Holodomor: Germany's parliament recognises Ukraine's 1930s famine as 'genocide'

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By Euronews, AP  with Reuters
Germany's parliament passed a resolution recognising Ukraine's 1930s famine as "genocide".
Germany's parliament passed a resolution recognising Ukraine's 1930s famine as "genocide".   -   Copyright  Kay Nietfeld/AP

Only days after the 90th anniversary of Ukraine's 1930s "Holodomor", Germany's parliament has approved a resolution recognising the famine as "genocide".

Between 1932 and 1933, some 3.5 million Ukrainians died in a man-made famine, known as the "extermination by starvation".

Some historians claim Soviet leader Joseph Stalin purposely orchestrated the famine to eliminate the Ukrainian independence movement. Others say Holodomor was the result of the Soviet Union's botched policies to collectivise agricultural land.  

According to the resolution brought to the Bundestag by the three parties in Chancellor Olaf Scholz's governing coalition and the main opposition bloc, "the mass deaths from hunger were not a result of failed harvests; the political leadership of the Soviet Union under Josef Stalin was responsible for them."

The resolution also states that all things Ukrainian were "deeply suspect" to Stalin and notes that "the whole of Ukraine was affected by hunger and repression, not just its grain-producing areas."

While many academics are divided over whether the famine should be classified as genocide -- the deliberate annihilation of a people, be they an ethnic, national, racial, or religious group -- the resolution passed by the German parliament says that "from today's perspective, a historical and political classification as genocide is obvious."

"This horror had its cause in the Kremlin -- there, the dictator took the cruel decision to push through collectivisation by force and cause hunger," Green party lawmaker Robin Wagener told parliament on Wednesday.

"And the killing by hunger also had as its aim the political repression of Ukrainian national identity, Ukrainian culture, and language."

AP Photo/Andrew Kravchenko
People light candles and lay flowers at the monument of the victims of the Holodomor in Kyiv, on November 26.AP Photo/Andrew Kravchenko

Both Wagener and conservative opposition lawmaker Volker Ullrich spoke of "parallels" between the 1930s famine and Russia's current war against Ukraine, saying that Moscow invasion "stands in this historical tradition," as Ullrich said.

Russia has always refused the classification of Holodomor as a genocide, saying that the famine that spread across the Soviet Union in those years killed not only Ukrainians but also Russians, Kazakhs, Volga Germans, and others.

Russia said the German parliament's move was an anti-Russian provocation and an attempt by Germany to whitewash its Nazi history.

"There is another attempt to justify and push forward a campaign -- being planted in Ukraine and sponsored by the West -- to demonise Russia and to pit ethnic Ukrainians against Russians," a foreign ministry statement read.

"The Germans are trying to rewrite their history ... downplay their own guilt and muddy the memory of the unprecedented nature of the countless crimes committed by Nazi Germany during World War II," it added.

Germany is not the first country to recognise Ukraine's Holodomor as genocide. 

According to the Holomodor Museum in Kyiv, 16 states have so far recognised the famine as genocide, in addition to Ukraine. These are Australia, Ecuador, Estonia, Canada, Colombia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, the US, and the Vatican.

Other countries, including Argentina, Chile, and Spain, have condemned it as "an act of extermination".

The labelling of the famine as genocide calls on the German government to work against "any attempts to spread one-sided Russian historical narratives", but it's not legally binding and doesn't mandate government action.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the German parliament's resolution was a "decision for justice, for truth" and an "important signal to many other countries of the world that Russian revanchism will not succeed in rewriting history."