If a nation does not know its history, if the country loses its history, then its citizens have nowhere to go.
Mirzhakyp Dulatuly

Genocide subject in the years of great famine in Kazakhstan in western researchers academic discourse

The classification of the Holodomor as genocide is also recognised officially by many other countries, including the United States of America, Canada, Australia and many Latin American etc.

The policy of the Soviet regime in the early 30s is estimated by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights as a crime against humanity aimed at the physical annihilation of the peasant population in Ukraine and other regions populated by ethnic Ukrainians, but also in Kazakhstan and other parts of the former Soviet Union. These policies resulted in millions of deaths by starvation. In terms of the percentage of the population that perished, Kazakhstan, whose traditionally nomad population also put up strong resistance against forced collectivization, suffered even worse losses than Soviet Ukraine. However the report of the Political Affairs Committee does not highlight clearly enough that the criminal policies in question specifically targeted the Ukrainian people. In the interest of true reconciliation, this historical truth must be fully recognized and not hidden among other crimes committed by the Soviet regime against other ethnic and social groups.

The rapporteur Mr Rowen, representative of Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (United Kingdom) in explanatory memorandum noted that he “chose to ignore the rare voices that still deny the facts, calling them fascist propaganda, and those who only partly recognise them and consider them as regrettable, unintended and/or acceptable consequences of an overzealous industrialisation policy for the good of the country as a whole”.

The classification of the Holodomor as genocide is also recognised officially by many other countries, including the United States of America, Canada, Australia and many Latin American and eastern European countries It is not the task of this Assembly to pass a final judgment, on the strength of the majority of the day, as to whether the Holodomor does or does not fulfil the definition of genocide. Neither is this question likely to ever be decided by a court of law: the perpetrators are long dead, and so are almost all direct witnesses. But the “Court of History" shall decide, and this Assembly should contribute to a fair Decision, told the speaker [1].

Nicolo Pianciola in the work “Famine in the Steepe. The collectivization of agriculture and the Kazakh herdsmen. 1928-1934”, wrote that the fate of the nomad peoples in the Soviet Union was one of the least known episodes in the social, economic and demographic upheavals had wrought by Stalin’s “revolution from above.”

The research is based on data from the central archives of Moscow and collections of the published documents from archives of Kazakhstan on problems which were brought to rural Kazakhs by the Soviet policy during the periodbetween the New Economic Policy end, collectivization and campaigns for a peasantry deculakization. The hypotheses about the reasons why peasants appeared that social group which was responsible for consequences of Stalin "revolutions from above* more than any other class, and that led to making decision on the economic processes which have led to death nearly one and a half million people during the period with 1929 and 1933rr are offered by the author.

To understand the situation in the time of collectivization N. Pianciola carries out a historical foreshortening to the history of Kazakhstan. In the Soviet Union in the late 1920s the principal peoples whose subsistence depended on transhumant-nomadic animal herding were the Kazaks, Turkmen, Kirghizes and Buriat Mongols. Under the First Five-Year Plan, all these peoples became the subject to plans of so-called “sedentarization,” carried out with varying degrees of coercion and at different rates of speed. Collectivization and sedentarization decimated the animal herding economy [2].

The main thesis of the latest Norman M. Naimark's book “Stalin's Genocides” is intended to argue that Stalin’s mass killings of the 1930s should be classified as “genocide”. This thesis isn’t new. In recent years more and more historians, politicians and publicists agree that some Stalin’s repression as Famine in Ukraine or the “Katyn forest massacre" of twenty-two thousand Polish army officers and government officials in the early spring of 1940 as an emblematic case of Stalinist genocide. N.Naymark goes, however in his reasoning further. He suggests: “But categorizing just these discrete murderous events as genocide, while leaving out others, tends to gloss overthe genocidal character of the Soviet regime in the 1930s, which killed systematically rather than episodically”.

N. M. Naymark argues that Stalin genocides can’t be separated from Stalin’s identity. Mass repressions in the USSR were to Stalin and after it - however they reached the genocidal characteristics of Stalin’s rule in this period by making excessively rigid distinctions between these events. He insists that in many cases of the victim of repressions weren’t the real enemies of the Soviet regime - often their crimes existed only in Stalin’s imagination and his henchmen. It, however, doesn’t deny the fact that Stalin repressions were genocide.

In the book N. M. Naymark writes that Stalin didn’t speak about exterminating all Ukrainians or Kazakhs - Stalin spoke about destruction of certain conditions of an everyday life of farmers in Ukraine or nomads in Kazakhstan which did them by Ukrainians or, respectively, Kazakhs.

Against separate nationalities Stalin accompanied terror by a conscious eminence of Russians: they served as though as model of the exemplary Soviet people, N. M. Naymark considers. The analysis of the Ukrainian hunger, according to the scholars, becomes complicated that during this period other regions of the USSR suffered from strong starvation, including regions of Russia and Belarus also.

In the tragic case of Kazakhstan, with its extensive nomadic and seminomadic agricultural base, the conditions of famine were even more severe than in Ukraine. The number of

deaths attributable to the famine was 1.45 million, some 38 percent of the total Kazakh population, the highest percentage death toll of any nationality in the Soviet Union.

The author wrote that Moscow’s shameful neglect of the negative effects of having destroyed the Kazakhs’ nomadic economy with its compulsory policy of “sedentarization” was the primary cause of starvation, rather than any purposefully murderous action on the part of the government. Kazakhs were not prevented from escaping famine-struck regions or seeking aid in the cities and towns, though there were serious efforts to keep them from fleeing across the sparsely guarded border into China. Many Kazakhs were shot and killed trying to flee the country. At the same time, neither the Kazakhs nor the Ukrainians were provided relatively quick and effective relief, that reached some Russian and Belorussian areas struck by the famine. Similarly, in neither Kazakhstan nor Ukraine did the authorities, when confronted with the realities of a starving population, immediately relax the conditions of forced requisitioning, as they did in some other regions struck by famine, stated N. M. Naymark.

For these reasons and others, some scholars have called the Kazakh famine genocidal, despite the paucity of documentation regarding Moscow’s intentions. KurtJonassohn writes: “There is no doubt that the deliberate starvation of the Kazakh people, coupled with the purges of Kazakh intellectuals and cultural leaders, makes this a clear case of genocide.” Given the fact that the apparent goals of Moscow’s Ukrainian and Kazakh famine policies were the same - to destroy particular ways of life that were closely associated with the distinctive national the holodomor and ethnic cultures of the people involved - Jonassohn’s conclusion makes some sense [3].

Scholar of Gumbolt University (Germany) Robert Kindler in the article “The Strong and the Weak. The Relevance of Physical Violence during the Famine in Kazakhstan (1930 1934)” examines the relevance of physical violence during the famine in Kazakhstan in the early 1930s. The famine was caused by the forced collectivization and the ruthless requisitions of livestock and grain, considers the author. More than 1.5 million people died during the famine and hundreds of thousands left their home regions.

In his investigation R Kindler stated that in this situation, individuals and groups from all strata of society resorted to violent practices. Violence structured the everyday life and the communication practices of all parts of the multi-ethnic Kazakh society during the famine, including Bolshevik officials, fleeing Kazakh nomads (the so-called otkochevniki), and European peasants. It was first and foremost the Bolsheviks who could and did resort to violence.

By focusing on processes on the local level, the article shows how they and others used violence not only to execute orders “from above,’’ but also to satisfy personal or group interests. The communists were not the only ones who resorted to violent actions. Physical violence was used by different actors to secure individual survival, or in order to subdue the hungry. Various reasons were responsible for this: Resources were lacking, requisition quota had to be fulfilled, and plan targets were to be met. It is furthermore argued here that the very presence of the starving was an additional and important trigger for violent actions. The author supposed that violence not only had a destructive side, but helped various actors to structure and to organize situations, settings and local networks [4].

Rudolf A. Mark in the article “The famine in Kazakhstan: historiographical reappraisals” considers: “The famine was one of the great blanks in the Soviet historiography of Kazakhstan. After the state’s independence, the famine became an object of historical research - though still as a national project undertaken at the behest of the state. For some time the famine continued to be explained as an “accident” or a “breach of Leninist principles”. As the Soviet period recedes into the past, the famine is now increasingly being interpreted as a consequence of the violent policy of leveling and disciplining pursued by the Stalinist system, which is understood to have been totalitarian. As is the case in Ukraine, Kazakh historians and demographers are now discussing questions relating to the number of victims, the scale of the famine, and the effects of events coded as either a catastrophe or a tragedy. However, this debate is not at the centre of academic discourse.

Thus, the authors considered the results reached by the western historians on such rod problems of Stalin repressive policy, as repressions concerning the peasantry of the period of violent collectivization (1929- 1933), «BigTerror» 1937-1938, Great Famine in Kazakhstan and the Holodomor in Ukraine.

On 17 sessions of Parliamentary Assembly in July, 2008 in Astana the resolution on the Holodomor question in Ukraine in which «the tribute to innocent victims of millions Ukrainians which were lost in 1932 and 1933 as a result of the mass hunger caused by cruel intended actions and policy of a totalitarian Stalin mode» is paid is adopted.

In May 2012 at Memorial opening in memory of victims of hunger «Asharshylin nyp6aH/japbiHa ecKepTKiiu* the President of Kazakhstan N.A. Nazarbayev told: «ln judgment of history we should be wise, and not allow politicization of this subject. The cruel policy of the Soviet mode became the reason of hunger, deportations and mass death of people. The main responsible for repressions is a brutal totalitarian system». Great Famine in the Great Steppe should be a historical lesson for all citizens of Kazakhstan.

Madina Anafinova,

PhD, Philology,

main research assistant,

The Institute of State History


1.  Commemorating the victims of the Great Famine (Holodomor) in the former USSR. Opinionl. Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. Rapporteur: Mr Paul Rowen, United Kingdom, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. Doc. 12181,9 March 2010. http://assembly.coe.int

2.  Nicollo Pianciola. Famine in the steppe. The collectivization of agriculture and the Kazak herdsmen. 1928-1934 -Translated by Susan Finnel, Scuola Europea di Studi Avanzati Istituto Universitario Suor Orsola Benincasa via Suor Orsola 10.80135 Napoli (Italy) pianciola@yahoo

3.  Norman M. Naimark. Stalin’s genocides. Princeton University Press, 2010.

4.  Robert Kindler. The Strong and the Weak. The Relevance of Physical Violence during the Famine in Kazakhstan (1930 1934) // Die Starken und die Schwachen. Zur Bedeutung physischer Gewalt wahrend der Hungersnot in Kasachstan (1930-1934), in: Jahrbiicher fiir Geschichte Osteuropas 59 (2011) H. 1, S. 51-78.

5.  Dr. Rudolf A. Mark. The famine in Kazakhstan: historiographical reappraisals. (Die Hungersnot in Kazachstan. Historiographische Aufarbeitung im Wandel, in: ebd., S. 112-130.)


Автор батыс тарихшыларының сталиндік қуғын-сүргін саясатының, оның ішінде шаруаларды (1929-1933 жж.) күштеп ұжымдастыру, 1937-1938 жылдардағы «үлкен террор», Қазақстандағы алапат ашаршылық, геноцид сияқты өзекті мәселелерді зерттеудегі нәтижелерін зерделеген.


Автором статьи рассмотрены результаты, достигнутые западными историками по таким стержневым проблемам сталинской репрессивной политики, как геноцид, репрессии в отношении крестьянства периода насильственной коллективизации (1929-1933 гг.), «большой террор» 1937- 1938 гг., Большой голод в Казахстане.

Data was given from the Institute of State History, Committee of Science of The Ministry of Education and Sciense

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