A continuation of summarizing the Ivan Yarmosh post from PolitNavigator.
We left off yesterday, about 4 photos down. This photo shows the settlement (пгт – Посёлок городского типа) of Chubarovka, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, 1932. Year 4 of the 5-Year Plan. The peasants were forced to “loan” grain to the government 8 times.
In his novel “Vir” (in Russian: Vodovorot), Ukrainian writer Grigor Tiutiunnik wrote about these grain — in essence — requisitions. The dramatic conflict is depicted as a struggle between those (kulaks) who care only for themselves; and those (activists) who care about the survival of Soviet society as a whole. Oksen Gamalia, Chairperson of the Peasant Cooperative, accuses a fellow peasant of selfishness: “You want your own barn to be full of grain, and you want to have 4 pairs of boots; but I want ALL OF US to have a developed metallurgical industry. Because if the capitalist countries attack us, we won’t be able to defend ourselves with your boots and your meat pies.”
Tiutiunnik, as a Soviet writer, depicts the kulaks, such as the characters Tadik Shamray and his father, as the bad guys. Whereas the ideologists of contemporary Ukraine have turned things around, so that the kulaks are now the “good guys”. They are the industrious ones, the fledging capitalists.
Tiutiunnik had it more right, though. The local peasants themselves referred to the kulaks as “cannibals” and “spiders”. People who exploited and lived off of, the labor of others.
In fact, it was the kulaks who carried out one of the main crimes of the era: the massive slaughter of cattle. They decided they would rather slaughter the herds, than take the animals with them into the collective farms. The collectivization process itself was highly flawed and unprofessional. Kulaks responded with theft and sabotage. Mother Nature herself frowned on the enterprise, with poor weather conditions and a bad harvest. Everything combined together to create a perfect storm – and FAMINE.
The next photo down shows a group of “kolkhozniki” crowding into a courtroom, Vinnitskaya Oblast, 1931, where former members of the village soviet are on trial for massive screw-ups during the collectivization campaign.
Followed by a photo of a “Work Inspector” questioning a kulak.
Ordinary People in the West also Suffered
During these same years that many Soviet villages were suffering from hunger, Western nations such as the U.S., France and Great Britain, were attempting to smother the Soviet Union via trade embargos and sanctions. Even of such vital imports as gold, other minerals. and lumber.
The West itself was stuck in the Great Depression, which began in the year 1929. The next 3 photos down show scenes of American life and poverty during the Great Depression.
At this point, the government of the Soviet Union was faced with a stark choice: They either had to give up the idea of industrialization and capitulate to the West; OR continue the industrialization program by exporting the one product that was not under embargo: Grain.
Stalin had placed all his hopes on the next harvest. Mother Nature did not cooperate: Hopes were dashed. Drought was the main culprit. The Soviets needed to import grain instead of export it. They might have tried to purchase foreign grain for gold – but gold was under embargo, so that was not a possibility. The Soviet government did not possess a reserve of foreign currency. A belated attempt was made to import emergency grain from Persia. But it was too little, too late. Famine struck hard. These were the “hard times” years of 1932-1933. What the contemporary Ukrainian government, along with Western ideologists, call the “Holodomor”.
The kulaks, ideological opponents of Soviet power, saw their chance to help bring down the government. They egged on the famine, by destroying grain. Stanislav Kosior, Head of the Ukrainian Communist Party, wrote to Stalin: “We have information that very many kolkhozniks and individual farmers, under the influence of panic, have hoarded their grain, and at the same time are going hungry. More than 50 such cases are known to us, just in Dnipropetrovk Oblast alone….”
Next photo down shows an armed Komsomol member guarding a seed-storage barn.
The Soviet government responded to these threats with a very harsh decree….
[to be continued]