An Analysis of the Main Causes of the Holodomor
The 1932-33 Ukrainian Famine has always been a very controversial topic in
Ukrainian history. Scholars generally blame Stalin and his rural collectivization
policy. The lack of agricultural machinery, ineffective organization and the
awkward relations between the village officials and local peasants all contributed
to the famine. By using both Ukrainian and Western documents, this paper is
devoted to the analyzing of the main causes of the famine.
The Great Famine in Ukraine was an extremely tragic event in Ukrainian history. Although
almost eighty years have passed, historians still have not reached a consensus of the major causes
of the famine. Regardless of the unfavourable climatic condition, some scholars argue that the
famine was a man-made genocide against the ethnic Ukrainians, while others insist on saying that
the famine was not Stalin‟s original intention. This paper will examine the main causes of the
famine with a focus on the collectivization policy in Ukraine.
Before examining its causes, it is necessary to put the famine into historical context. The
Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic was established in 1919, and included territories east to the
Dnieper River. Soon after that, in order to consolidate the Soviet rule, War Communism
prevailed in all regions of the USSR, including Ukraine. Ukrainian peasants were forced to supply
the Red Army with grains and other agricultural products, in order to support the army against
the Whites in the Civil War. All the so-called “capitalist elements” of the economy, such as the
market, private enterprises and currency, were abolished. These radical policies, together with the
Civil War, left the Ukrainian economy, which was already devastated by the First World War, in
ruins. Grain production fell to 25 percent of the pre-war level. The direct result was the 1921
Soviet famine, and it forced the Soviet leaders to adopt the New Economic Policy (NEP). The
NEP slightly lessened the hardship of the village by replacing the solid food requisition with a
tax. Then, when the domestic situation of the USSR was relatively stabilized in the late 1920s,
Joseph Stalin introduced nation-wide industrialization and collectivization. Among others,
Ukraine was a primary target for industrialization, and Stalin demanded 20 percent of the
investment go to Ukraine. The steel plant in Zaporizhzhya, Azov and the hydroelectric power
station on Dnieper River were among the twelve giant enterprises built in Ukraine.
Collectivization, on the other hand, was to be fulfilled by the establishment of the kolhosps, or
collective farms. These farms were to collectivize all the individual farms, including all the lands,
tools and grain surpluses, in order to improve efficiency and offset the lack of livestock.
1 David Marples, “The Revolution from Above.” Ukraine in the 20th Century. Edmonton: University of Alberta.
September 28, 2011.
2 David Marples,...