FEBRUARY 24TH, 2017
In response to Michael O’Sullivan’s review of Bitter Harvest
San Francisco, CA (UACC) – Though O’Sullivan is well within his rights to dislike the movie and its directorial style, he is not allowed to irresponsibly and falsely claim that the Holodomor was not a policy of systemic genocide. Indeed, in his review, he alludes that the famine is ‘alleged’ and not proven to be have been intentionally executed by Stalin,
“Whether the Holodomor resulted from a policy of systemic genocide, as is the official position of Ukraine and many other governments, or was a terrible situation that nevertheless fails to meet the definition of deliberate mass murder, as others have characterized it, is a matter for U.N. diplomats and historians to argue about.”
O’Sullivan treads into David Irving’s Holocaust denial territory with these words. Never mind the evidence to the contrary and the fact that over 24 countries and noted Soviet, Russian and Eastern European historians have proven it to be true.
For instance, Yaroslav Bilinsky, Professor Emeritus of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Delaware, shows in the Journal of Genocide Research (1999) in a review of Holodomor literature stated: Stalin hated the Ukrainians, as accepted as a fact by Sakharov, revealed in the telegram to Zatonsky and inferred from his polemics with the Yugoslav communist Semich. Stalin decided to collectivize Soviet agriculture and under the cover of collectivization teach the Ukrainians a bloody lesson.
Professor Steven Rosefielde argues in his 2009 book Red Holocaust that “Grain supplies were sufficient enough to sustain everyone if properly distributed. People died mostly from terror-starvation (excess grain exports, seizure of edibles from the starving, state refusal to provide emergency relief, bans on outmigration, and forced deportation to food-deficit locales), not poor harvests and routine administrative bungling.”
Genocide scholar Adam Jones stresses that many of the actions of the Soviet leadership during 1931–32 should be considered genocidal. Not only did the famine kill millions, it took place against “a backdrop of persecution, mass execution, and incarceration clearly aimed at undermining Ukrainians as a national group”.
In 2006, the Security Service of Ukraine declassified more than 5,000 pages of Holodomor archives. These documents suggest that the Soviet regime singled out Ukraine by not giving it the same humanitarian aid given to regions outside it.
However, denying the existence of the famine was the Soviet state’s position and reflected in both Soviet propaganda and the work of some Western journalists and intellectuals including George Bernard Shaw, Walter Duranty, who won a Pulitzer Prize on his false report on the Holodomor, and Louis Fischer. In the Soviet Union, authorities all but banned discussion of the famine, and Ukrainian historian Stanislav Kulchytsky stated the Soviet government ordered him to falsify his findings and depict the famine as an unavoidable natural disaster, to absolve the Communist Party and uphold the legacy of Stalin. The denial of the man-made famine was a highly successful and well-orchestrated disinformation campaign by the Soviet government. According to Robert Conquest, it was the first major instance of Soviet authorities adopting the Big Lie propaganda technique to sway world opinion, to be followed by similar campaigns over the Moscow Trials and denial of the Gulag labor camp system.
The misinformation, deliberate and otherwise, about what happened in Ukraine is shameful, and this review only reinforces that shame. The Ukrainians who starved to death were not “said” to be killed. They were deliberately starved to death on Stalin’s orders. The survivors of the Holodomor have provided eye-witness accounts of what occurred during the Famine, of soldiers digging up every root vegetable out of the ground and hauling away the harvest, leaving people to die in their villages or on the streets of Kiev, where they went to try to find food.
Whatever O’Sullivan’s opinion of the film and its acting and cinematography, the review is absolutely unacceptable and a dangerous misrepresentation of facts for a paper that believes in truth. Indeed, the indisputable truth is that the Holodomor was a man-made famine that killed an estimated 7-10 million Ukrainians. During the Holodomor millions of inhabitants of Ukraine, the majority of whom were ethnic Ukrainians. Since 2006, the Holodomor has been recognized by Ukraine and 24 other countries as a genocide of the Ukrainian people carried out by the Soviet government.
Whether O’Sullivan is simply a Holodomor denier or a pro-Putin propagandist, O’Sullivan’s film review, which should have simply been a review on the quality of the film, has become a falsifier of history. In a world where genuine information has to compete with “fake news”, a respected newspaper like the Washington Post needs to hold itself to higher standards. This irresponsible review will only fuel the flames for more Holodomor deniers, and will spread misinformation one of the least known tragedies of the 20th century. If it is no longer acceptable to encourage and support Holocaust deniers and their ‘historians’, nor should it be acceptable to further spread the lies of Holodomor deniers.
on behalf of the Ukrainian American Coordinating Council
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