Posts Tagged ‘Holodomor’

Mr Jones, Curzon Victoria 14 February

February 29, 2020



This film started with a typical Ukrainian wooden house in a field of typical Ukrainian wheat and in the house the Ukrainian writer George Orwell is writing Animal Farm.

Apart from that, the action presumably takes place in 1933 when Gareth Jones, who has just been made redundant as Lloyd George’s secretary and has previously succeeded in interviewing Hitler in an aeroplane travels to Moscow in the hope of interviewing Stalin and finding out there the money to pay for forced industrialisation is coming from.  By that stage of course there was a National Government without Lloyd George, so the reference to him and Ramsay Macdonald sorting out the economic crisis made little sense.

Anyway, once in the Soviet Union Jones manages to escape his minder on a trip to Kharkov and tramp round the Ukrainian countryside observing scenes of hunger, death and cannibalism.  He also has to contend with Walter Duranty, the senior foreign correspondent in Moscow, who expounds the official line that there is no famine, really.  Then we get what seems to be an entirely fictional entanglement with the Metro-Vickers trial  and the British engineers being held hostage for Jones’s silence.  Similarly, the idea that Orwell was converted to anti-Communism by Jones’s account rather than his own experiences in the Spanish Civil War is…strange…

So the mingling of fact and fantasy was unsatisfactory, which can leave people wondering about the historicity of the Ukrainian famine.  Another question would be what the actual story is meant to be. If it’s about the famine in Ukraine, then why does it only exist when a Westerner finds out about it?  If it’s about the discovery of the famine, then Malcolm Muggeridge for instance had already written about it.  As the subject of a film, the story of Duranty could have been better, or compare-and-contrast of him and Jones as very able men who could not easily find a place in normal life.


Anne Applebaum at EBRD, 28 September

September 28, 2017


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.