A Demographic Framework for the 1932–1934 Famine in the Soviet Union

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Research on the 1932–1934 famine in the Soviet Union (or Famine) has reached the point where some analytical and theoretical synthesis is needed. We present a framework that provides a structure for organizing demographic research of the Famine within a broader demographic-historical context. Elements of the framework are: (a) definitions of critical concepts (Famine, Holodomor, Famine losses); (b) population reconstruction methodology as a basis for estimating Famine losses; (c) a formal structure that facilitates comparative research of the Famine among different subpopulations; (d) elements of an integrated demographic-historical research strategy; (e) recommendations for quantification in historical research. The presentation of the framework is preceded by: (a) examples of the versatility of the population reconstruction methodology; (b) analysis of what is probably a unique characteristic of the Famine, i.e. the surge in rural mortality during the first half of 1933 in regions of Ukraine and Russia, resulting in about seventy to eighty per cent of all Famine losses concentrated in that period; (c) formulation of an analytical model of this surge as an example of an application of the framework. We show significant differences in the rural mortality surges between Ukraine and Russia, e.g.: (a) in two oblasts of Ukraine the number of losses in June 1933 is fourteen to fifteen times higher than in January of that year, compared to a maximum factor of eight in only one region of Russia; (b) the average number of daily losses at the peak of the Famine in Ukraine, June 1933, is 28,000, while the respective number in Russia is 12,000 in July 1933. Standardizing by population size, we have 12.4 daily losses per 1,000 population in Ukraine and 1.4 in Russia. Several examples illustrate the advantages of a collaborative demographic-historical research strategy.

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States use repression to enforce obedience, but repression—especially if it is violent, massive, and indiscriminate—often incites opposition. Why does repression have such disparate effects? We address this question by studying the political legacy of Stalin’s coercive agricultural policy and collective punishment campaign in Ukraine, which led to the death by starvation of over three million people in 1932–34. Using rich micro-level data on eight decades of local political behavior, we find that communities exposed to Stalin’s “terror by hunger” behaved more loyally toward Moscow when the regime could credibly threaten retribution in response to opposition. In times when this threat of retribution abated, the famine-ridden communities showed more opposition to Moscow, both short- and long-term. Thus, repression can both deter and inflame opposition, depending on the political opportunity structure in which post-repression behavior unfolds.
The effect of fetal and early childhood living conditions on adult health has long been debated, but empirical assessment in human beings remains a challenge. We used data from during the man-made Ukrainian famine of 1932-33 to examine the association between restricted nutrition in early gestation and type 2 diabetes in offspring in later life. We included all patients with type 2 diabetes diagnosed at age 40 years or older in the Ukraine national diabetes register 2000-08, and used all individuals born between 1930 and 1938 from the 2001 Ukraine national census as the reference population. This study population includes individuals born before and after the famine period as controls, and those from regions that experienced extreme, severe, or no famine. We used prevalence odds ratios (ORs) as the measure of association between type 2 diabetes and early famine exposure, with stratification by region, date of birth, and sex for comparisons of diabetes prevalence in specific subgroups. Using these two datasets, we compared the odds of type 2 diabetes by date and region of birth in 43 150 patients with diabetes and 1 421 024 individuals born between 1930 and 1938. With adjustment for season of birth, the OR for developing type 2 diabetes was 1·47 (95% CI 1·37-1·58) in individuals born in the first half of 1934 in regions with extreme famine, 1·26 (1·14-1·39) in individuals born in regions with severe famine, and there was no increase (OR 1·00, 0·91-1·09) in individuals born in regions with no famine, compared with births in other time periods. Multivariable analyses confirmed these results. The associations between type 2 diabetes and famine around the time of birth were similar in men and women. These results show a dose-response relation between famine severity during prenatal development and odds of type 2 diabetes in later life. Our findings suggest that early gestation is a critical time window of development; therefore, further studies of biological mechanisms should include this period. Ukraine State Diabetes Mellitus Program, US National Institutes of Health. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Qualitative methodology was used to investigate the intergenerational impact of the 1932-1933 Holodomor genocide on three generations in 15 Ukrainian families. Each family, residing in Ukraine, consisted of a first generation survivor, a second generation adult child and a third generation adult grandchild of the same line. The findings show that the Holodomor, a genocide that claimed millions of lives by forced starvation, still exerts substantial effects on generations born decades later. Specifically, thematic analysis of the 45 semi-structured, in-depth interviews, done between July and November 2010, revealed that a constellation of emotions, inner states and trauma-based coping strategies emerged in the survivors during the genocide period and were subsequently transmitted into the second and third generations. This constellation, summarized by participants as living in "survival mode," included horror, fear, mistrust, sadness, shame, anger, stress and anxiety, decreased self-worth, stockpiling of food, reverence for food, overemphasis on food and overeating, inability to discard unneeded items, an indifference toward others, social hostility and risky health behaviours. Since both the family and community-society were found to be involved in trauma transmission, the findings highlight the importance of multi-framework approaches for studying and healing collective trauma. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
Population statistics suppressed or hidden during the 1930s are now emerging from the archives of the former Soviet Union. Of foremost importance is the 1937 census, the results of which are now available. In light of the new data it is possible to reappraise the human losses generated by the liquidation of the kulaks, forced collectivization, and the famine of 1932-33. Using appropriate hypotheses concerning the normal level of mortality and the number of births between the 1926 and the 1937 censuses, the article presents a plausible range of estimates of excess mortality during the decade, from a minimum of about 6 million to a maximum of about 13 million. Many estimates arrived at in earlier studies fall within this range, but some of them are too conservative or are clearly exaggerated. Parallels are drawn between this man-made catastrophe and the 1959-61 famine that occurred in China as a consequence of the Great Leap Forward. In both cases economic, political, and social circumstances--forced acceleration of industrialization, forced collectivization, increased compulsory grain procurement--not only caused decline in agricultural output and starvation, but weakened traditional networks of mutual support and crippled the traditional defenses that could mitigate economic and social stress.
Ukraine experienced two very acute demographic crises during the Soviet era: the 1933 famine and the Second World War. While different estimates of total losses have been produced previously, we have tried here to distinguish the specific impact of the crises on mortality from their impact on fertility and migration. Taking into account all existing sources of registered data and estimates, a painstaking reconstruction of annual demographic changes has been produced and complete annual life tables have been computed for the years 1926-59. Life expectancy at birth fell to a level as low as 10 years for females and 7 for males in 1933 and plateaued around 25 for females and 15 for males in the period 1941-44.
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