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The harvest of sorrow: Soviet collectivization and the terror-famine.

The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine.

Robert Conquest. Oxford UniversityPress, $19.95 When future histories are written, the twentieth century may come to be known as the era of genocides. We have seen the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians by the Turks, the extermination of six million Jews in Europe by the Nazis, and the auto-genocide of perhaps two million Cambodians by their own rulers.

Although the terrible famine inthe Soviet Union in 1932-33 has been well known, it has usually been regarded as an inadvertent result of Stalin's forced collectivization. In his powerful, well-documented new work, The Harvest of Sorrow, Robert Conquest makes a persuasive case that the famine was no accidental catastrophe, but a deliberate policy of class and national extermination directed by Stalin against the peasantry.

An estimated seven million diedof starvation, Conquest calculates: five million in the Ukraine, one million in the North Caucasus, and one million elsewhere. Another 6.5 million died from "dekulakization,' the brutal campaign against the kulaks, who were seen by Stalin and the party as an exploitative class of landowners, but whom Conquest portrays as simply the most industrious peasants--petty-bourgeois, but far from rich. The "liquidation of the kulaks as a class,' in the words of Stalin's order of 1927, involved executing some, imprisoning others, and deporting still others to remote areas of Siberia.

Those peasants who were leftwere the target of Stalin's mad conviction that grain was being withheld from the state. He ordered impossibly high quotas of grain from the Ukraine and sent teams of military and party activists to search ruthlessly for caches of grain. One peasant, Conquest writes, "was shot for possession of 25 pounds of wheat gleaned in the fields by his 10-year-old daughter.' People robbed graves, searching for jewelry with which to purchase food in the cities. Some mothers even killed and ate their children.

The famine, he argues, waslargely a result of Stalin's fear of the Ukraine's power and nationalism. "Over in Russia,' he writes "things were different.' An editor of an Odessa newspaper "described two villages on either side of the Russo-Ukrainian border, where all the grain was taken from the Ukrainian, but only a reasonable delivery quota from the Russian villages.' The famine also was coupled with a campaign against the artifacts of Ukrainian national culture, including the Church.

Conquest writes with a dry passion,piling fact upon fact, statistic upon statistic, account upon account until whatever resistance the reader may have to an acceptance of the truth is chafed away, leaving only stark belief.

Conquest, a senior researchfellow at the Hoover Institution, is best known for his work on Stalinism, The Great Terror. Harvest of Sorrow must now stand beside it as a companion volume in documenting one of history's most terrible manifestations of state madness.
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Author:Shipler, David K.
Publication:Washington Monthly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Feb 1, 1987
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