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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Canadian media finally acknowledging enormity of Holodomor

What a difference 25 years makes.

I recall during the 50th anniversary commemorations in Winnipeg there was a lot of disbelief in media circles about the facts surrounding the Holodomor. That media disbelief is described pretty thoroughly in this article originally published in The Ukrainian Weekly.

... On this gruesome anniversary, the Ukrainian community in most Canadian cities fought an uphill battle in getting the newspapers and television stations, especially the CBC, to inform the public about this almost unknown genocide. "Too academic," "too historical," not newsworthy enough," "we can't mark every anniversary that comes along" and "that issue has been well-covered in the past" were the replies of a Winnipeg Free Press city editor to inquiries why events related to the anniversary were not reported. Only one letter to the editor was printed at the time, even though many had been sent in. It took a whole month of inquiries at first, then downright badgering by angry individuals before the Winnipeg Free Press printed three articles about the Famine [April 9, 1983]. Ironically, after all that, one of the articles carried the headline "Famine in Stalin's Russia [sic]." A separate box carried the statement:

"Few events of such enormity have attracted so little public clamor or more press apathy that the government-programmed famine which led to the extermination in 1932-33 of 8 million people in Ukraine. The Free Press was a party to this apathy -- in the years immediately after the famine and in efforts this year to publicize its 50th anniversary. Editors took for granted it was a matter best left to history books and academics, ignoring much significant
new research on the subject. Readers have noted the shortcomings. These pages acknowledge it."

Fortunately, these days there seems to be less press apathy, as this recent Winnipeg Free Press editorial illustrates.

Based on the numbers alone, body for body, victim for victim, murder for murder, the Ukrainian Famine of 1932-1933 may be the single greatest crime against humanity that has ever been committed.

... [The world] is a worse and more dangerous place ... because of the continuing refusal of many people, many governments even, to acknowledge that the Ukrainian Famine occurred and that it was a deliberate act of genocide committed by Stalin and the Soviet government against the Ukrainian people. ...

There is, and never was, any rational reason for accepting the Stalin line on the Ukrainian Famine, yet the West eagerly bought into it, and many people still do. The time has past, however, when honest denial of the Holodomor is possible, just as honest denial of the Holocaust is no longer possible. The Famine, too, should be engrained in our conscience and our consciousness lest we remain its accomplices.

Full editorial here.

Also this weekend, the National Post newspaper published an article about two British journalists, Malcolm Muggeridge and Gareth Jones. These two men courageously reported the truth of what was happening in Ukraine in 1932-33. For their efforts, Muggeridge lost his job and Jones lost his life under "mysterious" circumstances.

... They told the truth when all around them their press colleagues were inadvertently (or, in one case, deliberately) misleading the public.

Gareth Jones ... found people starving everywhere he went, and he wrote about it. The Western press corps, mostly confined to Moscow ... rejected Jones's reports.

As the world now knows (although it took more than half a century and the opening of Soviet archives to confirm), approximately 10 million people were deliberately starved to death by the collectivization policies pursued by Joseph Stalin...

[I]n the spring of 1933, young Malcolm Muggeridge ... described a man-made famine that had become a holocaust: peasants, millions of them, dying like famished cattle, sometimes within sight of full granaries, guarded by the army and police. ...

Few believed him. ... He was sacked by the Guardian and forced out of Russia. He was vilified, slandered and abused. Walter Duranty's voice led the chorus of denunciation and denial, although privately Duranty [said] at least 10 million people had been starved to death ...

Beatrice Webb -- Muggeridge's aunt by marriage, and a longtime Soviet apologist -- said that Muggeridge's famine reports were "base lies." The very Reverend Hewlett Johnson, Anglican Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, from the pulpit praised Joseph Stalin's "steady purpose and kindly generosity." George Bernard Shaw made a whirlwind tour of Russia and pronounced himself satisfied that there was ample food for all in the worker's paradise.

Vindication for both Jones and Muggeridge was a long time coming. ... Today, 75 years later, vindication is complete, as [they] posthumously receive the Ukrainian Order of Freedom. If there is a comparable Award for journalistic integrity, they deserve that too.

Full article here.

Maybe one day, denying that the Holodomor happened, and/or that it was a genocide, will be universally considered a hate crime, just as Holocaust denial (rightly) is today.

I just hope it doesn't take another 25 years to progress to that point.


Ukemonde said...

A little step forward Paulette, but so much more to be done.
The newsprint media did a wonderful job indeed!!! Bravo
I was following the local TV press in Montreal, and not a mention of the commemoration.
ALso the Communist Broadcasting Corp (CBC) was quiet on this topic. CTV was the only TCV broadcaster that mentioned anything. I gave up after a few hours of watching....

Pawlina said...

Yes you're right, Roman, it is just a little step. At least it is in the right direction.

However, it probably will take at least another 25 years before the irrational anti-Ukrainian hatred (and/or indifference) so entrenched in the mainstream media is widely recognized by industry insiders as a liability.

As for the CBC ... I've been known to spell out the acronym the same way. But when you think about it, I don't know that "communist" is all that apt a label. I mean they're a crown corporation ... how much more imperialist can you get? :-)

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