Dear Viktor Andreyevich,
In response to your messages concerning the so-called Holodomor as well as the steps taken by the Ukrainian leadership on the issue, I consider it necessary to elaborate on our views of and approaches to the issues at hand.
I would immediately note the following. We clearly see that in recent years this topic combined with persistent attempts to receive a NATO ”membership action plan“, have become a central element of Ukrainian foreign policy. We also note the intention of the political elite and leadership of Ukraine to use this issue as a ”test for patriotism and loyalty“.
In your messages, you call for ”removing the ideological layers from history“. Naturally, I share this approach. But at the same time I propose that we be absolutely consistent and guided by the principle of fair, honest and non-partisan treatment of historical heritage.
In connection with this, I am forced to point out that, in our opinion, the tragic events of the early 1930s in Ukraine are being used to achieve immediate short-term political goals. In this regard, the thesis on the ”centrally planned genocidal famine of Ukrainians“ is being gravely manipulated. As a result, including thanks to your personal efforts, this interpretation has even received legislative support. In particular, I am referring to the law passed on 28 November 2006 by the Verkhovnaya Rada [Ukrainian parliament] that you signed, which states that ”the famine of 1932–1933 in Ukraine was a genocide against the Ukrainian people“. I would also mention your initiative to criminalize the denial of the events of the period as they are outlined in the law. Therefore without waiting for the results of a comprehensive study of the issue by competent experts, you imposed a single interpretation on this history. And dissenters are threatened with prosecution – just as they were in the totalitarian past. To put it mildly, according to this ”one-sided logic“ any citizen of Ukraine that claims that in addition to Ukrainians, Russians, Kazakhs and Belarusians died of starvation in the same period is, in your opinion, a criminal.
It is unlikely that such steps can be explained by the desire to restore historical justice or to honour the memory of the victims. These efforts rather seek to divide our peoples as much as possible, peoples united by many centuries of historical, cultural and spiritual ties, by special feelings of friendship and mutual trust.
The most difficult pages of our common history undoubtedly need to be fully explained. But this is only possible on the basis of objective professional studies. However, we see that those who push through the thesis of ”Holodomor-genocide“ are not in the least interested in historical accuracy. Various manipulations and distortions are occurring, data on the actual number of deaths are being falsified. Representatives of the Ukrainian authorities are making public statements that contribute to distorting the picture. Thus in an interview in November 2007 you refer to census data from 1929 and 1979 to argue that Ukrainians were the only nation whose population was halved during this period, and declined from 81 million to 42 million. Yet according to the All-Union census which, incidentally, was not held in 1929 but in 1926, the total number of Ukrainians in the USSR, including residents of the western areas, was about 30 million.
We are open for discussion and don’t want academics to take on political ”attitudes“. In our country the theme of the famine of 1932–1933 — as well as other difficult historical questions — can be discussed freely, without fear of becoming an ”enemy of the nation“. Russia has long ago destroyed the ”Iron Curtain of silence“ about which you write.
The famine in the Soviet Union in 1932–1933 was not aimed at the destruction of any one nation. It was the result of a drought, forced collectivization and de-kulakization [campaign of political repressions of the better-off peasants and their families] and affected the entire country, not only Ukraine. Millions of people in the middle and lower Volga regions, northern Caucasus, central Russia, southern Urals, western Siberia, Kazakhstan and Belarus died. We do not condone the repression carried out by the Stalinist regime against the entire Soviet people. But to say that it was aimed at the destruction of Ukrainians means going against the facts and trying to give a nationalist subtext to a common tragedy. As to referring to ”qualitative differences“ between the famine in Ukraine and that in Russia and other regions of the USSR, it is, in our view, merely cynical and immoral.
I would note that the decisions taken about collectivization were made by the multinational leadership of the Soviet Union and the Soviet republics, while the policy of enforced food requisition was carried out in the Ukrainian Republic by predominantly Ukrainian personnel. The latter both zealously acting on instructions from the centre as well as often making ”counterplans“, including reprisals against their brothers, Ukrainians themselves.
Historical truth demands that we adopt a responsible approach. But attempts to resort to the ”national factor“ are unfair to the memory of the victims, not to mention the questionable legal basis of such claims.
With regard to steps taken by the Ukrainian side in international organizations to ”ascertain the nature and ensure the condemnation of such crimes“ I would note that the UN and UNESCO have already expressed themselves on this subject. The 2007 UNESCO General Conference paid tribute to the millions of deaths from starvation in the 1930s regardless of the victims' nationality and refused to recognize this tragedy as a ”genocide of the Ukrainian people“. And at the 58th UN General Assembly most of the CIS member states including Russia, Ukraine and many other nations issued a joint statement in which they expressed their deepest sympathy to millions of Russians, Ukrainians, Kazakhs and representatives of other nations, victims of starvation in USSR. The statement refers to the events of the 1930s as a ”tragedy“. I believe that further discussion of this topic in international organisations would not be beneficial and will not produce any results.
Therefore, as I have already said, we should focus on correcting a dangerous disparity which has arisen, whereby the slogan ”condemnation of the genocide of Ukrainians“ belittles the tragedy of other affected peoples of the former Soviet Union. I propose to begin work on a joint approach to these events. In doing so, it would be useful to involve experts from Kazakhstan, Belarus and other interested CIS countries.
Meanwhile, in the light of the above, I do not consider it possible to participate in the activities surrounding the 75th anniversary of the ”Holodomor“ in Ukraine.
For my part I would like to confirm my sincere desire to build a positive atmosphere of cooperation in the cultural and educational spheres, and to substantiate this cooperation with concrete actions that are understandable to our citizens and benefit the traditionally friendly relations between our countries and peoples.
Sincerely, Dmitry Medvedev.