on 4 March 2009
Highly acclaimed, The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine is a British historian's detailed, documented account of the horrific events in Soviet Ukraine in 1929-1932 during Stalin's reign wherein millions perished by means of man-made starvation.
Awards and honors of British historian Robert Conquest include: the Jefferson Lectureship, the highest honor the federal government bestows for achievement in the humanities (1993); the Alexis de Tocqueville Award (1992); the Richard Weaver Award for Scholarly Letters (1999); the Fondazione Liberal Career Award (2004); the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2005); and the Ukraine Presidential Medal of Honor (2006). The Ukraine Presidential Medal of Yaroslav Mudryi, named for the Kyivan prince known as a lawgiver and patron of the church and the arts (early 1000s), was given in recognition of Dr. Conquest's path-breaking scholarship on the Ukrainian famine 1932-1933 in Harvest of Sorrow (1986). The Medal is the highest honor bestowed by Ukraine.
By 2006, Dr. Conquest had authored twenty-one books on Soviet history, politics, and international affairs, including the classic, The Great Terror, which has been translated into twenty languages, and the acclaimed Harvest of Sorrow (Oxford University Press, 1986). His field of expertise is Russian and world politics and history. His many professional affiliations include former research associate of Harvard University's Ukrainian Research Institute. This is but a brief outline of Robert Conquest's curriculum vitae; that his credentials are distinguished, formidable, and impressive goes without saying.
The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine was sponsored by Harvard University Ukrainian Research Institute and the Ukrainian National Association. Among many others, the major research and discussion contributions of American historian, James Mace, PhD, Harvard University, are specifically acknowledged. Various resources in Europe and in America were utilized; special acknowledgement is made to the Hoover Institution's Library and Archives.
The purpose of Harvest of Sorrow is to raise public awareness of the events which took place within living memory, and which involved millions of people and millions of deaths.
Three reasons are stated for the lack of public awareness of the Ukrainian famine (known in Ukrainian as Holodomor). First, the terminology doesn't resonate with the same connotation--the word `peasant' doesn't have the same meaning to an American or Briton as it does to the Ukrainian or Russian. Second, Ukraine wasn't an independent nation at the time of writing of The Harvest of Sorrow; on maps, Ukraine appeared as part of the Russian Empire or the Soviet Union. And, third and most importantly, the concealment of facts by Stalin and the Soviet authorities ensured that the world was kept uninformed or confused.
The events chronicled in Harvest of Sorrow cover the period 1929-1932 (about the same length of time as that of the First World War). "Though confined to a single state, the number dying in Stalin's war against the peasants was higher than the total deaths for all countries in World War I."
Evidence cited in Harvest of Sorrow is from a variety of confirmatory sources so that no serious doubts should remain about any aspect of the period. Types of evidence referenced include: Soviet scholars, the Soviet press, confidential documents that have reached the West (`Smolensk Archives' at Harvard), the testimony of former Party activists (including General Petro Grigorenko and Dr. Lev Kopelev), foreign correspondents, foreign citizens, and first-hand reports of survivors. "For a long time testimony which was both honest and true was doubted or denounced--by Soviet spokesmen, of course, but also by many in the West who for various reasons were not ready to face the appalling facts." The sheer amount of evidence is enormous, and the material is confirmatory.
Following the Preface and Introduction are three Parts, the Epilogue, which includes Notes, Selected Bibliography, and Index.
In the Preface, we're told that Ukrainian spellings of Ukrainian place and personal names were used, with the exception of Kiev (Kyiv), Kharkov (Kharkiv) and Odessa (Odesa). Additionally, Dr. Conquest used "the Ukraine" rather than "Ukraine." He acknowledged that at the time, a number of Ukrainians found the reference to "the Ukraine" derogatory; however, he used the phrase since at the time of writing, it was used by Western scholars, translations from prominent Ukrainian writers used the phrase (because of their imperfect knowledge of English), and by Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute. Note: Ukraine gained independence in 1991. The website reads Embassy of Ukraine (not Embassy of the Ukraine); the government officially calls the country "Ukraine" (one word) and not "the Ukraine."
The Introduction states, in part, that a historian's duty is to discover and register what actually happened--to put the facts beyond doubt and in their context. And, that is precisely what Dr. Conquest accomplishes.
The Contents include: Preface; Introduction; Part I: The Protagonists: Party, Peasants and Nation; Part II: To Crush the Peasantry; Part III: The Terror-Famine; Epilogue: Notes (pgs. 348-394), Selected Bibliography (pgs. 394-398), and Index (pg. 398-412).
Eleven archival photos evidence some of the very many atrocities. Background material is extensive, documented, detailed, and very informative.
A horrendous chapter from Ukraine's history is exposed and documented. `A quarter of the rural population, men, women, and children, lay dead or dying, the rest in various stages of debilitation with no strength to bury their families or neighbors.' History that needs to be made known is presented in engrossing format with voluminous evidence. Deserving acclaim; deserving to be on library shelves, both personal and public, worldwide! A riveting read--definitely five stars, plus!
Addendum: In spite of the efforts of some to deny the Ukrainian Holodomor, Kyiv Post, in its November 17, 2008 issue, reported: "Representatives of around 40 countries will come to Ukraine to participate in events dedicated to the memory of the 75th Anniversary of the Holodomor Famine in 1932-1933," including: the Presidents of Macedonia, Estonia, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and also Bosnia and Herzegovina; Parliamentary Delegations from Moldova, France, Argentina, Brazil, Hungary, Spain, Croatia, Finland, and Liechtenstein; and, a Delegation from UNESCO, the European parliament, the OSCE, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
on 20 January 2009
The author, who wrote many of Thatcher's (worst) speeches, admits that this book is based on hearsay and rumour not on proper research. So his figures are ridiculous exaggerations. Far too many writers on the subject have relied not on the archives, but on Conquest's estimates.
However, a proper historian, Richard Evans, Professor of Modern History at Cambridge University, has explained how Conquest reached his figures. He writes: "Robert Conquest's The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror Famine (New York, 1986) argues that the `dekulakization' of the early 1930s led to the deaths of 6,500,000 people. But this estimate is arrived at by extremely dubious methods, ranging from reliance on hearsay evidence through double counting to the consistent employment of the highest possible figures in estimates made by other historians." The true figure for the 1930s is about 300,000 deaths.
Another decent historian, Professor R. W. Davies, wrote, "The archival data are entirely incompatible with such very high figures, which continue to be cited as firm fact in both the Russian and the Western media." (Soviet history in the Yeltsin era, Macmillan, 1997, page 172.)
So it's high time that Conquest's book was thrown into the dustbin of history.