war on
terror and promoting human rights, fighting organized crime, human
trafficking and stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Speaking of the business ties between Ukraine and the USA he defined four
major areas in which obstacles to closer cooperation and greater investment
have recently been removed: the Jackson-Vanick restrictions have been
eradicated ; bilateral protocol was developed which helps Ukraine’s entry to
the World Trade Organization; sanctions imposed in 2000 for intellectual
property rights infringements were lifted and finally the Ukraine was
recognized by the USA as a country with a market economy.

The true highlight of the entire event was the presentation of the Ukraine
Presidential Medal of Iaroslav Mudryi, named for the Kievan prince known as
a lawgiver and patron of the church and the arts (early 1000s) to Dr. Robert
Conquest Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution in recognition of his
path-breaking scholarship on the Ukrainian famine of 1932-1933 in Harvest
of Sorrow (1986).

The Medal is the highest honor bestowed by Ukraine. Ambassador Shamshur
extolled Dr. Conquest’s lifelong commitment to scholarly focus on this
long-ignored subject.

                       YOU ARE A REAL NATIONAL HERO
“For a new democratic Ukraine, you are a real national hero… You have done
a real outstanding feat for Ukraine. You have done a service to humanity.”

Then on behalf of the Ukrainian President Victor Yuschenko, the Ambassador
asked Robert Conquest to visit Ukraine in August for the celebration of
Ukrainian Independence Day.

“Ukraine,” he said, “needs to know and understand its history in order to be
able to make the right decisions for the future, and this is why the
ground-breaking books of Dr. Conquest are so important for the developing
Ukrainian democracy and its current and future generations of historians.”

At the end of the medal presentation, the crowd spontaneously sang “(God
Grant You) Many Years” a Ukrainian ballad often sung in churches and on
special occasions.

Dr Conquest expressed very deep thanks for the honor, which is rarely
presented outside of Ukraine. He posed for many photos and answered many
questions. He and his wife Dr. Elizabeth Conquest were then presented with
the Ukrainian customary gift of a wreath of bread and salt.

The Conquests stayed for most of the reception that followed, as did
Ambassador Shamshur and his entourage, all of them participating in very
animated discussions.

Dr. Conquest has received many forms of highest recognition of his lifelong
commitment to scholarship on Ukraine.

His awards and honors include the Jefferson Lectureship, the highest honor
the federal government bestows for achievement in the humanities (1993); the
Alexis de Tocqueville Award, (1992); the Richard Weaver Award for Scholarly
Letters (1999); and the Fondazione Liberal Career Award (2004); and the
Presidential Medal of Freedom (2005).

He is the author of more than 20 books on various Soviet topics and more
than seven volumes of poetry. A brief biography can be found on his web page
at the Hoover Institution:
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]


By Richard Waters, Financial Times, London, UK, February 28, 2003

It is a bright Californian spring morning as I arrive at Robert Conquest’s
apartment for lunch. The eminent Soviet historian and Stalinologist has
lived on this grassy edge of the Stanford University campus for two decades.
In the placid suburban setting, workmen groom the lawns. A young mother
stands by her front door, near an abandoned child’s bike.

Inside Conquest fusses about, a courteous host. He has the quaintly
antiquated mannerisms of the distinguished English man of letters.

It is easy to see here the close friend of Kingsley Amis and Philip Larkin:
precise in his words, an eclectic interest and love of talking, a subversive
wit that breaks through frequently.

At 85, he still writes poetry and is only too eager to discuss other poets
and show off his own work. He promises his next-but-one book will be

his memoirs.

The tranquil Californian morning and the English manners add to the
incongruity, a sense of unreality that develops as Conquest warms to his

In the sitting room before lunch, talk has turned quickly to the subject
that has preoccupied him for so many years. “Why did he want to shoot

so many people? You could understand why he would want to shoot his
colleagues – they were rivals. But why did he shoot so many?”

It is 35 years since Conquest’s ground-breaking book, The Great Terror,
revealed the full depth of Joseph Stalin’s crimes to the world. If he is
still apparently absorbed by the subject, it seems to have two sources: a
powerful sense of vindication and an abiding fascination with one of the
20th century’s darkest episodes.

Conquest’s right-wing political leanings – he still drops in on Margaret
Thatcher, an admirer, on annual trips to the UK – have long made his work

a target of criticism on the left. Dubbed the “witch-finder general of
anti-Sovietism” by the Morning Star, the British communist newspaper, his
work still arouses strong passions.

Yet even the opposition from the left that persisted in the years after The
Great Terror was published has dissipated in the face of the mass of

According to Martin Amis, Conquest had a tart answer for his publishers

when it came to picking a title for an updated version of his classic work: I
Told You So, You Fucking Fools. (“I may have said that,” the historian
concedes, “but I didn’t say that to my publisher.”)

Lunch is smoked salmon, brown bread and boiled eggs, eaten around the

dining table in the small apartment. Conquest’s wife – his fourth, Elizabeth –
is away with her grandchildren and the eminent writer affects a degree of
elderly helplessness. But the apartment is well organised and clean and he
has cleared the table of books – they sit on side tables and on the floor,
hand-written notes protruding.

He eats carefully, picking pieces of salmon to drop into his mouth and
wiping his fingers on a napkin tucked into the pocket of his bright yellow

In this genteel retirement, Conquest can allow himself the satisfaction of
having outlasted most of the doubters and the Soviet apologists.

“They’ve given up on what you might call ‘Gulag denial’,” he says of his
critics. But he adds: “They’re still working on keeping the numbers as low
as possible.”

The numbers, in this context, concern the dead. Adding those who died from
Stalin’s purges and the famines of the 1930s, Conquest came up with a figure
of 20m.

Like the elder Amis, Conquest dabbled in left-wing politics in his youth
before swinging to the right. It is a surprise when he reveals he was once a
member of the Communist party: his writing shows a barely-suppressed
contempt for an ideology he considers an intellectually inferior form of
Utopianism. With a shrug, he says now he was never politically active and
felt only a brief interest in Marxism.

Vindication seems to be only part of what drives him now. To Conquest, the
depravities of the Stalin era and the wreckage of the Soviet Union resonate
like some terrible comedy.

He dwells with relish on new anecdotes that have emerged recently – he keeps
a close watch on the new research, much of it being published in Russia and
Italy – as if discovering afresh the abominations of Stalin’s rule.

“It’s a curious thing: Stalin comes out worse than we thought,” he says.
“You wouldn’t think it possible.”

The way he sees it, it is hardly surprising that the Soviet empire after
Stalin should have disintegrated under a succession of mediocrities. “They
had got rid of such a lot of the bright guys. They shot everyone. It was
absolutely unbelievable.”

But this horror also had its comedy. He chortles over the aberrations of
Soviet mismanagement: the way, for instance, that excessive irrigation
caused a large part of the Aral Sea – once the world’s fourth largest lake –
to dry up. “When your seas start drying up, there’s something wrong with
your planning,” he says, the mirth making his face wrinkle.

His scorn is reserved for the incompetent and the stupid. Academics take
much of the baiting – a reflection, perhaps, of the lasting resistance in
some parts of academia to his work.

He lays the blame on Vietnam-era students whose lost faith in America
manifested itself, when they grew into positions of power, in an unthinking
leftist politics.

At one point, as I flick through a volume of his poetry, Conquest points out
a scathing piece ridiculing academics. One line reads: “Where education and
psychology meet/A terrible bullshit is born.” The parody of Yeats clearly
gives him pleasure. “Philip Larkin laughed at that,” he says, proudly.

But along with the mirth, Conquest is still struggling to come up with an
explanation for the appalling events of the Stalin era.
He brushes off a question about whether Stalin can be described as evil:
such metaphysical classification has little value.

And he resists easy psychoanalysis, at one stage describing the Soviet
leader as paranoid before disparaging his own pop-psychology. In
conversation and in his books, Conquest turns repeatedly to the question of
Stalin’s character and motivation.

His conclusion: a “profound mediocrity” combined with a supercharged
will-power created a monster. Having invested his faith in a half-baked
ideology, only to see it fail before his eyes, Stalin distorted the reality
of the entire Soviet empire to make it seem a success.

“They all had to confess they were agents of Hitler,” Conquest says of
Stalin’s supposed enemies. “Why did he have to do that? He wanted to create
all this detail. Now you had a different reality. He managed to produce a
new reality contrary to what was really going on.”

To Churchill’s description of Stalin as unnatural, Conquest adds his own:
unreal. His will-power proved strong enough to project the illusion around
the world, blinding the west to the true situation. It also created a habit
of self-denial that came to characterise – and eventually help to
undermine – the Soviet Union.

In the end, it is Stalin’s almost pointless cruelty, and the stupidity of
his apologists in the west, that lingers.

Conquest recounts a recently-attributed comment in which Stalin explained
why he had lowered the age for the death penalty to just 12.

“He said it was to discourage adults running children’s gangs,” he says, the
incredulity making his eyes widen. At the time, he adds, French communists
justified capital punishment for children “because in Russia, they said
people mature so much quicker”.

As I leave, the great writer is solicitous. Do I have everything I need?
Surely there is something more he can do for me?

Three hours have gone by. It is a relief to be out in the sunlight again.
The mother has gone, but the child’s bike still lies on the bright grass,
abandoned, as I head back to my car.                -30-
Richard Waters writes for the FT from San Francisco.

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Kyiv Post, Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec 06 2006

On Nov. 27, the Verkhovna Rada adopted a law proclaiming the famine
of 1932-1933 was a genocide against the Ukrainian people. Opponents
accused the president, who initiated the draft law, of “politicizing” a
human tragedy.

These opponents are only half-right. The facts of mass deaths – for
instance, how many people died, whether food was available and what
authorities knew – can be attained and are being objectively investigated by
Western and Ukrainian historians.

But it is in categorizing what we see, or imagine – such as choosing who
were the victims and what caused their deaths – that we necessarily enter
the realm of the subjective, and therefore, of the political.

Genocide is the ultimate crime, the deliberate intent to exterminate a group
and prevent its reproduction. The ultimate crime calls for the ultimate
discredit of the perpetrator.

The Nazi regime, the perpetrator of the Holocaust, has few defenders in the
West outside of the loony fringe. Yet the legacy of Communism as a regime is
far more ambiguous in the West and among the populations that lived through
it, certainly in the former Soviet Union.

In proposing to replace “genocide” with “a crime against humanity
perpetrated by the Stalinist totalitarian regime,” thereby emphasizing
Stalinism over Communism, the Party of Regions revealed the continued
ambivalence of its constituency vis-a-vis what are perceived as the social
achievements of the Soviet era; further, its reluctance to associate
Communism as such with absolute evil.

One thing should be clear: both formulations, whether “genocide” or
“Stalinist crime against humanity,” are equally “politicized.” It couldn’t
be otherwise.

The backdrop to the “genocide” debate in Ukraine is whether the famine was
indeed a famine. The statement may sound blasphemous, but the position of
the Soviet state for 60 years was, in fact, that there was no famine, which
meant that one could be arrested for claiming the opposite.

Fringe Communist elements, including those in Ukraine, continue to claim the
indefensible, but the mainstream debate has shifted to whether the famine
was “manmade” or caused by “natural” forces.

That issue remains controversial. A conference on the Ukrainian famine in
the U.S. several years ago had to change location at the last minute because
a respectable university apparently objected to the term “manmade” in the
conference title, arguing that it prejudged an open question.

The problem with this assumption is that, as Noble Prize Laureate in
Economics Amartya Sen argued in “Poverty and Famines”, there is no
such thing as a “natural” famine in the modern era.

Famines are not caused by a breakdown in food production per se, but
by a breakdown in food distribution. And distribution, one may add, is
an inherently political matter.

In Ukraine itself, the key political forces agree that the famine was
man-made and the debate revolves around the politics of naming this
politically-induced human catastrophe.

Parliament, a political body, did name it a genocide by a narrow vote, but
what is the evidence adduced by historians and students of mass violence
on the matter?

The core criteria of genocide, as laid out in the 1948 Convention on the
Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, is “intent to destroy.”

Original intent, however, is extremely difficult to demonstrate, not only
because written documents may be lacking, but also, as the French social
scientist Jacques Semelin argued, because mass killing should be seen as a
process in which the aims of actors can change along the way.

Did the Soviet leaders in the late 1920s consciously plan to starve the
Ukrainian peasantry when they unleashed their collectivization drive?

The evidence is that they did not. They did not expect that the disruption
of collectivization, exacerbated by peasant resistance, would have a
severely detrimental impact on the harvest.

Yet, faced with an extremely serious humanitarian crisis in 1932, the Soviet
government chose policies that could only exacerbate it, leaving millions to

The first policy was to deny that there was a famine in the first place,
which obviously precluded any kind of international aid.

If we can demonstrate that the logic of a political action will plausibly,
if not inexorably, lead to a catastrophe – essentially what Ukrainian
Communist officials told Moscow in 1932 – but political authorities remain
in denial for ideological reasons, why should the political responsibility
of these elites be less than if they had originally intended to victimize
the peasantry?

Who was targeted by the famine? The “Ukrainians” as a nation, or the
“peasants” as a class?

The standard claim made by reasonable people objecting to the use of
“genocide” to characterize the famine is that the famine targeted not the
Ukrainians, but the peasants allegedly hoarding the grain and that the
famine touched other areas outside of Ukraine, such as the Volga. There
are two ways of answering this argument.

[1] The first is empirical. Newly discovered archival evidence indicates
that Stalin interpreted the resistance within the Communist Party of Ukraine
to the unattainable quotas of grain production in 1932 as a manifestation of
Ukrainian nationalism. The absolute Soviet ruler thus began, himself, to
frame the issue in national terms, and to think in terms of punishment.

[2] The second is conceptual. The 1948 Genocide Convention defines the
victims of genocide as “national, ethnical (sic), racial, or religious,”
excluding “social” groups such as the peasantry.

Yet we have to understand that the Convention is a politically-induced
document, reflecting the interests of the UN member-states, and the Soviet
Union at that time specifically lobbied to have “social” categories excluded
from the list.

The Party of Regions, and Russian-speaking eastern Ukrainians more
generally, are uncomfortable with the label of genocide because of fear that
it could drive a wedge between ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Russians in
Ukraine. In an attempt to assuage these anxieties, the sponsors of the law
used the category of “people” (narod), rather than “nation” (natsii) in
defining the victims of the famine.

There are thus two important debates going on.

[1] The first is among the international community of scholars on how to
best frame the famine in the comparative study of mass killing.

[2] The second is among Ukrainians themselves in Ukraine, who remain
divided on how to interpret their past, and thereby their common destiny,
vis-a-vis Russia.

The Nov. 27 vote reiterated that the “Orange” perspective on these identity
issues retains a small and geographically polarized majority, but a majority
nonetheless, despite the vicissitudes of coalition politics.     -30-
Dominique Arel holds the Chair of Ukrainian Studies at the University
of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
     Ukraine recognizes a dark page in its history, but are the facts biased?

ANALYSIS & COMMENTARY: By Kirill Frolov, Head
Ukrainian Department Institute for CIS Studies,
The Moscow News, Moscow, Russia, December 23, 2006

On November 28, members of the Ukrainian parliament, the Supreme Rada,
passed a bill on Holodomor [Death by Hunger, forced famine of 1932-33],
sponsored by President Viktor Yushchenko, “as amended.”

The law recognizes Holodomor as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian

The amendments were half-hearted: In defining of “Holodomor” as an act of
“genocide against the Ukrainian nation,” the word “nation” was replaced with
“people.” Furthermore, a hefty fine for denying the atrocity was replaced
with “moral-political responsibility.”

Public denial of Holodomor is deemed illegal, an affront to the dignity of
the Ukrainian people, desecrating the memory of millions of victims.

Under the law, the national and local authorities are obligated to:
     [1] formulate and implement state policy in restoring and preserving
          the national memory of the Ukrainian people;
     [2] promote the consolidation and development of the Ukrainian nation,
          its identity, historical consciousness, and culture;
     [3] disseminate information about Holodomor among the Ukrainian
          citizens and the world public;
     [4] ensure the study of the Holodomor tragedy at Ukraine’s educational
     [5] work to perpetuate the memory of Holodomor victims, which would
           include monuments to them across the country; and
     [6] provide access for research and public organizations, experts, and
          individuals studying Holodomor to archives and other related

The state will adopt a national program to perpetuate the memory of
Holodomor victims, which will be funded from the Ukrainian national budget.

The parliament passed the law by a 233-1 vote (the Party of Regions, 2; the
Yulia Timoshenko Bloc, 118; Our Ukraine, 79; the Socialist Party of Ukraine,
79; the Communist Party of Ukraine, 0; and independent MPs, 4).

The Holodomor issue temporarily divided the Anti-Crisis Coalition:
Parliament Speaker Olexandr Moroz, supported by his faction, thus

attempted to increase his political weight. A telling blow was struck to
the Party of Regions and its ideology.

Thus, the builders of an anti-Russian Ukraine managed to achieve their main
goal – recognize the supposed “Ukrainian holocaust” as an act of genocide.

Yet another stage in Ukrainian nation-building has been passed.The myth
about genocide against the Ukrainian people has been accepted as dogma.

This dogma has a pronounced anti-Russian character. Our Ukraine leaders

are talking in no uncertain terms about the need to demand compensation
from Russia for the purported genocide.

The Russian elite had all possible levers to expose this anti-Russian
provocation, the main one being the historical truth. But only a handful of
media outlets raised the issue.

It seems that the Moscow political establishment reduces the country’s
interests to natural gas prices, while failing to appreciate the importance
of the humanitarian factor – the fight for history, for the minds, for the
objective interpretation of crucial national and religious issues?

And all this at a time when Ukraine’s anti-Russian elites are gambling on
the humanitarian factor, on a biased interpretation of history and the
separation of the Ukrainian Church from the Moscow Patriarchate. But
Kiev must understand what is at stake.

Should this policy continue, the next stage will be the cutting of the last
thread that links Ukraine to Russia – the jurisdiction of the Moscow
Patriarchate over the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and then the loss of
Belarus. These catastrophic losses will forever deprive Russia of a chance
to reconstitute its positions as a “subject of history.”

Nevertheless, responsible circles within the Russian political elite are
still able to draw appropriate conclusions: Consider the situation after the
“orange” revolution in Ukraine. Now it is vital to appreciate the importance
of the humanitarian factor in upholding Russia’s national interests.

In the case of Holodomor, it would be logical to recognize the Bolshevik
genocide against the Russian people, as well as Bolshevik “Ukrainization,”
as its element. After all, the first 20 years of “sovereign Ukraine” are a
classic example of arbitrary rule.

Total “Ukrainization,” which proceeded amid the genocide of the Russian
people, the destruction of Russian culture, the Church and the
intelligentsia, was an essential component of Lenin’s nationalities policy.
Many Ukrainian nationalist and separatist leaders (e.g., Grushevsky,
Vinnichenko) joined the Bolsheviks.

In 1923, the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party
(Bolsheviks), or VKP(b), adopted a notorious directive on mandatory
“Ukrainization.” Under that directive, a person could only be employed
if he presented a certificate of proficiency in Ukrainian.

The geographic pattern of the Bolshevik genocide is also revealing. It
affected primarily more developed, thriving regions – Volyn, Poltava, etc.,
which had from time immemorial been a base of Russian conservatism. Volyn
had been almost unaffected by the 1905 Revolution with almost no separatist

Strange as this might seem today, at that time Volyn was home to 2 million
members of Russian right-leaning parties. The Pochayev Monastery was one
of Russia’s main spiritual centers, while Archbishop Antony (Khrapovitsky)
of Volyn was the region’s spiritual leader.

His deputy, Archimandrite Vitaly (Maksimenko), was considered to be the
informal “dictator” of the region: Without his blessing, not a single MP
could be elected to the State Duma.

The person whose name is associated with the terrible famine of the 1930s –
Vlas Chubar, chairman of the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic Council

of People’s Commissars (he was the one who issued the infamous 1932
resolution On Combating Sabotage in Grain Harvesting) – was at the same
time an avowed Bolshevik “Ukrainizer.”

In 1932, there were only three Russian-language newspapers in the
Ukrainian SSR (less than in independent Ukraine today). That year
saw a peak in the “Ukrainization” of schools.

To reiterate, the Ukrainization of the 1930s and Holodomor are two
inseparable parts of the genocide against the Russian people. This is

why Russia should work toward the international recognition of
Holodomor, but only as it really was.

The worst fears about the Holodomor Law are already being fulfilled.
Following the dismissal of presidential appointees in the Yanukovich
Cabinet – [Foreign Minister Borys] Tarasyuk and [Interior Minister Yuriy]
Lutsenko – President Yushchenko made a series of moves halting the
political reform and pressing Holodomor claims against Russia.

Rumor in Kiev had it that the Yushchenko secretariat was offering
Constitutional Court justices new apartments and cars in exchange for a
decision deeming the reform, which strips the president of real clout

among other things, unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian lawyer Igor Gorodetsky said that survivors of the
1932-33 Holodomor could claim compensation from Russia as a legal
successor to the U.S.S.R. But this will only be possible if the act of
genocide against the Ukrainian people is recognized on the international

level.                                       -30-
                               MOSCOW NEWS FILE
According to some estimates, up to 10 million Ukrainians starved to death
during the 1932-33 famine, known in the country as Holodomor, orchestrated
by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin as part of his campaign to collectivize

Addressing lawmakers on Holodomor Memorial Day, which commemorates

the victims of the devastating Soviet-era famine, Viktor Yushchenko said: “I
am not asking, but demanding that the Ukrainian parliament recognize the
1932-1933 Holodomor as an act of genocide against the nation. This is a duty
of the Supreme Rada, a historical imperative.”

“I am asserting on behalf of the Ukrainian people that Holodomor victims
should be honored as martyrs in one of the gravest catastrophes in the
history of humankind. Bearing in mind the need to restore historical justice
and to reinvigorate the Ukrainian people morally, I urge all of Ukraine’s
lawmakers to support the Holodomor bill,” Yushchenko was quoted by
RIA Novosti as saying.

Polls show that more than 60% of Ukrainians believe Holodomor targeted all
of the Soviet Union’s population, not just ethnic Ukrainians. Only a quarter
regard it as ethnically motivated.

Russia condemned the bill, criticizing the Western-leaning Ukrainian leader
for his “biased, one-sided interpretation” of the famine.          -30-

[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
                    TURKMENISTAN  – GEORGIA – FEEDBACK
                   (Comments about article related to the Holodomor)

QUICK TAKES: By Mike Averko
New York, New York, December 23, 2006

Holodomor History Opens Fierce Debate – Dec. 23, Moscow News article

[See article 6 above – AUR Editor]

An ongoing issue.  The article might be a bit too alarmist.  It raises a few
issues seen as related to the Holodomor matter.  There’re just too many in
Ukraine (ethnic Russian and non-Russian alike) who don’t appear willing to
succumb to the suppression of the Russian identity in that former Soviet

Yes, Ukraine is an independent state.  However, it’s foolhardy to see Russia
and Ukraine as Poland and Ukraine or Russia and Poland.  Some in Ukraine

are sincere in stressing that the raising of the Holodomor isn’t an anti-Russian
issue.  For others, their anti-Russian rhetoric is clear cut.

At the end of the article is a fact file (independent of the article) that
has this citation:

“Polls show that more than 60% of Ukrainians believe Holodomor targeted

all of the Soviet Union’s population, not just ethnic Ukrainians.  Only a
quarter regard it as ethnically motivated.”

That 25% appears more influential than its stated percentage.  The small in
numbers can often be feisty in an effort to offset a minority status.  The
quarter percentile tends to come from western Ukraine (especially in
Galicia).  Among the Ukrainian diaspora, this group has been well
represented in North America for decades.

This past September, the editor of the Action Ukraine Report (Morgan
Williams) had a Kyiv Post commentary on the Holodomor.  The Sept.

8-9 QT has a lengthy reply to that piece.

[NOTE:  The rest of Quick Takes on other topics not included here.]
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
    NOTE: Send in a letter-to-the-editor today. Let us hear from you.
                           HISTORY OR HISTORICAL FACT

QUICK TAKES: By Mike Averko
New York, NY, Monday, December 25, 2006

The Ukraine segment of the last QT [Quick Takes] (Dec. 23) commented
on the Holodomor issue.  Sean Guillory offered this reply:

Thanks for including the MN [Moscow News] article on the Holodomor

in QT. Designating the 1933-34 Famine as genocide against the Ukrainian
people has nothing to do with history or historical fact.  It has everything
to do with present attempts at developing Ukrainian nationalism.

I think that it is fair to say that millions of people died as a result of
the famine, but to single out Ukrainians or any one group as a target is
ludicrous.  The intent to eliminate a particular group just isn’t there in
the evidence.

An examination on archival sources on the famine by Mark Tauger has shown
that the famine, while exacerbated by the Bolshevik seizure of grain in the
collectivization campaign, was also the result of a bad harvest in 1932
resulting from dry weather and of all things, an epidemic of wheat rust .

I urge your readers to check out his work, specifically Mark Tauger, “The
1932 Harvest and the Famine of 1933,” Slavic Review 50:1, 1991, 70-89, the
resulting letter exchange between Tauger and Robert Conquest (SR 51:1 1992,
SR 53:1 1993) as well as his numerous other articles on the subject (which
can be found here: )

In addition the work of R.W. Davies and S. G. Wheatcroft are necessities for
understanding the history and economics of the famine.

Many of their arguments about the famine can be found in their recent book
Years of Hunger: Soviet Agriculture, 1931-1933 (2004).  Unfortunately, the
popular understanding of the famine lags way behind the scholarly.  But this
is always the case.

What is most unfortunate is when politicians (and academics) use this lag
to promote their own nationalist projects.

This is why I similarly I find Forlov’s suggestion that Russians should work
to get the famine internationally recognized as also “genocide against the
Russian people” equally disturbing.

Similar to the Ukrainian move, this is an attempt to produce a Russian
national identity that is separate from its Communist past.

It elides the fact that thousands of Russians and others participated, with
enthusiasm mind you, in collectivization.

I don’t think that attempting to portray the “Communists” as some sort
of foreign entity that ruled over the “Russians” like it did to the
“Ukrainians” etc makes our understanding of the famine, not to mention
the Soviet experience, any more “as it was”.

Further designating the famine a genocide suggests some kind of recognition,
reconciliation, and reparation between victimizer and victim.

However, the line between victim and victimizer in the Soviet case is blurry
since much of the violence perpetrated by the regime in part required the
participation of the population.

Citizens of the Soviet Union must come to terms with its past as a whole.
To separate themselves into Russians, Ukrainians, Chechens, Tatar or what
have you, undermines the multiethnicity of participation in the regime’s
projects of modernization and socialist transformation.

I think it is enough to condemn the mass death caused by the policies
of the Stalinist regime without such qualifiers, especially when they don’t

Collectivization was a bloody affair that goes beyond the famine itself.
There is a long list of events and policies to condemn:

The civil war in the countryside, the deployment of Red Army and NKVD
detachments to stem the flow of peasants out of the famine zone into the
cities and to quell peasant rebellion, the institution of passports to
prevent peasants flooding the cities, the hunger in the cities as a result
of low grain yields, etc can all be placed at the door of the leaders of the
Soviet regime and their officials in the provinces.

But to say that all of these tragedies were purposeful to eliminate certain
segments of the Soviet population doesn’t hold up when looking at

available evidence.  The Soviet regime did indeed target certain groups
for elimination, but the famine was not one of its methods.

So in the end, I think that the blame for the Holodomor is clear–the
Soviets were certainly guilty of misguided and ill conceived, and in some
cases ideological, policy, violence, utter disregard for the loss of human
life, mismanagement, and of course victims of circumstance and inability
to rule effectively and efficiently.

All of this, however, does not amount to genocide as some scholars and
politicians use the term.

[NOTE:  The rest of Quick Takes on other topics not included here]                 
Quick Takes, Mike Averko:
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
                 (Comments about article related to the Holodomor)

QUICK TAKES: By Mike Averko, September 8-9
New York, New York, Friday, September 08, 2006

Build the Holodomor Complex Now [By Morgan Williams]

“The genocide was against the Ukrainian nation as a whole, and many peasants
died as the Kremlin engineered the execution of a large part of Ukrainian
national elites (cultural, educational, religious, political).”

[Quick Takes] The Ukrainian SSR continued to exist with a Ukrainian military
designation within the Red Army.  The Soviet Union attempted (in the late 19
twenties and early thirties) to linguistically Ukrainianize Russian speaking
areas within Ukraine’s Communist drawn boundaries.

“The genocide against the Ukrainian nation included the Ukrainian minority
living in Russia, especially the Kuban region of the Northern Caucasus,
where the Ukrainian peasantry was starved to death, and a large part of the
Ukrainian elites exterminated.  This Ukrainian ethnic minority should also
be remembered.”

[Quick Takes] In comparison, were Russians in Russia and elsewhere in the
USSR eating filet mignon and vacationing along the Riviera?  There were no
Ukrainian Communists?  A suggestive tone in the direction of the Captive
Nations Committee

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has spoken about the need for
Ukraine’s diverse regions to better understand each other.  The overall
stance of the above linked Kyiv Post article serves as a main talking point
for such a discussion.

Stalin wouldn’t hesitate to kill an anti-Soviet Russian over a loyal
Ukrainian Communist.  His brutality was anti-Nazi in this sense.

Without being egged on, a Jewish holocaust survivor of Nazi and Soviet

camps made the very same observation to me.  Stalin had a vendetta
against kulaks and his forced collectivization policy directly affected
rural areas.

Ukraine’s makeup as such was especially hard hit because of Stalin’s
ideologically committed economic plan.  While being inhumanly brutal,

this stance wasn’t akin to the Nazi final solution approach towards entire
ethno-religious and political groups.

The brutal Stalinist legacy should never be forgotten.  Nor should it be
misrepresented from what it actually was.  As constructed, Ukraine is a
delicate mix of different cultural upbringings.

What might be  acceptable for one group isn’t necessarily agreeable with
another.  Some Ukrainians (mostly comprised of some having Galician origin)
characterize the Russian linguistic presence in Ukraine as imperialistic.

Along with others, I consider this as a non-starter in helping to best
maintain Ukraine.  In some circles, the Uniate Church (which predominates

in Western Ukraine) is characterized as an imperialistic creation.

This view is an understandable affront to those who willingly follow that
Christian denomination.  Other countries officially recognize more than one
language.  Ukraine has valid conditions for such a policy.

“Firstly, the 20th century is full of tragic moments for the Ukrainian
nation.  Crimes were committed by the Tsarist regime, the Polish regime in
Western Ukraine between the two wars, the Soviet regime (three famines, mass
deportations around WW II and at other times), and German atrocities during
1918 and WWII, including the Holocaust.”

[Quick Takes] There have been bad Poles, bad Russians and bad Germans.
There have also been some not so good Ukrainians.  Case in point being the
matter of the UPA/OUN during World War II.  Earlier, Simon Petlura was
assassinated in Paris with revenge as a motive.

Along with some other groups during the Russian Civil War, Petlura’s army
had elements which committed ghastly acts against Jews.  There was some
Jewish involvement with the notorious NKVD and its other acronyms.

Yevgenia Albats acknowledges the disproportionate number of Jews within that
organization (Yevgenia Albats, The State Within a State: The KGB and its
Hold on Russia, Past, Present and Future New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux,
1994, page 147).  This is noted while stressing that the overwhelming number
of Jews weren’t NKVD like.

Orest Subtelny’s book on Ukrainian history provides some good historical
background of Jewry in Ukraine

[NOTE:  The rest of Quick Takes on other topics not included here.]
Quick Takes, Mike Averko:
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
10.                                GREAT DICTATORS
                   The Cambridge History of Russia, Three Volumes

BOOK REVIEW By Tony Barber
Financial Times, London, UK, Friday, January 26 2007

The Cambridge History of Russia
Edited by Maureen Perrie
Cambridge University Press
(three volumes) Pounds 270, 2,412 pages

Like the double-headed eagle that was the symbol of the tsarist autocracy
overthrown in 1917 – and which was restored as the nation’s coat of arms
after communism fell – Russia looks simultaneously east and west.

For Peter the Great, Alexander II, the Bolsheviks and their post-communist
successors, Russia was and is a European power, but a relatively backward
one. Its world status has depended on catching up with its neighbours to the

At the same time, Russia’s Christian and European identity has been
indelibly marked by the presence on its territory, from the 1552 annexation
of the khanate of Kazan, of a vast and varied world of non-Slav Muslims,
Buddhists and animists to the east.

In the heyday of the tsarist empire, and even in Soviet times, some Russians
saw themselves as a people with the “civilising” mission of extending
European values beyond the Ural mountains into Siberia, central Asia and the
far east. Fyodor Dostoevsky put it with characteristic acerbity: “In Europe
we are hangers-on and slaves, but in Asia we are masters.”

Geographically and culturally, Russia is both European and not European:
ruled for centuries by despots and cruel ideologues, yet often a beacon to
the world in literature, music, religion and science; usually unfree, yet
touched by genius amid unspeakable man-made hardships; the place that
produced Ivan the Terrible and Joseph Stalin, but also Anton Chekhov and
Andrei Sakharov.

Since the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, the study of Russian history has
undergone profound and beneficent change. Russian scholars no longer need to
dress up history in the ill-fitting clothes of state-supported Marxist
theory, or fear punishment for not complying with the party line. Western
scholars no longer waste time attacking Soviet versions of history in
academic battles.

For Russians and westerners, the official falsification and suppression of
historical facts, a massive impediment to scholarship, are things of the

True, some sensitive archives for the Soviet period have never been opened.
They almost certainly won’t be as long as Vladimir Putin, the former KGB
agent, is Russia’s president. But once-unthinkable possibilities have opened
up over the past 15 years – for free travel, academic exchanges, research
and access to hitherto secret files.

The torrent of original source material and specialist studies that has
poured out since 1991 has enriched our knowledge of the Russian and Soviet
past. And it is heartwarming to see Russian historians free to make
contributions worthy of their talents.

This three-volume Cambridge History of Russia, the first such
English-language reference work of its kind, is based on up-to-date research
and is admirably detailed and reliable in its judgments.

Its nearest equivalent, the seven-volume Longman History of Russia, was a
collection of individually authored works that appeared in the 1980s and
1990s; those dealing with the 19th and 20th centuries look particularly

By contrast, The Cambridge History of Russia draws on the scholarship of
dozens of historians, all experts in their fields, be they cultural, legal,
military, political or social.

The chapters are arranged chronologically and thematically. Although few
readers will devour all three volumes from cover to cover, some
contributions are of such outstanding quality that they deserved to be fully
read and savoured.

In the first volume, a sketch of medieval Novgorod by Valentin Yanin, the
world’s leading authority on that city’s birch-bark documents, underlines
what an advanced and literate society it was, not unlike the Venetian

In the second volume, Alexander Martin looks at Russia’s defeat of Napoleon
Bonaparte’s 1812 invasion and draws telling comparisons with other turning
points in Russian history.

After 1812, as after the triumph over Nazi Germany in 1945, or during the
collapse of communism in 1989-91, the oppressed Russian people felt a rare
surge of hope that the future would bring a better life.

They also sensed that Russia’s social order might be in danger – and in all
three cases, from Alexander I to Stalin to Putin, the rulers played on those
fears to restore central controls and curb freedom.

The third volume, on the 20th century, is full of nuggets mined from
previously unavailable or unknown archives. Such long-sealed documents,
cited in Donald Raleigh’s chapter on the 1917-21 civil war, leave no doubt
about the willingness of Vladimir Lenin, founder of the Soviet state, to
resort to mass repression against his opponents or even ordinary civilians.

It is a tribute to the impact of Soviet methods of indoctrination that, as
late as 1999, opinion surveys showed that Russians regarded Lenin as the
second greatest person in world history after Peter the Great. Perhaps one
should be grateful he didn’t come first, as he did in 1989.

Key features of Stalinism were embedded in Russian life during Lenin’s rule:
suppression of political opposition, denial of representative government,
the communist party’s dictatorship, the establishment of a secret police,
propaganda and lies as the highest forms of state communication, ruthless
economic centralisation, nationalisation of industry, forced requisitioning
of grain from the peasantry, famine, shootings and terror.

Some of these practices drew, in turn, on Russia’s tradition of autocracy,
with its total absence of national representative institutions, low level of
popular participation in political life, and official cult of the ruler.

The strict regulation of work and private life was a feature of tsarist
rule, too. Peter the Great (in power from 1689-1725) imposed western dress
on town-dwellers and ordered men’s beards to be cut off. Catherine the Great
(1762-96) decreed hours of work, even the length of meal breaks for

Historians still debate the extent to which the autocratic tradition was
shaped by the Mongol conquest of ancient Russia, the land known as

Rus’, in 1237-40. Even before the Mongols came, however, Russians
were different from their western neighbours.

Russia’s national consciousness developed out of its 10th-century conversion
to Christianity, but unlike the Poles, Germans and other Europeans, the
Russians were eastern Orthodox rather than Roman Catholic or Protestant.

Until the 17th century, Russia was almost entirely cut off from the
cultural, scientific and commercial advances of western Europe. Universities
were unknown, virtually everything in print was a sacred Orthodox text, and
portrait painting scarcely existed. As late as 1797, Russia’s literacy rate
was a mere 6.9 per cent.

But in one area crucial to its self-perception, Russia stood out. The fall
of Byzantine Constantinople to the Ottoman empire in 1453 meant that
Muscovy, later Russia, was the only Orthodox state left on earth. It was
therefore, in its own eyes, the guardian of true Christianity. Russia’s tsar
saw himself as the embodiment and enforcer of God’s will, ruling a country
that was God’s chosen state.

The temptation is strong to see parallels with the Bolsheviks’ messianic
vision of Russia blazing a trail on mankind’s behalf to the blessed eternity
of communism. Richard Hellie, discussing the evolution of Russian law before
Peter the Great, writes: “Muscovy was the perfect ancestor of the Soviet
Union, a radical political organisation with a programme of social change it
was constantly trying to enact.”

Such analogies must not be overdrawn. Still, it is striking how closely the
tsarist institution of serfdom resembles the state of servitude into which
Soviet peasants were cast by Stalin’s forced collectivisation of farms in
1928-33. Of course, under the tsars, millions of peasants were not murdered,
sent into exile or made to die from famine, as under Stalin.

Stalin, Georgian-born but a skilled manipulator of Russian national feeling,
promoted a cult of Ivan the Terrible (who ruled 1533-84) as a statesman who
fought courageous battles against domestic traitors. After Stalin’s death in
1953, his successors condemned these travesties of Ivan’s reign as
allegorical apologias for Stalinism.

The Soviet victory over the Nazis became a touchstone of Russian culture,
because after the horrors of Stalin’s tyranny, not to mention the bloody
divisions of the revolution and civil war, it was the main unifying
experience of post-1917 history for Russians.

Stalin’s suspicion of western culture was so deep that, after 1945, the
famous western Stagecoach was shown to Soviet audiences with its title
changed to The Journey Will Be Dangerous. The official guidance was that it
was “an epic about the struggle of Indians against White imperialists on the

Nikita Khrushchev, Stalin’s successor, earned the gratitude of millions by
opening labour camps and denouncing some aspects of Stalinism. Yet, as he
lamented to Fidel Castro in 1963, there was something maddeningly stodgy
about Russia: “No matter what changes I propose and carry out, everything
stays the same.

Russia’s like a tub of dough, you put your hand in, down to the bottom, and
you think you’re master of the situation. When you first pull out your hand,
a little hole remains, but then, before your eyes, the dough expands into a
spongy, puffy mass. That’s what Russia is like!”

Under Leonid Brezhnev, who ruled from 1964 to 1982, repression remained a
tool of state policy, but fear largely disappeared from daily life. Young
people, in particular, found the regime’s propaganda embarrassing and its
promises empty.

But contacts with the western world were broadening. Even after the 1979
Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the subsequent freeze in US-Soviet
relations, the atmosphere in cities such as Leningrad (now renamed St
Petersburg) remained relaxed enough for visiting western students to sell
jeans and have sex with Soviet students – some of the latter KGB informers.

Brezhnev’s reign was known under the reformist Mikhail Gorbachev as the era
of zastoi (stagnation), but Archie Brown argues that, when Gorbachev took
over in 1985, there was no reason why the Soviet Union should not have
survived into the 21st century. Gorbachev’s rule, he says, “was not so much
a case of crisis forcing radical reform as of radical reform generating

This it did. By December 1991, the Soviet Union had fallen apart.
Ultimately, it was a victim of its own illegitimacy (since, in January 1918,
the Bolsheviks dissolved Russia’s freely elected Constituent Assembly after
just one 13-hour session).

It was also a victim of its own murderousness and incompetence in power. As
Martin Malia put it in his 1994 book The Soviet Tragedy: “There is no such
thing as socialism, and the Soviet Union built it.”

Yet Gorbachev contributed to the Soviet Union’s demise with three mistakes.
In declining to seek direct election as Soviet president, he lost ground to
his rival Boris Yeltsin, who in 1991 was elected president of the Russian
republic. Gorbachev was also a flop as an economic reformer.

Lastly, he made a disastrous tactical mistake in the winter of 1990-91 by
accommodating the hardliners who were to launch the coup against him in
August 1991. It was the failure of this coup that doomed the Soviet Union.

If it is too early to pass judgement on postcommunist Russia, one thing is
clear: democracy, the rule of law and free market economics are frail
flowers in a garden full of the weeds of state-sponsored violence (as in
Chechnya), private lawlessness, insider privatisation and other blatant

Even in the generally free elections of 1993-96, there was widespread
support for anti-reform forces and very little for politicians identifiable
as western-style liberals.

What is the lesson? Like that of all Russian history, it is that whatever
dreams foreigners may wish to impose on Russia, the country is so big,
proud, inert and visionary that, for better or worse, it will in the end
decide its own destiny.                            -30-
Tony Barber is a former Reuters correspondent in Russia and currently
the FT’s Rome bureau chief.

[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
11.             1941-1946 UKRAINE: WAR AND FAMILY

The Ukrainian Observer magazine, Issue 227
The Willard Group, Kyiv, Ukraine, January 2007

In the summer of 1941 the war was taking its first steps. I heard despair in
Stalin’s voice, despite being only eleven years old.

His landmark radio address to the nation began, “Dear brothers and sisters!”

In other words, my grandfather Kuzma, my father Vasyl, and my uncles,
Petro, Semen, Ivan and Tymofiy were Stalin’s brothers and their wives
his sisters.

Our railway station was far from the front lines, with a village of railroad
workers on the left and a kolkhoz on the right. Exempt from military service
because of his past traumas, my father was allowed to leave the kolkhoz and
move to the village. He mended steam engines in a depot.

The other four brothers worked as collective farmers. Ivan and Petro married
when they were still young. In fact, they married so young that when they
reached the age of Christ (33 years), as my grandfather used to say, their
daughters had already turned fourteen.

The unmarried Tymofiy was the first member of the family to enroll in the
army, two weeks after school graduation. His schoolmates mocked him for his
fondness for the German language.

The eldest brother, Uncle Ivan, was the last man in the family to become a
soldier. He angrily thrust pitchfork into a stack of hay and went to the
village. When I saw this I thought he would thus kill those foreign enemies.

I also remember Ivan saying to my dad, “War is a family business. Vasyl,
help our wives save our children. Neither Stalin nor Hitler needs them.”
Although not graceful, his words were just as meaningful as Stalin’s
grandiloquent imperatives.
                                 DAMAGING THE REICH
In the summer of 1942, Germany’s Sixth Army was using our railway station
to prepare for a Stalingrad assault. At the same time, my father was
inflicting economic damage on the Reich.

Guarded by local police officers, a train with girls destined to become
Ostarbeiters (Eastern workers) was about to leave for Germany. My father
went into a car with the guards. He told them he was going to a wedding and
had good vodka in two jerry cans.

When the train stopped at night, the intoxicated policemen opened a car in
which my father’s two nieces were traveling. They freed the girls to thank
“their friend Vasyl” for the treat. However, all the thirty girls escaped
into the night, and so did my father.
                                   TIGHT-FISTED HANS
My dad and his nieces hid in a house of their distant relatives. His
cigarette supplies soon ran out.

Officer Hans suffered from lung disease but doctors stubbornly refused to
send him to the rear. Hans regularly received cigarettes but did not smoke.
He treated his lungs with eggs. My hens laid those eggs.

On one occasion, I was sitting with Hans by a fence. My cap was laying
nearby, full of eggs.

“One egg will cost you six cigarettes,” I started with the highest price.

“No, no, no!” he replied, shaking his hands. “Three cigarettes an egg.”
“No way,” I shouted. “Five cigarettes an egg.”

Soon, we agreed on the price and the tight-fisted Hans gave me four
cigarettes for one egg.
                                A CAPTIVE WITH HORNS
In the summer of 1943, the German troops were devastated by their efforts at
Stalingrad. The lack of provisions made their commanders order the slaughter
of cattle on the kolkhozes (The prudent Germans in 1941 had ordered that the
collective farms not be disbanded as had been done in other areas.)

One day, a few German soldiers were driving a herd of cows. One of them
lashed our peacefully grazing cow with a whip. I saw those familiar and dear
horns among other horns, which were to become stuffing for Germans in a
couple of hours.

I ran to defend my property. Someone fired a gun and dust exploded next to
my feet. I stopped and burst out sobbing because our family would starve
without the cow. Suddenly, the beast turned around, put its tail up and
galloped to me.

The Germans laughed. They must have also appreciated the swift reaction
of my horned feeder.
                        JACK LONDON UNDER MY BED
In the August of 1943, my mother, younger sister and our cow moved to
relatives living in the country. My father was still hiding away from the

I was made to watch the house and feed our hens. I promised my mother I
would also go to the village if the Soviet army began to bomb the station.

Our railroad station with its steam engines and trains was mercilessly
bombed on Transfiguration Sunday night.

Even the Communists had failed to root out the celebration of this holiday
when people gave apples and honey to one another. I had also prepared
some treats: a basket with apples was standing by the gate leading to our

In the middle of the night, a police officer in charge of our street
recommended that we all leave our houses. I had other plans.

I had just started reading short stories by Jack London and could not stop.
His protagonists prompted me to put a mattress under the bed and light a
candle in a plate with water.

Faraway explosions distracted my attention from the plot but one
particularly forceful blast forced me to appeal to God.

“God, if I survive, I will go to the steppe,” I said.

Pardoned, I was given some time for thinking: God had sent the Soviet
planes for a resupply of gasoline and bombs.

I deceived Him and continued to read Jack London, lying under the bed.
Soon the Soviet planes came back.

In the morning, I saw traces of that violent explosion in my garden. The
walls of the house had cracks all over. One of the splinters had bored
through the hamper of apples and stuck in the trunk of a pear tree.
                      WATERMELONS VS. PROJECTILES
In the September of 1943, German units were withdrawing westwards,
shooting back languidly but sometimes aggressively. Shells were whistling
over the steppes.

Opportunity knocked as I came out of corn thickets and saw a watermelon
field. The day before it had been German, but with their retreat, it
belonged to no one when I arrived.

I put a few watermelons in my sack, tied it to my bicycle and rode home.

As I left, five German soldiers came to the field. One minute later they
were enjoying juicy red pulp with black seeds. Then they disappeared into
the thickets.

Five minutes later, Soviet soldiers appeared in the field. They looked
exhausted and were thirsty. They put their rifles away and greedily dug
their teeth into the remaining watermelons.

I shouted to them there were the Germans ahead. One of them waved his hand
casually: “They will not go far.” I understood their meaning and I knew that
was exactly how the Germans had treated Soviet soldiers only two years
                                    A POST-WAR WAR
In 1945, the market in my village began changing. One could still buy
sauerkraut, milk and clothes there but there were also unknown sounds of
crutches and medals ringing on the blouses of these crippled war veterans.
This mutilated flesh seemed to annoy our market vendors.

That flesh yearned for comfortable hospital beds and dreamed of having
artificial limbs that would not rub their skin sore. Their stumps tortured
them both night and day.

The cripples would leave their houses and come to the market where they
drank vodka until they lapsed into oblivion and slept under the counters,
embracing stray dogs.

Those drunken cripples told stories full of shocking, brutal details. “We
were attacking. His mouth foamy and tongue aside, one guy wiped his muddy
rifle with a sleeve. Another guy had his legs torn off. He grabbed a rifle
with his fingers and cried, ‘Brothers, don’t leave me alone!'”

Two men put an epileptic next to a beer shop, waiting for his seizure to
end. When he regained consciousness, he asked for a mug of vodka. He said
he had developed epilepsy after an attack on German fortifications near

He saw barges turn upside down in the middle of the Dnipro River, with
people and their weapons slipping from the deck like sand.

Then a diver searched the bottom of the river. He reported seeing so many
dead bodies that they were standing instead of lying down and were moving
as if they were regiments headed toward Turkey.

These homeless cripples died earlier than other veterans. Some of them
mysteriously disappeared because they spoke too much. Others died of
other causes, some with lice so thick they could not be eliminated.
                             THE BRANDENBURG GATE
Some of the scars of war were all too real and others were more obscure. One
such case was Anatoly who publicly insulted his wife Maria with the phrase,
“The Brandenburg gate!” They  were both war veterans and got married when
they returned to our village on May 9, 1945.

At the end of the war when Berlin capitulated, Maria was in charge of a
transportation battalion near the Brandenburg Gate.

One day, a Jeep stopped nearby. A U.S. major put a box with a ribbon to
her feet, then saluted and left. Inside the box, Maria discovered a
beautiful pair of shoes.

She kept the shoes but eventually had to sell her beautiful Berlin gift in
the local market, because her jealous and possessive husband did not
believe that those shoes were a simple present. He thought they had been
payment for some kind of service.

Many post-war families were plagued by such noisy quarrels.
                               THE VIENNESE WALTZ
Uncle Petro and Uncle Semen at last returned from the front in 1946.

Petro could walk and played the accordion, his strong fingers pressing the
keys dexterously; he could have chosen any job on the kolkhoz.

However, Petro had no face but a petrified, grim mask. He had been a tank
mechanic during the Kursk battle and the battle had burned his nose, lips,
forehead, ears and cheeks.

Those ugly scars disfigured what had once been the most handsome young
man in the village. He also had no eyelashes, eyebrows and hair, and was
left with only his black eyes glistening on the crimson face.

He did not believe his wife could look at him without disgust. This
unbearable thought drove him to join the others drinking in the market every
day. Uncle Semen left his house and accompanied Petro. He too had his

Uncle Semen had been in the infantry and served in Romania, Hungary and
Czechoslovakia. A German bomb blew his legs off.

The legless Semen used a board to which he was fastened with belts and
touched the ground to move. He liked talking to his accordion, threatening
to give it away for vodka if it sounded out of tune.

He also loved playing the Viennese waltz for a woman in the market who we
all called an Austrian widow. Her husband was buried in Vienna. She could
not visit the grave. All she had were his two posthumous medals and that

My grandfather Kuzma came to the market to scold the widow for selling
too much vodka.
                                    THE TWO TRUTHS
My grandfather, who had taken part in World War I, was convinced there
were two truths about the war, one in trenches and one in the rear.

He was loyal to the Communist Party despite his occasional freethinking, and
he loved people, birds and animals. His kindness was so boundless that he
always recalled one episode from his war experience.

He said that Russian soldiers were sitting in trenches for three summer
months near the fortress of Khotyn in 1916. The young soldier Kuzma healed
a bird with broken wings. The bird got so used to its savior that it stayed
in the trench. It died on the parapet during a gas attack.

My grandfather’s kindness contrasted with Uncle Ivan’s uncompromising
cruelty. He returned from the front in a beautiful leather coat. Ivan was
always a family leader and he had been the political officer of his
battalion during the war, enrolling soldiers in the Communist Party.

During a family supper, Ivan explained how he, an apolitical peasant, had
become a political propagandist. As a junior lieutenant, he was invited to
join the party. Soon he was promoted and began to register “trench”

He once argued with an inspector of finance who came from the front with the
rank of lieutenant colonel. He wore many orders and medals on his jacket,
hiding his fat belly under it.

Ivan, who was by then a captain, attacked the inspector in the yard of his
house, threatening to exclude him from the party for bringing home with him
a German Opel auto as a trophy.

Ivan thought only generals could have such cars. The pot-bellied lieutenant
colonel replied there had been many trains laden with such German trophies
for generals and marshals.

My grandfather was running around, trying to reconcile the two men. He

told them they were disgracing their orders.

One week later, the Communist Party Committee reprimanded Uncle Ivan

for insulting the veteran.

It seems that grandfather might have been right: there are two truths, one
in the front and one in the rear.

Uncle Ivan fought with another soldier in the market once. As far as I
understood, Ivan had sent that soldier to a death battalion during the war,
accusing him of being a coward. The soldier tore Ivan’s shirt and explained
that it was not the only reason.

It turned out that Ivan had signed an order to send many soldiers to this
squad. They were doomed but a few survived.  Then I realized that Ivan’s
aggressive loyalty to Stalin helped him assuage that burdensome sin.
                          AN OLD LADY AND ITALIANS
I represent the generation of war children. I grew up listening to bomb
explosions. Stalin and Hitler’s atrocities devastated my soul. I was trying
to explain to myself why adults told more lies and committed harder sins
during the war. Some of my answers were found at our local market, that
forum of pathetic cripples.

My mother did not want me to mature at the market. She must have been right.
I no long desired children’s games when I was thirteen; my mind generated
only adult associations and thoughts.

A gloomy old lady lived in our village. She would stand on a road outside
the village every day, covering her forehead with a coarse palm.

We all knew her four sons had “courageously died” in 1943 on the steppes
between the Don and the Volga. She came back home every night but stood by
the road every morning, hoping to see a young soldier running to hug his

My painfully tenacious memory preserved another tragic scene. An Italian
division in blue jackets was marching to Stalingrad along the same road in
the summer of 1942. Some of them had field flowers in their hands. They
violated their regulations and left the formation to give the flowers to
young women.

Perhaps they later gunned down the sons of that Ukrainian lady.
                            ALL PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE
Negative emotions in our family calmed down when our last soldier, Uncle
Tymofiy, returned home. He was the first member in the family to go to that
war after graduation and the last to come back. His knowledge of German
proved useful and he interpreted for high army officers.

Now I know that Tymofiy healed my aching heart, for his stories were
different from those I had heard before.

One such story was that of Klavdia Shulzhenko’s songs that were flying over
the trenches for the whole day on the radio. The German presenter announced
that the Soviet singer had taken the side of the Wehrmacht. Then the
broadcasts had been interrupted.

Tymofiy asked a German prisoner why he thought the concert was stopped. His
answer was strange and unexpected. The German soldiers complained in their
letters home that her voice and lyrics made them homesick.

Tymofiy celebrated the victory that brought an end to the war in a small
town near Berlin. There he met municipal deputies and officers who tried to
surrender to him and another Russian lieutenant.  He told the Germans that
his rank did not allow him to accept such a surrender and promised to call
his staff.  They went to find a telephone and the disciplined Germans
followed them obediently.

My generation has been characterized by humaneness. In the 1970s, when
post-war children grew up, we composed a song “Do the Russians want
war?” This popular hit drowned out an earlier song hit that began, “If a war
starts tomorrow.”                                     -30-
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                “Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953”

BOOK REVIEW: By Seamus Martin, Irish Times
Ireland, Saturday, January 27, 2007

“Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953”
By Geoffrey Roberts
Yale University Press, 468pp. 34

History: On March 6th, 1953, Soviet radio broadcast a statement from the
Central Committee of the Communist Party. It began: “The heart of Stalin –
comrade and inspired follower of Lenin’s will, the wise leader and teacher
of the Communist Party and the Soviet people – has ceased to beat.”

By the time the broadcast had ended the streets of Moscow were thronged

with citizens expressing hysterical grief.

Even those to emerge in later life with strongly anti-Stalinist views were
moved to tears. One of them, in a letter written at the time, declared: “I
am under the influence of a great man’s death. I am thinking of his

The writer was Andrei Sakharov, later to become a Nobel Prize winner,

peace campaigner and indefatigable human rights activist.

Sakharov’s reaction was a dramatic example of the hold Stalin had over his
people despite having held them in terror and being responsible for the
deaths of a significant percentage of the USSR’s population.

The “cult of the personality” may have explained part of this phenomenon –
Stalin was praised in the media almost to the point of deification – but
there may have been a lot more to it than that.

In the second World War, Soviet soldiers went into battle with the words “Za
Rodinu, Za Stalina” on their lips. At the Tehran Conference in 1943 Winston
Churchill, in a nauseating act of sycophancy, presented Stalin with the
bejewelled Sword of Stalingrad “in token of the homage of the British

Churchill’s mastery of the English language is unquestioned, so his use of
the word “homage”, with all its connotations of the feudal relationship
between a vassal and his lord, indicated not a gesture of gratitude but one
of obeisance.
How did Stalin, therefore, hold so many people in his thrall? Roberts, like
many other historians, points out Stalin’s disastrous purge of the officer
corps immediately prior to the war as weakening the USSR’s ability to defend
itself against the Nazi attack in 1941.

Unlike many others, however, he maintains that Stalin learned quickly from
his mistakes and he produces a mass of evidence from Russian archives to
back this up.

There is a popular view of Stalin’s record in the second World War that
portrays him as a paranoid maniac who almost destroyed his country only to
be saved from defeat by the Russian winter.

The US ambassador in the Soviet Union for most of the war, Averell Harriman,
took a different view: “I’d like to emphasise my great admiration for
Stalin, the national leader in an emergency – one of those historical
occasions when one man made such a difference. This in no sense minimises my
revulsion against his cruelties; but I have to give you the constructive
side as well as the other.”

In short, the Soviet people regarded Stalin as the man who won the war. He
was their hero and, for a brief time in the West, he was “Uncle Joe” – a
friend and ally.

Despite all this, it is impossible to keep the memory of Stalin’s excesses
from coming to the forefront of one’s mind even when reading a book that
deliberately concentrates on what Harriman called the “constructive side”.
Why did Stalin behave in such a monstrous fashion?

The question crops up repeatedly when reading Stalin’s Wars. References to
Stalin’s character are frequent and enlightening. He was charming when he
wanted to be. At times he was a bully and at other times a man with a
disarming sense of humour. But was he paranoid? Paranoia has been frequently
put forward as a reason from his monstrous behaviour.

The Great Terror, for example, was directed at his comrades in the Communist
Party, and turning against those close to you can be a classic symptom of
The Russian anecdote of the three men talking in the Gulag about the reasons
for their imprisonment gives a flavour of a time when no view was a safe
one: “I am here because I supported Bukharin said the first. I am here
because I opposed Bukharin said the second. I am here, said the third,
because I am Bukharin.”

Roberts does not, however, subscribe to the paranoia theory. There may have
been, he writes, an element of paranoia in Stalin’s behaviour, but the key
to his motivations lay “in the realm of ideology”.

He was devoted to the class struggle and saw it as a “struggle waged between
states as well as within states”. His ability to learn quickly from his
mistakes, his capacity to absorb detail as well as to see the broad picture,
and his ruthless determination to achieve victory, brought success in the
first of Stalin’s “wars”.

The second of those conflicts, the Cold War, was won by the West, but that
victory occurred long after Stalin’s heart had ceased to beat.

His attitudes to his former allies during that period appear dominated by
his disappointment at their refusal, in his mind, to recognise the Soviet
Union’s right to the spoils of war.

Those who were his friends when they needed him became his enemies as soon
as the conflict ended, not least Churchill, whose lickspittle performance at
Tehran was obliterated by his “Iron Curtain” speech at Fulton, Missouri,
three years later.

A large number of Stalin’s foreign policy decisions in the last eight years
of his life are shown to be influenced by this sense of betrayal as well as
his absolute determination to achieve his own targets for the USSR.

Stalin’s Wars is a commendable and comprehensive work on neglected aspects
of Soviet history and is all the rarer for coming from a scholarly source in
Ireland.                                                  -30-
Seamus Martin is a former Moscow correspondent and international

editor of The Irish Times
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         Send in a letter-to-the-editor today. Let us hear from you.
                          PAST 100 YEARS OF UKRAINE

COMMENTARY: By Yuriy Glukhov
Ukrayinska Pravda On-line, Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday January 6, 2007

Of course, a modern Ukrainian is ready to tell more about important
political, economic or social events of the past five, ten or twenty years,
depending on his age.

When asked to ponder over and politically detachedly state 10 years which
were the most significant for Ukrainian people for the past 100 years, he
might comment on the following dates:

[1] 1914 – the beginning of World War I (1914-1918). Enormous human losses –
the Russian Empire lost 3 million people, 0.5-1 millions of Ukrainians among

Besides, World War I became the main cause of further social convulsions,
having turned into an ‘almighty producer of the Revolution’ (Lenin)

[2] 1917 – the beginning of state coups, revolutions, mass crime and the
civil war. This process ended in establishment of the communist regime on
1\6 of the Earth. The regime lasted for 70 years.

Because of the World War I and the victory of Communists on the larger part
of the Russian Empire, Ukraine was split. Its larger part became one of the
USSR republics while the Western territories joined two neighboring states.

[3] 1933 – the year of Holodomor. During this year Ukrainians suffered the
most human losses in the peaceful time. The Famine took lives of about 3-3.5
million people living in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialistic Republic.

The Famine in Ukraine, as well as in other USSR republics, was caused by the
flagitious policy carried out by the Communist Party. To finance
industrialization and fight opponents of collectivization peasants were
deprived of bread and other foodstuffs.

The Famine started already in 1932. The years of 1921-1923 and 1946-1947
were also characterized by problems with food supplies. However, human
losses during these periods cannot be compared with the year of 1933.

[4] 1941 – USSR entered into World War II. After the running fights Ukraine
was totally occupied by German Armed Forces. Unlike World War I, there

were considerable human losses among civilians.

Red Army lost about 10 million people; human losses among civilians were
almost the same. Taking into account that the population of Ukraine
constituted 20% of the entire population of USSR, human losses in Ukraine
reached 4 million people.

However, unlike Ukraine and Belarus only part of the Russian territory
witnessed war and invasion and the war did not touch Asia republics
directly. That’s why there were more than 4 millions of war victims in

[5] 1986 – Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster. It is really hard to calculate human
losses. Besides relatively low number of people who died during the disaster
and a couple of months after it, hundred thousands or even maybe millions of
Ukrainians were affected by enhanced radiation. People are still dying
because of Chernobyl disaster.

Chernobyl disaster crippled Ukrainian economy. Much money has been spent

for the security and protection of reactor, social and medical needs of the
victims. The government spends millions now and will do that in future.

[6] 1991 – the collapse of USSR and Independence of Ukraine. Mourning of
Communists and triumph of anticommunists, including Ukrainian nationalists.

Sudden worsening of living standards, cut of economic ties between former
USSR countries, galloping inflation, falling birth rates (demographic

[7] 1993 – final collapse of Ukrainian economy and impoverishment of people.
The prices increased a hundredfold – Ukrainians got salaries and pensions in
millions of ‘karbovantsy’. Thousands of enterprises went into bankruptcy.
Mass unemployment overwhelmed the society.

Chaos and disorder in the country. Ukrainians lost their savings in Sberbank
(Savings Bank) due to an insane inflation. Engineers, doctors and teachers
were reeducated into sellers and shutter traders.

[8] 1998 – financial crisis in Ukraine as a result of incorrect policy of
the National Bank of Ukraine and Finance Ministers. Living standards of
Ukrainian citizens have been improving while the official economy continued
its downfall.

It was accounted for the establishment of the shadow economy (about 50% of
the entire economy). The government and the National Bank reassured people
in the stability of hryvna, introduced in the country in fall 1996.

However, the rate of exchange was artificially maintained in proportion of
UAH 2/$1.

As a result, National Bank funds decreased by 70%, from $2.3 billion to $700
million. An uncontrolled rate of exchange reached UAH5.3-5.5/$1. The economy
in general suffered considerable losses. Importers profited from the low
rate of exchange before the crisis, while exporters did that after it.

[9] 2004 – the year of the Orange Revolution. During the last years of
Leonid Kuchma’s presidency and Yanukovych’s premiership (2003-2004)

the authority mixed to the ground with business and the criminal world.

Stealing of state property became incredible – for example a highly
profitable plant Kryvorizhstal was sold to Kuchma’s son-in-law for 20% of
its real price. Authorities and criminal business, covered up by high-ranked
officials, stole from the budget, evaded taxes, controlling most of mass
media in the country.

People’s patience snapped after election fraud in 2004. Ukrainians came into
the streets. Maidan Nezalezhnosti in Kyiv became the main bastion of the

As a result, people overcame the government with the slogans: ‘Criminals
must go to prisons’, ‘We are not jerks’, ‘A No-Go for Corruption’,
‘Democracy for Ukraine!’.

[10] 2006 – the year of betrayals, revenge of kuchmism, worsening of living
standards. Just after the Orange split in 2005, caused by corruption
scandal, Ukrainian government signed a shady gas agreement on January 4,
2006. The price of gas, supplied to Ukraine by the agency firm RosUkrEnergo,
almost doubled.

It caused advance in prices for power resources and utility tariffs for
population as a result of which inflation acceded expected rates and real
incomes of the citizens started to decrease in 2006.

Parliamentary elections 2006 could have resulted in formation of a
democratic coalition of Yulia Tymoshenko Block, Our Ukraine Block and
Socialist Party of Ukraine.

However, socialist leader Oleksandr Moroz suddenly took the side of Party of
Regions and Communist Party, blaming Our Ukraine of the dirty pool. An
Anti-crisis Coalition was formed.

President Yushchenko did not dare to dissolve the parliament and consented
to Yanukovych’s premiership. It was the comeback of an old team to power.
The new government carried out comb-outs, sacking their opponents and
‘orange officials’ in the structure of the executive power.

The economy acquired the same features it used to have in 2004: cutting of
social projects, budget preferences for the ‘insiders’, lobbying of Donetsk
business, blenching tax-dodging.

Of course, different people may give different judgments of the political,
economic and social events in the country for the past years. It is just one
of the possible viewpoints.

I am sure there will be different estimation of the next year in Ukraine.
Everything depends on the coming events and personal political affiliations
which might be strictly antipodal. Here are the possible variants: the year
of government’s mayhem and the year of stability, the year of the second
Maidan and the year of the 6th Universal (National Unity Pact).    -30-
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
                       Ukrainian town of Letichev from 1917 to 1921

Landus Rigsby, Claremont Courier
Claremont, California, Saturday, January 27, 2007

Even before the death of her father a few years ago, Marcia Woodward
found herself wanting to learn more about her family history.

Within the last two years, she has visited Ellis Island as well as searched
many documents and family photos in order to bring to light a story that she
could share with others that involved her grandparents, her father and a
journey from eastern Europe to the United States.

Last Thursday marked the very first time that Ms. Woodward shared her
findings with an audience, as a group of seniors listened to her story of a
Jewish Ukrainian family’s escape from death to new life.

“I’ve never talked about this before,” Ms. Woodward said to the group
gathered for Claremont Adult School’s “Russia and the World” class in the
Annex Room of the Joslyn Senior Center.

“Just in the last year and a half I’ve been doing all the research. Ellis
Island is a goldmine. A lot of people don’t’ realize that they can even see
their ancestor’s name on a ship’s manifest. That blew my mind.”

The story, dating back to the early 1900s following World War I, documents
the challenges that Ms. Woodward’s family faced when fleeing Ukraine to
America during a time when Jews in the area were victims of pogroms, a
form of riot directed against a particular group that is characterized by
destruction of their means of livelihood, religious centers and even people

For 20 minutes, Ms. Woodward presented a cultural background on the type
of society that existed in the Ukrainian town of Letichev from 1917 to 1921,
that was also the time of the Ukrainian Civil War.

Also included was the role that her grandmother played in guiding the family
to a successful escape of the region and how discrimination and communism
each played a part in the account of the family’s migration.

The bulk of the presentation was a cassette tape of her 93-year-old father,
Bernard Ruchlin, being interviewed by another family member and telling the
story of his experience of his migration when he was a teenager. During the
interview, when he was asked what it was like growing up in Russia, Mr.
Ruchlin replied:

“It was horrible.Because your life wasn’t worth two cents. They had what
they called pogroms, instigated by the government itself. Do you know what
the word ‘pogrom’ means? They come and rob you and rape you and do
everything they want and run away and there’s nobody to punish them.
Nobody cared.”

While her family was able to record a nearly one-hour interview with her
father before he died, Ms. Woodward commented on the opportunities that
she had years before when she would ask her father to tell her about the
earlier years.

“Every time I would ask him to tell me stories, I didn’t have a tape
recorder there, Ms. Woodward said. “He was a fabulous storyteller and
loved to tell stories. I got him to open up a little bit but never had a
tape recorder with me.  Finally I got a hold of a tape recorder and he said

‘nah, I don’t want to talk about it.'”

Long after the presentation ended, many of the seniors stayed to look at the
pictures that Ms. Woodward had brought along and also discussed their own
family backgrounds as well. These types of events are the norm for Ann
Copple’s “Russia and the World” class as the teacher schedules at least two
speakers for each 10-week session the class is offered.

“I thought it was great,” said Ms. Copple. “I felt it gave me the flavor-the
feeling that you were almost there.”

Virginia Delman has been in Ms. Copple’s class for 4 years and has enjoyed
the progression from the introduction of the Russian culture to the more
hands-on learning that she gets when people share their personal and family

“It really put you in that place,” Ms. Delman explained. “Marcia [Woodward]
did a great job preparing [for this].”

When asked if she plans to do more presentations in the future, Ms. Woodward
pointed out that she hopes that more opportunities to share her story will
come her way.

“I would love to if anybody wanted me to,” Ms. Woodward said. “I don’t
want to see all that history forgotten and it’s kind of a tribute to my
father when I tell this to people. I admired him a lot. His life was really
amazing.”                                                -30-

[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
                                   1-3 October 2007, Paris, France

CALL FOR PAPERS: Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Wash, D.C., Jan 2007

WASHINGTON – On October 1-3, 2007, the Mrial de la Shoah, Paris,

the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Center for Advanced
Holocaust Studies, Yahad-In Unum, and the Centre d’Histoire de l’Europe
Centrale of the  University of Paris IV-Sorbonne will hold an international
scholarly conference on The Holocaust in Ukraine: New Resources and
Perspectives .
This conference will take place in France at the Mrial de la Shoah and the
University of Paris IV-Sorbonne.

This joint conference will highlight new resources and cutting-edge research
and documentation on the Holocaust in Ukraine. Sessions will be dedicated to
new historical research and analysis on all aspects of the Holocaust in
Ukraine, including perpetration, collaboration, and local reaction;
documentation, physical evidence, and testimony; the fate of Jews and other
victim groups-including their history, responses, resistance; and historical
memory and representation. Conference languages will be English and French.

Applicants interested in presenting a paper should be currently researching
or completing a project related to the above or to other themes shedding new
light on an under-studied aspect of the Holocaust in Ukraine. Successful
candidates will be required to submit a copy of their presentation six weeks
in advance of the conference, for circulation among all conference

For applicants whose papers are accepted, the conference organizers will
fund conference related travel and lodging expenses. In addition, five
stipends of $1,000 each to facilitate conference attendance by Ukrainian
nationals who are graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, or junior

faculty members (who have received their doctorates within the last seven
years) will also be awarded.
Primary consideration will be given to Ukrainian nationals who
     (1) have or are developing the prerequisite skills to conduct
          research and teach about World War II, Nazism, and the
          Holocaust, especially as it relates to the Holocaust in Ukraine;
     (2) are seeking to identify a dissertation topic related to the
          Holocaust in Ukraine; and
     (3) are in departments that do not regularly defray conference
          participation costs.

If you would like to propose a paper for this conference, kindly send a
cover letter, your curriculum vitae, a one-page abstract of your proposed
paper, and a 10-20 page writing sample or recent publication on this topic
to: Dr. Suzanne Brown-Fleming, Senior Program Officer, Center for

Advanced Holocaust Studies, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum,
100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2126.
For queries, contact or (202) 314-7802.
Application materials may also be emailed to
or faxed to the attention of Dr. Brown-Fleming at 202-479-9726.
The deadline for receipt of proposals is 15 March 2007. Participants will
be selected and notified no later than 30 March 2007.

Applications for the special attendance stipends for Ukrainian scholars
should also be directed to Dr. Brown-Fleming at the same address as above.
The deadline for applications and notification date are the same as for
panel paper proposals.                               -30-

[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
   Artist from Ukraine restores Chicago church, an architectural monument

By Olena SHAPIRO, special for The Day
The Day Weekly Digest #3, Kyiv, Ukraine, Tue, Jan 30, 2007

The well-known painter Yurii Skorupsky, who holds the title of “Hands of
Gold Master” in Ukraine, was invited to restore Holy Trinity Cathedral, the
pearl of American sacred architecture.

The Orthodox Holy Trinity Cathedral, located in Chicago, Illinois, is
considered an architectural monument of the 19th century. Its architect,
Louis Sullivan, who was commissioned to design a church for Russian
immigrants, was one of the most famous and sought-after specialists in the

The interior of the church was crafted by early 20th-century masters, who
decorated the walls with frescos, stained glass, and images in the style of
ancient Rus’ icon paintings. After a century of existence the church’s
exterior and interior needed restoration.

In 2003 Holy Trinity Cathedral prepared to observe its centennial. Looking
for a master who could take on such a task, Dean Emeritus Sergei Garklavs
was guided by Skorupsky’s high professional artistic training and his
knowledge of sacred art – old Slavic traditions, religious canons, ancient
iconographic techniques, and the traditions of ornamentation and

Also crucially important was the artist’s religiosity and his knowledge of
the history of the Old and New Testaments, and the acts of Jesus Christ and
His disciples.

The Ukrainian painter Yurii Skorupsky fully satisfied all these
requirements. A graduate of three art schools of higher learning, he is an
honorary member of the National Artists’ Union, director of the Rava-Ruska
Museum, and an organizer of many art exhibits.

After founding the Artists Society in Ukraine, Yurii realized his artistic
abilities in the US, where he moved in the early 1990s.

His talent has been the subject of articles in such respected publications
as Southwest Art Magazine and American Art Review.

The synthesis of talents in applied and decorative arts helped him find
clients and admirers quickly. As the American art critic Simon Green has
written, Skorupsky’s gift lies in his rare poetic ability “to praise beauty
so that the soul cries.”

Skorupsky’s mastery has been officially acknowledged by the American art
world: his name is included in the American encyclopedic reference work
devoted to famous professions as well as the National Register’s Who’s Who
in Executives and Professionals. He was elected to the prestigious Chicago
Art Coalition, and he is an honorary member of the Oil Painters of America.

Ukraine, the land that gave him inspiration for his creative work, continues
to nurture his talent genetically. His professional connection with his
homeland has lasted for many years in the form of active cooperation:
exhibits and a book about his work are planned, and his paintings are on
display in the Rava-Ruska Museum, Lviv Art Museum, and numerous private

Over the years Skorupsky has amassed his own collection of approximately
500 paintings, including both contemporary artists and classics of Ukrainian
art of the late 19th century.

When the painter received the commission from Holy Trinity Cathedral, he
began the difficult work of restoring the frescos in icon cases and some
church decorations, including the icons and wooden carved objects used
during liturgies.

Working on the icons, Skorupsky thoroughly learned the works of his
predecessors, which have embellished the church’s interior for a century,
and became engrossed in the history of the Russian icon painting school.

At the church’s request he painted two icons of famous biblical stories
(“Christ in Gethsemane” and “Resurrection of Jairus’s Daughters”) using a
method of mixed oil and acrylic on linden wood. Today these two icons,
blessed with holy water, hang in the part of the church, to which only
clergymen have access.

Besides icons, the master worked on frescos in icon cases, featuring saints
and plant ornamentation in traditional blue, green, and red colors in the
spaces between the arches.

The centerpiece of the composition, which unites the space between the icon
cases depicting saints, patriarchs, and martyrs, is an image of various
Christian symbols: a bowl with holy water, tablets with God’s Commandments,
and the Holy Spirit in the form of a white dove.

A skilled woodcarver, who was awarded a gold medal and the title “Hands of
Gold Master” for his professional skills, Skorupsky fashioned a large carved
wooden altar for the church’s interior. It is made of whole linden boards
coated with gold and lacquer.

The carved ornamentation is based on Christian symbols: crosses and
rhombuses, lined with decorative plant ornamentation. Since ancient times
the rhombus, an inverted square with four angles, has been a sacred model of
the world, symbolizing the unity of the four elements – fire, water, earth,
and air, as well as the four cardinal points.

A cross inscribed inside the rhombus means Christ’s torments and the victory
of the spiritual foundation of the material world. The corners of the carved
altar feature elements of plant ornamentation, which resemble the sign of
the world order – the World Tree, which emerged in the pre-Christian era.

Thanks to the painstaking work of the artist, who coped brilliantly with his
task of restoring the frescos, icons, and the interior decoration of the
church, Holy Trinity Cathedral celebrated its jubilee in all its splendor.

[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
           Ukraine’s Irina Krasnyanskaya, who is the 2006 world balance
                       beam champion, will compete tonight in Frisco.

By Heide Pederson, Star-Telegram Staff Writer
Fort Worth, Texas, Saturday, February 3, 2007

PLANO — Oksana Omelianchik stood apart among other champion
gymnasts. Omelianchik earned a share of the 1985 world all-around title
while competing for the Soviet Union.

She is remembered by fans, however, for her dazzling smile and
expressiveness, which helped turn her floor routines into works of art.
Few gymnasts before or since have been able to match her in that respect.
Omelianchik, 37, lives in her native Ukraine, where she is helping continue
the country’s tradition of producing top gymnasts. She works at the
University of Physical Culture in Kiev, where she trains future coaches.

She also choreographs balance beam and floor exercise routines for some
national team members and is an international brevet judge.

Omelianchik has accompanied some of the Ukrainian stars to Texas this week.
She will be a judge at the elite session of the 2007 WOGA Classic tonight in

Ukraine’s Irina Krasnyanskaya, the 2006 world balance beam champion, and
Alina Kozich, a 2004 Olympic floor exercise finalist, are among the
competitors in the event.

“When I was a gymnast, I knew the fans liked my performances. It was my
individuality, my personality,” Omelianchik said. “Now I think few fans
remember me, because since my generation, many great gymnasts have been
in the arena.”

Krasnyanskaya and Kozich are helping Ukraine carry on its tradition of
standout gymnasts. The two are known for their artistry, which is often
lacking in today’s gymnasts.

Inna Korobchinskaya, who coaches Krasnyanskaya, said the country’s
coaches focus on artistry.

“We work on the ballet barre a lot, and do ballet on the beam, too,” she
said. “If a gymnast is injured, we have them work on style. We take a lot of
time for stretching, and for kicks, jumps and leaps. The great gymnasts of
the past have set the standard.”

Korobchinskaya said artistry needs to be a bigger factor in results.

“I feel that the Code of Points allows it, but the judges don’t do this
enough,” she said. “If a gymnast is doing sloppy jumps and doesn’t get
any deductions for that, that’s a judge’s problem.”
                                         IN THE KNOW:
WOGA Classic, 6 tonight, Frisco Conference Center
What: Top female gymnasts from the U.S., Ukraine, Russia, Australia,
Canada, Japan and Belgium competing for $10,000 in prize money.
[return to index] Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

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