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24 May, 2011  ▪  Andrii Duda

Genocidally Modified

Peoples that have experienced mass murders or deportations demand that guilty be brought to justice, but Ukraine continues to be shy in discussing whether or not the Holodomor was indeed genocide

Genocide against the Ukrainian people organized by the Bolsheviks in the 1930s is not merely a national tragedy but also our shame. This shame can be seen not only in the vapid smile of one anchorperson when he recently introduced another item in the program saying “Today Viktor Yushchenko again addressed the topic of the Holodomor.” This shame lies not so much in the fact that Ukrainians stubbornly deny genocide perpetrated against them. A study by the Rating sociological group in April 2011 showed that only 58% of Ukrainians believed that the Holodomor was Ukrainian genocide. The rest seem to maintain that if there is no CC VKP(B) resolution saying “destroy Ukrainians” on record, there was no genocide. Our shame began when entire families and villages were dying and we were unable to put up resistance against the invaders.


Today I would like to read in Soviet sources about the “atrocities committed by the remnants of the Petliurites” against Soviet government representatives; about communist L. or Komsomol member V., who was involved in “grain procurement,” being stretched between two birch trees in village N in Poltava region (Kyiv, Cherkasy, Kharkiv region, etc.); about “kulak henchmen” torturing the secretary of a local party organization to death by feeding him with soil; about the head of a collective farm being put on a pitchfork, etc. The reason is that “atrocities,” “torture,” axes, scythes and pitchforks were the only possible answer Ukrainians could give to the man-made famine, the death of babies, and the insanity of mothers. Unfortunately, today we only read about several millions of deaths and the positive dynamics of Ukraine’s grain exports in the famine-stricken 1930s.

It could be argued that peasant revolts were common in Ukraine even before the 1930s and that people were simply fatigued and tired of fighting, while the most active had died. An argument could be made that the Holodomor was an answer to the emerging rebellious peasant republics that struck horror in the minds of the Soviet leaders. However, even in these conditions one could hope to see at least an attempt at resistance.

Our shame continued after the Holodomor as well. In the nearly 80 years since the mass famine, Ukrainians have not once settled accounts with those who organized it and carried it out, if we leave aside the failed assassination of the Soviet consul in Lviv. An OUN fighter, Mykola Lemyk, shot an employee of the consulate confusing him for the consul. He would later die at the hands of Nazi invaders, and no one advanced the cause further.

What can be said of the Ukrainian nation if our voters, whose relatives died en masse during the Holodomor, keep electing Communists who take pride in the “glorious history” of their party to parliament? The Ukrainian parliament passes a decision to have red flags hung out next to national flags on official institutions, the red banners under which mass murders were committed in Ukraine – and the opposition reacts with insipid statements formulated to avoid offending people. The head of state and the leader of the legislative body deny at every turn that the Holodomor was genocide, even though that contravenes the law.


Ukrainians' artificial and inadequate reaction to the Holodomor, one of the world’s biggest tragedies in the 20th century, is unprecedented in modern history. Jewish nationalists have mounted an unparalleled campaign to exact revenge on the perpetrators of the Holocaust. Several books can be written just to outline this worldwide effort to bring wartime criminals who organized the Shoah to justice. These actions ranged from setting up an international database to store records of anti-Jewish genocidal wartime persecutions to individual terrorist acts and kidnapping of the culprits, as was the case with Adolf Eichmann in Argentina in 1960).

The mass murder of Armenians by the Turkish government in 1915 does not fall under the UN definition of genocide, either. There is no document that directly ordered their destruction. At the same time, this has not prevented Armenians from seeking revenge for genocide over the past 100 years. In 1919, an Armenian political force, the Dashnaktsutiun, passed a decision to commit acts of terrorism against Turkish members of the young Turks’ party, Unity and Progress, which was instrumental in the 1915 genocide, and against Azerbaijani officials who were involved in the 1918 massacre. The plan was realized in the noted terrorist operation Nemesis: 41 main victims were identified and a number of death sentences were handed down.

A new wave of revenge for genocide came about in the 1970s and the 1980s when several Armenian Diaspora organizations were active. For example, the Armenian Secret Army carried out over 80 terrorist attacks killing nearly 50 and wounding 300. On August 7, 1982, in what is perhaps its most notorious action, it attacked Ankara Esenboğa Airport killing 9 and wounding over 70. The main motive was a demand for Turkey’s recognition and condemnation of the Armenian genocide and independence for some ethnic Armenian territories which were, according to the Armenians, “occupied by Turkey.”


While terror is condemned by the world community, there is a much more palatable solution to protesting genocide – using laws. This tool is often just as efficient. For example, the legal regulations for punishing those involved in carrying out genocide have been thoroughly tested by the Baltic States. The Latvian Criminal Code punishes involvement in genocide with 3 to 20 years in prison or life imprisonment. This legal norm is enforced and the guilty stand trial in criminal courts. This country also recognizes the deportation of 10,000 Latvians to remote parts of the Soviet Union as genocide. In 1995, Alfons Noviks, former chief of Latvia’s NKVD, was sentenced to life in prison (where he later died) for his involvement in the deportations. This case was followed by a number of other arrests and criminal persecution of the instigators of the Latvian genocide. Today more than ten former Cheka officers have been give verdicts or died in custody before trial.

Estoniadefines “crimes against humanity,” including genocide, as purposeful actions aimed destroying, in full or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, religious group, one that resists an occupation regime, or other social group; killing members of this group; causing serious or especially serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; torture; forcibly transferring children of the group to another group; armed attacks; deportations and exile of the indigenous population in the case of occupation or annexation; limiting or depriving it of its economic, political and social rights. This crime is punished with life imprisonment or 8 to 15 years behind bars. As a result, several former members of the Soviet special services were convicted under this article in Estonia in 2003 for involvement in the deportation of Island Saaremaa’s residents in 1949 (Operation Surf). Later, even Hero of the Soviet Union Arnold Meri was persecuted for genocide – deportations from Island Hiiumaa.

Lithuaniais also active in bringing such people before court. For example, a verdict against MGB servicemen was delivered in 2008 for “genocide against members of the anti-Soviet resistance, i.e., the physical elimination of Lithuanian guerillas.” Instead of enjoying a quiet life, they received eight years in prison.

Ukrainehas every reason to bring the perpetrators of the Holodomor to court.  Under Article 442 of the Criminal Code, this crime is punished with 10 to 15 years in prison or life imprisonment and public incitement to commit genocide with arrest up to 6 months or up to 5 years in prison. Under Article 1 of the Law “On the Holodomor of 1932-33 in Ukraine,” the 1932-33 Holodomor is deemed “genocide against the Ukrainian people.” However, our country does not as yet have practice in enforcing this law, except a criminal case opened by the SBU (led by Valentyn Nalyvaichenko at the time) which was dropped when Viktor Yanukovych came to power. Skeptics say there is no one to be tried, because those who organized and carried out the Holodomor who are still living are elderly. I refer these pundits to the practice of the Baltic States and to the trial of John Demjanjuk: the accused in these cases are clearly past their prime.


A new stage in the “historical persecution” of national tragedies is the fight against the denial of facts which corroborate genocide. The passage of laws put those who would deny genocide at least verbally under severe pressure.

Denying the Holocaust entails criminal responsibility in 11 countries of the world including France, Switzerland, Belgium, Poland, Slovakia and others. Prison sentences vary: 6-10 years in Austria, Romania and the Czech Republic; up to 5 years in Germany and Israel. For example, in February 2007, the Mannheim state court in Germany sentenced Ernst Zündel, 67, after he wrote a research paper entitled “Did six million Jews indeed die?”

Civil liability for denying genocide against other peoples is written in the laws of some other countries. For example, a French court fined historian Bernard Lewis 1 franc for denying the Armenian genocide in 1995 and ordered that he place a paid publication of his verdict in Le Mond.

The Winterthur district court (a canton of Zurich, Switzerland) found three Turks guilty of racial discrimination on October 21, 2007, for calling the Armenian genocide “international lies.” One of them, Ali Mercan, a representative of the Workers’ Party in Turkey, was fined 4,500 Swiss francs (USD 3,900), and the other two organizers of the meeting where the statement was made were fined 3,600 francs apiece. Sirma Oran, a French citizen of Turkish origin and the daughter of the political writer Baskin Oran, was fined €1,500 by a court in Lyons for denying the Armenian genocide in 2010. This cost her career as she failed to be elected a member of a municipal council.

In April 2005, the lower chamber of the Belgian parliament, and on April 24 the Senate, passed a law that criminalized denial of the Armenian genocide and set punishment for transgressing the law at eight days to one year in prison and a €26,000 fine.

On October 12, 2006, the French National Assembly approved a bill which criminalized denial of the Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire in 1915–1917. This bill was sponsored by the Socialist and Communist parties (our leftists should take note). The punishment is up to one year in prison and a fine of up to €45,000.

Compare this with reality in Ukraine: several years ago, a bill was registered in the Verkhovna Rada to amend legislation and institute criminal liability for denying the Holodomor. Needless to say, parliament has not yet found time to even consider it.

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