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In 1929 Stalin launched his policy of agricultural collectivization - in effect a second Russian Revolution - which forced millions of peasants off their land and onto collective farms. The result was a catastrophic famine, the most lethal in European history. At least five million people died between 1931 and 1933 in the USSR. But instead of sending relief, the Soviet state made use of the catastrophe to rid itself of a political problem. In Red Famine, Anne Applebaum argues that more than three million of those dead were Ukrainians who perished not because they were accidental victims of a bad policy but because the state deliberately set out to kill them.
Applebaum proves what has long been suspected: After a series of rebellions unsettled the province, Stalin set out to destroy the Ukrainian peasantry. The state sealed the republic's borders and seized all available food. Starvation set in rapidly, and people ate anything: grass, tree bark, dogs, corpses. In some cases they killed one another for food. Devastating and definitive, Red Famine captures the horror of ordinary people struggling to survive extraordinary evil.
Today, Russia, the successor to the Soviet Union, has placed Ukrainian independence in its sights once more. Applebaum's compulsive narrative recalls one of the worst crimes of the 20th century and shows how it may foreshadow a new threat to the political order in the 21st.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Mrs. on 12-14-17
Still ever so relevant
This is by far the best book (available in English) ever written on the topic, it beats the previous definitive text by Robert Conquest. The writing is engaging and the detail, while certainly in great depth, works to make this a fascinating volume rather than some highly detailed books that simply become a drudgery.
The book also provides excellent background to the famine, looking at the Ukrainian experience during WWI, the Revolution and the horrific Civil War. Once again exquisite detail and vignettes make this an excellent listen.
I stated in the title that this book remains highly relevent and this is because of Applebaum's examination of class warfare and the horrors of Socialism, as seen in the Soviet Union. The Soviet propoganda that pushed for the confiscation of the property of the wealthy and the imposition of special taxes coupled with a hatred of those who wished to maintain their land and property is well detailed. The term Kulak was used for farmers of this ilk and soon became utterly unsupported by any real relationship to net worth.
The Famine remains a source of national mourning in Ukraine and is still a focal point related to state relations in E Europe.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful