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HOLODOMOR – DEMOGRAPHIC FACT SHEET

This Fact Sheet presents a summary of results from recent research on the Holodomor. It is based on publications listed at the end.

1) Results presented here are based on the following definitions:

Holodomor-genocide: man-made famine in Soviet Ukraine during 1932-1934.

Holodomor direct losses or excess deaths (to be used interchangeably), are deaths caused directly or indirectly by the Holodomor, in addition to the “normal” deaths that would have occurred during 1932-1934 had there been no Famine.

Holodomor indirect losses or lost births, are births that did not occur during 1932-1934 due to different effects of the Famine on potential births and that would have occurred had there been no Famine.

2) Holodomor direct losses in rural and urban areas of Ukraine:

a) There were 3.9 million excess deaths and 600 thousand lost births in Ukraine, for a total of 4.5 million Holodomor losses. The 3.9 million excess deaths are equivalent to 13 percent of Ukraine’s population in 1933. About 31 percent of these deaths are children under ten years of age.

b) Most of Holodomor excess deaths, 90 percent, occurred in1933.

c) The majority of Holodomor excess deaths, 93 percent, took place in rural areas.

d) Although much smaller, with close to 300 thousand excess deaths (equivalent to four percent of the urban population), Holodomor direct losses in urban areas were not insignificant.

3) Holodomor direct losses by oblast:

Ukraine was divided into seven oblasts during the Holodomor period, and included the Moldovan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republics. The following table presents direct losses by oblast, in absolute numbers and as percent of the 1933 population of Ukraine.

Holodomor Direct Losses by Oblast

a) It is a mistake to compare oblast losses using absolute numbers of excess deaths, as they are related to the population size of each oblast. One should use deaths per population (we use here percent of the population).

b) The impact of the Holodomor was not uniform across the territory of Soviet Ukraine. The relative number of direct losses for 1932-1934 varied from five percent in Donetsk oblast to 20 percent in Kyiv oblast (see table). Relative excess deaths in Kharkiv oblast, 19 percent, were almost as high as in Kyiv oblast. These percentages were even higher for rural areas; respective percentages for Kyiv and Kharkiv were 23 and 24. In other words, close to one fourth of the RURAL population of these oblasts was decimated by the Famine.

d) It is important to note that the highest number of relative losses was not, as expected, in the main grain growing oblasts of Odesa, Dnipropetrovsk and Donetsk, but in Kyiv and Kharkiv oblasts, where grain was not the main crop. This contradicts the Russian narrative that the Famine was caused mainly by collectivization. (The dynamics of losses by oblast is complex and is explained in the article by Wolowyna et al., 2016).

4) Mortality surge in 1933

Although most Holodomor losses occurred in 1933, they were actually concentrated mainly in the first half of 1933; 83 percent of all rural losses occurred during the first seven months of 1933. This explosion of mortality was caused by several measures implemented by Stalin in late 1932 and early 1933, like: a) closing of borders between Ukraine and Russia in January of 1933, and eliminating the possibility for Ukrainian farmers to travel to Russia in search of food; b) confiscation in many cases of all food, not just grain, when searching for “hidden” grain in rural households; c) travel restrictions within Ukraine for rural inhabitants, especially to big cities in search of food; d) depletion of all reserve grain funds by early 1933, in order to fulfill grain quotas.

These measures produced, literally, a mortality explosion in rural areas of Ukraine between January and June of 1933, which is summarized in the following graph:

Average daily excess deaths by month: Ukraine, 1933 (in thousands)

The average DAILY number of deaths caused by the Famine in 1933 increased from three thousand in January to 28 thousand in June. In other words, a nine-fold increase in six months; in rural areas this increase was ten-fold.

This rate of increase in Holodomor rural losses varied significantly by oblast. The speed of this increase can be measured by dividing the relative losses of the month with the maximum value, usually June or May, and the relative losses in January. This ratio varies from a six-fold increase in Donetsk oblast to a 15-fold increase In Kyiv oblast. In three oblasts, Kyiv, Kharkiv and Vinnytsia, the speed of increase in mortality by starvation was twice as fast as in Donetsk oblast.

Factors of Increase of RURAL Direct Losses in Oblasts of Ukraine between January and June of 1933

As pointed out by the French demographer Blum, “Rarely, in all (italics by author) of the demographic history of Europe, a famine caused losses of such proportions. “ This is very likely a unique characteristic of the Holodomor that, so far, has not been adequately researched.

5) “Everybody (in the Soviet Union) suffered the same (during the 1932-1933 famine)”

The following results contradict this Russian characterization of the Famine:

Losses for the whole Soviet Union are estimated in 8.7 million, with 3.9 million for Ukraine, 3.3 million for Russia and 1.3 million for Kazakhstan. Losses for the other Republics are small or negligible. Absolute numbers, however, are misleading. When the number of excess deaths is adjusted by population, Kazakhstan has the highest relative losses with 22 percent of its population. Ukraine is in second place width 13 percent and Russia a distant third width three percent. Only two Soviet Republics, Kazakhstan and Ukraine were seriously affected in all of their territory by the Famine. Relative losses for Russia are low because only a small proportion of its territory was significantly affected by the Famine (see article by Levchuk et al.).

References

Rudnytskyi, O., N. Levchuk, O. Wolowyna and P. Shevchuk 2015a. “Famine losses in Ukraine in 1932 to1933 within the context of the Soviet Union”, in Curran D., Luciuk, L. and Newby, A. (eds.). Famines in European Economic History: The Last Great European Famines Reconsidered. London: Routledge (Explorations in Economic History).

Rudnytskyi, O., N. Levchuk, O. Wolowyna, P. Shevchuk and A. Savchuk 2015b. “Demography of a man-made human catastrophe: The case of massive famine in Ukraine 1932-1933”. Canadian Studies in Population, vol. 42, No. 1-2.

Wolowyna, O., S. Plokhy, N. Levchuk, O. Rudnytskyi, A. Kovbasiuk and P. Shevchuk 2016. “Regional Variations of 1932-34 Famine Losses in Ukraine”. Canadian Studies in Population, vol. 43, No. 3-4.

Levchuk, N., O. Wolowyna, O. Rudnytskyi, A. Kovbasiuk and N. Kulyk 2020. “Regional 1932- 1934 Famine Losses: A Comparative Analysis of Ukraine and Russia.” Nationalities Papers, vol 48, no. 3.

Wolowyna, O., N. Levchuk and A. Kovbasiuk 2020. “Monthly Distriution of 1933 Famine Losses in Soviet Ukraine and the Russian Soviet Republic at the Regional Level”. Natiionalities Papers, nov. 48, no. 3.

See Bibliography.