Solzhenitsyn`s curious change of heart

11:03, 10 April 2008
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Solzhenitsyn`s April 5 op-ed "Ukrainian famine not a genocide" points to an intriguing new development in the writer`s thinking about the history of Communism... Russia`s best-known author is no longer prepared to hold the Communist regime responsible for its genocidal practices...

ALEXANDER SOLZHENITSYN`S April 5 op-ed "Ukrainian famine not a genocide" points to an intriguing new development in the writer`s thinking about the history of Communism and its atrocities. Russia`s best-known author still blames the October Revolution on the non-Russians, like Leon Trotsky, but he is no longer prepared to hold the Communist regime responsible for its genocidal practices, since that might reflect negatively on today`s Russia.

more stories like thisThe famine of 1932-33 resulted in the loss of millions of innocent lives in Ukraine and the largely Ukrainian-populated Kuban area of the Russian Federation. The debate about whether it meets the legal requirements of a genocide is still going on. But what is clear today is the crucial role played by the Communist authorities in creating conditions for the famine, as well as their willingness to use hunger as a political tool to teach the rebellious peasantry a lesson.

By treating the peasantry`s resistance to forceful collectivization as a manifestation and result of its susceptibility to Ukrainian nationalist ideology, and by closing the borders of Ukraine to prevent the escape of starving refugees and preclude the importing of food to Ukraine, the Communist authorities turned the famine into a Ukrainian national catastrophe.

Solzhenitsyn`s assertion that the treatment of the famine of 1932-33 as a genocide is the product of "spiteful, anti-Russian, chauvinistic minds" can be understood only if one equates the Communist government and the Russian people. Solzhenitsyn spent a good part of his life arguing that Communism and Russia were incompatible. His op-ed raises the question of whether he still believes in this.

SERHII PLOKHII

Cambridge

The writer is Mykhailo Hrushevsky professor of Ukrainian history at Harvard University.

The Boston Globe

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