[Aaus-list] Corrections of Recent Misattributions

John-Paul Himka jhimka at ualberta.ca
Mon Feb 12 17:11:38 EST 2018

*Corrections of Recent Misattributions*

While I was vacationing in Mexico, a reporter from *Jerusalem Post*, Lahav
Harkov asked me some questions by email about a bill being proposed in
Israel to commemorate the Ukrainian famine of 1932-33. Her article appeared
on 6 February 2018.


Unfortunately, and I am sure unintentionally, she attributed to me views
that I do not hold and that could cause some consternation among colleagues
in Ukrainian studies. I was not sure what to do, but eventually I decided
to share my corrections with our list.

Lahav Harkov wrote that I said the Holodomor was "not a genocide." This is
not my view. What I wrote to her is that "I don't operate with the concept
of genocide." Like Timothy Snyder and many other scholars, I am
uncomfortable with using this highly politicized and polarizing term for
scholarship, except in the very loosest way as in "comparative genocide
studies." And I do believe that the Ukrainian famine belongs within that
field of study. A full elucidation of what I think on this topic is my
paper "Problems with the Category of Genocide and with Classifying the
Ukrainian Famine of 1932-33 as a Genocide." This paper is available on my
academia.edu site:


She also wrote that I said "other populations had a higher mortality rate"
during the famine. What I actually wrote to her was: "Troublesome
populations, like the Don Cossacks also, had higher mortality." But I
thought I was clear that the troublesome population I had foremost in mind
was the population of Ukraine; I guess it was not clear enough, however,
and she read it differently than I meant it. I understand that the Kazakhs
had a higher mortality rate in 1930-33 than the population of Ukraine or
Ukrainians, but this was not what I had in mind writing to her. I was just
trying to underscore the political aspects of the famine that led to such
high mortality in Ukraine.

Below I provide the full text of what I wrote to Ms Harkov. I responded to
the particular questions she asked me, which were:

"First of all, what's your opinion of the bill?

Do you think it emboldens Holocaust deniers and distorters?

Could you please shed some light on the way the Ukrainian nationalists use
the Holodomor to whitewash a history of antisemitism?"

Here was my response:

"For a variety of reasons I don’t operate with the concept genocide. About
4 million citizens of Ukraine perished in 1932-33, and the evidence points
to deliberate measures to punish that population. The famine was caused by
radical agrarian policy; but its effects were not distributed evenly.
Troublesome populations, like the Don Cossacks also, had higher mortality.
In the case of Ukraine, often all food was taken away from people, not just
hidden grain. There’s no doubt that there was a state food crime here and
that it had a political angle.

My opinion of the bill? I think it would be very generous of Israel to
commemorate the victims of the famine.

I can’t see that remembering the famine in Israel would embolden Holocaust
deniers. I think rather they would be embarrassed.

But there is no question that Ukrainian nationalists and government figures
in Ukraine have been guilty of employing the famine in an antisemitic way.
Nothing sophisticated here: the Jews (notably Lazar Kaganovich)
orchestrated the Holodomor, in some versions as punishment for the 1919
pogroms, in other versions in order to profit from it. If you go to my site
at academia.edu you can find my article 'Encumbered Memory' and my paper
'The Holodomor in the Ukrainian-Jewish Encounter Initiative.' Details

John-Paul Himka
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