Soviet Premier Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev was born on March 2, 1931, in Privolnoe, a farming village in southern Russia of the North Caucasus. For generations his family worked the fields of his ancestors. Young Mikhail barely survived the Holodomor famine conditions of arson, riots and open rebellion against Soviet confiscation and extermination of the peasants. His grandfather Andrei Gorbachev is sent to a gulag charged with hiding forty pounds of grain for his family, a very serious offense. It’s a miracle he isn’t shot. His father Sergei is an operator of tractors and combines made from American factories with American technology.
Only much later did Mikhail Gorbachev comprehend that Stalin’s man-made famine inflicted “an estimated 14.5 million deaths from hunger and famine.” Soviet Premier Gorbachev is not unaffected by the repression of his family; he carried the family scars with him later describing his grandfather as a “middle peasant” in the class of peasants who own a small amount of land they farmed.
Only long after the Khrushchev era and once he becomes General Secretary of the Party, Gorbachev speaks to “a commemorative session on the seventieth anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution, with a lingering sense of grievance at the ‘injustice’ and ‘excesses’ committed against the middle peasants in the thirties.” According to an account of the event by writers Dusko Doder and Louise Branson in Heretic in the Kremlin (1990), Gorbachev declares that those peasants were the “staunch and dependable ally of the working class, an ally on a new basis.” (Dusko Doder and Louise Branson, Heretic in the Kremlin, NY: Viking, 1990, 1-5)
In Lenin’s Tomb (1993) describing the rapid breakdown of the Soviet Communist Party during the Gorbachev years the former Moscow correspondent David Remnick recalls the moment when the Soviet Premier let it slip that his own family had been destroyed by Stalin and collectivization! Reader this is an extraordinary moment in the life of the Soviet Union. The game is up! This an incredible event and naturally it does not pass unnoticed. Never before during his life and ascendancy within the nomenklatura of the privileged few enjoying “a life in which everything flows easily” would the smart legal-minded Gorbachev allow such an utterance to fall from his lips!
Four years Washington Post correspondent in Moscow, Jewish, Princeton, and fluent in Russian, Remnick writes, “Gorbachev’s climb to power took place inside the Soviet Communist Party, an institution that valued aggressive obedience and secrecy. The initiator of glasnost revealed little of himself except through political performance. … For all his support of glasnost, for all his talk of the need to fill in the ‘blank spots’ of history, Gorbachev kept to himself a central fact of his early life for more than five years coming to power. It was only in December 1990, when he was alienating the entire liberal intelligentsia, inlcuding Shevardnadze and Yakolev, by cooperating with the hard-liners in the Party, that Gorbachev revealed that both of his grandfathers had been repressed under Stalin. You had to be listening carefully to catch it. Late one night, Central Television broadcast a tape of one of Gorbachev’s meetings with a large group of leading writers and journalists. Somehow, Gorbachev was trying to justify his swing to the right but at the same time to win back the respect of the intelligentsia. ‘Look at my two grandfathers,’ Gorbachev said. ‘One was denounced for not fulfilling the sowing plan in 1933, a year when half the family died of hunger…’.” He truly wants to confess! To an American journalist of the Washington Post! “Why now?”, David Remnick conjectures, “Why hadn’t he said anything in 1988 when the battle for history had been raging?” When did it ever stop. Look at the reactionary power-crazed Tsar Putin deploying Cossacks to control the crowds at the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi. (italics added)
In 1990 Remnick hears another taboo of the Gorbachev family story again this time recounted by the Soviet boss himself: “‘… They took him away to Irkutsk to a timber-producing camp, and the rest of the family was broken, half-destroyed in that year. And the other grandfather – he was an organizer of collective farms, later a local administrator, a peasant of average means. He was in prison for fourteen months. They interrogated him and demanded that he admit what he’d never done. Thank God, he survived. But when he returned home, people considered his house a plague house, a house of an ‘enemy of the people’. Relatives and dear ones were not able to visit, otherwise ‘they’ would have come after them, too’.” (David Remnick, Lenin’s Tomb, The Last Days of the Soviet Empire, NY: Random House, 1993, ed. 1994, 148-9)
Remnick made a radical career change. Or was it? He left both Russia, and his job at the Washington Post to assume in 1992 the honorable repose of the Edward R. Murrow Fellow of the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR), yet another beneficiary of the Rockefellers, granted a transitional sabbatical not quite the prize for the spy who came in from the cold, so to speak, before he joins The New Yorker magazine, Manhattan’s slick icon of the publishing elite; by 1998 Remnick reemerges as its chief editor helping it reclaim status as a first-rate publication of liberal American intellectual culture. The former journalist is readily positioned to earn millions of dollars with all the perks and status of the rich and famous in America, and empowered with a national platform to write freely and often about Israel and the Holocaust towering above the largest Jewish community outside Jerusalem. Still summing up some editorial changes for this book while visiting the Caribbean in a televised report on the 2013 Boston Marathon killings. The networks of the media circus seem intent to walk their stars out of the stables from time to time and circulate among the current opinion makers of the culture’s mass media on and off the air in “living time”.
In April 1967, when he was 49 years old, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn commented on “the crippling and cowardly secretiveness from which all our country’s misfortunes come” to add, “a noose was draped around my neck two years ago, but not drawn tight, and I want to see what will happen next spring if I jerk my head slightly. Whether the noose will break or I shall be strangled cannot with any certainty be foreseen.” Solzhenitsyn recalls in that incredible moment, nothing short of what seem the miraculous opening of the door toward freedom by the Twenty-second Congress.”
Only a decade earlier in 1956, Solzhenitsyn continues, “there was no way of foreseeing the sudden fury, the reckless eloquence of the attack on Stalin which Khrushchev would decide upon for the Twenty-second! Nor, try as we might, could we, the uninitiated, ever explain it! But there it was –and not even a secret attack, as at the Twentieth Congress, but a public one! I could not remember when I had read anything as interesting as the speeches at the Twenty-Second Congress. In my little room in a decaying wooden house where one unlucky match might send all my manuscripts, years and years of work, up in smoke. I read and reread those speeches, and the walls of my secret world swayed like curtains in the theater, wavered, expanded and carried me queasily with them: had it arrived, then, the long-awaited moment of terrible joy, the moment when my head must break water?” But he had to wait for over three more decades to pass until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 after a failed army coup against Gorbachev’s glasnost regime that smashed the myths of the inevitability of a world-wide Communist victory and of absolute power of the Marxist-Leninist grip on the people shaking their heads while lost in their crisis of broken faith. (A. I. Solzhenitsyn, The Oak and the Calf: Sketches of Literary Life in the Soviet Union, NY: Harper & Row, 1979, 14)
Then came Yeltsin. And still yet an even more incredible personal narrative of the Holodomor by the supreme Russian leader. Another child of the Holodomor, Gorbachev’s protégé and the Party boss of Moscow, Boris Yeltsin presides over the dissolution of the USSR while his family and a handful of powerful oligarchs plunder state resources as it slips helplessly back into fractured anarchy and neo-Stalinist nationalism. Yeltsin, too, lied about his peasant kulak family past. Born in 1931 young Boris was raised in the farm village of his ancestors; Butka, in the Sverdlovsk Region of the Urals is where the Yeltsin clan sowed the fields, ploughed the wheat, and barely survives the Bolshevik takeover of Tsarist Russia.
Yeltsin recalled the family story when he nearly drowned at his own baptism: “The birthrate was quite high and baptisms took place once a month, so the day was rather hectic for the priest. The baptisms took place in the most primitive of fashions. There was a barrel, containing some kind of holy liquid, the child was completely immersed in it, then the squealing infant was pulled out, blessed, given a name and entered into the church register. As was the custom in villages, the parents then presented the priest with a glass of booze, vodka, moonshine … . Considering that my turn only came around in the second half of the day, the priest was by that time having trouble keeping his feet. I was passed to him, he lowered me into the barrel and forgot to take me out, instead starting to discuss and argue with the onlookers about something. My parents were some distance away, and didn’t grasp the problem at first. When they did understand, my mother jumped up with a cry, caught me somewhere around the bottom and pulled me out. … My child-life was hard. There was no food. The harvests were abysmal. Everyone was herded into a kolkhoz – it was a time of mass dispossession for the kulaks. Moreover, war-bands roamed the land – almost every day there were gunfights, murders, and thievery. We lived in poverty. A small house, a cow, there was a horse but it soon died so there was nothing to plow with … . In 1935, when even the cow died and it became completely unbearable, father decided to find work at a construction site, to save the family. This was the so-called period of industrialization. We hitched ourselves to the cart, threw our last few possessions onto it and headed towards the station, thirty-two kilometers away.”
The Yeltsin family moved into a tiny wooden barracks, six sleeping on the floor. They bought a goat, for milk and warmth during the thirty degree below winters. It is true. A goat saved them all.
But that was an artful and socially acceptable rendering of the Yeltsin peasant family to cover the truth. The reality was much different, according to author Sol Shulman (Kings of the Kremlin). The Yeltsins are “a solid and well-to-do peasant clan…with deep roots in the Ural soil. The grandfather on the father’s side was a well-known blacksmith and church elder.” He was arrested and his farm confiscated under the “revolutionary morality” of the Soviet law in his case, “merciful”. According to Internal Security Case # 56-44, grandfather Yeltsin was charged with having “a large village home, two mills – one water, one wind, he also owned a threshing-machine, an automated harvester, five horses, four cows, and twelve hectares of land. He also kept helpers, hired hands.” The grandson recalls that his grandfather kulak “in the best peasant tradition ‘took to the hills’” and dies four months later.
Yeltsin’s father Nikolai is a talented handyman and fortunate to be allowed by a kind kolkhoz chairman to travel to the city to work. Otherwise the family faced starvation. In order to survive the family packs up and resettles at Berezniki, in the Urals, where his father finds work on a construction site. More hardship burdened the Yeltsins;, in April 1934 when Bill Bullitt prepares to arrive in Moscow to reopen the US embassy Boris Yeltsin’s uncle Nokolai and four co-workers are arrested and charged with sabotage.
The actual cause of his arrest was an incident when Boris’ 22-year old uncle dumped a canteen of foul soup and unleashed an outburst of anti-Soviet curses that sent his father and uncle to the labour camps for three years. Yeltsin recalls the nightmare that every family feared might befall them in Notes of a President: “‘It is night. People walk into the wood barracks. Mother shouts, she is crying. I wake up and also start to cry. I’m not crying because they are taking father away. I am still little and don’t understand what is going on. I can see that mother is crying, and how scared she is … . Father is taken away, mother rushes to me and embraces me. I calm down and go to sleep. Three years after father returned from the camps’.” (Sol Shulman, Kings of the Kremlin, Brasseys/Chrysalis, 2002, 281)
Understand reader that straight through to Putin Russian leaders have never recognized the Holodomor. Nor does Putin who thinks of himself as a normal Stalinist. That is, he kills less but that won’t convince the Chechins, or survivors of the current bloodbath in Syria.
As long as he stays within politically safe limits Dr. James Mace received timely US support from Washington to Kiev where he was a university professor. This is happening during the crackup just prior to the final collapse of the Soviet Union. Mace published a high-lighted list of his findings:
“1) There is no doubt that large numbers of inhabitants of the Ukrainian SSR and the North Caucasus Territory starved to death in a man-made famine in 1932-1933, caused by the seizure of the 1932 crop by Soviet authorities.
2) The victims of the Ukrainian Famine numbered in the millions.
3) Official Soviet allegations of “kulak sabotage,” upon which all “difficulties” were blamed during the Famine, are false.
4) The Famine was not, as is often alleged, related to drought.
5) In 1931-1932, the official Soviet response to a drought-induced grain shortage outside Ukraine was to send aid to the areas affected and to make a series of concessions to the peasantry.
6) In mid-1932, following complaints by officials in the Ukrainian SSR that excessive grain procurements (seizures) had led to localized outbreaks of famine, Moscow reversed course and took an increasingly hard line toward the peasantry.
7) The inability of Soviet authorities in Ukraine to meet the grain procurements quota forced them to introduce increasingly severe measures to extract the maximum quantity of grain from the peasants.
8) In the Fall of 1932 Stalin used the resulting “procurements crisis” in Ukraine as an excuse to tighten his control in Ukraine and to intensify grain seizures further.
9) The Ukrainian Famine of 1932-1933 was caused by the maximum extraction of agricultural produce from the rural population.
10) Officials in charge of grain seizures also lived in fear of punishment.
11) Stalin knew that people were starving to death in Ukraine by late 1932.
12) In January 1933, Stalin used the “laxity” of the Ukrainian authorities in seizing grain to strengthen further his control over the Communist Party of Ukraine and mandated actions which worsened the situation and maximized the loss of life.
13) Postyshev had a dual mandate from Moscow: to intensify the grain seizures (and therefore the Famine) in Ukraine and to eliminate such modest national self-assertion as Ukrainians had hitherto been allowed by the USSR.
14) While famine also took place during the 1932-1933 agricultural year in the Volga Basin and the North Caucasus Territory as a whole, the invasiveness of Stalin’s interventions of both the Fall of 1932 and January 1933 in Ukraine are paralleled only in the ethnically Ukrainian Kuban region of the North Caucasus.
15) Attempts were made to prevent the starving from traveling to areas where food was more available.
16) Joseph Stalin and those around him committed genocide against Ukrainians in 1932-1933.
17) The American government had ample and timely information about the Famine but failed to take any steps which might have ameliorated the situation. Instead, the Administration extended diplomatic recognition to the Soviet government in November 1933, immediately after the Famine.
18) During the Famine certain members of the American press corps cooperated with the Soviet government to deny the existence of the Ukrainian Famine.” (Dr. James Mace)
Genocide is a political nightmare for governments. It is a sort of undeclared war against the innocent people of the world and in today’s war-torn poverty-stricken media-assaulted environment the issue of Genocide risks the “fifteen-minute” claim to fame of media redundancy. In today’s Internet culture, ironically, important news becomes old news almost instantly. Instead of dealing with simple and logical priority of political responsibility, the Genocide Debate is played out on a complacent and overwhelmed public much to the satisfaction of the perpetrators who remain at large, disguised or virtually unseen. These masters and princes yielding world power remain protected and untouchable behind tall walls and guarded gates isolated in their luxury, wealth and privilege. As a result too much time and energy is spent on this other debacle, this endless highly politicized debate over definitions: famine vs. Genocide; forced or man-made famine vs. natural or artificially induced mass-murder, et cetera. Academicians indulge in this sort of mental gymnastics debating numbers and definitions that obscure the fundamental issues.
Protagonists of this false debate defy human rights advocates and economists. These “experts” not only want a full belly, but immortality, – that cheap fame that comes from succumbing to peer pressure. Clear lines of distinction are obscured; victims are confused with the aggressors. Think about it: numbers of victims quickly become abstract. A victim becomes a number. Solzhenitsyn has a wonderful description of woman prisoners in the Soviet gulags refusing to wear a number, – “the sign of the devil!”, they screamed. Forced to withstand sub-freezing conditions nonetheless they preferred their light undergarments than wear the scarlet letter of evil. To be nothing! To be a mere statistic! To the women it is an intolerable human dignity. The Nazis learned from Stalin, and, after the invasion of June 1941 subjugated the Ukrainians as sub-humans to be treated worse than animals.
Stalin became supreme ruler of the Soviet state, always using cunning skill and diabolical intelligence to plan his strategic moves well in advance. It was easy to eliminate the Ukrainians en masse. For the Russian communists the Ukrainian nationals didn’t even rate as a statistic. No IBM index card for them. Watson, the chairman of IBM, was more interested in organizing the Nazi empire used as well for cataloging Holocaust victims for which he was honored by Hitler, that is, before he sold his machines to Stalin. This at a time as many Consortium leaders voice their infatuation for the fascist movement. General Motors senior executive on his return from Germany, for example, William Knudsen, in a comment for the press, portrayed Hitler as “the miracle of Europe”. A few peasants might be noticed. But a million! Never! No one would believe it. Would you? Where did they all go? To Mars? And so they denied it. All the leaders publicly denied the extermination while privately talking it over in low whispers between themselves behind closed doors, in classified dispatches and secret orders.
The West feared Stalin just as a decade earlier they had feared Lenin and Trotsky ubiquitously absent at Versailles. And the Cheka-OGPU-NKVD? (Under Putin the state secret police is renamed again, as FSB). Nor were these secret police executioners above the law of Soviet justice! They too must be made to pay for their crimes. There is always a crime to be found if not in the past, in the future. Their plots and schemes will undo them. Are not the executioners also victims for having expedited orders to the excess? Historians for the most part concur that seven to ten million people perished in Stalin’s forced famine.