Inflammation and stories on russia

How the Media Misrepresents Russia
The fourth estate continues to plays a very crucial role in representing Russia on the global stage, especially as it remains at the epicenter of international political discourse (and even propaganda) in recent years. Yet, at the same time, the media misrepresents Russia and and helps create a subject of polarization and contentious, worldwide debate.

Over the years, media portrayal of current affairs in the country — particularly its involvement in the Syrian Civil War and the Ukrainian crisis —  as alleged human rights violations and treatment of dissidents has sparked a great deal of controversy.

How Does the Media Misrepresent Russia?

Historically, the media misrepresents Russia largely in regard to the country’s fractious relationship with its western counterparts, divisions that date back to the Cold War era and the entrenched divisions between East and West. Consequently, many ordinary Russians strongly believe that the way the media misrepresents Russia has not altered much since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Given the ubiquitous influence of the mainstream media globally, there is a definite positive correlation between media and poverty reduction due to the medium’s power and impact on public opinion and global political agendas. At the same time, the mainstream media caters to a wide array of stakeholder groups and other parties within their target audiences.

Global Representations

As a result of the misleading representation, perceptions of poverty and other important social and economic issues in Russia can become distorted. For example, Russian poverty rates and economic growth and recovery figures tend to vary with different sources. These can grow to be major impediments to understanding long-run social progress and development in the country.

Moreover, the inordinate amount of coverage dedicated to geopolitical issues in Russia greatly debilitates the already preexisting lower levels of coverage for poverty-related issues. Additionally, Russian President Vladimir Putin is often branded a pariah in regard to the intense international media attention and scrutiny placed on his actions, decisions and Russia’s foreign policy goals.

The Ramifications of International Media Attention

There seems to be a near-constant deficiency in the presentation of domestic social issues in the country, particularly President Putin’s promised six-year poverty reduction plan and the country’s economic recovery after the fall in global oil prices.

There could be a significant number of effects on the perspective and reputation of the country due to the media misrepresenting Russia. Media coverage can also become an important precursor for international credit ratings and global economic and financial rankings. These scores may have unforeseen impacts on important trade relationships, diplomatic relations and future investments to the country.

Overall, eradicating inconsistencies in media coverage can perhaps serve as a stepping stone to address social issues with more clarity and look past the lens of double standards that can often impact a nation’s representation. Hopefully, the international community will be able to participate in this new news coverage, and take on a more effective role in aiding the world’s poor.

 – Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Russia
Almost 145 million people live in Russia. Despite placing emphasis on unity, some enjoy a much higher quality of living than others. This is evident in the country’s large income discrepancy, and the accompanying poverty in Russia. Below are 10 facts about poverty in Russia:

1. Poverty is on the Rise in Russia

In the early 2000s, income levels increased in Russia and drove down the poverty rate from 29 percent in 2000 to 10.7 percent in 2012. Unfortunately, the income levels didn’t remain and the poverty rate has grown slowly back to 13.5 percent in 2016.

2. Oil is Partly to Blame

One of the greatest threats to the Russian economy has been decreasing oil prices. In a country that greatly depends on oil, a shift in prices can be catastrophic. Given the falling oil prices over the past few years, from more than $100 per barrel to less than $30, Russia’s economy is vulnerable. Although there has been modest improvement as barrel prices are now at $60.

3. Agriculture is Also at Fault

As a country with vast amounts of tundra, agriculture is not a prime industry in Russia. Soil that lacks productive capabilities places a limit on economic expansion. Although Russia plays to its strength with oil, decreasing its dependency is a must. Diverse industries create jobs – something that could help alleviate poverty in Russia.

4. Wealth Inequality is Common

Wealth inequality exists in both developing and developed countries; including the U.S. Russia is no exception. The richest 10 percent of Russia’s population control three-fourths of wealth. This raises flags for a country with a rising poverty rate. With a dwindling middle class, Russia faces a problem on the horizon. Improving wealth distribution will take a creative solution.

5. President Putin has Vowed to Help

Acknowledging the issues that many Russians face, Vladimir Putin committed to improving conditions. He mentioned nearly 20 million Russians are living below the poverty line and promised to cut the number in half by 2024. Some had concerns that the plan lacked specific methods of action. Regardless, starting a conversation on poverty in Russia is a step in the right direction.

6. Rural Areas can Offer Relief

Russian citizens in rural areas often enjoy a better quality of life. Due in part to the wealth inequality that plagues the country, city living can be expensive. For this reason, those living in rural parts of Russia often experience less poverty than in the city. Rural living is beneficial in Russia; despite the country’s lack of agricultural capabilities.

7. The Future Remains Unclear

As a whole, the economic future of Russia is hard to predict. Poverty can be a direct result of economic conditions. In a country like Russia, this principle holds true. Growth in key industries is slow. With bankruptcy being commonplace in many regions of Russia, the time for the country to act is now.

8. Slow Economic Conditions Inspire Change

One positive of a struggling economy is the Russian government’s shift toward improvement. Adopting a pro-growth policy, the Russian government has launched infrastructure improvements. When paired with methods to fight poverty, this could lead to success for Russia.

9. Russia Needs Political Advocacy

As one of the most powerful methods of change a country has, utilizing politics can help Russia. An absence of a cohesive strategy to combat poverty is a key reason for Russia’s struggle. Developing and executing a policy on a national level has achieved success elsewhere. Local, regional and national policies could provide a piece to Russia’s poverty puzzle.

10. The Road to Poverty Reduction Could be Long

Russia’s economic woes might not see a quick resolution. The country’s economy is slow to change with the rest of the world. And with oil prices still below what they were during prosperity, Russia needs to adapt. Until it does, poverty in Russia will continue to be a problem.

– Robert Stephen

Photo: Google

Water Pollution in Russia from Coast to Coast

A quarter of the world’s fresh water supply is in Russia, but a large portion of the resource has been tainted by industrial waste. Water pollution in Russia is problematic for Moscow, considering the city is 70 percent dependent on surface water.

With estimates of 35 to 60 percent of total drinking water reserves not meeting sanitary standards, water pollution in Russia effects all corners of the country. In fact, a report from Russia’s Ministry of Natural Resources in April of 2017 stated that 74 percent of Russians live in environmental deterioration, and that 40 percent of them consumed water unhealthy to drink.

Incidents of Environmental Abuse

Prosecutors recently charged that Russia’s Natural Resources Ministry neglected to collect environmental fines across Russia. Back in 2016, an industrial company named Norilsk Nickel was fined a mere $530 for contaminating an entire Siberian river with heavy metals.

In the northwest of Russia near Finland is a region known as Murmansk. In the past, this area suffered nuclear hazards and acted as the dumping ground of ship skeletons. The Kola Bay fishing community, a port town in Russia’s Murmansk region, is now under stress due to the polluted water.

In a progressive move, Russia’s federal budget allocated 50 million rubles ($880,000) towards cleaning the unauthorized ship dumps out of Kola Bay.

Karabsh

To the east of Moscow and just north of Kazakhstan lies the town of Karabsh in Russia’s Ural Mountains. There, a copper smelting plant dominates the environment and has been polluting the ground and water since the beginning of the last century.

When the town was young, it’s population reached 50,000, but Karabash now has a very high mortality rate from cancer and respiratory disease due to the plant; in consequence, the current population is 11,000.

“I’ve long since given up drinking the tap water,” said Vladimir Kartashov, a lifelong resident of Karabash.

The copper plant in Karabash has turned the town into an environmental disaster zone with water concentrations of arsenic 279 times, copper 600 times and lead is 300 times the permitted level.

Siberia

In Siberia, the large part of Russia east of the Urals, the deepest lake in the world lies just north of Mongolia. Lake Baikal hold’s one-fifth of the world’s unfrozen fresh water and is of exceptional value to evolutionary science; unfortuantely, the body of water can no longer absorb human pollution without consequence.

The lake’s ecosystem experienced an explosion of algal blooms, which deplete the water of dissolved oxygen and practically suffocate fish.

“I am 150 percent sure that the reason is the wastewater runoff from towns without proper sewage treatment,” said Oleg Timoshkin, biologist at the Russian Academy of Science’s Limnological Institute in Irkutsk.

Improve the Industry, Improve Water Pollution in Russia

In an effort of good faith, the Russian government is putting 26 billion rubles ($452 million) into a cleanup program, but water pollution in Russia is driven predominantly by industry.

Corporations do not have much incentive to practice eco-friendly habits due to the ineffective, unenforced fines. All across the country, rivers and lakes have been flooded with waste runoff from factories. Russia has the means to enforce its own environmental regulations, but Russia’s Natural Resource Ministry has neglected to collect on 132,075 instances of entire-river poisoning.

Hopefully the restoration efforts of Russia will become the nation’s norm, but for now, the world must wait and see what becomes of water pollution in Russia.

– Sam Bramlett

Photo: Flickr

OssetiaDiscussing poverty in Georgia is difficult to do without also acknowledging the sensitive subjects of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. There is extensive debate over how best to describe these regions, but they are described as anything from disputed territories to de facto Russian client states propped up and recognized by few other than Russia itself. As such, poverty in Abkhazia and South Ossetia comes with its own special set of circumstances.

The collapse of the Soviet Union was a major turning point in the history of this part of the world and it has left lingering trauma in the region. Abkhazia and South Ossetia were relatively well-off parts of the Soviet Union, but following its collapse, they both saw their populations and their standards of living decline. The effect of this collapse is lingering poverty in Abkhazia and South Ossetia such that a majority of residents view the dissolution of the USSR in a negative light.

The current political situation in both of these territories is far from stable, even after nearly two decades of violence, suspected ethnic cleansing and political turmoil. This presents a unique set of obstacles for addressing poverty in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, particularly in Abkhazia.

Most residents of Abkhazia, regardless of ethnic group, seem to favor total independence with the exception of ethnic Armenians, who support integration into the Russian Federation. If anything, however, Russian influence is strongly cemented into the Abkhaz political sphere, which means that any changes in the status of Abkhazia will lean heavily toward deeper integration with Russia.

South Ossetia is also finding itself pulled more and more into Moscow’s orbit. However, this is less of a problem than in Abkhazia as an overwhelming majority of its ethnically homogenous population is in favor of joining the Russian Federation.

The international community continues to debate whether and how to handle this political situation, but few are confident that a solution will be reached anytime soon. Meanwhile, however, poverty in Abkhazia and South Ossetia remains a problem and residents are finding that few in the midst of this great power struggle are attentive to their real and pressing needs.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia face particular challenges when dealing with poverty because of their disputed political status. It is difficult for them to access international markets, but Abkhaz and Ossetian products do not necessarily fare well in Russian markets. It is also worth noting that Georgia also suffers as a result; it has lost access to Russian markets as a result of this political dispute, where prior to the conflict 70 percent of its trade volume was with Russia. The complicated political situation makes it difficult for aid to reach these regions and hinders efforts to collect accurate data.

The 2014 Winter Olympics were a beacon of hope to relieve poverty in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The goal was for tourism to nearby Sochi to help shine a light on these locales and promote tourism there as well. However, this ended when Russia, prioritizing security above all else, closed the Abkhazian and South Ossetian borders.

That being said, there are a number of actors trying to improve the situation and promote economic development in this troubled region. The UNDP in Georgia has made combating poverty, and specifically youth unemployment, a key feature of its work. Promoting youth employment is key because it not only promotes economic growth, but can also discourage young people from becoming involved in political violence.

While Abkhazia and South Ossetia face many challenges that will not abate any time soon, efforts are being made to work around the political situation to bring real change to the lives of the people in these regions. Abkhazia and South Ossetia are just two reminders that even in seemingly intractable conflicts, poverty reduction is still critically important and can make a huge difference.

– Michaela Downey

Photo: Flickr

Treating HIV in Saint PetersburgIf Saint Petersburg were the same today as it was ten years ago, it would be known as one of the top five cities in the Russian Federation affected by the HIV virus. However, it is now the fourteenth most affected city. Treating HIV has been a top priority for the city, and as a result it has been able to get the epidemic under control. Saint Petersburg is the first city in the Russian Federation to achieve a steady decline in HIV infections, and fewer people are becoming infected with the virus throughout the city.

Last year, about 1,750 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in Saint Petersburg alone, a number that was even higher in the years before. In total, 42,000 people in the city were living with HIV. The city was able to get 80 percent of the people affected access to services at the Center for AIDS Prevention and Control.

The Center for AIDS Prevention and Control provides antiretroviral therapy (medicine that directly treats HIV), useful information and specialized medical care as well as prevention medicines for both pre-exposure and post-exposure.

Affected citizens in Saint Petersburg can also visit the city AIDS center, where they are able to get new syringes, sterile equipment and other preventative tools such as condoms. Saint Petersburg has also partnered with community organizations that have contributed to treating HIV by testing women for HIV, giving out free condoms and talking to consultants. Unfortunately, Saint Petersburg is one of the only cities in the Russian Federation that provides affected citizens with such a wide range of prevention and treatment.

An important factor in reducing the number of people affected by HIV was the availability of quick HIV testing. That way, someone who is affected can know immediately to begin taking antiretroviral therapy to both treat the disease and prevent any new infections.

The government has been supporting an outdoor advertising campaign teaching residents about HIV prevention services and public service announcements. The advertising has three main messages regarding HIV: the importance of testing, the availability of treatment and the elimination of stigma and discrimination against people with HIV.

Saint Petersburg is a good example of a city that was greatly affected by the HIV epidemic, but through a variety of preventative and treatment measures was able to take control of the epidemic and achieve a drastic shift in the number of people diagnosed.

– Chloe Turner

Photo: Flickr

russian sanctionsCurrent U.S. sanctions against Russia began in 2014 as a response to the Russian annexation of Crimea in Ukraine.

Sanctions are generally an economic tool, though they may also include political or diplomatic measures. Modern economic sanctions have become increasingly sophisticated and are often targeted against narrow groups or even individuals instead of entire nations.

Economic sanctions have a spotty history of effectiveness regardless of how they are applied. They have had an effective political impact in isolated cases, like the heavy sanctions against South Africa’s former apartheid government. However, there are many counter-examples. The U.S. maintained sanctions against Iraq and its ruling Ba’ath party for over a decade after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.  Those sanctions appeared to create no significant policy changes from Saddam Hussein’s government, but had a severe effect on the quality of life in Iraq.

10 quick facts about the current sanctions against Russia:

  1. The Russian sanctions mainly target the energy industry. U.S. energy companies may not do business with Russia, nor may they transfer oil or gas drilling technology to Russian agents. U.S. banks are prohibited from issuing long-term loans to Russian companies for energy-focused projects.
  2. The U.S. Department of the Treasury is the responsible agency for overseeing economic sanctions on behalf of the U.S. federal government.
  3. The European Union (EU) gets approximately 3o percent of its natural gas from Russian suppliers, making sanctions a difficult process for EU nations.
  4. The EU joined the U.S. in levying sanctions against Russia in September 2016 following the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight 17 over eastern Ukraine in July 2016. The flight was carrying 206 EU nationals.
  5. Russian sanctions have resulted in more than $1 billion in losses to ExxonMobil, the company formerly headed by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
  6. The International Monetary Fund estimated that the Russian GDP could be 1.5 percent lower in 2016 due to sanctions.
  7. The U.S. Congress passed additional sanctions against Russia in July 2017, reacting to evidence that Russia intentionally interfered in U.S. elections processes in 2016. The updated sanctions bill, signed into law in August 2017, constrains the power of the U.S. President to unilaterally reduce or remove Russian sanctions.
  8. The Russian sanctions affect dozens of specified Russian companies and government organizations, and include specific individuals in high-ranking positions in the intelligence and defense ministries.
  9. Since the imposition of Russian sanctions, the ruble has declined over 50 percent in value relative to the U.S. dollar.
  10. Sanctions have reportedly contributed to a sharp uptick in the number of Russians living in poverty (from 15.5 million in 2013 to 19.8 million in 2016). One foreign policy expert speculated in the Chicago Tribune that sanctions have even contributed to a decline in the Russian population.

Economic sanctions, despite their occasional success, have gained a reputation for harming the most vulnerable members of a targeted nation while often not having the intended effects on its government. North Korea would perhaps be the best modern example of this situation. It remains to be seen whether the current sanctions against Russia will change the behavior of its government without placing an undue burden on the population.

– Paul Robertson

Photo: Google

Humanitarian Aid to Russia
The Russian economy has been something of a roller coaster over the course of the past three decades. The rapid economic transformation after the fall of the Soviet Union is responsible for the economic hardship the country endured in its aftermath, and resulted in many countries providing humanitarian aid to Russia over the past thirty years.

While still not without its problems, Russia has gone from a recipient of foreign aid to a major donor at the international level. Its story is well worth examining, as it demonstrates that humanitarian aid to Russia has been largely successful, that countries do “graduate” from foreign aid and also that former recipients of foreign aid can put themselves in a position to turn around and become donors, benefitting other developing nations while simultaneously advancing their own interests.

The Soviet Union was a major donor of foreign aid, providing it to many countries. After its collapse, however, Russia endured years of economic hardship. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, humanitarian aid to Russia in various forms was regularly provided by the international community. Russia continues to receive small amounts of foreign aid from donors like the United States, although this aid has transitioned in recent years from being mostly humanitarian in nature and development-oriented to supporting governance and international law enforcement efforts.

Just last year, the United Kingdom elected to stop providing humanitarian aid to Russia out of a desire to aid “only the poorest people in the poorest countries.” This indicates that, from the point of view of the U.K., Russia has “graduated” from foreign aid, despite the widespread belief that doing so is impossible for a developing country.

While some would debate whether Russia specifically is no longer in need of aid, it is accepted that the country no longer needs as much as it once did. This would imply that foreign aid played a role in Russia’s return to economic self-sufficiency. Without debating specifics, Russia is an excellent example of how there is a return on investment when providing foreign aid.

Over the past several years, Russia has even begun providing foreign aid to other developing countries. While its foreign aid budget is still the lowest of the G8 countries, it is by no means insignificant, and it seldom decreases.

While Russia prefers to channel most of its aid through multilateral organizations, the Russian government has also indicated that it would like to expand its capacity for foreign aid and create a dedicated agency to oversee distribution in order to enhance Russia’s international image. Most of Russia’s aid money is put toward food security and vaccine distribution programs, which means that humanitarian aid to Russia has indirectly resulted in aid being provided to other countries, meaning that the return on investment far outstrips the amount initially provided.

The story of Russia is an excellent example of humanitarian aid that was a resounding success. Not only has Russia become capable of meeting its basic needs on its own, but it has now become a donor to other countries. While the situation in the nation is not perfect, Russia still serves as an excellent example of why foreign aid is worth every penny.

– Michaela Downey

Photo: Pixabay

Credit Access in Russia
In 1991, the Russian Federation rose from the ashes of the former Soviet Union in economic and political turmoil. Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar led free-market reforms in 1992, and many Russians accused him and the Russian government of corruption and poor management, leading to the rise of the oligarchs. Many former party members and enterprising individuals took advantage of the disorganization of the new state’s economy and government in order to privately take control of assets and former state-run companies.

The high concentration of wealth in the hands of only a few rich men was detrimental to the Russian economy and its new democratic government. Credit access in Russia was easy to acquire for these men, as many ran the banks and largest companies in the country; unfortunately, credit was not as accessible to common Russian people. In 2004, President Vladimir Putin declared war on the oligarchs. As a result, Mikhail Khodorkovsky — one of the richest men in Russia at the time due to his ownership of the oil company Yukos — and Putin’s chief political rival were jailed. Other oligarchs suffered the same fate in the name of improving the lives of the lives of the common Russian people.

The Long Game

Despite these gains, credit access in Russia was not going to improve overnight. The immense size of the Russian Federation hinders banking for the common Russian person still to this day. According to the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI), a major contributor to this issue is the combination of Russians living in rural areas of the country, the ability to reach banks and archaic and dysfunctional banking legislation.

The Ministry for Economic Development (MED), the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank of Russia and the Russian Micro Finance Center compiled a team of experts to visit and study other banking systems so as to work to improve their own. In 2010, their findings influenced laws that allowed banks broader powers to provide financial services to their clients and ease credit access in Russia. But due to the lack of clarity and infrastructure, the banks were not able to take advantage of these new reforms.

This trend is not new to Russia and had to be fixed by government intervention. Russian’s Ministry of Economic Development received a long-term grant from the AFI in order to improve banking access to Russians. Increased access to banks improves credit access in Russia, and in 2012 the AFI stated that their were 40,000 banks to the 143 million Russians. By the end of their partnership with the MED, their goal is to increase the number of banks to 50,000.

Domestic Banking

The improvement of domestic banks helped the Russian economy to function after the United States and the European Union levied sanctions against Russian companies and government officials. Russian companies were forced to use Russian banks instead of foreign banks, and those companies who were not sanctioned began using Russian banks in fear of finding their name added to the sanctioned list.

This increase in power of the banks has increased credit access in Russia. Although it has been good for businesses, banks have begun a system of predatory lending. Tuva, one of Russia’s poorest and most undeveloped regions, has seen an increase in borrowing. Much of this money is used to either pay off existing accrued debt or to maintain the standard of living.

It is estimated that average household in Russia spends 15 percent of its income managing debt. Interest rates have also climbed higher, thereby making it more difficult for these Russians to climb out of debt and for the banks to make their money back. High interest rates have driven off people who could afford to pay back loans, and this money would help banks recoup their losses. In 2014, the Russian government was forced to bail out two of the country’s top five lenders.

Credit access in Russia has improved dramatically since the collapse of the Soviet Union, but the quality of the banking system has fluctuated. To save its economy, the Russian government needs to once again improve the country’s banking system, including its lending practices. Although rural citizens have better access to credit, it only does them harm if they are unable to save themselves from debt.

– Nick DeMarco

Photo: Flickr

Leaky Pipes? Infrastructure in RussiaDespite high levels of foreign investment and a thriving energy sector, the development and maintenance of infrastructure in Russia remains sluggish and disproportionately benefits a small elite. Russia is one of five major emerging economies grouped under the heading “BRICS”— Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Investment in infrastructure in Russia, however, lags behind other member nations, particularly India and China.

Even with overall low rankings in infrastructure investment, Russia remains an “energy superpower” as a major exporter of oil and natural gas. Indeed, one active area of infrastructure development in Russia is pushing pipelines through Central Asia towards China in an effort to solidify the country’s hold on that market.

This commanding position hasn’t necessarily translated into widely-shared prosperity for the people of Russia. Poverty in the world’s largest country is up by nearly 15 percent. The majority of economic gains go to a fairly small privileged class. As it stands, only 110 households hold between 19 percent to 85 percent of all Russian financial assets. This uneven distribution of prosperity is in large part due to endemic corruption in Russia, facilitated by weak government institutions, a legacy of the breakup of the Soviet Union.

This disregard of the law threatens the future of investment for infrastructure in Russia. Andrey Movchan, senior fellow and director of the Economic Policy Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center, opines that due to corruption state investment in infrastructure not only would likely fail to revitalize the Russian economy but might actively damage it.

The Russian government under Vladimir Putin has actively blocked efforts by the U.S. to improve governance in the nation. Putin’s administration ordered the U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID) to shut its operations in Russia in 2012, claiming that the organization was engaging in subversive activities. 

Domestic efforts to combat entrenched corruption likewise face challenges. Enemies of the state are notorious for being sidelined by illness, exile or death. One prominent example of such a suspicious neutralization is the case of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian tax accountant who died in prison in 2009 following his investigation into potential tax fraud. This prompted the U.S. Congress to pass sanctions in 2012 targeting Russian officials believed to have been involved in human rights violations.

Despite the risks, Russians continue to fight for their futures and for better infrastructure. Alexei Navalny, head of the Anti-Corruption Foundation and a frequent inmate of Russian jails who attracts thousands to his rallies, has announced his intentions to run against Putin in the 2018 presidential elections.

– Joel Dishman

Photo: Flickr

Holodomor Genocide

In 1933, Ukraine experienced a manmade famine orchestrated by Joseph Stalin’s Soviet regime. As a result of the Holodomor Genocide somewhere around 10 million Ukrainians perished. Whether the Holodomor (translated from Ukrainian as “extermination by famine”) was a genocide, as Ukrainian history insists, or a byproduct of the ongoing Soviet famine, as some contemporaries still suggest, the stories of the millions that died should be remembered to ensure that such a widespread tragedy does not happen again.

 

10 Facts about the Holodomor Genocide:

 

  1. The Soviet Union: Ukraine became a republic of the Soviet Union in 1922 and their agriculture became a major part of the Soviet economy. As Stalin took power he capitalized on Ukraine’s agricultural prosperity and created collective farms to spread grain and other products throughout the member nations. From 1932 to 1933, Stalin increased the quotas required by Ukrainian farmers and severely punished those who resisted.
  2. The Resistance: Many Ukrainians resisted Stalin’s rule over their farms. As a result of their resistance, these Ukrainians came to be considered enemies of the state and were shipped away to remote areas such as Siberia. Many died in transit or else starved to death due to the harsh conditions.
  3. The Policies: The mass expulsions of Ukrainian farmers meant that Stalin had access to all of their resources. For those that remained Stalin increased their quotas to impossible standards. Food and livestock were confiscated, and those caught stealing from the farms in which they worked were arrested. The heart of the famine saw the deaths of 25,000 people every day due to malnutrition and starvation.
  4. The Eyewitness Accounts: The lens through which the world sees famine is often abstract. For victims of the Holodomor, the experience is far more personal. According to surviving eyewitness accounts, Ukrainians survived on anything they could find. From the blossoms of acacia trees to the rotting flesh of cats and dogs, they tried to survive by any means possible. Despite the decreasing number of dogs and abounding malnutrition, denial of the Holodomor Genocide was, and, is still today abundant.
  5. Refusal of Assistance: The international community was by no means ignorant to the famine in Ukraine, however, Stalin refused assistance. The Soviet Union did not acknowledge the widespread problem and suppressed censuses that would help prove the genocide. Visitors to the Soviet Union were likewise confined to Moscow and denied entry to Ukraine.
  6. The Actual Number of Dead is Unknown: While the consensus is that the number of Holodomor victims is around ten million, there are a number of factors that skew the true number. Stalin’s suppression of the Ukrainian census and the large number of people exiled abroad distort the calculations. Denials of the famine both by the Soviet Union and Western publications further alter the number.
  7. Denial of the Famine: The Soviet Union was steadfast in their denial of the Ukrainian famine. Throughout the Holodomor, the USSR released propaganda material under-emphasizing the situation in Ukraine. Soviet official Maxim Litvinov went so far as to say, “there is no famine… You must take a longer view. The present hunger is temporary. In writing books, you must have a longer view. It would be difficult to describe hunger.” This view was by no means eradicated by the passage of time; since 1932 Russia has continued to deny its role in the Holodomor Genocide.
  8. Walter Duranty: Denial of the Holodomor was not isolated to Soviet propaganda. Walter Duranty, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for The New York Times, wrote articles that conformed to Stalin’s agenda. This included suppression of the famine in Ukraine, writing that “conditions are bad, but there is no famine.” Duranty’s misleading writing and the denial of the famine by the Soviet Union combined to mask the full extent of the Holodomor. The New York Times has since publicly acknowledged Duranty’s failures and called for his Pulitzer Prize to be canceled.
  9. Recognizing Genocide: In 2016, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko officially called for the Holodomor to be acknowledged as a genocide orchestrated by the Soviet Union, which, for decades, Soviet rule prevented Ukraine from doing. Now, memorials stand all over the world that honor the victims and officially acknowledge the Holodomor.
  10. Russia Still Denies Genocide: Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Russia has maintained its innocence. Discussion regarding the famine was banned and falsification of evidence took place and Russia, to this day, continues to deny their role in the genocide. Russian officials regard evidence of the genocide as “falsifications of history,” and claim that the famine was due to a natural disaster that affected the entirety of the Soviet Union.

The denial by the Soviet Union of their role in the genocide has prevented a nation from healing. While the U.S. and other Western nations believed accounts that lessened the famine or ignored Stalin’s complicity, they have taken steps to remedy their failure. Russia must do the same to ensure that nothing like the Holodomor Genocide happens again.

Eric Paulsen
Photo: Google