The victims of Russian communism under Joseph Stalin numbers in the tens of millions. In an age where seemingly even the Easter Bunny is Hitler, the crimes of the “man of steel” sadly go largely unnoticed by the general public. Anne Applebaum once again does a magnificent job revealing these atrocities, this time focusing on the Holdomor, the Ukrainian genocide, in her latest work Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine.
The Holdomor (from the Ukrainian phrase “to kill by starvation”) was a two year period, 1932-1933, of mass starvation in Ukraine, leading to the deaths of millions, possibly as many as twelve million. What sets Red Famine apart from previous works on the starvation is Applebaum’s conclusive evidence proving the Holdomor was a deliberate extermination effort to suppress a burgeoning Ukrainian independence movement and destroy the very idea of Ukrainian national identity.
Stalin hated the peasantry and viewed them as an obstacle to his goal of mass collectivization. Grain quotas increased to unsustainable levels and unlike shortages in 1921 and 1947, the Soviets did not seek assistance from the international community nor halt grain exports. In Stalin’s estimation the people of Ukraine were idlers and saboteurs deserving of suffering and death.
What makes the Holodomor, as well as the innumerable other atrocities of the Soviets, so terrifying is the personal nature of Stalin with regard to the pain and suffering he wrought. He took personal pleasure in meting out punishment, often spending his evenings in his office thumbing through files of political prisoners, handwriting directives on punishment. From a murderous armed robber to leader of a nuclear power, Joseph Stalin rose to be history’s greatest organized crime boss.