“Fifty years ago as l write these words, the Ukraine and the Ukrainian, Cossack and other areas to its east—a great stretch of territory with some forty million inhabitants—was like one vast Belsen. A quarter of the rural population, men, women and children, lay dead or dying, the rest in various stages of debilitation with no strength to bury their families or neighbors. At the same time, well-fed squads of police or party officials supervised the victims.
“This was the climax of the ‘revolution from above’, as Stalin put it, in which he and his associates crushed two elements seen as irremediably hostile to the regime: the peasantry of the USSR as a whole, and the Ukrainian nation.”
So begins this meticulous and moving account of a momentous, tragic yet neglected chapter of modern history. Robert Conquest presents for the first time the full story of Stalin’s collectivization program and its consequences. He reconstructs the background of the events—the lives and aspirations of the peasants, the Ukrainian national struggle, the motives and methods of the Communist leadership—and carefully details the fate of villages and individuals, the desperate condition of children who were left homeless, and the various cruelties and agonies of the man-made famine that followed in the wake of collectivization. He seeks a true accounting of the death toll, suppressed in official Soviet statistics but deducible from other sources, and shows how the West has long been deceived about what really happened under communism.