German parliament recognises the 'Holodomor' as genocide
Only days after the 90th anniversary of Ukraine's 1930s "Holodomor", Germany's parliament approved in November 2022 a resolution recognizing the famine as "genocide".
Between 1932 and 1933, about 4.5 million Ukrainians died in a man-made famine, known as the "extermination by starvation".
Some historians claim Soviet leader Joseph Stalin purposely orchestrated the famine to eliminate the Ukrainian independence movement. Others say Holodomor was the result of the Soviet Union's botched policies to collectivize agricultural land.
According to the resolution brought to the Bundestag by the three parties in Chancellor Olaf Scholz's governing coalition and the main opposition bloc, "the mass deaths from hunger were not a result of failed harvests; the political leadership of the Soviet Union under Josef Stalin was responsible for them."
The resolution also states that all things Ukrainian were "deeply suspect" to Stalin and notes that "the whole of Ukraine was affected by hunger and repression, not just its grain-producing areas."
While many academics are divided over whether the famine should be classified as genocide -- the deliberate annihilation of a people, be they an ethnic, national, racial, or religious group -- the resolution passed by the German parliament says that "from today's perspective, a historical and political classification as genocide is obvious."
"This horror had its cause in the Kremlin -- there, the dictator took the cruel decision to push through collectivization by force and cause hunger," Green party lawmaker Robin Wagener told parliament on Wednesday.
"And the killing by hunger also had as its aim the political repression of Ukrainian national identity, Ukrainian culture, and language."
Both Wagener and conservative opposition lawmaker Volker Ullrich spoke of "parallels" between the 1930s famine and Russia's current war against Ukraine, saying that Moscow invasion "stands in this historical tradition," as Ullrich said.
Russia has always refused the classification of Holodomor as a genocide, saying that the famine that spread across the Soviet Union in those years killed not only Ukrainians but also Russians, Kazakhs, Volga Germans, and others.
Russia said the German parliament's move was an anti-Russian provocation and an attempt by Germany to whitewash its Nazi history.
"There is another attempt to justify and push forward a campaign -- being planted in Ukraine and sponsored by the West -- to demonize Russia and to pit ethnic Ukrainians against Russians," a foreign ministry statement read.
"The Germans are trying to rewrite their history ... downplay their own guilt and muddy the memory of the unprecedented nature of the countless crimes committed by Nazi Germany during World War II," it added.
The resolution was adopted with the votes of the three parties in Chancellor Olaf Scholz's governing coalition and the main opposition bloc.
"This horror had its cause in the Kremlin – there, the dictator took the cruel decision to push through collectivization by force and cause hunger," governing Green party lawmaker Robin Wagener told parliament. "And the killing by hunger also had as its aim the political repression of Ukrainian national identity, Ukrainian culture and language."
He said that "the parallels with today are unmissable" – a point echoed by other speakers nine months into Russia's invasion of Ukraine. "Russia's current war of aggression against Ukraine stands in this historical tradition," conservative opposition lawmaker Volker Ullrich said.
Academic opinion remains divided about whether the famine constitutes a "genocide," with the main question being whether Stalin intentionally wanted to kill Ukrainians as an attempt to quash an independence movement against the Soviet Union, or whether the famine was primarily the result of official incompetence along with natural conditions. Regardless, the "great famine" seeded lingering Ukrainian bitterness toward Soviet Russian rule.
According to the Holomodor Museum in Kyiv, 16 states in addition to Ukraine so far have recognized the famine as genocide: Australia, Ecuador, Estonia, Canada, Colombia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, the United States and the Vatican. Some other countries, including Argentina, Chile and Spain, have condemned it as "an act of extermination."
Pope Francis linked the suffering of Ukrainians now to the 1930s "genocide artificially caused by Stalin."
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zalenskyy hailed the German resolution's approval in his nightly video address in November 2022. "This is a decision for justice, for truth," he said. "And this is a very important signal to many other countries of the world that Russian revanchism will not succeed in rewriting history."
Lawmakers also stressed that they had no intention of downplaying Germany's history, including Nazi crimes in the Soviet Union. "We derive from Germany's own past a particular responsibility within the international community to mark crimes against human rights and work through them," said Gabriela Heinrich of the governing Social Democrats.
Thus, as of December 12, 2022, 19 foreign countries and Ukraine recognized the Holodomor as an act of genocide against Ukrainians.