In 1933 a terrible famine raged in the Ukraine, killing 3-7 million (good estimates are impossible). Although drought and poor planning contributed, the Holodomor was largely engineered by Stalin. The details are very messy so here’s a gross simplification.
Stalin made optimistic food yield projections. They didn’t happen, so he increased forced collections for ares not reaching quotas. The peasants did not own the food they grew so saving food was counter-revolutionary (thousands were shot without trial). Quotas were reduced and some food aid was sent, but still millions starved. Photos/accounts paint hell on earth: corpses everywhere, cannibalism, skeletal children etc. Some of the confiscated grain was sold for export during the famine.
Millions died throughout the USSR from agricultural idiocy/cruelty. But this one seems more deliberate: more food aid was withheld than from other regions. Plus Stalin then purged the Ukrainian Communist Party, so this can be interpreted as the subjugation of a republic that was too assertive (as Stalin’s aide Litvinov said, food is a weapon). An alternate view is that Stalin was simply following his brutal totalitarian agenda. The third crackpot (Russian nationalist) view is denial.
There’s even been controversy about names: whether this fits the definition of genocide. In April 2008, Ukraine and 12 more countries (I’m proud to say Australia was one) declared it genocide. The UK, Russia and some others disagreed, saying Stalin was brutal to everyone and didn’t target the Ukrainians specifically. A great example of the bureaucracy and hubris of international relations. To recognise the severity of mass murder, we need to know about Stalin’s state of mind!
During the Holdomor, Stalin blocked journalist access to the Ukraine. A few did see. One of the lone voices was Gareth Jones who correctly judged the famine’s enormity. BUT he was contradicted by Walter Duranty (picture above), a pro-Stalin journalist living in the USSR. Duranty was published in the New York Times denying the famine (although evidence shows he knew). He lied, surely preventing much potential aid — and won a Pulitzer for his coverage of the USSR in the 30s. It has NOT been revoked yet. Many western leftists were Stalin dupes/apologists, denying or talking down the famine (including George Bernard Shaw). Alas this happens all the time with intellectuals.
When I posted about cognitive dissonance I said that during the Holodomor, the press and die-hard communists denied what their own eyes saw. The most graphic story is told by Gareth Jones himself (and the Flying Spaghetti Monster help us all…)
In the train a Communist denied to me that there was a famine. I flung a crust of bread which I had been eating from my own supply into a spittoon. A peasant fellow-passenger fished it out and ravenously ate it. I threw an orange peel into the spittoon and the peasant again grabbed it and devoured it. The Communist subsided.