Legal classification of Holodomor 1932-1933 in Ukraine and in Kuban as a crime against humanity and genocide
This opinion is intended to demonstrate that Holodomor 1932-1933 in Ukraine and Kuban has elements of a crime against humanity in accordance with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court [hereafter RC ICC) from 17 July 1998, and of genocide according to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (hereafter the Convention), adopted on 9 December 1948.
According to Article 7 § 1 of the RC ICC «crime against humanity» means «any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack:
(d) Deportation or forcible transfer of population;
(e) Imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law;
(g) Rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other
form of sexual violence of comparable gravity;
(h) Persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender as defined in paragraph 3, or other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law, in connection with any act referred to in this paragraph or any crime within the jurisdiction of the Court;
(i) Enforced disappearance of persons;
(j) The crime of apartheid;
(k) Other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.»
According Article 7 § 2 of the RC ICC
« For the purpose of paragraph 1:
(b) "Extermination" includes the intentional infliction of conditions of life, inter alia the deprivation of access to food and medicine, calculated to bring about the destruction of part of a population;»
The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (hereafter the Convention) was adopted by Resolution 260 (III) A of the U.N. General Assembly on 9 December 1948 and entered into force on 12 January 1951. It was ratified by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on 18 March, 1954.
According to Article 6 of the RC ICC and Article II of the Convention genocide means:
«any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. »
According to the Article III of the Convention the following acts shall be punishable:
(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
(d) Attempt to commit genocide;
(e) Complicity in genocide.
Summary of the historical facts
For a correct assessment of Holodomor 1932-1933 we need to consider the historical events in Ukraine and Kuban and determine whether the policy of the Soviet regime was deliberate, whether it included an ethnic factor, and whether it was aimed at creating a mass-scale artificial famine resulting in the death of millions of people. The results of numerous studies of the Famine of 1932-1933 by Ukrainian, Russian and other foreign scholars can be summed up as follows.
After the completion of total collectivization, a system was introduced under which the kolkhoz had first to settle with the State according to a quota issued from above (“The first commandment” in Joseph Stalin’s words), and only later divide what remained among the workers for their labour. However the quotas imposed were unrealistic and as a result the kolkhozes were unable to compensate people for their labour. This created a huge shortage of grain in the countryside. The kolkhoz workers could only count on what they could gather on their garden plots – potatoes, vegetables, etc, and went unwillingly to the kolkhoz with no certainty that they would be paid. The grain shortage was created by Stalin’s policy of “geeing up” (“podkhlyostyvanye” - Stalin’s term): the initial quota which was already unattainable was unexpectedly increased to mobilize people to achieve the first quota. That led to an even greater shortage of grain and in the long run to famine.
When people talk of the famine of 1932-1933, three different periods of hunger need to be differentiated. Each of them, in addition to common features, had their own specific causes, characteristics and consequences which varied in their scale. The famine in the first half of 1932 was caused by non-fulfilment of the grain requisition quota from the 1931 harvest and the Kremlin policy with regard to rural areas due to their not meeting the quotas. That famine was stopped by the return from ports of a part of the grain intended for export, as well as purchase of grain from abroad. In the third quarter of 1932, the famine occurred again as the result of non-fulfilment of the requisition quotas from the harvest of 1932. It must be stressed that the nature of the famine in Ukraine up till November 1932 was the same as in other agricultural regions of the USSR. Starvation during the famine of the first and second periods should be considered as a crime against humanity.
Famine during the third period was caused by the confiscation of grain and any food products which was carried out only in the rural areas of Ukraine and in Kuban. This confiscation in November – December 1932 was partial, but became total in January 1933. Moreover, due to measures organized by the Party and Soviet leadership of the USSR and Ukrainian SSR people were prohibited from leaving in search of food or receiving it from outside. Left without any food, the peasants died of starvation. From February 1933 this developed on a mass scale and from February to August in Ukraine millions died of starvation in Ukraine, and hundreds of thousands in Kuban. According to demographic statistics the direct losses to Ukraine from famine of 1932-1933 were according to some data 3-3.8 million, while other figures suggest 4-4.8 million. Wide-scale famine was combined with political repression against the intelligentsia and national communists in 1933, as well as the stopping of the policy of Ukrainization. Death from starvation during the famine of the third period and from political repression should be viewed as a crime against humanity and as the crime of genocide.
To establish that crimes against humanity and of genocide were committed in Ukraine and Kuban, one needs to consider the events of 1930-1933 in total. A brief description of the historical facts is provided in Appendix.
Death from starvation during the period from January to October 1932
- a crime against humanity
A determining factor in classifying Holodomor 1932-1933 as a crime against humanity is proving conscious acts aimed at “the intentional infliction of conditions of life, inter alia the deprivation of access to food and medicine, calculated to bring about the destruction of part of a population” (Article 7 § 2.b of the RS ICC)
As mentioned in items 1 and 2 , the grain requisition quota for 1930 was already excessive, however the Soviet leadership increased it still further from 440 to 490 poods, and the 1930 quota was fulfilled already in spring 1931, taking away all grain reserves. It did not prove possible to meet the increased quota, although 127 million poods of grain were collected, this being 127 million poods more than in 1929. The grain requisition quota for 1931 issued from the Kremlin according to Stalin’s policy of “geeing up” once again significantly exceeded Ukraine’s capacity, being 510 million poods. At the end of the year the quota had been 79% met (Item 3). To fulfil the “first commandment” – first meet the quota and only then settle with people for their labour – in January 1932, on Molotov’s instructions, grain began being taken away, this leading to famine in the first half of 1932. As a result of the grain being taken away, tens of thousands of peasants in Ukraine died of starvation during this period (Items 4, 5 and 6). It was only at the end of April 1932 that the State became providing food aid to the starving (Item 7).
The “first commandment” and “geeing up” showed that the Soviet leadership had a purely functional attitude to the villages, seeing them as merely a source of grain supplies for accelerating industrialization. Furthermore the food produced on the kolkhozes was considered to be just as much State property as the products from sovkhozes. Yet sovkhoz employees received wages, while those who worked on kolkhozes were supposed to receive produce for their labour. Since all the grain had been handed over to the State to meet the quota and almost nothing remained, the kolkhoz workers were simply working for nothing. Kosior reports that half the kolkhozes did not pay anything at all for people’s labour in 1931.
H. Petrovsky and V. Chubar in their letters to Stalin and Molotov at the beginning of June wrote of famine in the villages resulting from the impossibility of meeting an unrealistic quota and the need to increase food aid. The response was an irritated reaction from Stalin and the cessation of food imports into Ukraine (Items 7-9). Despite the request from the Ukrainian Party organization to reduce the grain requisition quota for 1932 and the presentation at the III All-Ukrainian Party Conference on 6-7 July of graphic accounts of cases of starvation and criticism of policy in the villages, Molotov and Kaganovich forced the conference to adopt the unrealistic quota from the Kremlin (Item10).
In justifying the need for additional food aid, both Chubar and Petrovsky in their letters wrote of possible theft of grain from the new harvest. Chubar warned: “So as to be better stocked up for the winter then last year, wide-scale grain thefts will begin. What is being seen at present – digging up planted potatoes, beetroot, onion, etc – will take on much greater proportions during the period when the winter crops ripen since the food stocks from the resources provided will not last beyond 1 July”. Petrovsky wrote about the same thing: “Assistance needs to be provided also because the peasants will be driven through starvation to pick unripe grain and a lot of it will be wasted”.. Stalin and Kaganovich responded by stopping food aid and initiating the draconian “5 ears of corn law” – the Resolution “On the protection of property of State enterprises, kolkhozes and cooperatives, and the consolidation of socialist property”. For theft of kolkhoz and cooperative property this envisaged the death penalty with the confiscation of all property, with the possibility of commuting this to a term of imprisonment of no less than 10 years where there were mitigating circumstances (Item 11).
One can conclude that Stalin’s policy in the villages meant the deliberate deprivation of access by kolkhoz workers and independent farmers to the grain they had grown unless they had fulfilled the grain requisition quota with this leading to a part of the population dying of starving. This part of the population was eliminated through the conscious policy of the Soviet State. The death of a part of the population thus took place as a result of their knowingly being deprived of access to food products, this constituting a crime against humanity. The State policy of grain requisitions applied to all rural regions of the USSR, therefore this conclusion covers all those who died of starvation on the territory of the Soviet Union during that period.