Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Holodomor: Stalin’s Worst Abuse of Power

by Mia Austin



Stalin abused power in many ways through out his rule, from his Red Terror to his disregard for the lives of his soldiers in World War Two.

Arguably, however, his actions in Ukraine were his worst abuse of power; he had the ability to solve an issue but denied the aid needed and manipulated the situation, indeed setting in motion events that led to the famine. Holodomor is now officially recognized as an act of genocide; Stalin caused the famine in Ukraine through his policy of collectivization, dekulakisation, and his assertion of control over the state.

Collectivisation is the Soviet system of land management that Stalin supported. It resulted in the seizure of all privately owned farmlands and livestock. This was significant in Ukraine, where 80 percent of the people were traditional village farmers, and so it caused protests and a loss of incentive for working, because at least when it was your own farm you would be inspired to work for yourself.  

His other policy of De-kulakisation also had a significant impact. ‘Kulaks’ were a class of successful wealthy farmers, owning 24 or more acres, or had employed farm workers. And so would have the biggest issue with the policy of collectivization. By creating the policy of dekulakistaion, which persecuted the Kulaks- using them as scapegoats for economic issues and his demoting of them in society - he could avoid opposition, even sending some to gulags or killing them. By getting rid of the Kulaks, he was getting rid of the most successful farmers who knew the most successful farming methods, therefore making the farming of crops more inefficient and limiting food crop production.  Stalin used dekulakisation as a method of control, labelling anyone, who refused to participate in the compulsory collectivization system as a Kulak and deporting them.

Stalin’s intrusion into Ukranians' farming life led to violent protest, with people burning their own homes rather than surrendering them to the USSR, causing a loss of resources for the people and equipment for farming. Protest through rebellion, for example taking back property from the collectives or even assassinating local soviet authorities, caused the famine as it put them in direct conflict with the power and authority of Joseph Stalin, causing violent militaristic response, killing uncooperative farmers. This caused Holodomor as the Ukrainians' earlier surge for independence with this rebellion shows that it was already an unstable state and therefore Stalin would be more likely to have an extreme reaction as he already felt threatened by rebellion and reaction.

Holodomor occurred in the 1930s, when Ukraine sought to assert its own sovereignty within the Soviet Bloc. However, Ukraine suffered a natural famine, causing them to look for aid from the USSR. Stalin saw this as an opportunity to affirm his dominance over Ukraine, making an example of them to show that the states of the Soviet Union needed the USSR’s aid. His abuse of power is what followed as not only did Moscow not send help, but also confiscated food aid in a direct attempt to punish ethnic Ukrainians. Overall, Stalin’s inaction and deliberate denial of help caused there to be 3.3 million deaths in Ukraine due to starvation and disease between 1932 to 1934.

This was Stalin’s worst atrocity, as he made the conscious effort to deny aid for these people, in order to cause dependency upon him, resulting in millions of deaths.

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