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Red famine : Stalin's war on Ukraine / Anne Applebaum.

By: Applebaum, Anne, 1964-.
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookPublisher: London, England : Penguin Books, 2018Copyright date: ©2017Description: xxviii, 481 pages, 24 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, map, portraits ; 20 cm.Content type: text | still image | cartographic image Media type: unmediated Carrier type: volumeISBN: 9780141978284 (paperback).Subject(s): Stalin, Joseph, 1878-1953 | Collectivization of agriculture -- Ukraine -- History | Famines -- Ukraine -- History -- 20th century | Genocide -- Ukraine -- History -- 20th century | Ukraine -- History | Soviet Union -- History -- 1925-1953 | Ukraine -- History -- Famine, 1932-1933DDC classification: 947.70842 Summary: In 1932-33, nearly four million Ukrainians died of starvation, having been deliberately deprived of food. Red Famine shows how this happened, who was responsible, and what the consequences were. The book draws on a mass of archival material and first-hand testimony. It includes accounts by survivors describing what human beings can do when driven mad by hunger. It shows how the Soviet state used propaganda to turn neighbours against each other in order to expunge supposedly 'anti-revolutionary' elements. It also records the actions of extraordinary individuals who did all they could to relieve the suffering. The famine was rapidly followed by an attack on Ukraine's cultural and political leadership - and then by a denial that it had ever happened. The Soviet authorities were determined not only that Ukraine should abandon its national aspirations, but that the country's true history should be buried along with its millions of victims. Red Famine, a triumph of scholarship and human sympathy, is a milestone in the recovery of those memories and that history.
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

In 1932-33, nearly four million Ukrainians died of starvation, having been deliberately deprived of food. Red Famine shows how this happened, who was responsible, and what the consequences were. The book draws on a mass of archival material and first-hand testimony. It includes accounts by survivors describing what human beings can do when driven mad by hunger. It shows how the Soviet state used propaganda to turn neighbours against each other in order to expunge supposedly 'anti-revolutionary' elements. It also records the actions of extraordinary individuals who did all they could to relieve the suffering.

The famine was rapidly followed by an attack on Ukraine's cultural and political leadership - and then by a denial that it had ever happened. The Soviet authorities were determined not only that Ukraine should abandon its national aspirations, but that the country's true history should be buried along with its millions of victims. Red Famine , a triumph of scholarship and human sympathy, is a milestone in the recovery of those memories and that history.

First published by Allen Lane 2017.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

In 1932-33, nearly four million Ukrainians died of starvation, having been deliberately deprived of food. Red Famine shows how this happened, who was responsible, and what the consequences were. The book draws on a mass of archival material and first-hand testimony. It includes accounts by survivors describing what human beings can do when driven mad by hunger. It shows how the Soviet state used propaganda to turn neighbours against each other in order to expunge supposedly 'anti-revolutionary' elements. It also records the actions of extraordinary individuals who did all they could to relieve the suffering. The famine was rapidly followed by an attack on Ukraine's cultural and political leadership - and then by a denial that it had ever happened. The Soviet authorities were determined not only that Ukraine should abandon its national aspirations, but that the country's true history should be buried along with its millions of victims. Red Famine, a triumph of scholarship and human sympathy, is a milestone in the recovery of those memories and that history.

Excerpt provided by Syndetics

In the years 1932 and 1933, a catastrophic famine swept across the Soviet Union. It began in the chaos of collectivization, when millions of peasants were forced off their land and made to join state farms. It was then exacerbated, in the autumn of 1932, when the Soviet Politburo, the elite leadership of the Soviet Communist Party, took a series of decisions that deepened the famine in the Ukrainian countryside. Despite the shortages, the state demanded not just grain, but all available food. At the height of the crisis, organized teams of policemen and local Party activists, motivated by hunger, fear, and a decade of hateful propaganda, entered peasant households and took everything edible: potatoes, beets, squash, beans, peas, and farm animals. At the same time, a cordon was drawn around the Ukrainian republic to prevent escape. The result was a catastrophe: At least 5 million people perished of hunger all across the Soviet Union. Among them were nearly 4 million Ukrainians who died not because of neglect or crop failure, but because they had been deliberately deprived of food.   'I HAVE EATEN MY CHILDREN' The starvation of a human body, once it begins, always follows the same course. In the first phase, the body consumes its stores of glucose. Feelings of extreme hunger set in, along with constant thoughts of food. In the second phase, the body begins to consume its own fats and the organism weakens drastically. In the third phase, the body devours its own proteins, cannibalising tissues and muscles. Eventually, the skin becomes thin, the eyes become distended, the legs and belly swollen as extreme imbalances lead the body to retain water. Small amounts of effort lead to exhaustion. Some searched for metaphors to describe what had happened. Tetiana Pavlychka remembered that her sister Tamara "had a large, swollen stomach, and her neck was long and thin like a bird's neck. People didn't look like people -- they were more like starving ghosts." Another survivor remembered that his mother "looked like a glass jar, filled with clear spring water. All her body that could be seen . . . was see-through and filled with water, like a plastic bag." A third remembered his brother lying down, "alive but completely swollen, his body shining as if it were made of glass". We felt "giddy", another recalled: "Everything was as if in a fog. There was a horrible pain in our legs, as if someone were pulling the tendons out of them." Yet another could not rid himself of the memory of a child sitting, rocking its body "back and forth, back and forth", reciting one endless "song" in a half voice: "Eat, eat, eat". An emaciated person can die very quickly, and many did. Volodymyr Slipchenko's sister worked in a school where she witnessed children dying during lessons -- "a child is sitting at a school desk, then collapses, falls down" -- or while playing in the grass outside. Many people died while walking, trying to flee. Another survivor remembered that the roads leading to Donbas were lined with corpses: "Dead villagers lay on the roads, along the road and paths. There were more bodies than people to move them." Those deprived of food were also liable to die suddenly in the act of eating, if they managed to get hold of something to eat. In the spring of 1933, Hryhorii Simia remembered that a terrible stench arose from wheatfields close to the road: hungry people had crawled into the grain stalks to cut off ears of wheat, eaten them and then died: their empty stomachs could no longer digest anything. The same thing happened in the queues for bread that formed in larger towns. "There were cases when a person bought bread, ate it and died on the spot, being too exhausted with hunger." One survivor was tormented by the memory of finding some beets, which he brought to his grandmother. She ate two of them raw and cooked the rest. Within hours she was dead, as her body could not cope with digestion. For those who remained alive, the physical symptoms were often just the beginning. The psychological changes could be equally dramatic. Some spoke later of a "psychosis of hunger", of personalities altered by famine. A woman sent her own mother out of her house and told her to go and live with another relative. "You've lived with us for two weeks," she told her, "live with him and do not be a burden to my children." Another told a neighbour that her youngest daughter was dying, and so she had not given the little girl any bread. "I need to try to support myself, the children will die anyway." A five-year-old boy whose father had died stole into an uncle's house to find something to eat. Furious, the uncle's family locked him in a cellar where he died as well. Faced with terrible choices, many made decisions of a kind they would not previously have been able to imagine. A couple put their children in a deep hole and left them there, in order not to have to watch them die. Neighbours heard the children screaming, and they were rescued and survived. For many, the rules of ordinary morality no longer made sense. Theft from neighbours, cousins, the collective farm, workplaces became widespread. Among those who suffered, stealing was widely condoned. Neighbours stole chickens from other neighbours, and then defended themselves however they could. People locked their homes from the outside in the daytime and from the inside at night, one anonymous letter-writer complained to the Dnipropetrovsk province committee: "There is no guarantee that someone won't break in, take your last food and kill you, too. Where to seek help? The militia men are hungry and scared." Anybody who worked in a state institution -- a collective farm, a school, an office -- also stole whatever he could. People shoved grain into their shoes before walking out of public buildings. They dug secret holes into wooden work implements and hid grain inside them. People stole horses, cows, sheep and pigs. In a single district of Dnipropetrovsk province, 30 horses were stolen from collective farms in April and May 1933; in another district, thieves stole 50 cows. In some places, peasants were reportedly keeping their cows, if they had them, inside their houses at night. This transformation of honest people into thieves was only the beginning. As the weeks passed, the famine drove people crazy, provoking irrational anger and more extraordinary acts of aggression. "People became so angry and wild, it was scary to go outside," recalled one survivor. A boy at the time, he remembered that a neighbour's son teased other children with a loaf of bread and jam that his family had procured. The other children began throwing stones at him, eventually beating him to death. Adults were no better equipped to cope with the rage brought on by hunger: one survivor remembered that a neighbour became so angered by the sounds of his own children crying for food that he smothered his baby in its cradle and killed two of his other children by slamming their heads Vigilantism became widespread. Armed guards would shoot gleaners on sight, and anyone who tried to steal from a warehouse met with the same fate. As the famine worsened, ordinary people also took vengeance on those who stole. Oleksii Lytvynskyi remembered seeing a collective farm boss pick up a boy who had stolen bread and slam his head against a tree -- a murder for which he was never held responsible. Hanna Tsivka knew of a woman who killed her niece for stealing a loaf of bread. Mykola Basha's older brother was caught looking for spoilt potatoes in the kitchen garden of a neighbour, who then grabbed him and put him in a cellar filled with waist-high water. The horror, the exhaustion and the anger eventually produced, in the Ukrainian countryside, a very rare form of madness: by the late spring and summer cannibalism was widespread. Larysa Venzhyk, from Kyiv province, remembered that at first there were just rumours, stories "that children disappear somewhere, that degenerate parents eat their children. It turned out not to be rumours but horrible truth." On her street two girls, the daughters of neighbours, disappeared. Their brother Misha, aged six, ran away from home. He roamed the village, begging and stealing. When asked why he had left home he said he was afraid: "Father will cut me up." The police searched the house, found the evidence and arrested the parents. As for their remaining son, "Misha was left to his fate." Police also arrested a man in Mariia Davydenko's village in Sumy province. After his wife died, he had gone mad from hunger and eaten first his daughter and then his son. A neighbour noticed that the father was less swollen from hunger than others and asked him why. "I have eaten my children," he replied, "and if you talk too much, I will eat you." Backing away, shouting that he was a monster, the neighbour went to the police, who arrested and sentenced the father. In Vinnytsia province, survivors also recalled the fate of Iaryna, who had butchered her own child. She told the story herself: "Something happened to me. I put the child in a small basin, and he asked, 'What are you going to do, Mummy?' I replied, 'Nothing, nothing.'" But a neighbour who was standing guard over his potatoes outside her window somehow saw what was happening and reported her to the village council. Ukrainian authorities knew about many of the incidents: police reports contained great detail, even though the Ukrainian secret police boss warned his subordinates against putting too much information about the famine into writing: "Provide information on the food problems solely to the first secretaries of the party provincial committees and only orally . . . This is to ensure that written notes on the subject do not circulate among the officials where they might cause rumours." Nevertheless, the secret police, the ordinary criminal police and other local officials did keep records, not least because they were concerned that stories of cannibalism could spread and have a political impact. In Dnipropetrovsk province the secret police reported the story of a collective farm member, Ivan Dudnyk, who killed his son with an axe. "The family is big, it is difficult to stay alive, so I murdered him," the killer declared. But the police report noted, with approval, that the collective farm members met and adopted a group decision to hold a public trial and "give Dudnyk capital punishment". Similarly, when a 14-year-old boy murdered his sister for food in the village of Novo-Oleksandrivka the police reported with satisfaction that the incident had sparked no "unhealthy chatter". All the neighbours believed the boy to be mentally ill, and only feared that he would be returned to the village. In Dnipropetrovsk province a woman who murdered her daughter for food was, the police noted, the wife of a man who had been arrested for refusing to give up his grain. Given that the woman showed signs of being a "social danger", the police recommended execution. Throughout the spring of 1933 the numbers of such cases grew. In May, the province around Kyiv was receiving 10 or more reports of cannibalism every day. In that same month Vinnytsia province reported six incidents of "cannibalism caused by famine, in which parents killed their children and used their flesh for food". But these may have been serious underestimates. One policeman listed 69 cases of cannibalism between January 9 and March 12, but explained: "These numbers are, obviously, not exact, because in reality there are many more such incidents." Stories of cannibalism were known to the Ukrainian leadership, and to the Moscow leadership too. A Ukrainian Communist Party central committee working group responsible for the spring sowing campaign in 1933 reported back to the party that its work was especially difficult in regions with "cannibalism" and "homeless children". But if Kharkiv, then the Ukrainian capital, or Moscow provided instructions on how to deal with cannibalism, or reflected more deeply on its causes, they haven't been uncovered. There is no evidence any action was taken. The reports were made, the officials received them, and they were filed away and forgotten. Excerpted from Red Famine by Anne Applebaum All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

For decades, the extreme famine in 1930s Ukraine was portrayed as no worse than what resulted in Russia from Joseph Stalin's policy of agricultural collectivization. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Applebaum (Gulag: A History) places Ukraine in pre- and postrevolution historical context to show why Stalin was intent on destroying all vestiges of independent Ukrainian nationality. Government and closed police archives prove that Ukrainian peasants were especially targeted for starvation as requisitions of grain demanded by Moscow far outstripped supply. At the same time, educators, cultural, and religious leaders were murdered. The exact number of those who died as a result of famine and purges during this time will never be known, but a strong case is made that proportionally, Ukraine was devastated more than other areas of the Soviet Union. Oral histories and memoirs of victims suppressed under the Soviet regime show the human impact of starvation. This insightful book illustrates an area of eastern Europe fraught to this day with religious, nationalist, and urban vs. rural conflict yet still coveted for its fertile farmland. VERDICT This book will appeal to readers interested in Ukrainian history, Soviet policies, and the current Ukrainian-Russian conflict. [See Prepub Alert, 4/24/17.]-Laurie Unger Skinner, Coll. of Lake Cty., Waukegan, IL © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Review

In this monograph, which is sure to be controversial, Applebaum (Iron Curtain), a professor of practice at the London School of Economics who lives in Poland, argues that Stalin's 1929 plan for agricultural collectivization was more sinister than socialist and that he sought to systematically rid the burgeoning Soviet Union of Ukrainian peasants. Her eyebrow-raising thesis is that Stalin ruthlessly used famine as a weapon to kill off Ukrainian peasants, intending to replace them with more compliant Russians to secure both a bread basket and a military front. Applebaum attempts to show how collectivization resulted in genocide and outlines Stalin's prolonged death plan for Ukraine, beginning with the Ukrainian peasant uprising of 1919 and including both its bureaucratic underpinnings and horrifying consequences. Reframing the history of this sad period in terms of hatred and nationalism, Applebaum states that in 1932, amid drought and crop failure, "the Kremlin could have offered food aid to Ukraine," but Stalin instead stepped up the famine campaign. It is an inflammatory accusation based on circumstantial evidence, and even Applebaum admits that "no written instructions governing the behavior of activists have ever been found." The Nazis also had a "Hunger Plan" for Ukraine, which according to her was Stalin's "multiplied many times," but they never implemented it. Applebaum's revisionist historiography may serve her concluding claims against Vladimir Putin's aggressions today, but it doesn't stand up to deep scrutiny. Maps & illus. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Pulitzer Prize-winning Applebaum's (Iron Curtain, 2012) richly researched account of the Ukrainian famine of 1932-33 pulls no punches, either in its harrowing descriptions of starvation or its assertive analysis of the cynical Stalinist political calculus that caused it. Although there were food shortages in many parts of the USSR then, the situation in Ukraine, traditionally the breadbasket of Eastern Europe, was made particularly dire by Soviet policy decisions designed to squeeze value from the region and punish it for past disloyalty. Collectivization of farms forced peasants to give up their land, depriving them of sustenance, while the authorities confiscated all available grain for the military, Soviet officials, and political loyalists. As the population began to starve, Stalin's secret police purged the region of intellectuals and Ukrainian nationalists, and fomented violence that turned the poorest peasants against their slightly wealthier neighbors. The result, captured in survivors' accounts and further revealed in recently opened archives, was hell on earth: scoured landscapes, distended bodies and destroyed minds, corpses in the street, and horrific choices. Applebaum deftly parses decades of politicized reportage and deliberate obfuscation to show how seemingly distinct aspects of Stalinism were deployed to suppress an independent Ukraine. Applebaum adds important context and compelling insights to WWII history and more recent regional conflicts. Highly recommended.--Driscoll, Brendan Copyright 2017 Booklist

Kirkus Book Review

A new history of Stalin's oppressive regime, which led to the death by starvation of nearly 4 million Ukrainians between 1931 and 1934.Drawing on considerable published scholarship and new archival sources, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Applebaum (Practice/London School of Economics; Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956, 2012, etc.) offers a chilling, dramatic, and well-documented chronicle of a devastating famine. She argues persuasively that the lack of food resulted from a conflation of political, rather than natural, causes: enforced collectivization, confiscation of food, harsh blacklists imposed on farms and villages, trade restrictions, and a "vicious propaganda campaign designed to persuade Ukrainians to watch, unmoved, as their neighbours died of hunger." Ukraine was especially vulnerable to oppression: "disdain for the very idea of a Ukrainian state had been an integral part of Bolshevik thinking even before the revolution" of 1917; all Russian political parties, Applebaum writes, "shared this contempt" and feared any signs of a Ukrainian national movement. Famine was a scourge in the 1920s, as well; after the outbreak of World War I, a nationalized food distribution system created chaos and shortages. That situation worsened under Stalin's policy known as "War Communism": "take control of grain, at gunpoint, and then redistribute it to soldiers, factory workers, party members and others deemed essential' by the state." Food was exported, as well, to fund purchases of arms and machinery. Collectivization, which required farmers to give up their land to the Communist state, "destroyed the ethical structure of the countryside as well as the economic order." When farmers resisted handing over their land and property, collectivization brigades "resorted to outright intimidation and torture." When farmers refused to hand over grain, they were punished like political dissidents. Stalin's draconian policies included the elimination of Ukraine's scholars, writers, and political leaders and the "systematic destruction of Ukrainian culture and memory." Famine was another form of repression. In her detailed, well-rendered narrative, Applebaum provides a "crucial backstory" for understanding current relations between Russia and Ukraine. An authoritative history of national strife from a highly knowledgeable guide. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.