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06KYIV4414, UKRAINE: THE HOLODOMOR AND THE POLITICS OF

November 30, 2006

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06KYIV4414 2006-11-30 16:15 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv

VZCZCXRO2901
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHKV #4414/01 3341615
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 301615Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY KYIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0529
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 KYIV 004414 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/30/2016 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM UP
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: THE HOLODOMOR AND THE POLITICS OF 
REMEMBRANCE: THE LEGACY OF STALIN'S 1932-33 FAMINE 
 
Classified By: Ambassador for reasons 1.4(b,d) 
 
1. (SBU) Summary. In the aftermath of moving commemorations 
November 25 of the 73rd anniversary of the holodomor ("Great 
Famine"), Stalin's man-made famine 1932-33 that led to the 
death of an estimated 5-10 million Ukrainians in Ukraine and 
the Russian Kuban region, the Rada passed in a single reading 
November 28 a bill submitted by President Yushchenko 
recognizing the holodomor as an act of genocide against the 
Ukrainian people.  The law adds momentum behind Yushchenko's 
efforts to use the holodomor to forge a strong sense of 
Ukrainian national identity and consciousness.  A public 
opinion poll in early November showed that 65 percent of 
Ukrainians supported the "holodomor as genocide" 
interpretation, although other earlier polls showed 
significant regional differences.  Passage came after hours 
of heated political debate over the endorsement of "genocide" 
and whether/how to include references to non-Ukrainians. 
 
2. (C) Comment: Politically significant was the decision of 
the Socialist Party, led by Rada Speaker Moroz, to break 
ranks for the first time with anti-crisis coalition partners 
Regions and the Communists in voting with Tymoshenko Bloc 
(BYuT) and Our Ukraine (OU) MPs to secure passage of the 
bill.  With the Communists out in front against the bill, 
both Yushchenko and Moroz took advantage of uncharacteristic 
uncertainty on the part of Yanukovych and Regions on how to 
handle the issue politically to seize the moral high ground 
and show national leadership.  Presidential Secretariat 
deputy Head Vasyunyk told Ambassador Nov. 29 that many 
Regions MPs who lost relatives in the holodomor were angry 
that Regions' leaders had enforced party discipline against 
voting in support of the measure.  End Summary and Comment. 
 
Remembering a National Tragedy for the Ukrainian people 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
 
3. (U) The 73rd anniversary of Stalin's man-made famine, 
known in Ukrainian as the Holodomor (Holod-hunger, mor - the 
root of verbs connected to death, torture, suffering), that 
killed an estimated 5-10 million Ukrainians in the winter of 
1932-1933, was observed in ceremonies throughout the country 
at 1600 on November 25.  President Yushchenko led a solemn 
procession from St. Sofia's Square to the Holodomor Monument 
on St. Michael's Square about a half kilometer away; 
thousands of votive candles were at both locations, burning 
throughout the night.  Religious officials, along with 
members of the Rada, the diplomatic corps including 
Ambassador, and the Cabinet of Ministers, were in attendance. 
 
4. (U) Upon arrival at the memorial Yushchenko, his wife, and 
Rada Speaker Oleksandr Moroz led the laying of wreaths and 
lighting of candles at the base of Memorial during the 
nationally televised ceremony; PM Yanukovych was notably 
absent.  A representative of each oblast then placed a candle 
at the base of the Memorial, emphasizing that the entire 
country had suffered from the lasting effects of the famine, 
which was centered in what is now eastern and central 
Ukraine.  A new holodomor monument was dedicated in a 
separate ceremony in Kharkiv; Kharkiv oblast alone lost two 
million in 1932-33, a third of its population. 
 
5. (U) In an impassioned ten-minute nationally televised 
speech, Yushchenko, whose family hails from Sumy province, 
noted that his grandfather died together with his family in 
the Holodomor that, at its height, claimed 25,000 victims a 
day.  Yushchenko stated: "Those who deny the famine today 
hate Ukraine deeply ... What they deny is not history -- they 
deny Ukrainian statehood."  He then "demanded" that the Rada 
recognize the Holodomor as genocide. 
 
Holodomor as genocide: Socialists join BYuT, OU 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
 
6. (SBU) In the run-up to the November 25 commemoration, 
Yushchenko had submitted a bill recognizing the Holodomor as 
an act of genocide against the Ukrainian nation and 
prohibiting public denial of the famine.  Political 
maneuvering prevented the bill's consideration prior to the 
commemoration, but it dominated proceedings when the Rada 
resumed November 28, supported by Rada Speaker Moroz.  The 
key drama concerned the position of PM Yanukovych's Party of 
Regions, since it was a given that the Communists would 
oppose the bill.  Regions first tabled a competing bill 
defining the holodomor as a crime by a totalitarian regime 
against humanity" and the "Ukrainian people's national 
tragedy" but not genocide.  They then advocated adopting 
Yushchenko's bill as a declaration rather than a law, and 
finally proposed genocide be defined as a crime by Stalin's 
regime against Ukrainian and other Soviet peoples. 
 
 
KYIV 00004414  002 OF 003 
 
 
7. (SBU) A Moroz-brokered compromise changed "Ukrainian 
nation" to "Ukrainian people" (narod), a reference to the 
constitution's inclusive non-ethnic based definition of the 
Ukrainian people/narod as citizens of Ukraine of all 
nationalities.  However,
 the basic definition of the 
holodomor as genocide remained.  The compromise also dropped 
the proposed prohibition against holodomor denial, and Moroz 
ensured passage of the bill in a single reading, an unusual 
but allowable parliamentary maneuver.  Regions nevertheless 
abstained, with the exception of two MPs -- Taras Chornovil 
and Anna Herman -- who broke party ranks to vote in favor of 
the resolution, citing family members who had died in central 
Ukraine during the holodomor.  They joined with the 
Socialists, BYuT, and OU MPs present to secure a 233 vote 
majority. 
 
8. (C) Presidential Deputy Chief of Staff Ivan Vasyunyk, 
Yushchenko's floor manager for the bill, told Ambassador 
November 29 that the holodomor bill revealed tensions inside 
Regions' faction.  Vasyunyk spent all day November 28 at the 
Rada and had spoken to a number of Regions managers about the 
bill.  Most Regions MPs had wanted to vote for the 
President's bill - as many as 150 of the 186-strong faction, 
he claimed.  However, the faction had enforced party 
discipline, with the two exceptions noted above.  The mood in 
Regions' caucus was very tense after the vote, claimed 
Vasyunyk, as many MPs, including dozens who had lost 
relatives in the holodomor, were angry they had been forced 
to abstain against their beliefs. 
 
National Identity and Politics, historical controversy 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
 
9. (C) Interestingly enough, the holodomor has the potential 
to be a unifying issue across Ukraine's recent "blue-orange" 
geographic political division, since the majority of deaths 
occurred in the east and center of the country, particularly 
in Kharkiv province (note: much of the "orange" west was 
under Polish rule in the interwar era).  However, the cause 
of the holodomor as genocide has traditionally been nurtured 
more strongly in nationalist western Ukraine.  Since becoming 
President in January 2005, Yushchenko has consistently 
championed the cause of fully acknowledging the impact of the 
holodomor as genocide as part of the ongoing formation of a 
stronger Ukrainian national identity.  (Note: Some 
sociologists consider Ukraine to be a post-genocidal society 
as a result of the loss of such a significant percentage of 
its population over twelve years from 1932-44, spanning the 
holodomor, the great purges, and WWII.)  Vasyunyk remarked to 
Ambassador that unifying Ukrainians was the President's -- 
and Moroz's - goal in sponsoring the bill. 
 
10. (SBU) An early November poll showed 65 percent of 
Ukrainians agree that the holodomor represented genocide 
indicate that Yushchenko's effort to publicize the tragedy 
has had an impact.  An earlier poll of 2000 Ukrainians 
conducted in September showed that 69 percent of respondents 
believed the famine was caused by the government's actions, 
with 84 percent of those believing that it was caused 
intentionally.  Passage of the bill vindicates Yushchenko's 
efforts and bolsters his status as a leader. 
 
11. (C) The most interesting development in the November 28 
vote was the active role of Rada Speaker Moroz in ensuring 
passage of a text ultimately opposed by coalition leader 
Regions.  His Socialist Party's traditional base includes 
rural areas like Poltava heavily affected by the holodomor, 
and the party's ratings have plummeted in the wake of his 
July decision to abandon OU and BYuT to join with Regions and 
the Communists instead.  Moroz may well have decided that 
supporting the "holodomor as genocide" bill could help 
salvage credibility with his disaffected electorate.  The 
same day he also dedicated a Rada plaque in memory of slain 
journalist Heorhiy Gongadze on the sixth anniversary of 
Moroz' dramatic playing of recorded conversations implicating 
then President Kuchma in Gongadze's disappearance (septel), a 
move many journalists dismissed as a PR stunt by Moroz. 
 
12. (C) Regions, which has generally won most political 
skirmishes since last summer, clearly showed ambivalence in 
the days leading up to the vote, unsure how to position 
themselves on an issue of less importance to their overall 
eastern and southern base (the September poll indicated that 
only 33 percent of eastern and 45 percent of southern 
respondents thought the famine was caused by intentional 
governmental action) and which clearly irritates Moscow. 
Regions deputy leader Volodymyr Makeyenko, one of ten 
Regions' whips, told us November 30 that Regions initially 
planned to have 30 MPs vote for the final version, to show 
partial support, but party leaders later reversed that, 
ordering no support.  While Makeyenko personally favored the 
 
KYIV 00004414  003 OF 003 
 
 
measure, he feared loss of his Budget Committee Chairmanship 
had he bucked party discipline, predicting that Chornovil and 
Herman would eventually be punished for not hewing to the 
party line. 
 
13. (SBU) Regions' decision also gave an opening to Our 
Ukraine's Yuri Pavlenko, whose fate as Youth Minister had 
been dangling for over a month as part of the ongoing 
Yushchenko-Yanukovych dance, to finally cut ties with the 
Yanukovych-led cabinet.  In announcing his renewed 
determination to resign, Pavlenko said that he could not 
remain in a government with those who failed to support the 
genocide motion.  The Rada granted his wish, firing him from 
his position November 29 with 241 votes in favor. 
 
14. (C) Comment: Although the 1932-33 famine is considered 
perhaps the most heinous of the many crimes by a totalitarian 
Soviet regime against its own people, international 
historiographical disagreement continues over whether 
Ukrainians were specifically targeted during a famine which 
killed millions across the Soviet Union.  According to 
documents from the time, Stalin issued specific orders for 
the confiscation in Ukrainian-populated regions of all 
foodstuffs, not just grain, significantly not just in the 
Ukrainian SSR but also in Ukrainian populated districts in 
Russia's Kuban region.  Russian historians in particular 
maintain that famine deaths in Ukraine were merely part of a 
wider famine sparked by Stalin to break rural resistance to 
collectivization.  In the aftermath of the mass deaths, 
Soviet authorities moved quickly to resettle ethnic Russians 
in newly formed collective farms across the depopulated 
Ukrainian areas. 
 
15. (U) Note: Ukrainian media reported that three activists 
from Russian nationalist groups the National Bolshevik Front 
(NBF) and the Eurasian Youth Union (EYU) marked the Rada's 
passage of the bill by throwing firecrackers at the Ukrainian 
Embassy in Moscow November 29.  NBF and EYU representatives 
told the press that the action was in protest of a bill which 
was offensive to the eternal friendship of the Great Russian 
and "Little Russian" peoples.  The latter term, Malorossiya, 
was used in the 18th-20th centuries instead of Ukraine by 
Rus
sians seeking to deny the existence of an independent 
Ukrainian identity. 
 
U.S. role in promoting holodomor awareness 
------------------------------------------ 
 
16. (SBU) Note: The U.S. Congress has played a role over the 
past twenty years in promoting awareness of the holodomor.  A 
Congressional Commission on the Ukraine famine, authorized in 
1985 and headed by historian James Mace, conducted 
groundbreaking archival and oral history research, leading to 
a final report conclusion in 1988 that: "Joseph Stalin and 
those around him committed genocide against the Ukrainians in 
1932-33."  Mace's research formed the basis for Robert 
Conquest's seminal 1986 book "Harvest of Sorrow," and Mace 
remains a hero today for many Ukrainians.  In 1993, on the 
60th anniversary of the holodomor, the Congressional 
Commission handed over to the newly independent Ukrainian 
government 4 volumes of findings, 10 volumes of archival 
materials, and 200 cassettes of oral history recordings of 
holodomor survivor testimony.  In 1998, the US Congress 
endorsed a joint resolution commemorating the 65th 
anniversary of the holodomor. 
 
17. (SBU) During President Yushchenko's triumphant April 2005 
appearance before a Joint Session of Congress, he said in 
gratitude: "It was from this hall that the world came to know 
the truth of the holodomor, a genocide famine masterminded to 
annihilate millions of Ukrainians."  On October 13, President 
Bush signed into law HR 652, a Congressional bill authorizing 
construction on federal land in Washington, D.C. of a 
memorial "to honor the victims of the famine and genocide 
that occurred in Ukraine in 1932 and 1933." 
 
18. (U) Visit Embassy Kyiv's classified website: 
www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/kiev. 
Taylor

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