November 26, 2005

Yushchenko demands truth on ’30s famine

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko said
on Saturday it was time to apportion blame for the man-made
famine that killed millions of his compatriots under Soviet
rule in the 1930s.

Yushchenko was addressing a candlelight ceremony marking
the 1932-33 famine induced by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's
orders to requisition grain and break the spirit of Ukraine's
"kurkuly" farmers who resisted his drive to collectivise

The day had been chosen as the official commemoration day
for the famine that was never recognised by the Soviet Union.

The president told 5,000 people in a Kiev square that up to
10 million died in the famine and pressed his case for the
United Nations to declare it a genocide. Historians' estimates
put the figure at about 7.5 million.

"The famine was a crime against humanity which had
perpetrators, but from the legal standpoint, no guilty parties
have been found," Yushchenko said before kneeling by a monument
to the victims erected in the 1990s.

"A murderer may be found responsible for killing one
person, but for the destruction of millions, no one is held
responsible. Perhaps this is why we in Ukraine have such
difficulty today restoring the rule of law, good and social

Yushchenko said the failure of the Communist system to
repent for the famine "stood behind further misfortunes.
Perhaps this is why we encounter such difficulty in changing
our consciousness, haunted by fear and ideological slavery."

The pro-Western Yushchenko, brought to power on a wave of
"Orange Revolution" rallies against election fraud, says
freedom of speech is one of the chief gains of his first year
in office.

He has pledged to improve the judicial system and develop
post-Soviet civil society. Officials vow to pursue prominent
criminal cases -- notably the murder of an investigative
journalist in 2000 and the dioxin poisoning the president
suffered during last year's election campaign.

Mourners placed 33,000 candles in Mykhailov Square,
corresponding to the number of lives the famine claimed daily
at its height. Flags on public buildings bore black ribbons.

The sound of a young woman wailing wafted through
loudspeakers and the names of countless victims were read out.

The systematic confiscation of grain and livestock in
Ukraine, known as the breadbasket of the Soviet Union, left
millions to die in their homes or in the street, with soldiers
dumping bodies into pits. Cannibalism became rife.

The famine was only commemorated after the fall of Soviet
rule as Communist authorities for decades denied it had taken
place. Historians have also focused on mass famines which beset
Ukraine in 1921 in the confused aftermath of the Bolshevik
Revolution and in 1946 after World War Two.