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Sent: Tuesday, May 07, 2002 3:40 PM To: 'H-RUSSIA@H-NET.MSU.EDU' Cc: 'email@example.com' Subject: Re: "Ukranian Famine" (1932 grain exports) On Wednesday 24 April 2002, David Mirams [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] asked re the "Ukrainian Famine"* of the early 1930s: (snip) >...I have always understood that the Soviet Union exported grain during this period. If anyone has foodstuff export figures close at hand for this period from the Soviet Union will they please post them in this exchange? * My quotation marks, since famine was neither confined to Ukraine nor restricted to ethnic Ukrainians. Untangling the complicated problem of what was exported when during the famine years (let alone why) is difficult. Perhaps I can shed a little archive-based light on what seems to have happened. Let me stipulate at the start that I consider the Stalinist regime guilty of crimes against humanity for conspiring to turn harvest shortfalls into a mass calamity. What follows is based primarily on Politbiuro osobye papki, i.e. meeting-protocol excerpts bearing the highest degree of classification at the time, and clearly illustrates actions taken/not taken. Archival documents make it crystal clear: in the spring of 1932, the regime began a top-secret scramble to cover its very dirty ass as the full extent of the catastrophe it had aided and abetted began to dawn on it. Some of this scramble involved exports. Politbiuro protocol 91 point 41/9 (osobaia papka) on 8 March 1932 begins with the disingenuous admission, "In view of the fact that, as has become clear in the very recent past, the "shortfall" (nedopod) in [our] Eastern districts has turned out to be more serious than could have been anticipated, ...." It goes on to order a series of palliative measures beginning with the release of roughly 385,000 US tons of seed grain to what looked to be the hardest-hit areas: the Lower and Middle Volga Territories, the Urals, Kazakhstan, the Bashkir and Tatar ASSRs, and Western Siberia. It orders a temporary halt in grain procurements against the annual centralized plan in all provinces, territories and republics save Nizhegorod Territory and the Central Black Earth, Western, and Ivanovo-Voznesenskii Provinces. And most importantly for David Mirams' question, it specifically orders Commissar of Foreign Trade A. P. Rosengol'ts to "curtail grain shipments for export at 85 thousand tons" (prekratit' otgruzku na eksport prodovol'stvennykh kul'tur/85 tys. tonn). As these orders were percolating through the top levels of the apparat on a need-to-know basis, they collided with another looming crisis in the Far East. There the regime had begun pouring troops and workers into the region in a frenzied attempt to counter the Japanese investiture of Manchuria the previous fall. The rapidly increasing demand for food they created could not possibly be met by regional agriculture, which had been inadequate to start with and had gone spasmodic on account of mass collectivization. As for sending in the necessary grain overland, the regime's desire to hide Far Eastern vulnerability from Japan had ruled out use of the Chinese Eastern Railway and as of December 1931 forced shipments onto the already overburdened Transbaikal, Amur and Ussurii lines. By February-these had broken down completely, causing horrendous backups on the lines feeding them. Somewhere around 1 March Siberian party boss Robert Eikhe reported that >nine thousand< boxcars for the Far East, many of them containing grain, had piled up on the Tomsk and Omsk railroads leading into the Far East. The resulting situation for the civilian population was bad enough. It was touch and go for the military, which as of 3-4 March was apparently down to 4 days' reserves of both flour and forage and could not have resisted long had the Japanese realized the situation and come across the border in force. On the basis of coded communication with Army Political Administration boss Ian Gamarnik, Stalin's personal plenipotentiary in the Far East at the time, Stalin and Molotov on or about 6 March gave preliminary assent to the emergency purchase of 3 million puds (83,333 US tons) of grain for the region in Manchuria. Apparently after consulting Commissar of Food Industries Anastas Mikoian, the Politbiuro Far Eastern Commission (Stalin, Molotov, Kaganovich, Ordzhonikidze and Voroshilov) attempted to reduce the size of the purchase by authorizing the shipment to the Far East of 30,000 metric tons of grain. This was to travel by water from Ukrainian ports. As far as I can tell, it was included in the 85,000-ton export quota authorized on 8 March although technically it was a domestic transfer of resources. Within a week, Stalin, Molotov et al. reversed themselves on shipping any Ukrainian grain to the Far East. Apparently they realized that it would not arrive in time to avert famine. PB protokol 107 point 69/15 (osobaia papka) on 14 March 1932 therefore ordered the 30,000 tons to be exported, evidently intending to use the money thus raised to buy the grain in either Manchuria or Dairen. All 3 million puds were duly bought (mainly in Harbin) and shipped to Vladivostok. The amount of hard currency involved was fairly substantial - the bills came due in May and totaled roughly a third of the monthly foreign exchange outlay for the entire USSR. However it is not at all clear whether the grain that was supposed to be sold abroad to pay them actually went anywhere. By the beginning of May, with reports of famine pouring in, the Politbiuro had begun to back away from exporting any of the grain it had authorized on 8 March. PB protocol 100 point 6 (osobaia papka) of 16 May 1932 directed the Commissariat of Foreign Trade to divert 35,000 tons of wheat in Ukrainian ports for Ukrainian needs, and to divert another 30,000 tons heading to Leningrad's port-storage facilities to flour mills there and in Moscow. The regime in fact had begun >importing< grain to try to alleviate at least some of the famine. The same PB osobaia papka ordered the distribution of 3 million puds of emergency grain clandestinely bought in Persia: 2 million into the Caucasus and the remaining million into Moscow. As spring gave way to summer the Far Eastern situation again approached catastrophe. To ward off the crisis the regime again turned to a combination of secret foreign purchases and shipments from Ukraine. Thus PB protocol 107 point 26 (osobaia papka) of 10 June 1932 authorized the purchase of another 38,000 tons of grain in Manchuria, half of it to be flour, with the dispatch from Black Sea ports of an identical amount. To get the latter to the Far East before winter, it was supposed to leave the harbors no later than 15 August. I have not been able to verify whether this ocean shipment actually took place. However I believe that it probably did (at least, I've not found any order rescinding it), and that in essence it entailed yet another redirection of the 30,000 tons of Ukrainian grain Stalin had originally earmarked for the Far East. If I am right, instead of selling it abroad to help defray foreign purchases the Politbiuro eventually came back around to sending it to the Far East. What does all of this add up to? In my present opinion it is unlikely that Moscow was cynically selling large quantities of grain abroad while Ukrainian, Volga German, Kazakh, Tatar, Bashkir, Caucasian, and other peasants were eating tree bark and weeds. The convoluted story I've outlined does however raise significant questions about regime priorities. Not the least of them is why Stalin apparently was willing to purchase grain abroad for emergency distribution in the Far East, the Caucasus, and Moscow but not in Kiev, Saratov, or Tambov. Jon Bone/ William Paterson University