Joseph Stalin was the kind of dictator who saw enemies everywhere. From the rise of fascism in the west to the rise of imperialism in Japan, Stalin was surrounded by enemies. But his list of enemies in his mind didn't stop with just the outside forces. Stalin's most punished foes were those trapped in his Soviet Union.
During the forced famine, the Soviet Famine of 1932-1933, the Ukraine became one of Stalin's main targets. The commands that come down the line were orders that incited the 20Th century's first peacetime genocide.
To begin the genocide Stalin gave the order to punish the "peasant" class in the Ukraine. The order was evident from the very beginning seeing as how the famine suddenly stopped at the border between Russia and the Ukraine. Yet the leaders of the Ukraine SSR were still forced to refuse food aid and ship all food grown to their Russian leaders.
Starved Ukrainians were then often shot if they were found with food or attempting to steal food from the fields protected by Soviet soldiers. Others would by the end of the famine resort to cannibalism to survive. By the end of 1933 there would be millions dead from starvation and 2,500 people convicted for cannibalism.
Many historians have picked over the suspected reasons for the forced famine in the Ukraine. Some have even claimed that the Holodomor was not a genocide since other parts of the Soviet Union also suffered smaller famines (much smaller). As for Alder's Ledge, the famine in the Ukraine was nothing more than an attempt to subdue an imagined enemy... an enemy that Stalin had a long history of targeting, the Ukrainians themselves.
No major rebellions were yet recorded within the Soviet Union's Ukraine SSR state. The "peasant" class had done nothing to stop the "collectivization" in the Ukraine. They hadn't even impeded the tyranny that Stalin's Soviets used to bring the Ukraine in line with Russia's policies. Yet Stalin still saw his "enemy within" when he looked toward the large landmass to the west. This socialist republic after all was his "buffer" between Russia and the West.
However, despite any rational explanation for the famine... if there is any... the fact remains that it did happen. And during its nearly two year reign nearly 10 million ethnic Ukrainians would die. Their skeletal frames would simply be walking one moment and then stacked in heaps at the edge of their villages or towns the next. Men, women, and children were all the targets of Stalin's forced famine. Everything that needed food to survive were victims of the Soviets' master plan.
In the spring of 1932 the Soviets initiated their policy of starvation by beginning the exportation of all food substances from the Ukraine. The grains that had over wintered in the fields were now cut down and sent to Russia. Many fields that were now ready to plant were left barren while those planted out for the fall harvest were suddenly being patrolled by Soviet guards. The famine had begun.
As hunger sat in the Soviets began distributing Agitprop movies in the urban areas of the Ukraine to support the "cause"... to support collectivization. These movies all portrayed the peasants as greedy "rats" that were hiding wheat and potatoes while the urban workers were dieing. These videos did not however point out the fact that the rations from Moscow were now dwindling with each passing day. They were simply movies to incite class warfare and as the movies pointed out (due to a law passed in August of 1932 that stated all food was "state property") food was a weapon.
As rations in the cities suddenly came to an abrupt stop in the winter of 1932 the number of dead spiked. To force the numbers even higher the Soviets would also cut power and heat from time to time. The famine's own killing power never seemed to suffice Stalin's rage... or paranoia.
In the winter of 1932 and at the start of 1933 the Soviets began to print posters that read "To eat your own children is a barbarian act." The will to survive was now driving more and more people to unthinkable acts. This was the time period that the number of convictions for cannibalism rose the most.
To make things worse, from November of 1932 to the following December the Soviets had taken all forms of livestock to the Russian border. They had claimed that this was because the peasant class had not met their "grain quota" for the fall of 1932. In reality it was to hurry up the number of deaths by depriving the Ukrainians of any protein (it was clear that the Soviets would have taken the rats if they could).
By December of 1932 the peasants farms were put onto "blacklist" of the Soviets. This meant that if the farms could not meet their unrealistic quotas they would now be ordered to hand over 15 times the previous quota. In reality this meant that Russia wanted to take everything down to the last bread crumb.
The blacklisted farms would now become death zones. The peasants who had been portrayed as "greedy hoarders" were now the most punished. Blacklisted farms could no longer legally receive rations or trade in any manner with other farms or villagers. Blacklisting was a way to hand out death sentences.
As for the rest of the Ukraine, that same month they would all be required to hand over any grains or food sources they had on hand to meet the Russians' demands. They had been required in November to provide a third of all the Soviets grain harvest for 1932. Now they would be required to hand over anything they had left. To deny the Soviets their demands was considered treason and punishable by death.
As January approached it became clear to the Russians that the Ukrainian borders had to be sealed. Thousands of ethnic Ukrainians were fleeing all through the winter and the numbers were sure to rise as spring approached. So by the end of February 1933 an estimated 190,000 "peasants" were turned around at the borders and forced to return to their villages to die.
The main "enforcers" of the genocide however were not Soviet soldiers. Instead Stalin implemented his policy of "give me a child of 8 years old and I can make it into anything I wish". Taking the youth of the Ukraine, mainly the urban teenagers, under his wing Stalin formed his version of a Hitler Youth program.
These brainwashed enforcers were upholders of the Soviet law that stated that all food was property of the state. These youthful socialist thus fanned out across the country to find and "prosecute" all those who would dare to commit theft against their beloved "state". They did it with such enthusiasm so as to construct watch towers all around the country.
Like many gangs of young vigilantes these youth brigades didn't stop at just attacking peasants who happened to have their rations of food. Instead these brigades of rowdy teens were often known to force peasants to box one another for the children's entertainment. They would then make the peasants get on all fours and bark like dogs. Then if the peasants were lucky the youth brigades would simply kill them. Women who happened to outlive their male "comrades" were often the targets of rape by the same brigades of vigilantes.
For those who happened to survived the famine the lingering memory of hunger and cannibalism would stick for generations. In the years that have passed since the genocide's end many governments have recognized the event for what it was. Others, like Russia, still do not admit nor allow the event to be taught in their public schools. However for Ukrainians it will forever be remembered as Holodomor... killing by hunger.
Some historians claim that the death toll was only 5 million Ukrainians. The most accurate estimate puts the death toll of the Holodomor puts the number of deaths near 10 million.