Memos from Asia

The Most Severe Kazakh Famine – Holodomor (1932-1933)

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The Kazakh Holodomor was one of the most severe famines in Soviet Kazakhstan during 1932-1933 years. Kazakhstan suffered the highest percent of population loss in those days. Holodomor means death by hunger, and this term is often used to describe terrible famine in Ukraine. However, the death rate in Kazakhstan was even more than in Ukraine, where the highest number of people died because of hunger. This article will tell you about the times in Kazakhstan when children were given away for a loaf of bread.

How many people died during the Kazakh famine?

The exact number of population loss in Soviet Kazakhstan is unknown, but it was certainly more than 1 million. Ukrainian researchers stated that the number of deaths was over 1 million 258 thousand. However, A.Alekseevna, the Kazakh demographer claimed the higher number – 1.84 million deaths. Some sources say that more than 2 million died due to the Kazakh famine. (RitmeurAsia).

Causes of the Holodomor

Some of the main causes that led to the famine in Kazakhstan:

  • Collectivization. Joseph Stalinʻs collectivization policy reduced the power of local peasants. They were forced to join the collective farms. Therefore, the Kazakh population started to lose its nomadic lifestyle. As a result, a considerable part of cattle was slaughtered to supply food resources. Huge amounts of other herds were confiscated from rich Kazakh people by the Soviets.
  • Little effort to stop the famine. Kazakhstan was an important and chief part of the Soviet Union regarding livestock resources. However, the authorities reacted very slowly to decrease death rates and Holodomor.
  • The thinking of Moscow. There were huge differences between life in Kazakhstan and Russia. Many people in Moscow could not properly imagine the life of nomads. Public historian Jason Steinhauer stated that Soviet officials seemed to think that nomads have limitless animals and herds.
  • The concentration of resources. The grain grabbed more attention by the Soviets than livestock. Hence, less concentration on cattle and herds decreased livestock, which was the main food supply of Kazakhs. (Loc Gov)

The condition of children during the famine

The terrible moment of the Holodomor or great Kazakh famine was the death of children. Garifolla Yesim, the philosopher and professor believes that the death of girls who did not reach maternal age was the biggest tragedy. He stated that due to famine, the Kazakh population decreased from 6 million in 1913 to about 2,5 million in 1963. (TengriNews)

The number of children who live in the streets increased significantly by 243% in 1 year. Although the exact numbers are unknown, there were 20,700 street children in Soviet Kazakhstan in 1932. In 1933, it increased to 71,000. Eyewitnesses of Kazakh catastrophic famine said these numbers are likely to be underestimated. (The Village).

It was very easy to meet children who were freezing, abandoned, or swollen from hunger. Their usual answer was: “Father and mother died, no home, and no bread”. In Pavlodar, a city in northeastern Kazakhstan, approximately 1,700 children had gathered because of starvation and famine.

Many orphanages could not feed children. The situation was much worse than it was described in many research and studies. Kyzyl-Orda region of Kazakhstan experienced considerably high mortality rates in orphanages – 60%. However, the children had more chances for survival if they live in orphanages than with their parents during Holodomor. (The Village).

Kremlin denies the facts about Kazakh Holodomor

The Kazakh famine times was one of the secrets of CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union). The catastrophe is regarded as genocide of the Soviets against the Kazakh nation. Even today, Central Asia News states that the documentary movie “Zulmat – Genocide in Kazakhstan” caused a critical reaction by Moscow. (Central Asia News)

The movie about Kazakh Holodomor was initially run in Almaty theatre. However, at that time, showing the film in other places was not permitted. Consequently, it was uploaded to Youtube and viewed more than 600,000 times.

“Zulmat – Genocide in Kazakhstan” became popular, and the Russian Foreign Ministry commented on the movie. The Ministry emphasized that Kazakh or any other nation was not a target of the Soviets at the time. Even Russian suffered from the devastating famine. (EuroMaidanPress).

Previous famine – 1921-1922

The Holodomor in Kazakhstan was not the first famine in the region. There was another famine in Kazakhstan in 1921-1922 years. As a result of drought, bad weather conditions, and long winters in those years, crops died, hayfields and pastures were negatively affected. In 1921, the number of starving people reached 20 million. The first chairman of KASSR (Kazakh SSR), Seytkali Mendeshev stated that the victims of hunger were 2 million 832 thousand people.(E-History.Kz)

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