December 19, 2011

Your article concerning the Holodomor ("Secret famine killed 10M Ukrainians," WCR, Dec. 5) contained factual inaccuracies that need to be corrected. Some of the claims you cited, particularly the number of dead, are particularly troubling since they are based on estimates with little factual backing.

Scholarly accounts of the Holodomor generally put the number of dead between 2.4 and 7.5 million. The claim that 10 million Ukrainians died is difficult to substantiate.

I do not mean to belittle the suffering of the Ukrainian people by pointing this out. The suffering brought on by the Soviet regime was horrific and, whatever the number of dead, the Ukrainian famine was an unforgivable offence against human dignity.

However, accuracy is important, particularly because the claim that 10 million people died is often found in Ukrainian nationalistic (and particularly anti-Russian) rhetoric. It behooves your publication not to parrot this discourse uncritically.

A second problem I wish to point out is the uncritical way your publication has chosen to use "Russian" and "Soviet" as synonyms. This error gives the impression that Russians were exclusively to blame for the inhumanity of the Soviet period.

As Geoffrey Hosking demonstrates in his book Rulers and Victims, the Russian people were as much the victims of Soviet repression as other ethnic groups in the Soviet Union. In fact more Russians ended up in the Gulags than any other ethnicity.

It is unjust to equate Russians with the Soviet regime. This rhetoric is often used by the other ethnic groups in the former USSR to mask the collaboration of some of their own people with the Soviet regime.

In particular, Joseph Stalin was Georgian and that much of his inner circle was drawn from non-Russian Soviet minorities. Non-Russians (including many Ukrainians) played an important role in Soviet oppression. The blame cannot be placed exclusively on the Russian people.

Jeff Brassard