Ukraine has previously suffered at Russia’s expense. The Holodomor is the name given to the man-made famine that gripped the Ukraine, a rich grain-producing area, in 1932-3. As a result of economic incompetence and mismanagement, the USSR was about to undergo a famine in its big cities in the north, Moscow, Leningrad (St. Petersburg) and Stalingrad (Volgograd). In order to maintain his control over the Soviet Union, Stalin made a decision. He would have to steal the grain from Ukraine in the south to feed the main population areas in the north. He then organized a campaign, sending armed groups into Ukraine and stealing all the grain they could find to transport north.
When the campaign started the peasants who had grown the grain started to hoard it and hide it in various places. The stealing of the grain then became a terror campaign, with peasants and farmers who had hidden their grain being summarily shot. Without any grain as food and without any income, the whole of Ukraine, some 40 million people, became starved. Within a year, without any food, some 10% of the population died of starvation, some 4 million people. Children were left without parents and starved, cannibalism became rife, with the living feeding off the dead and dying.
This famine is described in detail in the iconic book by Robert Conquest entitled “Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine” (Oxford University Press, 1986). In order to give an ideological justification to this wholesale stealing and death, Stalin used the concept of collectivization of farming as an excuse. The idea was that small peasant-owned farms were inefficient. The land and farming had to be collectivized so that peasants and farmers would work together on large state-owned farms. Of course, anyone who resisted the confiscation of his/her grain, land and animals was considered to be anti-Soviet, an enemy of the people, and so was murdered without compunction or due process.
Although reports of the famine and the terrible treatment of Ukrainians that accompanied it, were reported in the West, little information was allowed to leak out. Under these circumstances pro-Soviet leftists such as the Webbs accepted the lie that the opposition of the Ukrainian kulaks (wealthy farmers) to collectivization had to be opposed by force. Also Walter Duranty, a NY Times journalist, reported that there was no famine and that the peasants were well-fed and happy, and he was given a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting from the USSR. Only many years later was it found that he was in the pay of the Soviets, and his “fake news” was exposed.
Needless to say, the surviving Ukrainians hated these collectivized State farms and often deliberately sabotaged them, an act that was punishable by death. But, in any case these farms were extremely inefficient, and large numbers of farm animals were allowed to die and grain production plummeted. It was not until the collapse of Communism in 1991 and the establishment of a free Ukraine, that farms were returned to their original owners and grain production skyrocketed, and Ukraine is now the fourth largest exporter of grain in the world. That is until this year, due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the blockade of Ukrainian ports..