A masterpiece of scholarship, a ground-breaking history, and a heart-wrenching story … As with all Applebaum books, Red Famine places personal anecdote in the context of broader history, showing through an alternately widening and narrowing lens both the political context and personal tragedy of the Holodomor. The book benefits from large troves of previously unavailable sources, as Applebaum has taken advantage of the extensive Ukrainian archives that have opened up since the collapse of the USSR … Red Famine, as the most complete exploration to date of one of the twentieth century’s greatest atrocities, stands both as a work of huge historical importance and contemporary relevance. But above all it is a book of great emotional power, which stems directly from Applebaum’s willingness to give space to Ukrainian voices.
...a richly detailed history of the great famine ... Applebaum has painstakingly mined a vast array of sources, many of which were not available when the historian Robert Conquest wrote his pioneering history of the famine, The Harvest of Sorrow, 30 years ago: oral histories of survivors; national and local archives in Ukraine, including those of the secret police; and archives in Russia, which opened in the 1990s and then partly closed again, but not before various scholars published collections of documents from them ... It is a reminder of the lengths that demagogues will go to in order to suppress or distort the truth — something no less a problem in many a country today than it was in the Soviet Union more than eight decades ago.
Anne Applebaum’s Red Famine is not the first book to chronicle this appalling history. Robert Conquest’s The Harvest of Sorrow (1986) was a seminal work that documented the 'terror-famine,' and rescued the immense human tragedy from historical oblivion. But with greater access to Soviet archives, and a more elegant turn of phrase, Applebaum’s fresher work is now the definitive version. Along with her Pulitzer Prize-winning Gulag: A History (2003), and Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956 (2012), Red Famine is the third part of an impassioned triptych on the theme of Soviet atrocities ... Applebaum excels at describing the life-and-death choices people faced as a result of contradictions inherent in Soviet agricultural policy ... Red Famine balances erudite analysis of political processes at the top with fluent storytelling about their impact on ordinary people.
...a lucid, judicious and powerful book ... Occasionally she over-simplifies. Calling Ukraine a 'Russian colony,' for example, is rather like calling Scotland a colony of England: It implies too stark a divide. Nor does she explore in depth the interplay between the Holodomor and the famines on the Volga, in the North Caucasus and in Kazakhstan ... But overall, the argument that Stalin singled out Ukraine for special punishment is well-made. Ms. Applebaum points to harsher food requisitioning in Ukraine, to the closure of its borders with Russia and Poland, and to the 'black-listing' of hundreds of villages, making it illegal to provide them with manufactured goods, including even kerosene and matches ... What has also resurfaced is the reluctance of even liberal Russians to accept that Ukrainians have their own history and now their own state. Western commentators afflicted with the same mind-set should read this excellent and important book.
As The Post’s Anne Applebaum reveals in Red Famine, Stalin and the Soviet leadership enforced policies that ensured that the disaster was worst in Ukraine ... Applebaum demonstrates that the causes of the great famine of 1933 were also national and political ...prodigious original research... Her account will surely become the standard treatment of one of history’s great political atrocities ...re-creates a pastoral world so we can view its destruction. And she rightly insists that the deliberate starvation of the Ukrainian peasants was part of a larger policy against the Ukrainian nation ...remarkable book.
Anne Applebaum’s Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine, a new history of the famine, illustrates the perils of using the past in the service of today’s politics. Drawing on archives opened after the fall of the Soviet Union, newly available oral histories, and recent scholarship, Applebaum provides an accessible, up-to-date account of this nightmarish but still relatively unknown episode of the 20th century. Her historical account is distorted, however, by her loathing of communism and by her eagerness to shape the complicated story of the famine into one more useful for the present: about a malevolent Russia and a heroic, martyred, unified Ukraine.
The definitive history of Stalin’s famine that leaves no doubt about the regime’s role not only in creating the conditions that led to mass starvation, but also in taking advantage of the chaos to crush Ukrainian nationhood … Drawing on a wealth of archival documents and newly published studies, Applebaum, in careful, measured steps, shows just how the famine unfolded and was then used for a range of repressive actions against what a paranoid Stalin believed to be counterrevolutionary nationalists, fifth column traitors, and assorted class enemies and 'former people' (i.e., déclassé aristocrats, bourgeois, clergy, et cetera) plotting to subvert the Soviet Union and win Ukrainian independence.
Readers of Applebaum's earlier books, including both Gulag and Iron Curtain, will know to expect her pointedly effective alternating between large-scale history and personal stories, and they won't be disappointed. In Red Famine, she makes use of government reports, letters, and even a generous amount of poetry in order to convey the human dimensions of this catastrophe ... Applebaum gives a chorus of contemporary voices to the tale, and her book is written in the light of later history, with the fate of Ukraine once again in the international spotlight and Ukrainians realizing with newly-relevant intensity that, as Red Famine reminds us, 'History offers hope as well as tragedy.'
In this riveting and well-researched new work, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anne Applebaum provides a vivid account of the chain of events and calculated political decisions that led to one of the largest, but relatively understudied, mass atrocities of the 20th century ... As she leads her reader through this dizzyingly complex period, Applebaum argues that these events taught the early Bolshevik leadership...chapters about the famine itself are at once breathtaking and deeply distressing. Applebaum has mined a vast trove of memoirs and oral histories, much of it material that has not been available to researchers until recently, to chronicle the physical, psychological, and societal impacts of mass starvation ... Applebaum continually returns to the themes of collective complicity and the impossible choices individuals had to make.
Guardian readers may be inclined to approach a new book on Soviet atrocities by Applebaum warily. But in many ways it is a welcome surprise. Like her Gulag – which, if you held your nose through the introduction, turned out to be a good read, reasonably argued and thoroughly researched – Red Famine is a superior work of popular history. She still doesn’t like western academic Soviet historians much, but at least she mainly avoids gratuitous snideness and cites their work in her bibliography ... For scholars, the most interesting part of the book will be the two excellent historiographical chapters in which she teases out the political and scholarly impulses tending to minimise the famine in Soviet times and does the same for post-Soviet Ukrainian exploitation of the issue ... a vivid and informative account of the Ukrainian famine.
What has come to light, and what Ms Applebaum synthesises in lucid and vigorous prose, is a devastating circumstantial case. Red Famine presents a Bolshevik government so hell-bent on extracting wealth and controlling labour that it was willing to confiscate the last remaining grain from hungry peasants (mostly but not exclusively in Ukraine) and then block them from fleeing famine-afflicted areas to search for food ... With searing clarity, Red Famine demonstrates the horrific consequences of a campaign to eradicate 'backwardness' when undertaken by a regime in a state of war with its own people.
Applebaum deftly parses decades of politicized reportage and deliberate obfuscation to show how seemingly distinct aspects of Stalinism were deployed to suppress an independent Ukraine. Applebaum adds important context and compelling insights to WWII history and more recent regional conflicts. Highly recommended.
It is an inflammatory accusation based on circumstantial evidence, and even Applebaum admits that 'no written instructions governing the behavior of activists have ever been found.' The Nazis also had a 'Hunger Plan' for Ukraine, which according to her was Stalin’s 'multiplied many times,' but they never implemented it. Applebaum’s revisionist historiography may serve her concluding claims against Vladimir Putin’s aggressions today, but it doesn’t stand up to deep scrutiny.
...a chilling, dramatic, and well-documented chronicle of a devastating famine ... In her detailed, well-rendered narrative, Applebaum provides a 'crucial backstory' for understanding current relations between Russia and Ukraine. An authoritative history of national strife from a highly knowledgeable guide.