The Holodomor was one of the greatest human-made catastrophes of the 20th century. In between the Armenian genocide and the Holocaust, more than three million Soviet Ukrainians were deliberately starved to death by Stalin’s government, in the midst of an ideologically rooted famine that covered large swathes of the Soviet Union. The famine of 1930-1933 began as a consequence of Stalin’s Five Year Plan of Industrialisation and Collectivisation.
Peasants were driven from their farms and made to join larger state farms; food shortages and hunger ensued. Stalin then deepened the crisis in Ukraine by executing his plan to eradicate the so-called Kulaks, a demonised class of prosperous peasants scapegoated by the state as the cause of hunger in Russia. Deprived of their grain by Moscow, harried by police units who raided their homes for anything edible, and prevented from leaving the republic, Ukrainians found themselves fighting terrible odds to stay alive.
As it was unfolding and for years afterwards, the Holodomor barely impacted on people’s consciousness outside Russia. How this was made possible is now the subject of Mr Jones, a compelling and timely new film from the Polish director Agnieszka Holland and American screenwriter Andrea Chalupa.
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