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Media Whitewashing Ukrainian History, Again

3:01 PM, Apr 2, 2014 • By GARY BAUER
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At one point Duranty even admitted to an American diplomat in Germany that “in agreement with the New York Times and the Soviet authorities,” his writing reflected not his own opinions but those of the Soviet Union.

Duranty wasn’t alone. As the commission report put it, “…Duranty was only the most evident symptom of something far more pervasive, a climate of opinion which made telling the truth about Stalinism almost an offense against good taste in ‘enlightened’ circles.”

Another Soviet stooge was The Nation’s Louis Fischer. An avowed Communist, Fischer dutifully parroted the regime’s talking points. Speaking to a college audience in Oakland, California, in the middle of the famine, Fischer said emphatically, “There is no starvation in Russia.”

Then there was Joshua Kunitz. Writing in the New Republic, he blamed the famine not on Stalin but instead on “the lack of revolutionary vigilance” and the “selfishness, dishonesty, laziness, and irresponsibility” of his victims.   

American journalists weren’t the only ones whitewashing the famine. In England, George Orwell wrote, “It was considered equally proper to publicise famines when they happened in India and to conceal them when they happened in the Ukraine.”

The report’s conclusion explained how politics trumped principle for many political elites with Communist sympathies:

“Politicians and opinion makers either turned a blind eye toward Stalin’s famine out of expediency or saw sympathy for the Soviet Union as a litmus test of one’s commitment to a more just society in this country. The tragedy is that the reality of mass starvation and collective victimization became politicized such that the question of fact concerning whether there was a famine was subordinated to the question of one’s political values.”

Holodomor denial continued for decades. In the U.S.S.R, even mentioning the famine became a crime punishable by five years in the Gulag. Blaming Soviet authorities could bring a death sentence.

In 1988, the same year that our report was presented to Congress, the Village Voice ran a long essay titled, “In Search of a Soviet Holocaust: A 55-year-old Famine Feeds the Right.” The piece lamented the “prevailing vogue of anti-Stalinism” and argued that the idea that the famine had been created by the Communist government was a ruse to justify American imperialism.

In 2007, Congress passed a resolution declaring the Holodomor a genocide. A year earlier, when the Ukrainian parliament issued a similar declaration, the Russian government responded by accusing Ukraine of engaging in “a one-sided distortion of history to suit modern opportunist political-ideological directives.”

Russia has yet to come to terms with its past. Sadly, neither have the American media.

The Holodomor rarely gets mentioned in news reports of the current conflict. Stories will often say that that Russia and Ukraine have a “shared” history without explaining what that shared history looks like.

Today’s whitewashing of the Holodomor does not come close to the shameful response of some American journalists at the time that it occurred. Still, it does the public a disservice, and history an injustice, to omit this terrible chapter in the story of Ukraine and Russia.

Former presidential candidate Gary Bauer is president of American Values, chairman of the Campaign for Working Families, and former domestic policy advisor to President Ronald Reagan, for whom he served all 8 years of the administration. 

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