"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ukrainian Thoughts

By chance, as the crisis in the Ukraine has been happening, I have been reading Timothy Snyder's tremendous history of the years before and during World War II on the Eastern Front, Bloodlands:  Eastern Europe Between Hitler and Stalin.    A long chapter deals with the horrors perpetrated agaisnt the Ukraine by Stalin and Russia in the winter of 1932-33:

As starvation raged throughout the Ukraine in the first weeks of 1933, Stalin sealed the borders of the republic so that peasants could not flee, and closed the cities so that peasants could not beg.    As of 14 January 1933 Soviet citizens had to carry internal passports in order to reside in cities legally.   Peasants were not to receive them.   On 22 January 1933 Balytski warned Moscow that Ukrainian peasants were fleeing the republic, and Stalin and Molotov ordered the state police to prevent their flight.   The next day the sale of long-distance rail tickets to peasants was banned...  Peasants had killed their livestock (or lost it too the state), they had killed their chickens, they had killed their cats and dogs.   They had scared the birds away by hunting them.    The human beings had fled too, if they were lucky; more likely they too were dead, or too weak to make noise.   Cut off from the attention of the world by a state that controlled the press and movements of foreign journalists, cut off from officaly help or sympathy by a party line that equated starvation with sabotage... people died alone, families died alone, whole villages died alone.... The good people died first.   Those who refused to steal or prostitute themselves died.    Those who gave food to others died.   Those who refused to eat corpses died.    Those who refused to kill their fellow man died.    Parents who resisted cannibalism died before their children did... The Soviet census of 1937 found eight million fewer people than projected:   most of these were famine victims in Soviet Ukraine...

Naive Americans, like our President, have literally no ability to understand how a country like the Ukraine would fear for its life when the Russian bear growls.  

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