Anne Applebaum at EBRD, 28 September

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Blurred picture of Anne Applebaum and Ed Lucas

Anne Applebaum pursued three main lines in discussing her new book Red Famine: Stalin’s War On Ukraine under the benign oversight of Ed Lucas.

The first was that by sequencing and analysing decisions taken by Stalin in the light of his previous experiences we could be sure that the Holodomor or Great Famine was a deliberate attempt to destroy Ukraine and not just things going badly in agriculture as they were elsewhere in the Soviet Union.  As subsidiary points, it was now possible to establish the number of excess deaths with reasonable accuracy and the closure of Russian archives was not crucially important since it had been possible to sufficiently elucidate Stalin’s decisions.

Her second main theme was a number of historical absences around Holodomor, which had been covered up by the Soviet regime which complaisant Western correspondents, following the lead of Walter Duranty, had also glossed over.  As well as wishing to keep on good terms with the regime for practical purposes of doing his job, he had also not wished to go back his earlier Pulitzer-Prize-winning articles on collectivisation.  This tied in with the ambivalent reaction to Applebaum’s book of historians like Sheila Fitzpatrick who had developed an idea of Stalinism as a different type of modernisation and hence a different type of normal.

With regard to the question of genocide, then the actions of the Soviet Government would fall within the normal understanding of the term but not within the strict legal definition adopted by the UN.

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