It was time to industrialise, to enter the world market.

You made a five-year plan. Russia would expand its farming so it could feed its rapidly- growing cities. You would trade the surplus grain on the world market to buy the industrial tools and equipment you needed to build a modern nation. 

You needed grain. You sent twenty five thousand of your best men to convince the people to join the cause. Collective farms were the only way forward, the only way to support the state. But the people were stubborn, wanted to keep hold of their own land, had to be ‘persuaded’ by your secret police before they would agree. 

The 1931 harvest was poor. Taking forty two percent of Ukraine’s grain, you were irritated when local officials said there’d be no seeds for planting. When people spoke of starvation, you called them unpatriotic. 

When Ukrainian farmers tried to hide grain, furious, you took everything: every bit of food, killing anyone who resisted. You would crush Ukrainian insurrection, create loyalty by force. Your vision for Russia would not founder. 

You sent out some grain in that terrible winter, Joseph Stalin, but not enough. Fourteen- and-a-half million people died: about half were executed or sent to gulags; the famine claimed the rest. 


Alex Harvie

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