Genocide by famine – Ukraine, North Caucasus

source:; United Human Rights Council

A Le Temps journalist took this photo in Buguruslan in 1921, 11 years before the so-called Holdomor took place in 1932. The famine had been going on for longer than the Russian officials admitted. No foreign journalists were allowed in and the government took no responsibility for it, and so the truth was put together through bits and pieces collected in time.

File:Children affected by famine in Berdyansk, Ukraine - 1922.jpg

Children in Berdyansk, Ukraine – 1922


Gareth Jones – “Everywhere was the cry “There is no bread. We are dying. This cry came from every part of Russia, Volga, Siberia, North Caucasus, Central Asia. I tramped through the black earth region because that was once the richest farmland in Russia and because the correspondents have been forbidden to go there to see for themselves to see what was happening.” (source)

Russia never prosecuted any of its mass murderers, as Germany did.

We know all about the crimes of Nazis Adolf Eichmann and Heinrich Himmler; about Babi Yar and Auschwitz.

But who remembers Soviet mass murderers Dzerzhinsky, Kaganovitch, Yagoda, Yezhov and Beria? Were it not for writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn, we might never know of Soviet death camps like Magadan, Kolyma and Vorkuta. Movie after movie appears about Nazi evil, while the evil of the Soviet era vanishes from view or dissolves into nostalgia.

The souls of Stalin’s millions of victims still cry out for justice.

Read the rest here The forgotten Holocaust

Famine Russia Ukraine North Caucasus genocide 5

English journalist Malcolm Muggeridge who went on a secret (and risky) trip to Ukraine and the Northern Caucasus in 1933:

“The novelty of this particular famine, what made it so diabolical, is that it was the deliberate creation of a bureaucratic mind, without any consideration whatsoever of the consequences in human suffering”

Writer Arthur Koestler described what he saw from his train:

“Starving children who looked like embryos out of alcohol bottles … the stations were lined with begging peasants with swollen hands and feet, the women holding up to the carriage windows horrible infants with enormous wobbling heads, stick-like limbs and swollen, pointed bellies.”

Vasily Grossman:

“Their heads [were] like heavy balls on thin little necks, like storks, and one could see each bone of their arms and legs protruding from beneath the skin, how bones joined, and the entire skeleton was stretched over with skin that was like yellow gauze.

“And the children’s faces were aged, tormented, just as if they were 70 years old. And by spring they no longer had faces at all. Instead, they had birdlike heads with beaks, or frog heads – thin, wide lips – and some of them resembled fish, mouths open. Not human faces.”

Ukraine and the North Caucasus have some of the most fertile soils in Europe. Yet an (induced) famine killed millions of people in the 1930’s, in an attempt to bring under control rebellious people of Ukraine who had refused the new Soviet system. Though North Caucasians were not particularly reticent, they were indiscriminately affected.

soil fertility map europe ukraine north caucasus

Map below showcases mollisols (in dark green) which are an indicator of high soil fertility. Full world map here

Between 1918 and 1933, the Bolshevik regime embarked on a systemic plan to exterminate the peasant population of the Northern Caucasus and Ukraine. This was a deliberate tactic meant to collect wealth and “exterminate” farmers who refused to follow the mass collectivization program imposed by the Soviet regime.

North Caucasus lost a quarter of its population and Ukraine lost an estimate 5 million people. Ukraine called it “the Holodomor” (which means death by starvation). The great famine also affected Lower Volga, Kazakhstan and Siberia.

In 1918, in a ploy to increase the state’s wealth, the Bolsheviks prohibited ownership of private property and empowered the Secret Police (Cheka) to oversee the operation. Selected villages were blacklisted and surrounded by armed militia. A quota was imposed on the villagers and crops and livestock were confiscated in order to fulfill this quota. The peasants were unable to meet the targets and so they starved to death. The actions of the Bolsheviks would dramatically alter the socio-economic structure in Kazakhstan, the Northern Caucasus and Ukraine.

Map of the famine

In Northern Caucasus the death toll exceeded 1 million. The areas effected were the Republic of Adygea, Krasnodar Krai, the Republic of Karachay–Cherkessia, Stavropol Krai, Kabardino-Balkaria, the Republic of North Ossetia, the Republic of Ingushetia, the Republic of Chechnya and the Republic of Dagestan.

Stalin continued to impose radical reforms under his 5 year plan and entire populations  starved to death under his collectivization policy.

Famine Russia Ukraine North Caucasus genocide

Excerpts from an 1933 article written by Malcolm Muggeridge after his Caucasus/ Ukraine trip – read the full article click here Soviet and the peasantry

“How are things with you?” I asked one man. He looked round anxiously to see that, no soldiers were about. “We have nothing, absolutely nothing. They have taken everything away,” he said and hurried on. This was what I heard again and again and again. “We have nothing. They have taken everything away.” The famine is an organised one. Some of the food that has been taken away from them—and the peasants know this quite well – is still being exported to foreign countries.

Soviet party secretary for the North Caucacus said in a speech delivered at Rostov:

“But, you may urge, is it not true that we have deported Kulaks (name given to independent farmers) and counter-revolutionary elements before? We did deport them, and in sufficiently large numbers. But at the present moment, when what remains of the kulaks are trying to organise sabotage, every slacker must be deported. That is true justice. You may say that before, we exiled individual kulaks, and that now it concerns whole stanitzas (villages) and whole collective farms. If these are enemies they must be treated as kulaks …The general line of our party is to fight dishonesty by means of the extreme penalty, because this is the only defense we have against the destruction of our Socialist economy,”

Stalin’s Ukrainian famine – the Holodomor

 As millions died, and others moved in search  of food, armed guards sealed off the border  with Russia, where there was food. As millions  died, the USSR exported grain. According to Dr  Taras Hunczak of Rutgers University, 28  million tons were exported during 1932 and  1933 – four tons of grain per each man, woman and child who starved. There was no physical reason that they should have died. It was a deliberate policy.

Read full story

April 1933 – Letters from Ukraine on the famine

“Oh, Mr. Ambassador! We cannot express in a letter all our misery; we are being forced to cannibalism by our Workers’ Government of Desperates; save us!” 

*Cases of cannibalism had been reported in Ukraine;  (extremely disturbing) photos exist as clear evidence.

 Documentary below starts with a detailed description of the famine and its causes


Malcolm Muggeridge 1983 interview about his secret trip to Ukraine and North Caucasus:

“I’ll tell you another thing that’s more difficult to convey, but it impressed me enormously. It was on a Sunday in Kiev, and I went into the church there for the Orthodox mass. I could understand very little of it, but there was some spirit in it that I have never come across before or after. Human beings at the end of their tether were saying to God: “We come to You, we’re in trouble, nobody but You can help us.”

Their faces were quite radiant because of this tremendous sense they had. As no man would help them, no government, there was nowhere that they could turn. And they turned to their Creator. Wherever I went it was the same thing.”

Famine Russia Ukraine North Caucasus genocide 2

Famine Russia Ukraine North Caucasus genocide 1

Famine Russia Ukraine North Caucasus genocide 7

Holodomor memorial

Holodomor memorial



Between 1939-1945, Stalin carried out massive deportations to central Asia and Siberia: Estonians, Lithuanians, Latvians, Finns, Romanians, Ukrainians, Poles, Germans, Crimean Tatars, Balkars, Karachays and the entire population of Chechnya and Ingushetia – numbering a total of 7-8 million people according to official Soviet estimates (although the numbers could be higher).

Stalin Deportations Siberia central Asia

Almost half (30 to 50 percent) of the Chechen and Ingush population perished due to the harsh travel conditions, as well as the starvation and cold they encountered in central Asia and Siberia. Similar fate was encountered by the rest of the deported nationalities.


Chechens Remember Horror Of 1944 Deportations

source: Radio Free Europe


Seventy years have passed, but memories of February 23, 1944 are still raw for Mukhazhar Dzhabrailova.

The elderly Chechen woman vividly recalls her mother’s alarm after spotting a column of army trucks from a hill overlooking Zandak, their small mountain village in what was then the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic.

“My mother stopped, sat down by the roadside, and burst into tears,” says Dzhabrailova, who was 13 at the time. “I asked her why she was crying. She said these trucks had come for our people and would take us far away tomorrow.”

When Soviet troops came knocking at their door in the middle of the night and ordered them to pack their bags, Dzhabrailova realized with horror that her mother had been right.

That night and the day that followed, there were knocks on all the doors in her village and throughout the republic as local residents were systematically rounded up on the orders of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

The entire Chechen and Ingush peoples, about half-a-million strong, were being deported to Central Asia as punishment for what Moscow called their collaboration with Nazi Germany — a move widely seen as retaliation for their resistance to Soviet rule.

Operation Chechevitsa, or Operation Lentil, had begun.

Herded Onto Cattle Trains

Many who were old or sick, babies, and others deemed too weak to travel were slaughtered. So were those caught leaving their homes.

That night, amid the panic and confusion that gripped her village, Dzhabrailova says four of her relatives were killed.

Her aunt was shot dead by soldiers as she fetched water from a stream.

Her two teenage cousins and her uncle were also gunned down outside her house after dropping by to return earrings borrowed from her mother.

“My cousins were both buried there, they were simply put in the ground and covered with earth,” says Dzhabrailova. “There’s still a small mound in that place today. Their father rushed to the scene; he was also shot and buried right there. That’s how all three of them were killed.”

Dzhabrailova and her surviving family members were herded onto cattle trains and shipped off to the barren steppes of Kazakhstan. A small number ended up in Kyrgyzstan and Siberia.


From Stalingrad battlefield to deportee trains


Even the roughly 40,000 Chechen and Ingush soldiers fighting against Hitler’s troops on the battlefield were not spared.

Salman Dudayev was in the trenches of Stalingrad when he was told he was being exiled on charges of helping the invading Nazi army.

The young Chechen, who had run away from home to join the Red Army at the age of just 13, was crushed.

The news, Dudayev recalls, also came as a shock for his commander – an ethnic Ukrainian named Mykola Kotov:

“There were tears in his eyes,” Dudayev says. “He came up to me, wrapped an arm around me and said: ‘Son, I wasn’t able to tell you this for several days but I have to. Chechens are born warriors, they fight well. I’m truly sorry but I cannot disobey orders.”

Harrowing Journey

Dudayev was immediately demobilized and put on a cattle train bound for the eastern Kazakh city of Leninogorsk, close to the border with China.

He survived the harrowing 27-day journey and the famine that killed tens of thousands of deportees in the months that followed, which Chechens refer to as “Aardakh” — the Exodus.

After a fruitless, six-month search for his relatives in Kazakhstan, Dudayev resolved to brave the travel ban on Chechens — punishable by 25 years in prison — and made his way to Kyrgyzstan, where he was able to find his family.

The Dzhabrailovs, too, were able to reunite after being sent to Kazakhstan on separate trains.

The deportation, however, took a devastating toll on their family.

Dzhabrailova’s brother was run over by a train on February 23, 1944 as he helped his mother and siblings board their carriage.

When the family stepped off the train in Kazakhstan four weeks later, Dzhabrailova says they were on the verge of starvation.

“There was no water, no food,” she says. “We had long ago eaten what we had taken with us. When the train stopped, my mother would gather snow in a jug. She would then give us the melted snow to drink.”

Within months of their arrival in Kazakhstan, Dzhabrailova’s whole family died of hunger – first her father, followed by her two remaining brothers, her mother, and her two sisters.

Deportees - parents burring their only daughter, killed by the harsh conditions

Deportees – parents burring their only daughter, killed by the harsh conditions

Painting displayed at the Nazran memorial to victims of political oppression in Ingushetia

Painting displayed at the Nazran memorial to victims of political oppression in Ingushetia

Like the Dzhabrailovs, between 30 and 50 per cent of Chechens and Ingush are estimated to have succumbed to cold, hunger, and Soviet bullets during the deportation and the ensuing year.


Back home

Survivors were permitted to return to their homeland as late as 1956, three years after Stalin’s death. The Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, which had been wiped off the map, was restored.

But Chechens barely recognized their homeland.

Other people had moved into their houses and taken their land. Soviet authorities had shut down hundreds of mosques and burned ancient manuscripts in Chechen and Ingush. Gravestones had been pulled out, and in the mountains, centuries-old towers had been razed.

Many, heartbroken, returned to Kazakhstan. A second wave of Chechens fled to Central Asia when the first Chechen war broke out in 1994.

Both Dzhabrailova and Dudayev stayed in Chechnya.

They have not forgotten the deportation, even though Chechnya’s Kremlin-backed leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, had cancelled all commemorative events on February 23.

To this day, Dzhabrailova still weeps when she recalls her father’s dying wish that she honor his memory by returning to Chechnya, checking on the family’s horses and beehives, and baking corn bread for his people.

“When we got back home, there were, of course, neither beehives nor horses,” she says. “It had all been taken away. I baked the bread and handed it out in memory of my father. But it was not corn bread; it was made from simple wheat flour. I wasn’t able to fulfill my father’s wish. This thought torments me every single day.”


Written by Claire Bigg in Prague based on reporting by Akhmad Sultanov and Lecha Yelkhoyev in Chechnya. RFERL North Caucasus Service correspondent Lyoma Chabaev contributed to this story
Nazran memorial to victims of Stalin political oppression (Ingushetia)

Nazran memorial to victims of Stalin political oppression (Ingushetia)