March 7, 2022

War Sanctions, Holodomor & The Invasion of Ukraine


How do you starve a nation that can feed the world?

 

In this episode, Sarah discusses the effectiveness of sanctions during war and the disastrous impacts they can have on food systems. Becca then covers one of the darkest parts of human history: Holodomor, the man-made famine that killed millions of Ukrainians during the Soviet-era.

 

Slava Ukraini!

 

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References

 

Andrejsons, K. (Host). (2021, Nov 24). Man of Steel: Holodomor [Audio podcast episode]. In The Eastern Border. https://shows.acast.com/theeasternborder/episodes/man-of-steel-holodomor 

 

Cameron, S. (2012). The Kazakh Famine of 1930-33 and the Politics of History in the Post-Soviet Space. Wilson Center. https://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/the-kazakh-famine-1930-33-and-the-politics-history-the-post-soviet-space 

 

CBC. (2022, Feb 21). Tension between Ukraine and Russia rooted in 'hunger extermination' of 1930s. https://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/tension-between-ukraine-and-russia-rooted-in-hunger-extermination-of-1930s-1.6354189 

 

Conquest, R. , Pipes, . Richard E. , Dewdney, . John C. and McCauley, . Martin (2020, November 10). Soviet Union. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/place/Soviet-Union 

 

Dehne, P. (2019, ). How world war I transformed economic warfare. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/06/28/how-world-war-i-transformed-economic-warfare/ 

 

Government of Canada (2021). Types of Sanctions.  https://www.international.gc.ca/world-monde/international_relations-relations_internationales/sanctions/types.aspx?lang=eng 

 

Hejazi, J. (2020). The effects of the re-imposition of US sanctions on food security in Iran. International Journal of Health Policy and Management. https://doi.org/10.34172/ijhpm.2020.207 

 

History. (2020). Czar Nicholas II crowned. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/czar-nicholas-ii-crowned 

 

Holodomor Museum. (2021). How my father saved his co-villagers from starvation during the Holodomor: Voices of witnesses. 

https://holodomormuseum.org.ua/en/news-museji/how-my-father-saved-his-co-villagers-from-starvation-during-the-holodomor-voices-of-witnesses/#:~:text=During%20the%20Holodomor%2C%20there%20were,after%20several%20months%20of%20starvatio 

 

Kottusch, P., Tillmann, M., & Püschel, K. (2009). Oberlebenszeit bei Nahrungs- und Flüssigkeitskarenz [Survival time without food and drink]. Archiv fur Kriminologie, 224(5-6), 184–191. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20069776/ 

 

Leshchenko, R. (2021, Mar 4). Ukraine can feed the world. Atlantic Council. https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/ukraine-can-feed-the-world/ 

 

Liberation Movement Research Centre. (2015, Nov 26). 

Documents show massive export of products from Ukraine during Holodomor. Euromaidan Press. https://euromaidanpress.com/2015/11/26/documents-show-massive-export-of-products-from-ukraine-during-holodomor/ 

 

McDonough, S. & Zhou, Youyou (2022). What the Russian invasion of Ukraine could mean for global hunger. Vox. https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2022/2/27/22950805/russia-ukraine-food-prices-hunger-invasion-war 

 

McGill University. (2007). Russian Revolution of 1917.  https://www.cs.mcgill.ca/~rwest/wikispeedia/wpcd/wp/r/Russian_Revolution_of_1917.htm 

 

Michaelson, C. (2022). What are sanctions, do they ever work – and could they stop Russia’s invasion of Ukraine? The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/what-are-sanctions-do-they-ever-work-and-could-they-stop-russias-invasion-of-ukraine-177926 

 

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. (2019). Holodomor: How Millions Of Ukrainians Died of Starvation During Stalin-Era Mass Famine. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPplN7PSUE4

 

S2pu. (n.d.). Which countries have taken responsibility and recognized Holodomor as genocide? http://s2pu.com/index.php/en/holodomor/confirmations/which-countries-have-taken-responsibility

 

Staff Writer (2022). America has targeted Russia’s technological fabric: Biden’s sanctions. The Economist (Online). https://www.economist.com/business/2022/02/25/america-has-targeted-russias-technological-fabric  

 

Suibhne. (2019). The Animated History of the USSR. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJVDqlWJ7vY 

 

Suibhne. (2020). The Animated History of Ukraine. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJvz3Ai9Ppw 

 

Toh, M., Ogura, J., Humayun, H., Yee, I., Cheung, E., Fossum, S., and Maruf, R. (2022), The List of Global Sanctions Against Russia for the War in Ukraine. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2022/02/25/business/list-global-sanctions-russia-ukraine-war-intl-hnk/index.html 

 

UKTV. (n.d.). LENIN: HEROIC VISIONARY OR CRUEL TYRANT? https://yesterday.uktv.co.uk/russian-revolution-in-colour/article/lenin-heroic-visionary-or-tyrant/ 

 

Wax, E. (2022). Ukraine war ‘will be painful’ for EU food and farming, Commission official warns. Politico. https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-commission-warns-of-major-food-and-farming-impact-of-russia-ukraine-war/ 


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Transcript

S: Welcome to Unsavory! I’m Sarah.


B: And I’m Becca.

 

And today we have a super important and super relevant episode for you. In light of the recent events in Ukraine, we’ve decided to put the episode we initially had planned on hold and discuss some of the backstory of the devastating invasion of Russian troops on Ukrainian soil. You might be wondering what this has to do with food - and I promise you, it has a lot to do with food. 

 

S: Oh yes, more than you might think! Everything relates back to food. 

 

B: So first off, Sarah is going to discuss what exactly sanctions are and how they can impact the food system. Then I am going to cover the devastating famine that took the lives of an estimated 3.5-12 million Ukrainians - and that’s the famine of Holodomor (HOLE-AU-DE-MORE). The unfortunate twist is that this famine has historically been considered a “man-made” famine. We hope this episode gives you some historical context to the current conflict.

 

S: When you suggested this topic, I briefly looked it up and I was absolutely shocked by how devastating Holodomor was, and how little I knew about it, so I’m very -not excited, because I know it’s going to be terrible- but interested to learn more about a really dark part of human history.

 

B: Yes, when food is used as a weapon, terrible things happen. And just a brief trigger warning - there will be discussion of death by starvation, of children, and instances of cannibalism. 

 

By the time this episode airs, the current status of things in Ukraine may have changed. So just keep that in mind. We are currently recording this on March 5th.

 

Sanctions intro 

 

Okay, so we’re starting off with a topic I never thought we’d cover on this podcast, but one that can have a massive impact on the food system, agriculture industry, and food security - I’m talking about sanctions. HUGE shout out to my sources here because in all honesty, I barely knew what a sanction was before starting this research. So thank you, Government of Canada website and the many other sources I used, which will be listed in our show notes, as always.  

 

So what exactly is a sanction? Sanctions are a policy tool that applies economic penalties or restrictions from one state, country, group or individual against a targeted state, country, group, or individual with the goal of causing economic damage. Sanctions can be unilateral - so one state applying restrictions directly against another - or collective - for example, the entire EU and Western Nations cooperating to impose sanctions on a single country, like Russia. 

 

Sanctions are most often used to help settle ongoing conflicts by non-military means. They can also be used to deter nuclear proliferation, support or restore international peace and security, protect human rights, and hinder terrorism. They are kind of like when you’re a kid and you get in trouble and your parents withhold allowance, but on the biggest possible scale. 

 

There are various types of sanctions, including restricting or prohibiting trade or financial activities between your country and the target country. There can be sanctions that involve import and export restrictions, which hinder the economy of the targeted country by blocking the  buying, selling or shipping of identified goods to or from that country. There are also financial prohibitions that block financial transactions with the targeted entity. There are technical assistance prohibitions, which aim at blocking the sharing of technical data, training or other technical assistance, and these sanctions can have a widespread impact on everyone in the targeted country. Sanctions can also impact the morale and spirit of a country through things like travel bans or even preventing a country’s athletes from competing in international events. 

 

Almost all of those types of sanctions that I just mentioned are currently implemented against Russia in an attempt to impact Russia’s ability to fund their ongoing invasion of Ukraine, and ensure that Russia experiences economic consequences for Putin’s actions. The US, Canada, Australia, and the European Union have implemented sweeping coordinated economic sanctions that are hugely impacting the Russian economy, including freezing the assets of powerful individuals, including Putin - which I’m sure he’s not happy about, freezing transactions from Russia’s central bank, and blocking the use of the American dollar, among many others. There have also been airspace bans on Russian aircrafts in Canadian, US, and EU airspace, and United Airlines, Delta Airlines, American Airlines, and UPS have suspended flying over Russian airspace. Many large corporations have been jumping on the sanction bandwagon as well. Apple, for example, has halted all product sales and limited the use of Apple Pay and Apple Maps in Russia. What is so interesting about these sanctions is that they are highly coordinated between all these countries, and so the impact on Russia’s economy is already quite powerful - the value of the Ruble, Russia’s currency, fell to a record low of less than one 1 cent American, representing a loss of 30% of it’s value against the US dollar. If this economic trend continues, the low value of the Ruble will contribute to inflation, making the cost of goods, including food, more expensive for Russian citizens.

 

Nike stopped online ordering to Russia, Montreal restaurant took poutine off the menu 

 

The rise of economic sanctions as a tool of war can be traced back to World War I, when the “inter-allied blockade” coordinated by Britain, France, and the United States aimed to confiscate German goods on the high seas to disrupt Germany's economy and undermine German resilience in World War I. So while there have been some historical successes with sanctions and what already appears to be an early success against Russia, sanctions don’t always work exactly the way they are intended… 

 

When sanctions are implemented, the goal of the greater good should be kept in mind, and sanction regimes should be used in a way that spares the general population as much as possible. And so, there are certain items that are typically not directly impacted by sanctions, including medical and disaster relief supplies, and -of course- food. But even though food is often not directly impacted by sanctions, economic sanctions have often been shown to cause negative fallout beyond their intended measures - including inflated food prices and increases in food insecurity. 

 

One example is the US sanctions against Iran (Ur-aan). The US has imposed various sanctions against Iran since 1979, and this has led to a variety of negative impacts on Iran’s economy, but the one of greatest interest to us is that the sanctions eventually caused unprecedented inflation in Iran’s food markets. From a nutrition perspective, this has increased the prevalence of food insecurity and made it significantly more difficult for the people of Iran to afford a healthy diet. Long-term, the downstream effects of these sanctions could possibly include a population that is more vulnerable to chronic disease. 

 

In regards to the sanctions on Russia and the ongoing events and how they could possibly impact food, there are already predictions of a global fertilizer shortage. So while sanctions may seem like a peaceful or less violent way to stop conflict and encourage peace, they can be very powerful and devastating. And with that, I’m going to toss it to Becca for a story that I know will emotionally destroy me but I’m so interested to learn about…

 

B: Some of the sources I used for this episode include History.com, Britannica, many YouTube videos. As always, you can find all of our references on our website at unsavory.com. 

 

The history of Ukraine and Ukraine’s relationship with Russia is extremely deep rooted and complicated, so apologies in advance if anything seems oversimplified, but I wanted to be able to fit this into an hour long episode. And I do want to disclose that I have a personal connection to the current events in Ukraine since I have extended family and some friends there. I have a very Ukrainian mother - I went to Ukrainian school and did Ukrainian dancing all throughout my childhood and teenage years; I grew up eating cabbage rolls, borscht, and pierogi. So I did try to keep my research and reporting as unbiased as possible. But I figured I should disclose this…in case I do get a bit heated.

 

Where is your family from? 

 

The backstory: Romanov’s, Soviet Union, Stalin, Crimea…

 

Ukraine is the 2nd largest country in Europe by area, falling significantly behind Russia - the largest country in Europe and in the world. Ukraine has seven land borders - so it’s touching Russia, obviously; as well as Belarus, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia. The word “Ukraina”, which is “Ukraine” in Ukrainian quite literally means “the borderlands”. And this is really important to its history, for reasons that we will soon get into.

 

A lot of us likely know what the Ukrainian flag looks like after this past week and a half. It’s divided into two colours - blue on the top and yellow on the bottom. But what a lot of people might not know is what these colours represent. Want to take a guess? Ok so the blue on top represents the sky (or some say the Black Sea) and the yellow portion on the bottom represents Ukraine’s large wheat harvest. 

 

And they produce a tremendous amount of wheat, as well as corn, sunflower, and soybeans. The reason for this is that 1. They have a lot of land dedicated to crops. The area of land cultivated every year is larger than the surface area of Italy. And 2. Their soil is extremely fertile. Like super duper fertile. It’s called Black Earth or Black Soil for its black puddy-like appearence. This soil is so coveted that there have been literal black markets dedicated to its sale. And this is one of the main reasons Ukrainian land is so desirable. For its Earth, but also its access to other countries and water for importing and exporting goods.

 

Ukraine is able to supply a lot of food to their people, but also throughout Europe and globally. They are one of the top three exporters of grain worldwide…and it is often said that Ukraine could feed the whole world if it needed to (Leshchenko, 2021).

 

But like how does such an agricultural powerhouse of a country experience a famine that kills millions of its people? 

 

The biggest catalyst for the Holodomor famine as well as the tensions between Russia and Ukraine began during the years where the Soviet Union was in full force. Well, I mean… the tensions started WAY before this, but this is where we are going to start our history lesson today. 

 

Before the Soviet Union aka the USSR aka the United Socialist Soviet Republic, Russia was ruled by the Romanov dynasty. Nicolas Romanov the II was the last Russian empire. He was crowned in 1896 after his father Alexander the III passed away - and this was when he was only 28 years old. Apparently wasn’t a great leader - he was young and wasn’t well trained. Russian civilians were also desperate for change - they wanted more of a communist/collective state; whereas Nicolas was trying to preserve his family’s monarchy and refused to give up any of his power.

 

Do you watch “The Great”?

 

In 1917, a Russian revolution began, where a lawyer named Vladamir Lenin launched an uprising against this autocracy or autocratic (AW-TUH-KRA-TUHK) government and called for a Soviet government consisting of everyday people - like peasants, workers, and soldiers. The word “Soviet” in Russian quite literally means “workers union” or “council”. 

 

Immediately following this revolution, the Russian Civil War began, and this is where things start to get a bit confusing since there was a network of changing alliances between regions - like Ukraine, Poland, Belarus, Georgia, Latvia, Finland, and that whole area really. But basically you have the communists - who want common ownership of property and the absence of social classes; versus the monarchists - who want a ruler who acts as the head of the state and makes the decisions (McGill University, 2007). 

 

During this war, tensions rose between the communist people in Russia and the Romanov royal family, despite the fact that Nicolas the II had been thrown out of his position during the Revolution. In February of 1918, the whole royal family was executed by a firing squad - including Nicloas, his wife, his five children, and many of the members of their entourage (History, 2020). And even at the time, most people considered this massacre excessively brutal. But others did justify it as a necessary action for change.

 

S: It seems unnecessary and terrible to kill the whole family.

 

B: Have you seen the movie Anastasia? I used to watch this movie as a kid, which is kinda messed up considering the premise. So it's actually based on conspiracy theories that Anastasia, who was Romanov’s youngest daughter, was able to escape the massacre and was hiding out on her own in Russia. Over the years, a lot of women came forward pretending to be Anastasia. But of course, this whole conspiracy was later disproven in 1991, when forensic researchers found some of the remains of the family and when the DNA from the most convincing fake Anastasia didn’t match up with any of the family’s DNA.

 

During this Civil war, Ukraine tried to gain independence. They actually call part of the war the Ukrainian War for Independence. But as I mentioned, Ukraine is super coveted for its land and resources, so a lot of other regions tried to absorb it. Over a few years, there is a struggle back and forth between them achieving independence and it being taken away. Ultimately, they did not gain independence for very long, and in 1922, they became one of the original republics of the Soviet Union.

 

Q

 

And keep in mind here that a lot of these republics or regions - like Ukraine - weren’t even considered countries yet. Because a country has full independence and its own government. And that just wasn’t the case yet. 

 

Anyways, there was honestly so much conflict, so many wars, and revolutions happening at this time, I really cut it down to the sparks notes here. But if you’re interested in learning more about Ukrainian/Russian history, there are some amazing historians on YouTube - I highly recommend more of the animated videos, as I found them much easier to follow…because they’ll explain what’s happening while also showing you through graphics. And I am such a visual learner. One of the channels I liked is called Suibhne. 

 

OK, so the Soviet Union or USSR was formed shortly after the Russian Revolution and the Russian Civil War, Vladamir Lenin - who I mentioned had started this communist uprising - he overthrew the Russian leader Alexander Kerensky (KEY-REN-SKI), who took over from the Romanov’s. And he was trying to move Russia away from being an autocracy, but wasn’t really doing a very good job. He was like super consumed by World War I and kept Russian troops fighting, despite a lot of the country opposing it.

 

So Vladamir Lenin swooped in and Kerensky was exiled. After the takeover, Russia then became a socialist republic and Lenin was selected its Leader. Lenin then got them out of World War I by signing a peace treaty

 

Fun fact - the term Leninism is often used somewhat synonymously with Marxism (like Karl Marx from philosophy textbooks). So people who believe these ideologies often believe in a socialist democracy and the nonexistence of social classes - so basically that people should all work for a common good, without a real hierarchy of class, or ownership over property.

 

Separate republics were formed and they were united to create the USSR, which was in existence from 1922 to 1991, and was made up of a total of 15 republics or countries including Armenia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Ukraine, and others (Conquest et al., 2020). Is this making sense so far? I know it’s a lot. MAYBE GIVE A QUICK SUMMARY: 

 

Can I try? Tell me if I’m right. Ukraine was chilling, being super fertile and trying to be independent. Russia was governed by an autocratic government, so one person in charge of everything, and the Russian people were starting to advocate for Leninism or Marxism, which is more communal. WWI ended, peace treaty was signed, and then Ukraine was part of the USSR along with lots of other countries. 

 

OK so Lenin was the first leader of the Soviet Union, which called for full equality of all the republics. But even once the Soviet Union was formed, Russians were still considered the top dog and the Soviet congress, which was called the Supreme Soviet, was located in Moscow. 

 

So is Lenin a good guy? 

(would have turned to Stalin eventually…)

 

Things get worse after Lenin dies in 1924. Prior to his death, Lenin tries to stop a young Georgian man by the name of Joseph Stalin from becoming his successor. Omg…  This guy was like a revolutionist leader but a very bad seed - he was literally known as a criminal who had been tied to a bank robbery in Georgia. Lenin was quoted saying that Stalin “[has] unlimited authority concentrated in his hands, and I am not sure whether he will always be capable of using that authority with sufficient caution." But unfortunately, Lenin passes and Stalin takes over as the head of the USSR (UKTV, n.d.). Stalin even plans Lenin's funeral and disregards his wishes by throwing a lavish event, embalming his body, and putting it on display. All things Lenin didn’t want.

 

They should have listened to Lenin… 

 

At this point, there is a significant change in how things are handled. The USSR transitioned to this totalitarian one-party government, where opposition parties or ideologies weren’t welcomed. And this is definitely not what many revolutionaries had in mind when fighting for this socialist/communist change. I feel like in theory, communism sounds okay, but in reality, it led to political and cultural repression as well as the restriction of human rights.

 

Many people tried to fight back, but Soviet secret police forces were created and they arrested or executed anti-revolutionaries. The Goulags were established, which were these concentration camps where people were kept and worked to death a lot of the time. It was bad. 

 

Whoa.. 

 

Stalin wanted to make the Soviet Union into more of an industrial powerhouse, so in 1928, he introduced a 5-year-plan that included the “collectivization” of farms, which was masked as this policy that intended to unify privately owned farms. But what it actually meant was that farmers would give their land to the state and work together on the largest farms to produce larger and more efficient yields…to then feed the growing number of industrial workers throughout the Soviet Union. So the crops would be given to the government at prices lower than the standard. This would clearly create more product for less money, but also limit the success of any individual farm, farmer, or family - so pushing that communist ideal of eliminating class structures (Suibhne, 2019).

 

What was Holodomor? (1932-1933)

 

Now remember that Ukraine is a hub of natural resources and is even called the Breadbasket of Europe because of its fertile soil, productive crops, and exports. Before this period of time, farmland was mainly independently owned. So a lot of Ukrainian farm owners refused to give their land to the state - I mean this was their livelihood and oftentimes property that was passed down from generations of family members. Ukraine became a threat to Stalin’s evil plan, and over the next four years their land was confiscated from them and resistant Ukranians were murdered, sent into exile, or physically forced onto these collective farms.

 

With this new collectivization policy, the farms would give the state ALL their harvest and wait for some of it to be redistributed back to them or they’d be allowed to keep small amounts for the workers. But slowly, harvest quotas increased and Stalin started to keep more of the rations intended for the workers. By 1932, the quotas became almost impossible to meet and even less was saved for Ukrainian families - with most of the food being redistributed to other parts of the Soviet Union.

 

So, Ukrainian farmers were taken from their land, forced to work on collective farms, and getting less and less food? 

 

And the Soviet Union used their grain procurement plan to cover up the beginning of a mass genocide and their attempt to take over Ukraine. I should mention that the bordering part of Russia as well as Kazakhstan were impacted by this famine too…and pretty severely…but still not as badly as Ukraine. The causes of the famine in Kazakhstan more specifically aren’t as clearcut (Cameron, 2012).

 

Violence in these areas became legalized and a part of everyday life should a farm fail to meet its quotas or a family try to hide food. And hiding leftover crops underground became a pretty common thing. But soldiers would go around with long sticks poking the ground to try to find them. And stores of wheat and other grains were kept in warehouses with armed guards who had instructions to shoot any “thieves”. 

 

Aka. starving citizens trying to feed their families

 

The Soviet Union made it impossible for Ukrainians to escape this horrific treatment. They banned travel and took away any items that could be exchanged for food, usually leaving people with nothing but the clothes on their backs. So over 22 million people were physically stuck in this Holodomor nightmare.

 

People became so hungry that they dug up and ate previously buried livestock, they would eat grass and tree bark and wild birds and worms. The most tragic and disturbing thing that people turned to for nourishment was…cannibalism.  

 

So it’s estimated that people can live without food for 8-21 days, and up to two months if they remain hydrated (Kottusch et al., 2009). But effects like delirium start much sooner. I think about when I’m hungry and I can barely go a few hours without feeling irritable. So I can’t imagine.

 

Yes, your emotions become dysregulated and there is a primal drive for food. I joke about being “hangry” when I miss a snack or a meal is later than expected, but the root of hangry is actually that one of our basic physiological needs is not being met, and if you think of Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs that describes what motivates humans - food is at the bottom. If your food need isn’t met, things like safety, emotions, cognitive function - those things can’t function if our basic physiological needs aren’t met. 

 

Anyways, people started experiencing delirium and some resorted to murder, while others lived off the remains of those who had already perished. In one instance, a mother in one of the villages killed her own child for food after months of starvation (Holodomor Museum, 2021). I can’t even imagine living with the moral and social consequences of that. 

 

Omg… :|

 

This famine went on for over a year and it became normal to see bodies on the streets or in wheelbarrows to be brought to cemeteries. This famine truly is one of the darkest parts of human history. And it is shocking that it doesn’t seem to be that well known. Overall Holodomor killed between 3.5-12 million people, mostly Ukrainian - decreasing the population by around 15%. And there are a lot of inconsistencies in these numbers since deaths were often documented incorrectly - like the cause of death would be marked down as typhoid or old age (Andrejsons, 2021; CBC, 2022; Radio Free Europe, 2019).

 

S: So wait, what ended the famine?

 

B: The end of Stalin’s 5 year plan…it is so strange, none of the sources I read, listened to, or watched discussed how the famine ended in much detail. But it sounds like it was a combination of resistance from the people and the fact that Stalin had carried out his collectivization plan.

 

What’s almost more upsetting is that the Soviet Union completely denied this famine, claiming that there was nothing deliberate about it. But again, how do you starve a nation that can feed the world? In doing this research I kept wondering what they actually did with all of this food, because there’s no way the Soviet Union could consume millions of tons of food. And it turns out they didn’t. Confidential Russian state documents were later leaked claiming that the Soviet Union was exporting a lot of this food and using the funds to increase industrialization. Countries like England, Germany, Poland, Holland, and Denmark were all documented to have accepted exports from the USSR during this time period (Liberation Movement Research Centre, 2015). And it really makes me wonder how much these countries knew about the genocide…were they naive or were they complicit? 

 

And then Holodomor wasn’t acknowledged worldwide as a genocide against Ukranians until the early 2000’s. 

 

S: Wait, not until the 2000’s?

 

Yup, and there are still countries that don’t acknowledge it as a genocide to this day - actually most don’t. Over the past 20 years it seems that only 16 or so UN countries, as well as Vatican City have recognized it for what it was. This includes countries like Canada, the US, Poland, Latvia, and others around the world, including Ukraine (of course) (S2pu, n.d.).

 

But following Holodomor, the friction between Ukraine and Russia didn’t end, unfortunately. In 1991, the USSR dissolved after its economy and military weakened, and its president resigned. Ukraine finally received independence and was considered its own country. But many say that Russia never got over Ukraine’s independence - because they even tried to absorb them in the first world war, as well as many times after that. It’s the same reason they are currently invading Ukraine today.

 

And while tensions have been high between the two countries since before they were even countries, the 2014 occupation of the Crimean peninsula was really one of the major catalysts for the ongoing Russian war on Ukraine. So Russia took over the North Ukrainian peninsula that’s surrounded by the Black Sea. And they did so to protect their own ports and economy, but they did it under Putin’s orders and it was therefore violent and illegal. This is considered one of the events that lead to the current conflict. 

 

Of course there is so much more history there, but it would be impossible for us to cover it all here. And with that, that is the story of Holodomor - the devastating man-made famine that killed millions of people in Ukraine, but also Kazakhstan, and Northern Russia. 

 

S: Okay, wow - that was eye-opening. Thank you so much for covering that. And like, it’s no secret that there is a strong link between conflict and food insecurity. We’re already seeing displaced refugees, destroyed land, supply chain disruptions, inflation, etc. But what I didn’t fully realize is that Ukraine is such a productive nation with primo farm land that produces so much of the world’s wheat. 

B: Yeah, it’s the unfortunate reality that people in Ukraine, but also across the globe will suffer from this war. Both Ukraine and Russia export tons of food - and you can already see prices of oil skyrocketing - which will also ultimately affect food costs.

S: And countries that already experience food insecurity or that rely on Ukrainian exports will likely be even more impacted by these food shortages and inflation.

B: It’s sad stuff. Anyways, I figured it might be nice to end this episode with a few things we can do to help. I’ve been seeing a lot of organizations and individuals that are helping by sending aid, or by sharing credible information on their social platforms, which is amazing to see. 

  1. So you can make a donation to an organization that you trust - either monetary - like I know Airbnb is helping host thousands of refugees in homes across Europe, and that some organizations are collecting new items like medical supplies to send over.
  2. You can donate used items to a local refugee organization. Over 1 million people have already left Ukraine to surrounding countries, but will likely be coming to countries like Canada and the US soon - things like clothing, household or kitchen items could be life changing for people who had to leave all their belongings behind.
  3. If you have an extra room or space in your home you can even consider signing up to house a refugee or family. 
  4. And lastly, you can share information about the current situation and how others can help. 

Those are great tips. I hope everyone learned something in this episode, I know I sure did. Thanks for listening, everyone. 

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And we’d like to dedicate this episode to my baba Sophie Paroschy who passed away shortly after recording this episode. Her grandparents emigrated to Canada from Shuparka, Ukraine in the late 1800’s. 

Stay safe everyone. SLAVA UKRAYNA.