Remembering the Holodomor in Wartime

Ukraine in Focus

The symbolism of marking the anniversary of the Holodomor as Ukraine comes under attack was noted widely. Political leaders across Europe and North America, including Ursula von der Leyen and Joe Biden, pointed to the historical parallels between the Holodomor and the Russian Federation’s current attempts to weaponize food against Ukraine and the broader world. And FAZ reports that the German Bundestag will vote this week to label the Holodomor a genocide, a step long debated – and called for by Ukrainian politicians – that is now being held up by German politicians across the political spectrum as an important signal as Ukraine is again the target of Russian aggression.

Given the centrality of the Holodomor to the Ukrainian collective experience of the 20th century, it has been a frequent theme in the work of IWM fellows, who have examined the history and memory of the Holodomor in its many facets. Here, a few key contributions:

  • A recent conference on the Holodomor in Global Perspective held at the University of Cambridge featured two former IWM fellows. Karolina Koziura discussed the Central European reaction to the Holodomor, while Iryna Skubii presented her research on material objects during the famine.
  • In Bloodlands, Timothy Snyder argues that the Holodomor can be seen as the first episode in the chain of mass killings that took place in the swath of territory that includes Ukraine over the course of the 1930s and 1940s. Snyder discusses the famine within the longer process of the imposition of the Soviet regime on Ukrainian territory in his Ukrainian history lecture course.
  • In the New York Review of Books, Serhii Plokhy offers a concise overview of the history and historiography of the Holodomor, as part of his review of Anne Applebaum’s Red Famine. The Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute’s project mapping the Holodomor brings the geography of atrocity into sharp focus, calling to mind the many maps we have seen over the past nine months of Russian destruction of the Ukrainian landscape. The introduction to the project by Plokhy points to the particular suffering of Kyiv and Kharkiv regions and of the famine’s deadly impact across both rural and urban settlements.
  • The postmemory of the Holodomor, with echoes in Ukrainians’ relationships to food and each other, is the subject of an exhibition and book by Lia Dostlieva and Andrii Dostliev, “I still feel sorry when I throw away food — Grandma used to tell me stories about the Holodomor.” Dostlieva and Dostliev reflected on visual representation of the Holodomor, from contemporaneous photography to present-day art, for Baltic Worlds.