Sanwar Ali: Ukraine, forced migration, famine and Putin


Ukraine Famine and Genocide

Leonid Denysenko, Ukrainian-Australian graphic artist living in Sydney, Australia.

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By Sanwar Ali:

Firstly, I should say that I do have a personal interest in what was previously the Soviet Union and the rights, liberties and freedoms of the people, who have been oppressed by the Soviet Union, before that by Russian Czars and others, and now by Putin’s Russia.  My daughter is half Latvian.  Latvia has a border with Russia and during Soviet times was treated as being part of the Soviet Union.  I have fond memories of Riga the capital of Latvia over many, many years.  Years ago, in happier times, my daughter was even selected as one of a small number of Latvian students to represent Latvia in an international competition at St Petersburg University in Russia. 

The people of the Ukraine have suffered terribly due to the actions of Russia and other countries, not just now but in the past as well.  Even before the Russian invasion, surely they had already suffered enough.

Forced Migration in the Soviet Union and genocide

It is estimated that 3.6 million Ukrainians have fled following the invasion of the Ukraine by Russia that started on 24 February 2022.  Lets not also forget the previous forced deportations in the Soviet Union.  From 1930 to 1952 under the brutal dictatorship of Joseph Stalin millions of people were internally displaced to places such as Siberia and Central Asia.   Soviet “enemies of the people” based largely on ethnicity were resettled, with estimates that 43 percent of those resettled dying of diseases and malnutrition.  These actions have been described by historians as "crimes against humanity", "Soviet ethnic cleansing" and "genocide".

According to Wikipedia the following groups of people faced forced internal deportation in the Soviet Union:

Poles (1939–1941 and 1944–1945)

Kola Norwegians (1940–1942)

Romanians (1941 and 1944–1953)

EstoniansLatvians and Lithuanians (1941 and 1945–1949)

Volga Germans (1941–1945)

Ingrian Finns (1929–1931 and 1935–1939) 

Finnish people in Karelia (1940–1941, 1944) 

Crimean TatarsCrimean Greeks (1944) 

Caucasus Greeks (1949–50)

KalmyksBalkarsItalians of CrimeaKarachaysMeskhetian TurksKarapapaksFar East Koreans (1937)

Chechens and Ingushs (1944). 

Ukrainian Famine caused by Soviet Union – Holodomor

Another horror that should not be forgotten is the man-made famine also called the Terror-Famine or Holodomor (in Ukrainian) in the Ukraine from 1932 to 1933, that killed millions of ethnic Ukrainians.  Some have suggested that the famine was planned by Soviet Union tyrant Joseph Stalin to destroy an Ukrainian independence movement. 

There has been some debate about the exact causes of the Ukrainian famine.  It is surprising that a country such as the Ukraine which is one of the top grain producers in the World (at least before the recent Russian invasion) should suffer such a calamity.  It is clearly the case that Soviet collectivization policies that disregarded the wellbeing of Ukrainians led to the famine. Grain that could have been used to feed Ukrainians was sent elsewhere.  Bad decision-making and incompetence made things even worse.

In a poll in the Ukraine in October 2013 38.7% of those polled said that "my families had people affected by the famine", 39.2% said they did not have such relatives, and 22.1% did not know.  There is debate as to whether the famine was a “crime against humanity” or “genocide”.  As Ukrainians still remember the famine “Holodomor” caused by a previous Kremlin Government during Soviet times, it is little surprise that Ukrainians have put up such fierce resistance against invading troops from Russia.

Who should face sanctions?

The countries that have been the most enthusiastic about imposing sanctions against Russia have tended to be "Western Countries" such as those in Europe and North America, and a few Asian countries worried about China.  Are the West guilty of showing favouritism towards one particular group?  UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson turned up recently at blood thirsty Saudi Arabia looking for an alternative source of oil.  This was shortly after a mass execution of 81 people, probably mainly political dissidents. There have only been somewhat half hearted sanctions against Saudi Arabia.

And what about human rights violations in China, including in Hong Kong and the Uighur province of China?  It seems that “the west” is so dependent on Chinese made goods that it is impossible to impose sanctions on China.  Especially, after the invasion of the Ukraine serious questions must now be asked about dependency on totalitarian Governments with poor human rights records. 

Censorship and Russia

It is very possible I imagine that this news report will be banned in Russia, Belarus, Saudi Arabia and China. If I visit Russia it seems that I may face a jail term of up to 15 years for spreading “fake news”.   

Is it right that Europe should censor the pro-Putin propaganda machine?  What are we fighting for?  Is it not somewhat hypocritical to complain about the “Police State” in Russia and then try and prevent access to Russian State media, however biased it might be?  Isn’t censorship also frequently counterproductive?  Oliver Stone, the controversial American film director, is the executive producer of “Ukraine on Fire” which was banned on YouTube for a short time in March 2022.  Perhaps Ukraine on Fire indeed does have a pro Kremlin bias.  The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group calls it “undistilled Kremlin propaganda”.  Thanks to the controversy caused by Google who temporarily removed the documentary from Youtube, however briefly, this documentary has benefitted from free publicity.

Fighting the Russian Invaders sent by Putin

I wish the Ukrainian forces every success in their fight against the Russian invaders.  After almost a month Russia has not yet conquered Ukraine.  A month ago hardly anyone thought that Ukraine would be able to hold out for so long!  The brutal dictator and war criminal Vladimir Putin and his accomplices should be brought to justice.   I also say Victory to Ukraine!

Sanwar Ali, Editor and member National Union of Journalists

If you are thinking of a way to help Ukraine, perhaps make a donation to the Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. There is also the Afghanistan Appeal.