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Book Nook: Red Famine - Stalin's War with Ukraine, by Anne Applebaum


In 1929 the Soviet dictator Stalin began the process of what was known as the collectivization of agriculture in the Soviet Union. There was a lot of resistance to this effort especially in the breadbasket region of the Ukraine. Stalin was determined to crush the Ukrainian nationalist movement and his agricultural policies served to do this quite effectively. As Anne Applebaum describes it in her book "Red Famine - Stalin's War with Ukraine" during the period 1931 to 1933 over five million Ukrainians starved to death.

Stalin was responsible for the draconian policies that precipitated this horror. He instituted unrealistic grain production quotas on the region. During the famine Ukrainian farm products were still being exported as the population was starving. Ukrainians in the countryside who had food supplies tried to conceal them as Soviet enforcers roamed the region searching for hidden grain. They went from house to house and confiscated food, farm animals, even the grain that was being saved to plant the next year's crops. Some people began to flee. Stalin closed down the borders.

Information about this famine was suppressed. Soviet history books avoided the subject. Desperate people had eaten grass, tree bark, shoe leather, and dirt. A Welsh reporter who was in the Ukraine at the time was able to report about what was really happening but his revelations were doubted and mostly dismissed. The book contains some unsettling photos of Ukrainians who were starving. Anne Applebaum has done a splendid job of bringing this little known event to light.

The Book Nook on WYSO is made possible by five local library systems in southwest Ohio: the Greene County Public Library,  Washington-Centerville Public Library,  Clark County Public LibraryDayton Metro Library, and Wright Memorial Public Library.

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