Like Lenin before him, Stalin intended to wield collectivization as a weapon against society. By collecting as much grain as he wanted from any section of the country, he subjected any people in those areas to starvation. Because Ukraine resisted Communism, it became the target of collectivization. This region suffered the greatest man-made famine in history, with a total of four million dying of starvation.
How this occurred is significant. First, according to the state's general collectivization policy in 1931, a total of 7.7 million tons of grain was demanded from a Ukrainian harvest which collectivisation had brought down to 18 million tons. This brought the already overburdened villagers almost to the point of starvation and the villagers of Ukraine began to resist Stalin's troops—which made Stalin even more pitiless. In July of 1932, he issued a virtual death order against the whole of the Ukraine by increasing the previous quota demanding another 7.7 million tons of grain to be delivered to the State. Millions of people were condemned to die of starvation. This policy is described in Brian Moynahan's book,The Russian Century: A History of the Last Hundred Years:
Requisitioning gangs of Communist activists, armed with steel rods up to ten feet long, swarmed over the Ukraine. 'They searched in the house, in the attic, shed and cellar,' a victim recalled. 'Then they went outside and searched in the barn, pig pen, granary, and straw pile...' Crude watchtowers were put up in the fields, posts with a hut of wood and straw atop them. Here guards armed with shotguns would look out for snippers; those who were driven by hunger to cut off ears of corn with scissors. Those who were caught got a minimum of ten years under the Law of Seven-eighths; some were shot. One Kharkov court issued fifteen hundred death sentences in a month; a woman was given a ten-year sentence for cutting 100 ears of corn from her own plot, two weeks after her husband had died of starvation. The remaining chickens and pigs were eaten in the early winter of 1932. Then the dogs and cats went. 'It was hard to catch them,' wrote Vasily Grossman. 'The animals had become afraid of people and their eyes were wild. People boiled them...
While Russians were dying of hunger, the Communist Party's barns were crammed full. At left, a church used as a storehouse for grain during the implementation of collectivization in the 1930s.
' … Only 4.7 million tons of grain had been delivered by the end of 1932. A new levy was announced. ...Meteorologists were arrested for issuing false weather forecasts to damage the harvest. Veterinarians were shot for sabotaging livestock. Agronomists were accused of being kulaks and deported to Siberia...Mass starvation started when the snow melted in March 1933. People ate rats, ants, and earthworms. They made soup with dandelions and nettles. The New York Evening Journalcorrespondent visited a village twenty miles from Kiev. 'In one hut they were cooking a mess that defied analysis,' he wrote. 'There were bones, pigweed, skin, and what looked like a boot top in the pot.'...People abandoned their villages. They squatted along rail tracks begging for crusts to be thrown from carriage windows, and inundated railroad stations. They followed troops on maneuvers. They crawled about on all fours in towns. Carts went through the streets of Kiev each morning collecting the corpses of those who had died in the night. The children had thin, elongated faces like dead birds...Still the activists searched for grain; shot mothers who they found digging up potatoes; beat those who were not swollen up in the tell-tale sign of starvation to make them reveal their source of food. 'We were realising Historical Necessity,' wrote the activist Lev Kopolev. 'We were performing our revolutionary duty. We were obtaining grain for the socialist fatherland... I saw women and children with distended bellies, turning blue, with vacant, lifeless eyes. And corpses—corpses in ragged sheepskin coats and cheap felt boots; corpses in peasant huts, in the melting snow of old Vologda, under the bridges of Kharkov...'...Word of the famine reached the West… An international relief committee was set up under the archbishop of Vienna. It could do nothing, however, for the Soviet government denied that any famine was taking place.36
Above, a mother and child starving to death. Below, small children who died from the famine. As a result of Stalin's deliberate famine, four million Ukrainians died..
These savage scenes affected the Russian author Michail Sholokhov, who wrote a letter to Stalin demanding an end to this cruelty. But Stalin had done all these things deliberately, of course:
In April 1933 the writer Mikhail Sholokhov, who was passing through the city of Kuban, wrote two letters to Stalin detailing the manner in which thelocal authorities had tortured all the workers on the collective farm to force them to hand over all their remaining supplies. He demanded that the first secretary send some sort of food aid...In his reply on 6 May, Stalin made no attempt to feign compassion...In 1933, while these millions were dying of hunger, the Soviet government continued to export grain, shipping 18 million hundredweight of grain abroad "in the interests of industrialization."37
Famine caused the death of six million—men, women, children, old people and infants—not because Soviet farms produced insufficient grain, but because the Communist party wanted this man-made famine to happen. In other words, it was mass murder. Stalin didn't want Western countries to learn of the famine because he feared that any aid campaign would only weaken the punishment he had determined for Ukraine. In the periodical magazine Soviet Studies, historian Dana Dalrymple comments:
The Soviet Union, in fact, has never officially admitted that the famine existed. American and English studies on the USSR occasionally mention a famine in Ukraine but generally provide few or no details. Yet, previous famines in the USSR have been acknowledged by the government and have been well recorded elsewhere. Why the difference? The answer seems to be that the famine of 1932-34, unlike its predecessors was a man-made disaster.38
As a result of collectivization, peasants of Ukraine suffered the greatest losses, with at least four million people dead. In Kazakhstan, one million starved as a result of collectivization. In Northern Caucasus and the Black Earth region, there were a million deaths. With one single order, Stalin had sent six million people to their deaths.39