Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was born in Kislovodsk, RSFSR (now in Stavropol Krai, Russia). His mother, Taisiya Solzhenitsyna (née Shcherbak) was Ukrainian. Her father had apparently risen from humble beginnings, as something of a self-made man. Eventually, he acquired a large estate in the Kuban region in the northern foothills of the Caucasus. During World War I, Taisiya went to Moscow to study. While there she met and married Isaakiy Solzhenitsyn, a young officer in the Imperial Russian Army of Cossack origins and fellow native of the Caucasus region. The family background of his parents is vividly brought to life in the opening chapters of August 1914, and in the later Red Wheel novels.
In 1918, Taisia became pregnant with Aleksandr. Shortly after her pregnancy was confirmed, Isaakiy was killed in a hunting accident. Aleksandr was then raised by his widowed mother and aunt in lowly circumstances. His earliest years coincided with the Russian Civil War. By 1930 the family property had been turned into a collective farm. Later, Solzhenitsyn recalled that his mother had fought for survival and that they had to keep his father's background in the old Imperial Army a secret. His educated mother (who never remarried) encouraged his literary and scientific learnings and raised him in the Russian Orthodox faith; she died in 1944.
As early as 1936, Solzhenitsyn was developing the characters and concepts for a planned epic work on the First World War and the Russian Revolution. This eventually led to the novel August 1914 – some of the chapters he wrote then still survive. Solzhenitsyn studied mathematics at Rostov State University. At the same time he took correspondence courses from the Moscow Institute of Philosophy, Literature and History, at this time heavily ideological in scope. As he himself makes clear, he did not question the state ideology or the superiority of the Soviet Union until he spent time in the camps.
On 7 April 1940, while at the university, Solzhenitsyn married a chemistry student Natalia Alekseevna Reshetovskaya. They divorced in 1952 (a year before his release from the Gulag); he remarried her in 1957  and they divorced again in 1972. The following year (1973) he married his second wife, Natalia Dmitrievna Svetlova, a mathematician who had a son from a brief prior marriage. He and Svetlova (b. 1939) had three sons: Yermolai (1970), Ignat (1972), and Stepan (1973).
During World War II Solzhenitsyn served as the commander of a sound-ranging battery in the Red Army, was involved in major action at the front, and twice decorated. A series of writings published late in his life, including the early uncompleted novel Love the Revolution!, chronicle his World War II experience and his growing doubts about the moral foundations of the Soviet regime.
In February 1945, while serving in East Prussia, Solzhenitsyn was arrested for writing derogatory comments in letters to a friend, Nikolai Vitkevich, about the conduct of the war by Joseph Stalin, whom he called Khozyain" ("the master"), and "Balabos", (Yiddish rendering of Hebrew baal ha-bayis for "master of the house"). He was accused of anti-Soviet propaganda under Article 58 paragraph 10 of the Soviet criminal code, and of "founding a hostile organization" under paragraph 11. Solzhenitsyn was taken to the Lubyanka prison in Moscow, where he was beaten and interrogated. On 7 July 1945, he was sentenced in his absence by Special Council of the NKVD to an eight-year term in a labor camp. This was the normal sentence for most crimes under Article 58 at the time.
The first part of Solzhenitsyn's sentence was served in several different work camps; the "middle phase," as he later referred to it, was spent in a sharashka (i.e., a special scientific research facility run by Ministry of State Security), where he met Lev Kopelev, upon whom he based the character of Lev Rubin in his book The First Circle, published in a self-censored or "distorted" version in the West in 1968 (an English translation of the full version was eventually published by Harper Perennial in October 2009). In 1950, he was sent to a "Special Camp" for political prisoners. During his imprisonment at the camp in the town of Ekibastuz in Kazakhstan, he worked as a miner, bricklayer, and foundry foreman. His experiences at Ekibastuz formed the basis for the book One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. One of his fellow political prisoners, Ion Moraru, remembers that Solzhenitsyn spent some of his time at Ekibastuz writing. While there he had a tumor removed, although his cancer was not diagnosed at the time.
In March 1953 after the expiry of Solzhenitsyn's sentence, he was sent to internal exile for life at Kok-Terek in the northeastern region of Kazakhstan, very close to the current border with Russia, as was common for political prisoners. His undiagnosed cancer spread until, by the end of the year, he was close to death. However, in 1954, he was permitted to be treated in a hospital in Tashkent, where his tumor went into remission. His experiences there became the basis of his novel Cancer Ward and also found an echo in the short story "The right hand." It was during this decade of imprisonment and exile that Solzhenitsyn abandoned Marxism and developed the philosophical and religious positions of his later life; this turn has some interesting parallels to Fyodor Dostoyevsky's time in Siberia and his quest for faith a hundred years earlier. Solzhenitsyn gradually turned into a philosophically-minded Christian as a result of his experience in prison and the camps. He repented for some of his actions as a Red Army captain, and in prison compared himself to the perpetrators of the Gulag: "I remember myself in my captain's shoulder boards and the forward march of my battery through East Prussia, enshrouded in fire, and I say: 'So were we any better?'" His transformation is described at some length in the fourth part of The Gulag Archipelago ("The Soul and Barbed Wire"). The narrative poem The Trail (written without benefit of pen or paper in prison and camps between 1947 and 1952) and the 28 poems composed in prison, forced-labor camp, and exile also provide crucial material for understanding Solzhenitsyn's intellectual and spiritual odyssey during this period. These "early" works, largely unknown in the West, were published for the first time in Russian in 1999 and excerpted in English in 2006.
 After prison
Photo of Solzhenitsyn in 1953, right after his release from the special Gulag camp at Ekibastuz.
After Khrushchev's Secret Speech in 1956 Solzhenitsyn was freed from exile and exonerated. After his return to European Russia, Solzhenitsyn was, while teaching at a secondary school during the day, spending his nights secretly engaged in writing. In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech he wrote, "during all the years until 1961, not only was I convinced I should never see a single line of mine in print in my lifetime, but, also, I scarcely dared allow any of my close acquaintances to read anything I had written because I feared this would become known."
In the 1960s while he was publicly known to be writing Cancer Ward, he was simultaneously writing The Gulag Archipelago. The KGB found out about this. Finally, aged 42, he approached Aleksandr Tvardovsky, a poet and the chief editor of the Noviy Mir magazine, with the manuscript of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. It was published in edited form in 1962, with the explicit approval of Nikita Khrushchev, who defended it at the presidium of the Politburo hearing on whether to allow its publishing, and added: "There's a Stalinist in each of you; there's even a Stalinist in me. We must root out this evil." The book became an instant hit and sold-out everywhere. During Khrushchev's tenure, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was studied in schools in the Soviet Union as were three more short works of Solzhenitsyn's, including his acclaimed short story Matryona's Home, were published in 1963. These would be the last of his works published in the Soviet Union until 1990.
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich brought the Soviet system of prison labor to the attention of the West. It caused as much of a sensation in the Soviet Union as it did in the West—not only by its striking realism and candour, but also because it was the first major piece of Soviet literature since the twenties on a politically charged theme, written by a non-party member, indeed a man who had been to Siberia for "libelous speech" about the leaders, and yet its publication had been officially permitted. In this sense, the publication of Solzhenitsyn's story was an almost unheard of instance of free, unrestrained discussion of politics through literature. Most Soviet readers realized this, but after Khrushchev had been ousted from power in 1964, the time for such raw exposing works came quietly, but perceptibly, to a close.
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Every time when we speak about Solzhenitsyn as the enemy of the Soviet regime, this just happens to coincide with some important [international] events and we postpone the decision.
– Andrei Kirilenko, a Politburo member.
Solzhenitsyn made an unsuccessful attempt, with the help of Tvardovsky, to get his novel, The Cancer Ward, legally published in the Soviet Union. This had to get the approval of the Union of Writers. Though some there appreciated it, the work ultimately was denied publication unless it was to be revised and cleaned of suspect statements and anti-Soviet insinuations (this episode is recounted and documented in The Oak and the Calf).
The publishing of his work quickly stopped; as a writer, he became a non-person, and, by 1965, the KGB had seized some of his papers, including the manuscript of The First Circle. Meanwhile Solzhenitsyn continued to secretly and feverishly work upon the most subversive of all his writings, the monumental The Gulag Archipelago. The seizing of his novel manuscript first made him desperate and frightened, but gradually he realized that it had set him free from the pretenses and trappings of being an "officially acclaimed" writer, something which had come close to second nature, but which was becoming increasingly irrelevant.
After the KGB had confiscated Solzhenitsyn's materials in Moscow, during 1965–1967 the preparatory drafts of The Gulag Archipelago were turned into finished typescript in hiding at his friends' homes in Estonia. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn had befriended Arnold Susi, a lawyer and former Estonian Minister of Education in a Lubyanka Prison cell. After completion, Solzhenitsyn's original handwritten script was kept hidden from the KGB in Estonia by Arnold Susi's daughter Heli Susi until the collapse of the Soviet Union.
In 1969 Solzhenitsyn was expelled from the Union of Writers. In 1970, Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. He could not receive the prize personally in Stockholm at that time, since he was afraid he would not be let back into the Soviet Union. Instead, it was suggested he should receive the prize in a special ceremony at the Swedish embassy in Moscow. The Swedish government refused to accept this solution, however, since such a ceremony and the ensuing media coverage might upset the Soviet Union and damage Sweden's relations with the superpower. Instead, Solzhenitsyn received his prize at the 1974 ceremony after he had been deported from the Soviet Union.
The Gulag Archipelago was composed during 1958–1967. This work was a three-volume, seven part work on the Soviet prison camp system (Solzhenitsyn never had all seven parts of the work in front of him at any one time). The Gulag Archipelago has sold over thirty million copies in thirty-five languages. It was based upon Solzhenitsyn's own experience as well as the testimony of 256 former prisoners and Solzhenitsyn's own research into the history of the penal system. It discussed the system's origins from the founding of the Communist regime, with Lenin himself having responsibility, detailing interrogation procedures, prisoner transports, prison camp culture, prisoner uprisings and revolts, and the practice of internal exile.
The Gulag Archipelago's rich and varied authorial voice, its unique weaving together of personal testimony, philosophical analysis, and historical investigation, and its unrelenting indictment of communist ideology made The Gulag Archipelago one of the most consequential books of the twentieth century. The appearance of the book in the West put the word gulag into the Western political vocabulary and guaranteed swift retribution from the Soviet authorities.
During this period, he was sheltered by the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, who suffered considerably for his support of Solzhenitsyn and was eventually forced into exile himself.
 In the West
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On 12 February 1974, Solzhenitsyn was arrested and deported the next day from the USSR to Frankfurt, West Germany and stripped of his Soviet citizenship. The KGB had found the manuscript for the first part of The Gulag Archipelago and, less than a week later, Yevgeny Yevtushenko suffered reprisals for his support of Solzhenitsyn. U.S. military attache William Odom managed to smuggle out a large portion of Solzhenitsyn's archive, including the author's membership card for the Writers' Union and Second World War military citations; Solzhenitsyn subsequently paid tribute to Odom's role in his memoir "Invisible Allies" (1995).
In Germany, Solzhenitsyn lived in Heinrich Böll's house in Cologne. He then moved to Zurich, Switzerland before Stanford University invited him to stay in the United States to "facilitate your work, and to accommodate you and your family." He stayed on the 11th floor of the Hoover Tower, part of the Hoover Institution, before moving to Cavendish, Vermont in 1976. He was given an honorary Literary Degree from Harvard University in 1978 and on Thursday, 8 June 1978 he gave his Commencement Address condemning, among other things, materialism in modern western culture.
Over the next 17 years, Solzhenitsyn worked on his cyclical history of the Russian Revolution of 1917, The Red Wheel. By 1992, four "knots" (parts) had been completed and he had also written several shorter works.
Despite spending two decades in the United States, Solzhenitsyn did not become fluent in spoken English. He had, however, been reading English-language literature since his teens, encouraged by his mother. More importantly, he resented the idea of becoming a media star and of tempering his ideas or ways of talking in order to suit television. Solzhenitsyn's warnings about the dangers of Communist aggression and the weakening of the moral fiber of the West were generally well received in Western conservative circles (for example, before being denied the opportunity by then-president Gerald Ford, Ford administration staffers Richard Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld advocated on Solzhenitsyn's behalf to speak directly to the president about the Soviet threat), alongside the tougher foreign policy pursued by U.S. President Ronald Reagan. At the same time, liberals and secularists became increasingly critical of what they perceived as his reactionary preference for Russian nationalism and the Russian Orthodox religion. Solzhenitsyn also harshly criticised what he saw as the ugliness and spiritual vapidity of the dominant pop culture of the modern West, including television and much of popular music: "...the human soul longs for things higher, warmer, and purer than those offered by today's mass living habits ... by TV stupor and by intolerable music". Despite his criticism of the "weakness" of the West, Solzhenitsyn always made clear that he admired the political liberty which was one of the enduring strengths of western democratic societies. In a major speech delivered to the International Academy of Philosophy in Liechtenstein on 14 September 1993, Solzhenitsyn implored the West not to "lose sight of its own values, its historically unique stability of civic life under the rule of law—a hard-won stability which grants independence and space to every private citizen."
In a series of writings, speeches, and interviews after his return to his native Russia in 1994, Solzhenitsyn spoke about his admiration for the local self-government he had witnessed first hand in Switzerland and New England during his western exile. He "praised 'the sensible and sure process of grassroots democracy, in which the local population solves most of its problems on its own, not waiting for the decisions of higher authorities.'"
 Return to Russia
In 1990, his Soviet citizenship was restored, and, in 1994, he returned to Russia with his wife, Natalia, who had become a United States citizen. Their sons stayed behind in the United States (later, his oldest son Yermolai returned to Russia to work for the Moscow office of a leading management consultancy firm). From then until his death, he lived with his wife in a dacha in Troitse-Lykovo (Троице-Лыково) in west Moscow between the dachas once occupied by Soviet leaders Mikhail Suslov and Konstantin Chernenko. A staunch believer in traditional Russian culture, Solzhenitsyn expressed his disillusionment with post-Soviet Russia and called for a restoration of the Russian monarchy. After returning to Russia in 1994, Solzhenitsyn published eight two-part short stories, a series of contemplative "miniatures" or prose poems, a literary memoir on his years in the West (The Grain Between the Millstones) among many other writings.
All of Solzhenitsyn's sons became U.S. citizens. One, Ignat, has achieved acclaim as a pianist and conductor in the United States.
Solzhenitsyn died of heart failure near Moscow on 3 August 2008, at the age of 89. A burial service was held at Donskoy Monastery, Moscow, on Wednesday, 6 August 2008. He was buried on the same date at the place chosen by him in Donskoy necropolis. Russian and world leaders paid tribute to Solzhenitsyn following his death.
Solzhenitsyn with Vladimir Putin.
The most complete 30-volume edition of Solzhenitsyn's collected works is soon to be published in Russia. The presentation of its first three volumes, already in print, recently took place in Moscow. Unhappy with the economic and social malaise of the Yeltsin era, Solzhenitsyn expressed his admiration for President Vladimir Putin's attempts to restore a sense of national pride in Russia. Putin signed a decree conferring on Solzhenitsyn the State Prize of the Russian Federation for his humanitarian work and personally visited the writer at his home on 12 June 2007 to present him with the award. Like his father, Yermolai Solzhenitsyn has translated some of his father's works. Stephan Solzhenitsyn lives and works in Moscow. Ignat Solzhenitsyn is the music director of The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia.
 KGB operations against Solzhenitsyn
On 19 September 1974, Yuri Andropov approved a large-scale operation to discredit Solzhenitsyn and his family and cut his communications with Soviet dissidents. The plan was jointly approved by Vladimir Kryuchkov, Philipp Bobkov, and Grigorenko (heads of First, Second and Fifth KGB Directorates). The residencies in Geneva, London, Paris, Rome and other European cities participated in the operation. Among other active measures, at least three StB agents became translators and secretaries of Solzhenitsyn (one of them translated the poem Prussian Nights), keeping KGB informed regarding all contacts by Solzhenitsyn.
KGB sponsored a series of hostile books about Solzhenitsyn, most notably a "memoir published under the name of his first wife, Natalia Reshetovskaya, but probably mostly composed by Service", according to historian Christopher Andrew. Andropov also gave an order to create "an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion between PAUK and the people around him" by feeding him rumors that everyone in his surrounding was a KGB agent and deceiving him in all possible ways. Among other things, the writer constantly received envelopes with photographs of car accidents, brain surgery and other frightening illustrations. After the KGB harassment in Zurich, Solzhenitsyn settled in Cavendish, Vermont, reduced communications with others and surrounded his property with a barbed wire fence. His influence and moral authority for the West diminished as he became increasingly isolated and critical of Western individualism. KGB and CPSU experts finally concluded that he alienated American listeners by his "reactionary views and intransigent criticism of the US way of life", so no further active measures would be required.
 Accusations of collaboration with NKVD
In his book The Gulag Archipelago Solzhenitsyn states that he was recruited to report to the NKVD on fellow inmates and was given a code-name Vetrov, but due to his transfer to another camp he was able to elude this duty and never produced a single report.
In 1976, after Solzhenitsyn was expelled from the Soviet Union a report signed by Vetrov surfaced. After a copy of the report was obtained by Solzhenitsyn he published it together with a refutation in the Los Angeles Times (published 24 May 1976). In 1978 the same report was published by journalist Frank Arnau in a socialist Western German magazine Neue Politik. However, according to Solzhenitsyn the report is a fabrication by the KGB. He claimed that the report is dated 20 January 1952 while all Ukrainians were transferred to a separate camp on 6 January and they had no relation to the uprising in Solzhenitsyn's camp on 22 January. He also claimed that the only people who might in 1976 have access to a "secret KGB archive" were KGB agents themselves. Solzhenitsyn also requested Arnau to put the alleged document to a graphology test but Arnau refused.
In 1990 the report was reproduced in Soviet Voyenno-Istoricheskiy Zhurnal among the memoirs of L.A. Samutin, a former ROA soldier and GULAG inmate who was an erstwhile supporter of Solzhenitsyn, but later became his critic. According to Solzhenitzyn, publication of the Samutin memoirs was canceled at the request of Samutin's widow, who stated that the memoirs were in fact dictated by the KGB.
 Views on atheism, history, and politics
About the putative failing of atheism, Solzhenitsyn declared:
Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened." Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened."
 On Russia and the Jews
Main article: Two Hundred Years Together
If I would care to generalise, and to say that the life of the Jews in the camps was especially hard, I could, and would not face reproach for an unjust national generalisation. But in the camps where I was kept, it was different. The Jews whose experience I saw – their life was softer than that of others.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, 2003 
Solzhenitsyn also published a two-volume work on the history of Russian-Jewish relations (Two Hundred Years Together 2001, 2002). This book stirred controversy and caused Solzhenitsyn to be widely accused of anti-Semitism.
The book became a best-seller in Russia. Solzhenitsyn begins this work with a plea for "patient mutual comprehension" on the part of Russians and Russian Jews. The author writes that the book was conceived in the hope of promoting "mutually agreeable and fruitful pathways for the future development of Russian-Jewish relations".
There is sharp division on the allegation of anti-Semitism. From Solzhenitsyn's own essay "Repentance and Self-Limitation in the Life of Nations", he calls for Russians and Jews alike to take moral responsibility for the "renegades" from both communities who enthusiastically supported a Marxist dictatorship after the October Revolution. At the end of chapter 15, he writes that Jews must answer for the "revolutionary cutthroats" in their ranks just as Russian Gentiles must repent "for the pogroms, for those merciless arsonist peasants, for...crazed revolutionary soldiers." It is not, he adds, a matter of answering "before other peoples, but to oneself, to one's consciousness, and before God." Writing of Solzhenitsyn's novel, August 1914 in the New York Times on 13 November 1985, the American historian Richard Pipes commented: "Every culture has its own brand of anti-Semitism. In Solzhenitsyn's case, it's not racial. It has nothing to do with blood. He's certainly not a racist; the question is fundamentally religious and cultural. He bears some resemblance to Dostoevsky, who was a fervent Christian and patriot and a rabid anti-Semite. Solzhenitsyn is unquestionably in the grip of the Russian extreme right's view of the Revolution, which is that it was the doing of the Jews".
According to D. M. Thomas, Elie Wiesel said Solzhenitsyn is not an anti-Semite. "he is too intelligent, too honest, too courageous, too great a writer." He says he wishes Solzhenitsyn were more sensitive to Jewish suffering, but believes the insensitivity is unconscious. This statement however predates the publication in 2001 of "200 Years Together" by at least 3 years.
Similarities between Two Hundred years together and an anti-Semitic essay titled "Jews in the USSR and in the Future Russia", attributed to Solzhenitsyn, has led to inference that he stands behind the anti-Semitic passages. Solzhenitsyn himself claims that the essay consists of manuscripts stolen from him, and then manipulated, forty years ago. However, according to the historian Semyon Reznik, textological analyses have proven Solzhenitsyn's authorship.
In 1984 Solzhenitsyn was interviewed by Nikolay Kazantsev, a monarchist Russo-Argentine journalist, for Nasha Strana, a Russia-language newspaper based in Buenos Aires. In the interview he said: "We (Russia) are walking a narrow isthmus between Communists and the World Jewry. Neither is acceptable for us... And I mean this not in the racial sense, but in the sense of the Jewry as a certain world view. The Jewry is embodied in "Fevralism" (i.e. democracy). Neither side is acceptable to us in the case the War breaks out." He also described the United States as a "province of Israel".
Russian dissident writer Vladimir Voynovich, interviewed for Radio Liberty on the first anniversary of Solzhenitsyn' death, has said that Solzhenitshyn harbored anti-Semitic sentiments all his life, as attested by the 1964 manuscript he later developed into "200 Years Together". Voynovich further alleged that Solzhenitsyn deliberately concealed this anti-Semitism, because he knew this would have prevented him from receiving the Nobel Prize.
 On new Russian "democracy"
In some of his later political writings, such as Rebuilding Russia (1990) and Russia in Collapse (1998), Solzhenitsyn criticized the oligarchic excesses of the new Russian 'democracy,' while opposing any nostalgia for Soviet Communism. He defended moderate and self-critical patriotism (as opposed to radical nationalism), argued for the indispensability of local self-government to a free Russia, and expressed concerns for the fate of the 25 million ethnic Russians in the "near abroad" of the former Soviet Union. He sought to protect the national character of the Russian Orthodox church and fought against the admission of Catholic priests and Protestant pastors to Russia from other countries. For a brief period, he had his own TV show, where he freely expressed his views. The show was cancelled because of low ratings, but Solzhenitsyn continued to maintain a relatively high profile in the media.
 The West
Delivering the commencement address at Harvard University in 1978, he called the United States spiritually weak and mired in vulgar materialism. Americans, he said, speaking in Russian through a translator, suffered from a "decline in courage" and a "lack of manliness." Few were willing to die for their ideals, he said. He condemned both the United States government and American society for its "hasty" capitulation in the Vietnam War. He criticized the country's music as intolerable and attacked its unfettered press, accusing it of violations of privacy. He said that the West erred in measuring other civilizations by its own model. While faulting Soviet society for denying fair legal treatment of people, he also faulted the West for being too legalistic: "A society which is based on the letter of the law and never reaches any higher is taking very scarce advantage of the high level of human possibilities."
Shortly after Solzhenitsyn's death, Richard Pipes, a history professor at Harvard, wrote of him: "Solzhenitsyn blamed the evils of Soviet communism on the West. He rightly stressed the European origins of Marxism, but he never asked himself why Marxism in other European countries led not to the gulag but to the welfare state. He reacted with white fury to any suggestion that the roots of Leninism and Stalinism could be found in Russia's past. His knowledge of Russian history was very superficial and laced with a romantic sentimentalism. While accusing the West of imperialism, he seemed quite unaware of the extraordinary expansion of his own country into regions inhabited by non-Russians. He also denied that Imperial Russia practiced censorship or condemned political prisoners to hard labor, which, of course, was absurd.".
 Russian culture
In his 1978 Harvard address, Solzhenitsyn argued over Russian culture, that the West erred in "denying its autonomous character and therefore never understood it "
 Communism, Russia and nationalism
Solzhenitsyn emphasized the significantly more oppressive character of the Soviet totalitarian regime, in comparison to the Russian Empire of the House of Romanov. He asserted that Imperial Russia did not practice any real censorship in the style of the Soviet Glavlit, that political prisoners typically were not always forced into labor camps, and that the number of political prisoners and exiles was only one ten-thousandth of those in the Soviet Union. He noted that the Tsar's secret police, or Okhrana, was only present in the three largest cities, and not at all in the Imperial Russian Army.
In a speech commemorating the Vendée Uprising, Solzhenitsyn compared Lenin's Bolsheviks with Jacobins of the French Revolution. However, he commented that, while the French Reign of Terror ended with the execution of Maximilien Robespierre, its Soviet equivalent raged unabated from 1917 until the Khrushchev thaw in the 1950s.
According to Solzhenitsyn, Russians were not the ruling nation in the Soviet Union. He believed that all ethnic cultures have been oppressed in favor of an atheistic Marxism. Russian culture was even more repressed than any other culture in the Soviet Union, since the regime was more afraid of ethnic uprisings among Russian Christians than among any other ethnicity. Therefore, Solzhenitsyn argued, Russian nationalism and the Orthodox Church should not be regarded as a threat by the West but rather as allies.
Solzhenitsyn said that for every country, great power status deforms and harms the national character and that he has never wished great power status for Russia. He rejected the view that the USA and Russia are natural rivals, saying that before the [Russian] revolution, they were natural allies and that during the American Civil War, Russia supported Lincoln and the North [in contrast to Britain and France, which supported the Confederacy], and then they were allies in the First World War. But beginning with Communism, Russia ceased to exist and the confrontation was not at all with Russia but with the Communist Soviet Union.
 World War II
Solzhenitsyn criticized the Allies for not opening a new front against Nazi Germany in the west earlier in World War II. This resulted in Soviet domination and oppression of the nations of Eastern Europe. Solzhenitsyn claimed the Western democracies apparently cared little about how many died in the East, as long as they could end the war quickly and painlessly for themselves in the West. While stationed in East Prussia as an artillery officer, Solzhenitsyn witnessed war crimes against the civilian German population by Soviet "liberators" as the elderly were robbed of their meager possessions and women were gang-raped to death. He wrote a poem entitled "Prussian Nights" about these incidents. In it, the first-person narrator seems to approve of the troops' crimes as revenge for German atrocities, expressing his desire to take part in the plunder himself. The poem describes the rape of a Polish woman whom the Red Army soldiers mistakenly thought to be a German.
See also: Stalinism
In his The Gulag Archipelago Solzhenitsyn rejected the view that it was Stalin who created the Soviet totalitarian state. He argued that it was Lenin who started the mass executions, created a planned economy, founded the Cheka which would later be turned into the KGB, and started the system of labor camps later known as Gulag.
 Mikhail Sholokhov
Solzhenitsyn was the most prominent of the Nobel Laureate Mikhail Sholokhov's many detractors. He alleged that the work which made Sholokhov's international reputation, And Quiet Flows the Don was written by Fyodor Kryukov, a Cossack and Anti-Bolshevik, who died in 1920, possibly in retaliation for Sholokhov scathing opinion re One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Solzhenitsyn claimed that Sholokhov found the manuscript and published it under his own name. These rumors first appeared in the late 1920s, but an investigation upheld Sholokhov's authorship of And Quiet Flows the Don and the allegations were denounced as malicious slander in Pravda.
A 1984 monograph by Geir Kjetsaa and others demonstrated through statistical analyses that Sholokhov was indeed the likely author of Don. And in 1987, several thousand pages of notes and drafts of the work were discovered and authenticated.
During the second world war, Sholokhov's archive was destroyed in a bomb raid, and only the fourth volume survived. Sholokhov had his friend Vassily Kudashov, who was killed in the war, look after it. Following Kudashov's death, his widow took possession of the manuscript, but she never disclosed the fact of owning it. The manuscript was finally found by the Institute of World Literature of Russia's Academy of Sciences in 1999 with assistance from the Russian Government. An analysis of the novel has unambiguously proved Sholokhov's authorship. The writing paper dates back to the 1920s: 605 pages are in Sholokhov's own hand, and 285 are transcribed by his wife Maria and sisters.
 The Sino-Soviet Conflict
In 1973, near the height of the Sino-Soviet conflict, Solzhenitsyn sent a Letter to the Soviet Leaders to a limited number of upper echelon Soviet officials. This work, which was published for the general public in the Western world a year after it was sent to its intended audience, beseeched the Soviet Union's authorities to
Give them their ideology! Let the Chinese leaders glory in it for a while. And for that matter, let them shoulder the whole sackful of unfulfillable international obligations, let them grunt and heave and instruct humanity, and foot all the bills for their absurd economics (a million a day just to Cuba), and let them support terrorists and guerrillas in the Southern Hemisphere too if they like. The main source of the savage feuding between us will then melt away, a great many points of today's contention and conflict all over the world will also melt away, and a military clash will become a much remoter possibility and perhaps won't take place at all [author's emphasis].
 Vietnam war
Once in America, Solzhenitsyn urged the United States to continue its involvement in the Vietnam War.
In his commencement address at Harvard University in 1978 (A World Split Apart), Solzhenitsyn alleged that many in the U.S. did not understand the Vietnam War. He rhetorically asks if the American Anti-War Movement ever realized the effects their actions had on Vietnam: "But members of the U.S. antiwar movement wound up being involved in the betrayal of Far Eastern nations, in a genocide and in the suffering today imposed on 30 million people there. Do those convinced pacifists hear the moans coming from there?"
During his time in the United States, Solzhenitsyn made several controversial public statements: notably, he accused Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg of treason.
 Kosovo War
Solzhenitsyn strongly condemned the bombing of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War, saying "there is no difference whatsoever between NATO and Hitler."
 The Holodomor
Solzhenitsyn has stated that the ongoing Ukrainian effort to have the 1930s famine, the Holodomor, recognized as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people is in fact historical revisionism. According to Solzhenitsyn, the famine was caused by the nature of the Communist regime, under which all peoples suffered. As such it was not an assault by the Russian people against the Ukrainian people, and the wish to represent it as such is only recent and politically motivated.
Solzhenitsyn's views on this matter are in line with those of several historians of the period (such as Dmitri Volkogonov and Aleksandr Bushkov) as well as the official stance of the Russian Government. This view suggests that policies of collectivization and mass seizure of property that lead to the Ukrainian famine of the 1930s were a result of the political (communist) and economic (favoring rapid industrial growth over consumption) policies of the Soviet Union, and not racial hatred against the Ukrainians.
/soʊlʒəˈniːtsɨn/ Russian: Алекса́ндр Иса́евич Солжени́цын, pronounced [ɐlʲɪˈksandr ɪˈsaɪvʲɪtɕ səlʐɨˈnʲitsɨn]; 11 December 1918 – 3 August 2008) was a Russian and Soviet novelist, dramatist, and historian. Through his often-suppressed writings, he helped to raise global awareness of the Gulag, the Soviet Union's forced labor camp system – particularly in The Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, two of his best-known works. Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970. He was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974, but returned to Russia in 1994 after the Soviet system had collapsed.
Horse portrait timoleon “self taught” bw blur bokeh chevaux solzhenitsn colour color fade strong uk Cambridge England time memory pet animal landscape day sun texture sepia monotone beautiful composition still standing galloping black white grey red green field sadness alone stallion prince Russia japan usa timeless time clock hands body movement focus fast pony foal stable food waiting photograph morning evening autumn brown leaves flower expression soul life atmosphere china delicate young boy bay knight Caucasus travel expedition wonder Georgia Cossack urals france italy germany yellow sea blue
Hills travel distance war cavalry
- Fine Horseman
Sleeping in my bed,
Dreams run through my head.
I dreamed you were
Playing with my hair.
Fine flying sparrow and a fine horseman.
Rain falls, wind roars,
All the folks indoors.
We came o'er the ford
Riding over the moors.
Fine flying sparrow and a fine horseman.
Your dreams among my dreams
Are blue seas amongst sunbeams;
Shades of yellow, shades of green
These are your dreams among my dreams
Fine flying sparrow and a fine horseman.
- Bohdan Yuri
There was a harvest in 1933, an abundant bounty for
all to see.
Farmers gathered strains of golden grain fed by black
soil and rain,
The fare was loaded onto trains that carried stores
All the foreigners who came to Moscow said, “Famine in
Impossible! Just look at all the fine foods to eat in
But the world knew not of the devil in Moscow and his
This demon, an afflicter of torture and pain, whose
plates were served
With the finest cuts of the finest flesh, ruled an
empire of Soviet greed.
Gifted was he in the torture of souls, versed as
playwright of human sorrow.
Can anyone count them all: the scholars, the clergy,
And the farmers, whose land was now not theirs, not
even their chairs.
Beyond ten million killed the numbers begin to wonder,
"Seal the borders so no one knows, we are on our
glorious killing spree."
Uncover the graves, if you can find them; count the
bodies if you dare:
25,000 per day, 1,000 per hour, 17 every second,
starving on this cause,
"All the foods are supposed to be exported outside the
borders of Ukraine.
Let them eat the leaves on any trees, but our aim is
still to exterminate
And if any children steal a fallen kernel or two, the
order is, shoot to kill."
"Have you got any bodies?" the crier would say to
doors not easy to sway,
"And feed the horses late at night so no one else will
steal their fodder.
In these times a horse is worth the bother, who else
to pull the carts
That carry the litter off these streets and into pit
graves outside of town.
Who cares if some are still alive, bury their souls
anyway, and out of our sight,
The living will not have the belly to put up a fight,
just look at their eyes."
So the devil had decreed that Ukraine’s stalwart
spirits should be erased,
And his disciples were delighted to act out roles in
the director’s cruel play.
It was pure Russian theater played in real parts,
those aforementioned eyes,
How hollow to start, barely a role played to perform,
when the actors
Are sewn in costumes made from bones, a lifeless role,
And what need to embellish hate, when evil commands at
An absence of sympathy when death is your shadow in
this sad parade;
How else to explain the murderers as they performed
their cruel and evil charade.
“And have you heard the stories of babies arriving on
trains from Ukraine?"
Not true, said the New York Times to a faraway place,
no need to debate.
And so, was staged for the world to be inclined as was
the need to betray
Those families that died, and the hammer and sickle
reaped shadows at dawn.
1933 was a bountiful, cruel harvest of human flesh and
the soul of a great land.
It allowed the devil to convey, to all his disciples
that conducted this play,
“A job well done, and next year we’ll feed them again,
as our slaves once more.
And those that continue to voice free thoughts, well,
there’s always a place
To send them away; that they may die in the harshness
of our cold camps."
And those bodies were loaded onto trains that carried
the souls out of Ukraine.
Those who lived it want to forget it, but they can’t.
The images burn the heart.
Those that caused it won’t admit it, because they fear
the Judgment Day.
The Holodomor (Ukrainian: Голодомор, 'Морити голодом', literal translation Killing by hunger) was a man-made famine in the Ukrainian SSR between 1932 and 1933. During the famine, which is also known as the "terror-famine in Ukraine" and "famine-genocide in Ukraine", millions of Ukrainians died of starvation in a peacetime catastrophe unprecedented in the history of Ukraine.
Early estimates of the death toll by scholars and government officials varied greatly; anywhere from 1.8 to 12 million ethnic Ukrainians were said to have been killed as a result of the famine. Recent research has since narrowed the estimates to between 2.4 and 7.5 million. The exact number of deaths is hard to determine, due to a lack of records, but the number increases significantly when the deaths inside heavily Ukrainian-populated Kuban are included. The demographic deficit caused by unborn or unrecorded births is said to be as high as 6 million. Older estimates are still often cited in political commentary.
Scholars disagree on the relative importance of natural factors and bad economic policies as causes of the famine and the degree to which the destruction of the Ukrainian peasantry was premeditated on the part of Stalin. Scholars and politicians using the word Holodomor emphasize the man-made aspects of the famine, arguing that it was genocide; some consider the resultant loss of life comparable to the Holocaust. They argue that the Soviet policies were an attack on the rise of Ukrainian nationalism and therefore fall under the legal definition of genocide.
Others claim that the Holodomor was a consequence of the economic problems associated with radical economic changes implemented during the period of Soviet industrialization.
As of March 2008, several governments have recognized the actions of the Soviet government as an act of genocide. The joint statement at the United Nations in 2003 has defined the famine as the result of actions and policies of the totalitarian regime that caused the deaths of millions of Ukrainians, Russians, Kazakhs and other nationalities in the USSR. On November 28, 2006, the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian Parliament) narrowly passed a law defining the Holodomor as a deliberate act of genocide and made public denial illegal. Even though in April 2010 newly elected president Yanukovych reversed Yushchenko's policy on the Holodomor famine, the law has not been repealed and remains in force. On 23 October 2008, the European Parliament adopted a resolution that recognized the Holodomor as a crime against humanity.
On January 12, 2010, the court of appeals in Kiev opened hearings into the "fact of genocide-famine Holodomor in Ukraine in 1932-33". In May 2009 the Security Service of Ukraine started a criminal case "in relation to the genocide in Ukraine in 1932-33". In a ruling on January 13, 2010 the court found Joseph Stalin and other Bolshevik leaders guilty of genocide against the Ukrainians. The court dropped criminal proceedings against the leaders, Stalin, Vyacheslav Molotov, Lazar Kaganovich, Stanislav Kosior, Pavel Postyshev and others, who had all died years before. This decision became effective on January 21, 2010.
On April 27, 2010, a draft Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe resolution declared the famine was caused by the "cruel and deliberate actions and policies of the Soviet regime" and was responsible for the deaths of "millions of innocent people" in Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Moldova and Russia. Even though PACE found Stalin guilty of causing the famine, they rejected several amendments to the resolution, which proposed the Holodomor be recognized as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people.
The word "Holodomor" literally translated from Ukrainian means "death by hunger," or "to kill by hunger, to starve to death." The word was used in print as early as 1978 by Ukrainian immigrant organizations in the United States and Canada. An early public usage of the term in the Soviet Union was in February 1988, in a speech by Oleksiy Musiyenko, Deputy Secretary for ideological matters of the party organization of the Kiev branch of the Union of Soviet Writers in Ukraine, and may have first appeared in print in the Soviet Union on July 18, 1988, in his article on the topic.
In Ukrainian the word holod means "hunger", and mor means "plague". The expression moryty holodom means "to inflict death by hunger." The Ukrainian verb "moryty" (морити) means "to poison somebody, drive to exhaustion or to torment somebody". The perfective form of the verb "moryty" is "zamoryty" — "kill or drive to death by hunger, exhausting work".
The word “Holodomor” is given in the modern, two-volume dictionary of the Ukrainian language as "artificial hunger, organised in vast scale by the criminal regime against the country's population." Sometimes the expression is translated into English as "murder by hunger or starvation."
Scope and duration
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The famine affected the Ukrainian SSR as well as the Moldavian ASSR (a part of the Ukrainian S.S.R. at the time) in the spring of 1932 and from February to July 1933, with the greatest number of victims recorded in the spring of 1933. The population in every part of the territory did not suffer from the Holodomor for the whole period.
There are reports that famine stopped directly at the border between Ukraine and the Russian (and Belarusian) republics. Between 1926 and 1939, the Ukrainian population increased by 6.6%, whereas Russia and Belarus grew by 16.9% and 11.7%, respectively.
From the 1932 harvest Soviet authorities were able to procure only 4.3 million tons as compared with 7.2 million tons obtained from the 1931 harvest. Rations in town were drastically cut back, and in the winter of 1932-33 and spring of 1933 many urban areas were starved.
The urban workers were supplied by a rationing system (and therefore could occasionally assist their starving relatives of the countryside), but rations were gradually cut and by the spring of 1933, the urban residents also faced starvation. At the same time, workers were shown agitprop movies, where all peasants were portrayed as counterrevolutionaries hiding grain and potatoes at the time when workers, who are constructing the “bright future” of socialism, were starving. The first reports of mass malnutrition and deaths from starvation emerged from two urban areas of Uman, reported in January 1933 by the Vinnytsya and Kiev oblasts. By mid-January 1933 there were reports about mass “difficulties” with food in urban areas, which had been undersupplied through the rationing system, and deaths from starvation among people who were withdrawn from the rationing supply. This was to comply with the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine Decree December 1932. By the beginning of February 1933, according to reports from local authorities and Ukrainian GPU, the most affected area was Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, which also suffered from epidemics of typhus and malaria. Odessa and Kiev oblasts were second and third, respectively. By mid-March, most reports originated from Kiev Oblast.
By mid-April 1933, the Kharkiv Oblast reached the top of the most affected list, while Kiev, Dnipropetrovsk, Odessa, Vinnytsya, Donetsk oblasts and Moldavian SSR followed it. Reports about mass deaths from starvation, dated mid-May through the beginning of June 1933, originated from raions in Kiev and Kharkiv oblasts. The “less affected” list noted the Chernihiv Oblast and northern parts of Kiev and Vinnytsya oblasts. The Central Committee of the CP(b) of Ukraine Decree of February 8, 1933, said no hunger cases should have remained untreated. Local authorities had to submit reports about the numbers suffering from hunger, the reasons for hunger, number of deaths from hunger, food aid provided from local sources, and centrally provided food aid required. The GPU managed parallel reporting and food assistance in the Ukrainian SSR. (Many regional reports and most of the central summary reports are available from present-day central and regional Ukrainian archives.)
Evidence of widespread cannibalism was documented during the Holodomor. The Soviet regime printed posters declaring: "To eat your own children is a barbarian act." More than 2500 people were convicted of cannibalism during the Holodomor.
The Ukrainian Weekly, which was tracking the situation in 1933, reported the difficulties in communications and appalling situation in the Ukraine. In addition, on December 1, 1933 the newspaper reported a mass protest planned to take place in Syracuse, New York.
The special nature of famine in Ukraine
Although famine, caused by collectivization, raged in many parts of the Soviet Union in 1932, special and particularly lethal policies, described by Yale historian Timothy Snyder in his book Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin (2010), were adopted in and largely limited to Ukraine at the end of 1932 and 1933. Snyder lists seven crucial policies that applied only, or mainly, to Soviet Ukraine. He states: "Each of them may seem like an anodyne administrative measure, and each of them was certainly presented as such at the time, and yet each had to kill":
1. From November 18, 1932 peasants from Ukraine were required to return extra grain they had previously earned for meeting their targets. State police and party brigades were sent into these regions to root out any food they could find.
2. Two days later, a law was passed forcing peasants who could not meet their grain quotas to surrender any livestock they had.
3. Eight days later, collective farms that failed to meet their quotas were placed on "blacklists" in which they were forced to surrender 15 times their quota. These farms were picked apart for any possible food by party activists. Blacklisted communes had no right to trade or to receive deliveries of any kind, and became death zones.
4. On December 5, 1932, Stalin's security chief presented the justification for terrorizing Ukrainian party officials to collect the grain. It was considered treason if anyone refused to do their part in grain requisitions for the state.
5. In November 1932 Ukraine was required to provide 1/3 of the grain collection of the entire Soviet Union. As Lazar Kaganovich put it, the Soviet state would fight "ferociously" to fulfill the plan.
6. In January 1933 Ukraine's borders were sealed in order to prevent Ukrainian peasants from fleeing to other republics. By the end of February 1933 approximately 190,000 Ukrainian peasants had been caught trying to flee Ukraine and were forced to return to their villages to starve.
7. The collection of grain continued even after the annual requisition target for 1932 was met in late January 1933.
Main article: Causes of the Holodomor
The reasons for the famine are a subject of scholarly and political debate. Some scholars suggest that the famine was a consequence of the economic problems associated with economic changes implemented during the period of Soviet industrialization. However, it has been suggested by other historians that the Soviet leadership used the famine to attack Ukrainian nationalism and thus may fall under the legal definition of genocide.
Implementation and abuse
Wiki letter w cropped.svg This section requires expansion.
On August 7, 1932 a law came into force that stipulated that all food was state property and that mere possession of food was evidence of a crime. Among the most enthusiastic enforcers of the law were urban members of youth organizations, educated under the Soviet system, who fanned out into the countryside in order to prevent the "theft" of state property. They constructed and staffed watchtowers (over 700 in the Odessa region alone) to ensure that no peasants took food home from the fields. The youth brigades lived off the land, eating what they confiscated from the peasants. They often humiliated the starving peasants by forcing them to box each other for sport, or forcing them to crawl and bark like dogs. Under the pretext of grain confiscation, the brigades routinely raped women living alone.
Several thousand Ukrainian peasants managed to cross the river Dniester into Romania, and received asylum there. Many were killed during the crossing by Soviet border-guards.
See also: Soviet famine of 1932–1933 and Soviet Census (1937)
By the end of 1933, millions of people had starved to death or had otherwise died unnaturally in Ukraine, as well as in other Soviet republics. The total estimate of the famine victims Soviet-wide is given as 6-7 million or 6-8 million. The Soviet Union long denied that the famine had taken place. The NKVD (and later KGB) archives on the Holodomor period made records available very slowly. The exact number of the victims remains unknown and is probably impossible to estimate, even within a margin of error of a hundred thousand. The media sometimes report historians' estimates of fatalities as high as seven to ten million. and a number as high as ten. Some historians consider Holodomor to be just a part of a bigger genocide that took place against Ukrainians during the existence of the USSR, writing that up to twenty million were killed during the duration of the USSR. The former President of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper have issued public statements giving the death toll at about 10 million. The use of this figure has been criticized by historians Timothy Snyder and Stephen G. Wheatcroft. Snyder wrote: "President Viktor Yushchenko does his country a grave disservice by claiming ten million deaths, thus exaggerating the number of Ukrainians killed by a factor of three; but it is true that the famine in Ukraine of 1932-1933 was a result of purposeful political decisions, and killed about three million people." In an email to Postmedia News, Wheatcroft wrote: "I find it regrettable that Stephen Harper and other leading Western politicians are continuing to use such exaggerated figures for Ukrainian famine mortality" and "There is absolutely no basis for accepting a figure of 10 million Ukrainians dying as a result of the famine of 1932-33."
Some estimates are based on the people who died within the 1933 borders of Ukraine; while others are based on deaths within current borders of Ukraine. Other estimates are based on deaths of Ukrainians in the Soviet Union. Some estimates use a simple methodology: based on the percentage of deaths reported in one area, they apply the percentage to the entire country. Others use more sophisticated techniques, including analyzing the demographic statistics based on various archival data. Some historians question the accuracy of Soviet censuses, since they may have been doctored to support Soviet propaganda. Other estimates come from recorded discussion between world leaders like Churchill and Stalin. In an August 1942 conversation, Stalin gave Churchill his estimates of the number of "kulaks" who were repressed for resisting collectivization as 10 million, in all of the Soviet Union, rather than only in Ukraine. When using this number, Stalin implied that it included not only those who lost their lives, but also forcibly deported.
Rate of population decline in Ukraine and South Russia. 1929-1933 Note: The map was based on the data of the localities affected by the Holodomor and extrapolated to the post-WW2 USSR borders and administrative divisions.
Additional variations were due to some estimates including the death toll from political repression: e.g., those who died in the Gulag labor camps, while others estimated only those who starved to death. In addition, many of the estimates are based on different time periods. Thus, a definitive number of deaths continues to be a source of great debate.
The estimates prior to the opening of former Soviet archives also varied widely but the range was narrower: for example, 2.5 million (Volodymyr Kubiyovych), 4.8 million (Vasyl Hryshko) and 5 million (Robert Conquest).
One modern calculation that uses demographic data, including that recently available from Soviet archives, narrows the losses to about 3.2 million or, allowing for the lack of precise data, 3 million to 3.5 million.
The Soviet archives show that excess deaths in Ukraine in 1932-1933 numbered a minimum of 1.8 million (2.7 including birth losses). It should be noted that this source further states "Depending upon the estimations made concerning unregistered mortality and natality, these figures could be increased to a level of 2.8 million to a maximum of 4.8 million excess deaths and to 3.7 million to a maximum of 6.7 million population losses (including birth losses)". In 1932-1933, there were a combined 1.2 million cases of typhus and 500,000 cases of typhoid fever. All major types of disease, apart from cancer, tend to increase during famine as a result of undernourishment lowering resistance, as well as unsanitary conditions from populations too weak to care for themselves, or migrating to refugee camps; thus, these deaths resulted primarily from disease rather than starvation per se. In the years 1932–34, the largest rate of increase was recorded for typhus, which is spread by lice. In conditions of harvest failure and increased poverty, lice are likely to increase. Gathering numerous refugees at railway stations, on trains and elsewhere facilitates the spread. In 1933, the number of recorded cases was 20 times the 1929 level. The number of cases per head of population recorded in Ukraine in 1933 was already considerably higher than in the USSR as a whole. By June 1933, incidence in Ukraine had increased to nearly 10 times the January level, and it was much higher than in the rest of the USSR.
The number of the recorded excess deaths extracted from the birth/death statistics from the Soviet archives is contradictory. The data fails to add up to the differences between the results of the 1927 Census and the 1937 Census.
Incidence of Disease in Russian Empire and USSR Year Typhus Typhoid Fever Relapsing Fever Smallpox Malaria
1913 120 424 30 67 3600
1918-22 1300 293 639 106 2940 (average)
1929 40 170 6 8 3000
1930 60 190 5 10 2700
1931 80 260 4 30 3200
1932 220 300 12 80 4500
1933 800 210 12 38 6500
1934 410 200 10 16 9477
1935 120 140 6 4 9924
1936 100 120 3 0.5 6500
Kulchytsky summarized the natural population change. The declassified Soviet statistics show a decrease of 538,000 people in the population of Soviet Ukraine between 1926 census (28,925,976) and 1937 census (28,388,000). The number of births and deaths (in thousands) according to the declassified records are given in the table (right).
According to the correction for officially non-accounted child mortality in 1933 by 150,000 calculated by Sergei Maksudov, the number of births for 1933 should be increased from 471,000 to 621,000. Assuming the natural mortality rates in 1933 to be equal to the average annual mortality rate in 1927-1930 (524,000 per year), a natural population growth for 1933 would have been 97,000. This was five times less than the growth in the previous three years (1927–1930). The natural population growth from 1927 to 1936 should have been 4.043 million, while the census data showed a decrease of 538,000. The sum of the two numbers gives an estimated total demographic loss of 4.581 million people.
Estimates of the human losses due to famine must account for the numbers involved in migration (including forced resettlement). According to Soviet statistics, the migration balance for the population in Ukraine for 1927 - 1936 period was a loss of 1.343 million people. Even when the data was collected, the Soviet statistical institutions acknowledged that the precision was less than for the data of the natural population change. The total number of death in Ukraine due to unnatural causes for the given ten years was 3.238 million; accounting for the lack of precision, estimates of the human toll range from 2.2 million to 3.5 million deaths.
Declassified Soviet statistics Year Births Deaths Natural change
1927 1184 523 661
1928 1139 496 643
1929 1081 539 542
1930 1023 536 487
1931 975 515 460
1932 782 668 114
1933 471 1850 -1379
1934 571 483 88
1935 759 342 417
1936 895 361 534
In addition to the direct losses from unnatural deaths, the indirect losses due to the decrease of the birth rate should be taken into account in consideration in estimating of the demographic consequences of the Famine for Ukraine. For instance, the natural population growth in 1927 was 662,000, while in 1933 it was 97,000, [this does not fit with the table, it had to be a decline of 1.379 thousand, i.e., approx. 1.4 million] in 1934 it was 88,000. The combination of direct and indirect losses from Holodomor gives 4.469 million, of which 3.238 million (or more realistically 3 to 3.5 million) is the number of the direct deaths according to this estimate.
A 2002 study by Vallin et al. utilizing some similar primary sources to Kulchytsky, and performing an analysis with more sophisticated demographic tools with forward projection of expected growth from the 1926 census and backward projection from the 1939 census estimate the amount of direct deaths for 1933 as 2.582 million. This number of deaths does not reflect the total demographic loss for Ukraine from these events as the fall of the birth rate during crisis and the out-migration contribute to the latter as well. The total population shortfall from the expected value between 1926 and 1939 estimated by Vallin amounted to 4.566 million. Of this number, 1.057 million is attributed to birth deficit, 930,000 to forced out-migration, and 2.582 million to the combination of excess mortality and voluntary out-migration. With the latter assumed to be negligible this estimate gives the number of deaths as the result of the 1933 famine about 2.2 million. According to this study the life expectancy for those born in 1933 sharply fell to 10.8 years for females and to 7.3 years for males and remained abnormally low for 1934 but, as commonly expected for the post-crisis peaked in 1935–36.
According to historian Timothy Snyder, the recorded figure of excess deaths was 2.4 million. However, Snyder claims that this figure is "substantially low" due to many deaths going unrecorded. Snyder states that demographic calculations carried out by the Ukrainian government provide a figure of 3.89 million dead, and opined that the actual figure is likely between these two figures, approximately 3.3 million deaths to starvation and disease related to the starvation in Ukraine from 1932-1933. Snyder also estimates that of the million people who died in Soviet Russia from famine at the same time, approximately 200,000 were ethnic Ukrainians due to Ukrainian-inhabited regions being particularly hard hit in Russia.
According to estimates about 81.3% of the famine victims in Ukrainian SRR were ethnic Ukrainians, 4.5% Russians, 1.4% Jews and 1.1% were Poles. Many Belarusians, Hungarians, Volga Germans and other nationalities became victims as well. The Ukrainian rural population was the hardest hit by the Holodomor. Since the peasantry constituted a demographic backbone of the Ukrainian nation, the tragedy deeply affected the Ukrainians for many years.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the overall number of Ukrainians who died from 1932-1933 famine is estimated as about four to five million out of six to eight million people who died in the Soviet Union as a whole.
Countries which officially recognize holodomor as an act of genocide
Main article: Holodomor genocide question
Robert Conquest, the author of the "Harvest of Sorrow", initially believed that the famine of 1932–33 was a deliberate act of mass murder, if not genocide committed as part of Joseph Stalin's collectivization program in the Soviet Union. In criticism of his work, Mark Tauger claims that Conquest's book on the famine is replete with errors and inconsistencies and that it deserves to be considered an example of Cold War lack of objectivity.
R.W. Davies and Stephen G. Wheatcroft have interacted with Conquest and note that he no longer considers "that Stalin purposely inflicted the 1933 famine." They quoted the Conquest words where he argued "that with resulting famine imminent, he [Stalin] could have prevented it, but put 'Soviet interest' other than feeding the starving first - thus consciously abetting it." Conquest—and, by extension, Davies and Wheatcroft—believe that, had industrialization been abandoned, the famine would have been "prevented" (Conquest), or at least significantly alleviated:
"[W]e regard the policy of rapid industrialization as an underlying cause of the agricultural troubles of the early 1930s, and we do not believe that the Chinese or NEP versions of industrialization were viable in Soviet national and international circumstances."
They see the leadership under Stalin as making significant errors in planning for the industrialization of agriculture.
This retraction by Conquest is also noted by Kulchytsky.
Dr. Michael Ellman of the University of Amsterdam argues that, in addition to deportations, internment in the Gulag and shootings (See: Law of Spikelets), there is some evidence that Stalin used starvation as a weapon in his war against the peasantry. He analyses the actions of the Soviet authorities, two of commission and one of omission: (i) exporting 1.8 million tonnes of grain during the mass starvation (enough to feed more than five million people for one year), (ii) preventing migration from famine afflicted areas (which may have cost an estimated 150,000 lives) and (iii) making no effort to secure grain assistance from abroad (which caused an estimated 1.5 million excess deaths), as well as the attitude of the Stalinist regime in 1932–33 (that many of those starving to death were "counterrevolutionaries", "idlers" or "thieves" who fully deserved their fate). Based on this analysis he concludes, however, that the actions of Stalin's authorities against Ukrainians do not meet the standards of specific intent required to proof genocide as defined by the UN convention (the notable exception is the case of Kuban Ukrainians). Ellman further concluded that if the relaxed definition of genocide is used, the actions of Stalin's authorities do fit such a definition of genocide. However, this more relaxed definition of genocide makes the latter the common historical event, according to Ellman.
Regarding the aforementioned actions taken by Stalin in the early 1930s, Ellman unambiguously states that, from the standpoint of contemporary international criminal law, Stalin is "clearly guilty" of "a series of crimes against humanity" and that, from the standpoint of national criminal law, the only way to defend Stalin from a charge of mass murder is "to argue he was ignorant of the consequences of his actions." He also rebukes Davies and Wheatcroft for, among other things, their "very narrow understanding" of intent. He states:
"According to them, only taking an action whose sole objective is to cause deaths among the peasantry counts as intent. Taking an action with some other goal (e.g. exporting grain to import machinery) but which the actor certainly knows will also cause peasants to starve does not count as intentionally starving the peasants. However, this is an interpretation of ‘intent’ which flies in the face of the general legal interpretation."
Genocide scholar Adam Jones stresses that, while controversial, some of the actions of the Soviet leadership during 1931-32 should be considered genocidal. Not only did the famine kill millions, it took place against "a backdrop of persecution, mass execution, and incarceration clearly aimed at undermining Ukrainians as a national group." Norman Naimark, a historian at Stanford University who specializes in modern East European history, genocide and ethnic cleansing, argues that some of the actions of Stalin's regime, not only those during the Holodomor but also Dekulakization and targeted campaigns against particular ethnic groups, can be looked at as genocidal. In 2006, the Security Service of Ukraine declassified more than 5 thousand pages of Holodomor archives. These documents suggest that the Soviet regime singled out Ukraine by not giving it the same humanitarian aid given to regions outside it.
Some historians maintain that the famine was an unintentional consequence of collectivization, and that the associated resistance to it by the Ukrainian peasantry exacerbated an already-poor harvest. Some researchers state that while the term Ukrainian Genocide is often used in application to the event, technically, the use of the term "genocide" is inapplicable.
The statistical distribution of famine's victims among the ethnicities closely reflects the ethnic distribution of the rural population of Ukraine Moldavian, Polish, German and Bulgarian population that mostly resided in the rural communities of Ukraine suffered in the same proportion as the rural Ukrainian population. While ethnic Russians in Ukraine lived mostly in urban areas and the cities were affected little by the famine, the rural Russian population was affected the same way as the rural population of any other ethnicity.
West Virginia University professor Dr Mark Tauger claims that any analysis that asserts that the harvests of 1931 and 1932 were not extraordinarily low and that the famine was a political measure intentionally imposed through excessive procurements is based on an insufficient source base and an uncritical approach to the official sources. Other scholars, such as Dr. David Marples, professor of history at the University of Alberta, have been critical of Tauger's claims. Wheatcroft states Tauger's view represents the opposite extreme in arguing the famine was totally accidental.
Author James Mace was one of the first to claim that the famine constituted genocide. But British economist Stephen Wheatcroft, who studied the famine, believed that Mace's work debased the field of Russian studies. However, Wheatcroft's characterization of the famine deaths as largely excusable, negligent homicide has been challenged by economist Steven Rosefielde, who states:
"Grain supplies were sufficient enough to sustain everyone if properly distributed. People died mostly from terror-starvation (excess grain exports, seizure of edibles from the starving, state refusal to provide emergency relief, bans on outmigration, and forced deportation to food-deficit locales), not poor harvests and routine administrative bungling."
Timothy Snyder, Professor of History at Yale University, asserts that in 1933 "Joseph Stalin was deliberately starving Ukraine" through a "heartless campaign of requisitions that began Europe's era of mass killing." He argues the Soviets themselves "made sure that the term genocide, contrary to Lemkin's intentions, excluded political and economic groups." Thus the Ukrainian famine can be presented as "somehow less genocidal because it targeted a class, kulaks, as well as a nation, Ukraine."
In his 1953 speech the "father of the [UN] Genocide Convention," Dr Raphael Lemkin described "the destruction of the Ukrainian nation" as the "classic example of genocide," for "...the Ukrainian is not and never has been a Russian. His culture, his temperament, his language, his religion, are all different...to eliminate (Ukrainian) nationalism...the Ukrainian peasantry was sacrificed...a famine was necessary for the Soviet and so they got one to order...if the Soviet program succeeds completely, if the intelligentsia, the priest, and the peasant can be eliminated [then] Ukraine will be as dead as if every Ukrainian were killed, for it will have lost that part of it which has kept and developed its culture, its beliefs, its common ideas, which have guided it and given it a soul, which, in short, made it a nation...This is not simply a case of mass murder. It is a case of genocide, of the destruction, not of individuals only, but of a culture and a nation."
...the evidence of a large-scale famine was so overwhelming, was so unanimously confirmed by the peasants that the most "hard-boiled" local officials could say nothing in denial.
(William Henry Chamberlin, Christian Science Monitor, May 29, 1934) 
Mr.Chamberlin was a Moscow correspondent of the Christian Science Monitor for 10 years. In 1934 he was reassigned to the Far East. After he left the Soviet Union he wrote his account of the situation in Ukraine and North Caucasus (Poltava, Bila Tserkva, and Kropotkin). Chamberlin later published couple of books "Russia's Iron Age" and "The Ukraine: A Submerged Nation".
Soviet and Western denial
Main article: Denial of the Holodomor
Holodomor denials are the assertions that the 1932-1933 famine in Soviet Ukraine did not occur. Denying the existence of the famine was the Soviet state's position, and reflected in both Soviet propaganda and the work of some Western journalists and intellectuals including Walter Duranty and Louis Fischer. Denial of the famine by Soviet authorities was immediate and continued into the 1980s. The denial of the famine was a well orchestrated and highly successful disinformation campaign by the Soviet government. Stalin "had achieved the impossible: he had silenced all the talk of hunger... Millions were dying, but the nation hymned the praises of collectivization", wrote Edvard Radzinsky. This was the first major instance of Soviet authorities adopting Hitler's Big Lie propaganda technique to sway world opinion according to Robert Conquest.
In modern politics
Main article: Holodomor in modern politics
One of the interpretations of The Running Man painting by Kazimir Malevich, also known as Peasant Between a Cross and a Sword, is the artist's indictment of the Great Famine. "Kasimir Malevich's haunting 'The Running Man' (1933-34), showing a peasant fleeing across a deserted landscape, is eloquent testimony to the disaster."
The famine remains a politically charged topic; hence, heated debates are likely to continue for a long time. Until around 1990, the debates were largely between the so called "denial camp" who refused to recognize the very existence of the famine or stated that it was caused by natural reasons (such as a poor harvest), scholars who accepted reports of famine but saw it as a policy blunder followed by the botched relief effort, and scholars who alleged that it was intentional and specifically anti-Ukrainian or even an act of genocide against the Ukrainians as a nation.
Nowadays, scholars agree that the famine affected millions. While it is also accepted that the famine affected other nationalities in addition to Ukrainians, the debate is still ongoing as to whether or not the Holodomor qualifies as an act of genocide, since the facts that the famine itself took place and that it was unnatural are not disputed. As far as the possible effect of the natural causes, the debate is restricted to whether the poor harvest or post-traumatic stress played any role at all and to what degree the Soviet actions were caused by the country's economic and military needs as viewed by the Soviet leadership.
In 2007, President Viktor Yushchenko declared he wants "a new law criminalising Holodomor denial," while Communist Party head Petro Symonenko said he "does not believe there was any deliberate starvation at all," and accused Yushchenko of "using the famine to stir up hatred." Few in Ukraine share Symonenko's interpretation of history and the number of Ukrainians who deny the famine or view it as caused by natural reasons is steadily falling.
On November 10, 2003 at the United Nations twenty-five countries including Russia, Ukraine and United States signed a joint statement on the seventieth anniversary of the Holodomor with the following preamble:
In the former Soviet Union millions of men, women and children fell victims to the cruel actions and policies of the totalitarian regime. The Great Famine of 1932-1933 in Ukraine (Holodomor), which took from 7 million to 10 million innocent lives and became a national tragedy for the Ukrainian people. In this regard we note activities in observance of the seventieth anniversary of this Famine, in particular organized by the Government of Ukraine.
Honouring the seventieth anniversary of the Ukrainian tragedy, we also commemorate the memory of millions of Russians, Kazakhs and representatives of other nationalities who died of starvation in the Volga River region, Northern Caucasus, Kazakhstan and in other parts of the former Soviet Union, as a result of civil war and forced collectivization, leaving deep scars in the consciousness of future generations.
Nation-wide, the political repression of 1937 (The Great Purge) under the guidance of Nikolay Yezhov were known for their ferocity and ruthlessness, but Lev Kopelev wrote, "In Ukraine 1937 began in 1933", referring to the comparatively early beginning of the Soviet crackdown in Ukraine.
- espectacular!!!! - margee_s