- What does the Holodomor show us about the relationship between Russia (the former Soviet Union) and Ukraine?
The starvation of millions of Ukrainians at the hands of Russia in 1932, known as the Holodomor, reveals that Russia considered Ukraine a threat and chose a path of genocide to wield their control. According to the film created by the Holodomor Museum, Ukraine was considered a prosperous state of the USSR based on their fertile lands. As a way to control the economy and spread their communism ideology, Russia took the land away from the Ukrainians and set up collective farms. Ukrainian farmers protested and Russia responded by establishing unrealistic production quotas on farmers – The Law of Five Years of Grain – and ultimately starved the Ukrainians. Essentially, Russia felt threatened by private farmers who they believed would prevent totalitarian authority.
- What do these events reveal about using food and deprivation as weapons to destroy a population?
Russia starved the Ukrainians to exert their total control over the Ukraine. Starved, the Ukrainian could not fight back to regain control of their farms and were at the mercy of Russia and their communist control. Russia used starvation as a means to achieve economic control of grain production and political control since many Ukrainians fled, and Russia could exert political control. Starvation was also a means to destroy the will of the Ukrainian people. As indicated on one of the films, Russia attempted to “reject the humanity” of the Ukrainian people by withholding the necessity of food.
- How do you think these events factor into the legacy of the Russian role in Ukraine today, 90 years after the fact?
The events of 90 years ago still have an impact on the relationship between Russia and Ukraine today because it reflects the power struggle that continues to exist. In addition, to being rich in mineral resources, Ukraine is the second largest country in Europe after Russia. This poses a threat to Russia, which remains one of the last standing communist countries in Eastern Europe. As a free market and democratic country, politically the Ukraine represents the opposite of a state-run totalitarian government like Russia. In an effort to ensure that Ukraine remains neutral and does not align with the European Union or NATO, Russia has once again asserted its military power by invading Ukraine and attempting to weaken and ultimately destroy its infrastructure and culture.
- And what are you left wondering about with respect to Russia and Ukraine in 2022 and beyond?
In 2022, it appears that history may be repeating itself. Under the leadership of Putin, Russian troops have destroyed much of the infrastructure of the Ukraine. This includes using landmines to damage soil and crops. Russia has also taken control of Ukraine’s ports which is where needed supplies are provided. Putin, like Stalin before him, is trying to weaponize mass hunger. Russian troops have also destroyed many of Ukraine’s cultural institutions as a way to destroy Ukraine’s cultural heritage. This is not unlike the genocide of 1932, which seeks for the “annihilation of people for who they are.”
Luckily, the atrocities in the Ukraine are published minute-by-minute for the world to see. This has prompted the world to respond with humanitarian assistance. People see the images of destroyed buildings, dying people, and massive emigration. The global community cannot silence journalists and photographers like Gareth Johnson, Alexander Weinerberger, James Abbe, Whiting Williams, and Mykola Boku were silenced. In addition, the rules established by the Geneva Convention may allow Putin to be tried for war crimes.