27 November 2006

Black Ribbons

Ukraine Marks 73rd Anniversary of Famine
Released : Saturday, November 25, 2006 7:06 AM

KIEV, Ukraine - Ukraine held solemn commemorations Saturday to mark the 73rd anniversary of a man-made Soviet-era famine that killed one-third of the country's population, a tragedy that Ukraine's president wants recognized as an act of genocide.

At the height of the 1932-33 famine, 33,000 people died of hunger every day, devastating entire villages. Cases of cannibalism were widespread as desperation deepened.
Black ribbons were hung Saturday on the blue and yellow national flag, and in cities across the country, officials laid flowers at monuments to the estimated 10 million victims.

President Viktor Yushchenko and Parliament Speaker Oleksandr Moroz unveiled the cornerstone of a planned memorial complex in the capital. Later Saturday, officials planned a procession and the lighting of thousands of candles on a centuries-old Kiev square.
"I would like for us never to tolerate the shame of having to hold discussions about what to call this," Yushchenko said at the ceremony. "This is one of the most horrible pages of our history, and for a long time now, it has had only one name."

Soviet dictator Josef Stalin provoked the famine in a campaign to force peasants to give up their private farms and join collectives. Authorities collectivized agriculture throughout the Soviet Union, but farmers in Ukraine, known as the breadbasket of the U.S.S.R., fiercely resisted and bore the brunt of the man-made disaster.

Yushchenko has asked parliament to recognize the famine as genocide, but some lawmakers have resisted, and Moscow has warned Kiev against using that term.
Russia argues that the orchestrated famine did not specifically target Ukrainians but also other peoples in the Soviet agricultural belt, including Russians and Kazakhs, and this month said the issue should not be "politicized." But historians say that the overwhelming majority of victims were Ukrainians, and the famine coincided with Stalin's effort to quash growing Ukrainian nationalism.

"Practically every family who lived in Ukraine at that time suffered deaths," opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko said.

During the Soviet era, the mass starvation was a closely guarded state secret, but information trickled out over the years and Ukraine has since declassified thousands of files. Ten nations, including the United States, have recognized the famine as an act of genocide, defined as the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group. Genocide is a crime under international law.

Moroz said he supports recognizing the mass starvation as genocide, and predicted that the president's bill, which has run into some trouble among lawmakers loyal to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, would come before parliament next week. Some lawmakers from Yanukovych's Russia-leaning Party of Regions have suggested calling the famine a tragedy instead of genocide, but party member Taras Chornovil predicted the president's version would ultimately pass.

Under Stalin, each village was ordered to provide the state with a quota of grain, but the demands typically exceeded crop yields. As village after village failed to meet the requirements, they were put on a blacklist. The government seized all food and residents were prohibited from leaving, effectively condemning them to starvation.

Those who resisted were shot or sent to Siberia.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

01 November 2006

it's already november

wow! the time is just trucking along. we're already in november. man!

in kyiv now after a elongated stint in poltava. karen and i worked on a civics conference (we specifically demonstrated ways democracy can be evident in education). we were also able to hang out with our bestest pc friends, kris and jen. it was sure nice to see them, and to get away from l'viv for a little bit. until i left, i didn't realize how frustrated i was with everything that was going on there, professionally. personally, most everything is good. being in poltava, observing teachers, participating in conferences, and meeting new students really energized me.

being in poltava was my first experience in "the east." though some people might call poltava the center, i think it is east enough--and russian speaking enough--to count as east. and being there, i realized that some of my preconceived notions about that part of the country were wrong. people seemed happier in poltava than they do in l'viv. people were smiling, laughing. we walked around at night several times in poltava and never, ever felt unsafe. this is not true in l'viv. l'viv is a bigger city, however, so maybe that accounts for some of the goodness i found in poltava (a decidedly smaller, but not small) city. in short, yay for poltava! i really think it comes down to the fact that there are jobs in poltava. factories adn such. money. none of that is really in l'viv. l'viv is a beautiful museum with a rich history, but unless they can spin a strong tourism base out of the city--and they seem to be trying--there's not much else there in the money-making field.